Sunday, April 27, 2008

Radio Radio

When I was about twelve years old I became interested in pop music; you know, "the hit parade."

This was right around 1970.

Now, back then, the way one heard the latest tunes was by listening to the radio. I'm talking about the AM radio; the FM band was reserved for "easy listening" and educational programs beamed from the local college station.

In Buffalo, NY the station for breaking hits was WKBW. Oh, there were other stations, I suppose. WYSL was the distant second place for happening hits. WGR usually came in the best, but always seemed to be a tad too conservative. WBEN was downright stodgy.

At least that is how I remember it.

There were little "things" that 'KB used to do that used to fascinate me.

1. Back in the old days, Buffalo was a "major market" and the 50,000 watt blowtorch that was 'KB quite often got advance copies of records before anyone else. They would gloat about it before and after spinning these sort of discs. In fact, they would even gloat about it while they were playing the record! Jeff Kaye's voice would intone "WKBW EXCLUSIVE! WKBW EXCLUSIVE!" periodically during the song, just to make sure it couldn't be taped and replayed by any of the other stations!

2. Another gimmick they used to do was the "WKBW INSTANT REPLAY." As a hit song was fading out, the big DJ voice would announce, "WKBW INSTANT REPLAY!" and, get this, the song would start to play all over again! What intrigued me is that it was an edited version of the song. You'd typically get the first verse and then, bam, you'd be into the final chorus and fade out courtesy of the engineer's editing block. This could be very jarring if the song changed keys or tempos.

3. Just in case a listener forgot which station they were listening to, they would created versions of songs that had the WKBW call letters inserted into the beginning. It's kind of hard to describe. One I particularly remember was Wings' "Jet" wherein the four note opening (Duhnn Duhn Da Duhnnn) was overdubbed with singers crooning, "KB Fifteen / Music Machine!"

4. The evening DJ during the early 'seventies was a fellow who went by the name of Jackson (Jack) Armstrong. He was the motor-mouths to end all motor-mouths. He was perhaps the last gasp of the "Wolfman Jack" sort of AM radio personality. It was his show I'd listen to in the evening so as to track the all-important hit parade.

5. Then one day, the unthinkable happened. It was announced that Jack was leaving WKBW and moving on to another market. The station cooked up an idea where they would have a two week (I think) "live audition" contest. They had a different DJ-wannabe come in each night and tackle Jack's shift. Listener voting would determine who the new nightime disk jockey would be. I have since found out it was a rigged non-contest, which goes a long way toward explaining why the absolute WORST guy in the bunch ended up with the job. Some fellow who called himself "The Janitor" supposedly won the contest and took over the shift. Yeesh, was he bad.

6. One of the "also-rans" from the above contest was a guy by the name of Max Gibson, who, as "Shane, Brother Shane" eventually cleaned up after "The Janitor" was given the ol' heave-ho. Shane went on to have a lengthy career in Buffalo radio. I never warmed up to his supposedly "cosmic" pontifications, but he was an improvement.

Well, those are some of my radio memories from the days when the AM band would play new records from CCR, Deep Purple and Badfinger right along with tunes by Erine ("Rubber Ducky"), The Pipkins ("Gimme Dat Ding") and Bobby Sherman ("Julie, Do You Love Me?").

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Ides of April

I haven't posted anything here since before Easter. Whew!

What can I say? I've been busy.

The week after Easter my In-Laws, i.e. Father-In-Law, Mother-In-Law and Sister-In-Law, came for a visit. Yep, fresh from the after-glow of the career upheaval and plant audit we had house guests. We love having company. It's just too bad I could only be around for a few hours each day, what with work and all.

The In-Laws are a great bunch and Mariel especially loves it when they're around. Oh, and I suppose Michelle likes seeing her family every so often, as well. (This is putting it mildly.)

Just before they left, the ever-popular "Check Engine" light came on in my car. It is a 1994 Dodge Shadow that has just turned over 126,000 miles. This light would not stay on, though. It would be off when I started the car and then come on, and stay on, only after having driven some random amount of miles. Then it would be off again, the next time I started it up. Aside from the transmission fluid level needing to be topped off, there were no symptoms of car malfunction.

On Friday, April fourth, we had some more company. My Father and Sister arrived in town from Kalamazoo, MI for a long weekend. I actually managed to wrangle Monday off from work, so I could spend an extra day with them.

What did I do on this glorious day?

I took them to a local appliance store to show them examples of the dish racks we make at the factory. Oh, and I took my car into the garage to see if they could nail down the cause of the "Check Engine" warning.

Come early Tuesday morning, I said my farewells to Dad and Kim and drove off into another work week.

Does it sound like my life has become one tightly-scheduled mundane-a-thon?

Well, it has.

But that's just the way it is going to be for the time being. I'll have to grab my blog-writing and blog-reading moments when and where I can. So I guess the cliche for today is:

"This, too, shall pass!"

Hope to be back here soon...