Sunday, April 23, 2017

Playing the Top of the Pops and The Cream of the Crop - April 1, 1961

As I sat down to write this week, a countdown show was just starting on the radio. As I was listening to the countdown to the number one song, I was reminded of just how many genres were represented. Just look at the countdown # 24. Adam Wade - Take Good Care Of Her, # 23. Lawrence Welk – Calcutta, # 22. Cathy Jean And The Roommates - Please Love Me Forever, # 21. Del Shannon – Runaway, # 20. Johnny Maestro - Model Girl, # 19. Buzz Clifford - Baby Sittin' Boogie, # 18. Johnny Burnette - Little Boy Sad, # 17. Clarence 'Frogman' Henry - I Don't Know Why (But I Do), # 16. Ben E. King - Spanish Harlem, # 15. Kokomo - Asia Minor, # 14. Bobby Darrin - Lazy River, # 13. The Everly Brothers - Ebony Eyes, # 12. Brook Benton - Think Twice, # 11 .Floyd Cramer - On The Rebound, # 10. Carla Thomas - Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes), # 9. Connie Francis - Where The Boys Are, # 8. String-A-Longs – Wheels, 7. # The Everly Brothers - Walk Right Back, # 6. The Marcels - Blue Moon, # 5. Marty Robins - Don't Worry, # # 4. Jorgen Ingmann & His Guitar – Apache, # 3. The Shirelles - Dedicated To The One I Love, # 2. Chubby Checker – Pony Time and # 1. Elvis Presley – Surrender.

Everything’s there; big band, ballads, rock and roll, Soul/R&B, dance tunes, instrumentals, teenage tragedy songs and even a specialty tune. There were two songs by the Everly Brothers, a song by a girl group. There was even a song by Lawrence Welk and one by a guy who sang like a boy, a girl and a frog! No chance of a burn out listening to this list.

When the seventies came along, it seems to me that radio stations started to create music smokestacks along genres. There were fewer cross over tunes (country / pop / rock), (blues / rock), fewer instrumentals in any genre and everything being played on any given station started to sound more and more alike. There were your rock stations, your country stations, your soul and R&B stations each with their own distinct playlist. Sure there were still crossover songs but there were fewer of them. Some genres, traditional blues, Chicago and New Orleans jazz, rockabilly and bluegrass, all of which had representation in the form of the songs played on the rock and roll stations no longer had outlets in most markets.

Unfortunately the local DJs who tied all this great variety of music would soon follow and stations were drawn into larger and larger conglomerates and the focus changed from the service to the community to the bottom line of the monthly ledger. It was less expensive to purchase an automation system and run it instead of paying that guy or gal to sit in the control room and spin those records. The automation systems that came along in the 70s were mechanical monsters with large reel to reel tapes for the music and cart machines for the public service announcements, commercials and station IDs. It became more “relevant” to the centrally located station programmers to concentrate on the one genre with which they were most familiar.

Things improved with the advent of automation systems that ran on relatively inexpensive desktop computers and played songs from files on their hard drives. Now a DJ could “voice track” a 3 hour show in 45 minutes or so. It sounded more “live” than the old mechanical systems and as a result it put more DJs out of work. Through the Internet, the morning drive DJ in Miami could be the afternoon drive DJ in Minneapolis.

But, “voice – tracking” does not sound quite right. True it can be used to seamlessly back sell the song that is ending and then walk up and hit the post (the moment the singer starts singing) of the song that is starting. But when a live DJ does that, he beat matches the music that is playing under his or her voice with their delivery’s cadence. The very best DJs can interact with the elements of the music under them in a way no computer can today. So when I hear a “voice – tracked” show it becomes painfully clear that automation has control of the show. To me, that makes it less inviting. I’d much rather listen to a master of the art ply his or her trade.

Now, I’m far from being a Luddite with a distaste of everything technical. There are a lot of things that computers and the Internet can do to make radio better. For example, when an automation system is run in “DJ Assist Mode” it can help by counting down to the “post” on the screen or by searching its database for that song that was just requested among other things. The amount of mechanical work the DJ has to do during the show is greatly decreased. It can even keep the performance rights logs of the songs that are being played, something we used to have to do by hand.

I don’t think we will ever see the day where radio was all “mom and pop” owned stations each with a cadre of local live DJs again but there are signs that the current corporate structure of radio may be changing. If that happens the millennials may discover how much fun can be had listening to the local DJ spinning the tunes for “All the cool cats, and all the hot kitties!” Oh MY!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Working on a Holiday

Today is Easter Sunday and that means most of us are taking time to be with our families and friends. These days, that is less true for those who work in retail than it used to be.

