Wednesday, April 7, 2021

April 7 Radio History

➦In 1897...Walter Winchell born (Died at age 74 from cancer – February 20, 1972). He was a newspaper and radio gossip commentator.

Winchell found embarrassing stories about famous people by exploiting his exceptionally wide circle of contacts, and trading gossip, sometimes in return for his silence. His uniquely outspoken style made him both feared and admired, and his column was syndicated worldwide. In the 1930s, he attacked the appeasers of Nazism, and later aligned with Joseph McCarthy in his campaign against communists. He damaged the reputations of Charles Lindbergh and Josephine Baker as well as other individuals who had earned his enmity.

However, the McCarthy connection in time made him deeply unfashionable, his talents did not adapt well for television, and his career ended in humiliation.

He made his radio debut over WABC in New York, a CBS affiliate, on May 12, 1930. The show, entitled Saks on Broadway, was a 15-minute feature that provided business news about Broadway. He switched to WJZ (later renamed WABC) and the NBC Blue (later ABC Radio) in 1932 for the Jergens Journal.

He coined the intro: “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea.”  Later his star would brighten for a new generation when he narrated the TV series The Untouchables.

➦In 1908...Percy Faith was born (Died at age 67 – February 9, 1976),  He was a Canadian bandleader, orchestrator, composer and conductor, known for his lush arrangements of pop and Christmas standards. He is often credited with popularizing the "easy listening" or "mood music" format. Faith became a staple of American popular music in the 1950s and continued well into the 1960s. Though his professional orchestra-leading career began at the height of the swing era, Faith refined and rethought orchestration techniques, including use of large string sections, to soften and fill out the brass-dominated popular music of the 1940s.

Faith was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. He was the oldest of eight children. His parents, Abraham Faith and Minnie, née Rottenberg, were Jewish. He played violin and piano as a child, and played in theatres and at Massey Hall. After his hands were badly burned in a fire, he turned to conducting, and his live orchestras used the new medium of radio broadcasting.

Beginning with defunct stations CKNC and CKCL, Faith was a staple of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's live-music broadcasting from 1933 to 1940, when he resettled in Chicago. In the early 1940s, Faith was orchestra leader for the Carnation Contented program on NBC. From 1948-1949 he also served as the orchestra leader on the CBS radio network program The Coca-Cola Hour (also called The Pause That Refreshes). The orchestral accordionist John Serry Sr. collaborated with Faith in these broadcasts.

In 1945, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He made many recordings for Voice of America. After working briefly for Decca Records, he worked for Mitch Miller at Columbia Records, where he turned out dozens of albums and provided arrangements for many of the pop singers of the 1950s, including Tony Bennett, Doris Day, Johnny Mathis for Mathis's 1958 Christmas album titled Merry Christmas, and Guy Mitchell for whom Faith wrote Mitchell's number-one single, "My Heart Cries for You".

His most famous and remembered recordings are "Delicado" (1952), "The Song from Moulin Rouge" (1953) and "Theme from A Summer Place" (1960), which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1961.

➦In 1927...Herbert E. Ives and Frank Gray of Bell Telephone Laboratories gave the first dramatic demonstration of mechanical television.The live picture and voice of then Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover were transmitted over telephone lines from Washington, D.C. to New York. The reflected-light television system included both small and large viewing screens. The small receiver had a two-inch-wide by 2.5-inch-high screen. The large receiver had a screen 24 inches wide by 30 inches high. Both sets were capable of reproducing reasonably accurate, monochromatic moving images. Along with the pictures, the sets also received synchronized sound.

The system transmitted images over two paths: first, a copper wire link from Washington to New York City, then a radio link from Whippany, New Jersey. Comparing the two transmission methods, viewers noted no difference in quality.

In 1928, WRGB (then W2XB) was started as the world's first television station. It broadcast from the General Electric facility in Schenectady, NY. It was popularly known as "WGY Television".

➦In 1956…64 years ago today, the first regularly-scheduled, nationally-broadcast rock ‘n’ roll radio show premiered on the CBS Radio Network.

The reputation of disc jockey Alan Freed may have been sullied somewhat by the payola scandal that ran rampant through the broadcasting industry in the early 1960s, but if there’s one thing that’s never been in question, it’s that the man appreciated the merits of rock ‘n’ roll and was one of the genre’s major proponents as it was taking off around America in the ‘50s.

To borrow a concept from Danny and the Juniors, the creation of Rock ‘n’ Roll Dance Party was a sure sign that rock ‘n’ roll was here to stay – as the magazine Downbeat wrote at the time, “the fan mail we get from all around the country is…a true barometer for the new and exciting beat that has swept the country”. Episodes of the show were recorded for airing on the American Forces Network so that US soldiers stationed overseas could enjoy the latest tunes, and those episodes are the only ones that have survived.

