Thursday, July 02, 2015

An ode to radio

Whenever I would see Gilda Radner do a “Judy Miller” sketch on SNL I always laughed and cringed. “Judy Miller” was a kid who used to star in a fictional TV show in her bedroom. She played every role (what’s a variety show without guests?) I never did that when I was a kid. TV was too advanced for me. But like all true radio geeks I used to do bedroom radio shows.

I was smart enough to wait until my parents were out for the evening and my little brother was asleep. Then I’d set up my old Wollensak reel-to-reel tape recorder (which I still have, by the way), my 45 rpm record player, my record collection (“He’s a Rebel” and “Ahab the Arab” played constantly), a $2.00 silver dollar microphone, and a copy of LIFE magazine (I needed commercial copy) and would “broadcast.”

It was all rather primitive. I could never segue from one record to another since I only had one turntable, and besides, who gave a shit about “more music?” This was Judy Miller… I mean, MY show. “Ahab the Arab” was coming. Just be patient.

I would do comedy bits between records, various (lame) impersonations, take “dedications” (don’t tell anybody but I made them up – “Here’s ‘He’s a Rebel’ from Carol to Schlomo”), give the time, temperature, promote the concerts I pretended to host (“Saturday night at the Corbin Theater – the Ken Levine revue -- Tina Turner, Jackie DeShannon, and Connie Francis!”) In my pre-pubescent mind I thought a great line-up of talent would be all girl singers with big tits.

My on air “style” was a mish-mosh of Elliot Field, Gary Owens, Dick Whittington, Jonathon Winters, Bob & Ray, Don McKinnon, Oscar Levant, Alan King, B. Mitchell Reed, and Emperor Hudson. I somehow managed to combine the worst of all of them.

I recorded these God-awful programs and wisely never listened back to them. I’m sure even at the tender age of 12 I would have been horrified at how truly terrible I must’ve sounded.

But so what? I got to practice my craft. Kids who dreamed of becoming major league baseball players could play little league. Future wannabe rock stars could play in the school band or orchestra. There were no organized programs for nerds who wanted to become disc jockeys. Yes, there were Ham Radio clubs in some high schools, but those nimrods were too nerdy even for us. And they missed the point. The rush wasn’t connecting to some other gozzlehead three states away; it was being on a major market flamethrower like KFWB, WABC, WLS, and KLIF and having millions of your peers (of all schools and chest sizes) hang onto your every word. D.J.’s were STARS back then. And if you couldn’t play an instrument, or throw a spiral, or surf, or look like the kind of person who could do any one of these things, being a radio star was your salvation. It was the acceptable alternative to becoming a serial killer.

At the time I never told anybody about my bedroom shows. It was one of those activities you kept to yourself. (And I had the good sense not to record the other activity.) I thought I was the only kid pathetic enough to do bedroom radio shows. Years later when I got into radio professionally I learned that many of us did variations of this same activity. (Note: A radio child prodigy is one who can talk up to vocals at age 7.)

Just as grown up “Judy Miller” must be thrilled that no one was actually sitting in front of their TV sets watching her fling herself against a wall while displaying her ballet skills, no one heard our bogus radio shows.

However, today is a different story. With computer programs, iTunes, and a microphone, not only could a kid produce a rather sophisticated bedroom radio show but he could BROADCAST it – and not just locally –all over the world. Holy shit! I thank God that wasn’t available in my day. I probably still couldn’t show my face in Luxembourg.

Of course, how many kids want to have bedroom radio stations? How many kids today even give a shit about radio? Radio for us was magic. At night the ionosphere would raise, radio waves would skip, and signals could be heard in distant locations. I used to sit in Los Angeles in the winter and pick up WLS out of Chicago. Imagine – some announcer speaks into a microphone and his voice is being heard 2,000 miles away. Now any idiot can broadcast (or blog for that matter) and his message can be accessed in every corner of the globe (except China or where you need AT&T for reception).

It ain’t the same.

I miss the old days. The innocent days I suppose. When radio was a big part of everyone’s lives. Where we all discovered the same music together. Where we all bolstered our self-esteem because the coolest, hippest, funniest DJ’s on the planet were talking directly to us.

