Friday, July 29, 2005

Public Radio of Micronesia

KRNM is a Public Radio station located on the campus of Northern Marianas College (NMC). They broadcast at from two physical locations one at their studios on 88.1 FM on the campus of NMC. Then on a translator at 89.1 serving Mt. Tapochao and the North eastern areas of the island. The volunteers arent all that different from what you'd get in Paducah. On Monday nights at 9:00 PM they have a blues program. Tuesday nights the Saipan hisghschool performs radio dramas. Saturday nights they read stories and plays from around the world. They even have a Country music program on saturday nights.

to me this is awesome.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


I try to avoid current events, but this really got me going (since I am an ex-promo man myself). The way the gears have turned in the record industry hasn't changed in half a century. This most recent Sony scandal isnt going to change a thing. There will be a few new sacrifical lambs.Alan Freed was driven out of the buisness. Sony will probably make a charitable contribution. The Radio staitons will probably get a tersely worded warning.

If you hadn't heard... Sony got busted for Payola.
Below are quotes from emails naming radio stations they bribed for airplay.
I quote some great lines below. but the full text from Spitzer is here:

In discussing a bribe given to a radio programmer in Buffalo, one promotion executive at Sony BMG's Epic Records wrote to a colleague at Epic: "Two weeks ago, it cost us over 4000.00 to get Franz [Ferdinand] on WKSE. That is what the four trips to Miami and hotel cost . . . At the end of the day, [David] Universal added GC [Good Charlotte] and Gretchen Wilson and hit Alex up for another grand and they settled for $750.00. So almost $5000.00 in two weeks for overnight airplay. He told me that Tommy really wanted him to do it so he cut the deal."

Another Epic employee who was trying to promote the group Audioslave to a Clear Channel programmer asked in an email: "WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET AUDIOSLAVE ON WKSS THIS WEEK?!!? Whatever you can dream up, I can make it happen."


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

K, W & the mighty Missisippi

In the 1800s broadcasters adopted call signs to aid in signaling. This practice continued when ships began to use radio. [popularized by the sinking of the titanic] Initially brodcasters determined their own calls. This led to duplication and confusion.

In 1884 the first effort to standardize this occurred. The head of the Federal Bureau of Navigation, (FBN) Eugene T. Chamberlain, exorcised a new vaguely worded statute and assigned marine-radio call letters. His previous career as Ships on the Atlantic and gulf coasts were assigned calls beginning with K, and those on the Pacific coast and Great Lakes were assigned calls beginning with W. It is unknown why he chose K and W.

In 1906 Berlin International Wireless Telegraph Convention (BIWTC) declared that all ship and shore stations should have unique call signs consisting of three letters. The U.S. did not ratify the BIWT convention until 1912. (why are we always behind Europe?) That year Congress empowered the FBN to license land stations in addition to the marine stations. Official documents issued in 1913 confirmed the practice of assigning W calls to stations in the west and K calls to stations in the east.

The following year Congressimproved the system slightly deciding that the Pacific coast would get W for ships and K for land stations, the Atlantic and gulf coasts would get K for ships and W for land stations. This made it more simple to distinguish a marine broadcast from a land broadcast.

It was not until 1923 that the missisippi became the dividing line. Prior to that Texas as a gulf coast state had W's! The dividing line started at El Paso and worked its way east the then north.
see map:

There are many exceptions to the K&W rules even today. Below are some contemporary examples. These are all considered "heritage" call letters and they are highly valued.
KYW-AM 1060 Philadelphia, PA ...the K furthest to the east
WIL-AM 1430 St. Louis, MO
WOAI-AM 1200 San Antonio, TX ...the furthest W to the west.
WOI 90.1 Des Moines, IA

Exceptions along the border are commonplace as the calls are assigned by city of license and not the location of the transmitter. Minneapolis , Memphis, New Orleans and other markets straddle the line and each contain multiple exceptions. A simple explaination here:

For all of his trouble-making, eventually the Navy named a ship after Mr. Chamberlain. It is a Liberty Model.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Everybody Klezmer!

Everyone likes klezmer. They just don't know it yet.

