Monday, January 15, 2018

KVAN vs. The Volcano

It is my informed opinion that AM radio station KVAN has endured more engineering and administrative hardship than any other radio station in the contiguous 48 states. It is amazing that the station endured, more so that the license still exists today.... though that's complicated. More here.

The original 910 KVAN-AM in Vancouver, WA in 1939 and was shut down in 1976. The frequency is used today by KMTT.  But another KVAN was on 1480 AM from 1967-1980, in Vancouver which became KARO and is now KBMS.  From 1981-1989 and 1991-2003 a third station used the KVAN calls in Vancouver on 1550 AM. That one is now KKOV.  The fourth KVAN on 92.1 operated from Pilot Rock, OR from 2007-2010, which later became KUMA-FM. More here.

The original KVAN operated on 910 AM in Portland for 20 years. But our tale begins in April of 1955 Camas-Washougal Radio, Inc. applied to the FCC to build radio station at Camas, WA on 1480kc operating at 1 while kilowatt of power, as a day timer. The CP was approved on September 28th, 1955 and call letters KRIV were assigned. IT debuted on air on  February 2, 1956. Then things went down hill for about the next 40 years. So much more here.

On June 2nd, 1956 a severe flood of the Columbia River endangered the KRIV-AM transmitter site. The site was successfully sandbagged and KRIV broadcast 24 hours a day, to keep the community informed with the latest bulletins from Civil Defense and the Red Cross.  In 1958 they changed calls to KPVA for Portland Vancouver Area re-targeting the region for ad sales. They followed that up in 1959 by relocating their studios to downtown Portland in the "Washington Hotel" at 1129 S.W. Washington St. but the transmitter remained at Camas. On May 9, 1960 KPVA became KVANThe callsign was well-known in the area from it's time on 910 AM. 

In December of 1960 the FCC granted KVAN permission to change city of license from Camas to to Vancouver, but station management screwed up the paperwork delaying the process. It was not until late in December of 1961 that they finally moved the transmitter to Hayden Island, OR. The station got it's delinquent paperwork in order in October of 1965 and officially changed its city of license to Vancouver.The location was literally in the corner of a parking lot Jantzen Beach Amusement Park." The small studio had no running water or toilet. Disc jockey's used an outhouse about 20 yards away. The (ahem) crappy location had security problems too In 1966 they had a series of burglaries knock them off the air repeatedly. 
  • April 28, 1966 burglars broke into KVAN and stole some of relay tubes.
  • April 30, 1966 burglars returned and this time knocked KVAN off the air for 7 days by stealing four tubes from the transmitter. 
  • May 7, 1966 but was burglarized overnight again and had to postpone broadcasting until May 8, 1966. A cart machine and a tape recorder had been stolen, and the transmitter damaged
  • On June 7, 1966 KVAN was knocked off the air again for 5 days by burglars, after stealing equipment. 
  • On June 11, 1966 KVAN returned to the airwaves but burglars knocked it off the air that evening. 
In 1969 Jantzen Beach Park had closed down forcing a change of venue. Their leased land had been sold out from under them to developers to build a mall. The station shut down for a week in April to relocate to 18608 North Portland Rd. in North Portland. The new studio was located in a trailer again  with no running water or toilet facilities. There was no outhouse this time. DJ's had to use the bathroom at the St. Johns Gun Club & Dog Motel. (The Dog motel and gun club were separate buildings.) The station's transmitter lost it's tower and a horizontal dipole was flown between two trees down by the Dog Motel near Smith Lake. This was rectified in August then the FCC granted an STA operate with a 200 foot flat top antenna at 11665 North Portland Rd. through 11-25-69. This began a long series of special temporary everything...  They were permanently temporary.
  • Oct. 7, 1969 CP to change transmitter and studio location
  • Nov. 12, 1969  FCC extended STA thru 1-11-70
  • Jan. 8, 1970 FCC extended STA thru 2-6-70
  • April 29, 1970 FCC extended STA  thru 7-6-70
  • June 30, 1970  FCC extended  STA thru 9-30-70
  • July 6, 1970  FCC extended  STA thru 9-6-70
  • Sept. 4, 1970  FCC extended STA  thru 10-1-70
  • October 9, 1970  FCC extended STA to 12-15-70
  • Nov. 2, 1970 FCC extended STA and temporary site thru 2-4-71
  • Jan. 27, 1971 FCC granted CP to replace expired permit
  • February 4, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 4-4-71
  • April 1, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 5-4-71
  • April 30, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 7-2-71
  • June 29, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 10-1-71
  • September 30, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 1-1-72
  • December 27, 1971 FCC extended STA thru 4-1-72
It got worse. According to eminent Gerald Gaule, Portland Radio historian and broadcaster: "On March 15, 1972 the FCC announced that Wallace E. Johnson, Broadcast Bureau Chief recommended to FCC Hearing Examiner Millard F. French that the application of Cathryn C. Murphy for license of KVAN Vancouver, Wash. should be denied. Chief Johnson stated: "In the past, the Commission has been faced with licensees who have been seriously deficient in the operation of their stations and the Commission has also been faced with licensees whose candor has been found wanting. But we can safely say that never in the annals of this Commission has there been a licensee so deficient in the conduct of the affairs of her station as Mrs. Murphy. Nor has there been a licensee so lacking in candor. This total lack of candor by Mrs. Murphy and willingness to submit false statements in order to escape embarrassing inquiry by this agency require the ultimate conclusion that she does not possess the requisite qualifications to be licensee." The 50 page Recommendation showed that since 1960 Mrs. Murphy had been cited for 133 violations of Commission rules."  Highlights include:
  • The license renewal application was filed after the station license had expired. 
  • False representations were made about current public affairs and news programs 
  • False representations were made about public affairs and news programs 
  • An unauthorized change was made in the location of the transmitter. 
  • False testimony was given at a hearing about the location of the transmitter. 
  • Failure to provide program and operating logs for the station. 
  • Misrepresented true facts in an affidavit filed with the commission. 
  • Testified falsely regarding the matter at a hearing. 
The KVAN license was taken away from station owner Cathryn C. Murphy, and transferred to her own mother! Ada C. Brown. In general mom did a better job running the show than her daughter. In January of 1974, the FCC granted KVAN a permit for the transmitter move that had occurred five years earlier. Then in August of 1976, the FCC granted KVAN a CP to build a four tower array, so it could broadcast 24/7.  Then in June of 1979 mom sold it all, lock stock and barrel to Patten Communications Corp. The format flipped from acid rock to Top 40 overnight. The following January KVAN became KARO. But the nightmare wasn't over.

