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WGN Channel 9 - Len Johnson and the News (Part 1, 1965)

Here's Part 1 of an incredibly rare find - an edition of Len Johnson and the News on WGN Channel 9 from 1965! This was a forerunner to their overnight Night Beat newscast that ran from the late-sixties well into the 1980s.

You'll notice that this was during that awkward transition phase from black-and-white to color with most of the broadcast appearing in black-and-white, but then interspersed by random color commercials and a few color slides.

This came from an original 2" quad tape recording that likely hadn't been played since the day it was recorded. It came from the estate of Len Johnson, whose wife gave it to a family friend after Len passed away. That friend, Kevin McCarthy, held on to it for a number of years but always wondered what was on the unmarked, unlabeled videotape. Kevin got in touch with us and we arranged to get the tape transferred digitally using funds donated by our loyal visitors here. :-) Robert Feder reported the news this week in his popular Chicago media blog.

You can read more about Len's WGN career here, and see a rare clip from his pre-Chicago days in Pittsburgh here.

Tech Note: Next to Len at the anchor desk is an Electro-Voice EV-667 microphone.

This part includes:

Brief shot of multiburst test pattern with 378 Hz tone

Commercial (incomplete; recording starting a few seconds after commercial begins) for Salvo Low Suds Power Tablets - with cowboys riding horses at a rodeo to demonstrate how Salvo gets their clothes clean - "Made to Do the Impossible"

Commercial: Vicks VapoRub - provides 8 hours of relief for distress of children's colds

Station ID slide with promo for upcoming presentation of "The Tall Men" at 10:15pm - with early appearance of "9" logo that first debuted in 1964 and would be used well into the 1970s - and, in some instances, as late as 1981 ("Tomorrow 10:15 PM" set in 18 point Gothic Condensed No. 1; though this slide is in black-and-white, there are color artifacts that give this away as being transmitted through an RCA TK-26 color film chain)

Opening title card slide (in color) for Carl Greyson and the News (Len was filling in for Carl on this day), set in Microgramma Bold; the chipper theme music would be used for years thereafter on sign-off newscasts such as this Newsbreak from 1978)

Len opens the newscast with a preview of the following items:

- One American soldier killed and another critically wounded in Vietnam
- Albert Cardinal Meyer remains in stable condition
- Montreal Canadiens cuts Chicago Black Hawks' NHL lead
- More snow in weather forecast

Commercial: American Airlines - showing the sights of California, with a shot of their Royal Coachman (a Boeing 707) flying down at the end (voiceover by ??)

Len reads the following items (with pertinent film in certain spots):

- One American soldier is killed and another critically wounded in a double ambush by Communist guerillas in Laotian - Vietnamese border; South Vietnamese government is seeking negotiated settlement with the North, with a Yugoslav-led contingent of non-aligned seeking a means to reach such a peace deal; meanwhile, Republican leaders say President Johnson should make no deals with Communist nations until they halt aggression in Vietnam and elsewhere; film clips are shown of House GOP Leader (and future President) Gerald R. Ford and Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen speaking, with Ford saying that "we expect more Koreas [and] more Vietnams," and Dirksen commenting on recent student riots against the U.S. Embassy in Moscow

- Relating to Dirksen's above comments, Russia has agreed to pay for damages to U.S. Embassy; Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko promises "greater measures" to be taken in the future to protect the embassy

- U.S. closing all informational activities in Indonesia, due to harassment by Indonesian government; Indonesia takes control of an American rubber factory

- Chicagoans pay their last respects to Air Force Captain (and Chicago native) Kurt Gareiss, who was killed on February 24th in a plane crash in South Vietnam during fighting there against Viet Cong; film clips of mourners filing in to Lutheran Church of St. John the Divine (including his widow, parents and other relatives) and funeral services inside are shown

- 10-acre community in Natchitoches, LA flattened when a 24-inch gas pipeline (owned by the Tennessee Gas Transmission Company, which in turn was owned by Tenneco) explodes, killing 17 persons (including 9 children) and melting 6 automobiles and 3 trucks; film clips of the aftermath are shown, and an audio of Mayor Raymond Scott describing what happened is heard over the footage

- Novelist and Chicago native Willard Motley dies in a Mexico City hospital of a gangrene infection at age 52; he was best known for such novels as "Knock on Any Door" and "Let No Man Write My Epitaph"

- A hearing on a possible sanity test for Jack Ruby (assassin of John F. Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald) to be held Monday in Dallas; one of his lawyers, Chicago-based Elmer Gertz, is interviewed, with Gertz asserting that Ruby was insane both during the time he shot Oswald and afterwards (can anyone name the WGN reporter who interviewed him?)

