The NBC Chimes Museum A Celebration Of Old–Time Radio’s Most Famous Signature
blue network chimes and chimes identity
All spellings, line breaks, and formatting are reproduced as closely as possible to match those of the original paper documents.
To: Mr Keith Kiggins From: W F Fairbanks Date: July 21 1939 Subject: Blue network Chimes Although you may not be directly concerned with this matter, it is possible that other persons in the past have sent suggestions for change in NBC's indentifying chimes to your office. Specifically, I would like to see some serious consider- ation given to a change in Blue Network chimes that would unquestionably identify the programs being carried over this network. Naturally, it would be unwise to scrap the present three-note signal in view of its years of public acceptance - however, this good will would not be lost if the following change was made. Briefly, if one, two or possibly three, carefully selected notes were added to the present three note chime, the Blue Network signal would not only retain the well known NBC musical trade mark, but would also gain a unique label that would increase listener familiarity and audience acceptance. In view of the large benefits to be derived by Blue network clients who wish to merchandise their program in other media as well as the immediate gain in recognition by Blue Network listeners, I suggest that sample recordings be made of a 4,5 or 6 note chime that combines the present NBC "bong-bong-bong" with a new, distinctive, musical appendage. (Signed) William F FairbanksThere is a check mark next to “Mr. Trammell”, and a handwritten note that reads “Ed–I don’t believe this is practicible from eng. point”.
To: Mr William F Fairbanks From: Keith Kiggins Date: July 25 1939 Thanks for your suggestion regarding the Blue chimes. We have been investigating something of the sort, trying to iron out switching problems involved. Your idea of combining the present 3-note chime with some additional notes, is a new wrinkle and may be just the answer we are looking for. As soon as we can figure out anything, I'll let you know. Incidentally, any other good suggestions which you have are more than welcome. Keith Kiggins cc Messrs Saudek Norton
To: Mr Keith Kiggins From: Edgar Kobak Date: July 3 1940 Let's see what we can do about developing a separate set of chimes for the Blue. We (being generous people) will let the Red keep the present chimes. Maybe we can develop our own chimes using the three notes now being used and put on an extra one that means BLUE. Let's play with this one a little bit and develop it before it gets out and we run into a heavy storm of protest. There's nothing like trying. (Initialled EK) Edgar Kobak c.c. Mr Trammell
Note: This letter has two notes written in the margins. On the bottom is written “Listen to the familiar NBC Chimes,
To: Mr Niles Trammell From: A L Ashby Date: June 14, 1940 Sometime ago one of the men in my department came to me with the following suggestion: It seemed to him that while one of the prin- cipal indentifying marks of NBC was our chimes, rung at the station break on practically every program, the average listener does not actually identify the chimes with our stations and networks. We have from time to time attempted to identify the chimes more closely with NBC, and he suggested that it might be a good idea to use our own facilities for that purpose. With full realization of the fact that any oft-repeated statement might become monotonous, he sug- gested that it might be highly beneficial to the Company if each time the chimes were rung, a short statement was made on the air tying them in with NBC. While he admits the following slogan is too trite and that something bet- ter would have to be worked out, his idea was to use some- thing along the following lines; immedately following the ringing of the chimes: "When you hear the chime, it's NBC time." We discussed this suggestion at a department meet- ing and one of the other men pointed out that any such state- ment would cut down on the time of the station break, and that many of our stations might cut the announcement off. He sug- gested that we might have a vocalist sing the letters N B C to the present tune of the chimes. These ideas might not appeal to you, but I am bring- ing them to your attention for whatever value they may contain. [Signed] A L ASHBY
your signal for fine radio entertainment.”; on the right side is written “Club Matinee NBC Sundays 8–9”
This correspondence has “Mr Trammell” written across the top, possibly indicating that it was forwarded to him.
