NBC Memories 1942 - 1964
by Bill Roddy
What made Radio City so important to future stars?
In 1927 when the National Broadcasting Company was established in San Francisco, it was the western hub of the network and its only owned and operated West Coast radio station, KPO, later to become KNBC and KNBR.
After New York closed down around midnight, San Francisco was responsible for feeds to affiliates in the western region. Consequently they had to produce programs from San Francisco. It gave newcomers a chance to try out their ideas and later became the nurturing grounds for talent that went to Hollywood.
Monty Masters and his wife Natalie were among them and so was Jack Webb and Jack Kirkwood. In music, Dave Brubeck and Cal Tjader honed their musical skills on KNBC.
Beginning at 9 p. m. NBC had half hour band programs from hotels like the St. Francis, Mark Hopkins, and the Fairmont and from clubs like the Bal Tabarin. The great orchestras of the day were featured: Harry Owens and his Royal Hawaiians; Ted Lewis, Ray Noble, and many others. It was a wonderful era.
As NBC would not allow a phonograph record to be played on its network, San Francisco had to maintain a full time studio orchestra at Radio City to fill in gaps in the schedule. They would even play for a half hour in the afternoon. Some of the band leaders were Tony Freeman, who also wrote the scripts and had a great sense of humor, and Harlow Burgess*.
I was fortunate to be the announcer for these wonderful musicians. Tony often cracked me up with the lines he wrote.
*Harlow's son, Gary, emailed me to say he remembered the wonderful Christmas parties at NBC when he was a child. Always great to hear from family of my old friends.
Many top personalities, writers and musicians got their start at Radio City in San Francisco and here are some I knew.
Jack Webb Ben Alexander John Robinson (Dragnet)
Art Linkletter Jack Kirkwood Dave Brubeck Cal Tjader.
Read about them at Future Stars