Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ken Roberts = AFTRA

July 4th 2009 Ken Roberts died. He was 99 years old. He was the announcer whose voice was heard throughout the 1930s and 1940s all around New York City. He was an early measure of the "golden throat." His own son called him the voice of god. But his on-air accomplishments were overshadowed later in life when he founded the American Guild of Radio Announcers and Producers, which eventually became AFTRA.

He was born Saul Trochman. But in those early days of radio he was trying to forge an American Identity. New York was A city of Immigrants. He didn't want to sound Jewish. He developed a completely smooth tone free of any accent and became Ken Roberts.His legend is such that some sources state he worked at WPCH-AM in the 1920s. This is virtually impossible since he was only born in 1910. In 1930 he started work at WLTH-AM in Brooklyn reading poetry and playing piano. that same year he was hires by CBS and began work at WABC-AM. He stayed there for 20 years. It was a great era to be on CBS. Roberts even appeared numerous times on the radio drama "The Shadow." In 1944 he got his own quiz show "Quick As A Flash." That program aired on the Mutual Network until 1951, ABC relaunched in in 1953 with new host Bobby Sherwood but it died in 1954. Quick as a Flash was sponsored by the Helbros Watch Company and orchestrated by none other than Ray Bloch. In 1949 he was doing an afternoon music show on WMGM. In 1959 He was an announcer on WPAT.

But all that time on air didn't stop Ken from unionizing. In 1935 he was a founding member of the American Guild of Radio Announcers and Producers or AGRAP if you will. This group became absorbed into the American Federation of Radio Artists, AFRA, the group that eventually became AFTRA the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists.