NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1930 __ Increasing Sales of Radio Receivers
Comment : There's a lot of anecdotal talk to the effect that many people bought their first radios to listen to "Amos 'n' Andy" during 1929-30, but I don't think it's realistic to claim that the fad surrounding the program was the major engine driving radio sales during that era. There were numerous other factors as well. The most important of these factors involved the evolution of radios themselves. Beginning around 1925, radio sets evolved from crude-looking boxes festooned with knobs and jacks and dials and visible wiring to more elegant devices contained in wooden cabinets designed as furniture. This change made radio far more acceptable as family entertainment for the living room instead of a reclusive hobby for the attic. Following this change, in 1926-27, radio manufacturers introduced sets that operated directly off the AC line, rather than off batteries. Many housewives of the era objected to the presence of batteries in their living rooms -- especially the wet-cell "A" batteries that could leak acid on the floor, create odors, or otherwise make their presence unpleasant. These batteries, likewise, would need to be carried off to a garage or filling station once a week or so to be recharged, adding to the inconvenience of owning a set. An AC set, on the other hand, could simply be plugged into the wall and enjoyed without any of this muss or fuss. And the final such factor came in 1930, with the introduction of "midget" radios. These small table sets -- including the famous "cathedral" cabinets -- were much easier to fit into a living room than a massive console, and were also much more affordable for working-class people, who could buy one on credit for as little as fifty cents a week. These radios exploded onto the market during 1930, a period which coincided with the peak of A&A's popularity, and the two crazes thus were able to feed off each other -- more people could buy radios to listen to A&A, and more people who bought radios discovered they enjoyed A&A. The popularity of "Amos 'n' Andy" did, however, undoubtedly drive the popularity of radio drama during the early 1930s, encouraging a great many imitators in the nightly serial format -- and soon spreading into daytime as well. While most dramatic programs prior to A&A had been anthologies, with few or no continuing characters, the popularity of "Amos 'n' Andy" proved beyond question that listeners would and could follow the stories of favorite characters and that Everyman characters such as they were could serve as the framework for long-term series popularity. Without the proletarian influence of Amos and Andy, the evolution and development of dramatic radio might have lagged for years in the sort of stilted, pseudo-stagey productions which characterized most American radio drama prior to their rise. (Elizabeth McLeod, 2006)
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