NYPR Archives & Preservation
March 31, 2017 - Volume 16  Issue 13
Edition # 755


1940: Juan Trippe, the president of Pan-American World Airways, emcees the ceremony for Pan Am's inaugural flight out of La Guardia Airport to Lisbon, Portugal.  Mayor La Guardia and other officials also speak.

1951: Arthur Wallander interviews police commissioner Thomas F. Murphy about the police emergency division and the role of the police department in civil defense.

1968: Edward Tatnall Canby talks about private press recordings. Included in the discussion is Tony Schwartz's Christmas card, featuring interviews with children about God, and music from the Zamir Chorale sung entirely in Hebrew.

1970: Tony Schwartz presents a Mr. Olsen, who has regained his hearing after an operation. Mr. Olsen is especially excited about hearing the sounds of rustling sheets, walking on a carpet, the wind, a dripping faucet, and the crinkling of a page in a book.
Berton, An Early Free-Former
Radio historians tend to look first to FM in the 1960s when talking about the origins of free-form radio: the live unscripted, unstructured, if not sometimes anarchic hosting that came into vogue at that time of political and social upheaval. But actually, it may have had its start much earlier as a reflection of improvisation that defines so much of jazz. 

At a time when nearly all radio, including most interviews, was carefully scripted WNYC's Ralph Berton stuck out like a sore, but very curious, thumb on WNYC. The following excerpts from Variety's radio reviewer on October 2, 1940 suggest that the eccentric host's defiance of convention and ad-libbing (which the reviewer was clearly not attuned to) was actually a display of engaging improv by Berton.

"Series [The Metropolitan Revue} is obviously and frankly for the birds whom a hot lick drives into a frenzy. There's no attempt at formality and general interest. Without any pretense of having prepared a script such niceties as putting his between-records spiel into concise language Burton [sic] rambles through his introductions of records, background dope, comment and replies to letters, groping for words, interrupting himself and stumbling over his own speech. At least it provides spontaneity.

"At times his candor is hilarious. Opening last Wednesday's show, he commented on the fact that he was again playing his usual theme tune, explaining that he'd had to use another signature on the previous few shows because he had sat on the theme record.* 'I promise to be more careful in the future,' he added. He replied to two letters on the show...That particular program was devoted to the records of Muggsy Spanier's band. Burton [sic] got so enthusiastic over a couple of potent choruses that he replayed those portions of the records. Doubtless every hepcat at the other end of the kilocycles was just a couple of wriggles from a straightjacket."

*In 1940 nearly all commercial records were pressed on shellac and would break or shatter easily if dropped or sat upon.
WNYC first day of broadcast, July 8, 1924 (Municipal Archives Collection)

"If you're looking for something different, it's high time you discovered CONNECTIONS, the only show of its kind in commercial classical radio. CONNECTIONS, every Saturday night from 10 pm to midnight on WQXR, looks at the worlds of classical, jazz and new age music. In fact, CONNECTIONS is the first show on any commercial station in New York to delve deeply into the New Age phenomenon, featuring New Age music in all its manifestations and, more importantly, relating these new sounds to other forms of music.

"CONNECTIONS intertwines three vibrant and varied musical styles, commenting on similarities and differences, drawing comparisons… CONNECTIONS creator, producer and host is Loren Toolajian, WQXR's Operations Director…"
Source: Excerpts from a WQXR press release of July 23, 1987.

The New York Public Radio Archives Celebrates Women's History Month. We've pulled together some of the department's leading preservation work, series and sonic artifacts concerning women's history.
WNYC celebrated its 92nd anniversary this past July. Just think, 7 short years to the big centennial. In this space we'll be linking to various historical WNYC champions, broadcasts and milestones celebrating nearly a century on the air in the public interest. This week: THE MEN OF HI-FI

This week's post on the NEH-funded Annotations blog series is: Averell Harriman Reflects on Russia.

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