This is the year the late radio personality and actor Bob Crane, most widely known as the star of the blockbuster 1960s television comedy series Hogan's Heroes, is being considered for induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
It's a long overdue honor because Crane was a true innovative pioneer of 1950s and 60s radio. He created elaborate sound effect sequences using a laborious hand-spliced tape technique, conducted superb V.I.P. interviews, and refined the fine art of harnessing wackiness to successfully drive advertising as well as listener entertainment — in a career that spanned twenty years.
Offered here is one of the rarest forms of Bob Crane autograph memorabilia. It's on the letterhead of radio station WICC in Bridgeport Connecticut, where Crane was a dee-jay in 1955 — and in a matched pair with one written and signed by his WICC on-air stablemate Wallie Dunlap!
In a few months, Crane would leave East Coast radio for good. WICC was a powerful station with a signal that reached the New York City area. Crane's huge popularity became a problem for the CBS radio network because he was taking away market share from their New York flagship station WCBS.
So, they moved Crane to Los Angeles, taking care of a second problem they had, the sinking ratings of their West Coast flagship station KNX. Crane became a smash hit in L.A. with his sly wit, manic drumming, and a constant stream of top-drawer star guests such as Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Bob Hope. He quickly became the number-one rated morning show in the L.A. area, and became known as "The King of the Los Angeles Airwaves."
Turning to the letters...
These two letters are a doubly matched pair — not only were they written individually by both members of a 1950s on-air duo, but they are also both addressed to the same company and regarding the same matter — the promotional material and sample record WICC had received from a brand new independent record company called Thunderbird Record Co.
These letters originated from the archives of Thunderbird Records.
Bob Crane wrote to Thunderbird executive Bob Share in Boston, and Wallie Dunlap wrote to Thunderbird founder Jordan S. Ramin in New York.
Bob Share was a teacher and provost of the famous Berklee School of Music in Boston — the first college-level music school that prepared students for careers in music by teaching modern music including jazz. Berklee College of Music was only a few years old at the time — today it's a world-famous college of music with thousands of students, and Share's reputation as an early and visionary jazz music educator is secure.
Jordan Ramin, the founder of Thunderbird Records, had been a student of Share's at Berklee only a few years before. He was the brother of Sid Ramin, the great bandleader and arranger who would go on to win both the Grammy Award and Academy Award for orchestrating the movie West Side Story for his childhood friend Leonard Bernstein.
Sid was also a partner in Thunderbird Records, and in fact provided the instrumental music for the Thunderbird releases.
Crane and Dunlap had received the very first Thunderbird record,"I Remember Mambo" b/w "Who Can Say" performed by singer Jack Haskell, who was well-known by that time as Dave Garroway's sidekick and appearances on the Jack Paar Show, substituting for the announcer Hugh Downs on occasion — in the future he would be a guest and replacement for Ed McMahon on Tonight when Johnny Carson became the host.
Both of the WICC deejays inquire whether 78 rpm records are available — because WICC can't play 45 rpm records yet! Ironic considering that Crane was known for innovative broadcasting techniques!
Jordan Ramin was actually moonlighting with his Thunderbird Records venture. At the time he is working for Michael Todd, one of the most famous movie producers in the world. In a few months, Todd would release the most expensive movie ever made: Around The World in 80 Days, which would win the Academy Award for the year's best picture. And, in 5 months, he would marry Elizabeth Taylor, the most famous movie star in the world.