Radio is all about stories - funny, whimsical and always entertaining.
I've gathered a few of those stories here from various sources, including the New York Radio Message Board, the Southern Ontario/WNY Radio Forum and Warren Cosford's "List". Names of those who posted have not been used.
This is radio told by
the people who lived it. To add to this collection, please e-mail me here.
I loved being on the air in small market radio (very small market), upstate New York in the early 70's. The money, well, it sucked. Worse than sucked. I lived in poverty. But the job was a job of true communication. People listened to us because we were the only radio station in town and the one major link to the outside. News, weather, lost pets, "swap-shop", local (very local) talk - we were it. No specific music format - we played whatever we liked at the moment, although we did have the occassional country hour, classical hour, big band hour, show tune hour, etc. Every once in a while one of the owners would give us a few bucks and we'd go down to the local department store and buy a few new records. The other owner would yell at him for doing so. In fact, the two elderly partners were at each other's throats all day long - it was quite humorous.
Three full time jocks did absolutely everything around there. I remember recording spots through channel B of the board while a record was playing over the air through channel A, and doing Rip-&-Read AP wire service news every hour. (You know, the boxes from the AP paper were the perfect size for storing 45 rpm records). Everyone in town had their clock radios set to us. There was no other station to set it to. If we signed on late, everyone was late. We were on 1240 AM, making us a CONELRAD station. Yes, we had radiation suits and a geiger counter in the control room (I always wondered if I would really have the guts to stick around and stay on the air if they actually dropped the big one). It was fun to be a local celebrity - everyone knew me and was friendly. Every morning, the local diner would have my breakfast ready and packed for me to pick up on my way in to do the morning show. I'd get into the station, alone, turn on the lights, prepare my material, power up the transmitter and go. We simulcast on an FM frequency as well. The FM transmitter and tower were up in the woods somewhere. We'd go off the air at least once a week - shot by hunters who's stray bullets would always hit something or other in the transmitter shack. The chief (and only) engineer, an old ham radio hobbiest who happened to have a "first phone", used to curse his brains out, hop in his truck and make his way up there for yet another repair. It was a great gig for a young lad in his early 20's. I kind of miss it, although I do now enjoy living in a house and being able to afford food, not to mention my boat.
The audition tape is such a staple in radio, that there a few strange incidents
in everybody's recollections. In my case, the audition tape was the only
education I had when I got my first job.
I grew up in a town that didnt even have a radio station, so I had never actually seen the inside of one. But in 1958, a college buddy in Louisiana was working at a little daytimer, and I'd meet him there after his shift to go out for supper. Once he told me "You could do this" He gave me a crash course in nomenclature (pots, gain, log) and forged a letter from the former manager of the station, whose name was still on the letterhead. It said I had worked there.
When I got home to Wisconsin, I drove my sister's car around Milwaukee flashing the letter and asking to audition for a summer job, at places like WTMJ, where I must have thoroughly amused the old hands. But after several chances to watch and talk to some pros and sit in a room with a mike and talk into it, I had 'real' experience, and it got easier to fake. So I headed out among the holstiens, and in Beaver Dam, I landed my first real radio job. It turns out the reason they hired me was becauses they had an deal with WIBU in Poynette, which had changed only slightly since it went on the air in 1925. Beaver Dam loaned them an announcer every summer, to cover their two employees when they went on their vacations.
My best audition story, though, came when I returned to college in the fall. I went over to White Castle, Louisianq, to try for a part-time job. As a daytimer, they had no need for a Studio B, so the station manager ripped a news summary from the UPI wire, pulled a commercial out of the announcers copy book, pointed to a second mike in the corner of the room and said "at 11 oclock, sit in". He went out and sat in his car and listened to my on-air audition.
A somewhat similar situation occurred years later in Holdredge, Nebraska. I got there after the daytimer had shut down for the night, and met the manager. He got out 4 or 5 pieces of copy, put me in a booth, and asked me to read them. I guess I must have passed the audition, because when I was finished, he dubbed my spots onto carts and put them in the rack. In all fairness he did offer to hire me.
