(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Tonight Show

“Music is like a river or stream”*…

“Deejays” at Shyvers Multiphone studio

The estimable Ted Gioia on an early music streaming success…

Streaming music was a dream long before it became reality. Back in 1627, Francis Bacon imagined a futuristic kind of music streaming technology in his utopian story The New Atlantis—where the inhabitants “have means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances.”

In the 1920s and 1930s, this dream started to turn into reality. An electric utility in Cleveland even offered a service to residents in Lakeland—three channels piped into their homes from the power substation for $1.50 per month. The Muzak company, originally launched as Wired Radio, Inc. in 1922, initially built its business model on the same concept: Music would be provided to homes as a kind of utility, and paid for as part of the monthly electricity bill.

The company eventually changed its name to Muzak, and shifted its emphasis to businesses. The much larger home market continued to rely on recordings and physical media. Even radios, which started showing up in almost every household during the 1920s, never became an actual utility with consumers paying for the service. Instead, radio broadcasts were embraced by station owners as a way to sell advertising and supported by music companies in order to promote recordings and tickets to live events.

At the end of the 1930s, Seattle inventor Ken Shyvers launched a bizarre business out of a kind of studio bunker in the Pacific Northwest. Here a team of women worked late into the night with odd-looking machines combining the capabilities of a turntable, jukebox, and phone line.

The price was five cents per song. The input device looked like a small art deco cylinder, only 18 inches tall and easily fitting on a restaurant tabletop or bar counter. Many customers must have assumed these were some kind of mini-jukebox—except they offered a much wider range of song choices than any other competing technology.

The Multiphones (as they were called) allowed a selection of up to 300 tracks—and typically came with a list of around 170 options. The song choices were relayed to the female disk jockeys [pictured at the top], who worked out of an available room in a drugstore at Fourth Street and Pacific Avenue in Bremerton. They would play the chosen track, which was broadcast back to the customer via a telephone line.

Bars and restaurants were the target market, but there was no reason why the concept couldn’t have spread to homes. The technology never gained national distribution, but thrived in Washington state, where it found a user base in Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, and Bremerton. From 1939 to 1959, the Multiphone was not only a viable business, but anticipated many key aspects of the music distribution model of our own time…

From @tedgioia‘s wonderful newsletter, The Honest Broker, the instructive tale of a Seattle entrepreneur who created a successful analog streaming platform—and ran it out of a drugstore: “The First Music Streaming Service.”

* Ali Akbar Khan

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As we tap our toes, we might might send tuneful birthday greetings to Herbert Butros Khaury; he was born on this date in 1932. Better known by his stage name, Tiny Tim, he was a ukulele-playing, falsetto-singing performer. He achieved tremendous celebrity in the late 1960s, appearing on Laugh-In and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (among others). His 1969 wedding (to “Miss Vicki”) on Tonight Show was watched by over 40 million viewers, a gargantuan audience for the time slot.

Dancing with scissors…

 

From Brazilian designers 18bis, a very different application of the animation technique– stop motion cut-outs– made famous by South Park:  a beautiful dance inspired by Pablo Neruda’s “The Me Bird,”, set to original music.

[TotH to Wall to Watch]

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As we contemplate the cornucopia that is construction paper, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that Jack Paar said “good night” and signed off of The Tonight Show for the final time.  The late night format had been pioneered by Steve Allen, who inaugurated the slot for NBC locally in New in York in 1952, then as a network offer in 1954.  It was structured as a traditional variety show (though it ran 105 minutes), and was quickly tag-team hosted by Allen and Ernie Kovacs, who alternated nights.  Carried on very few affiliates, it failed to satisfy the network, which switched to a news format in that time slot in January of 1957.  The news was even less popular, so in July of the network tacked back, and named Jack Paar the sole host of Tonight.

Paar established the format and tropes that we currently associate with late night shows:  the opening monologue, the regular cast of sketch and skit players, the catchphrase (“I kid you not”), the musical guests, and most centrally, the interviews with celebrities– of all walks, but largely entertainers.  The toll of doing 105 minutes five nights a week was sufficiently wearing that Paar convinced the network to reduce the length to 90 minutes, and later, to produce only four shows a week (starting the trend of “Best of” Fridays that survived him).  The show was a tremendous hit, steadily building carriage and audience; it was Paar who turned The Tonight Show into an entertainment juggernaut.  But he salted his guest list with intellectuals (Paar helped William F. Buckley become a celebrity), politicians (Sen. John F. Kennedy initiated the practice of the “Presidential candidate appearance” on Paar’s show; see photo below), even world leaders.  Indeed, Paar was the center of a firestorm of criticism for interviewing Fidel Castro in 1959.

Exhausted by demands of the show, Paar left to do a prime time series.  His hand-picked successor, who’d been a frequent substitute host during Paar’s vacations, was Johnny Carson.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 29, 2013 at 1:01 am

Fun with Advertising!…

With the perspective of passing time often comes the desire to re-write the past.  Now, as the “Twisted Adverts” Flickr pool demonstrates, one can.

Bobster855 has created and collected dozens of goodies like this re-purposed lawn mower advertisement:

Or this Aunt Jemima spread:

See them all here.

Then, readers who are disposed to do a little revisionist mashing themselves should turn to the hundreds of specimens at The Vintage Ad Browser.  Consider, for example, what one could do with:

Procter & Gamble Co.’s Drene Shampoo (1937)

As we take steps to “control the dialogue,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1952 that NBC TV format pioneer Sylvester L. “Pat” Weaver premiered The Today Show— and introduced the U.S. (and the world, as it turned out) to morning “news.”  Hosts over the years have included John Chancellor, Hugh Downs, Florence Henderson, Barbara Walters, Tom Brokaw, Bryant Gumbel, Jane Pauley, Matt Lauer, and Katie Couric. In 1953, the show also featured a chimpanzee named J. Fred Muggs, who co-hosted with Dave Garroway.  (Weaver also pioneered other important formats– including The Tonight Show–  but is probably better known these days as the father of Signorey Weaver.)

Daughter and Father

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