WNYC music critic, reviewer, audiophile and host Edward Tatnall Canby (1912-1998) began his nearly 25-year stint at WNYC in 1947. His show, The New Recordings, was described that first year as "a program of wide-ranging comment on music in general and the new records in particular." It was based on his weekly column in The Saturday Review. The name of the program was changed and is probably best recalled as Recordings, E.T.C.
Robert Sonkin and Charles Todd were working at the City College Department of Public Speaking when they decided to spend their summer vacations in 1940 and '41 at the Farm Security Administration (FSA) camps of central California. With the help of Alan Lomax, their project was underwritten by the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress. Carrying a "portable" 50-pound Presto disc cutter, they recorded cowboy songs, traditional ballads, square dance calls, camp council meetings, storytelling sessions and the personal experiences of the Dust Bowl refugees who lived in the camps. Drawing from more than 200 field recordings, the folklorists produced the above documentary for WNYC in 1942, one of three in a broadcast series called Songs of the Okies.
On July 2, 1946, David Randolph began a series of weekly broadcasts on WNYC called Music for the Connoisseur, later known as The David Randolph Concert.*
On his fourth broadcast, he surveyed the subject of humor in music. With that, David pioneered the thematic radio broadcast devoted to a single musical subject with commentary. Above, you can listen to the full broadcast of "Composers' Senses of Humor," David's 375th show that aired in June, 1954.
The programs were later syndicated nationally on the 72-station network of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB). The broadcasts garnered four Ohio State University Awards as "the best programs of music and commentary in the nation," and aired for 33 years. They also resulted in invitations from 23 publishers to write a book, and This Is Music: A Guide to the Pleasures of Listening was published by McGraw-Hill in 1964. It was described by the New York Times as "one of the best of the year."
The Flanagan Brothers were the most popular group of Irish entertainers in New York City between the early 1920's and the late 1930's. Joe, Mike and Louis (who is not pictured here and played harp guitar) were born in Waterford City, Ireland in the 1890's and emigrated to the United States with their parents at the turn of the century. They settled in Albany, New York. The brothers, all self-taught, played at concerts, dances, bars, clubs, and on WNYC. They recorded 160 songs for several labels and their discs sold well across the U.S, Britain and Ireland. Many have since been reissued in anthology collections. Here is an original version of the Kerry Mills Barndance courtesy of the Irish Traditional Music Archive.
Nikola Tesla, the father of alternating current and one of the greatest inventors of all time, died on January 7, 1943 at the New Yorker Hotel. Three days later, WNYC broadcast this memorial to him. The Croatian-born violinist Zlatko Baloković performed Ave Maria live in the studio, as well as a piece known to be a favorite of Tesla's, identified as Therefore Beyond the Hills is My Village, My Native Land. Mayor F. H. La Guardia read a moving tribute to Tesla written by Slovenian-American author Louis Adamic. Announcer Joe Fishler concluded the program this way:
It’s often a challenge when dealing with archive materials for web presentations.
You have audio and no photo or vice versa. Additionally, materials we now recognize as being innovative and landmark productions may have been overlooked in their day, leaving little public record of their activities.
In 1937, WNYC opened a new transmitter site in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Flanked by two 304-foot towers, the site featured massive, illuminated WNYC call letters and a north symbol so that planes flying overhead on a clear night could easily get their bearings. WNYC-AM left the site in 1990, and the towers came down about 10 years later. The 10 Kent Street site is now a project of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which is in the process of creating WNYC Transmitter Park.
From the mid-1930s to early 1940s, the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) distributed thousands of transcription discs to hundreds of radio stations around the United States, including WNYC.
WNYC's Chief Engineer Isaac Brimberg, from a 1930s photo. Brimberg was a pioneer in radio broadcasting. He joined WNYC at its opening in 1924 and was named Chief Engineer in 1929. He oversaw the WPA construction of our new studios and our state-of-the-art transmission facilities at Greenpoint, Brooklyn--both opening in October 1937. Brimberg was also responsible for setting up our shortwave facility W2XVP in 1941 and our experimental FM station W39NY, now WNYC-FM. Major Isaac Brimberg was in the Army Signal Corps in 1943 when he died tragically on leave in a car accident at the age of 40.
From May, 1934 to April, 1948 Gladys M. Petch was heard regularly over WNYC talking about Norway. The programs Sunlit Norway Calls, Spirit of the Vikings, and News of Norway were underwritten by the Royal Norwegian Information Service. While most of these broadcasts were aired via transcription disc, it appears that during WWII, Petch was in the WNYC studios, as evidenced by these two 1944 News of Norway broadcasts we found at the National Library of Norway site.
Moscow's Park of Culture and Rest was one of the topics in a controversial series of travelogues aired by WNYC in late 1937 and early 1938. Critics of the station charged the broadcasts were Soviet propaganda meant to gloss over the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.
Hom Hong Wei (1915-2011) at his WNYC engineering shop workbench in the early 1940s.
WNYC's first Music Supervisor (Music Director) Herman Neuman was a an accomplished conductor and composer and oversaw the department from its beginning in 1924 to 1967. He continued to do his regular "world" music program (classical), Hands Across the Sea into the 1970s.
In a rare appearance behind the microphone, Major Edwin H. Armstrong, the inventor of frequency modulation (FM) broadcasting, addressed the WNYC audience 63 years ago today. The occasion was the launch of WNYC's new FM transmitter.
Belgian-born soprano Lily Djanel sings the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” to a crowd of 50,000 on June 6, 1944. The D-Day rally broadcast by WNYC was presided over by Mayor La Guardia.
Col. Charles A. Lindbergh receives a medal of valor from New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker, June 13, 1927. The aviator stood in front of the WNYC and network microphones, having just garnered tributes in Washington, D.C. for his historic non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic.
Dr. John Haynes Holmes addressed tens of thousands at an anti-Nazi rally in Battery Park on May 10, 1933, broadcast over WNYC. The Pastor of the Community Church recalled his earlier protests of the pogroms against the Jews in Czarist Russia and said, Hitler was "more cruel than the Czar."
New York Mayor John P. O'Brien* pinned a gold medal on Wiley Post, 'round-the-world flier' on the steps of City Hall, July 26, 1933. Post's wife Edna Mae is on the right behind the WNYC microphone.