Main Body

Chapter 3: Have a Blast with 1100 on Your AM Dial

The introduction of a new, fun-packed program called “On the Go” and a rejuvenated “Almanac” show helped to revitalize KYW’s morning lineup in the winter of 1957.[1] That February, McGannon celebrated National Electrical Week by reminding everyone about Thomas Edison’s many contributions to this important field.[2] Dazzling advertising, exclusive interviews and fun tours of the Superior Building’s studios highlighted that week-long event. To honor its first anniversary in Cleveland, KYW sponsored a Valentine’s Day party called “The Twin Heats Ball. Hosted by a popular celebrity and singer Helen O’Connell, all of its proceeds went to charities.[3] A former WTAM-Radio announcer and Hollywood star named Jim Backus (1913-1989) made a guest appearance on KYW’s new nighttime talk show known as “Dimensions.[4] While there he presented the station with his latest “Mr. Magoo” album. Backus’s nephew Johnny Bell was one of the station’s brightest new radio stars. February 57 ratings showed 1100 AM still at the top of the heap, and why not? Eighty-nine percent of all Clevelanders listened to KYW each and every morning. According to the latest Nielsen ratings it led its closest rival by nearly 93%.[5] Such a convincing lead encouraged Don McGannon to recommend that broadcasting executives throughout the country should hop on the WBC bandwagon. He said it would be silly for them not to do so.[6]

The second half of the 50s signified a time of rapid changes throughout commercial radio. Recognizing that industry’s impressive recent growth led the U.S. Bureau of Labor to devote an entire section of its latest edition of Occupational Outlook Handbook to radio and television announcers.[7] As it noted, commercial radio currently employed around ten thousand. They read commercials and news, introduced programs and station identifications. Those broadcasters also interviewed studio guests and served as Masters of Ceremonies at major events. Salaries for those announcers varied greatly based on market size, fees and commissions. In large urban markets, DJs could earn more than $10,000 a year.[8] Often required to work both evenings and weekends, the announcer’s workday encompassed preparation as well as broadcasting time. Maintaining a loyal listening audience required local radio stations to go beyond just playing records and promoting friendly banter. For example, radio personalities had to participate regularly in community events. All of that was considered essential for successful broadcasters.

Reworking and updating popular programs to better reflect changing public demands was expected industry-wide. In the case of KYW11, its many intelligent celebrities did not hesitate to experiment in previously untested waters if such actions might help to improve their ratings. Topping that list of innovative young announcers was KYW’s own Wes Hopkins. He epitomized that kind of self-confident disc jockey who didn’t hesitate to push the envelope. In his case, he hosted an exciting new musical show called “Birdland Stars of ’57. Broadcasted life from the Halle Brothers Department Store downtown, Hopkins interviewed some of the greatest jazz artists of that time. They included music legends like Count Basie (1904-1984) and Bud Powell (1924-1966) along with promising young singers such as Jeri Southern (1926-1991) and Sarah Vaughn (1924-1990).[9] Extending the bounds of broadcasting, exceptional new offerings including “Birdland Stars of ‘57only added to KYW’s growing reputation for providing some of the best shows in town. But, it included much more than just presenting outstanding new programs to eagerly awaiting audiences. Relying on new devices such as speedy mobile units, the latest phone systems and high quality tape recorders gave that award winning station a cutting edge over the restBeing able to keep costs down while getting the biggest bang for the buck, enabled its discerning sales force to take full advantage of any spot advertising chances that might suddenly appear. They literally blew the competition away by consistently offering perspective advertisers reasonably priced broadcasting time. As they said themselves “it has proven to be importantly less expensive to reach more people by KYW radio than any other medium now available in Cleveland.”[10]

This station also led its chief competitors in discussing difficult community problems as well as personal matters. That became apparent as early as June 57 when a KYW newscaster named Aaron Jackson conducted an in-depth interview with Common Pleas Court Justice Samuel Silbert (1883-1976). They pondered the major reasons leading to the growing backlog in the court docket system and what prompted the astounding increase in the number of divorce cases during the past year.[11] Other radio giants in Cleveland rarely, if ever, went beyond the surface when it came to discussing such matters. Later that month, KYW-radio again surged ahead in the ratings when it introduced its latest offering an in-depth nighttime talk show. Called “Program PM,this two hour program dared to be different. Hosted by former WDOK celebrity Bud Wendell (b. 1923); “Program PM” prided itself on its no holds approach towards some of that area’s most provocative issues.[12] Not only did Bud Wendell converse with prominent business, civic, community and health leaders on countless crucial matters; but also, high profile celebrities and even some infamous characters that had made the recent headlines. He also explored Cleveland’s highly respected cultural scene. Hailed for its diversity, radio programmers throughout the nation increasingly wondered whether their time would be better spent broadcasting similar talk shows. However, the verdict was still out as to how far KYW-Radio might better serve the growing needs of their locally-grown teenage audience.

