Monday, October 09, 2017

Radio On The Road

Much is written about the classic novel On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. Virtually every charter in the novel is real, and all of them have their own biographies, and/or autobiographies. The book is rich with literary references to Nietzsche, Arthur Conan Doyle, Schopenhauer, Rimbaud, Dostoevsky, Alain-Fournier, Kafka, Eugene Sue, Jack London, Céline, Proust and Melville to name a few. But the text is also loaded with references to music and radio.

Some of it is onomatopoeic jazz scat like the phrase "ta-tup-EE-da-de-dera-RUP! ta-tup-EE-da-da-dera-RUP!" But innumerable musicians named and unnamed march through the text as well. Geoge Shearing is referred to as a living god, but a similar reverence is held for Lester "Prez" Young, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, And Dizzy Gillespie whom they just call mad. But Lionel Hampton also gets a reference as do Irving Berlin, Wynonie Harris, Roy Eldridge, Duke Ellington, Lucky Millinder, Louis Armstrong, Benny Moten and  Count Basie. Then there are at least five direct references to actual radio programs and/or radio stations in the text:

Part 4, Chapter 1:

"The radio was always on. "Man have you dug that mad Marty Glickman announcing basketball games―up-to-midcourt-bounce-fake-set-shot, swish, two points. Absolutely the greatest announcer I ever heard."
Marty Glickman was a former Olympic athlete turned radio announcer who was famous for his broadcasts of the New York Knicks basketball games,  and both the football games of the New York Jets and New York Giants. In 1939, Glickman graduated from Syracuse University. After his short professional sports career he joined the radio station 1050 WHN-AM in New York City. He took a break for WWII, and returned in 1945 soon becoming the voice of the sports newsreels distributed by Paramount News. On those reels he became the voice of the New York Knicks and New York Giants for over two decades. He became the announcer for the New York Knickerbockers in 1946, the year they were formed. The quote above is contextually in 1949, when Glickman was 32 sports director at WHN and arguably at his peak.

Part 2, Chapter 6:

We were suddenly driving along the blue waters of the Gulf, and at the same time a momentous mad thing began on the radio; it was the Chicken Jazz'n Gumbo disk-jockey show from New Orleans, all mad jazz records, colored records, with the disk-jockey saying, "Don't worry 'bout nothing!"
The city of New Orleans is very real. But that radio program was not... at least not exactly.  However, in 1949 there was a late night “Jam, Jive and Gumbo Show,” on 1230 WJBW-AM hosted by Duke Thil, aka Vernon Winslow More here.

Part 1, Chapter 4:

I was drunk enough to go for anything. And the truck reached the outskirts of Cheyenne, we saw the high red lights of the local radio station, and suddenly we were bucking through a great strange crowd of people that poured on both sidewalks.
Frankly there weren't that many radio towers on the outskirts of Cheyenne in 1947. In fact there was only one:  1240 KFBC-AM signed on in 1940, [SOURCE] Their first local competition, 1370 KVWO-AM didn't sign on until 1952, more here. It was a long time before there was a third station. In that year the population of the whole county was just over 30,000 people.

Part 2, Chapter 8:

"Clint, Texas!" said Dean. He had the radio on to the Clint station. Every fifteen minutes they played a record; the rest of the time it was commercials about a high-school correspondence course. "This program is beamed all over the west." cried Dean excitedly. "Man I used to listen to it day and night in reform school and prison."
Clint, Texas is a mere 25 miles to El Paso, or Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Today there are zero stations using Clint as their city of license. But the same was true in 1949. But 800 XELO-AM in Ciudad Juárez received it's mail at an address of Clint, TX. So musicians like Hank Thompson and Slim Hawkins took orders for their song books there.  This can be heard on a number of extant XELO transcriptions discs. The city of El Paso had all of four stations: KEPO, KROD, KELPKSET, and KTSM none of which fit the description. The stations use of the Clint zip code comes up in the book Border Radio by Gene Fowler, Ramblin' Man by Ed Cray, and The Roots of Texas Music by Lawrence Clayton. This border blaster was audible clear up into Colorado at 150,000 watts just as Dean describes.

Part 4, Chapter 6:

"Dawn came rapidly in a gray haze revealing dense swamps sunk on both sides, with tall, forlorn, viny trees leaning and bowing over tangled bottoms. We bowled right along the railroad tracks for a while. The strange radio-station antenna of Ciudad Mante appeared ahead as if we were in Nebraska."
This could be a number of stations. The most likely would be short wave station XECMT, on 6090 kHz. In that era Ciudad Mante is estimated to have had a population of about 25,000, more than double Cheyenne. But it had little radio. The UAT radio network came to town in the 1980s, and the Radio Tamaulipas network not at least until the popular advent of FM radio. We must exclude 840 XHEMY-AM as it didn't sign on until 1966; even 1450 XECM-AM is a little late signing on in  November of 1951.