Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jonathan Schwartz and WKCS

1949: Jonathan Schwartz, eleven years old, lived with his parents in a penthouse at Ninety-fourth Street and Lexington Avenue. There he created a radio station:

A radio station was born from the newly invented Electronic Baby-Sitter, a device that, when placed by a crib, would transmit any disturbance to a radio in another room at 600 on the dial, where there was no New York station. I used the Electronic Baby-Sitter as a microphone, placing it in front of my record player. The result in the living room and in my mother’s room and in my father’s study was nothing short of what my mother called “a miracle.” The music that I was playing in my room was as clear as a chime on every radio in the house. My father’s battery portable, which rested on a bed table by the brown couch, gave me the big idea.

I took it, one morning, down the back stairs of the building, all twelve floors, to the street.

The reception remained clear as my father changed the recordings in my room. Absolutely clear, even on the street, even across Ninety-fourth and down Lexington toward Ninety-third.

I lost the signal a block from home, but it returned and became its powerful self in the lobby of our building.

A real opportunity here. A real station, WKCS, in honor of my mother.

Jonathan Schwartz, All in Good Time: A Memoir (New York: Random House, 2004).
As Schwartz explains, the station’s call letters “had the W for the eastern stations, the K for western stations, and the KCS for my mother’s initials, Katherine Carrington Schwartz.” (His father was the composer Arthur Schwartz.) The schedule, distributed to every apartment in the building:
Monday–Friday, 7:00–7:30 A.M., The Sunrise Salute
Saturday and Sunday, 7:00–8:00 A.M., The Weekend Salute
Jonathan Schwartz, disc jockey, grew up to be Jonathan Schwartz, disc jockey, writer, Sinatra maven. You can still hear Schwartz on the weekends: The Saturday Show and The Sunday Show run from noon to four (Eastern Time) on WNYC-FM, 93.9, streaming at Some jazz, some pop, some show tunes, some familiar, some rare and out of the way. It’s difficult to stop listening.

Tenuously related posts
Call Letter Origins
96th and Lexington

comments: 2

Chris Albertson said...

Interesting. When I was a kid, in Copenhagen, I made a pretend microphone and used it for pretend radio shows. Like Jonathan, the dream was realized but—after several years on the air—I had to wonder if it had been a good one.

Michael Leddy said...

The enforced WNEW sabbatical that followed JS’s on-air criticism of Sinatra’s Trilogy says a lot about the business.