Many leading the opposition to rock and roll music firmly believed that it would disappear once young people discovered something better. In fact, many of the area’s most conservative religious leaders showed little, if any, sympathy regarding this latest musical craze. Some went so far as to suggest that its wild sounding music and provocative lyrics encouraged violence among teens and young adults. However, its growing number of supporters claimed that rock and roll music was a positive good. It provided teenagers a safe harbor for them to unleash their pent up emotions. For those kids wanting a musical form of their own rock and roll was definitely it.[13] Many of its most ardent supporters within the recording world itself repeatedly reminded everyone that rock and roll music was supposed to be fun for everyone in the family. KYW-Cleveland took the many benefits attributed to late ’50s rock and roll music very much to heart. Its promoters incessantly plugged it. The talk show “Program PM” also did its part to help by involving teens in pertinent discussions on that very issue.

Did that extraordinary surge in the popularity of rock and roll music convince the bulk of KYW-radio programmers to set aside their middle-if-the-road musical format for this new phenomenon? In light of 1957 audience preferences one would have to say no. In fact, 1100 AM prided itself on playing all kinds of music during the Fabulous Fifties. Given the fact that variety was the spice of life, it made perfect sense for KYW programmers to do just that. Playing a wide selection of recordings along with community bulletin boards, news, time and weather was much appreciated by local listeners. Simply supplying random records with useless chatter no longer was enough for the ever changing radio biz.[14] The fact that many Cleveland advertisers still preferred the middle-of-the-road approach towards broadcasting weighed heavily on less traditional promoters who increasingly favored the new Top 40 variety of radio. However, traditional advertisers and radio managers gradually acknowledged the importance of catering more to the needs and wants of younger listeners over their older fan base. This was true even if their actions ultimately resulted in them having to sacrifice their more affluent, traditional listeners for the less well-off, younger set. Periodic surveys, taken by KYW-Radio, enabled their sharp programmers to not only stay abreast of drastic changes occurring in listening habits; but also, make any adjustments whenever necessary.

Up-to-date program planning generally produced higher ratings and larger listening audiencesEveryone involved in radio broadcasting knew that was true. The keen business insight regularly demonstrated by KYW radio programmers extended far beyond playing the same old stack of records endorsed by longestablished trade journals. Such old hat approaches towards broadcasting seemed less and less appropriate within this new, winnertakeall environment. Don McGannon was absolutely correct in his latest assessment of current industry trends. He said that canny listeners repeatedly demanded that their favorite radio stations not only play the latest hits; but also, broadcast up-to-the-minute community programs, newscasts, sports, traffic and weather. KYW-Radio precisely followed those new, broadly broadcasting guidelines.

Similar thinking affected the FM side of the dial even if its programming needs were different. KYW-FM introduced a number of intellectually stimulating shows intended for a more astute listening audience. Without a doubt, FM radio was changing both the breath and scope of local broadcasting forever. Once viewed as little more than a wasteland, the FM band in the ‘50s had begun to gain some credibility with industry leaders as it presented more and more top quality programming. In fact, the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company had taken that business challenge very much to heart and had instituted its own special shows aimed exactly towards its new FM listeners. Obviously, the FCC’s earlier attempts to separate AM and FM programming had caught the attention of Westinghouse’s many discerning programmers. In July 1957, WBC publicized the fact that 105.7 on Cleveland’s FM dial would soon be airing the very best in classical music during peak hours.[15] Westinghouse Broadcasting’s VP Ronald Tooke headed a special tour of the City of Detroit as part of its highly publicized Cleveland-Detroit Day. The day’s ceremonies included Edwin K. Wheeler (1882-1975), the GM at WWJ-Detroit, receiving a gold-plated mic that commemorated his radio station’s 37th anniversary. Both Cleveland Mayor Anthony J. Celebreeze (1910-1998) and Detroit Mayor Albert E. Cobo (1893-1957) attended this event.[16] That September, WBC proudly unveiled its new traveling show. Called the “KYW Road Show, it provided talented teens with the chance of performing in variety shows in front of the elderly, invalids and orphans.[17] They were training grounds for young people who were planning to enter the entertainment field.

KYW radio’s very skilled programmers knew just what they were doing on so many broadcasting levels. Much of the success of lateral programming, as first introduced on “Program PM,originated with the ingenuity of its highly energized host Bud Wendell.[18] Within three months of its debut, “Program PM” had sold out all of its spot advertising blocks.[19] As you might well imagine, some of the old timers still working at KYW-Radio did not fully approve of that station’s new broadcasting method. For that very reason, two dissatisfied radio veterans Tom Field and Joe Mulvihill left KYW for WRCV.[20] Their sudden departure enabled Dick Drury (b. 1935) to join this highly animated group of broadcasters. Previously, the youngest member of the successful WSRS-Cleveland lineup, Drury took over both the 10:00 and 11:15 p.m. time slots.[21] Following his departure the following year, Dick Drury enjoyed lengthy radio stints in both Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. On another note, the station’s latest sensation Joe Finan proudly served as the Masters of Ceremonies at the Bands of Tomorrow Contest & Dance.” It was held that Thanksgiving Night at Public Hall. All proceeds from that fun event went to the Jaycees Youth Activities Fund.[22]

