Monday, August 31, 2009

Broadcast Radio In Vietnam

After graduating from my army radio repair class, I spent a few months at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; then I was sent to Vietnam for one year to be a radio repairman for the military police. When I arrived in Vietnam, one of the first things I did was scan the AM and FM broadcast bands for English speaking stations. I was at Long Binh which was located close to Saigon. I found AFVN at 540 Kilocycles running 50,000 Watts. They played a lot of oldies, but they never told us the temperature. Maybe they figured we were already miserable enough from the heat, so why rub it in. On FM I found a station with Cousin Brucie of WABC. I thought it was a satellite relay of WABC in New York, but it turned out to be a low power station at Bien Hoa Air Base just playing a tape of WABC.

Shortly after that, I found one could check out tapes such as what I heard from the USO. I wrote to WCFL in Chicago to request a tape, and I was informed I could deal only with the USO. My trip to the USO yielded no results. It seems many of the larger stations sent one hour shows on tape to Vietnam. It is my guess KAAY did the same thing. They were probably aired on some of the low power stations throughout the country.

After being there awhile, I became bored with listening to AFVN. I found a couple of Vietnamese stations playing American oldies. One station announced in Vietnamese, but every few minutes they would say, “Flashlight Club.” I never figured out the significance of that. The FM station at Bien Hoa seemed to play nothing but tapes, but most of them were pretty good. Would you believe I actually longed to hear some real commercials? It seemed to me there had to be a way to hear something from the USA such as KAAY or KOMA, and I was the one to do it.

I had decent equipment in my communications shop, so I decided to string-up a long wire antenna. What a disappointment! I heard the Philippines and some other armed forces stations, but I never heard anything from the USA mainland on the AM broadcast band. Then I reasoned it wasn’t too likely I would. Since some of the stations in other countries were running higher power than our stations at home, why didn’t I ever hear a listenable signal from them at home near Chicago? If I actually could pick-up a signal from the USA, would it be strong enough to actually listen to it for pleasure. I heard a lot of static from lightning crashes. I heard some California hams on the forty meter ham band. Soon after that, the FM station at Bien Hoa started some live programming, but the prerecorded shows they were playing were funnier than one could imagine. I’ll write about that next. They were my inspiration.

I would like to hear from somebody who actually heard a listenable signal from KAAY in Vietnam. I’ll bet there were a lot of Beaker Street tapes making the rounds throughout the country.

The station at Bien Hoa was run by a gentleman in the air force; his name is Phil Lenz. More to come.

Ron Henselman W9FT

Sunday, August 30, 2009

RCA Broadcast Transmitter Archive!

WOW! Thanks to Ron Henselman for this great link to a website full of beautiful vintage RCA broadcast transmitters! In color, too! One picture is of the RCA BTA-50F at KOMO, previously posted here.

Go to this link and enjoy the beautiful pictures on this archive...thanks to Ron!

http://www.oldradio.com/archives/hardware/RCA/50.htm

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

KAAY & Vietnam

I'd read somewhere on the Internet, and also where Richard Robinson mentioned in the post, "Beaker Street Poster", where our troops in Vietnam heard Beaker Street. This is not surprising, because of two factors: One, KAAY's high power on a clear channel and two, propagation factors between nighttime and daytime areas of the world. The lower the frequency, the more the signal will crawl along the surface of the earth, but the upper atmosphere has a hand in it, as well.

It's been mentioned that troops would write in and say they heard the show and would also make requests. Do any of the KAAY deejays/PMs/GMs remember this specifically? I also remember an "urban legend" I haven't been able to substantiate, where someone called via the MARS Network (Military Affiliate Radio Service, which would link soldiers via Ham radio onto phone patches to talk to home) to KAAY and made a request. Do any of the KAAY deejays/PDs/GMs remember anything like that happening???

Needless to say, I'd mentioned to several KAAY employees about their time in Vietnam and got these responses so far:

From Dick Downes: "You'd be surprised at the names who came out of AFVN. Check the Yahoo group. Pat Sajak did mornings in Saigon at the same time I did mornings in Danang.

I got to Nam in late '68. Worked out of Cam Ranh Bay as an Information Specialist for a year, made E-5, then was approached to extend my tour. They'd give me a 30-day leave including airfare, plus an early out. I asked to audition for AFVN as part of the deal - they said no problem, but if I failed the audition, it was back to the IO (which wasn't that bad). Then I asked the personnel guy what the point of no return is. Huh? Where would I have to select for my leave where I go there by flying east, come back from the west (in other words: around the world). So the light bulb goes off and he looks it up and says, "Copenhagen." So that's where I wanted to go on leave. Sure enough I made several stops on the way and after a month of training in Saigon, got the morning show in Danang. I left on June 15th 1970."

And from Dave M.: "
"Hi Bud, and all - I was in Vn in '72 and worked in Cryptography. Was stationed in Can Tho, Pleiku, and MACV HQ Than San Nhut / Saigon. I separated in Jan 73 and went back to KAAY - Pat Walsh held my job open for me during my tour. Dave M."

And from Dave S., on the beakerstreetFAQ: "http://beakerstreet.com/faq.htm )that the soldiers in Vietnam would hear him, thanks to the "skip":

CC: Well, it went out further than even that at times. During the Viet Nam war I got letters from Southeast Asia. And you see, I never really thought about that then. But while I was broadcasting at night, over there it was daytime. And the big thing about sky waves is that you're dealing with reflective signals from the night-time ionosphere, and during the day the sun dissipates the ionosphere. You only have ionosphere on the dark side of the planet, and I guess what was happening is that it would get its last bounce and then bounce into the daytime signal, and they were hearing it over on the other side of the world. They would send lists of the stuff that I played and requests and all.
"

Look also at: www.artofthemix.org/FindAMix/getcontents.aspx?strm.xid "Beaker Street By Deadman"

And, for a history link regarding radio broadcasting by American forces on AFVN in Vietnam, check out this link:

http://home.earthlink.net/~bfwillia/index.html

Radio propagation can be v-e-r-y interesting!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Transmitter Rescues And Rebirths

Ham radio has been a great hobby to me and many others around the globe. So much to do, so many frequencies to talk on, so many technologies developed and passed on to commercial interests, with many more technologies to be discovered! Even so, there is one technology that has not gone by the wayside: AM mode!

Some call it "ancient mode"; when FM radio came into favor, some called it "average music". No matter, there is a segment of the Ham community that still love the warm, rich, full-bodied sound of a large AM transmitter. There is even a segment of that community who have been fortunate enough to rescue old AM transmitters from the trash heap, retune and refurbish them and get them on the lower Ham bands: "160 meters" is just above the top end of the AM broadcast band and is a fairly easy conversion and "75-80 meters" which is above that, is also used. Rescues of 1 kilowatt and 5 kilowatt transmitters have been successful, and, with our limitation on output power being at 1.5 kilowatt, some of the larger transmitters are tuned down in power and loaf along, to live a long life, possibly longer than that of it's owner/operator!

