Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Radio History: September 19

➦In 1921..Boston's WBZ radio, which now broadcasts at 1030 kHz AM and is the oldest surviving commercial radio station in New England, signed-on broadcasting from Springfield, MA.

The station has long been one of the highest-rated stations in the Boston area, and covers much of the eastern United States and Canada at night with its 50,000-watt clear-channel signal from its transmitter location in Hull, Massachusetts, which has been used by the station since 1940. The transmitter is a two tower directional array where each tower is 160 meters (520 ft) tall. The signal is intentionally directionalized from their coastal location for maximum power transmitted into the continental United States, giving WBZ outstanding multi-state coverage after sunset.

WBZ's initial license, for operation in Springfield, was issued by the Department of Commerce to the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company on September 15, 1921; it was the first license to specify broadcasts on 360 meters (833 kilohertz), and was subsequently deemed to be the first license for a commercial broadcast station. However, other stations, such as WWJ in Detroit, 1XE/WGI in Medford Hillside, and sister station KDKA in Pittsburgh, were already broadcasting under different license classifications.

Original Studio on Page Blvd.
The station's original transmitter and studios were located at the Westinghouse factory on Page Boulevard in East Springfield. However, WBZ's inaugural program, on September 19, 1921, was a remote broadcast from the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield.

The original format was general entertainment and information, which included live music (often classical music and opera), sports, farm reports, special events, and public affairs programming. Despite WBZ being housed in Springfield, it somewhat difficult to attract top-flight artists to the station,  leading Westinghouse to open a studio at the Hotel Brunswick in Boston on February 24, 1924.  WBZ also expanded its news programming via a partnership with the newspaper Boston Herald and Traveler.  It also carried a considerable amount of sports broadcasts, including Boston Bruins hockey, Boston Braves baseball, and Harvard Crimson football.

Because of its comparatively wide reach, the station often referred to itself as "WBZ, New England" as opposed to associating itself solely with Springfield or Boston. 

However, even after several power boosts (the station broadcast at a power of 100 watts in 1921, but was using 2,000 watts in April 1925, the station still had some trouble reaching Boston, leading Westinghouse to sign on WBZA, a 250-watt station at 1240 kHz, on August 20, 1925.  Efforts were soon made to operate WBZA as a synchronous repeater of WBZ, by then at 900 kHz; this process was difficult, as the two transmitters often interfered with each other even in Boston, and WBZA went back and forth between the two frequencies for nearly a year before finally going to full-time synchronous operation in June 1926.

WBZ also continued to boost the power of its primary East Springfield transmitter; it was granted permission to operate with 5,000 watts on March 31, 1926, and by 1927 it was operating with 15,000 watts. Meanwhile, a combination of WBZ's growth and continued difficulties with the WBZA signal led the station to move its Boston studio to the Statler Hotel (now the Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers) on June 1, 1927 and activate a new WBZA transmitter on June 9.  The Federal Radio Commission (FRC) moved WBZ and WBZA to 990 kHz on November 11, 1928.

Amidst the technical changes, WBZ also began engaging in network activities. By 1925, it often shared programs with WJZ in New York City (which Westinghouse had also started in 1921, but sold to the Radio Corporation of America two years later), and a WBZ special commemorating the 150th anniversary of Paul Revere's "Midnight Ride" was also fed to WRC in Washington, D.C. and WGY in Schenectady, New York. This paved the way for the station to become a charter affiliate of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) on November 15, 1926, carrying the WJZ-originated NBC Blue Network beginning on January 1, 1927.

Today, WBZ is owned by iHeartMedia and airs a News/Talk format.

➦In 1932...The radio soap  Just Plain Bill started airing It aired for about 20-years. It was a 15-minute daytime radio drama program heard on CBS Radio and NBC Radio. Originally called Bill the Barber, it told the story of Bill Davidson (Arthur Hughes), a barber in the town of Hartville, and his daughter Nancy (Ruth Russell). Bill often became involved in helping his friends and neighbors when he wasn't cutting hair. Also in the cast: Dick Janaver (1911-1999).

➦In 1955...Radio-TV personality Bill Cullen started at WRCA 660 AM in NYC.

Bill Cullen
Cullen's broadcasting career began in Pittsburgh at WWSW radio, where he worked as a disc jockey and play-by-play announcer or color commentator for Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Hornets games. In 1943, Cullen left WWSW to briefly work at rival station KDKA before leaving Pittsburgh a year later to try his luck in New York.

A week after arriving in New York he was hired as a staff announcer at CBS. To supplement his then-meager income, he became a freelance joke writer for some of the top radio stars of the day including Arthur Godfrey, Danny Kaye, and Jack Benny; he also worked as a staff writer for the Easy Aces radio show.

His first venture into game shows was in 1945 when he was hired as announcer for a radio quiz called Give And Take.  Between 1946 and 1953 he also worked as announcer for various other local and network shows, including the radio version of Mark Goodson and Bill Todman's first game show, Winner Take All, hosted by Ward Wilson; Cullen took over as host four months later when Wilson left.

