Long Runs

In the Long Run...and STILL RUNNING!

The longest running continuously broadcast Radio program is the "Radio Church of God," on the air every Sunday morning since 1923 on WTOP and its predecessor, WJSV.

For many years, the "Radio Church of God" ran from 5-6 a.m. In early 2001, it moved to the "ungodly" hour of 4-5 a.m.

The Radio Church of God gives its address as 2030 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC

The Longest Running Series in Radio History

One of the most popular and beloved programs in the history of Radio, Amos ‘n’ Andy is probably the least spoken of because of its controversial connotations in today's society. An added irony is that the series was a comedy, a genre that most people think of as harmless entertainment. What gives the series its "off limits" tag is that the two characters were based on the minstrel comedians so prevalent in Vaudeville at the time.

In the early twenties, in broadcast Radio's infancy, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden were working at WGN in Chicago as "harmony boys;" that is, two singers playing ukelele and piano and singing along with their instruments providing song entertainment in between their "happy banter and jesting" for early Radio listeners in the Chicago area. The station was owned and operated by the leading newspaper of the city, the Chicago Tribune---the "World's Greatest Newspaper"---WGN. The Tribune had been previously involved in the creation and promotion of serial based media mostly through film and comics, and wanted to do the same through the new medium---Radio.

It is not clear who came up with the idea to change the format by adding dramatic dialogue. One source attributes the change to Ben McCanna, who was executive in charge of broadcasting for the paper as wanting to add "bits of drama and musically pictured incident." [1] Others attribute Henry Selinger, the manager of WGN, to wanting a Radio version of The Gumps. [2] But Gosden and Correll did not feel they could do a serial based upon married characters [3] and proposed to use their backgrounds in minstrel comedy by creating what Correll called "a colored comedy" [4] about two Negro characters called Sam and Henry.

WGN liked the proposal and the program debuted on January 12, 1926. The storyline was about two Alabama men who came to Chicago to find their fortunes. The program was in serial form, which sealed its popularity, as listeners tuned in daily to follow the lives of both men. In addition the newspaper promoted the program in ads urging listeners to tune into the daily adventures of the two hapless men.

By 1927, the program had become so popular through various promotional material (candy bars, short recordings, books and toys) that there was a huge demand well beyond WGN's listening reach. The station was not part of the NBC network and so Gosden and Correll proposed the relatively new concept of recording the program on disc and distributing it to Radio stations around the country. But for reasons unclear, WGN refused permission for the two to do this.

However, Judith Waller, program director for WMAQ, the Radio station owned by the Chicago Daily News, offered the boys a contract that included distribution rights. The two accepted, but WGN refused to give up the name Sam 'n' Henry, so two new, but similar, characters were created. [5] Amos 'n' Andy debuted over WMAQ on March 19, 1928.

While the characters Sam and Henry came from Alabama and were members of the Jewels of the Crown, Amos and Andy came from Atlanta and were members of the Mystic Knights of the Sea. Beyond that, the storylines were the same as their previous series from WGN.

All the material was written by Gosden and Correll. The two men were said to prefer to be alone in the studio when doing their routine so that they could concentrate on their parts. All the roles were performed by both men as they easily slipped in and out of each character.

Now that the serial was playing over NBC's network station in Chicago, the network executives became interested. Niles Trammell, NBC's head of Chicago operations wanted the series to be nationwide and the hunt for a sponsor began. Selling the comedy was not as easy as one might have thought. An employee at the Lord & Thomas advertising agency liked the show and felt that it would be a good one for toothpaste giant Pepsodent. [6] For the sponsor this would be their first network broadcasting venture. However, nine months passed before NBC began carrying it. The network was fearful of setting a precedent by allowing one of its shows to air six-days-a-week. No other advertiser was sold this way and besides they were used to selling in half-hour and hour units.

The problems were eventually resolved and Amos 'n' Andy premiered over the NBC network on August 19, 1929 at 11:00 pm EST. Though the critics complained, the series was an instant hit. NBC was so pleased it moved it to 7:00 pm EST, but the listeners on the west coast protested so loudly because they now had it broadcast 4 hours earlier during the workday. This prompted the network to do a repeat broadcast for its west coast affiliates, the first time a regular program was ever performed twice.

The impact of the show was phenomenal. At its peak, it is said cities literally came to a halt while the show was being broadcast. Everyone wanted to hear their favorite two characters and their daily misfortunes. While the peak of their popularity came during the thirties, Amos 'n' Andy remained on the air for nearly 30 years, making it the longest-running series in Radio history. No other series ever came as close to being as popular.

1 Daniel D. Calibraro & John Fink, WGN: A Pictorial History, Chicago Tribune Company, 1971.
2 Arthur Wertheim, Radio Comedy, New York, Oxford University Press, 1979.
3 Raymond W. Stedman, The Serials: Suspense and Drama by Installment, Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1971.
4 Rockford Register-Gazette, October 5, 1926.
5 Other names, such as Jim 'n' Charlie and Tom 'n' Harry, were tried first, but Amos 'n' Andy is what stuck.
6 Stedman, The Serials, p 229.

A Series of "Firsts"

Hal Jackson has worked in broadcasting for more than 62 years. And he's still on the air. Jackson is most noted for his many "firsts" as in broadcasting: First black Radio announcer in network Radio; First black host of a jazz show on ABC Radio; First black play-by-play announcer on Radio; First black to host an interracial network TV show . . . the list goes on and on.

