Jack Ellsworth, Long Island’s Big Band Man

Jack Ellsworth, born Ellsworth Shiebler, won acclaim and a loyal following over a 60-plus year career in broadcasting on stations from WHIM to WALK and WLIM. Just as importantly, he won the respect and support of some of the biggest names of the Big Band era. Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby (to name a few) toasted Jack’s efforts to keep the music and style of the 1930s and 40s alive.

On this episode, Susan and Elissa Shiebler (Jack’s daughter and granddaughter, respectively) relate the story of Jack’s life from his early days in Brooklyn to his work as a Marine war correspondent through his glory days at WALK-FM and WLIM. Fueled by his personal connections to top-name performers and a legendary record collection, Jack’s “Memories in Melody” show enthralled audiences of all ages.

Jack Ellsworth
WALK radio ad from the Long Island Advance, Jan 25, 1962.

Beyond stories of stars such as Dick Powell and Frank Sinatra, Susan and Elissa also reveal how strongly the legacy of Jack and his wife Dot guides the family today. Grandson Matt Taylor has taken on the mantle of host, along with his own career as a performer, bringing that Big Band sound to a new age. They are now on 103.9 FM (WRCN) and LongIslandNewsRadio.com Sunday mornings 7 – 9 am.

Further Research




Off to See the Wizard: Bringing Tesla to the Screen

“Showing the Inventor in the Effulgent Glory of Myriad Tongues of Electric Flame After He Has Saturated Himself with Electricity.” New York World, July 22, 1894.

Nikola Tesla was a bona fide Gilded Age celebrity, pulling front page headlines in the New York press and attracting the rich and famous to his late night laboratory demonstrations. You were nobody until Tesla shot you through with electricity.

And now Tesla’s time has come again. We conclude our special Tesla Month here at the Long island History Project talking to filmmaker Joe Sikorski about his documentary Tower to the People: Tesla’s Dream at Wardenclyffe Continues. Co-written with Michael Calomino, Tower to the People tells the story of Tesla and the successful fight to save his Wardenclyffe lab.

Bringing Tesla’s story to the screen has been a labor of love of Joe’s for some time and you’ll hear about his original dream: the full-length feature film Fragments from Olympus. We discuss the challenges of documentary film making and reveal more of Tesla’s fascinating life and why it lends itself so perfectly to film.

Are you in Los Angeles October 23-29th? Catch a special screening of Tower to the People at the Crest Theatre, 1262 Westwood Blvd. And tell them the Long Island History Project sent you!

Further Research

Lightning Strikes: Saving the Wardenclyffe Lab in Shoreham

Tesla Street
Corner of the Wardenclyffe site. Photo by Chris Kretz.

The historic site you want to preserve is up for sale for $1.3 million dollars. The good news: New York State will give you $850,000. The bad news: you have to raise the same amount. And there are other interested buyers. And the clock is ticking.

That’s the position The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe (TSCW) found themselves in by the summer of 2012. But don’t worry, there’s a happy ending. In this second of a two-part interview, Jane Alcorn (TSCW president) explains how they turned things around. The secret ingredient: enlist the aide of Matthew Inman, creator of the website The Oatmeal.

In the whirlwind of events that followed, offers of help poured in and TSCW was able to meet all their goals. And then the hard work began. Jane recounts it all and lays out future plans for the site and for Nikola Tesla’s legacy of scientific innovation. Remember to check the TSCW website for ways that you can get involved.

And stay tuned as our Tesla month continues. Next week on the podcast we interview filmmaker Joe Sikorski on his Tesla/Wardenclyffe documentary Tower to the People.

Further Research:

Hooked on Tesla

“Nikola Tesla, Dreamer” From The World To-Day, 1901.

Jane Alcorn was hooked on science from an early age but it was not until a friend clued her in to the Wizard of Electricity  that she became hooked on Nikola Tesla. A major scientific player at the turn of the last century, Tesla established a lab at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, Long Island to pursue his innovative experiments in electricity, radio, and broadcast energy.

Drawing inspiration from his story, Jane and a dedicated group founded The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe. And eventually, they realized the dream of securing Tesla’s lab and have begun to restore it.

In the first of a two-part interview, Jane describes that journey and provides background on what made Tesla so inspiring. You’ll hear stories of his inventions and his interactions with the people of Shoreham as well as his connections to people like Mark Twain, Stanford White and George Westinghouse.

Look for part 2 next week when we discuss the long and surprising road to purchasing the Wardenclyffe site.

Further Research:

Tuning in to Ray Adell

Longtime radio broadcaster Ray Adell of Ray Adell Media, WGSM, WBAB and more.
Longtime radio broadcaster Ray Adell of Ray Adell Media, WGSM, WBAB and more. Photo by Tom Hoffman.

