Sunday, March 18, 2018

A history of headphones!

Let me be straight up front with this. If a DJ on a radio station doesn’t wear a headset while on the air, then he or she is not a REAL radio DJ. Real DJs have “Headphone Hair!”

I know, some really iconic radio stations in the past had systems where the jocks could hear the music without feedback. I know some jocks and news announcers used the one hand cupping the ear method, like Gary Owens on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In. Even my old school news announcer Mike Rast often sat in the news booth with one ear cupped behind his ear. But even Mike himself used then when he was reading the news from the control room while I was out at Doug Broome’s ordering a shake and fries. If you really wanted to hear what was on the air you needed headsets.

During the 60s, the standard control room headphone was the Trimm Dependable Headphone. They were everywhere even some early radio receivers sported a pair. They were light and inexpensive and their “on the ear” design could deliver an adequate sound level without causing feedback on the air. They were supplied by my first two radio stations WUSC and WCOS. They were also the headphones used at the iconic rockers in Jacksonville, WPDQ and WAPE.

The days of the Dependable Trimm Headphones were numbered as stereo began to penetrate the radio and audiophile arenas. They went out with the old “Hi – Fidelity” mono singles and albums. I was the first at WCOS to make the switch to the stereo “over the ear” design of headphones. I had a pair of inexpensive stereo headphones complete with vinyl covered pads that completely enclosed my ear. After consulting with Milton our engineer about using them on the air I build a conversion box that matched the stereo low impedance headphones to the mono 600 ohm output from the board. I loved those headsets. When I went from the studio to Dougs for the Nightbeat show, I bought a Motorola AM tabletop radio and installed a stereo jack in the white plastic case that sent the sound to the headphones instead of the speaker. I no longer needed the conversion box. A side benefit was that Dougs was closer to the WCOS Transmitter located on Edgewood Avenue a couple blocks behind Providence Hospital. I was in heaven. They sounded better there than in the Cornell Arms Studios.

As I sit here writing, the fog of the years is clouding my memory and I can’t remember the brand of headphones that I used then. But you can see the headphones in the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice awkwardly placed on the head of a Soviet Rocket Technician played by Richard Marner. How is it that my Swiss cheese memory can remember the movie and the actor but not the brand of the headphones that I used? Let’s just say that Google is a good thing.

At WIS Radio in the late 70s I used the Sennheiser HD414 headphones. These were the first “on the ear” headphones I used since the Trimm headphones with which I started. These puppies were light and had a great sound a combination I really came to dislike, because they were feedback magnets. I never did feel that I could adequately hear what was going on because when I turned them up loud enough they would squeal like a stuck pig when I leaned up to the microphone to say something. One of the other DJs, who ran his headphones at just short of jet engine level, kept insisting that I do something to stop the feedback. So I got him a pair of Koss Pro-4AA “over the ear” headphones but he said they were too heavy. Fine with me, I used them the few times I filled in for an absent DJ.

I was fortunate in that I didn’t use those headphones too much in the 70s because I had many DJ friends who did and they all wear hearing aids. There was no beating hearing the air suck around the microphone when the VU meters are banging against the stops and the compressors were thumping. Oh YEAH! Man! That was radio!

As much as I disliked the Sennheiser HD414 headphones, I went back to the brand when I started doing enough air time to warrant getting a pair of radio quality headphones. These days I use the HD 380 Pro headphones. Their “over the ear” design prevents most feedback situations, but I still have to be careful. In my home studio, the headphones rest on the Shure RE-27 microphone when not in use during a show. Because I had no studio speaker muting, I had gotten used to keeping them on my head as long as the show is in progress. But last year I installed an AudioArts Air 1 console that does provide muting so they are off my head more than in the past. Another good thing is that the Air 1 limits the headphone volume to a safer level. I wonder if OSHA had anything to do with that.

At WUSC-FM, when they are not on my head, I carefully hang them on the neck of their Shure RE-20 microphone where I can grab them quickly before the record ends. One thing to note: the headphone volume on the older AudioArts D-75 console can be turned up way past the pain level. It is a good thing I have so much to do while the songs are playing there that the headphones are off my head almost all the time the microphone is not on. Occasionally, I get caught flatfooted when the song ends before I am ready. When that happens I have to be sure to keep the earpieces away from the microphone as I lift the headphones off of it, or I will get a little squeal of feedback. Keep listening, I guarantee it will happen sometime in the next show or two. Oh MY!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring Break!

