Friday, April 29, 2011

Delaware Valley Radio Ephemera

This is an odd one. This is some kind of business card for C.H. Davis, Inc a stereo and television store in Ardmore, PA. Inexplicably the store still exists today, just a few blocks away from the junk shop where I bought the book that contained the card; presumably as a book mark. But this is an old card. They were still selling portable radios and phonographs when this card was made.I do notice there are no Am stations listed. That indicates that it's after 1960 —during the ascension of FM.

The call changes can narrow the date of this scrap of paper. Some isn't helpful.  WJBR is still on 99.5 unchanged since 1956. WPEN became WMGK only in 1975. WFIL only became WIOQ in 1971.We know it's older than that.  92.5 FM was WIFI back then and is WXTU now. They changed format from pop to country before 1984. WIP-FM hasn't been on 93.3 since 1965, after which it has been WMMR. On 93.7 these days we have WSTW, it hasn't been WDEL-FM since abotu 1966. (WDEL-AM remains on 1150.) WFLN-FM is now WBEN, it only dropped the heritage FLN calls in 2006. WHAT-FM also changed calls in the late 1960s when it dropped it's jazz format. 98.1 FM is now WOGL as it has been since 1987. Back in the 1960s WCAU-FM  was simulcasting MOR with WCAU-AM 

WSNJ-FM 98.1 helps narrow the date a bit. That station signed on in 1946 as WSNJ. (FYI: Wikipedia incorrectly dates that to 1961) What happened in 1961 was that WSNJ swapped calls with 107.7 WPBS. they had already been on air for 5 years.  They changed calls to WUSL in 1976. WSNJ remained on 107.7 until about 8 years ago. So, it had to be printed before 1961 the date of that call swap and after 1956 the date WJBR signed on. (Math corrected by Fybush)

WXPN, WHYY and WRTI are about all where they were even if the programming has changed a lot. WHYY has a typoed frequency. But WPWT is more of a mystery. they were a share-time with WKDU on 91.7 from the1950s into the 1980s. I hear they were a crazy psychedelic hippie station. I'd love to hear an aircheck.  I'll have to write a post about them sometime.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Voice-O-Graph Labelography (Part 4)

This is my fourth update to my Voice-O-Graph Labelography project. This time I have added a Red-On-Blue variant of their late 1940s label. I's very similar to the Red-on-Beige and the Red-on-Yellow labels. While the dates are more-or-less consecutive they also date to a very tight range. I suspect that they were manufactured concurrently and not consecutively.
Red on Yellow: 1943 - 1947
Red on Beige: 1946 - 1948
Red on Blue: 1947

I thought I was down to one more type, but it turns out there are at least two more types which I am still documenting including one that probably date to the early 60s. This list is not complete, and continues to grow. Hopefully this can serve as a bit of a labelography for future use. Below I describe, label, and date each type of Mutoscope made disc as fully as possible with all dates I've encountered. I will continue to update this post so it may be used for reference.

Black on Green: Years:1951, 1955




Blue on Blue: Year: 1948





Red on Yellow: Years: 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947






Black On Red: 1948





Red on Beige: 1946, 1948





Mutoscope Black Label: (45 rpm) Years????





Black on White (45 rpm) 1957, 1959





GEM Mutoscope Disc:Years: 1945?





Empire State Observations Mutoscope Disc: Partial post mark to 1953? Last digit unclear.  Patent Number 2600573 dates to 1946.





Red Top on Yellow: Years (unknown)








Yellow on Yellow: Years 1964




Red On Blue: Years 1947


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ripley's Believe It or Not Radio

Robert L. Ripley was a natural showman and a great teller of tales, some true some not. He gave his own birth date variably, anywhere between 1890 and 1893 and usually on Christmas. He lied about his education, stuttered and his first name wasn't even Robert. It was used a pseudonym. His real name was Leroy Ripley and he was born in 1890,  beleive it or not. His daily comic  was carried by over 300 newspapers in 33 countries a circulation of 33 million. Because of this, we all know about the comic, they've been collected in books and rerun for decades. What's been forgotten was he had his own  radio show from 1930 to 1948.

Several firsts in broadcasting are attributed to him. He was supposedly the first to broadcast nationwide from the middle of the ocean. He was also ostensibly the first to broadcast from Buenos Aires to New York. Less credibly he claimed to have been the first to broadcast to every nation in the world simultaneously.  It's a outlandish claim made by a man in the business of outlandish claims.

In April of 1930, "Ripley's Believe It or Not" debuted on radio.  At first it was a bit on the The Collier Hour. Before the month was out Colonial Beacon Oil was sponsoring a 15-minute NBC program on Monday nights.Then from 1931 to 1932 his series aired twice a week sponsored now by Esso. In 1933 his routine was added to Benjamin Albert Rolfe's Saturday Night Variety program, aka the Rolfe Show, aka Rolf's Party. Here the format changed to become more dramatic. Rolfe's orchestra added ambiance and Rolfe did color and play-by-play. Ripley now drinking to calm his nervous stutter just did the introductions.

Ripley was the host of the Baker's Broadcast from 1935 to 1937 replacing former host Joe Penner, and interim host Edgar Bergen. The program ran on Sunday nights on the NBC Blue Network. It was at the end of that era that be began doing live remotes.  His program See America First with Bob Ripley ran from 1939 into 1940 on CBS. It too exploited the live remote format.

He went from there to the Mutual Network. Starting in 1944 he was on five nights a week. That faded and he jumped back to CBS with an ill-fated program "Romance, Rhythm and Ripley." That lasted less than a year being dropping in early 1946. In 1947 they recast him in his more comfortable surroundings "Pages from Robert L. Ripley's Radio Scrapbook " That show ran from 1947 to 1948.  The program ended in 1948, primarily because he was moving on to television. The TV show, though promising, ended a year later because he died.  Jack Palance hosted a later version of the TV program. If you want to know more, Bob Considine wrote a great biography Ripley, the modern Marco Polo.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Transcription Mystery Disc #119

This is an 8-Inch 78 rpm Wilcox-Gay Recordio. At some point I'll have to make a labelography of these as well. Phonozoic did a nice job, but like most thinks that are free, it's incomplete. This one has no date, no artist and has an outer edge start. Speaking of Phonozoic, he refers to this species of disc as Wilcox-Gay Recordio Type 5B, black lacquer. His sole date is 1951, I have also seen 1949, 1950 and 1952 so that puts a reasonable bracket on the age. But there it ends, It's an instrumental piano piece and it vaguely resembles the Irish Wedding dance but also the Mexican Hat dance. I'm stumped this week.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive

When I first stumbled across the website I was immediately reminded of the book Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky. There is something very heroic about trying to save culture and history. Since culture is not static, the only way to save it is by preserving media: books, photographs, art, and recordings. What Lansky did for books, Professor Alex Hartov of the Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive is doing for recordings. Professor Hartov was kind enough to spare some of his time and answer a few questions.

JF: So tell me, what exactly are you a professor of?
AH: I am a professor of engineering sciences as they call it here. I was trained as an electronics engineer.  I taught until recently, a class in electronic instrumentation and also image processing. The research that I do is in biomedical engineering. I do instrumentation for medical imaging.

