What Could Charles Manson & Jed Clampett Possibly Have In Common?
The surprising answer is…Sharon Tate! To those of us who are old enough to remember the Helter Skelter days, Tate is mostly known as the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, who was one of the unfortunate victims of the Manson family killings.
But, were you aware that before the tragedy, she had a recurring role on “The Beverly Hillbillies”? She appeared in 15 episodes in a brunette wig as the bank teller Janet Trego. She also did a few bit parts on “Mr. Ed”, and was considered for the role of Billie Jo Bradley on “Petticoat Junction”. Tate later won a Golden Globe nomination for her role in “Valley of the Dolls”. An odd, but interesting piece of TV trivia. -Bobby Ellerbee
May 27, 1972…George Carlin Debuts The Infamous “7 Words” Sketch
44 years ago today, George Carlin’s now-legendary, “7 Words You Can Never Say On Television” sketch from the “Class Clown” album, was performed in concert for the first time. It was an instant hit!
A few years ago, Carlin discussed this in an interview for the Emmy TV Legends bio series, and the video is linked above. The 4 minute XXX rated clip is not for the faint of heart, and the list is at 2:57. Carlin’s perspective as a true wordsmith, and his context is fantastic as always.
On his next album, 1973’s “Occupation: Foole”, Carlin performed a similar routine titled “Filthy Words”, dealing with the same list and many of the same themes. Pacifica station WBAI broadcast this version of the routine uncensored on October 30 that year, and a complaint was filed by a listener with the FCC.
Following up on the complaint, the FCC proceeded to ask Pacifica for a response, then issued a declaratory order upholding the complaint. No specific sanctions were included in the order, but WBAI was put on notice that “in the event subsequent complaints are received, the Commission will then decide whether it should utilize any of the available sanctions it has been granted by Congress.”
WBAI appealed this decision, which was overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a 2–1 decision on the grounds that the FCC’s definition of “indecency” was overbroad and vague, and thus violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.
The FCC in turn appealed to the Supreme Court. The United States Department of Justice intervened in the case, supporting Pacifica’s argument that the FCC’s declaratory ruling violated the First Amendment, and that it also violated the Fifth Amendment in that the FCC’s definition of “indecency” was too vague to support criminal penalties.
In follow-up rulings, the Supreme Court established the safe harbor provision that grants broadcasters the right to broadcast indecent (but not obscene) material between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am, when it is presumed many children will be asleep. The FCC has never maintained a specific list of words prohibited from the airwaves during the time period from 6 am to 10 pm, but it has alleged that its own internal guidelines are sufficient to determine what it considers obscene.
The seven dirty words have been assumed to be likely to elicit indecency-related action by the FCC if uttered on a TV or radio broadcast, and thus the broadcast networks generally censor themselves with regard to many of the seven dirty words. The FCC regulations regarding “fleeting” use of expletives were ruled unconstitutionally vague by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on July 13, 2010, as they violated the First Amendment due to their possible effects regarding free speech.
At “Saturday Night Live”, some of these words have always had a way of just popping into a live show…especially the F word and here’s a brief F’ing history of those “special” moments.
During a sketch in 1980, Paul Shaffer said “f****n'” instead of “floggin'”; in 1981, Charles Rocket, said “I’d like to know who the f**k did it” during a “Who Shot JR?” parody, and on the same night Prince sang the lyric “Fightin war is such a f****n’ bore”; in 1990, singer Morris Day of The Time said “Where the f**k did this chicken come from?” and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith sang “feedin’ that f****n’ monkey on my back” during their performances.
In 1994, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. sang “Don’t f**k with me” and Adam Horovitz of Beastie Boys sang “So won’t you f****n’ listen” in their performances. In 1997, Norm MacDonald accidentally said, “What the f**k was that?” after flubbing a line during “Weekend Update”. James Hetfield of Metallica sang “F**k ’em man, white knuckle tight” during their performance in 1997. In 2009, Jenny Slate accidentally said, “You know what, you stood up for yourself and I f**king love you for that.” Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
The Reason For Experimental TV, Involved Consumer Protections…
On July 1, 1941, the era of commercial television began in the US, when NBC’s W2XBS became WNBT and CBS’s W2XAB became WCBW. (Until 1946, network flagship radio, or television stations could not be named after the network).
It may surprise you to know that during the experimental period, the amount, and content of newspaper and magazine advertising by television equipment makers was closely controlled by the FCC, but they had a good reason.
The FCC felt that there was too much difference in the way many companies wanted to push forward, and to keep the public from buying a set that could be obsolete in just a few years, they had to kept a lid on the influence these manufacturers had, via their advertising. It worked.
For instance, RCA wanted to keep the 441 lines scanned per second system they had been using, but Dumont and Philco wanted 600 to 800 lines of resolution.
