NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — As part of WCBS Newsradio 880’s celebration of 50 years of covering news in New York, we are launching a weekly series that focuses on the people who have made contributions in our community.
Each week on CBSNewYork.com and on the radio at WCBS Newsradio 880, we will present “50 People to Know.” We are going to tell you stories about people you may have never heard of but we think there is an interesting tentacle to their work and contributions.
Since this storytelling series is tied to our radio station’s 50th anniversary, we wanted to use our first installment to tell you about someone who could be considered the father of Newsradio 880.
Meet Alfred H. Grebe, born in Richmond Hill, Queens in 1895.
Grebe lived only 40 years but was considered one of the radio pioneers of his day. In the way Steve Jobs or Bill Gates developed products that revolutionized the computer industry, Grebe was an early innovator — from the time he first learned about a technology called “wireless” at the age of 10.
Grebe not only designed and built some of the earliest commercial radio sets in a shack behind his farmhouse in Queens, he developed content ideas to make these radios more valuable. It was Grebe who established some of the earliest radio stations including WAHG (his initials) and WBOQ (borough of Queens).
In 1926 WAHG became one of the first commercial stations in the country under the banner of his new company, The Atlantic Broadcasting Corporation.
It soon became WABC and three years later in 1929 it was sold to the Columbia Broadcasting System, an operation that was just getting started under the helm of media legend William S. Paley. He needed radio stations to air his network content of music, entertainment, and ultimately news.
It wasn’t until the 1940’s that WABC became WCBS – but without Alfred H. Grebe, who knows how history might have been written.
The building that once housed Grebe’s radio factory is now part of Jamaica Hospital. A plaque marks the location near the entrance on Jamaica Avenue.
Alfred H. Grebe, the founding father of WCBS, is first in our 50 People to Know.