In the news this week are several stories about the upcoming spring breaks sweeping the college campuses. Images of wild parties involving beaches, bikinis and booze flood the consciousness. It seems that everyone is headed to warmer climates and a week of abandonment of studies, killing off a few brain cells and a few skin cells in the hot sun. Yeah Baby! It’s gonna be fun for them. I remember my spring breaks well.

Wait a minute; I didn’t have spring breaks in college, or fall breaks for that matter.

The fall semester ran from the week after Labor Day until the second week of January with a couple of days off for Thanksgiving and Christmas. In January we returned for Fall Semester Final Exams and the end of the semester. Whether or not we had time off between the Fall and the Spring semesters depended on the scheduling of the final exams. If our last exam was near the end of the exam period, we didn’t have more than a day or so before we were back on campus standing in line to register for the spring classes.

The Spring semester ran between the last week or so of January through the latter part of May. The only break we got in the Spring semester was Wednesday through Sunday of Easter Week. Not exactly the time to “party hearty” under the warm sun on a golden beach somewhere.

I can hear you say; “Oh c’mon now! The next thing you’ll be telling me is that you had to walk uphill in 3 feet of snow both ways between your dorm and classes.” Honestly, I’m not being a curmudgeon. There was little snow in this picture but the semester schedules were different for us back in the day. The worst part about those schedules was that with Final Exams looming in the first week of January, much of the Christmas break was spent cramming for exams instead of cramming cranberries into our mouths.

Here in South Carolina there is the tradition of “First Week” when the upper class students and graduating seniors in high school would travel en mass to the beaches to celebrate the upcoming summer. In Florida, where beaches and sunshine were easily accessible, we had class parties many Spring weekends as soon as it was warm enough to wear a bathing suit without the accompanying goose bumps. Even if the weather was still a bit chilly, seeing the girls in our class in swimsuits instead of the school uniforms kept us boys warm enough. Note: I’m talking about the early 60’s so I’m talking about one piece swimsuits. I’m not sure I could have taken much of the “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka dot Bikini” from the Brian Highland song. The few of those on the beach got a lot of male attention all right.

The biggest difference from these high school beach parties and the spring break wildness we see today was the lack of booze. The drinking age back then was 21, still 4 or 5 years in our future. And there were no Chinese web sites where you could buy fake IDs. Geesh, I’m starting to sound like an Annette Funicello – Frankie Avalon movie. It may sound corny but we had fun.

My walk from the parking garage at the University of South Carolina campus to the Russell House Studios of WUSC-FM will be a lot lonelier tomorrow without being surrounded by the 25,000 plus students crowding the walkways as they change classes. I will miss them. Mingling with them keeps me young. I’m always greeted with smiles and good mornings. Because I have my laptop computer containing my oldies in a roller bag, I think they suspect that I’m a professor or something despite my Monday rockin’ socks. It’s always fun when I run into a student or member of the faculty that I know and the conversation turns to rock and roll.

DJ Goat Guy (don’t ’cha love their DJ names) who has the show before mine is going to Texas to be with his family and DJ Fix who has the one that follows mine is planning to be off campus on a University based project. So unless someone fills in for them I am likely to walk into an empty studio and take over from the automation to do my show. Likewise, at the end of my show I’ll be restarting the automation for the rest of the day. If I’m lucky, someone from the faculty or the staff will drop by and chat during the show or I’ll get a lot of requests over the phone. I’d like that; we “old school” DJs love a studio full of people. Oh MY!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Reeling through the years!

I was reading my Facebook news feed earlier this week when a picture of an Ampex 601 tape recorder popped up and triggered a whole bunch of memories. This vacuum tube machine was a wonder, it was rather large for a recorder, it was heavy and it was bound in a vinyl case that looked and felt like leather. And it was one of the first broadcast quality audio tape machines that I ever used.

