Saturday, February 13, 2021

February 14 Radio History

➦In 1876…Lawyers for Alexander Graham Bell filed for a patent for the telephone. Bell's patent 174,465, was issued to Bell on March 7, 1876, by the U.S. Patent Office. Bell's patent covered "the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically ... by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sound.

In this first telephone, sound waves caused an electric current to vary in intensity and frequency, causing a thin, soft iron plate–called the diaphragm–to vibrate. These vibrations were transferred magnetically to another wire connected to a diaphragm in another, distant instrument. When that diaphragm vibrated, the original sound would be replicated in the ear of the receiving instrument. Three days after filing the patent, the telephone carried its first intelligible message–the famous “Mr. Watson, come here, I need you”–from Bell to his assistant.

➦In 1894...Comedian and radio/TV host Jack Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky  (Died: December 26, 1974 at 80).

A young Jack Benny - undated
Benny had been a minor vaudeville performer before becoming a national figure with The Jack Benny Program, a weekly radio show that ran from 1932 to 1948 on NBC and from 1949 to 1955 on CBS. It was among the most highly rated programs during its run.

Benny's long radio career began on April 6, 1932, when the NBC Commercial Program Department auditioned him for the N.W. Ayer agency and their client, Canada Dry, after which Bertha Brainard, head of the division, said, "We think Mr. Benny is excellent for radio and, while the audition was unassisted as far as orchestra was concerned, we believe he would make a great bet for an air program." Recalling the experience in 1956, Benny stated that Ed Sullivan had invited him to guest on his program (1932), and "the agency for Canada Dry ginger ale heard me and offered me a job."

With Canada Dry ginger ale as a sponsor, Benny came to radio on The Canada Dry Program, on May 2, 1932, on the NBC Blue Network and continuing for six months until October 26, moving to CBS on October 30. With Ted Weems leading the band, Benny stayed on CBS until January 26, 1933.

Arriving at NBC on March 17, Benny did The Chevrolet Program until April 1, 1934. He continued with sponsor General Tire through the end of the season. In October, 1934, General Foods, the makers of Jell-O and Grape-Nuts, became the sponsor strongly identified with Benny for ten years. American Tobacco's Lucky Strike was his longest-lasting radio sponsor, from October, 1944, through to the end of his original radio series.

Life magazine ad - April 1949
The show switched networks to CBS on January 2, 1949, as part of CBS president William S. Paley's notorious "raid" of NBC talent in 1948–49. It stayed there for the remainder of its radio run, ending on May 22, 1955. CBS aired repeat episodes from 1956 to 1958 as The Best of Benny.

Mel Allen
➦In 1913...Mel Israel was born.  He is better known as Mel Allen, sportscaster for the New York Yankees, and This Week in Baseball; ‘How about that!’ … Mel died June 16, 1996 at age 83.

Allen best known for his long tenure as the primary play-by-play announcer for the New York Yankees. During the peak of his career in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Allen was arguably the most prominent member of his profession, his voice familiar to millions.

➦In 1971...WABC 95.5 FM NYC changed call letters to WPLJ.

The station went on the air on May 4, 1948 under the call sign WJZ-FM, and in March 1953, the station's call letters were changed to WABC-FM following the merger of the American Broadcasting Company with United Paramount Theatres. As most FM stations did during the medium's formative years, 95.5 FM simulcasted the programming of its AM sister station.

In the early 1960s, however, WABC-FM began to program itself separately from 77WABC-AM. During the 1962–63 New York City newspaper strike, the station carried an news format for 17 hours daily.  Two-and-a-half years before WINS launched its own around-the-clock, all-news format in April 1965, it was the first attempt at an all-news format in the New York market. This was followed by stints with Broadway show tunes and general freeform programming, including broadcasts of New York Mets baseball games. WABC's AM personalities, notably Dan Ingram, Chuck Leonard, and Bob Lewis, hosted programs on the FM side which were the total opposites of the Top 40-powered sound for which they were better known on AM. WABC-FM did continue to simulcast its AM sister station during Herb Oscar Anderson's morning drive program.

At the start of 1968, ABC split its radio network into four distinct components, one of which was dedicated to FM radio.  The following year, WABC-FM and its sister stations–KABC-FM in Los Angeles; WLS-FM in Chicago; KGO-FM in San Francisco; WXYZ-FM in Detroit; KQV-FM in Pittsburgh; and newly acquired KXYZ-FM in Houston–began carrying an automated, youth-oriented, progressive rock format known as Love.

In late 1970, Allen Shaw, the then-president of ABC's FM station group, announced two big changes for 1971: ABC would drop Love and install completely live-and-local, freeform rock formats, and would also apply for call letter changes for the seven stations.  The New York outlet was slated to be renamed WRIF, but a clerical error on the part of the FCC resulted in those calls being awarded to the former WXYZ-FM (the present-day WRIF) in Detroit–whose own request for WDAI was itself given mistakenly to WLS-FM in Chicago–leaving WABC-FM to start from scratch for its own rebranding.