After a brief stint at WNEW in 1951 he later hosted a popular morning show at WRCA radio from 1955 to 1961.  His last regular radio job was as one of the hosts of NBC Radio's Monitor from 1971 to 1973.

➦In 1970...Good Guy Ed Baer aired last show at WMCA 570 AM  NYC.  ➤Aircheck from 1964:

Baer spent more than a 60 years on New York area stations, including as a “Good Guy” on WMCA 570 AM, followed by stints on WCBS 101.1 FM, WYNY, WHN 1050 AM, and WHUD among others.

Baer began in New York radio at WMCA in the fall of 1961, at age 25, the youngest member of the air staff.  He remained there for 12 years, doing music, news and talk shows. Then, on to WHN, playing Country Music for 10 years, followed by 4 years at WYNY, where he also did sports on the NBC Radio Network.  In 1986, he took over mornings with the Ed Baer Affair on 100.7 WHUD while also beginning fill-in stints on WCBS-FM, and often heard on their Radio Greats Weekends.

➦In 2018...Bill Gable, who entertained audiences at CKLW Windsor-Detroit and other stations across North America for 46-years died in a Windsor, Ontario hospital from complications of chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder (COPD). Gable retired in 2014.

➦In 2018...CBS News Radio announced the unexpected death of longtime correspondent and anchor of the World News Roundup Late Edition Dave Barrett has died. He was 63-years-of-age.  He anchored hourly newscasts and was 3-time winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award.

David McCallum is 90
  • Actor Rosemary Harris is 96. 
  • Actor David McCallum (“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “NCIS”) is 90. 
  • Singer Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers is 83. 
  • Singer Sylvia Tyson of Ian and Sylvia is 83. 
  • Singer-songwriter Paul Williams is 83. 
  • Singer Freda Payne is 81. 
  • Singer David Bromberg is 78. 
  • Actor Randolph Mantooth (“Emergency”) is 78. 
  • Guitarist/music video director Lol Creme of 10cc is 76. 
  • Actor Jeremy Irons is 75. 
  • Actor-model Twiggy Lawson is 74. 
  • TV personality Joan Lunden is 73. 
  • Actor Scott Colomby (“Jack Frost,” ″Porky’s” films) is 71. 
  • Guitarist-producer Nile Rodgers of Chic is 71. 
  • Singer-actor Rex Smith is 68. 
  • Musician Lita Ford is 65. 
  • Director Kevin Hooks is 65. 
  • Actor Carolyn McCormick (“Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”) is 64. 
  • TV chef Mario Batali is 63. 
  • Comedian Cheri Oteri (“Saturday Night Live”) is 61. 
  • Country singer Jeff Bates is 60. 
  • Country singer Trisha Yearwood is 59. 
  • News anchor Soledad O’Brien is 57. 
  • Singer Esperonza Griffin (Society of Soul) is 54. 
  • TV chef Michael Symon is 54. 
  • Actor Victor Williams (“The Affair,” ″King of Queens”) is 53. 
  • Actor Sanaa Lathan (“The Cleveland Show”) is 52. 
  • Singer A. Jay Popoff of Lit is 50. 
  • Comedian-talk show host Jimmy Fallon is 49. 
  • Home-improvement host Carter Oosterhouse (“Red Hot and Green,” ″Trading Spaces”) is 47. 
  • Actor-TV host Alison Sweeney (“Days of Our Lives,” ″The Biggest Loser”) is 47. 
  • Singers Tegan and Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara are 43. 
  • Actor Columbus Short (“Scandal”) is 41. 
  • Rapper Eamon is 40. 
  • Actor Kevin Zegers (“Transamerica,” “Air Bud”) is 39. 
  • Actor Danielle Panabaker (TV’s “The Flash”) is 36. 
  • Actor Katrina Bowden (“The Bold and the Beautiful,” “30 Rock”) is 35.
  • In 1995..Orville Redenbacher, American popcorn magnate (Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Popcorn), suffers heart attack drowns in his whirlpool bathtub at 88
  • In 1999..Ed Cobb, American pop vocalist (The Four Preps, 1956-66 -"26 Miles (Santa Catalina)"), songwriter ("Tainted Love"), sound engineer and producer, dies of leukemia at 61
  • In 2004..Skeeter Davis [Mary Penick], American country-pop singer-songwriter ("(I Can't Help You) I'm Falling Too"; "Set Him Free"; "The End Of The World"), dies of breast cancer at 72
  • In 2008..Earl Palmer, American session drummer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer (The Wrecking Crew), dies at 83
  • In 2009..Arthur Ferrante, American pianist and composer (Ferrante & Teicher - Exodus), dies at 88
  • In 2015..Jackie Collins, British-American romance novelist (The Stud; The Bitch; Lucky), dies of breast cancer at 77
  • In 2017..Jake LaMotta, American boxer (world middleweight champion 1949-51, immortalised in 'Raging Bull'), dies at 95
  • In 2022..Maury Wills, American baseball shortstop (7 x MLB All-Star; NL MVP 1962, World Series 1959, 63, 65; LA Dodgers), dies at 89

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