And nerds like us wanted to be on the radio because it was “special.” To be that one person behind the microphone sending your voice 2,000 miles was a privilege. Not everyone could do it. And now everyone can. But no one wants to. To me that’s really sad.

Meanwhile, go on YouTube. I’ll bet there are 50,000 different “Judy Miller” shows.

I’m so happy that I was in radio when I was. You never forget your first love.

50 comments:

Zack Bennett said...

Ken, I was born in 1981 and I did the same thing. My dad was a deejay in the '70s (he got out of it when I came along, because he needed, y'know, money), and being a broadcaster was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I made up fake radio stations and fake TV stations and, even into my twenties, pretended they really existed. Now, I get to live that dream. It's not enough to make a living on, so I have a "real job" during the week, but I get to be on the radio one day a week and it's marvelous. I make minimum wage and I'm syndicated across 23 markets from small towns in upstate New York to big cities like Atlanta, but I don't care, because I love it.

Barry Traylor said...

Your mention of WLS out of Chicago brings back fond memories of listening to it late at night on the East Coast. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania that in 1956 had a radio station that never played any Rock and Roll, I guess the powers that be in my town thought it would warp our minds. So if I wanted to hear Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard WLS is where I could hear it. A real life saver for a 13 year old at the time.

willieb said...

A kid in my high school who was an even BIGGER radio nerd than me created a whole fake radio station, KMCT (the call letters were the initials of the girl he had a crush on at the time). Four or five of us radio/comedy types used our cassette recorders and turntables to record half hour programs that we would make available to the general listening public -- no takers. We tried to get the high school to play them on the public address system without success, which is probably just as well. I still have a lot of those cassettes, and when I listen to them I want to strangle the stupid kid doing the bad impressions...still, he DOES talk up the posts rather well, and he did go on to have a moderately successful career back when radio DJs were still having fun on the air, and he still signs blog comments with his old air name.

VP81955 said...

Had no idea people in Los Angeles could pick up WLS at night; I suppose the conditions had to be precisely right.

When I lived back east, our western limit was KMOX out of St. Louis. In fact, I recall one winter evening in Syracuse in the '60s, I heard the Hawks play one of those neutral-site games at the Onondaga County War Memorial, some years after the Nationals had become the Philadelphia 76ers. Sort of surreal to hear a game being played five miles from home on a station 1,100 miles away.

Many years later, I attended graduate school in Ames, Iowa, and my DXing boundary crossed the Continental Divide to KOA in Denver and KSL in Salt Lake City -- in fact, I heard Kareem Abdul-Jabbar break the NBA career scoring record on KSL when the Lakers were playing the Jazz in Las Vegas. But picking up KFI or KNX from Iowa? Never thought it possible.

And getting back to WLS, here's how times have changed: The one-time Top 40 legend will be the White Sox flagship beginning in 2016.

JEM said...

Ken - Any thoughts or reviews on Apple's new music service with real DJ's?

Astroboy said...

That model Wollensak RtoR was the one we used all through my school years, I really want one! I've been hoping to find one in a thrift store for years. I love the look of that machine.

Jit said...

Ken - after the recent Supreme Court "rainbow ruling", I can't help but think about gay characters in mainstream TV shows - particularly TV comedies such as Modern Family and even Will & Grace before it. First question I have is whether you know the writers/actors of these shows and whether they were ever worried if they were [stereo]-typing gays and/or reducing them to punchlines. Second question is - and I guess there's no real way to tell but I'm going to ask anyway - if they think the popularity of their shows contributed in some way to mass acceptance of gay people.

Justin Russo said...

I was born in 1986 and used to listen to radio programs with my grandparents, particularly WWII broadcasts. As a classic film enthusiast, the radio renditions of films are wonderful. Someone like Stanwyck on radio is intoxicating or Bacall's smokey voice, just listening to her purr. However, nothing beats a Jack Benny broadcast!

Bob Sharp said...

Barry Traylor

If you were listening to rock and roll on WLS in 1956 you must have had a magic radio. WLS was sold by Prairie Farmer Magazine to ABC on January 1, 1960, and switched to Top 40 on May 2, 1960.

Mike said...

Martin Short wrote about doing the exact same thing in his very entertaining autobiography, "I Must Say." Passion is a nice thing to have!

Pat Reeder said...