Less than 6 months later, on May 18th, 1980 Mount St. Helens erupted. Volcanic ash 
was sucked into the 5kw Continental transmitter knocking the station off air. Geographically KARO was the closest radio station to Mt. St. Helens. Due to the proximity of the volcano and the eminent danger it created, the FCC granted KARO another STA to broadcast at 1kw non-directional nights from their Smith Lake studio site at 11197 N. Portland Rd. for a two year period. Dave Bischoff, Chief Engineer said it was the fastest STA he ever saw. More here.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Husband Substitutes on Housewives' Choice

Let us open with a quote from Annie Nightingale, the legendary British pirate radio DJ. This time it was the the Telegraph [SOURCE] but back in 2015 the Guardian published the same quote [SOURCE] with the same headshot in another story.
"Even though I had contributed to Woman's Hour, one of the reasons that I, as a woman, was initially rejected as a potential Radio 1 DJ was that DJs were intended as “husband substitutes”. BBC exact words. I kid you not."
That line has been quoted and re-quoted in recent years, but wasn't the first time I had heard that BBC was quite so patronizing to the ladies. The 2004 text book Media Studies: The Essential Resource by Philip Rayner, Peter Wall and Stephen Kruger quote the same line from Ms. Annie and explain further the mindset of the time.
"...the male DJs functioned as 'husband substitutes' to the identified female listeners. From this idea, both BBC and commercial radio D|s built up a culture where is seemed the art or presentation was to flirt with the female listener who was characterized as 'Doreen' the housewife."
It's hard to picture this today, in a world where the hashtag #metoo is trending. But Housewives' Choice was a BBC radio record request program that broadcast every morning at 9:00 AM from 1946 to 1967 on the BBC Light Programme. (The program was cancelled when the Light Programme was replaced by BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 2 in 1967.) The creator and producer was Pat Osborne. The program even then was a bit culturally tone deaf. But in an era of the BBC broadcasting monopoly, they could afford to be 20 years behind the times.

