Thursday, July 31, 2008

Voice-O-Graph Part II

The interesting part about the Voice-O-Graph is not the 6-year-old girl singing "Your cheatin' heart." It is not the 7-year-old-boy singing "Home on the range." The cultural phenomena of grandma paying a dime or a nickel to act as executive producer of this performance is somewhat interesting. But the real trophy among Voice-O-Graph discs is the WWII letter home. These were sponsored by a couple companies. The big one was Gem razor blades. The Gem brand is still extant, but has slowly slid over the years into generic oblivion at retail.

The recordings were made at USO shows and other military locations. The recordings were usually introduced by an operator who controlled the recording machine. This one is from April 18th 1944. The recording is of PVC Joe Luten, the envelope I found it in does not match the disc, so perhaps the Volisko family was prudent enough to keep their disc if not the mailer.

I've been working on a Voice-O-Graph labelography to document their variant labels for better dating of unlabeled works. The most recent draft can be found here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Voice-O-Graph discs are not hard to find. I pick them up at thrift stores for a buck pretty often. I will note that ones on eBay are $24 and those sellers must be deluded. It's also not hard to find them online. Here, here and even here. Most computer literate people can toss it on their record player, and then speed correct with free software. It makes for a utilitarian representation of the master. It's noisy, and harsh but the original recording was never very good. Amateur attempts at noise filtering often make it worse.

Some of these were recorded at 45 rpm, but for the most part they were recorded at 78rpm. It's just a little coating of varnish on a cardboard blank. It holds up as well as you'd think. I've heard dozens of them and most are recordings of small children. They are usually singing. Their slogan was "Don't write, Voice O Graph." the recordings were made in small booths, with a telephone-like microphone. These were at fairs, landmarks and other vacation stops. These were made by the Mutoscope corporation, which was previously known for making girlie playing cards.

Interesting fact: George Carlin recorded several Voice-O-Graph records in Times Square as a kid and they are on his box set.

I've been working on a Voice-O-Graph labelography to document their variant labels for better dating of unlabeled works. The most recent draft can be found here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

bought-out whores

Late Friday night, the XM/Sirius Satellite merger was approved by the FCC. the news was first broken by the Wall Street Journal and Broadcasting & Cable magazine. The vote came down along party lines, 3-2 with only Adelstein and Copps against. The vote was held late Friday night, like a typical robbery.

I thought about it for 2 days and decided that the issue was clear, the FCC commissioners voting for are bought-out whores. There was every legal reason to block the merger, and no reason to grant it except bribery. Write your rep, write your senator.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Radio Artifact #78

In the 1950s Oral Roberts got a radio fixation. Actually in 1947, he founded the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association and started making a whole a series of radio programs. There lies the problem. Which program or programs carried the radio quartet? Who were these four nameless singers? Were they ever really on the radio or were they session singers? According to the book The Life and times of Oral Roberts he got his first Gospel radio show in 1949. The book fails to mention call letters!

It's hard to find good information today as he fell (like many televangelists) in disgrace. It was the usual problems the $1000 suits, million dollar Palm Springs mansions, the diamond rings the personal jet. But he fell. By 2007, his evangelistic university in Tulsa needed a $70 million dollar bail out to escape creditors.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bone Conduction Radio Show

Found this by accident. There's a great number of shows that are great, but only extant briefly and we the many miss that window. This one used to be a show at WEMU.

After a short tour at WAAM-AM host Thayrone X went down the road to WEMU with a milk crate of vintage R&B. The program began January 8th 1984. And was ended (supposedly) when Host Thayrone X, began broadcasting Pro-Bush Jr. propaganda. GM Art Timko (supposedly) had a real problem with Thayrone's political views. Well most any sane american with an IQ over 50 does too, but in America you allowed to be an idiot and even a bigot if you so choose. But that idiot had about 8,000 listeners according to the Detroit Metro Times. In fact, Bone Conduction raised more money for the station than any other single show in the station’s history, according to station manager Art Timko.

