Cover

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Title

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Copyright

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Contents

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Preface

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pp. vii-xi

When I began the research that led to the writing of this book, my intent was to write about border radio stations, the high-powered pirates that cropped up on the southern side of the Texas-Mexico border in the 1930s to bombard the United States and Canada with hillbilly music, fundamentalist preaching, populist politics, seedy mail-order merchandising, and advertisements for quack medical treatments. The border-blasting tradition...

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Prelude

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p. 1

In late December 1921 a farewell reception was held in New York City for the Viennese composer Richard Strauss, who had been touring America. A novel entertainment had been arranged for the occasion: three piano rolls recorded by the composer were to be ‘‘shot from’’ the experimental transmitting station WDY, maintained by the Radio Corporation of America in nearby Roselle Park, New Jersey. At...

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Chapter 1. The Education of Frank Bannister

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pp. 2-20

The year 1930 was a bad time to be a commercial traveler, and Frank Bannister, a midwestern sales agent for a New York pharmaceutical concern, was facing both middle age and hard times, his drugstore commissions dwindling to nothing in the worsening Depression. The Detroit-based salesman was seeking temporary solace in a Toledo speakeasy when he fell into conversation with a fellow ‘‘drummer’’ working a different line, that of selling commercial broadcasting time. ‘‘Selling...

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Chapter 2. Serving the Masses, Not the Classes

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pp. 21-56

Late in 1921 George Schubel decided that his corner of Brooklyn—the neighborhood of Ridgewood (today part of Queens)—would benefit from a radio station. Publisher and editor of the weekly Ridgewood Times, Schubel was not a ‘‘radio bug,’’ but he asked around the neighborhood for technical help and found it in the form of twenty-one-year-old William Boettcher, who operated a radiophone transmitter (call sign 2WU) from the attic of his parents’ house. Engaged...

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Chapter 3. Brows High and Fevered

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pp. 57-70

By and large it was the large corporate stations that occupied the cultural and ethical high ground in the 1920s, while commercial independents espoused more commercial and populist cultural agendas. An exception to this rule was WHAP, an exceptionally well-heeled independent that joined the increasingly crowded ether above New York City in late 1925. Easily the most militant defender of genteel cultural values...

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Chapter 4. "Exit the Jonas Hayseed of 1880"

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pp. 71-91

In early 1925 Omaha grain merchant Charles Vincent acquired a broadcast license and a two-hundred-watt transmitter and, under the call sign of WAAW, began providing daily program service to his region of the midwestern grain belt. As Vincent explained to the Radio Division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, his motives for doing so were largely prudential, stemming from...

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Chapter 5. That Doggone Radio Man

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pp. 92-104

As a radio personality, Henry Field of KFNF was often observed to be especially popular among farm women. No one ever said the same of Field’s notorious contemporary, William K. Henderson—a.k.a. ‘‘Doggone’’ Henderson, ‘‘Ol’ Man’’ Henderson, and ‘‘Hello World’’ Henderson— owner and operator of station KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana. Where Field...

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Chapter 6. Wilbur Can Beat the Devil

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pp. 105-116

In early 1923 the Reverend Wilbur Glenn Voliva, who liked to style himself as ‘‘the world’s richest holy man,’’ signed a contract with the Western Electric Company for the delivery of a five-hundred-watt radio transmitter.1 In short order...

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Chapter 7. The Dawn of the Golden Age

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pp. 117-128

‘‘Do you remember, a few years ago,’’ the journalist Jack Woodford asked the readership of the cultural review The Forum in early 1929, ‘‘how we all felt a vague sort of elation when the radio first came to our attention? Ah, at last, we said, here is something . . . something . . . we were not quite sure what. Something overwhelming...

Notes

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pp. 129-147

Index

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pp. 149-157