Industry Views

The Birth of the Car Radio

By Walter Sabo
Consultant, Sabo Media
A.K.A. Walter Sterling
Radio Host, Sterling on Sunday

imA beautiful night. Paul Galvin and William Lear took their girlfriends to a romantic look-out view. Paul asked, “Isn’t this great?” His girlfriend replied, “It would better if we could hear music.”

That set Galvin and Lear on a mission to get entertainment into the car. A car radio. They were tinkerers. Galvin owned a failed battery manufacturing company. Lear and Galvin were smart but broke.

They ultimately invented a prototype radio for the car, but it was massive and complicated. No car battery could power it, the radio required its own big battery which was stored under the seat. The antenna was netting covering the roof. Their biggest challenge was static generated by the car’s starter, transmission, battery, lights – you name it. Galvin and Lear traced each source to correct the trouble-making components one by one. Parts of the radio had to be placed in different locations throughout the car. For example, the receiver was mounted on the engine, the controls on the dash.

Finally, still broke, they drove their Studebaker loaded with radio to the bank to apply for a loan to back the venture. The banker agreed to test drive the car for a night. Unfortunately, it caught fire in his garage and no loan was granted. Next Galvin traveled 800 hundred miles to a radio manufacturer convention. He sat outside the convention hall, played the radio loud and attracted enough orders for the radio to continue his quest.

The trouble continued. It was an expensive install: $600 for a $3,000 car. Many people thought it was dangerous to listen to the radio in the car – a distraction. Municipalities tried to ban it fearing it was a driver attention hazard. Supporters of the ban argued that many types of radio programming could put drivers to sleep. Surveys showed most Americans believed car radios were dangerous.

Oh, and the name they gave the device was horrible: 7FT1. Galvin came up with a new name that was both descriptive and synched with the times, Motorola. Partner William Lear went on the invent the Lear Jet.

Chevrolet installed the first reasonably priced Motorola radios in the early 1920s.

The objections were overcome by an initiative of the Radio Manufacturers Association: They argued that car radios actually helped people become better drivers. They pointed out that radios informed drivers about hazardous road conditions that lie ahead and weather conditions that may disrupt their travel. Supporters of car radios also said that radios actually helped to keep drivers awake when they became drowsy.

Conclusion: Are they nuts? A car can park itself but can’t handle an AM radio, those tech challenges were solved in 1920 – by the inventors of the Lear Jet and of your cell phone. Are manufacturers looking for a “display allowance?” Satellite radio was launched by paying zillions for a slot in the dash. Do carmakers want that for AM radios? Forget the EAS which nobody has ever heard and wasn’t activated during 9/11 in New York City. Weather, traffic, gospel, more gospel, compelling talk shows. (One Cleveland AM station runs the SAME Al Sharpton show from dusk Fridays till dawn Monday.) The better the shows, well, the better.

Sure, write your Member of Congress but you will find more vigilant allies among the preachers. You may recall that in the 1990s there was great debate about the proper deployment of the UHF spectrum. Allegedly, at his inauguration President Bill Clinton shook the hand of UHF TV icon, Billy Graham, who looked the president in the eye and said, “Don’t take away my TV stations.”

Walter Sabo was the youngest Executive Vice President in the history of NBC. The youngest VP in the history of ABC. He was a consultant to RKO General longer than Bill Drake. Walter was the in-house consultant to Sirius for eight years. He has never written a resume. Contact him at or mobile 646-678-1110. Hear Walter Sterling at www.waltersterlingshow.comMeet Walter Sabo at TALKERS 2023 on Friday, June 2.

Front Page News Industry News

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Larry Elder Joins Epoch Media Group (EMG) Hosting Live TV Show and Other Projects. Speculation has been growing as to what recent GOP California gubernatorial candidate and TALKERS Heavy Hundred radio star Larry Elder’s next talk media move would be since leaving his nightly program on the Salem Radio Network. The wait is finally over as Epoch Media Group (EMG) announces that Elder has joined EMG, publishers of the rapidly growing American international newspaper, The Epoch Times, and will continue hosting the Larry Elder Show on Epoch TV, NTDTV and other platforms associated with EMG. Elder will host a live, streaming show four times per week on which, according to EMG sources, he will “continue to give the audience his take on the latest and most important issues facing America.” He will also host a podcast for EMG. Based in Los Angeles, Elder is known to his following as “the Sage from South Central” and “America’s truth detector.” He was the front-running GOP challenger to Governor Gavin Newsom in the 2021 California gubernatorial recall election. Elder is also an attorney, author, and accomplished documentary filmmaker. EMG CEO John Tang tells TALKERS, “Larry Elder is an advocate of the principles of The Epoch Times newspaper – truth and tradition – and is inspired by its mission to bring the readers accurate information so they can form their own opinions about the most significant topics of our time.” Tang adds, “In a day and age of sensationalist and emotionally charged news coverage, Elder uses the facts – with humor and insight – to break down the nation’s current events and most urgent issues.” Commenting on this new association, Elder states, “I’m excited to join The Epoch Times. I’m impressed by the newspaper’s courage and willingness to speak the truth to promote liberty and freedom.”


