The Rise of Radio, from Marconi through the Golden Age

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About the Book

As the dominant form of electronic mass communication in the United States from the 1930s into the 1950s, radio helped to forge a modern continental nation. It fused myriad subcultures—heavily rural, ethnic, and immigrant—into a national identity, unifying the nation in the face of the Depression and war. Later, federal deregulation allowed the radio of the “Golden Age,” 1926–1952, to devolve into a chain-dominated, satellite-fed plaything of Wall Street. Today, radio has the highest profit ratio of all the media outlets—and Golden Age traditions of programming taste, diversity, balance, and localism are a legacy squandered.
This anecdote-rich sweep of radio history, from its birth as Marconi’s “wireless telegraph” through its current status under deregulation, analyzes the changing medium’s social, political, and cultural impact. It casts new light on many topics, including the roles of women and African Americans, programming sources outside the Hollywood-Broadway nexus, and arguments about Amos ’n’ Andy—once the hit that jump-started radio’s young networks, now a controversial remnant of a bygone era. The book is augmented with more than sixty photos, extensive source notes, and a bibliography.

About the Author(s)

The late Alfred Balk was a former editor at Columbia Journalism Review, Saturday Review, and other magazines. He wrote more than 100 articles for Harper’s, Reader’s Digest, and other publications, taught at Columbia and Syracuse, and was the author or co-author of seven other books.

Bibliographic Details

Alfred Balk
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 358
Bibliographic Info: 62 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2368-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      1

Preface      11

Part I: Radio’s Rise

1. Radio’s Roots      19

2. An Industry Is Born      31

3. The Radio Craze      40

4. AT&T Tries a Takeover      48

5. Programming’s Ascent      54

6. Enter Advertising      61

7. Regulation Arrives, Set-Making Thrives      67

8. And Now, Networks      74

9. “Playboy” Paley Surprises      81

10. Amos, Andy, and Liftoff      87

11. Chicago’s Innings      98

12. Cincinnati, Detroit, and Tonto      107

13. Westward, Ho!      114

14. Mutual Arrives, Ad Agencies Program      121

15. The Great Press and Identity Wars      128

Part II: The Age’s Stage

16. Comedy’s Trail Blazers      139

17. Comedy’s Second Wave      152

18. Sitcoms Tonight      160

19. Adventure, Crime, Mystery      168

20. “Get Your Decoders Ready”      174

21. Uncle Don to “School of the Air”      181

22. “Can a Young Woman Who…”      188

23. Playwrights Stage Center      195

24. Baritones to Barn Dances      203

25. Blues to Big Bands      210

26. Talking Heads      218

27. The Jackpot Question Is…      226

28. We/You Are There      233

Part III: Pinnacle, Precipice, Abyss

29. Maturity Blooms      245

30. War, NBC’s Split, ABC      252

31. By the Home Fires      259

32. Before the Fall      266

33. An Old Order Dies      275

34 A Legacy Lost      282

Chapter Notes      291

Bibliography      317

Index      333

Book Reviews & Awards

“it’s a fabulous book and the research that went into it is stunning!”—Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes; “will live long in the literature of radio and deservedly so”—Norman Corwin; anyone teaching a…broadcast history course would do well to consider this book”—Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly; “admirable…informative and entertaining…writing is clear…language is vivid…a fresh collection of anecdotes”—IEEE Technology and Society Magazine; “[its] admirably clear prose sums up a dizzying array of previous histories”—Journal of Radio Studies; “a fascinating history…and Balk’s depth of research is astounding”—Chicago Life; “probably the best general history of the topic…excellent job”—The Illustrated Press; “thoroughly researched and documented”—The Antique Wireless Association Journal; “I could not put it down…excellent…I think I will read the book again”—Antique Radio Classified; “valuable”—Friends of the Old-time Radio; “should become a classroom standard”—Robert Lewis Shayon, Saturday Review; “The Rise of Radio is excellent”—Newton N. Minow, former FCC Chairman; “research is staggering”—Thomas Fleming, author; “a masterful work and a pleasure to read…ought to be the lasting work on the subject”—Everette E. Dennis, Fordham University; “well-researched”—Radio & Television Museum News; “entertaining”—Columbia Journalism Review.