Ray Adell is a radio man, from his early days broadcasting down in Virginia to his arrival at WGSM (World’s Greatest Suburban Market!) in Huntington in the early 1950s. But perhaps you’ll remember him best as the voice (and mind) behind “About Long Island,” the long-running radio spot sponsored by the Grumman Corporation. For over twenty years Ray and his staff at Adell Media served up snippets of Long Island history in morning drive time to educate and entertain.

In this interview Ray looks back at the people he’s met (Jack Ellsworth and Edmund Hillary to name just two), stations he’s worked at (WCAP, WEST, WKBS, WGSM and WBAB to name just five), and answers the question: is radio dead?

Leave a comment if you have memories of Ray or any of the old Long Island stations. And special thanks to Thom Hoffman for arranging this interview.

BONUS: The Long Island History Project is now listed in iTunes! If you like what you hear, please leave a review or rate us. If you’re not sure how, read this first.

Many great interviews ahead so keep listening! You can bookmark us, use the “follow” button to get email updates, or subscribe in iTunes or your podcast reader of choice.

Further Research

When Rocky Point was Radio Central

Bob Lundquist – Part II

Part two, while not technically a lost episode, is being updated and will appear on our feed soon. Stay tuned! (posted 12/6/17)

Robert Lundquist was station engineer at the vast RCA transmitting station at Rocky Point known the world over as Radio Central. In this two-part interview he provides a crash course in the history, development, and technology of radio. You’ll also hear about the history of RCA, David Sarnoff, Guglielmo Marconi, and the role of Sputnik in the demise of Radio Central.

Among the memories Bob shares are the the day in 1978 when Governor Hugh Carey accepted the property (along with the RCA station in Riverhead) on behalf of New York State, along with the time he had to decide the fate of Marconi’s shack, an important relic of Long Island’s radio history.

Further Research:

Life on the Air

Retired from a life in radio and television, Stuart Chamberlain can look back on the long hours, overnight shifts, small town stations, and manic deadlines with a smile. In this interview he recounts his path from WMAJ in State College, PA to ABC where he wrote and produced “World News This Week.” One of the highlights, however, was his time working with Paul Harvey in Chicago. Stu discusses his forays into acting and reveals an old connection to the Sayville Musical Workshop. Throughout Stu delivers a thoughtful disquisition on the state of radio and the news media along with a look at the work of Long Island stations like WLIM and WLNG.

Stu Chamberlain
Stu Chamberlain

Further Research


Warren McDowell and the Fire Island Tide

The summer of 1977 brought Star Wars, blackouts, and the first appearance of The Fire Island Tide. From that first 24-page Memorial Day edition, Warren McDowell’s dream grew to a  140-page color news magazine with poetry, history and artwork along with community news.  Here Warren recounts that growth and the work it took: delivering papers every Friday by boat from Kismet to Watch Hill, dealing with national advertisers warily marketing to the “alternative lifestyle”, and loving every minute of it. Although clearly aware of the dangers facing newspapers (and radio stations) today, his message to those dreaming of starting their own: go for it!


Further Research

Moriches and the Terry-Ketcham Inn

The Terry Ketcham Inn courtesy of the Ketcham Inn Foundation
The Terry Ketcham Inn courtesy of the Ketcham Inn Foundation

Growing up in the Moriches, Mary Field noticed what most people didn’t. As old buildings were being torn down, she wondered who would remember what had gone before. What followed was a lifetime of interest in local history, culminating in books like The Illustrated History of the Moriches Bay Area and the 1881 Diary of Nettie Ketcham. In this interview she tells stories of old Moriches she learned from earlier generations and anecdotes from Nettie Ketcham’s experiences at the end of the 19th century. Mary also recounts the work of her husband Van, a ham radio operator, historian of Long Island shipwrecks, and participant in the LORAN Project from World War II.

The 1989  fire that nearly destroyed the Terry-Ketcham Inn brought Bert Seides to tears but it also set him on the road to saving the historic Moriches landmark.  Building from a small group of volunteers meeting around Mary and Van Field’s kitchen table, Bert marshaled support and learned to navigate a maze of regulations, paperwork, and government agencies to bring the 1693 Inn back to life. In this discussion he provides a road map for preservation projects and reveals the hard work involved, from painstaking research to outreach programs to, of course, book sales.


Further Research

The Home Grown String Band

Welcome to the lives and times of The Home Grown String Band.  Rick and Georgianne Jackofsky have been performing old time traditional music with their daughters Erica and Annalee since 1997. In this interview you’ll hear how they got their start along with tales from the road as well as a  leisurely tour through the intertwining histories of old-time music, bluegrass, radio and television. The talk leads from  Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs to the Carter Family, Andy Griffith, and why there’s so little Long Island-specific music history.

The Homegrown String Band

Further Research