Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fessenden Hero Promotion from the CBC Archives

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) posted an interesting item from its archives the other day. This online video features a chat between Take 30 host Harry Brown and a man named Ray Ireland from October 16, 1979 about Canadian scientist Reginald Fessenden (left).

Ireland (apparently a man devoted to identifying and promoting Canadian "heroes") attempts to elevate Fessenden above Guglielmo Marconi as the true "inventor of radio," but Ireland does not appear knowledgeable enough (about an admittedly pretty complicated subject) to argue his point effectively. Brown muddies the debate with questions about whether the word "radio" sounds Italian (which, from Brown's point of view, would strengthen Marconi's claim to . . . something).

Most sources concur that Fessenden can lay claim to two notable firsts: first point-to-point transmission of the human voice (December 23, 1900) and the first radio "broadcast" (December 24, 1906). I sure think that's pretty darn heroic (and Canadian, too).

As the book Empire of the Air by Tom Lewis (and film of the same name by Ken Burns) postulates, no one person can rightfully be called the sole inventor of radio. Instead, the credit is shared by several individuals working separately from (yet influencing) each other, including Fessenden and Marconi (who are not the main subjects of the book or film), and the three men profiled extensively in the film: Lee de Forest, Edwin Armstrong and David Sarnoff.

In any case, it makes for as interesting a debate in 2009 as it did back in 1979.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sad Occasion, But Nothing Profound About James Brown's Christmas Death on Radio

Godfather of Soul James Brown passed away three years ago this Christmas (early Christmas morning, Eastern Standard Time, back in 2006). Network radio news had word of Brown's illness (he'd checked into an Atlanta hospital on Christmas Eve, suffering from pneumonia) at 10 pm Pacific Standard Time here on the West Coast. Just two hours later, Brown's death was reported at midnight Pacific Standard Time.

I tried to come up with something profound or even interesting to say about the way radio reported Brown's death, but I couldn't. But, I still felt like posting this link to a montage of James Brown radio news cuts from ABC News, BBC World Service and CBS News that I just put together today. These cuts were all recorded between 10:00 pm PST on Christmas Eve and 2:00 am on Christmas morning on Seattle radio stations.

Why, you ask, was I recording three different radio news sources on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006? It's a long story, naturally, and semi-related to my graduate school application essay from a few years back.

In addition to Brown, other notable musicians have passed away around Christmas, such as Glenn Miller (technically, his disappearance was announced on Christmas Eve 1944) and Eartha Kitt (who famously sang Santa Baby), who died on Christmas 2008.

Brown was a complicated and interesting artist, and he put out some great Christmas music, too. My personal favorite is Let's Make This Christmas Mean Something This Year. Words to live by.

In any case, Merry Christmas from I STILL LOVE RADIO!

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Dial Twisting

Here are a few short items as the calendar winds down toward the end of 2009:

John Lennon's Death and Radio: Part Two
One reader in particular found that the piece about John Lennon's death and radio hit eerily close to home, as eloquently described a few days ago in her blog. It's a small world wide web, after all.

Profile at Radio Survivor
Jennifer Waits of the fabulous Spinning Indie radio blog was kind enough to write a flattering profile of yours truly for the also fabulous Radio Survivor blog. I'm still a little creeped out with the "Radio Obsessive" moniker (my official title is "Radio Obessive #4"), but I do appreciate Jennifer's kind and encouraging words. Definitely check out both blogs for their unique takes on contemporary radio issues.

New Curator for Radio at British Library

This item is from the most recent issue of playback, the bulletin of the British Library Sound Archive:

The Sound Archive has appointed a specially-dedicated Curator for Radio in recognition of the increasing importance of radio and media studies within the UK academic and cultural spheres.

Paul Wilson, who has worked with the British Library's music radio collections for many years, commenced work in this new role in May and has produced a new set of web pages devoted to what is surely one of the world's most extensive archives of radio recordings.

Paul is keen to hear from anyone with an interest in archival radio media or wishing to further explore these unique collections: contact or telephone 011 020 7412 7446.

To access the Radio webpages enter search term 'Radio Recordings' at the British Library homepage and follow the appropriate link.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Seattle Radio Theatre Online Video

The good folks of AM 1090 KPTK pointed a video camera at last Friday's Seattle Radio Theatre production, and the result has just been posted on the radio station's website.

