Meet the Staff Announcer...

A Dying Breed

So few staff announcers remain on the rosters of the nation's networks and broadcasting outlets that they constitute an endangered species.
Staff announcers are increasingly being replaced by "daily hires" and freelancers who, in many cases, live hundreds of miles from they stations they indentify or promote. They pre-record their announcements and ship them to the point of transmission by post, Federal Express, satellelites or ISDN lines. Instantaneous audio sythesis of text files by means of hardware and software will mark the final stage of the staff announcer's evolution.
I've lifted the photographs and captions below from the December, 1947 issue of the Chainbreak, the in-house newsletter published for NBC employees in Chicago. There were thirteen announcers on the Chicago staff at that time, including Hugh Downs (who sported a mustache).

Their Words Go Round 'n' Round...Come Out of Nation's Radios

Right: Bill Kephart (on the left), chief announcer, counts off five relaxed word-spielers: Kleve Kirby, Ed Allen, Louis Roen, Norman Barry and Henry Cooke.

Left: John Conrad (left), George Stone and Don Elder gladly offer assistance to Louise Enright, announcer's secretary.

Right: Here's the makings of a new quartet: William Windsor, night clerk, and gabbers three---Hugh Downs, John Holtman and Dick Noble. Gregg Donovan and the photographer failed to meet when these pictures were taken [Curators note: But you can see Gregg Donovan in the heading of this page].

NBC's staff announcers often enjoyed many minutes of idle time between official duties. They used these moments to devise practical jokes of which their counterparts were the objects. Mooning a fellow announcer (in the studio or from the control room) or setting his news or commercial copy on fire in mid-read were common tricks by no means limited to the Merchandise Mart.

Norman Ross Sr. gets credit for the most creative trick, played upon Bill Kephart in the early 1930's before NBC had implemented the mechanical chimes. In those days, announcers played the chimes manually. Each studio was supplied with a small device consisting of three small metal bars mounted in close proximity to three resonators. When it came time to identify the network, the announcer would hold the assemblage near the micrphone, say "This is the National Broadcasting Company" and then serially strike each of the bars with the tip of a small, hard mallet. If all went well, the listener would hear the familiar notes G-E-C that audibly signified NBC. On one occasion, however, announcer Ross secretly "prepared" the chimes announcer Kephart was about to sound by removing the bolts that held the three metal bars to their mounting. Moments later, in anticipation of a network identification, Kephart picked up the chimes. The metal bars fell to the studio floor with a clatter heard from coast to coast. Presumably there was no graceful recovery from this mishap.

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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