A Rock Radio Scrapbook
Special Section



  In July of 1961, a Pittsburgh teenager sat with some friends in a Buffalo hotel room and recorded Top 40 station WKBW for 24 continuous hours.

The recording started at 12:22 p.m. on July 24, 1961 and ended at 12:17 p.m. the following day. We hope he had a good supply of coffee!

This recording has survived intact all these years and we're pleased to have it on Rock Radio Scrapbook. But first, Paul Carlson - who taped the 24 Hours of 'KB - tells us more about this fascinating aircheck:

"My interest in radio began early. By the time I was eight years old, in 1950, I was an avid fan of The Inner Sanctum, Front Page Farrell, Dimension X, Baby Snooks, you name it, I listened. By the time I was twelve, I had a low-power transmitter (we called them phono oscillators) and was making my own radio. I can't explain the fascination that radio had for me, but it remains as a life-long passion.

When Top 40 radio came to Pittsburgh, on
KQV, in January 1958, I was ready for it. I liked the predictability of the format * the number 1 record of the week at :20, the news headlines at :25, the new record of the week at :40 and those wonderful jingles on the hour and half hour. I cruised the AM band for more of the same, and quickly found WABC and WKBW. Their signals were weak and unreliable in Pittsburgh, but that was part of the fun. Soon, my friends and I listened to WKBW whenever possible. I liked KB for its predictability, its music choice, which tended toward bluesy and do-wop records, and also for the energy of its jocks, such as Dick Biondi, and the CRC Series 3 station ID jingles that they played only on the hour and half hour.

I taped short clips from Top Forty radio, mainly
KQV, for three years before the KB caper, though the longest segment I taped before or after KB was 90 minutes. I started in 1958, when I got a much coveted Heathkit tape recorder; I had wanted one for years! My goals were always to capture jingles and other interesting (to me) sounds from the radio, such as comic sketches or clever word-play, or even a jock who was on the air while inebriated, and whose name will remain my secret. A favourite event to capture was the Art Roberts to Dick Biondi segue at 6 p.m. on KB. Art would pick on Biondi without mercy, dragging out his [usually insulting] intro well past 6:00, tugging ever more forcefully on Biondi's chain, until Biondi could no longer stand it, and an eruption would ensue. I believe these two guys were friends, but anyone could guess otherwise on the strength of the changeover.

The germ of the idea to tape
WKBW for an extended time was bouncing around my head for months before I did it. I had several reasons for wanting to tape KB. The prime reason was to capture the jingles KB used, but I also wanted to hear the daytime jocks, since KB did not cover Pittsburgh at all in the daytime, and I had a notion that preserving a full day of the station would be a good thing to do. Once conceived, the idea became an obsession.

The date of the excursion to Buffalo was dictated by the availability of equipment and personnel. As it turned out, we could have done better than July 24th.
Dick Braun had left the station the previous Saturday, and Russ Syracuse was on vacation. My three best friends Jim Potyka, Tom Rathburn, and Jack Krause, and I all signed on to go to Buffalo. Jim borrowed an Ampex 650 portable recorder from the high school band director, and for a receiver, I borrowed a Nems Clarke field strength meter from WAMO. I also brought eight or nine boxes of recording tape, and also took along my Heathkit recorder. We all had Monday through Wednesday off, so we all packed in to my dad's 1957 Chrysler Windsor, and embarked Monday morning. I must say that none of the sets of parents involved truly believed we went to Buffalo to tape a radio station.

We arrived in the Buffalo area in late morning, and stopped at a small motel in North Tonawanda to set up shop. I had not done my homework; the transmitter was in Hamburg, a fact I should have known, but in the long run there was little effect on the quality of the air check. The motel was definitely a mom and pop operation, one of the old-fashioned single level motels with maybe 20 units, or less. The proprietor was more than a little hesitant to rent to four boys in their late teens. I don't blame him. Our story defied common sense. In the end, the sight of cash in my hand tilted the balance of judgment, and he let us stay there.

