Monday, September 20, 2021

Humbard Family Radio Favorites

The first print reference I found to the Humbard family was in the Indianapolis Times, September 5th, 1949. The Humbard family was performing at 4:30 PM on 1260 WFBM. I didn't immediately connect them to the evangelist Rex Hubbard. I'll circle back to that in a moment. I had found a Humbard Family hymnal which was notably hefty compared to most radio hymnals, with 201 pages of mostly Stamps-Baxter hymns. A highly unusual book, the music is all in shapenote musical notation. It bore no date, but the individual hymns have copyright dates. The latest of these are from 1945.  I corroborated dates at Hymnary.org. (They need to update their SSL certificate)  Anyway, I'd put publication of the hymnal shortly thereafter, probably in 1946-ish. The interior of the cover states "features on ABC and Mutual networks." The NBC Blue Network became the ABC network in 1943 so that tracks.

Interestingly the Humbards didn't seem to publish much of their own music. They seemed to be primarily live performers. In the Radio Favorites hymnal there are zero originals. Most of the music is by Albert E. Brumley a prolific 20th century, shape note music composer. Almost every hymn in the book is under Virgil O. Stamps publishing.  Their earlier work, the 1939 hymnal,  Humbard Family Songs, only sports three originals (below). I have not found information on their 1942 hymnal, the Humbard Family Radio Book so there may be a few more originals out there.

  • The Blood Done Sign My Name - Alpha Edward Humbard
  • One Day While I Was Far Away - Martha Bell Humbard
  • Better Than Gold - Martha Bell Humbard

The various members of the Humbard Family put out books, LPs, 78s, 8-tracks, and broadcast on radio and television. I even found a translucent red 10" record. They ran an inter-generational ministry which eventually collapsed in scandal and embezzlement in the 1970s. But I'm more interested in the early radio era than the quaaludes and nose-jobs era.  It is with thanks to the 2012 obituary of Maude Aimee Humbard in the Akron Beacon Journal that we can start to piece this together. 

Maude Aimee Humbard was born in 1922 in Dallas, TX. She married the Rev. Rex Humbard in 1942. Rev. Rex Humbard's actual name is Alpha Rex Emmanuel Humbard and he was born in 1919 in Little Rock, AR. They settled together in Akron, Ohio, in 1952. Their kids were, Don, Charles and both a Rex jr. and an Aimee Jr. 

The father of our Rev. Rex was Rex Alpha Edward Humbard and he was some kind of an itinerant evangelist. His mother was Martha Bell Humbard. Martha and Rex Sr. had 5 children including Rex jr., they were Branson Clement Edward, Anna Mary Esther, Martha Ruth (Davidson), Elizabeth Juanita (Banker), and Margaret Leona Belle. Rex Sr. actually ordained the younger Rex which is how we ended up with a family of traveling musical radio evangelists. This family tree does not even begin to address the husbands and wives, sister-in-laws and brother-in-laws with contributed to broadcasts and recordings like Wayne Jones who was on that red 10-inch. This family needs a flow chart. [LINK]  If they didn't recycle names every generation this would be easier. To quote Shupe Hadden (1988) 

"He included his whole family in the act - wife, children, and grand children. ...A  whole generation grew up with the Humbards, and, for may of them, the Humbard family was a part of their own..."

Branson Clement also became an itinerant musical radio evangelist. He and his wife Priscilla even performed in Canada at 630 CFCO. In 1964 they put out a self-released christian LP "Come Home, It's Suppertime" when they were based in Youngstown, OH. Their twin daughters Drusilla and Susanna handled most the lead vocals. But read the credits carefully, those list Leona Jones and Danny Koker. Leona is a Humbard by birth, Danny is Rex Sr's son-in-law. Leona and Danny had a son also named Danny Koker (Jr). He too is an ordained minister. He would therefore be Rev. Rex Jr's Humbard's nephew. That Danny Koker was the host of Counting Cars on the History Channel.