In fact, there were two of them in the master control room at WUSC-AM when I did my first show there back in 1963. We had a couple more of them in the production studio and one more in the news booth. They were paired with big clunky Ampex 351s one in production and one in a rack in the back of the Master Control Room.

My first radio show was called “The Night Owl Show.” Why; first, because all radio shows back in those days had names and second, the show ran from 11 PM until 1 AM followed by the station signoff. That is how we got our on the job training then, recording the late evening show. On Friday afternoons, after my last class and a bite to eat in the Russell House Cafeteria, I’d take the elevator to the third floor. There I would pull a few albums from the massive record library. Once in the studio I would load the show tape and set it up for recording on the Ampex 351 behind me. I would then load up my Coca Cola commercial reel on the left had Ampex 601 and queue up my first two songs on the turntables. At 15 seconds before 1 PM, I started the recording on the Ampex 351. As the second hand swung closer to the top of the hour, I’d put my middle finger down on the edge of the record and start the turntable.

When the clock struck the hour, I turned up the volume control, called potentiometers, on the board for the turntable and released the record. And we were off and running. I always started recording my show on the top of the hour so I knew what time it was when it would be played back. That way, I could give an accurate time check several times during the show.

I still do that now when recording a show. But since my shows today play in multiple time zones around the world, I give the time as “20 minutes until the hour” or “13 minutes on the down side of the hour” and let the listener fill in the appropriate hour wherever and whenever they are. By the way just like my very first shows; my pre recorded show are “live to tape.” No editing, no voice tracking. You get to hear what happened, warts and all. There is so much energy in live shows that is missing in shows that are edited or assembled by an automation computer. I was fortunate in my career, that when I was forced to use an automation system, it was in “DJ Assist” mode.

But I digress; back to those Ampex 601 Tape machines. We would cue up the tapes on the machines by threading the tapes through the head assembly and onto the take up reels. Then we would start the tape and listen for the beginning of the commercial over the cueing system. We then stopped the tape when we heard the first sound and, using our hands on the reels, manually backed the tape up to the very beginning. A couple of manual “zip zips” back and forth to place the tape exactly in the right place and then we were ready. Although we had remote controls that could start the capstan motors on the tape machines, we rarely used them because it took several seconds for those motors to come up to the 7 ½ inches per second running speed. Instead we left the capstans running and used the lever switch to engage the capstan roller with the capstan and get an “instant start” at the beginning of the commercial. Because we had to reach the switches on either machine, they had to be placed as close to the DJ as possible. Ours were at either end of the audio console between the board and the turntables on each side.

As you can probably guess; with all the slip cueing going on with the records and the loading and cueing of the commercial tapes, not to mention the keeping of the logs, transmitter readings and answering the request line, with the average song lasting between 2 ½ and 3 ½ minutes, we didn’t have much time to sit back and relax.

It got a little better when I started at WCOS, we had a Gates 101 and three cart machines but our production elements such and jingles and the “Swap and Shop” segments with Dottie Lloyd were still on reel to reel tape. It wasn’t until I was at WIS Radio that I was able to use instant start turntables, cart machines, instant start reel to reel tape machines and an automation system operating in DJ Assist mode. Unfortunately, my time there was as “Chief Engineer” and what air time I had there was filling in when the announcer on the schedule was out sick or otherwise could not do his or her shift. The songs in the 70s were longer, although we still had transmitter readings to log it was nice to sit back in the air chair and enjoy at least part of the tunes.

These days, all my songs and show production elements are on a laptop that I connect with the station’s audio board. There are turntables and CDs in the control room but it is much easier to use the computer files instead. There are complications with all this being on one source but I’ve figured out work-a-rounds that allow me to do the old school 50’s and 60’s radio experience. But no, I still don’t have more time. I have to log every song into the RDS system that feeds the artists and song titles to the displays on your FM radios. So it pretty much feels the same to me, just different tasks. I have but one regret; I didn’t learn to type in high school. Oh MY!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Nooooooo! It’s way too early!

I started noticing it about Wednesday of last week. There was a light patina of yellow dust on the edge of my windshield when I started up the car to drive downtown to the office.

