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October 2010
 Saturday, October 30, 2010 Join Discussion  (424 Comments)
Western Radio Listening Circa 1940

There was something about the West back in the 1930s and 1940s that made radio ownership and radio listening more popular here than just about any other region in the United States. What that "something" was remains a mystery.

In advance of the 72nd anniversary of the War of the Worlds broadcast today, I was thumbing through Hadley Cantril's 1940 book about the phenomenon, called The Invasion From Mars.

A table in Cantril's book (on page 57) shows regional differences in the percentage of the total available audience who actually tuned in to War of the Worlds. It shows the West leading the way by several percentage points, and I'm still not satisfied that anyone can explain why the percentage was so high here:

Mountain and Pacific: 20%
Middle Atlantic: 15%
West North Central: 12%
East North Central: 11%
South: 8%
New England: 8%

The table is followed by this paragraph:

"The high percentage of Mountain and Pacific states is undoubtedly due to the fact that listening in general is highest in the far western part of the country (italics mine). The low figure for the New England states is due to the fact that Columbia's Boston outlet (WEEI) did not carry the program."

This assertion about Western listening cites a then-forthcoming book by Frank Stanton (later president of CBS) called Measuring the Listening Audience. I have not been able to locate a copy of (perhaps the title changed?). Do you know if this book was actually published or if Stanton's material appeared elsewhere? Please let me know.

On a related note, I wrote a post a few months ago for I STILL Love Radio about high levels of radio ownership in the West around this same time (which obviously makes possible the high levels of listening Cantril cites, but the "why" remains unclear).

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, October 26, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Rocky and Bullwinkle Creator Alex Anderson Dead at 90

Alex Anderson, the once-forgotten man who created the original Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon characters in the 1950s, has died in California at age 90. A number of complete Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons are available here.

His New York Times obituary describes how Mr. Anderson sought and received legal remedy after a 1991 documentary about producer Jay Ward made no mention of Anderson's role in creating the popular cartoon about a flying squirrel and a moose.

In a fascinating generational note, the obit mentions that Mr. Anderson, like countless other giants in American broadcasting history, served "in Navy intelligence during World War II."

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, October 19, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
1950s TV Parents 20 Years Apart

The death of 1950s TV parents Barbara Billingsley of Leave It To Beaver over the weekend and Tom Bosley of Happy Days today underscores the odd phenomenon of TV programs set in the 1950s: some were actually FILMED in the 1950s while some were made 20 years later.

One of the most provocative non-academic books about television that explores this phenomenon is Steven D. Stark's Glued To The Set: The 60 Television Shows and Events That Made Us Into Who We Are Today (Simon & Schuster, 1997).

While the book is far-ranging, Stark's take on Leave It To Beaver is especially worth another look, as he turns conventional wisdom about the show (and especially its delayed-though-now-enduring popularity) a bit on its head.

Here are a few excerpts:

"There was, first and foremost, of course, the patient, understanding family head, Ward, a forerunner of today's new father (even if he is often mistakenly caricatured as a distant fifties patriarch)." (page 81)

"looking back at the series . . . two eye-opening things stand out: Beaver was never really popular in its own time [it never finished in the Top 25 in the ratings]. And, for a situation comedy of the 1950s, it was never very humorous [relying more on situations rather than slapstick]." (page 82)

"the versimilitude of Leave It To Beaver was so powerful that it is now widely asssumed that the fifties were exactly the way this show portrayed them. That sort of schtick makes this show an odd forerunner, not only of The Wonder Years but of the whole wave of [1970s] shows ranging from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to M*A*S*H which attempted to bring a new level of seriousness to television comedy in the seventies. That's one reason why Leave It To Beaver didn't really catch on until that era." (page 82)

While now a bit dated in the time span it covers, Stark's book offers brief essays on other TV programs (and news coverage of significant events) that make for an entertaining and informative read.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Friday, October 15, 2010 Join Discussion  (5 Comments)
NYC Radio Host Jerry Marshall Dies at 91

The New York Times today published an obituary for mid-century AM radio fixture Jerry Marshall.

To quote directly from the piece, "During more than 30 years on the air, Mr. Marshall hosted hit shows like 'Music Hall' and 'The Make-Believe Ballroom' on WNEW and 'Record Room' on WMGM, as well as shows on WINS, WNBC and WCBS. His 'Jerry Marshall Show' was eventually syndicated in cities along the East Coast."

Marshall is among that ever-diminishing group of radio "hosts" whose job was to chat and play records on-air in the years before that position came to be called "disc jockey."

There aren't too many of 'em left!

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, October 12, 2010 Join Discussion  (6 Comments)
Online Resources for Broadcast History in the West

Many communities in the West are fortunate enough to have dogged media history enthusiasts who devote their personal time to preserving and sharing information, photographs and other cool stuff about their favorite local stations and personalities. The web, of course, has allowed just about anyone anyplace to have access, and all of us with similar interests reap the benefits!

Here are a couple of online favorites for media history based in the Pacific Northwest:

Craig Adams &
Beaver State broadcast expert Craig Adams posts interesting tidbits from Oregon media history all the time at this popular industry message board, and lots of regular readers add fascinating comments to the thread. It's worth checking out every day for "This Day in Portland Radio History" feature.

Old Seattle Radio Saturday via BlatherWatch in Seattle
Michael Hood's BlatherWatch blog (motto: "Listening to talk radio so you don't have to") supplements its usual irreverent take on contemporary Seattle talkers with local media history through the weekly feature Old Seattle Radio Saturday. Source of much of the material (including top-notch photos and promo brochures) is collector and local Top 40 radio expert Bill Taylor.

Do you know of similar resources in other parts of the West or the United States? If so, please share via the "comment" function of this blog. We'll highlight the best of them in a future post, and eventually in a special section of the WSMB website.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, October 05, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
THIS is Brooklyn: Murrow School Says Good Night and Good Luck

There's a bummer of a story in today's New York Times about Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, New York. It seems the once robust television production program there has been reduced to a pile of rubble, and the classrooms that once housed studios and editing facilities will shortly become home to a computer lab.

Surely there's a metaphor in here someplace for recent big shifts in video production and consumption, as Flip cameras, YouTube, blogs, and the web in general have wreaked major havoc for traditional local and network television.

We like to claim Murrow as one of our own here in the Pacific Northwest. Even though he was born in Polecat Creek, North Carolina, Murrow's formative years were spent about an hour north of Seattle in the rural community of Blanchard, Washington, and his parents and brother Lacey V. Murrow remained in the area.

Fortunately, the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University in Pullman (Murrow's alma mater, then known as Washington State College) appears to be doing just fine, thank you.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Sunday, October 03, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
West Coast Broadcaster Art Gilmore Dies at 98

Early broadcaster Art Gilmore has died.

The obituary in today's New York Times mentions that Mr. Gilmore was born in Tacoma, WA and that he worked in radio in the Pacific Northwest before heading to Los Angeles and the Big Time.

Dave Richardson's Puget Sounds (Pacific Northwest broadcast history book) provides a few more details about Gilmore's work here:

"Tacoma-born Art Gilmore started in radio as a singer on his own show over KVI in 1934. He worked as an announcer on KOL before moving South to Hollywood . . ."

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

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