While trying to throttle back ad claims, the FCC created the NTSC, or National Television Standards Committee, which was made up of members from all the companies. It was their job to settle, for once and for all, just what the standards would be. In March of 1941, they issued their report which which set the standard of 525 lines of resolution, with 30 frames per second, an aspect ratio of 4:3 and audio transmitted via FM.
While we are on the subject of consumer protection, this is the perfect place to take up the importance of the “compatible color” issues that faced the industry, and involved similar problems as the committee had faced with black and white television.
In January 1950, the NTSC was reconstituted to standardize color television. CBS had the mechanical wheel, Field Sequential System, and RCA had the all electronic Dot Sequential System, and as you know, there was a huge fight, and decisions from the courts.
In December 1953, the NTSC unanimously approved what is now called the NTSC color television standard, which is based on the RCA Dot Sequential System. The “compatible color” standard retained full backward compatibility with existing black-and-white television sets, with color information added to the black and white image by introducing a color subcarrier.
As we get closer to July 1, we’ll take a look at more of the history surrounding this giant step in television. Enjoy and share. -Bobby Ellerbee
May 24, 1974…The Last “Dean Martin Show” Aired On NBC
To celebrate 9 years of first class television, in spectacular living color, here’s an hour’s worth of highlights from Producer/Director Greg Garrison, with a great, rarely seen 8 minutes of Jonathan Winters ad libbing his way through an attic (11:42).
There’s also Lena Horne, Goldie Hawn, Bing Crosby, Don Rickles, Ann Margret, Bob Newhart, Jimmy Stewart, Joey Bishop, Orson Wells, Dom Deluise, Glenn Campbell and more.
It was in the 9th season that the variety show began to morph into the “Celebrity Roast” shows, which ran another 10 years, at first on a weekly basis, and later monthly, and then as specials. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Just for you, Perples Chermpiern. To cheer you up. Must’ve been hard being the “I’m teeeeeeeellin’!” taddletale kid who had no friends and for the life of hi…
May 23, 1964…And Away We Go…From NYC To Miami Beach
Jackie Gleason’s last show from his longtime home, at CBS Studio 50 in New York (now The Ed Sullivan Theater), aired May 23, 1964. After the summer break, the show debuted from The Miami Beach Convention Center on September 26.
Below is a photo of Jackie, and well known gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, on the train from New York to Miami. Gleason had done another famous train trip from NY to LA, and like this one, it was a non stop party all the way. This was not just a press junket though…now, the whole train was theirs and carried the entire show, the crew, writers, their families, and even all their furniture, to the Magic City.
Also shown here is a ticket to the taping of the show in NYC that answers some questions. From 1952 until 1957, “The Jackie Gleason Show” had been live on Saturday nights from Studio 50, with the exception of the 1955 season, which was the famous 39 episode filmed run of “The Honeymooners”.
Ed Sullivan’s Sunday night hit, “Toast Of The Town” had started in 1948 at the Maxine Elliott Theater (also known as CBS Studio 51), but moved to Studio 50 in January of 1953. With Gleason live Saturday nights, and in camera rehearsal Thursday and Friday, that only gave Sullivan all day Sunday to rehearse and camera block. At times, there were some difficulties with such a short time to rehearse for their Sunday night show, but everyone was a pro, and knew what to do, so things worked out.
Gleason went on hiatus from ’57 till his return in ’62 with his Saturday night “American Scene Magazine” show, but by then two things had happened: Sullivan was using both Saturday and Sunday to rehearse, and since Jackie’s departure, videotape had become a standard medium. That meant camera rehearsals were no longer a problem, and unbeknownst to most of his adoring Saturday night television audience, Jackie was going his show “live to tape” on Thursday nights at Studio 50. -Bobby Ellerbee
Television’s Oldest Surviving Color Videotape…May 22, 1958
This is the dedication of NBC’s new studios for WRC Radio and TV, it’s owned and operated station in Washington DC. President Eisenhower is on hand for the occasion, as are David and Robert Sarnoff, and many distinguished guests.
NBC’s David Brinkley narrates much of the opening minutes which gives us a good look at Studio A, while Eisenhower is getting a tour of the engineering facilities from Sarnoff.
As you’ll see, mostly from 4:28 – 6:00 and again from 9:30 – 10:30, there are black and white cameras in the studio alongside two new RCA TK41s. Their four black and white cameras are in use mostly to cover the arrival and dignitaries, but when the speakers start, their job is done and the TK41s take over.
At 14:50, Robert Sarnoff pushes a big button to make the switch from b/w to color, which is when the color burst is added to the signal. This rare Quad tape restoration to D-2 digital tape was done by Ed Reitan, Don Kent, and Dan Einstein in July of 2006.