In the 1930's there used to be dozens of Yiddish radio stations and hundreds more individual radio programs. There were 30 just in new York city! Not all were playing Klezmer but you get the idea. Today there are only a few in the whole world. Many only squeeze as time leased programming. Nothing wrong with time leased programming mind you. It's just not exactly the bee's knee's as time slots go usually. Below is a small selection of these programs

WUNR 1600 AM Boston, MA
"The Yiddish Voice"
Runs a weekly, hour-long Yiddish-language radio show serving Boston's Yiddish-speaking community since 1994.

WNWR AM 1540 Philadelphia, PA
"The Barry Reisman Show"

...On the air Monday - Friday from 3-4 weekday afternoons. Reisman's blend of klezmer, Yiddish, and Israeli music along with interviews and listener phone calls have made his program a fixture in the Philadelphia radio market since 1965.

WMRD 1150 AM Middletown, CT/WLIS-AM 1420 Old Saybrook, CT

A music program focused on eclectic and contemporary Klezmer & Jewish music. They announce listings of activities from local synagogues and organizations

WMNF 88.5 Tampa, FL
"Sunday Simcha"
Music, local announcements, Dvar Torah, interviews, etc. The audience has grown over the years and includes many non-Jews as well. The music is a mix of Klezmer, Chassidic, Israeli, Yiddish, Ladino, Mizrachi and more.

KEOS 89.1 College Station, TX
"Rejuvenating Heritage"

A weekly radio program exploring all types of Jewish music. It features a mix of Israeli pop/rock, Yiddish, Klezmer, as well as other Jewish inspired music.

And don't forget this...
Damn that was a good CD, a great reason to donate to NPR.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Markets Merging...

Arbitron releases it's new market ratings and definitions twice a year; each spring and each fall. The biggest shake up I remember in recent years was been the deletion of the Westchester market. Typically market changes involve the addition or deletion of far more tertiary markets. But in the not so distant past Arbitron has changed major markets. Once Dallas and Ft. Worth were separate market areas. Obviously, this was no small change. Even today their downtown areas are 30 miles apart. Can you imagine the chaos if they merged Baltimore and Washington D.C.? That's only 35 miles. It is equally possible. I examine this change focusing on one particular station was went from the top of its game to an unrated station because of this market change.

KBOX-AM 1480 was the first all country 24-hour radio station in the Dallas Metro. This was historic. Group One Broadcasting of Texas acquired KBOX from Balaban Broadcasting in 1967 for $2 million dollars. KPCN-730 AM was the first country station in the area, starting in 1962, but broadcasted during the daytime only. KBOX quickly became the ratings leader for country music in Dallas. In its first ratings book, they moved from a 10.0 share Q3 1966 to a 12.1 share in Q1 1967!

KBOX-AM enjoyed six years of solid ratings, posting a high of 14.4 in the Q3 1967 book. In 1972 WBAP-AM began giving them stiff competition as a country-formatted 50k watt powerhouse. KBOX's ratings started to slowly sliding as a result. The Clear Channel owned WBAP was trying to chip away at their audience and it was working.

In the year 1973, the Arbitron markets for Dallas and Fort Worth were combined into one book, to reflect the merging of the two cities into one metropolitan area. KBOX, like other smaller stations, was hurt by this redefinition. KBOX did not even appear in the new ratings book. WBAP-AM became the clear country winner at that point, as KBOX barely reached the Ft. Worth half of the newly defined market.

In 1976 Group One applied for a nighttime power increase from 500 watts to 1,000 watts. The FCC approved it. This gave them a somewhat less marginal signal. It's probably what allowed them to struggle into the 1980's providing a decidedly more local service to the Dallas area. But by 1980 FM radio was growing in dominance and their ability to compete with a music format was waining.

on November 14, 1982 the KBOX call letters were dropped by Group One. KBOX-AM became KMEZ-AM and switched from its country format to a simulcast of the easy listening format of sister station KMEZ-FM. These days 1480 AM is occupied by KNIT-AM A Salem Media property running a decidedly more mundane gospel format.

You can hear a 2:00 .WMA of classic KBOX news from 1958 here:
Great thanks to Michael Spears Entertainment just for existing.

great KBOX-AM history here:

Friday, July 22, 2005

Aircheck History Part 2


The earliest surviving recordings of a radio signal are segments of Morse code transmissions recorded 1914 by Charles Apgar, a New Jersey radio ham. He fitted the electrical element of a headphone to a home-made recording head he attatched to an Edison cylinder phonograph. This Rube-Goldberg device allowed him to record radio signals picked up by his receiver on wax cylinders. He made at least a dozen such recordings before 1915.

