Friday, April 13, 2007

Welcome to the Houston Radio History blog

Here are some of the stories we’re working on for you (to cop a phrase):

There will be the story of the Houston boy who chanced to meet some people working for radio pioneer Lee DeForest before World War I, who told him to learn everything he could about radio. A few years later a fortune teller would read his palm and tell him she saw a long life in radio for him. He would build his own crystal sets and power sources and then his own transmitting equipment and be credited by some as the first person to transmit his voice over the airwaves in Houston and by some with originating the first radio broadcast here (there are competing claims). He would own one of Houston’s first radio stations and play a role in launching and running three others and by the time of his death be hailed as the Dean of Houston Radio.

And there will be the story of the theatre owner who told an interviewer before there were any broadcasting stations that he foresaw a day soon when the ordinary man would be able to enjoy a concert with his supper, courtesy of his own wireless set. He would go on to own two radio stations, make a fortune in several business enterprises and give much of it away helping needy people during the Depression, then serve time in Leavenworth, die an untimely death, and be remembered as one of the most beloved Houstonians of the first half of the 20th Century.

And of the young blind pianist who showed up to perform on one of the early stations just days after it signed on and who so impressed the audience and listeners he quickly became a regular, appearing daily almost without fail, sometimes filling 2 or 3 programming slots a day, sometimes performing for several hours at a time, nearly always leaving time at the end of his concerts to take audience and listener requests while many of his concerts were all-request programs. He would become a staple on the Houston airwaves for years and in later years some of his piano concerts would be carried live on stations elsewhere. By the end of the 1920s the Houston Post Radio Editor would write that his name was known from coast to coast and no Houston radio performer had ever received more fan mail.

There will also be the story of the teenager who by age 15 was staging teen dances at big dance halls in Houston and as far away as Louisiana, booking the halls and the orchestras, promoting the shows and keeping the profits for his hard-pressed family. He would talk a Houston program director into selling him a block of time for an amateur hour program before those shows were staples of radio and then be out of a job when the station folded. He would go on to own several radio stations and put the first FM station in Texas on the air. He would talk the President of General Electric into letting him have a new-fangled wire recorder before they went on the market and then lug it off to San Francisco to the organizational meetings of the United Nations and make radio history.

Then there will be stories of the Houston station that became only the second station in the nation to operate 24 hours a day and and of the radio programs that originated on Houston stations and went on to become network series and also of the station that became only the second in the nation to operate full time in stereo. And of the radio station owner who made a big splash for the launch of his station by installing a 62 foot animated Trans Lux sign on the exterior, rivaling the famous one in Times Square, New York, who was known to fire disc jockeys on the spot for a comment on the air he didn’t like and whose first program director lasted only 3 weeks.

In the very near future I will begin uploading a chronology of AM radio in Houston, beginning with a brief survey of activities before the dawn of broadcasting; this will extend down to about 1970 and will be followed by a chronology of FM radio in Houston beginning in 1942 and extending down to the late 1960s.

Along the way, there will be digressions from the main topic with stories of interest and a trivia quiz.

1 comment:

valinski said...

Great, looking forward to getting more info, I was an engineer at 97 ROCK, KSRR starting in 1982, then to KKBQ, metro traffic, 96.5, metro traffic and have been doing queervoices on KPFT up to now.

Jack Valinski