New book captures Bay Area radio history


Across the nation people were listening to radio shows from San Francisco.

"Before radio there was no national entertainment," said radio historian John Schneider.

Radio changed our culture. Schneider has chronicled Bay Area broadcasting history in a new book "Bay Area Radio". There were 1,000 actors, musicians and writers employed in radio, and the soap opera "One Man's Family" originated here. The studios were opulent, elegant.

"Cost was no object for radio. NBC was started by RCA and the objective was to sell radios," said Schneider.

In the early days, the networks set up duplicate west coast studios.

"After they did a program in New York, they would put all of the scripts and musical scores and everything on a train and send them to San Francisco and a duplicate staff would duplicate the entire program for the West Coast a week later," said Schneider.

San Francisco had become a broadcast center because there were no direct lines to Los Angeles and movie studios wouldn't allow their actors on radio.

"They saw radio as competition because people who would listen to radio at home wouldn't go to the movie theatres," said Schneider.

But of course that changed; everyone headed south to Hollywood, people like KFRC singer Merv Griffin. Studios here became a ghost town and show places never saw their full potential.

The San Francisco network broadcast era went from the late 20s to the early 40s. It is a legacy that has really been forgotten, but now this book is bringing it back on the air. So is the experience at the California Historical Radio Society's museum in the old KRE studios. It is like a time machine where old radio lives here.

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