JF: Do you have any background at all in radio as an engineer?
AH: No I never did anything with radio broadcasting. I always had a strong interest in ham radio and international shortwave and so forth but never worked in that field. I understand it pretty well from the technical point of view and the production point of view.

JF: So it's just a coincidence that you turn out to be the savior of so much radio history?
AH:Coincidence perhaps, but I have an interest in audio technology and a fascination with old recordings and preserving old sounds. Even though I'm an engineer it feels very much like magic that you can hear peoples voices who have been long dead.

JF: I read you are a sound collector. What do you collect?
AH: I certainly collect records and recordings. Sometimes I'll find stuff that people recorded themselves in the form of discs. There was a period of time you could cut discs in various places. Later, people recorded on discs at home, there were home appliances that would cut records. Those are interesting to me. It could be music they taped off the radio or somebody talking about their adventures on vacation. I usually seek those anonymous home made recordings. I have found a number that are quite interesting: some cantorial practice, and some radio checks from various sources. It's hard to categorize. I myself go around recording people who let me.

JF: Can you give me an example?
AH: I have done some interviews. When I was in Israel I interviewed some older folks there. I have an interview from some Yemenite folks who were in the airlift that took place in 1949. I have a number of interesting anecdotal recordings like that. ...I have a number that I've put on the site.

JF: Do you accept any modern recordings into the archive?
AH: Well it depends. We have deliberately set out to be an archive of impossible to find material, but of course impossible-to-find is relative. Much of what was made on LP can be found on CDs. We bracket the sound era from the beginnings of recorded sound to the end of the LP era. Anything that's put out on CD we don't deal with except for what is historically significant or possibly a reissue of hard to find stuff —like the Vernadsky Archive in Ukraine. We have their CDs with their permission I might add. That's one of our rules. If it's on CD we ask before permission before putting that online.

JF: Any other rules about what goes in the archive?
AH: We're not discriminating in terms of what we put online. I mean by this that it could be humor it could be in bad taste, it could be very serious material that only scholars would be interested in listening to or it could be entertainment. As long as it has some relevance to Jewish history and culture we are takers.

JF:I understand you have some radio transcriptions in the archive. 
AH: Yes that's true we have quite a number of those.What happened is that there used to be a radio show in the Boston are called the Joseph Tall hour. It broadcast for quite a long time. Joseph Tall was my wife's grandfather on her mother's side. He was her mother's step-father—that's the lineage. He he had this show on some time in the late 1920's. It was a Yiddish program that played every day on one of the local stations.
JF: I think that was on 1510 WMEX-AM. 
AH: That's possible, yeah. I got some of the details from Larry Tall, who was related. The show evolved into a weekly broadcast and at some point turned into English. It continued like that I'm told until 1973 when they shut down. Over the years obviously they accumulated a sizable record collection and they themselves on occasion would make recordings. I got a lot of those records from Eddie Gilman who was the last person that ran the program.It was in his house and just sort of rotting away in the basement. I took an interest and asked Eddie and his wife if I could borrow the records and transfer them to a digital form and listen to it. They were happy that I took an interest so they let me have it.

JF: How big is the archive now?
AH: The archive has approximately 31,000 items in it.

JF: It's a physical archive too, not just the digital archive online?
AH: that is correct. I have the records on shelves being preserved for the long term.

JF: How did an Engineering Professor end up in charge of the archive. 
AH: It's not a project that came out of any particular department at Dartmouth. It was my creation in the sense that after I had accumulated some number of transfers that I did from the records I got from Eddie Gilman I actually took an interest in that material and thought about what we can do with that. Some people suggested I look into the commercial end of things and do re-releases. But that's not my bag. I was not interested in that at all. I talked with a faculty member here in the Asian and Middle-Eastern Languages Department. He also teaches courses in the Jewish Studies section here. His name is Lewis Glinert. He's a professor and he's quite well-versed in Hebrew letters and modern Israeli society. He's the one who said we should probably post that on a website where people can access the materials.

His experience as a scholar in Jewish Studies is that it's very difficult to access audio materials from a library if you cant go there. Basically audio material is not circulated —and for understandable reasons. It's fragile; it's a physical media that if damaged, is no good anymore. Books are a lot more resilient in comparison. He thought this was a good way to bypass that problem —just make it available on the site. Since we were doing this under the umbrella of Dartmouth we asked the College what their thought was on it. After discussing that with college council we came up with an arrangement that the college was definitely enthusiastic about. As long as we have certain ground rules regarding who can access that material so as to not violate copyright. Now we've been in business since 2002.

JF:  Have you ever tried to work with other archives of Jewish recordings?
AH: At one time we thought of entering into some collaboration. That didn't pan out in large part I think because there were some issues as to who would be responsible if we were found to have violated copyright law. There was some anxiety on the part of the respective institutions... there were some cold feet. Keep in mind this was taking place in the days of Napster. People were just giving away thousands of MP3 files to each other. There was a sensitivity to the matter that is understandable.

JF: Where do you stand on the current state of Copyright law?
AH: It's outdated in many ways. Not even considering the pre-972 stuff and orphan material, the way it's conceived of right now is a relic of the days when manufacturing the material pretty much gave you a monopoly on it. It was extremely hard to reproduce. Today reproduction is cheaper than manufacturing by a long shot.

JF: How does the archive work?
AH: It's basically in large part a volunteer project. It's me and Lewis. Dartmouth has been very generous in supporting us by paying work study students to do some of the work.  Largely the digitization I do myself. I sometimes have students working on adding material online and working out the website maintenance.

JF: Do you take volunteers from off campus?
AH: It's not something that's easy to manage. That's the problem. One form of volunteering that I have benefited from in the past is people sending me transfers or sending me records from their own collections. Other than that I haven't been able to count much on volunteers. People do send a lot of records.

JF: Do you ever solicit for materials you want to add?
AH: As you know in order to get access to our archive, if you are not on the Dartmouth network, you need a username and password. When I review those requests I sometimes spot somebody who might be of interest and I ask them if they have their own recordings. One example of this is Gary Bart who is the grandson of Jan Bart who made a lot of cantorial and Yiddish recordings. He had a lot of the test pressings, studio cuts and tapes that his grandfather did. He didn't know what to do with it, so he gave them to me. I have quite a bit of that sort of material that you won't find anywhere else.


JF: Do you have a long term goal for the Archive?
AH: I hope it will last as long as I'm around and past that. From the institution's point of view it's quite simple. They're willing to perpetuate the site in it's current form or any future form it may have —as long as there is demand for it. They don't have any plans for shutting us down. I had reassurance of that recently in fact. One thing they are hesitant about is housing the physical records and that's understandable because that is a fairly great expense. My long term plan for that, if Dartmouth eventually decides not integrate it into their library, will be simply to donate them to FAU [Florida Atlantic Univeristy Judaica Sound Archives]. They apparently have long term plans to maintain their Judaica Archives. I already put that in my will actually.

