Saturday, January 2, 2021

January 3 Radio History

➦In 1929...William Paley incorporated the Columbia Broadcast System.

The origins of CBS date back to January 27, 1927, with the creation of the "United Independent Broadcasters" network in Chicago by New York talent-agent Arthur Judson. The fledgling network soon needed additional investors though, and the Columbia Phonograph Company, manufacturers of Columbia Records, rescued it in April 1927; as a result, the network was renamed "Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System." Columbia Phonographic went on the air on September 18, 1927, with a presentation by the Howard Barlow Orchestra from flagship station WOR in Newark, New Jersey, and fifteen affiliates.

Operational costs were steep, particularly the payments to AT&T for use of its land lines, and by the end of 1927, Columbia Phonograph wanted out.  In early 1928, Judson sold the network to brothers Isaac and Leon Levy, owners of the network's Philadelphia affiliate WCAU, and their partner Jerome Louchenheim. None of the three were interested in assuming day-to-day management of the network, so they installed wealthy 26-year-old William S. Paley, son of a Philadelphia cigar family and in-law of the Levys, as president. With the record company out of the picture, Paley quickly streamlined the corporate name to "Columbia Broadcasting System".  He believed in the power of radio advertising since his family's "La Palina" cigars had doubled their sales after young William convinced his elders to advertise on radio.  By September 1928, Paley bought out the Louchenheim share of CBS and became its majority owner with 51% of the business.

During Louchenheim's brief regime, Columbia paid $410,000 to A.H. Grebe's Atlantic Broadcasting Company for a small Brooklyn station, WABC (no relation to the current WABC), which would become the network's flagship station. WABC was quickly upgraded, and the signal relocated to a stronger frequency, 860 kHz.  The physical plant was relocated also – to Steinway Hall on West 57th Street in Manhattan. It was where much of CBS's programming originated. Other owned-and-operated stations were KNX in Los Angeles, KCBS in San Francisco (originally KQW), WBBM in Chicago, WCAU in Philadelphia, WJSV in Washington, D.C. (later WTOP, which moved to the FM dial in 2005; the AM facility today is WFED, also a secondary CBS affiliate), KMOX in St. Louis, and WCCO in Minneapolis. These remain the core affiliates of the CBS Radio Network today, with WCBS (the original WABC) still the flagship, and all except WTOP and WFED (both Hubbard Broadcasting properties) owned by CBS Radio. By the turn of 1929, the network could boast to sponsors of having 47 affiliates.

Paley moved right away to put his network on a firmer financial footing. In the fall of 1928, he entered into talks with Adolph Zukor of Paramount Pictures who planned to move into radio in response to RCA's forays into motion pictures with the advent of talkies.  The deal came to fruition in September 1929: Paramount got 49 percent of CBS in return for a block of its stock worth $3,800,000 at the time.   The agreement specified that Paramount would buy that same stock back by March 1, 1932 for a flat $5,000,000, provided CBS had earned $2,000,000 during 1931 and 1932. For a brief time there was talk that the network might be renamed "Paramount Radio", but it only lasted a month – the 1929 stock market crash sent all stock value tumbling. It galvanized Paley and his troops, who "had no alternative but to turn the network around and earn the $2,000,000 in two years.... This is the atmosphere in which the CBS of today was born."  The near-bankrupt movie studio sold its CBS shares back to CBS in 1932.   In the first year of Paley's watch, CBS's gross earnings more than tripled, going from $1,400,000 to $4,700,000.

The extraordinary potential of radio news showed itself in 1930, when CBS suddenly found itself with a live telephone connection to a prisoner called "The Deacon" who described, from the inside and in real time, a riot and conflagration at the Ohio Penitentiary; for CBS, it was "a shocking journalistic coup".   Yet as late as 1934, there was still no regularly scheduled newscast on network radio: "Most sponsors did not want network news programming; those that did were inclined to expect veto rights over it."  There had been a longstanding wariness between radio and the newspapers as well; the papers had rightly concluded that the upstart radio business would compete with them on two counts – advertising dollars and news coverage. By 1933, they fought back, many no longer publishing radio schedules for readers' convenience, or allowing "their" news to be read on the air for radio's profit.   Radio, in turn, pushed back when urban department stores, newspapers' largest advertisers and themselves owners of many radio stations, threatened to withhold their ads from print.   A short-lived attempted truce in 1933 even saw the papers proposing that radio be forbidden from running news before 9:30 a.m., and then only after 9:00 p.m. – and that no news story could air until it was twelve hours old.

In the fall of 1934, CBS launched its independent news division, shaped in its first years by Paley's vice-president, former New York Times man Ed Klauber, and news director Paul White. Since there was no blueprint or precedent for real-time news coverage, early efforts of the new division used the shortwave link-up CBS had been using for five years to bring live feeds of European events to its American air.