Starting in 1939 with a sponsored program on WINX Radio---then owned by the Washington Post---Hal Jackson accomplished the first in a series of racial breakthroughs in America that would impact growth and development of minorities in communications in the 20th century. Jackson organized the "Negro" business community to sponsor a talk and music program formatted to introduce, showcase and validate "Negro" achievements in America. His interviews included pioneers from every discipline in an era of legal segregation, from Dr. Charles Drew, who discovered blood plasma, to Mary McLeod Bethune, an adviser and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt who was the Founder of the National Council of Negro Women, to Joe Louis and Duke Ellington.

Within six months, Hal purchased air time, sold advertisements, wrote copy and was broadcasting for three more stations daily in three different cities. In addition to WINX, Jackson was also on WANN in Annapolis for three hours of rhythm and blues, then off to WSID in Baltimore for three hours of sports, finishing the day in DC on WOOK from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

Moving on to New York in the '50s and '60s, Jackson, at one point, broadcast daily from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on WLIB, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on WMCA and, from 12 midnight to 6 a.m., "Live From Birdland" on the ABC network. Later Hal had the morning and evening shows on WMCA, the afternoon show on WNJR six days a week, and the Birdland show on ABC seven nights a week.

The only free time Hal had was on Sundays, but when WPIX, owned by the NY Daily News, approached him to host a Sunday morning children’s program, he immediately accepted the challenge. "Uncle Hal’s Kiddy Show" was a showcase for talented youngsters of all races, presented before a live studio audience that was fully integrated. In 1954 Hal hosted the weekly religious program "Frontiers of Faith" on NBC-TV.

Hal Jackson is still hosting a four-hour Radio program on Sundays from 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. on WBLS in New York. To no one's surprise, his program is FIRST in its time period.

Jackson also serves on the Board of Directors of Inner City Broadcasting, owner of WBLS and the first black company to own and operate Radio stations in New York City. He's been honored by presidents ranging from Harry S. Truman to Bill Clinton.

Hal Jackson is the original. Listen to Hal Jackson and you'll hear where all of the other oldie Radio programs originated.

Hal Jackson was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame on November 12, 2001, along with Mary Tyler Moore, Katie Couric, Michael J. Fox, Michael Eisner, Lorne Michaels and others.

Inspiration Out Of Desperation:
"The Greatest Radio Show in History"

Its creator described it as a "kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria," but to the rest of the world it was simply "Monitor." NBC President Pat Weaver---the man who had already created "Today" and "Tonight" on the NBC-TV network---created "Monitor" for the NBC Radio network out of pure desperation. Television had stolen away most of Radio's audience. Traditional network Radio was barely surviving on a diet of 30- and 60-minute comedies, dramas and variety shows. Something had to be done...and FAST!

Weaver came up with something truly inspired, something that had never been heard before: a 40-hour weekend "Magazine" on Radio. It had something for everyone---music, news, sports, weather, comedy, interviews, live remotes from around the world. "NBC Monitor" became the greatest show in network Radio history...and one of its most-copied formats. "Monitor" was the forerunner of News/Talk Radio and such programs as "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition."

"NBC Monitor" Hosts Through the Years
Gene Rayburn (with 12 years, the longest-running Monitor host)… David Brinkley… Dave Garroway… John Cameron Swayze… Morgan Beatty… Frank Blair… Frank Gallop… Frank McGee… Hugh Downs… Gene Hamilton… Walter Kiernan… Clifton Fadiman… Art Buchwald… Ben Grauer… Peter Roberts… Monty Hall… Gordon Fraser… Johnny Andrews… Bob Wilson… Don Russell… Todd Russell… Red Barber… Mel Allen… Bob Haymes… Bert Parks… Wayne Howell… Hal March… Jim Lowe… Bill Hayes… Ed Bryce… Peter Hackes… Jim Backus… James Daly… David Wayne… Ted Steele… Ed McMahon… Barry Nelson… Henry Morgan… Brad Crandall… Tony Randall… Joe Garagiola… Durward Kirby… Garry Moore… Murray the K… Ted Brown… Bill Cullen… Cindy Adams… Art Fleming… Al "Jazzbeau" Collins… Don Imus… Wolfman Jack… Robert W. Morgan… Dan Daniel… Big Wilson… Tony Taylor… Bruce Bradley… John Bartholomew Tucker…

"NBC Monitor" ran for almost 20 years, beginning on Sunday, June 12, 1955 with a live television simulcast and ending its last live program at 5:58:50 p.m. EST on Sunday, January 26, 1975. John Bartholomew Tucker was the final host. The final "Monitor" broadcast ended as they all had---with the NBC chimes.

For more, check out the NBC MONITOR TRIBUTE SITE.

Last Man Standing?

The longest running among Radio engineers in Washington has to be WMAL's Burt Cohen, “The Duke of Derwood” ---18 years on the Trumbull & Core Show and 23 years of Redskins Football (including 4 Super Bowls!) on WMAL. A total of 39 years at the SAME station when he retired from WMAL in January 2005!


Solid Gold Saturday Night

"Solid Gold Saturday Night" aired for 14-and-a-half years "LIVE" from Manhattan. The hosts and producers of the show were: Dick Bartley from 1/82 to 12/87 on the RKO Radio Network and the United Stations Radio Network; and Bob Worthington from 1/88 to 6/96 on the United Stations Radio Network, the Unistar Radio Network, and finally, on the Westwood One Radio Network.

The final show aired on Saturday night, June 29, 1996, from Westwood One's "Studio B" with host Bob Worthington fielding calls from tearful listeners. "Solid Gold Saturday Night" with its fast-paced fun and up-beat host was gone from network Radio.