Sunday, April 05, 2009

Early Broadcasting in the Bay Area, Pt. 8

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

Early Broadcasting in the San Francisco Bay Area: Stations that Didn’t Survive, 1920-25
John F. Schneider
Seattle, Washington Copyright 1997

6XG went on the air in June, 1921. It was first operated by the Meyberg staff, but this soon became difficult, and the company hired a young radio operator who had just returned from sea. His name was Alan Cormack, later to be Chief Engineer of KFRC and KCBS. Cormack recalled his task was to go to the Sherman-Clay music store daily and pick out records for the programs that evening. These would be borrowed from Sherman-Clay in exchange for mentioning the store as the source of the music. After selecting his records, he would go to the Meyberg offices on Market Street where he would pick up the weather and market reports, "mostly butter and egg prices". He would then go to the station and put the program on the air.

All programs went on the air through the single telephone-style carbon microphone connected to the transmitter. Besides announcing into the microphone, Cormack would hold it up to the phonograph to pick up records, winding it occasionally to keep the music up to speed. Or, he related, "I used to hang the microphone at the back of the piano, put on a roll, and sit down and pump it." Programs of this nature were on the air between one and two hours daily.

After a while, the station began receiving calls from listeners requesting different types of programs, and KDN started branching out. Some notable special programs broadcast on KDN include a broadcast by a quartet from the Scotti Grand Opera Company, September 29, 1921. This group was staying in the Hotel, and accepted an invitation to sing over KDN. Cormack led them up the tiny wooden stairs to the roof, where they sang into a microphone rigged to the end of a phonograph horn. Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink, an internationally-known opera singer of the time, also sang over the KDN microphone one evening. Cormack recalled that she was "big, hefty, very German, and very emotional. She was pretty much overcome that her voice was going over the air, to the point where she shed quite a few tears."


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