A number of years ago, I worked at a rural station in N.J. and arrived to do a show that started at midnight. During the show, it started snowing heavily and by thre time the shift had ended, the station was snowed in. No one was able to come in and I had to stay on the air to do the next two shifts and remained on the air until 12:30 P.M. when someone finally trudged in on foot to relieve me. That remains my longest stint on the air to this day.
I got hired at my first gig pretty much because I knew how to pronounce the local town names in Sussex County, NJ, something my predicessor never quite got the hang of. On my very first day, I am travelling up Rt. 206 towards Newton to do the mid-day slot on Oldies 1360, WNNJ AM, a 2,000 watt daytimer. Fortunately I'd left plenty early, as I was stuck in a line of traffic that was crawling along behind a D.O.T. truck which was painting the center strip in the road. There wasn't much to do but resign myself to looking at the scenery go by at a walking pace for an hour. At one point I was leaning my head out the window, resting on my elbow, when I saw that the crews had striped right over a raccoon carcass in the roadway. (It stayed there, btw, for the better part of 2 months before completely decaying, leaving a weird 'chalk outline' of a raccoon in the road until it was striped again the next year).
When I finally got to the station, still early despite the delay, I was shown into the studio. It was an "L" configuration; an old WWII surplus round-pot board in front of you, with a couple of cart machines on top, and a shelf on your right into which were sunk two turntables and a reel-to-reel. Over the entire works was draped a clear plastic tarp. It was explained to me that the roof had sprung a leak, and until they could find a roofer who would agree to patch it on trade, the tarp stayed. So we had to crawl into this humidity chamber every time we had to do a mc break or cue up vinyl. If it was raining you could hear the drops hitting the tarp as you spoke, like a crazy snare drum accompanyment. It was some weeks before we could find an willing handyman, and I think we ran his spots for something like 2 years, every stop set, from then on.
The AM side was considered the ugly child relation of the bigger FM sister, even if our numbers sometimes beat theirs (they were CHR). We used to get hand-me-downs for our promotions. One particularly embarrasing one was when the FM side had a tie-in with Spam, giving away their new "Spam Lite" product (shudder) as well as T-shirts, etc. The AM station was required to have listeners call in to win a fabulous Spam refrigerator magnet - the only thing the FM side could spare. And to add insult, the Lucky Winners were asked to drive to the station to pick them up, rather than mailing the .025 ounce gems out. One time we gave away 6-packs of soda. No one wanted them and they sat fermenting for months in the transmitter room until Christmas, when management informed us that we could each take one six pack home as our holiday bonus in lieu of cash. Whoopie! Hot, flat Shasta!
Despite those and *many* other indignties, it still was great, as pretty much everyone here has mentioned about their similar experiences. When the station went over to Jones Satellite a couple years later, none of us were happy to leave.
I just wanted to write and produce commercials for radio in the beginning. But to get a job, a DJ friend told me to get a part time DJ job at any radio station around that would hire me.
So at age 22, I eventually got a gig doing weekend nights and sunday mornings at a 200,000 watt FM. A sister AM country station was also in the building. My first night I trained with guy who called himself "Tree" and was fairly new to radio himself.. (The blind leading the blind..was the joke around the station)
We were live assist automated.. What I had to do was tape liners and weather and program them to run along with the music. I guess you could call this early voice tracking.
While I was in the studio looking over the audio board and "Tree" was out for a few minutes, a man in a suit and tie walked in and said Hello. I assumed he must be a salesman and was polite and introduced myself. He didn't say too much and went down the hall.
The next day..my PD asked me if "Tree" had a girlfriend in the studio last night
with us when I was training. I said no.
The PD said the man I met in the suit was the Manager "Herm" of the AM country station and thought I was "Tree"'s girlfriend. Turns out Herm hated the FM Rock station..and thought the AM country station ruled..
Herm was a DJ in the 50's and his airname was Uncle Herman.. His show was called "Squirmin' with Uncle Herman.."
