The Programs section:
To understand the symbols and abbreviations used, it helps if you're a professional broadcaster who's been in the business several decades, or a vintage radio hobbyist who pauses every half hour during the day for a station I.D. or signs off, sings the national anthem and kills the plate voltage before kissing his wife goodnight and turning off the light. Assuming you're neither, let's briefly go through some terms and definitions you'll need to know.
A. Networks and stations.
In the beginning, there were only radio stations located in cities and towns around the country. Most used the same frequency (a concept similar to quantum theory in that it defies logic and common sense). For years afterward, shared frequencies were common (you transmit Monday through Friday, I've got the weekends). Enlisting the aid of the the phone company (there was only one at the time), a series of ad hoc networks were put together for special occasions. One of the earliest broadcasts in our archive is a September 12, 1924 National Defense Day Ceremonies broadcast. Originating at WCAP in Washington D.C., the program was also heard over WEAF, WOAW, WFAA, KLZ and KGO. If you're a radio fanatic, you can name the cities just by these call letters. If you're normal, take my word that General Pershing was heard that day from sea to shining sea, two years before there was an NBC.
NBC (The National Broadcasting Company) formalized the concept of chain broadcasting on November 1, 1926 when it started two different networks, the Red and the Blue. There are several legends as to how these two strange names came to be, but please accept that research as a homework assignment. The New York station owned and operated by the Blue Net was WJZ. The New York station owned and operated by the Red Net was WEAF (both were NBC). This is important to know as much early programming came from New York. WEAF turned into WNBC on November 2, 1946. WJZ turned into WABC March 8, 1953.
The ABC (The American Broadcasting Company) network should be mentioned here because it was merely the Blue Network changing its name and ownership on June 14, 1945. The government forced NBC to sell off one of its two networks, so on this date (please make a note), the Blue Net became ABC. Just to make life interesting, for a considerable period of time before this date, Blue Net programs identified themselves as being on the Blue Network of the American Broadcasting Company. After this date, some system cues (system cues are the last words on a radio show that identify the network of origination) on the new network were this is the ABC Blue Network. There were many variations on this theme, but it is important to remember that no matter what the announcer said, before June 14, 1945, it was the Blue Net of NBC, on/after June 14, 1945, it was ABC. Any reference (in the Programs section of this database) to just NBC before this important date is an admission that I haven't information as to whether the show was on the Red or the Blue Network.
CBS (The Columbia Broadcasting System) started programming September 18, 1927, the New York O & O (owned and operated station) was WABC. Trying to drive fewer listeners nuts, WABC changed its call letters to WCBS on November 2, 1946, so people wouldn't think they were listening to the ABC network. I choose to not go into the locations of all these stations on the radio dial, as they shifted frequency frequently and therein lies madness.
The Mutual Broadcasting System started September 30, 1934. It's main reason for existence was The Lone Ranger, which was then a very popular program being heard over WXYZ in Detroit. Mutual was always the poorest of the four networks, both in revenues and programming. The big name comedians, the prestige dramatic programs and the wealthy sponsors were all to be found elsewhere. One significant problem Mutual never overcame was that it had no O&O. It didn't own a radio station. The other networks owned several. In fact, Mutual came to be owned by WOR in New York. This is the best known (perhaps the only) example of a station owning a network instead of the other way around. When WLW in Cincinnati was allowed to begin transmissions with 500,000 watts (ten times maximum normal power), it called itself a one station network, but that's not the same thing (even though its programs could be heard all over the country).
There were other networks as well. The Don Lee Network consisted of Pacific coast stations. Don Lee was part of the CBS network as of July 16, 1929, but switched to Mutual on December 29, 1936, and did a lot of its own programming as well. It's beyond the scope of this book to discuss all the many local and regional networks. You should however, leave with the clear understanding of the difference between a network and a radio station. A radio station has a definite location and is authorized to transmit by the FCC with a certain amount of power in a well defined way. It originates many of its own programs. A network is a chain or group of radio stations, all carrying the same program at the same time (or almost the same time). It's all over the place, not just in one city. It only originates programming and does not own a transmitter. A radio network can own a radio station, but they're not the same thing. For example, programs heard on WOR might come from the Mutual network, or originate just at WOR to be heard only in New York. Mutual programs were not always heard on WOR. The situation was confused further by the use of the phrase WOR-Mutual for both local WOR program station identifications and Mutual net system cues.
B. Some of my favorite abbreviations:
B1 is the Blue Network.
ABC is the American Broadcasting Company.
Mut is the Mutual Broadcasting System.
CBS is the Columbia Broadcasting System.
WEAF, etc. represents the call letters of individual radio stations. I do not identify what city each station is licensed to. Broadcasters and radio show enthusiasts usually know the location of a station by its call letters. Those who do not can easily find this information elsewhere.
BBC is the British Broadcasting Corporation.
CBC is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
NPR is National Public Radio.
AFRS is the Armed Forces Radio Service (and includes some Special Services Division Of The War Department programs that were heard before the AFRS formally began). The operation later became the AFRTS with the addition of television.
Syn means the program was syndicated. You'll see this abbreviation a lot, as syndication was a popular method of program distribution. Today we would call these shows off-line. Syndicated programs were not sent to radio stations by a network, but were recorded (on discs at first, later on tape) and mailed to stations around the country. Syndicators also used something called Railway Express, but that was before your time. Syndicated programs might have been network shows being re-sold after their network run ended (we now call them re-runs). More usually, they were programs recorded just for syndication. Syndicated shows could have sponsors just like network shows (in which case, the sponsor paid the syndicator who paid the stations to run the program), or a syndicated show could be sustaining (see below). In this case, the station would buy the show (or get it free) to present to its listeners. Recruiting and public service shows, as well as charity fund appeals were often syndicated. The syndicated program could also be intended for local commercial sponsorship (by the station buying the series). The station theoretically sold the program to a local merchant. The syndicator would leave a hole in the program by having the announcer say, we'll be back with more in just a moment, after this important message, followed by a minute of silent grooves on the record while the station engineer would add the commercial. There were many variations on this theme.
