Meet the Staff Announcer...
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
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
Bill Kephart (on the left), chief announcer, counts off five
relaxed word-spielers: Kleve Kirby, Ed Allen, Louis Roen, Norman
Barry and Henry Cooke.
Conrad (left), George Stone and Don Elder gladly offer assistance
to Louise Enright, announcer's secretary.
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].
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.
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.
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