KCBS: Celebrating a Century On The Air

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100yearsIn these days of iTunes, streaming radio, and mp3 players, one can often lose sight of the past. Not so at KCBS Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area, the site of the very first radio broadcast made on June 11, 1909.

Charles “Doc” Herrold made that first broadcast from San Fernando and South First streets, where the Knight Ridder building is now located. A century later , KCBS, the descendant of Herrold’s station, has its South Bay bureau there. On Thursday, anchors Stan Bunger and Rebecca Corral broadcast live from the nearby Circle of Palms over the lunchtime hour to celebrate the anniversary. Mike Adams, the associate dean of humanities at San Jose State University as well as author of a book on Herrold, was joined by Mayor Chuck Reed and Jim True, Herrold’s grandson, for the broadcast.

They have a wonderful audiovisual retrospective online right now as well. It includes a beautifully clear interview with Sybil S. True, Doc Herrold’s wife, about his life and legacy in radio as well a large variety of archived period audio and photos.

The station’s centennial page on their website has sections for photos, headlines, audio and other archived materials pertinent to the celebration, and in addition has the capabilities for user provided content to increase the variety of offerings.

Doc Herrold was a pioneer, the unsung Father of Broadcast and originator of scheduled programming. The station he started which would one day become KCBS originally announced itself simply as “This is San Jose calling…” Now, a century later, we see the reach of broadcast extending into the digital realm both over the air and on the Internet. Today listening options far exceed anything imagined by Herrold and his students. Today we should cast our thoughts backwards to the way it all began!

  • For much more on the “Doc” Herrold story and the early days of KCBS, go to charlesherrold.org
  • For a detailed history of KQW and KCBS, go to the Bay Area Radio Museum
  • For the 1945 radio recreation of the origin of the first broadcasts, starring Jack Webb as “Doc” Herrold, and for audio of Gordon Greb’s 1959 interviews with a Herrold student and Herrold’s wife, click here.

EDIT: A small correction via Stan Bunger at the station (Promoted from the comments)- “Though we chose June 11, 2009 to mark the Centennial of Herrold’s first broadcasting station, we don’t know the actual date of his initial experimental transmission, nor are we sure of when he began regularly-scheduled programming (although researchers like Mike Adams from San Jose State University are certain it was in 1909).”

Image courtesy of KCBS

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4 Responses to “KCBS: Celebrating a Century On The Air”

  1. Shannon Nicholson Says:

    That’s a great trip down Nostalgia Lane. Let’s hope all these great terrestrial stations don’t go by the wayside like the big newspaper bureaus. That would truly be a shame.

    http://gawker.com/5278754/theme-music-for-the-death-of-the-media

  2. Stan Bunger Says:

    George–

    Thanks for the kind coverage of our KCBS Centennial. It is truly an amazing thing to consider what Doc Herrold wrought: not only did he invent a technology (voice over radio) but also an entire industry (he went on to develop the programming that would make use of his technology).

    A gentle correction: though we chose June 11, 2009 to mark the Centennial of Herrold’s first broadcasting station, we don’t know the actual date of his initial experimental transmission, nor are we sure of when he began regularly-scheduled programming (although researchers like Mike Adams from San Jose State University are certain it was in 1909).

  3. Big Jay Sorensen Says:

    Wow, what a facinating story about how Doc Herrold took requests and knew what he was going to say in advance. That was great show-prep!
    I would have LOVED to be around during that time just to experience the sheer joy of doing something that hardly anyone had experienced. True, there were some earlier uses of radio, but this was APPOINTMENT radio for sure! Kudos to the folks who put the “recreation” together.

    I try to imagine what things were LIKE 100 years ago. At least someone was playing a song that other people liked. Today it would be played once per hour! And the oldies would be repeated every 5 or 6 hours.

    BE BIG!
    Jay Sorensen
    Toms River, NJ USA

  4. George Williams Says:

    Hey Big Jay, thanks for joining the conversation! I’m with you all the way when it comes to the “wondering about 100 years ago” aspect of things. I’ve got a personal love of the old time radio serials and commercials from the ’30s through the ’50’s. The Shadow, Flash Gordon, etc.

    As to what people like, if we all like the same thing this would be a boring world.

    Thanks for stopping by!

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