Posts in Category: Broadcast History

April 22, 1966…A Moment In Time With Sammy Davis

April 22, 1966…A Moment In Time With Sammy Davis

This opens with a great shot of Sammy standing in front of an RCA TK41 operated by veteran cameraman Frank Gaeta. This was the fifteenth and last episode of “The Sammy Davis Jr. Show”, from NBC’s Brooklyn Studios on April 22, 1966. Notice at the end, there is a VO announcing the premier of “Sing Along With Mitch Miller”, at the same time next week.

There are some good wide shots at the end which identifies this production as coming from Studio II, as Studio I was much larger. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee

from April 22, 1966. thanks to fromthesidelines and wmbrown6 for the great comments and info on this clip.


Happy 68th Birthday to NBC Studio 8G…Dedicated April 22, 1948

Happy 68th Birthday to NBC Studio 8G…Dedicated April 22, 1948

To all our friends in 8G, at “Late Night, WIth Seth Meyers”, Mike, Mike, Bryan, Wally, Bob Friend, and all the others, here’s a toast to a grand dame of television. You work on hallowed ground, and each day there, I hope you are reminded of the studio’s amazing history.

This was NBC’s second ever television studio at 30 Rock, and although April 22, 1948 is the official dedication date, it had been used for television since May of 1946, so there is almost 70 years of TV history there. Some of the earliest shows, and pictures from those days were posted here two days ago, so if you missed it, take a look at the last “Camera Rarities, 8G” article from Wednesday.

At the link is a video of 8G in those early days, and below, some very rare photos of 8G as a radio studio, and more, with more text with each photo. Now you can blow out the candles! -Bobby Ellerbee


Via Kinescope…A Trip Back To April 1956 With Milton Berle

Via Kinescope…A Trip Back To April 1956 With Milton Berle
At the link, we go to the live “Milton Berle SHow”, from the USS Hancock in San Diego. Here’s the whole show with Elvis Presley debting “Blue Suede Shoes”, Esther Williams, Harry James and Buddy Rich filling out the bill, with Arnold Stang joining Milton for bit.

This was a color presentation, and that is why the kinescope looks a bit soft. The first five minutes of this are really fun and the Elvis intro comes around the 17 minute mark. After “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Blue Suede Shoes”, Milton becomes Presley’s twin brother, Melvin and possibly sets the stage for The Who’s, Pete Townsend by smashing his guitar. -Bobby Ellerbee


A Brief History Of The Kinescope…Historic Images & The Machine

A Brief History Of The Kinescope…Historic Images & The Machine

The first official use of the RCA Kinescope process was the week of June 21, 1948, at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. NBC affiliates not connected via coaxial cable or microwave would would receive the film, the next day via Rail Express.

As you will see in this video from NBC’s KNBH in Hollywood, testing had been done as early as 1938. I think this report was probably done in early 1949.

Also seen here, the kine recordings of the first broadcast using the RCA TK30 Image Orthicon cameras in June, 1946 at the Joe Lewis – Billy Conn rematch at Yankee Stadium. Near the end, we’ll get a look at RCA’s latest Kine in action. Videotape couldn’t come soon enough. – Bobby Ellerbee


Camera Rarities 3 Of 3…The NBC Studio 8G Cameras

Camera Rarities 3, Of 3…The NBC Studio 8G Cameras

NBC’s official grand opening date for 8G, their second ever television studio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza is listed as April 22, 1948. Actually, television had been coming from 8G long before that, while it was still designated a radio studio.

The first show ever to come from 8G was also television’s first variety show…”Hourglass”, which debuted May 9, 1946. at the link is a good story from 1948 on “Hourglass”.
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At this link, you can see Studio 8G in action, during a broadcast of “Hourglass”.

Later that year, “Let’s Celebrate” was done here as a one time show on December 15, 1946 with Yankee’s announcer Mel Allen as host.

“The Swift Show” (a Swift Company sponsored game show), and “Americana” (a game show about American history) started here in 1947.

NBC knew television had to grow fast after WW II, but there were still war related shortages, like phosphorus for kinescope screens and military embargos on technology like the Image Orthicon which was used in guidance systems. Believing that new cameras would come more slowly than RCA’s October ’46 promise date, NBC engineers knew they had to have more than the Iconoscope cameras in 3H to work with.

On the sly, RCA gave them four Image Orthicon tubes, and four seven inch kinescopes for the VF and they started to work building a camera I call the NBC ND-8G. The ND was an NBC engineering code that stood for New Development.

These cameras were ready for use by the spring of 1946. “Hourglass” debuted from 8G on May 9, 1946 which was six months before the TK30 scheduled release in October. NBC got their first five TK30s in June, just in time for the Billy Conn – Joe Louis rematch at Yankee Stadium.

8G, as a radio studio, did not have built in audience seating like 6A, 6B and 8H, but it was thankfully three times the size of NBC’s only other television studio, 3H. “Radio Age” states that 8G could handle four consecutive shows, which meant the often fifteen minute, and half hour shows, with only one small set, could be staged one after the other from different walls of the studio. -Bobby Ellerbee


Camera Rarities 2 Of 3…Three Generations Of GE Cameras

Camera Rarities 2, Of 3…Three Generations Of GE Cameras

From 1969, here is a photo of three generations of GE’s at Fort Worth’s KTVT.

Starting with the KTVT marked camera, that is a black and white GE PC11. On the left is the GE PC25, their first color camera; this one has a four lens turret while it’s sister has a Rank-Taylor-Hobson zoom lens. The two cameras at the top are GE PE350 color cameras.