Some of these led to the discovery of high-speed coded messages being transmitted by German spies thru the Telefunken wireless station at Sayville, Long Island!

Other recordings made by Apgar were more pedestrian. He mostly recorded Morse code news bulletins from WHB in Manhattan. Apgar's original wax cylinders are long since lost; but somce samples of his recordings survive. These still exist in yet another aircheck. Apgar made an appearance on station WJZ in New York in 1934. These airchecks of airchecks are owned by the Antique Wireless Association, and a tape copy is in the Library of Congress.
More here:

The art of hom-brew aircheks continued Sporadically until 1921 when the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company and the Victor Talking Machine Company bregan making regular broadcast recordings. Documentation exists for many of these. Sadly nothing survives of these or any of the other experimental recordings thru 1922. Some of their recordings from 1925 are known to exist.

By 1928 a number of big events: presidential speeches, Public safty tests, anniversary broadacasts etc are recorded. Without getting into rediculous details, these include WOR, WJZ, WEAF, WRC, WMAQ CKAC a few NBC network events and some lesser known shortwave stations. Aircheck recording increases in popularity in the late 20s into the early 30's leaving us with recording of figures like Colonel Lindbergh, Grantland Rice, King George V and others.

By 1935 NBC was using acetate discs to record and archive programming for later use. The other big networks jumped on board shortly thereafter.

more here:

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Aircheck history Part I

We couldnt have airchecks without recording so I am going to give a little extra back story...
In 1857, Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville received French patent #17,897/31,470 for the phonautograph. This device made a visual image of sound waves on a cylinder, but did not record reproduceable sound.

1876, Charles Cros deposited a paper on audio recording at the Paris Academy of Sciences titled PROCESS OF RECORDING AND OF REPRODUCING AUDIBLE PHENOMENA. It contained the correct and working process for recording and replaying audio. It is not known if he built a prototype. Later prototypes produced things like this:

1877 - Edison made the first recording of a human voice ona tin cylinder. He may have successfully recorded prior to this on an early paper model derived from his telegraph repeater.

1878 - Frank Lambert developed a talking clock. I should say tried to develop a talking clock. Soft tinfoil was the recording medium of the day and did not produce a lasting copy. Lambert used a lead cylinder in his prototype. Because of this, we can play back this early recording attempt today. Pic of device below...

His device is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's oldest playable recording. The recording. It seems to have been recorded at about 85 revs per minute. If you are patient you will hear lambert reading out the hours. The Lambert talking Clock is on display at the National Clock and Watch Museum in Columbia, PA. Audio orginates at They are absolutely amazing, please visit their site.

Ok, Airchecks tomorrow, I promise.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Drive In Movie Theatre & Radio

The drive in movie threater was invented in 1933. The sound sucked pretty bad then, and it pretty much continued to suck for about 40 more years. (I'm not making this up. I went to drive-ins as a little kid.) But FM radio didnt exist yet either so the expectations were set pretty low.

When the first drive-in opened in Camden NJ, a company by the name of RCA Victor designed the sound system. They called it "Directional Sound". Using 3 main speakers mounted next to the screen, they tried to blast the volume so that even the cars in the back could hear.

There were 2 major problems with this type of sound system. Since light travels faster than sound, the sound arrived at the back rows late, i.e out of synch with the picture. the second problem was that while everyone in the entire drive-in could hear the sound, but so could the neighbors, passing cars, and overhead planes. Some complaints stateed that farm animals were disturbed miles away. This system was replaced with the individual window-speakers most movie goers are familiar with.

It was in the early 70's that AM radio sound came into practical use at the Drive in. Although the idea had been kicking around since the 1950's, with some systems even calling for a separate box the patron would purchase and reuse, it was made practical by Cinema Radio, a company started by Fred J. Schwartz after experiencing what he felt was poor sound quality at a drive-in.
The big change since 1950 was the number of cars that had radios, by 1970 the number was up to an estimated 97%. The timing was perfect. Normally transmitting a radio signal would require a facility license. For no reason clear to me, the drive-ins were given the wave by the FCC. They passed on licensing these Low Power stations as long as they kept it under 50 Milliwatts. [Closed cable FM was also exempt.] These broadcasts usually could be received via your car radio, or by a transistor radio which you could borrow from the snack bar.

