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Music Radio – The Early Years

Scheduling Music Before Computers

Al Jarvis was the first disc jockey. He invented this thing we do in Los Angeles in the early 1930's.  One guy, one microphone, two turntables and a stack of records. He played records for three hours a day. He introduced the songs and talked about the singers, band leaders and musicians. He took requests from listeners. Right-off, he noticed that listeners mostly wanted to hear the SAME songs every day. With the success of Al's "Make Believe Ballroom", the idea was copied by many other stations across the USA. But they were all stand-alone programs; only two or three hours a day. Or weekly.

In the early '50's things changed quickly. Television took away all the radio stars; the comedy shows, the dramas and the game-shows. Advertising revenue followed it. Some observers were predicting the 'end' of radio. Indeed it was the end of radio-as-we-knew-it. In Omaha, young radio station owner Todd Storz noticed his station's DJ show was produced his stations highest rated hours. He hired a few more announcers and created the Top 40 Format.

In the early years, most DJ's had total freedom to play anything they wanted so long as it was Rock n' Roll, Rhythm 'n Blues or Country. Moving into the '60s, the first young program directors were becoming veteran programmers, developing techniques to better control the music, to put some discipline and consistency into station formatting.  In the six minute video below Steve Warren gives a brief history about the early days and how he learned to format music with numbers on the records and those numbers entered into hour-schedule grids.

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