The PC and PE prefix means the PC models were built before 1965 and had tubes inside. The PE prefix means, except for the image tubes, there were transistors inside. Thanks to Martin Perry and the KTVT FB page for the photo. -Bobby Ellerbee


Camera Rarities 1 Of 3…First NBC Tests Of The RCA TK30

Camera Rarities 1, Of 3…First NBC Tests Of The RCA TK30?

Thanks to Tom Buckley, here is a very rare photo, that I think was taken in the two week period between June 5 and June 18, 1946.

On June 19, 1946, NBC’s broadcast of the Joe Lewis-Billy Conn rematch at Yankee Stadium, was the first ever use of the RCA TK30 Image Orthicon cameras. The new truck and cameras arrived from Camden just a couple of weeks before the match.

Notice the camera art is the same as on the RCA A 500 Iconoscope cameras in NBC Studio 3H, and the RCA Model 1840 field Orthicon cameras. By the time the cameras went to Yankee Stadium, they had new NBC block letter logos, but until the new camera art could be decided on, this filled the bill.

Knowing that the Lewis-Conn broadcast would set records, and make history, I suspect NBC had the trucks out every day, field testing everything. I think that is what is going on here.

At the link is the October 1946 issue of RCA’s “Broadcast News” magazine, which introduces the TK30, and mentions 5 of them were on hand for the big fight. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee


April 19, 1948…The Start Of The ABC Television Network

April 19, 1948…The Start Of The ABC Television Network

68 years ago today, on April 19, 1948, the ABC Television Network began its broadcasts on its first primary affiliate, WFIL-TV in Philadelphia. The debut show was “On The Corner” with host Henry Morgan, which was also the name of his radio show on ABC’s Blue Network. Until WJZ-TV signed on in August, ABC programs were carried in New York by Dumont’s WABD. Other stations carrying the initial broadcast were WMAR-TV in Baltimore, and WMAL-TV in Washington, D.C.

In August 1948, the network’s flagship owned-and-operated station, WJZ-TV in New York City, began its broadcasts. That first WJZ broadcast ran for two hours on the evening of August 10, 1948. ABC’s other owned-and-operated stations launched over the course of the next 13 months.

WENR-TV in Chicago launched on September 17, 1948, while WXYZ-TV in Detroit went on the air October 9, 1948. KGO-TV in San Francisco went on the air May 5, 1949.

In early 1948, ABC bought the Durland Riding Academy at 7 West 66th Street, in preparation for network and local program production. On May 7, 1949, Billboard revealed that ABC would spend $2.5 million to convert the old Vitagraph/Warner East Annex in Hollywood into The Prospect Studios, and construct a transmitter on Mount Wilson in anticipation of the launch of KECA-TV, which went on the air on September 16, 1949.

As the rest of ABC’s fleet of owned-and-operated major market stations, in Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles, came to life, that gave them some parity with CBS, and NBC in the important area of big-city presence, as well as a long term advantage in guaranteed reach over the rival DuMont Television Network, by the fall of 1949.

For the next few years, ABC was a television network mostly in name. Except for the largest markets, most cities had only one or two stations. The FCC froze applications for new stations in 1948 while it sorted out the thousands of applicants and re-thought the technical and allocation standards set down between 1938 and 1946.

What was meant to be a six-month freeze lasted until the middle of 1952. Some large cities, like Pittsburgh and St. Louis, had only one station on the air for a prolonged period, and many more of the largest cities such as Boston only had two. Many sizable cities including Denver and Portland had no television service at all until the second half of 1952 after the freeze ended.

For a late-comer like ABC, this meant being relegated to secondary status in many markets, and no reach at all in some. This was the period when local stations could cherry pick shows from as many networks as they wanted, as very few stations were exclusive affiliates.

Although ABC struggled financially for the first 15 or so years, they did catch two very lucky breaks in 1947. The first one was that they beat the freeze by filing for 5 TV licenses that year, all on Channel 7, which gave them their 5 O&O major market stations.

Thier second break came when the WFIL-TV engineers went on strike in 1947. Management locked them out and began replacing them, which allowed ABC New York to pick up a strong core of top engineers for their new broadcast center on West 66th Street. The rest, as they say, is history. Happy 68th Birthday to the ABC Television Network! -Bobby Ellerbee


This Week In Sports TV History…Jackie Robinson Scores Again

This Week In Sports TV History…Jackie Robinson Scores Again

In the photo, Leo Durocher welcomes Jackie Robinson to television in the brand new Shea Stadium. On April 17, 1965, Robinson became the first black network broadcaster for Major League Baseball.

In 1965, ABC provided the first-ever nationwide baseball coverage with weekly Saturday broadcasts on a regional basis. ABC paid $5.7 million for the rights to the 28 Saturday/holiday “Game Of The Week” package. ABC’s deal covered all of the teams except the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, who had their own television deals with NBC and CBS. The agreement called for two regionalized games on Saturdays, Independence Day, and Labor Day.

Each Saturday, ABC would broadcast two 2 PM. games in the east, and one 5 PM game for the west. ABC blacked out the games in the home cities of the clubs playing those games. At the end of the season, ABC declined to exercise its $6.5 million option for 1966, citing poor ratings, especially in New York. -Bobby Ellerbee


April 18, 1964…April 18, 2012; Remembering Dick Clark

April 18, 1964…April 18, 2012; Remembering Dick Clark

On this day in 1964, The Beach Boys performed “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “I Get Around” on “American Bandstand.” Afterward, Dick did this interview with them.