JF: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
AH: If there are any folks interested in getting involved in a more direct way, or have expertise and are willing to help we can arrange something. More here: Dartmouth Jewish Sound Archive.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Skip Pop Scratch again

I wrote about the radio program Skip Pop Scratch on 1190 KVCU-AM way back in 2005 just a few months after beginning this blog.That would normally have been the end of it, since the show is no more. But I just found two aircheck tapes for that program. I feel compelled to add a little something extra to the legacy of this unsung show. With thanks to the Wayback Machine at Archive.org I was able to revisit some random stops in the programs history. It's hard to peg a start date for the show. Their website was launched no later than 2002, but some references go back to 1999. Her own website (also defunct) described the program
"Skip Pop Scratch is three hours of blues, folk and country broadcast on Radio 1190, KVCU Boulder, Colorado from 10 - 1 pm mountain time. It can be heard on 1190 am along the front range in Colorado (roughly between Ft. Collins and Castle Rock.)"
Like many colorful radio programs on many small college radio stations in the country it has come to pass. KVCU-AM is still there, but the host of Skip Pop Scratch, Kathy E. Gatliffe has moved on. She is no longer at KVCU, and no hosts her masterful 3-hour program and longer DJs the monthly Denver Barn Dance at the Mercury Cafe. In September of 2003 she had a co-host "Danny" but he was gone from the website early the following year. The last time the website was updated was October 2006. I presume that was somewhere around the final airdate. In 2007 there's a note about switching servers and a link to some audiobook recordings she did for Librivox.org

KVCU-AM is a small station, they don't go dark at night, but they do power down to a mere 110 watts. Few people outside the Boulder community were able to hear her program. They don't know what they're missing. So, to that end I'm sharing a couple segments from my aircheck tape. I've edited out the music, I'm afraid copyright law won't permit more than that. Enjoy:
December 15th 2002 - Skip Pop Scratch

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Goodrich Silvertown Orchestra

Today B.F. Goodrich is just a brand of tires marketed by the French-based company Michelin. The original Goodrich was an all-American company founded in 1870 in Akron, Ohio. back then, B.F. Goodrich was also a man, Benjamin Franklin Goodrich. Goodrich died at the age of 46, in 1888.  So by the time the company was advertising on radio, he had nothing to do with it except for his surname... which continues to be used to this day.

He didn't live to see it but the Goodrich Silvertown Orchestra bore his name into broadcasting.   It was a musical variety radio show. The band was actually the Joseph Knecht's Orchestra aka The Waldorf Astoria Dance Orchestra. At the Waldorf, it was directed by Joseph Knecht from approximately 1908 to 1925. The chronology is a bit uncertain. The Waldorf Astoria Dance Orchestra was broadcasting on WEAF-AM from the Rose Room at the hotel before the Goodrich Variety Program ever aired. The Washington Post wrote of a performance in February 1923, they were doing performances on WJZ-AM before that. But all catalogs note he departed in 1925, that's the same time they began their sponsorship from Goodrich. Nonetheless he is definitely on record with the band via Victor Records. The earliest of these was 1917, the latest of those were recorded in 1927.  I assume the oft-given 1925 date is wrong. At the very least his performance affiliation long outlasted his on air. More here.

The staff crooner, Joe White had also been on WEAF-AM since at least 1923. White had begun as a masked character with a silver aluminum Zorro-mask. It was campy but it was popular. In 1925 they began their weekly broadcasts as The Goodrich Silvertown Orchestra, sometimes billed as The Goodrich Silvertown Cord Orchestra.The Orchestra's theme music was "Her Waltz" by Arthur Johnston. The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio states they also were called the Silvertown Zippers, The Goodrich Zippers and The Silvertown Quartet.  This one-hour Thursday night format lasted until 1926 after the formation of NBC. NBC moved them to Wednesdays.

They stayed on Wednesday nights into 1928. That ensemble was focused on a smaller banjo-oriented group which was apparently the aforementioned Zippers. By then there syndicated on the NBC network, at the time that included WEEI, WEAF, WCCO, WGN, WCAE, WJAR, WTAG, KSD, WOC, WGR, WFI, WWJ, WSM, and WADC. Rolfe was an odd character, a film-maker who quit the biz after 5 years and then went into vaudeville. Before he resurrected the Zippers for Goodrich he'd run another group, B.A. Rolfe and his Lucky Strike Orchestra. He recorded with them for Edison in 1928.
The book Sold on Radio by Jim Cox notes that after the Silvertown Zippers, Goodrich was hands-off with radio for a long time. They Sponsored one more program in 1930 "Uncle Abe And David" (also on NBC.)  Then they stayed out of radioland for 15 years.  In 1945 they picked up the sponsorship of "Detect And Collect" a zany quiz show that had just moved from CBS to ABC. It lasted one year and they went back to tires.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

BAM BAM BAM

740 WMSP-AM, like many heritage stations, went through various incarnations over the last half century. they've only been WMSP since 1995. They first went live in 1953 as WBAM-AM, the station broadcast country music. In their heyday they were what's called a blow torch. They operated at 50,000 watts.

The original owner, the Brennan family (aka Deep South Broadcasting) sold out to Colonial Broadcasting. they flipped calls the following year to WLWI-AM. Then they applied to cut the juice to 10,000 watts. It was a big step down. Today they run sports talk under the WMSP calls. I really see that sale to Colonial as their fall from greatness. They diminished in both market significance and actual measurable ERP. On September 15, 2009 the building the original studio was located in was demolished.

In the era of their ascendancy 740 WBAM-AM, was known as "The Big Bam." In 1965 they had to petition the FCC to stop a power increase by 730 WKTG-AM in Thomasville, GA.  Being on the first adjacent, a power increase from 1,000 watts to 5,000 is concerning. The FCC didn't claim that it would cause no interference, only that it would cause "trivial" interference. The Brennan family didn't agree and when they were denied them the right to appeal, they sued. They sued the FCC, not WKTG. The court granted them the appeal that the FCC had denied them. More here.  They then lost that appeal at the FCC. Not very sporting. It was just salt in the wound that WKTG was a country station, and in that lost overage they were a direct competitor.

In February of 1973, Billboard published an article titled "WBAM goes 100% Country." PD Cyril Brennan, informed Billboard that previously they had been playing country before 7:00 AM then popular music after. This was the tail end of their Top-40 era. They were a late comer to country music. Cyril was PD even as late as 1979, Mrs.Frances was GM. He models the new format after WYDE-AM in Birmingham. (It's interesting to note that the Brennan family also owned WAPE in Jacksonville, FL and the Vulcan tower company.)

The lasting legacy of the Big Bam is in Country Music.  This is best exemplified by The Deep South Jamboree. It aired saturday Nights beginning in about 1954, when they were still just country music part-time, they launched the Jamboree.  It was hosted by Shorty Sullivan. If you care to look him up, his backing band was The Green Valley Boys. In Montgomery in that era Shorty was big business. He MC'd shows that drew over 10,00 people. Pat Boone, Tex Ritter, Eddie Hill and many others. The earliest reference to Shorty and WBAM I can find is from early 1954. He guested on Fred Wamble's Country & Western show. The relationship is unclear but Wamble was still at BAM in 1957, so my assumption is that Shorty was more of a co-host and bandleader. More here.