I later moved on to the Continuity/production dept. But was asked by my PD to tape liners and weather for the 10am-2pm shift. So I "voice tracked" Middays and went back to my desk to write commercials..all this for 3.65 an hour.
Those were the days..:)
My favourite actually happened to one of my influences, the late Bob Lewis (Bob-A-Lou). Before he worked for WABC (obviously), he worked for a small Long Island station where it was his duty every Sunday morning to play a religion hell-fire-and-brimstone show that wasdelivered on one of those huge platters that could be played once and then had to be thrown out because it would scratch so easily. Bob's routine was to show up at the station, put the first disc on, then go out for coffee, returning in time to change discs 15 minutes later. One morning as Bob returned to the station, he noticed that all the phone lines were lit up, a very unusual occurrence considering the hour and the programming, which Bob never listened to in his car, seeing as the more inspiring New York City market was so close and booming. Racing into the studio, he discovered that the needle had gotten stuck in a crack on the disc, just as the preacher had been saying, "all sinners will go to hell"-click-"go to hell"-click-"go to hell"-click-"go to hell"....
Yorkton, Sask. 1979. CJGX. GM was Ed Laurence. My very first afternoon shift. Feeling good, thinking everything was going quite well, Cliff Richard's 'We Don't Talk Anymore' on the big-as-friggin'-flying'saucer turntable. All of a sudden....silence. Ed had walked in and lifted the needle off the record. For the next 3 minutes (no shit) proceeds to lecture me on my choice of music saying' if you don't pick the right music, they'll tune you out. Do you know what 'tune out' means? Do you???? I said, 'I suspect that's what most are doing right now, sir.' He left. I cried.
Then there was the time when I had to run to the bus depot to grab the latest reel of 'Moccasin Telegraph' (those that worked the small towns know EXACTLY what was on this baby). Put on Rod's 'I Was Only Joking' and proceeded to the terminal directly behind the station. Gone for 3 minutes. Rod was 5 and a bit. Upon my return, I heard the following:
'Ever since I was....ever since I was....ever since I was....'
Saddest thing? Nobody called.
Regina, CJME, 1981. Some gas bag opens up a waterbed warehouse and decides to
bring in a small elephant to stand on the mattress to show one and all how
strong these babys are. I'm on remote. Elephant arrives from Dallas and
apparently hasn't taken a shit since leaving Texas. Elephant is led into the
warehouse, shitting all the way. (have you ever seen elephant shit? It's HUGE.)
The elephant is then coaxed by the trainer to put one foot(?) on the mattress. He does. Next foot steps on and BOOM! Water and elephant shit everywhere. Can still see the look on Farmer Dave eating his free doughnut. friggin' priceless.
Then, of course, the time Julian James and I were sharing a spliff at the station's back door. Julian had his foot on the door to hold it open. (You can see where this is going) The more stoned he gets, the more physical his conversation becomes. Foot moves, door closes (in super slow motion, of course) We be locked out. Engineer just happened to show up scant seconds later but I swear to God, I have never laughed harder.
My first airtime was at 1350 in Oshawa. I was 9 years old, and was at the station to record a PSA for the Lung Association on Asthma.
I can't remember if it was two visits or one, but I recall coming in early (real early) in the morning to write a report for school on working in radio. I hung out with the morning show crew (1 announcer; 1 operator; 1 traffic, weather, news). The off-air banter was much better than on-air. It was a really fun environment. Too bad it didn't get transmitted. For the life of me, I don't remember their names.
All I remember was that everytime the traffic/weather/news guy came in (let's call him Gary), the other two would fake ending a sentance with "...just like Gary" or "... that's what doesn't work for Gary" or "... well, Gary would". He would ask "would what? What would I do?" and they would just say "nothing" or "forget it". I don't know whether it was just my naïveté or spotty memory, but I recall he actually seemed to genuinely think that everyone was always talking about him. It was fun.
Oh--my first live to air script? Environment Canada's forecast, abbreviated and personalized by me. Little me. At 9 years old.