On this day in 2012, “America’s Oldest Teenager” passed away.
I had the good fortune of knowing and working with him, and once gave him a beautiful alabaster egg, for always being the “good egg” in the music business. He put it on his desk at home. There will never be another Dick Clark! -Bobby Ellerbee

Dick Clark interviews The Beach Boys on American Bandstand. License American Bandstand Clips Here:…


April 18, 1923…Opening Day Of Yankee Stadium

April 18, 1923…Opening Day Of Yankee Stadium

Since spring, and fly balls are in the air, I thought it would be a good time to look at this photo of the April 18, 1923 debut of a stadium that has produced more great baseball moments than any other.

On February 6, 1921, a little more than year after the Yankees had acquired Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox, a Yankee press release announced that ten acres in the West Bronx, City Plot 2106, Lot 100, land from the estate of William Waldorf Astor, had been purchased for $675,000 (around $11 million in 2016 dollars).
The site sat directly across the Harlem River, less than a mile from the home of the New York Giants.

Opening Day pitted the Boston Red Sox against the NY Yankees. A massive crowd assembled for the most exciting moment in the history of the Bronx. The day was chilly. Many in the huge assemblage were bundled up with heavy sweaters, coats, fedoras and derbies although some, in the spirit of the moment, wore dinner jackets.

The announced attendance was 74,217, but was later scaled back to 60,000. The Fire Department ordered the gates closed at 2:45 and 25,000 were denied entrance. Those unable to get inside soldiered up outside against the cold listening to the noise of the crowds and the martial beat of the Seventh Regiment Band directed by the famed John Philip Sousa.

Red Sox owner Harry Frazee walked on the field side-by-side with Yankees owner Jake Ruppert, who always claimed that his idea of a great day at the ballpark, was when “the Yankees score eight runs in the first inning, and then slowly pulled away.”

Yankees and Red Sox were escorted by the band to the flagpole in deep centerfield, where the home team’s 1922 pennant and the American flag were raised.

Ruppert then took a seat in the celebrity box where Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, New York State Governor Al Smith, and New York City Mayor John Hylan were waiting for the game to begin.

At 3:25 Babe Ruth was presented with an oversized bat handsomely laid out in a glass case.

At 3:30 Governor Al Smith tossed out the first ball to Yankee catcher Wally Schang.

At 3:35 home plate umpire Tommy Connolly shouted: “Play ball!”
The temperature was a brisk 49 degrees. Wind blew dust from the dirt road leading to the Stadium and whipped away at pennants and hats.

In the third inning with Whitey Witt and Joe Dugan on base, George Herman “Babe” Ruth stepped into the batter’s box. He had said: “I’d give a year of my life if I can hit a homerun in the first game in this new park.”

Boston pitcher Howard Ehmke threw a slow pitch. Bam! Ruth slugged the ball on a line into the right-field bleachers – the first home run in Yankee Stadium history.

The New York Times called it a “savage home run that was the real baptism of Yankee Stadium.” Sportswriter Heywood Broun remarked: “It would have been a home run in the Sahara Desert.”
Crossing home plate, removing his cap, extending it, Ruth waved to the standing, screaming crowd.

Babe Ruth always said that of all the home runs he hit, his favorite home run was the one he hit the day they opened Yankee Stadium, the ballpark that was kind of built for him.

The game moved on. Yankee stalwart “Sailor” Bob Shawkey, fanned five, walked two, allowed but just three hits, and pitched the Yankees to a 4-1 victory. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


April 18, 1966…The First Color Oscars

April 18, 1966…The First Color Oscars
Below is a photo of our friend Don “Peaches” Langford with his crane mounted ABC TK41 in front of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, April 18, 1966.

In the linked video to the opening moments, Don’s camera gives us the first color look at the Academy Awards show. In that opening shot, you can see another TK41 at the entrance, shooting the arrival of the stars, with the late Dale Walsh at the controls.

At 1:40, you see another TK41 directly in front of the presenters podium. Two trucks and eight cameras covered the historic event. Today, two dozen or more cameras shoot the Oscars. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


April 17, 1976…Bumped From SNL Debut, Billy Crystal Returns

April 17, 1976…Bumped From SNL Debut, Billy Crystal Returns

Exclusive Eyewitness Account…Billy Crystal & The Debut Of SNL

As SNL fans, and history buffs know, Billy Crystal was scheduled to appear on the debut show, but he didn’t, and there has always been a lot of speculation as to just exactly what happened that night. Till now…

You are about to learn the real story of why he didn’t, from someone who was there…Joel Spector, who was on the audio crew for the first 17 years of SNL.

Was it a last minute thing, or did it come earlier in the week? Did he appear in the dress rehearsal? In later years, Billy had talked about the disappointment of being bumped, but never went into the details. Thanks to Joel, we’ll hear what really happened. Here is his account…

“This is the real story. Billy did indeed appear in the dress rehearsal and got big laughs. I was at the post-dress rehearsal production meeting. For this week only, every staff and crew member attended this meeting, held right in the middle of the studio.”

“There were three “new young comedians” scheduled to appear that week, in addition to host George Carlin. They were Andy Kaufman, Billy Crystal and Valri Bromfeld. Lorne announced that the show was very long and that only two of the three new comedians could be on the air show: Andy (with two spots) worked to recorded music, which couldn’t be cut.”

“Billy was set to do his “Late Show” routine, in which he did all of the sounds for the typical late movie show on a local station, complete with badly spliced film hiccups. He said that he had been doing this routine for some time, and that it had already been refined to be “just right.” “I understand that this might rule me out,” he said.”

