Dec 23
Radio Stratosphere

One night in 1937 the evening sun went down and as it dropped below the horizon the vast daytime radio audience expanded to millions. Never in our history has the U.S. been so connected by so many powerful voices across the airwaves. Out of New York in the East, Chicago in the middle, and Hollywood in the West came the most expensive voices in America; voices worth as much as $250 per minute, $15,000 per microphone hour. Significantly, the best-known voices on the big evening network shows come from Hollywood, for all of the voices were attached to Names, and Hollywood was then and still is today the greatest maker of and taker of Names on Earth. It was not altogether healthy for radio that this should be so, but in 1937 over 70 million U.S. listeners were satisfied, and their satisfaction was the be-all and end-all of radio broadcasting.

Miguel Covarrubias, who drew the faces of the names, identified within the key on this page, was mindful that the joke and the song were not all of radio. Across the nightmare sky he spotted people of the day and evening dramas, and here and there are Names who were not voices but musicians, and other Names that stood for furious oratory. And Shakespeare's green, unhappy wraith, half hidden by the microphone, is less an entity than a symbol of all that's labeled Culture on the air.

Taken from part of a 1938 Fortune Magazine article on the radio industry