We set up the equipment in a few minutes. The
Nems Clarke had a directional loop, which we oriented to get the best signal. We attached the output to both tape recorders. The plan was, to tape on the Ampex primarily, and to use the Heathkit for intervals where we ran out of tape on the Ampex. That scheme worked well. The taping itself was mostly boring, but we had some events that kept us on our toes. About 40 minutes after we started taping, a thunderstorm came through, and it knocked KB off the air! Fortunately it came back in five minutes or so, and we never lost power in our room. The motel operator kept checking on what we were doing. By night-time, he was peering in through our window every half hour, but the taping was all he ever saw. We never got inured to the appearance of his face in our window at night.

This is conjecture, but I believe that by morning, the motel operator had called KB to tell them about the guys from Pittsburgh. There are several comments about Pittsburgh on the
Jay Nelson show, including a gratuitous temperature report for Pittsburgh "Just in case you're wondering." Also, Jay referred to "Pittsburgh Pirates," clearly not meaning the baseball team. We thought he was referring to us, and I still think so as I write this, 45 years later.

We taped until 1:05 in the afternoon, to make a complete 24 hours after the lightening outage. The other three guys went out for a drive then, partly on a quest to find a KB Carbox. They did find one, and did not get into a wreck, so that was good. I continued to tape sporadically to catch theme songs, and so forth, and in the evening, we all when to downtown Buffalo, which I recall as being nearly deserted.

The next morning, we checked out of the motel, and before taking to the highway, drove to KB studios on Main. The receptionist did not say she had heard of us, but took us on a tour of the studio, and treated us well. I was very surprised at what I saw. The jocks worked standing by a table in a large studio, with a cough switch and a
Western Union clock as the only decoration. Some tag lines and copy were laid out on the table. The records and commercials were all spun by a producer, and the newsman did his report from a small booth adjoining the DJ studio. The Ti Pi Tin newscast sounder, and the Sande and Greene "mister weatherman, take the cue" and "More News any Moment" were all recorded in sequence on a tape mounted on a Magnecorder tape player. There was a tone recorded between each sounder, and the tone ended a fraction of a second before the next sounder. The producer aired Ti Pi Tin, then on the cue channel ran the tape until the beep stopped, and quickly stopped the tape. The process left the next sounder all cued up.

We thanked the receptionist, and asked for directions to the transmitter. She told us, and we headed there next. The engineer on duty was also kind to us, and somewhat bemused when I told him we had taped a full day of KB. I have been around transmitters a lot, and was not surprised, except to learn that two stations shared the site, and one tower was even shared. That is quite a feat when one of the transmitters is a 50 KW instrument."

Part One features noon-3 p.m. man Johnny Barrett and 3-6 p.m. jock Jim Taylor, and covers the period from 12:22 p.m. to 3:26 p.m.

You can hear it here. (1:32:30)

Part Two includes Taylor and 6-9 p.m. jock Tommy Shannon. It covers the period from 3:26 p.m. to 6:32 p.m.

You can hear it here. (1:32:26)

Part Three has 6-9 p.m. host Tommy Shannon and 9 p.m.-midnight man Ted Hackett. This starts at 6:32 p.m. and finishes at 10:09 p.m.

You can hear it here. (1:42:44)

Part Four features 9 p.m.-midnight jock Ted Hackett and all-night man Bob Diamond. It starts at about 10:10 p.m. and concludes just before 1:51 a.m.

You can hear it here. (1:42:07)

Part Five includes all-night man Bob Diamond and Don Keller, the latter with The Farm and Home Show. This aircheck begins just before 1:51 a.m., ending about 5:27 a.m.

You can hear it here. (1:42:15)

Part Six has Don Keller with The Farm and Home Show, then the morning show with Jungle Jay Nelson. It begins at around 5:29 a.m. and ends about 8:47 a.m.

You can hear it here. (1:42:40)

Part Seven features the end of the Jungle Jay Nelson show, followed by Tom Shannon filling in for Russ Syracuse. It begins at 8:48 a.m. and ends about 12:17 p.m.

You can hear it here. (1:41:33)

The 24 Hours of 'KB Composite is a capsule version of all of the seven sections, from 12:22 p.m. on July 24 to about 12:17 p.m. July 25. In order, you'll hear Johnny Barrett, Jim Taylor, Tommy Shannon, Ted Hackett, Bob Diamond, Jungle Jay Nelson, Tommy Shannon (for Russ Syracuse) and Johnny Barrett (again).

You can hear it here. (1:09:48)


(The Russ Horton and Sam Ward Collections)