Sunday, September 10, 2023

K-TEL Archeology

K-Tel is still in business today. But their music footprint is mostly limited to licensing songs for film and television now. Not that they were always in the business of cheap comps. K-Tel was selling Teflon pans back in 1962. Their first compilation album didn't come until 1966. That gem was a collection of 25 country songs entitled "25 Country Hits".  I should point out that at that time, compilation albums were still a brand new thing. Prior to about 1952 all commercial releases were singles, 78s, 45s and even cylinders.  (I am going to collate a post on that topic at come point.) 

But that chintzy comp sold 180,00 copies back in. That proved the market viable and opened up the floodgates to a river of drivel. I like most audio enthusiasts mostly disdain most various artists comps, especially "hits" comps. But Phillip Kives was able to license those singles for pennies, so he was raking in the cash. The record labels were all-in as well, to them it was just a new way to monetize their dusty back catalogs.

Anyway, the compilations let to K-Tel amassing the rights to a whole library of songs they eventually licensed to Apple. They're mostly out of the comp business but if you check discogs, [LINK] you can see that they've mostly left the physical media market, but not entirely. 2023 has been mostly kids compilations released in AAC on iTunes. But even last year there were still single artist, "hits" comps Percy Sledge, Chubby Checker, Sam & Dave, The Surfaris... etc all digital of course. The last CD comps were some 2xCD techno comps in 2017.

That back story makes this K-Tel catalog an interesting artifact. K-Tel sold their comps on bad TV adverts at night, but they also spent a lot of their music marketing at Point-of-sale locations. You probably saw them at truck stops, and car washes back in the 1970s and 1980s. That's very consistent with printing a tiny catalog right on the J-card of the cassette, something I haven't seen in decades.

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Toronto 1922 vs. Toronto 1932

Sometimes at the odd antiquarian book shop I find an odd antiquarian phone book. Sometimes, those old phone books list off radio stations. Below is an image from Might's Greater Toronto city directory of 1927. This is an interesting as it the CBC wasn't formed until 1936 so radio licensing was still a bit of a wild west as it also was in the U.S.  (Please excuse the bad edit on the 1927 image, I lack the skill set to blend the colors.) You will see a list of 8 call letters above, take note, because when we fast forward to 1932 we the list changes quite a bit. More here and here.

CFCA was the first licensed radio station in Toronto, and was owned by the Toronto Daily Star. The station went on the air in June 1922 and closed permanently in 1933. So that period book ends shortly before the CBC began operating in 1935. 

Back in 1922 the Might's Directory had no radio section in the Business pages. The section jumps directly from Radiators to Rag Dealers and before you ask, no there wasn't a Wireless section either. Likewise the 1923 and 1924 hard cover editions have sections for Radio Equipment and Radio Apparatus and Supplies, but no Radio Stations. The first year with a list is 1925, starting with five radio stations:


Band  Call Sign
CNRT Canadian National railway
King Edward Hotel
CKCL Dominion Battery Co. 20 Trinity St.
CHIC Northern Electric Co. 131 Simcoe St.
 Toronto Daily Star Yonge & St. Clair Ave.
CHNCToronto Radio Research
Hillcrest Park

All five of these stations continue to exist for at least a couple years. They change frequency, change studio addresses, increase in power but they continue on with the same owners into 1927 when things start to get interesting.


Band  Call Sign
CFCA  Toronto Daily Star
 18 King St. W.
CHIC  Northern Electric Co.
131 Simcoe St.
CJCI  Royal Order of Moose
 Confederation Life Bldg
CJYC  Universal Radio of Canada
38 Irwin Ave.
CKCL Dominion Battery Co.
20 Trinity St.
 International Bible Students Assoc.
38 Irwin Ave.
Canadian National Carbon Co.   Hillcrest Park
CNRT Canadian National  Railways, King & Toronto

Below is an image from Might's Greater Toronto city directory of 1932.Note that there are only 7 now but of the 7 two refer you to two other stations on the list as the station to use. It took all of 5 seconds to answer why with thanks to the History of Canadian Broadcasting website. [SOURCE] In 1933 the CRBC (Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission) discontinued it's sharing time agreement on 840 between CHNC, CJBC and CPRY

So the instruction is most likely just directing the reader to the stronger, more local signal. The connection between CNRT and CFCA is harder to understand, but I found once reference here. CNR Radio, Canada's first radio network, leased time on CFCA operating with the call letters CNRT, until the CNR network disbanded in 1932. This would have been simply a share time in the US but in Canada this is sometimes called a "phantom station." While leasing CFCA's transmitter and frequency, CNRT would broadcast from its own studio located in the King Edward Hotel.  

