History of Radio 1929 to 1931

About the history of radio from 1929 to 1931 as Amos 'N' Andy, Rudy Vallee, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir debut, ratings systems are worked out and Father Coughlin is censored.

SOME STATIC ON RADIO HISTORY

1929

* This year the men who introduced the programs--the announcers--began to become celebrities on their own. There were Graham McNamee, Phillips Carlin, Ted Husing, Milton Cross, Niles T. Granlund (who identified himself on the air as NTG), Norman Brokenshire, and Jimmy Wallington. These voices sent imaginations soaring, and they seemed to be everywhere on the airwaves.

Aug. 19 Amos 'n' Andy went on NBC for Pepsodent. Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll had first put together a blackface act while working minstrel shows and revues. During the summer of 1925, they began broadcasting weekly as Sam 'n' Henry from Chicago's Edge-water Beach Hotel, which gave them free dinners for their efforts. Eventually, WGN signed them for a daily Sam 'n' Henry show. After a two-year run, they moved to WMAQ, but since WGN owned the Sam 'n' Henry name, they became Amos 'n' Andy, radio's first big hit. Although most of their material--which they wrote themselves--sounds stereotyped today, such lines as "I'se regusted" and "Ain't dat sumpin?" were popular catch-phrases of the 1930s.

Oct. 24 With a "Heigh-ho, everybody" and a "My Time Is Your Time," Rudy Vallee went on NBC in radio's first variety hour. Although he presented many well-known performers, Vallee cultivated new talent, including such future stars as Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Bob Burns, Alice Faye, Frances Langford, and Joe Penner. Both The Aldrich Family and We, the People were spun off into regular programs from spots on the Vallee show.

Nov. 20 A more modest effort, The Goldbergs, premiered. Instead of big-name stars, it featured a warm Jewish family, presided over by Mama Molly (Gertrude Berg, the show's writer, producer, and star). The Goldbergs later made the transition to TV.

* The Mormon Tabernacle Choir made its first broadcast from Salt Lake City. Still going strong more than 2,500 performances later, it is network radio's longest-running program.

* A 26-year-old former cemetery plot salesman, billed as "Red [Arthur] Godfrey, the Warbling Banjoist," sang into the mike for the first time.

1930

* Archibald Crossley was asked by the Association of National Advertisers to organize the first national rating service. The Crossley rating soon became an important factor in program decisions. Based on telephone calls, the rating reflected only a small portion of the listening population.

This service was supplanted in 1935 by the Hooper ratings, which were considered superior because they were based on what listeners said they were actually listening to, whereas the Crossley ratings had relied on memory--what listeners recalled from the night before.

Sept. 30 Lowell Thomas made his first network newscast.

* Singing cowboy Gene Autry signed on with WJJD, Chicago, doing 12 programs a week--six in the morning and six in the afternoon--for $50.

1931

Jan. 4 Father Charles Coughlin, a radio commentator since 1928, asked his listeners whether CBS should be permitted to muzzle him after that network had demanded advance copies of his increasingly political, sometimes anti-Semitic "sermons." Although more than a million pro-Coughlin letters inundated his studio at the Shrine of the Little Flower at Royal Oak, Mich., CBS executives pulled the priest's plug anyway. Coughlin set up his own network, and in 1934 a national poll named him the second most popular man in the U.S.--topped only by President Roosevelt. By 1940, however, he had drifted so far to the right that his program was forced off the air by his ecclesiastical superiors. He continued to expound his political views from the pulpit until his retirement in 1966.

* A succession of hit shows and personalities were introduced this year. Eddie Cantor, who had made his debut on Rudy Vallee's Fleischmann Hour, went on the air with The Chase & Sanborn Hour. Bing Crosby started up on CBS for 15 minutes every evening. Other new popular shows: Lum and Abner, Easy Aces, The March of Time, and Little Orphan Annie.

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