Saturday, August 4, 2007

"Through the blue and grey ether, a long, deep, resonant...

...steamboat whistle penetrates....

And the announcer’s voice comes through with something like “Good Evening everyone. This is KTRH, the station owned and operated by the Rice Hotel, Houston’s welcome to the world.”

So began a feature article in a November, 1930, issue of Radio Digest, the nation’s premier radio periodical, entitled ‘Steamboat Whistle is Station Call of KTRH.’ The article goes on to explain the relevance of the steamboat whistle, i.e., Houston’s Ship Channel, which has made the port one of the most important in the world and the city the second largest in the South. The article says station owner Jesse B. Jones ‘needs no introduction to Radio Digest readers,’ he who had brought the Democratic National Convention to Houston in 1928, built the ‘gigantic’ Sam Houston Convention Hall and ‘miles of skyscrapers’ in both Houston and New York City. It also notes the hotel sits on the site of a one time capital of the Republic of Texas.

Peeking into a studio with the article’s author you may believe you have been transported to Mother Goose Land as you see an Old Woman in a Shoe, surrounded by so many children she doesn’t know what to do. It is Aunt Pat - real name Margaret Britton, twenty-something assistant program supervisor of KTRH - who is equally adept at entertaining young children or playing an adult role in a KTRH production, sometimes taking on more than one role in the same production.

There is Guy Savage ‘young and blond’, known as the Whispering Tenor, who hosts the station’s morning program including The KTRH Mother’s Program, one of the most popular features on the station, which airs dedications to ‘your mother and mine,’living or dead, and draws heavy mail. The program features the ringing of an alarm clock every quarter hour followed by the strains of Reveille to help get listeners out of the sack.

The staff also includes soprano Mary Carson who studied at La Scala in Milan and has performed in all the major cities of England, France, Germany and Italy and was most recently with the Boston Opera.

The article notes “The Texas oil fields have also contributed to KTRH two harmonizers of the first degree who have won a wide following by the perfect blend of their voices." Sloan and Threadgill - Jerry and Frank - Brunswick Phonograph recording artists - who both work at Baytown and when a harmony team is needed, a wire is dispatched to Sloan and Threadgill, Baytown, and they come post-haste. They have been performing together since 1913 and they sing ‘Countryside style songs.’

I am indebted to Mike Henry of the Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland for sharing this article with me.

I have mentioned Guy Savage before on this blog. There was a later Sports Director of KXYZ and KTRK-TV by that name who died in 1969 but his obit did not indicate he had ever worked at KTRH.

This Frank Threadgill is apparently no relation to the famous Kenneth Threadgill of Austin.


Roger said...

A comment on Guy Savage (the KTRK sports man): I have a TV guide from 1966 that lists him on the 6 and 10 o'clock news, so he couldn't have passed away in 1959. Now I can't remember him at channel 13; he was a bit before my time.

HRH Blogger said...

You are correct. I'll edit the original post. Guy Savage was Sports Director of KXYZ-AM for 11 years spanning the 1950s then the Sports Director of KTRK-TV from January, 1960, to May, 1969, according to his obit. He died in May, 1969. Thanks.