Anyway, getting back to the Humbards of the 1930s. Purportedly Rex Humbard's religious broadcasting career started on radio in 1932. [SOURCE] If that were true his radio career began at the age of 13 on 1040 KTHS-AM. This is corroborated by the Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music by W.K. McNeil which states:

"Their first and best-known child, the future televangelist Rex Humbard, was born in Little Rock, AR... Of their five later children, the oldest three (Ruth, Clement, and Leona) joined Rex in the first and best-known musical Humbard Family. During the late 1930s, they became radio regulars on  KTHS."

Some sources refer to this show as the Saturday Night Jamboree. In the late 1930s that's not possible, because by 1938, KTHS was airing the NBC syndicated National Barn Dance out of WLS on Saturday nights. [SOURCE] The show was picked up by NBC Radio in 1933, so this local jamboree window would have to be short.

There were a lot of Jamboree programs and they are often conflated. Excluding the ones on NBC-TV (1948-1948) and the one on WSAZ-TV (1953-1965) a Barnyard Jamboree and an Old Time Jamboree on WLS, there was also a Saturday Night Jamboree on KWEM in Memphis 140 miles east of Little Rock, and another on KCMO in St. Louis.  There was the Blue Monday Jamboree on KFRC, Tennessee Jamboree on WLAF, (1953 - 1978),  the Saturday Nite Jamboree on CBC Newfoundland (1963),  a Wheeling jamboree on WWVA,  the WNAX Hillbilly Jamboree, the Cornhusker Jamboree on KFAB, the KARK Dixie Jamboree, the Old King Jamboree on KVOO... the list goes on.

KTHS was only briefly a Mutual affiliate in 1938. But they were an NBC Blue affiliate starting in 1929 not switching to CBS until 1951. So it's no surprise to see them airing the WLS National Barn Dance.So If this program existed on KTHS, it had to be earlier. The signed on in 1926, so there is a lot of early to speak of.  But I pulled out a Indianapolis Times radio schedule January 23rd 1932 and lists a Barn Dance at 8:30 PM on Saturdays. Notably this is before the WLS program was syndicated. So that might be it.

Even the meticulously researched book Arkansas Airwaves by Roy Poindexter refers to the dubious Saturday Night Jamboree program. All print sources I have found which give attribution go back to his 1974 book as it's source material.  But even June and September Radio Movie Guides for 1940 thru 1942 [SOURCE] list the Humbards on only two radio stations: KLRA at 7:30 AM Saturday and at 12:45 on Sunday at KTHS

The Poindexter book clearly states that in 1940 "Humbard Family switched their religious radio  program from Hot Springs to KLRA."  But schedules in the Radio Movie Guide clearly show they were on both stations at at least into early 1942 intimating they had not fully relocated to Dallas yet. Kevin Keherberg's dissertation [SOURCE] corroborates some of the above. Additionally, Keherberg pointed out the Stamps/shapenote connection on page 186.

 "Brumley’s songs were frequently sung by all of Stamps-Baxter’s radio groups—especially after the composer joined the company’s staff in 1937—and KRLD was Stamps-Baxter’s home station."

Then in 1939 Virgil O. Stamps brought the family to Dallas to play at the state fair. In Dallas they impressed Pastor Albert Ott leader of the mega-church Assembly of God. The Humbards were so well received in Dallas that they relocated there, and stayed for 2 years. [SOURCE]  The church's website today claims that the Christ Ambassadors Full Gospel Hour” began on local radio station KRLD. But Mr. Ott also had another program, the Old Camp Meeting on 1310 WRR which dates back to at least 1937. Documents clearly indicate that the shows aired concurrently. Ott's program on Full Gospel Hour program aired on KRLD at 11:00 AM to noon on Sundays which is immediately after the WRR program ended. But even if the Humbards were playing all of Ott's programs I still only come up with three weekly shows, and not the 13 listed in the encyclopedia. In Billboard magazines 1967 The World of Gospel Music special. It claims that "In 1939 the family moved to Dallas and did 33 radio programs a week for the Bethel Temple, WRR, and the Stamps -Baxter Music Co., KRLD."   So Billboard says 33, the encyclopedia says 13, but I count only 3. You start to get the impression that they were prone to exaggeration.

