Radio Days

 

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This was the pinnacle of my radio career. I was called upon to do “The” Morning shift in the third largest radio market in the country for the highly rated CBS owned flagship station, WBBM-FM (B96) for over a month! I got to work with Karen Hand and Mike Elston (the mega-morning news team). Those were some great times..

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This is some weekend shows.. also some production elements (breakers to use between songs) and pieces when I worked Mornings while CBS and Buddy Scott searched the country for a new “Morning show”.

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In for Don Geronimo..

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For a full-time Production Director I sure did a lot of air shows. This begins with a fill-in for Don Geronimo and then my regular weekend shifts..

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When the Program Director hired me to kick off the format change from MOR (Middle of the Road) to oldies (we had done just that for their Sister station in Denver with amazing success at Kool 105..) he asked me if I wanted to do a specialty show on the weekend. I said Yes! I wanted to do a Wolfman Jack style, heavy on listener requests. He coined the show “The Doo Wop Cafe”.

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The “bean-pole” to the right of Big Tomm Rivers is me. This is a rare shot of the “prodution dungeon” 🙂 at WRKR-FM Racine, WI. It was not the best equipment but it allowed me to make some amazing commercials and station promos..

 

(Below) are some radio commercials I created. As Production Director I often took loose sales copy and “Windsorized” it as the salesforce would say.  I wanted every radio spot (commercial) to be different and entertaining..

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The good looking jock is not me.. As I do not have a single photo of me in the 13Z studios I thought I would fill this spot with the DJ that followed me. This shot of Jeff Michaels is the only picture I have of our control room. I could just kick myself for not taking more studio shots of all the radio stations! I came on after Tom Carr (of whom saved my bacon more than once).. I drove into the cornfield, parked and ran for the studio door as Tom’s last song was fading..

 

Mark at Q103

At KOAQ-FM Q103 I worked in the “bowl” of downtown Denver. The Program Director had season tickets to the Nuggets and when Barry had an extra seat I often went. I had a dynamite news partner (Lynn Kimbro) that allowed me to “warp” her newscasts. We had some good times! And John Hartley was my traffic-copter pilot. There was a movie made about him tracking bank robbers while I was on the air. I had to fake a traffic report while he gave a play-by-play to the police as to where the robber was running. Fun times! (The radio station was not happy but the Denver gave John a “key to the city” award.)

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I came to Q103 (KOAQ-FM) Denver, CO from B-96 Chicago to gain a full-time air shift. B96 and later Fox97 were the only radio jobs In my entire career (approximately 16 radio statons) that were not full-time air-shifts. I was hired to those as Production Director with weekend and fill air-shifts. A few months after coming to Q103 Westinghouse sold the station to Jaycor and I ended up working at Kool 105 KXKL-FM until moving to their “Sister station” in Atlanta, GA (WFOX-FM Fox97). I left radio for a budding computer career (IBM and then shortly after “9-11” my own business).

Radio Quilt

I spread my wings and explored the boundaries when working at the Daytona “suburb” (Ormond Beach, FL)..  This was a great job. I lived 15 minutes up A1A and the trip in was amazing! The sunrising over the Atlantic Ocean in full view almost the whole way was invigorating.. In Florida they really do “pay you in sunshine”..
(give me a break, this was only my fourth job in radio.. 🙂 )

 

 

(Below) Some of my production (radio commercials). Most of my radio gigs included being “Production Director” as well as DJ..

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While working at WLIP-WJZQ Kenosha, WI, I also spun records at a Disco on 22nd Street.. (I look like I could be the “fourth Bee Gee”..) LOL

 

(Below) I recorded this for a CBS employee.. I’m not sure what ever happened to him. If you know contact me.

 

(Below) is Steve Dahl & Garry Meier talking about the nicknames we had a B-96.. (LOL)

It was a grand time those “Radio Days”.. I rode the wave at what arguably was the peak of the over-the-airwaves era of communication. Radio Days were exciting, bigger than life, huge vats of creativity that contained the pulse of our World.

Where else can a high school grad hook onto the stars and travel across the country being praised for just having fun? My best friend growing up (one block apart) and I learned radio from the “tubes and transistors” up! Jojo Kincaid and I wanted so badly to be on the radio (in the radio biz) that we built or own stations literally from the ground wires up.

We started by re-wiring old tube-type table radios. What is that some of you might ask. Once upon a time before iPhones, Xboxes, color TV, and even portable transistor radios (Yikes! He is talkin’ about the “Stone Ages”!) there were radios made using glass tubes.

Tesla really nailed radio not Marconi as the schools has incorrectly taught us all.. Jojo and I studied oscillators. We wound our our oscillator coils (needed to set the frequency of our radio stations on the dial) using published formulas right out of Tesla’s amazing brain.

In the 60’s the transistor (the forerunner to computer processors) was cheap (one to five bucks) our transmitters fit into a tiny matchbox (some don’t know but matches used to come in very small and frail wooden boxes no bigger than a few inches). Those could travel maybe through your whole house but not much more.

