Tuesday, February 7, 2023

February 7 Radio History

Bill Johnstone
➦In 1908
... one of the busiest actors in the Golden Age of Radio Bill Johnstone was born in Brooklyn.

Perhaps best remembered as the actor who succeeded Orson Welles as The Shadow (1938-43), Johnstone could also be heard as Inspector Cramer opposite Sydney Greenstreet in Nero Wolfe; Lt. Ybarra on Philip Marlowe; and in the title role on The Whistler. 

From 1950 to 1953, he starred as Lt. Ben Guthrie in the CBS radio police procedural The Lineup.  He died Nov. 1 1996 at age 88.

➦In 1915...comic actor Eddie Bracken was born in Astoria NY.  After becoming a film star in the 40’s he made frequent appearances on network radio, and had two short-lived series under his own name.  On TV he was seen in guest roles over more than 40 years, including serious drama series like Studio One & Playhouse 90.  He died after surgery Nov 14, 2002 at age 87.

➦In 1915...First train-to-station radio message, Binghamton, NY.

➦In 1963...B. Mitchel Reed started at WMCA 570 AM NYC.

Born Burton Mitchel Goldberg in Brooklyn, New York, Reed held a B.S. degree in journalism and an M.A. in political science at the University of Illinois. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he entered the world of radio while teaching political science at his alma mater.

Reed hosted the all-night Birdland Jazz Show at WOV (AM) in New York in 1956. A year later, he landed a job at KFWB in Los Angeles, playing jazz and calling himself "The Boy on the Couch." On January 2, 1958, KFWB became a pioneering Top 40 station known as "Color Radio/Channel 98," and the DJ's were known as "The Seven Swinging Gentlemen." The lineup included Bruce Hayes, Al Jarvis, Joe Yocam, Elliot Field, Bill Ballance, Ted Quillin, and Gene Weed. Reed held the 6-9 P.M. time slot. Under Program Director Chuck Blore, KFWB became the number one radio station in LA.

He was known as "The Fastest Tongue in the West," for the speed in which he spoke to his audience. He left KFWB for WMCA in his home state of New York on February 7, 1963. He soon became part of a team of disc jockeys known as "The Good Guys," among them Jack Spector, a fellow alum from Boys High School in Brooklyn who had graduated two years ahead of him.

➦In 1963… the Vee-Jay label released the first Beatles single in the U.S. “Please Please Me.”

Vee-Jay's early releases were at first unsuccessful, but quickly became huge hits once the British Invasion took off in early 1964, selling 2.6 million Beatles singles in a month. Cash flow problems caused by Ewart Abner's tapping the company treasury to cover personal gambling debts led to the company's active demise; Vee-Jay had been forced to temporarily cease operations in the second half of 1963, leading to royalty disputes with the Four Seasons and EMI. The Four Seasons then left Vee-Jay for Philips Records, and EMI's Capitol Records picked up the U.S. rights for both the Beatles and Frank Ifield.

Dick Biondi,  at WLS 890 AM in Chicago at the time and a friend of Vee-Jay executive Ewart Abner, played the song on the radio as early as February 8, 1963.   "Please Please Me" peaked at #35, but did not show up on any of the major national record charts. The label re-issued the single in January 1964 to a much better result: it peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, just behind the group's "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" released on Capitol Records.

➦In 1964...Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow lands at New York’s Kennedy Airport as more than 3,000 fans jammed the airport launching Beatlemania in the U.S. The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr arrived for their first U.S. visit (including an appearance two days later on “The Ed Sullivan Show”). The “Fab Four” controlled the top spot on the pop music charts for the next 15 weeks and owned the top of the album charts for 10 weeks.

The “Fab Four”–dressed in mod suits and sporting their trademark pudding bowl haircuts–were greeted by 3,000 screaming fans who caused a near riot when they stepped off their plane and onto American soil.

Two days later, Paul McCartney, age 21, Ringo Starr, 23, John Lennon, 23, and George Harrison, 20, made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Although it was difficult to hear the performance over the screams of teenage girls in the studio audience, an estimated 73 million U.S. television viewers, or about 40 percent of the U.S. population, tuned in to watch. Sullivan immediately booked the Beatles for two more appearances that month.

The group made their first public concert appearance in the United States on February 11 at the Coliseum in Washington, D.C., and 20,000 fans attended. The next day, they gave two back-to-back performances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, and police were forced to close off the streets around the venerable music hall because of fan hysteria. On February 22, the Beatles returned to England.