Radio station 910 CKGW-AM  began operations in 1926 on 910 kHz with 5,000 watts of power, they moved to  to Toronto's King Edward Hotel in 1927, and began sharing time with CFRB and CJBC in 1928. 

In 1930, the Canadian pacific Railway (CPR) applied for licenses to operate radio stations in 11 cities for the express purpose of building a coast-to-coast radio network in order to compete with the CNR Radio service. But the great depression stopped them in their tracks and all that came of it was CPRY, a phantom station sharing time on on CFRB and CKGW.

This Toronto radio listeners guide [SOURCE] shows CHIC operating out of CKNC, but the Might's phone directory cites different addresses which is difficult to reconcile.

CJCI remains mysterious. The Department of Commerce Service Bulletin from October 30th 1926 confirms the call sign but credits it to the Loyal, not Royal Order of Moose operating on 291.1 meters or about 1030 kHz. The correct answer is Loyal, so it's the Toronto phone book that was in error. The Confederation Life Building in which it was located opened in 1883, and the Loyal order of Moose was founded 5 years later in 1888. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin published a yearbook in 1927 that records the station operating at 100 watts.  There are no records of it existing past 1928.


Band  Call Sign
CFCA  Toronto Daily Star
Yonge & St. Clair Av West
CFRB  Canadian Radio Corp.
37 Bloor St. W.
CKCLDominion Battery Co.
104 University Ave.
 CKGWGooderham & Worts
 4-5 and 15 King Edward Hotel
 Canadian National Carbon Co.  805 Davenport Rd.
CNRTCanadian National Railways, 1 Toronto
Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street

The CRBC began leasing Canadian National Carbon Company's CKNC in September of 1933. CKGW moved to 840 kHz, still at 5,000 watts power, but now sharing time with just CNRT. But by 1934 they were on the wrong side of that share, only broadcasting at night. The Canadian Pacific Railway's phantom station CPRY, also broadcast from the crowded timeshare facilities of CKGW

It's probably worth mentioning that Gooderham & Worts, the owners of CKGW were distillers. the CBRC would lease the station starting in 1933, and rename it CRCT shutting it down for a time but restarting it in 1936 as CRCY. Gooderham & Worts would merge with Hiram Walner & Sons in 1926. Their buildings remain the heart of the Toronto Distillery District.

CJYC is already gone by 1930, though Wes McKnight later of CKGW, and CFRM started his career there in 1928. But despite the ownership listed in Might's, this station was founded by the IBSA (International Bible Student Association). You'd know them better by the name Jehovah's Witnesses, but that didn't' start until 1931. I'll wrote more about this another time but they sold airtime to the KKK, and attacked other religious denominations. Their license, was not renewed in 1928. Likewise IBSA phantom station CKCX using it's facilities was also no more. More here.


Band  Call Sign
CFRB Canadian Radio Corp.
37 Bloor St. W.
CKCL Dominion Battery Co.  444 University Ave.
Canadian National Carbon Co.
805 Davenport Rd.
CRCT Canadian Radio Broadcasting Co
805 Davenport Rd.

A lot happened in 1935 and the list shrinks down to just 4 radio stations. You can see the directory here. [LINKCKNC signed off permanently in October of 1935.  Hector Charlesworth, chairman of the CRBC considered the 100 watt station "useless." But the station remains on this short list at the time it was mostly carrying programming  originally carried by the CRCT

The CRBC purchased the Canadian National Railway's radio stations, including Toronto's CNRT and CNRX in March of 1933. It eventually became the CBC station CBY.

But in November of 1936 the CBC was formed. In December of that year the CBC restarted the old CKNC to boost the signal of their Toronto station, CRCT. The call letters for the reborn station were CRCY. The station signed on the air this date at 5:30 p.m. CRCY operated on 1420 kHz with 100 watts of power

While the CPR did manage to build a small network starting with the phantom station CPRY, the purchased their old competitor from 1935 the CNR. That eliminated the need for their fledgling service and CPRY was discontinued in 1935.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

A Leon Russel Bootleg

I recently found a Leon Russel bootleg cassette. Scribbled on the J-card it reads "Live in Los Angeles FM & TV concert." A second line of text dates the recording only to 1970. Am I a Leon Russel fan?  Well I wasn't until I heard this recording. The internet, being a place rich with both filth and folly, has a whole website about LP bootlegs from whence this question came. [SOURCE

