Bell Demonstrates Transistor Radio

Bell Demonstrates Transistor Radio

June 30, 1948
Bell Demonstrates Transistor Radio
Regency transistor radio

“Tiny Blue Transistor Radio” by Connie Smith. 

Is it a camera?

In the Exhibition Gallery of the Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is a display of sleeves for 45 rpm record and several transistor radios. On a tour that includes a young guest, I will ask them whether they know what they are–either of them.

Most times they seem to know, but there are, not surprisingly, times that a head shakes “No.”

In an obtuse way, I kiddingly refer to these radios as PLDs…Personal Listening Devices. The term my attempt at re-naming a product with a 21st century twist.

To that same young guest, I will ask them if they have a cell phone. Depending on the age they will nod “Yes” with a smile or “No” longingly. I ask those without one how old is someone now when they get their first cell phone? The answers vary, but by the age of 10, cell-phone ownership is common.

I’ll say to guests of all ages, “As much as a child today impatiently waits  for their first cell phone and all it brings with it, a Boomer waited with equal impatience for their first transistor radio.

Bell Demonstrates Transistor Radio

Portable Listening Device

The transistor radio was not the first “PLD.”  Tubed radios with large batteries existed, but were too heavy and bulky to actually be considered portable. They could be moved and put in a different place, but hanging out with friends at the park with one was simply too difficult.

The transistor radio changed all that. The transistor itself had been successfully developed by Bell labs in the mid-1940s [Wired article] As with any new invention, some scientists looked for other uses. On June 30, 1948 Bell Labs held a news conference at which they demonstrated a prototype transistor radio.

Bell Demonstrates Transistor Radio

Slow commercialization

A prototype is not a commercial product and it was still six years before a commercially viable transistor radio arrived. Two companies working together, Texas Instruments of Dallas, Texas [site] and Industrial Development Engineering Associates (I.D.E.A.) of Indianapolis, Indiana, were behind the unveiling of the Regency TR-1, the world’s first commercially produced transistor radio.  They made the announcement on October 18, 1954 and sales began in November. It cost $49.95, not inexpensive.

Competition and development brought down the cost, though one could never describe even the least expensive models as cheap.

Bell Demonstrates Transistor Radio

Steve & Bill

Whatever the price, the cultural impact was great. Apple’s Steve Wozniak stated, “My first transistor radio was the heart of my gadget love today. I loved what it could do, it brought me music, it opened my world up”

Microsoft’s Bill Gates stated, “Without the invention of the transistor, I’m quite sure that the PC would not exist as we know it today”

Bell Demonstrates Transistor Radio

Released Boomers

Transistor radio untied Boomer teenagers from their parent’s kitchen radio and their parent’s nearby ears. Boomers could listen to their music (at first only on AM radio) with their friends (or alone), wherever they wanted.

And as long as you had a wet tongue, you could test whether that 9-volt battery had any life left!

Bell Demonstrates Transistor Radio

Bell Demonstrates Transistor Radio


Nina Simone Four Women

Nina Simone Four Women


Nina Simone Four Women

Nina Simone Four Women

Eunice Kathleen Waymon

Nina Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, aspired to be a concert pianist, not an easy thing for a young black woman, even a very talented young black woman.

With the financial help of her Tyron, North Carolina neighbors and her music teacher, Eunice was able to attend the  Juilliard School of Music in New York. A next step would have been the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, but her application was rejected. A rejection she felt was simply a racially motivated one.

She started to take private lessons and to help pay for them she began to perform a mixture of jazz and blues. Knowing her family would disapprove, Waymon adopted a stage name: Nina Simone.

Nina Simone Four Women

Civil Rights Choice

With the rebirth of the civil rights movement, Simone, like other black artists, faced a decision: speak out and risk a career or take that risk. After the assassination of Medgar Evers and the terrorist attack on the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four girls and blinded another, Simone’s mind was made up.

“Mississippi Goddam” reflected her anger and decision. She felt that the conciliatory demands, the non-violent approach that Martin Luther King, Jr used were not useful. She adopted he separatist views of a Malcolm X  and the Black Nationalist movement.

Nina Simone Four Women

Wild Is the Wind

The 1966 album, Wild is the Wind (1966), Simone included the song “Four Women.” The album itself reflected the many styles Simone had begun to use by then: jazz, blues, folk, R & B. and pop, but “Four Women” reflected her realization of the choices a black woman in America faced. Continued slavery. The mixed race woman rejected by both races. The prostitute. The militant.

Nina Simone Four Women

Nina Simone Four Women

Four Women

The song, like the women, was rejected as racist by many on both sides.