So when the BBC was husband shopping who did they buy?  They actually changed hosts every week or two so they had to replace their 'husbands' often. Who were those weekly 'Husband Substitutes'? In the end there were over 250 hosts... so it's a mixed bag. You can see a complete list here.  Presenters included:

Neal Arden - Born in London he moved to Southern Rhodesia in 1928 and served in the British South Africa Police. In 1930 he returned to England to pursue an acting career. His screen debut was in the 1934 film version of Princess Charming. In 2005 he published his autobiography, A Man of Many Parts.

Sam Gabriel Costa - He was a popular singer of the British dance band era and a voice actor on the show Much Binding in the Marsh.  His BBC radio career began with appearances on the It's That Man Again (ITMA) program. He also had an excellent mustache.

Kenneth Horne - Unlike most hosts Horne's bread and butter was comedy. He is perhaps best remembered for his work on three BBC Radio series: Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh (1944–54), Beyond Our Ken (1958–64) and Round the Horne (1965–68). Pre-war he was quizmaster on the bi-weekly BBC radio show Ack-Ack, Beer-Beer.

Roy Rich - Well known in the UK as one of Britain's first DJs,

Franklyn Engleman - A BBC radio personality popular in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly known as the host of Down Your Way and Gardeners' Question Time.

Bryan Michie - A BBC radio announcer and host of Gramophone Omnibus in 1940. He tried his hand at acting in the late 1930s to no avail. More here.

Godfrey Winn - A journalist and columnist for the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Express newspapers. He got into radio as a war correspondent 1939. His book Home From Sea published 1943 recounts his life in the Royal Navy. He frequently hosted the BBC Radio show, with David Jacobs

Bob Danvers Walker - An English radio and newsreel announcer best known as the off-screen voice of Pathe News cinema newsreels during World War II.

Robert MacDermot - Hosted the program in it's first week back in 1946.

George Elrick - Mr. Elrick probably hosted the program more often than any other host. Born in Aberdeen in 1903 he was a drummer and vocalist with one hit single "The Music goes Round and Round" back in 1937. In 1948 he was first invited to host the program. He published an autobiography, Housewives' Choice - The George Elrick Story in 1991.

Eamonn Andrews -  He began as an amateur boxer and became a sports commentator for Ireland's state broadcaster Radio Éireann. He later hosted the game show What's My Line? He later presented the long-running Sports Report on BBC's Light Programme.

Edmundo Ros - This Trinidadian-Venezuelan musician, vocalist, arranger and bandleader is better known for his tropical night club LPs than his radio career.

Despite the  branding, the program was very popular, receiving a reported 3,000 requests a week according to the 1950 BBC Year Book. Housewive's Choice was succeed by the short-lived show "Family Choice" which was carried on went both Radios 1 and 2. It was cancelled by 1970.  More here. It's worth nothing that four women did host Housewives' Choice. Of them, three were on the BBC staff. They all featured on the program in the late 1940s and all were also associated at one time or another with the show Woman's Hour.

Barbara McFadyean - She first presented a weekly program of "gramophone records of all kinds", in 1943 with announcer Joan Griffiths on the BBC Home Service.

Joan Griffiths - The original host of the Women's Hour was a man, Alan Ivimey.  Listeners complained for the first 3 months so he was fired. Joan was hired on to replace him. New topics included equal pay, menopause and the Lives of Famous Women Novelists.

Jeanne Heal - Before Housewives Choice she hosted Designed for Women. She later hosted her own talk program Meet Jeanne Heal. She went on to do documentaries for the BBC. More here.

Vera Lynn - Hosted the program three times and once for a month in 1963. She is alive today and 100 years old. [SOURCE] A vocalist who sold more than a million records by the age of 22, she performed often for the troops in WWII. In February 2017 she released her latest album, and holds the record for being the oldest living artist to achieve a top 20 UK album.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Alan Turing’s Radio Broadcasts

In May and June of 1951, The BBC broadcast lectures by five leading figures of British computing: Douglas Hartree, Max Newman, Alan Turing, Frederic ("Freddie") Williams, and Maurice Wilkes. Of these men, Turing has become the most famous. On May 15th of that year, the BBC broadcast his  short lecture, a riveting 8-page steamroller titled "Can Computers Think?"

