Monday, December 31, 2007

WLAV 10th Anniversary Show from 1950

Here's another rarity from radio history on the blog today.

A few years ago, a good friend, Bill Blodgett, gave me a vintage Lear wire recorder. If you're not familiar with the devices, wire recorders were a predecessor to magnetic tape recorders used by the military and for some recordings of field reports by reporters during World War II. After the War, they were marketed for home and business use. They recorded audio on a thin wire moving at around 20 inches per second. After only a few years, sales of wire recorders declined in favor of easier to use and edit tape recordings.

I have up a page about the recorder and some of the wires that Bill gave me with the set on my website. Most of the wires contained recordings of song, snippets of radio broadcasts, and events like Christmas or birthday parties and neither Bill nor I know who the original owners were.

Two wires among the recordings contain a rather unusual program. The show appears to have been created, perhaps for a private party, by the staff of radio station WLAV for their tenth anniversary. Below is a link to the two excerpts found on different wires - the program is almost complete when you listen to the excerpts one after another.

The show tells a funny dramatized story about the history of the station, poking fun at WLAV's founder and owner, Leonard Allen Versluis. It also frames the "show" as a broadcast from the ABC network, so I'm assuming the station was an affiliate at the time. WLAV started broadcasting in 1940, so that would make this recording date from 1950. According to Wikipedia, WLAV-AM, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is now WBBL, which broadcasts with a sports-talk format.

I contacted the station about the recording, but, with the changes in management over the past fifty-plus years, they didn't know anything about it. They wanted a copy for their collection and I sent it to them.

What surprised me about this wire and some others was the quality - I've always heard that wire recorders sounded rather poor, but this rivals some audio tape recordings from the time in frequency response. The anniversary show appears to have been dubbed either from an acetate or tape made at the station.

If you ever run into old wire recordings or reels of tape, be sure to pick them up and give them a listen - you never know what might turn up.

WLAV Anniversary - Part 1 (1:57, MP3 - 2.7 MB)
WLAV Anniversary - Part 2 (10:48, MP3 - 14.9 MB)


Anonymous said...

Hi. I wanted to tell you that the correct name for the original owner of WLAV- AM-FM, and also the original owner of WLAV TV is Leonard Adrian Versluis, the Grand Opening of the first radio staion here was in 1940.
I know this because I am his first-born granddaughter, Nee Roberta Gail Versluis. I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1940.
He does have a grandson whose name is Leonard Alan (not Allen) Versluis. He had a son and a daughter; Leonard A. Versluis Jr. and Helen Madeline Versluis, both deceased.
I live in Cedar Springs, Michigan.
You can email me at
I dare say that if you want any more information, to contact me. I know plenty, and what I don't know, you don't need to know. lol

Roberta Gail Mees said...

Hello again.
This is Roberta (Versluis) Mees, and thank you for correcting my grandfather's middle name. I see a lot of people are still using Allen or spelling Adrian wrong. But, because you posted my comment about it, I want you to know that it is appreciated having his proper name being noted for our family tree history.

I will repeat that his name was Leonard Adrian Versluis, and my father was Leonard Adrian Versluis Jr. Our family was very close, and I remember many people who worked for him, and all the family as well.
A lot of fantastic articles were stolen from me, which is sad. But, my son found the (one) album that is awesome, & the genuine booklet, actually celebrating the 1940 grand opening of Western Michigan's Only TV station, which contains 28 pages including the covers. It contains lots of pictures and information about the entire works in those days, and the cover shows downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have one copy, and I know of only 2 other copies in the family.
(I mistakenly wrote first radio station in my first comment, for which I apologize.) It was the first TV station.

I scanned all the pages in order, and if you or any others are interested in the album's copies, please let me know. I also have a picture of me, the first-born grandchild, in my diaper, designed breaking through a newspaper, I think, that says 1940 New Year. I'm not looking at it right now. I just know it's OLD..
Nothing was in color then unless it was hand-oiled. An art technique that is pretty much lost now. My mother was a coloress, and taught me. So I oiled many portraits in my day, made red-proofs, and many of the things they don't do anymore.

My email address is: Thanks. "Gail"