He was on WVOK-AM in Birmingham as late as 1952.  before that is uncertain but there was a Fred U. Wamble on KGVO-AM in Missoula Montana in 1942. It's an uncommon name, it might be him.  Fred also was signed to MGM in 1956 and cut at least one single "Let's Don't Wait/ Since My True Love Said Goodbye" shortly thereafter.  The last we've heard from him was in 1966.  Fred Wamble was elected President of the Hank Williams Memorial Assoc. 740 AM in Montgomery is an ESPN affiliate today.WKTG changed calls half a dozen times and is now WSTT-AM airing Gospel music.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Transcription Mystery Disc #38

This 6-Inch disc simply is labeled "Boyd" on one side, and not at all on the other. No date, no other names. It starts at the outer edge, and spins at 78 rpm.  The recording is of a speech, that from it's cadence is clearly read from the page. It's unusual ,but I was able to find the document from which it is read. If you need to read the whoel fo the original you can find it here.  My recording is just a portion of the full text as quoted below... It's intended to be crude, but is tame by modern standards.
"If we cannot get it through our organization, then we will get it through a combination, or both if necessary. We refuse to be poked in the gallery any longer, and insist on the floor of the house. We are willing to look up to the men, but we don't want to be forced or held down without making a few motions of our own. We want to hold up our end and show men our possibilities. Whenever anything arises that will fill our expectations, nothing that comes up can be too hard for us.  Never when anything arose that required our presence and attention have we failed to come, again and again, if the occasion required..."
It turns out to be  a old, bawdy monologue. It is a form of "party" i.e. bachelor party entertainment that probably predates recordings entirely. The Horntip website has multiple versions, all probably stolen from some much older original document. Of his 4 versions 2 are undated The others are from 1976, 1949 and 1945.



My best guess is that despite the timelessness of the document the recording dates to a time of greater circulation of the piece. So I'd estimate Between 1945 and 1949, the two earlier printed copyrights. Phonozoic calls this Wilcox-Gay Type 1A. It's noted by the presence of the "Slow Burning" designation. The Phonozoic reference disc dates to 1944 which is completely congruous with my estimate base on the Jack Horn Collection.

Monday, April 18, 2011

INTERVIEW: Dick Yash

Dick Yash still sounds and acts every bit the radio man. His voice is smooth and he can jump from topic to topic mentally keeping track of every idea on the table.  He still loves polka and still loves radio. He's still an aficionado and he has two sons who both are also champions in the polka arena. One is playing with a Grammy award winning Polka band out of Massachusetts: The Maestro's Men. His second son is with a polka band called the Boys From Baltimore. They appeared in the movie He Said She Said. He's one of those compelling, endearing figures that you start rooting for immediately. Dick's been thinking about getting a radio show again and so we all hope for his triumphant return to the airwaves.

He spared a little time last week to explain his radio career which is best described as careening around the radio dial. I don't think I have his story completely straight yet, but here's my best shot.

JF: Why is Polka your dish?
It was being brought up in a home of Czechoslovakians parents. It was way back when we started listening on the radio to Victor and Sophie Zembruski. Back in the fifties the main fixture was that husband and wife team. They lived in Naugatuck, CT. They had three radio shows, 1320 WATR-AM in Waterbury, 690 WADS-AM Ansonia and I don't remember the third. I started listening to Victor and Sophie when I was a toddler, every Sunday was a ritual in my house. By doing that I got a love of that music. I'm still rocking away even at my age.  [The Zembruski's daughter was still hosting that show in 2008, I'll post on them another time]

JF: Was 1500 WFIF-AM your first gig in radio?
My longest venture was at WFIF in Milford, we opened up the station. A gentlemen out of New York came in and got the license from the FCC. I was there from day one. We were a country radio station operating from the Connecticut Post shopping center. I floated during the week as a country DJ, 15-years worth. management asked me and I had the proud pleasure of MC-ing the Johnny Cash show. He was appearing at the coliseum. My last gig was at WADS-AM in Ansonia. I retired from WADS in 1991.

JF: When were you at WNHC-AM?
 I was there for about 2 years in the late seventies. 

JF: Did you have any other gigs in radioland?
1450 WNAB-AM in Bridgeport was one of my first gigs. Remember that station?  WNAB-AM now is out of Tennessee, but back then in the dark ages, out of Bridgeport. We were on Broad Street, the third floor. It was a 250 watts at that time. That was my very first job in radio way back when. That was in 1961. The largest one I was on was 1300 WAVZ-AM in New Haven. I was a a newsman there for a very short period of time. I would say that was around 1968-1969. I got my big break from Dick Alexander. Just one of the nicest gentlemen you'd ever want to meet. he had an evening show there, 7:00 PM to Midnight and that's how I got my start there. ...He said "Dick, there's a newscast that I do at 8:00 would you like to do it?"  He later went from there to 1530 WDJZ-AM. I eventually wound up there too. I was like a race car driver. I had many pit stops.

JF: When were you at 1530 WDJZ-AM?
I started at WDJZ-AM in 1980-something. I had a Polka show.

JF:  What was your connection to Joe Twarog?
Joe and I became friends just through other friends and Joe had a nine piece band. I got to know them very well and they'd appear on my radio show often. In turn a little gratis came up. Would you like to be on one of our albums if you wouldn't mind writing up something... I said sure. Before I knew it, there I was with my horn rim glasses on the back of the album. I think he's now in Florida.

JF: Well, you can't polka forever.
No, but I did for about 30 some odd years starting in 1961. I was at WNHU-FM The college in West Haven. [University of New Haven] I had a Saturday morning from sign-on I think 6:00 AM. Three hours worth of polka. That lasted for a brief period of time. I was also, to show you how diversified... my second job was at WWCO-AM after WNAB-AM. I was hired as a DJ doing rock music.  They at that point went 24 hours and they asked me if I wanted to do Midnight to 5:00 AM. I said sure. There I went,  from Polka to Rock; changing my name to Dick Nash.

Do you think still about getting a show somewhere local?
I am at a point in life that I would love to do it but I need 109 and a half people to get out and push me. If I had about a million bucks I could always buy a station.

Friday, April 15, 2011

DJ Judge Rutherford

I generally assume that any group that shows up on my doorstep proselytizing and/or evangelizing is a group to be avoided. I find this particular type of performance art to be patronizing, moderately offensive and highly obnoxious. So as a result I knew nothing of the Jehovah's Witnesses. It is only recently I learned about their early use of radio.

Judge Joseph Frederick Rutherford was the third president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and by connection he played a big role in the early development of the Jehovah's Witnesses group. They were founded loosely in the 1870s. His involvement began in the 1890s and was on their board of directors by 1916. He became their president in 1917. (They didn't even adopt the name Jehovah's Witnesses until 1931 before that they were just the IBSA.) He and several directors was arrested on charges of sedition under the Espionage Act in 1918 for the contents of a book they published that year. It may sound far fetched but they were advocating that draftees refuse their orders, which is a form of obstructing the war draft. Pacifism and passive resistance was received very poorly in WWI by the authorities.