Their resume isn't all bunk, but clearly there is some incongruity here. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas claims that in the early 1940s, rev. Rex (Jr.) began a daily radio program carried nationwide on Mutual Network and the NBC Blue Network.That Billboard special [SOURCE] goes on to claim they began syndication on Mutual in 1943 and their daily program was carried on 100 stations. In 1944 they were picked up by NBC Blue. There is very little documentation on that syndication. at all save for that single WFBM listing in 1949. But that single listing on 1230 WFBM is an anachronism, as WFBM was a CBS affiliate and they had been broadcasting the Humbards since 1942. Mutual did have 500+ affiliates but mostly either small stations in big markets or just stations in small markets. So airplay there may have been real but poorly documented.


The Humbards also claimed to have broadcast over the Mutual Network for more than 30 years. This is false, not even possible. Their radio career before Akron, OH was under 20 years ⁠—total (1932 - 1942). But there is an obvious doorway to the Mutual network on their resume. In 1940 WRR was already a Mutual network affiliate, and they remained one through the whole decade. But the Ypsilanti Daily Press managed to close the loop. Their Feb 14th, 1944 issue lists " Humbard Family" in their "Pick of the Air Today" column. No call letters are included. It lists them only as "BLU" which means the NBC Blue Network: WLW, CKLW, WJBK and WGN. A November 25th, 1943 issue of the same newspaper lists them under the Mutual Network.

Then came the move to Akron in 1952. First they broadcast on 1350 WADC-AM from 9:15 AM - 9:45 AM Saturday mornings and later they added WXEL in Toledo and then 640 WHLO-AM. Strangely the WADC 30-year anniversary booklet barely mentions them, and does not even list them in the 1955 schedule, leaving the impression they were still very much small potatoes. [SOURCE]

The Humbards made the jump to television via WAKR-TV Channel 49 and WJW-TV. The once itinerant evangelists became televangelists. In the 1970s the ministry started to unravel: internal disputes, lawsuits, financial problems, tax fraud, loans from Jimmy Hoffa, embezzlement, and the IRS was sniffing around. In 1983 Rev. Rex Humbard resigned as pastor. He retired from on-air preaching in the 1990s. In 1994 he sold off his Akron Cathedral and retired to Florida. He died on September 21st, 2007.

Monday, September 13, 2021

New York SCA Subcarrier Radio Stations

 The FCC's description of the service is a bit dry

"A subcarrier, known also as Subsidiary Communications Authority or SCA, is a separate audio or data channel that is transmitted along with the main audio signal over a broadcast station.  These subcarrier channels are not receivable with a regular radio; special receivers are required"

These subcarriers are a sideband of a radio frequency carrier wave, which is modulated to send additional information. A subcarrier can be used for all sorts of different purposes, including paging, inventory distribution, bus dispatching, stock market reports, conveying horse race results, traffic control signal switching, point-to-point or multipoint messages, foreign language programming, radio reading services, radio broadcast data systems (RBDS), station control and meter reading, utility load management, and muzak. I've even seen it used for to trigger fireworks displays. 