Hillis Returns to Audacy as Brand Manager for KILT-AM, Houston. Sports radio pro Parker Hillis is named brand manager for Audacy’s KILT-AM, Houston “Sports Radio 610,” effective June 6. Hillis was most recently assistant program director for Bonneville’s KKFN-FM, Denver “104.3 The Fan.” He previously served with Audacy’s KRLD-FM, Dallas “105.3 The Fan” in a number of producer roles. Audacy Houston SVP and market manager Sarah Frazier says, “Parker is a rising star. He has impressed us since day one with his innovative ideas, focus on talent coaching and work ethic. We’re thrilled to have him join our Audacy team.” Hillis comments, “I’m excited to join the ‘Sports Radio 610’ team in Houston. The opportunity to direct and grow an already incredible Audacy brand is truly an honor.”


‘The Fisher House Story’ Available for Memorial Day Weekend Programming. Programmers seeking shows for this Memorial Day weekend should reach out to the folks at Fisher House about carrying “The Fisher House Story: Peace of Mind and a Place to Hear.” The free show is available in numerous lengths, including three-hour, two-hour, one-hour (all with 20 mins of avails), 30 minute non-commercial, and 25-minute content segment for news/talk radio. As you are probably aware, the Fisher House provides free housing for the families of military personnel who are undergoing treatment at VA hospitals that allows them to be near their loved ones. At the Fisher House site, you will find the shows, as well as a marketing & social media toolkit and year round PSAs.


Matt McGill Returns to WVON, Chicago for Midday Show. Windy City media personality Matt McGill is coming back to Midway Broadcasting’s news/talk WVON to host the 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm program, effective June 1. McGill stepped away from his afternoon drive show he co-hosted with Kimberly Egonwman last year. Egonwman currently co-hosts the afternoon drive show with Atiba Buchanan. “The Matt McGill Show” – which the station says will be a mix of local news, entertainment and human-interest topics – will replace “Keeping It Real with Al Sharpton” which will move to the station’s website and air live from 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm. Midway Broadcasting CEO Melody Spann Cooper says, “Al Sharpton will always be a member of our family here at WVON, but Matt’s program will focus on longform, sponsor-driven content that is designed to boost revenue and ratings.”


TALKERS News Notes. Texas media firm Ramar gets back into the TV business after being a radio-only company for some time as it closes on the construction permit for low power television station K26PJ-D in Lubbock, Texas. Ramar is acquiring it from Mako Communications LLC for $30,000. Bob Heymann of the Chicago office of Media Services Group served as the exclusive broker for the seller.…..SiriusXM is presenting coverage of the 106th Indianapolis 500 live from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday (5/29). Throughout this week, SiriusXM will present more Indy racing content leading up to Sunday’s race…..The GCN-syndicated “The Dr. Daliah Show” – starring Dr. Daliah Wachs– is added to the weekend program schedule at WBIN Media’s New Hampshire news/talk trio WTPL, Hillsborough; WTSN, Dover; and WEMJ, Laconia that is branded “The Pulse of New Hampshire.”


Deadly Texas Shoot Shooting/Gun Control, Primary Races/Trump & the GOP, the Economy/Baby Formula, Russia-Ukraine War, North Korea Missile Tests, and ISIS Plots Bush Assassination Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (5/24). A gunman in Uvalde, Texas kills 19 children and two teachers leading to debate over gun control; the midterm primary races in Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, & Georgia and Donald Trump’s influence over the GOP; the falling tech sector on Wall Street, the high price of gas & food, and the baby formula shortage; the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and its effects on the global economy; North Korea conducts missile tests on the heels of Joe Biden’s Asia trip; and the feds foil a plot, allegedly by ISIS, to assassinate George W. Bush were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.