Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seattle Radio Theatre's New Facebook Page

This item just in from the Self-Serving, Self-Promotional Desk of I STILL LOVE RADIO: we've just launched the Seattle Radio Theatre Facebook page.

The page includes images from last year's production of It's A Wonderful Life (the Lux Radio Theater version); a video clip and a link to complete audio of the October 2010 production of Dracula (the Mercury Theater version); and details about our upcoming Christmas production.

This year's live holiday broadcast will take place on Friday, December 10 at 8pm at Town Hall Seattle.

Monday, November 8, 2010

And Now For Something Not Completely Different: More BBC Cover Art

As promised, here are more covers of BBC Hand Books/Year Books from the World War II era (and immediately afterward). I don't have a complete set of dustjackets, and am missing the middle years of the war (if you have the dustjackets for 1942, 1943 and/or 1944, please let me know--I'd love to see the artwork and include in a subsequent post--please scan and send my way if you can).

It's interesting to examine the progression in how the war was perceived, as depicted on these covers.

The earliest edition shown here (from January 1940) is fairly obvious in its depiction of common implements of the Phoney War--a radio (though not one of a size you'd likely carry with you over to France), a helmet, a kit bag. By January 1941, one could argue the war (which had taken a turn for the worse in the previous months) isn't even acknowledged, though the radio tower seems to be the only source of light (hope, optimism, etc.) for the otherwise darkened globe.

By January 1945 (in spite of the Battle of the Bulge), the Allies are well on their way to victory, and the cover art already looks pretty victorious.

The 1946 edition is, perhaps, the most haunting--a solitary dove of peace takes flight above a bombed-out city. By 1947, the cover art is almost jubilant, with fairy musicians floating about and above the crowded London streets (though if you look closely, you'll see that a "lorry" has pinned a pedestrian on the street in front of Broadcasting House--not sure what that's all about).

For more radio-related cover art, please check out these earlier I STILL LOVE RADIO posts:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dracula Audio from AM 1090 KPTK

Click here for audio from last Friday night's spooky live broadcast of the Mercury Theater On The Air version of Dracula, as performed by Seattle Radio Theatre and produced and directed by me at Town Hall for an audience of 300.

Special thanks to Pat Cashman (splendid as Orson Welles as Dracula and as Arthur Seward), Tracey Conway, Steve Wilson, John Maynard, Jim Dever, and Chris Topping for so ably playing (in some cases) multiple roles (including howling wolves and baying hounds), and to Rob Jones for perfect accompanying music and to Curtis Takahashi for authentic, period-appropriate sound effects (which were all manual--nothing was pre-recorded).

Seattle Radio Theatre is also grateful to Wier Harman and his staff at Town Hall Seattle for serving as home to our live radio drama broadcasts since 2007, and for being willing to give a Halloween show a try this year.

The audio linked above is courtesy of AM 1090 KPTK, Seattle Radio Theatre's official broadcast partner--with on-site engineering by Teurth Tran and oversight by Paul Van Erem.

The actual live broadcast on Friday, October 29 at 8pm--in glorious monaural AM replete with static and other atmospheric disturbances--sounded even better and even SCARIER!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

LIVE Radio Drama this Friday in Seattle: DRACULA!

Come on down to Town Hall Seattle this Friday, October 29 at 8pm for a live performance and broadcast of the Mercury Theater version of Dracula!

This was the program that kicked off the Mercury series in July 1938, a few months before the infamous Mercury production of War of the Worlds. This Drac is pretty scary, but is appropriate for a family audience.

Tickets for this first-ever Halloween-inspired production by Seattle Radio Theatre are available here, or stay home and listen to AM 1090 KPTK. Those who do show up in person will get to take part in pre-show festivities and sample white powdered-sugar doughnuts and other season-appropriate snacks.

Featured in the cast are Pat Cashman as Orson Welles as Dracula (follow that?), plus Steve Wilson, Tracey Conway, John Maynard, Jim Dever, Lee Callahan and Chris Topping. Live music is by Rob Jones, with live sound effects by Curtis Takahashi (using equipment provided courtesy of the Radio Enthusiasts of Puget Sound).

Advance warning: this year's Christmastime Seattle Radio Theatre production will take place on Friday, December 10, also at Town Hall Seattle.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Art of Radio: 1930s BBC Year Books

I recently came upon a collection of annual books published by the BBC beginning in 1928. Known (varyingly) as "year books," "hand books" or "annuals," they were issued every year from the late 1920s to the early 1950s, and then for another 20 years or so from the mid 1950s to the mid 1970s.

The books contain a wealth of (okay, probably biased!) information about BBC programming, engineering and management as well as some terrific historical context. The earliest editions also feature some terrific period advertising for radios and non-broadcasting related products and organizations.

While the written material is a great resource for anyone interested in BBC history, the artwork featured on the covers (of the dustjacket, or "dustwrapper" as they say in the UK) in the first two decades is absolutely unbelievable.

