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He earned the moniker, “father of talk radio” and though someone else would have started using the telephone as a talk radio tool eventually, Barry Gray did it in 1945.

As the story goes, the technical and legal aspects of using live telephone conversations as part of a radio broadcast were problematic, to say the least, in post-war America. But that didn’t stop Barry Gray from trying and succeeding in putting his listeners on the radio even without WMCA, New York’s knowledge or permission. But when his interview with bandleader Woody Herman caused a sensation, his bosses loved it and he began doing more celebrity interviews. Thus, the call-in show was born.

But that wasn’t the only reason Gray is on this list. During the 1950s, he was an outspoken critic of bigotry, the red scare and incurred the wrath of conservative columnist Walter Winchell. He flew in the face of the establishment and wasn’t afraid to lambaste that which he found hypocritical. He was one of the first talk hosts to utter what many people were thinking but afraid to say out loud.

Gray’s enduring love for his craft kept him on WMCA for 39 years. He would also work at WOR, New York later in his career. If Gray’s contribution to talk radio can be summed up in a sentence it is this: He used his creativity and summoned up the courage to create a style of talk radio that not only proved to be successful then but continues to be utilized by nearly all of today’s talk radio hosts.

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