Thayrone did shows at WIQB in Ann Arbor back in 1985 and WNIC and WLLZ in Detroit. He did nights at country station WSDS-AM in Ypsilanti, and afternoons at WIBM-AM in Jackson, MI. . He did it all, all formats, all time slots. He was a born radio man. In real-life Thayrone X is known as Terry Hughes. In 2003 Michiguide reported that Terry Hughes had been hired by Clear Channel's AC station WQKL-FM 107.1 in Ann Arbor. He also was in the band the Witch Doctors. He left WEMU willingly in 1985 but by January of 1989,he'd been lured back by the freedom. That second reign was cut short.

In his version of the events leading up to his firing, he was fired for his pro-conservative comments on air. In his own words
"I stated on The Bone Conduction Music Show on March 30, 2003 that I support our President, our Troops and their mission in Iraq, and their bravery."
Somehow I expect there was more to it. I beleive that the comments were pro Bush Jr. and pro war. But I expect there was some right-wing rhetoric in there, maybe a little hate-speech. It was a big enough event that stories ran in The Detroit News and even on Detroit Channel 7 Action News. Sounds dirty. If what he says is true, then I have to take his side. ...Even if he's got his head up Dick Cheny's ass. More here.

Bone Conduction Music Show aired in seventeen other markets via NPR.
WQJJ The Fox, 97.7 FM, Jasper, AL
WALW 98.3 FM, Moulton, AL
KSTK 101.7 FM, Wrangle, AK
WAAM-AM 1600 AM, Ann Arbor, MI
WRVG 93.7 Georgetown, Ky
KUMR 88.5 FM, Rolla, MO
KGLP 91.7 FM, Gallup, NM
KFJM 90.7 FM, Grand Forks, ND

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Radio has so many firsts. Every station clamors to be the first at something. The first on air, the first licensed, the first 24 hour operation, the first music program, the first DJ etc. WICC is the first station in Southern Connecticut. It's also one of the first stations in Connecticut as a whole signing on for the first time in 1926. It's call letters stands for Industrial Capital of Connecticut, which was actually true 60 years ago. [Today it's nothing to brag about.]

Connecticut is a largely rectangular state sharing Long Island sound with New York, then is boxed in by Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It's North/South orientation is narrow in respect to it's East/West measurement. It's hard to define a portion of CT as southern, but Bridgeport will do.

600 WICC-AM still maintains studios in both Bridgeport and New Haven in Southern Connecticut. Over the years they've been affiliates for The Yankee Network, The Colonial Network, The Columbai Broadcasting System (CBS), The NBC Blue Network, and the Mutual Broadcasting System. In it's early days, WICC broadcast from several different frequencies including 1060 kHz, 1400 kHz, 1130kHz, 1190 kHz and 1430 kHz. They didn't' move to the 600 kHz position until 1930. Until WCAC-AM in Storrs, shut down in 1935, WICC operated as a share-time.

My favorite bit of WICC history is that the worlds most over-sexed movie-star had a radio show there. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Bob Crane.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


When you see call letters displayed on the radio of your car this is why. Radio Data System, or RDS, is a communications protocol standard that actually originated in Europe. It allows a broadcaster to sending a small amount of data on a normal FM radio signals. RDS has been standard in Europe and Latin America since the early 1986. Were a tad behind. Again.

In the US we wildly under utilize the power of this system. In fact so few stations use it at all, many radios just disregard the data. With IBOC over the horizon (for better or worse) it appears to have the same destiny as Quadraphonic broadcasts. There are a handful of audiophile, and add-on devices that are compatible but they are not in common use. I see it mostly in rental cars for some reason.

Technically we use the Radio Broadcast Data System (RBDS) in the U.S. These systems are almost identical aside from the disputacious acronym.

To reduce interference to the FM stereo pilot tone RBDS uses a 57kHz subcarrier. (It's the third harmonic) When you see the RDS system at work in the U.S. you normally just see station identification. It can also contain track and artist info and much more. It compiles the following data fields.

AF - Alternative Frequencies, allows the radio to tune the station in on other frequencies
CT - Clock Time, to synchronize a clock
EON - Enhanced Other Networks , allows the receiver to monitor other signals for traffic information
PI - Program Identification, This is your stations slogan, brand, etc.
PS - Program Service, an eight-character display for the call letters
PTY - Program Type, up to 31 pre-defined program types, for scanning.. nobody uses thsi in America. Damn shame.
REG - Regional, allows the user to tune to region-specific programming
RT- Radio Text, a 64-character free-form textual information could be calls, random profanity, song names, slogans, it's free text.
TA - Traffic Announcement, receiver can be set to pay special attention to an EAS alert for example. It can even override your CD player.
TMC - Traffic Message Channel, Requires an RDS-TMC enabled decoder, which is licensed software. This can feed your car radio live traffic information based on your location.