The Beatles American TV debut was actually on November 18, 1963 on NBC's  Huntley-Brinkley Report, with a four-minute long piece voiced by Edwin Newman.

On 22 November 1963, the CBS Morning News ran a five-minute feature on Beatlemania in the UK. The evening's scheduled repeat was cancelled following the assassination of John F. Kennedy the same day. On December 10, Walter Cronkite decided to televise the piece again on the CBS Evening News, and the resulting interest led to the rush-release of "I Want to Hold Your Hand".

Eleven weeks before the Beatles' arrival in the U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The nation was in mourning, in fear, and in disbelief. The assassination came after a fifteen-year build-up of Cold War tension. The motivation and identity of the assassin, would be doubted by many Americans for decades even after the Warren Commission issued its report in September 1964. As the U.S. tried to restore a sense of normality, teenagers in particular struggled to cope, as their disbelief began to be replaced by a personal reaction to what had happened: in school essays, teenagers wrote that "then it became real", and "I was feeling the whole world is going to collapse on me", and "I never felt so empty in all my life".

When the Beatles first hit American shores in 1964, radio personalities scrambled to befriend them and scoop other stations.   Media writer Peter Kanze recapped the radio battle for The Beatles in 1989 and it was reprinted recently at meetthebeatlesforreal.blogspot.com.

According to Kanze, Rick Sklar was WABC’s Program Director from 1962 through 1976, and he remembered that “WABC never deviated from its standard policy with and artist, including the Beatles.   In order to get played on the station, the artist had to be established first.  Once they made it, fine, but we weren't going be the station to take a chance.  “WABeatlesC” went on the first American Beatles releases, but only because of their track record in England.  I don’t think that it was very significant that WMCA played “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” before we did.  As far as we were concerned, the Beatles weren't known yet.  Once the Beatles were known, though, we always tried to have the exclusive. “


(Courtesy of the WABC Tribute Website Musicradio77.com.  Find out more, visit the Musicradio77.com Beatles Page: Click Here.)

The “exclusive” or “scoop” (a record that has been obtained first by one radio station in a given area and no other) was all-important in those days, and still is to some extent with superstar performers.  In the case of the Beatles, it was meant to convey the impression that one radio station had a closer relationship to the group than the other.  Hence, newer music, better gossip, etc.

As recounted at musicradio77.com, WABC had a huge advantage when The Beatles visited New York City. As the flagship station for the ABC radio network, it had access to lots of high tech equipment. This included wireless RF microphones. During The Beatles first 1964 visit to New York, when they stayed at The Plaza, it was impossible for virtually any of the media to get access to them.

So, during their second 1964 visit when they stayed at the Delmonico Hotel, WABC mounted an all out offensive. The suite above The Beatles was rented by WABC and was used to set up a remote studio. Using those wireless microphones, WABC disc jockeys Scott Muni and Bruce Morrow wandered around the hotel ready to broadcast anything that might have to do with The Beatles. It gave the station a huge edge. And, it didn’t hurt that as many security and hotel staff people as possible were presented with "gifts" from WABC. Needless to say, there were very few places where the WABC people could not roam.

By now most of the 10,000 teenagers who packed the streets outside of the hotel were listening to WABC on their transistor radios. When WABC disc jockeys Scott Muni and Bruce Morrow asked them to sing WABC jingles as they were playing on WABC, the entire crowd was able to do so in unison.

📻CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (Courtesy of Musicradio77.com).

The power of all of this was best illustrated when Ringo Starr lost his gold Saint Christopher’s medal which was attached to a chain around his neck.

Apparently as he was entering the hotel, an over zealous fan inadvertently snatched it.   Bruce Morrow and Scott Muni learned this while interviewing him over the air at the hotel. WABC listeners also heard this and so did the girl who had the medal, Angie McGowan. She had her mother call Cousin Brucie that night. But, program director Rick Sklar, ever the master promoter, could see the advantages of stretching out this drama a while longer. Even though WABC recovered the medal within a few hours, Rick arranged for the girl to stay overnight, safely secluded with her mother in a hotel room while the station continued to broadcast appeals for the medal's safe recovery. As you would expect, this became a media sensation and WABC held all the cards.

By the time the following evening rolled around, everyone was listening to WABC to see if the medal would ever be recovered. Twenty-four hours after its initial loss and subsequent recovery, WABC reunited the medal with Ringo over the air. It was a publicity bonanza for the station.