We wanted to really broadcast and slowly progressed in power. We would buy aluminum chassis and drill holes mounting tube sockets and terminal strips. We meticulously soldered (melted a lead-tin alloy) the wires to create an oscillator! We melted candle wax to keep the wires wrapped around the cardboard toilet paper rolls that gave us our place on the dial.

We moved up from beam power pentodes in radios, the the more powerful ones used in televisions and through parts acquired from our local Boy’s Club Electronics room we used old HAM Radio tubes and power transformers that were industrial power! We both had transmitters that covered our town almost as well as the local top 40 radio station. The theory is that if you do anything with conviction for 10,000 hours you become an expert.

Bill Gates did that on a school computer, the Beatles played full days six and seven days a week at a club and we ran radio shows first imitating and soon developing our own ways (personalities). So when we knocked on the door of a real local radio station we jumped right past the “we will hire you to run some tapes on Sunday morning” to full on-air shifts talking and running the “board” with almost no training.

Our radio stations had each violated about 15 rules of “The Communication Act of 1934” (governing our air waves at the time). We were told so by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) when they visited both Jojo and me (on different occasions) taking photos of our transmitters and threatening jail and fines if we did not dismantle of stations!

This prompted our looking for real radio jobs. I remember my first audition at WGGG. Mal Harrison was the Program Director. He was kind and willing to see what I could do when he saw how familiar I was with the inside of a radio station. He sat me down in the “Production Room” (this was THE defining moment in my career as I became a Production Director working my way up 283 market sizes to number three in the country thanks mostly to my production skills).

When I sat in that comfortable chair in that tiny off-air studio and grasp the dials of professional equipment for the first time.. Something clicked! The “pots” (volume controls) were smoother than my homemade potentiometers, the audio in the Clevites headphones was cleaner than my toy headphones, the turntables started in 1/8 of a turn and mine took a full revolution to get to speed and the instant-play “carts” (the professional version of 8 Track tapes) were too good to be true!

I started the gigantic (floor-model) Ampex reel to reel tape deck (almost a yard wide!) and hit the “record” button. It came on with a bright red indicator that screamed “it’s show time” to me. I fired the button on a carted jingle that proudly sang out, ” W….G-G-Geeeeeee” and without missing a beat started the song on the turntable and cracked open the microphone and read one of their station “liners” over the “intro” to the song. It went perfectly!

I then placed the needle near the end of the song and “back-sold” it into a “spot” (spot announcement or radio commercial). I came out of the spot break with a weather report I made up (this was just a demo) and went into a song comfortably talking over the intro but not demolishing it for the music lovers benefit (a skill that Jojo and I honed in those thousands of hours “playing radio”). We could not stand the DJs that “potted” the song way down when they spoke as if “I am more important than the music!”.

Although my vocal quality was a bit rough (okay it was really bad) Mal Harrison liked what he heard enough to give me the overnight show Saturdays and Sundays. As “Timing is everything” the weeknight Midnight to 6AM jock left (got fired?) and Mal offered me the overnight spot seven days a week! I had arrived!

So what if I was sleeping through my College courses.. (ZZzzzzzzz) My classes began 7:30 AM, then 9:30, 12:30, 2:30, and my Electronics (elective course) was two hours running from 4:30 to 6:30 PM. When I got out of school for the day and back home it was at least 7 PM and I had to be at the station by 11:30 PM for “show prep”. I had no more than four hours to sleep seven days a week!

School Zero and Radio won..

Mal Harrison was a Production genius and I mentored under his guidance. I learned how to splice recording tape, time music beds and speak very quickly without sounding hurried among gaggles of other production skills. Once I had the basics, I started creating way past my taught concepts and the sky was the limit!

I could contour voice and music (called phasing) and emulate effects that would not be digitally available for another 20 years! I would “layer” recordings on top of recordings to add complex sound pieces although we had only stereo (not multi-track) recorders. With the tools at hand I continued to reach to sounds, effects, and creative productions that sounded as if they came from sophisticated recording studios.

Our skills served us both well through decades in radio. Jojo honed his production talent to split-second accurate voice to element to music timing along with his friendly always “on” creative way to intro the same song thousands of different ways keeping it fresh for the listener.

Those who know Howard Stern will tell you he does not give out praise lightly (to say the very least)! Listen to Howard Stern description of Jojo Jojo https://soundcloud.com/jojokincaid/howard-stern-about-jojo or for more AirChecks https://soundcloud.com/jojokincaid or Jojo’s official web page http://www.jojokincaid.com/

I was a natural “introvert” that felt a bit like a fish out of water on the air but wore a production room like a “favorite pair of Levis”. I spent way over 10,000 hours in production rooms.

Both of our careers were greatly enhanced by having skills that mattered to the Program Director. Their job was to make the station sound good and gain listeners. Yes, I deliberately chose the word “was” as radio has greatly changed since the great “Radio Days”. Our skills which started forming in our bedroom homemade studios and kept improving year after year contributed to those “Radio Days” which many in the industry believe to be a legendary time in broadcast history.

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