To: Mr A L Ashby From: Niles Trammell Date: June 19 1940 Dear Mr Ashby: Thank you very much for the suggestion about the announcement to be made in connection with the NBC Chimes. I think this is something we should consider and maybe use the announcement occasionally. Niles Trammell
To: Mr Jules Herbuveaux From: Phillips Carlin Date: June 26 1940 About once a week at 4:30 when you make the break on Club Matinee, varying the day you do it, we would like to have you use the announcement, just prior to the break, "Listen to the familiar NBC chimes, your signal for fine radio enter- tainment." We will use it also on Sunday night on our Pop Concert at the 8:30 break. Phillips Carlin
To: Mr Niles Trammell From: Phillps Carlin Date: June 27 1940 With reference to Judge Ashby's suggestion to you about the NBC chimes, we are going to revive the - "Listen to the NBC chimes, your signal for fine radio entertainment." This announcement will be made occasionally on Club Matinee, prior to the 4:30 PM break, and the Pop Concert, Sunday nights, at the 8:30 break. It may not be practical because of the limitation of time to use the phrase, "When you hear the chime, it's NBC time", but we're studying it. We will also see what we can work out along other lines. Our feeling is, however, that the chimes are very definitely connected with NBC and are recognized as such. There- fore, any slogan that we use too much gets sickening in a very short time. Phillips Carlin
To: Mr Frank E Mullen From: Roy C Witmer Date: Jan 29 1942 With reference to the suggestion by Sherman of WAVE Louisville that we change our NBC chimes to make them sound the Morse Code for the letter "V". If I though(t) for one moment that sounding the letter "V" on our chimes even a million times would contribute in the slightest to winning the war, I would certainly vote for it with all my might. However, to me a thing of that kind is just plain silly and accomplishes but one thing - it confuses everybody. Incidentally, how much are we charging the Blue Network Co for the use of NBC chimes? It seems as though we ought to get a little revenue out of a thing of this kind. IH
This appears next to a circular seal that reads “Received Mar 16 1950 David Sarnoff”
13 Lewiston Street Franklin Square, N.Y. March 15, 1950 General David Sarnoff Chairman of the Board National Broadcasting Co. 30 Rockefeller Plaza New York 20, New York Dear General: The three musical notes which NBC uses to sepa- rate programs -- could they not be slightly changed so that they would sound like N - B - C?? Of course you know more about the subject - there may be an FCC ruling on the matter or there may be a technical impasse - but listening closely to the notes I thought it might be possible. I don't mean anything as horrendous sounding as Lifebuoy's "BO" - but a change in the pitch and quality of the three notes that would make them resemble more closely the sound of N-B-C. If possible don't you think it would be a good idea? Very truly yours, [Signed] EDWARD REILLYNote: There is no record in the files as to whether the following letter was actually signed and sent.
To: Mr Niles Trammell From: George McElrath Date: March 23 1950 Regarding Mr Reilly's letter to Mr Sarnoff attached, the musical notes of the NBC chimes represent the letters GEC. I assume that Mr Reilly knows that a note in the musical scale representing "N" does not exist. Therefore he must be thinking of the Sonovox system of vibrating the sound of the human voice with musical tones. This is accomplished by fastening a specially designed magnetically operated headphone on the throat which vibrates the larynx with tone as letters or words are produced vocally. The result would be to modulate the voise with the mus- ical note G when "N" is spoken, E when "B" is announced, and C when "C" is repro- duced vocally. This suggestion was made when the Sonovox system was first introduced. We cooperated with the program department in making these experiments, and the concensus of opinion was that the result was unharmonious and would soom become tiresome to the listener. Attached is a suggested reply to Mr Reilly for your signature. [Signed] George McElrath Att.
As with the bulk of correspondence both internal and external, it is a carbon copy lacking letterhead and a signature.
March 23, 1950 Mr Edward Reilly 13 Lewiston Street Franklin Square, New York Dear Mr Reilly: I was pleased to receive your letter of March 15th addressed to Mr Sarnoff suggesting improvements to the sound of the NBC chimes. From time to time we have made experiments to improve the sound reproduction of our trade mark. When the Sonovox system was first introduced we modulated the voice of announcers with the musical notes representing the letters NBC and found the result to be unharmonious. Many years ago the musical notes of our chimes were selected by musicians in our program department following extensive experiments to find a series of musical notes which would sound harmonious when reproduced together. Our unsuccessful efforts to produce a combina- tion of tones which would be superior to those used for so many years, which would be pleasing and harmonious to the ear and at the same time would not become tiresome to the listener, is a credit to the thoroughness of the work performed by those who selected the original musical notes. I appreciate your suggestion for the improvement of our musical signature and trust that you will continue to listen to it and enjoy our programs for many years to come. Very truly yours, Niles Trammell