Amoeblog

A happy birthday, of sorts, to radio

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 20, 2012 08:56pm | Post a Comment

As regular readers of my blog (if there is such a thing) probably know, I’m a bit of a radio junkie – spending many hours every day listening to Old Time Radio dramas, public radio, AM radio and podcasts. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 20 August is a pretty big deal to me because it was on this day, back in 1920, that the first radio station began regular broadcasting. Back then, 8MK (now WWJ) began operation in Detroit, Michigan and in doing so it became (by my definition) the first real radio station -- regularly and ultimately continuously broadcasting news, religious and sports programing.



BIRTH OF RADIO
 


The idea of using radio waves to transmit information was first proposed by Serbian-American inventor and geek god, Nikola Tesla, in 1892. He applied for the first radio patents in 1897. Tesla’s main rival, Thomas Edison, backed Guglielmo Marconi, who in 1901 conducted the first successful transatlantic experimental radio communications. As a result, Tesla’s patent was reversed, thus depriving him of royalty payments. On Christmas Eve of 1906, Reginald Fessenden reportedly (accessible documentation is questionable) broadcast the first radio program, consisting of some violin playing and passages from the Bible and thus invented AM radio. Shortly after, in 1907, Marconi went on to establish the first transatlantic radio service between Clifden, Ireland and Glace Bay, Canada.

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Los Angeles's AM radio -- a welcome alternative to FM's Radio Ga Ga

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 9, 2012 05:46pm | Post a Comment
REMEMBER RADIO?

Frank Sant'Agata's Remember When We Listened to the Radio
Frank Sant'Agata's Remember When We Listened to the Radio

If you're at all like me, when you're in the mood to listen to music, radio is one of the least likely places you turn. There was a time (1983 till around 2000) when the radio was the primary source of my exposure to new music. When I moved to LA in 1999, I flipped around the FM dial stopping whenever I heard something I liked. Before the introduction of Shazam, I had to rely on memorizing snippets of lyrics and then looking them up since it seemed like DJs rarely announced what they were playing. That’s how I discovered B.G.Los DandysDuncan Dhu, Enanitos Verdes, Los Freddys, Juvenile, Lil' Wayne, Mikel Erentxun, Mystikal, Los Prisioneros (among others).

Dating a Vietnamese New Waver, Napster, and Pandora all provided new avenues of exposure and I pretty much gave up on FM radio except for usually music-less public radio. When I've been subjected to FM radio in the past few years, the playlists seem to have somehow been whittled down to approximately four incredibly overplayed "classics" that serve as bumpers between hour-long blocks of commercials -- or pop music meant to make 12-year-old girls feel like 16-year-old princesses (and anyone else nauseated).

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Happy Birthday, The Whistler! - rated by independent research the most popular West Coast Program in radio history

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 16, 2012 12:25pm | Post a Comment
Adventures of the Lone RangerMy introduction to old time radio was listening to a 1957 Decca 12” The Adventures of the Lone Ranger that my dad presumably procured as a child. As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I don’t think I ever made the connection that the album’s tracks were old radio episodes… I don’t think I even knew about radio dramas until I think I became vaguely aware of – but not interested in -- The Shadow sometime later.

It must’ve been around 2000 when I was hanging out with my friend Josh Beckman one night and he excitedly turned his radio on and dialed in to AM 1260 KNX to catch The Whistler. I’d never heard ofThe Whistler before but Josh was obviously a fan and whistled the Whistler’s theme as the program began. I listened and was entertained and surprised at how much more mature the story was – having previously assumed that all old time radio consisted of nothing but adolescent serials.

*****
Signal Gasoline

The Whistler debuted on CBS on 16 May, 1942. For most its run it was sponsored by Signal Oil Company, an oil company founded in The Harbor’s Signal Hill community. Regular fans from any era feel their ears prick up when they hear the sound of clicking shoes, the haunting, whistled theme and the announcement, "That whistle is your signal for the Signal Oil program, The Whistler.”

