Announcer Martin Block was the first radio disc jockey to become a star in his own right.
Born in Los Angeles, Block began his career reading commercials on a station in Tijuana, Mexico. He later returned to Los Angeles and became a junior assistant at KFWB, where a disc jockey named Al Jarvis hosted a popular local show called Make Believe Ballroom.
Late in 1934, Block was hired by WNEW/New York, where he played music while the station awaited developments in the trial of accused kidnapper Bruno Richard Hauptmann. Block created the illusion that he was broadcasting from a ballroom with the nation’s top dance bands performing live. Block appropriated the name Make Believe Ballroom and the show was an instant hit.
Make Believe Ballroom became so popular that when WNEW moved to a new studio on Fifth Avenue, they constructed a simulated ballroom—complete with chandelier and black linoleum—for Block’s broadcasts.
Block left Make Believe Ballroom on January 1, 1954 to host The Martin Block Show for ABC Radio. Towards the end of his career, he was heard on WOR/New York.
Martin Block died September 18, 1967.
He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1988.