I have never found a canonically complete list of US subcarrier radio stations. But I have found diligent amateurs maintaining their own local databases. Take for example this website for New York City. It lists the below stations:

New York SCA Subcarrier Radio Stations:

CALLS
FREQ
SUBCARRIER
FORMAT CITY
WSOU
89.5
67 kHz
 Reading for the Blind
Orange, NJ
WKCR 94.3
67 kHz
 Reading for the Blind  New York, NY
WXNY 98.7
67 kHz
Radio Omega (Haitian) New York, NY
WQHT 106.7
67 kHz
Hellas World Radio (Greek)
New York, NY
WQHT 106.7 92 kHz
Radio Jesus es Senor
New York, NY
WSKQ
97.9
67 kHz
Radio Soleil d'Haiti
New York, NY
WBAI 99.5
67 kHz
Radio Maria (Italian)
New York, NY
WBAI 99.5 92 kHz  Radio Maria (Spanish) New York, NY
WCBS 101.1
67 kHz
Radio Maria Hispana
New York, NY
WRXP 101.9 67 kHz
Radio PaHou (Haitian)
New York, NY
WRXP 101.9 92 kHz Radio L'Amour Int'l (Haitian) New York, NY
WAXQ
104.3
67 kHz
Korean Christian prog.
New York, NY
WWPR 105.1
67 kHz
Radio Verite (Haitian)
New York, NY
WBLS 107.5
67 kHz
Radio Shammah (Haitian)
New York, NY

It's worth noting that the original WPAT on 103.5 had two subcarriers. On 67 kHz was Chinese Radio NYC and on 92 kHz was ICN Radio. Today WPAT 93.1 is a HD station so I believe their subcarrier was repurposed for the bandwidth presently dedicated to the WGNK simulcast on HD2. 

So the information above is probably right, but also probably not complete. Many services are short-lived. Back in 1983 NAB printed up a sales sheet encouraging FM broadcasters to use their subcarriers to turn a quick buck. Simultaneously they encouraged the FCC not to over-regulate the service.  [LINK] the resulting landscape let to a rabbit warren of nominally regulated non-advertised subcarrier services. In 1983 the NAB had such clout that it was legal to sell the use of your subcarrier even while your primary signal was offline.

 Effectively there are two reasons that it's so difficult to get a good accounting of subcarrier stations.

1. The FCC does not keep records of which broadcast stations are using subcarriers. So there is no central database attached to licensing. 

2. The FCC requires no special authorization, notice, application, or license is from the licensee planning to transmit a subcarrier signal (see 47 CFR Section 73.127 for AM stations or 47 CFR Section 73.293 for FM stations).  The only exception to this is if the subcarrier is used for non-broadcast purposes. More here.

But then why are there comparatively so few subcarriers?  Similar to the above that boils down to two primary reasons: 

1.  Use of an FM subcarrier requires a reduction  in deviation of the main channel by as much  as 10%. That does not mean that the subcarrier reduces the coverage of the primary signal but an actual 0.92 dB reduction in the signal-to-noise ratio. It sounds scarier than it is.

2. The subcarrier can interfere with the primary signal. Any non -linearity in the transmission system - exciter, cable and antenna, or receiver - can mix the subcarrier  signal with the other signals present in the total FM signal and cause audible interference.  This was a very real problem. 

NAB tried to spin the above "One beneficial  side effect of using an FM subcarrier is to  force a station, if it proves necessary, to  clean up its transmitter." Perhaps it was over optimistic for a service which can only be sold to a few buyers, and only be heard by very few listeners. 

Monday, September 06, 2021

The Cruise of the Rev Seth Parker

Phillips Haynes Lord was a radio program writer and producer who was very active from the 1930s into the 1950s. He created the Gang Busters program that ran from 1935 - 1957. He had an idea for a character, the Rev. Seth Parker who was part backwoods philosopher and part clergyman. He crafted a set of scripts around it which included old-time music, mostly gospel. He started selling these to radio stations directly under the name "Seth Parker's Singing School."  In 1929 NBC picked it up as a 30-minute program to run six days a week. I wrote about his career transition back in 2015. [LINK ]

