Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Book Report


If you need more proof that I am the world's biggest geek, here it is.  I just finished reading a 15 year old book about a radio show that went off the air 45 years ago, and I loved every page.

In 1955, NBC Radio cooked up something called "Monitor."  It was a combination of music, some host patter and live remotes from around the world.  The goal was to come up with something to slow radio advertising dollars from rushing to television, and it worked-- for a while.  The first months of "Monitor" were filled with 40 hour shows-- from 8 am Saturday to midnight Sunday.  Incredible!

NBC attracted some big named talent-- including Dave Garroway, Hugh Downs, Ed McMahon, Frank McGee, Frank Blair, David Brinkley, John Chancellor, Joe Garagiola, Bill Cullen and Gene Rayburn.  NBC wanted a lot of TV people to do radio because of the instant recognition factor.

To make a long story short, "Monitor" went wherever news and fun were happening on weekends.

Times changed.  Affiliates, especially ones in big cities, started dropping the show to run more local programming.  By the last year, 1975, "Monitor" was down to 12 hours on only a few dozen stations.

I was really too young to appreciate the glory of the broadcasts, but I do remember Cullen, Rayburn, and a few others, coming out of my radio when it was tuned to WSCR 1320 in Scranton back in the day.

As for the book, I will be the first to admit that it's not for everyone.  If you listened to "Monitor," you'll like it.  If you like radio history, you will enjoy the book.  It's very well done, but it appeals to a very narrow audience.  My favorite chapters involved the business side of radio.

As you know, I'm a huge "live and local" guy.  Weekend radio now is a lot of voice tracking, "best of" talk shows, infomercials, and other canned programming.  It would be nice to have a "Monitor" style broadcast out there.  It will never happen.  It would be too expensive, and radio stations want to keep the time to themselves to make money.  I get that.  I guess we should be thankful for the few live shows available.  All news stations in New York and Philadelphia are still doing their thing, and you have to wonder how long that will last.

Oddly, the book says NBC considered bringing "Monitor" back in the late 80's, but the company sold off the radio division before it could happen.