When I was a young pup, just getting my feet wet in broadcasting, the band of brothers and sisters working on Easter was much smaller, police, fire, hospitals, a few short order restaurants and of course, radio and TV broadcasters.

I remember my first Easter shift; April 10, 1966. I was working one of my last weekend shifts at WCOS. During that period I was filling in on Saturday Nights on the all night show that I would be doing full time Monday through Saturday in two weeks. I worked from 1 AM until 7 AM Easter Sunday then returned at 7 PM that evening to control op a couple of New Orleans’s style Jazz shows followed by a rock and roll record show from 9 PM until 1AM Monday.

By that time, I had already worked over the past year on a couple of holidays as a part timer filling in for the regular DJs. But this was going to be my first major holiday. This was starting to be real serious; the first time I won’t be traveling home to be with my family on a big holiday. As I walked from my apartment to the station, I realized that my life was really changing and for the first time I was going to miss that family gathering.

As I sat down in the air chair, my first task of the night was to read the news between the Nightbeat Show that was just ending out at Doug Broome’s and the All Night Satellite. I felt a little sad and lonesome as the show ended and I punched the button to start the news sounder, but that soon changed. I didn’t have much time to think about things during the news, the commercial and the weather. There was much less time to think after that. Next came the end of news announcement, the station ID which we always read live and then the intro jingle to my show.

I was off to the races! Since the top 40 45 RMP records were in the box being brought back to the station by the DJ before me from Doug Broome’s, I had fewer choices for music to play. The top 20 songs were recorded to cartridge tapes both as backups to the vinyl copies and to provide music during the time it took to get them back to the station. Columbia was much smaller then and it rarely took more than ten or fifteen minutes to get back.

The only drawback was that there were only three cart machines in the studio, one for the song that was playing, one for the commercial that followed, and one for the next song. If there were more than one commercial, I would have to stop the music cart after it finished in order to play the next song. I had to remember to put the first cart back in and let it re-cue after the next song started. It was like playing musical chairs. I was sure glad to see the DJ with the records walk in the door. By the time that happened, the phone calls were coming in and folks were wishing me a Happy Easter and requesting their favorite tunes the rest of the night.

Left: A Western Electric audio board similar to the one in this story. The evening shift that day was a bit lonelier. I was running the board for those Jazz shows that ran on both the AM and FM stations. At 9 PM, things got scary busy. My rock and roll show started on AM and my Classical Music started at the same time on FM. To do this, I had to split the console and DJ the rock show on one “side” of the audio board the classical show on the other. To make matters worse, I used the same microphone for both shows, the difference was the direction I flipped the switch. Fortunately, I only had to talk a couple of times during the classical show as I flipped the LP from one side to the other. The FM show went off the air at midnight with the station sign off while the last hour of the AM show was just coming up to speed. I think this is where being ambidextrous was a great benefit.

By the time, that last hour of the Easter shift was over; I realized that I was going to be OK with working on the holidays. Radio was such a big part of our lives back then. That day, I heard from police headquarters, the fire station and a hospital or two when my fellow holiday workers called to wish me a Happy Easter and to ask for a favorite song or two. It wasn’t until the 80s that I finally had a job that didn’t require holiday work. So today I salute all of you who are covering a shift at a hospital, in a police car, riding on a fire engine, keeping a grocery store open or broadcasting a TV or radio show; I’ve been there and I appreciate what you do for us. Oh MY!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

End of an era!

Those of you who are Facebook friends have seen in the past my Sunday morning rants about my newspaper being missing. Usually there is a cat pictured with a woebegone face because she can’t follow her Charlie Brown that day. My cat hates technology and refuses to read the comics on a tablet. After all, the Sunday comics in glorious color on newsprint are what it’s all about around here.

A few weeks ago, I thought I had the problem solved when I asked the circulation department to have my carrier “throw” the paper into my front yard instead of using the white plastic tube that has been attached to my mailbox post since the early seventies. For several weeks all was good; whoever the person that was stealing the paper was, he or she would not walk into the yard to retrieve it off the ground. I guess the temptation of that fluffy paper sitting in the tube street side right at car window level was too much; a quick tap on the brakes and a fast nab and they were on their way with my paper.

