19 May: It isn’t goodnight for Alan Freed; it’s a long, painful goodbye

Alan Freed, near the height of his career, circa 1955-56. (Photo: WINS.)

Alan Freed, near the height of his career, circa 1955-56. (Photo: WINS.)

He coined the term “rock and roll” (perhaps inspired by the use of the phrase in Billy Ward and the Dominos’ suggestive rhythm and blues hit “Sixty Minute Man”) and he was often considered its father. And yet there have been those who have pondered whether Alan Freed came to it at first for love or for the cash register. Nelson George, in his remarkable The Death of Rhythm & Blues (New York: Pantheon, 1988), isolated that thought among others:

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9 May: The world and inner wars of Howard K. Smith

Smith, whose brilliance reporting Berlin's destruction was equaled only by his flair for being his own worst enemy. (Photo: CBS.)

Smith, whose brilliance reporting Berlin’s destruction was equaled only by his flair for being his own worst enemy. (Photo: CBS.)

Edward R. Murrow’s World War II reporting team has earned a reputation for daring, often dangerous reporting. Murrow himself has traipsed the rooftops of London at the height of the Blitz, then accompanied deep bombing runs in the European war theater. Eric Sevareid has found himself lost in the Pacific when a military flight aboard which he flew went down with engine trouble during the Burmese-Chinese phase of the war in the Pacific. And Richard C. Hottelet has spent a few hours in a Nazi concentration camp.

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8 May: V-E Day in Wistful Vista

Harlow Wilcox (left), Marian Jordan (center), and Jim Jordan (right). (Photo: NBC.)

Harlow Wilcox (left), Marian Jordan (center), and Jim Jordan (right). (Photo: NBC.)

It was only too appropriate that the timing should hold Fibber McGee & Molly due for their regular Tuesday night radio comedy on the same day the end of World War II in Europe—“the first act of the greatest drama the world has ever seen,” as announcer Harlow Wilcox will describe it—is announced officially.

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7 May: A momentable day, in more than one way

Ed Kennedy, who breaks the scoop of the war to date---and gets pinked for his trouble. (Photo: Associated Press.)

Ed Kennedy, who breaks the scoop of the war to date—and gets pinked for his trouble. (Photo: Associated Press.)

Very quietly, but most unconditionally, what’s left of the Third Reich following the death of Adolf Hitler surrenders one and all to the Allies, following the relentless, smothering Allied press into the heart of Germany. The rump Fensburg government of Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz—the surprise successor der Fuehrer named in the hours before his death, who knew in his heart that the Third Reich’s days were numbered almost in single digits when he took over—has lasted ten days since Hitler’s suicide.

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6 May: Dead zeppelin, live reporting

Morrison (with microphone) returns to what's left of the Hindenburg the day after the disaster. (Photo: WLS/NBC.)

Morrison (with microphone) returns to what’s left of the Hindenburg the day after the Lakehurst disaster. (Photo: WLS/NBC.)

Even in 2015, two years before its eightieth anniversary, you can find periodic debate as to whether it’s the single greatest legend of old-time radio news reporting in the pre-World War II era. What isn’t necessarily debatable is that Herbert Morrison’s spot report of the Hindenburg disaster becomes a legend the way legends customarily became that way, once upon a time—entirely by accident. It is an experiment in pre-recording news reporting for delayed broadcast, and it takes on its own mystique in very short order.

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