Len then signals for a commercial break, with a tease on Albert Cardinal Meyer's condition

Commercial: Tums Antacid - For Acid Indigestion and Heartburn - "Work Fast, Cost Less, Very Effective"

Continued in Part 2...

This aired on local Chicago TV early Friday, March 5th 1965 at 12:30am.

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This clip aired on Friday, March 5th 1965, and is included in the following categories:

Viewer Comments

Clips like this and the story of how you acquired them remind me that there is so much "lost" video like this stored in the attics of retired broadcasters around the country that need to be preserved and displayed. Keep up the good work!

I'm curious as to how an independent station like WGN would have got the Louisiana film... obviously there was some sort of off-network feed (perhaps through the auspices of the Associated Press or INTV) available even in those days.

I think the Tums commercial is brilliant, by the way.

Comment posted by T.K. on Saturday, September 1st 2012 at 1:01pm.

His pitch, pace, and pause is outstanding! Definitely a professional!


Comment posted by Matt on Saturday, September 1st 2012 at 8:38pm.

I am amazed at what you can dig up Rick this is gold.

Len Johnson was always one of my favorites as our household listened to the Wally Phillips show on WGN radio where Len was his newsman.

By the way, when did Len Johnson pass away?

Comment posted by Erniebaud on Saturday, September 1st 2012 at 9:54pm.

So, this is how the transitional period to colorcasting looked like. Little known fact that, during this time frame, a good majority of the local stations started out with just color film and slides while the studio cameras and VTR units were still in black and white. In WGN's case, they were fully equipped with the works by 1965. They were one of only 63 stations at the time to have color cameras, according to Broadcasting and Cable.
Comment posted by RocketBoy on Sunday, September 2nd 2012 at 4:35pm.

Here's another example of the sometimes jarring transition to color. This commercial taped at KNTV in San Jose features a color film dissolving to a monochrome studio camera and then back to a color slide at the end.

At full-color plants, however, the transitions were often due to advertisers not wanting to pay a premium for color spots. (If I recall correctly, even Ed McMahon would do certain ads in black-and-white from a small portion of the set adjacent to the main Tonight Show stage.)

Comment posted by T.K. on Sunday, September 2nd 2012 at 7:18pm.

Got to love new media economics!
Kind of like the 16:9 HD thing we have today.
If you notice, and if you have an HDTV, that some of the shows, as well as some of the show's segments and commercials aren't widescreen (16:9) yet; or they have the black bars on the sides.

Also, as you may or may not know, the music for Carl Greyson and The News obviously wasn't very popular.
However, that would change in the 80's with Huey Lewis and The News!
(Good night everybody!)
;)

Somebody want to hand me a rubber chicken shield?

Comment posted by ArmitageNLowell on Sunday, September 2nd 2012 at 10:07pm.

Interesting to see coverage of the local impact from Vietnam, at a time when it was still "no big deal" to most people.
Comment posted by SuperCFL on Monday, September 3rd 2012 at 9:31am.

I've never seen a rodeo with a washing machine right there next to the chutes, like the one at 0:25. Did the guys just strip off their dirty clothes right there after falling off their horses? ;-) I'm sure their wives were glad they didn't bring that laundry home.
Comment posted by T.K. on Tuesday, March 5th 2013 at 12:21pm.

My Dad was in television production since the late 50's (now retired), but I asked him once what "NEWS" stood for. He said it came from north, east, west and south. I've never been able to confirm or deny this, but the logo for this newscast is one more piece of evidence to make me believe that it is true.
Comment posted by Subcarrier on Monday, February 3rd 2014 at 8:14am.

Looks like they told him to remove the shiny tie clip during the first commercial break.
Comment posted by SKarlovsky on Wednesday, March 4th 2015 at 11:16pm.

SouthernMedia's News Music Search Archive has successfully identified the theme to Carl Greyson and the News (or, in this case, Len Johnson and the News)! It's "Effervescence" by Dorf van der Linden.
Comment posted by IAmNomad on Friday, March 25th 2016 at 3:12am.

IAmNomad - Excellent!! Thank you very much! :-)

Here's the full track you can listen to.

Comment posted by FuzzyMemories on Friday, March 25th 2016 at 9:25am.

According to VirtualWall.org, the American soldier killed on March 4, 1965 was SP4 Mark Richardson Chase, age 24, of Santa Monica, CA:
http://www.virtualwall.org/dc/ChaseMR01a.htm

Comment posted by ChrisBCritter on Sunday, March 27th 2016 at 6:06am.

Capt. Kurt William Gareiss was flying an A-1E Skyraider attack plane (serial number 52-132471) on a close support mission at Bien Hoa when he and his crewman were killed; the crash was listed as due to pilot error.
Comment posted by ChrisBCritter on Sunday, March 27th 2016 at 6:32am.

