A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 30, 2006
Talk Radio
Talk radio was born in New York City. Barry Gray is credited as the "Father of Talk Radio." In the 1950s, Gray conducted his chatter on WMCA from midnight-3 a.m. at Chandler's Restaurant, 137 East 46th Street.

The Oxford English Dictionary records the words "talk radio" a bit later than that.


(Oxford English Dictionary)
talk radio orig. U.S., a radio format centring on conversation (rather than music), esp. discussion of topical or controversial issues, and usually featuring listeners who call in by telephone to air their opinions (in quot. 1968 perh. not a fixed collocation).
1968 N.Y. Times 27 Dec. 67/3 Its small-town, family-style folksiness and spontaneity seemed to be..in an era of fast-talking music and *talk radio, ultimately its undoing.
1972 N.Y. Times 23 Feb. 32/3 Talk radio is aired by tape, and it goes out 6 seconds after it is recorded live.

Wikipedia: Talk radio
Talk radio is a radio format which features discussion of topical issues. Most shows feature a regular host, who interviews a number of different guests.
(...)
Talk radio has existed since at least the mid-1940s. Working for New York's WMCA in 1945, Barry Gray was bored with playing music and put a telephone receiver up to his microphone to talk with bandleader Woody Herman. Soon followed by listener call-ins, this is often credited as the first instance of talk radio, and Gray is often billed as "The Father of Talk Radio".

Joe Pyne and John Nebel were also among the first to explore the medium in the 1950s.

Wikipedia: Barry Gray
Barry Gray (born July 2, 1916, died December 21, 1996) was an influential American radio personality, often labelled as "The Father of Talk Radio".

He was born as Bernard Yaroslaw in Red Lion, New Jersey, into a Jewish family.

Initially a disc jockey, Gray was working for New York's WMCA in 1945 when he, bored one evening with simply spinning music, decided to put the telephone receiver up to his microphone and share his conversation with the listening audience. The caller that evening just happened to be bandleader Woody Herman, one of the most popular celebrities of the day. This spontanenous live interview was such a hit with both his listeners as well as station bosses, that the talk radio format resulted. Gray subsequently began doing listener call-ins as well.
(...)
Rival station WOR also saw the attraction of the talk format, and Gray worked an overnight shift there from 1945 to 1948 or 1949, interviewing everyone from Al Jolson to Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. He also broadcast for WMGM from the Copacabana night club in the late 1940s.

Barry Gray returned to WMCA in 1950, and stayed there for 39 years, refining the talk show format still utilized today.

14 June 1947, New York Times, "The News of Radio" by Jack Gould, pg. 46:
Barry Gray, meanwhile, is starting a new fifteen-minute opus on WOR, being assigned the 10:15-10:30 segment on Tuesday evenings.

25 February 1951, New York Times, pg. 99:
MIDNIGHT
MODERATOR
Barry Gray Presides on
Early Morning Show
By JACK GOULD
THE career of Barry Gray, a tall, thin young man with high forehead and a boyish grin, is one of the more unusual in broadcasting. Several years ago he undoubtedly was one of the most obstreperous disk jockeys extant with a rare faculty for making an adolescent nuisance of himself. Today he is thoughtful and considerate and presides over a nightly "kaffe-klatsch" which frequently adds up to extraordinarily different and distinctive radio.

Mr. Gray's program requires a measure of explaining, since it does not follow any conventional format, which is perhaps the major reason why currently it is one of the most discussed and debated of local offerings. He makes his headquarters in Chandler's Restaurant on East Forty-sixth Street and from there broadcasts over WMCA from 12 midnight to 3 A. M., seven days a week. (...)

Mr. Gray's formidable accomplishment has been to prove that listeners will stay up late to hear discussion, opinion and controversy just as readily as to hear phonograph records. To all practical purposes he no longer can be regarded as a disk jockey; at the restaurant, he runs what is a modern approximation of the old-fashioned town meeting.

16 May 1952, New York Times, "Radio and Television" by Jack Gould, pg. 31:
Drew Pearson, the prediction man, and Barry Gray, the sage of Chandler's Restaurant, have started their own TV programs, on which they essentially just talk straight to the camera, for fifteen minutes.
(...)
Mr. Gray, who is on the air every weekday night at 11 over the DuMont outlet, WABD, is dividing his program into four parts: First, there is straight news; second, Mr. Gray's personal tidbit; then a "letter to the editor," and an editorial.

16 October 1986, New York Times, "Straus Family to Sell WMCA" by Geraldine Fabrikant, pg. D2:
In 1970, when New York found itself with 15 stations playing music and it seemed clear that FM was the better side of the band for that format, WMCA, and AM station, switched to talk-show programming.

23 December 1996, New York Times, pg. B10:
Barry Gray, Pioneer of Talk Radio, Dies at 80
By NICK RAVO
Barry Gray, the smooth-talking but sometimes tart-tongued host of a late-night radio talk show, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 80.

Mr. Gray, widely credited with creating the talk show format and a fixture o nthe airwaves for almost half a century, died in his sleep after complications from surgery, said a statement by WOR radio, where he worked for the last seven years.
(...)
Born Bernard Yaroslaw in Red Lion, N.J., Mr. Gray was an itinerant disk jockey -- obstreperous and adolescent, he was once called -- in California and Florida before being hired at WMCA in New York in 1950.
(...)
Mr. Gray was the first radio host to prove that an audience would stay up late to hear discussion, opinion and music. His shows were broadcast from Chandler's Restaurant on East 46th Street, from midnight to 3 A.M.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRadio/Television • (0) Comments • Tuesday, May 30, 2006 • Permalink