Coupled with a vintage receiver, these make for a wonderful station! I have talked with several fellow Hams who have been involved with a rescue; one comes to mind, Mr. Paul Courson, WA3VJB, who has a tremendously warm and powerful signal on the air! If you heard one of these beautiful old AM transmitters rescued for Ham radio, you'll know the difference.

If anyone is interested, here are a couple of links to read abouth the rescues, complete with pictures:

http://amfone.net/index.php?pid=16

http://amfone.net/index.php?pid=19

Many Hams have been (and many still are) broadcast engineers, and get to play with and maintain equipment that many of us only dream about. To be sure, there is no way a 50,000-watt transmitter could be recued and put back on the air on our service, BUT, the smaller aforementioned ones can be...and most are free for the taking.

I remember talking with one Ham years ago who worked for a local AM station; about twice a year, the transmitter would be taken down and off-line for repairs and maintenance from midnight to 6AM, local time. He gained permission to use the transmitter, after all was done, and run legal Ham limit (power) to talk with other Hams on the transmitter, listening to the Ham stations respond on a separate receiver. He was only able to do this a couple of times, since it was a little tedious and it had to be over with and the transmitter ready to go back to full broadcast power at 6AM, but he was glad he was afforded the opportunity.

Wow, what us Hams do for a quality signal....AM still lives on!

Bud S., KC4HGH (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Wonderful Memories And Stories!

Folks, we've been fortunate and blessed for so many contributors coming forward and offering great memories, stories and anecdotes...I feel like a kid again, reading this stuff! These comments reflect some of the awe and honor Ron and David B. Treadway feel:

"I'll bet this is an experience all of us would like to have had. This is truly a great story. I can imagine what it was like to have all of the hair on your arms stand straight up.


Ron Henselman"

"Hi, Ron!

Looking back after nearly forty years, I can't be certain if it was the RF that made that hair stand up, or the intimidation factor of being near that much electricity and heat. And there is a third possibility: the transmitter that some of us called Big Mama was (is!)a living being.

Whatever the case, I was extremely fortunate--Blessed is a better word--to have been the kid who got to work with Legends at the beginning of his career. I wouldn't trade my times at KAAY for gold!

David"

I probably mentioned before that, when I was a kid, I imagined myself as a deejay one day; life took me down a different path, but I was able to enjoy some of the production experiences. I am honored to be rubbing elbows with these Legends, through this blog...thank you, gentlemen!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

KAAY Transmitter Building





Several contributors have added to this blog, in regard to the mammoth 50,000 watt transmitter, which sent the signal of KAAY programming over most of Arkansas during the daytime hours, and throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond at night. I thought some of the readers of this site might enjoy seeing the building in which that huge piece of equipment was housed. The top photo shows the three towers on the property. The second is a sign just past the locked gate, in the driveway to the structure. The transmitter building for the station is located at Wrightsville, Arkansas, some 20 minutes from downtown Little Rock. It is a two-story, brick structure, complete with a bomb shelter, emergency broadcasting equipment, an emergency generator, workshop, equipment storage, music library and an apartment for the resident transmitter engineer. These photographs were shot during the summer of 2007. This was during my first visit to see it, when I also interviewed Felix McDonald, the original transmitter engineer for many years, who lives about a half-mile from the building. According to several sources, McDonald kept the grass mowed, and the entire area, both inside and out, in immaculate condition. He was a stickler for the entire transmitter complex and grounds (which was HIS baby), and believed it keeping it neat, clean and in good repair. As you can see, the site has not been cared for in that manner, probably beginning when Felix retired a few short years ago. As a former engineer and host of "Beaker Street," Tom Rusk said, "Companies and people just don't take pride in their work today. The condition of the transmitter building and surrounding area is just sad to see today. Felix McDonald took great pride in the part of KAAY operation that he supervised. In today's corporate environment, we just don't have that anymore." Of course, this building is where the program "Beaker Street" originated, and where Clyde Clifford and others gave us underground radio programming from 1966 until 1977. The studios in LIttle Rock were where most of the programming originated, but this area represents the heart of the KAAY broadcast operation.

Richard Robinson

Ron Henselman: And You Thought You Had a Big Stereo ?!

One might have a difficult time trying to imagine what it was like being around a transmitter the size of the one used at KAAY, and that includes me. I've never had my fingers in anything larger than five kilowatts.

Clyde Clifford stated the KAAY final RF amplifier section consumed 80,000 Watts when no audio (modulation) was applied. The transmitter used the best sounding form of modulation available during the time period in which the transmitter was built: plate modulation. If one wishes to modulate that transmitter to the full legal limit, then 40,000 Watts of audio is required. (And I thought my 200 Watt stereo could shake the walls!) If one were to use more audio, the transmitter would splatter over into the adjacent channels.

If the final RF amplifier consumed 80,000 Watts from the power supply and delivered 50,000 Watts RF to the antenna, then where did the other 30,000 Watts go? The answer is it was wasted as heat. This is also true for the modulator/audio section. All of the other stages in the transmitter contributed to the total amount of heat generated by the transmitter. (And I thought my little electric space heater did a great job heating up a room!)

The type of tubes used in a power amplifier section of a transmitter such as the BTA-50F don't even resemble the vacuum tubes most of us have seen in consumer electronics. Many large tubes are built with the anode (plate) area exposed, and they have fins which air is forced through for better cooling efficiency.

Many of us have our fantasies about playing with these giant transmitters, but very few of us ever get close to one. My fantasy was to be close to the modulation transformer in the old border blaster, XERF (250 KW), when they played the song "Have I the Right" by The Honeycombs. The big bass drum of Honey Lantree was combined with the rest of the group stomping on a staircase to increase the booming bass sound. I can imagine that the iron laminations in that transformer vibrated and shook most of the transmitter building! I've built a few transmitters that had 500 Watts of audio, and it was a weird feeling to feel the floor shake when I spoke into the microphone --- just think about 50,000 Watts! I'm 62 now, and I've come to one conclusion: some of us technical people never grow up.

How many readers have actually had the honor of repairing one of those 50 kilowatt monsters? Many of us had the required license to work on these units, but the chief engineer would never let us touch the insides. Sometimes we were there only to fulfill an FCC legal requirement....

---Ron Henselman

Friday, August 28, 2009

A 50KW Room Heater....

Hey Bud!

Just a quick post script to the transmitter stories - KAAY was a 50kw room heater. Whaaa-a-a-a???

