Monday, April 12, 2021

April 12 Radio History

➦In 1924...WLS-AM, Chicago signed-on.

After buying time on radio stations in the early days of broadcasting, Sears Roebuck & Co. in Chicago decided to start its own station.  Its first test broadcasts used the call sign WBBX and then WES (“World’s Economy Store”).  On April 12, 1924, the station became WLS (“World’s Largest Store”).

In its first month, WLS started its “National Barn Dance” program, a live country-music showcase that was the direct predecessor of the Grand Ole Opry.

A Chicago radio manufacturer signed on WENR Radio in 1925. The station entered a time-sharing agreement with WBCN Radio.  An investor bought both stations in 1927. He later sold the licenses to NBC.  The network kept WENR on the air.  It shared a frequency with WLS for decades.  One station would sign off and another would sign on.

Sears sold WLS to the “Prairie Farmer” magazine in 1928.  The radio station became an essential part of agriculture in the Midwest.  Farmers relied heavily on agricultural news, commodity prices and weather reports from WLS.

WENR-WLS boosted power to 50,000 watts in 1932, beaming its programming over much of the nation.  Despite its part-time status, the station built a large amount of goodwill and a huge audience.

In addition to farm programming, WLS offered entertainment and educational programs.  It also made history in news broadcasting. WLS reporter Herb Morrison famously said, “Oh the humanity!” as he watched the 1937 Hindenberg crash in Lakehurst, N.J.  The recorded account aired the next day over NBC.

The station also experimented successfully in many forms of news broadcasting, including weather and crop reports. Its most famous news broadcast was the report of the Hindenburg disaster by Herbert Morrison.



For about 15 years WLS shared it's frequency with WENR as part of the NBC Blue Network. In 1941 WLS changed frequency from 870 to 890 kilocycles with 50 kw of power. The transmitter site was in Chicago's south suburb of Crete, Illinois from 1924 to 1938. In 1938, they moved to it's current location in Tinley Park.

WLS was an NBC Blue Network affiliate during radio’s golden age.  NBC was forced to sell the Blue Network, which became ABC.  In 1954, ABC bought a controlling interest in WENR-WLS, combining the two into WLS.  The network bought WLS outright in 1959.

The ABC era brought a major change.  The staid, conservative WLS that brought Midwesterners a steady diet of farm reports, news and weather, general-interest music and entertainment and the “National Barn Dance” became a Top 40 station at 6 a.m. on May 2, 1960.   ABC created one of the nation’s most influential radio stations in the rock era, attracting millions of listeners each week.

Here’s a sample of a 1962 aircheck featuring Dick Biondi:

By the late 1980s, it was an adult contemporary station during the day and offered talk programming at night. WLS switched to its current full-time news/talk format in 1989.  Cumulus Media now owns the station.

➦In 1935..."Your Hit Parade," debuted on NBC Radio Red Network.

Your Hit Parade aired from 1935 to 1953 on radio, and seen from 1950 to 1959 on television. It was sponsored by American Tobacco's Lucky Strike cigarettes. During this 24-year run, the show had 19 orchestra leaders and 52 singers or groups. Many listeners and viewers casually referred to the show with the incorrect title The Hit Parade.

Each Saturday evening, the program offered the most popular and bestselling songs of the week. The earliest format involved a presentation of the top 15 songs. Later, a countdown with fanfares led to the top three finalists, with the number one song for the finale. Occasional performances of standards and other favorite songs from the past were known as "Lucky Strike Extras."

Listeners were informed that the "Your Hit Parade survey checks the best sellers on sheet music and phonograph records, the songs most heard on the air and most played on the automatic coin machines, an accurate, authentic tabulation of America's taste in popular music." However, the exact procedure of this "authentic tabulation" remained a secret.

