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MMD > Archives > March 2001 > 2001.03.05 > 08Prev  Next

Radio and the Player Piano
By Hal Davis

While the radio certainly lured people away from player pianos and
basically changed the entertainment industry forever, the fact that
players made a come-back in their (basically) original form some
decades later suggests that the image of a player piano as an
entertainment device never really died.  One of the facts that I
observed in the early 'thirties was this: not only had amplified radios
appeared on the market, actually they had been available since circa
1922, but the superheterodyne circuits patented by the Hazeltine
Corporation became a feature of consumer radios.

What appeared to me to be even more important was the fact that many of
these early superheterodyne receivers had the capability to receive
police radio broadcasts.  Though I was still a little kid in the early
thirties, I well remember neighbors coming over several evenings a week
to sit around in the living room and listen to police calls on General
Electric Superheterodyne radio we had that sat in a prominent position
on a table in the living room.

The radio had a great attraction for most people and especially kids of
my age who liked to listen to the serials that were broadcast each week
day.  I remember Tailspin Tommy as one of my favorites, but there were
others.  The radio didn't require having someone to come in and tune it
periodically.  It didn't require buying new rolls to hear new things.
It didn't take up much space although I remember seeing some radios
that were built into cabinets that could rival a player piano is sheer

And, believe it or not, there used to be quality programs on the radio.
I still remember the first two "singing commercials" that were
broadcast.  One was for Pepsi Cola, the other for Ford.  They came
along later near the end of the 'thirties.

  "Pepsi-Cola hits the spot / Six full ounces, That's a lot.
  *Twice as much for a nickel, too. / Pepsi-Cola's the drink for you."

(*It may have been "eight full ounces" or even ten ounces later.)

  "See your Ford used dealer, the price is low.
   Baby can those used cars go.
   The word is getting all around
   That Ford used cars are the best in town."

It changed the sound of radio forever after.  Try to imagine radio or
television today without all the noise and racket used to hype sales
of all sorts of things.

It was peaceful then.  An announcer (ANNCR) would come on and read the
commercial clearly, then it would be back to the program.

Incidentally, the current referral to a news reader as an "anchor"
comes from the above abbreviation for announcer.  In the scripts, it
was written "ANNCR" but pronounced "angker", so an anchor was merely
an announcer, no more, no less.

Hal Davis

(Message sent Tue 6 Mar 2001, 02:41:32 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Piano, Player, Radio

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