Please enjoy this sampling of covers from the early 1930s. I'll plan on posting some additional covers from the WWII years later.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Aircheck: The Western States Museum of Broadcasting Blog

One reason for the continued quiet here at ISLR is that I've begun creating posts for the newly launched Aircheck: The Western States Museum of Broadcasting Blog.

The Western States Museum of Broadcasting (WSMB) is affiliated with Southern Oregon University and Jefferson Public Radio. They have an amazing collection, and are working to build a permanent home with exhibits and public programming.

Please drop by Aircheck when you can. Today there's a short post about Charles Herring, the first TV newscaster in Seattle (and the first TV newscaster north of Los Angeles and west of Minneapolis).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sleepy August Update: Simulated Radio, KEXP, etc.

The quiet summer continues at ISLR HQ, with a few minor exceptions. Apologies in advance for this sleepy August self-promotion:

Simulated Radio: Seattle Rewind from
Seattle Rewind podcasts highlighting Pacific Northwest history (and produced by yours truly) are now available via iTunes. This weekly audio feature (part of that 21st century school of audio production that I like to think of as "Simulated Radio") can be streamed here, or you can sign up for a free iTunes podcast here. Each episode is also paired with a photo gallery of historic images from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer archives prepared by Casey McNerthney.

Debate continues in Seattle about what will replace the Fun Forest, the ailing amusement park left over from the 1962 World's Fair (I'm a fan) at Seattle Center. I wrote a piece for Crosscut today about the intriguing live venue that Seattle not-for-profit radio station (and online global indie music powerhouse) KEXP has proposed for the site. For background on similar initiatives, I spoke to Roger LaMay at WXPN about World Cafe Live, as well as to representatives of Mountain Stage and the Grand Ole Opry.

Washington News Council Blog Post
Seattle writer (and long-distance runner) Heidi Dietrich was kind enough to write a post earlier this week for the Washington News Council website about my history-fueled media projects.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Recent Radio Writing Round-Up

It's been a quiet summer here at ISLR HQ, but here's a round-up of other recent activity:

Seattle Rewind is the name of a new weekly history feature I'm helping write and produce for (a Seattle daily that went online-only in 2009). Each episode includes a gallery of historic images from the PI's amazing photo collection, as well as a short audio podcast hosted by yours truly. The inaugural edition from a few weeks ago was, naturally, about Seattle broadcasting history.

The PI also recently published a piece I did about Seattle talk radio. It was meant as a time capsule of sorts, examining the current status of 10 different local talk programs as the radio industry wrestles with change and stares into what could be an uncertain future. I spent most of a day in late April observing each of 10 programs for an hour or so. KIRO FM's Ron & Don had me on their show the day the story appeared, and you can get a podcast of that portion of the program here.

Finally, the second episode of This NOT Just In premiered on NPR affiliate KUOW FM in early June, this time using some forgotten audio related to the 1889 Great Seattle Fire. One more episode is complete (which won't air until December), and I'm pleased to report that KUOW has just ordered an additional 10 episodes of the series. Production on those will get underway later in the summer.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

More Radio News in NY Times' "Television" Section

Just as it happened before several weeks ago, the awkward lack of a dedicated Radio section in the New York Times has again resulted in a goofy looking web presence for the online newspaper of record (left).

This time, the story about NPR Music wasn't even so much about radio (or TV, for that matter) but about the web and other media platforms.

Still, it seems to this writer that a story about an NPR initiative (at least while the "R" is still in their initials, since radio only has 5-10 years left, and it's very trendy for radio organizations to become "media" organizations these days--NPM, anyone?) belongs in a "Radio" section.

Even a section called "Television and Radio" that covered broadcast and online media would be better than the current presentation. Lastly, ISLR's standing offer to oversee Radio efforts for the NY Times still stands.

Friday, June 11, 2010

KOMO Exhibit at MOHAI in Seattle (VIDEO)

I shot the video (below) earlier this week at a new exhibit at MOHAI. The exhibit highlights 100 years of the company now called Fisher Communications, and was commissioned by Fisher as part of its centennial celebration.

Fisher began in Seattle in 1910 with flour mills, then got into radio in the 1920s and TV in the 1950s. Nowadays, Fisher operates KOMO TV and radio and several other stations in Seattle.

While the exhibit is small, it's rich with colorful artifacts from the golden era of local radio and local TV. It's on display at MOHAI (full disclosure: my former employer) until September 6, 2010 and is definitely worth checking out.

Audiobiquity L-900: Truth Is Strange As (Radio) Fiction

The I STILL LOVE RADIO staff were intrigued to read Jerry Del Colliano's post the other day on Inside Music Media about a new radio receiver in the works in Australia and China that will be able to receive podcasts via terrestrial signals.

Astute I STILL LOVE RADIO readers will recall last year's fantasy audio appliance review of the completely fictitious Audiobiquity-900, which (in my audio appliance dreamworld) would do exactly what the Australians and Chinese are hoping to offer (and a lot more).

The next challenge is to figure out how to get on the list to receive an advance unit for review purposes . . .

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Himan Brown Passes Away

ISLR is sad to note the passing of radio drama godfather Himan Brown, who died in New York on Friday, June 4 at age 99.

