Thursday, February 18, 2021

February 18 Radio History

➦In 1920...
Bill Cullen born (died from lung cancer July 7, 1990).

He was a radio and television personality whose career spanned five decades. His biggest claim to fame was as a game show host; over the course of his career, he hosted 23 shows, and earned the nickname "Dean of Game Show Hosts". Aside from his hosting duties, he appeared as a panelist/celebrity guest on many other game shows, including regular appearances on I've Got a Secret and To Tell the Truth.

Cullen's broadcasting career began in 1939 in Pittsburgh at WWSW radio, where he worked as a disc jockey and play-by-play announcer or color commentator for Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Hornets games. In 1943, Cullen left WWSW to briefly work at rival station KDKA before leaving Pittsburgh a year later to try his luck in New York. A week after arriving in New York, he was hired as a staff announcer at CBS.

His last regular radio job was as one of the hosts of NBC Radio's Monitor from 1971–73.

➦In 1922...WOC-AM, Davenport, Iowa, went on the air. WOC is widely known as the radio station where future U.S. President Ronald Reagan got his start re-creating Chicago Cubs baseball games.

Ronald Reagan
WOC traces its roots to 1907, when Robert Karlowa began an experimental station in Rock Island, Illinois. The station was known under several call-signs, including 9-BC, 9-XR and 9-BY.

On February 18, 1922, the government assigned the fledgling station the WOC call letters, and full-time broadcasting commenced. Historians believe WOC to have been the first commercial radio station west of the Mississippi River, and certainly the first in Iowa.

Karlowa continued to operate the station, but the costs quickly became too great. In March, he sold the station to Col. B. J. Palmer, who operated the Palmer School of Chiropractic, later the Palmer College of Chiropractic, in Davenport. The equipment was moved to a small studio on Palmer's Brady Street campus, and a family connection was started that lasted almost 75 years.

WOC was known for many firsts in the radio industry. A short list might include:
  • Broadcasting from the Iowa Legislature.
  • On-air and studio personnel being required to keep logs of such things as electrical consumption and on-air programming (to the second). The programming log also helped the station begin programs on an absolute "minute-and-second" schedule.
  • Use of a fader panel, allowing use of several microphones in the studio at one time.
  • On January 26, 1925, WOC formed a network and joined forces with radio station WEAF. In September 1927, WOC became a charter member of the new NBC radio network.
In 1933, Ronald Reagan got his first broadcasting job at WOC as a sportscaster. Reagan returned to WOC in 1988, when WOC and FM-affiliate KIIK 104 dedicated its new studios on East Kimberly Road.

Courtesy of Faded Signals
Early radio stations often shared frequencies.  One station often would broadcast during the day and the other station at night.

According to Faded Signals, beginning in 1930, WOC in Davenport, Iowa, shared a frequency with WHO in Des Moines.  In 1933, WHO signed on a 50,000-watt transmitter.  The two stations shared the transmitter until 1934 when the owner of WOC-WHO, B.J. Palmer, was able to move WOC back to a full-time frequency in Davenport.

Today, both stations are owned by iHeartMedia.

➦In 1927...singer Jessica Dragonette starred on radio’s first Cities Service Concert (sponsored by the oil company of the same name) and literally, “sang her way into radio immortality.”

The Cities Service Concerts were musical broadcasts which had a long three-decade run on radio from 1925 to 1956, encompassing a variety of vocalists and musicians.

The concerts began with trial broadcasts in the New York area during 1925 and 1926 Graham McNamee was the announcer for the brass group of Edwin Franko Goldman when the hour-long program began February 18, 1927 on NBC, expanding to a symphonic sound with Rosario Bourdon and a 30-piece orchestra that summer along with the Cavaliers quartet.

On January 3, 1930, Jessica Dragonette brought her repertoire of 500 songs to the series, often doing duets with Frank Parker and generating top ratings during the 1930s. She was replaced by soprano Lucille Manners in 1937. Other performers during this period were Robert Simmons and James Melton. Along with the Cities Service Singers, baritone Ross Graham (1905-1986) arrived in 1939. Graham was also heard on Show Boat. Maestro Dr. Frank Black headed the show from at least 1938 to 1942 along with Manners and Graham.

The title changed to Highways in Melody in 1944 when Paul Lavalle was the orchestra leader. Lavalle continued after the show was retitled yet again as The Cities Service Band of America which experimented with simulcasting (audio broadcast separately over the radio) in 1949 and 1950.  The series came to an end on January 16, 1956.

➦In 1949...The radio drama "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar" premiered on CBS Radio Network.

The show aired on CBS Radio from January 14, 1949 to September 30, 1962. There were 811 episodes in the 12-year run, and more than 720 still exist today.

Each story started with a phone call from an insurance executive, calling on Johnny to investigate an unusual claim. Each story required Johnny to travel to some distant locale, usually within the United States but sometimes abroad, where he was almost always threatened with personal danger in the course of his investigations.

The first several seasons imagined protagonist Johnny Dollar as a private investigator drama. In 1955 after a yearlong hiatus, the series came back in its best-known incarnation with Bob Bailey starring in "the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed expense account – America's fabulous freelance insurance investigator." There were 809 episodes (plus two not-for-broadcast auditions) in the 12-year run, and more than 720 still exist today.

Each story of the Bailey years usually started with a phone call from an insurance adjuster, calling on Johnny to investigate an unusual claim: a suspicious death, an attempted fraud, a missing person, or other mysterious circumstances

As originally conceived, Johnny Dollar was a smart, tough, wisecracking detective who tossed silver-dollar tips to waiters and bellhops.

