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While working for New York's WMCA in 1945, Barry Gray was bored with playing music and put a telephone receiver up to his microphone to talk with bandleader Woody Herman.This was soon followed by listener call-ins and Gray is often billed as "the hot mama of talk radio". Author Bill Cherry proposed George Roy Clough as the first to invite listeners to argue politics on a call-in radio show at KLUF, his station in Galveston, Texas, as a way to bring his own political views into listeners' homes.There was also a national current events forum called America's Town Meeting of the Air which broadcast once a week starting in 1935.It featured panel discussions from some of the biggest newsmakers and was among the first shows to allow audience participation: members of the studio audience could question the guests or even heckle them.(He later became Mayor of Galveston.) Cherry gives no specific date, but the context of events and history of the station would seem to place it also in the 1940s, perhaps earlier.The format was the classic mode in which the announcer gave the topic for that day, and listeners called in to debate the issue. Joe Pyne, John Nebel, Jean Shepherd, and Jerry Williams (WMEX-Boston) were among the first to explore the medium in the 1950s.

Radio historians consider this the first instance of talk radio.

Talk radio is a radio format containing discussion about topical issues and consisting entirely or almost entirely of original spoken word content rather than outside music.