Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Midnight Jamboree WEVD

The Midnight Jamboree sounds like another barn dance type of program. It's not. Host Gene King worked from 7:00 PM to 4:00 AM. That shift included "The Midnight Jamboree" and whatever else they threw at him. More here.

The  Jamboree aired six days a week, and was sponsored by Alka-seltzer back in the golden era of late-night request programs. Starting in 1936, he hosted the program at least into 1941 running against the "Milkman's Matinee" on WNEW-AM. Some issues of Downbeat Magazine note the program still airing in 1958, though clearly with a new host. *Interesting note: the Midnight Jamboree and the call letters WEVD appear multiple times in the personal letters of Ayn Rand.  Even while she recognized them as "pink" (a reference to communism) she remained an avid listener .

The Midnight Jamboree debuted in 1936, back when 1330 WEVD-AM still shared time with WBBR-AM and WHAZWBBR was owned by the Jesuits Watchtower Society, and ran all religious teaching. The share-time continued until 1957 when the station was sold, under some duress to Tele-Broadcasters, who only held the license for 2 years before selling 1959.That buyer, John Camp retained the license and bought WHAZ in 1973. Salem bought WEVD in 1979 then WPOW in 1984 finally unifying the license. They were the last remaining AM dayshare agreement operating in New York City.

Gene graduated from the Ohio State University in 1936, and made a bee-line for radioland. He learned his chops on WEVD. In that time it was owned by the Jewish Daily Forward,a newspaper that still exists but now owns zero radio stations. That was by no means the entirely of his career. He also did man-on-the-street" interviews for them in 1939. Still on WEVD in 1940, Gene King also announced for the "It Happened To Me" a daytime drama.

Then he went on to WOR-AM in 1940 under the Mutual Network where he came in as a DJ and left as the manager of program operations until 1947.  He left that gig to move to Boston to be the Program Director at WCOP-AM in Boston. In 1951 he left that post to become the director of radio in Europe for the Economic Co-operation Administration (ECA). The ECA was a United States government agency set up in 1948 to administer the Marshall Plan. It was based in Paris. Prior to that he'd had some nebulous involvement with the French Broadcasting System (FBS) which operated on shortwave internationally. He became the program manager of Voice Of America, out of New York in 1954.

His trail peters out after that. From about 1965 to 1963 it seems he was the WCBS Radio program director, then was elected to the advisory council of the VOA English-teaching radio programs. Then  he pops up again in 1971 joining the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) as program director,  working out of Washington D.C. He held that post into 1974, then after that there's just nothing. A 1983 copy of the Broadcasting Cable Yearbook had him still there as the VP of broadcasting. He had to be in his late 60s by then.