I went into immediate denial; it was the third week of February and we are supposed to be still on the lookout for possible flurries not for pine pollen. My body brought the reality into sharp focus with sneezing and coughing. To add insult to injury, the high temperatures the past few days were record high for those dates and the lows were warmest on record as well.

I went to the back window and checked; sure enough the Japanese Magnolia was in full bloom; the first blast of spring like weather arrived in February again this year. I have to admit, that I’m not a big fan of winter weather but I hate to see spring arrive this early. It’s bad for the strawberries, bad for the peaches and a bad omen for the summer to come.

This didn’t seem right so I checked with the South Carolina State Climate Office’s Web site. My suspicions were confirmed; the latest day in the year that we saw snow was April 3rd. Sure that was in 1915, but in 1973 we saw 16 inches of snow on February 9th and 10th out at the airport, 13 and ½ inches downtown near where I was working at WIS-TV. If my memory serves, it was not unusual to see a small snow event in March over the years I’ve been living here.

I don’t think it is going to happen this year though. The temperature is supposed to moderate this week but still remain above the average historical highs and lows for the week. Next weekend we’ll see the lowest temperatures in two weeks they will be a only a few degrees below the normal temps for those days, 67 degrees. It’s not looking too good for a return of winter.

I just spotted the nail in old man winter’s coffin as I glanced out of my studio window and spotted the pine worms in the trees all laden with yellow pollen ready to drop on me and the cars outside. Yup, both of the groundhogs; General Beauregard Lee in Atlanta and Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania spotted their shadows on February 2 and predicted 6 more weeks of winter. Phil may have it right up in the snowy North but I think General Beauregard Lee may be in need of glasses. Looks like an early spring down here in the south.

There is a silver lining in the early spring, if we don’t have any more freezing weather it will be good for the strawberries, peaches and oranges. We have lost too many crops due to late cold snaps. So keep your fingers crossed.

Still, my body is not yet ready for warmer weather. Last night I hung up all my flannel shirts. The lumberjack look is gone until November this year. The straw on the camel’s back was sweating in my flannel shirt last Friday in 80 degree weather.

Another spring thing I’m happily anticipating involves my weekly trek to and from the WUSC-FM studios on the University of South Carolina Campus. Instead of crossing the chilly, windswept patio at Russell House, I’ll be greeted by the students sitting at the tables under the spread arms of the Live Oak trees. My mind will be going back to those days 50 plus years ago when I was there enjoying the sunshine and the comradeship of my fellow students.

It will also be good to look out of the radio studio on the third floor down onto the red brick patio through the leaves branching out on the tree nearest the window. Unless it is raining, the patio will be alive with foot traffic as the students cross back and forth. One other thing that happens in the spring is the groups of high school juniors and their parents being led around by their Carolina Ambassadors getting the grand tour of the beautiful campus as they make their decisions about which college to attend. It’s not lost on me that in a few months, it will be the 55th anniversary of the day when I first laid my eyes on that patio. It was smaller and more intimate back then. Ahhh – the circle of life is complete. Oh MY!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Setting the mood with “rock and roll” lighting

You all remember the “Venus Flytrap” scenes from WKRP in Cincinatti; the ceiling lights are turned off and a single lamp with a dim bulb is glowing in an otherwise darkened studio. Yup, the cool studio was the dark studio where everything got a little intimate. Great scene; but it was not very accurate for most of the old time radio stations of the rock and roll era.

At least the ones that I worked in; in fact almost every one of those old control rooms were lit by 48 inch long fluorescent lights in the ceiling, not exactly the epitome of Venus Flytrap’s sexy lighting.

But when you consider what a Radio DJ had to do back in the day, fluorescent lighting was almost a must. We had to see what we were doing. We had cart labels, record labels and program logs to read. We had transmitter readings to take every thirty minutes and a transmitter log to fill in. We had news and weather copy to read off of teletype paper and commercials and PSAs to read out of the copy book. But what took the most light was queuing up those records. The 45’s were hard enough, setting the needle down on the outside groove took a good eye, a young person’s eye. But working at a station that played albums required much better vision; laying the needle down in the space between the song tracks took plenty of light, really good vision and a steady hand.