Cooling for the transmitter was by outside ambient air, "inhaled" into the building via a large filter and blower room situated downstairs and directly below the transmitter's modulator and final P.A. cabinet. In the summer, the hot transmitter exhaust air was channeled straight up and out of the building, through a series of metal chimneys on the roof.

In the winter, though, the chimneys dampers were closed off, and the hot exhaust air was dumped directly into the building, and then recirculated downstairs to the blower room, providing "free" heat for the entire two story building. If it got too hot in the building, temperature was controlled by opening a window! It was always toasty warm in the building even on the coldest nights!

At the new Cottondale Lane studios, the studios were all upstairs. The HVAC system was designed to inhale cool outside air when the outside air was cooler than the inside thermostat setting, and the A/C compressors would not run, saving electricity.

KAAY was green before it was "cool to be green".

/Dave M/

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Phil North airchecks, Part 3

Phil North has been kindly supplying airchecks from his days at KAAY, and here are three more!

The first is a scoped aircheck of the KAAY "Capsule Countdown" in 1970, where Phil presents the Top Six songs of the week. (Who's Number 1? Well, it's like a bridge over troubled waters...)

(click here to play stream instead)


The next clip is a montage of "intros and outros" from a "Souvenir Weekend" that Phil broadcast on KAAY in 1971. There's lots of Beatles and 50's stuff here, but Jimi Hendrix sneaks in, too:

(click here to play stream)

Finally, here's a commercial that Phil and David Treadway recorded for Little Rock Dodge, where the "Dodge Answer Man" almost convinces a, uh, "dodgy" caller to buy a new Charger for $2984. (I guess I'd go for that!)

(click here to play stream)


Thanks, Phil! (There's more to come....)

--Dave S.

Ellie Greenwich, R.I.P.

Songwriter Ellie Greenwich passed away yesterday, August 26, 2009, at 68 years young. Her songs from the 1960's, "Be My Baby", "Leader Of The Pack", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "And Then He Kissed Me" and others left a mark in many teens' hearts for a lifetime....

Rest easy, sister....

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article6812735.ece

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Flying Saucer

"Bud.... A follow up on the KAAY Flying Saucer story. Thanks to Richard for the picture too, I have a similar one.

We were lining up for the Arkansas Livestock Show Parade, which used to be a big deal, through beautiful downtown North Little Rock and Little Rock.

The year was about 1964 or 1965. I am the one (Sonny Martin) on the machine and A.J. Lindsey (Emperor Holiday) ...Robe, Crown, and all.....has the rope.

The idea was that we would have an on air bet, that I would win, so that I could ride the saucer in the parade, and Emperor would have to walk. We did not anticipate a slight problem. The saucer would hover well on a flat surface, and could go in whatever direction you wanted by leaning in that direction. It had a big Briggs and Stratton engine under the seat, and a huge fan under the deck. We practiced on the lot behind the station, which is now I-630. Problem was, the route of the parade was on streets that had a "crown" in the middle. Hovering only three or four inches off the ground, the saucer would head toward the downhill curb, and I could not lean enough to get it back to the middle. We had to hurriedly get a rope for A..J. to pull on to keep me near the middle. And yes, we were behind the Sheriff's Mounted Patrol, and yes, they did make messes in front of us, and yes, we did spray the crowd on several occasions. Sometimes by accident.

I know very well, having worked for A.J. at two different stations (KXLR and KAAY), that he was as creative as any Program Director ever. We would take anything possible, and not much of a budget sometimes, to promote the station. And nobody had more fun either.

I also have a picture riding an elephant in the Ringling Bros. parade that I will share with you soon.

Jerry Sims aka Sonny Martin"

Thank you, Richard and Jerry, for such hilarious posts! And, Jerry: since the Emperor lost the bet, you didn't blow anything his way, did you?

Keep 'em comin'!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Bigger'n Six Cadillacs

May much praise now be heaped upon Dave Montgomery ("Lee Roy truly is my middle name") for writing in about the RCA BTA-50F transmitter at KAAY! I wish everyone who remembers the station so fondly could stand beside that beast for a little while and watch her work. And it would only be for a little while, because the energy coming off of her was unimaginable.

"You wanna go to the transmitter?" Phil North asked me one evening in June of 1971, toward the end of his 8:00-11:00 PM show. He called Clyde Clifford on the Army surplus field telephone that ran down the backup phone loop to the site to let him know we were coming. We jumped into Phil's '68 Camaro SS (you know the model: blue with the white panels on the hood and the rear deck) and tore out for Wrightsville.

When we got within two miles of the 145th Street exit on what is now I-530, the tower lights came into view and I started getting tingly. Clyde had unlocked the front gate for us and we were mighty careful to lock it behind us. We went in the front entrance, up the steps of a two-story brick building that looked like a fallout shelter--which, in fact, it was.

I asked Phil about what seemed to be a bullet hole in the front door. "Oh, that's from the riots." I'm guessing he meant the racial unrest of 1965. I was too excited to ask for details, but I didn't need any when I saw that Clyde had a .45 pistol holstered on the control desk to his right. Pat Walsh kept a loaded shotgun over the studio door at 1425 West 7th Street, ("don't touch it, don't even LOOK at it") so it wasn't too odd that there'd be guns at the transmitter.

Phil introduced me to Clyde and I suppose I must have looked like a gape-jawed yokel from the sticks (which I was) because all I could do was STARE at that transmitter! It was ten or twelve feet tall and took up a whole WALL of a very big room. It was roaring and glowing like Hell's Locomotive. It was ginormous and it was ALIVE! The "final" tubes were as big around as my waist and they stood nearly chest high (I'm 6' 4") in their mounts. The heat coming off them was such that each one had a (copper?) pipe blowing air on it to keep it from burning up. Clyde told me that it pulled 80,000 watts at zero percent modulation.

To help you imagine the size of an RCA BTA-50F, most of the 1,000-watt transmitters at the time weren't much bigger than a refrigerator. If you stepped up to 5,000 watts, they'd be about the size of two-and-a-half refrigerators. In my state of complete dumbfound-itude, I reckoned that you could stack six Cadillacs inside that RCA (3 wide X 2 high) and still have about enough room to raise the hoods on the top ones!

Clyde showed us the interior of the beast ("Don't touch anything and keep one hand in your pocket"), but when he took us around behind it where the RF went out to the towers, I couldn't endure it. The hair on my arms began to stand up and there seemed to be a voice in my head saying "GET OUT."

This was the night that Phil took me out under the towers (you could hear the audio quite clearly from the three tuning shacks) and showed me little Glaspie's tombstone. After that, I was quite ready to go home!

The word is overused these days, tossed about by young'uns who do not grasp its true meaning, but it fits that transmitter: AWESOME.

