Thursday, October 15, 2009

Radio Music Lessons

I think I have at last found a confirmed "first" radio music lesson. Joe Maddy is an arcane and obscure character in radio. In the text "Joe Maddy of Interlochen" I found the following passage:
"Joe started giving music lessons by radio from Ann Arbor. Nineteen hundred thirty-one was a time long before educational programs on radio and television came into vogue. The University's Director of Broadcasting had first asked Joe to give lessons in music appreciation."
In 1928 he began the National Music Camp in Interlochen Michigan. There, in 1932, Joe began teaching music classes by radio. By 1936 Joe was doing five shows a week. Four of these were from WJR at the University of Michigan over Station in Detroit. The fifth was at WMAQ in Chicago. His WMAQ gig continued for 3 years on the NBC Blue Network. Hundreds of thousands of people were listening and learning.

Then James Caesar Petrillo stomped all over it. Petrillo was the head of the American Federation of musicians. Petrillo threatened to organize a strike of all NBC musicians if the program continued. Joe knew Petrillo from his days as the head of the Chicago musicians Union. It was no idle threat. Joe of course had king-size balls and put together his own orchestra of students and scabs. He threatened to tell the world about Petrillo's maneuvers and his friends all counseled him to stand down.

Joe took even odds on the broadcast and steered clear of the loaded topic. Instead he tried to negotiate peace through the Louisville AFM. Petrillo intervened and at a closed door meeting Joe Maddy'd proposals for conduct which while initially well-received got a verdict of inaction. Ultimately NBC picked up the union tab. Eventually The FCC and the Department of Justice got involved, but just the same Joe and James would be at war for 14 years. More here.

Petrillo went after Joe because his orchestra, even though hosted by a school, made a profit. The justice department disagreed and said they fit the definition of a a non-profit educational institution. Petrillo was so pissed he extended the ban to all non-coms. He was way past winning the war. he had fixated on this single battle with Joe. Whatever greater goals Petrillo had set out with.. he had lost sight of them. Senate hearings began. Joe circulated pamphlets accusing Petrillo of being a fiat dictator. More here.

A bill was written by Senator Vandenbergn protecting the rights of the non-commercial license. The the Lea Act, then the Lea Act passed a legal challenge. then they had to go to the supreme court. Petrillo was furious. He kicked Joe out of the union. He banned AFM musicians from teaching at the school in Interlochen where Joe's program resided. It was a phyrric victory. the overt abuses of power unmade himself. Eventually the day came when Petrillo himself had to take the stand and defend his actions. The Supreme court upheld the Lea Act. In July of 1947 Petrillo finally consented to the law and lifted the ban.

1948, Maddy went to NBC seeking to resume the program but was rebuffed. Mutual Broadcasting had to such qualms. But after only a week Mutual backed out. Petrillo was still out there and Joe was still on the Union blackball list. In 1963 Maddy fully realized the dream when His School at Interlochen founded Interlochen Public Radio. WIAA 88.7 FM is still on the air today.

Maddy died in 1966. The National Music Camp is now known as the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He is audible by voice on a CD released by the Center in a farewell from May 11th 1937.