Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Buy and a Goodbye: The Way It Was, 8 January

1929: CBS LEARNS ITS ABC---The Columbia Broadcasting System buys New York City station WABC, making it the network flagship in due course. (Fans of such as Fred Allen's Texaco Star Theater can still hear WABC station identifications during some of the surviving shows.)

Relax. You're not seeing things. The WABC with which the world is long familiar was born as WJZ, New Jersey, becoming part of the NBC Blue Network in due course and moving into NBC's Fifth Avenue studios in New York in 1927. In 1948---three years after the Blue Network became the American Broadcasting Company officially, spit off by NBC under FCC antitrust mandate in 1943, and purchased the same year by Life Savers (yes, the candy) chieftain Edward J. Noble---WJZ changed its call letters to the now-vacant WABC.

As for the original WABC, CBS changed the call letters changed in 1946---to WCBS.

2004: A FAREWELL TO GAMBLING---The second of three John Gamblings to host the gentle, good-humoured Rambling with Gambling (WOR, New York) morning program, dies at 73 of heart failure in Venice, Florida.

John A. Gambling joined and then (in 1959) succeeded his father (John B., who launched the show as an afternoon entry in 1942) as host of the gentle morning show, shepherding its transition to all-discussion (the elder Gambling mixed discussion with what we'd now call easy listening music) and bringing aboard radio's first known helicopter traffic reports and school closure reports.

Like father, like son: Gambling brought his own son, John R., as a co-host in 1985, and they worked as a twosome until Gambling retired in 1991. The sad irony: In the same year that John A. Gambling was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame (2000), Rambling with Gambling---whose trademark had long been his style of optimism without saccharine---was ended at long enough last. (John R. Gambling now hosts a 10:00-11:45 a.m. slot on New York WABC.)

The 2003 Guinness Book of World Records is said to have called Rambling with Gambling the longest-running radio show in history, but there's a possibility that this may have transposed the longevity of the Gambling family to the show itself. Radio historian Elizabeth McLeod, expanding on John Dunning's research, has noted that Rambling with Gambling moved to mornings as a lead-in to John B. Gambling's original morning show: a kind of "gym class" in which Gambling conducted exercises and bantered wittily, accompanied by the Vincent Sorey orchestra. (Gambling had succeeded publisher Bernarr McFadden hosting the exercise show, whose format was created by Arthur Bagley.)

As Dunning correctly notes, however, Rambling with Gambling was originally a separate show from the morning wake-up program, an afternoon talk feature which began in 1942, and was subsequently transferred to early morning as a lead-in for the regular Gambling show. So Rambling as a series actually only goes back to the early forties---even though WOR's publicity people have long since folded the two series into one for their own official history.---Elizabeth McLeod.


Blogger The Great Gildersleeve said...

The splitting of the red and blue network by literally selling one off, today with the volume of broadcasters that exist and how some seem to run everything almost seems to be a decision that was un-necessary.

Its a new thing as far as the UK goes but its happened in the States for over 50 years I guess. Stations being owned by various manufacturers or media outfits such as Hollywood film studios such as RKO but in theory ending up with ABC, CBS and NBC running the radio. Though I seem to remember that CBS eventually pulled out of radio altogether?

I know one of the main three did.

And of course we have not mentioned the Mutual broadcasting system and another originally run by a car salesman(?)my mind has gone blank who he was(first name being Don...I think)

Many programmes that are thought of as being heard nationally were often only heard in a particular area of the States. I always find it amazing that the Whistler was one such show...

5:33 PM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Gildy---Bear in mind that certain shows such as The Whistler began as local or regional entries and were picked up for network airing after awhile. Some such shows, to the best of my knowledge, included Amos 'n' Andy (Chicago, then small Midwest coverage until NBC sent it network, in the late 1920s); Easy Aces (born in Kansas City, 1930; lured to Chicago from where it was sent network, 1931-32); The Green Hornet (born in Detroit on WJZ, subsequently picked up and sent network by Mutual); Lum & Abner (originally a WGN Chicago offering alone, before WGN joined to form Mutual); and, Lonesome Gal (the lady began with one small station in Dayton, Ohio, before a) fifty regional stations picked her up; and, b) she went back to Hollywood to try to crack the show nationally, which she did after she met and married Dragnet producer William Rousseau and he crafted a kind of independent string of local stations cross country to pick up the show for a couple of years). There are surely more.

CBS didn't leave radio, exactly: it merged with Infinity Broadcasting in 1997 but it reverted back to the CBS Radio brand in late 2005, anticipating that CBS owner Viacom was going to spin off CBS Radio and Television.

NBC, however, did. My prowling around for information showed me several sources saying that, in 1986, General Electric bought NBC and decided to sell NBC Radio to Westwood One and NBC-owned statinos to diverse buyers. The NBC name survived only as a Westwood brand for particular programs; by the late 1990s, the NBC brand applied only to choice news programs weekday mornings before ceasing to exist entirely in 2003. What then remained of the NBC Radio Network, particular affiliates, switched to CNN-brand newscasts.

(Some such affiliates and news clients had actually switched from NBC to CNN news feeding as soon as 1996; I know, because I was a news anchor-reporter for such a station, a small station in northern California, at the time it switched to the CNN feed.)

Mutual Broadcasting System was born as a cooperative between stations WOR (New York), WGN (Chicago), WXYZ (Detroit), and WLW (Cincinnati). Eventually, it became the network with the largest number of affiliates and the smallest volume of financial strength among the four majors of the day. (There was a Don Lee who owned the Mutual station in San Francisco, if that's the Don you're thinking of.) Beginning in the 1950s, Mutual changed ownership (and at one point nearly went to bankruptcy) several times (even Amway Corporation owned the network for a time), before the network was bought by Westwood One in 1985. (Picture if you can Mutual and NBC people back to back!) Infinity took over Westwood in 1994, and Mutual like NBC became merely a brand until the Mutual brand died in 1997.

ABC still exists as a radio entity, by the way; it is known today as the ABC Radio Networks.


7:55 PM  

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