Saturday, January 2, 2021

January 2 Radio History

➦In 1904... Bernardine Flynn born (Died at age 73  – March 20, 1977). She was a radio actress and announcer best known for playing the role of Sade Gook on the long-running comic radio serial Vic and Sade.

Bernadine Flynn
Flynn graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison (Class of 1926), moving to Chicago in 1927. In Chicago, Flynn became a radio actress and announcer. She was used as a radio announcer, a rarity for women in the 1920s, as she was known for controlling her emotions. This quality of not becoming emotional was exploited in the Vic and Sade show, where she would play the role of straight man to the comic daffiness.

One of Flynn's earliest activities on radio was on WJZ in New York City. She replaced Virginia Carter in the ingenue's role on the Empire Builders program. The following year, she was heard on Rin Tin Tin. Also in the summer of 1931, she portrayed Mrs. Jones in The Private Affairs of the Jones Family. Sponsored by Montgomery Ward, the show was one of four tested by the company to test audience response. A newspaper story about it related, "Miss Flynn [has] been heard in many dramatic productions from Chicago stories." She was heard in Malik Mystery Drama in 1932.

In 1932, Paul Rhymer chose Flynn to play Sade as the character lacked a sense of humor. Even in the most humorous of situations, Flynn's emotional self-control ensured that Sade would never break character.  The 15-minute program was aired from 1932 to 1945, and in 1946, it was put back on the air as a one-hour show.

Flynn and Durward Kirby co-starred in Daytime Radio Newspaper in 1943. The 15-minute program on CBS had Kirby delivering straight news items and Flynn handling human-interest reports.

➦In 1904...Singer and radio actor James Melton born (Died from pneumonia at age 56 – April 21, 1961)  He was a popular singer in the 1920s and early 1930s, later began a career as an operatic singer when tenor voices went out of style in popular music around 1932–35.

John Melton
Melton usually catered to popular music fans, singing romantic songs and popular ballads in a sweet style. He was born in Moultrie, Georgia but was raised in Citra, FL. In 1920, he graduated from high school in Ocala, and then attended the University of Florida, Vanderbilt University and the University of Georgia. He received vocal instruction from Gaetano de Luca in Nashville from 1923 to 1927 before moving to New York where he studied with Beniamino Gigli's teacher, Enrico Rosati. Melton also worked in dance bands, playing saxophone in a college jazz ensemble and performing with Francis Craig's Orchestra in Atlanta in 1926.

The following year, he began singing on New York radio for no pay. He joined "Roxy's Gang", a cabaret group led by Samuel Roxy Rothafel, who worked with the Sieberling Singers. He made records for Victor Records, singing as one of the tenors with The Revelers and for Columbia Records with the same group under the pseudonym of The Singing Sophomores. He frequently sang with popular singer Jane Froman and appeared with her in film as well.

Melton recorded his first songs under his own name for Columbia in the autumn of 1927. On radio, Melton was heard on The Firestone Hour in 1933, on Ward's Family Theater in 1935, The Sealtest Sunday Night Party (1936), The Palmolive Beauty Box Theater (1937), The Song Shop (1938), the Bell Telephone Hour (1940), Texaco Star Theater (1944) and Harvest of Stars (1945). In 1941, a newspaper columnist described Melton as "currently one of radio's busiest singers."  In the thirties, Melton also sang and acted on the Jack Benny Radio Shows.

Ben Grauer circa early '40s
➦In 1908...announcer Ben Grauer was born in New York City. Grauer's greatest fame lies in his legendary 40-year career in radio. In 1930, the 22-year-old Benjamin Franklin Grauer joined the staff at NBC. He quickly rose through the ranks to become a senior commentator and reporter. He was the designated announcer for the popular 1940s Walter Winchell's Jergens Journal. Perhaps, most importantly, he was selected by Arturo Toscanini to become the voice of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Grauer took over as announcer in late 1942, and remained until the orchestra was disbanded in June 1954. Toscanini said he was his favorite announcer.

Starting in 1932, Grauer covered the Olympic Games, presidential inaugurations and international events. During his radio career, Grauer covered nearly every major historic event, including the Morro Castle fire, the Paris Peace Conference and the US occupation of Japan. Millions remember his NBC coverage of the New Year's celebrations on both radio and TV. Between 1951 and 1969, Grauer covered these events 11 times live from New York's Times Square. He continued covering New Year's Eve for Guy Lombardo's New Year's Eve specials on CBS in the 1970s, with his last appearance on December 31, 1976, the year before both he and Lombardo died.

From the mid-1950s until the mid-1960s, Grauer's reports were part of the NBC television network's The Tonight Show, where he worked with Johnny Carson and prior to that, Jack Paar, and Steve Allen. Grauer was also one of NBC Radio's Monitor "Communicators" from 1955 to 1960.

Grauer as the host of WNBT-TV's (later WNBC-TV) tenth anniversary special. He provided the commentary for NBC's first television special, the opening in 1939 of the New York World's Fair. In 1948, Grauer, working with anchor John Cameron Swayze, provided the first extensive live network TV coverage of the national political conventions.

