Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Bakelite Hour

 In an era that largely predated radio advertising, sponsored programs were the norm. In that environment the Bakelite Hour debuted on WJZ-AM in February of 1926. It ran on Sundays from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The trade magazine Modern Plastics noted the start of the program with the comment "A recent arrival among the prominent broadcasters of worthwhile entertainment, is the Bakelite Corporation." It's debut was in the form of a contest. They aired  a series of four test programs.

To the modern ear the four types hardly warrant segregation. In fact these four "formats" all only air today in the US on Public  Radio and other NPR affiliates. The four types of program submitted for approval were:
  1. Concert artists assisted by a small orchestra
  2. Grand Opera
  3. A varied program of classical and semi-classical selections by mixed instrumental and vocal soloists
  4. Chamber music concert
The result was  a tied vote across the first three categories.  Apparently chamber music was already passé. So the Bakelite hour was initially programmed with a rotating format each Sunday. They promised on the press to eventually selected one of the three.  The New York Sun wrote in February of 1926:
"Not to be outdone WJZ comes across with a new series in an effort to perk up its Sunday's broadcasting. The Bakelite Hour is its most recent acquirement and last evening during this period, which starts at eight o'clock, the Philharmonic Chamber Music Society was in the spotlight. This marked the first of four Sunday evening "hours" to be presented by the Bakelite Corporation and at the end of the four, each of which will be different in nature, the radio listeners may choose the one they think most appropriate and entertaining as a steady diet." 
 The program was still airing on Sundays through at least May of that year. It was short lived and poorly documented like many of these trail-blazing programs from the 1920s.