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New Year’s Eve with NBC

Within the Library’s NBC Radio History Collection there is an amazing and comprehensive card catalog of network programs, performers and guests from 1930 to 1960. The 8 x 5 inch cards give a complete history of commercial and sustaining programs (programs without a sponsor and with no advertising), performers and artists, and “radio personalities”  including anyone who went on the air, from politicians and presidents to authors and what today we’d call celebrities.

You’ll find a complete rundown of every broadcast, including cast changes, guest performers, and even plot summaries. A cast member’s final appearance will be underlined in red and the date of the new cast member will be noted. Daytime serials are described in great detail.  One such program is Carleton Morse’s radio drama, One Man’s Family.  The program ran on NBC for twenty-seven years and is described on forty-six, two-sided cards, some of which contain detailed genealogies of the fictional Barbour family.

I went browsing through the cards to take a look at what was on the air for New Year’s Eve in the past. Here’s the line-up for what you would hear in 1932 if you lived in New York. The programs were broadcast on radio stations WEAF (Red) and WJZ (Blue), which pre-dated the creation of the NBC network. There was something for everyone on the radio!

New Year's Eve, 1932. NBC Radio History Collection, Recorded Sound Section.

New Year’s Eve, 1932. Top side. NBC Radio History Collection, Recorded Sound Section.

As you can see, programing started in the afternoon of December 31, 1932 on station WEAF with a children’s program Father Time’s Birthday Party, written by Grace Henry. It was followed by an international broadcast from Berlin celebrating the new year from Haus Vaterland, a huge building containing a cinema and café. Changing to station WJZ, listeners are given a tour of the BBC’s newly built Broadcasting House in London, which was one of the first buildings in Europe built solely for radio broadcasting. The BBC facility had studios, offices and a transmitting tower.

At 8:15 pm, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Serge Koussevitzky, performed a concert of classical music from Boston. Koussevitzky led the symphony from 1924 to 1949, and starting in 1926 the orchestra was heard on a regular Saturday night program until the 1940s.

Charles K. Field, who performed as Cheerio, was on next from 10:30 to 10:45 pm.  Cheerio was on the air for many years giving readings and talks imbued with an upbeat and inspiring philosophy. The Library has over fifteen recordings of Cheerio dating from 1935 to 1940.

Switching over to its international broadcasts, listeners were treated to a broadcast from Buenos Aires as South America welcomed 1933.

New Year's Eve, 1932. NBC Radio History Collection, Recorded Sound Section

New Year’s Eve, 1932. Reverse side. NBC Radio History Collection, Recorded Sound Section

Both WJZ and WEAF followed the New Year’s festivities from the roof of the Hotel Astor in New York as the Riverside Church Carillon rang in the New Year and the crowds at Times Square cheered. Dance music ushered in 1933 with broadcasts of bands from around the nation. Broadcasting from Chicago, listeners heard Art Kassel and his “Kassels in the Air” from the Hotel Bismark, Frankie Masters and his band played at the Winter Garden and Earl Hines performed at the Grand Terrace.

Denver joined in the celebration with orchestras from the Denver Athletic Club and Cosmopolitan Hotel. On the Pacific coast, the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco featured Johnny Hamp while Sol Bright and his Hollywaiians brought a little bit of Honolulu to the mainland.

At two o’clock in the afternoon on January 1, 1933, WJZ broadcast a very special program of residents living at International House, a community for scholars and students from around the world, as they wished everyone a Happy New Year in their native languages.

Subsequent years of programing followed the same formula of classical music concerts, broadcasts from around the world, chimes of the Riverside Church carillons and Times Square celebrations. These were followed by broadcasts from night clubs and hotels around the country of great bands and performers. Some of these performers included: Count Basie and his Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald, Marion McPartland, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Xavier Cugat and Guy Lombardo, who would later become a New Year’s tradition by making the transition to  television in 1956.

However you decide to celebrate, we wish you all a happy and healthy 2015!

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