“As Lorne had promised, Billy returned on April 17, 1976 on Season 1’s, 17th Episode, which was hosted by President Ford’s Press Secretary, Ron Nessen with musical guest Patti Smith.” -Joel Spector

Thanks to Joel, we now know that it was only after the dress rehearsal that Crystal was cut. Till now, that part had never been known. By the way, that same night, a classic sketch was born…Dan Aykroyd’s, Super Bassomatic 76.

Many thanks to Joel for this missing piece of history and to the many that share similar first hand information on this page.

In the photos below we see our friend Joel Spector at the 8H audio board, Billy from that April 17th show, and the debut advertisement for SNL. – Bobby Ellerbee


April 17, 1967…”The Joey Bishop Show” Debuts On ABC

April 17, 1967…”The Joey Bishop Show” Debuts On ABC
At the link, we see the opening of the show with, a wide shot of the GE PE 250 cameras on the stage at 1313 Vine street. There is more on these great facilities in the photos, so click on them.

Joey’s announcer and sidekick was Regis Philbin, and this was the first time Regis had national exposure. Joey and Rege were up against Carson on NBC and Merv on CBS and only lasted 33 months.

The show ended on December 26, 1969 with Bishop leaving after his monologue, declaring that this was the last show. Philbin was left to finish the final episode. The time slot was filled by “The Dick Cavett Show” from New York. -Bobby Ellerbee


A Story Of TV History Treasure…LOST

A Story Of TV History Treasure…LOST

For a year and a half, on what was then WRCA, Bill Cullen hosted a local (New York) fifteen minute television show called “Inside NBC”. Here is a description of just a few of the shows. It would be fantastic to see all of this backstage stuff, BUT…sadly, as far as I know, all of this is gone. If you know more, please tell us.

Monday, December 12, 1955 [DEBUT] Bill Cullen hosts this 15-minute program which spotlights NBC’s personnel, history, features, and entertainment. NBC cameras pick up rehearsals in progress, previewing shows to appear the same evening or later that week.

Monday, December 19, 1955 Viewers see a “Playwrights 56” rehearsal in action. Bill Cullen interviews producer Fred Coe, director Arthur Penn, and stars Kim Stanley and Louis Jean Heydt.

Friday, December 23, 1955 Bill Cullen visits David Aiken as he is made up for his role in Sunday’s “Alcoa Hour” production of “Amahl and the Night Visitors”. The cameras also pick up a rehearsal of “Babes in Toyland” to be seen on Max Liebman Presents.

Monday, December 26, 1955 Bill Cullen tours the “Home” show studios. Guest: Dick Linkroum, Home’s exec. producer.

Friday, December 30, 1955 Bill Cullen’s guest, Mary Martin, discusses the forthcoming “Peter Pan”.

Friday, January 6, 1956 The operation of the NBC news department is explained through interviews and films. The cameras pick up a rehearsal Ken Banghart’s news program.

Monday, January 9, 1956 Bill Cullen visits NBC’s special effects dept. to show how fog, rain, snow, etc. are made for TV.

Friday, January 13, 1956 Les Colodny, director of NBC’s comedy development program, explains and tells of plans for ’56. He introduces an act by some new talent.

Monday, January 23, 1956 Tex Antoine explains the preparation of his weather programs. Bill Cullen interviews Henry Salomon, producer of Circle Theater’s “Nightmare” in Red, to be repeated tomorrow evening.

Friday, January 27, 1956 Bill Cullen takes viewers behind the scenes of radio’s “Monitor”. Guest will be Gene Rayburn.
Monday, January 30, 1956 The NBC Technical Operations Department demonstrates the transmission of a TV picture from coast to coast. Cameras pick up a rehearsal of Milton Berle’s show from Hollywood.

Friday, February 3, 1956 Host Bill Cullen and Maurice Evans discuss this Sunday’s “Hallmark Hall of Fame” production of “The Good Fairy”, starring Julie Harris. Chet Huntley of the NBC News Department previews “Outlook”, a news program which debuts this Sunday. Special guest: J. Fred Muggs.

Monday, February 6, 1956 Bill Cullen visits Sid Caesar at his office and studios.

Friday, February 10, 1956 Bill Cullen reviews the first NBC telecast, April 30, 1939. This was the NBC special events pickup of the opening of the World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows.

Monday, February 27, 1956 The cameras switch to Hollywood to pick up a rehearsal of Tuesday’s Matinee Theater production, “A Tall Dark Stranger”. Its star, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and host John Conte are guests. Bill Cullen, in New York, does a feature on the early days of NBC news coverage.

Friday, March 2, 1956 The cameras switch to the RCA Hall of Progress in Camden, N.J., which holds electronics equipment developed during the past century. Bill Cullen hosts.

Monday, March 5, 1956 Guest: Stockton Hellfrich of NBC’s Continuity Acceptance Dept. Bill Cullen shows “The Martha Raye Show” in rehearsal, via film.

Friday, March 9, 1956 Host Bill Cullen highlights NBC’s coverage of the Presidential campaign. He also interviews Laurence Olivier.

Monday, March 12, 1956 Ike Kleinerman, film editor of Wednesday’s “Project 20″ production, explains how the film was procured and edited.

Friday, March 16, 1956 Host Bill Cullen discusses the presentation of the TV “Emmy Awards” show.

Monday, April 16, 1956 Bill Cullen conducts a remote program with WRCA-TV’s new mobile unit.

