NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1920 __ WRR
Comment : Established to broadcast fire alarms, WRR, Dallas, Texas, plays phonograph records so owners can check if they were tuned in. In 1925 the station sells time spots to sponsors. (Barry Mishkind, “The Broadcast Archives”, [http://www.oldradio.com/ www.oldradio.com])The City of Dallas-owned radio station not only pioneered the local airwaves; WRR was the first licensed broadcast station in Texas and the second federally licensed station in the United States. City-owned radio stations may not be the norm in most broadcast markets, but WRR is not an average radio station. The station was originally housed in the Dallas Fire Department and touted as the latest in firefighter communications. When firemen had no blazing fires to battle, however, they blazed the broadcast trail by playing music or telling jokes. WRR was the brainchild of inventor Henry Garrett, a Police and Fire Signal Superintendent for the City of Dallas who began tinkering with radio in his off-duty hours. Garrett envisioned radio as the modern way for firefighters in the field to communicate. And he sold city officials on the efficiency and safety value his concept could offer. Radio was still a novelty in 1921 and like today’s iPods, most listeners used headsets to tune in on their crystal sets. Until mass-manufactured radio receivers became affordable a few years later, many listeners made their own receivers. After “Dad” Garrett’s system of transmitting fire alarms became firmly established, phonograph records were played during downtime. In time, listeners heard the voice of John Henry Stone announce record titles, initiating the new role of disc jockey. Today listeners can download WRR programs to their Ipods and create, in effect, a personal radio station. Today, WRR is the only commercial station in Texas that plays classical music 24 hours a day and is the oldest same-owner station in the U.S. With a tower in Cedar Hill, the 100,000 watt station's listening area spans 100 square miles. WRR now broadcasts in an all-digital format for improved sonic fidelity. Listeners can hear these benefits with a High Definition Radio receiver. Before magnetic tape came into use in the early 1950s and later recording formats were developed, radio stations utilized the process of electrical transcription to record live programs for the purpose of delayed broadcast. The format was normally 16 inch (406 mm) diameter "transcription disks". These records were made of shellac, acetate, or lacquer-coated aluminum, and were recorded at the "professional speed" of 33 1/3 rpm. Rate cards contain prices and descriptions for the various advertising placement options available from a radio station or other media outlet. Instead of operating at taxpayer expense, WRR is funded solely by advertising revenue. (WRR Photographs, Documents and Artifacts, Selections from the WRR Collection, Dallas Municipal Archives)Henry Garrett began a career as superintendent of the Dallas Police and Fire Signal System. In 1920 he assured his place in Dallas' history by installing a 50-watt radio transmitter at the central fire station, licensed with the call letters WRR. The equipment's principal purpose was to transmit alarms to the other fire stations as well as to the portable radio receiver that Garrett carried in his car. Being a music lover, Garrett soon found another use for the city's new equipment. Between fire alarms, for the benefit of any crystal radio set owners who might be listening, he connected the transmitter to a phonograph and played his collection of classical recordings (the same type of music WRR has broadcast for over 80 years). By 1921, the station had a regular daily schedule. Every evening at 7 police bulletins, baseball scores, and a weather forecast were aired. This was followed at about 8:30 by a classical music concert. Garrett's traffic signal lights were first installed on Elm Street in 1923, in hopes of cutting down the ever-increasing number of traffic accidents. In one of life's ironies, Lillian Garrett was fatally injured in a car crash seven years later, dying in February 1931. (Steven Butler, “Henry "Dad" Garrett: The Father of WRR”, in “the Friends of WRR Radio Program Guide”, February 2002)
Urls : http://www.ci.dallas.tx.us/cso/archives/Exhibits/WRR/WRRphotos2.htm (last visited ) http://www.watermelon-kid.com/places/FairPark/fp-history/essays/wrr-father.htm (last visited )

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