I worked at one place where the owner lived behind the transmitter, which was in the room next to the air studio. No sheets on the bed, just a hotplate for cooking.
We used to broadcast the local Fourth of July parade from the roof of the building. Not live; we'd tape it and play it back the next day.
When he wanted to watch a movie and no one else was around, he'd go off the air for a couple of hours, head for the theater and fire up the xmtr when he got back.
A fellow that has worked for numerous small market stations told me about the time he worked for some real cheapskates at a Toronto area station in the '70s. He said the owner always made sure they got a full eight-hour day out of his deejays. In his case, that usually meant a four air-shift and four hours of production.
One day there was no production, so the owner asked his morning man to come with him to the parking lot. He obliged and upon arriving there the owner pointed out that the lines in the parking lot were faded and would he mind getting some paint and painting the lines.
He refused and was soon at another station.
I don't know, if I should admit this, but some time has passed and I think the
guy that once ran
WBUX in Doylestown is dead. I hope so. Wait, that didn't come out right. Anyhow...one night my drunk buddy and my equally drunk self finished covering the Bucks county elections and return to the radio station after 1 in the morning to cut up the tape for "morning drive." But, we decided to fire up the 5000 watt daytime only transmitter in the middle of the night and do our own radio show featuring our own "custom jingles." At 1:42AM in 1979, we signed on as WANG in Coldwater, Michigan...and so went the jingle...." Your WANG'S in Coldwater," Followed by a legal (or illegal id) W.A.N.G, Coldwater, Michigan. We has some other jingles too. "Hanging around with......WANG." As the minutes passed by, it got even more crude. (I won't go into it) But, then the phones starting ringing and we got scared, quickly turned off the transmitter which was a complicated series of red and black buttons that when pushed made a loud clunking sound. We
immediately fell asleep on the floor and woke up when the the morning disc jockey arrived. That
other person is now the executive producer of one of the network's evening news shows. He will
This happened at a little FM station within 50 miles of NYC over 15 years ago.
One day, the right channel of our stereo signal started to drop out intermittently. Our engineer (who will remain nameless) diagnosed that the problem was a bad connection from the output of our transmitter-site processor. However, the transmitter was in a building that was difficult to get into... the landlord hated us.
So as a temporary fix: the engineer, who was up at the transmitter site, placed an basic old-fashioned telephone on top of the processor. The next time the right channel went out, jocks on the air were instructed to call a telephone number at the transmitter site... that phone would ring... the vibrations would rattle the processor, and we would see the right channel restored.
In fairness: later in the week, the engineer DID solve the problem by re-wiring the processor output.
Kind of small market, I’d say... but very clever.
One of my "fondest" memories of small market radio occurred during my stint as Operations Director (later GM) of a small "daytimer". It seems that our most lucrative client was about to gain notariety in our esteemed community by donating his 5th gallon of blood (this is noble, what happened next, well, it's just tacky).
Since he spent many dollars with us, the then-GM decided that we would do a sort of "play by play" of Mr. Client donating his final drops! And of course, guess who got that priviledge!
Well, we show up with the Marti, the Red Cross isn't overly cooperative (understandable, since the donation center was a mobile home) but eventually let us set up in the "donor room". Try, in your imagination, to fill about the 20 minutes or so it takes to follow someone though the registration process, the type and cross matching, the prep, donation (even if you describe it drop by drop, this takes some creativity!), the removal of the needle, and Mr. Client eating his PJB and OJ!!
But he kept on buying ads!!! Ah! Free, over the air, small market radio!
My first full-time on-air job was at an all-news daytimer just across the Ohio River from Louisville. Unfortunately I think the signal only went north to the farms of southern Indiana.
The station was located inside a very old funeral home. The bullpen area was located in the room where the bodies were prepared and the talk studio was where the viewings took place.
Being a daytimer and an all news station was a stretch from the start. In the winter we'd have to sign-off as pm drive was just getting started.
Then there was the time....
