The Golden Age of Radio in the U.S.

Rich's picture

Here is a link to a promotional video produced for WJR, Detroit, showing their efforts to serve listeners with local content and talent.

Confession: I was employed as an FCC-licensed First Class Radiotelephone Operator at WJR in the mid-1960s.

A Look Back

Thanks Rich(F) for the look back at the WJR of yesteryear.

How is WJR today? Do they have anything?

The opening with Lowell Thomas seemed odd for a technical reason.

It sounded like only the camera mic was picking up his voice, a method that never works well unless the talent gets close to the mic but too close to the camera.

None the less, a small look at history.

By the way, other than being a CBS newscaster, was Lowell Thomas ever on WJR alone?

Carl Blare

Lowell Thomas

How is WJR today? Do they have anything?

WJR programming these days largely is satellite-delivered programs that can be heard on many other stations.  They do have some locally-generated content featuring Michael W. Smith, Frank Beckman and Mitch Albom, and a local news staff.  Here is a clip of one program day...

  • 12:00 a.m. - 1:00 a.m. - John Batchelor
  • 1:00 a.m. - 5:00 a.m. - Red Eye Radio Show
  • 5:00 a.m. - 5:30 a.m. - News
  • 5:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. - Paul W. Smith
  • 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. - Frank Beckmann
  • 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Rush Limbaugh
  • 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. - Savage Nation
  • 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. - Mitch Albom
  • 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - Specials at 7
  • 8:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. - Mark Levin
  • 11:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m. - John Batchelor

By the way, other than being a CBS newscaster, was Lowell Thomas ever on WJR alone?      I don't think so, but he had a high interest in WJR due to their large audience, and visited WJR several times when I was there. Thomas was one of the founders of Capital Cities Broadcasting, which in 1964 bought WJR from its long-time owner, G. A. Richards. 

Fantasy Future of WJR

Humans are prone to fantasy, and I suppose most men fantasize about pretty movie actresses, but the last voluptuous movie star in my opinion was Ida Lapino, so I fantasize about taking control of a large radio station like WJR.

What I would do, to run out any remaining contract period, is run shows like Limbaugh, Savage and Levin on a Part 15 transmitter located in the parking lot, replacing them on WJR's 50 kW signal with great radio endorsed by the ALPB.

Then an Ida Lapino look-alike would happen to be my secretary and I'd marry her.

Carl Blare

So Rich

How cool is that?

And you were probably working at WJR when

I first heard it in about 1966.  It was my

very first AM BCB DX station.  The second one

was WCCO.  (Both heard in Connecticut.)




And you were probably working at WJR when I first heard it in about 1966.  It was my very first AM BCB DX station.


Glad to learn of that, Bruce.

Below is a clip showing the measured groundwave coverage areas of WJR in those days.  Their nighttime skywave (secondary) signal then could be received rather well in all states east of the Rocky Mountains, and in much of Canada.

These days, WJR still radiates the same signal power in all directions (day and night) as they did in ~1966.

But now there is more interference to AM broadcast station reception in the form of added co- and adjacent-channel assignments licensed by the FCC -- especially if those adjacent channels include HD/IBOC.

Other factors in useful day/night reception are the higher r-f noise levels at receiver locations due to some SCR dimmers, switching power supplies, wall warts, plasma TV sets etc, and the reduced sensitivity/selectivity of some AM receive systems.



Thank you Rich

I love that map.  I've seen other coverage maps

from stations of the 1960s and 1970s.  The design

and type faces are very distinctive. Yup, there is

a 50 kW not to far from here on 760 during the

day.  About 30 or 40 miles, I think.  But it switches

pattern and goes way down in power at night.

So I can still get WJR very well at night in CT.

(I'll have to check the specs on that other station.)

And I only hear only WJR after dark, thankfully.  And even though these

"old friend type" stations don't program the way they did decades

ago, tuning them in is still special, I think.  There is a heritage there.

Thanks again Rich.  Very very nice.



Reminiscing on Clear Channels

Like Bruce I remember when WJR was one of a dial full of dominant clear channel stations at night, beaming CBS Network programming to America.

Just now, tonight, 8:30 PM CDT, almost dark, I went to 760 kHz and found strong splash-over from 770, a local station that usually signs off at sundown, but it has a CP to increase daytime power from 1 kW to 10 kW, so maybe it's testing.

Got to wondering what "WJR" stands for, as early call letters were sometimes derived from names or phrase, and I found out.

The station was started by Jewett Radio and Phonograph Company ("W" for east of the Mississippi, "J" and "R" for Jewett Radio.

This history link has additional external links on the WJR history:

Carl Blare

Didn't WJR orginate "The Lone

Didn't WJR orginate "The Lone Ranger?'

Druid Hills Radio AM-1710- Dade City, FL. Unlicensed operation authorized by the Part 15 Department of the FCC and our Resident Hobby Agent.  


According to Wikipedia the Lone Ranger originated in Detroit but not on WJR.

WXYZ is credited with being the originating home of the Ranger, 1270kHz, 50kW.

Still quoting Wikipedia, the call letters changed in 1984 to WXYT.

In the opening post Rich recalled "The Golden Age of Radio", and today, with Part 15 radio, we have The Pewter Age of Radio.

Carl Blare


I like that. "The Pewter Age Of Radio"  This would be a good title for a CD compilation of Part 15er produced radio shows. 

Tim in Bovey

WJR video

Really enjoyed that....those were the good old days of radio! When people listened to radio at home. Those cars were the best too!

I used to listen sometimes from Toronto at night when they played top forty and were in competition with CKLW in Windsor.




From early 2011 to late 2016, my employer asked me to go to MI to do my thing for them. I build fiber optic service delivery networks for medium to large enterprises. My territory covered MI and IN though I never considered my real home to be anywhere other than SE PA. Anyway I was very surprised that I had many more choices of AM radio listening in SE MI than SE PA. I have since bought a C.Crane WIFI radio so I can still listen to some of those other stations like WJR.

Jim Henry HBR Radio 1610, serving Honey Brook, PA. and NW Chester County.

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