Monday, May 7, 1956 Host Bill Cullen and his special guest, Lee Ann Meriwether, conduct a quiz show. Contestants are the five finalists of the “Miss NBC” contest.

Friday, May 18, 1956 Bill Cullen is host to Thomas B. McFadden, general manager of WRCA-TV and Ray Owen from the reporting staff of WRCA’s Pulse. Owens discusses Pulse’s technique for covering news.

That is a pretty amazing trove of treasure…and only a small sample of the “Inside NBC” shows Cullen hosted. I think these are all gone but hope someone knows if they survive. – Bobby Ellerbee

Below, Eddie Cantor hosting “The Colgate Comedy Hour”.


April 16, 1962…Walter Cronkite Takes Over “CBS Evening News”

Be sure to read the text uner the photos for some interesting details on the production process, and the location of the show over time.

Above, Walter at his Graybar Building desk with staff in the fishbowl office watching the broadcast. The fishbowl office was in the same place when the show moved to the Broadcast Center.

On the left, legendary CBS News producer Don Hewitt

When the show moved to the Broadcast Center, this newsroom wall was replicated, but instead of the chalk board and clock, it was lined with teletype machines, and adorned with the famous world map, that is now a part of the “CBS Morning News” set.

Only two cameras could fit into the Graybar newsroom and the same was true for the Studio 33 newsroom.

I am not sure, but I think this small control room was built on the 29th floor, near the newsroom and fed the 2 cameras to Production Control room 43 or 44 downstairs in the main studio complex

Below, a shot of the main control room. From here, all the news film and cut-ins could be added.

Below, though that open hall behind the man at the desk, there was another area of the TV newsroom as big, or bigger than this one where a few dozen other reporters worked. 

Preparing the teleprompter script

April 16, 1962…Walter Cronkite Takes Over “CBS Evening News”

54 years ago today, Walter Cronkite took over the anchor chair from Douglas Edwards. At the time, the show was still only 15 minutes, but that changed on September 22, 1963 when CBS became the first to go to a half hour evening news show.

At the link above is Scott Pelley’s tribute video that shows a new set for Walter’s debut with bank of monitors. At 1:58, those photos are of his first rehearsal on that set in Studio 42 at Grand Central. When the show went to half an hour, Walter began reporting from the CBS News Room on the 29th floor of The Graybar Building, which adjoined Grand Central.

These photos are from the first week of the new half hour show in the Graybar offices. Occasionally, a mad dash to the studio via catwalks over the Grand Central lobby are mentioned…that time period, when news was rushed to the set, was between April ’62 and September ’63 when Walter reported from Studio 42. His work desk was in the newsroom in the Graybar.

In late 1964, the show moved to the new CBS Broadcast Center to a first floor studio called Studio 33. It looked exactly like the Graybar newsroom set, except the wall you see here with a chalk board was replaced by a wall lined with teletype machines. There was even a glassed in producer’s office in the same place it had been at Graybar,,,it was called the fishbowl, and during the broadcast, staff would go there to watch it live. You can see that in the first photo.

There is more on each photo, so click through them. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


April 15, 1946 & 1955…Big Days For Dumont, Gleason And Lewis

April 15, 1946 & 1955…Big Days For Dumont, Gleason And Lewis

This is a two part story, of two April 15th news making days for Dumont; one in 1946, the other in 1955.

Part 1, The Glory Days: This big photo was taken April 15, 1946 and shows the inaugural broadcast from the new Dumont studio at Wanamaker’s department store in Manhattan. The telecast was fed to Dumont’s W3XWT (WTTG) in Washington for broadcast there, and in Washington, some FCC officials making congratulatory comments were fed back to New York and viewed by the audience here.

Before this, Dumont’s limited local broadcasts on it’s WABD, had come from a small experimental studio at their 515 Madison Avenue headquarters,

Part 2, A Dying Breath Brought New Life To Video Assist: In the very last days in operation as a network, Dumont introduced the Electronicam.

By late ’54 the handwriting was on the wall…in February of 1955, Dumont executives realized the company could not continue as a television network. It was decided to shut down network operations and operate WABD and WTTG as independents. On April 1, 1955, most of DuMont’s entertainment programs were dropped.

April 15, 1955, nine years to the day after opening their studio at Wanamaker’s Department Store, the company introduced the 35 and 16mm versions of the Dumont Electronicam. The hope was that this new video and film production tool would help save the company, and after all, the end result was much better than the kinescope.

In September of ’55, Jackie Gleason began production of the new half hour “The Honeymooners” show for CBS. It was shot at Dumont’s Adelphi Theatre on 54th Street, with three 35mm Electornicams.

On a visit with Gleason at The Adelphi in 1956, Jerry Lewis saw the Electronicam, and never forgot that.

’56 was the year he and Dean Martin split, and Lewis did a few solo movies for director Hal Wallis, but became involved in the production as well.

By ’60, Lewis was on his own and began writing, directing and starring in his own movies with Paramount as a partner. All the while the Electronicam process was on his mind, and by the early 60s, he had begun the process of developing a true video assist technology.

By ’66, he had created “Jerry’s Noisy Toy” which included instant video and audio tape playback capacity using an RCA vidicon cameras interlinked with Mitchell BNC cameras, and one inch Sony videotape. -Bobby Ellerbee


April 14, 1956…The Videotape Revolution Begins; VR-1000 Debuts

April 14, 1956…The Videotape Revolution Begins; VR-1000 Debuts

60 years ago today, this prototype Ampex VTR called “Mark IV” started a whole new era in television. Taken at the National Association of Radio & Television Broadcasters show in Chicago, the crowd photo shows the first demonstration. When this group of CBS television affiliates saw remarks by CBS’s Bill Lodge miraculously replayed moments later, everything changed! This day, a STAR was born!

