Thursday, January 20, 2022

January 20 Radio History


➦In 1896...legendary entertainer George Burns was born Nathan Birnbaum in New York City. After a lengthy apprenticeship in vaudeville, in 1932 George & wife Gracie became a long running hit in radio, films & then TV with The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show [“Say goodnight, Gracie.”] On Gracie’s retirement he returned to a solo act, winning an Oscar with The Sunshine Boys, followed by another hit film Oh, God! He died Mar 9, 1996 at age 100.

➦In 1920...A US Patent was for a magnetic amplifier was granted to Ernst Alexanderson. Magnetic amplifiers were important as modulation and control amplifiers in the early development of voice transmission by radio. Also, the ability to control large currents with small control power made magnetic amplifiers useful for control of lighting circuits, for stage lighting and for advertising signs. Saturable reactor amplifiers were used for control of power to industrial furnaces. Magnetic amplifiers are still used in some arc welders.  Alexanderson also designed the Alexanderson alternator, an early longwave radio transmitter, one of the first devices which could transmit modulated audio (sound) over radio waves.

He had been employed at General Electric for only a short time when GE received an order from Canadian-born professor and researcher Reginald Fessenden, then working for the US Weather Bureau, for a specialized alternator with much higher frequency than others in existence at that time, for use as a radio transmitter.

Ernst Alexanderson
Fessenden had been working on the problem of transmitting sound by radio waves, and had concluded that a new type of radio transmitter was needed, a continuous wave transmitter. Designing a machine that would rotate fast enough to produce radio waves proved a formidable challenge. Alexanderson's family were convinced the huge spinning rotors would fly apart and kill him, and he set up a sandbagged bunker from which to test them.

In the summer of 1906 Mr. Alexanderson's first effort, a 50 kHz alternator, was installed in Fessenden's radio station in Brant Rock, Massachusetts. By fall its output had been improved to 500 watts and 75 kHz. On Christmas Eve, 1906, Fessenden made an experimental broadcast of Christmas music, including him playing the violin, that was heard by Navy ships and shore stations down the East Coast as far as Arlington. This is considered the first AM radio entertainment broadcast.

Alexanderson and G.E. continued improving his machine, and the Alexanderson alternator became widely used in high power very low frequency commercial and Naval wireless stations to transmit radiotelegraphy traffic at intercontinental distances, until by the 1930s it was replaced by vacuum tube transmitters.

Alexanderson was also instrumental in the development of television. The first television broadcast in the United States was to his GE Plot home at 1132 Adams Rd, Schenectady, NY, in 1927. In 1928, WRGB then W2XB was started as world's first television station. It broadcast from the General Electric facility in Schenectady, NY. It was popularly known as "WGY Television".

Over his lifetime, Mr. Alexanderson received 345 US patents, the last filed in 1968 at age 89. The inventor and engineer remained active to an advanced age, working as a consultant to GE and RCA in the 1950s. He died in 1975 and was buried at Vale Cemetery in Schenectady, New York.

➦In 1933...."The Lone Ranger" He first appeared in 1933 in a radio show conceived either by WXYZ (Detroit) radio station owner George W. Trendle and by Fran Striker, the show's writer.

The radio series proved to be a hit and spawned a series of books (largely written by Striker), an equally popular television show that ran from 1949 to 1957, comic books, and several movies. The title character was played on the radio show by George Seaton, Earle Graser, and Brace Beemer.

Clayton Moore portrayed the Lone Ranger on television, although during a contract dispute, Moore was replaced temporarily by John Hart, who wore a different style of mask. On the radio, Tonto was played by, among others, John Todd and Roland Parker; and in the television series, by Jay Silverheels, who was a Mohawk from the Six Nations Indian Reserve in Ontario, Canada.

➦In 1954... the National Negro Network was formed. Some 40 radio stations were charter members of America's first black-owned radio network founded by W. Leonard Evans, Jr. The network featured a variety of different programming, including a popular soap opera The Story of Ruby Valentine, which was based on CBS's We Love and Learn and As the Twig is Bent, and starred Juanita Hall, Ruby Dee and Terry Carter. The serial was sponsored by, among others, Philip Morris and Pet Milk. Other short-lived series included The Life of Anna Lewis with Hilda Simms, and It's A Mystery Man with Cab Calloway.

Some shows were produced by Calloway and Ethel Waters. Other fare included broadcasts of symphony concerts from black colleges, and programs hosted by black DJs at affiliate stations.

The network drew up plans for several more series, but—with the TV era exploding—fell apart within a year due to inadequate capital.

Peter Tripp
➦In 1959...Peter Tripp’s “Stay Awake Marathon” started. Tripp was a Top-40 countdown radio personality from the mid-1950s, whose career peaked with his 1959 record breaking 201 hour wakeathon (working on the radio non-stop without sleep to benefit the March of Dimes). For much of the stunt, he sat in a glass booth in Times Square. After a few days he began to hallucinate, and for the last 66 hours the observing scientists and doctors gave him drugs to help him stay awake. He was broadcasting for WMGM 1050 AM in New York City at the time. Tripp suffered psychologically, after the stunt, he began to think he was an imposter of himself, and kept that thought for some time.