A survey conducted by a leading Chicago jock Howard Miller (1913-1994) discovered that teenage girls bought 90% of all 45s available on the U.S. market.[23] Inexpensive portable record players enabled them to play rock and roll music 24/7. Low priced 45s with one side featuring a hit song and the other a lesser known number usually performed by the same artist enabled them to purchase the latest releases without breaking their piggy banks. It did not matter to them whether Atlantic, Capitol, Columbia, Decca, Mercury, Motown, RCA Victor or Sun recorded their favorite song. They collected as many 45s as they could as quickly as possible. The commercial radio-industry did its part to stimulate local record sales by playing the latest rock and roll hits repeatedly. Actual playing time for individual records depended on several factors. Such things as the daring of a performer’s manager, the perseverance of a record label or the doggedness of an advertiser routinely determined what got played and how often. Many record promoters had no problem whatsoever in offering extraordinary incentives to radio personalities who guaranteed to play their songs repetitively. Supposedly, marketers sought out advice from seasoned DJs as to which ones of their records might sell well and which ones might not. As paid consultants, those jocks recommended certain recordings based on their alleged meritAs long as the celebrity declared those incentives as earned income then the feds were okay with it. However, those not reporting that additional unearned income soon found themselves facing the real possibility of federal prosecution.

Regarding future trends in popular music, some experts in the late ‘50s including Columbia Records Director Mitch Miller (1911-2010) argued that the charisma of rock and roll music stemmed from many teenagers wanting other ‘cooler” teens to accept them as equals.[24] Purchasing the same rock and roll records as the “cool” kids on the block meant they were now supposedly part of the in-crowd. In a less serious vein, KYW’s morning man Big Wilson suggested to his bosses that they might considering making him the host of a new weekly talent show. Geared for young performers, it never got beyond the initial stage.[25] Before arriving in Cleveland, Big Wilson had worked in both Plattsburgh, N.Y. and Scranton, PA. His big break in radio came in 1955 when he joined the staff at KYW-Philadelphia. Little did he know then that he would soon become an even bigger celebrity in the emerging Cleveland market? In December 1957, a nationallyrespected trade publication Katz Table Totes Radio Spot Costs released its latest market standings. The Cleveland national market ranking was twenty-first with a $30 onetime day rate.[26] Twelve one-minute announcements per week over a thirteen week period determined its present ranking. In terms of recent promotional campaigns, KYW proudly hosted a special night at Cinerama on December 19th. It featured Johnny Bell, Gloria Brown, Joe Finan, Pete French, Wes Hopkins, Specs Howard, Bob Neil, Linn Sheldon and Big Wilson.[27]

Gloria Brown (1926-2017) symbolized one of the few big name female radio personalities in the late ‘50s. Originally teamed up with Mildred Funnell (1901-1977) on WTAM, she remained a staple at KYW-Radio into the 1960s. The A.C. Nielsen ratings, released in February 1958, ranked 1100 AM as Cleveland’s number one overall station. It enjoyed a 134% lead over its nearest two rivals daily from 6 a.m. to 12 Midnight.[28] KYWs latest promotional effort labeled “Winter Heat Wave” starred an incredible lineup of extremely talented radio personalities. It began with Big Wilson, Specs Howard and Gloria Brown in the morning followed by Joe Finan and Wes Hopkins in the afternoon, Bud Wendell and Dick Reynolds in the evening and ending with Johnny Bell overnight.[29] An April 1958 article published in US Radio underscored the growing importance of DJs as prominent local business leaders.[30] They were considered by many to be the kings of local radio. Not only did they choose the records played on their shows; but also, frequently influenced programming decisions. Over the long haul, many of those same celebrities deliberately increased the amount of rock and roll music they played daily. They saw it as the future of AM radio and they wanted to be a part of it from the start. From a business perspective, it made perfect sense for many of the large AM stations to promote this new sound. By the end of the 50s, many radio personalities justified playing more rock and roll based on their growing reliance on a newly perfected program tactic that was designed for that kind of music. Called the Balaban Approach to Formula Programming,” this latest broadcasting technique relied on persuasive jocks that repeatedly promoted numerous products and services to their loyal listening audience.[31]

This highly successful on-air approach towards radio broadcasting gained even wider acceptance within the highly competitive new world of advertising that was emerging in the early 1960s. Increasingly, larger and larger number of radio listeners trusted their local disk jockeys when they endorsed certain products and services over others. They knew that their favorite radio personalities always had their back. Hollywood actors doing voiceovers rarely enjoyed that kind of blind faith. For example, large numbers of rock and roll enthusiasts were quite familiar with the voices of WABC’s Dan Ingram, WQAM’s Rick Shaw, KXOX’s Johnny Rabbit or KJR’s Pat O’Day, to name but a few, but only a handful recognized popular Hollywood celebrity voiceovers such as Mason Adams, Harry Landers, William Schallert or David Wayne. Increasingly, the radio industry relied on this newly sharpened program formula to sell more and more products and services to its many eager fans. That April, KY-11 received the prestigious Alfred E. Sloan Award for its acclaimed highway safety programs.[32] KYW-Radio’s growing number of useful service-related activities covered the gamut. They included such things as broadcasting traffic court, promoting good citizenship at local schools and airing current traffic congestion.

