Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Post Mortem Broadcasts

There is a small but growing number of dead DJs who have ongoing programs in radioland. It's a strange convention, but one that was inevitable after the re-run was invented. Early radio, like later early television, was all live and re-runs were impossible without re-performance. The first re-runs probably began immediately after the advent of pre-recorded syndicated programs distributed by mail. Eventually this process would have led either knowingly or unknowingly to the airing of programming by people now deceased. I assume just based on raw actuarial tables that this must have happened by 1940. But strangely today this has evolved to a very deliberate practice.

I'm not aiming for a canonical list here. Essentially any rerun of any golden era program at least somewhat meets this description. What I'm looking at here are hosted monologue programs. To listen to these programs is to listen to a dead Disc Jockey talk to you. This something much more morbid than listening to re-runs of Lum and Abner.  Here are a few particularly eerie examples.

91.3 KVLU - Best of Bax
This one is particularly weird. It's not a series of re-run whole contiguous programs. KVLU staff spent years digitizing tapes and acetates. For years now, on Sunday nights, KVLU has broadcast the Best of Bax a two-hour program made of excerpts and "related materials"  that are pieced together from tapes spanning his 50 year radio career.  More here.

WWCR - Gene Scott
OK, so this is a shortwave station but it's so weird I can't skip it. Gene Scott was preacher who used to lease a frequency on WWCR's transmitters. he is now deceased but still is aired on the station. How can that be?  Scott was diagnosed with prostate cancer and refused conventional treatment and relied on God to heal him. That is as effective as homeopathic medicine. His widow pastor Melissa Scott, took over the franchise and used what was left if his ministry to keep his zombie voice on the air. More here.

89.7 WGBH - Ray Smith on Jazz Decades
The program debuted back in 1972 on WGBH, but Ray died in 2010. Over those 38 years he produced over 1900 shows. The Station manager apparently thought that Ray should live on like a ghost haunting evenings at the NPR affiliate.  More here.

820 WNYC–AM- Danny Stiles' Music Museum
Danny Stiles died in 2011. His oldies program, the Music Museum still airs on Saturday nights at WNYC-AM. Stiles was a long time NY disc jockey having also been at WRCA, WEVD, WNSW, WHBI, WNJR, WJDM and WPAT in his 55 year career. His WNYC program played pre-1950s pop and his playlists dipped all the way into the 1920s. So not only is the host deceased... but so are almost all of the recorded musicians. More here.

For the record that is nowhere near a complete list. The most I think about it the more I realize there must be. It's endemic. Marian McPartland of Piano Jazz died last year. She stopped recording programs in 2010 and she is still in reruns on NPR. Jay Harris on WMNR was in post mortem reruns until recently I believe. Karl Haas on WCLV in Cleveland died in 2005, but the station continued to run tapes of Adventures in Good Music until 2007.  And by all reports NPR intends to put Car Talk into reruns like a Charles Shultz 'Peanuts' comic strip.  That will get extra funny as all the cars they discussed slowly become antiques.