Enjoy and share! -Bobby EllerbeeOn May 22, 1958, Pres. Eisenhower became the first president to be recorded in color on videotape as he helped dedicate NBC’s brand-new 4001 Nebraska Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. facilities (which housed network and WRC Radio/WRC-TV studios)in a live afternoon broadcast fed to the NBC Television n…
May 22, 1950…The Start Of Late Night TV…Almost
The man circled in this photo is Don “Creesh” Hornsby. NBC’s Pat Weaver choose Hornsby to host network television’s first late night show called “Broadway Open House”. The show was scheduled to debut at 11 PM, on May 22, 1950 from NBC Studio 6B.
In the book “Fight For Tonight,” by Ronald L. Smith, he writes: “Hornsby was the ‘wild and crazy’ man of his day, a cross between Steve Martin and Pee-Wee Herman. He had a penchant for put-on humor and odd slapstick stunts. His antics included magic, piano playing, squirting customers with dry ice and shouting “Creesh!” as he magically pulled brassieres out of women’s blouses, or cranked up a machine on stage that spewed potato chips.”
Hornsby’s local daytime TV show in California had a kind of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse set. There was a lot of thrift-shop garbage strewn around and in moments of hysteria, Hornsby would start talking to a large prop grandfather’s clock – which would talk back.
Bob Hope was a fan of the wild comedian, calling him “a bright new talent, a guy who is going to have a big future.” I think Hope is the person that told Pat Weaver about him, after Pat mentioned he wanted to do a late show. NBC signed him to a five-year contract in April of ’50.
Everything was going well for young Creesh. He was 26, moving to New York with his wife and kids, getting ready for his debut as the host of a late night TV show, but sadly, here is the May 22, 1950 headline from Variety: “Don ‘Creesh’ Hornsby Dies of Polio Attack On Eve of TV Preem.”
The premiere of the show was postponed a week, until May 29th. Guest hosts were called in, and for the first few months, Dumont’s Morey Amsterdam hosted “Broadway Open House” Monday through Wednesday, with Thursday and Friday handled by Jerry Lester.
Lester had recently walked off Dumont’s “Cavalcade Of Stars” over a pay dispute. He had hosted the show in it’s second year, but when he left, a comedian that was totally new to television took over. Lester’s replacement was Jackie Gleason.
Had Don Hornsby have lived, who knows how he may have shaped the future of late nights? To bad we never had the chance to find out. -Bobby Ellerbee
May 21, 1962…Paul Newman Begins “Hud”, And A New Career
In this rare photo, we see the start of Paul Newman’s “other career” as a producer and director.
This was taken on the set of “Hud”, in which Newman starred with Patricia Neal, and shows him with a Mitchell NC, 35mm camera.
He is literally surrounded by 1963 Oscar winners…Patricia Neal (Best Supporting Actress), and James Wong Howe (Best Cinematography), behind him. ‘Hud’ won three out of seven Academy Award nominations that year.
After working together on other projects, director Martin Ritt and Paul Newman co-founded Salem Productions. The newly created company made a deal for three movies with Paramount Studios and ‘Hud’ was the first. The production was shot over four weeks in and around the Texas Panhandle town and of Claude, Texas.
Filming began on May 21, 1962, and the rest of the scenes were finished by the second week of June. The interior scenes were filmed at the Paramount soundstages in Hollywood, California, starting in the first week of July. The film was completed on August 1, 1962.
“The Divine Mrs. M”, came to the set and presented her “fan letter” as only she could have, which included a song about Johnny, and another with Johnny…the one he wrote. To finish off the night, she sang yet another, with the camera over her left shoulder, watching Johnny. At the end, you see her run off stage just before she bursts into tears. What a night! What a show! What a great a great way to go! More tomorrow… -Bobby Ellerbee
If you want the answer to the trivia question “Who was the final guest of “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson?” it would be Bette Midler. That next to last…
May 20, 1939…First Television Picture Sent Over Telephone Lines
77 years ago today, NBC sent television images from Madison Square Gardens, to 30 Rockefeller Plaza over AT&T telephone lines. Over the course of the six day bicycle race event, three broadcasts were done, with each being a little better than the last, due to some tweaking along the way by both AT&T and NBC.
This was just three days after television’s first ever live sporting event, the telecast of a college baseball game, which you read about here on May 17th. On June 1, NBC would go on to bring boxing to television for the first time with the Lou Nova-Max Baer fight at Yankee Stadium.
On August 26, Red Barber would call the first ever pro baseball game on television, and on September 30, NBC broadcast the first college football game, followed on October 22, by the first pro football game. Hockey made it television debut on NBC February 25, 1940, and basketball came to TV February 28th, with track and field events debuting on March 2, from MSG.
