NBC television recorded over 70 hours and 25 minutes of coverage on
President John F. Kennedy's assassination beginning on November 22nd
and ending on November 25th, 1963.
However, NBC failed to record the first two NBC
television bulletins on Nov. 22, voiced by Don Pardo, at 1:45:03 PM
EST & 1:46:45 PM EST, and the subsequent initial 3 minutes & 53 seconds of continuous coverage
by Frank McGee, Chet Huntley and Bill Ryan, commencing at 1:53:12 PM
Amazingly, the only existing broadcast record in the
world, to date, of these historic television moments was audio
recorded off the air by Phil Gries, developer and owner of Archival
Television Audio Inc.
These TV audio airchecks were recorded via
direct line on a 1/4" reel to reel audiotape recorder during the
actual live television broadcast. These historic soundtracks have
been donated by ATA to the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, MA,
and to The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. In addition,
Archival Television Audio, Inc. has given a copy to a stunned Don
Pardo on his 80th birthday, now believing that his bulletins exist
as a broadcast record and not just as a memory.
The November 22nd, 1963 John F. Kennedy NBC-TV
assassination bulletins, and the initial lost three minutes & 53
seconds of NBC
live coverage are the most significant treasure in our over 12,000
program archive. These tracks personify just one of the many
thousands of other Archival Television Audio original off the air TV
soundtracks, representing the only broadcast record in the world of
an original television program (1946-1979) which has been erased,
damaged, misplaced, or destroyed during the first three decades of
The following is a letter sent to Archival Television Audio by
Customer Name: Jim Brown
Catalog Record #: 556
Customer Order Note:
#556- NBC'S FIRST LIVE BULLETINS AND LIVE COVERAGE
OF THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY.
I have recently purchased this tape from you, and
it leaves me breathless! I videotaped A&E's replay
in 1988 with Edwin Newman, and PBS re-played the
coverage again in 1993, I believe. I've watched
these tapes over and over, but always there was
that annoying missing part at the beginning. What
did those men say before the taping began? What
was Bill Ryan thanking Frank McGee for?
I thought, gee, isn't it a shame that somebody
somewhere didn't think to turn on a tape recorder!
And now I find that YOU DID! This is SO fascinating
to me. Have you ever told the story of how you
happened to do it? Can you point me to some resource
where there is an article about it? Did you just
happen to have your TV on at that moment, see the
"Bulletin" come up and rush over to turn your spare
tape recorder on?
The following is a reponse to a letter sent to Archival Television Audio by
In response to your inquiry regarding the audio taping of the
first Don Pardo NBC television bulletins related to the
assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963,
beginning at 1:45:03 PM Eastern Standard Time, and the first 3
minutes and 53 seconds of coverage not recorded by NBC or any
other archive or individual in the entire country, except yours
truly...I'm astonished that I was the only one to record these
historic media moments. Over the decades I've been expecting
another resource to affirm and confirm a similar recording. Thus
far there have been none. It was fate that I had the passion to
audio record my television set in the late 1950's, and 1960's,
and it was fortuitous fate that I was home that Friday
afternoon, and that I had just concluded taping, from 1:00 to
1:30 PM, the audio of the last WNBC complete television program
to air ("TELL US MORE" with Conrad Nagel profiling a biography
of Jack Benny and Fred Allen), until NBC resumed normal
broadcasting 70 hours and 25 minutes later, after commercial
television and advertising left the air beginning on Friday at
1:57:00 PM EST when NBC began recording their coverage of the
Kennedy Assassination with Bill Ryan stating to Frank McGee:
"Thank you Frank."