We had reached out to Mr. Brown via his granddaughter Melina Brown back in October 2009 with hopes of conducting an interview.

In a prompt and kind email in response to our inquiry, Ms. Brown said, "My grandfather is not able to do interviews at this time. He is 99 years old and not in great health . . . it's impossible for him to talk to anyone who is not an immediate family member or very close friend."

This writer's first regular exposure to radio drama came via Brown's CBS Radio Mystery Theater in the late 1970s, which aired weeknights at 10 pm in Seattle on KIRO (710 AM).

Though I listened in bed and usually fell asleep somewhere in the second act, I have many fond memories of E.G. Marshall's detached yet creepy host persona, as well as the parade of recognizable though not necessarily nameable voice talent who populated the program. For me, a guy like Mason Adams (though I only learned his name later when he was a regular on TV's Lou Grant series) best exemplifies the kind of talent that helped make that show so good.

While Himan Brown's early career is remarkable and his output over the decades is nothing short of prolific, you've got to hand it to him for producing network radio drama as late as 1982. That's pretty amazing.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

H HOUR 1944: NBC Radio (promotes its) Coverage of D-Day

From the I STILL LOVE RADIO archives in honor of the anniversary of the June 6, 1944 Allied landings at Normandy, below please find large jpegs of the first 10 pages of H HOUR 1944.

This pamphlet was produced by NBC in 1944 as an historical record of their D-Day broadcasts, as well as a bit of network self-promotion (and there's nothing wrong with that, of course).

The pages included in this post feature a fairly detailed timeline of NBC's coverage, which has never received as much attention as what competitor CBS did on D-Day (with help from Bob Trout and Ed Murrow, as described in several CBS publications; as well as by CBS editor Paul White in his terrific News On The Air textbook from the 1940s).

I'd love to know more about what the Blue Network and Mutual did on D-Day, but have yet to discover a good source. Please let me know if you can point me toward anything.

On a related note, here's a post from last year, about the West Coast experience of D-Day radio coverage, which was very different from how it was experienced in the eastern United States. And you can click here for audio of a radio program about D-Day on the West Coast that I took part in for KOMO AM-FM.

TECHNICAL NOTE: Though browsers vary, by clicking on the small graphic of each page and then using the "zoom" function (with the little magnifying glass icon), you should be able to get large, readable versions.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The PPM's Granddaddy: The Audimeter

All the tumult of late caused by the introduction of Portable People Meters (or "PPMs") to the radio ratings game is eerily reminiscent of concerns voiced more than 70 years ago when the "Audimeter" (left) was introduced.

The excerpt below from 1939 (with BOLDING courtesy of yours truly) was pretty darn prescient in its thoughts about what automated ratings tabulation can and can't do, or can and can't reveal to the people trying to make sense of the data and what it means for a particular radio program:

The Audimeter Survey
Excerpted from pages 205-208 of Radio as an Advertising Medium by Warren E. Dygert
(McGraw-Hill Company, Inc.: New York and London, 1939)

Another type of popularity survey which has definite limitations but also certain advantages is the audimeter survey. This is strictly a mechanical survey made possible by the audimeter, an instrument which when attached to a radio set makes a continuous record of the times when a set is turned on and of the stations to which it is tuned.

The audimeter was designed by Professors Robert F. Elder and L.F. Woodruff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is about the size of a lunch box and can be placed in any radio, uses little extra current, and by means of a techron clock, a roll of graph paper, and a marking indicator connected to the dial of the radio set actually shows a 2 weeks' record of what stations were tuned in, how long they were tuned in, and how often. The claim for the method is that the type of radio home can be definitely determined and the listening habits of that type definitely recorded. Thus 2,000 audimeters in Class A homes within a given market area would give an intimate picture of that type of home. Obviously how many are listening to each audimeter equipped set, whether they really are listening, whether they can identify the sponsor or his product, are things this automatic survey cannot determine. Nor can one be sure whether Mr. and Mrs. "Class A" are listening or their servants.

Certain listening habits in general, however, can be observed. The number of dial shoppers [presumably what they called "channel surfers" in the 1930s], the number having favorite stations to which they tune first, and also the holding value of an individual program, can often be determined.

For example, in the present Chase & Sanborn program, if a goodly percentage tuned out at 8:15 approximately, it would show Charlie McCarthy and Charlie McCarthy only to be the drawing card. If listeners stayed until after the dramatic production at approximately the halfway point in the program, its holding power would be known. If many tuned out immediately after that, it would show that the attractions on the balance of the program had little holding power. If many tuned out exactly on the half hour, it might show a competing program of greater magnitude or that a half-hour program of this type is all the average listener cares to contract for. The author believes that the possibilities of the audimeter in this connection are worth exploring, particularly for checking the holding power of different types of entertainment and different stars on a single program.

Why was radio so popular in the Pacific Time Zone?

I came across this surprising diagram (left) on page 105 of Warren Dygert's 1939 book, Radio as an Advertising Medium (McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.: New York and London). For a better view, click on the image to enlarge.

The chart shows that in the Pacific Time Zone, a whopping 95% of all households (here described as "radio families") owned at least one radio (probably in 1938).

