So, you turned on the radio this morning and your local (or imported via satellite) shock jock drove you back to your iPlayer? Heated political rhetoric had you wishing for that earlier, more-refined day, of commentary from H. V. Kaltenborn and announcers required to wear formal attire just to hawk soap flakes and car tires?
Oh, nostalgia, rose-tinted spectacles and all...! Dream, on, Yankee -- that ain't half the story. This country's first loud-mouthed, opinionated talker (and spinner of records) first took the air about 1924 and quickly began providing "...plenty of verbal pyrotechnics—bawl out somebody
unmercifully—give them a good show. Whether or not they like what he is
telling it, they listen and come back for more." The formula sounds terribly familiar today but William K. Henderson of Shreveport, Louisiana invented it on KWKH and kept at it for nearly nine years until the predecessor of today's FCC finally pressured him into selling the station. To the modern ear, he's got a little something to drop on everyone's toes, from plain rudeness to casual racism to lambasting Republican Herbert Hoover and "chain stores,"* and he makes Howard Stern sound like a Cub Scout.
That idealized past? Yeah, that-- Better ask Grandma: it was never quite so shiny as it looks now.
* Yes, kids, he hated Walmart before there were any; he loathed the GOP before George Bush ever trod this Earth. Ponder on that awhile.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
1 year ago