But for some reason, my carrier had returned to the old habit of sticking the paper into that crusty, lichen encrusted tube. I don’t know if they have forgotten not to use the tube or if I have a new carrier. Today was the first Sunday after they reverted to using the tube and sure enough, the paper is missing again. Despite the promise of the person who handles delivery complaints in a thick Indian accent, that they would re-deliver the paper by noon, I still don’t have a paper, and my kitty does not have her Charlie Brown.

That paper tube has been part of the front yard so long that it has outlasted several mailbox posts. The sunlight has bleached off the lettering for “The State” Newspaper over time. Over the years, the lichens that adorn the bark of the nearby pine trees found that it can make itself quite at home on the white plastic. It did so quite artistically and I never had the heart to clean it off. I convinced myself that it added a rustic touch to the suburban American disaster that is my front yard. We can talk about the effects of many years of incipient drought on my grass another time.

So, shortly after noon, on my final trip to see if the paper was delivered, I carried my power drill out and sadly removed the four screws that held that venerated paper tube to the post and carried it back to my shop. I don’t have the heart to throw it away, but if the paper carrier can’t remember not to use it, I have no recourse but to force him or her to “throw” the paper instead of “tubing” it. I did inform the circulation person with the nice Indian accent that I would be removing the tube and that the carrier must “throw” it anywhere in the yard except near the street.

As I look at that paper tube on the floor, I can’t quite make myself throw it away. It has been part of my daily routine longer than several jobs that I’ve held and longer than any of the pets that live around here. The outside is pretty weather beaten but the inside, while a little dirty is quite pristine. There must be some other use for it. An idea is beginning to form; I can mount it on the wall of the shed and use it as a caddy for long handled yard tools such as hedge clippers. Yeah, that’s it! It will be inside, protected from the elements. The lichen won’t like that too much but it still has the trees. So, mister paper tube, you will still be around, rustic look and all. After all, the rest of that shed is already rustic too. Oh MY!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Taking requests and kicking a little wax!

Yesterday dawned clear and cool after a rainy Friday. I had packed my speakers, amplifier and all the cables I would need into my car the evening before, so all I needed to do was to grab the backpack with my computer and head out into the early morning crispness. With a song in my heart and an Oldie on the radio, I was headed out to the Old Columbia Speedway to MC and DJ the British Car Show that is held annually in conjunction with the Tartan Day South Festival.

On the way over I thought about the historic speedway which served the Capitol City area with top-level NASCAR and other racing excitement from the 1940s through the middle of the 1970s. The speedway thrived as a dirt track until NASCAR moved from dirt racing venues to all-asphalt track in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In fact the granddaddy of all NASCAR drivers, Richard Petty, ran his first race at Columbia Speedway in 1958 and returned in 1959 to capture his first win. Of course, I had my wraparound sunglasses on as I made my way through the grass parking lot, across the banked track and into the infield where the tents were being erected for the show. No, I did not wear a cowboy hat like Richard but if I owned one I might have.

You can see the banked track past the bagpipes and drums. After unloading my gear, I drove over to the north turn of the oval track to park my car. It was the first time that I had parked on that part of the track and I was surprised by the amount of bank on that turn on the asphalt track as I got out of the car. The parts of the track that I had parked on in the past were much flatter. I made my way across the sun drenched field back to the DJ tent I was surprised to pass a Quidditch field marked out between the last row of the classic cars and the edge of the infield. Soon young men and women would be running around with sticks between their legs (in place of Harry Potter’s brooms) trying to stuff balls into the three circular goals at each end of the contest field. Later from my vantage point in the tent, it was entertaining to watch, even if there was no flying involved.

My setup in the DJ Tent! As I approached the now fully erected tent, I realized that it was approximately the same size as the old radio booth I spun the 45’s while doing the Nightbeat Show in at Doug Broome’s restaurant during my WCOS days. True, that old booth was made of concrete cinder blocks with three 4’ x 8’ glass windows and a back door where I would meet the listeners who would come by with their requests and dedications written on napkins, notebook paper or whatever was handy. I would carefully stack those pieces of paper on the edge of the table that held the console by placing the latest request on the bottom of the pile. That way I would be playing them in the order I received them. I must admit that I occasionally played a non requested song between two requests that clashed with each other musically. When that happened we called those clashes “train wrecks.” These days with automated stations we hear more “train wrecks” than we did back in the age of live DJs. No one has been able to program a computer automation system to avoid them. I’ve seen many a operations manager pull up a listing of the songs that were scheduled to play that day and move individual songs around to avoid the clashes.