On February 14, 1971, the station's call letters were changed to WPLJ, chosen after Allen Shaw noticed the letter combination as the name of a song on the 1970 Mothers of Invention record, Burnt Weeny Sandwich. The song, "W-P-L-J", was originally performed by the Four Deuces in 1955 and stood for "White Port and Lemon Juice". On the air, the station hired John Zacherle, Vin Scelsa, and Michael Cuscuna (from WMMR and WXPN in Philadelphia) as personalities.

In September 1971, Allen Shaw and ABC Programming Executive Bob Henaberry designed and pioneered the very first AOR (album oriented rock) format on WPLJ, playing only the best cuts from the best selling rock albums with a minimum of disc jockey talk. The slogan of the station was "Rock 'N Stereo". The station would play the music of artists such as Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Elton John, Deep Purple, Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, David Bowie and The Allman Brothers. The station would also play pop songs from artists such as James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and Carly Simon. The station was different from Top 40 stations (such as co-owned WABC) in that they played more album tracks. The audience ratings shot up dramatically,  and WPLJ became New York's most listened-to FM rock station for most of the 1970s.

On February 13, 2019, WPLJ and five other Cumulus Media stations were sold to nonprofit broadcaster, Educational Media Foundation (EMF) for $103.5 million. This transaction would allow Cumulus to generate "substantial cash for debt repayment and investment in other business opportunities", according to its President and CEO Mary Berner.  After the sale received final approval by the FCC, EMF announced that WPLJ and the other Cumulus stations acquired would all begin broadcasting its primary programming service, K-Love, on June 1 at midnight local time this was later moved up to May 31 at 7:00 p.m., five hours earlier than originally planned.

Circa 1968
➦In 1980...Walter Cronkite announced his retirement from the “CBS Evening News”, and Dan Rather was announced as his replacement, scheduled to step into his shoes the following year. And that’s the way it was.

At the time, CBS had a policy of mandatory retirement by age 65. Although sometimes compared to a father figure or an uncle figure, in an interview about his retirement he described himself as being more like a "comfortable old shoe" to his audience.

His last day in the anchor chair at the CBS Evening News was on March 6, 1981.

➦In 1987...Metromedia had fired the entire KMET on-air staff on February 9, and on this date the station signed-off its album rock format at Noon with The Beatles' "The End". KMET was replaced by the new-age KTWV "The Wave". Today, "The Wave" has evolved into a Smooth Jazz format, though now plays Urban Adult Contemporary and is owned by Entercom, which merged with CBS Radio in 2017.

➦In 2001...WCBS 101.1 FM NYC ended the specialty show 'Jukebox Saturday Night', which was hosted by personality Bobby Jay. The cancellation was part of a movement away from pre-1964 and toward 1970–1989 songs. The station also began de-emphasizing the phrase 'oldies' in promoting of the station.

Shadow Morton
➦In 2013…George “Shadow” Morton, a New York-based producer and songwriter best known for his work with 1960s girl group the Shangri-Las (Leader Of The Pack, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Society’s Child, etc), succumbed to cancer at age 72.

➦In 2016...Music host on Chicago radio (WLIT, WLIV, etc.) for more than 20 years, Megan Reed succumbed to complications from breast cancer at age 52.

Reed had been off the air since September 2014 when she went on medical leave as midday personality at Hubbard Radio AC WILV, now WSHE 1003. FM. She also had stints at WLIT-FM, WAUR/WYXY and WXRT-FM.

  • Country singer Razzy Bailey is 82. 
  • Jazz saxophonist Maceo Parker is 78. 
  • TV personality Pat O’Brien (“The Insider,” ″Access Hollywood”) is 73. 
  • Tiffany Thornton is 35
    Actor Ken Wahl (“Wiseguy”) is 64. 
  • Opera singer Renee Fleming is 62. 
  • Actor Meg Tilly is 61. 
  • Singer Dwayne Wiggins of Tony! Toni! Tone! is 60. 
  • Actor Sakina Jaffey (“House of Cards”) is 59. 
  • Actor Enrico Colantoni (“Just Shoot Me”) is 58. 
  • Actor Zach Galligan (“Gremlins”) is 57. 
  • Actor Valente Rodriguez (TV’s “George Lopez,” film’s “Erin Brockovich”) is 57. 
  • Bassist Ricky Wolking of The Nixons is 55. 
  • Actor Simon Pegg (2009′s “Star Trek”) is 51. 
  • Bassist Kevin Baldes of Lit is 49. 
  • Singer Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty is 49. 
  • Actor Danai Gurira (“Black Panther”) is 43. 
  • Actor Matt Barr (“Blood and Treasure”) is 37. 
  • Actor Jake Lacy (“The Office”) is 35. 
  • Actor Tiffany Thornton (“Sonny With A Chance”) is 35. 
  • Actor Brett Dier (“Jane the Virgin”) is 31. 
  • Actor Freddie Highmore (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” ″Bates Motel”) is 29.

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