They were released from the Atlanta Penitentiary on bail in 1919 after 8 months and charges were dropped in 1920. After being released from prison he began writing and publishing again. But do remember that arrest, some people really had it in for Rutherford. Pastor Charles T. Russel writes of a newspaper article that records what is probably the first broadcast by Rutherford. It was on April 16th 1922 at the Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia, PA. The Howlett referred to below is Thomas F. J. Howlett, the founder of WGL-AM. Those calls were assigned in February of 1922. It was the first Philadelphia broadcast license. "Howlett station" is Thomas F. J. Howlett, the founder of WGL-AM. Those calls were assigned in February of 1922. It was the first Philadelphia broadcast license. More here.
“Judge Rutherford’s Lecture Broadcasted from Metropolitan Opera House. Talks into Transmitter. Message is Carried Over Miles of Bell Telephone Wires to Howlett’s Station.”
In 1923 his group bought the equipment from the decommissioned 740 WDT-AM and began building WBBR. (no connection to the modern Bloomberg station) In those early days they did live on-air baptisms.  Rutherford stepped up the evangelizing  in 1924 with the launch of a 15-minute radio program which was initially on WBBR-AM, based on Staten Island. I use the word "initially" with cause. In 1927, the FCC subsumed WBBR-AM to the benefit of WJZ-AM pulling the station out from under him. It was big enough news Time Magazine wrote about it:
"At was at a hearing of the Federal Radio Commission in Washington. The commission had given the radio wave length of WBBR, Judge Rutherford's station, to WJZ of the National Broadcasting Co., and had refused to allocate any wave length to WBBR. WBBR was considered an unessential station. That was complot, cried Judge Rutherford."
WBBR-AM had signed on in 1924 at 1230 kHz. By 1927 they were sharing with WJBI-AM, WLTH-AM and WEBJ-AM on 1170. The book Airwaves Of New York recorded that his organization owned seven stations including ones in Chicago, IL, Oakland, CA and CKCX in Toronto. In mid-1924 CHUC in Saskatoon signed on. It was followed by CHCY in Edmonton, and CFYC in Vancouver. In Canada the Radio Branch began to receive complaints about IBSA stations. Some regarded technical problems, they caused interference, frequency drift etc, but most were about content: primarily their denigration of other faiths but also their opposition to canned goods, and specifically their deranged opposition to vaccination. Several IBSA stations licenses were canceled in Canada in 1928. They viewed this as another conspiracy.

Despite setbacks the network grew.  In September of 1928 he was broadcasting on a network of 53 stations and by mid august the network included 96 stations, which at the time was a record. He used this accomplishment to goad other religious broadcasting groups and Merlin Hall Aylesworth of NBC. With his grandstanding in some ways it becomes unsurprising that regulators took a dislike to him. So when WBBR lobbied to share time with WJZ, in 1927 they were told no and relegated to share time with 3 other stations. They had the frequency from 6:00 AM to 8;00 AM  weekdays, and 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM Tuesday to Friday.

When the Witnesses didn't own the station, they bought airtime. He bought airtime on half a dozen different New York stations. As Rutherford attacked other religions sometimes he was banned from individual stations. Ostensibly it was was his attacks on the clergy that resulted in bans by both NBC and BBC radio networks. But it is just as likely that he was also making a repeat performance of his WWI "seditious" comments. In teaching pacifism, and opposing nationalism and jingoism he made enemies. Specifically in wartime that causes tension. But in Canada their licenses were not renewed on 4 stations specifically because of derogatory comments about other clergy. His accusations of theocracy in government went over badly.

Nonetheless his network grew even without WBBR. Eventually this grew via a network to as many as 480 radio stations (a ludicrous number) depending on what source you favor. In the Watchtower publication Face The Facts from 1938 they put the number at 118 stations. In his own text, The Fifth Column from 1940 he estimated 240 stations in the network.  I have never found a complete verifiable list, but a newspaper clipping I found from 1934 includes to following much shorter list of 114 stations. Several things of note on the list.  they are still on WIP after almost 15 years.  I also find it interesting that it lists Cuba but not Canada. It may have been a targeted mailing or maybe they'd been run out of Canada by then. Full list below the break...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kid Smith on Station WINC

This is a song booklet for Walter "Kid" Smith and his Rhythm Makers. You will note that it is labeled 'Book No 4' on the front cover above. I have no idea if Kid Smith has three other song books out there or not. It may have been a series of WINC-AM performers. The book is also missing the center folio, so pages 15-18 are absent from this scan.

From the cover it's evident he was on 1400 WINC-AM in Winchester, VA. WINC was founded in 1941 by Richard F. Lewis, Jr who was already an alum of WFVA-AM.  Smith was born in 1895. Kip Lornell describes him in the book Virginia's Blues, Country & Gospel Records.
"He worked as a sawyer and a boxer and learned the rudiments of guitar playing. But Smith was primarily a vocalist who specialized in the sacred and minstrel show songs that he learned from his father."
He released a number of sides with friends and or with family a wife Thelma and two daughters. He performed with his family in medicine shows and on radio programs. His best selling record was probably "The Cat's Got The Measles, The Dog's Got The Whooping Cough" which was released in 1929 on Gennett. He also recorded some murder ballads that were at least of note to record collectors. Most of his sides were released on Victor and Columbia. As recently as 1966 he had a program on WHPL-AM in Winchester, VA. (Kip Lornell  typoed the callsign as WPHL in his book.) The station was owned by Shenval Broadcasting in 1966. Kid Smith died in 1977.

His song book can be downloaded 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sex and Broadcasting


I've been reading the book Sex And Broadcasting by Lorenzo W. Milam. It's dated, published in 1975 before many changes in law, and many other changes in technology. But the concepts are all there and a lot of history. On page 229 he lists off "Sympathetic Broadcasters."  It's a list of community stations that he felt were of a free-form, highly local in nature. I noticed immediately that many of these stations were no more. Todays post is an update to that 36 year old list, and it makes for a sad story. You can buy one here.

The list is broken into categories, the first of these is On-the-Air. These are Community radio stations already in service as of 1975. Many of these still exist in more-or-less the condition they were in at the time of that writing: KAOS, KBOO, KOPN, KPFT, WPFW, WAIF KPFK, WDNA, KUNM, KPOO, WREK, WORT, WBAI, WRFG, WYEP, KDIC, KKUP, WAMH. Others have become what Alan Bernard at Poormojo News Wire calls an "NPR Zombie." Those stations include: KPBX, WYBC, KTOO, and WYSO. 1340 WYBC-AM became a simulcast of NPR zombie WSHU only a couple days ago serving as a reminder that this process continues. But, WYSO is a better example of how a station normally makes the change. They began broadcasting All Things Considered in 1972. It picked up Morning Edition in the late 1980s. By 2002 there was almost nothing left. The community that built the station had lost the station. More here.

For the record, I listen to NPR. I like a lot of the programs. But it's important to note that it's not local programming. There is a difference. Most of the below is bad news. Remembering those caveats, here's what really changed:

KERS 88.9 Sacramento, CA. It began in 1970 as advertised above. In 1979, KERS became KXPR and fully embraces NPR-zombiehood.Today it's a full fledged Public Radio network including KXJZ, KUOP, KXJS and KXSR. More here.

KDKB-AM 93.3 /KDKB-FM 1510 Phoenix, AZ - This legendary free form rock station ended the simulcast in 1978 with the AM side flipping to Oldies. By 1980 they were a rigid classic rock station. Today 93.3 is still a rock station today but not free form in any sense of the word. Today they even have 80's themed weekends. More here.