I really love doing the car show for two reasons. First, this group wants to hear oldies, my sweet spot, more than any other group for which I play music. The second reason is that this event puts me in the same setting as doing the Nightbeat show; taking requests and dedications. This is what makes me happy! And it makes my job easier too. One of the things I like the most is playing requests is that they ask for a song I may not have played on any of my radio shows in so long that I have almost forgotten it. A couple of those came up yesterday, “I Am The Walrus” by the Beatles and Theresa Brewer’s "Let Me Go, Lover!." Fortunately they did not come at the same time because there is a classic “train wreck” if there is ever one.

Not having cinderblock walls also affords one of my favorite pleasures, that of seeing my audience face to face to kibitz about the music, the cars and the beautiful weather. I was especially pleased at the number of my WUSC-FM listeners who came by to introduce themselves and talk about our favorite music. Yesterday was exhausting, long hours and lugging 100 pounds of equipment from home to the car to the booth and back. At the end of the day, I sank into my easy chair physically worn out, but at an emotional high. This is why I still do radio long after most people have retired and hung up their headphones. The listener is King or Queen and the 55+ crowd is growing and they are fiercely loyal to their music. There are a growing number of advertisers who want to market to them as well. They are relevant! Note: an increasing number of AM stations are switching back to oldies all over the country. I think they have figured this out. Oh MY!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Road Trip, Richard Harris, Jimmy Webb and others

Driving to Charleston yesterday afternoon we had the radio tuned to Sirius 60’s on Six. Tommy James of Tommy James and the Shondells was counting down the top 40 one hit wonders of the sixties. We were grooving to songs like “Telstar” by the The Tornados, “Wipe Out” by the The Surfaris, “Green Tambourine” by the The Lemon Pipers, even “They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha - Haaa!” by Napolean the 14th. When all of a sudden Tommy played Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park.” MacArthur Park is one of those songs that folks either hate or love. Personally I am on the “love” side of that ledger.

I remember playing this song on WUSC - FM a few years ago when a millennial student walked in and professed that MacArthur Park was a pretty cool song and asked who that was singing it. The name Richard Harris didn’t ring a bell so I decided to relate Richard to his world. I said, “You know, Professor Albus Dumbledore, the first one.” He said, “No way that old man could sing this!” I reminded him that Richard was not always an old man and that he starred in many other films such as Camelot (1967), A Man Called Horse (1970), Unforgiven (1992), I got a glimmer with Richard’s portrayal of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius in Gladiator (2000).

I continued with more information about MacArthur Park and the imagery of Jimmy Webb’s words. I explained that song was about Jimmy’s breakup with his long time girlfriend, Susie Horton who later married Robert Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. MacArthur Park, in Los Angeles, was where the two occasionally met for lunch and spent their most enjoyable times together back in 1965. Interestingly Susie later married Robert Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. Other Jimmy Webb songs about breakups include Glen Campbell’s "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and “The Worst That Could Happen" by Johnny Maestro and The Brooklyn Bridge. All of these songs appeared to be inspired by that sad time in Jimmy’s life.

Another thing that ties most of these songs together is that the session musicians for all of these songs but The Brooklyn Bridge’s “The Worst That Could Happen". However “The Worst That Could Happen” is a cover first done by The Fifth Dimension. You guessed it; the Wrecking Crew was the backing instrumentalists for their recording.

Then there is Dionne Warwick and the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Bacharach - David appears on all but one of Dionne’s hits recorded in the “The Scepter Era” (1962–1971). That one lone song was “Theme from the Valley of the Dolls” which was written by AndrĂ© and Dory Previn but, guess what, that song was produced by Bacharach and David. Not only that but it was a “B” side to “I say a Little Prayer” and that was written by, you guessed it; Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Remember all these great tunes; "Don't Make Me Over", "Anyone Who Had a Heart", "Walk On By", "You'll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)", "A House Is Not a Home" , "Are You There (With Another Girl)", "Message to Michael", "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me" and "Do You Know the Way to San Jose". All came from that incredible musical collaboration.

When people think of songwriters most think about The Beatles’ Lennon/McCartney and Motown’s Holland/Dozier/Holland but these are other great examples are just samples of the songwriters who created the songs that made their way on to the 45 RPM records inserted into those green record sleeves that are stacked in the bins that line the walls of the libraries of our memories. Oh MY!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Memories of walls and light.

