Friday, February 17, 2006

The God-Button

In 1951 Pierre Schaeffer began experimenting with a Morphophone tape deck. The model had 12 playback heads and was not the first source of reverb, but perhaps the first one that made it easy. [Les Paul did not invented Reverb] The God Button, that source of massive instant echo appeared in radio soon after. As FM radio became more popular, so did reverb on AM. It was some kind of defense mechanism to the "clearer" sound of mono FM. But now, the sound that was once so prevalent has has dwindled. SAMPLE HERE

These days I only hear reverb on talker 101.5 WKXW and simulcast WIXM. And WRLL-AM in Chicago...

But we all know who did it best. WABC-AM also was big on the god-button in its hey-day. WABC's trademark sound was its unmistakable use of reverb. They layer4ed it on everything, the jocks and the songs all sounded like they were being played in an auditorium. But as odd as it sounds now, the effect was technically effective; it made transistor sets, car radios and portables sound great. And rock-star Djs of the day like Alan Feed and Chuck Leonard knew it.
The reverb didnt echo forever though. They were the greatest top 40 radio station in history. It's 50,000 watt PM signal, WABC was able to reach at least two thirds of the nation. When WABC flipped talk on May 10, 1982 some well-intending engineer killed the effects pedal.

Another reverb king was Chicago's WLS-AM. Their reverb was legendary. DJ's voices like John Landecker bounced off studio walls with almost comic effect. They didnt turn down the reverb until 1982. They held out a long time. 94.7 WLS-FM was even more reveb soaked in that era as they were running a very 70's prog rock format. Psychedelic DJ's like Spoke and larry Lujack cranked it up absurdly.

There are of course, other members of reverb royalty. Among them: WQXI-AM Atlanta, WCFL-AM Chicago, KKHR-AM Los Angeles and many others. If anyone knows of a station that's still cranking the reverb dial please let me know.