Happy Birthday, X Minus One - radio's greatest sci-fi anthology!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 24, 2012 11:23am | Post a Comment
Today is the 57th birthday of X Minus One, a science fiction anthology that debuted on NBC radio on 24 April, 1955. 
X Minus One

It began as a sort-of revival of pioneering sci-fi program, Dimension X and the first fifteen episodes were remakes from that series. The remainder of the episodes were originals from staff writers Ernest
 Kinoy and George Lefferts as well as their adaptations of new works by the likes of A. A. PhelpsJr., Alan Nourse, Algis Budrys, Arthur Sellings, Clifford Simak, Donald A. Wollheim, Evelyn Smith, F. L. Wallace, Finn O'Donovan, Fletcher Pratt, Frank M. Robinson, Frank Quattrochi, Frederic Brown, Frederick Pohl, Fritz Leiber, Gordon R. Dickson, Graham Doar, H. Beam Piper, H. L. Gold, Isaac Asimov, J. T. McIntosh, Jack McKenty, James Blish, James E. Gunn, James E. Gunn, James H. Schmitz, Katherine MacLean, L. Sprague de Camp, Mark Clifton, Milton Lesser, Murray Leinster, Ned Lang, Peter Phillips, Phillip K. Dick, Poul Anderson, Ray Bradbury, Richard Maples, Richard Wilson, Robert Bloch, Robert Heinlein, Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg, Ross Rockland, Stephen Arr, Stephen Vincent Benet, Steven Tall, Theodore sturgeon, Tom Goodwin, Vaughn Shelton, William Tenn, and Wyman Guin.

Each episode began with announcer (variously Ben Grauer, Bill Rippe, Don Pardo, Fred Collins, Jack Costello, Kenneth Banghart and Roger Tuttle) intoning:

Countdown for blastoff... X minus five, four, three, two, X minus one... Fire! From the far horizons of the unknown come transcribed tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future; adventures in which you'll live in a 
million could-be years on a thousand may-be worlds. The National Broadcasting Company, in cooperation with Street 
and Smith, publishers of Astounding Science Fiction presents... X Minus One.

As a result of renewed interest in Old Time Radio, Robert Silverberg wrote a new episode "The Iron Chancellor" in 1973 but did not result in a revival.

NBC was infamous for not showing much interest in their radio programs -- especially as radio waned and TV waxed -- and Dimension X suffered from being bounced around between Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and barely received any promotion. However, they didn't skimp on the writing and sound effects budget and the results were frequently amazing.

Ultimately the series ran for 124 episodes (plus the audition). Its last episode aired 9 January, 1958. Almost all episodes have been preserved and most can be listened to here. They also appear on CDs and Audio DVDs, which can sometimes be found at Amoeba. NB: the ongoing popularity of X Minus One has led to some unscrupulous folks splicing together various previously existing material from different sources to create "newly discovered" episodes. Special thanks to the folks at the Digital Deli Too for their hard work in the name of preserving OTR. Consult with them before splurging.

Happy Birthday, Dimension X - Radio's pioneering sci-fi series

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 8, 2012 08:57am | Post a Comment
Dimension X advertisementDimension X debuted on NBC radio on this day (April 8), 1950. The first thirteen episodes were performed live whilst the remainder were pre-recorded. It was directed by Fred WieheClipping of Dimension X and Edward King. The narrator and announcer was Norman Rose, who began each program with the introduction, "Adventures in time and space- told in future tense..." before "Dimension X!" boomed and echoed.


Dimension X wasn't the first adult science-fiction anthology program (2000 Plus debuted a month earlier on the Mutual network) but it was, perhaps, the best - drawing from writers like Clifford D. Simak, Donald A. Wollheim, E. M. Hull, Fletcher Pratt, Frank M. Robinson, Fredric Brown, Graham Doar, H. Beam Piper, Isaac Asimov, Jack Vance, Jack Williamson, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, L. Ron Hubbard, Murray Leinster, Nelson BondRay Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Robert Bloch, Stephen Vincent Benet, Villiers Gerson, and William Tenn. Most episodes were adapted from pre-existing works by Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts but the two also provided original
 works.Billboard clipping about Dimension X
It was first auditioned as Out of This World, which it was originally auditioned as on February 23, 1950. Though one of the best sci-fi series ever, the famously clueless folks at NBC never gave it proper promotion or care, bouncing it around to various slots on four different days of the week.

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