KBBF 89.1 Santa Rosa, CA- In 2009 they swapped their city of license with 98.7 KSXY for a cash payment thus "relocating" to Calistoga. They are still owned by Bilingual Broadcasting Foundation. An audit by the CPB found “egregious” violations back in February.  Station Manager  Jesus Lozano, a convicted drug offender has been  accused of embezzling.  He resigned when the news went public and they elected a new board in March. They filed for a a silent STA only a few days ago following a lightning strike. More here, here, and here.

KBDY 89.9 St. Louis, MO - It was a 20 watt station on the North side first licensed in 1972. It was cited repeatedly for exceeding power restrictions. This allowed 89.9 WLCA at Lewis & Clark Community College to challenge their license. They had a STA to return at 6 watts but that seems to have fizzled before 1980. 

KRAB 107.7 Seattle, WA - Founded by the author of Sex and Broadcasting, Lorenzo Wilson Milam. He helped found KRAB and more than a dozen other radio stations around the country. KRAB was virtually insolvent from the get go. They attempted to share-time with KNHC and didn't work it out. The owners, the Jack Straw Foundation sold the license to a commercial broadcaster and started 90.7 KSER which signed on in 1991 and is still alive today. More here.

WAFR 90.3 Durham, NC - In 1973 they were written up in Ebony magazine with a 5-page photo spread. Today 90.3 is vacant, allowing the presence of WNAA on 90.1 and WDCC on 90.5. WAFR signed on in 1971 with 3,00 watts and went off air in 1975 when CPB yanked it's funding.

KSAN 94.9 San Francisco, CA - This legendary free form rock station operated from 1968 until 1980. Station founder and visionary died from a heart attack in 1975. KSAN flipped to country music. KSAN is still a big classic rocker. A frequency swap moved the KSAN calls to 107.7. More here including a documentary film and here.

WBCN 104.1 Boston , MA - The station went off the FM airwaves on August 12, 2009 and became an automated HD-2 stream on 98.5 WBZ. Originally a classical station, they became a free-form rocker in 1968. The original airstaff included Steven Segal, one of Tom Donahue's minions. slowly it degraded into an AOR format. In 1979, the station was purchased by Hemisphire Broadcasting who ousted the old hippies. this begat a general strike and most were re-hired but the playlist continued to get more regimented. In 1994 they flipped to alternative rock. Today it's a Hot AC station WMBX.

WGTB 90.1 Georgetown, DC. - In 1979, Georgetown donated the WGTB license to the University of Washington DC. In 1997 UDC sold it to C-SPAN for $25 million dollars. After the sale, the station relaunched as WROX, via campus AM carrier current. It later changes calls to WGTB since it didn't matter anyway. It has faltered several times and gone dark. it had a notable resurrection in 1996 and finally relaunched as a webcast in 2001. More here.

WTBS 88.1 Boston, MA - They became WMBR on May 24, 1979, selling it's old callsign to Ted Turner for 50 grand.They spent the money getting a more powerful transmitter. Programming is still loose and local.  More here.

KCHU 90.9 Dallas, TX -  This station was also founded in part by Lorenzo Milam. The station signed on in August of 1975. After just a year-and-a-half their cobbled hardware began to fail and without a steady source of income they were doomed. The station was silent by 1980. Criswell Bible Institute mounted a legal challenge, and eventually they swapped frequencies with Criswell winning the more powerful 90.9 stick. After continued internal disputes Lorenzo turned the station license over to a group called ACORN, who founded 89.3 KNON, a station that in some ways continues the mission. More here.

WFAC 91.5 Columbus, OH - They were a 10 watt station in 1975. Today it's WHKC owned by Christian Broadcasting Services, 15,00 watts of Air 1. The transition from point A to point B involved NAB,the UAW, the FCC and new legal precedents.  I'll dedicate a whole post to them later.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Transcription Mystery Disc #99

 This is a 6.5-Inch Federal Perma Disk. the word root "perma" insinuates permanent but it's not. The b-side has a bad split separating the track into two non-contiguous segments. Only this side is readily playable. Phonozoic identifies this type as Type 2 (Red.) The disc is dated as 9-29-40. These discs were made by the Federal Recorder Co. They advertised for a couple years in the Broadcasting Year Book. In several editions (1939, 1941 and 1965) editions, they are listed as located at 50 West 75th street, New York City, the manager as M.M. Pochapin. Pochapin was a bit of an eccentric. He is described in the August, 1936 issue of Time Magazine as a kazoo salesman. His eponymous corporation manufactured the "Bob Burns Kazooed Bazooka", a foot long kazoo-like noise-maker.  It makes a 78 rpm home recording seem a bit pedestrian.


This recording is a letter to a kid away at school. the front appears to read RECORDED BY "the gang" which consists of John, Merle, Doris and perhaps a few others chortling in the background. They are his immediate family and he's away at school somewhere. The location is actually given but the man with the mic moves it at the worst possible time and rendered that unintelligible. The state is New York.  His name sounds like George Wood, but the rest of the writing is more or less unreadable. (I despise cursive.)

The audio quality is good with a notable noise floor but a good signal to noise ratio. I edited out the bad pops and adjusted the volume. The result is very listenable and clear whenever the mic is properly used.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Silent Disco is Radio

Silent disco was something I never expected. I never expected to see a club-floor quiet except for the shuffling of feet, and the couples chit-chatting in corners. It looks like performance art by very imaginative mimes. Sometimes they sing along or clap, but if you don't have a radio and headphones you cant follow the program. In reality everyone in the room is dancing to the same beat, but it's broadcast over a micro-powered transmitter operating under Part 15 (in theory). This was brought to you by the power of radio. Here's a random one from Youtube.

This wasn't exactly what the FCC had in mind when they drafted the Part 15 language, but it covers it quite nicely. The part 15 regulations permit broadcasts originating from unlicensed transmitters to an effective service range of approximately 200 feet. That's from the FCC's own webpage. It does not cite HAAT, wattage, or ER. Without a doubt there are extremes they'd find objectionable but the guideline stands as the sole legal goal post on that page. More Here.

If you actually read the whole part 15 rules.. it's more detailed but really still boils down the the 200 feet. More here. If you want to get picky that works out to 250 uV/meter a measured at 3 meters (~ 10 feet) and a radius of 200 feet. This is actually somewhat difficult outdoors, but not indoors. Indoors we have walls. It over simplifies the situation to say so, but.. walls are lossy. So as a result, the radio/club DJ is relatively well contained to the room they're performing in.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Voice-O-Graph Labelography (Part 3)

This is my third update to my Voice-O-Graph Labelography project. This time I have added a very late era label at the bottom. It spins at 78 or 45 rpm, and has a paper base.comically it still says patent pending around the label. What they're patenting after 25 years I cant venture a guess. Thankfully this rare disc is dated and labeled.I think this is the last label made by the Mutoscope corporation.

There are at least two more types which I am still documenting including one that probably date to the 50s. This list is not complete, and continues to grow. Hopefully this can serve as a bit of a labelography for future use. Below I describe, label, and date each type of Mutoscope made disc as fully as possible with all dates I've encountered. I will continue to update this post so it may be used for reference.