PBS-TV is the Public Broadcasting Service.
C-SPAN is the Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network.
Sus means sustaining which meant that the program was not intended to be sponsored. If the sponsor of a program is known, I identify it as much as possible. It's easy to do when the sponsor is something like Lucky Strike. But what happens if the sponsor is a company with many products, one who advertises more than one of them on the program? Instead of cluttering up the listing with the names of multiple products, I've sometimes just listed the manufacturer and let the reader sort out the greater detail by listening to the program. The phrase air trailer refers to a program-length advertisement for a movie, usually with the stars from the film and scenes from it as well. Some program types are gray areas. Paid political announcements are one long commercial, but the product is a person. Religious, charity and recruiting broadcasts can't really be called sponsored, but it's not correct to call them sustaining either. I deal with this problem by ignoring it.
Multi means the program is sponsored by more than one non-related product. The term participating sponsors is sometimes used.
2t, 3t, 5t and 6t is the
number of times per week the show was on the air.
2t is Tuesday and Thursday.
3t is Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
5t is Monday through Friday.
6t is Monday through Saturday.
Variations from the above are noted where necessary, no mention of any t means the program was on just once a week.
C. Times and dates.
The times listed are East Coast times unless otherwise noted (or a West coast only program). The length of the program is indicated by a number and an m (for minutes). 25m would mean the program ran 25 minutes (actually 24:30, but don't get me started on that).
D. Non-radio programs.
Since this database is about The Golden Age Of Radio, when is a radio program not a radio program?
When it's a radio transcription. These 16" discs were the stuff from which radio programs were made, but they were not complete shows by themselves. They were usually music selections or dramatic vignettes recorded on records that radio stations could play as part of their own local programming. In short, they were the phonograph record albums of their day. They contained (with few exceptions), no voice announcements to tell the listener what was to come. That was done by the local announcer. The main transcription manufacturers listed in this database are: World, Thesaurus, Standard, Capitol, Lang-Worth, SESAC, MacGregor, BMI and Muzak. There are others.
When it's a television program. The listings contain many programs that were the sound portion of television shows. Therefore, a listing that says CBS-TV indicates television audio.
When it's a film soundtrack or strip film audio, it is so indicated.
So, why have non-radio material listed in a database about radio programming? Good question! It's because many of these non-radio recording are about radio, or contain people who were often heard on radio, or just because I think they're a valuable part of the archive. Don't give me a hard time. There are many recordings listed of a political nature as well as those dealing with space exploration because I consider them both to be an outgrowth and continuation of program types that started with those election results broadcast on November 2, 1920.
The People Section:
This section is a lot easier to explain. It's simply an alphabetical list of every person who received air credit (or should have received air credit) on every program in the archive. Alphabetizing a list of names would be easy if everyone had a first and a last name. But they don't and one has to start making decisions. Alphabetized by first or last name? The program names are alphabetized by the actual name of the program, not a person. The Jack Benny Show is therefore listed under Jack and not Benny. I ignore The, A and An for greater clarity. In the people section, I've had to deal with those with three (or more names) like Adam Clayton Powell, those who usually use only initials (H.V. Kaltenborn) or a combination (like J. David Goldin) and other variations. Benny Goodman and His Orchestra is filed under Goodman, as is his trio, his quartet, etc. Caution: many names look like they are spelled incorrectly, but they may not be (then again, some of them probably are). This apparent error may in fact be a reference to someone you never heard of who spells his name differently. Steven Allen is not the same person as Steve Allen, the comedian/ musician/author. John Kennedy was both a NBC announcer in the mid-30s and a president. They were not the same guy.
I've tried to eliminate all titles. Therefore, unless I didn't know the first name, you'll see no Generals, Doctors, Governors, Bishops or other honorifics. Hyphenated names, those that end with Jr. and those with lineage descriptors (John Jones III) were invented just to make life difficult. I couldn't bring myself to list the king of England as Windsor, George. You will probably agree with some of my decisions and disagree with others. At least I tried to be consistent.
I encourage readers to help me correct the many errors to be found in this book, both with program information and with people spelling. Please have some form of documentation beyond I've always spelled it that way, or the show is dated differently in the XYZ catalogue. My fellow collectors may be as perplexed, stubborn and wrong as I am. I would be most appreciative of those with definite information, and offer them immortality in the acknowledgments section of future editions, as well as my gratitude.
What can you do with this database?
C'mon, are you really asking me that question? Seriously, here are the uses that can be made of this research, with varying degrees of success.
Determine what programs were on network radio (and significant local programming).
Research what the exact names of these programs were and what were the alternative names used. What you call The Jack Benny Show was actually ten different program names (starting with The Canada Dry Program. The most famous of them was The Lucky Strike Program Starring Jack Benny).
Find out broadcast data about these programs and the changes they went through while they were on the air.
Get information about sponsors, networks, stations, program length, etc.
Discover who were major contributors to some of the more well known programs (other books address this area far better).
Learn how many examples of any given program are currently in the archive (see Where Do Old Radio Shows Come From? and allow me to vent my spleen).
Obtain a list of major (and minor) people who contributed to these broadcasts, and (hopefully) how to spell their names correctly.
Learn how many examples of the work of these people are in the database.
Trace the broadcast career of people like Frank Sinatra. Paul Whiteman or Red Skelton.