As the “lowly” battery-operated transistor radio turns 60 this 2014, was it instrumental on the spread of post World War II popular music – namely Rock N’ Roll?
By: Ringo Bones
Older audiophiles old enough to witness the consumer electronic market debut of the battery-operated transistor radio back in 1954 now listen to their premium audiophile vinyl pressing of Surfin’ Bird by The Trashmen – or other iconic Rock N’ Roll track from the Golden Age of Stereo – on their vacuum tube based single-ended triode hi-fi power amplifier, but unbeknown to them, it was the “lowly” transistor radio that was instrumental in making the now classic Rock N’ Roll works of Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Ritchie Valens and other Rock N’ Roll greats “go viral” like the Sputnik scare. Seven inch 45 RPM vinyl singles were probably a distant second on their role in spreading Rock N’ Roll music.
Despite of what the Madison Avenue admen want you to believe, the first pocket transistor radios weren’t quite as small as they want you to believe. When the Japanese made Sony TR-63 shirt-pocket transistor radio arrived in the United States back in 1957, Sony’s American affiliates had to tailor shirts with oversized pockets for their salesmen in order for these “shirt-pocket” transistor radios to fit. And even though sound quality improvements will come years later, every one of us owes a debt to gratitude to the “lowly” transistor radio now celebrating its 60th Anniversary for helping spread avant garde music that got made years ahead of its time.