David B.Treadway

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A "Funny" about the KAAY Flying Saucer

This story was relayed to me by the late Pat Walsh, in 2004.

KAAY had a "flying saucer" created for station promotions. It featured a smooth, curved metal base, with a lawnmower engine in the center. Essentially, it was a hovercraft, with the lawnmower blades lifting the device off of the pavement a few inches. The saucer featured a seat with handles on it. The disc jockey (or whoever was riding) could steer the device by shifting their weight and leaning one way or the other. It was a great attention grabber when the station took it to shopping centers, and new business openings.

One year, the station was invited to participate in the annual Arkansas State Fair parade. Someone came up with the idea to attach a steel cable from the front of the flying saucer to the back of a station car. A disc jockey (Walsh didn't remember who) was perched on top, and since the saucer was tethered, followed the car down the street and waved to the crowd.

Unfortunately the fair officials placed the KAAY car and flying saucer right behind the horses. Apparently they thought this would be preferred placement for "The Mighty 1090." At one point in the parade, horses do what horses do - they relieved themselves. Well, when the blade of the flying saucer passed over the horse excrement, it picked it up and flung it all over the spectators on both sides of the street. According to Walsh, they were never asked to participate in that parade after that!

I thought this was a priceless story. Thank you for all the great postings.

Richard Robinson (rickradio@charter.net)

Sad Demise

Dick Downes checks in with some ratings of KAAY as an AM station from 1975 to 1985:

"A friend at "a ratings company that shall not be named" was kind enough to look through the archives for me and found the 10 years that document the demise of the Top-40 KAAY we all loved ('75 was the first year available and after '85 it doesn't matter):

KAAY 12+ AQH Share

1975 8.2
1976 8.8
1977 10.3
1978 13.3
1979 8.0
1980 6.8
1981 5.5
1982 4.9
1983 4.8
1984 3.0
1985 1.5"

Thank you, Dick! It seems fitting to note this, due to a previous posting re: "Some More KAAY Trivia, From Greg Fadick".

Thank you, Dick!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dave Montgomery talks about the KAAY transmitter

Much has been said about the “sound” of KAAY. We worked very hard to get it right and keep it right. Felix McDonald, my boss, kept the transmitter in as good of shape as a new one, and every year at Proof of Performance time, the ol’ RCA-BTA50F gave us flat frequency response, low distortion, and a full measure of output at +100% modulation. What a sweetie she was!


Here’s a photo of the KOMO Seattle RCA BTA-50F transmitter – the same model used at KAAY. They just don’t make them like this any more – The Beaker Street show originated from the transmitter, about 10 feet and just out of the left side of the picture.

Here’s the power amplifier cabinet – the ceramic tube sockets are about the size of a toilet . . .


Back at the Cottondale Lane studio, 15 miles away, we used an off-the-air monitor to listen to the actual transmitter output. Since most AM receivers had miserable audio performance, we had to pull a trick or two. The signal was received on a McKay Dymek tunable amplified dipole antenna and a matching McKay Dymek full audio frequency response AM receiver. If you have never heard of these, you might be surprised to find out that these were some of the absolutely best am radio receivers ever designed. You can read about them here:

http://www.radiointel.com/ads/mckay_dymek_1980_cat.pdf
(Check out the prices, in 1980 dollars !!!)

If I remember correctly, KAAY used the AM-5 and DA-5 receiver and tunable antenna in combination. The receiver output fed the control room monitor amps and a JBL model 4311 studio monitor mounted in the ceiling right above the announcer’s head.

Sadly the McKay Dymek receivers are no longer manufactured, but if you EVER get a chance to listen to one, you will be absolutely amazed at how good AM radio can sound!

/Dave M./

Monday, August 24, 2009

A NEAT Little Radio!

I had to work in town this past weekend and stopped by my local Fred's department store to pick up a few supplies. I always cruise the electronics aisle in these little places, sometimes finding some interesting stuff. I'd only had a tiny portable FM receiver and wanted something AM/FM, but the units offered lately were either bad performers or cost too much.

Well, my eye stopped on a Coby CX-73 AM FM receiver...and at $5.49, I didn't think I'd waste too much money if it didn't work. It came with a lanyard clip and a belt clip (both flimsy) and a nice set of earbuds. It was made in China, but designed by Coby here in the U.S.A. An additional $2.29 for a 4-pack of AAA alkalines (it takes two) and I was out the door.

I dug it out of the blisterpack, loaded the batteries and turned it on...WOW! Good audio on AM (which is what I got it for, since I like to listen to AM Talk Radio). It had a wide figure-eight receiving pattern, so it didn't take much to zoom in on a signal. FM was fair, at best. Needless to say, as I worked, it kept up a good audio and the signal barely faded as I moved around. On FM, however, it was tedious to keep a signal, even as I oriented the earbud's wire differently around my body (there was no mention that the wires acted as an antenna, as in some units). So, if you stay on the FM band, this may not be a good unit for you....

...BUT, I was also pleasantly surprised with this little unit on AM after sundown! Remember, I'm a night-crawlin' AM DXer from 'way back! I decided to tune around for a couple of evenings and got signals from ALL over: Johnny Rabbitt on the Route 66 Oldies Show on KMOX came in like gangbusters....WSM Nashville, with good country music...WLW Cincinnati, OH with a news program...WGN, Chicago, IL...WSB, Atlanta...and I tried WLS, Chicago, but it was covered up by a Spanish broadcaster (as always). Literally, if I could hear it with my Ham radio in the truck, I could hear it with this little Coby! It was surprisingly "hot" on AM receive!

I haven't dissected it yet (I used to do that as a Products Editor for another publication), but, it is working so good, I'm almost afraid to let the magic out! I may, or may not, go get another one to tear apart (maybe I should leave well enough alone?), to see if its as "hot" a receiver as this one...or maybe just get one as a spare. At less than $10 with batteries, its a pretty good deal in my book! This one will go hunting and fishing with me, for sure!

Here's a link, for those interested:

http://www.cobyusa.com/?p=prod&prod_num_id=146&pcat_id=1008

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Some More KAAY Trivia, From Greg Fadick

From the Totally Obscure Facts Department:

Throughout most of the 1960’s, KAAY held an FCC Construction Permit for an FM station on 98.5 with the call letters KAAY-FM, but never actually put the station on the air. In early 1971, they let the CP go back to the FCC. Whether that was a local or corporate decision, I have no idea. The KAAY sales manager at the time, Joe Dickey, seized on this as an opportunity, and hooked up with Danny Garner, at that time the owner of Carrousel Attractions, the local rock concert promoter.