Remember, all this activity started in April of 1939 with the opening of The World’s Fair, when David Sarnoff told the nation that RCA had “added radio sight to sound”, and officially kicked off the age of television. -Bobby Ellerbee
May 20, 2015…The Final David Letterman Show Airs
In some ways, it seems like this was just yesterday…in other ways, it feels like Dave has been gone for a lot longer. Here, some of the show’s long time staff members talk about how the end came, and their feelings at the time, and after. Although the word “loyal” is not used in this great package, it seems to have been an unspoken rule on both sides of Dave’s desk. Just one of the many things we miss about the show. -Bobby Ellerbee
May 19, 1945…Dumont’s W3XYT Signs On In Washington DC
With NBC/RCA having come to DC in 1939 with W3XNB, Dumont was the second experimental station in the capitol. In 1947, this became WTTG, and was named after Thomas T. Goldsmith, Dumont’s chief of engineering. Dumont’s first “network” consisted of a linkage from their WABD in New York, to WTTG in Washington. For more on those early day, go to this link. http://www.earlytelevision.org/pdf/RTV_museum_News-4-07.pdf
In ’45, Dumont was still using the Iconoscope cameras, but the big difference between their camera, and RCA’s version of the Iconoscope, was the electronic viewfinder. RCA used a ground glass optical system, which was hard for the cameramen, but at least it streamlined the operation.
As you can see, the Dumont version required both a power supply, and a camera control unit with the camera, which was an awfully bulky situation. Even after the Dumont 134B Image Orthicon camera came about, all three elements were still required to be part of the camera unit, which is the reason for the “milk wagon” pedestal from Dumont. -Bobby Ellerbee
Prime Time Television…1948 And ’49, With My Detailed Notes
This is just amazing…what you will see here are some of the first ever shows to run in the first real TV season, with all four networks in operation…NBC, CBS, ABC and Dumont. Back then, “networks” with live feeds, were basicly a handful of stations in the northeast, with outlying affiliates able to take shows via kinescope, which is how these clips survived. Oh, and the only network programming was from 7 – 10 PM.
Live network coverage was about to expand, as an NBC VO announces at the start of this, that the midwest network links will be open and operating by Christmas, 1948.
“The Gay Nineties” show was on ABC on Wednesday nights from 8 – 8:30. At 1:50 we see some of an early “Texaco Star Theater” with Milton Berle from NBC’s newly converted Studio 6B. This was the first show to come from 6B after it was converted from radio to television June 8, 1948. The woman with the great laugh is Milton’s mother who was at every show.
Just after that is “The Ed Wynn Show” which NBC did as a remote from The New Amsterdam, before it was converted in 1951.
At 3:32, “The Admiral Broadway Revue” was the first television show produced by Max Leibman, and starred Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca…this is the forerunner of “Your Show Of Shows”, and both were done at The International Theater at 5 Columbus Circle.
More rare footage starts at 4:44 with the intro of “The Fireball Fun For All” starring Olsen and Johnson. This ran one season, and was one of the first shows to come from CBS Studio 52. The assistant director is the legendary CBS director Ralph Levy in his second ever TV job. Levy went on to direct Jack Benny, Burns And Allen and the Lucy pilot. Levy’s first AD job was at the first show done at Studio 52, a summer show called “The 54th Street Revue” that ran eight weeks.
There’s more history at 6:10…”The Chesterfield Supper Club” starring Perry Como, was the first television show to broadcast from NBC Studio 6A. The studio was not converted officially till May 19, 1950. When this was shot, 6A was still a radio studio with a three camera remote unit and very few lights, which you notice here.
More history at 6:50! This is “The Fred Waring Show” from CBS Studio 41 at Grand Central, and this aired on Sunday night, just after “Toast Of The Town” with Ed Sullivan, which then came from Studio 51, The Maxine Elliott Theater.
Remember the opening announcement about the midwest network link up? “Your Show Time” had premiered on NBC’s East Coast stations in September 1948, and began to include NBC’s Midwest stations on January 21.
“Armchair Detective” was a Dumont show done at WABD.
At 9:06 notice the producer title…William Boyd. Boyd was Hopalong Cassidy, and a very smart showman! This show was an hour long and aired on NBC Friday nights at 8, starting in 1949.
“The Lone Ranger” debuted on ABC in September of 1949 and aired at 7:30 Wednesday nights.
Remember the Hungry Jack Biscuit commercials with the “Hungry…Hungry Jack” call? Here’s where it came from…the opening of “The Aldrich Family” at 10:23. This was on NBC at 7:30 Sundays.
At 10:55, one of television’s biggest shows appears…”The Goldbergs”, which was on CBS, and came from Studio 42 at Grand Central. This started in 1949, and aired Monday nights at 9:30. Just after that is another huge CBS show, “Mama” which also started in 1949 and aired Friday nights at 8, against “Hopalong Cassidy” on NBC.
“The Ruggles” began on ABC, November 3, 1949 – a month after the radio hit “The Life of Riley” had moved to television on NBC, and interestingly, that is the next clip…but if you were expecting William Bendix as Riley, surprise…Riley is played by Jackie Gleason! This was his first starring role.
At 13:10 we see the open for “Suspense” which aired on CBS from ’49 till ’54. It was on Tuesday night opposite “The Life Of Riley”.