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., the Federal Communications Commission reaffirmed its previously approval of the NBC-WBC trade. Presented its argument in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the commissioners maintained that their decision had not prevented the U.S. Justice Department from conducting its own extensive antitrust investigation on that very same issue.[33] Its argument might have been valid if the courts had chosen to view the scope of that regulatory agency actions from a much broader legal perspective. However, the court thought otherwise. In December 1956, Judge William H. Kirkpatrick (1885-1970) of the U.S. 3rd District Court in Philadelphia refused to listen to a countersuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on that issue. Apparently, that judge believed that only the FCC had legal jurisdiction when it came to station transfers. On another issue, Westinghouse’s legal counsel in May 1958 strongly objected to a harshly worded petition recently submitted to that commission by the Daytime Broadcasters Association.[34] It called for standardizing operational hours for all daytime AM outlets. WBC’s attorneys argued that such federal action would not only interfere with high quality prime broadcasts; but also, end secondary skyway service provided by some prime carriers such as KYW, KDKA and WBZ. Westinghouse officials further argued that more than 50% of the U.S. would lose its prime service should that that petition be approved. They said that certainly wouldn’t serve the public’s best interests.[35]

Hoping to gain an even bigger listening audience prompted KYW’s programmers to broadcast the Benny Goodman’s concerts performed at the Brussel’s World Fair in 1958.[36] KYW radio personalities Johnny Bell, Joe Finan and Dick Reynolds participated in Thistle Downs Annual Open House Party held on May 25th.[37] Guess what, May ratings found KYW-Cleveland Number One again.[38] A June ‘58 article featured in U.S. Radio congratulated the U.S. broadcasting industry on its first annual National Radio Month” celebration. Trade publications and civic organizations everywhere praised commercial radio stations for their news accuracy; detailed sports coverage and excellent entertainment programs.[39] To honor that occasion, the Cleveland Welfare Federation, and seven Cleveland stations, including KYW, launched a drive to provide used radios to shut-ins.[40] That same summer, a new station promotion highlighted several up-and-coming rock and roll concerts. Those planning to attend this “Party Package” were asked to donate old board games, canned goods and unwanted clothing to local charities.[41] The controversy surrounding the Westinghouse trade in ’56 heated up again on June 16th when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to examine the U.S. Department of Justice’s charges directed against the National Broadcasting Company.[42] The DOJ asked the court to determine whether the FCC decision in 1956 approving the NBC-WBC station swap should be allowed to stand.[43]

When asked by reporters why his new talk show was so popular, Bud Wendell purportedly said that his curiosity had much to do with it.[44] An NBC Spot Sales Timebuyer Opinion survey reported that the majority of respondents preferred to listen to more detailed newscasts, interesting community features and gentler music rather than be exposed to traditional rock and roll.[45] NBC officials presumed that those AM station that played quieter tunes would not only cultivate a more pleasing listening environment; but also, encourage their fans to purchase greater and greater quantities of more costly advertised goods. That desire on the part of shrewd listeners to willingly spend more, rather than less cash on higher priced items rarely affected the budgetconscious Top 40 outlets where low prices were all that really mattered. NBC further stated that 69% of the listeners they surveyed preferred playlists that featured musical variety.[46] So, what was the best program format to follow in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s? Many passionate supporters of the middleoftheroad format contended that their approach towards radio broadcasting was unquestionably the best. Yet, they believed that the deck was often stacked against them by aggressive advertisers who wanted higher and higher returns on every dollar they invested in local broadcasting. Repeatedly, the backers of finer sounding music yelled foul as larger numbers of local radio stations, such as KY-11, played greater and greater amounts of rock and roll music.

Not surprisingly, many rock and roll enthusiasts totally disagreed with their argument. They contended that advertisers in larger and Larger numbers were not preferring rock and roll music over more middle-of-the-road popular tunes. If anything, they thought that the majority advertisers were actively working against their vested interests. At a national conference that spring Joe Finan and KYW Program Manager Mark Olds discussed the many pros and cons of local stations adopting the Top 40 format.[47] They conceded that Top 40 was not a sure cure for what might be ailing your station; but it might help many fledgling broadcasters who were seeking a credible new identity. At the same time, Finan pointed out that the record industry was not standing still. The latest trends strongly suggested that popular music was increasingly turning towards a more mellow sound with a heightened beat.[48] Recently statistics compiled by the A.C. Nielsen Company confirmed what many industry-wide already strongly suspected that teenagers did not represent the bulk of its daytime listeners. A July 1958 study reported somewhere around 6.3 million out of a total 9.2 million, mostly women and children, were radio’s prime day listeners.[49] Of course, mastery was everything to program directors on either side of the radio dial. Hoping to make KYW-FM “Cleveland’s Fine Arts Station” led its eager programmers to significantly expand their classical music offerings.[50] Beginning in July 1958, Cleveland’s 105.7 FM started playing longer album cuts as well as broadcasting a greater assortment of fine arts shows, theatre reviews and book discussions. Westinghouse backed up their promises to their budding FM audience by hiring a soft spoken Cincinnati broadcaster Dave Hawthorne (1924-2013).[51] He and Mylas Martin ran KYWFM.

