Thursday, December 04, 2008

The 1280 Club

Long ago, this was a program of Rock n' Roll renown, and even jive talk. Fred Robbins was the DJ on the 1280 club on WOV based in Harlem. He laid down the spectacular vernacular. Fred is supposedly the man who first called singer Mel Torme, "The Velvet Fog."More here. more on Fred in a minute.WOV ditched a cumbersome three-way time share in 1940 to become the powerhouse it is today. Greater New York Broadcasting Corporation bought 1130 WPG and absorbed it into WOV. Then asked the FCC to delete the WOV license and shut down WOV and WPG for interfering with 1100 WBIL then deftly they moved WBIL to 1130, changing it's calls to WOV. That all happened in 1940. The next year they swapped call letters moving WOV to 1280 and WNEW to 1130. Without that complicated series of changes, they couldn't have maintained the listenership to become what they did.

More complicated is that 1280 still was a share time with WHBI. That was not resolved until March of 1962, when WHBI was sold to Greater New York Broadcasting for $635,000. WHBI was bumped off shortly thereafter... But that happens long after out tale.... So in the 1940s WOV is running ethnic Italian programming in the mornings. In the evenings they were running what we now call Rhythm and Blues marketed at African Americans. (The ethnic Italian programming continued until 1962 under the WADO calls.)

So the 1280 Club begins as WNEW's "1250 Club" in 1937. Alan Courtney was it's original host and creator his focus was swing jazz. When the frequency swap goes down the name changes to WNEW's 1280 club. Courtney stayed on 1280 with the show until about 1945. Robert Q. Lewis became the new host, but it wasn't his bag really and it was Fred Robbins who took the chair in 1947. [Lewis reference here. ]

Robbins was unusual as a DJ having been a law student at University of Baltimore Law School. He only got into radio as an announcer in Baltimore on WITH-AM. In 1942, he joined WHN radio in New York City. He later scored the MC job at the 1280 Club for his jive talking ways. By 1948 Robbins was hosting his own program, "Robbins Nest" which was carried on WINS, WABC and WNEW. His big gig was the the M.C. spot on the Columbia Record Shop a syndicated rock program carried on 359 stations. He also hosted 'the Fred Robbins show" in the 1950s for the CBS network. Jazz broadcasting legend Leigh Kamman picked up his slot on WOV. Phil Gordon carried on the show until around 1962 when the new owners shooed him out the door. More here.

The amazing blog Rand's Esoteric OTR actually has a aircheck of the latter program. He also makes it embeddable. What a guy. Sadly Podbean spits out very ugly cumbersome HTML and isn't very configurable so you'll have to settle for the link.

Kamman went to Minnesota Public Radio in 1973 and only retired in 2007. Robbins died of lymphoma in 1992. 1280 WOV-AM is now known as WADO-AM, a Spanish News Talk station owned by Univision. Side note: In 1944 there was a film at least related to the program called Alan Courtney's 1280 Club... On that one tidbit I have nada, no soap, nothing shaking. If you do please lay it on me.