Danny provided the financing...about $150,000 including construction of studios and transmitter site, and KLAZ went on the air July 7, 1972. I just think it’s ironic, and sad, that the station which brought the FM revolution to Little Rock and started sounding the death knell for KAAY should have been KAAY-FM. Who knows? Maybe those legendary calls would live on today.

Thanks,

Greg

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A.J.'s audio files

If you have followed A.J. Lindsey's blog, kaay1090.blogspot.com, you have no doubt listened to many of the audio clips that A.J. posted. These clips were saved by A.J. on a variety of web servers --- podomatic.com, vanburenfilmfestival.com, cox.net, etc.

Unfortunately, due to A.J.'s death in May, a number of these sites are disappearing due to inactivity and nonrenewal, and the links to the audio files on A.J.'s blog are breaking, one by one.

Fortunately, all the audio files from A.J.'s blog have been saved and are in the process of being moved to a new, permanent site. When the site is available for your use, we will notify you.

Thanks for your patience and support!

---Dave S. (schmidt1953@gmail.com)

Jerry Sims's vacuum tube


With the recent technical talk, I thought y'all might be interested in a look at this tube from the old transmitter. I was given the tube by Felix McDonald, Chief Engineer, on a visit to the transmitter several years ago. I had previously sent a picture of a cart machine that A.J. put on his blog, that I got in the same trip. In taking the picture we tried to make the RCA numbers visible. The old transmitter, which takes up several rooms, was (is?) right there with the new one, which only took up part of one wall. Felix was proud of the fact that the old one was still kept in working condition, and could take back over with the flip of a switch. He always amazed me.

It seems, many of us did not know much about the technical side of broadcasting. I certainly did not. A brief story about our lack of that kind of knowledge: A young man continued to bug us about the business until we agreed to let him come and cut an audition tape. When he got there he was more fascinated with the technical end of the business. He continued to try to impress us with his technical know how...."Wow, is that an RCA (whatever)...look you use the Gates (whatever)...and the Ampex......." on and on. Finally one of us (surely not me) said..."Yep, and there's a three legged stool. Do you think you might want to sit on it and do the tape?" OK, maybe it might have been me.

-- Jerry Sims (aka Sonny Martin, a long time ago)

Dave M. Checks In, Re: Craziest Promotion?

"Hi Bud,

I was off doing my tour of southeast Asia, so I can't provide any significant details of this promotion, but maybe David B. or Greg or someone else could fill in the details -

KAAY had a skunk festival (yep, that's right!!). The event was born out of Loudon Wainwright's "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road" song that was a hit at the time. I seem to remember an event was organized at War Memorial Stadium, and numerous pet skunks were brought out for a beauty contest and other events.

But like I said, someone else would need to fill in the details -

Have fun!

\\Dave M//"

"'Dead Skunk'
Loudon Wainwright III
words and music by Loudon Wainwright III

Crossin' the highway late last night,
He shoulda looked left and he shoulda looked right,
He didn't see the station wagon, car,
The skunk got squashed and there you are!

(Chorus)You got yerDead skunk in the middle of the road,Dead skunk in the middle of the road,
Dead skunk in the middle of the road,
Stinkin' to high heaven!

Take a whiff on me that ain't no rose!
Roll up yer window and hold yer nose,
You don't have to look and you don't have to see,
'Cause you can feel it in your olfactory,

(Repeat Chorus)

Yeah you got yer dead cat and you got yer dead dog,
On a moonlight night you got yer dead toad frog
Got yer dead rabbit and yer dead raccoon,
The blood and the guts they're gonna make you swoon!

You got yer dead skunk, in the middle,
Dead skunk in the middle of the road.
Dead skunk in the middle of the road,
Stinkin' to high heaven.C'mon stink!(Fiddle break)

You got it,It's dead, it's in the middle,
Dead skunk in the middle!
Dead skunk in the middle of the road,
Stinkin' to high heaven!
All over the road, technicolor man!
Oh, you got pollution.It's dead, it's in the middle,
And it's stinkin' to high, high heaven!(Fiddle fadeout)"

Dave, I remember an audio clip on A. J.'s blog where there was mention of a Skunk Festival...I wonder if they were tame enough to be groomed or if they actually had their glands removed? Kinda like classic cars, you gotta wonder if they're "all original", heh heh!

(I remember a movie where a little kid was following after a skunk, calling, "kitty, kitty....")

Any takers on the details here? Maybe we can capture that audio clip and get it here....

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

David B. Treadway: Re: Craziest Promotion?

Hands down, the craziest KAAY promotion (a.k.a. Stupid Stunts In Public) that I remember would HAVE to be the Great Cowchip Toss-Off. As I recall, the winner of the Little Rock competition got an all-expense-paid trip to the national championships in Beaver, Oklahoma. And the "ammunition" for the event didn't cost the station a thing. Chief Engineer Felix McDonald always grazed a herd of cows at the transmitter site, so he just hitched a wagon to his Ford tractor and went collecting around the towers.

Another promotion that intrigued me occurred in the summer of 1970, when listeners were encouraged to send in postcards or letters to win the official KAAY Rubber Band. Yes, the prize was a rubber band--and hundreds of entries poured in! It was not until the winner was announced that it was revealed that that rubber band would be wrapped around "a crisp, new, one hundred dollar bill." I believe that promotion came from the very fertile mind of Program Director Barry Wood, alias Mike McCormick II. The story goes that he wanted to prove that listeners would respond to the most mundane prize in the world if the "marketing" of it was handled properly. Well, it was and they did!

KAAY listeners always had front-row seats in the Theatre Of The Mind.

David B. Treadway

Doc Holiday VII 1971-72

And a couple of times after that

Ron Henselman Comments On KAAY Callsign Change

"This is a great post, but I don't think the call sign changed to KAAY in July. Maybe that is when the paperwork was approved or LIN bought KTHS. I might be off by an hour or so, but I made the recording which hinted of the change on September 2, 1962. I believe the call sign change took place at 6:00 AM local time on Monday, September 3, 1962. It was Labor Day morning.

A.J. and I were going to try to recreate the sounds of that weekend from what we remembered. I started work on the promo's, but we didn't get anyone to volunteer to read the phone book. It was tough to remember the exact wording over forty-five years later. After I found the original recording I made in 1962, the whole idea of a recreation seemed worthless.