The origin turns out to be the Homewood Session recorded at ABC's famous Vine Street Theatre, located at 1615 Vine St. Hollywood, CA. Originally it was the  home of The Don Lee / Mutual Radio Network. Built in 1948 today it's the oldest TV studio in Hollywood. Everything else from the golden era has been torn down. It was home to Los Angeles Channel 2, today that's KCBS-TV but it was first licensed as W6XAO on June 1931. Anyway that went up for sale in 1950 when Don Lee went belly up. [ SOURCE]  Today it's been renamed the Ricardo Montalban Theatre. (He was great in the Wrath of Kahn.)

Anyway Leon Russel's broadcast was on December 5th, 1970 on what was then KCET-TV Los Angeles.  Reportedly it was simulcast on KPPC-FM 106.7 in Pasadena, CA. You can actually watch the whole 58 minute TV broadcast on YouTube today [LINK] It's edited down from a 6-hour session tape.

Alan Baker, the show producer and even Leon Russel have claimed that it was one of the first stereo broadcast. This presents a conflict. American television was not stereo in 1970 or even in the 1980 when this was later rebroadcast. There had however been experimental stereo FM broadcasts earlier. The first true stereo FM broadcast was June 1st, 1961 on WGFM (now WRVE) in Schenectady, NY. So it's not impossible but it requires corroboration. It's worth noting that KPPC was also an early experimenter in quadraphonic broadcasting. Dennis Roger Reed was happy to do describe on the Folkworks website.

"They [KPPC] were the first true progressive "rock" station in Los Angeles, and the first station in Los Angeles to broadcast a stereo simulcast with a television program, providing the audio for a Leon Russell special on LA PBS station KCET. "
The book Superstar in a Masquerade by William Sargent makes a similar statement:

It was aired December 2 on TV station KCET (channel 28) in Los Angeles as the hour-long special "Session: Leon Russel and Friends." in color and, for the first time ever, simulcast in stereo, over radio station KPPC-FM (106.7). The program was presented again the next week, and again during Marsh and April 1971.

But that book was published in 2023 and what's it's source?  There are books today that cite this blog as a source and I'm notoriously unreliable. KPPC was no newcomer, they signed on December 25th, 1924. The calls originally referred to their original owner, the Pasadena Presbyterian Church. KLB was the first station in Pasedena, and there's some debate if KPPC was the 2nd or 3rd depending on if you believe KDYR ever actually broadcast. Pasadena had a population of about 57,000 at the time. Its a wild ride from that starting point and if you really want to dig into KPPC history I do recommend the book Riding on the Ether Express: A Memoir of 1960s Los Angeles, the Rise of KPPC-FM by Dave Pierce. 

This station is 99 years old as of this writing and has a long somewhat confusing history. Forget about KPPC-LP in San Antonio, they're Methodist not Presybterian. Let's start with 1240 KPPC-AM. Back in 1924 is was mostly religious programming.  It's worth noting that the Pasadena Presbyterian Church received the license to build KPPC from the FRC in 1925, but that's after the station had already broadcast the previous December 25th for a Christmas service. Today Santa would put you on the FCC naughty list for that. Thye started on 1310 kHz, and in 1927 began to share time with KELW-AM in Burbank. In 1928 they were moved to 1200 and had to share time with KFWC-AM in San Bernadino. In 1930 they moved to 1210 still sharing with KFWC. In 1936 they bumped up the power to 100 watts still generally a local service. Then came NARBA, under which they and KFXM both moved to 1240 in 1941. 

KPPC was really boxed in with a service that was degraded by it's successive moves. Their signal on 1240 was adjacent to KGFJ-AM on 1230 which operated at 1,000 watts and was only 10 miles away.  Under their share agreement KPPC could only broadcast Sunday nights from 6:00 PM to 12:00 Midnight, and Wednesdays from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM, it was a mere 23 hours a week. KGFJ for their part had to drop power at night to 100 watts at night from 1947 to 1986 to protect KPPC. It was not a good deal for anyone. Douglas Broadcasting eventually bought the license and shut down KPPC in 1996 to eliminate interference with 1230 KYPA-AM. More here.

