Tells Why Drummer Sits on a Rug; Discovers That Walls Fold Up!

By Gail Ford

Curator's note: The following is a layman's impression of broadcasting activies in the NBC Merchandise Mart studios. It not only demonstrates the radio broadcasting had for the American public in the darker days of the Great Depression, but describes contemporary broadcasting techniques. The article appeared in the November 2nd, 1932 edition of the Chicago Herald and Examiner.

(Here's something new, a fan's eye view of what goes on behind the mike. Described in the very words of the layman that Mr. Ford is, the following story is full of interesting details that a technician or professional writer might overlook)---Editor)

Over ten years ago I visited the old KYW studio located in the Hearst Building. To me, it looked exactly like a studio should. Long drapes hung the full length of the walls. It was stuffy and close. That was ten years ago, when crystal sets were the rage.

Last Sunday evening, I wandered into the Merchandise Mart to see the NBC studios which are located on the twentieth floor. A guard at the special desk in the lobby of the building informed me that this being Sunday, which is comparatively light as far as visitors are concerned, he would allow me to go up.

When I left the elevator on the twentieth floor a softly lighted lobby greeted me. Comfortable chairs were scattered around the walls, heavy carpets on the floor. The very atmosphere seemed to warn one to be silent.


The hostess, a charming young lady, told me that I might go down the long corridor to the door under the red light, where a program was in progress. I noticed there were six such doors, each opening into a studio.

.Other fans were crowded around the long oblong window, peering into a studio below, while a loud speaker in one corner of this surrounding observation room brought them the program as it was being broadcast.

The walls, paneled with a sound-absorbing material that looked like cork, rose a full two stories from the linoleum covered floor below. These panels were moveable. Some were standing out from the wall, while others were folded all the way back.


Morgan H. Eastman's orchestra was seated below. The musicians seemed to take up little space. The little studio of years ago seemed like a doll's room compared to this.

The musicians seemed scattered all over the broad expanse of the floor. A few violinists here, a piano player there, and the drummer over in one corner with his equipment placed on a rug. The cornetists and trombone players were separated from the others, forming a little clique of their own.

I later learned that the reason for the orchestra being so widely spread was for balance of the program. If the drums or the brass section be too close to the microphone, the violins and all the stringed instruments cannot be heard.


But to get back to the broadcast. Suddenly a clarinet player jumped up and hurried for a microphone. But instead of putting the mouth of his instrument right up to it, as I thought he would, he shoved it right past, and began to play. His solo part came out of the loud speaker perfectly, while the rest of the orchestra mingled into a harmonious background.

Upon finishing his solo, the clarinet player darted back to his seat, and joined the ensemble again. Once again the orchestra played as a whole.

With a flourish of his hand, the director cut the music short, glancing at his watch in the meantime. I glanced at mine, too. It was almost on the hour. Just before the minute hand reached twelve, the announcer signed the program off, rang his chimes and the loudspeaker was silent.

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