Friday, October 01, 2010

Ship-to-Ship DJ

In the May 29, 1961 issue of Billboard I found this single paragraph that piqued my curiosity. It was titled "Ship-to-ship Jock." Today we're more apt to use the term DJ, but "jock" is still part of the vernacular. The blurb reads in part:
"Robert Heyden, now on duty under the Naval Reserve Program on the U.S.S. Aucilla (AO-56), is the ship's deejay and pipes music throughout the ship each night on a program called "Heyden-Go-Round-Of-Sound." He needs new singles and LP's. heyden, who worked at WCMW, Canton, Ohio, during his Senior year of high school plans to go back into radio when he gets out of the Navy in 1963...Disks should be sent care fo the Fleet Post Office New York, N.Y."
1060 WCMW-AM was founded in 1946 by Stark Broadcasting which also launched WCMW-FM on 94.9 about the same time. The calls stand for Where Canton Meets the World.  The FM station floundered and went off the air in 1953. In 1961 the 1060 frequency became WHOF-AM, and continued on as a Top-40 station into the 1960s. (Interesting fact, the faux-Arab WWF wrestling manager Abdullah Farouk was actually Ernie Roth, a WCMW DJ.)

With the time frame and the scant data, I have no way to know if Hayden worked at the AM the FM or both. But it's not a story that is unfamiliar to me.  I met a vet who runs an antique mall down on Delmarva who ran a small radio operation on a ship and all he had was a microphone and the AFRN transcription LPs.  I've heard other similar stories elsewhere. they were usually gear-heads who could do their own wiring, soldering and build parts either from scratch or from kits. Hayden relied on the staff electricians to wire up a speaker system to carry programming around the ship. More here.

The USS Aucilla was built in 1943 and was scrapped on 25 October 1992 after almost 50 years of service.It was a was a Ashtabula-class fleet oiler; it's assignment was to provide liquids, such as fuel or water, to ships in the forward battle areas. In 1960, when Heyden woudl presumably have been aboard, it operated in the vicinity of Norfolk then at the end of January it was assigned to the Mediterranean Sea for 7 months in support of 6th Fleet. It returned to Norfolk in August.  On May 15th 1961 it was send back to the Mediterranean Sea for another 14 weeks. In September 1961 it returned to Norfolk for an overhaul. 

Hayden wrote to Billboard and bragged that at full volume his was audibel a quarter mile from the deck speakers and that he was listened to on other nearby ships. This is clearly while docked in Norfolk. I only hope he survived well, and that in the 1961 overhaul his speaker system wasn't dismantled. It he's alive today he'd be in his late 70s. I'm hoping I might be lucky enough to hear from some of the crew from that era. I like to think some of the record labels actually serviced him. More here.