This reference work must begin with two admissions, either of which usually dooms a database's usefulness:
Having said this, I hasten to add that as of this writing, it is the best of its kind. The study of radio programming from the start of the "broadcast era" (generally considered the November 2, 1920 election eve coverage by KDKA in Pittsburgh) to the end of the so-called "Golden Age" (I declare that to be September 30, 1962 when CBS radio ended the last two dramatic shows still on the air) is similar to the science of archeology. The researcher is forced to draw conclusions about a great many things from very little evidence. Radio existed long before those sporadic election results came from Pittsburgh. (Guglielmo Marconi is said to have made the first successful radio transmission in 1895). WHA in Madison, Wisconsin was among the several stations broadcasting before KDKA. Radio existed long after "Suspense" and "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar" went off the air. (Rumor has it there are still a few radio stations broadcasting even today.)
We are therefore, dealing with a continuum; a gradual evolution from a scientific experiment, to a practical means of point to point communication, to an amusing novelty, to a creative source of evening entertainment in the living room, to the news/information/recorded music service that has evolved today. As the audio archeologist digs through the sounds of radio's past, it becomes apparent how little we know. I admit that I've turned up recordings of very few broadcasts that I can accurately date before 1930. That's a whole decade of programming by hundreds of different stations, networks and performers of which little or nothing can be heard or is even known! Obviously this situation will improve as the study continues, but I suspect that decades from now, it will still be accurate to say, "how little we know!"
This knowledge vacuum leads to an attempt to organize what we do know and to standardize the way we know it. This is the first database of its kind, but it will not be the last. Previous efforts have been in several other categories;
There are other types of books and hybrids, all of which add to our knowledge of the subject. Most are genuine works of scholarship, involving considerable research and effort. Believe me, I know. This work is an attempt to fill two specific gaps in radio knowledge. 1. It tries to be a compilation of network programs, plus significant local and regional broadcasts. 2. It's a list of the people who were involved in putting these programs on the air. I define "people" as those who received air credits (or should have received air credits) which were usually heard at the end of the show. To list the names of the station management, sales and engineering staff and all the other behind the scenes personnel at the larger stations and networks is beyond the scope of any database. Before the war, it was not uncommon for some stations in larger cities to have hundreds of employees. On the other hand, the entire Mutual network had about 75 people in 1967, including secretaries and mailroom personnel.
So why then, is this database both out of date and inaccurate? 1. It is an analysis of programs that are or were in my possession. There are many programs that have been located, sonically improved, recorded, catalogued and available for study. Discovery continues, books are being written and then revised, in fact, a whole army of amateur archeologists (don't they have anything better to do?) supplies us with new information continuously. This, therefore is a work in progress. It was out of date the day it went onto the Internet.
The information is inaccurate not because I want it to be, nor because of sloppy scholarship, but because the information is still coming in, and some of it is going to be wrong. How do you determine when a network program started or stopped? You can check the newspapers and Radio Guide-type publications as a start. How do you handle that information when you find an original recording of a program clearly labeled as being broadcast a year after the show supposedly went off the air? What do you do when the program was heard locally in New York or Cleveland before it became a network show heard all over the country? What's the date of the show's last broadcast if it went off the network, ran just in Chicago for two years and then went into syndication around the country and was offered for sale to other radio stations for the next ten years (and then perhaps revived and resold a decade after that)? How do you determine the day of the week a show was on if it was heard on different days in different parts of the country! How can you tell its time of broadcast with four time zones, plus the delayed and repeat broadcasts? Who is the sponsor of the show if the product being advertised was different in varying parts of the country or changed from week to week! How do you spell the name of a performer whose name is mentioned on a program's closing credits, but who wasn't important enough to be mentioned in print anywhere? Is his name spelled Steven? Stephen? Stefan? Alan or Allen or Allan? William or Bill? Robert or Bob? Richard or Dick? What should Ira Grossel's listing be since he was called Jeff Chandler for most of his career, except that one western series when he was billed as "Tex" Chandler? How do you handle Myron Wallace when he starts calling himself Mike Wallace, or when Connee Boswell becomes Connie Boswell? Is an actress' name spelled Ann or Anne, is Gil Stratton the same actor as Gil Stratton, Jr.? And was Michael Ann Barrett a man or a woman?
It's easy to ask the above questions; it's a lot harder to answer them. Obviously, I've made decisions and compromises. Much time consuming research was necessary, some of it is bound to be wrong. That's why this work contains inaccuracies. One final question: how do you spell a name or describe a program when two trusted sources disagree?
I encourage readers to help me correct the many errors to be found in this book, both with "program" information and with "people" spelling. Please have some form of documentation beyond "I've always spelled it that way," or "the show is dated differently in the XYZ catalogue." My fellow collectors may be as perplexed, stubborn and wrong as I am. I would be most appreciative of those with definite information, and offer them immortality in the "acknowledgments" section of future editions, as well as my gratitude.