It's difficult to say that there is a single inventor for either service as it gloms together dozens of individual patents to function. But even the NRSC even cops to the European origin of RBDS:

"The U.S. RBDS Standard is based largely on the European RDS Standard, the latest version of which was published by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) in 1998. Scott Wright of Delco Electronics, who is the Chairman of the NRSC's RBDS Subcommittee, has prepared a document which compares the U.S. and European versions of this standard."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Transcription mystery

This is what I like to find in the middle of a stack of 78s. It's a transcription disc with the call letters WLIB-AM. the year and date are clearly marked April 22nd 1950. That's the year after the New York Post sold it to the New Broadcasting Company under Morris Novik. The transcription blank has an address in the same city as the station. It's also in playable condition. Nice.

The contents were a tad more mysterious than the label let on. If you listen you'll hear a very young boy sing "Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy." The tune was written by Harry Stone and Jack Stapp in 1950. The reason we know this is that Stapp was from WSM-AM in Nashville and his history is pretty well recorded. But point being, this boy sang on this recording probably within a couple months of Red Foley recording it, and probably only weeks after the printing of the sheet music. It charted on the Hit Parade that year at #1 for 9 weeks. It's appearance in the film "Indiana territory" probably helped.

But despite the call letters I can find no connection to 1190 WLIB-AM. At the end of the recording a man says "...Everything is jumping, we're all jumping but Monday, Tuesday Wednesday, Thursday or Friday things are always jumping at the Wally Jackson studio..." The recording ends there and the mystery begins.

There was no Wally Jackson at WLIB. There was Hal Jackson, possibly a relation. More interesting is a single online reference to the studio. "Very few of his followers know the fact that Charlie started in music as a violinist. He learned to play the violin in an academy called Wally Jackson Studio in New York, where he grew up." So the studio existed and was in the correct city. But at the time the station had relocated to harlem, and had retooled itself for a black audience. This recording would have have aired at that time. Anyone have my missing puzzle piece?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Radio Artifact #77

The Radio Kids Bible Club. Thsi is a 78 rpm 7" record. Burl Ives did a record called "Songs I learned iN Sunday School. It was performed with the Radio Kids Bible Club Children's Choir. That same club? Maybe. There's also a series of books somehow related to it.

One book was described thusly:
"Susie was first introduced on the Radio Kids' Bible Club Series, originating in Los Angeles, California. Susie was soon joined by Johnny, and their adventures have made them great favorites across the nation. "Susie and Johny" books are ideal for boys and girls from 8 to 12, full of exiting adventure and soundly Scriptural in the truths they impart."
The Australian Radio Series Guide Lists the series but only states a simple description "Radio program for children with a Christian emphasis." It also notes that it ran somtime between 1940 and 1970. I'd put it in the early 1950s myself. The recording is of a children's chorus. there is no introduction, no station information. And the performance is terrible, and in such bad condition I wont subject you to it.

I'll add one last detail. The personal papers of Lynn L. Sam were donated to the University of Maryland. They included a number of these 7"s. It provides a sort of discography. My disc is # 707. I'd guess there were 10 discs, but that still tells us very little about the broadcast program. If anyone has information beyond this, I'd appreciate it.


"Sunday School Songs."
Tiny Evelyn and Radio Kids Bible Club.
701; D. 7".
LS 330

"Sunday School Songs."
Radio Kids Bible Club.
702; D. 7".
LS 333

"Sunday School Songs."
Radio Kids Bible Club.
703; D. 7".
LS 329

"Sunday School Songs."
Radio Kids Bible Club.
704; D. 7".
LS 335

"Sunday School Songs."
Radio Kids Bible Club.
705; D. 7".
LS 336

"Sunday School Songs."
Radio Kids Bible Club.
706; D. 7".
LS 332

"Sunday School Songs."
Radio Kids Bible Club.
707; D. 7".
LS 331

"Sunday School Songs."
With Uncle Earle at Children's Church.
708; D. 7".
LS 334

"Sunday School Songs."
With Uncle Earle at Children's Church.
709; D. 7".
LS 337

"Sunday School Songs."
With Uncle Earle at Children's Church.
710; D. 7".
LS 338

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Calling Doctor Hep Cat

Jive talk wasn't born on the radio, but it was disseminated through the radio. Young people heard it on the radio, emulated it and spread forth a cultural phenomena. There were DJs that used jive talk and DJs that invented it. Dr. Hepcat was an innovator.