Initially these were AM stations but the policy spread to FM licenses as that became adopted as the standard. FM is what remains in use to this day at most drive-ins. read more here:


In 1986 FM stereo sound was introduced via FM broadcast at broadcasting is introduced at Shankweiler's in Orefield, PA. This is also America's oldest, continually running Drive in.

In 1999 The Boulevard Drive in was the first drive in theater in the world to install digital sound. They broadcast at 89.7 FM in Kansas City. I am told that their fixation on high quality audio has made it superior to that of many indoor theatres.

There is now even a company trying to buy time before, between and after the movies run on the radio signals at the drive ins! They distribute content via CD-R mailed weekly. It's an interesting niche service.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

YMCA radio

This is hard to explain:

In 1976 WBCE signed on at 89.7 FM. For reasons I dont know they went dark in 1979 then in 1991 moved to 105.3. This paved the way for KYMC to squeeze another FM into the St. Louis FM radio dial.

This is the only YMCA FCC-licensed radio station in the U.S.

The West County Family YMCA in Chesterfield, MO owns operates KYMC independant of the YMCA HQ. It all started with a group of enthusiastic volunteers in 1977 that convinced the YMCA to give this a shot as a local community program. The FCC granted a license and the station was born as a picayune 10 watter. It has since expanded to 120 watts, broadcasting 24 hours a day with an all-digital studio.

KYMC runs a mix of eclectic local shows paired with a mix of obscure syndicated programs. This ranges from a well-known local goth-rock program (Hypnotic Nightmare) to a syndicated program focusing on topics regarding parenting (The parents Journal) Their local focus has led KYMC Radio to start a Summer Radio Camp for kids ages 8 to 15 in which young DJs actually get to run the show with the help of a seasoned professional.

I have heard that in the late 80's they needed more than a little help, as near by Maryville College ran day to day operations for about a year.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Easternmost Radio Station in the U.S.

It's not in Texas. It's not in Florida, not even on the Keys. It's not in Puerto Rico either.
It is actually in the town of Christiansted on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin islands.

WYAC also known as "Paradise 93.5 fm" features the Caribbean's best music 24 hours a day plus a morning talk program called Free Speech with Roger W. Morgan every weekday at 9:00 AM. It focuses on topics concerning the Virgin Islands and more.

If you were looking for a easternmost radio station in the contigious 48 states then my answer would have been over 120 miles off. That station would have been 90.9 FM WJIR. Located on Key West WJIR is a member of the SOS network running primarily satellite fed christian programming.
A mere quarter mile north is the infinitely more interesting WIIS:

So that's the furthest East... can any reader guess which is the furthest west? South or North?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Parallel Evolution & Nathan B. Stubblefield

There is a theory of Parallel evolution that states: In separate but similar environments, similar animals may evolve. A prime example of this Darwinian spin off is the Tasmanian Wolf. It looked and acted very similar to the North American Wolf, but it was a marsupial and therefore more closely related to a rat than a dog. [Eeeeeeeew giant rats] I say looked because it has been extinct since 1936.

So much in that manner, there are historical instances of people claiming to have invented things earlier than the patented or historically known instance. Sometimes this is true, as in the case of "the lost wax process" in ceramics. For thousands of years humans were too uneducated to write things down. Many an idea was lost only to be rediscovered/reinvented later.

There are cases of this in radio. Most of them seem fairly bogus. Here is one that is possible.

Over one hundred and ten years ago, the school Stubblefield experimented at was called, "Nathan B. Stubblefield's Wireless Industrial School, or "Teléph-on-délgreen". That last part is in French so I have no idea what it means.

As the story goes he made his first demonstration in Murray in 1882. (Even Popov didn't claim to have transmitted a radio wave until 1896!) Stubblefield caused distinct vibration tremors of a compass needle and sent a voice between 2 parallel antennas via an low-frequency undamped electric wave dispersion. It was a short distance, but it was wireless.

Through 1913 Stubblefield made an effort to develop and sell his wireless telephone systems through various companies including: The Wireless Telephone Company of America, The Gehring-Fennell-Stubblefield Group, The Continental Wireless TelCompany, The Collins and The Wireless Telephone Company.

