Posted to OGR on 02/28/2010
Back when AM radio was king of the airwaves, amazing things happened at night. Shortly after dark the empty spaces on the radio dial came to life with sounds from far away. They were full of static and faded in and out, but one could listen to voices from all over the world. I remember tuning the dial on my radio in Jacksonville Florida and hearing Cousin Brucie and Chuck Leonard on Seventy Seven, WABC bang out the hits in New York City. Dick Biondi was spinning the platters at WLS, Chicago. Then, there were snowbound voices coming from WOWO in Fort Wayne Indiana. These were just a few of the ghostly sounds that entered my bedroom at night from all over the world; stations speaking French, most likely from Canada and Spanish, from Cuba and from time to time languages I couldn’t identify. Winter was far better than summer for listening to these distant voices because there were fewer thunderstorms in the northern hemisphere to interfere. This phenomenon was commonly known as skip!
When I was listening to WABC or WCBS in New York, I was transported to the cliffs at Palisades Park and partied with the kids from New York and New Jersey with the lights of Manhattan in the background. Dick Biondi took me to the shore of Lake Michigan, driving down Lake Shore Drive with the top down, listening to the hits of the Midwest. WLAC in Nashville and WLW in New Orleans took me to the home of the Grand Ole Opry and Bourbon Street and introduced me to sounds and flavors that were as foreign to a naïve, wide eyed teenager as London and Paris. Those evenings were magical. But my old friend “Skip” slowly faded away as FM became dominant. FM is sure a lot clearer and stereo is great, but the magic that was there between the bursts of static will live forever in my memory.
When I look at the server logs for OGR, I can see that folks have tuned in from exotic places like Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany, Mexico and Japan just to name a few. Maybe there is some young teenager, scouring the net the way I used to scan the AM radio band. Skip didn’t pass away, he just moved to the Internet.
Copyright 2010 Rick Wrigley