When jive talk began is unknowable. But Cab Calloway wrote his Hepsters Dictionary, a guide to jive talk , in 1938. He even distributed copies to some libraries personally. It cemented jive talk as a convention. Durst published his own jive-talk tome in 1953, The Jives of Dr. Hepcat. [I want this book so bad] When white DJs began adopting black slang, writer Nelson George called it "broadcast blackface."

Dr. Hepcat was a popular KVET-AM DJ. He played records that would later be called Rhythm and Blues, bebop, and even rock n' roll. Also known as Albert Lavada Durst, he was based around Austin and used a fast-paced brand that probably was influenced by his time announcing baseball games for the "colored leagues. He had a slang all his own as a sports announcer. For example he called a Left-handed pitcher a "sand man." No particular reason... he just did. His version of the lords prayer was classic:
"I stash me down to cop a nod. If I am lame I'm not to blame - the stem is hard. If I am skull orchard bound don't clip my wings no matter how I sound. If I should cop a drear before the early bright - when Gabe makes his toot - I'll chill my chat, fall out like mad with everything allroot."
1300 KVET was founded by a group of ten WWII veterans in 1946. They were much more interested in commerce than race. Austin is a very liberal city, the tradition stretches back a ways. As was common in the 40s and 50s, KVET was a full service radio station. They offered a little of everything: music, Mutual Network news, talk, etc. But KVET also offered uncommon programming: Spanish language news and music programming for the African-American community on "The Elmer Akins Gospel Train".

He retired in the 1970s to become a minister at a church in Austin. In 1978, the Warner Brothers trade magazine Wax gave Durst credit for being among the inventors of rock radio. Reverend Albert Lavada Durst died October 31, 1995 in Austin at the age of 82.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2 up one down

Monotonix - Body Language
The Autumns - Fake Noise from a box of Toys

I also wrote one for Forward Russia. It was something inspired by a late night and fatigue. It wasn't usable as a publicity device and it was rightly rejected. My editor handled it with grace and gentility of course. I still like the idea of it. I will write another, but this one bears examination. Download here.

-------- Original Message --------

Subject: Re: fwd russia
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2008 18:02:00 -0400
From: Editor-General Dany Sloan
To: Jose Fritz , Rusty Roberts

I appreciate your insanity, but you could you send over the version of the
review where you actually talk about the album?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Paul Harvey - CAPTURED

Paul Harvey is normally considered somewhat tame even sublime. His program is mild, not hard hitting, fast-paced, trendy or edgy. His program is syndicated by ABC to over 1,000 radio stations with 22 million listeners. He appeals to a set of older, more conservative Americans residing in rural areas. What they don't know, is that Paul Harvey is a criminal mastermind. His real name is Paul Harvey Aurandt. Isn't' that a German name Herr Harvey?

In the 1950s Harvey's programs began taking on a paranoid twist. Maybe he was inspired by McCarthy's witch hunt. He criticized poor security at government installations. He got fixated on nationalistic ideas. He'd always been a populist and a conservative but the mood of the day drove him to strange depths. It's probably why he sprung to action when heard about poor security at Argonne National Laboratory a nuclear research facility.

In 1951 a security guard at the facility named Charles Rogal, reported the slacker security at the site to Illinois Rep. Fred Busbey [R], a personal friend of Harvey's. The whole idea of it stuck in Harvey's craw. The Rosenbergs had stolen nuclear secrets for the commies in the 1940s and Harvey was still pissed. (No really, Harvey is an absolutely rabid anti-communist.)

