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carole lombard 02

KNX turns 99

Posted by vp19 on 2019.09.10 at 02:57
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished


Movies made Carole Lombard a legend, but it wasn't the only medium she made her mark in. Sometime in the 1920s, the Peters family -- Jane Alice (her birth name), brothers Frederic and Stuart, and mother Elizabeth Peters -- purchased their first radio set, and it may have resembled this mid-twenties model:



One of the stations Jane likely listened to was a station whose lineage continues today on its 99th anniversary of broadcasting -- KNX-AM (1070), one of America's oldest radio stations.



What was the first radio station? It's a question with no definitive answer, along the lines of "What was the first rock 'n' roll record?" The most common radio definition is that KDKA in Pittsburgh lays claim with announcing election results in November 1920. But nearly two months earlier, on Sept. 10, 1920, amateur station 6ADZ began broadcasting in Los Angeles, operated by Fred Christian, a former shipboard radio operator who owned an electric lighting supply store on West Third Street.

On Dec. 8, 1921, the Department of Commerce assigned 6ADZ the call letters KGC; it would be one of seven stations sharing a frequency. The following May, the department assigned Christian's firm a second station, KNX, then deleted KGC the following month.

KNX soon moved its operations to the California Theater at 810 South Main Street, where its 100-watt signal regularly broadcast the theater's orchestra



In the fall of 1924, the Los Angeles Evening Express newspaper purchased KNX, but the station changed owners in 1928, three years before William Randolph Hearst bought the Express. By the end of the '20s, the station was headquartered in Hollywood; its power had increased to 5,000 watts, and would reach the U.S. maximum of 50,000 watts by 1933.

So where does CBS come in? For KNX, in 1936...although when "Lux Radio Theater" uprooted from New York to call Hollywood home on June 1 of that year, its inaugural West Coast broadcast aired locally over KHJ, which had been the LA CBS affiliate since Columbia began in 1928. For proof, note that day's radio listings in the Los Angeles Times:



KNX broadcast this bit of singing waiters from the Paris Inn downtown on April 14, 1937: https://pastdaily.com/2019/08/18/l-a-nightlife-1937-singing-waiters-and-everything-past-daily-archeology/

But KNX's 50,000 watts were just too big for CBS to ignore, and in the spring of 1938 KNX became part of the network's new Columbia Square headquarters on Sunset Boulevard:




KNX would call the streamline structure home for more than two-thirds of a century, and Lombard appeared at least once at Columbia Square and several times over KNX and CBS.

The advent of television after World War II would signal the decline of network radio as an entertainment force. KNX would adjust to changing tastes through personalities such as Bob Crane, later known as a TV sitcom star but beloved locally as a morning announcer on KNX.



Here's an hour-long segment of Crane's ninth anniversary program on May 30, 1964, with laughs from Jayne Mansfield, Andre Previn, Olivia de Havilland, Barbra Streisand, Jonathan Winters and others: https://pastdaily.com/2016/05/14/jayne-mansfiel-bob-crane-1964/.

By the late 1960s, all-news radio had become the fashion for AM stations, and KNX had adapted the format, which it still has today more than 50 years later. It's an especially valuable resource for drivers, with traffic reports every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day. You can listen via https://knx1070.radio.com/, and learn more about its heritage at a Facebook site operated by station alums, https://www.facebook.com/groups/144249005597676/.

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