Stubblefield's business partners ultimately left him bankrupt. Stubblefield later lived in self-imposed isolation in a crude shelter and, eventually, starved himself to death. Out of bitterness he destroyed every prototype he had ever made. He was buried in the Stubblefield Cemetery in Murray, Kentucky.

The citizens of Murray , Kentucky erected a monument to Stubblefield in 1930. They still call him The Father of Radio.

Read a good piece here:
and here:
I hear the book is great:

Thursday, July 14, 2005

American Indian Radio

As you all well know, once this entire continent belonged to The American Indians. They of course did not call them selves Indians, Native Americans or American anythings actually. My best understanding of the word they used was "human beings"

So, these human beings got a raw deal from the incoming Europeans. These days, the descendants of the survivors, those that have not moved into western culture [note irony of wording] live on reservations. I am sure some of you compulsive gamblers think of all Indians as casino owners and well... that's not exactly accurate. To be blunt, thousands of them live in abject poverty. Needless to say, they do not own many radio stations.

Here I list a few I find exceptional

KIDE 91.3 FM Hoopa, CA. They run at a mere 19 watts but are organized enough to report to trade magazines. Their Music director used to be a man named Jay who was a helluva nice guy.You can check them out here:

KSHI 90.9 Zuni, ND
You can actually hear a show from 1978 here:

KEYA 88.5 FM Belcourt, ND
A 20,000 watt station almost flush against the Canadian border. They run some NPR programming but primarily focus on the local Turtle Mountain Chippewa culture in their native programming.

Below are links to sites that give more complete lists:

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Moving down the dial.

It was only last year that Nassau made the change. WPST then residing on 97.5 in Philly and WTHK then residing on 94.5 in Trenton switched places.

But really what happens when a station moves? The transmitter, the studio, the staff... they don't move anywhere. It's really just the brand that moves. [see prior post mocking brands 6/22]
What happens (in no particular order) is Nassau files a little paper work with the FCC to trade the calls. Because they own both stations this is not a problem. Sometimes, when the calls are not connected to the brand, they dont even bother to do this.

Since both stations are in the same cluster, both studios are usually in the same building. in these cases it's only a matter of reconfiguring some hardware to send the feed of each station to a different transmitter. I am not trying to understate the technical difficulty in this process. I am not exactly a member of the SBE.
But a brand is just intellectual property who's idea was it to move aroud these intangible things like checkers? Well it all started in January of 1977. KUZZ and KZIN-FM officially split on-air at midnight exactly. Prior to that they were running a simulcast. It was the first step in Buck Owens brilliant scheme.

KUZZ 800 AM was now 24-hours, full-time Country music, KZIN 107.9 FM was running rock.

AM stereo was brand new a reality for radio. By 1984 he increased KUZZ’s transmitting power to 5,000 watts and had purchased KAFY 550AM. Then like baseball cards he just traded them. At the time this was an unprecedented move in american broadcasting.

There were many prior cases wherein one station had purchased another’s dial position, but none that had ever exchanged brands outright. proving the concept worked, the KUZZ listening audience moved down the dial to 550 AM right along with the station. Ironicly, by 1988 the slow fade of the FM audience led Buck to change 107.9 back into the simulcast.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Blues Radio format

No other genre of music carries such a rich history. Its the genre that birthed rock n' roll. the genre that records the lives of rural americans. It's the music of our true cultural voice, our own actual Americana.

The music descended from songsters playing a mix of hilbilly music, early country and folk. At no time in our history has Blues ever been a dominant radio format. It's red-headed stepchild rock n' roll was the decendant that first made that jump. Later durring the spread of FM radio the public's new intrest in folk music gave a second life even to long dead artists.

I find it appropriate that today it has returned to the rural southern cities where it began.
Today there are only 4 all-blues radio stations. These are:
WDLT 660 AM Fairhope, AL
WKXI 1400 AM Jackson, MS
WKXY/WROX-AM 92.1/1450 FM Clarksdale, MS

On the bright side there area hundreds of individual blues music programs across America. In fact, It is rare that a city has only one! many have 2 or 3. If you cant find one feel free to ask me.

Monday, July 11, 2005

If you're in New York this weekend...

This is news I feel I must relay to you all.