Harvey brought two friends, Rogal and John Crowley (from the office of naval intelligence.) They entered the Argonne compound at night in the dead of winter. But the entry was bungled, at the top of the 10-foot fence, his winter coat got caught on the barbed wire. While he struggled to disentangle himself, he was detected patrol discovered him.

Crowley and Rogal were more covert. They hid in the bushes, then after the patrol left with Harvey, they left. However they left their wallets and papers in Harvey's car nearby. So they two were identified. Harvey was turned over to FBI agents.

The Chicago press mocked Harvey mercilessly. The intimation that he was a patriotic idiot probably helped him when the federal grand jury convened. On March 21st , 1951 Harvey was charged with conspiracy to obtain information on national security and transmit it to the public. On April 4, 1951, the grand jury voted not to indict Harvey. He was free to return to broadcasting.

Were he convicted, he could have been fined up to $10,000 and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. In 2005, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. Any of the rest of us would still be in prison.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I have finally caved in and "upgraded" to a new blogger template. My HTML skills are such that adding some of the old features and buttons will take some time. Please bear with us as Arcane Radio Trivia moves grudgingly into the future.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Orthophonic sound!

Orthophonic sound is not some alternative to monophonic, duophonic, stereophonic and quadraphonic sound. Orthophonic means that the recording was designed for playback on a light tracking (relatively speaking) and with electric not acoustic amplification. In short, Orthophonic is the brand RCA used. Electrical recording was developed at Western Electric. It was the manufacturing arm of big Ma' bell. This was a really productive engineering group. They produced the Vitaphone system, Westrex optical sound, single-groove stereophonic sound, indestructible home phones, productivity studies, and half-a century of other innovations.Western Electric saw the same problem in acoustic reproduction that everyone else did. The signal to noise ratio sucked. The signal was low and the noise was high. The noise came in two forms, inferior recording technology, and playback based on energy produced by friction. Western Electric solved this at each end of the equation. they and other companies were improving recording technology. Electrical recording was a series of steps, but playback was all them. There are some great phonograph manual scans here. Of course they were met with resistance when they showed it off to the record companies. Much like stereo did in the 1960s, thsi change threatened to make their entire existing catalogs obsolete. But the rapidly improving quality of radio gave them competition in terms of fidelity. this was not an innovation they could afford to shelve. Both Victor and Columbia experimenting with electrical recordings in 1924. Radio had raised the bar even at this early stage, and the two media platforms saw each other as competition.

In the 1950s, RCA Victor re-used the brand to introduce new innovations in LP fidelity with the name "New Orthophonic." It's about as original as "New England" and "New York." But it worked. RCA saw the brad as one that succeeded, one that kept them alive through the golden age of radio.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Two for Tuesday

...except that this is Thursday and I had them submitted by Sunday so let's split the difference and call it Tuesday. More coming as always.

Chin Chin - Chin Chin
Quitzow - Art College

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Aunt Jemima program

I've explained my opinion on black face and other forms of overt racism before. In the historical context I see it as another ugly museum exhibit. In an effort not to lionize our present selves I discuss it, warts and all. For better or worse I tell the truth as I see it. In 1889 Chris Rutt and Charles Underwood of the Pearl Milling Company debuted the first box of Aunt Jemima Pancake Flour. It did poorly. In 1890 R.T. Davis of the R.T. Davis million company bought them out and brought in Nancy Green to portray the anthropomorphic brand. Quaker oats bought bought him out in turn in 1926. It's there that the official history skips a decade.

Aunt Jemima the radio program (starring Tess Gardella) lasted from 1931-33, with revivals in the 1940s and in the fifties when Amanda Randolph assumed the role.There are no known recordings of the program from the original series, but there are many from the run in the 1940s.

At the time Aunt Jemima was more interested in selling pancake mix than syrup. Shilling aside, the recent appearance of the Mrs. Butterworths Syrup bottle in a Geico ad made me recall another, different syrup bottle with a more sordid history.