A key early hire was Edward R. Murrow in 1935; his first corporate title was Director of Talks. He was mentored in microphone technique by Robert Trout, the lone full-timer of the News Division, and quickly found himself in a growing rivalry with boss White.  Murrow was glad to "leave the hothouse atmosphere of the New York office behind" when he was dispatched to London as CBS's European Director in 1937, a time when the growing Hitler menace underscored the need for a robust European Bureau. Halberstam described Murrow in London as "the right man in the right place in the right era".

Edward R. Murrow pictured with CBS' London-based D-Day team. Front row (left to right): Bill Downs, Charles Collingwood, Gene Ryder, Charles Shaw. Back row (from left): Larry LeSueur, Edward R. Murrow, Richard C. Hottelet, Bill Shadel.

Murrow began assembling the staff of broadcast journalists – including William L. Shirer, Charles Collingwood and Eric Sevareid – who would become known as "Murrow's Boys". They were "in [Murrow's] own image, sartorially impeccable, literate, often liberal, and prima donnas all". They covered history in the making, and sometimes made it themselves: on March 12, 1938, Hitler boldly annexed nearby Austria and Murrow and Boys quickly assembled coverage with Shirer in London, Edgar Ansel Mowrer in Paris, Pierre Huss in Berlin, Frank Gervasi in Rome and Trout in New York. The News Round-Up format was born and is still ubiquitous today in broadcast news.

➦In 1938... the first broadcast of Irna Phillips‘ soap opera “Woman in White” was presented on the NBC Red network. The program ran 10 years and was one of the first radio shows to feature doctors and nurses as leading characters.

➦In 1940...WPG-AM in Atlantic City NJ consolidated with WBIL & WOV as "new" WOV.

WPG had been in operation since 1923 operating on one of the cleared national channels of the first zone on a frequency of 1100 kilocycles.

WPG in Atlantic City shared time on 1100, with WBIL in NYC. The cumbersome arrangement ended in 1940 in a complicated series of events when Arde Bulova's Greater New York Broadcasting Corporation bought WPG and absorbed it into WOV, shut down both WOV and WPG on January 3, 1940 because they interferred with WBIL, asked the FCC to cancel WOV's license and move WBIL to 1130 (today is WBBR) , and immediately changed WBIL's calls to WOV, which today is WADO 1280 AM.

WPG was unique in radio. Approximately, fifteen million visitors come to the resort in a year. They are all interested in Atlantic City and it's happenings when in their homes wherever that may be.

Today, the WPG calls are used for branding by Townsquare Media's WPGG 1450 AM in Atlantic City, NJ.  Since October 22, 2012, the station broadcasts a talk radio format under the branding "WPG Talk Radio 1450".

Cast from the Gunsmoke radio show. Howard McNear as Doc, William Conrad as Matt Dillon, Georgia Ellis as Kitty and Parley Baer as Chester.

➥In Howard McNear, “Doc” on radio’s Gunsmoke, and “Floyd the Barber” on TV’s Andy Griffith Show, died after a long illness at age 63.

➦In 1970... “I Me Mine” was recorded by the Beatles without John, who was on vacation. It was the last song the band would record together. George Harrison later used that title for his autobiography.

➦In 1973... the Columbia Broadcasting System got out of the baseball business by selling the New York Yankees to a 17-person syndicate headed by George Steinbrenner. The price tag: just $10 million, about a 20th of the team’s current player payroll each year.

➦In 1975...legendary radio announcer Milton Cross, for 43 years the voice of the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday afternoon, died after a heart attack at age 87.

Born in New York City, Milton Cross started his career just as network radio itself was in its earliest stages. He joined the New Jersey station WJZ in 1921, not just as an announcer but also as a singer, often engaging in recitals with the station's staff pianist, Keith McLeod.  By 1927, WJZ had moved to Manhattan and had become the flagship station of the Blue Network of NBC's new national radio network. Cross' voice became familiar as he not only delivered announcements for the Blue Network but also hosted a number of popular programs. Cross was the announcer for the quiz program Information Please and the musical humor show The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, among others. In the 1940s Cross hosted a Sunday morning show featuring child performers, called Coast To Coast on a Bus.

From 1931 to 1975 Cross served as host for the weekly live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, the job for which he is most remembered. His distinctive voice conveyed the excitement of live performances "from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City" for generations of radio listeners.

➦In 1977...Apple Computers incorporated.

➦In 1986...A major shakeup in the media world as Capital Cities closed on it acquisition ABC-TV for $3.5 billion. Five years later Disney purchased Capital Cities/ABC Inc. for almost six times that price.

➦In 1993...Sportscaster John M. Most died (Born - June 15, 1923). He was known primarily as the raspy radio voice of the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association from 1953 to 1990.