➦In 1967...San Francisco DJ Tom Donahue went on the air at KMPX 106.9 FM for the first time playing what was referred to as progressive rock.

On December 10, 1959, the station, owned by San Francisco businessman Franklin Mieuli, signed on at 106.9 MHz with the KPUP call letters. In July 1960, the call letters were changed to KHIP and the station aired jazz music programming. Mieuli sold KHIP on July 1, 1962 to Leon Crosby, who had previously owned KHYD in Hayward.

Under Leon Crosby's ownership, the station began operating in multiplex stereo and the call letters were changed to KMPX (for "MultiPleX") the following month. Soon after, Crosby gained authorization by the FCC to increase the station's power from the original 37,000 watts to 80,000 watts. The transmitter was in Marin County on Wolfback Ridge above Sausalito.

By mid-1964, KMPX was airing a middle of the road music format. As the money-strapped station struggled, by 1966 the schedule became dominated by various foreign language and other brokered programs.

KMPX Staff Photo May 1967
Though KMPX's daytime schedule was heavy with ethnic programming, the midnight-6 AM slot was mostly open. On February 12, 1967, on-air personality Larry Miller was given the shift, where he played his preferred folk rock music whenever a foreign language show was not scheduled. But even with this impediment and the station's high-end-of-the-dial position, word spread that "rock and roll is on FM".

Tom Donahue
A month later, Tom Donahue, a former well-known local Top 40 disc jockey on KYA, fledgling record label owner and concert promoter, was looking for an opportunity to do something unique on the radio. According to his then-girlfriend (and future wife) Raechel's recollection, mentioned in Jim Ladd's book Radio Waves, after spending a night listening to The Doors' first album at home, Donahue wondered why radio stations weren't playing it.   He soon started calling around town to local stations on the less-desirable FM dial. When he found that KMPX's phone was disconnected, he decided to approach Crosby with his plan, as he felt the station had nothing to lose.  Donahue proposed to take over some of KMPX's programming and replace the brokered foreign-language shows with freeform album-based rock music, declaring, "no jingles, no talkovers, no time and temp, no pop singles."  Advertisers would come in the form of local businesses serving the local hippie and Haight-Ashbury communities. As Donahue was a well-known and respected person in local radio, Crosby hired him.

On Friday, April 7, 1967, Donahue went on the air at KMPX for the first time, working from 8 PM to midnight, leading into Miller's show. The station's programming evolved over the weeks and months that followed, and Donahue sought out air personalities who fit what he envisioned for the format. Early staffers included Edward Bear (1967 aircheck: Click Here), Dusty Street, and even future actor Howard Hesseman. Donahue's rock music format expanded to full-time on August 6, 1967, as the last of the foreign-language program contracts expired. The station at the time employed an unheard-of all-female studio engineer staff. The presentation of music on the station stood in stark contrast to most other stations of the day. Instead of a hit music-dominated playlist, KMPX played more album cuts, local, emerging and cutting-edge artists, and a wide mix of genres such as rock, blues, jazz and folk music. Some of the music played in the Spring of 1967 included Jefferson Airplane's album Surrealistic Pillow, the first Grateful Dead album, Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced and The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which KMPX played uninterrupted in its entirety.

Today 106.9 FM simulcasts the All-News format of Entercom's KCBS 740 AM.

➦In 1972..Toronto radio personality Al Boliska, whose morning show made him a radio star on first 1050 CHUM and then CKEY 1010 AM, choked to death on his own vomit at the much too young age of 39. Boliska grew up in Montreal and began his broadcasting career in an off-air capacity at CBC Montreal, then developed his ‘wild and crazy’ morning show antics at CKLC in Kingston from 1953 until 1956 when he moved to CKSL London. His zany style and quirky humour quickly got him noticed and ratings for CHUM began to soar. Listeners adored ‘kind, loveable, old Al Boliska’. Even the station itself (or at least CHUM’s printing company), wasn’t immune from mangling his unique last name.

➦In 1976...Radio Personality Mary Margaret McBride died at age 76. (Born - November 16, 1899) Her popular radio shows spanned more than 40 years. In the 1940s the daily audience for her housewife-oriented program numbered from six to eight million listeners. She was called "The First Lady of Radio.

McBride first worked steadily in radio for WOR in New York City, starting in 1934. This daily women's-advice show, with her persona as "Martha Deane", a kind and witty grandmother figure with a Missouri-drawl, aired daily until 1940.

In 1937, she launched on the CBS radio network the first of a series of similar and successful shows, now as Mary Margaret McBride.