The The Aunt Jemima program was on the NBC Red Network back in 1929. It was produced by the produced by the J. Walter Thompson Company, the came group that would later handle the Rudy Vallée Program. These handlers and producers kept minutes for their meetings and it is through that we can see into that world. Henry P. Joslyn described one of their own ads, for Aunt Jemima’s Pancake Flour in the meeting.
"… advertised by a troop of darkies who sing and play for the white folks at Col. Higbee’s plantation. They are real Negroes, headed by J. Rosamond Johnson and Taylor Gordon who have toured Europe as concert singers. They are famous under their own names but go on the air as Uncle Ned and Little Bill... With this pleasing background the announcer told us we were to be transported to Aunt Jemima’s cabin down on the levee, where we would be given a glimpse of a Negro frolic."
Yeah, it's that disingenuous, patronizing tone about their quaint little brown people that gets to me. It's that artificial air of civility. Of course, this stereotype was not particularly offensive in 1930 to the average listener. So Aunt Jemima sales figures climbed after the introduction of the radio program. that year alone sales were up 14%.

The 1940s run of the program was a set of simple 5 minute episodes. We don't know a lot about the 1930s program. We know it centered around a plantation theme to match the print ads and that it was a longer form program. The Aunt Jemima old time radio show includes the Jemima Chorus singing melodious tunes with interjections of announcer Marvin Miller and Aunt Jemima. The program ran every morning at 8:00 am covering household hints, recipes, and the like. It's actually somewhat strange that they didn't hire a black woman, Edith Wilson to voice the character on air until 1947. The other actresses had just been wearing black face at public appearances. Nancy Green, the last black woman to play the character had died in 1923 before the show launched.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Roy Smeck was the first guitar god. But he preference among stringed instruments was lapsteel and the ukulele. Smeck made over 500 recordings, starting in 1921 for the Edison Company, and continuing on until his last album, for Kapp, in the mid-1960s. Much of his content online leans toward novelty recordings and videos. He did one entire tune just thwacking his index finger on a uke. But that was not how he earned the esteemed title "Radio's Wizard of the Strings."

As vaudeville began it's quick death Smeck moved over to radio. In 1935 he made a number of appearances on the NBC syndicated The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour. This was a popular variety program hosted by Rudy Vallée. In fact it was initially titled "The Rudy Vallée Show."

The program was willed into existence by NBC executive Bertha Brainard. She became head of programming at NBC in 1928 and pushed hard for Rudy. She felt that he would appeal to female listeners. ( In 1936, it became The Royal Gelatin Hour, until it's cancellation in 1939.) This was no small program. Smeck was performing alongside artists like Eddie Cantor, Milton Bearle, George Burns & Gracie Allen, and Charlie McCarthey. In the 1930s Roy Smeck even had his own show, in New York albeit briefly. He began giving music lessons during his show on WOR-AM. He enjoyed teaching, among his more famous students was Gene Autry. He also performed on WEAF-AM, WABC-AM and others.

He appeared at USO shows beginning in World War II and continuing on thu the Korean war though his own popularity was on the wane by then. He survived the golden age of radio and even appeared on TV variety including Ed Sullivan's, Steve Allen's, and Jack Paar's. More here. He often worked with Hawaiian and haole musicians, including Harry Owens and Ray McKinney, and he recorded several albums in the late 1950s with the Hawaiian singer Alfred Apaka.He wrote 50 books of music instruction and many of these are still in print.
He died in 1994 at Roosevelt Hospital, he was 94 and still living in Manhattan. A 1982 documentary about his life, entitled "Wizard of the Strings," was nominated for an Academy Award. Obituary here. Today there is a quiet resurgence in the ukulele and a equal resurgence of interest in Roy Smeck.

Monday, July 07, 2008


About a year ago Chicago Public Radio 91.5 WBEZ-FM spun off one of it's repeaters into an experiment. WBEZ was a long time NPR affiliate and a source fo much public radio programming including This American Life. They took all 7,000 watts of 89.5 WBEW-FM and did something new. Everything changed, the playlist, the programs, the brand, air staff and the rest. Originally it was called "the secret radio Project." It became Vocalo.