I did the same thing, only I'm a little younger than you, so I did it with cassettes. I did listen back to one of them once, and it wasn't the amateurishness of it that shocked me so much as how high my voice was then.

You're right, being on the radio was something special. Whenever I would help a newbie break into radio, I'd tell them the same thing I was taught when I got my first shift on a 250-watt country station in Hillsboro, Texas: "Don't think about all the people you're talking to. Radio is an intimate medium. You're not talking to a crowd. You're talking to one person. It might be a commuter in his truck, or a housewife doing her ironing, or a lonely senior citizen who just needs to hear another human voice, but you are talking directly to that one listener. If you were there in person, you wouldn't be shouting into their ears, so don't shout into the microphone."

Now, anybody can have a podcast, but how many have an audience? My best friend, a radio programmer, attended a comedy industry conference recently, wearing a button that read, "No, I've never heard your podcast." I would hate for my early, amateurish shows to be available on YouTube for the entire world to hear, but at least I could take solace in knowing that it's no more likely anyone would ever hear them than they'd listen to those old cassettes in my closet.

VP81955 said...

Justin, shows like "Lux Radio Theater" make for phenomenal listening, especially since many of the adaptations use leads other than the actors used in the films. For example, in the 1940 Lux version of "The Moon's Our Home," instead of Margaret Sullavan and Henry Fonda, you have Carole Lombard and Fonda's friend James Stewart. And a year later, Lux's version of the romantic comedy "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," which starred Lombard and Robert Montgomery on screen, here pairs Carole with another Bob -- Mr. Hope. (His writers may have worked on the script, because it's less a straight adaptation of the film than blending it with his radio work of the time. However, it works.)

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I used to do bedroom radio shows too for a short while, mainly because I got tired of all my favorite stations in town getting taken over by other stations that always played less-favorable content. For example, we had a jazz station that was abruptly axed and replaced with a rap station, then we had an oldies station that got replaced by a country station (and trust me, living in Tennessee, we already have more than enough country stations), then we had another nation-wide oldies station (Scott Shannon and Beaver Cleaver) that got replaced by a talk station (we're also, unfortunately, a very political state).

I did, however, spend a year as a DJ at school - it was very much like the M*A*S*H episode "Your Hit Parade", in which Radar became Big Daddy O'Reilly: none of the other kids liked my taste in music (my middle school was in the ghetto, they wanted to hear rap and hip-hop, and I'd play oldies, disco, 80s, 90s, pop, etc.), so whenever it was my period to DJ, most of the other kids would cringe . . . but on the plus side, I did end up becoming recognizable in the halls afterwards.

McAlvie said...

"D.J.’s were STARS back then"

True! I know it can be hard to believe for the generation after us that missed out, but radio was still a huge part of our lives. Yes, we had tv, color and everything; but tv was big market stuff, while radio stations were where you found out about local stuff. So your local DJ's were like members of your family, or at least acquaintances. The DJs knew their market, so the radio played songs people really were listening to, with no bean counters sitting in some back room deciding what you were supposed to like. And there was a fair amount of crossing over because there wasn't anybody drawing lines. That also meant there was a lot more variety in radio. There were the stations that catered to teens, but you could find a station for just about every genre. Hey, people still listened to AM, so there were enough stations to satisfy everyone.

JeffRandall said...

I also, did the same thing. Growing up in the sixties listening to KHJ, I knew I wanted to be "on the radio"...and I was for 25 years! But...sadly...radio changed and so did what I do. Along the way I had a chance to do music, sports play by play and even news...it was magical to me...but the magic has left.
These days I live in Seattle and have transitioned into an auctioneer, specializing in benefit/fundraising auctions. I am still in front of a microphone, get to add personality to my presentation only this time I can see my audience!
My brother used to tell me that I was the only person he ever knew who did what he said he was going to do when he grew up...be a disc jockey on the radio!

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Great post.

(..and WillieB, you were terrific on B-100 in San Diego...)

In Burbank, I had a Sony "Superscope" tape recorder to practice my 'shows' in 1965 and was devastated when my brother and his wife mistakenly used my tape to record the first words of their toddler. Now I prefer that kid's babble to mine.

mrwipple said...