His career soon suffered a massive downturn when he was involved in the payola scandal of 1960. Like several other disc jockeys (including Alan Freed) he had been playing particular records in return for gifts from record companies. Indicted only weeks after his stunt, it emerged that he had accepted $36,050 in bribes. Despite his claim that he "never took a dime from anyone", he was found guilty on a charge of commercial bribery, receiving a $500 fine and a six-month suspended sentence.

Even his wakeathon record did not endure for long. Other DJs had quickly attempted to beat it (such publicity stunts being common in radio broadcasting at the time) and Dave Hunter, in Jacksonville, Florida, soon claimed success (225 hours). Six years after Tripp's record, it was smashed by high school student Randy Gardner, who lasted 11 days.

After leaving WMGM, Tripp was unable to re-establish himself in the world of radio, drifting from KYA in San Francisco to KGFJ in Los Angeles and finally WOHO in Toledo, Ohio, before quitting the medium in 1967. Returning to L.A., he had more success working in physical fitness sales and marketing. He diversified into freelance motivational speaking, writing and stockbroking before settling into a Palm Springs, California retirement.

Overall he had spent twenty years in broadcasting: he began with WEXL in Royal Oak, Michigan, in 1947 then on to Kansas City, Missouri in 1953 where he worked for KUDL (where he adopted the nickname "The Bald Kid In The Third Row", apparently a description made by a parent upon spotting him among many rows of new-borns in a hospital shortly after his birth) and then WHB (restyling himself as "The Curly-headed Kid In The Third Row"; he was not, in reality, bald) where he pioneered the Top-40 format. It was in 1955 that he landed his ill-fated job with WMGM in New York, presenting "Your Hits of the Week".

Tripp died at the age of 73 following a stroke, leaving two sons and two daughters. His four marriages all ended in divorce.

➦In 1964...the first album by The Beatles was released by the Capitol label. The LP, “Meet the Beatles”, became a huge success and was #1 on the charts within a month. The British Invasion had begun.

➦In 1965...Alan Freed, the “Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, died in Palm Springs, Calif., of cirrhosis of the liver at age 43. Freed was one of the first radio disc jockeys to program black music, or race music, as it was termed, for white audiences. In the 1950s, Freed, called “Moon Doggy” at WJW Radio in Cleveland, coined the phrase, “rock ‘n’ roll,” before moving to WABC in New York. 

Alan Freed
He was fired by WABC for allegedly accepting payola… making him the scapegoat for what was a widespread practice. Freed, not so incidentally, died nearly penniless after the scandal was exposed.

While attending Ohio State University, Freed became interested in radio. Freed served in the Army during World War II and worked as a DJ on Armed Forces Radio. Soon after World War II, Freed landed broadcasting jobs at small radio stations, including WKST (New Castle, PA); WKBN (Youngstown, OH); and WAKR (Akron, OH), where, in 1945, he became a local favorite for playing hot jazz and pop recordings.

He helped bridge the gap of segregation among young teenage Americans, presenting music by African-American artists (rather than cover versions by white artists) on his radio program, and arranging live concerts attended by racially mixed audiences. Freed appeared in several motion pictures as himself.

SiriusXM 60s Gold Host Phlash Phelps checks out the Freed Tombstone

Initially interred at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, his ashes were moved in 2002 to their present location in Cleveland, Ohio at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On August 1, 2014, the Hall of Fame asked Alan Freed's son, Lance Freed, to permanently remove the ashes, which he did. The Freed family later announced the ashes would be interred at Cleveland's Lake View Cemetery

➦In 1996...WPAT 93.1 FM, New York, switched from beautiful music to a English-Spanish format 'Suave'.

➦In 2000.. the FCC created LPFM‘s (Low Powered FM radio stations)., ransmitter power is limited to 100 watts, signals reaching from three to five miles.

➦In 2018...TV weatherman John Coleman, who co-founded The Weather Channel and was the original meteorologist on ABC‘s “Good Morning America” during a six-decade broadcasting career, died at age 83.

He drew anger during the later years of his career (on TV in San Diego) for his doubts that humans caused global warming, which he called a “hoax” and a “scam.”

Paul Stanley is 70


  • Singer Eric Stewart (10cc, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders) is 77. 
  • Director David Lynch is 76. 
  • Drummer George Grantham of Poco is 75. 
  • Guitarist Paul Stanley of Kiss is 70. 
  • Bonnie McKee is 38
    Bassist Ian Hill of Judas Priest is 70. 
  • TV host Bill Maher (“Politically Incorrect”) is 66. 
  • Actor Lorenzo Lamas is 64. 
  • Actor James Denton (“Desperate Housewives”) is 59. 
  • Bassist Greg K. of The Offspring is 57. 
  • Country singer John Michael Montgomery is 57. 
  • Actor Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) is 56. 
  • Actor Stacey Dash (“Clueless”) is 55. 
  • Actor Reno Wilson (“Mike and Molly”) is 53. 
  • Singer Edwin McCain is 52. 
  • Actor Skeet Ulrich is 52. 
  • Drummer Questlove of The Roots is 51. 
  • Drummer Rob Bourdon of Linkin Park is 43. 
  • Singer-songwriter Bonnie McKee is 38. 
  • Country singer Brantley Gilbert is 37. 
  • Singer Kevin Parker of Tame Impala is 36. 
  • Actor Evan Peters (“American Horror Story”) is 35.

No comments:

Post a Comment