WDZ RADIO, TUSCOLA, ILLINOIS

THE NATION'S THIRD COMMERCIAL RADIO STATION

CENTRAL ILLINOIS ENTERTAINMENT SOURCE

PART B

125.

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SPECIAL SECTION PART B-- WDZ, TUSCOLA-- ILLINOIS' FIRST COMMERCIAL RADIO STATION HISTORY


WDZ STARTS WITH A LITTLE MUSIC

 

JAMES L. BUSH AND CLYDE WHEY TALK ABOUT A TRANSMITTER

       In 1921, James Bush, a grain dealer in Tuscola -was talking with Clyde Wiley, who had been in the Signal Corps of the Army during WW L The gist of that legendary conservation was that "if Bush would furnish the money, Wiley would build a transmitter and grain reports could be sent out." The money was provided and Wiley started building a transmitter in Bush's grain office. On St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1921, the FIRST GRAIN REPORT went out and what was to become WDZ was born. These first grain reports were also the first of their kind in the U.S.

9JR IS THE NAME OF THIS FIRST STATION

       9JR is an odd little name for such an important step in Illinois and U.S. radio history. And to top it off, there were only two radio receivers to hear the first signal. Ed Seaman at an elevator in Dorans, and Ed Morris at Coles (both towns being near Mattoon) were owners of receivers that could here 9JR. The first broadcast only lasted five minutes.

ONLY KDKA, PITTSBURGH AND WGY, SCHENECTADY, N.J. ARE OLDER THAN WDZ

JAMES BUSH, OWNER OF 9JR COMBINES GRAIN AND BROADCAST OPERATIONS

       For the first few months in 1921, Mr. Bush would run his elevator and the radio broadcasts in the same office. The grain elevator was the home for the 15 watt transmitter for some time. The aerial would be a wire strung over the old Star Market. Raymond Muir was the chief announcer and also his grain office manager. Walter L. Schafer was the telegrapher, since the Chicago reports were received by wire. A high school student, Curtis Marsh, was Muir's assistant and quickly became a part-time announcer. He said in a story that he had a good voice, and it was natural that he would start broadcasting.

GRAIN REPORTS ON THE HOUR AND HALF-HOUR

       Three minutes of music would be played from a recording, to announce the up-coming grain report. The first report would be at 9:00 A.M., and the last one would be at 1:15 P.M. The transmitter would be turned off in-between the two times.

9JR IS RENAMED WDZ IN 1922

       January, 1922 the call letters WDZ were assigned by the government. The tiny 15 watt transmitter was increased to a 50 watt one. This was quite powerful. Remember, there weren't any other stations, and there weren't any microwave towers, TV towers, etc. The air was clear.

BUSH OPENS A RETAIL RCA RADIO STORE

       James Bush was a good business man and quickly saw a market for radio receivers. There was no retailer in Illinois at this time. He received a wholesale and retail franchise from the leading RCA Company. The Tuscola Radio Supply Company was born (another pioneer project).

CURTIS MARSH GRADUATES FROM HIGH SCHOOL

       In the 1920ís a high school diploma was comparable to a college graduation. Very few even got to high school. Marsh had already been with WDZ three years. In 1928, Mark C. Spies was hired as WDZ radio chief engineer.  He developed an interest in radio while at Milliken University in Decatur. He would later work for the communications department with the Navy in Washington D.C.

TUSCOLA LOVED ITS RADIO STATION

       And besides that, it was good business,

1929 IS YEAR FOR A NEW COMMERCIAL WDZ

       James Bush would turn the management of the radio station to his wife, Edith.    The grain and

radio operations would still operate under one roof.  In 1929, the station started selling spot

commercials. A whole purpose would start.

 


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