Every Saturday night during their season, hundreds file into studio 8H, at NBC in radio city, to watch the taping of Saturday Night Live. As I sit there enjoying the comedy and commentary, it is likely none of them has any idea of the origins of that studio.
A friend of mine, Lucy Johnson, formerly VP of CBS daytime for 14 years, is preparing to re – release a book of the role in 1936, the studio played where the NBC Symphony Orchestra ( which I'm sure most of you did not realize existed) every Saturday night had a one hour concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini, which was presented by NBC radio.
That period of time, NBC was strictly a radio network. The studios that existed, where very modest in size since there were no caverns of lights or they had to do is allow for perhaps up to 200 the audience.
When it became apparent as the 1930s wore on, that Toscanini's position in Mussolini's Italy was growing increasingly perilous, David Sarnoff, the owner of NBC and RCA had that studio built specifically to house a Symphony Orchestra, which NBC created and paid for and installed Toscanini as its director. I listened every week, to the concept. There was no commercial sponsor for this program, so NBC payed for the reconstruction of the studio for all the members of the Symphony Orchestra. I am sure some of that got back to them as they added RCA Victor records, releasing various recordings from Toscanini through the years, but nevertheless next time you look at video of 8H, or, if you're lucky enough sit in one of those seats, please remember the story of why that was even built during the time of radio when all the other studios at that building were quite small limited to perhaps one or 200 in the audience.