Long before language mavens Patricia T. O'Conner or Richard Lederer ever matched puns with Leonard Lopate, WNYC had Frank Horace Vizetelly (1864-1938). Known in his day as the "Dean of Lexicographers," Vizetelly was a major force behind the Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary. The etymologist, however, was not limited to the discussion of words and their origins: on WNYC he covered a wide range of topics. Among his talks were "The Ant and Its Ways," "The Story of the Sneeze," and "The Story of the Garter." Before WNYC he was on WOR, and after WNYC he moved to WJZ and WABC.
Between 1924 and 1925, world traveler, inventor, geologist, archeologist, metalurgical chemist and researcher James Churchward delivered more than two dozen lectures over WNYC. A former colonel in the British Army, Churchward gave talks based on decades of research that focused on what he called, 'the motherland of man,' the lost continent of Mu.
On December 30, 1924, The New York Times radio listings* for WNYC included a remote broadcast from the Newspaper Club of New York. It was a children's Christmas party for the sons and daughters of newspaper men. The entertainment line-up included Marilyn Miller, the Duncan Sisters, The Singer Midgets, George Haas and his singing canaries, Betty Bronson, Toto, Bob Miller, Gedney and Magee, Winifred Toomey, Rachel Mastrota, Richard B. Gilbert, Sam Wooding's Orchestra and Teddy, the baby elephant. Who were they? Let's find out.
Keeping Fit was a regular series of health and exercise talks by Joe Ruddy on WNYC in 1926.
Thornton Fisher (1888-1975) began his broadcasting career in 1923 at AT&T's WEAF in New York as one of radio's earliest sports commentators. He switched to WNYC the following year, not long after the municipal station began broadcasting. The Evening Leader of Corning, New York praised Fisher's Tuesday and Thursday evening program, Sports Analysis, and said, "he is one of the keenest sports writers and cartoonists in the world of journalism. His love for all sports, coupled with his sparkling wit and understanding of every phase of every game, have created an immortal place for him as chronicler of the progress of sports."
On December 9, 1926, the Locust Sisters sang popular tunes in our studio. The Locust Sisters were a singing quartet with a fifth sister, Mathilda, on the piano. Known as the "miracle makers of harmony," they were featured as missionaries in the 1927 Vincent Youmans Broadway musical Hit the Deck. Reviewing the performance in The New York Times, Brook Atkinson wrote, "the thin harmonies of the four Locust Sisters, admirably introduced, are artless and delightful." They also appeared in a five-minute movie short in 1928, the first of their two appearances for MGM Metro Movietone Revue. The sisters also briefly recorded for Columbia Records. Watch and listen to them in their 1930 MGM short at: LOCUST SISTERS.
Contrary to prevailing belief, the Jewish Daily Forward's first radio program was not on WEVD (a leader in Jewish and Yiddish radio programming in the 1930s and 40s), but on WNYC! The Yiddish newspaper marked the May 21, 1926 broadcast nine days later by printing the photos on the left with the following caption:
"The First Forward Radio Concert --Isa Kremer, the world famous balladiste, who was the featured soloist of the Forward radio hour May 21, from WNYC. (Left) The famous Stringwood Ensemble, which rendered a program of classical music."*
Theodor Adorno was a key figure in the German refugee-led Institute for Social Research when it resettled at Columbia University before the U.S. entry into World War II. At Columbia he was also associated with the Office of Radio Research and headed up the Music Division of what became known as the Princeton Radio Project (1937-1941), studying the effects of mass media on society. Beginning in late April, 1940 he presented a new series of music programs on WNYC. The announcer introduced them this way:
QSL postcards were used to confirm reports that a station had been heard. QSL is a "Q" code from amateur and radiotelegraph jargon that means "I confirm contact with you."
A transcript from our September, 11, 2001 airchecks.
Following the landfall of Hurricane Irene this past weekend, flood waters overtook the WNYC AM transmitter site in Kearny, NJ, causing the station to stop over-the-air broadcasting. WNYC has owned several other transmitters in its history -- indeed, the AM tower used to be in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in the location that will soon become WNYC Transmitter Park. This AM transmitter was dedicated in a ceremony on October 31, 1937.
In this 1965 Overseas Press Club Luncheon, Hallie Burnett, novelist and publisher, describes her experience in Berlin in August, 1961. On assignment for Reader’s Digest, Burnett was charged with reporting on the conditions of the East German refugees, who were “coming over at that time at about 2,000 a night.” Amidst a quiet week, she describes the night of August 13 when the foundations for the Berlin wall were laid. She describes standing among Berliners at the Brandenburg Gate, who were so shocked they had not yet found their voices to protest.
It's always exciting when we turn up an important long lost recording. In this case, the unlabeled flip side of one of Mayor La Guardia's talks had half-a-show that's not been heard for 67 years. Hailing from February 14th, 1944, we hear two friends get together to share some music with each other and WNYC's listeners. And what better venue than the station's annual American Music Festival, eleven days of studio performances and concerts around the city dedicated to home-grown music and talent? Talent indeed. Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, a renowned folksinger and bluesman, performed with pioneering folklorist Alan Lomax.
The author Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) worked with WNYC producer Marty Goldensohn on a 1998 series known as Reports on the Afterlife. A year earlier, Vonnegut explained these reports would come as a result of "controlled near-death experiences."
Dramatization of the news started long before television!
When WNYC began broadcasting 87 years ago, radio was still very much a toddler exploring the new terrain and occasionally falling down and getting bruised. There was also a certain mystique and mystery.
Surprise Yourself. Take the Test!
Woody Guthrie left California and arrived in New York City early in 1940. By summer he was making his first appearance on WNYC, on Henrietta Yurchenco and Paul Kresh's second Adventures in Music program on July 13. The show's theme was folk music of the mountains and the plains, featuring Jim Garland, Sarah Ann Ogan and Guthrie, who was introduced as "a modern troubadour who sings as he pleases and makes up his own tunes as he goes." Guthrie performed "Hobo Blues," "Dusty Old Dust," and "Tom Joad."
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.