This high percentage beats the Mountain Time Zone and the upper Midwest by 15 points; beats some parts of the south by 35 points; and even beats the urban Northeast by 3 points. I've never seen these data before, and find it very interesting.

Of course, in total number, the Pacific Time Zone had just 2.5 million "radio families," while the Eastern Time Zone had more than five times as many or 13.5 million.

The reader will forgive ISLR's obsession with the West Coast, but what, if anything, explains why radio ownership was so high in the Pacific Time Zone?

Good question, and one that I'm not yet prepared to answer definitively, though I do have my theories.

Chief among these is the relative prosperity of the Pacific Coast throughout the Great Depression (compared to the Midwest or the South, for example), combined with a fair amount of rural, sparsely-populated territory spread relatively evenly between big cities such as Seattle, Spokane, Portland (Oregon), San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Prosperity meant the ability to buy a radio, which residents in many rural, more depressed parts of the country didn't have. Rural entertainment choices (lack of movies, lack of neighbors) gave radio appeal as a household necessity in the wide open West. Proximity to big cities (and network affiliates with powerful transmitters) made radio a practical choice, with nationally-produced entertainment and news programs readily available via consistently good radio signals.

Anybody else have any theories? Geography? Terrain? I'd love to hear any and all ideas.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gregg Hersholt's Last Day at KIRO (AUDIO)

Earlier this week, I wrote a piece for about Gregg Hersholt's departure from KIRO. Best guess is that more dismissals are imminent as station owner Bonneville tries to reverse a ratings slide and battle the "fleeing listener" phenomenon that all terrestrial radio is facing nowadays.

Gregg's last shift was yesterday (Friday, May 28, 2010), and included a tribute prepared by Linda Thomas (featuring interviews with Gregg's wife and children--it's part of the montage below), as well as informal laudatory remarks from Bill Swartz, Rich Marriott and Greg Adams.

In Gregg's final on-air moments, he paid tribute to his current and former colleagues as well as to a number of deceased KIRO alums including Brad Perkins, Bill Gallant, Paul Brendle, Harry Wappler and Charlie Fiano.

Click here for an 8-minute montage of Gregg's final hours on the air (prepared by I STILL LOVE RADIO staff).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Behind the Scenes at Record Bin Roulette (VIDEO)

Record Bin Roulette is a four-minute weekly audio broadcast and podcast produced for KPLU-FM by John Kessler and John Maynard.

The two Johns pick a theme for each episode and then delve into their sizable collections of music and other audio (gathered at garage sales and thrift stores) to explore the detritus that is (mostly) American aural pop culture.

Click here for the KPLU Record Bin Roulette schedule; the show is also distributed to select stations across the US, and Kessler and Maynard hope to expand the network in the months and years ahead.

I spent some time with the pair in their Seattle studios this afternoon as they worked on next week's episode (featuring songs about crying). The short video takes a peek behind-the-scenes and illuminates the creative process (and the major ProTools flexing) that brings each episode to life.

Don't Forget the Producer Behind Linkletter's Success!

The staff here at ISLR were sad to learn of uber-broadcaster Art Linkletter's death yesterday (though he may be best known among Gen-X as pitchman for the Craftmatic Contour chair).

Like any great on-air talent, Linkletter owes a measure of his success to the creator/producer of two of Linkletter's best-known programs (House Party and People Are Funny), the late John Guedel.

As his 2001 NYTimes obit describes, the prolific yet little-remembered Guedel also created You Bet Your Life and gave a young Johnny Carson one of his first gigs.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Static: Radio-themed Twilight Zone Episode

A recent check demonstrates that most episodes from the original Twilight Zone are available for free on the web (many officially sanctioned by CBS and offered via, as well as many posted randomly on YouTube).

The excellent, radio-themed episode called Static is posted in three parts on YouTube; click here to begin watching Part One.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Gunsmoke STILL Beats Law & Order

The cancellation of the original Law & Order series after 20 seasons has TV writers everywhere comparing the run of the Dick Wolf series to Gunsmoke, which also ran for 20 seasons on TV.

Of course, everybody (?) knows that Gunsmoke began on radio, and ran three seasons before also becoming a TV program (albeit with a different cast). By this count, Gunsmoke handily beats Law & Order for longest running primetime series with a 23-year run.

Heck, if we start counting combined radio & TV runs, there are probably other shows that beat Gunsmoke (like the Jack Benny Program, for instance).

I realize this is a silly argument, but it would be nice to see the radio origins of Gunsmoke called out by a current media writer someplace, if only for additional accurate context. Once again, I am reminded of the bizarre wire story from last year that said the radio-and-then-TV soap opera Guiding Light "predated television."

Until then, I guess there's only one way to handle the killers and the spoilers . . . with a U.S. Marshal and the smell of . . . quality media criticism!

Ten Telling Years: The Mutual Broadcasting System

So little has been written about The Mutual Broadcasting System over the years, that I was very pleased to recently discover a promotional book published by the original "fourth network" back in October 1944.