In the comments section below, you see the Ampex Videotape Team…the men who created the VR-1000 and revolutionized broadcasting. Pictured with this six man team is the unit Ampex took to Chicago for the legendary demonstration.

In the team photo, Fred Pfost is on the far left. Here is Fred’s description of the events of the week of the demonstration in which Ampex took almost 100 orders for the $50,000 VR-1000.

“On the Saturday, April 14, two days before the convention started, we demonstrated the recorder for about 300 CBS affiliates meeting at the Conrad Hilton Hotel. I recorded (from behind a curtain) the opening speech of Bill Lodge, V.P. of CBS, who described all the activities that CBS had been involved in during the past year, and his announcement of a big surprise, that was about to happen. After I rewound the tape and pushed the play button for this group of executives, they saw the instantaneous replay of the speech.”

“There were about ten seconds of total silence, until they suddenly realized just what they were seeing on the twenty video monitors located around the room. Pandemonium broke out with wild clapping and cheering for five full minutes. This was the first time in history that a large group (outside of Ampex) had ever seen a high quality, instantaneous replay of any event. The experience still brings tears to my eyes when I recall this event.”

“During the week of the convention, the Ampex display area was packed, all day, every day. Orders came so fast and furious, that the Ampex sales staff was writing orders on cocktail napkins.”

It took Ampex a year to fill just the orders taken at the convention. If memory serves me right, CBS got the first 5, NBC got the second 5 and ABC, the third 5, with more on order for all 3 networks. I think CBS put 3 at TVC, and had 2 in NYC. NBC put 3 at Burbank, 1 in NYC and 1 went to RCA Labs in Princeton, with RCA and Ampex starting to share RCA’s color tape ability. I think ABC put 3 at Prospect and 2 in NYC.

Happy 60th Anniversary Videotape! – Bobby Ellerbee


A Major, But Overlooked RCA Color Broadcast Test…April 15, 1953

A Major, But Overlooked RCA Color Broadcast Test…April 15, 1953

This single page “TV Guide” article from May 15, 1953 is quite interesting, and has new information, not found in Ed Reitan’s wonderfully cataloged history of color television events.
Once I found the “TV Guide” article, I set out to track down the exact date of the colorcast, and at the link above is the “New York Times” article that gives us the April 15th date.

Although the August 30, 1953 colorcast of “St. George And The Dragon”, performed by Kukla, Fran & Ollie, was the first officially sanctioned public NTSC color broadcast from RCA/NBC after FCC approval, this trial for a Congressional committee had a great deal in common with that grand debut program, but this event seems to have been mostly overlooked in color history.

Both demonstrations included Kukla, Fran And Ollie, and both were transmitted in color on NBC’s Channel 4 in New York. Of course, only NBC and RCA had color receivers, until RCA began production in April of 1954, but half of the object of the test was the measure of compatibility of the color signal to black and white sets.

The other half of the test was, of course, the reception of lifelike color over a distance. In this case, the distance was about 40 miles, as the delegation watched the Colonial Theater presentation at the RCA Lab in Princeton NJ.

Also included here is a page from the “Life Magazine” article on this test, with comparative monitor shots of the black and white and color transmissions. The last image is from the August 30 rehearsal of the KFO “St. George And The Dragon” from The Colonial Theater. -Bobby Ellerbee

By the way, our friend Ed Reitan’s great research on RCA’s color event history can be seen at this link.


TeleTales #266…TV Golf In The 1950s

TeleTales #266…TV Golf In The 1950s

With The Master’s fresh on our minds, here is a look at how CBS covered a match in Palm Springs in 1956…with very long lenses.

This is an extended Zoomar Field Lens on an RCA TK11/31. The studio version was the TK11, and the field version was the TK31; the only real difference between the two control chains is that the field version’s power supply required less voltage. The camera heads were the same.

Notice the operator is using a rod through the camera for zoom and focus. For zoom in close, you pushed the rod in, and pulled it out for a zoom out to a wide shot. For focus, you turned the rod left or right. Many of the pro cameramen carried their zoom rod with them in a hard case, because working with a bent rod (no pun intended) made the zoom and focus jumpy and ragged.

The camera is mounted on one of the coolest mobile peds ever, the Baughman Spider pedestal. -Bobby Ellerbee


The History Of Video Tape Development By The Man Who Did It!

The History Of Video Tape Development By The Man Who Did It!

At the link above is Melvin Sater’s 18 page account of those early days of developing the first commercially available line of video tape, at 3M. Most of this amazing read has to do with the 1956 and ’57 period, but also takes us into the mid ’60s and color tape. (Above, Sater with Jonathan Winters and the EMMY Sater won).

Those first rolls of 3M tape used for the April ’56 NAB demonstration could only give 15 to 25 playbacks, but in order to switch from kinescopes to videotape that next summer, the networks needed something that would give them at least 65 to 100 playbacks.

By the April 12, 1957 CBS tests, they were elated that they were able to get up to 390 replays before the tape broke down, but there were more hurdles to overcome. The 3M plant was working literally around the clock to produce enough tape for the summer of ’57 introduction, but 97% of the initial runs had to be scrapped and the manufacturing process modified.

By the way…they were flying blind on this! Ampex had not been able to get them a VTR to use in testing, so this was all theory and trial and error.