Finally, the last clip is from “Studio 1”. It was a big hit, and an important early anthology series on CBS, which debuted in September of 1948, and ran 10 seasons ending in 1958. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
NBC’s RARE Gift To Carson On His 10th “Tonight” Anniversary
Thanks to Glenn Mack, here is a clip (linked above) you have probably never seen…I know I hadn’t until now. This is from the 10th Anniversary show on October 1, 1972. There is more video from this celebration with Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, George Burns, Jack Benny and more at the link below.
I’m not going to tell you what the gift is, but here is a clue…there were three of these in each RCA TK41. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
May 17, 1939…Television’s First Sports Announcer & Baseball Game
On May 17, 1939 NBC broadcast a baseball game between Princeton and Columbia Universities from Columbia’s Baker Field. Two RCA Iconoscope cameras covered the event that was carried on NBC’s experimental station W2XBS in New York. Princeton beat Colombia 2 -1.
The rare color image is that of Bill Stern, the man that called the action on this first ever televised sporting event. It was on purpose that coverage was of the second game of a baseball doubleheader between Princeton and Columbia, because during the first game, they all practiced, and took feedback from 30 Rock on the closed circuit run through.
On September 30, 1939 he called the first televised football game. It was a college game between the Fordham Rams and the Waynesburg Yellow Jackets played at Triborough Stadium on New York City’s Randall’s Island. Fordham won the game 34–7.
NBC hired Stern in 1937 to host a radio show called “The Colgate Sports Newsreel”, as well as Friday night boxing on radio, which made Stern one of the first televised boxing commentators, and the man Dennis James looked up to.
Many say that Paul Harvey copied Stern’s style, and his stories about the famous and odd, which Harvey called “The Rest Of The Story”. Although Stern made no effort to authenticate his stories, in later years, he did however introduce that segment of his show by saying that they “might be actual, may be mythical, but definitely interesting.” At the link below, is Bill Stern narrating “The Colgate Sports Newsreel”, with guest BABE RUTH. Hear the similarity? Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
May 17, 1930…Construction Begins On Rockefeller Center
Of the 21 buildings on 15 acres in midtown New York, that make up Rockefeller Center, none are more famous than Radio City Music Hall, and the home of NBC…30 Rockefeller Plaza.
In the construction photo, we see in the center, the excavated footprint of 30 Rock. Notice, it is bracketed on the 6th Avenue side by two small buildings, which are still there today. The building on the right is now a 9 West store, but the building on the left was much more important…that was NBC Studio 1H, better know as Hurley’s Bar.
The bar had been here since 1892, and had always done well, even during prohibition when a florist shop was used to disguise the bar and it’s new back door.
In 1930, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. had begun aggressively buying up acres and acres of midtown property, right in the middle of Fifth Avenue’s most exclusive district, for a seemingly implausible project: Rockefeller Center. One by one he purchased buildings from Fifth to Sixth Avenue between 48th and 51st Streets. In the stranglehold of the Great Depression, few property owners could resist the offer to convert real estate to cash.
But among the few were John F. Maxwell, grandson of John F. Boronowsky who owned the three story building (right in photo) at the north end of the block from Hurley’s and, of course, the feisty Irishmen themselves. In June 1931 Maxwell sent word to Rockefeller that he would not sell “at any price.”
Construction began on the gargantuan Art Deco complex on May 17, 1930. The block of 49th to 50th Streets, Sixth Avenue to 5th Avenue was demolished, leaving only the two brick Victorian buildings standing on opposite corners of a devastated landscape.
The RCA Building—70 stories tall—rose around Hurley’s, diminishing the bar building only in height. But nothing in New York City is permanent and in 1979, Hurley’s was sold. Journalist William Safire spoke for New Yorkers in an article mourning the loss. The mahogany bar was removed to a Third Avenue restaurant and, as Nancy Arum wrote in her letter to New York Magazine that year “a pretend old-fashioned bar now stands where the real old-fashioned bar once was.”
The pretend old-fashioned bar took the name Hurley’s and, most likely, tourists never noticed the change. But proximity, tradition, or habit still brought the Rockefeller Center workers and celebrities into the bar until September 2, 1999. That night owner Adrien Barbey served the last glass of beer in the bar that had stood at Sixth Avenue and 49th Street for 102 years.
Hurley’s Bar was just a half a block away from NBC’s studio entrance, making it the nearest watering hole for everyone from stars to stage hands. It became the favorite for radio, television, newspaper, and sports celebrities as well as tourists and midtown workers.
Liz Trotta noted “You never knew who would be standing next to your lifting elbow at Hurley’s. Jason Robards, Jonathan Winters, jazz musicians from the local clubs, “Tonight” show stars, starlets, football players, the lot.”
The night Jack Paar walked off the “Tonight” show, he went straight to Hurley’s and the asked that the phone on the bar…a direct line to NBC, be taken off the hook.
