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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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CARNEY, Albert

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CARNEY, Albert. (Dubuque, IA, Aug. 9, 1893--Chicago IL, Jan. 13, 1931). A pioneer in radio broadcasting, Carney gained national recognition for his radio programs and mastery as an organist. Carney studied piano at the DUBUQUE ACADEMY OF MUSIC and was hired as a pianist for silent pictures shown at local theaters.

After returning from WORLD WAR I, Carney studied organ under Professor A.C. Klein and graduated from the DUBUQUE ACADEMY OF MUSIC with honors. In 1923 he moved to Chicago where he was hired as the organist at the McVickers Theatre. As his popularity grew, Carney was hired by William Wrigley, owner of the new radio station WHT.

Carney presented daily organ concerts and with announcer Pat Barnes transformed routine weather reports into media events with special effects Carney produced on the organ. He also played the dulcetone, a miniature piano keyboard only thirty-four inches long with forty-four keys.

Carney moved to St. Louis in 1926 to work for KMOX. He soon returned to Chicago to develop his own studio in the J.R. Thompson Brokerage Building. Carney's music was soon broadcast over station WCFL. Seriously ill with pneumonia and bronchitis, Carney died unexpectedly at the age of thirty-seven.

In tribute to this musical genius, all Chicago radio stations maintained fifteen minutes of air silence as WGN broadcast a medley of Carney's favorite organ selections played by his friend, Larry Larson. His funeral in Dubuque was attended by many entertainers, officials and radio personalities.

The epitaph on the Carney mansoleum in MOUNT OLIVET CEMETERY reads:

                 To Albert Carney, famous radio organist, pioneer in
                 radio broadcasting, internationally known by all, this
                 memorial is affectionately dedicated, and no matter who
                 you are, how you are, and where you are, you will know
                 that it is Al Carney signing off forever and bidding
                 you all a fond goodnight.



Kruse, Len. My Old Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa: Center for Dubuque History-Loras College, 2000, p. 199-201