Back in the late 70s, while still in college, I was a news assistant at WHN. Part of my Sunday morning duties were running the board for the public affairs programs. All were on reel-to- reel tapes and it was pretty routine after doing this for a number of weeks. I'd cue up each tape to the first sounds and then just hit "play" when it was time to air.
One Sunday though, one of the programs was rewound "tails out" so when I hit "play" the program started running backwards! At this point I started to panic as a 50,000 watt station in the #1 market is running "The Lutheran Hour" backwards. I quickly grabbed a song from the cart rack behind me, stuck it in the deck and brought up a Dolly Parton song, while trying to rewind the tape as fast as possible. I got the tape reversed, faded down Dolly, and went back to the tape, but in my panic forgot the show started with a countdown. Dolly comes back for a quick encore and finally "The Lutheran Hour" made its delayed return to the air.
I know other people have done this:
I finished up a break at a top-40 station I was working at. I kept tripping over words and the break was probably the worst of my career. After I was done, I tossed my cans off in disgust and yelled "God..I really f*cked that one up". Then I realized the studio monitors were quiet...becuase the mic was still hot. D'oh.
I was working at a small town NY AM one winter in the early '70s. The owner had a deal with the local oil delivery company; whenever there was a fire alarm (and the firehouse and siren were down the block, so it went out over the mic if you were talking), the jock had to call the police and get the address of the incident. At first chance, you'd have to announce the alarm and where the volunteers were to report, followed by a commercial for the oil company. Well, that's all well and good, but the cop on duty gave me the wrong address one day; a very irate caller to the station promptly informed us that he heard the message on the radio and drove back home at breakneck speed to see that all was well at his house; after a minor traffic accident with the fire truck
I can't believe I'm even admitting this, but back in the sexdrugsandrockandroll radio days of the early 80's, I was out all night before the Saturday AM news shift at WBAB. It was horrible having to get up for this shift but at least it was only three casts, one per hour, so I was done after two hours.
This morning I couldn't even make it that far, however, and decided to do the first cast live (although "semi-comatose" would be a more accurate description), and cart up the next two. It was, after all, Saturday morning - with no breaking news expected - on an AOR station where news wasn't a high priority to begin with.
I did the first cast, sort of wrote the next couple, and went into the production studio to record the next ones. Which I did…with the mic open and the cart pots up…I couldn't hear it through my headphones, but I left two beautiful - unlistenable - newscasts filled with more reverb and feedback than you could ever imagine…
I was on the air at 1390 WRIV in Riverhead NY, we used to do these community messages, and I had the task of reading.............. The Mattituck Fire department will hold a blood drive on............yada yada Instead I came out with The Matifuck Tire department (PANIC STRIKES) will have a blood sale at the...............(newscaster appears in room, and is laughing so hard, I began to laugh, we cut the mic, went to spots. NOBODY said a word.
I don't know how true this story is, so I'll leave out names and call letters.
It was Christmas Eve at a NY station which was airing midnight mass from St. Pat's. There really isn't much to do once you're set up and on the air, so people brought in food and had a little party. All of the food was in the studio of the control room that was "hot", including a crock pot of chili which began to boil over. The board op, seeing this, wanted to alert someone in the studio. But instead of hitting the "talkback" button, he hit "slate", which put him on the air. So right in the middle of midnight mass you heard " Now, let us hear the word of our Lord ...'Turn the crock pot off!'"
I understand that the board op never lived this down.
Ah what memories! I did the same thing with the Protestant Hour at WPIX-FM circa 1970. I got the bright idea to splice it onto a ten-inch reel with All Scripture Is Beneficial. I cut in an ID and that gave me an hour to head down 28 floors to the Automat on the corner of 42nd and 3rd for a nice breakfast.
There I sat with a radio on the table at 7:30 a.m. when I heard my ID and then the tails out show begin.
Ask me how fast I got from the corner back up to the 28th Floor of the Daily News Bldg!
