cover image Hello, Everybody!: The Dawn of American Radio

Hello, Everybody!: The Dawn of American Radio

Anthony J. Rudel, . . Harcourt, $26 (399pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101275-6

Novelist and classical music expert Rudel (Imagining Don Giovanni ), who has an extensive background in radio broadcasting, offers a lively overview of the birth of radio with an emphasis on the entrepreneurs and evangelists, hucksters and opportunists who saw the medium's potential. He traces the transition from hobbyists to the “radio craze” of 1922 when Americans spent more than $60 million on home receivers that brought the sounds of urban life to rural areas. The first station west of the Rockies, KHJ, prompted the notorious sexual-rejuvenation surgeon John R. Brinkley to open KFKB in 1923 Kansas. By the end of the 1920s, the Federal Radio Commission was established to manage the airwaves, NBC and CBS competed and advertising increased. Along with political campaigns and sports broadcasts, Rudel covers the “love/hate relationship” of newspapers and radio stations. His chapter on “the unholy marriage between radio and religion” details the rise and fall of evangelist Sister Aimée Semple McPherson. Profiles reveal Rudy Vallee's vast appeal and important role in creating the radio variety show. With extensive newspaper research, this is an authoritative and entertaining survey of the early days of dial twisting. (Oct.)