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The Oregonian Publishing Company, under the direction of Edgar Piper, publisher of the daily Oregonian newspaper, was granted the 98th Radio License in the country and their signal hit the airwaves on March 25, 1922 with the call letters KGW as Portland’s first station used for commercial purposes. Piper purchased a 50-watt experimental transmitter built by Jesse Weed from the Portland office of the Shipowners Radio Service. The studio, as shown above, was housed on the 11th floor of The Oregonian Building Tower at Sixth & Alder Streets. The transmitter was located on the 13th floor. The antenna consisted of a 70-foot, four-wire inverted "L"-type flattop, suspended between a 60-foot mast on top of the building and a 95-foot tower on the nearby Northwestern Bank Building.

R.G. Calvert supervised the operation and Richard “Dick” Haller was the program director. Their aim was to give their listeners news fresh from the press with the best music and outstanding speakers. KGW’s early announcers and writers were usually former newspaper employees, and the first engineers and technicians came from the ranks of former maritime wireless radio operators.

When the station first went on the air, 5,000 radio sets were said to have tuned in. Speakers included The Oregonian’s Editor, Edgar Piper and Mayor George Baker. There was also an opera singer, a novelist and a live musical presentation. Dick Haller became known as KGW’s “Million-Dollar Voice” and his broadcasts were very popular. He would go on to a successful career with NBC in San Francisco.

As an early radio station experiencing tremendous popularity, KGW implemented many innovative new broadcasting ideas. KGW set itself apart from the other stations by having the first radio variety show in the nation, the first audience participation show, the first quiz program, the first library program, the first radio debate, the first in-school listening program and the first singing commercial. In 1925, on-air advertising became a source of KGW’s operating revenue. KGW produced the first-ever singing commercial for Sears, Roebuck and Company in the late 1920s.

KGW was the first station in Oregon to affiliate with a national broadcasting service when they carried the inaugural program of the National Broadcasting Company’s Orange Network on April 5, 1927. The Orange Network was known as the NBC Pacific Coast Network.

 

The nationally famous Hoot Owls, officially known as "The Order of Hoot Owls Roosting in the Oregonian Tower" aired from 1923 to 1933 as a 2-1/2 hour variety show that was broadcast to over one million listeners. Their slogan soon became "Keep Growing Wiser," whose initial letters represented the KGW call letters. The only other show that rivaled the Hoot Owls in popularity was Amos & Andy which first aired in Portland in 1928 on KFEC, which had studios on the fifth floor of Meier & Frank.

 

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One of the performers on the Hoot Owls program, Mel Blanc, achieved fame as the author of cartoon characterization in later years in Hollywood where he became the nation’s voice for cartoon characters such as Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. Blanc, who received his high school education in Portland, joined the program in 1927. Nicknamed "The Grand Snicker" on the Hoot Owls, Blanc became well known for his comedy, as well as his skills as a storyteller, ad-libber, musician, vocalist, and, later, orchestra pit conductor.

Blanc left KGW in 1933 and moved down the hall to perform on sister station KEX in the popular "Cobwebs and Nuts" program, before moving to Hollywood in 1935. While working on animated cartoons at Warner Brothers studios in Southern California, he became known as the "man of a thousand voices." During his early years in Portland radio, Blanc laid the foundation for many of his later cartoon voices and comedy routines.

Chet Huntley spent time early in his career at KGW before joining David Brinkley in anchoring the NBC Nightly News. One of KGW’s managers who was highly respected in the radio business was Arden X. Pangborn and he found his way to Hollywood as well. KGW newsman Tom McCall went on to become Governor of Oregon. Ted Hallock worked at KGW and later went on to serve in the Oregon Senate from 1963 to 1983.

After airing for a short time on KFEC, Amos & Andy moved to KGW in 1929 and then to KOIN in 1939.

Amos & Andy became part of the eastern NBC Blue Network schedule on August 19, 1929. Under special arrangements, the program began airing on the Orange chain, NBC's Pacific Coast Network and it was heard over KGW at 8:30 pm beginning on November 28, 1929. By 1931, Amos & Andy had become a national phenomenon with nearly 40 million listeners. Amos & Andy moved to the NBC Red Network in 1935. On April 3, 1939 the program moved to CBS and it was heard locally on KOIN.

KGW became part of the NBC Red Network in July of 1936 when the NBC Orange Network was fazed out. It was announced on September 1, 1942, "There will be no more Red Network,  it will simply be “NBC".  The Blue Network was designated as a separate company in January 1942 in preparation for future sale.  On October 12, 1943, NBC Chairman David Sarnoff sold The Blue Network to Edward J. Noble, owner of Lifesavers Candy Company. The Blue Network name was changed to the American Broadcasting Co. (ABC) on June 15, 1945.

When Si Newhouse, owner of The Oregonian, wanted to sell KGW and concentrate on his newspaper business, he sold it to Mrs. Scott Bullitt of the King Broadcasting empire in Seattle and her Portland business partners on November 1, 1953. Mrs. Bullitt had over 40 years of influence in Portland broadcasting.

On December 17, 1956, KGW Radio ended their long-time affiliation with NBC when they became an affiliate of ABC.

 

Konnie G Worth was popular at KGW

 

Going my way?

 

Covered Wagon Days began airing in the early 1930s.

 

Much of KGW’s early programming was live and locally produced.

 

Souvenir program from the 100th broadcast in 1933.

 

In 1937, Covered Wagon Days was broadcast on KEX.

 

This ad from The Oregonian from Monday Nov. 27, 1950 reveals that Dave Garroway was on the air at KGW in Portland before he became the first host of the Today Show which debuted on NBC-TV on January 14, 1952.

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