Problems with clear channel broadcasting resurfaced that August when Westinghouse Broadcasting Company representatives pointed out to the FCC that 12% of this nation’s population relied on skywave service as furnished through AM giants like KYW-Cleveland. WBC’s legal counsel further reminded everyone that this service covered 1,460 square miles and involved 114,000 people.[52] It wouldn’t be in the public’s interests if KYW’s powerful signal should suddenly overlap with its sister station in Pittsburgh KDKA. That would have happened if the Federal Communication’s Commission forced KYW to move from 1100 to 1020 on the AM dial.

A newly launched KYW publicity campaign gave local listeners a chance to win $2 for every broadcasting mistake they picked up. KYW’s News Director Sanford Markey (1914-1995) also invited everyone to win a free ride in one of his four snazzy mobile cruisers.[53] In an unexpected move, Controller Irwin C. Ruby became Westinghouse’s latest Auditor and Business Manager.[54] In September 1958, the Federal Communications Commission renewed KYW’s license for an additional three years. Federal entanglements earlier that summer had held up that long expected announcement. The station’s commitment to community safety through repeated news bulletins and warnings was certainly put to the test later that same year following a brutal murder downtown. Similar to modern-day “Amber Alerts, regularly broadcasted warnings on KYW-Radio throughout that day led to a quick apprehension. When the accused was asked why he turned himself into Cleveland police, he responded that KYW’s extensive news coverage had him fully convinced that there was no safe place for him to hide. He thought that it was better to give up rather than be chased down by the police department.[55] Again, great work KYW!

Station officials sponsored a one-of-a-kind Halloween contest for younger kids. Out of the more than two hundred applications submitted by local listeners half received a “KYW Treasure Barrel. Each barrel contained ten records and twenty bags of candy. The first thirty children to knock on a participant’s door and ask if his or her home was a “KYW Treasure House” would receive either a record or bag of candy. Participating households got a variety of KYW promotional items for their help.[56] On November 1st, KYW’s manager Rolland V. Tooke made a most important announcement that many future newscasts will also include station editorials. That inclusion of editorial opinions represented a major breakthrough in local broadcasting.[57] Traditionally, AM stations, including KYW, had believed that it was their chief responsibility to report the news without any commentary. Any opinions expressed by station officials were reserved for talk shows or special programs that focused on such matters. However, changing times required broadcasters to re-evaluate their responsibilities.

Increasingly, Cleveland listeners had turned to 1100 AM for important advice on a host of critical issues. Locally-based newsrooms, like KYW, were brimming with energetic reporters who had access to all kinds of inside information. Perhaps it was time for those newscasters to explain to their many loyal listeners, through their editorials, exactly what was going on behind closed doors, and how those covert actions might impact their lives. If those commentaries were presented in a professional, straightforward manner it might help the public to make better decisions especially at the ballot box. After all, local newspapers had been allowed to present editorials and opinions for years why shouldn’t respected radio stations be afforded the same privileges? It made sense. As you might have already figured out, the time was ripe to expand the role of local news broadcasting. Under this arrangement, station managers and owners would determine which subjects were appropriate to address in their editorials and which ones werent.

Greater community responsibility by KYW-Cleveland led to more of its radio personalities reporting on local conferences and events to interested fans. KYW’s Big Wilson and Joe Finan not only attended the Eastern Ohio Teachers Association Meeting on October 17, 1958; but also, presented their findings regarding the many critical problems currently facing today’s teachers.[58] Dramatic adjustments in commercial radio broadcasting had convinced Westinghouse’s very perceptive Board of Directors to rely on a far more aggressive sales team to sell its wordAm Radio Sales replaced Peters, Griffin & Woodward in July 59.[59] That decision to switch agencies extended beyond the need for change per ce. The fact that WBC had recently become the majority owner of Am Radio Sales played a big role in that choice. Apparently, the board’s strategy paid off well. Within a year, KYW’s advertising revenue had increased by 340%. Its nighttime talk show “Program PM” set the stage for much of it.[60] A 12% local increase in new car sales over the past year, due mainly to KYW’s extraordinary sales growth, was truly amazing especially when you consider that during that same twelvemonths there was a 20% drop countrywide.[61] Hoping to significantly improve the marketing skills of its competitors led Westinghouse to distribute its-own How to Make Radio Campaigns Move Goods in Local Markets. Cleveland’s current unstable market scene led RCA-NBC to select WJW over WHK as its latest local radio affiliate.[62] National Broadcasting Company spokespersons claimed that WJW at 850 AM attracted a far bigger listening audience than WHK. KYW-Radio did not comment on that development. Little did that Westinghouse station realize that its extraordinary business and financial success would soon be wrought with scandal?