Sometimes you needed bright light just to stay awake on long late evening or overnight shifts. When I first started the overnight shift at WCOS, I thought it would be cool to turn off the lights in the main AM control room but leave them on full in the production studio and the FM control room on either side to shine through the big 4 by 8 foot glass windows that separated the three. I got the idea from April Black who did the show before I took it over in ‘65. But I quickly found out that I could almost fall asleep in the middle of a song. This was my first radio job and I had yet learned to pace myself. So about 3 AM I would turn the control room lights up full and turn off the ones in the other rooms.

In the remote control room in the parking lot at Doug Broome’s drive in on Two Notch at Beltline we had the usual fluorescent lights. In the early evening they seemed relatively dim compared with the setting sun, the restaurant lighting and the headlights of all the cars as they entered and left the restaurant. There was also a lot of traffic on the road 20 feet in front of the booth as the evening traffic and the cruisers whipped back and forth, driving to and from between us and the other radio station’s booths around town.

But, as the hour grew late, things changed; traffic thinned out, storefronts up and down the street became dark, and the parking lot was quieter, except for the back row of cars where the heavy making out was going on. But they didn’t want lights either. This late, it seemed that my little corner of the rock and world was white hot. I would be getting a little sleepy as my hamburger, fries and coke settled in. I needed a little more caffeine to round out the night. Let’s see; another coke and a slice of strawberry pie and the bright lights overhead would just about do it. I remained bright eyed and bushy tailed until time to pack up the records and drive back to the station.

The need for all this light diminished when records and tape cartridges were replaced by CDs and automation systems, so some of my control rooms in this century had sexy lighting. Fluorescent lights were replaced with dimmer controlled incandescent ceiling spot lights that highlighted the audio board were in. I finally had my “Sexy Venus Flytrap” studio. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to do a music show at that station, my work there was limited to producing and voicing commercials. But it was such a cool studio.

The control room at WUSC-FM has fluorescent lights in the ceiling. But doing a late morning show doesn’t really lend itself to a darkened studio, anyway. Besides, there is a big window directly behind the DJ that streams in the morning sunlight. Sometimes too much sunlight warms the place up in the summer. Thankfully last year they installed pull down shades in the windows so we could keep the summer sunlight at bay. Until last year, I would turn off the control room lights to keep their glare off the keyboards to the automation and DJ Assist computers. But alas, when they installed the security camera in the control room, they put lock boxes on the light switch so now I’m all squinty eyed when using those keyboards. I must admit that I kinda like the glow of sunlight on that audio board, as long as it is not on the three computer screens that these old eyes have to read.

What about my home studio, you may ask. Well, because you can no longer easily find incandescent lights, I do have a fluorescent light, but it is a color temperature adjusted CFL that makes it seem like an incandescent. Only one of the four radio shows I do in there is done at night. The last half hour of that one is a segment called “The Romantic Interlude.” The pace changes with the music and, at last, I am doing my “Venus Flytrap” thing in my sexy studio. Life is good. Oh MY!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

“Your” music may be showing your age!

I read an interesting article about favorite music for each of us this morning. It states that for women, their favorites when they were 13, for men that age is 14.

So that means, my favorite artists should be the likes of Elvis, Buddy Holly, Johnny Horton, Lloyd Price, Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, The Browns, The Fleetwoods, Santo & Johnny, Ritchie Valens, The Platters, The Everly Brothers, Dion and the Belmonts, The Crests, Brook Benton, Connie Francis, Pat Boone and The Drifters. I admit that they are some of my favorites. But for me, there is another group of favorites that came along later in the 60’s; The Beatles, The Stones, Aretha, Jerry and the Pacemakers, Billy Joe Royal, Tommy James and the Shondells, Linda Ronstadt, Dusty Springfield, The Motown Sound (The Supremes, The Miracles, The Temptations and The Four Tops,) Steppenwolf, The Doors, The Byrds, Merilee Rush and the Turnabouts, Lulu, Peter and Gordon and many more. In fact this latter group of favorites is bigger and more prominent in my memories that the earlier group in my memories.