According to the Encyclopedia of Women in Radio (1920 - 1960), the cast included Vernon Reed, Francis Diers, Lovina Lindbergh, Eunice Cole, Wilbur Showalter, Dan Hosmer, and Sue Fulton.But even that quite well-researched encyclopedia lists the Singing school as a 15-minute program and Seth Parker as airing as a 15-minute program Sundays 10:45  to 11:00 PM, 1931 - 1932. It was a huge success. He wrote a play that became a film "Way Back Home." They even released 12 sides of of 78 rpm gospel hymns by the Seth Parker Trio. (This is erroneously referred to as the Phillips Lord Trio in some accounts)

Then NBC started sending Seth Parker on the road. In 1931 a press release described Seth Parker and the Jonesport Neighbors as "going a-visiting." It was a funny way to describe a tour of this magnitude. They made stops in 23 states and two provinces of Canada leaving New York on October 4th and heading to Buffalo, NY.  The complete itinerary is below. It's a grueling tour schedule that would have taxed even Black Flag. Shows 6 nights a week and travel almost every day.

DATE
CITY
STATE
10/5/31 Buffalo
NY
10/6/31 Hamilton
ON
10/8/31 Pittsburgh
PA
10/9/31 Erie
PA
10/10/31 Cleveland (Broadcast)
OH
10/12/31 Canton
OH
10/13/31 Dayton
OH
10/14/31 Cincinnati
OH
10/15/31 Columbus
OH
10/16/31 Youngstown
OH
10/17/31 Sandusky
OH
10/18/31 Cleveland (Broadcast) OH
10/19/31 Akron OH
10/20/31 Toledo
OH
10/21/31 Detroit
MI
10/22/31 Detroit MI
10/23/31 Grand Rapids MI
10/25/31 Chicago (Broadcast)
IL
10/26/31 Chicago IL
10/27/31 Minneapolis
MN
10/28/31 Duluth
MN
10/29/31 St Paul
MN
10/30/31 Milwaukee
WI
11/1/31
Chicago (Broadcast) IL
11/2/31 Davenport
IA
11/3/31 Des Moines
IA
11/4/31 Kansas City
MO
11/5/31 Kansas City MO
11/7/31
Omaha
NE
11/8/31
Denver
CO
11/10/31
Salt Lake City
UT
11/12/31
Portland
OR
11/13/31 New Westminster
BC
11/15/31 Seattle
WA
11/18/31
Oakland
CA
11/19/31 San Francisco
CA
11/22/31 Los Angeles (Broadcast)
CA
11/23/31 San Diego
CA
11/26/31
Phoenix
AZ
11/28/31 Houston
TX
11/30/31 Houston TX
12/1/31
San Antonio
TX
12/2/31 Oklahoma City
OK
12/3/31 Tulsa
OK
12/6/31 Chicago (Broadcast) IL
12/8/31
Louisville
KY
12/9/31 Nashville
TN
12/11/31 Atlanta
GA
12/13/31 Miami
FL
12/14/31 Miami FL

The program began the same way each time:

"Way up on the coast of Maine is a little old-fashioned white farm house sitting high upon a hill and looking out over the Bay of Fundy. It's the home of Seth and Mother Parker, and her every Sunday evening their good neighbors gather to sing old-fashioned hymns in the old-fashioned way. Tonight we find them already in the sitting room. a fire blazing on the hearth takes off the chill of the evening air, and everything in the little sitting room spells peace and comfort."

In 1933, Lord came up with the tour to end all tours. He wanted to sail around thwe world and broadcasting his show via short-wave radio. He purchased a schooner named Georgette. It's four masts were 25 feet tall. It was 188-feet long and weighed 867-tons. The size is debated. Jim Harmon says 3 masts instead of 4. The Encyclopedia of Women in Radio states it was 150-feet long. A 1988 Popular mechanics article says 250 feet and 775 tons. I cant' even begin to guess how the numbers got so far apart. He packed under-water photographic equipment, a diving shell to be used for undersea exploration. But it was also a radio station with a 1,000 watt shortwave transmitter. Eugene Nohl handled the advance promotions which were fanciful to say the least.  Plenty of talk about "...sunken civilizations of the South Seas Islands" complete with a "search for sunken treasure" and of course hunting for "Shipwrecks."  It was allocated the call sign KNRA. The Frigidaire appliance company signed on to sponsor this joyride.