After distinguished Air Force service in World War II, he began his basketball broadcasting career in the late 1940s as a protégé of New York Knickerbockers announcer (and 1936 Olympics track star) Marty Glickman. He was hired in 1953 by Boston Celtics owner Walter Brown and coach Red Auerbach to replace Curt Gowdy as the team's radio play-by-play man on the Celtics radio network. He also served as sports director for WCOP radio in Boston at that time.

In addition to his work with the Celtics, he served as host of a rudimentary Boston Red Sox baseball post-game show on WHDH-TV, sister station to WHDH radio which carried Celtics games.

In the early 1970s, Most hosted an evening sports talk show on WORL radio which lasted from 5 to 7 PM. WBZ, owner of the Celtics' radio rights, allowed Most to appear only on the first hour of the program, which was broadcast live from a Boston nightspot, so as not to compete with WBZ's Calling All Sports broadcast.

➦In 1995... popular CKLW Detroit newscaster Byron MacGregor, son of Calgary radio legend Clarence Mack, died at age 46 of complications from pneumonia.

Byron MacGregor
Born Gary Lachlan Mack in Calgary, Alberta, by the age of nineteen he became the youngest news director at the AM radio station, CKLW in Windsor, Ontario, which also served Detroit, Michigan as well as Toledo and Cleveland in Ohio and covered twenty eight states and six provinces. This was during its "Big 8/20·20 News" period, and also around the time RKO General was forced to sell the station, due to a change in Canadian ownership rules that prohibited foreign firms from controlling Canadian licensed stations.

In 1973, he read a Toronto newspaper editorial written by Gordon Sinclair of CFRB in Toronto, a commentary about America. MacGregor then read the patriotic commentary on CKLW Radio as part of a public affairs program; and, due to the huge response he was asked to record "The Americans" with "America the Beautiful" performed by The Detroit Symphony Orchestra as the background music. Both MacGregor and Sinclair released recorded versions of the commentary. MacGregor's version of the record (released on Westbound Records) became a bigger hit than Sinclair's in the United States, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week of February 9, 1974.

MacGregor was known for his deep voice and high-energy announcing style at CKLW; and for writing copy in a manner that was compared to that of sensational tabloid newspapers.

He later made the transition to a more traditional anchoring and interviewing style when he moved to WWJ Newsradio 950, the CBS Radio all-news station in Detroit, where he served as both morning and afternoon drive anchor during his thirteen-year occupancy. MacGregor also became the first newsman in Detroit to simultaneously anchor prime-time newscasts on both radio (WWJ) and television (WKBD-TV 50).

By the mid 1980s MacGregor held dual citizenships in Canada and the United States. His wife of nineteen years, Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor. She was the first female helicopter news and traffic reporter in North America, and today works for WWJ and WOMC and the Metro News Networks.

➦In 2005...Adam Carolla returned to morning drive-time radio with the premiere of “The Adam Carolla Show” on several CBS Radio stations including 97.1 FREE FM in Los Angeles (KLSX-FM), KIFR-FM San Francisco, KSCF-FM San Diego, KZON-FM Phoenix, KUFO-FM Portland and KXTE-FM Las Vegas. With originating station KLSX-FM about to change format, Carolla’s program ended Feb. 20 2009 but continued as a podcast.

➦In 2016...longtime Chicago radio newsman Barry Keefe, who spent 30 years as an anchor at WTMX-FM and its predecessor, WCLR-FM, bringing an authoritative, deep-bass voice and a friendly, chatty manner to a raft of morning radio shows, died of complications from pancreatic cancer at age 62.

  • Florence Pugh is 25
    Actor Dabney Coleman is 89. 
  • Singer-songwriter Van Dyke Parks is 78. 
  • Singer Stephen Stills is 76. 
  • Bassist John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin is 75. 
  • Actor Victoria Principal is 71. 
  • Actor Mel Gibson is 65. 
  • Actor Shannon Sturges (“Port Charles”) is 53. 
  • Jazz saxophonist James Carter is 52. 
  • Contemporary Christian singer Nichole Nordeman is 49. 
  • Musician Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk is 46. 
  • Actor Jason Marsden (“Ally McBeal”) is 46. 
  • Actor Danica McKellar (“The Wonder Years”) is 46. 
  • Actor Nicholas Gonzalez (“The O.C.”) is 45. 
  • Singer-former “American Idol” contestant Kimberley Locke is 43. 
  • Actor Kate Levering (“Drop Dead Diva”) is 42. 
  • Actor Nicole Beharie (“Sleepy Hollow”) is 36. 
  • Drummer Mark Pontius of Foster the People is 36. 
  • R&B singer Lloyd is 35. 
  • Guitarist Nash Overstreet of Hot Chelle Rae is 35. 
  • Actor Florence Pugh (“Little Women”) is 25.

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