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This clip has been viewed 5929 times.
This clip debuted on FuzzyMemories.TV on Saturday, September 1st 2012.
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Comment posted in WYEN FM 107 - "Request Radio" (Commercial, 1979) by Detroit4Chicago on Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 at 10:38pm CT

WB - I think the jingle package was produced by TM Productions of Dallas for WNBC in New York; I believe it was named "Image 73."

It think was also used at stations such as WOWO in Ft. Wayne, KDKA Pittsburgh, WXYZ in Detroit and in the '80's at WAKY in Louisville, KY.

This package, along with various tiles such as "Design '70," Design '72," The Propellants," "Where Your Friends Are," "Phase II," "Phase III," "Shockwave" and of course, "The Sound Of Chicago" were (and are IMO) many of the finest jingle promotional works ever accomplished by TM.


Comment posted in WYEN FM 107 - "Request Radio" (Commercial, 1979) by Smctopia on Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 at 10:37pm CT

My mom listened to this station a lot in the 1980s and won a lot of trivia phone-in contests from this station.


Comment posted in WYEN FM 107 - "Request Radio" (Commercial, 1979) by W.B. on Saturday, July 22nd, 2017 at 7:28am CT

For anyone who knows their jingle production companies: Can anyone say for certain which firm would have done that for this station at the end of htis commercial?


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - The Honeymooners (Bumper #1, 1979) by W.B. on Wednesday, July 12th, 2017 at 2:22pm CT

I should also note that at the time that bus was first purchased, both New York City Omnibus and Fifth Avenue Coach were controlled by a Chicago-based firm, The Omnibus Corporation (I detected a Chicago connection somewhere besides this WFLD airing). In 1954 that company sold the last of its various bus company interests around the country (they once controlled the Chicago Motor Coach Company, and that had been palmed off to the Chicago Transit Authority in 1952), with NYC Omnibus acquiring Fifth Avenue Coach. In 1956 that company rebranded itself Fifth Avenue Coach Lines, Inc. (with bus routes operated by the heretofore individual companies administered under FACO Division [10 routes] and NYCO Division [21 routes]). Later that year they purchased the bankrupt Surface Transportation Corporation which operated a handful of routes in Manhattan and every route in The Bronx (and whose upkeep was so p-poor, the joke was they came from the factory in that condition); their routes would be administered by a wholly-owned subsidiary started up by FACL, Surface Transit, Inc. All of these routes would be taken over by MaBSTOA in 1962 as the result of a strike against FACL and Surface Transit, brought about when new management led by an out-of-town wheeler-dealer named Harry Weinberg laid off 29 light-duty workers in retaliation for the city not granting his request for a fare hike.

As for The Omnibus Corporation, it ultimately became Hertz. As in, the rent-a-car business for which O.J. Simpson (grrr!) did their ads for years.

And the so-called "2969" paraded around today was originally a New York City Transit System bus numbered 4789. The passing off as 2969 went as far back as 1984 - when I noticed it being shown at the first RALPH convention I attended (which was the second overall).


Comment posted in Laser Blast by Activision (Commercial, 1981) by Smctopia on Friday, July 7th, 2017 at 10:09pm CT

That sounds like Michael Bell doing the voiceover.


Comment posted in Magic Sand by Wham-O (Commercial, 1981) by Smctopia on Tuesday, July 4th, 2017 at 10:45pm CT

Ah, here's how Magic Sand worked! http://www.retroland.com/magic-sand/


Comment posted in Magic Sand by Wham-O (Commercial, 1981) by Smctopia on Tuesday, July 4th, 2017 at 10:43pm CT

I always wanted Magic Sand but my mom said it was "too messy". How DID it get instantly dry?


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by Smctopia on Tuesday, July 4th, 2017 at 10:40pm CT

A park in Chicago near where my Grandma lived used to have red slides like the ones in this ad, as well as the concrete dolphin. And of course Marvel is now owned by Disney. One of the smartest acquisitions they made (along with Lucasfilm)!


Comment posted in KNBC Channel 4 - Ending of NewsCenter4 - Early Edition with Paul Moyer & Kelly Lange and Editorial Reply (1977) by Szake on Friday, June 30th, 2017 at 10:25pm CT

There is a hand at 5:15 in the lower right hand corner of the keyer just before the credits begin.


Comment posted in WLS Channel 7 - Late Night Movie - "A Woman Rebels" (Partial Commercial Break, 1980) by Szake on Monday, June 26th, 2017 at 9:14pm CT

Morrand: This Victory Auto Wreckers Ad actually has THREE different phone number seen in this commercial. If you pause the video at 1:40, an old ending title graphic says 263-3405 for a split second in a smaller font than the duplicate ending title graphic with the more familiar 860-2000. The tow truck has 766-012? painted on it.


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