Strong blog. Thanks for sharing. I only listen to the radio broadcast when baseball's on - so much richer and fuller (and often more intelligent) than t.v. broadcasts. And those old radio shows from the '30s thru the '50s are truly a balm for contemporary ails. Turn off the lights - hush the bells & whistles - and just listen & imagine. You're right: something has been lost. But like Grandma said: "The more you get, the more you lose." --Regards from Berlin, Germany.

Andrew said...

I second mrwipple. I know many people (like myself) who watch baseball games on TV with the volume down, and listen to the radio announcers. So much better.

VP81955 said...

Many of those classic radio series now are available online -- and it's remarkable how well most of them hold up, in most cases at least 60 years after their original broadcast. For me, the radio versions of "Dragnet" and "Gunsmoke" eclipse their better-known TV brethren (you can't go wrong with Jack Webb and Willian Conrad), while Jack Benny's humor remains timeless.

John Hammes said...

The humble yet trusty audio cassette tape recorder: this was the go-to device to record any favorite television program, long before VHS or Beta.

The Tony Randall/Jack Klugman "Odd Couple" was a favorite. I would go to the basement (for minimal or no people interruption) and set the tape recorder next to the speaker from the portable Zenith T.V.

Same method for radio: just set the recorder next to the radio speaker (which was also a Zenith, apparently the parent's favorite brand) and you had at least your own personal copy of favorite radio DJs/favorite music/ favorite DJ antics along or over the music. College radio could get away with the more Dr. Demento type fun and attitude, giving music the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment.

Ridiculous as it seems, especially with music involved, the sound quality was actually not bad, just kind of flat - pretty much the audio equivalent of the kinescope process, come to think of it. Still, it worked.

Incidentally, this American Independence Day - July 4 - marks 40 years since "The Odd Couple" last originally aired over ABC T.V. ... apparently going out with a bang and with a whimper.
( O.C. fans will get it )

Mister Charlie said...

Yep, I did Judy Miller shows too, with a puppet even!

Radio WAS magic, and when I worked in radio I finally got to see and be the magic being made, which of course takes a lot of the magic out of it, but I loved radio and being a broadcaster and miss it still.

H Johnson said...

Although I'm sure lots of kids did what you describe, I'd bet very few did it with the same enthusiasm and probably lost interest fairly quickly. I'm also sure that even at that age you were exhibiting the same focus that led to your success in all your ventures.

Although my friends and I spent most of our time in the water, when American Graffiti came out some of us (me) decided we wanted to be Wolfman Jack. Classic rock & roll was new to us. Who knew Led Zeppelin didn't invent the three chord blues?.

Somehow we talked our high school into letting us "broadcast" over the school's intercom system. Back then we were on some sort of goofy modular schedule so there was always kids hanging around waiting for their next class. (That schedule experiment failed miserably by the way since a lot of us would 'wait' for class sitting on a surfboard on the other side of the island).

Imagine teenagers trying to figure out which of the 60 plus intercom switches to turn on or off depending on the schedule. Math and science teachers regularly ran screaming toward the office to "Shut it off! Shut it off!"

We actually had 1 hour format changes, country, rock & roll, soul, Hawaiian etc. but one of my buddies and my main purpose was to "be" Wolfman Jack. Ahhrite babee we gonna rock and roll you to death don't you know! We had zero mimic skills so basically we were screaming in a teenage growl. Unless they had seen American Graffiti, nobody knew what we were trying to do. It was terrible. The students were stoked to have the music but we heard there was a group of mokes looking for 'those stupid haoles' yelling between the songs.

Any ways it lasted half a semester until the teachers got their way and I figured one Wolfman Jack was enough for this planet.

Aloha

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@ John I have a friend who did the same thing back in the day with THE PINK PANTHER SHOW - it's actually how he came to take notice and appreciate the old, yet familiar, classic Charley Douglass laughs.

Oat Willie said...

I used to do radio shows on my dad's Dictaphone when I was 10. The programming content was mostly giggles and farts AND THUS MORNING ZOO WAS BORN.

Kathleen O'Neill said...

For those who are curious about the role radio played in teen's lives back in the 60's, here is a link to an article written about my dad, who worked at KDWB in St. Paul when the author was growing up (Dad also worked for KFWB as "Jim Kelly" for a hot minute in the summer of 1961):

http://www.jeanneandersen.net/oneill.html

As the article stated, Dad left KDWB for WLW in Cincinnati. He was replaced by Gary Burbank (who writes about that in his book).