Sincerely,

Ron Henselman W9FT Melrose Park, IL"

Ron, do we have this recording? Might be pretty cool to post that, as well!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Witchi Tai To" on Beaker Street

I found some unusual music by Native American songwriter and saxophonist Jim Pepper on the Brewer and Shipley website:

http://www.brewerandshipley.com/Misc/RareSongs.htm


"Witchi Tai To"
Brewer & Shipley - 1969
"Witchi Tai To" was written by Native American songwriter and saxophonist Jim Pepper, and was released by his group Everything Is Everything in 1969. Brewer & Shipley would hear "Witchi Tai To" on Clyde Clifford's Beaker Street from radio station KAAY (The Mighty 1090) beaming out of Little Rock, Arkansas, while they were driving in route at night to their next gigs. "Witchi Tai To" has both Native American and English lyrics, and they learned the Native American lyrics phonetically. Ironically, Brewer & Shipley got all the Native American lyrics right, but misinterpreted some of the English lyrics. Brewer & Shipley's arrangement was also a little more upbeat than the Everything Is Everything original, and their cover got heavy FM airplay. Next to "One Toke Over The Line", it is their best known song. Brewer & Shipley made this song so much their own that they were even mentioned in Jim Pepper's obituary in the New York Times.

And this is the link to the song:

http://www.brewerandshipley.com/Songs/Weeds/WitchiTaiTo.htm

Give it a listen!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

AM Antennas And Performance

A long time ago, early in my radio hobby, I learned from a mentor that if I had a $1000.00 budget, it's better to spend $100.00 on a radio and $900.00 on the antenna system. A radio is only as good as it's antenna system. I've seen so many folks buy a "big radio" then spend about $10.00 on an antenna, only to blame the radio. Speaking of antennas, maybe one day, I'll post a picture of my "rolling Ham shack" (my '69 GMC)!

AM radio, being so low in frequency, usually needs a very large antenna, suspended around a large area. I won't go into antenna formulas here, but, the lower the frequency, the longer the antenna, henceforth, usually the better reception. In some cases however, you do not need a lot of real estate to get good reception...enter the "loop antenna"!

This antenna is literally a loop of wire suspended in a frame and can be turned to favor the particular signal one seeks, and to null out the unwanted signal(s). For years, Ham radio operators have built these, using them to receive a station while using a separate transmitting antenna. Shortwave and AM radio listeners have long used them for their listening pleasure, too, and have received more reliable signals.

Building your own antennas (and radio gear) has fallen slowly by the wayside, especially since the 1950's, when ready-made consumer products started rolling off the assembly line. For those who want to chase a better signal, there are ready-made products, at a pretty decent price!

The TERK AM Antenna is one such antenna, usually for right at $40.00. The TERK can either be placed near a radio to "inductively couple" the signal, or it can be plugged into a portable or stereo (with proper connections), as well. Then, it can be rotated for best signal (sure beats trying to slide the home stereo around!).

Also, a ferrite bar antenna of larger porportions is of help, too. Usually, these are much larger than the ferrite bar inside radios. Going even further, there is a Twin Ferrite Bar Antenna available that appears to be an "active" (amplified) version. This latest version uses an AC adapter, which leads me to believe it is of the amplified variety.

Now, just a little commercial here: both antennas mentioned are available from C. Crane Co.:

http://www.ccrane.com/antennas/am-antennas/

These folks have been in business for years and sell some very fine products for the radio enthusiast. Give 'em a look...and, if you're an AM broadcast band enthusiast, you may want to invest in either one of these products and enjoy some AM "DX"!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Craziest Promotion? From Jim

Hey Bud,

One of the more 'unusual' Promotional/Public Service appearances I participated in was here in Northwest Arkansas a few years ago when I played in a Donkey Basketball Game with proceeds benefitting a rural local high school. If you've never seen a Donkey Basketball game, you have 5-players who are all assigned 1-donkey each and you have to maintain "control" of your donkey at all times. You can only score when sitting on the donkey. From personal experience, I can tell you that leaning when you're riding a donkey does not equal steering. You should have seen the look on my doctor's face when I went in for treatment for what turned out to be a torn rotator cuff when I told him I had been playing Donkey Basketball.

Take care,
Jim

From the "Beaker Street" Dissertation

This passage is from my Ph.D. dissertation on "Beaker Street." It gives a very brief background on radio in Arkansas, and focuses on KAAY in particular. A more complete account (up until 1974) can be obtained from the work "Arkansas Airwaves," by Ray Poindexter. It is a more comprehensive history of radio broadcasting in Arkansas from the very beginnings until 1974, the year the book was published. This selection is from Chapter Two, the Literature Review of the project.

Richard Robinson


Arkansas Radio and KAAY

(Copyright 2009 by Richard Cyril Robinson)

In 1962, Arkansas was still in the aftermath of the 1957 integration crisis in Little Rock. Sam Walton founded Wal-Mart in1962 by opening his first store in the chain, named the Walton Family Center in Rogers, Arkansas (Dougan, 1993). One of the first radio stations in Arkansas was in Conway, located 30 miles northwest of the capital city of Little Rock. The United States Department of Commerce issued a license for radio station KFKQ on October 2, 1923. The station call sign stood for Known for Knowledge Quest (Dolan, Kelso & Robinson, 1986). In the radio business in Arkansas, numerous changes were taking place. Several radio stations, including KFPW in Fort Smith, KELD in El Dorado, KAAB in Hot Springs and KWYN in Wynne were beginning to attract audiences. The story of KAAY begins in 1924 in the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. The owners were granted a license to operate a Class B broadcast radio station, under the call letters of KTHS (an acronym for “Come to Hot Springs”). The station was located in the Arlington Hotel. The hotel actually owned the new enterprise, and included space and facilities for the station in its building (Poindexter, 1974).

Initially the station had 500 watts of power, which was increased to 5,000 watts in 1928, then to 10,000 watts later that same year, while jumping its frequency from 800 kilocycles to 1040 kilocycles on the AM band. The frequency was again moved to 1060 in 1934, and then to its current frequency position of AM 1090 on March 29, 1941. KTHS was granted authority to move to West Memphis, Arkansas on March 29, 1941, along with permission to increase the power to 50,000 watts. However, after numerous protests, including one from a former governor, the Federal Communications Commission rescinded that approval (Reeves, 1985).

KTHS moved from Hot Springs to Little Rock, the capital city of Arkansas, on Tuesday, March 24, 1953, and began broadcasting with a maximum authorized power of 50,000 watts. The studios were located at 313 South Main, in downtown Little Rock, with the transmitter and towers located just south of Little Rock in Wrightsville. The KTHS call sign was maintained until July 1962, when the station was purchased by the LIN Broadcasting Corporation, and began operating under the call sign KAAY. The studios were moved to 1425 West 7th Street in 1965. In the beginning, the station began referring to itself in promotional announcements as “The Big K.” In the years to come, KAAY would promote itself as “The Friendly Giant, ” “The Mighty Ten-Ninety” and “The Nighttime Voice of Arkansas.” The station was eventually sold to Multimedia Inc. in 1975, and the studios were moved to a new building located just off the Arkansas River, at 2400 Cottondale Road, in November of 1977 (Lindsay, Walsh, 2004).