Black on Green: Years:1951, 1955




Blue on Blue: Year: 1948





Red on Yellow: Years: 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947


, a



Black On Red: 1948





Red on Beige: 1946, 1948





Mutoscope Black Label: (45 rpm) Years????





Black on White (45 rpm) 1957, 1959





GEM Mutoscope Disc:Years: 1945?





Empire State Observations Mutoscope Disc: Partial post mark to 1953? Last digit unclear.  Patent Number 2600573 dates to 1946.





Red Top on Yellow: Years (unknown)









Yellow on Yellow: Years 1964

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Doc Williams on WWVA


I had some real difficulty researching Doc Williams, despite his career longevity.  Early this year he died. The plethora of obituaries filled in some long standing blanks. Doc was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914, and grew up in Tarrtown, PA about 35 miles North east of Pittsburgh.  His real name was Andrew John Smick, his family were Slovak immigrants.  He dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to start his first band with his brother Cy and a neighbor, Joe Stoetzer. He'd already been working in the coal mines with his father and had different long-term plans. He began his radio career in Cleveland in 1932 on "The Barn Busters" at WJAY-AM in Cleveland, OH. More here.  The barn Busters was a bit of an amateur show, but his charisma there led to a gig with a bigger band, Doc McCaulley and his Kansas Clod-Hoppers.

They had a 15 minute show each morning at 8:10 AM. McCaulleywas a West Virginia native, and pretty well set the young Mr. Smick on the path so to speak. He then formed his own country band, the Alleghney Ramblers still with his brother Cy, and Curley Sims on mandolin. In 1935 they left Cleveland tor a gig on KQV-AM in Pittsburgh with a new name as well, the Cherokee Hillbillies. Just a few months later they picked up Miss Billie Walker as a singer and became the Texas Longhorns and traveled to WWL-AM in New Orleans.Sometime between 1936 and 1937 Andy Smick became Cowboy Doc, then eventually Doc Williams. The book Mountaineer Jamboree by Ivan M. Tribe covers this in fantastic detail.

By 1937 they were back up north on WJAS-AM in Pittsburgh, simulcasting on KQV-AM and WHJB-AM in Greensburg, PA with a 8:30 AM program. This was when Doc Williams band became the Border Riders. Some biographies claim they were already the border riders while in Louisiana, this remains in contention. Later that year they auditioned at WWVA-AM and got the 2:45 afternoon slot. they also started performing on World’s Original WWVA Jamboree.  the program was later re-named Jamboree USA. It was the second-longest-running live country music show. He signed off every show with the words "Keep your chin up and keep smiling."

According to legend in 1940 he even turned down a job at WSM-AM in Nashville on the Grand Ole Opry.Doc has spent most of his long country music career at WWVA-AM, except for brief periods at WREC-AM, Memphis, Tennessee, and WFMD-AM, Frederick, Maryland also around 1940. That year  WVA-AM increased its power from 5,000 watts to 50,000 watts in 1941. Despite all that success, he only began touring in 1949.

Williams outlasted everyone, he was on the Jamboree for 61 years. In 1984 he was inducted in the Wheeling Hall of Fame. Williams officially retired in 2005 the WWVA-AM Jamboree ended. He published his autobiography, Looking Back, in 2006. [Link]. Today 1170 WWVA-AM is a news talker. The most  amazing thing about his career is that he never had a national single, and never recorded for a major label. That 78 above on Wheeling records, his own label founded in 1947. In Canada they released a dozen or more sides on Quality Records. If you want any of it today you have to buy it on his website docwilliams.com. He died just this winter, on January 31st 2011. He was 96 years old.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

dB TU MSC

In radioland, the decibel is ad common a measuring unit as meters, ohms, volts or watts. But outside of radio the humble decibel is virtually unused. Bing a logarithmic unit it's as difficult to grasp to the layperson as the Richter scale. The way it's described has changed over time as well further lowering the odds of general use. A decibel is one tenth of a bel, a seldom-used unit.

This is a modern definition from Decibel, a text by Frederic P Miller from DM Publishing House. The text, mercilessly ripped off without credit in Wikipedia is as follows:
"The decibel (dB) is a logarithmic unit of measurement that expresses the magnitude of a physical quantity (usually power or intensity) relative to a specified or implied reference level. Since it expresses a ratio of two quantities with the same unit, it is a dimensionless unit. A decibel is one tenth of a bel, a seldom-used unit. The decibel is useful for a wide variety of measurements in science and engineering (particularly acoustics, electronics, and control theory) and other disciplines. It confers a number of advantages, such as the ability to conveniently represent very large or small numbers, a logarithmic scaling that roughly corresponds to the human perception of sound and light, and the ability to carry out multiplication of ratios by simple addition and subtraction. The decibel symbol is often qualified with a suffix, which indicates which reference quantity or frequency weighting function has been used. For example, "dBm" indicates that the reference quantity is one milliwatt, while "dBu" is referenced to 0.775 volts RMS."
In the 1923 the popular unit was the TU, an acronym for transmission unit. It had been in use for 20 years. TU itself was devised to replace MSC in 1923. MSC was another acronym which stood for Miles of Standard Cable. One (1) MSC is equal to the loss of power over a 1 mile of standard telephone cable at a frequency of 795.8 Hz. This reference assumes a resistance of 88 ohms and capacitance of 54 nanofarads per loop mile. This seemingly arbitrary frequency is exactly equal to another random and archaic unit, 5000 radians per second. Some documents claim thsi is also the first unit of loss to attenuation that a normal human can detect. This is crap. Most people cant even detect a 3dB change. It was accepted because it's actually near the fundamental frequency of the diaphragms used in the standard telephone receivers of that era.  That's according to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, at least circa 1913. In these century old measurements the people actually using the telephone were referred to in all seriousness as "telephonists."
But this unit of measurement is over 100 years old now. It was named for Alexander Graham Bell. A bel is 10 decibels, so a decibel is 0.1 bels. But the bel was only used to measure sound intensity. It describes the total acoustic energy emanating from the measured source. A decibel does not have that limitation. Interestingly Samsung uses it in some of their documentation resurrecting the archaic unit. The decibel was used initially in telephone engineering as a unit of transmission power. It was adopted formally as an international unit at the First International Acoustical Conference held in Paris, July of 1937. But in the US, it was already in use. Bell systems had been lobbying for it as a standard unit for decades. They added it to their own technical journal in an article by W.H. Martin in 1929. He compared its ascension as that of TU over MSC. It was in the NBS Standards Yearbook by 1931. They described it as follows:
"The decibel may be defined by the statement that two amounts of power differ by 1 decibel when they are in the ratio of 100.1 and any two amounts of power differ by N decibels when they are in the ratio of 10N(0.1). The number of transmission units expressing the ratio of any two powers is therefore ten times the common logarithm of that ratio."

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Transcription Mystery Disc #44

This is a 78 rpm metal-core disc of the Wilcox-Gay brand. It is undated, but is a known-type: the black lacquer 5B. These date to the early 1950s. This one has 2 tracks on each side: Boulevard of Broken Dreams (1934), Japanese Sandman (1920), My Buddy (1922)  and Have Only Eyes For You (1934). Boulevard of Broken dreams and I only have eyes for you both come from film scores and the other two in the 50s would have been considered standards.All this does is affirm a date of after 1934 which the type of blank already did. I only have eyes for you was a hit in 1934 with Ben Selvin, and again in 1950 for Peggy Lee and a couple times since then as well.  However, the label is marked © 1950 above the logo. Incontrovertibly the recording must be preceded by that date.