She interviewed figures well known in the world of arts and entertainment, and politics, with a style recognized as original to herself. She accepted advertising only for products she was prepared to endorse from her own experience, and turned down all tobacco or alcohol products.

She followed this format in regular broadcasts on
  • CBS until 1941
  • NBC (where her audience numbered in the millions) from then until 1950
  • ABC from then until 1954
  • NBC again until 1960, and
  • The New York Herald Tribune's radio broadcasts with a wider audience via syndication.

➦In 2012
... Mike Wallace died at age 93 (Born - May 9, 1918). He was ajournalist, game show host, actor, and media personality. He interviewed a wide range of prominent newsmakers during his seven-decade career. He was one of the original correspondents for CBS' 60 Minutes, which debuted in 1968. Wallace retired as a regular full-time correspondent in 2006, but still appeared occasionally on the series until 2008.

Mike Wallace
Wallace appeared as a guest on the popular radio quiz show Information Please on February 7, 1939, when he was in his last year at the University of Michigan. His first radio job was as newscaster and continuity writer for WOOD Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This lasted until 1940, when he moved to WXYZ Radio in Detroit, Michigan, as an announcer. He then became a freelance radio worker in Chicago, Illinois.

Wallace enlisted in the United States Navy in 1943 and during World War II served as a communications officer on the USS Anthedon, a submarine tender. After being discharged in 1946, Wallace returned to Chicago.

Wallace announced for the radio shows Curtain Time, Ned Jordan:Secret Agent, Sky King, The Green Hornet, Curtain Time, and The Spike Jones Show. From 1946 through 1948 he portrayed the title character on The Crime Files of Flamond, on WGN and in syndication.

Wallace even announced wrestling in Chicago in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In the late 1940s, Wallace was a staff announcer for the CBS radio network. He had displayed his comic skills when he appeared opposite Spike Jones in dialogue routines. He was also the voice of Elgin-American in their commercials on Groucho Marx's You Bet Your Life. As "Myron Wallace", he portrayed New York City detective Lou Kagel on the short-lived radio drama series "Crime on the Waterfront".

In 1949, Wallace began to move to the new medium of television.

➦In 2015...Stan Freberg died at age 88 (Born Stanley Friberg; August 7, 1926). He was an author, actor, recording artist, voice artist, comedian, radio personality, puppeteer and advertising creative director, whose career began in 1943. He remained active in the industry into his late 80s, more than 70 years after entering it.

Freberg's sprawling imagination fueled a multifaceted career that included pretty much inventing the idea of using satire in commercials.

He made hit comedy records, voiced hundreds of cartoon characters and succeeded Jack Benny in one of radio’s most prestigious time slots. He called himself a “guerrilla satirist,” using humor as a barbed weapon to take on issues ranging from the commercialization of Christmas to the hypocrisy of liberals.

“Let’s give in and do the brotherhood bit,/Just make sure we don’t make a habit of it,” he sang in “Take an Indian to Lunch,” a song on the 1961 album “Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America,” a history lesson in songs and sketches. Time magazine said it may have been the “finest comedy album ever recorded.”

His radio sketches for CBS in 1957 included some of the earliest put-downs of political correctness (before that idea had a name). One sketch entailed a confrontation with a fictional network censor, Mr. Tweedlie, who insisted that Mr. Freberg change the lyrics of “Ol’ Man River,” starting with the title. He wanted it renamed “Elderly Man River.”

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  • Heather Burns is 46
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  • Actor Roberta Shore (“The Virginian”) is 78. 
  • Singer Patricia Bennett of The Chiffons is 74. 
  • Singer-guitarist John Oates of Hall and Oates is 73. 
  • Drummer John Dittrich of Restless Heart is 70. 
  • Singer Janis Ian is 70. 
  • Actor Jackie Chan is 67. 
  • Actor Russell Crowe is 57. 
  • Singer Mark Kibble of Take 6 is 57. 
  • Actor Bill Bellamy (“Last Comic Standing,” ″Fastlane”) is 56. 
  • Drummer Charlie Hall of The War on Drugs is 47. 
  • Singer-bassist John Cooper of Skillet is 46. 
  • Actor Heather Burns (“Miss Congeniality”) is 46. 
  • Actor Kevin Alejandro (“Lucifer,” ″Southland”) is 45. 
  • Actor Sian Clifford (“Fleabag”) is 39. 
  • Bassist Ben McKee of Imagine Dragons is 36. 
  • Contemporary Christian singer Tauren Wells is 35. 
  • Actor Ed Speleers (“Downton Abbey”) is 33. 
  • Actor Conner Rayburn (“According to Jim”) is 22.

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