Thursday, March 4, 2021

March 4 Radio History

In 1877...Emile Berliner, the man behind so many inventions, came up with a thing called the microphone. The Bell System, run by Alexander Graham Bell, came up with a compact way to put Berliner’s microphone on a wooden box, with a crank, an earpiece, a cradle hook for the earpiece and some wires, and called it the telephone.

Pat McGeehan and Red Skelton
➦In 1907...Radio actor and announcer Pat McGeehan was born in Harrisburg PA (Died - January 8, 1988 at age 80 in Burbank, CA).  He was most active during much of radio's classic period of the 1930s and '40s.

For many years, McGeehan was one of a series of announcers who were the brunt of some of Skelton's best known-lines. He also was an actor on the "Maisie," "Stars Over Hollywood" and "Aunt Mary" series and a guest on such programs as "The Jack Benny Program" and the "Fibber McGee and Molly" comedy series.  At his peak, McGeehan did more than 40 shows a week, Mrs. McGeehan said. He was the voice of the "Hour of St. Francis," a Catholic radio show, where he gained worldwide recognition for his recitation of the peace prayer of St. Francis.

➦In 1910...Radio pioneer Lee DeForest conducted an experimental broadcast from New York City.  Radio as we know it was still a decade away. DeForest broadcast a live performance by Enrico Caruso at the Metropolitan Opera.

Lee de Forest (August 26, 1873 – June 30, 1961) was an inventor with over 180 patents to his credit. He named himself the "Father of Radio," with this famous quote, "I discovered an Invisible Empire of the Air, intangible, yet solid as granite,".

In 1906 De Forest invented the Audion, the first triode vacuum tube and the first electrical device which could amplify a weak electrical signal and make it stronger. The Audion, and vacuum tubes developed from it, founded the field of electronics and dominated it for 40 years, making radio broadcasting, television, and long-distance telephone service possible, among many other applications. For this reason De Forest has been called one of the fathers of the "electronic age". He is also credited with one of the principal inventions that brought sound to motion pictures.

He was involved in several patent lawsuits, and spent a substantial part of his income from his inventions on legal bills. He had four marriages and 25 companies. He was indicted in 1912 for mail fraud, but was acquitted.

➦In 1925... the first national radio broadcast of an inauguration occurred when 21 stations aired President Calvin Coolidge taking the oath of office on the East Front of the Capitol. Elected Vice President in 1920, Coolidge first took the oath of office when President Warren Harding died suddenly in 1923.

NY Times radio mention 3/5/1925
 After winning election to a full term in 1924, Coolidge followed his predecessor’s example and insisted upon a modest inaugural ceremony. “I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people,” Coolidge said about his governing philosophy. “The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government.” The simple inaugural proceedings did, however, make headlines. The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company installed a series of loud speakers and microphones on the inaugural platform.

The new equipment, operated from a room below the Capitol's steps, enabled people in attendance to better hear the proceedings and allowed those not in the nation’s capital to “listen in” on the day’s events. For the occasion, a radio announcers’ booth was constructed on the inaugural platform. More than 20 radio stations broadcast the proceedings to an estimated 23 million listeners, including many children whose school auditoriums had been fitted with electronic equipment to facilitate the broadcast of the historic event. People who tuned in heard detailed descriptions of the Capitol grounds and the history of past inaugurations.

➦In 1930...“The ole Redhead”, sportscaster Red Barber, began his radio career on WRUF-AM, while attending the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Barber pioneered a colorful, reportorial style of play-by-play narration that generations of broadcasters have imitated: He gave his listeners a scrupulously detailed but carefully nonpartisan version of the events on the field, so that they could feel like they were sitting in the stands themselves.

Barber’s baseball-broadcasting career began with the Cincinnati Reds in 1934, when the 26-year-old announcer called the first major league game he had ever seen, and ended in 1966 when the New York Yankees fired him for noting on air that only 413 people had come to watch the last-place Bombers play. But from 1939 to 1953, his years as the play-by-play announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Barber became a citywide celebrity. He invented an entirely new vocabulary that was nevertheless almost instantly familiar to anyone who listened to his broadcasts for more than a few minutes. To Barber, the baseball diamond was “the pea patch.” An argument was “a rhubarb.” A sure-thing game was “tied up in the crocus sack” and a team that had a game well in hand was “sitting in the catbird seat.” Everyone who heard Barber say that the bases were “FOB” knew he meant that they were full of Brooklyn players; likewise, listeners knew that a player who was “assuming the ballistic burden” was coming in to relieve the pitcher.

Barber broadcast some of baseball’s most important moments: the first night game and the first televised game, for example, along with Jackie Robinson’s first game as a Dodger and Roger Maris’ record-breaking home run. During baseball season, his voice was everywhere. “People tell me you could walk through Brooklyn without a radio and still hear Red describe the game,” sportscaster Bob Costas said. “You wouldn’t miss a pitch because it would come from an apartment windowsill, from a storefront, from a car radio with its window open.”

In 1978, Red Barber and Mel Allen were the first announcers to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

➦In 1935..WOR-AM increased it power to 50,000 watts at 710 AM.
1934 WOR Ad courtesy of Faded Signals

WOR was a charter member of the CBS Radio Network, acting as the flagship of the 16 stations that aired the first network program on September 18, 1927. In partnership with Chicago radio station WGN and Cincinnati radio station WLW, WOR formed the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1934 and became its New York City flagship station. Mutual was one of the "Big Four" national radio networks in the United States during the 1930s–1980s. In 1941, the station changed its city of license from Newark to New York City.