Nineteen fifty-nine began with the station’s highly acclaimed News Director Sanford Markey moving his operations from Cleveland to Washington, D.C. to become Westinghouse’s new Chief Congressional Correspondent.[63] His in-depth reports became a daily feature of KYW-Radio. At the same time, this outstanding outlet began expanding its record library to better serve the growing needs of its many DJs. On the FM side of the dial, programmers increased their daily air-time. Currently available from 5 p.m. to 12 Midnight, KYW-FM would soon be broadcasting twelve hours a day beginning at Noontime.[64] A well-known Cleveland radio personality Ronnie Barrett (1925-2005) joined the KYW-FM team led by Dave Hawthorne, Mylas Martin and Leslie Biebi. The station’s GM Gordon Davis believed that more broadcasting hours per day would better satisfy the growing needs of his FM listeners who wanted to hear even more classical music and cultural discussions.

On February 8, 1959, KYW announcers engaged in a wildcat strike.[65] Westinghouse negotiators had repeatedly argued that the demands place on them by the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists were totally unreasonable. Its top broadcasters earned salaries up to $30,000 a year and that station was not about to increase their wages. Fortunately, an agreement was reached between the two parties quickly. It called for a one year $5 a week raise with a top weekly rate of $140 in 59 followed by $145 in 60 and $150 in 61. Recently hired announcers and newscasters were to receive weekly pay increases ranging anywhere from $85 to $95. This new pact also included a tape rate of $85 for wild spot announcements.[66] During the strike, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the latest U.S. Department of Justice appeal to overturn the Philadelphia-Cleveland station trade. U.S. Justice Department lawyers contended that the National Broadcasting Company had knowingly and willingly violated federal antitrust statutes. Many legal experts firmly believed that the upcoming court ruling might well determine whether the FCC or DOJ had the last word when it came to upholding federal antitrust laws affecting broadcast regulations.[67]

KYW’s Rolland Tooke took exception to the way in which Cleveland officials were handling the proposed Mall C Hilton Hotel deal.[68] He strongly recommended that the powers-to-be at Cleveland City Hall should carefully review the Cleveland Development Foundation’s suggestions for this project before making any final decision on it. Regrettably, city leaders did not heed Tooke’s advice and the proposed hotel went nowhere. KYW-AM latest promotional campaign called “Nicest Things Happenconcentrated on nice stories and songs.[69] Part of that promotion included giving away a houseboat to one lucky visitor at the Cleveland Mid-America Boat Show. Fortunately, that publicity campaign did not begin and end with that single give away. It also involved a red costumed imp who paid customer bills at numerous popular supermarkets. However, for someone to win, the grocery bill had to include the number eleven in it. In addition, KYW advertisers received complementary drinks courtesy of Kroger Foods. Of course, there was a catch to it. Those persons eligible for those free drinks had to prove that their birthdays were within the last three months. KYW-FM also led the local pack when it introduced a new, highly informative five-minute segment called Point of View.[70] Experts from a wide host of fields covered the arts, business and education to music, science and sports. The U.S. Supreme Court in March 1959 decided that the DOJ did indeed have the legal authority to initiate antitrust law suits against the FCC especially when it concerned the issuance of broadcasting licenses.[71] However, before the U.S. Justice Department could proceed with its prosecution of NBC, it had to first prove that the network had knowingly and willfully engaged in fraudulent activities that prompted a new monopoly to ensure its control of its company-owned stations. In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the U.S. Department of Justice by claiming that the federal courts, and not the Federal Communication Commission, had the last say when it came to examining antitrust violations committed by third parties.[72]

At the same time, the Philco Company filed a formal legal complaint against that federal regulatory commission pertaining to NBC’s latest request that focused on renewing its Philadelphia television license. Philco’s legal defense contended that automatically renewing the WRCV-Philadelphia license would have given the National Broadcasting Company a decided business advantage over other, equally qualified broadcasters who wanted to seek out that same lucrative franchise. The feds rejected Philco’s claim. They said that its legal arguments were full of loopholes and that NBC had not participated in any illicit business practices based on so called fears that other Philly stations intended to challenge its right to renew its present television license.[73] A subsequent law suit filed by Philco’s attorneys demanded triple damages stemming from alleged legal infractions committed against it by RCA-NBC[74].

A press release on March 4, 1959 announced that Johnny Bell had left KYW-Cleveland for the Sunshine state and WINZ in Miami.[75] He had been at 1100 AM for the past three years. That same month, Gordon Davis presented a very powerful editorial decrying state officials for their improper handling of auto plates fees.[76] In the past year alone, they had collected more than $35,000 in additional charges. According to Davis, this was “party political gravy” all part of what he labeled “Operation Stickup.” In the spring of ‘59, KYW welcomed the dynamic Wally King to its popular nighttime lineup.[77] After a brief stint in Philly, Joe Mulvihill, also known as “Jump for Joe,returned to Cleveland and took over Wally King’s former time slot on WJW-850.[78] Called “the King of Hearts,” King remained in Cleveland for two years before relocating to WNEW in New York City.