The situation was so bad that in 1962 KPPC started an FM station on 106.7. The FCC granted the permit in 1959 and it's worth the read. [SOURCE]  In the document, Edgar Pierce is listed as the "west coast director of a radio and television advertising form" and member of their "radio committee."They kept it vague for some reason but he was the Vice President of Wade Advertising. Ed had a 40-year career in television production, advertising and PR, and was a charter member of the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters. He's worth googling. In 1967 when they sold the station, most sources refer to him as the General Manager or Station Manager.  He died in 2012. Before you guess it... yes, I do think that Edgar Pierce is also the father of the KPPC DJ Dave Pierce. Last I knew, David was the sales manager at Fox 15/TV in Lafayette, CA. (Again his book Riding on the Ether Express is highly recommended).

So Crosby-Avery Broadcasting buys KPPC AM /FM in 1967, and then in 1969 turns around and sells them both to the National Science Network (NSN) in 1969. NSN struggles to operate the station and in September of 1971, the founder of the NSN Ludwig Frohlich died. In October, Gm Douglas Cox fired the entire 27-person staff and shut off the transmitter, It was a whole event with the staff commandeering the station to broadcast the series of events. [SOURCE]  Frohlich's estate including KPPC AM/FM went to Ingrid and Thomas Burns. In 1973 the two stations part ways with the Burns selling the the FM stick to Burbank broadcasting. It was paired with the former 1500 KBBQ-AM and they became KROQ.

Back to that reliable source question... TV did not start broadcasting in stereo until 1984, so I think we can exclude KCET from this quest. Though ABC did broadcast the Lawrence Welk show in a quasi-stereo format in 1958 by broadcasting separate channels on their AM and TV audio channels that was on ABC affiliates in New York, Detroit, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Could KPPC have been broadcasting in stereo in 1970?  Yes it is possible. ClĂ©ment Ader demonstrated the first two-channel audio system in Paris in 1881. Berthold Laufer for Franz Boaz accidently made stereo recordings on cylinders in 1901. [SOURCE]. Modern stereo broadcasting mostly originates with British engineer Alan Blumlein at EMI in the 1930s. The first stereo In 1962 the BBC began regular experimental radio broadcasts in stereo. [SOURCE]  The Beeb used a Zenith-GE multiplex system. When WGFM did it a year later they weren't even the only one that day. WEFM Chicago (now WUSN) also made an experimental broadcast that day, lagging only because of they are on central time. 

The Leon Russel Session/broadcast occurred between the Crosby sale and the mass firing by the National Science Network. It must have been a chaotic time at KPPC.  They advertised in Billboard that they were boosting the power to 50,000 watts and going stereo as early as 1967. But PD Tom Donahue and GM Milan Melvin were fired and the staff went on strike. Strike news coverage in 1968 report that the station "reversed it's position on going multiplex stereo". The boost to 50,000 watts didn't come until the Fall of 1970, but the stereo audio was delivered in 1968. We can confirm the infrastructure was there. But did they broadcast it in stereo or was a split-channel broadcast as ABC had done 20 years before?

My cassette is of a high enough audio quality I am certain that it was not recorded from the FM broadcast. A tape copy walked out the studio door, it was used to bootleg the vinyl, and my tape is a copy of that vinyl not the broadcast. The Bill Janovitz book Leon Russel: The Master of Space and Time's Journey Through Rock & Roll History does refer to the broadcast briefly:

"The first local screening was simulcast in stereo on KPPC FM, and the newspaper ad includes a helpful chart of how to position your speakers, Leon had resisted invitations to appear on television until he was assured control over every aspect of the production. Getting the right sound was paramount"
That newspaper ad, if it exists, is the proof that it broadcast on 106.7 KPPC-FM in stereo. KROQ will turn 100 next year, sadly Leon Russel died in 2016 and won't be there to see it. I hope they rebroadcast at least a little of the 1970 session. Supposedly there's another 5 hours of tape out there somewhere in the church basement archives, Leon and Furry Lewis rolling tape and getting their drink on.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Google deleting Blogger images?


There are no additional specifics to be had from Google but it appears that they are going to delete an unknown number of images from this and all other blogs hosted on blogger. I've attempted to export my images but that was not entirely successful and Google let me know that some images are going to be lost, probably forever. Apologies in advance, but with no way to know which images, there's no practical way to manually rescue over a decade of uploads. Only a fraction of the 188 errors resolve to recognizable names places or files, so I've come to the conclusion that I have to let it go.

Depending on the level of damage I may migrate to another platform. TBD