Crosley and WLW: a broadcasting legacy in review.

Author:Schlipp, John
Position:Crosley: Two Brothers and a Business Empire That Transformed the Nation - Book review

McClure, R., with Stern, D., & Banks, M. A. (2006). Crosley: The story of two brothers and a business empire that transformed the nation. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press. 502 pages.

The Crosley brothers, Powel and Lewis, were pioneers and innovators in radio manufacturing, broadcasting technology, and national radio programming via the world's only 500,000 watt "Nation's Station," WLW in Cincinnati. In addition, their operations included appliance and automobile manufacturing, as well as ownership of the National League Cincinnati Reds baseball team.

There have been a few books written about Powel Crosley and WLW, but none have brought his brother Lewis equally to the forefront. Crosley: The Story of Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation corrects this imbalance. Rusty McClure, descendent of the Crosley brothers, is the lead author. Michael A. Banks provides the historical perspective, while writer David Stern's creative nonfiction writing style enlivens the text.

Powel was the visionary businessman, innovator, and entrepreneur, while his younger brother Lewis was the practical manager who engineered Powel's dreams. While Powel was bigger than life, Lewis remained behind the scenes. Together, they were a "formidable combination." (p. 113).

Most of McClure's book covers the golden years of WLW radio, which started in 1922. Early broadcasts consisted of all-volunteer programming and no advertising. Initially, the Crosleys did not intend WLW to make money, only to sell more Crosley radios.

During broadcast radio's infancy, Powel was a charter officer of the National Association of Broadcasters, as well as a member of the Radio Manufacturer's Association. His connections with Herbert Hoover, then Secretary of the Department of Commerce, and RCA's David Sarnoff, proved important. Powel contributed to long-term national broadcasting policy, influencing the development of network radio and broadcast musical performance rights. For example, he was instrumental in supporting the creation of Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI).

By 1926, live orchestral music comprised most of WLW's program content, but it also began to offer dramas, as well as some country music for its many rural listeners. NBC began its network operations the same year, followed by CBS in 1927. Although WLW continued to produce its own programming, it became an NBC affiliate. With network radio a reality, the Crosleys turned to advertising to support WLW's programming...

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