Making Waves: Louisiana's Radio Story

Early Radio
(20's - 40's)

(LPB Reenactment)



 Dorr Simmons (LPB Reenactor Ben Morvant)Dorr Simmons

In 1921, New Orleans electrician Dorr Simmons created the "first complete wireless instrument of its' kind in the South" sending his signal to the far Northwest reaches of the state. Dorr predicted …"One day wireless telephony will develop to such a point that a band in one city can supply music for a dance in another many miles away."



William Antony with radio gear (Courtesy of Joey Kent)

 

William Erwin Antony

Shreveport radio buff and pioneer William Erwin Antony started one of the first experimental stations in the state — 5ZS — operating from his own home. He would read stories from the newspaper, telegrams and letters over the air. Many people in rural areas got their mail that way.

William K. Henderson

William K. Henderson KWKH Promotional Button (Courtesy of Joey Kent)Perhaps the most powerful unknown person in the first half of the twentieth century in Louisiana was William K. Henderson. By 1924, the wealthy Shreveport maverick had taken control of Antony's station, WAAG and used his own initials to rename it KWKH. Within 5 years of assuming the helm of KWKH he had built it into the most popular radio station in the South and by 1930 the most popular in the country.


Hello World Coffee Can (Courtesy of Joey Kent)“Hello World” coffee

William K. Henderson marketed the country’s first per inquiry radio product — "Hello World" coffee — coffee cans emblazoned with his picture and signature radio intro. The containers sold for one dollar a piece, at a time when coffee was selling for around 10 cents. Henderson was also a pioneer of radio broadcasting techniques including turntable mixing and electronic transcription.


Huey Long

Huey Long had befriended William K. Henderson in the mid 20's in Shreveport and Henderson became a fan of his populist beliefs. Henderson made an arrangement with Long to give him all the free airtime on KWKH that he wanted. It was a huge boost to Long's campaign and decisive in leading him to the Governor's Mansion.


WWL (Courtesy of Tulane Special Collections)WWL

WWL, Louisiana's first publicly licensed radio station, was run by the Jesuits out of Loyola University in New Orleans. The priests had to first get direct permission from the Vatican before they began to operate as a family entertainment station. On March 31st, 1922, Loyola made history by sending out what is thought to be the first public radio program ever on the Gulf coast — a piano recital.


WJBO (Courtesy of Ralph Sims)WJBO

WJBO signed on the air in December of 1934 and was Baton Rouge's first radio station. Network programming had already begun — primarily in the evenings, but, at most stations of the time, there was still significant local coverage and broadcasters needed to be good at a variety of tasks. Ralph Sims started his broadcasting career at WJBO in 1939 and remained with the station for 14 years. (For more WJBO history, visit their website at: http://www.wjbo.com/history.html)


Pinkie Vidacovich (unknown)Dawnbusters

WWL's Pinky Vidacovich started a variety program that would last for years as a favorite of fans across the state. It was called the Dawnbusters. The show aired during the early morning hours and included singing, comedy and an orchestra featuring Al "Jumbo" Hirt on the trumpet. Henry Dupre, Pinky Vidacovich, who was the Mayor of Bayou Pom Pon and the O'Dair sisters, Margie O'Dair and her sisters.

 

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Making Waves: Louisiana's Radio Story

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