Posted to OGR on 04/25/2010
Back in the day, radio DeeJays recorded their shows from time to time to create a “demo reel” that they could send to prospective employers just in case something happened to the current gig. These recordings were called “Air Checks.” I was listening to one of mine recently that I found in the bottom of a box of tapes. One of the things that struck me was my station’s use of reverberation to create a “big” sound. This made the station sound like it was coming from the stage of a large auditorium and created a liveliness that was sought after by those of us who were trying to be the ultimate “Boss Jock.” The reverb went hand and hand with a strident delivery style all aimed at making the station the loudest place on the radio dial. Many stations across the country used reverb during the 60s, and some Oldies stations still do.
Reverb was created by splitting part of the audio signal out and running it through a speaker coil attached to a series of springs that had a small microphone attached to the other end. The unit at my station had three springs in it. One was active all the time and the other two could be switched in by pushing a small button. There was also a bell in the unit that could be chimed by pushing a second button. There were times when we were expected to use them for emphasis. For example, we were supposed to ring the bell every time we announced the time, and add more reverb when announcing a city during the news. The rest of the time it was left to the DeeJay’s discretion.
Needless to say, give a DeeJay a new toy and he will overuse it into the ground. It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull! Pretty soon, nearly every other word out of our mouth was punched out with the double reverb, and not only the time, but the temperature, the DeeJay name and the beginning of the next commercial all rated a bell chime. The station PDs gritted their teeth and waited for the novelty to wear off. After about a month, we got over it and the station really sounded good. Except for the time I stretched out and accidentally kicked the reverb box with my foot while I had my headphones on. I’ll leave the resulting sound to your imagination. My ears rang for weeks.
Copyright 2010 Rick Wrigley