January 26, 2015 09:08 UTC

American Mosaic

The Jeep - One of the Most Famous Vehicles in the World – is Celebrated at its Birthplace

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MARIO RITTER:  Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

(MUSIC)

I'm Mario Ritter. Today, we play music that the television network MTV helped to make popular.  We also talk about the history of MTV, which turned thirty this week.

But, first, a report about a famous American vehicle used by soldiers and surfers.

(MUSIC)

JEEP FESTIVAL ADVANCER

MARIO RITTER:  One of the most famous vehicles in the world got its start in the American state of Pennsylvania. The first “Bantam Jeep” was manufactured seventy years ago in the city of Butler, just north of Pittsburgh.

Butler is marking the anniversary with a first-ever celebration that will last for three days – from August twelfth through the fourteenth. Christopher Cruise spoke with a man who created the event.

(MUSIC)

The Army and the adventurous loved the Jeep's ability to drive off-road.
The Army and the adventurous loved the Jeep's ability to drive off-road.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE:  The American Bantam Car Company designed and built the first American military jeeps. And it did so in record time. In the summer of nineteen-forty, in just a few days the company created a complete design. Forty-nine days after it received a request from the War Department, a complete jeep was ready to go.

These small vehicles helped the Allied powers during World War Two. Some historians have called the jeep, one of the most powerful weapons of the war. It was used as a combat vehicle and to carry the wounded, among other things.

But the factory in Butler was not big enough to make all the jeeps that the War Department needed. The American Bantam Car Company made about two thousand six hundred jeeps before it lost the manufacturing rights to two bigger companies: Ford and Willy. The designs that the Bantam had created were given to its competitors.

More than six hundred thousand jeeps were built for the American military during World War Two – far too big a job for the American Bantam Car Company to handle.

Jack Cohen is the head of the Butler County, Pennsylvania Tourism and Convention Bureau. He says Butler’s part in birthing the jeep should never be forgotten.

JACK COHEN: “Well it’s kind of interesting, when I moved into Butler County I never knew that the jeep was invented here. Finding that information out, I was curious (as) to why no one ever talked much about that history and for probably two or three years I tried to get, to find more interest in it.”

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE:  So, Mister Cohen decided to create the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival to let people know that the jeep came from Butler. He says that on August twelfth, jeeps from many states and four countries will create what he hopes will be the longest jeep parade ever.

JACK COHEN:  “We’re setting the world’s record for Guinness’ longest jeep parade. And with this many vehicles right now – somewhere right about a thousand at this moment – we can establish that record as long as we do the things that Guinness has asked us to do.”

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE:  Mister Cohen believes only about fifty of the original Bantam Jeeps survive today. At least four of them will be in the parade, including one that was once owned by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

We will tell more about the event, and share some pictures, on AMERICAN MOSAIC later this month. We close with Duke Ellington’s “The Jeep is Jumpin’.”

(MUSIC)

MTV TURNS 30

MARIO RITTER:  The company once known as Music Television marked its thirtieth anniversary earlier this week. Much has changed at MTV over the years. Katherine Cole takes a look at the history of MTV and plays some of the music it helped make famous.

(MUSIC)

DJ Deadmau5 performs at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles.
DJ Deadmau5 performs at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles.

KATHERINE COLE:  That was The Buggles with "Video Killed the Radio Star." It was the first song played on MTV.  It came on at one minute after twelve on August first nineteen eighty-one.

MTV was one of the first specialized television channels in the United States. People could watch artists perform popular songs in videos. The station played music videos all day long.

But at first only a few thousand people could watch MTV. It was offered on cable television only in the state of New Jersey. Even the people who worked at MTV had to go to New Jersey if they wanted to see it on television. Now MTV operates all over the world and broadcasts in more than one hundred sixty countries.

In its early years, MTV was a lot like radio with pictures. Radio stations had DJs, disk jockeys; MTV had VJs, video jockeys.

One of the most famous music videos ever on MTV was a fourteen minute piece from Michael Jackson. He plays a teenager in the nineteen fifties who leads zombies in a dance of the undead.

Hollywood movie director John Landis helped create the video, which was more like a short film. The video of “Thriller” helped make Michael’s Jackson’s record album of the same name one of the best-selling in history.

(MUSIC)

KATHERINE COLE:  Some musical artists were not happy about MTV and its influence on the music industry. They thought it was too centered on looks and image and not enough on making good music.

One early critic was the band the Dead Kennedys.  In nineteen eighty-five, the group’s members expressed their displeasure in the song, "MTV – Get off the Air."

(MUSIC)

KATHERINE COLE:  Rock stars were not the only people to criticize MTV. Since the beginning, many people saw it as a bad influence on children.  They said MTV showed a world without morals or values and full of sex and drugs.

In the nineteen nineties, MTV began to do more about its image.  MTV created new programs and campaigns to inform young people about serious issues, like AIDS, poverty, racism, and violence at home. It also began to urge young people to vote and expanded its political reporting.

In nineteen ninety-one, MTV began a show called "The Real World." The show brought seven young people to live together in New York and have their lives videotaped.  The success of “The Real World” helps explain the current popularity of reality programs on television.

MTV made lots of programming changes in the nineties. It stopped showing mostly videos. It began more reality shows, cartoons and game shows. Today, MTV shows many more hours of these programs than it does of music videos.

But every year MTV honors the best music videos. Last year, the winner was “Bad Romance,” by Lady Gaga.

(MUSIC)

KATHERINE COLE:  MTV will broadcast its Video Music Awards on August twenty-eighth. There are five nominees Video of the Year. We leave you with one of them. Here is the Beastie Boys performing “Make Some Noise.”

(MUSIC)

MARIO RITTER: I’m Mario Ritter. Our program was written and produced by Caty Weaver and Christopher Cruise. If you have a question about American life, write to mosaic@voanews.com. Or go to voaspecialenglish.com and click on the Contact Us link.

Join us again next week for music and more on AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

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