It's a large format, hardcover book called TEN TELLING YEARS: THE MUTUAL BROADCASTING SYSTEM. It's ostensibly a history book detailing world events from 1934 (when Mutual was founded) through 1944 (near the end of World War II), and includes a brief essay about each year (actually 11 years, not ten) attributed to Mutual on-air people including Cecil Brown, Boake Carter, Leo Cherne, Upton Close, Cedric Foster, Theodore Granick, Royal Arch Gunnison, Arthur Hale, Gabriel Heatter, Fulton Lewis, Jr. and John Steele.

However, the most interesting material in the book is the "appendix" providing year-by-year highlights of Mutual's expansion and increased program offerings during its first decade (this is not to be considered an impartial source, of course, but is still pretty interesting). The complete text devoted to Mutual's own "ten telling years" is reproduced below.


1934 Four stations in four top markets join forces in a new kind of network . . . a cooperative network, dedicated to maximum advertising coverage at minimum advertising cost . . . at the beginning, it is WOR for New York, WGN for Chicago, WLW for Cincinnati, WXYZ for Detroit . . . 556,000 watts to cover the most populous centers . . . first MUTUAL programs heard in October . . . by year’s end, the newest of networks carries such advertisers as Wasey Products, Thomas Leeming & Co., Sterling Products, and Horlick’s, introducing that radio perennial, “Lum and Abner” . . . STATION TOTAL: 4 . . .

1935 First program interchange with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation arranged by MUTUAL June 1 . . . over-the-border relations further strengthened when CKLW, Detroit-Windsor station signs up on October 1 . . . MUTUAL’s first transatlantic broadcast brought home September 15 . . . MUTUAL joins other networks to carry World’s Series baseball for the first time . . . WOR opens the network’s first New York playhouse and WGN unveils $600,000 studios for MUTUAL use in Chicago . . . Kay Kyser starts on the road to radio fame via MUTUAL with his “Musical Klass”, the show later known as the “College of Musical Knowledge” . . . Chicago Symphony, under Frederick Stock’s baton, and Alfred Wallenstein’s Sinfonietta round out the year’s program highlights . . . STATION TOTAL RISES TO 19 . . .

1936 Affiliation of Don Lee Network, West Coast’s oldest, most popular web, enables MUTUAL to achieve swiftest transcontinental expansion for any network . . . first Puerto Rican broadcast ever heard in U.S. carried by MUTUAL . . . press salutes MUTUAL for best network coverage of major political conventions . . . Gabriel Heatter makes MUTUAL history with his ad lib reports on Hauptman’s last hour before electrocution . . . new advertisers include 13 from other networks, 20 new to radio . . . client roster numbers General Mills, Ford, Squibb, Philip Morris; agencies include Young & Rubican, Wm. Esty, Ruthrauff & Ryan, Blackett-Sample-Hummert . . . gross billings to the two-million mark . . . STATION TOTAL RISES TO 38 . . .

1937 MUTUAL moves into the Southwest with 5,000-watt stations in Dallas and Fort Worth . . . 23 of the first 30 U.S. markets served—from within—by MUTUAL stations . . . Pacific Ocean spanned by addition of Hawaiian stations . . . Radio Stars cites MUTUAL for “Distinguished Service to Radio”—sole network award of the year by that magazine, saluting such personalities as Ireene Wicker, John Nesbitt, Beatrice Fairfax . . . Philadelphia Orchestra series inaugurated . . . spot news coverage includes coronation of George VI, Hindenburg dirigible crash, Mississippi floods . . . Shirley Temple makes her radio debut over MUTUAL . . . during typical ’37 week, America hears 105 hours of programming piped by MUTUAL to its affiliates . . per-broadcast investments by advertisers range from $316 to $3,600 . . . STATION TOTAL RISES TO 83 . . .

1938 Of the 100 largest U.S. advertisers, one in five uses MUTUAL . . . client list grows to a total of 71, ranging from cigarettes to sheet steel . . . “The Shadow”, for D.L. & W. blue coal, climbs for the first time to top popularity in all daytime radio . . . Red Cross applauds MUTUAL news coverage and funds-appeal on scene of Cincinnati and Memphis flood disasters . . . globe-girdling flight of Howard Hughes reported by direct broadcasts from his plane in transit; scoop scored in Minneapolis when plane returns to U.S. soil . . . special events and sports programs increase 40% over ’37 . . . billings nudge $3,000,000-mark . . . STATION TOTAL RISES TO 110 . . .

1939 One-man campaign by MUTUAL’s Fulton Lewis opens the “press” galleries of Congress to radio reporters . . . World’s Series carried by MUTUAL as a one-network feature for first time in history . . . MUTUAL starts facsimile network in March . . . Hitler’s Reichstag speech, cut from short-wave beam to U.S. by Goebbels’ order, picked up 5 minutes later by MUTUAL, via Afica, for a clean news-beat . . . MUTUAL carries first and only regular British entertainment show, featuring such stars as Bea Lillie, Gracie Fields, Sir Harry Lauder . . . inaugurates policy of recording important foreign talks for rebroadcast at convenient domestic hours . . . twice as many MUTUAL shows are broadcast from Canada as by any other network . . . MUTUAL originates programs from more points within U.S. than any other web . . . STATION TOTAL RISES TO 121 . . .