My 1949 16 & 1/2'' Andrea television remained on after I
completed audio taping "TELL US MORE," and when I saw the NBC
station bulletin ID on the screen, 15 minutes later, I
immediately pushed the record button on my 1959 Webcor two
track stereophonic tape recorder and recorded NBC's coverage
from the beginning of Don Pardo's first New York City local
bulletin and then recorded, off the air, his first National
bulletin. I personally believe (my memory fails me) that I
missed a few seconds leading into the "lost" 3 minutes and 53
seconds of Bill Ryan's on the air reporting, commencing at
approx. 1:53 PM EST. In retrospect, I should have kept my
recorder running continuously after the first bulletins.
Instead, I waited to see what new developments would occur,
waiting again for NBC to interrupt regular programming which
occured at approximately 1:53 PM EST. It took NBC approximately
11 minutes for their cameras to function live from the time
Don Pardo voiced his first bulletin on NBC TELEVISION at
1:45:03 Eastern Standard Time, and to then videotape their
own coverage (70 hours & 25 minutes) beginning with Bill Ryan
saying to Frank McGee: "Thank you Frank." at approximately
1:57 PM EST.
I personally held on to and preserved these TV audio airchecks,
which I recorded off the air, for 34 years, not sharing them
until 1997 when I released them. Currently, the "lost" NBC
TELEVISION first two Don Pardo bulletins and the "lost" first
3 minutes & 53 seconds of non existing videotape/kinescope NBC
footage resides with the JOHN F. KENNEDY LIBRARY, THE LIBRARY
OF CONGRESS, THE MUSEUM OF TELEVISION & RADIO, and with
Mr. Don Pardo, to whom I presented these TV SOUNDTRACKS at the
time of his 80th birthday, in February of 1998.
If you would like any additional information, please don't
hesitate to e-mail me or phone me (516-656-5677). My story of
how I recorded the lost JFK coverage has never been fully
reported. One day I would like to have someone publish the exact
details beyond what I have stated in this reply. Parts of my
story have appeared in profiles on me in the New York Daily News
(Jan. 1, 1996), N.Y. Times (June 28, 1998), Newsday
(October 4, 1998), and the New York Post (December 29, 2000),
and I was profiled on National Public Radio's ALL THINGS
CONSIDERED ("LOST AND FOUND SOUND") on November 19, 1999.
That audio can be streamed on the NPR Website.
Thank you for your kind words and your interest. I'd
like to add your correspondence and my reply to our
link on the John F. Kennedy assassination.
ARCHIVAL TELEVISION AUDIO, INC. OFFERS A SPECIAL COMPILATION AUDIO CASSETTE TAPE (TOTAL RUNNING TIME - 10 MINUTES, 16 SECONDS) WHICH INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL RELATED TO THE NBC TELEVISION COVERAGE OF THE NOVEMBER 22, 1963 ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY.
- TELEVISION AUDIO AIRCHECK OPENING OF THE NOVEMBER 22, 1988 A&E TV SPECIAL (25TH ANNIVERSARY), REMEMBERING THE JFK ASSASSINATION AS ORIGINALLY BROADCAST ON NBC. HOST EDWARD NEWMAN INTRODUCES THE PROGRAM AND REMINDS THE VIEWING AUDIENCE THAT NBC WAS NOT ABLE TO ARCHIVE THE FIRST TWO NBC BULLETINS OR THE FIRST MINUTES OF ORIGINAL LIVE NBC SPECIAL COVERAGE.
- NEVER RECORDED BY NBC, THE FIRST TWO "LOST" DON PARDO BULLETINS, AND THE FIRST 3 MINUTES & 52 SECONDS OF "LOST" NBC-TV COVERAGE OF THE JOHN F. KENNEDY ASSASSINATION ON NOVEMBER 22, 1963, WITH COVERAGE BY BILL RYAN, CHET HUNTLEY AND FRANK McGEE.
- BRIEF EXCERPT OF PHIL GRIES TELEPHONE CONVERSATION WITH ANNOUNCER DON PARDO REGARDING THE BULLETINS HE VOICED ON NOVEMBER 22, 1963, BEGINNING AT 1:45:03 EST.