In 1985, Multimedia sold the station to Sudbrink Inc., a Christian broadcasting concern. On April 4, 1985, KAAY became a 24-hour Christian radio station, with a music format of Southern Gospel (Green, 1985). In June of 1987, Sudbrink sold the station to Beasley Broadcasting of Naples, Florida. In August of 1998, it was announced that Citadel Communications would purchase KAAY from Beasley Broadcasting for five million dollars. The transfer was accomplished in November 1998, and the studios were moved to a temporary headquarters at 4021 West 8th Street, which is where Citadel’s news and talk station, KARN, AM 920 was located. KAAY, along with KARN, The Arkansas Radio Network, and Citadel’s other stations moved to a new building at 700 Wellington Hills Road in February of 2000. The station remains to this day a 24-hour Christian format, but the music format was changed to “inspirational” religious programming in September of 2000 (Lindsay, personal communication, April 19, 2004 & Walsh, personal communication, March 16, 2004).

Today, KAAY continues to operate as Arkansas’ third oldest continuously licensed broadcast radio station, with a maximum authorized power of 50,000 watts on the AM band, directional at night, on a licensed frequency of 1090 kilocycles. The station currently airs religious-based programming, 24-hours a day, seven days a week (Walsh, 2004).

From that date in 1962 until the mid-1980s, this 50,000-watt, Class 1C radio station, broadcasting on 1090 kilohertz, was the acclaimed king of the airwaves in Arkansas, in terms of signal strength, innovative promotion, station marketing and audience ratings (Koch, 2004). The signal of this clear channel station could be heard during the nighttime hours from Canada to both Central and South America. During this period, many personalities were developed and maintained on this station (Lindsay, 2004). The radio station entity owned the legal rights to the names of the air personalities (Walsh, 1994). One air personality, named Howard Watson, known on the air as Ken Knight, left KAAY and moved to another Little Rock, Arkansas radio station, and began to use that name. The station sued and won, forcing Watson to change his name, which he did via a radio contest, with the listeners ultimately deciding upon his becoming Len Day (Hill, 2003). This was a bit of a slam against his old employer, the LIN Broadcasting Corporation (Walsh, 2004).

At KAAY, there was a large focus on news, including farm reporting. Sports broadcasts were a mainstay on the station, particularly the airing of games of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville football team, the Arkansas Razorbacks. Later, Arkansas State University at Jonesboro football games was also aired to the station's listeners. Religious programming also had a place during the broadcast day (Walsh, 2004). Innovations were common, both in programming and promotions (Walsh, 2004). One contest featured participants throwing dried cow manure, dubbed a cow-chip-throwing competition. Another featured an annual Skunk Festival (Graham, 2004).

KAAY Fact Sheet

This was a "fact sheet" on KAAY, which I obtained from Pat Walsh. It is dated November 1, 1970, and was one of many items that Pat kept current on the station.

Richard Robinson (rickradio@charter.net)

More Fouke Monster Material

I'm having a real laugh over the Fouke Monster, after re-reading some old posts and listening to Phil North's and David B. Treadway's commercials...or, should I laugh? I live near the Mobile River, in some low-lying areas, who's to say that an Alabama-type Fouke Monster might not be running around these parts?

In the meantime, enjoy this article; follow the link:

http://www.unknownexplorers.com/foukemonster.php

There are other websites out there re: the Fouke Monster, to enjoy, too! Hey, why wasn't there a Beaker Theater show about the Fouke Monster, when I was a kid? Why not one now, guys? (shiver!)

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Question on Promotions From Jim Clark

You know, as has often been pointed out on this and A.J.'s blog, promotion was the genius of KAAY, and that's a touch of show biz you don't see with radio today. Some of the stunts were pretty outrageous for the times, such as the cow chip throwing contest. Some were just crazy, like the mowing contest. But all of them got attention, which is what promotion is all about. They also created listener loyalty.

Of course, times have changed but I don't know very many people who would turn out now to see a team of "supposed" disc jockeys play a bunch of hometown boys. I wonder whether any other radio station ever had its own basketball team featuring the air talent. Does anyone know of one? For the jocks who worked at KAAY, what was the craziest stunt you ever participated in?

Jim Clark
Rogers, AR

Comment From David B. Treadway, Re: STLs

Ah, the KLAZ Marti STLs. I believe Greg has nailed 'em, from the call signs right down to why the front covers had to be left off. For a while there, each day's program log began with the notation "Identify Microwaves STL."There was a small jeweler's screwdriver parked inside the bottom Marti in the stack. We used it to re-tune the unit (the slug was marked C2 as I remember) when it drifted off-frequency, which was at least once a day. No big deal, though. You'd just turn it one way or the other until the hash in your left ear went away. dbt

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Don Hewitt, R.I.P. Aug. 19, 2009

Another great, this time the executive producer of CBS, has passed away. Don Hewitt, recognized as the "father of modern television news and the creator of the medium's most successful broadcast, "60 Minutes"", passed away at 86 years young on August 19, 2009. His 60 years in journalism led him to direct legends such as Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, often "using a playbook he had to write himself."

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/08/19/60minutes/main5251921.shtml

Tom Perryman and Voices

I've had several nice, enjoyable e-mails with Tom Perryman over the time since we've started this blog. I'd mentioned to him that I, like other kids, had fantasized about becoming a cool deejay one day, marvelling over their voices and trying to mimic them. When I was young, I had a stuttering problem; going over phrases that deejays used, etc. was only part of my "repair". Taking a couple of high school speech classes, later getting involved in CB, then Ham radio and learning to slow down and enunciate really helped. Later, as I got a job relating to the public and advancing in Ham radio, I realized how important speech, or communicating, really is. As I spoke to people outside the U.S.A., who were trying their best to speak English, I understood that my own speech when communicating to them was equally important in their learning (lots of people used radio to increase their English-speaking skills).

As my stuttering went totally away and I continued in my job/vocation, I got some production jobs! I never went to work for a radio station, since I was already making a good wage. I knew, by working age, that sometimes a deejay gig could be fickle, and I wanted to settle down and not move around. The production jobs paid a little extra, so I could somewhat live my dream and get something out of it, while still earning a stable wage!

Tom and I related this to one another and found that a lot of people have the same experiences and interests; here's Tom's comments:

"You know, I started out when I was in high school trying to sound like an announcer...trying to mimic the guy on the radio....hanging around a radio station in my home town brought me into contact with a good announcer, who later worked in Dallas...he was good to me and let me record my voice and then listen to how bad it was...just like you, practice and more practice helped reduce the drawl and shortcomings...congratulations on overcoming your stuttering! I know it didn't come easy.

