Saturday, March 6, 2021

March 6 Radio History

➦In 1905...James Robert Wills born (Died – May 13, 1975 at age 70).  He was a Western swing musician, songwriter, and bandleader. Considered by music authorities as the co-founder of Western swing, he was widely known as the King of Western Swing.

Wills formed several bands and played radio stations around the South and West until he formed the Texas Playboys in 1934 with Wills on fiddle, Tommy Duncan on piano and vocals, rhythm guitarist June Whalin, tenor banjoist Johnnie Lee Wills, and Kermit Whalin, who played steel guitar and bass.

The band played regularly on Tulsa, Oklahoma radio station KVOO and added Leon McAuliffe on steel guitar, pianist Al Stricklin, drummer Smokey Dacus, and a horn section that expanded the band's sound. Wills favored jazz-like arrangements and the band found national popularity into the 1940s with such hits as "Steel Guitar Rag", "New San Antonio Rose", "Smoke On The Water", "Stars And Stripes On Iwo Jima", and "New Spanish Two Step".

Wills and the Texas Playboys recorded with several publishers and companies, including Vocalion, Okeh, Columbia, and MGM, frequently moving.  Throughout the 1950s, he struggled with poor health and tenuous finances, but continued to perform frequently despite the decline in popularity of his earlier music as rock and roll took over. Wills had a heart attack in 1962 and a second one the next year, which forced him to disband the Playboys although Wills continued to perform solo.

The Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Wills in 1968 and the Texas State Legislature honored him for his contribution to American music.

Abbott & Costello
➦In 1906... Lou Costello born (Died from a heart attack at age 52 – March 3, 1959), was an actor, best known for his film comedy double act with straight man Bud Abbott.

Costello had started as an athlete, before working in burlesque on Broadway, where he stood-in for Abbott’s partner who had failed to show up. They formally teamed up in 1935. Their signature routine, "Who's on First?", was carried through to radio and then to their film debut One Night in the Tropics (1940) and Buck Privates (1941). The duo would go on to make 36 films.

During World War II, they were among the most popular entertainers in the world, and sold $85 million in war bonds. A winter tour of army bases caused a recurrence of the rheumatic fever which Costello had contracted in childhood, and his health was badly affected from then on, worsened by the death of his infant son. They launched their own long-running radio show in 1942, and then a live TV show.

But by 1955, they were felt to be overexposed, their film contract was terminated, and the partnership split soon afterwards.

➦In 1954...FM pioneer Edwin H Armstrong closed experimental KE2XCC.  The station began experimental broadcasts at 93.1 FM in June 1938 followed by full power broadcasting beginning on July 18, 1939.  Today the 93.1 FM frequency in NYC is occupied by WPAT-FM.

➦In 1967...Singer Nelson Eddy died at age 65 (Born - June 29, 1901).  He was a singer and actor who appeared in 19 musical films during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as in opera and on the concert stage, radio, television, and in nightclubs. A classically trained baritone, he is best remembered for the eight films in which he costarred with soprano Jeanette MacDonald. He was one of the first "crossover" stars, a superstar appealing both to shrieking bobby-soxers and opera purists, and in his heyday, he was the highest paid singer in the world.

During his 40-year career, he earned three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (one each for film, recording, and radio).

➦In 1981.. Walter Cronkite (November 4, 1916 - July 17, 2009), the dean of American television newscasters, said “And that’s the way it is” for the final time, as he closed the “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite,” to be replaced by Dan Rather. An audience estimated at 17,000,000 viewers tuned in to see “the most trusted man in America” sign-off.

He served as anchorman for the CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–1981). During the heyday of CBS News in the 1960s and 1970s, he was often cited as "the most trusted man in America" after being so named in an opinion poll.

Conkite dropped out of college in his junior year, in the fall term of 1935, after starting a series of newspaper reporting jobs covering news and sports. He entered broadcasting as a radio announcer for WKY in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1936, he met his future wife, Mary Elizabeth "Betsy" Maxwell, while working as the sports announcer for KCMO-AM in Kansas City, MO.

His broadcast name was "Walter Wilcox".  He would explain later that radio stations at the time did not want people to use their real names for fear of taking their listeners with them if they left. In Kansas City, he joined the United Press in 1937.  He became one of the top American reporters in World War II, covering battles in North Africa and Europe.

With his name now established, he received a job offer from Edward R. Murrow at CBS News to join the Murrow Boys team of war correspondents, relieving Bill Downs as the head of the Moscow bureau. CBS offered Cronkite $125 ($2,189 in 2018 money) a week along with "commercial fees" amounting to $25 ($438 in 2018) for almost every time Cronkite reported on air.

Up to that point, he had been making $57.50 ($1,006 in 2018) per week at UP, but he had reservations about broadcasting. He initially accepted the offer. When he informed his boss Harrison Salisbury, UP countered with a raise of $17.50 ($306 in 2018) per week; Hugh Baillie also offered him an extra $20 ($350 in 2018) per week to stay. Cronkite ultimately accepted the UP offer, a move which angered Murrow and drove a wedge between them that would last for years

In 1950, Cronkite eventually joined CBS News in its young and growing television division, again recruited by Murrow.

➦In 2002…Longtime Chicago radio personality on Top40 WLS and WCFL, 70-year-old Art Roberts, also remembered for his on-air stints in Milwaukee and Buffalo, died following a series of strokes.

Roberts, according his 2002 obit in The Chicago Tribune,  was known as Chicago's "hip uncle" for his work on AM radio in the 1960s and '70s. And to teenagers of that time he was a godsend for bringing them the rock 'n' roll stars they craved.

According to Jeff Roteman's WLS Tribute website,  his radio career began in Atlanta, Texas in 1953. In 1956, Art Roberts joined the legendary KLIF in Dallas. In 1959, Art worked in Buffalo at WKBW before joining WLS in 1961.

He was one of seven young, star disc jockeys hired by WLS to bring rock to Chicago. Roberts started in the early afternoon slot, then took over the popular 9 p.m. to midnight gig from Dick Biondi. He was known for telling bedtime stories about "the head that ain't got no body" and creating fictitious characters like "Hooty Saperticker," who wanted to go through life doing nothing.

Roberts stayed at WLS for 10 years before heading to San Francisco's KNBR in 1971, Other career stops included WCFL, WOKY, and KLUV. Art's final radio stop was KGVM in Reno in 1998.

➦In 2005...Former L-A 93KHJ Boss Jock Tommy Vance died.  Born Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston on July 11, 1940.  He was one of the first music broadcasters in the United Kingdom to champion hard rock and heavy metal in the early 1980s, providing the only national radio forum for both bands and fans. The Friday Rock Show that he hosted gave new bands airtime for their music and fans an opportunity to hear it. His radio show was a factor in the rise of the new wave of British heavy metal. He used a personal tag-line of "TV on the radio". His voice was heard by millions around the world announcing the Wembley Stadium acts at Live Aid in 1985.

In 1964, he originally joined KOL Seattle Using the pseudonym Rick West working the midnight-to-6am shift broadcasting to a field of sleeping cows as he once described it.  From there Vance moved to Los Angeles where he was offered a show by programming consultant Bill Drake on 93KHJ radio, holding the evening airshift at KHJ for several months in late 1965.

The show had originally been intended for another presenter who had pulled out of the deal at the last moment, the jingles and pre-launch publicity could not go to waste so Rick West became "Tommy Vance", "The station asked if I would take the name as they had already made the jingles for him. I said, for that kind of money you can call me what you like, mate."

KHJ was one of the most successful and influential Top 40 stations of the era and California in 1965 was a great place to be. However, America was then involved in a war in Vietnam and when Tommy got his draft papers for the US Army, he decided it was time to head back to the UK.

  • Dancer Carmen de Lavallade is 90. 
  • Actor-writer Joanna Miles is 81. 
  • Actor Ben Murphy is 79. 
  • Drummer Hugh Grundy of The Zombies is 76. 
  • Guitarist David Gilmour of Pink Floyd is 75. 
  • Actor Anna Maria Horsford (“The Bold and the Beautiful”) is 74. 
  • Connie Britton is 54
    Actor-director Rob Reiner is 74. 
  • Singer Kiki Dee is 74. 
  • TV personality John Stossel is 74. 
  • Sports correspondent Armen Keteyian is 68. 
  • Actor Tom Arnold is 62. 
  • Actor D.L. Hughley (“The Hughleys”) is 58. 
  • Country songwriter Skip Ewing is 57. 
  • Actor Shuler Hensley is 54. 
  • Actor Connie Britton (“Nashville”) is 54. 
  • Actor Moira Kelly (“One Tree Hill”) is 53. 
  • Actor Amy Pietz (“Aliens in America,” ″Caroline in the City”) is 52. 
  • Guitarist Chris Broderick of Megadeth is 51. 
  • Country singer Trent Willmon is 48. 
  • Guitarist Shan Farmer (Ricochet) is 47. 
  • Rapper Beanie Sigel is 47. 
  • Rapper Bubba Sparxxx is 44. 
  • Actor Shaun Evans (“Endeavour”) is 41. 
  • Drummer Chris Tomson of Vampire Weekend is 37. 
  • Actor Eli Marienthal is 35. 
  • Rapper-producer Tyler, the Creator is 30. 
  • Actor Millicent Simmonds (“A Quiet Place,” “Wonderstruck”) is 18.

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