On March 28, 1959, KYW, in cooperation with Kroger Foods, sponsored its annual “Easter Hunt.[79] Big Wilson hosted this popular family event that was held in Cleveland’s Edgewater Park. Westinghouse also announced that it was about to move its radio and television studios from the Superior Building to the former East Ohio Gas Company BuildingThe radio station would occupy the third floor of its new facility.[80] In April, KYW welcomed the long anticipated baseball season by sponsoring a special marathon.[81] It featured some of the Cleveland Indians greats of the day such as Joe Gordon, Frank Lane and the team’s owner William Daley. Later that same spring, the U.S. Weather Bureau made KYW’s transmitter in Broadview Hts, OH one of its official local reporting sites.[82] The following month, its VP Rolland Tooke left KYW to become the new Executive VP of Westinghouse Operations. A highly respected manager with a long list of great accomplishments, Tooke had supervised the relocation efforts that brought KYW radio and television to Cleveland in January ‘56.[83] April 17th was the final day of the West End Furniture and Appliance Company’s “Caloric Gold Star Sell-aBration. Intent on selling a record breaking number of big and small appliances, West End Furniture had arranged for Joe Finan to remotely broadcast his popular show from its crowded showroom. Finan’s exciting broadcasts motivated hundreds of customers to purchase all kinds of appliances from that well-known westside distributor.[84] Star studded celebrations, like that one, assured KYW’s long-lasting popularity within Greater Cleveland. How could it be otherwise? Everyone wanted to be a winner and KYW radio certainly met that criterion in the Fabulous Fifties. The second half of 1959 led to some unexpected changes and new developments that shook the very foundations of KYW-Cleveland.