1940 World War II makes world-wide news, covered continually by 1.041 MUTUAL broadcasts from overseas, including momentous messages from Chamberlain, Churchill, Hitler, King George, Pope Pius . . . total of 65 hours for major political conventions . . . MUTUAL advertisers sponsor largest news hookups ever effected . . . average hookup for all MUTUAL clients expands 50% over ’39 on introduction of Volume Discount Plan . . . WGN raises curtain on “Chicago Theater of the Air” as coast-to-coast network feature starring Marion Claire with Henry Weber, his 50-piece orchestra and top guest vocalists; full hour continuing every week since May 2, 1940 . . . peak daytime ratings won for keeps by “The Shadow” . . . second year of MUTUAL’s solo delivery of World’s Series rides over the fence to Canada, Europe, South America . . . gross billings rise 30% over ’39 . . . STATION TOTAL RISES TO 155 . . .

1941 Year of tremendous uptrends in ratings, facilities, and billings . . . Madison Square Garden boxing bouts, signed by Gillette as an exclusive MUTUAL feature, reach a stratospheric 58.2 rating for Louis-Conn match in June . . . World’s Series baseball, another MUTUAL exclusive, hits 33.6 for an even higher 4-game average than when all networks carried this annual epic . . . station strength multiplies in key markets like Pittsburgh, where WCAE (15 years NBC Basic) replaces a 1,000-watter with 5,000; Baltimore, where WFBR (10 years NBC Basic) replaces a 250-watter with 5,0000; Detroit, where 5,000 watt CKLW makes its voice one-third stronger by moving to a better point on the dial; Philadelphia, where WIP, pioneer independent, replaces a 1,000-watter with 5,000; and in the rest of the nation, where 74% of all MUTUAL stations gain new power, new transmitting equipment . . . alert to all these uptrends, advertisers invest $7,301,000 in MUTUAL time—53% ahead of 1940 . . . STATION TOTAL RISES TO 181 . . .

1942 America, in its first full year at war, tunes to 1,913 war effort programs presented by MUTUAL for 721 hours of air time . . . MUTUAL is first to bring home the voice of MacArthur, in his memorable Australian message after leaving Bataan . . . all 20 stations of the Yankee Network, to New England chain, join MUTUAL in June . . . WHK, Cleveland Plain Dealer station at 5,000 watts, and WPDQ, strongest outlet in Jacksonville, join in October . . . news by MUTUAL every hour on the hour starts other stations on similar schedules . . . the nation tunes to MUTUAL for football classics like the East-West Professional and the Cotton Bowl Collegiate . . . MUTUAL dance bands include 18 of the top 20 rated in Radio Daily poll . . . all 14 markets of 1,000,000 or more population covered by MUTUAL with stations of 5 or 50 kw. With one 1,000-watt exception . . . by December, MUTUAL programming increases more than double all other networks’ . . . STATION TOTAL RISES TO 207 . . .

1943 Miller McClintock takes office as first paid president of MUTUAL . . . new programs developed during the year include “Abe Lincoln’s Story”, rated by Variety as “the finest network program on the air”, and “The Human Adventure”’ scientific conquest brought to life by University of Chicago savants . . . worldwide news coverage expanded by daily reports from a roster of 850 Christian Science Monitor correspondents all over the globe . . . Guild Theatre, completely redesigned, becomes New York’s newest and finest radio theatre for WOR-MUTUAL, followed shortly by acquisition of Longacre Theatre . . . Radio Mil, leading Mexican chain, is added for interchange of radio fare north and south of the Rio Grande including new series by Cleveland Symphony via WHK for both nations’ listeners . . . STATION TOTAL RISES TO 213 . . .

1944 Broader program strides bring to MUTUAL listeners: Jane Cole and Walter Hampden from theater; Claire Trevor and Lloyd Nolan from movies; Sherlock Holmes and Nick Carter from fiction; and , in his first radio series, Sumner Welles from public life . . . three great symphonies—Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles—regularly heard on MUTUAL . . . increased tune-in to this network on D-Day doubles that of any other web’s . . . by mid-summer, audience ratings for one or more MBS programs top all other networks’ at same periods every night in the week . . . first nine months’ gross indicates better than $20,000,000 for full year—a solid gain of 45% over the preceding twelve-month . . . STATION TOTAL RISES TO 247. . .

Copyright October 1944 The Mutual Broadcasting System, Inc.

New York: 1440 Broadway

Boston: 21 Brookline Avenue

Chicago: Tribune Tower

Cleveland: Terminal Tower

Hollywood: 5515 Melrose Avenue

England: Coulsdon, Surrey

Monday, May 10, 2010

VE Day and VJ Day on American Radio

The 65th anniversary of VE Day (signifying "Victory in Europe") passed over the weekend, and the anniversary of VJ Day ("Victory in Japan") is coming up this summer.

