Tuesday, December 13, 2011

HISTORY OF SYRACUSE MUSIC - CHAPTER 4 - FIRST RADIO & TV BROADCAST

September 15, 1922- the day Syracuse heard its first radio broadcast. Clive Meredith named his station WMAC and was located over the Clark Music Building in the 400 block of South Salina Street in downtown Syracuse. The 250 watt station was then moved to the Fernwood Estate in Cazenovia as their first broadcast consisted of Melville Clark (founder of Clark Music) playing the harp and piano.

November 19, 1924, Samuel Woolworth moved his 100 watt transmitter from his home to the Onondaga Hotel and WFBL Radio was born, It was this early broadcast from WFBL that put Syracuse on the radio map as many thousands listened to the first days' broadcast. As air time increased, stations looked for new programming to fill its daily needs. The most popular were local talent shows aired daily. Auditions were held and most of the contestants made their mark on these early radio listeners. Other music was also popular and easy to obtain as live broadcasts were aired from many downtown hotels and restaurants. One of these early announcers was Bill Lundigan who later located to Hollywood to become a motion picture and television star.

WFBL also featured many other classic programs around their live broadcasts. The Lone Ranger, Jack Armstrong, Amos & Andy and Buck Rogers kept Syracusans glued to their dial top follow their continuing adventures.

In 1928- WMAC changed its call letters to WSYR and moved their studio to the Hotel Syracuse. They also featured local talent, among them Gordon McCrea with the Williamson  Orchestra, Rev. Norman Vincent Peale and composer Chester Babcock and singer Ralph Harris. Harris and Babcock called their program "Scribble and Sing." Harris would sing many songs written by Chester who later changed his name professionally to Jimmy Van Heusen. A name he borrowed from a shirt sign that overlooked the downtown WSYR studio.

Jimmy, a ex-Central High student was only 14 when he landed his first announcing position at WSYR. It was WSYR's audience that first heard the Van Heusen classic song "Imagination." Jimmy Van Heusen , if you're not already aware of his career upon his departure from Syracuse, has written a mere 120+ songs that have been recorded by Frank Sinatra and a  hundred more by Bing Crosby. How about hits like High Hopes, All The Way, Love and Marriage, Call Me Irresponsible and Swingin' On A Star.

In 1932, WSYR was sold to Harry S. Wilder and moved its studio into the Kemper Building. WSYR Radio of the late 30's now featured the big band sound of Glen Miller, Bob Crosby, Benny Goodman as well as the widely acclaimed news program "Vadeboncouer and the News." Curly Vadeboncouer had joined WSYR staff in 1939 and upon Harry Wilder's resignation became president of Syracuse's all-time most popular station.

Not much changed in music in the 1940's. But many musicians were spinning off from their old bands to form new ones of their own. Such a musician was Jack Kreisher. Jack had left Williamson's Parisians by 1945 to form his own seven piece group. The Jack Kreisher Orchestra a so called society tenor band and was the first to play their own arrangements of the pop music of the day. Jack with many years of professional experience behind him, constantly updated the band's material to keep pace with the crowds were dancing to. His band expanded to as many as twelve members on such special occasions as the Syracuse Fireman's Ball. Kreisher always looked upon the younger members for new ideas to keep the band on top, whether it be in the 50's, 60's or 70's.

Kreisher, Kamels and Williamson didn't have the dance population cornered. Many other bands played to SRO crowds in a host of Syracuse night spots. Dick Kowell, Dick Martin, Bill Davidson, Mario & Lou DeSantis, Morris Brothers, Johnny Latone, Hal Schwartz and Tony Riposo all had popular bands and steady work.

 1949 was a more than important year for broadcasting and popular music. Victor (RCA) introduced its first three-speed phonograph and the 45 RPM seven inch single record, Columbia countered with a 33 1/3 speed long playing disc, and the whole year found the days of the 78 numbered.

Television came on the scene around this period (1948) in Upstate New York. First WHEN Channel 8 and by 1950, WSYR TV-3  had entered the picture. WSYR would play a large part in promoting Syracuse music during that period.

WSYR Radio carried the NBC Network programs of the day, Your Hit Parade, Don McNeil's Breakfast Club and soap operas. Plus local programs by Deacon Doubleday, Ed Murphy and Elliot Grove. The stations format featured middle of the road pop music aired both on AM & FM. WSYR's newest addition was Jim Deline, who had left WFBL in 1949. Deline showcased local talent live daily via radio and television from WSYR's  new studio located at 1030 James Street. His orchestra consisted of prominent local musicians- Sox Tiffault, Jimmy Hogan, Carl Mano, Myron LeVee, Claude Bortel, Herb Fetrinelli, Sid Wilcox, Kenny Drum, Randy Miller (later Norm Coleman) plus many others through the years.. The band was a direct copy of Ted Heath's Swingin' Dance Band of the 30's & 40's. Vocalist appearing with the band included Dick Workman, June Gardner, Gayle Huber, Patti Hammond and Eileen Wainer along with special guests the Bigtree Sisters (Norma, Jean and Sandy). The ever popular Jim Deline  TV Show would continue until Jim's death in 1963. Then Denny Sullivan and Floyd Ottoway carried on the program in the Deline tradition until its end in 1970.

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