To understand the symbols and abbreviations used, it helps if you're a professional broadcaster who's been in the business several decades, or a vintage radio hobbyist who pauses every half hour during the day for a station I.D. or "signs off," sings the national anthem and kills the plate voltage before kissing his wife goodnight and turning off the light. Assuming you're neither, let's briefly go through some terms and definitions you'll need to know.
In the beginning, there were only radio stations located in cities and towns around the country. Most used the same frequency (a concept similar to quantum theory in that it defies logic and common sense). For years afterward, shared frequencies were common ("you transmit Monday through Friday, I've got the weekends"). Enlisting the aid of the the phone company (there was only one at the time), a series of "ad hoc" networks were put together for special occasions. One of the earliest broadcasts in our archive is a September 12, 1924 "National Defense Day Ceremonies" broadcast. Originating at WCAP in Washington D.C., the program was also heard over WEAF, WOAW, WFAA, KLZ and KGO. If you're a radio fanatic, you can name the cities just by these call letters. If you're normal, take my word that General Pershing was heard that day from sea to shining sea, two years before there was an NBC.
NBC (The National Broadcasting Company) formalized the concept of "chain broadcasting" on November 1, 1926 when it started two different networks, the Red and the Blue. There are several legends as to how these two strange names came to be, but please accept that research as a homework assignment. The New York station owned and operated by the Blue Net was WJZ. The New York station owned and operated by the Red Net was WEAF (both were NBC). This is important to know as much early programming came from New York. WEAF turned into WNBC on November 2, 1946. WJZ turned into WABC March 8, 1953.
The ABC (The American Broadcasting Company) network should be mentioned here because it was merely the Blue Network changing its name and ownership on June 14, 1945. The government forced NBC to sell off one of its two networks, so on this date (please make a note), the Blue Net became ABC. Just to make life interesting, for a considerable period of time before this date, Blue Net programs identified themselves as being on the "Blue Network of the American Broadcasting Company." After this date, some system cues (system cues are the last words on a radio show that identify the network of origination) on the new network were "this is the ABC Blue Network." There were many variations on this theme, but it is important to remember that no matter what the announcer said, before June 14, 1945, it was the Blue Net of NBC, on/after June 14, 1945, it was ABC. Any reference (in the "Programs" section of this database) to just "NBC" before this important date is an admission that I haven't information as to whether the show was on the "Red" or the "Blue" Network.
(The Columbia Broadcasting System) started programming September 18, 1927, the New York "O & O" (owned and operated station) was WABC. Trying to drive fewer listeners nuts, WABC changed its call letters to WCBS on November 2, 1946, so people wouldn't think they were listening to the ABC network. I choose to not go into the locations of all these stations on the radio dial, as they shifted frequency frequently and therein lies madness.
The Mutual Broadcasting System started September 30, 1934. It's main reason for existence was "The Lone Ranger," which was then a very popular program being heard over WXYZ in Detroit. Mutual was always the poorest of the four networks, both in revenues and programming. The big name comedians, the prestige dramatic programs and the wealthy sponsors were all to be found elsewhere. One significant problem Mutual never overcame was that it had no "O&O." It didn't own a radio station. The other networks owned several. In fact, Mutual came to be owned by WOR in New York. This is the best known (perhaps the only) example of a station owning a network instead of the other way around. When WLW in Cincinnati was allowed to begin transmissions with 500,000 watts (ten times maximum normal power), it called itself a "one station network," but that's not the same thing (even though its programs could be heard all over the country).
There were other networks as well. The Don Lee Network consisted of Pacific coast stations. Don Lee was part of the CBS network as of July 16, 1929, but switched to Mutual on December 29, 1936, and did a lot of its own programming as well. It's beyond the scope of this book to discuss all the many local and regional networks. You should however, leave with the clear understanding of the difference between a network and a radio station. A radio station has a definite location and is authorized to transmit by the FCC with a certain amount of power in a well defined way. It originates many of its own programs. A network is a "chain" or group of radio stations, all carrying the same program at the same time (or almost the same time). It's all over the place, not just in one city. It only originates programming and does not own a transmitter. A radio network can own a radio station, but they're not the same thing. For example, programs heard on WOR might come from the Mutual network, or originate just at WOR to be heard only in New York. Mutual programs were not always heard on WOR. The situation was confused further by the use of the phrase "WOR-Mutual" for both local WOR program "station identifications" and Mutual net system cues.
The times listed are East Coast times unless otherwise noted (or a West coast only program). The length of the program is indicated by a number and an "m" (for minutes). "25m" would mean the program ran 25 minutes (actually 24:30, but don't get me started on that).
Since this database is about "The Golden Age Of Radio," when is a radio program not a radio program?
So, why have non-radio material listed in a database about radio programming?