WOR-AM – The Barry Gray Program -2:00 am – 2:30 am – December 12, 1946 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
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If you were one of those people who subscribed to the 9-5 work regimen, staying up all night was probably something you never did. You missed a whole other side of life – the life given over to the people you never see during the day – the ones whose work shifts hadn’t seen sunlight in years.
You probably never turned on your radio, unless you had insomnia and listening to something, anything other than the sounds of night, were most likely interesting and welcome experiences.
As radio in the daytime during the 1940s was given over to news, drama, comedy and variety shows (much like TV initially was), radio during the night was a whole different world. Some radio stations were on the air 24 hours a day – but some weren’t. Some closed up shop when the sun went down and reappeared when the sun came back up – while others such as WOR, one of the major radio stations in New York, one which could be heard throughout much of the country, were on 24 hours a day. The programs were given over mostly to playing records, with banter between songs that bore an uncanny resemblance to a confessional in its candid approach.
On this particular shift, Barry Gray is lamenting the loss of Damon Runyan; a writer and iconic social figure in the literary world as well as fixture in New York society who passed away the day before.
It’s as much a slice of New York life in the 1940s as it is a glimpse of what radio was like between the hours of midnight and six in the morning in the 1940s – lots of music and lots of personal anecdotes.
Barry Gray has often been labeled as “The father of Talk Radio”. Initially a disc jockey (a role he portrayed in the 1949 short subject Spin That Splatter), Gray was working for WOR in 1945 when bandleader Woody Herman called in while Gray was talking about him. Gray broadcast the call, and the spontaneous live interview was such a hit with both his listeners and station bosses, that the talk radio format resulted. Gray subsequently began doing listener call-ins as well and he became a fixture in New York radio and would continue on and off up until his death in 1996.
This program from December 12, 1946 comes right around the time of that big break.