Shirley Temple
➦In 1942...Teen actress Shirley Temple debuted on her own radio series on CBS Radio. 'Junior Miss' debuted March 4, 1942, in which she played the title role. The show, costing $12,000 a week, was found to be too expensive to produce and ended after 6 months.  But a 1948 version starring Barbara Whiting as Judy Graves remained on network radio for 5 years.

➦In 2004...Clear Channel Communications paid a record $755,000 fine for indecent material aired during broadcasts of the “Bubba The Love Sponge” radio show. The fine consisted of the maximum $27,500 fine for each of the 26 stations that aired the segments, plus $40,000 for record-keeping violations. The segment involved sexual discussions among the cartoon characters Alvin and the Chipmunks, George Jetson, and Scooby-Doo. Clem was fired on February 23, who at the time had the number one show in the Tampa area in the 18–54 year old male demographic.

➦In 2008...Radio programmer Fred Horton died at age 56. In the 80s he hosted the Saturday Night Oldies Party on WYYY Y94 FM in Syracuse. Among some stations he greatly impacted were WBEE Rochester, WGNA Albany, WYNY NYC and WRUN Rome-Utica.

Peter Tork
➦In 2009…Peter Tork of the Monkees Tork reported on his website that he had been diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare, slow-growing form of head and neck cancer. A preliminary biopsy discovered that the cancer had not spread beyond the initial site. Tork underwent radiation therapy to prevent the cancer from returning.

On March 4, 2009, Tork underwent successful surgery in New York City.  On June 11, 2009, a spokesman for Tork reported that his cancer had returned. Tork was reportedly "shaken but not stirred" by the news, and said that the doctors had given him an 80% chance of containing and shrinking the new tumor.

The cancer returned in 2018. Tork died of complications from the disease on February 21, 2019, at his home in Mansfield, Connecticut. He was 77.

Joel A. Spivak
➦In 2011…75-year-old Joel A. Spivak, who was a popular Washington radio personality before becoming press secretary for the nonprofit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, died.  Spivak had metastatic cancer, the result of a decades-long smoking habit.

Spivak got his start in radio as a disc jockey and talk-show host in some of the country’s biggest markets. In 1996, after a long radio career — and after he had quit smoking — he joined the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and helped direct media coverage for the nonprofit group.

Spivak was a forceful voice against the tobacco industry, said Julia Cartwright, an executive at the anti-tobacco American Legacy Foundation.

He became such an effective spokesman in large part because of his previous career in radio. He moved to the Washington area in 1980 as a talk-show host for WRC-AM and was best known for his signature introduction, “This is Joel A. Spivak speaking.”

In 1983, Spivak was voted most popular talk-show host by Washingtonian magazine. A year later, he moved to San Francisco and spent two years there as a radio personality before moving back to Washington to become an anchor on WRC-TV (Channel 4) in 1987.

He was a co-anchor for the “Live at Five” news show on NBC for one year. Station managers said bringing him to television had been an experiment to boost ratings that ultimately failed.

Spivak then moved back to radio full time as a talk-show host for WRC-AM.

➦In 2016…Arthur Worth "Bud" Collins Jr. died at age 86. (Born - June 17, 1929). He was an journalist and television sportscaster, best known for his tennis commentary.

Collins started writing for the Boston Herald as a sportswriter while he was a student at Boston University. In 1963, he moved to The Boston Globe and began doing tennis commentary for Boston's Public Broadcasting Service outlet, WGBH. From 1968 to 1972, he worked for CBS Sports during its coverage of the US Open tournament, moving to NBC Sports in 1972 to work that network's Wimbledon coverage. He also teamed with Donald Dell to call tennis matches for PBS television from 1974 to 1977.

He was inducted in the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Actor Paula Prentiss (1975′s “The Stepford Wives”) is 83. 
  • Movie director Adrian Lyne (“Fatal Attraction”) is 80. 
  • Singer Chris Rea is 70. 
  • Actor-singer Ronn Moss of Player (“The Bold and the Beautiful”) is 69. 
  • Actor Kay Lenz is 68. 
  • Musician Emilio Estefan of the Miami Sound Machine is 68. 
  • Actor Catherine O’Hara (“Home Alone,” ″A Mighty Wind”) is 67. 
  • Actor Mykelti Williamson (“Forrest Gump”) is 64. 
  • Actor Patricia Heaton (“The Middle,” ″Everybody Loves Raymond”) is 63. 
  • Patricia Heaton is 63
    Actor Steven Weber (“NCIS: New Orleans,” ″Wings”) is 60. 
  • Former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted is 58. 
  • Actor Stacy Edwards (“Chicago Hope”) is 56. 
  • Rapper Grand Puba (Brand Nubian) is 55. 
  • Drummer Patrick Hannan of The Sundays is 55. 
  • Singer Evan Dando of The Lemonheads is 54. 
  • Actor Patsy Kensit is 53. 
  • Actor Andrea Bendewald (“Suddenly Susan”) is 51. 
  • Drummer Fergal Lawler of The Cranberries is 50. 
  • Country singer Jason Sellers is 50. 
  • Jazz drummer Jason Marsalis is 44. 
  • Actor Jessica Heap (“The Young and the Restless”) is 38. 
  • Actor Scott Michael Foster (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Greek”) is 36. 
  • TV personality Whitney Port (“The Hills”) is 36. 
  • Actor Audrey Esparza (“Blindspot”) is 35. 
  • Actor Margo Harshman (“NCIS,” ″The Big Bang Theory”) is 35. 
  • Actor Josh Bowman (“Revenge”) is 33. 
  • Actor Andrea Bowen (“Desperate Housewives”) is 31. 
  • Actor Jenna Boyd (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) is 28.

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