Johnny Carson helped make the Hurley name nationally familiar while he did his show live from Rockefeller Center. It was the bar in all of his Ed McMahon drinking jokes. David Letterman did several on-air visits to the bar. NBC technicians haunted the place so regularly that among themselves it was known as Studio 1H.
Thanks to “Tonight” show lead cameraman, Kurt Decker, I have experienced a sense of the old Hurley’s, at a very similar bar called Playwrights, and have bent an elbow with him at the new Hurley’s too. In honor of today’s 86th Anniversary of Rockefeller Center…Cheers! -Bobby Ellerbee
May 16, 1946…70 Years Ago Today, America Met Audio Tape
As a compliment to today’s earlier story on the history of AMPEX, here is a companion article on Jack Mullin, who, on this day in 1946, stunned attendees at the annual Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) conference in San Francisco.
There, with a captured German Magnetophon, switching between a live jazz combo and a recording of the group, literally asked the question “Is it live or…?” None of the golden ears in the audience could tell. It was America’s first public demonstration of audio tape recording. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
AMPEX = Alexander Matthew Poniatoff EXcellence…
Above is a link to the full history of the fascinating early years at Ampex. I hope this will give you a new perspective on their grand achievements in audio and video, as well as a new appreciation for Bing Crosby’s efforts to make recording a reality. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
My Interview With Linda Wertheimer, From NPR Weekend Edition
A little while ago, a friend called me from his car in Los Angeles. He said he was just driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, listening to NPR, and all of a sudden…there I was. Here’s a link to the audio, the audio playback box is at the top right. Thanks to all, for all of your support and well wishes. -Bobby Ellerbee
Today Is The Day I Graduate From The University Of Georgia!
101 years ago, The Henry W. Grady College of Journalism was founded. At yesterday’s Convocation ceremony, I became of the 21,000 proud graduates of the school that is the home of The Peabody Awards.
Today, I will become one of the 186,000 students to graduate from The University of Georgia’s seventeen schools and colleges, here in Athens. Founded in 1785, we were the nation’s first state-chartered university, and are consistently ranked among the nation’s Top 20 Universities, and are among the Top 100 in the world.
66 years ago, my dad graduated from UGA, and now it is my turn. Although he left us in August, I felt his presence yesterday. This evening, as I sit on the same Sanford Stadium field that he once did, I’m sure I will hear his voice, and feel his pride again.
I am forever grateful to my father for all his love, advice, and support. It was always his dream for me to graduate. I am also grateful for my friendship with Professor David Hazinski, who persuaded me to return to school, and to Dean Charles Davis for his support and friendship.
Today, dreams come true, and I move another step forward in making even more come true. I have applied to Grady for my Masters Degree in Nonfiction Writing, and hopefully will be accepted as one of the 30 candidates for the program.
I also want to thank you, because without your interest in Eyes Of A Generation, my interest in researching and writing about television’s history may have died on the vine.
Over the summer, there will be some big and exciting changes to the EOAG website and this FB page, so like they say…stay tuned, and THANK YOU! -Bobby Ellerbee
May 13, 1957…Production Begins On “Jailhouse Rock”
In this classic photo, we see two RCA TK41s on either side of the Mitchell film cameras at MGM, during a rehearsal of the big dance number. Both cameras can be seen at the open and close of the video linked above. They are most likely on loan from RCA’s west coast office in LA.
MGM hired Richard Thorpe to direct their first film with Presley, as Thorpe had a reputation for shooting the productions in a short time, because he did not do retakes. The production of Jailhouse Rock began on May 13, 1957, and concluded on June 17, and that is amazingly fast.
The dance sequence to the film’s title song is often cited as “Presley’s greatest moment on screen”. It was shot first, and given it’s importance, Thorpe did shoot more than one take with the final edit containing footage from all.
The songs that integrated the film’s soundtrack were commissioned to Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber, before pre-production. In April, Leiber and Stoller were called for a meeting in New York City to show the progress of the repertoire. The writers, who had not produced any material, were confronted in their hotel room by Jean Aberbach, director of Hill & Range music publishing, who locked them in their hotel room by blocking the door with a sofa until they wrote the material.
Presley recorded the soundtrack at Radio Recorders in Hollywood on April 30 and May 3, with an additional session at the MGM Soundstage on May 9.
During post-production, the songs were dubbed into the film, to the recorded scenes, where Presley only mimed the lyrics. “Jailhouse Rock” premiered on October 17, 1957 in Memphis. and was released nationwide on November 8, 1957
This was Presley’s third film, and his first for MGM. The film was the first production that the studio filmed on the recently developed 35mm anamorphic lens by Panavision. The film was originally entitled “The Hard Way”, and was changed to “Jailhouse Kid”, before MGM finally settled on “Jailhouse Rock”. -Bobby Ellerbee
In May of 1963, Bob Dylan was still an aspiring young musician who was preparing for the release of his second album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. At this point in his career, Dylan had received little national attention, but it seemed that was all about to change when he received an invitation to perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show”.
