Blown To Bits

The full story on Dr. Brinkley

Friday, July 18th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

“Dr.” John Romulus Brinkley, the notorious medical quack, makes a cameo appearance in Blown to Bits as the plaintiff in a suit against the Federal Radio Commission. When the Supreme Court upheld the FRC’s authority to strip Brinkley of his radio license, it set the stage for all subsequent federal censorship of the airwaves. The technological part of the court’s reasoning now rests on shaky ground, as our book explains.

Pope Brock’s recently released book¬†Charlatan is the amazing tale of Brinkley and his lifelong battle with Morris Fishbein of the American Medical Association. It’s a terrific read, highly recommended. The Supreme Court case is barely mentioned, but there is a lot about Brinkley’s pioneering role in radio — he was the first to do major country music programming, and to use recorded music to time-shift the performances. When he had to move his station to Mexico and federal authorities said he couldn’t telephone his broadcast from the States, he recorded them and sent the records to Mexico to be played. A communications pioneer to be sure.

Brock has dug out lots of nice details — for example that the first time Johnny Cash heard June Carter sing was on Brinkley’s radio broadcast! Good summer reading.

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