The experts say that the sense of smell is the one that evokes the strongest memories. I agree with that, especially when I drive past the Krispy Kreme Donut Shoppe on the way to work. I am immediately transported to the Krispy Kreme store that was right at the bus stop where I got off the Southside bus after band or track practice on school afternoons where a donut and a small coke would tide me over until dinner which was still hours away. A two block walk took me to the bus stop where I would pick up the 22 Lake Shore bus to complete my trip home.

Left: A view of the "T" at the foot of the Acosta Bridge. The wall in this story is to the right of this view. But to me, light is a strong memory enhancer as well. There is a certain actinic light that appears on late winter, early spring days that does that for me. In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, near the foot of the Acosta Bridge before the old metal bridge was replaced by the new structure, Riverside Avenue was elevated over the local rail yards and formed a T with the traffic going onto an off of the bridge before going into downtown. There was a brick and mortar wall that lined the east side of the roadway. I remember late one afternoon noting the sunlight glancing off that wall as I rode the bus past it. I wondered if this must be what it looked like in the really big cities. I had never been outside of the state of Florida at the time. But my imagination took me to those faraway places to the north.

When I came to South Carolina to go to school, I found that wall and that light cattycorner across from my dormitory on the corner of Devine and Sumter Streets. It isn’t there anymore but next to the rear of Longstreet Theater there was a wall and steps that lead up to Davis Field that captured the same light and feeling as I walked up to the main part of the campus and my classes. When the light was right, I would see that wall on Riverside Avenue and the faces of my classmates on that bus. Those were special moments of peace and tranquility in those hectic, sometimes stressful college years.

Now you may be wondering if I ever saw “that wall in that light” in any northern city. I’m glad to report that the answer was yes. The first time was in the mid ‘90s while riding in a cab driving 80 MPH on I-76 between Philadelphia International Airport and a theater on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. I can’t remember the name of the theater now but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The driver didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak his language which I presumed was Russian when I heard his say “spasibo” to his dispatcher on the radio. He kept telling me that “The University of Pennsylvania is a very big city” and that he didn’t know if he could find the theater in time for me to make an important production meeting. As we sped off the interstate, into downtown Philadelphia, I saw it! The Wall! In the right light! Immediately I knew all was going to be OK and sure enough several blocks later while stopped at a red light, there was my destination, just a block away. “Let me off here!” I said, and after paying him, walked the last block an into the theater scant moments before the meeting was to start.

Did I find my wall in New York City, you might ask. Yes indeed. It was 2006 and I was driving on my way to a project site in Hicksville, NY out on Long Island. My team and I had rented a car at LaGuardia and taken the Grand Central Parkway past The Met’s Ballpark and Flushing Meadows, the site of the 1964 World’s Fair. A tight spin off the Parkway placed me in the right most lane of the Long Island Expressway right in the middle of rush hour traffic. “Oh BOY! This is gonna be interesting, I thought” because I needed to get across five lanes of one of the busiest highways in the country at one of the busiest times of the day. One of my team members started looking for alternative routes in case we couldn’t get across all that traffic.

All of a sudden, off to the left, while still in Queens, there was “my wall” again. The light was just right as it was on Riverside Avenue. I knew, then and there that it would be ok. I flicked on my left turn signal and to my amazement, the car behind me in that lane slowed to let me in. I was astounded, that would never have happened on I-26 leaving Columbia in rush hour traffic. OK! I had one down and three more to go. About 100 yards later I tried it again and again I was let in. I made it to the far left lane in plenty of time to make my exit off of the LIE.

I have to tell you, that I made that same trip 20 or so times during the life of that project and I never had problems getting over once having spotted “my wall.” I saw that wall every trip, but I never saw that wall in the same light as I did on that first trip when the stress level was pretty high.

St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. But I think I am blessed to have a patron wall as well. I can see it now, bathed in sunlight. I can see me as a teenager wondering if that was really what it was like up north, with the sun hanging low to the southwest in an azure sky. It just occurred to me that azure is defined as the color at 210 degrees on the RGB color wheel, the same direction as the sun in all of these memories. Oh MY!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

When things go horribly wrong, part 2

The day dawned clear and cool. I was sitting in the master control room of WIS-TV standing the engineering watch on November 11, 1971. I remember looking out the window in the middle of the door next to the bank of monitors at the sunlight glinting into the room through the venetian blinds. My friend Bill was the “switcher” on duty and I was loading and setting up the video tapes for the Sunday morning shows. There were no live shows on Sundays until the afternoon so the studio floor cameras were silently standing by.