RockGolf said...

@Jit: I don't think there's any doubt but that gay television characters had an effect public acceptance of gays rights in general and gay marriage in particular. Most people, myself included, haven't experienced gay couples firsthand. Long running gay characters, particularly on shows where their sexuality is not the most important thing about them, humanizes them in a way that few other methods can.
Probably one of the earliest that had an effect on the public would have to be ER. Dr. Kerry Weaver's character, over about 5 seasons, developed a gay relationship, whose her partner had a child they were raising together. When her partner died, Weaver learned she had no rights to the child who had called her mommy, that instead the child was legally placed with her late partner's family - a family that had disowner her for being gay.
When you see that sort of injustice take place with someone - even fictional - that you've come to know, how can it not affect you?

Jeff Maxwell said...

My older brother had a high school friend who used to do a pretend radio quiz show in his bedroom. He then built himself a small transmitter and broadcast the little show to the few blocks of homes that could pick up the signal. His accomplishment made the local papers, and he became a neighborhood celebrity. He grew up to become a very successful producer named Arnold Shapiro.

Amazing things come out of our bedrooms.

John Hammes said...

Dad had the two "First Family" records starring Vaughn Meader. I could still enjoy and practically memorize those comedy albums, granted the political humor had to be explained as this was just over a decade after JFK.

Somehow we wound up (no pun intended?) with TWO audio cassette recorders, no small accomplishment in the '70s. Being a fan of "The Odd Couple" - along with other sitcoms up to that time - and having those Vaughn Meader records on hand, I was inspired to create something that even Judy Miller would probably want nothing to do with...

I would record the audience laughter and applause from "First Family" on one cassette recorder, write some really awful scripts based on "Odd Couple" like characters, then read the parts into one recorder while playing the audience laughter and applause from the other recorder. Siblings would also read along and play other characters... they have since forgiven me! Yes, it was THAT bad. Mercifully, those tapes have long been recorded over or melted (don't leave those tapes in the car during the summer, kids!), still, what cheesy, glorious fun! At least, THAT will never be forgotten! And, talk about a scary sounding home-made laugh track.

( A party scene script had all of us around tape recorder #1, laughs from tape recorder #2, and music from a held held transistor radio. Yes, Judy Miller would have definitely but politely turned us down! )


@Joseph Scarbrough, I also became acquainted with Charley Douglass from "Odd Couple"'s single camera, laugh track first season, and from repeated listening on audio cassette.

AlaskaRay said...

Hey Ken, don't you remember that you made me copies of all your bedroom radio tapes. I'll let you know where you can find them, once I've posted them online.
Ray

Mike Barer said...

I did that too. My neighbor Dick and I did a radio show on the tape Recorder. We got adds out of the local paper. For the funeral home, we would give driving tips, always dangerous ones.

Jerry Krull said...

Add me to the list of kids who did radio programs. I inherited my older brother's mini reel-to-reel when he got his fancy new am/fm radio with cassette recorder for his 8th grade graduation in '72. (picture the old Mission Impossible TV show and the small tape recorder Jim used to listen to his mission - should he accept it) My programs were all comedy. Oh yeah, a 10 year old doing accents to create the different characters in the show. I just found an old box in my basement that my Dad gave me from his house. In it is the old reel-to-reel and several old tapes. One day I'm going to get the guts to listen to them. And being from Chicago I grew up with WLS and "Super CFL" (WCFL) - two competing 50,000 watt blow torches of Top 40 radio.

DBenson said...

On a couple of occasions I tried to write radio plays, inspired by my LPs of "Sherlock Holmes" and "The Shadow." Took me a long time to figure out you couldn't have half a dozen characters arguing in the same room.

Anonymous said...

I can only imagine what kind of sarcasm Charming and Delightful Ole' Uncle Lar leveled at that WLS Silver Dollar Survey and all the bad songs at the top of the list. No one could do abuse of the songs he played like Lujack. And he was unmerciful with those Osmonds. But as he used to say, "Pay me enough money and I'll play this junk all day long."

Anonymous said...