The stick is in Chesterton, Indiana just outside Chicago. The programming seems to be a public affairs program responding to the success of KCMP in Minneapolis. As large as the public radio audience is, it is old and aging. Everyone in public radio land who has a care in the world, has a care about it's future. What's going to work in a decade? Unlike popular formats that just pander to the lowest common denominators, public radio must succeed or fail on donations. Donations succeed or fail based on their ties to their community. They describe themselves thusly:
" is radio made by you. We take the material you submit (audio, text, video) and turn it into entertaining and informative broadcast material that plays on 89.5 FM in Northwest Indiana and soon Chicago and streams live on our website. Check out our What Is This section for more info."
In December of 2007, The Current described what was then a planned format like this: "
"In fact, it will have no shows at all. It will air a continuous, seamless talk-based stream completely devoted to Northwest Indiana and Chicago metropolitan area culture, issues and selected music. It is not a news station. There are no newscasts."

The idea was pretty big, or at least they talked big. But the result is mixed. There are definitely shows. They stayed fairly true to their promise not to trod on WBEW, the new station does not cross-promote WBEZ. they continue to take submitted content from their listeners. But they also promised never to run a pledge drive .. and that seems so implausible that despite a year of development and local outreach, and hundreds of listener produced programs... I'm just counting the days.

Friday, July 04, 2008


Here's a group I can support. SPERDVAC is the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy. Their goal is to keep Old time radio alive and available for future generations. Personally I am in awe. Without groups like this half a century of radio history could be lost.

The club was started by a group of collectors of old radio shows back in 1974 to trade shows with each other. They then established libraries for members to borrow the shows. These libraries have expanded to over 20,000 shows , scripts and even some videos of conventions. Their membership was over 1,600 at its peak. Sadly the membership today has dwindled to a little more than 1,000.

Every month, members of this old time radio group meet at local housings to discuss radio shows and their years, many of which a guest speaker, whom was associated with radio programs at the time it was on the air, attends. Their monthly publication "The Radiogram" a monthly newsletter focused on old time radio and the related hobbies.

They have 8 meetings and a convention every year. But as the stars of the golden age of radio age, the line ups are more and more difficult to put together. Their focus on building a library of radio drama continues unabated. They convert the old 16" transcription discs to digital formats continually. The effort is building the most important library in all of radio land. Their podcast is here.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

DVD review

After a decade as a music critic, Editor-inspector-general Rusty compelled Jose to review a DVD. The result was later described as "the most conventional thing you ever wrote." I still feel a little dirty.

The Gary Wilson Story - DVD

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Radio-Craft July 1943

This is the last in a short stack of vintage radio magazines. You'll note that with the date, the advertisements have suddenly become more pro-war and patriotic. But at the same time there are some interesting articles about refurbishing batteries. At the time, much of the nation was still off the grid. Another article details how to locate damaged cloth wire insulation and who to repair it. Of course today cloth insulation is never used. We just break out the liquid electrical tape.

You can download the 30.5 MB file HERE

Parallel Grooves

On probably every record in your collection there is only one groove per side. It's a long groove, but it's only one, starting at the outer edge in a degrading orbit around the center hole. This is what was adapted from the cylinder, and what Edison had planned when he adapted the phonautograph. But in manufacturing there is another option.

For the record, any variation on the above should be classed as a novelty. But that's what we're here for, the arcane, the apocryphal, the obscure and the just damn strange. So it comes as no surprise that this one is so subtle, you might not even notice. To the make eye to parallel grooves look like a single groove. Two (or more) grooves start at the edge and spiral laps around the platter ending near the paper label.

Apocryphal reports place the practice with children's records in the 1950s on 78. This seems believable except the first patent I can find for it is in 1972. Lacking another strong citation I must go with the patent date. I dont rule it out an earlier date entirely, I just lack hard evidence.
You may already own records with parallel grooves. Two grooves will contain exactly half the music of one groove. So the duration will be a strong hint. The stronger evidence comes in the needle drop. As it's almost impossible to drop it in the exact same place, eventually you will land in one of the multiple grooves. If the grooves contain different songs, you'll confirm your thesis. Below is a short list of such releases:

Monty Python - Matching Tie and Handkerchief
I am Spoonbender - Teletwin - 12"
Psychic TV - Je Taime
Sonic Youth - 100% - 10"
LL Cool J - Goin' Back To Cali - 10"
Tool - Opiate EP (B side only)
Johnny Moped's - Cycledelic
Fine Young Cannibals - Good Thing 12"
The Secret Machines - The Road leads where it's led - 7"
None of Your Fucking Business - Escapes from Hell (2nd groove is silent)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008