In 1954, NBC began broadcasting some of their shows in living color, and in 1957, the animated Peacock logo made its debut. It was Grauer who first spoke the now famous words, "The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC," behind the Peacock graphic. During his 40-year broadcast career, he hosted numerous TV programs on NBC, including game shows, quiz shows, concerts and news programs.

Grauer suffered a heart attack at age 68 and died May 31 1977.

Courtesy of
➦In 1921...KDKA 1020 AM in Pittsburgh aired the first religious program on radio.  Listeners heard Dr. E.J. Van Etten of the local Calvary Episcopal Church preach. The service became a regular Suday program and aired until 1962.

Julius LaRosa
In 1930...Pop singer and radio personality Julius La Rosa born (Died  of natural causes at age 86 – May 12, 2016). Hired  in 1951 to be a member of Arthur Godfrey’s performer on his radio & TV shows, Larosa has the distinction of being fired on the air after he hired an agent and manager, contrary to Godfrey’s wishes.  Godfrey told the press Larosa was terminated because he “lacked humility.”

In 1970, the singer/actor became a very successful and amiable disc jockey at one of America's biggest radio stations in the top market, Metromedia's WNEW 1130 AM (now WBRR) in New York City.

➦In 1936...Bing Crosby began a 10-year tenure as host of the "Kraft Music Hall" on the NBC Radio Network.

➦In 1944...WJZ 770 AM (later WABC) transmitter moved to Lodi, NJ.

WABC made its first broadcast as a federally-licensed commercial radio station on October 1, 1921, as WJZ, owned by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation and was originally based in Newark, New Jersey. The call letters stood for their original home state, New Jer(Z)sey.

WJZ Studio - date unknown
In July 1926, WEAF also became an RCA station and on November 15, 1926, both WJZ (then on 660 kHz) and WEAF (then on 610 kHz) were under the umbrella of the newly formed National Broadcasting Company.

On January 1, 1927, the NBC Blue Network debuted, with WJZ as the originating station. WJZ and the Blue Network presented many of America's most popular programs, such as Lowell Thomas and the News, Amos 'n' Andy, Little Orphan Annie, America's Town Meeting of the Air, and Death Valley Days. Each midday, The National Farm and Home Hour brought news and entertainment to rural listeners. Ted Malone read poetry and Milton Cross conveyed children "Coast To Coast on a Bus," as well as bringing opera lovers the Saturday matinée Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts.

In 1942, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that no broadcaster could own more than one AM, one FM and one television station in a single market. On January 23, 1942, the FCC approved the transfer of WJZ's operating license from Radio Corporation of America to the Blue Network, Inc.  A year later, on October 12, 1943, WJZ and the NBC Blue Network were sold to Edward J. Noble, then the owner of WMCA. Technically, this spun off network was simply called "The Blue Network" for little over a year.

On June 15, 1945, "The Blue Network" was officially rechristened the American Broadcasting Company, when negotiations were completed with George B. Storer, who had owned the defunct American Broadcasting System and still owned the name.

In November 1948, WJZ and the ABC network finally got a home of their own when studios were moved to a renovated building at 7 West 66th Street. On March 1, 1953, WJZ changed its call letters to WABC, after the FCC approved ABC's merger with United Paramount Theatres, the movie theater chain owned by Paramount Pictures which, like the Blue Network, was divested under government order.  The WABC call letters were once used previously on CBS Radio's New York City outlet, before adopting their current WCBS identity in 1946.

William Bendix
After acquiring Channel 13 WAAM in Baltimore, Maryland in 1957, Westinghouse applied to change the calls to WJZ-TV in honor of its pioneer radio station.  The FCC granted the unusual request (perhaps because Westinghouse was highly regarded as a licensee by both the industry and the FCC at that time), and the Baltimore TV station, now owned and operated by CBS, retains the call letters to this day, along with sister radio stations WJZ 1300 AM and WJZ 105.7 FM.

➦In 1953...After ten years on radio starring William Bendix, and a one-year TV version with Jackie Gleason as the title character, "The Life of Riley" with William Bendix began a six-season run on NBC-TV.  Life of Riley radio show aired from January 16, 1944 - June 8, 1945 on the Blue Network/ABC and aired September 8, 1945 - June 29, 1951 on NBC.

➦In 1959...the CBS Radio Network dropped the curtain on four soap operas. Our Gal Sunday, This is Nora Drake, Backstage Wife and Road of Life all signed off for the last time.

Courtesy of Bob Dearborn
➦In 1981...The late-night radio feature “Night Time America” with Hamilton, Ont.-born host/producer Bob Dearborn began as a live satellite-distributed music program.  The show was a groundbreaking five-hour music and call-in show originating in New York City on the RKO Radio Network.