CBS Radio tried to institute an economy measure in June of 1959: its four remaining dramatic series (Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar; Suspense; Gunsmoke; and Have Gun, Will Travel) would be moved from Hollywood to New York.  The plan met with some resistance, because the cast members and crews of Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel were willing to cancel the shows themselves rather than move to New York. The situation was stalemated for 17 months, as all four programs remained on the air. Finally, in November 1960, CBS Radio kept Gunsmoke in California, discontinued Have Gun, Will Travel, and moved Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense to New York. Bob Bailey, unwilling to relocate, gave up the Johnny Dollar role. Bailey's last performance, aired November 27, 1960, was in a script titled "The Empty Threat Matter," perhaps writer Johnstone's editorial comment on CBS's intention to shut down production in California.

The final episodes of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and Suspense, airing on CBS, are often cited as the end of the golden age of radio. The last episode of Johnny Dollar, "The Tip-Off Matter", ended at 6:35 pm. Eastern Time on September 30, 1962, followed immediately by the final broadcast of Suspense.

In 1964...The Beatles visited the Miami training camp of boxer Cassius Clay – later known as Muhammad Ali – who was preparing for his February 25th fight against heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.

In the evening The Beatles went to a drive-in movie, where they watched Elvis Presley in Fun In Acapulco.

In 1973...The nationally syndicated radio concert series The King Biscuit Flower Hour premieres, featuring Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

➦In 1992...WOWO 1190 AM's  Jack Underwood died in Fort Wayne, IN.  He hosted mid-days from 1956 to 1984.

➦In 1994..."Jungle Jay" Nelson, a popular Toronto and Buffalo radio personality and TV show host in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was found dead in his home. He was 57.

He was a DJ at powerhouse Top 40 WKBW 1520 AM Buffalo and hosted "Jungle Jay Show" on WKBW-TV.

He left Buffalo for Toronto in 1963 to become the morning personality at CHUM Radio, the Toronto equivalent of the old "KB," after a ballyhooed contest for the job.  He left CHUM in 1981 and moved to CJEZ-FM and City TV in Toronto. Out of the broadcast limelight in recent years, he worked for the National Institute of Broadcasting in Toronto and as maitre d' at a restaurant, the Daily Planet.

Born Frank Coxe in Scranton, Pa., Nelson was a disc jockey there before coming to Buffalo, where WKBW was riding the crest of rock's surging popularity.

He joined Joey Reynolds, Danny Neaverth, Fred Klestine and a handful of other star disc jockeys who were kings of radio and school record hops. Owing to the station's 50,000 watts, their irreverent voices and record selections boomed into homes up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

On weekends Nelson changed into a pith helmet and khakis for his role as host of WKBW-TV's "Jungle Jay Show," a humorous audience participation series that aired on Saturday morning. The program was a hit with Canadian viewers as well, and it was Nelson's cross-border popularity that earned him the morning job at CHUM, said Michael Clement, a Toronto Sun reporter who once worked at the station.

Over the next two decades, he became a very big star in the market, known for his fast humor and impressions."

➦In 1998... the much beloved Chicago Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray died after a heart attack at age 84.  He covered five Major League Baseball teams, beginning with 25 years of calling the games of the St. Louis Cardinals with two of these years also spent calling games for the St. Louis Browns. After a year working for the Oakland Athletics and eleven years with the Chicago White Sox, Caray spent the last sixteen years of his career as the announcer for the Chicago Cubs.

Caray caught his break when he landed the job with the Cardinals in 1945 and, according to several histories of the franchise, proved as expert at selling the sponsor's beer as he'd been in selling the Cardinals on KMOX.

Patti Wheeler
➦In 2012...Radio personality Patti Wheeler, a longtime fixture in Birmingham radio before retiring in 2008, died. She was 71.

For nearly 30 years, Wheeler co-hosted two of Birmingham's most well-known and highly rated radio shows. The first was "Patti and the Doc" with the late Tom "Doc" Atkinson. After that came "Patti and Dollar Bill" with "Dollar" Bill Lawson for 16 years.

Wheeler worked at WZZK  104.7 FM for 23 years before moving to The Bull (FM-102.5) with Lawson in 2002.

  • Vocalist Yoko Ono is 88. 
  • Singer Herman Santiago of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers is 80. 
  • Singer Irma Thomas is 80. 
  • Vanna White is 64
    Actor Jess Walton (“The Young and the Restless”) is 75. 
  • Singer Dennis DeYoung (Styx) is 74. 
  • Actor Cybill Shepherd is 71. 
  • Singer Randy Crawford is 69. 
  • Drummer Robbie Bachman of Bachman-Turner Overdrive is 68. 
  • Actor John Travolta is 67. 
  • Actor John Pankow (“Mad About You”) is 66. 
  • Game show hostess Vanna White (“Wheel of Fortune”) is 64. 
  • Actor Jayne Atkinson (“Criminal Minds”) is 62. 
  • Actor Greta Scacchi is 61. 
  • Actor Matt Dillon is 57. 
  • Rapper Dr. Dre is 56. 
  • Actor Molly Ringwald is 53. 
  • Guitarist-keyboardist Trevor Rosen of Old Dominion is 46. 
  • Actor Ike Barinholtz (“The Mindy Project”) is 44. 
  • Actor Kristoffer Polaha (“Ringer,” “Life Unexpected”) is 44. 
  • Guitarist Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek is 44. 
  • Actor Tyrone Burton (“The Parent ’Hood”) is 42. 
  • Musician Regina Spektor is 41. 
  • Bassist Zac Cockrell of Alabama Shakes is 33. 
  • Actor Shane Lyons (“All That”) is 33. 
  • Actor Sarah Sutherland (“Veep”) is 33. 
  • Actor Maiara Walsh (“Desperate Housewives”) is 33.

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