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Memorable Radio


Memorable Radio


An interesting post from the excellent Blog got me thinking about memorable radio sounds and segments. The post referenced a piece done by “Twenty Thousand Hertz” on the historicity and significance of the NBC chimes. There was a lot there I did not know.

One of the things I found most intriguing is the idea of how these three notes (originally 7!) have been a part of our culture for 90 years! They have signified triumphs and tragedies, milestones and things we would rather forget. And they were even used in WWII in a special way (No spoiler here – listen to the audio!)

Being a somewhat odd man out, at my age one would assume television would have had the greatest impact on me having been born roughly at the early period of the “television age.” In fact, it is radio which has had the biggest impact on me for many reasons, most of which are not germane here. But this idea of sounds and voices being woven into a culture from radio is intriguing to me.

There are of course the serial shows of early radio, long before TV came along. The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Fibber McGee and Molly, and dozens of others certainly have their places n broadcast history. Even soap operas had their start in radio, and curiously enough the television versions of today still follow the same patterns of radio – such as repeating names of family members and referencing events as a refresher for viewers. I used to find that silly (my wife has a few soaps she still watches), but when I read some of the history of radio the soaps were there, and the style was established for listening audiences. That actually increased my respect for soap operas on TV, well, just a little <grin>.

Back to the NBC chimes – radio stations have long played sounds and musical interludes to identify themselves, and many of these notes and interludes took on an identity of their own. Avid shortwave listeners are familiar with this notion, as many stations are instantly recognizable by their intro notes.


I am wondering what notes and sounds and themes are a part of your collective radio memories? The chimes of NBC certainly are for me, as are some of the shows mentioned above. I also fondly remember “American Top Forty” with Casey Kasem (yeah, I listened almost every week!), local broadcasters such as Ted McKay, “Will with a Way” Warren (left), Stan Matlock (right),  and Jerry Thomas. In fact, Cincinnati’s WCKY helped pioneer live talk shows, having two of the first three in the country, having developed a system using two tape machines to allow for the necessary delay to allow for live callers.

These newsmen, announcers, and broadcasters left indelible impressions on me, and their voices and programs were reassuring. I do not sense that today, maybe because I am no longer a child. I suspect, however, there is something more to it than this. So many of the broadcasters today speak with little to no authority in their voices. Few seem to have voices truly fit for radio, grammar is lacking, and often personality is lacking. But maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it is because much of radio has become homogenized as large corporate entities swallow up local broadcasting in favor of national coverage.

Fortunately all is not lost, as there are still local stations with entertaining shows and stories, and nighttime DXing brings in so many more stations. Just listening to styles from around the country is interesting to me.

What are some of your favorite Radio memories? What shows, personalities, or segments do you remember?

(Oh and of course, listening to the Cincinnati Reds was my real favorite pastime as a kid!!) 73, Robert


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