This one cleaned up nicely. A simple low-pass filter took out the bed noise and a quick pop filter removed much of the harsh noise. There were no major cracks or scratches so only nominal edits were needed. All tracks are solo piano without vocal or narration. It sounds eerily like a saloon pianist in a western film.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Radio Rebelde

I was reading Hemingway In Cuba by Noberto Fuentes when I found an unexpected short passage about radio.(Images courtesy of Cuba5259 via Flickr)
"One Wednesday, the Rural Guards thought something unusual was going on because they saw so many cars going in and out of the place. They thought, surely there's a conspiracy at the Vigia. No such thing was going on. Of course, we did listen to the broadcasts from the Sierra Maestra, but everybody did that. Besides, that only started in 1957. Before that, they didn't have that kind of clandestine broadcast."
The Vigia is Finca Vigia, the name of Hemingways' homestead in in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. Presently it is a museum, but it was his residence for decades. In the above description he was screening a boxing film with friends, there was nothing subversive afoot. But the Sierra Maestra reference was interesting. Sierra Maestra is a mountain range. It's highest point is at 6,650 ft so you might imagine that it has excellent line of sight. Most sources date Radio Rebelde to 1958, the Hemingway biography sets it in 1957. The difference could be one of a few months, but I can't see Noberto Fuentes making that mistake. The whole idea got me reading about the role of radio in the Cuban revolution.

I know little of the history of Cuba.  I excuse this too easily, knowing that everyone's history classes were incomplete. History is just information about the past. It's the widest possible classification of information. It's almost as broad as the word "data." All our educations have voids. My public schooling covered more about the Bay of Pigs than  Batista. The problem is compounded by conflicting accounts. It turns out that Fuentes was wrong. All other sources put the first broadcast in February of 1958.

The creation of Radio Rebelde begins with the meeting of two people Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Guevara had traveled throughout Latin America, and in Guatemala in 1954 he had seen the operation of a clandestine CIA radio station, La Voz de la Liberacion. It is this station on which radio Rebelde was modeled. The radio equipment for La Voz was assembled in Miami Fl and it's operators trained there in April of 1954. Its first broadcasts were in May of 1954, on Labor Day. The station often operated from over the border into Nicaragua. The station also jammed the signals of Radio Nacional de Guatemala (TGW.)   La Voz shutdown in June of 1954 after just a few months of propaganda (and U.S. political pressure) toppled their government. Having seen this in person, Che really bought into the effectiveness of radio as a political tool..

In May of 1955 Batista released all political prisoners, including Fidel Castro. Castro fled to Mexico and tried to raise funds for a revolution in Cuba. The Mexican government raided his camps regularly and seized their supplies so in 1955 they purchased a yacht and, at Guevara's urging, a transmitter, but they were both stolen. It is unknown if it was ever used. In 1956 they bought another transmitter and another yacht and headed back to Cuba with 82 men. In December of that year they landed and made camp in the Sierra Maestra mountains. But within 3 days they were detected by Batista soldiers and they lost all but 18 men or so and were forced to abandon much of their equipment including the replacement transmitter. Because of this, they were printing a rebel newspaper and running telephone lines in the jungle before they were broadcasting. They didn't even make a test broadcast with another transmitter until the middle of February 1958. Pateplumaradio.com summarizes it as follows
"A test broadcast was made in mid-February. The transmitter still needed work, so the 20 minute broadcast only reached a few hundred yards, with Fidel and a few guerrillas around Che's radio and a peasant named Palencho who heard it in his house on the facing hillside as the only audience. But, Fidel was impressed. Work on the equipment continued. A few days later, on February 23, 1958, Radio Rebele was officially inaugurated in its first real transmission. Into the Cuban airwaves went the words that would soon become immortalized in Cuban broadcasting; "Aqui Radio Rebelde! Aqui Radio Rebelde! Transmitiendo desde la Sierra Maestra en territorio libre de Cuba."

The only radio-related rebel action that precedes this was on March 13th 1957. Student leader José Echeverría and a small group take over a radio station in Havana. He was killed while trying to escape Batista troops.


In 1958 Rebelde began regular broadcasts. Their hardware was scant but usable. They  had a 120 watt Collins 32-V-2 transmitter and a tape recorder. In December it was moved into a bedroom in a little corner house at 201 Quintin Banderas Street. Cuban nationals in Miami secretly shipped them more radio equipment. Carlos Franqui, a former editor of underground publications, was brought in to run the radio station. Franqui later fell out with the group and was even removed from official photographs.

Radio Rebelde established a regular schedule, on nightly at 7:00 and 9:00 P.M. on 20 meters and at 8:00 and 10:00 P.M. On 40 meters. The Rebelde network also served as a radiotelephone link for the guerrilla columns, using the call sign 7RR. Batista tried to jam the station but they kept changing frequencies. Radio Continente in Venezuela began to relay the programming as well. It became an informal network called Cadena de la Libertad.  It included Indio Azul & Dos Indios Verdes in Venezuela, Indio Apache in Mexico, and Un Muchacho Unido in Miami, FL. There were several others in the U.S. whose origin is still undetermined. (This continues even today) Batista fled Cuba in January of 1959. They took longer than La Voz, but they didn't have CIA funding either.

Today Radio Rebelde is a legitimate radio service run by the Cuban government. It's a domestic full service radio network serving up music, news, and sports. It' FM signal is on 96.7 FM throughout Cuba, and over a dozen AM transmitters (a total of 44). There's a complete list here. It's also available at 5.025 MHz on the short wave band.  It's original hardware is on display at La Comandancia de la Plata which has been converted to a museum. If the U.S. ever ends the embargo I'll be sure to visit it.

Friday, April 01, 2011

PSA: Crystal Controlled Weather Radio


I bought this at a Goodwill for $3.97 plus tax. It takes a 9v battery (or 9V DC adapter) and allows me to tune to one of three frequencies for NOAA weather report: 162.55, 162.475, and 162.40. Of those three only two actually yield a signal out here. The telescoping antenna is about 22 inches tall and looks snazzy with the simulated walnut finish.  It only works near a window but  it works well.You can canvass your local thrift stores or just buy one used on eBay for $7 or so.

(Above image stolen from Etsy.) This is model 12-152A, there was a later revision 12-162 with an identical chassis. The 12-140, and the 12-141 had digital displays, and the 12-1371 was an in-car model. The 12-1818 had a cube chassis and was tunable.  It reeked more of the 1970s than the other models if you're looking for a true classic. These puppies were made by Tandy for Radioshack in the 1970s and 1980s. I think the Timekube was also in this series. More here.

Regardless, comedy aside you should have something like this in your home for emergencies. You should have it and know how to use it. You can look up your local NOAA frequencies here. Knowing where the tornado, hail storm, hurricane, blizzard, tsunami, forest fire or flood crest etc.can be important suddenly. This is a cheap simple way that anyone can be prepared.