Monday, November 28, 2011

The Alarm Klok Klub

 That this show ever existed at all is baffling, that it ran for 30 years is even more unusual, that there were others just like it is inexplicable. Because of his tenure on the program, it's host, Frank Cope is recognized by some as the nation's first disc jockey. In 1930, KJBS-AM was purportedly running an an all-music format. That sounds non-specific by modern standards, but things were different then. KJBS-AM was an oddly licensed station, with two tower sites.  It wasn't granted authorization to operate full time at 50 kw until 1977. So the Alarm Klok Klub didn't sign on in Hayward until 5:00 AM, but it ran until 8:00 AM.  Like a normal daytime the station signed off at sunset. But then they signed on again from San Francisco at 10:00 PM, and off again at 3:00 AM. [info courtesy of David Kaye] This was to avoid interference with WTAM. More here.

The Author of Raised on Radio, Gerald Nachman grouped the program alongside the Milkman's Matinee, and with other early DJs like Jack Sterling, John Gambling, Al Jarvis, and Peter Potter.Frank Cope  was born in Utah, and had previously worked at KLO-AM, which signed on in 1929. He started on "The Alarm Klok Klub" on San Francisco's KJBS on March 3rd, 1930. The program ran 6 days a week, only sitting out Sundays. Some sources claim that Cope left KJBS in 1952, but I prefer the date given by, coinciding with the sale of KJBS to Argonaut Broadcasting in 1959. Rumor has it that he tried out at KSFO-AM but didn't fit in and moved on to the car business. He died in 1974, he was 72. 

1020 KYW-AM launched a similar program in 1930, no doubt influenced by the Alarm Klok Klub. Theirs was called the "Musical Clock."  It debuted on April 14th, sponsored by the Marshall Field Company.   Sears picked up the sponsorship in 1935. It's host, Miss Halloween Martin, was just 28 years old. She was a DePaul University grad with a little acting experience who was then working at a news paper. She gave the time, temperature and weather every 5 minutes from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM, and spun light classical, pop and jazz. In 1934, when KYW-AM moved to Philadelphia, the "Musical Clock" moved to WBBM-AM.  The show was finally cancelled in 1944, and Martin crossed the street to WCFL-AM.

Chicago had at least two other "clock-type" morning shows concurrent with Martin's. WMBI a Morning Clock program that started no later than the mid 1940s. It was still running in 1986 hosted then by Bob it ran from 6:30 to 8:00 AM. On November 18th 1941, W75C began simulcasting WMBI’s programs on the FM band. they later changed calls to WDLM and they too carried the Morning Clock. According to author Arnold Passman, writer of The Deejays (mandatory reading) there were plenty more. At WBT-AM, Lee Everett was hosting the "Morning Clock" starting in 1934. At about the same time, in New York, John B. Gambling was hosting the "Morning Clock" on WOR-AM. Some of the programs were more zany than others. At WDAE-AM  in Tampa, there was another musical clock program. This one had a time signal on the program which was the sound of a guy grinding his teeth. Ugh.

The Variety Radio Directory of 1938, lists yet more for which I have no other corroborating reference, "Alarm Clock" on KWTN and CJOC, 'The Alarm Clock Club" on CKCK, the "Alarm Clock Frolic" on WPTF, another "Alarm  Clock" on KWOS, the "Alarm Clock Program" on KFJB, "Alarm Clock Revue" on WBRC,  "Alarm Clock Salute" on WNAC, the "Alarm Klock Klub" on KIEV, and a different "Alarm Klock Klub" on KVOG in Salt Lake City. There was even an "Alarm Clock Serenade" on WICC. I'm sure there were even more, but this programming novelty has been dead for decades. In it's place we have the morning zoo, which is less novel but more local.