Doris Day
The origins of the format can be traced back to the Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra (aka Lucky Strike Orchestra), which aired from 1928 to 1931, sponsored by Lucky Strike cigarettes. Led by Benjamin A. Rolfe the show was heard on the NBC Red network for an hour at 10 p.m. on Saturdays (with Tuesday and Thursday broadcasts beginning around September 16 and 18, 1930, respectively).

Some years passed before the countdown format was introduced, with the number of songs varying from seven to 15. Vocalists in the 1930s included Buddy Clark, Lanny Ross, Kay Thompson and Bea Wain (1939–44), who was married to the show's announcer, French-born André Baruch. Frank Sinatra joined the show in 1943, and was fired for messing up the No. 1 song, "Don't fence me In " by interjecting a mumble to the effect that the song had too many words and missing a cue.

One source says his contract was not renewed due to demanding a raise and the show being moved to the West Coast.  As he zoomed in popularity he was rehired, returning (1947–49) to co-star with Doris Day.

Hugely popular on CBS through the WWII years, Your Hit Parade returned to NBC in 1947.

Dozens of singers appeared on the radio program, including "Wee" Bonnie Baker, Dorothy Collins, Beryl Davis, Gogo DeLys, Joan Edwards (1941–46), Georgia Gibbs, Dick Haymes, Snooky Lanson, Gisèle MacKenzie, Johnny Mercer, Andy Russell, Dinah Shore, Ginny Simms, Lawrence Tibbett, Martha Tilton, Eileen Wilson, Barry Wood, and occasional guest vocalists.

The radio series continued until January 16, 1953.

➦In 1941...An radio show with the name Life of Riley was a summer replacement show heard on CBS from April 12, 1941, to September 6, 1941. The CBS program starred Lionel Stander as J. Riley Farnsworth and had no real connection with the more famous series that followed a few years later.

The show is not to be confused with The Life of Riley, another radio situation comedy series of the 1940s that was adapted into a 1949 feature film, a 1950s television series, and a 1958 comic book.

➦In 1945...President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died from a massive cerebral hemorrhage at age 63 (Born - January 30, 1882).  Often referred to by his initials FDR, he served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. A Democrat, he won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century.

Roosevelt directed the federal government during most of the Great Depression, implementing his New Deal domestic agenda in response to the worst economic crisis in U.S. history. As a dominant leader of his party, he built the New Deal Coalition, which realigned American politics into the Fifth Party System and defined American liberalism throughout the middle third of the 20th century. His third and fourth terms were dominated by World War II. Roosevelt is widely considered to be one of the most important figures in American history, as well as among the most influential figures of the 20th century.

Roosevelt believed that his administration's success depended upon a favorable dialogue with the electorate — possible only through methods of mass communication — and that this would allow him to take the initiative. The use of radio for direct appeals was perhaps the most important of FDR's innovations in political communication. Roosevelt's opponents had control of most newspapers in the 1930s and press reports were under their control and involved their editorial commentary. Historian Betty Houchin Winfield says, "He and his advisers worried that newspapers' biases would affect the news columns and rightly so." Historian Douglas B. Craig says that he "offered voters a chance to receive information unadulterated by newspaper proprietors' bias" through the new medium of radio.

➦In 1954…A year earlier...Bill Haley scored his first national success with an original song called "Crazy Man, Crazy," a phrase Haley said he heard from his teenage audience, again released on Essex. "Crazy Man, Crazy" was the first rock and roll song to be televised nationally when it was used on the soundtrack for a 1953 television show starring James Dean.

In the spring of 1954, Haley and His Comets left Essex for New York-based Decca Records, where they were placed under the auspices of veteran producer Milt Gabler. Their first session, on April 12, 1954, yielded "Rock Around the Clock," which would become Haley's biggest hit and one of the most important records in rock and roll history.  Most music historians agree that the song, featured in the 1955 film "Blackboard Jungle," ushered in the rock 'n' roll era. It hit #1 on June 29, 1955 and stayed there for eight weeks, remaining on the charts for a total of 24 weeks, and has sold more than 25 million copies.