The top photo of Mel Sater and Johnathan Winters, show him with the EMMY that was presented to Sater for his work in videotape development, and Johnathan was a part of that.

The first use of videotape in a network show was a three minute black and white insert into “The Johnathan Winters Show” by NBC in 1957. The prerecorded song by Dorothy Collins was inserted without fanfare to see if the viewing audience would notice it. They didn’t.

History buffs will want to save this link and share it with their friends as this is the only place to find this on the web. Our thanks again to Neil Gjere for sharing this. -Bobby Ellerbee


Vintage WGN-TV — Chicago Tribune

April 1948, Chicago’s WGN-TV Sings On…Vintage Photo Album

In the Comment section below is my RCA TK10, which was one of the original eight TK10s that went into service April 5, 1948.

WGN, Channel 9, is one of the nations first and only enduring independent stations, but it wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, they dual network affiliations with both CBS and Dumont, which early on wasn’t that uncommon in new TV markets, or markets with only one station.

The interesting part is, they shared that dual affiliation with WBKB, Channel 4, there in Chicago…until CBS bought WBBM. After that, WGN became one of Dumont’s strongest affiliates, as well as a major production center for that network.

Several Dumont programs were produced from the station’s facilities, including “The Al Morgan Show”, “Chicago Symphony”, “Chicagoland Mystery Players”, “Music From Chicago”, “They Stand Accused”, “Windy City Jamboree” and “Down You Go”.

The station lost the Dumont affiliation when the network ceased operations on August 6, 1956; at that point, WGN became an independent station. The rest, as they say, “is history”. -Bobby Ellerbee

Vintage WGN-TV — Chicago Tribune

WGN Television, whose call letters are derived from the Chicago Tribune’s first slogan, “World’s Greatest Newspaper”, hit the airwaves on April 5, 1948. “Not long ago, people said it couldn’t happen,” the Trib noted of the station’s debut. “But last night, with the speed of light, a stellar program…


April 11, 1966…The Last Episode of “Hullabaloo” Airs On NBC

April 11, 1966…The Last Episode of “Hullabaloo” Airs On NBC

This is a rare color clip from that final show, with Leslie Gore. Paul Anka was the host for this last show, which featured songs from the 1965 Oscar nominees. “Hullabaloo” was directed by the first director known for his music specials, like The TAMI Show, Steve Binder.

Although all of the shows were shot and videotaped in color, very few of the color shows are left. Somehow about 45 black and white renditions survive, that I suspect were dubs made for the production company.

The show started in a one hour format, and ran in pirmetime from January 12, 1965 through April 11, 1966, but three months in it was cut to thirty minutes, and went to a 7:30 Monday night slot. It was replaced by “The Monkees”, and was taped mostly at NBC Brooklyn, but was also done in Studio 8H and at NBC Burbank. Below is the line up for that final night. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

1) Paul Anka – “What Now My Love”
2) The Cyrkle – “Red Rubber Ball”
3) Lesley Gore – “Young Love”
4) THE HULLABALOO DANCERS (choreographed by David Winters)
5) Peter and Gordon – “Woman”
6) ACADEMY AWARD Medley – Nominees for Best Song of 1965:
6a) Paul Anka and Lesley Gore – “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” (from “Inside Daisy Clover”)
6b) Lesley Gore – “I Will Wait for You” (from “Umbrellas of Cherbourg”)
6c) Peter and Gordon – “Ballad of Cat Ballou” (from “Cat Ballou”)
6d) Paul Anka – “The Shadow of Your Smile” (from “Sandpiper”)
6e) The Cyrkle and other guests – “What New Pussycat?”
7) Peter and Gordon – “Wrong From The Start”

Lesley Gore (born Lesley Sue Goldstein; May 2, 1946 – February 16 2015) was an American singer. She is perhaps best known for her 1963 pop hit “It’s My Party…


Stunning Animation Technique Brings Antique Photographs To Life….

Stunning Animation Technique Brings Antique Photographs To Life….

Like so much of the new software advances in animation, I don’t know how this is done, but this is pure magic. Take a look and keep the sound up. Thanks to “Tonight” show cameraman Rich Carter for sharing this. -Bobby Ellerbee

Amazing Animation Based on Old Photographs (by Alexey Zakharov)


A New DANGER To Credibility And News? Yes…This Is Scary!

A New DANGER To Credibility And News? Yes…This Is Scary!

Without as much real news, from real journalists these days, it is already hard enough to know what the truth is, but now…the anti has been UPPED!

Although the original software was developed several years ago for CGI facial animation in motion pictures, now, several inexpensive versions of this kind of software are available to the public. With this, and a good sound-alike voice actor, you can make anybody, say anything, and it would look and sound like it was real. Here is how it is done. The technical part is in the last half. What are your thoughts on this? -Bobby Ellerbee

CVPR 2016 Paper Video (Oral) Project Page: IMPORTANT NOTE: This demo video is purely research-f…


“That Thing You Do”… The Secret Gene Pitney Connection

“That Thing You Do”… The Secret Gene Pitney Connection

For a number of reasons, this is one of my favorite movies, but did you know that “Mr. Downtown”, and the fictional character that sings it, Freddie Fredrickson, is based on Gene Pitney and his “Town Without Pity”?

Hear; Gene Pitney “Town Without Pity”…

Hear; Freddy Fredrickson’s “Mr. Downtown”…

By the way, the Norelco cameras were all from History For Hire, LA’s top prop shop for cameras. There are lipstick cameras under the lenses, and LCD displays in the viewfinder hole. -Bobby Ellerbee


More Rare NBC Color Caravan Photos! St. Louis, July 9-10 1954

More Rare NBC Color Caravan Photos! St. Louis, July 9-10 1954

This first photo is the best I have ever seen of an RCA Electra Zoom lens on a TK40 or 41 color camera.