Here's one for TV, circa 1983, I was working for Conn's only Ind. TV station at the time WTXX/20 in Waterbury and everyday at 9 a.m. we would run a half hour Catholic religious show, no commercials of course.I looked up at our monitors and saw that Conn Public TV was sending out Monty Pythons's Flying Circus to PBS stations around the country. I thought "Great, I'll watch Monty Python on the Preview monitor for the half hour instead of this religious crap." Well I hit the on-air button by mistake while Father Ed was praying on the air. 2 minutes later everyone runs into Master Control to find out what the hell is going on. When I realized what I had done I punched up Father Ed just as he was saying "AMEN". The phones wouldn't stop ringing, I thought I would be fired but to my amazement everyone was laughing their butts off. That was the funniest on-air blooper I have ever made to date.
For some extra cash, I took the Sunday Morning Board Op shift at my place of employment at the time - WLIR-AM 1300 in Rockland County. A Hatian group bought time on Sunday mornings to do a live show...IN CREOLE!
While I appreciate the hard work these guys put into their show - getting local interviews and news, etc for their community - it was soooo problem ridden it used to drive me nuts.
Only one or two of them could speak English - and neither of them were the hosts of the show (Try taking cues in a language you don't know). They would be telling their audience that they were going to break, and I'd play a song because the guy handed me a CD 30 seconds earlier...it was a mess.
One day, they brought in a new news woman. When it was time for their "News in Creole," they motioned to me to play their news sounder, which I did - noticing that this anchorwoman was not in the studio. As I hit the news sounder, one of the guys opened the studio door, and pointed his mic out the door. I could faintly hear this woman reading the news from outside the studio.
I think she actually wanted to read the news "from the newsroom." I kept trying to tell the program host that the mic doesnt pick up from 30 feet away, but he didnt understand English.
It was a seven-minute newscast.
Back in March I was visiting a friend who was a DJ at WNTY AM 990 and my friend said on the air "This is Blaze 990 WNTY. Here's Outkast with Ms. Jackson". And he started the record and went into the John. I went outside to talk to Rocco Cipriano the host of the Sunday Morning Italian Show, who had come down to the station to talk with the GM. Rocco and I went back inside the studio and horrified we heard Ms. Jackson playing at hi-speed. My friend came out of the bathroom. Raced over to the board ripped the song off the turntable (Dr. Johnny Fever style). Did the legal ID 3 times, and put on a few commercials, while he looked for the CD copy of Ms. Jackson. He found it cut off the commercials and said into the mic "That was Ms. Jackson by Alvin and the Chipmunks. Here's Ms. Jackson by Outkast." Nobody know what went wrong with the turntable. It was set to 33 1/3 but it played at 78 instead.
God the things we use to get away with! Back in the 70's I started work at what
is now Corus owned B101, then CKBB in Barrie, Ont. Nineteen years old, first
time away from home and life in a small town. It was a busy gig with 4 days a
week at the sister station in Collingwood - CKCB - and weekends in Barrie.
Saturday nights I was told, was an oldies show. They took me to the library and showed me what I had to work with. It was a small stack of 45's and a couple of Lp's to draw from. Imagine the same records - maybe a few dozen - for 6 hours every Saturday night and I had to break after each song. Thank God for the Barrie Flyer Senior A games which gave me the occasional respite, but what to do after hockey season. You had to be pretty resourceful to make this work week after week.
After a couple of months, I decided something had to be done. Rather than take it to the programming department, I slowly started to make changes. Eventually Saturday nights turned into the most fun I've ever had on the air. I started to bring my own records into work, focused on oldies for 3 hours, then created a feature called the "Saturday Night Beatles Binge", an hour of wall to wall Fab 4, then two hours of free form, a little rock and roll, some jazz, folk and even some classical. Sure, I thought I could make the argument that Mozart and Stravinsky were oldies...... Miles Davis, too! All of this on a radio station who's format would have been described as MOR. And most incredibly, management never caught on. They must have gone to bed early.