On November 20th, 1933 the Seth Parker departed from Totten, NY. The first broadcast was on December 16th from Portland, ME replete with a ship-load of local politicians. They continued broadcasting live on Tuesday nights from 10:00 - 10:30 EST, often on 6160, 6423, 6900, and 8840 kHz. With a crew of 27 people, the ship docked at various ports along the eastern seaboard such as Philadelphia, PA, Baltimore, MD; Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA,  Jacksonville, FL, from where they broadcast their short wave radio program which was re-transmitted by NBC. In December of 1933 they crossed through the Panama Canal toward the South Pacific.

As the Rev Parker, Lord Phillips had a very wholesome image. But though he was essentially playing his own grandfather, Phillips was only 31 years old. There he was at sea with a boat full of musicians, booze and celebrities...  The broadcasts sometimes revealed a bit of the frivolity behind the scenes of a voyage filled with wine, women and the proverbial song. The book Great Radio Heroes by Jim Harmon reported that "Afterward the ship rocked with lavish parties full of bubbles, giggles and hot jazz music. Disgruntled reporters... suggested that Seth Parker seemed to think he had already reached the promised land." [SOURCE]

Then it came to an abrupt end.  In February 1935, a tropical storm off the coast of American Samoa damaged the ship to the point where the expedition was abandoned. On Feb 8th Captain Frank Eckmann, sent a distress signal and the leaking schooner was eventually towed by tugboat to Pago Pago. More HERE. The schooner was sold and in 1936 its owner sailed it to to Coconut Island Oahu, HI; where it was permanently anchored for use as a bar and movie theater. It's masts were removed in 1945 and the hull slowly rotted away.  It's wheel sits at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu Harbor. More HERE.

In 1952 an article in the  Pittsburgh Press newspaper described Lord as living "in a penthouse atop a New York City's Waldorf Astoria, owns a private island in Maine, and is a wealthy man with one of broadcasting's fabulous incomes. Credited with having originated more successful ideas than anyone in radio."  In 1999, broadcast historian Elizabeth McLeod listed the Cruise of the Seth Parker as one of the top 100 old-time radio moments of the 20th century.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Another Nielsen Radio Survey (Part 2)

I actually enjoy getting the occasional Nielsen survey.  I make a quick $6 even if I only complete the initial form. I can't imagine I help their data much as I am listening to non-commercial radio and NPR almost exclusively. My favorites are seldom local, so due to the power of the internet I am listening to stations in all 4 time zones of CONUS. 

But isn't that the reality of content today?  Your local morning zoo program is potentially competing with your favorite podcast, and other time-shifted content.  How does Nielsen cope with that?  From what their own numbers tell me, they're just ignoring it. Let the good times roll.




Monday, July 19, 2021

Another Nielsen Radio Survey (Part 1)

For the third time in all the dozens of places I've lived, my home has been selected for a Nielsen Radio Survey. Then just as now the initial communication came with two crisp dollar bills and the promise of a future fiver. Cheap as I am... the return envelope was in the mail the following day. 

But then like now, the opening letter came packed with a few crisp dollar bills. I look forward to seeing the diary when it comes. I will be anonymizing the documents as much as possible to protect Nielsen and their process. But I think their boilerplate language is safe to share, and I have noticed it's already widely shared online on numerous websites, including their own.

But I have to note that the advent of PPM was over 10 years ago. [LINK] I am somewhat surprised to still be seeing paper diaries in 2021. I continue to be surprised this isnt' done via a cell phone app.It paper more cost-effective?