Dylan decided to perform “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues”, a satirical blues number skewering the conservative John Birch Society, and the red-hunting paranoia associated with it. A few days earlier, Bob auditioned the song for Sullivan who seemed to have no issue with it. However, on the day of the show during the dress rehearsal, an executive from the CBS Standards and Practices department decided Dylan could not perform the song due to its controversial nature.
When the show’s producer, Bob Precht, informed Dylan of the decision, Dylan responded saying, “No; this is what I want to do. If I can’t play my song, I’d rather not appear on the show.” Rather than choose a new song, Dylan walked off the set of the country’s highest-rated variety show.
The story got widespread media attention in the days that followed helping to establish Bob’s reputation as an uncompromising artist. The publicity Bob Dylan received from this event probably did more for his career than the actual performance would have.
Speaking of The John Birch Society, did you know Fred Koch, father of the right wing billionaire sons Charles and David Koch, was a leader of the John Birch Society from its founding in 1958 until his death in 1967. In fact, Charles Koch followed his father’s footsteps into the John Birch Society. Charles, and his brother have spent millions fueling a John Birch Society-like “Tea Party” peopled with right-wingers. much like Birchers of decades past.
In many ways, the playbook deployed by the Kochs today, through myriad organizations, resembles a more sophisticated (and expensive) playbook of the John Birch Society back then.
A rare copy of the Dylan’s recording is at the link at the top. Sound familiar? -Bobby Ellerbee
There is info, and rare images here on Lee Deforest’s Phonofilm, and Vitagraph’s Vitaphone motion picture sound recording systems. An answer to the question of where Hope’s “Thanks For The Memories” theme song came from, a page from his Oscar hosting script, and more. Thanks to Barry Mitchell for the link.
The photo is from 1917, and shows one of the first silent pictures to be shot at Vitagraph’s new Hollywood studio at Prospect and Talmage. This property was later sold to Warner Brothers, along with their Vitaphone system, which was used on “The Jazz Singer” – generally considered the first hit “talkie”. In 1948, Warner sold this studio property to ABC, and this became their west coast HQ. In 1952, Warner sold the Vitagraph Studio property in Brooklyn to NBC, and that became the NBC Brooklyn color studios. Enjoy the browse. -Bobby Ellerbee
May 9, 1946…”Hour Glass”…Television’s First Variety Show Debuts
Not only was this network TV’s first variety show, it was TV’s first hour long program as well, with the exception of two week night boxing matches WNBT carried live. All but the second photo, which shows us “Hour Glass” rehearsing with the NBC made cameras in Studio 8G, were taken on the debut night by photographing a monitor screen.
The show aired every Thursday night at 8 PM on the NBC network, which at the time was made up of just three markets including NYC, Schenectady and Philadelphia. “Hour Glass” was sponsored by Standard Brands and the production was created weekly by their ad agency, J. Walter Thompson. Just like in radio, in those early days of TV, the broadcasters were just the messengers renting their facilities to the sponsors and their agencies.
Standard Brands canceled the show in February 1947, with a larger goal in mind. With J. Walter Thomson now more experienced in the ways of television, it wasn’t long before JWT’s “Hour Glass” veterans were back in the studio. On May 7, 1947, “The Kraft Television Theater” debuted on NBC, and ran till 1958, and is still remembered as on of the golden age’s top anthology series.
NBC also learned a lot, and those lessons lead the network to basically bring this show back in 1948 in a tighter and more structured form as, “The Texaco Star Theater” with Milton Berle, with NBC in charge of production.
In 1946, NBC only had 10 shows on the network, but that was twice as many as the only other network offering television, and that was Dumont. On Thursday nights, “Hour Glass” was preceded on the network by the 10 minute ‘Esso News Reel’ at 7:50 and followed by local programs. ‘Hour Glass’ pioneered sketch/variety TV, and was the most ambitious and expensive production yet with big production numbers, chorus girls, a band, famous guest stars, and more, with the show’s sponsor pouring in over $200,000 for the show’s nine month run.
That sponsor was Standard Brands and the products they advertised on the show were for their Chase and Sanborn, and Tenderleaf Tea lines.
“Hour Glass” featured different performers every week, including Peggy Lee and, in one of the first examples of a top radio star appearing on network television…Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy in November 1946. The show also showcased filmed segments produced by JWT’s motion picture department; these ranged from short travelogues to advertisements. Every episode also included a ten minute drama, which proved one of the more popular portions of the show.
Although JWT, and Standard Brands representatives occasionally disagreed over the quality of individual episodes, their association was placid compared to the constant sniping that was the hallmark of the agency’s relationship with NBC. It started with unhappiness over studio space, which Thompson regarded as “woefully inadequate”.
This leaves me wondering if perhaps this show actually began in NBC Studio 3H, which was small, and equipped with RCA Iconoscope cameras, but this was the only TV studio at the time. Either that, or, they did the early shows on the Studio 8G radio stage with the new NBC built 8G cameras, before the studio was stripped down, and the stage removed.
