Often times, I feel like a was born in the wrong era. When I think of the birth of radio and consequently, the birth of the announcer, well, that’s one of those times.
In 2016, most people don’t have a sincere understanding of what radio meant to their forefathers in the 1920’s. It would be unfathomable to a teen or twenty-something today to accept almost 100 years ago radio immediately became an indispensable necessity to every American (possibly every person in the then modern world – but I don’t know the rest of the world’s broadcast history as well as I know America’s).
At a given time back then, maybe 60% or more of the U.S. population would be tuned into a single radio broadcast or network. No broadcast or network enjoys that kind of broadcast influence today. Radio, the medium, and its performers were true and enormous stars of the first magnitude
At the center of it all was the radio announcer. The unique, often calming voice that offered direction, news, commercials and so much more to listeners throughout the radio broadcast day.
That must have been so cool to work in radio back then.
Folks today know about Don Pardo because of Saturday Night Live. But he wasn’t even among the most famous of the early days of radio. People in Pittsburgh know of KDKA radio and some folks in our country might know that station was America’s first commercial broadcast station. But Harold Arlin of KDKA was the first nationally recognized announcer in America. He was a really big deal!
What about Milton Cross who was the voice of the Metropolitan Opera, hosting its Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts for 43 years, from the time of their inception on December 25, 1931 until his death in 1975. That was a national program. Oh, and Cross actually started his radio announcing career in 1921! That’s AMAZING!
And then Fred Foy. Not sure who he was? He was the announcer for the Lone Ranger radio series. Yup, a bunch of you just experienced that light bulb: “Ahhhhhh!”
Nobody like that exists today. No one even close.
Since Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show left the air (his announcer Ed McMahon went with him), the closest thing modern media has is Conan O’Brien’s sidekick/announcer Andy Richter. Andy’s great (truly) but he doesn’t have the sway that guys like Arlin had in his day.
Change is a constant. Life and media evolve.
Though I still think it would be fun to “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…”