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.