Click here to watch Part One of It's A Wonderful Life. Also, don't forget the rebroadcast of the complete program on radio on Christmas Eve (Thursday, December 24, 2009) at 7:00 pm.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Twisting the Dial: Miscellaneous Radio (and Local TV) Matters

Another year of Seattle Radio Theatre has come and gone, and our tenth annual broadcast was probably the best yet. Thanks to terrific preview stories in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times, we had our biggest audience ever, with 450 enthusiastic radio drama fans filling the seats at Town Hall. AM 1090 KPTK posted online audio today, and the show will be rebroadcast on Friday, December 24 at 7:00 pm. I can't thank the amazing cast enough, including Pat Cashman, Tracey Conway, Steve Wilson, Chris Wedes, Jim Dever, John Maynard, Lee Callahan, Chris Topping, Dolores Rogers, Katie Cashman, Sophia Banel and Ralph Bevins; plus Rob Jones on piano and Curtis Takahashi performing live sound effects; Wier Harman and his crew at Town Hall Seattle; Paul Van Erem, Apryl Battin and Brittany Collier at KPTK; and the good folks at Not A Number. I hope we can do another show next year and the year after that!

I wrote a piece for last week about my memories (and crude aircheck tapes) of Seattle FM radio the night that John Lennon was murdered. In my humble estimation, that shared experience via radio was more powerful than a Tweet or a Status Update under similar circumstances nowadays.

Just posted on this evening is a short piece about classical music station KING-FM's ongoing efforts to get over its current crisis. Even shorter version: it seems to me that KING-FM could do a better job of keeping its stakeholders (translation: loyal listeners) informed as to what's being done to address the situation.

Though not really a radio item, I can't resist plugging the holiday TV special I produced (along with Ralph Bevins) for the SEATTLE CHANNEL back in 2006. We had JP and Stan in the studio for short bits to weave together some vintage material, including a 1980 Stan Boreson reunion special produced by Steve Wilson for KING TV, and two separate JP Christmas specials from the 1970s. I'm very proud of the giant cardboard Christmas tree I made, plus the cardboard fireplace that I ordered from somewhere on the web. Also glad we left in the awesome KING production logo preceding the Boreson stuff, and the two Sears commercials in the JP material. Click here for complete online video.

Monday, December 7, 2009

From Pearl Harbor To Elliott Bay: Radio (and other things) on December 7, 1941

I wrote a piece this week for about how the ramifications of the Pearl Harbor attack (including radio broadcasts) were experienced in Seattle. I'm also scheduled to appear this coming Sunday, December 13 on KOMO Newsradio AM-FM's Beyond the Headlines with Charlie Harger at 5:00 am, 10:00 am and 10:00 pm Pacific, addressing the same topic (I'll post a link to audio of the program sometime next week).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Seattle Radio Theatre LIVE BROADCAST on Friday, December 11

Time for a rare overtly self-serving post about next Friday's (December 11, 2009) Seattle Radio Theatre production of the Lux Radio Theater version of It's A Wonderful Life at Town Hall Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for the show that stars Pacific Northwest broadcasting legends Pat Cashman, Chris (J.P. Patches) Wedes, Tracey Conway, Steve Wilson, John Maynard, Jim Dever and Lee Callahan.

The fun gets underway with an audience warm-up at 7:45 pm, and we then go live on KPTK AM 1090 at 8:00 pm for the one-hour program, produced and directed by yours truly (I stole that last line from my former KIRO colleague Jim French). The show features live music performed by Rob Jones, and live sound effects performed (on equipment originally owned by sound effects legend Ray Erlenborn) by Curtis Takahashi of REPS (Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound). Since this is a live broadcast, the live audience is part of the show, too, with their laugher and applause (or boos and hisses for Mr. Potter, perhaps). The complete program will also be re-broadcast on Christmas Eve (Thursday, December 24) at 7:00 pm on KPTK AM 1090.

Last year, this (roughly) same cast presented the Lux version of The Bishop's Wife, and you can click here for audio of that live broadcast.

I founded Seattle Radio Theatre in 2000 while working for MOHAI, and then moved it to Town Hall in 2007. This year's show will be our 10th annual production, and I give special thanks to the wonderful cast and crew, many of whom have been involved since the very beginning, for making this holiday tradition possible each year.