WGN Studio Orchestra | University of Illinois Archives

Name: WGN Studio Orchestra

Historical Note: The Chicago-based WGN radio station began its life in 1923 as WJAZ, a small Zenith-owned station broadcasting out of the "Crystal Room" studio in the Edgewater Beach Hotel. In 1924, the Chicago Tribune, under Col. Robert R. McCormick, assumed control of the station and gave it the call letter WGN (for World's Greatest Newspaper). That same year, WGN took over station WDAP, assuming control of its programs, as well as its studio. WGN provided its listeners with local and world news, live broadcasts of political and sporting events, and many music and theatrical programs. In the early days of radio, live music was an integral part of the listening experience. "The Theatre of the Air", which ran from 1940-1956, was produced before a live studio audience and broadcast across the country via the Mutual Broadcasting System. In 1943 "Theatre of the Air" moved to the Medinah Temple, where 3,000-4,000 people could watch the famous singer Marion Claire perform with the WGN Studio Orchestra. Col. Robert R. McCormick would often lend his voice to the program, speaking on historic topics like the Revolutionary War. The WGN Studio Orchestra also played for other programs, such the University of Chicago's "The Human Adventure Series," and music-drama presentations like operettas and musicals. The WGN Studio Orchestra developed an extensive music library to support these productions. Although radio broadcasts of live musical productions may be a thing of the past, WGN still operates at frequency of 720 kHz, and has since 1927.
Sources: The History of Chicago's WGN radio 720: http://www.wgngold.com/timeline/index.htm
Note Author: Jessica Lapinsky

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