Automobile's Driving Beat; Timeless Cruising Music

The Observer (Gladstone, Australia), April 9, 2011 | Go to article overview

Automobile's Driving Beat; Timeless Cruising Music


CRUISIN' and playin' the radio C* no particular place to go. Fifties and '60s nirvana. The true teen dream. 'Round, 'round, get around, I get around C* driven onward by a ceaseless soundtrack.

Mobility and music is a combination that hasn't lost its potency more than half a century on.

The next logical step from air guitar in front of the bedroom mirror was the self-contained world of the car Co fists thumping a relentless beat on a steering wheel, wind carrying shouted lyrics to an endless highway. An easy escape from a controlling world.

But it didn't all start with rock'n'roll. The first mass-market car radio appeared more than 80 years ago. Indeed, in-car entertainment is nearly as old as the car itself.

The first car radio was built about the turn of the 20th century and radios were available in cars by the 1920s. Late that decade, just two years after the launch of the world's first jukebox, a young American by the name of William Lear, who would later develop the Learjet, made a car radio.

Unable to produce it commercially, he sold it to Paul Galvin. In 1929 Galvin Manufacturing Corporation began selling car radios. At that stage, car makers were not in on the act.

The cult of the teenager had not yet swept the world and, what's more, car radios were bloody expensive.

In the early '30s, Motorola car radios cost about $US130, while a whole car cost only $700. Imagine paying almost $4000 for a stereo in your Corolla.

Despite the exorbitant cost, by 1934, there were more than 1.5 million car radios in the US alone.

A pressing public desire was being met.

Radios remained expensive, bulky add-ons through to the '50s, when transistors offered smaller size, simpler manufacture and, therefore, lower cost and better reliability. …

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