My skin is black
My arms are long
My hair is woolly
My back is strong
Strong enough to take the pain
inflicted again and again
What do they call me
My name is AUNT SARAH
My name is Aunt Sarah
My skin is tan
My hair is fine
My hips invite you
And my mouth like wine
Whose little girl am I?
Anyone who has money to buy
What do they call me
My name is SWEET THING
My name is Sweet Thing
My skin is yellow
My hair is long
Between two worlds
I do belong
My father was rich and white
He forced my mother late one night
What do they call me
My name is SAFFRONIA
My name is Saffronia
My skin is brown
my manner is tough
I’ll kill the first mother I see
My life has been too rough
I’m awfully bitter these days
because my parents were slaves
What do they call me
My name is PEACHES
Nina Simone Four Women


Simone’s career was not an easy one. Difficult marriages.  Illness. Controversial views. An expatriate.  She died of breast cancer in 2003 at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, France, near Marseille.

Peter Keepnews wrote in his New York Times articleMs. Simone was as famous for her social consciousness as she was for her music. In the 1960’s no musical performer was more closely identified with the civil rights movement. Though she was best known as an interpreter of other people’s music, she eloquently expressed her feelings about racism and black pride in those years in a number of memorable songs she wrote herself.

Nina Simone Four Women

1969 Bath Festival Blues

1969 Bath Festival Blues

June 28, 1969

1969 Bath Festival Blues

1969 Bath Festival Blues
1969 Festival #17

UK Makes Festival List

By 1969 the US had had several major rock festivals. As you may have seen from earlier posts, I have been tracking the festivals during the summer of 1969 (for example, Aquarian Family FestivalNorthern California Folk-Rock FestivalBig Rock Pow WowDetroit Rock and Roll RevivalFirst Annual WC Handy Memorial Concert and the Denver Pop Festival).

Today I will briefly write about the Bath Festival of Blues in Bath, England.

UK Bath Festival Blues

Freddie Bannisters

Surprisingly, England had not yet had a rock festival. Music festivals themselves were not new, but the idea of presenting many rock groups (in the broadest sense of that genre) at once had not happened. Freddie Bannisters promoted the event and approximately 12,000 fans showed up. That number seems small by many other festival numbers, but unlike many other festivals, Bannisters did not lose money and was able to promote another much larger festival the following year.

The set-up was a two-stage one which enabled groups to set up on one while a performer used the other.

Difficult to see, but Zeppelin playing on right hand stage © Mike Bird
1969 Bath Festival Blues


The advertised line-up was a nice blues mix including the elder statesmen, Champion Jack Dupree. Ten Years after and Keef Hartley would make the trip to Bethel, NY in August, Those asterisked may not have played:

  • Fleetwood Mac
  • John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
  • Ten Years After
  • Led Zeppelin
  • The Nice
  • Chicken Shack
  • Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum
  • Mick Abrahams’ Blodwyn Pig
  • Keef Hartley
  • Group Therapy*
  • Liverpool Scene
  • Taste
  • Savoy Brown Blues Band
  • Champion Jack Dupree
  • Clouds*
  • Babylon*
  • Principal Edwards Magic Theatre
  • Deep Blues Band
  • Just Before Dawn
1969 Bath Festival Blues

My Brother John

John Bonham’s brother Mick recalls the event in his book, “My Brother John”:

On previous occasions I had traveled to gigs on my scooter or on the bus, but this time it would be in style to what had been advertised as ‘the Big One’. We drove down during the morning meeting up with Jimmy, Robert, and John Paul in the backstage bar. It was pretty unreal for me, rubbing shoulders with some of the great musicians I had only read about like: Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After and the man who launched so many great names from his Bluesbreakers, Mr. John Mayall.

The Recreation Ground and Pavilion was in a lovely setting in the centre of Bath and on a warm summer’s afternoon I couldn’t think of anywhere I would rather be, along with 12,000 other people. I had taken a camera with me, so well before Zeppelin was to go on I made my way out into the crowd and towards the front of the stage. Finding a nice patch of grass, I waited patiently  for the emergence of Led Zeppelin. When the band took to the stage, the audience surged past me, leaving me only enough time to take three photos before I was swallowed up by ‘the ocean’. As the show finished and the crowd moved back, I was still on the floor, looking like one of those hedgehogs you see squashed on the road.

“After the show, it was a few beers in the bar and then back home, via the local fish and chip shop of course. Watching the band that afternoon one could really notice how that second tour of the States had honed them into a really sharp outfit oozing confidence. The press saw it too, declaring ‘Zeppelin’s fiery set in which they played their own individual form of progressive blues devastated most and proved on of the most enjoyable sets of the festival’.

Related link >>> Bath Festival site

1969 Bath Festival Blues

Next 1969 festival: Harlem Cultural Festival