@ Bob Sharp
Do you know the first song WLS played as a rock station in May 1960?
Hint: It has a strong LA connection.



Yah Shure said...

I started with a crappy-sounding GE kit Part 15 basement AM station in 1962 that ran on four D cell batteries, graduated to 50kW blowtorch and am now happily back to playing on Part 15 AM, courtesy of the SSTRAN AMT3000, which I would have killed to have had as a kid. Sure beats the GE: you can hear it three houses away, instead of three rooms (when the pollen count allowed.) Any similar good quality kit is perfect for any fan of top-40 music as it sounded on AM. Hook it up to a computer streaming WLNG and it's 1965 all over again, complete with reverb, jingles galore, a 10,000-song library, mostly live personalities and tons and tons of local ads!

A longtime friend who also grew up playing basement radio was contacted last year by Herzl Camp, an independent Jewish camp in northwestern Wisconsin (Bob Dylan went there as a kid) after they decided to start a camp radio station to supplement their performing arts and creative writing offerings. He enlisted me to help set up the necessary equipment. It wouldn't be a total disc jockey throwback: housed in a very rustic cabin with a large picture window, the station's floor resembled that of the Titanic's deck ninety minutes post-berg bump. So no turntables. CD players, ipods, mics and imagination, yes. Our setup took place before the campers arrived, so we just had enough time to show the person who would oversee the station how to run the board and file the paperwork for a 100kW upgrade.

The big question in our minds, obviously, was whether a radio station would even register with today's device-obsessed kids. We'd have to wait until returning to disassemble and store the gear in the Fall to find out. There was one huge point in the station's, however: no personal devices were allowed at camp. Instead, radios were provided in each cabin.

As it turned out, the radio station was a big hit: they figured they'd conducted on-air interviews with all 73,927,818,166 mosquitoes. What really floored us was the amazing quality and creativity represented by the programming they'd recorded to CD-R. This year, the camp hired a recent grad from our college station who'd been a trainer there. After showing him the ropes, I took a turn behind the mic to talk up the intros to whatever songs were on the disc in the CD player, not having any idea of what was coming next. My cohort said later, "You should have seen the look in your eyes when you recognized the Captain Kangaroo theme." I'm sure that one will be duking it out with Allan Sherman for the top spot on the Herzl Hit Parade. Or Hit List, given the floor situation.

If the station sparks even one camper's lasting interest in the medium we grew up loving, it will have been well worth the donated blood.

@Kathleen O'Neill: your Dad on Channel 63 was always appointment listenening for me. The KDWB Fabulous Forty Folders I picked up at Bud's Music Center in Hopkins, which included his "professorial" photo, remain among my most cherished posessions, far outlasting that kaput GE transmitter kit.

Mark said...

Friday question: How was Bob Crane on radio. You hear a lot of superlatives now, but the early work of famous people is often overpraised. What did you think of him at the time?

Chester said...

What a great post, Ken. And to see so many of your readers did either exactly the same thing or something very similar is not only hilarious, but preciously endearing.

...And yes, I did it too.

I had a single turntable in "MY" space in the basement, an Ampex reel to reel, an over-sized microphone, and a 6 inch stack of 45s. Looking back, I'm certain my parents were terribly worried about me. But I did end up getting a job as a DJ at a small 5000 watt station in Nova Scotia. I left to go to university... and then my focus changed.

But I often think about what might've been if I had stayed since radio was my first love.

Funnily enough, I transitioned to televion writing, much like yourself -- but nowhere near as successful!

Unknown said...

I have that same R2R deck! Growing up in Chicago, 'LS was my station. "Don't be nervous, don't be rocky, your our next teenage disk jockey!"

Anonymous said...

@anonymous

The first rock song ever at LS was "Alley Oop"based on the comic strip,done by the Hollywood Argyles, produced by Gary Paxton and Kim Fowley.

Jennifer said...

Anyone remember the movie "Pump Up The Volume?" These days he'd just have a podcast online and stay out of jail.

Lemastre said...

I always wondered how those horse-drawn buggies got so close to the playing field during the baseball games Gordon McLendon broadcast for the Liberty Broadcasting System.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

I used to pretend that I ran a school for radio announcers. I rejected my own application to the school because I had a stutter.