Eventually,  the program was heard on 154 affiliate radio stations throughout the U.S., from Bangor to Hilo, from West Palm Beach to Fairbanks, and in major cities including Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh, Houston, Seattle, Denver, St. Louis, San Diego, Memphis, Cincinnati, Sacramento, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Buffalo, and New Orleans. (Airchecks, Click Here)

Dearborn began his radio career in Hamilton, Ontario at the age of 15.  He later moved on to the U.S., stopping first at WPRO in Providence and then WIXY Cleveland, WPTR Albany, WKNR Detroit, and WCFL Chicago. Between WPRO and WIXY, Dearborn helped launch and spent a year as production manager of WRTH-St. Louis. And he was involved in radio station ownership and management in the last half of the 1980s. Along with three friends, he co-owned 10 stations (5 AM/FM combos ... in Bath/Brunswick, Maine; Utica, NY; Birmingham, AL, Knoxville, TN and Nashville, TN). They were at  the end of the '80s.

He also made a couple stops in Tampa Bay to do mornings  – at WDAE (1976-77) and WPLP (1979-80) – and then joined Pittsburgh’s WTAE. In January 1981 RKO Radio hand-picked him to host its syndicated all night music show. Broadcast from Manhattan, it ran for four years live.

For the next sixteen years he was back in Chicago with WJMK-FM and sister station WJJD-AM before moving to Seattle to program adult standards KIXI. Dearborn also hosted mornings at CHWO-Toronto in 2003 and retired in 2009. (H/T:

Margot Stevenson
➦In 2004..legendary agriculture broadcaster Orion Samuelson at age 69, aired his last farm report on WGN 720 AM, concluding a 43 year run.

➦In 2011...longtime stage actress Margot Stevenson died at age 98. In 1938 she had played the female lead Margo Lane on radio’s The Shadow, opposite Orson Welles.

➦In 2007...WNEW-FM NYC adopted a soft contemporary format called "Fresh" and 7-days later changed call letters to WWFS.

The 102.7 FM frequency was first assigned in the mid-1940s as WNJR-FM from Newark, New Jersey. Intended to be a simulcasting sister to WNJR (1430 AM, now WNSW), the FM station never made it to the air despite being granted several extensions of its construction permit. WNJR gave up and turned in the FM license to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1953.

In 1955 the FCC awarded a new permit for 102.7 FM to a group called Fidelity Radio Corporation, based in West Paterson, New Jersey. The station was later granted the call sign WHFI, and a year later the community of license was moved back to Newark from West Paterson. Once again, the owners failed to put the station on the air.

In November 1957, the WHFI construction permit was purchased by the DuMont Broadcasting Corporation, which already owned WABD (later WNEW-TV) and earlier in the year bought WNEW radio.  In January 1958, WHFI was renamed WNEW-FM and DuMont completed its build-out, moving the license to New York City. The station finally came on the air on August 25, 1958, partially simulcasting WNEW 1130 AM with a separate popular music format.  DuMont Broadcasting, meanwhile, would change its corporate name twice within the next three years before settling on Metromedia in 1961.

WNEW-FM's early programming also included an automated middle-of-the-road format, followed quickly by a ten-month-long period (July 4, 1966, to September 1967) playing pop music—with an all-female air staff. The gimmick was unique and had not before been attempted anywhere in American radio. The lineup of disc jockeys during this stunt included Margaret Draper, Alison Steele (who stayed on to become the "Night Bird" on the AOR format), Rita Sands, Ann Clements, Arlene Kieta, Pam McKissick, and Nell Bassett. The music format, however, was a pale copy of WNEW (AM)'s adult standards format and only Steele, Sands, and Bassett had broadcast radio experience. The all-female disc jockey lineup endured for more than a year, changing in September 1967 to a mixed-gender staff.

Billboard - December 1967

On October 30, 1967, WNEW-FM adopted a progressive rock radio format, one that it became famous for and that influenced the rock listenership as well as the rock industry.

Today, WNEW-FM airs a hot AC format and is owned by Entercom Communications.

Ed Goodman - KEZK
➦In 2015…Veteran radio personality Ed Goodman, who logged almost five decades on the air in St. Louis, died of cancer. Goodman began on local radio with KSHE and other stations in the 1970s and 1980s, and then began an 18-year stint at KEZK in 1992.

  • Kate Bosworth is 38
    TV host Jack Hanna (“Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild”) is 74. 
  • Actor Wendy Phillips (“I Am Sam”) is 69. 
  • Actor Cynthia Sikes (“St. Elsewhere”) is 67. 
  • Actor Gabrielle Carteris (“Beverly Hills, 90210″) is 60. 
  • Actor Tia Carrere is 54. 
  • Actor Cuba Gooding Junior is 53. 
  • Model Christy Turlington is 52. 
  • Actor Renee Elise Goldsberry (Broadway’s “Hamilton”) is 50. 
  • Actor Taye Diggs (“The Best Man,” ″How Stella Got Her Groove Back”) is 50. 
  • Singer Doug Robb of Hoobastank is 46. 
  • Actor Dax Shepard (“Parenthood”) is 46. 
  • Sax player-guitarist Jerry DePizzo Jr. of O.A.R. is 42. 
  • Singer Kelton Kessee of Immature and of IMX is 40. 
  • Musician Ryan Merchant of Capital Cities is 40. 
  • Actor Kate Bosworth is 38. 
  • Actor Anthony Carrigan (“Barry,” “Gotham”) is 38. 
  • Musician Trombone Shorty is 35. 
  • Singer Bryson Tiller is 28.

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