“WBUD, 1490 ON YOUR DIAL, MORRISVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA. STAY TUNED FOR BOB KENT AND THE NIGHT OWL SHOW, IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE NINE O’CLOCK NEWS.”
Had you been around a radio set in the year 1946 and 1947, you would have heard the above or a similar announcement. Wow! Do I remember Bob Kent! He had a 9 p.m. to midnight request show, and all of us in the teenage fraternity were phoning our requests, and Bob would dutifully play each and every one.
“Hoot, hoot! Let’s go all you night owls; it’s time for the Night Owl Show!” At 11 o’clock every evening, he played “The Bluebird of Happiness,” sung by Jan Peerce; I mean every night! We looked forward to it; in fact, it became so popular, that Bob got tired of it. He tried to curtail the 11 p.m. ritual, but countless phone calls proved that we wouldn’t let him. He did relent, and it was back on again in the 11 p.m. slot, but now he would introduce it as the “Redbird of Hatred.”
Another WBUD personality was “Rusty” Austin. Rusty provided a friendly and listenable show for her listeners. She was the first female disc jockey I had ever heard, and she succeeded in gaining legions of loyal followers. Rusty was the originator of “Rusty’s Record Review,” wherein she would list new releases, and invite her listeners to rate them. By the way, Rusty probably had a real first name, but I never knew it; she had rusty, red hair, and that’s where she got her nickname.
Then, along came Jack Pinto! Jack was may daily companion on the way to work every morning. Commuting across town every day gave me the opportunity to become quite friendly with this man whom I have never met, but with whom I developed a strange kinship. There’s a certain something which a radio personality brings to the everyday working person. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it is nowhere more evident than on a dark, cold, snowy winter morning, when the alarm goes off and the radio comes on. It is in that terrible moment, when you have just about assured yourself that you are the only person in the world who has to get up and go out in such beastly weather, that a Jack Pinto is right there suffering along with you! Not only that, he even had to get out of bed earlier than you! Somehow, he becomes a pillar of strength.
As time went by, WBUD became a trusted and friendly source of news, music, and sports. Bus Saidt came aboard with Bill Hildenbrand to cover local sports; notably the Trenton Giants Interstate League baseball team, also American Legion baseball, the local scholastic sporting events. George Luthre (as opposed to “Luther”) Bannister took over the 9 to midnight spot when the Night Owl Show left the air. George Bannister also had a large following, playing soul music, and rhythm and blues.
Other shows came and went on WBUD. One popular show back in the 50s was “The Big Top Ten.” It came on around noon time daily. We eagerly waited for it every Monday through Friday.
But times were changing. FM radio was quickly gaining the attention of the radio listener. The high fidelity and lack of static offered by FM drew quite a few people away from amplitude modulated (“AM”) radio. Many AM stations changed format. Some went the talk show route, others opted for 24 hour news, and still others didn’t know which way to go.
And then, something very strange happened. Someone, somewhere, somehow, mandated a change in the musical taste of America. It happened gradually. I would guess it started in the early 1950s. We began to hear strikingly different music. Artists such as Johnny Ray, Bo Diddley, Eartha Kitt, Kay Starr, Della Reese, and others introduced different styles which apparently were more exciting than the predictable music of the Como’s, Crosby’s, and other “easy listening” artists.
Whatever the reason, “easy listening” slowly and gradually was easing out, to be replaced by the “big beat.” I was totally confused! I soon learned that tastes in music are every bit as diverse as tastes in art. My taste in music is in direct harmony with my taste in art. For me, Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth type artists go hand in hand with a Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Joni James or Frank Sinatra ballad. My one-track mind equates a screaming, noisy performer with an abstract Jackson Pollock or a Picasso canvas; I don’t understand either one.
What great strides we have made since those now far away years of the mid-20th century. Phonograph records have descended into the domain of the record collector, although I see where vinyl records are once again re-gaining attention in certain social circles. Technology brought us the tape recording, tape cartridges, compact discs, and tiny media appliances that we can hold in the palm of our hand.
I am not being left out of this technical revolution. I have an incredible collection of the music I grew up with, from World War II to the 1950s and 60s. It is in the form known as “MP3;” which is a technology where a sound recording is compressed into very small footprint, all the while preserving much of the original level of sound quality. My collection has all the music I loved from the era of my youth. I also have a huge collection of MP3 recordings of old radio broadcasts. Superman, The Lone Ranger, Lux Radio Theater, Amos and Andy, Fulton J. Sheen and many others are stored on my computer waiting for me to open them.