It is one of the earliest written works intended for the general public that directly addressed the future of AI. He had written much "heavier" thesis on the topic Ex. Intelligent Machinery (1948).  If you want to get into the deep end, pick up a copy of Mechanical Intelligence, Volume 1 Collected Works of A.M. Turing

Unfortunately the recordings made by the BBC of these broadcasts no longer exist. However, the Turing archives at King’s College, Cambridge do contain Turing’s original radio script. You can read that script here complete with hand corrections.  Recently writer and mathematician James Grime re-recorded them and posted the audio on Youtube to benefit us all. To Mr. Grime we give our thanks.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Marconi Station at Clifden Connemara and the IRA


I feel like Marconi get entirely too much credit for the birth of radio. Nonetheless I keep coming back to  particular parts of his story. Clifden like many others bears further examination.

After Marconi transmitted wireless messages from his station at Poldhu in Cornwall to Newfoundland on December 12th, 1901, he won a grant of $80,000 from the Canadian Government to build a station at Glace Bay in Nova Scotia.  So he moved his operation west... to Clifden in County Galway, Ireland, in the region of Connemara, located on the Owenglin River where it flows into Clifden Bay. It moved him over 300 miles closer to Canada. More here.

In 1907, the Daily Mail newspaper published a very graphic description of the station operations here. It's well worth reading. You can imagine the writer wearing protective goggles and standing there in the smoke with cotton in his ears bewildered at the machinery and the flashes of light expecting Marconi to do everything short of resurrecting the dead. I quote here at length because the language is truly amazing. James Joyce could hardly have done better.

"An entire room is given up to strange sheets of steel, which are hung from roof to floor, like washing on a line, until only narrow alleys are left. Queer brown earthenware jars, like old-fashioned receptacles, and all manner of outlandish electrical apparatus now confront the visitor. The plates are for acting as a reservoir to store electrical energy. The jars are transformers. The engineer gave a few directions to his assistant, who, seated before an ordinary Morse telegraph instrument in the operating room, placed a telephone headpiece to his ears, and began to fumble with the key, hastily bidding me to stuff cotton wool in my ears and don a pair of blue-glass spectacles. The engineer beckoned me to the connection room on the floor above, which is equipped with a medley of strange electrical contrivances.  The use of the cotton-wool and smoked glasses became at once startlingly apparent. From the 'interrupter' instrument corresponding exactly in duration to the assistant's touch of the key below, came three blinding flashes of blue-white flame, followed by a short flash, and then three more short flashes. The two side-mouths of the instrument likewise spout eye-blinding flame of the same colour and intensity. Simultaneously, the discharger, a few feet across the room, emitted similar blinding flames, and there came a wearing, tearing boom like the deep bass of some gigantic organ, but immeasurably cruder and louder. The duration of each note again corresponded exactly with the assistant's dot or dash on the instrument below. This was the electrical discharger, which sends oscillating electrical currents from the building into the aerial wires outside. These at once begin to set up vibrations of the ether, which in loops and waves travel with inconceivable rapidity across the sea."
The motivation here on the part of Canada was to break the submarine cable operators monopoly on transatlantic messaging. Marconi's commercial wireless service busted that monopoly. His first regular trans-Atlantic wireless service was established on October 17th, 1907 between Clifden, Ireland and Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.  (An additional Marconi receiving station in Letterfrack, Ireland operated briefly from 1913 until 1917.)

Due to destruction caused by the Irish Civil War in 1922, traffic formerly carried at Clifden was permanently replaced via Marconi's new station at Ongar in Essex.  The first serious problems became in July.  On the night of Tuesday 25th, several buildings were set on fire and shots were fired. The receiving house was practically destroyed. There was also damage done to the condenser house. The staff were sent home. This wasn't an isolated incident; 14 homes had been burned in Clifden in 1921.

The station was never bought back into normal operation. The IRA irregulars held Clifden until August 15th, 1922 when they were forced out by the Irish Free State regular army. The last marconigram sent from Clifden, dated August 17, 1922. It announced the recapture of Clifden. The Clifden station then became a garrison for government troops. On November 29th the IRA took back the station only to be driven out again on December 9th. The contents of Clifden were sold for scrap to a Sheffield-based scrap merchant, Thos. W. Ward in 1925.

There's more info about this in the book Marconi: The Man Who Networked The World by Marc Raboy and also Richard Pine's book 2RN And The Origins Of Irish Radio.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

News and Reviews 2018

It's been a shorter year for me blog-wise. There has been less research, less writing but so much going on elsewhere. However, when I have posted it's been longer, delved deeper and weirder unearthing some truly arcane deep dives. I'll keep it brief and focus on the highlights.

