Master Control - 1929

WBT - The Early ThirtiesIntroduction

The period of experimentation was over; radio had gained a lasting foothold in the imaginations of Americans. It had become a business. Irresistible—and free—entertainment and information was now being presented by local stations and the two new networks.

As the 20's became the 30's, WBT was an NBC affiliate, owned by a northern businessman named W. K. Gillian. He soon sold the station to the fledgling Columbia Broadcast System, whose owner, William S. Paley, was the young son of a wealthy Philadelphia cigar maker. It was reported at the time that Paley dabbled in broadcasting only as a hobby, although the network already had 72 affiliates, with several, now including WBT, owned outright and operated by CBS.

The switch to CBS affected Charlotte listeners in a serious way: They would be deprived of Amos 'N Andy! Newspaper articles were written to advise upset citizens that they could simply turn the dial and hear the program on some other station.

It was a time of 15- and 30-minute programs. Imagine the program director's nightmare of juggling dozens of shows a day—many with live talent! There was organ music—lots of organ music, silver voiced tenors, minstrel shows, poetry readings, French lessons ...

What you'll read here may make you rethink what we consider to be the "golden years" of WBT. All things considered, the early 30's could make a valid claim for that title.

There was no template to follow; everything was an experiment. The real genius behind the station is little remembered and largely unheralded. Earle Gluck, a brilliant engineer and visionary, was present from the station's inception, and, over its first decade, built it into a broadcasting legend. Without Mr. Gluck those famous call letters might never have been assigned.

These old clippings (on 99 pages) are a treasure of the early history of WBT, of the public's fascination with radio, and its reliance on—and appreciation of—what then was the most vital station in the South. They also reflect the public's tastes and the nature and quality of entertainment in that far off time.

This material comes from a large, thick scrapbook owned by Ed Cole, son of Grady Cole, which contains what may be every news article pertaining to WBT from 1930 into early 1933. It was compiled during those years by station staffers, perhaps in the promotion department. Our thanks to Ed for allowing us to scan and share these wonderful and important stories.

We've added on our In Memoriam page the 48 employees and featured performers named in these stories.