What do Doris Day, Eddie Albert and Red Skelton have in common? Their careers started on radio in Cincinnati. “People don’t realize how big Cincinnati was in radio and how many people got their start here,” says Mike Martini, WVXU’s documentary director. “Between 1934 and 1939, WLW had 500,000 watts. It was the only American station ever to broadcast at that much power.”
Martini and colleague Mark Magistrelli captured this influential era in their documentary CD set “Cincinnati Radio: The Early Years (1921-1941),” scheduled for release in September. The CD mixes interviews along with recordings of dramas, comedies and musical programs. Highlights include the first-known recording of Doris Day (on WLW in 1939), an excerpt from the “Fats” Waller program, Eddie Albert singing and excerpts from Red Skelton’s show “Avalon Time.” Media critic Leonard Maltin from “Entertainment Tonight” narrates the CD.
Martini earned degrees in 1987 and 1993. Magistrelli, a 1982 graduate, produced the award-winning CD set, “Cincinnati Radio—The War Years,” in 1991. Assembling this latest collection was a bit more challenging, though, because few recordings still exist. “We’re hoping we can bring some attention to the national role that Cincinnati played in radio,” says Magistrelli. “At the time, Cincinnati was right up there with New York and Chicago. It was the third-largest city in radio in the nation.”
“There was a period when we were a pretty important place,” says Martini. “You had a great deal of national focus coming out of Cincinnati.”