Glenhall Taylor:
Before Television

Glenhall Taylor (1903-1997) was a Bay Area radio pioneer, appearing on several early local stations as a performer before managing KTAB, the forerunner to today's KSFO. He later managed KTM in Los Angeles, which led to a staff position as announcer, writer and producer at that city's KHJ.

Mr. Taylor went on to write, produce or direct many well-known programs during radio's "Golden Age," including "California Melodies," "The Juvenile Revue," "Hollywood Hotel," "Al Jolson At The Trocadero," "Silver Theater," "The Phil Baker Show," "The Burns & Allen Show," "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," "Sealtest Variety Theater," "The Jimmy Durante-Garry Moore Show" and "Dinah Shore's Open House."

He was a vice-president of the Young & Rubicam advertising agency, and later managed the Hollywood office of the competing N.W. Ayer & Son agency. In 2006, Glenhall Taylor was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame as a member of the first class to be honored.

In this excerpt from his 1979 autobiography, "Before Television: The Radio Years," Mr. Taylor describes his early experiences in broadcasting by the Bay.

Glenhall Taylor Music Makers (1926)

Glenhall Taylor (with accordion) and His Radio
Music Makers, pictured here in 1926, were
a favorite of Bay Area listeners during
radio's early years.

The author of this rambling reminiscence is fortunate to have lived through much of the history created by early radio and television. On May 11, 1922, I made my radio debut on the old "Rockridge" station, KZY, in Berkeley, California, as one-third of a trio violin, banjo and piano. I was the pianist. The studio, in a large home in the Berkeley hills, was furnished in wicker, suggesting it had once been a sun room. But now, incongruously, there were a grand piano and bench, control panels, and a miscellany of other electronic gear.

The microphones, to my then-inexperienced eye, appeared to be merely old-fashioned telephone transmitters, their black, hard-rubber mouthpieces protruding from the sides of cube-shaped wooden boxes. One box was placed in front of the violinist, another before the banjoist, and the third rested on the sounding board beneath the raised lid of the piano.

To us, as a first experience for our trio, the program seemed remarkable. However, from the listeners' standpoint, the important feature of the program was prominent educator David Starr Jordan, Stanford University's first President Emeritus. His radio-debut address drew favorable comment from the press; our inspired performance drew no comment whatsoever.

In May, 1927, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) created the "Orange" Network of 7 Western States stations (KFI, Los Angeles; KPO, San Francisco; KGO, Oakland; KGW. Portland; KOMO and KFOA, Seattle; KHQ, Spokane) for the purpose of celebrating the "Yale Round-The-World Dinner" an endowment-fund-raising event with hundreds of Yale alumni attending banquets in every important city in the United States; all held at the same hour in each time zone.

Since there was no permanent coast-to-coast hookup at that time, several eastern stations joined in beaming a separate program to cities on the Atlantic side of the nation. Provost Henry S. Graves of the class of 1892, a former chief of the United States Forestry Service, spoke over the Orange Network. The list of speakers participating in the eastern broadcast was headed by Chief Justice William Howard Taft.

Gerard Chatfield, then National Program Director for the network, engaged my dance orchestra for the event. The NBC staff quartet, "The Olympians," masquerading as collegians, and two extra banjos augmented my regular ten-piece band to give a "Joe College" touch. Thus occurred my first network experience. In the five short years after I played my first radio engagement the broadcasting business had progressed rapidly despite my minor artistic contributions.

Parenthetically, although thirty-eight radio stations had participated in a coast-to-coast broadcast of the Radio Industries Banquet in New York City on the 17th of September, 1926, and additional broadcasts were subsequently released across the nation, the first regularly scheduled transcontinental broadcasts were inaugurated on November 26th of that year. The following excerpt, announcing the event, is from a San Francisco Examiner news item on Wednesday, the 24th:

The Radio Corporation of America, which has heretofore confined its broadcasting activities to the Eastern stations, announces that it will present regular Friday evening programs over KGO, commencing this week. The hour assigned is from 8 to 9 o'clock. KGO has been silent on Friday nights.

The once-a-week scheduling of transcontinental broadcasts would remain standard operating procedure for many weeks to come, but early in 1927 daily scheduling would become effective. By August of that year "Amos 'n' Andy" would keep the nation's ears glued to their sets for ten minutes, Mondays through Fridays.

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Copyright 1979 by Glenhall Taylor. All rights reserved.

 

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