➦In 1965...Scott Muni was dropped from the he 77 WABC line-up, according to a Billboard article.

Muni spent almost 50 years at stations in New York City. He became a Top 40 broadcaster at 570 WMCA in the late 1950s, just before the start of their "Good Guys" era. In 1960, he moved to rival Top 40 station 770 WABC.  He did an early evening show called "Scotland's Yard" and was among the first WABC DJs to capture the attention of the teenage audience.

In 1965, when Muni left WABC he did occasional fill-in work for WMCA. Muni had explored some opportunities beyond radio: for a short time he co-hosted a local weekly television show on WABC-TV 7 with Bruce "Cousin Brucie" Morrow.

Muni decided to return to radio, and in 1966, he joined WOR 98.7 FM, one of the earliest stations in the country to program free-form Progressive Rock music. 

The progressive format did not last at that station.

Scott Muni
In 1967 Muni moved to WNEW 102.7 FM.  It's version of the Progressive Rock format really took hold, with WNEW-FM becoming a legendary rock station. Muni stayed there for three decades as the afternoon DJ and sometimes program director. Muni was described by fellow WNEW-FM DJ Dennis Elsas as "the heart and soul of the place". Under assorted management changes during the 1990s WNEW-FM lost its way, and in 1998 Muni ended up hosting a one-hour noontime classic rock program at WAXQ Q104.3, where he worked until suffering a stroke in early 2004.

Muni was known to his listeners by the nicknames "Scottso" or "The Professor", the latter to emphasize his rock expertise.

He died in September 2004 at age 74.

➦In 2014... Scott Shannon aired his last show at WPLJ 95.5 FM in NYC.  Shannon started at WPLJ in 1991 after returning to the east coast from Los Angeles.  This station had also been struggling since its glory days of the mid 1980s, and Shannon became program director and morning drive co-host. At the outset, the station's direct rival was Z100, and used the slogan "Mojo Radio", downplaying the WPLJ call letters.

Shannon brought in co-host Todd Pettengill from Albany NY to form The Big Show, and the WPLJ call letters were re-emphasized. While the station did well in the suburbs, it never caught on in New York and was constantly tweaked during Shannon's tenure. On February 7, 2014, he announced he was exiting WPLJ effective immediately.

On February 25, 2014, WCBS FM announced that Scott Shannon would be hosting a brand new Morning Show entitled Scott Shannon in the Morning in New York starting on March 3.

At the release of the first run of ratings after Shannon took over at WCBS, his show was rated #1. Shannon carried over the "Big Show" name from WPLJ.  He retired from daily on-air activity in December 2022.

Garth Brooks is 61

  • Saxophonist Brian Travers of UB40 is 64. 
  • Comedian Robert Smigel (Triumph the Insult Comic Dog) is 63. 
  • Actor James Spader is 63. 
  • Country singer Garth Brooks is 61. 
  • Keyboardist David Bryan of Bon Jovi is 61. 
  • Comedian Chris Rock is 58. 
  • Actor Jason Gedrick (“Windfall,” ″Boomtown”) is 56. 
  • Actor Essence Atkins (“Half and Half,” ″Smart Guy”) is 51. 
  • Guitarist Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit is 48. 
  • Bassist Tom Blankenship of My Morning Jacket is 45. 
  • Actor Ashton Kutcher is 45. 
  • Actor Tina Majorino (“Napoleon Dynamite,” ″Veronica Mars”) is 38. 
  • Actor Deborah Ann Woll (“True Blood”) is 38.
  • In 1938..Harvey S. Firestone, American manufacturer and founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, dies at 69
  • In 1985..Matt Monro [Terence Parsons], Pop singer ("Softly As I Leave You"), dies from liver cancer at 54
  • In 1999..Robert "Bobby" Troup, Jazz pianist and actor (Emergency, Acapulco), dies of a heart attack at 80
  • In 2001..Dale Evans, Actress and singer (Roy Rogers Show), dies at 88
  • In 2019..Frank Robinson, Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder, manager (14 x MLB All-Star; NL MVP 1961; AL MVP 1966; World Series 1966, 70; Baltimore Orioles), dies of bone cancer at 83
  • In 2021..Elliot Mazer, Audio engineer and record producer (Chubby Checker; Neil Young), dies of a heart attack at 71

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