  1. “KYW-1100 KC,” The Plain Dealer, January 3, 1957.
  2. “Now is the Time for All Good Men,” Broadcasting Telecasting, The Business Weekly of Television and Radio, February 4, 1957. 
  3. Tom O’Connell, “Helen O’Connell Looks Forward to Starring Here in Hearts Ball,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 9, 1957. 
  4. Tom O’Connell, “WEWS Completes Move Friday,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 10, 1957. George E. Condon, “Cleveland’s Backus Gets TV Charge,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 14, 1957. 
  5. “We Clobbered ‘em in Cleveland,” Broadcasting Telecasting, February 25, 1957. 
  6. “Broadcasters Told to Change Formats,” The New York Times, February 28, 1957. 
  7. Bureau of Labor Stats, “Radio and Television Announcers,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, 1957. 
  8. Ibid.
  9. “Birdland Stars of ‘57” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 10, 1957.
  10. “Go Ahead. . .Read Our Mail,” Broadcasting Telecasting, March 18, 1957. 
  11. George E. Condon, “Silvers is Sterling and Benny’s a Gem,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 6, 1957. 
  12. “KYW to Air PM,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 18, 1957.
  13. Tom O’Donnell, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Dying, Jockey Carney Says,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 22, 1957. 
  14. “For Westinghouse WBC’s Year-Old Non-Network Status,” Broadcasting Telecasting, July 8, 1957.
  15. “KYW-FM Plans Classical Policy,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 22, 1957. 
  16. “Detroit and Cleveland Say Howdy,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 22, 1957. “Welcome WWJ & KYW on Cleveland & Detroit Day,” Broadcasting Telecasting, September 2, 1957. 
  17. Tom O’Connell, “Road Show Provides Chance for Amateurs,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 22, 1957. 
  18. “Lateral Programming The Sound Difference in Nighttime Radio,” Broadcasting, July 15, 1957.
  19. “Looks Like We Can’t Accommodate Another Spot Program PM,” U.S. Radio, October, 1957.
  20. George Condon, “Kraft Theatre’s Smart Boy Takes Puzzling Twists and Turns,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 10, 1957. 
  21. “KYW-1100 KC,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 1, 1957. 
  22. “Bands of Tomorrow,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 24, 1957. 
  23. Kitta Turmell, “Bopsters Buy 80% of all Discs, and Nine out of Ten Are Girls,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 14, 1957. 
  24. Ibid.
  25. Tom O’Connell, “Wilson Pines to Help New Talent,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 15, 1957. 
  26. “Katz Table Totes Radio Spot Costs,” Broadcasting, December 16, 1957. 
  27. “Tomorrow Night, Dec. 19, is KYW Radio-Television Night at Cinerama,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 18, 1957. 
  28. “Time Buyers Light Up over Northern Ohio’s Hottest Station-KYW Radio,” U.S. Radio, February 1958. 
  29. “KYW Radio 1100 KC. . .the Hottest Station in Town!” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 10, 1958. 
  30. “Disc Jockey’s Changing Role is Viewed, Storz Conference Studies DJ’s Changing Role in Mapping Programming Trends,” U.S. Radio, April 1958. 
  31. Ibid.
  32. “KYW Will Be Given Public Service Award,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 30, 1958. 
  33. “FCC View on NBC-WBC Swap Reiterated to U.S. Supreme Court,” Broadcasting, May 12, 1958. 
  34. “WBC, CCBS Oppose Daytimers’ Plea,” Broadcasting, May 19, 1958. 
  35. Ibid.
  36. “KYW Radio Plans Goodman Jazz Series,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 24, 1958. 
  37. “Open House Today Sunday May 25th 2 P.M. to 5 P.M. Thistle Down,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 25, 1958. 
  38. “KYW’s On Cloud 1 ‘Cause Our Radio Ratings Are Out Of This World,” Broadcasting Telecasting, May 26, 1958.
  39. “America Listens and Hears: Radio is Close to You,” U.S. Radio, June 1958. 
  40. Ibid.
  41. Russell W. Kane, “Gordon Told to Can Talk During Records,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 5, 1958. 
  42. “Supreme Court to Review City Radio-TV Deal,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 17, 1958. 
  43. George E. Condon, “Condon on This ‘n’ That,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 20, 1958. 
  44. Russell W. Kane, “PM Turns First Lap as Husky Air Infant,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 22, 1958. 
  45. “The Top 40 Formula Under Fire,” Broadcasting, June 30, 1958. 
  46. Ibid.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid.
  49. “Teenagers are Radio’s Small Fry,” U.S. Radio, July 1958. 
  50. George E. Condon, “Goal of KYW-FM is to be City’s Culture Station,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 27, 1958. 
  51. George E. Condon, “WSRS Sale $500,000 Transfer Awaits Only FCC Green Light Which May Come in October,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 1, 1958. 
  52. “WBC Comments,” Broadcasting, August 18, 1958. 
  53. “KYW Awards Dollars for Errors,” Broadcasting, August 18, 1958. 
  54. Russell W. Kane, “KYW-FM Shuns Cash Until Format is Set,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 28, 1958. 
  55. “Newsworthy News Coverage by Radio and TV,” Broadcasting, October 6, 1958. 
  56. “Halloween Pranks Get Station Break,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 25, 1958. 
  57. Russell W. Kane, “KYW Dips its Toe in Editorial Waters,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 1, 1958. 
  58. “KYW D.J.’s Provide New Angle,” Broadcasting, November 3, 1958. 
  59. “WBC Subsidiary Unit to Rep Radio Outlets,” Broadcasting, November 17, 1958. 
  60. “Detergent ‘A’ is Moving Well Tonight,” Broadcasting, December 1, 1958. 
  61. “KYW Cleveland,” U.S. Radio, July 1959.
  62. George E. Condon, “TV-Radio Realm Was Busy Place,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 28, 1958. 
  63. George E. Condon, “TV-Radio Realm Was Busy Place,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 28, 1958. 
  64. George E. Condon, “KYW Expansion Good News for Radio’s Minority,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 17, 1959. 
  65. “Announcers for KYW Go Out on Strike,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 9, 1959.
  66. “KYW Strike Settled With 3-Year Pact,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 11, 1959. 
  67. “Option Opinion,” Broadcasting, February 9, 1959. 
  68. Russell W. Kane, “Alert Bobble-Spotters Keep KYW on Toes,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 24, 1959.
  69. “Nicest Things Happen For Audience, Advertisers,” U.S. Radio, March 1959. 
  70. “Cue Magazine Adds FM Programming After Its Research Affirms Audience,” U.S. Radio, March 1959. 
  71. “Two Supreme Court Haymakers,” Broadcasting, March 2, 1959. 
  72. Ibid.
  73. Ibid.
  74. Ibid.
  75. “Bell to Leave KYW for Miami, Fla., Job,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 4, 1959. 
  76. “KYW Blasts Aimed at Tag System,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 7, 1959. 
  77. “Wally King Cleveland’s King of Hearts Moves to KYW Radio 1100 as Host of the All Night Show,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 21, 1959. 
  78. George E. Condon, “Playhouse 90 to Break TV Precedent in Presenting Hemingway’s Saga of Spanish War,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 11, 1959. 
  79. Russell W. Kane, “Peter Gunn to Shoot Chapters in Hospital,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 26, 1959. 
  80. “KYW Move to Old East Ohio Building Gets Approval,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 2, 1959. 
  81. Russell W. Kane, “Mass in Jazz to Get Airing on WERE-FM,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 9, 1959. 
  82. “KYW is Going Into the Weather Reporting Field,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 28, 1959. 
  83. George E. Condon, “Condon on Tooke KYW Head Soon to Leave Post Here for New Duties as New York Executive,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 3, 1959. 
  84. “Last Day of the Fabulous Caloric Gold Star Sell-A-Bration!” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 17, 1959. 


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KYW Radio by Richard Klein, PH.D. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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