1974. Fredericton NB. I was 18. Did the all night show. Mon, Weds and Friday was "Clarke's Truck Stop." Red Sovine, The Willis Brothers, Patsy Cline et al. Knew nothing about country music (let alone trucking), the people, the lifestyle. Sure learned quickly. Sponsored by this car dealership on the Trans-Canada Highway, which also specialized in Allison, Detroit Diesel and Kenworth haulers. Gimme 40 acres to turn this rig around y'all. I arrived in Fredericton on the May 24th weekend to SNOW! Yup. On the flight down, I was imagining the east coast, sandy beaches, sunshine etc. Nobody told me that Fredericton was at least a 75 mile drive to the closest salt water! Until I got there and showed my true Upper Canadian roots, that is. Arrived on a Sunday night, met up with the evg. jock who just happened to be in the market for a roomie. By midnight, I had a roof over my head and a beer in my hand. His name was Ted Hayward. He's gone now. He used the name "CHUBBY BUDDY" on the air as homage to his girth. We lived in a house trailer which he owned. I'm no tiny guy either, and with the two of us living in that frail aluminum box there were times when I'm sure the house trailer buckled in the middle. I didn't last too long there. By labour day, I was offered a gig at CJCH in Halifax. Gave CFNB a whole week's notice. I recall the PD throwing a tube at me when I told him I was moving on. Yes, a vacuum tube. (Only Cosford, Segarini, and Tom Bryant are old enough to know what they are!) At CFNB, I learned what a lathe was (to make transcriptions) - see previous sentence. Operated the 9-11 shift for the stn. manager that summer, for his show "Fact and Fancy". The show consisted of all the wire copy the newsroom DIDN'T use. One time, he fell asleep on-air. I had to throw on a tune, run down the hall and into the booth to wake him up. It scared the daylights out of him, I thought he was going to have a coronary. "Don't ever sneak up on me again!" he said.
""1340 CFOM Quebec City with an effective radiated
power of 250 watts"...(On a clear day you can hear us in Levis - way 'cross the
St. Lawrence River) Quebec city was the smallest market I ever worked. And with
an English population of only 14,000, it was a very small market indeed! I was
the morning man and did everything - operating the board, reading news on the
half-hour while running CBC network news at the top.
We didn't really cater to the English market except for news. The owners had figured out the advantage was to play rock and roll and shut up. That way we'd garnered an audience of 110,000 per week to the annoyance of all the French stations in town. Yes, we had to play 30% Cancon and grumbled like everyone else in Canadian radio about the restrictions. But we didn't have the added French language quota of 60% French music the other stations in town had to grapple with! The studios were built into a rambling ranch house on the outskirts of town and maintained by a part time Portuguese engineer named Orfeo Gabbino. A good natured guy who had an off handed way of making do despite the chronic parts shortages. Budget shortages and equipment that likely had been hand built by Marconi himself!
My fondest memory was the day Orfeo quit his
job. He had been called in because the Sparta cart machine (God, forgive my
memories when I think of it!)...the one - count 'em - that recorded had stopped
working. There were no extra parts since that model had been discontinued in
1906 or thereabouts.Orfeo had always managed to keep things going like the
innovator he was, by remanufacturing and improvising the unavailable parts. He
had concocted mechanisms out of rubber bands, paper clips, and bottle caps to
keep the machinery going. But, this one day was the final straw! He came into
the studio and opened the cart deck then started giggling. First a light
chuckle...then a laugh...then more laughing...then a whole hearted belly laugh!
Chortling back tears as he looked inside the machine. Then he packed up his
toolbag grasping my hand and saying "Goodbye!" as he continued laughing. Walking
towards the door he said a fond "Goodbye!" to the sales department staff, the
Program Director, and finally the disbelieving General Manager - who couldn't
understand why he was leaving? I found out for myself when I looked into the
dead Sparta machine for myself and saw the source of his amusement: One of his
rubberband contraptions connected to a paperclip and bottlecap gizmo had finally
broken - again!
I never saw Orfeo again. But, the next day the brand new RCA cart deck arrived and was quickly installed! The only "new" piece of equipment I ever saw at CFOM. I think now that Orfeo should have been doing rocket science! His genius for innovation was never truly appreciated by the people who employed him The moral of the story is that when your rubberbands, paperclips and bottlecaps can't hold it together anymore - smile, laugh, say goodbye and move on! It's really not worth fighting about!
