Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20th - National Radio Day / 1957 American Airlines Radio Spot

Bob Crane at KNX - circa 1960.
In 1920, KDKA in Pittsburgh became the first commercial radio station in the United States to begin broadcasting. Radio has certainly evolved over the last 91 years, and despite ongoing changes in technology and FCC rulings, it has always been a primary source for news and entertainment. Your iPhones and Blackberries may be the techy toys of the day (and in a few minutes, I'm going to go play on Twitter and check out Facebook), but there's still something inherently special about radio. That crackle of static in the air; hearing the radio personalities interact with the songs, the callers, their guests, and each other; and knowing that anything and everything can happen. Live radio is unpredictable and predictable all at the same time.

During the 1950s and '60s, Bob Crane helped transform radio in many ways. First, he not only interacted with his guests and engineer, but he also interacted with the commercials, turning a 15-second spot into a minute or more of comedy. Second, Bob's show was never rehearsed; it was all spontaneous. Therefore, he could not rely on his radio engineer to know which record to play to go along with whatever stunt he was about to pull. Because of his show's format, Bob was able to receive special dispensation from the Radio Engineers' Union to play his own records, which at the time was completely unprecedented. Third, Bob kept a drumset in the radio booth, and he routinely drummed away with the tunes, sometimes singing or humming or whistling or inserting snippets of comedy as well. And last but by no means least, at KNX, Bob was one of the leading celebrity interviewers of his time. 

Attention radio stations! You've now heard some of Crane's calamity of having fun with commercials, doing impersonations, conducting wild radio campaigns, and performing skits. What kinds of crazy stunts or gimmicks have you done over the air? Let us know, and we'll highlight them in a future post!

Now for a commercial break. In this 1957 spot, the Crane Little Theatre Players promote Beech-Nut Gum, which then slides effortlessly right into an American Airlines commercial. Enjoy!

American Airlines Radio Spot
The Crane Little Theatre Players / Beech-Nut Gum
Bob Crane Show / KNX-CBS Radio
March 27, 1957

It's National Radio Day, America! Turn off your TV and tune in to your favorite radio station!