Wednesday, October 20, 2021

October 20 Radio History

Lee DeForest

In 1906...Radio pioneer Dr. Lee DeForest demonstrated the electrical vaccuum radio tube. DeForest disliked the term "wireless" and chose a new moniker, "radio."

In 1902 he and his financial backers founded the DeForest Wireless Telegraph Company. In order to dramatize the potential of this new medium of communication,he gave public demonstrations of wireless telegraphy for businessmen, the press, and the military.

A poor businessman and a poorer judge of men, de Forest was defrauded twice by his own business partners. By 1906 his first company was insolvent, and he had been squeezed out of its operation. But in 1907 he patented a much more promising detector (developed in 1906), which he called the Audion; it was capable of more sensitive reception of wireless signals than were the electrolytic and Carborundum types then in use. It was a thermionic grid-triode vacuum tube—a three-element electronic “valve” similar to a two-element device patented by the Englishman Sir John Ambrose Fleming in 1905. In 1907 de Forest was able to broadcast experimentally both speech and music to the general public in the New York City area.

De Forest is credited with the birth of radio broadcasting when on January 12, 1910, he conducted experimental broadcast of part of the live performance of Tosca and, the next day, a performance with the participation of Italian tenor Enrico Caruso from the stage of Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

Arlene Francis

In 1908...Arlene Francis was born in Boston, Massachusetts.  Francis became a well-known New York City radio personality, hosting several programs. In 1938 she became the female host of the radio game show "What's My Name?" although several men appeared as co-hosts over the years, Francis was the sole female host throughout the program's long run (on ABC, NBC and Mutual networks) until it ended in 1949.

In 1940, Francis played Betty in Betty and Bob, an early radio soap opera broadcast.

In 1943, she began as host of a network radio game show, Blind Date, which she hosted also on ABC and NBC television from 1949–52. She was a regular contributor to NBC Radio's Monitor in the 1950s and 1960s, and hosted a long-running midday chat show on WOR-AM that ran from 1960 to 1984.

Francis was a pioneer for women on television, one of the first to host a program that was not musical or dramatic in nature. From 1954-57, she was host and editor-in-chief of Home, NBC's hour-long daytime magazine program oriented toward women, which was conceived by network president Pat Weaver to complement the network's Today and Tonight programs. Newsweek put her on its cover as the "first lady of television". She hosted Talent Patrol in the mid-1950s.

Francis was also a panelist on the weekly game show What's My Line? from its second episode on CBS in 1950 until its network cancellation in 1967, and in its daily syndicated version from 1968–75.

She died May 31, 2001 in San Francisco at 93 after a long bout with Alzheimer’s and cancer.

In 1930...the "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" premiered on the NBC Radio Network.

In 1945...'Break the Bank' debuted on Mutual radio.   Sponsored by Vicks, the series was heard Saturdays on Mutual until April 13, 1946. Initially, it featured different hosts each week, including John Reed King and Johnny Olson. Bert Parks became the full-time host in 1946. With Vitalis Hair Tonic as the sponsor, the series returned Friday, July 5, 1946, on ABC for a run until September 23, 1949. Bud Collyer and Bob Shepherd were the announcers, and Peter Van Steeden provided the music.

The questions were written by Joseph Nathan Kane, the author of Famous First Facts, who hand-delivered the sealed envelopes to the radio studio. Jack Rubin directed for producers Walt Framer and Ed Wolfe. On October 5, 1949, the series moved to NBC, continuing until September 13, 1950. It was heard weekdays on NBC in 1950-51 and weekdays on ABC (1951–53). With Miles Laboratories as the sponsor, it moved back to weekdays on NBC (1953–55), overlapping with a weekdays series on Mutual (1954–55).

In 1948, Radio Mirror called Break the Bank "the highest-paying quiz program in the world." That same year, the series moved to television with Bert Parks and Bud Collyer co-hosting.

In 1947...World Series radio rights were sold to Mutual for three years for $475,000.

In 1969...WCBS 101.1 FM switched to live deejays when it launched a freeform rock format, which was becoming increasingly popular, and all other CBS-owned FM stations followed suit.

For the first time, WCBS-FM would have an airstaff. Bill Brown began his long tenure with the station, and Don K. Reed began his late in 1971; both remained there until 2005. Radio personalities such as Bobby "Wizzard" Wayne, Tom Tyler, Ed Williams, Steve Clark, Roby Yonge, K.O. Bayley (Bob Elliott from WOR-FM), Les Turpin, Bob "Bob-A-Lew" Lewis also briefly joined the WCBS-FM "freeform" format. Besides Bill Brown and Don K. Reed, Wizzard Wayne and Ed Williams also stayed into the early part of the oldies format.

Here's a pre-Oldies aircheck of PD Gus Gossert on WCBS-FM (courtesy of

In 1973...the Family Station Inc. purchased shortwave station WNYW, changed the call letters to WYFR. Station was licensed to and had studios in New York City, but transmitters were in Scituate, MA dating back very early days. Family Stations sold Scituate real estate for a bundle and moved transmitters to south Florida.

In 2015...Cory Wells, a co-founder and longtime member of the rock group ‘Three Dog Night,’ died at age 74 from an infection while battling cancer.

Wanda Jackson is 84


  • Rockabilly singer Wanda Jackson is 84. 
  • Actor-turned-nun Dolores Hart (“Where the Boys Are,” “King Creole”) is 83. 
  • Actor William Russ (“Boy Meets World,” “Wiseguy”) is 71. 
  • Actor Melanie Mayron (“thirtysomething”) is 69. 
  • Director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “Trainspotting”) is 65. 
  • Jennifer Ncol Freeman is 36
    Actor Viggo Mortensen (“Lord of the Rings”) is 63. 
  • Drummer Jim “Soni” Sonefeld of Hootie and the Blowfish is 57. 
  • Bassist Doug Eldridge of Oleander is 54. 
  • “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin is 53. 
  • Actor Kenneth Choi (“Sons of Anarchy”) is 50. 
  • Rapper Snoop Dogg is 50. 
  • Country singer Jimi Westbrook of Little Big Town is 50. 
  • Actor-comedian Dan Fogler (“Fantastic Beasts,” “The Walking Dead”) is 45. 
  • Saxophonist Jon Natchez of The War on Drugs is 45. 
  • Actor Sam Witwer (“Smallville,” “Battlestar Galactica”) is 44. 
  • Actor John Krasinski (“The Office”) is 42. 
  • Bassist Daniel Tichenor of Cage The Elephant is 42. 
  • Actor Katie Featherston (“Paranormal Activity”) is 39. 
  • Actor Jennifer Nicole Freeman (“My Wife and Kids”) is 36.

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