This weekend, Saturday June 16th the WA2XMN transmitter at the Armstrong Tower in Alpine New Jersey will be active again tune in if you can. The frequency will be 42.8 FM

OK, why should you care?

The alpine New Jersey site is a landmark of American broadcasting. This is the first site that ever broadcast FM. Edwin H Armstong invented FM broadcasting in 1933. His employer RCA was less than interested having been already strongly vested in AM. So in 1937 he did it by himself. Back then FM was 42-50 MHz FM.

This first FM radio station was W2XMN, broadcasting under an experimental license. He eventually built a network of relays taking the signal all the way to New Hampshire. Along the way the calls eventually were changed to KE2XCC and eventually to WFMN.

The fybush tribute to armstong is here:

Friday, July 08, 2005

Spot Loads

Everybody knows that as soon as your station starts an ad break, you start to lose listeners. This is a fact that every sales guy has had to contend with. Bridge ratings did a study they released earlier this year on this very phenomena. The study was not well received. But nobody likes bad news.

The study was limited to a listeners singular "favorite" radio station.

They calculated the actual pace of audience degredation. This estimates how many listeners a radio station had at the end of each ad. Everyone already knew that it dropped off. But nobody knew exactly how fast. This data Exerpted below.

Spot Audience

By the end of the commercial break this station was left with 19% of the audience it brought into the break. remember this was their "favorite" radio station. The secondary listeners probably fade even faster. In similar studies they conducted in eight markets listener attrition occurs at the following rates:

Spot Percent Listener Attrition
3..........................24 %

That's only a 6 spot ad break. I have heard a station's break run 15 or 20 solid minutes of ads! After 15 minutes there cant be anything left but crickets chirping. What's left at 20?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Radio Bites Man

Much more rare than even a case of man bites dog...

Radio towers are often massively tall structures looming harmlessly high above us. Typically they are fenced off, guy wired or otherwise far from where they can pose a danger. But sometimes things can go awry. Being a large mass of metal, radio tower make a bit of a mess when they come down unexpectedly. In the cases where they are in an urban or suburban locale
...they land on other things.

I don't want you to get the idea that this happens all the time. It usually takes something big, like a plane or a tornado to knock one over. Below is a sampling of some of the more significant falls. feel free to volunteer others I am forgetting.

KFI-AM, December 2004.The single-engine Cessna 182 struck the KFI Radio tower about 9:45 a.m. and the tower tumbled to the ground. KFI is off air for a couple hours.

WOBO-FM, August 2002 - Strong winds snapped off the upper two-thirds of a 300-foot radio tower here Sunday afternoon, sending it smashing through the roof of a youth mental health center. No one was in the Wasserman Youth & Adolescent Center at that time, and there were no injuries. The tower damaged one classroom.

WOR-AM, August 1956. After clipping the radio tower and shearing off a wing the plane hit the roof of the an apartment building, destroying the top 2 floors. The pilot and passenger Russell S. Williams (a millionaire oil company executive) were killed.

KOTC-AM, June 2005 The pilot of a crop-dusting plane was killed about 7:45 p.m. Saturday when the plane struck a radio tower near Senath in Dunklin County in the Missouri Bootheel, authorities said. The plane clipped a wire supporting the tower. The tower fall hitting a barn.

WGMX & WYNZ December 2003 A tower formerly visible in Portland along I-295. It collapsed at about 1:30 in the afternoon after a guy wire snapped. It hit no buildings but did hit multiple parked cars. Explain that to your insurance company.

More pictures of squished things here:

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

THE FIRST DJ: Reginald A. Fessenden

To me the first DJ is the first person to broadcast voice AND music over the radio and for more than one person to hear it -a true broadcast.

In an epic moment in 1906 on Christmas Eve Fessenden transmitted the first radio broadcast in history from Brant Rock, Massachusetts. Ships at sea heard a broadcast that included Fessenden playing the song "O Holy Night" on the violin and then reading a passage from the Bible. Prior to this Marconi had transmitted radio signals in 1901. But these were only one-way, and only in Morse Code.

It has been reported that he developed this while working for the national Weather Service. ...That the first occurrence of voice over radio actually happened at Cobb Island in December of 1900. But only one person heard this, his unnamed assistant, NOT a broadcast. His job was to set up telegraph connections for collecting remote weather observations. Like a true geek he instead used the time and effort to explore and actually produce voice over radio.