Best Posts:
I was perhaps overtly proud of my post on radio stations in Kerouac's novel On the Road. But for over a decade that's been the hard, immutable core of Arcane Radio Trivia: Obscure facts, wholly ancillary to the rest of the story.  As a fan of Samuel Beckett I was very pleased to finally write a lengthy post on his radio plays. I've been meaning to get to that for years. In Sixteen Sepia Spielers I write up an infamous 1947 Ebonmy magazine article I've used as a source a dozen times. I even wrote up the Jazz Man Radio show and had the pleasure of corresponding with the legendary Cary Ginell. I also quite liked by two-parter on Radio Free Paris back in April.

Most Popular Posts:
My most popular posts haven't changed in years.  Since 2009 the most traffic has gone to a post about Peter Tripp.  This is due to a completely coincidental link on Reddit. It was re-blogged by many others and remains an aberration in my web-traffic with 90k+ hits. I did eventually collate a list of all Radio Wake-a-thon records here. My 2007 post on the Career Academy of Famous Broadcasters continues to earn comments from it's legion of former students. It remains a top hit on Google. In third place a 2010 post on Barn Dance programs remains popular. My readers continue to debate if I was unfairly harsh to Kevin Metheny. I think not, but he died in 2014 so I have hopes that it's over.

Best Radio Station:
This year I've listened to two stations more than any others 88.3 WMTS and 88.3 WBGO. It's taught me three things.
   1. I am not as discriminating about jazz as I thought I was.
   2. I passionately hate jazz vocals
   3. I am far too snobby about my noise rock.
I can actually listen to WBGO at length alternately enjoying and/or despising songs or even segments of songs depending on if and when the tin pan alley, show tune vocal begins. (Jazz vocals are a vestigial organ of the jazz genre and can be amputated without harm in almost every case.) By comparison, WMTS has a very solid schedule of innovative programs, including some abrasive and noisy gems. I also have spent a lot of time streaming Under Noise, and KUPS. For all of the above, I can thank the TuneIn App on my Roku.

Best Radio Show: 
I am very taken this Fall with a mid-day program on 91.7 KVRX, I Give a Heck. This  They describe themselves as follows "Fidel Cashflow and newly enthusiastic A Shramp Named Karl will be bringing you the best of post-punk, and noise rock, the weird of the weird. Two weird dudes playing weird tunes."  It's accurate but their taste in punk, noise punk and prog-punk is bar-none. Also digging lately Mystery Train on WRUR, The premium Psychedelia on Dementia 13 at CIUT, Dot Dash at WRAS, the long-running Dare Waves on WRUW, and some back to back shows on CJSR on Monday nights: Vlad Thee Inhaler's Sci-Fi BBQBasement Bricolage, and Imaginary Landscapes. Vlad  piques your curiosity then melts your brain, then for the next 4 hours you hallucinate local music and the RCMP asks for your passport.

Best Record Store:  
True vinyl loyalists, Mr. Suit Records has have helped me score some white whales, and a number of other rarities just because that how they roll. They've got a good stock of the news, and a nice  selection of the old. Mike, the man behind the counter is a frequent instagrammer of new arrivals. The most common response is "Hold please" to which he always responds "You got it" and thus becomes an enabler of pickers, record hoarders, and archivists alike.

Best Zine:
Women in Sound is a quarterly print zine dedicated to showcasing the achievements and process of women and non-binary people in live and recorded sound. It fills such an obvious niche in the pantheon of 'zines it's hard to believe it didn't already exist.

Top 10 Records of 2018

1. Unsane - Sterilize
2. Idles -  Brutalism
3. '68 - Two Parts Viper
4. Pile - A Hairshirt of Purpose
5. Glassjaw - Material Control
6. Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent
7. Ecstatic Vision - Raw Rock Fury
8. Lung - Bottom of the Barrel
9. Metz - Strange Peace
10. Buck Gooter - 100 Bells

Runner ups...
Nomad Mountain Outlaws - Raccoon Church, Trash Knife - 7", Miscalculations - Kill The Whole Cast, Blessed - II, Skáphe – Untitled, Aye Nako - Silver Haze, Hilltop Gamblers - Midrash, Code Orange - Forever, Spoon - Hot Thoughts, Alter - Pendulum, Algiers - The Underside of Power, Converge - The Dusk In Us, Pissed Jeans - Why Love Now, Cousin Boneless - Revel in the Rubble