I was grateful for an invitation to take part in an episode of KOMO's Beyond the Headlines on Sunday, May 9 that looked back to these important events of 1945. We played several news cuts and talked about American network radio coverage of victory in both Europe and Japan.

As KOMO was an NBC affiliate in those days, most of what we played was from NBC (Ben Grauer, H.V. Kaltenborn, etc.), with a little Mutual (pre-VJ Day false bulletin) and CBS (excerpts from On A Note of Triumph, 14 August) thrown in for good measure.

For additional context (on VE Day), please also see a piece I did for

Friday, May 7, 2010

New York Times Radio Review in "Television" Section

I can't remember the last time that our nation's venerable newspaper-of-record The New York Times reviewed a radio program, can you? Usually their radio coverage consists of puff pieces about Garrison Keillor or political analysis of Glenn Beck or somebody else from the talk radio milieu.

Well, believe it or not, but they actually previewed an NPR documentary a few days ago. I was pleased, but also a little stunned. Funny thing, though, this article about a radio program appeared . . . in the "Television" section!?!?

Hmmmm. I guess that pretty much sums up how the editors at the Times feel about the oldest broadcast medium. This reminds me of the cancelled soap opera last year that "predated television."

It's as if the Times had forgotten their own legendary media critic Jack Gould, who wrote brilliantly about TV and radio for the paper for years. If they'd like to have somebody write more regularly about radio, I'd be more than happy to oblige. Heck, I'd even do it for the "Television" section.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Seattle Broadcasters' Lunch

Special thanks to Bill Wippel for the invite to last week's Broadcasters' Lunch in Seattle. I've been to a few of these events in the past and always enjoyed myself. Bill performs a much-appreciated service in making the arrangements and getting the word out.

I was fortunate enough to sit next to Don Riggs, who shared some great stories about KFKF, KBES and KOL (which became KMPS the day Don started a 33-year career there in 1975), and about his friend and former colleague, the late Phil Harper.

As the lunch took place a few days after the passing of Harry Wappler, many former colleagues and old friends shared memories of the popular KIRO meteorologist (who was always nice to me when I was first a lowly intern and then a lowly part-timer at KIRO-AM in the early 1990s).

Broadcasters' Lunch Attendees in Photo (photo courtesy Bill Wippel):
First Row (L-R): Esther Druxman, Todd Bitts, Cliff Murphy, Dick Paetzke, Glenn Williams. Second Row: Chris Wedes, Dick Cross, Bob Adkins, Don Riggs, Bill Wippel, David Lee, Andy Gronning. Third Row: Gary Engard, George Toles, Dean Smith, Larry Rice, Dave Severence. Fourth Row: Larry Lomax, Paul Bishop, Duane Smart, Jim Dai, Tom Henning. Not shown: Jack Allen, Vic Bremer, Les Metrovick, and Jack Morton.

Monday, April 12, 2010

On The Radio: Baseball and FDR

Here are two quick bits about recent radio and radio-related projects:

Seattle NPR affiliate KUOW 94.9 FM is today airing a story I produced for them as part of their very cool initiative, the Program Venture Fund.

The story is the first of a history series, and is a look back at the Seattle Pilots and their one and only Major League Baseball season here in 1969. Audio and more information is available here.

Also today, published a piece I prepared about the "Radio President" and how FDR's death affected Seattle.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Death of the Radio President

This Monday, April 12 is the 65th anniversary of the death of "Radio President" Franklin Delano Roosevelt. To mark the occasion, I was invited by Charlie Harger to appear on Beyond the Headlines, a weekly public affairs program on Seattle's KOMO Radio.

We played clips from speeches, Fireside Chats and campaign broadcasts, as well as radio coverage of FDR's death. A full recording of the program is available via this link.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Remainders: More Radio Cover Art

January's post featuring cover art from books about radio was so much fun, I thought I'd share some more visually interesting pieces that didn't make the first cut. As in the previous post, the bulk of these titles are from the 1930s to the 1940s, with only a few from the 1950s and 1960s.
Radio's finest hours (and months and years) were during World War II, and these books of radio plays and accounts of how radio broadcasting contributed to Allied victory offer up some proof.
Star Spangled Radio: Radio's Part in World War II (1947)
By Edward M.Kirby and Jack W. Harris
Kirby and Harris are long on anecdotes and short on citations, and the whimsical cover art lets the reader know that this will likely be the case.
War Words (1943)
By W. Gabell Greet
Americans began hearing about some strange and exotic places, circa 1939, as World War II got underway in Europe and the Far East. Thanks to this book and others like it, even the most remote radio announcer had a fair shake at pronouncing the toughest names of places, generals and dictators.