Did I mention he discovered the Heterodyne principle? By fixing the beat frequency between the incoming carrier and the local oscillator to a fixed intermediate frequency (IF), most of a radio receiver can be constructed so that it can be used by any incoming radio signal. Only the local oscillator is tuned to produce a beat frequency equal to the fixed IF frequency. Before this development, a radio could only be used on ONE FREQUENCY in sending or receiving.

In 1906, Fessenden achieved two-way voice transmission by radio between Scotland and Massachusetts. Like many geniuses the potential for his inventions was not recognized early on and even his own investors weren't interested. His company National Electric Signaling Company (NESCO) was dissolved. A lengthy lawsuit followed.

He worked with Thomas Edison, george Westinghouse, The US Weather Bureau, and was a professor at both Purdue and U. of Penn.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Beautiful Music Radio Format

What a freak show this was...
It starts innocently enough on WDVR near Philadelphia in 1963. Then Music director Jerry Lee created a format that miled the new high fidelity of FM stereo sound. Within four months they were #1 in Philly. Then Jim Schulke arrived on the scene. He was not from radio, he was from TV. But with the ideas he had you'd have thought he was from the CIAs MkUltra department.

Jim Schulke, an ex Paramount TV executive and harvard MBA had this idea. He would design his playlist of Muzak to effect human behavior with through the tempo. The clock was divided into 15 minute music blocks in a process he called "matched flow." modulated the tempo of music to improve work place productivity. It gradually increased tempo from morning until the lunch hour then started the process again after lunch. The point was that each musical peice should flow together like one long song. It was desribed as almost hypnotic. But that was the idea right? And it worked! The TSL (time spent listening) was great, with led to a nice AQH and grat ad rates as well.

Jim Schulke started the company Stereo Radio Productions (SRP) and offerd the above format. His format control was absolute. To be an SRP client the staiton owner had to agree to a number of restraints. There were certain changes to the EQ, and no compression was allowed. They were limited to 6 minutes of ads per hour. Commercials had to be run at a reduced volume. Spots had to be dry read, no bed music. The music they shipped to station was on tape reels, and was also proprietary. major labbels jumped on the fad and well.. you find Living Strings LPs at the salvation army all the time right?

This was a cult. They even beleived that the demographics on a specific SRP station were directly related to the EQ manipulation. More bass for males, less for females... etc.

Shortly after all this set in, Bonneville introduced their own Beautiful music format as did others. The new format providers were not as obsessive about EQ, compression, spot loads or spot volume. This was easier to implement, and equally popular. Of course this was SRP's undoing. If the audio paranoia wasnt related to numbers, why do it? A coalition of independant beautiful music staitons popped up: Independent Beautiful Music Association (IBMA) Some of these were actually in Europe this was branded as "Beautiful Hits." It was about then that Cox bought SRP. This was 1978, there were hundreds of these stations. As many formats do, it reached some form of critical mass and the statiosn shifted their formats away from each other. New formats cropped up. Smooth Jazz, Sunny, Soft AC, Easy Listening, Magic, Soft Hits... etc.

WOEZ 88.3 Knoxville, TN
WKTZ 90.9 Jacksonville, FL
WMUU 94.5 Greenville, SC

NOTE: about 5 years ago some christian music stations began co-opting the branding.

Friday, July 01, 2005

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

This one is by memory so bear with me...
The Vegas Lounge format, is not quite Triple A and not quite Nostalgia. They mix the obvious casino-crooners: Sinatra, Dean martin, Sammy Davis Jr., etc. with a cross-over mix from a respectable Triple A: Ben Folds Five, Michael Buble, Norah Jones etc.

Then just out of sheer balls they mix in the rejects from that 1990s swing revival: cherry poppin daddies, big voodoo daddy, Brian setzer etc. The mix is eccentric, but it works. On the same radio dial that spawned Jack-FM, the jump from Etta James to Norah Jones isn't an impasse. The format is young, cool and I like it.

WRDA has had the higest profile by far within the format, but I think KKZZ-AM was actually the first to debut it. Great related article here:

There are ONLY three stations braving the waters of this format.
WRDA 104.1 FM St. Louis, MO
KKZZ, 1590AM Ventura, CA
WTRI-AM 1520
*thanks to Scott Tilde for the correction