7 Legends of Radio Broadcasting

Before TV or the internet, Americans relied on radio waves for entertainment, news, and music. During the Golden Age of American Radio from 1930 to 1955, radio profoundly impacted American culture, swaying not only opinions, language, and style, but also created a whole new industry that spurred major economic impact. The legends of radio broadcasting — from Roosevelt’s fireside chats to famous serial dramas — contributed to the radio, and now digital programming, as we know it today.  
 radio broadcaster
  1. Alan Freed — Have you ever wondered why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, of all places? The Lake Erie city has Alan Freed to thank for that. WJW DJ Alan Freed coined the term “rock and roll” on Cleveland airwaves way back in the 1950s. While hosting his show “The Moondog House,” Freed played tracks by rhythm and blues artists. In the years following, mainstream use of “rock and roll” morphed from a phrase to describe the groovy and bluesy to a genre marking the signature style of rock music we know and love today.
  2. Norman Corwin — During the Golden Age of Radio, broadcasters dominated the airwaves with captivating radio dramas. Like popular TV shows of the modern-day, these dramas dictated the daily routine of fans who gathered around the radio to listen to each installment. Norman Corwin cut his teeth at Cincinnati radio stations but eventually settled in at CBS Radio Network in New York. Besides writing and producing some of the most notable radio dramas of the era —  including “The Plot to Overthrow Christmas” and “The Writer with the Lame Left Hand” — Corwin also forged his own style of using light entertainment to touch on heavy social topics. Many later broadcasters went onto mimic this technique.
Jocko Henderson
  1. Jocko Henderson — A legend in Philadelphia radio, envelope-pushing African-American DJ Jocko Henderson commanded attention from the audience thanks to his energetic, rhythmic speech and booming baritone. Henderson claimed he learned his signature pattern of speech from radio predecessor Maurice “Hot Rod” Hulbert in Baltimore. He hosted shows throughout the U.S. in St. Louis, Detroit, Boston, and New York, from the 1950s through the 1970s.
  2. Himan Brown — Himan Brown (or Hi Brown, as he preferred) wrote, directed, and produced some of the most significant radio programs during the primetime of radio. He successfully fused stage acting with radio, convincing Gregory Peck, Orson Welles, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lorre, and other big-name acts to take part in radio programs. During his career, Brown produced over 30,000 radio programs, with famous titles like “The Adventures of the Thin Man,” “Flash Gordon” and “Dick Tracy.”
  3. Mel Allen — Radio historians know that sportscasters have a unique history all their own. New York sportscaster Mel Allen, otherwise known as “The Voice of the Yankees,” was one of the preeminent sports DJs of the 1940s through the 1960s. New Yorkers remember his detailed play-by-plays of New York Yankees games, as well as his notable broadcast of the 1960 World Series between the Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates. During that broadcast, Allen called Game 7 after the Pirates hit a walk-off home run. It was the only walk-off home run ever in Game 7 of the World Series. After being suddenly fired by the Yankees — much to the anger and dismay of fans — Allen went on to broadcast games for other MLB teams.
Casey Kasem
  1. Casey Kasem — If you take a good look at Detroit radio, you’ll notice that some of the biggest broadcasting legends hailed from Motown. Legendary broadcaster Casey Kasem is just one of the many who started their professional career in Detroit. In 1970, Kasem created “American Top 40,” a countdown that celebrated the Billboard Hot 100 songs every week. Kasem hosted the show or some variation of it until 2003, when he retired and handed over the reins to Ryan Seacrest.
  2. Edward R. Murrow —  Let’s not forget about broadcast news legend Edward R. Murrow. Host of various CBS news programs during World War II, Murrow and his team of foreign correspondents – dubbed “The Murrow Boys,” – reported from the front lines. His show “See it Now” openly criticized McCarthyism, and many historians credit the show as one reason for the downfall of Senator Joseph McCarthy.