I actually had the unusual opportunity of starting my radio career in a big city with some great radio. (CJOB, Winnipeg. ) Was inspirerd by the likes of Doug Burrows, Deno, Tom, George, Dunc, Mike (Hopkins and Williams), Don Slade, Larry (Schwartz), Garry Robertson.....etc..etc....
Did the "circuit" in my younger years. Worked for a while at CKRM Regina. Hung out at CKCK, then moved up (down) to Yorkton Saskatchewan, where my "big city" ways didn't quite wash. GX 94 was a pure country station at that time, (1963-65) with equipment that Marconi would consider old. An old Gates board that DID come off the ark, and a couple of Magnecord PT6 Machines was the complement of gear in the control room. Cut your prod on channel 2 while on the air on channel 1.You could always tell when somebody was cutting a spot, because Marty Robbins "El Paso" would hit the air. That gave you 3:47 to cut, mix, and cart. When old Marty got that "Burnin' pain in his side", you'd better be carting up.
The station at that time, was owned by Inland Broadcasting in Winnipeg. (Anybody remember????)
One of the most hilarious incidents I can remember was when our Sunday AM part-timer played a half hour Ukrainian Religious tape backwards on the air. He didn't realize they were shipped to us "tail out".
Funny......nobody complained, and Yorkton and area was predominantly Ukranian.
Ed Laurence, the P.D. and morning man, would always break up the new kid that was reading news by throwing his mike onto channel 2, thus putting the kid's headset onto channel 2, and letting go with the biggest, longest fart you've ever heard.
CJGX was a full service-community oriented station. Yes, you DID sweep the floors, do PM Drive, cover school board meetings, freeze your ass off doing colour for a hockey game from a community rink, with natural ice in the middle of nowhere. (Jim Keilback was our sports guy, and always kept a liberal supply of antifreeze on hand.) Other "duties as required" included digging in new radials out at the transmitter site when we were approved for a power boost and pattern change.
We also used to do remotes from communities, that only had two phone lines.(Honestly!!!!!) Either the RCMP, or the train station would be without phone service for a couple of hours. Equalization???? Ha!!!!!!! The local phone guy didn't know what the hell we were talking about!!!!! When we did a remote broadcast from some of those little hamlets, it was the biggest thing that hit the area since the installation of power.
In that market, we worked with crappy gear, did absolutely everything imaginable, and LOVED it!!!!
I cut my teeth in the business at a big metropolitan station but put the polish on in small-town Saskatchewan.
It was 1979 and there I was, at CJLS in Yarmouth N.S., for my first full time on-air gig. Does anyone remember manual pattern changes with the old phone style dials? "We now pause as we change from daytime to nighttime pattern": Dial then shutdown, change the pattern then dial back up. I also remember driving the station van in a summer's evening parade. Since the station carried CBC at night we were airing "As It Happens" during our drive. Not the best programming to play over our speakers during a parade. As a result I suggested that we air music via CFBC (Saint John) then turn down the amp during station breaks. My co-pilot thought it was a great idea. (A good thing since he was the PD!)
I went from the green-horn evening jock to the coveted weekday mid morning jock in a record 10 days. Was it because of my golden pipes and my entertaining style? No.
It was because the former mid morning jock decided to host "The Burger House Country Top 10 countdown" with a phony southern hillbilly accent. As a result he soon became "available to the marketplace".
And let's not forget about Magnacord reel to reel decks, McCurdy puck driven turntables (with a nickel on the tone arm) and engineers who always replied "Did you check the tape?", to every tape deck problem.
Several years later I went from CHNS Halifax back to Yarmouth to run the station. I made a great deal of changes (including an automated pattern change).
After moving to the Toronto area I was back on the air, this time nation-wide, which included CJLS, via the Pelmorex Radio Network & then MediaNet. Strange how our industry can work. It's even stranger how some of the equipment worked.
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