Carrying on the conversation from yesterday’s posts, these images are from the linked page below, and were shared with us by John Coleman. There is more at the link, and on each photo, so click through, and enjoy. -Bobby Ellerbee


Four Generations Of The Experimental RCA Color Cameras…

Four Generations Of The Experimental RCA Color Cameras…

The 1st generation of RCA’s simultaneous color television system cameras (shown above), is generally referred to as the Wardman Park cameras. They were in NBC’s Wardman Park Hotel studio in Washington DC.

RCA began live camera development there as early as 1946-47, and at least three finished studio cameras of this type were built by the Television Research Group of RCA Laboratories, and two were installed there. The third one may have been kept in Camden, and later used in mobile trials.

The cameras were used for the demonstrations of the RCA Dot-Sequential Color Television System to the F.C.C. during the color television hearings in 1949 through 1950.

After the FCC rejection of the RCA Dot Sequential Color System, further color camera development responsibility was transferred from RCA Laboratories, to the RCA Engineering Products Department (Broadcast Equipment Group) in Camden. Studio development activity was moved from Washington to the RCA building in New York City. The Wardman cameras went to Camden.

The 2nd generation of RCA color cameras were installed in NBC Studio 3H at 30 Rock, and are generally referred to as the “Coffin Cameras”. The joke was, they were so big, you could bury someone in one of these. They were the first to have the rounded viewfinder. The 3H cameras were in use for about two years, until The Colonial Theater came on line in late 1952.

Even after camera testing left 3H, color component testing continued there, because quality color monitors were a must.

The 3rd generation of cameras came with the opeining of The Colonial. These were the RCA TK40 prototype cameras. Remote testing with the Coffin Cameras had taught them the the dark umber color in the sun was not a good idea, and these TK40 prototypes came in a cooler silver color to reflect the sun’s heat.

Speaking of heat, these TK40 prototypes did not have vented viewfinder covers, but by the time the TK40 went into production in 1954, they were beginning to figure this out.

The 4th generation, was the RCA TK40 which began being delivered in April of 1954. Only 25 TK40s were built, and they all had the unvented viewfinder cover, like the prototypes, but vented covers were sent to TK40 customers once the RCA TK41 began production later in 1954.

The TK40s had also been shipped with panheads that were either friction or single wide cradle types. Once the TK41 began shipping, the new double wide cradle head was included and shipped to TK40 owners too.

The RCA TK41 also had four generations, the TK41, TK41A, TK41B and TK41C. There is more on the photos. -Bobby Ellerbee


New, Ultra Rare! Color Shots Of Early NBC Mobile Color Tests…

New, Ultra Rare! Color Shots Of Early NBC Mobile Color Tests…

On January 1, 1954, two NBC Color Mobile Units telecast The Rose Parade from Pasadena, to the nation, in color. Very few saw it in color, but that was the first use of these trucks.

As you will see in the attached “NBC Chimes” magazine article, the NBC Color Caravan set out on a 10 week journey, with dozens of color remote stops along the way. The caravan started June 10 in St. Louis and ended in Maryland August 11.

On July 15 and 16, the 18 man crew was in Washington DC for a look at the nation’s shrines, but before the left, that is where they “rehearsed” a few things.

These photos are from April of 1954, and show the trucks and crew testing some new remote innovations, like this this cool dolly track, before they hit the road. You can tell by the trees, this was around cherry blossom time.

These rare images are from NBC Washington TD Bill Wells, who was there from 1947 till the mid 70s. Thanks to Tom Buckley for sharing these with us. -Bobby Ellerbee


ULTRA RARE! New, Unseen Early RCA Color Trials Photos

ULTRA RARE! New, Unseen Early RCA Color Trials Photos

These first 2 images are from the personal collection of long time NBC Washington TD Bill Wells, who was there from 1947, until his retirement in the mid ’70s. I have added 3 others to help support what we are seeing in the Wells photos, and there is text on each.

RCA began live camera development for its simultaneous color television system as early as 1946-47 at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington DC. At least three finished studio cameras of this type were built by the Television Research Group of RCA Laboratories, and two were installed there. The third one may have been kept in Camden, and later used in mobile trials.

The cameras were used for the demonstrations of the RCA Dot-Sequential Color Television System to the F.C.C. during the color television hearings in 1949 through 1950. After the FCC rejection of the RCA Dot Sequential Color System, further color camera development responsibility was transferred from RCA Laboratories, to the RCA Engineering Products Department (Broadcast Equipment Group) in Camden. Studio development activity was moved from Washington to the RCA building in New York City.

These cameras did not go to Studio 3H at 30 Rock…they stayed in Camden. The second generation of color cameras went to 3H, and those “coffin cameras” looked a lot like what would be the third of four generations of experimental color cameras, the TK40 prototypes, used at The Colonial Theater. The fourth generation was the RCA TK40 released for use in April of 1954. In early 1955, the RCA TK41 was put into service and also had four generations, the TK41, TK41A, TK41B and TK41C.

Thanks to Tom Buckley, custodian of Mr. Wells’ collection, we are able to see these rare images of the men that were part of this early color history, and these are the first of many more yet to come. In today’s next post, ultra rare color photos of the 1954 NBC Color Caravan, and also today, a primer on the color camera generations! Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee


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