Friday, January 8, 2021

January 8 Radio History

KGO Building circa 1926
➦In 1924...After several late-night test broadcasts, using the experimental call letter 6XG, radio station KGO signed on the air from General Electric's Oakland, electrical facility (the original two-story brick building, constructed specifically for the station on East 14th Street, still exists on the site), as part of a planned three-station network comprising WGY in Schenectady, New York, and KOA in Denver, Colorado.

The General Electric Company had been one of the giants of the electrical industry since its founding by Thomas A. Edison in the nineteenth century. After conquering the worlds of power generation and electric lighting, the company became one of the pioneers in the radio field as a partner with Westinghouse in the new RCA manufacturing conglomerate. As a major early manufacturer of radio receivers, they, like Westinghouse, saw the value in operating broadcast stations to promote the sale of radio receivers. General Electric constructed and operated WGY at its manufacturing facility in Schenectady, New York in 1922.

With the success of WGY, General Electric began making plans to build two other high-powered radio stations. One station was to cover the mountain and plains states, while the third was to be heard on the Pacific Coast. They immediately began investigating the San Francisco area as a base for the Pacific station, because of its location midway along the coast, and because of the ample supply of musical talent in the area. Originally, General Electric announced plans to build the station on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, and had drawn up plans for several ornamental antenna structures to be built there. However, they finally settled on a site in Oakland, at a G. E. power transformer manufacturing facility there, located at East 14th Street and 55th Avenue. At the time, what is now known as East Oakland was only sparsely populated, and G. E. had just completed their sprawling plant on a 24-acre site earlier that year.

Construction was begun on the studio and transmitter buildings in June of 1923, about a year before the company's third station, KOA in Denver, was begun. The license was applied for and the call letters KGO assigned. Those call letters had previously been held by a radio store in Altadena, near Los Angeles. That station had gone off the air after less than a year of operation.

Meanwhile, newspapers in the area were heralding the coming of a great new super-station to the Bay Area. The "Examiner" headlined, "Plans Ready for Biggest Radio in the West". It announced that the new thousand-watt station would be strong enough to "throw the human voice one third around the world ... more powerful than any station west of Schenectady, New York," referring to G. E.'s eastern operation.

KGO was first known as the "Sunset Station"; at that time it operated with a then-impressive 1000 watts.  As was the custom with early radio stations, the programming consisted of performances by local talent, including the KGO Orchestra which provided some of the music; and a dramatic group known as the KGO Players, which performed weekly plays and short skits, often under the direction of Bay-area drama instructor Wilda Wilson Church. The station's music, which was also performed by other local orchestras and vocalists, would include classical selections as well as popular dance music the next night. Due to GE's involvement in RCA and RCA's launch of the NBC radio network, KGO was soon operated by NBC management as part of the NBC network.

Click Here for 1950 Program Schedule

KGO Transmitter Room - Date Unknown
By the 1928 Band Plan, 790 kHz was allocated to Oakland, California, and to KGO, which was then owned by General Electric, on an internationally cleared basis. In order to obtain a clear channel in Schenectady, New York, for what would become the present-day WGY, GE effected a breakdown of 790 kHz, whereby WGY would assume the maximum permissible power, and KGO would be lowered in power to 7.5 kW, which was then lower than the minimum permissible power for a clear channel station (10 kW), but higher than the then maximum permissible power for a regional channel station (5 kW). Both stations retained omnidirectional antennas. Therefore, GE effectively removed from the West one of its eight clear channels and added an additional clear channel to the East thereby giving the East nine clear channels and the West only seven. The other "regions" in the Band Plan all retained their allotted eight clear channels. In 1941, stations on 790 kHz were moved to 810 kHz. On December 1, 1947, KGO was directionalized, and power was increased to 50 kW, the new minimum (and maximum) power for a U.S. clear channel. An article in Broadcasting magazine noted that the increase "retired the nation's oldest regularly operating transmitter -- a 7,500-watter ... in use since Jan. 8, 1924."

KGO's tower falls after the Loma Prieta earthquake (1989)

➦In 1926...Milton Supman born (Died - October 22, 2009). He was known professionally as Soupy Sales and was a comedian, actor, radio/television personality, and jazz aficionado. 

He was best known for his local and network children's television show Lunch with Soupy Sales (1953–1966), a series of comedy sketches frequently ending with Sales receiving a pie in the face, which became his trademark. From 1968 to 1975 he was a regular panelist on the syndicated revival of What's My Line? and appeared on several other TV game shows. During the 1980s, Sales hosted his own show on WNBC-AM in New York City.

Sales hosted a midday radio show on WNBC 660 AM in New York from March 1985 to March 1987. His program was between the drive time shifts of Don Imus (morning) and Howard Stern (afternoon), with whom Sales had an acrimonious relationship.

