CHICAGO TRIBUNE Headline: 10 things you might not know about Chicago radio Chicago radio is constantly being retuned. Just last week, National Public Radio confirmed a deal to make a TV pilot out of the Chicago-based radio show "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" And sports talker Mike North recently left WSCR and started a show on a restaurant's Internet site. Here's more about the Windy City's airwaves:
1. On Nov. 8, 1921, soprano Mary Garden helped radio station KYW test its transmitter in preparation for its groundbreaking broadcasts of opera. Garden stood on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre, inside a tent set up to reduce echo, with a single light bulb for illumination. Which explains why the first words ever spoken on Chicago radio were Garden saying, "My God, but it's dark in here!"
3. The most famous radio news account ever? Chicago broadcaster Herb Morrison's description of the explosion of the airship Hindenburg in Lakehurst, N.J., for WLS in 1937. You've heard it, of course: "Oh, the humanity!" Most people assume Morrison's words were broadcast live, but they were first aired the next day when a recording disc was played. Another misimpression involves Morrison's voice, which seems excited and high-pitched. But experts believe the recording speed was off, masking the fact that Morrison had a rather low voice.
4. Jack L. Cooper, a pioneering black disc jockey with WSBC, earned six figures in the mid-'40s. Serving Chicago?s growing black population, many of whom had arrived from the South, Cooper offered an on-air missing person's service to help people reconnect with family and friends.
5. The call letters of Chicago radio stations reflected their missions. The Tribune's outlet was and is WGN--"World's Greatest Newspaper." Sears Roebuck & Co. sponsored WLS--"World?s Largest Store." WVON was once the "Voice of the Negro." The call letters of WBBM have various interpretations. When the station broadcast from the Broadmoor Hotel in 1925, its slogan was "We Broadcast Broadmoor Music."" In the early '30s, the station billed itself as "World's Best Broadcast Medium." One sponsor was the World Storage Battery Co., and some said that WBBM stood for "World's Best Battery Maker."
6. Chicago once had a station called WJBT--"Where Jesus Blesses Thousands."
7. A WGN radio interview with Yankees
outfi elder Jake Powell in 1938 went sour when he used a racial epithet in telling broadcaster Bob Elson that he stayed in shape during the off-season by working as a police officer "cracking [blacks] over the head." Powell was suspended and performed penance by visiting Harlem taverns and making apologies. Turns out that Powell was lying about being a police officer. A decade after his controversial quote, he was arrested for passing bad checks. He got his hands on a gun in the police station, and shot himself to death.
8. Years before Ray Kroc founded the McDonald's hamburger chain, he was staff pianist at radio station WGES in Oak Park.
9. Many of Steve Dahl's Chicago antics are well known, such as Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park and the play-by-play of his own vasectomy. But the pre-Chicago hijinks of his youth are less publicized. They include the time in Detroit when police surrounded the studio because he had discussed his own suicide on the air as a comedy bit, and the episode in Bakersfield (the name of the city as published has been corrected in this text), Calif., when he announced the death of Col. Harland Sanders' wife: He reported that she had been dipped in extra-crispy batter.
10. The real name of Chicago-based radio icon Paul Harvey is Paul Harvey Aurandt. And that's the rest of the story.
Sources: "Listening In," by Susan J. Douglas; "Blackout," by Chris Lamb; wvon.com; richsamuels.com; professor emeritus Michael Biel of Morehead State University; radio historian Chuck Schaden; "Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald's" by Ray Kroc with Robert Anderson; "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang," by Jonathon Green; and Tribune news services.