The station was busier than usual because the demolition of the Columbia Hotel just down the street from the station was scheduled for that morning. It was the first of two Gervais Street Hotel implosions; the second was the Wade Hampton Hotel which occurred on July 21, 1985. The news team had arrived early, grabbed their film cameras and headed out to cover the story. The two way frequency we shared with WIS Radio was alive with chatter as the countdown to the implosion neared.

Bill and I had planned on watching the demolition from the roof of Studio “A” underneath the legs of the 400 foot self supporting tower that was one of the most prominent features of the Columbia skyline. Unfortunately for Bill, delays pushed the event closer and closer to station break time. We were coming out of a film show with two 30 second film Public Service Announcements, a voice over slide station identification then a half hour videotape show from one of the local churches. Everything was loaded and ready so Bill said that he would cover the break by himself so I could stay out there and watch the building come down.

As I stood there watching the structure’s last moments, I thought of some happy times I had there. My friend Mackey Quave was the morning man on WQXL in the mid 60s. Their studios were on the second floor of the Hotel. Before I started doing the Nightbeat Show out at Doug Broome’s Drive In Restaurant, I was doing the “All Night Satellite” at WCOS just a couple of blocks away at the Cornell Arms Apartments. Sometimes, I was too wired up after the show to go home and to bed, so I’d walk up Sumter Street and visit Mackey as he did his morning show. We had some good times there. Burning news copy turned upside down was occasionally involved. Mackey could handle anything.

Finally the ten second countdown crackled over the radio less than a minute before the station break. I felt bad that Bill was going to miss the event. Little did I suspect that the coin would be flipped within the minute.

A series of loud booms occurred and the building slowly folded in on itself and came down almost in one chunk. I remember someone saying on the radio that part of the building fell outside of the designated fall zone. The two way radio crackled with the announcement that some nearby power lines had been pulled down by the falling debris.

“Rut Roh” I thought. Well not exactly “rut roh” but you get the meaning. Bill called out “Rick! Get in here; something is wrong with the video tapes.” I came through that short doorway without even stepping on the three steps that led to it from the control room floor.

“The tape machines won’t roll”, Bill said as I rushed down the row of equipment racks to the tape machines in the projection room behind the control room. “What the heck!” I said as I looked to make sure that I had put the machines into remote control for Bill to start. They were! I took control back to the local panel and tried to roll them myself. Nothing!!!!

In the meantime Bill had put up the dreaded “Please Stand By” slide. As a control room operator, this was the last thing you wanted to see on the air. It meant that something was “BAD” wrong. The only thing worse was to put up “black” a completely dark screen. The next film show was sitting in the film rack to be played in an hour. I pulled the show that had just completed, loaded the show and Bill rolled it. It would be at the wrong time but it was better than nothing.

Now, I had a half hour to figure out what had happened and get it fixed. I check the fuses on the servo modules on the tape machines and sure enough they had all blown. I replaced them with new fuses and they immediately blew again. This was not going to be easy. I asked Bill to call Tom, my new boss and tell him what was going on. By the time I had the servo modules pulled and on the bench and the first one opened. Tom had arrived. To my amazement he was in a good mood despite being awakened on a Sunday morning. After troubleshooting we determined that the decoupling transistors which isolated the servos from the incoming power source, where all blown. There were eight of these transistors in four modules in two machines.

I pulled the spare parts drawer where we kept the transistors and thank goodness there were exactly eight of those transistors in the bin. I got busy replacing the transistors in the first module while Tom checked the rest of the circuitry in the other module to make sure there was no damage to the other components. These weren’t little transistors stuck into a socket on a circuit board. These babies were as big around a quarters and a quarter inch thick. They were held in place by two hex head screws and had to be coated on the bottom by a heat conducting gel to dissipate the heat they generated. About an hour later, we had the first module ready for “smoke testing” that is, to power it up and see if it worked or smoked. To our relief it worked! That was a good thing, because we would have big problems if we blew even one of those transistors. By the end of the shift we were back up to speed with all machines.

Tom and I went downstairs to the canteen to eat a delayed lunch. Oh and the next morning, we ordered 16 more decoupling transistors. It is worth noting that when the Wade Hampton Hotel was imploded in 1985, they shut down the power grid for a block around the hotel. Even the State House was dark and H - Hour. But nobody lost decoupling transistors and had a story to tell. Oh MY!