So, if you were to chart my favorite tunes by year you would have one that looks like a suspension bridge with two towers, one for each peak. But like that bridge there are a lot of tunes before and after the peaks that make up my personal favorite’s list. According to the author of the article, my chart is different. That is appropriate; I am a bit different too. That second tower is situated squarely in the middle of my first job in radio, spinning the tunes at WCOS. I was living in the middle of the music of that time more than any other in my life.

I remember having a conversation with a co-worker a few years ago about music favorites. She was born in ’69 and her favorite period for music was the early 80’s. Note the 13 year old theory indicates that her peak year would be 1982. So we have anecdotal corroboration of the theory.

I would like to add my corollary to this theory. It states that as you go back in time from the date of your birth that every 10 years or so, you would have a minor hump. For the lack of a truly scientific name I call this the “Music Generational” hump. Personally, I have an affinity for the music that my parents loved; Benny Goodman – “Swing Swing Swing”, Frankie Laine – “Moonlight Gambler” and songs by Patti Page, Debbie Reynolds, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and many more of that time. According to that theory, I came to love those songs by listening along with my parents in the living room or in the car while growing up.

When I went back on the air in 2007 at WUSC-FM on the campus of the University of South Carolina, I was often astounded when an 18 – 21 year old student would walk in and tell me that my music brought back happy memories for them. When I asked them about how they could remember those songs when they were so young, they responded that Mama and Daddy loved those songs and that is how they heard them. There was a period a few years ago when that didn’t happen so much, but lately, it’s happening again; only it not Mom and Dad but Grandma and Granddad. This peak is not as strong as the one ten years ago but it is early in the cycle. We shall see.

The other thing that they remember is the radio experience of the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. As you may remember, the DJ style was very different from what it is today. There was a much stronger flow to the show with the DJ starting to talk over the tail of the song that was ending and then talking over the instrumental head of the song that was just beginning to play, ending the moment before the vocalist sang his or her first word. This practice had a name; “Walking up the record and hitting the post.” There are few DJs today that can still do that. The commercials of the day were delivered in that fast paced, strident style and then there were the jingles. THE JINGLES! The most popular jingles of the times came out of a pair of companies in Dallas Texas; Pams and Pepper-Tanner. They eventually merged but their short tunes were burnt into our memories as deeply as the number one songs on the charts.

Now in all honesty, I’m not one of those of a certain age that think that everything that came out after 1975 is no good. I do like certain tunes from the 80’s and the 90’s and even some from this millennium. There are some good songs coming out even today. But they don’t call to me as strongly as “my songs” do. At a risk of being called a curmudgeon, there are a couple of things that I detest in modern music. The first is Autotune. Its artifacts make me grind my teeth. The second is the tendency of many of today’s acts to use synthesizers instead of real instruments. This is usually a cost cutting measure, but to me, you can’t beat a real horn band or a full orchestra. I love my sax and violins.

So, if you are reading this, Google the top 100 songs of the year you were 13 (or 14 if you are a guy) I bet you will be able to remember every song on the list, and even sing most of them from beginning to end. Oh MY!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Winter Rain!

Today dawned rainy and cool; one of those perfectly miserable winter days when it is too yucky to step out of doors. There is a cold front knocking on the door and it will pass later today. The good news is that it will be about 10 degrees warmer than yesterday, if you can call 57 degrees good news.

When I first started working part time at WCOS back in ’65 I had a two block walk from my dorm at the University of South Carolina up Sumter Street to the studios in the Cornell Arms Apartments. On days like this, I would wrap up in my London Fog raincoat and umbrella and think how lucky I was that I was not working for WNOK where some of my college buddies were. They had a much longer 8 block walk.

I was working the weekend shifts on Saturday and Sunday evenings just before the All Night Satellite with April Black. When it was really cold and rainy, April would always admonish her listeners to “Watch out for the freezy skid stuff!” I am sure that Brylkreem loved the free plug. Their tag line at the time was “Watch out for the greasy kid stuff!” I must admit that once in a while back in those days I stole April’s line on snowy winter days.