Diane D. said...

Well, if this hasn't been the most charming day ever spent in the Ken Levine blog room! I can't believe you have never listened to your old "shows." I bet your kids would love to hear them (thats addressed to all of you who taped your early efforts).

I envy your experiences, and it has been great fun reading about them.

Pat Reeder said...

If you question whether today's kids can even relate to radio anymore, here in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, there is an FM radio station (KEOM, 88.5) owned by the local school district and staffed entirely by high school students. The music is '70s and '80s pop/rock/disco, all from well before they were born. It's one of the most popular stations in town, has won broadcasting awards, and is a multiple nominee in D Magazine's annual poll of the best DFW radio stations. It's one of my most listened-to stations in the car. You can check it out online at keom.fm.

I also second the love for old time radio. Whenever we go on a long car trip, I fill up a memory stick with Bob & Ray and Dragnet shows to make the miles pass faster.

Brule Eagan said...

I did the same thing, Ken. I'm closing in on 40 years of doing radio (real radio). Don't ask how.

Keeper Of Records said...

You should write a book on your days in radio. I'm gonna try not to as I share how I got started:

It was kind of a 1-2 punch. Seems I usually had a record player in front of me when I was little. Sometimes one of those GEs that looked like styrofoam, other times an old changer, maybe even a Show 'N' Tell (I went through a lot of 'em). Those times there wasn't a record player, it was a radio or mom's portable 8-track player. When it was radio, It would be tuned to the little AM daytimer 2 miles down the highway from us. And I'd go nuts when my favorite songs came on. Then I heard the DJ wish me happy birthday. And that's how radio got me. I knew that's what I was gonna do.

That DJ would later become my high school theater arts teacher, who seemed to remember me from those days. And sure enough, the next year, I was on my college's FM station, livin' the dream. I did what I was gonna do. I did it commercially for about 8 years after that on a couple of local AM stations. Never got famous, but I had a great time.

I've been working in TV for the past 13 years and I'm even less famous now than I was in radio. But the money's a little better. And I have a lot of great memories of a simple childhood dream.

Artie in Sin City said...

We all did it...My tape recorder of choice was the mega cool SONY machine my parents bought me for my 12th birthday...

Loved to record the phone calls when me and the buds were trying to do the Steve Allen Funny Phone Calls bit...

Best was when we scored a disconnected number recording...So enjoyed calling up Valley folks and hearing them answer and then laughing uncontrollably in the background...

That was big time fun back then...Big...

SharoneRosen said...

I was more of a stand-on-the-bed-belting-Broadway-songs kind of kid. I starred in My Fair Lady, Gypsy, Oklahoma, Music Man and all the big hits. My dog thought I was brilliant.

I miss real radio... radio that wasn't streamed into hundreds of markets from a warehouse in Valencia.... radio where the jock in any day-part could be funny and have a personality...radio where you really could be relatable to the listeners. I was lucky enough to work in that kind of radio for about 10 years... and be a "star" in a small market. You just can't MC enough baby races at the county fair, I say.

Your mention of Dick Whittington gave me memory whiplash. I was a huge fan of his. Then, we worked on the air together in radio purgatory... a station that existed for a minute or so in Simi Valley "K-WINK!" No one was more brilliant at improving a funny bit about nothing than he was. But, he was, I'm sure now, bipolar... utterly nuts... not in a good way. Being his sidekick made me a world class improver. Eventually, my nervous indigestion and allopecia cleared up...eventually.

Tom Teuber said...

Unlike you, Ken, I was a late bloomer. I didn't start until I was 14. I got my first reel-to-reel machine - a Voice of Music, not a Wollensak - for my 14th birthday. It put me at the front of the line when I walked in to the college radio station and said I wanted to be on the radio. I got a show right away and next thing you know, they asked me to be Program Director. After graduation, when I discovered you could get paid for doing what I had done for free all those years, there was no turning back. I am also grateful to the Faculty Advisor who told me to "stop trying to sound like you're on WLS. Just be yourself."

Jake Mabe said...

I used to do my own radio shows. I can't quite remember now, but it was a sitcom, because I'd cue up laughs from a Jack Benny radio show I had on another tape player to play at the punchlines.

Try doing that on a fucking iPhone.