The NBC Chimes Museum A Celebration Of Old–Time Radio’s Most Famous Signature



deagan military dinner call no 3003

It is not known exactly when WSB began using chimes, but the November 11, 1922 issue of Radio World mentions “the big gong which rings ‘Bong! Bong! Bong!’ ” to announce the station, in an article telling the reader how to identify various broadcasters by specific characteristics. Thus, we have a printed reference to WSB using chimes from within eight months from the time the station began broadcasting on March 15, 1922. In addition, the Radio Digest issue of August 16, 1924 contains a profile of Lambdin Kay that was most likely ghostwritten by Kay himself; about his accomplishments, the article asserts that he

“…thought up ‘The Voice of the South’ as the world’s first radio slogan, likewise three–note chime as first identification signal; likewise WSB 10:45 Radiowls as first aerial fraternity”.


WSB three note chimes, rung by Lambdin Kay. This is an acoustic talking machine record recorded by Columbia on January 29, 1925. The chime used is a tubular Deagan Military Dinner Call No 3003. The notes, pitched at A=430Hz, are F♯5–A4–D5, the opening notes to “Over There”.

The issue of Radio Digest for September 13, 1924 has a profile of WSB with pictures of some of its key staff members. As reproduced to the right, one of the illustrations accompanying the article is that of Lambdin Kay, standing before a large clock and a Western Electric microphone, holding a three–note set of Deagan tubular chimes. This is a Deagan Military Dinner Call No 3003, which was similar in sound but very different in construction from the four–note 200 set that would eventually become the station’s trademark.

The way the chime tubes are arranged, the “Over There” notes could be obtained by striking them from in order from right to left. This particular Deagan chime was pitched at A=430Hz, and had tubes tuned to D5, A4, and F♯5, with the lowest note in the center, flanked by the next higher notes left and right; thus, striking them in 2–3–1 sequence will give the same triad arrangement as G–E–C. Clicking on the image will bring up a large version.

(Note: the illustration shows the chimes in reverse form, possibly from an inverted negative. You can see pictures and a video of this set of chimes at the percussion fortress pages. ) The curator of this website has just acquired the set of these chimes profiled on The Percussion Fortress; they will be photographed and recorded for the website shortly.