Little did I know that within a few months, April would take her leave of “The WCOS Good Guys” and I would be promoted to full time status taking over the overnight show. By this time I have moved from the dorm to an apartment on the other side of campus and no car, my treck to the station had lengthened to six blocks. On rainy days, despite my best efforts I would arrive at the station with wet feet and soaked trousers up about a foot from my shoes. I would kick off my shoes and place my feet, wet socks and all, directly on the hot water heated floor. Ahhh - by time I started the second hour of the show I was dry and rarin’ to go. It was a good thing that the on air side of the station was covered in vinyl tile that was kept clean by our maintenance guy. My socks never got dirty, as long as I was careful around the teletype machines that spit ink droplets and paper dust all around.

A year later, I was promoted again to the evening time slot, the Doug Broome’s Nightbeat Show. It was a good thing that I had bought my first car, a lime green 1964 Plymouth. Yeah, I did say lime green; you could see me coming for miles. Now I had to drive up to the station and park at a meter in front of the Cornell Arms or in one of the spaces in the parking lot beside the building that was vacated by the day staff. I would pick up the rack of 45’s that made up the Top 60 in Dixie, later the WCOS Fun 40, the latest news and weather copy and the cartridges with the commercial spots that would run that evening.

All of this would go into a large cardboard box in which the paper for the teletype machines was shipped to us. On rainy days this box was a problem. It did not have a cover; the top of the box was cut off so that the fanfold paper could be fed directly out of the box and into the teletype. The best I could do was to cover our precious supplies with newspaper and run hunchbacked to the car. This time, no umbrella so the London Fog was the only protection we had. If it was raining really hard, the newspaper would be soggy by the time I got it to the car and I would have to pull it out of the box before it soaked the copy, carts and records below.

Fortunately, the space behind the radio booth out at the Two Notch Road location of the drive in restaurant was reserved for the DJ, leaving just a few quick steps from the car to the booth in the cold rain. Nevertheless, I was usually soaked again. So the raincoat was hung on the coat-rack next to the heater and it and I began our drying out process. The floor out at the booth was not nearly as clean as the one in the studio so my shoes stayed on. It sure was a good thing that our engineers made certain that all the equipment was properly grounded as otherwise we could have had a shocking incident.

Unfortunately cold rainy weather had a big impact on the audience that kept the traffic moving between us and the booths of the other radio stations moving. Winter rain kept the numbers down to a couple dozen cars driven by the hardcore “cruisers.” Summer was a little better but winters were hard. We did not have a request phone line out at the booth so these “cruisers” were the main source of the requests we got during the night. The car hops loved rainy evenings though. They were not supposed to make requests, leaving it up to the paying audience. On these nights, they were free to bring their own requests. If the rain wasn’t too bad I would even get requests from the car hops and waitresses working in the A & W Root Beer next door and the Burger King across the street.

After the MLK assassination on April 4, 1968, the city declared a 6 PM to 6 AM curfew and we moved the show back to the studios in the Cornell Arms. I sure did miss getting the requests in person and chatting with the folks who brought them, but I now had access to the request line and started doing at least one Instant Request per half hour. I have to admit that I had a love/hate relationship with the Instant Request. It is easy to say why I loved them; they gave me a direct connection with the audience. The hate part is that it was a very stressful minute or so. You had to be able to find and queue up a record while talking to the person making the request live on the radio. Add to that, given that there was no delay/drop circuit back then, there was no way to delete an inappropriate caller comment. This was a bigger danger the later it got. I was fortunate in that I never got burned, but I was listening when some other DJ’s did.

It is a never ending source of amazement to me, that some of the folks I met via the Instant Request are still listening to me now. When I think of that, I realize that the role of the Top 40 radio station and the DJs that made them all work is very different from the role modern DJs have today. It is not just the style, it is also the substance. Music and Radio played a much bigger part of the average teenager and young adult than it does today.

In the morning rain or shine, I’ll grab my “Air Computer” filled with over 20,000 oldies, sweepers and liners, and drive down to the USC campus, park in the garage and walk up the hill and across the same patio where I used to do remotes for WUSC AM back in the day. I have a protected path for all but about 50 yards of the way. But, I have a much bigger umbrella than I did back in the day so I won’t get nearly as wet as I used to. Besides, if I do get wet, I’ll have my Rockin’ Socks on. Oh MY!