Friday, February 19, 2021

February 19 Radio History

➦In 1878...Inventor Thomas Alva Edison got patent for the phonograph.  Edison began his career as an inventor in Newark, New Jersey, with the automatic repeater and his other improved telegraphic devices, but the invention that first gained him wider notice was the phonograph in 1877. This accomplishment was so unexpected by the public at large as to appear almost magical. Edison became known as "The Wizard of Menlo Park," New Jersey.

His first phonograph recorded on tinfoil around a grooved cylinder. Despite its limited sound quality and that the recordings could be played only a few times, the phonograph made Edison a celebrity.

Joseph Henry, president of the National Academy of Sciences and one of the most renowned electrical scientists in the US, described Edison as "the most ingenious inventor in this country... or in any other". In April 1878, Edison traveled to Washington to demonstrate the phonograph before the National Academy of Sciences, Congressmen, Senators and US President Hayes. The Washington Post described Edison as a "genius" and his presentation as "a scene... that will live in history". Although Edison obtained a patent for the phonograph in 1878, he did little to develop it until Alexander Graham Bell, Chichester Bell, and Charles Tainter produced a phonograph-like device in the 1880s that used wax-coated cardboard cylinders.

"Mary had a little lamb" were the first words that Edison recorded on the phonograph and he was amazed when he heard the machine play them back to him. In 1878, Edison established the Edison Speaking Phonograph Company to sell the new machine.

Edison 1878
Edison suggested other uses for the phonograph, such as: letter writing and dictation, phonographic books for blind people, a family record (recording family members in their own voices), music boxes and toys, clocks that announce the time, and a connection with the telephone so communications could be recorded. How many of these uses have become a reality today?

Many of the uses Edison suggested for the phonograph have become a reality, but there were others he hadn't imagined. For example, the phonograph allowed soldiers to take music off to war with them. In 1917, when the U.S. became involved in World War I, the Edison Company created a special model of the phonograph for the U.S. Army. This basic machine sold for $60. Many Army units purchased these phonographs because it meant a lot to the soldiers to have music to cheer them and remind them of home. This is an audio clip of Edison himself in which he expresses his pride in the soldiers and reminds Americans of the enormous sacrifice and contribution made by the other allied nations.

➦In 1922...Comedian, Ed Wynn became the first vaudeville star to agree to a radio contract.

In the early 1930s Wynn hosted the popular radio show The Fire Chief, heard in North America on Tuesday nights, sponsored by Texaco gasoline. Like many former vaudeville performers who turned to radio in the same decade, the stage-trained Wynn insisted on playing for a live studio audience, doing each program as an actual stage show, using visual bits to augment his written material, and in his case, wearing a colorful costume with a red fireman's helmet. He usually bounced his gags off announcer/straight man Graham McNamee; Wynn's customary opening, "Tonight, Graham, the show's gonna be different," became one of the most familiar tag-lines of its time; a sample joke: "Graham, my uncle just bought a new second-handed car... he calls it Baby! I don't know, it won't go anyplace without a rattle!"

Wynn  reprised his Fire Chief radio character in two movies, Follow the Leader (1930) and The Chief (1933). Near the height of his radio fame (1933) he founded his own short-lived radio network the Amalgamated Broadcasting System, which lasted only five weeks, nearly destroying the comedian. According to radio historian Elizabeth McLeod, the failed venture left Wynn deep in debt, divorced and finally, suffering a nervous breakdown.

Wynn died June 19, 1966 in Beverly Hills, California of throat cancer, aged 79.

➦In 1935...the longtime iconic voice of the Seattle Mariners Dave Niehaus was born in Princeton Indiana. For 34 years, from the start of the franchise, he led the M’s play-by-play coverage on radio & TV. He suffered a massive heart attack and died Nov. 10, 2010 at age 75. “My oh my!!”

➦In 1981... George Harrison was ordered to pay ABKCO Music the sum of $587,000 for ‘subconscious plagiarism.’  The court found his song, “My Sweet Lord” was strikingly similar to the Chiffons early 1960s hit, “He’s So Fine.” He claimed to have used the out-of-copyright "Oh Happy Day", a Christian hymn, as his inspiration for the melody.

➦In 2007...the SIRIUS and XM Satellite Radio services announced their intention to merge.

After years of speculation (the New York Post first reported on a potential merger in January 2005), and three months of serious negotiations, the $13 billion merger between Sirius and XM was officially announces. At the time, the nation’s only two satellite radio providers reported nearly 14 million combined subscribers (with nearly 8 million belonging to XM), with neither having turned an annual profit. Sirius was valued at $5.2 billion, and XM at $3.75 billion.  Each subscription was sold for $12.95 monthly.

Sirius and XM executives felt the merger would lower programming costs by eliminating overlapping stations and duplicated marketing costs. According to their original operating licenses, the two companies were not allowed to ever own each other’s license. In proceeding with the merger, then-Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin ignored this rule, gambling that the FCC would consider other audio entertainment to be competitors and allow the merger to proceed by waiving the rule.

➦In 2016…Charlie Tuna (born Arthur W. Ferguson), the popular deejay and TV announcer whose voice was familiar to generations of L.A. listeners and viewers. died in his sleep at age 71.

At age 16, Tuna began working at his hometown's radio station, KGFW. Then, he went to work at KLEO in Wichita, Kansas for a year with the air name "Billy O'Day". He then worked for KOMA Radio in Oklahoma City in 1966, where he took over the "Charlie Tuna" pseudonym from Chuck Riley, who had used it for one show the week prior to Tuna's arrival. Tuna then moved on to WMEX in Boston for the first 9 months of 1967.

In late 1967, KHJ in Los Angeles offered Tuna the 9 to noon slot, where he debuted on Thanksgiving Day 1967. In 1972 he became one of the original DJs at KROQ AM, a new Top 40 station (formerly Country KBBQ). In 1973 be moved to KKDJ as program director and morning personality. He presided over its 1975 call-letter change to KIIS, and broadcast the first show at KIIS-FM as it began its AM/FM simulcast. He also worked at KTNQ, KHTZ (later KBZT), KRLA, KODJ (later KCBS-FM), KMPC, KIKF, and KLAC.

He worked at KBIG 104.3 where he hosted a long running morning show Charlie Tuna in the Morning which aired from 5 to 10 am. His last full-time morning show aired on September 17, 2007, when the station flipped to a non-rhythmic-based adult contemporary format, as 104.3 My FM. He returned to radio February 9, 2008 when he became the weekend personality on Los Angeles oldies station K-Earth 101. CBS on August 27, 2015 began down sizing their stations in Los Angeles, at which point Charlie moved on to expand his syndicated radio business.

Tuna served as announcer for Casey Kasem on his 1980s television program America's Top 10, and occasionally filled in for Kasem on his radio programs American Top 20 and American Top 10. He co-hosted Your Good Time Oldies Magazine from 1992 to 1995, and he produced and hosted 52 weekly episodes of Back to the 70s, which were rerun at radio stations across the country until 2008.

Tuna had a year long run in 2009 of a 5-hour classic hits daily and weekend show, syndicated through United Stations Radio Network in New York.

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