Network & Syndication Publications Search All
Radio TV Albums
  Books, pamphlets and other publications by or about Radio & TV networks &

John Schneider

1:07pm Feb 3

When the musician's union held the radio industry for ransom:

In the 1940s, the American Federation of Musicians, led by the powerful James C. Petrillo, had a stranglehold on the radio industry. Stations needed staff musicians for their live programs, and the AFM held each station to contracts that required them to hire a minimum number of staff musicians. The musicians worked 8 hour days at union wages, even if they only played one 30 minute program.

Petrillo's fear was that recorded music would undermine his union's strength. A number of small stations that broadcast only recorded music (the first "disc jockeys") were having success and needed to be stopped. Chicago, a strong pro-union town where the Chicago Federation of Musicians had a tight grip on the radio industry, became his battleground.

As a test case in 1944, he demanded that WJJD increase its staff of ten musicians to twenty, with the additional ten to be employed as "record turners" (Patrillo called them "pancake turners" A record turner's job was to operate the station's turntables, and they were not allowed to play musical instruments or otherwise perform.) WJJD refused and Petrillo called a strike. The case went to the Labor Relation's Board, where Petrillo stated his demand that the U.S. broadcast industry hire 2,000 AFM members as record turners. The case was resisted by NABET, the engineer's union, who wanted to keep equipment operation under their own jurisdiction.

As the case dragged on, a city-wide musician's strike in 1945 took several stations off the air, and a contract dispute with WAAT in 1946 led the government to take the case to the Supreme Court, who acquitted Petrillo. But by 1948, with TV looming on the horizon, stations across the country were starting to disband their studio orchestras. Petrillo finally backed down on his demands on the networks and U.S. radio broadcasters elsewhere, but he was still able to uphold his requirements in Chicago because of the CFM's ironclad union contracts. They announced that Chicago stations couldn't fire their musicians, but they could turn them into record turners. As a result, up until the mid 1960s, EVERY Chicago union radio station had "record turners" who received musicians' hourly wages to operate the turntables and play music.

Interestingly, the mechanism that finally allowed the Chicago stations to get rid of the record turners was the tape cartridge machine. One by one, WLS, WBBM, WIND, WCFL, WMAQ and WJJD all converted their music to tape cartridge and got rid of the turntables - and the record turners - in their studio. The last holdout was WGN in Chicago, where up until the 1980s it took three people to run a disc jockey record show - an announcer, an engineer, and a record turner.

Thus, the "record turner" goes down in history as radio's version of the locomotive fireman, whose jobs continued for more than two decades after the railroads converted to diesel engines.
Related Station Pges
Radio at War Booklets
From WW II
Station
Albums
Station
Books
WLS
Stand-By
WLS Family Albums Don McNeil's Breakfast Club
 
Network Publications
The Fourth Chime
NBC book on the web's coverage of W.W. II (1944)
NBC "The Longest Night"  The story of the coverage of elections 1962 The Sound of your Life. A 1950 CBS celebration of its history and broadcasts.
NBC's 1975 introduction of its syndicated all news format. Full presentation 25 Years of NBC Television. A pictorial album. NBC Star Album for the 1964 TV season
NBC Star Album for the 1963 TV season Bill Ballance Audience profile. En example of station sales research NBC Policies Manual
1945   
Arthur Godfrey Photo Album and story from 1951
"Many exclusive pictures"
Broadcast Advertising
NBC's 1928
NBC Broadcast Advertising Vol II from 1929.
Kellog's 1943 album for the Tom Brenneman show. Close Up.
A little book from CBS: The steps to put a network show on air in 1949
NBC Presents
1938 to 1940. Newsletter and grid of  "Public Interest Programs"
Program  Syndicators
Century 21 Programming services catalog from the 80's NBC wartime policies
W:W. II
Musica en Flor
Sales brochure for Latin American beautiful music format.1983