Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Uncle Don story

Not my uncle Don. I don't even have an uncle Don. I'm speaking of that old urban legend. The one so old, it's rarely told. It's the one you tell to the young DJs to teach them to keep their yap shut in the booth whether they think the mike is on or not.

A flub committed while flming a movie or TV program could be eliminated merely by doing a new take or in the editing room. If somone say's "fuck" you can bleep it. In radio, especially early radio, everything was live and often unscripted. If you say "fuck:, it was already too late. This is such a tale. but let me first say There is no evidence of at all that Don Carney was ever penalized for anything he said as an on-air radio personality. His show was never cancelled. Period. Like Fatty Arbuckle, the whole deal is a humbug.

Don Carney had an incredibly long-lived broadcasting career. he began as an announcer at WMCA in the 1920s. He moved onto WOR where he broadcast six days a week, begining in 1928 and continuing through 1947. After that, instead of retiring he got a gig at WOR as a DJ with a program of children's music. After that he semi-retired to Miami beach in 1948 and hosted a weekly children's show on WKAT which he did until his death in 1954. Radio Guide called him "a saint, oracle, and pal to 300,000 children." But the legend says there was an incident that marred this kindly purveyor of childrens programming. Witness accounts cary, but here is the basic version:

Uncle Don ended each show with Floyd Neal to signing him off, a station break and intrtoduction for the next program. But this week Uncle Don twittered his usual cheery wind-up, and then, not realizing that the mic was still on, thinking he was off the air, he blurted out: "There, I hope that'll hold the little bastards."

Some sources put it in 1939 others in the early fifties. But really the legend preceeds Dons program by several years and appears ealiers with the flub being attributed to "Uncle John" Daggett of KHJ in Los Angeles, John "Big Brother" Keough of KPO in San Francisco and even the lesser known Graham McNamee even Uncle Whip of WIP. According to Snopes the earliest reference might be the 23 April 1930 issue of Variety"
"A wisecracking radio announcer in a Philadelphia station lost his job about two weeks ago as a result of a stern reprimand of the station by the Federal Radio Commission. Announcer had concluded a bed-time story for children and thought the power was off. For the benefit of the control room he added: 'I hope that pleases the little bastards' This went out over the air. Within 10 minutes several telegrams of protest, among them the Federal Radio Commission, had arrived. Others came later in bundles."

But the variety article mentions no data, no DJ and no station. It's utterly apocrophyal. The lack of verifyable details it typical of legends such as these. ... and never has the FCC or the FRC had the ability to respond in writing to a complaint in 10 minutes.... 10 months would be more believable.