The tension escalated when the network insisted that an NBC director manage the show, from live rehearsals through actual broadcast. The network was similarly displeased that Thompson refused to clear their commercials with NBC before air time.
These types of problems persisted until Pat Weaver came to NBC in 1949 and began to change the way things worked. Under Weaver, NBC took charge of production, and introduced “magazine” style advertising which split the cost of a show between several sponsors, and not just one. More on the photos. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee
Sunday Flashback…Some Of America’s Most Famous Announcers
Visiting with Tom Snyder, here are some funny stories and interesting insights into life at the top of the network television food-chain.
From “You Bet Your Life” with Groucho Marx, George Fenneman; from “The Jack Benny Show”, Don Wilson; and from “Burns & Allen”, Harry Von Zell. The fourth man is John Reed King, and for the many that don’t know who he is, here’s a thumbnail sketch.
In the ’30, King hosted the top radio show, “Misses Goes A Shopping”, which he also hosted on television in 1944 and was one of the first ever TV game show hosts. In ’46, he hosted the CBS game show “It’s A Gift” and a newcomer named Bill Cullen was his assistant and announcer on “Give And Take” in 1952. He was also radio’s original “Sky King”, and the announcer for the hit radio show, “Duffy’s Tavern” in 1941. Thanks to Barry Mitchell for the clip. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee
Three of the greatest announcers of all time sat down for an hour-long chat with Tom Snyder on Apr 4, 1978, because this is the kind of interesting program t…
May 8, 1945…Victory In Europe Day, Times Square
Except for Germany and Japan, every country around the world celebrated the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s war machine, on this day in 1945. In Italy, they celebrated by hanging Mussolini.
In New York, half a million celebrated in Times Square, and NBC Radio and Television was at The Astor Hotel to cover the event. From atop the Astor marquee, NBC Radio announcers described the victory party to listeners across the country, while WNBT cameras panned the crowd, and took reports from those same radio reporters. Also atop the Astor marquee were announcers, and reporters from NBC’s former Blue Network, which was now owned by ABC, but still headquarted and working from 30 Rock.
Pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral Nimitz had been in Washington, and with the VE news, came to New York for a war bond rally, and while there, went to NBC Studio 3H to broadcast a message to all the soldiers, and sailors in the veterans hospitals in the area. RCA had donated 100 receivers to the VA hospitals in the WNBT coverage area, just the month before.
My Heartfelt Thanks For Your Congratulations….
On Thursday, I posted the UGA magazine article on my graduation, and the outpouring of support, and congratulations was overwhelming. It is greatly appreciated, and I thank you.
Over 150 photos were taken for the article, both here at home, and on campus. I want to share some of them with you, and hope you will enjoy them. The EOAG family is a rare collection of amazing individuals, and I thank you for allowing my effort to become a small part of you life. I hope it is a worthwhile contribution. -Bobby Ellerbee
May 7, 1949…The First 45 RPM Record Hits The Billboard Charts
The song was “You’re Adorable” by Perry Como. The next week, the year’s biggest 45 hit appeared on the Billboard charts…”Riders In The Sky” by Vaughn Monroe.
The 45 rpm record was RCA’s pushback against Columbia’s 33 1/3 rpm long-playing disc, introduced the previous year. The two systems directly competed with each other to replace 78 rpm records, bewildering consumers, and causing a drop in record sales. The years from ’49 to ’51, in media, were referred to as “the war of the speeds” years.
By the way, around September of ’48, William Paley, at CBS had offered RCA’s Sarnoff the rights to the 33 technology at no cost as it would help boost the 33 format record sales for all. Sarnoff thanked Paley and told him he would think about it, but RCA had already perfected it’s secret 45 project. Paley was shocked and more than a bit miffed when RCA rolled out the 45 a few months later.
The number 45 came from taking 78, and subtracting Columbia’s new 33 rpm format speed, which equaled 45. Record companies and consumers alike faced an uncertain future as to which format would survive. In 1949 Capitol, and Decca started issuing the new LP format, and RCA relented and issued its first LP in January 1950. But the 45 rpm was gaining in popularity, and Columbia issued its first 45s in February 1951. Soon other record companies saw the mass consumer appeal the new format allowed. and by 1954 more than 200 million 45s had been sold.
RCA had announced the new format, and introduced the player in January of ’49, but it was months later till there was a use for it. The first 45, was released on March 31, 1949; it was the RCA Victor label’s “Texarkana Baby” b/w “Bouquet of Roses” by Eddy Arnold. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee
Producing Today’s Kentucky Derby…A Mega Job For NBC
With 300 crew members, 54 cameras, 15 announcers, and half a dozen mobile units, this is a big day for NBC Sports. Here’s the story, and when race time comes, and you have your mint julep, you can toast the many making the effort to bring it to you. -Bobby Ellerbee