This Is War! (1942)
By Norman Corwin and others
The proud stripes of a wind-ruffled American flag fill the sky, as Allied bombers fly overhead and a tank makes its way into enemy territory for the cover of this collection of war-related radio plays.
On A Note Of Triumph (1945)
By Norman Corwin
Flames burn before a wall of vanquished white on the cover of this copy of Norman Corwin's V-E Day radio play.
The brilliant marketing and communications minds at CBS produced some of the most visually stunning graphics of the war years for the covers of promotional publications. Nearly each crisis and each victory on the battlefield was followed with a print piece describing how CBS coverage brought the news home to America.
Vienna March, 1938: A Footnote for Historians from the Columbia Broadcasting System (1938)
By CBS News
A chilling account of the Anschluss, with Warhol-esque graphics that capture the menacing nature of the Nazis.
Crisis: A Report from the Columbia Broadcasting System (1938)
By CBS News
As the Munich Crisis unfolded and war was averted for another year, CBS (and in particular, H.V. Kaltenborn) went to unprecedented lengths to cover the fast-breaking news. This handsome hardcover edition made sure that no one forgot.
CBS News on D-Day (1944)
By CBS News
While not complex enough to be called a book and too simple to be called a pamphlet, this internal account of CBS' coverage of D-Day nonetheless carries a stark yet effective two-color title. It seems to say that though victory is not yet secured, an important battle has been won (that is, CBS has beat NBC for the hearts and minds of America's radio listeners).

From D-Day Through Victory in Europe (1945)
By CBS News
This paperback book was produced within weeks of the end of the war in Europe, and its simple, clean graphics hit the right tone of victory without overconfidence (as the war was still raging in the Pacific).

From Pearl Harbor Into Tokyo (1945)
By CBS News
Another quickly produced title, this time on the heels of Total Victory.
CBS triumphed over NBC in World War II, with more CBS correspondents becoming household names and more making the leap to post-war television. Who nowadays (besides the vigilant scholar or OTR nut) can name any of NBC's wartime announcers or newsmen?

H Hour - 1944 (1944)
By NBC News
NBC's promotional account of D-Day coverage--coverage which some believe was superior to that of CBS, since, unlike CBS, NBC didn't go back to regular daytime programming (soap operas) on June 6.
Radio was an attractive career choice in the 1930s and 1940s, and there was no shortage of books for those interested in learning how-to "radio."
Radio News Writing and Editing (1946)
By Carl Warren
All the icons of broadcasting are present on this cover: typewriter, RCA 44 microphone, household receiver and towering antenna.

Radio News Writing (1947)
By William F. Brooks
From NBC's series of books about radio, this book lays it all out in a bold paragraph right there on the front cover (THIS IS A BAD SCAN THAT I WILL REPLACE!).

Professional Radio Writing (1948)
By Albert F. Crews
Another giant RCA 44 microphone (plus a teeny one down below) all superimposed on a page of a script make it ultra-clear what this book is all about.

Pointers on Radio Writing (1940s)
By Josephina Niggli
I love the unusual color of this otherwise unremarkable book.

NBC Handbook of Pronunciation (1943)
By James F. Bender
You didn't have to work for NBC to speak as if you did, thanks to this 1943 pronunciation guide, including "names and places in the war news commonly mispronounced."
How To Write For Radio (1940s)
By James Whipple
You have to look closely to see the teeny-yet-ubiquitous RCA 44 microphone.

Handbook of Radio Production (1940s)
By Erik Barnouw
Radio uber-historian Erik Barnouw authored several books about radio production in the 1940s, including this very official looking guide.

Dos and Don'ts of Radio Writing (1930s)
By Ralph Rogers
I love the clean simplicity of this cover, with its carbon arc microphone and thoroughly modern font. A timeless design that could have been published yesterday (if anyone was still publishing books about radio writing.
Printed editions of radio plays became big sellers in the early 1940s, as works by Norman Corwin, Arch Oboler, Stephen Vincent Benet and others became hot publishing commodities.
Oboler Omnibus (1940s)
By Arch Oboler
An unusual photo-collage cover from the 1940s.
There aren't too many well-known novels that use the radio industry as a main setting, but three came out around the same time in the mid-1940s that had many critics scratching their heads at the similarities in plot, character development and dark tone. The Hucksters; Please Send Me, Absolutely Free; and Aurora Dawn all feature disillusioned men making their way in the seamy world of advertising and media, and all have covers worth a second look.

The Hucksters (1946)
By Frederic Wakeman
Wakeman's novel came out first (among the three), and reads like a prequel to Mad Men. The cover is 100% Gothic Gotham, with towering office buildings and taxi cabs cocked like revolvers.
Please Send Me, Absolutely Free (1946)
By Arkady Leokum
Leokum's entry is more about advertising than radio, and its cover feels a bit more hopeful and human-scaled.

Aurora Dawn (1947)
By Herman Wouk
Wouk wrote for several radio shows in the 1940s, and his is perhaps the least dark of the three similar novels.
Of Mikes and Men (1951)
By Jane Woodfin
Jane Woodfin's novel follows a young woman into the radio industry in the late 1920s in what appears to be Portland, Oregon. The cartoonish cover (and several illustrations) are by Paul Galdone.
In the 1960s, books about radio were all about the heroic past, and the cover illustrations made no secret that the glory days had come and gone.

It Sounds Impossible (1960s)
By Sam J. Slate and Joe Cook
The cartoons (or commercial-style illustrations) on the cover of this book feature only what appear to be white men, signaling that it was a look back at what radio had once been.