"Shake, Rattle and Roll" followed. it never achieved the same level of historical importance as "Rock Around the Clock" but it predated it as the first international rock and roll hit. It did not attain the Number 1 position on the American charts, but it became Haley's first gold record.

➦In 2002...WTJM 105.1 FM NYC switched call letters to WWPR.

➦In 2007...Don Imus was fired from his syndicated program by CBS Radio after a week of controversy brought on by racial remarks broadcast a week earlier about the Rutgers women basketball team.

➦In 2016…Sportscaster Paul Carey died at age 88 (Born - March 15, 1928). His career spanned six decades. He is a member of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

Paul Carey
Carey was on the original announcing staff of WCEN, Mt. Pleasant when it went on the air August 8, 1949. After completing his college degree in June 1950, Carey returned to WCEN. In 1949, he was part of the first broadcast ever made of a Central Michigan University football game. After returning from serving in the Army in October 1952, he resumed his announcing and sportscasting duties at WCEN. In April 1953, Carey moved to WKNX in Saginaw, Michigan to become the afternoon disc-jockey. He also worked on WKNX-TV and did the first on-camera commercial for that station. During his stay at WKNX, Carey was program director of radio for two years. In June 1956, Carey joined the announcing staff at WJR in Detroit, Michigan and worked there until his retirement in January 1992.

After producing the Detroit Tigers Radio Network from 1964 to 1971, Carey joined Ernie Harwell as a play-by-play announcer for the team in 1973 and spent nineteen seasons calling the games until his retirement after the 1991 season. For sixteen of those years calling Tiger baseball on radio, he also handled the engineering for the broadcasts.

Carey also served as a play-by-play announcer for Detroit Pistons' basketball for six seasons (1969–1973, 1975–76 and 1981–82).

  • Actor Jane Withers is 95. 
  • Musician Herbie Hancock is 81. 
  • Musician John Kay of Steppenwolf is 77. 
  • Actor Ed O’Neill (“Modern Family,” ″Married...With Children”) is 75. 
  • Clair Danes is 42
    Actor Dan Lauria (“The Wonder Years”) is 74. 
  • Talk show host David Letterman is 74. 
  • Singer J.D. Nicholas of The Commodores is 69. 
  • Singer Pat Travers is 67. 
  • Actor Andy Garcia is 65. 
  • Actor Suzzanne Douglas (“The Parent ’Hood”) is 64. 
  • Country singer Vince Gill is 64. 
  • TV personality J Alexander (“America’s Next Top Model”) is 63. 
  • Guitarist Will Sergeant of Echo and the Bunnymen is 63. 
  • Singer Art Alexakis of Everclear is 59. 
  • Singer Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls is 57. 
  • Actor Alicia Coppola (TV’s “Jericho,” film’s “National Treasure: Book of Secrets”) is 53. 
  • Singer Nicholas Hexum of 311 is 51. 
  • Actor Retta (“Good Girls,” ″Parks and Recreation”) is 51. 
  • Actor Nicholas Brendon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) is 50. 
  • Actor Shannen Doherty is 50. 
  • Actor Marley Shelton (“Pleasantville”) is 47. 
  • Actor Sarah Jane Morris (“NCIS”) is 44. 
  • Bassist Guy Berryman of Coldplay is 43. 
  • Actor Riley Smith (“Nashville”) is 43. 
  • Actor Claire Danes is 42. 
  • Actor Jennifer Morrison (“Once Upon A Time,” ″House”) is 42. 
  • Actor Matt McGorry (“How To Get Away with Murder,” ″Orange Is the New Black”) is 35. 
  • Actor Brooklyn Decker (“Grace and Frankie”) is 34. 
  • Drummer Joe Rickard of Red is 34. 
  • Singer-guitarist Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco is 34. 
  • Actor Saoirse Ronan is 27.

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