Soupy Sales - 1960
An example of this was an incident involving Stern telling listeners that he was cutting the strings in Sales' in-studio piano at 4:05 p.m. on May 1, 1985. On December 21, 2007, Stern revealed this was a stunt staged for "theater of the mind" and to torture Sales; in truth, the piano was never harmed.  Sales' on-air crew included his producer, Ray D'Ariano, newscaster Judy DeAngelis, and pianist Paul Dver, who was also Soupy's manager.

When Soupy's show was not renewed, his time slot would be taken over by D'ariano. Near the end of his contract, Sales lost his temper on the air, and began to speak very frankly about how he felt he had been treated poorly by the station, and how he felt betrayed that D'ariano would be taking over the show. The show went to break after a commercial - Sales was off the air, replaced without comment or explanation by program director Randall Baumgarten. Soupy would not return to the air. He died October 22, 2009 at age 83.

➦In 1929...the CBS Radio Network purchased WABC in New York City. The WABC calls were once used previously on CBS Radio's New York City outlet, before adopting their current WCBS-AM identity in 1946. Network founder William S. Paley appeared for the first time on the Columbia Broadcasting System to announce that it had become the largest chain of stations in radio’s short history.

Elvis with parents
➦In 1935...Elvis Aaron Presley born (Died – August 16, 1977). Known as Elvis, he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and relocated to Memphis, TN with his family when he was 13 years old. His music career began there in 1954, recording at Sun Records with producer Sam Phillips, who wanted to bring the sound of African-American music to a wider audience. Presley, on rhythm acoustic guitar, and accompanied by lead guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, was a pioneer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues. In 1955, drummer D. J. Fontana joined to complete the lineup of Presley's classic quartet and RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who would manage him for more than two decades.

Presley's first RCA single, "Heartbreak Hotel", was released in January 1956 and became a number-one hit.. With a series of successful network TV appearances and chart-topping records, he became the leading figure of the newly popular sound of rock and roll. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines during a transformative era in race relations, made him enormously popular—and controversial.

In November 1956, Presley made his film debut in Love Me Tender. Drafted into military service in 1958, Presley relaunched his recording career two years later with some of his most commercially successful work. He held few concerts however, and guided by Parker, proceeded to devote much of the 1960s to making Hollywood films and soundtrack albums, most of them critically derided. In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in the acclaimed television comeback special Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of highly profitable tours. In 1973, Presley gave the first concert by a solo artist to be broadcast around the world, Aloha from Hawaii. Years of prescription drug abuse severely compromised his health, and he died suddenly in 1977 at his Graceland estate at the age of 42.

Presley is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music. He was commercially successful in many genres, including pop, country, blues, and gospel. He won three competitive Grammys, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame.

He died Aug. 16, 1977 at 42

➦In 1944..., Billboard Magazine published its first “Most Played Juke Box Folk Records” chart, which became the chart which measured the nationwide success of current country music songs.  The first #1 song was “Pistol Packin’ Mama” by Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters.

➦In 1946...For his 11th birthday, Elvis Presley was taken by his mother to the Tupelo Hardware Company. Instead of the rifle he wanted for a birthday gift, Elvis received his first guitar, priced at $7.75. 

➦In 2004...the heir to a New York morning radio dynasty John A. Gambling died at age 73. Gambling worked at WOR radio from 1959 until 1991 (32 years) when he retired. He succeeded his father, John B. Gambling, who began the show in 1925. A third generation broadcaster, John R. Gambling, son and grandson of his predecessors, continued the family business on WOR until his retirement on December 20, 2013.

  • Amber Benson is 44
    Actor-comedian Larry Storch (“F Troop”) is 98. 
  • Former “Sunday Morning” host Charles Osgood is 88. 
  • Singer Shirley Bassey is 84. 
  • Game show host Bob Eubanks (“The Newlywed Game”) is 83. 
  • Country-gospel singer Cristy Lane is 81. 
  • Singer Anthony Gourdine of Little Anthony and the Imperials is 80. 
  • Actor Yvette Mimieux (“The Time Machine,” ″Where the Boys Are”) is 79. 
  • Singer Juanita Cowart Motley of The Marvelettes is 77. 
  • Actor Kathleen Noone (“Knots Landing”) is 76. 
  • Guitarist Robby Krieger of The Doors is 75. 
  • Actor Harriet Sansom Harris (“Desperate Housewives”) is 66. 
  • Actor Ron Cephas Jones (“This is Us”) is 64. 
  • Actor Michelle Forbes (“True Blood,” ″Homicide,” ″Star Trek: The Next Generation”) is 56. 
  • Actor Maria Pitillo (“Providence”) is 55. 
  • Singer R. Kelly is 54. 
  • Bassist Jeff Abercrombie of Fuel is 52. 
  • Reggae singer Sean Paul is 48. 
  • Singer Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley is 45. 
  • Actor Amber Benson (“Buffy The Vampire Slayer”) is 44. 
  • Actor Gaby Hoffman (“Sleepless in Seattle,” ″Field of Dreams”) is 39. 
  • Guitarist Disashi Lumumbo-Kasongo of Gym Class Heroes is 38. 
  • Actor Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”) is 34.

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