Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bob Emery, Pt. 3

Originally published in the February, 2009, Old Radio Times.(

“Big Brother” Bob Emery ... a Legend in Children's Programming
Donna Halper

Bob Emery at WGI in 1924
Bob's show on WGI was done with a very limited budget (AMRAD was in financial trouble by this time), but kids loved him, and he always managed to find interesting guests. Meanwhile, as AMRAD's money problems grew more serious, Bob Emery and several other WGI personnel quietly began seeking other options, in case their paychecks suddenly came to a halt.

Fortunately, a new station was going on the air in September of 1924 - run by the Edison Electric Illuminating Company. It had financial stability, it wanted to hire good people, and Bob decided to join them as their PD. This must have been a serious blow to WGI to lose the person who was their highest profile talent - Bob did lots of appearances and was a good will ambassador for the AMRAD station - but now, he took those talents to a new station, for which he requested the call letters WEEI. (Going with him as his assistant was Marjorie Drew, who had been in charge of women's programming at WGI. She would now do similar programming at WEEI, and also help to book the guests for the Big Brother Club.)

With its new studios at 39 Boylston Street, WEEI wasted no time making an impact. It stole several respected radio columnists away from their newspapers to be in upper management (Charlie Burton of the Boston Herald and Lewis Whitcomb of the Boston Post), hired several of AMRAD's engineers, and was ready to give WNAC - the other big station in Boston that could afford to pay its talent - some real competition. Thanks to its Edison connection, WEEI already had a number of experienced musical groups in house - as you may recall, companies in those days encouraged employees to perform at company functions - but WEEI's management was determined to hire the best people, even if that meant going outside of Edison. (Meanwhile, WBZ was still in Springfield and still working out technical problems with its Boston studio. Soon, WEEI would hire away one of WBZ's best known announcers too.)

- Donna Halper is a lecturer and broadcast consultant based in Quincy, MA. Her love of radio history is evident in the way she captures the essence of her subjects.


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