I also started to work early (got my social security card when I was 10 years old because I worked at a bowling alley), so I know it is possible to overcome limitations when you want or need to do so...and I am not as sympathetic to some kids who blame (social surroundings) for reasons to steal or worse. We've been there, right? Regards, Tom"

Thank you, Tom...you're a great encouragement to me and others. We always look forward to your stories and comments!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Ron Henselman Comments on Marti Units

Wow! The size of a Marti is much larger than I imagined. I was asked to work on a remote unit for the local NBC radio station in Chicago about ten years ago. They were using a Motorola Maxtrac radio which normally runs about 5 KHz of FM deviation. It was built into a small case along with a twelve volt automobile stereo. The deviation was set to way above what I thought was the normal limit for that mobile transceiver. When I questioned the engineer, he told me that was normal for the frequency they were allocated.

This package was taken aboard the traffic helicopters. The mobile traffic reporter would listen on the AM or FM band with the car stereo component, and he or she would know when to start the report. The whole package only weighed a few pounds. I'll bet things are even smaller now.

I couldn't get any help from my coworkers because they were too busy drooling over the sexy female traffic reporter who brought the unit into our service facility. I wonder how small the current units have become? Anyway, the reason the units sound so good is they are/were running a wider FM signal than we would normally use for a typical two-way FM radio such as in a police car. Since they are allowed more bandwidth, this means they can have a better high frequency audio reponse. Ron Henselman

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

R.I.P. Ed Reimers, Robert Novak

Two voices we grew up with are now silent this week...

...actor Ed Reimers, voice of Allstate for 22 years ("You're in good hands, with Allstate")passed away Sunday, August 16, 2009; he was 96 years young. Many of us remember his reassuring voice on those many commercials over the years.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/17/BAIH199HL4.DTL

...and Robert Novak, columnist and TV commentator, passed away August 18, 2009, at 78 years young; I remember reading his columns for years and seeing him on TV:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_obit_novak

Rest in peace, gentlemen....

Greg Fadick explains Marti RPUs

Here’s a bit about Marti units and a couple of pictures for you.


First is a picture of a late 60’s to mid-to-late 70’s Marti RPU. This is the vintage used at KAAY during that time, and at most every other station as well. In the case of news reporting, this unit would be mounted somewhere in the vehicle (usually the trunk) and a smaller remote control box (sorry, couldn’t find a pic of one of those) would be mounted under the dash with mic inputs and on-off controls.

Believe it or don’t, news was not the main use of these. Most stations put these to work for full remotes, as in do your whole show on location using one of these. If memory serves, one of this vintage was installed in the now-famous KAAY Funmobile (fondly referred to by some of us as “that frigging camper”). The antenna, which hasn’t changed much since that time, was mounted on a tall mast:


These units were highly directional, so you needed a direct shot back to the receiving dish at the studio, devoid of buildings, trees, small furry animals or whatever else. In fact, getting a “Marti shot” from any given location was iffy to the point that usually an engineer went out several days before the remote to verify a shot was possible. If not, then we had to order Telco loops.

Once you overlooked the fact that these RPU’s were about two feet long, a foot and a half wide, a foot or so deep and weighed about 40 pounds, you could call them portable. Some clients wanted the remote done from inside their store instead of from a remote vehicle, which meant you had to lug this monster in, set it up, then look closely at the floor and pick up any body parts that fell off of you while you were carrying it. They did, however, give you excellent audio quality.

These were also transmit only units with no provision for the studio to talk back to the remote. Most stations had some sort of system, like the one AJ and I had at KCLA, where once the Marti was powered up and transmitting, an indicator light in the control room would go on, letting you know to monitor what the jock at the remote was saying to you in cue. You then communicated with the remote jock by cutting the music on the air for a fraction of a second. The remote jock would say something like; “If you’re receiving me and it sounds good, give me one cut, if not, give me two cuts and I’ll go twist the antenna.”

These little transmitters also had call letters assigned by the FCC, and when you first powered it on and right before you powered it off, you had to give a station ID of the Marti. Not on air over the main transmitter, just over the Marti.


The other picture is a pair of early-to-late 70’s Marti STL’s. In fact, these are the exact model we used at KLAZ. They were low power, about 10 watts, reliable, and delivered incredible audio quality for the time. They only came in mono, so for FM stereo you had to use two of them transmitting on slightly different frequencies. In the picture, you’ll notice the front covers are missing. That was pretty much the standard way these were used, because with the covers on, they had nasty habit of overheating which would trigger a thermal protection circuit and shut them down. Not good when that happened right in the middle of Stairway To Heaven. Like the RPU’s, these were also assigned call letters, and had to be identified once per 24 hour period. If memory serves, KLAZ’s STL’s were WKQ-60 and WKQ-61. Amazing...this old mind remembers that, but I couldn’t tell you what I had for dinner last night.

Cheers,
Greg

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Phil North aircheck, April 10, 1971

As promised, here are the remainder of what is just the first batch of airchecks from Phil North (Eric Chase).

Phil has supplied us with a 20-minute scoped aircheck of his work at the mic at KAAY on Friday evening, April 10, 1971. You'll hear Phil start his show at 5pm, and about 2:30 into the aircheck, you'll hear Jonnie King's promo for his mini-bike giveaway, the very same bike we profiled on this blog in the post, "Jonnie King's Wheels"! Along the way, you'll hear ads for Wrigley's Gum, Coke (''the real thing''), and Dr. Pepper ("so misunderstood"). At about 16:00, you'll hear Phil's signoff to Garner Ted's show, "The World Tomorrow," and then it's back to Phil playing the hits for the remainder of the evening.

Since the file is a bit large (21 minutes -- 25Meg), you might want to try playing this stream:



(or, you can download-and-play the file).

I went searching in A.J.'s files to see if there were any other airchecks of Phil, and I found this one; it's also worth a listen:

Thanks, again, Phil, for contributing the aircheck! (More are on the way!)

---Dave S. (schmidt1953@gmail.com)

Marti RPU (Remote Pick-Up) Units

I've always been a seeker of the odd and unusual...and I made a comment in a post awhile back about studio-transmitter links (STLs). Well, I just reread an article I found in the January 2007 issue of Popular Communications, by Shannon Huniwell regarding Marti units (remote pick-up, or RPU). These were portable VHF-FM (140-180 MHz) transmitters that news personnel took to locations away from the studio. They would have either an antenna on their vehicle or a small directional antenna pointed at the studio location to transfer the signal. Next, they'd plug in a microphone, turn it on, then call the station on a landline to make sure they were getting a good clear signal before they went on the air.

Some were tube, others were tube and transistor; nowadays, all are transistorized. Many were in the 15-to-30 watt (+/-) power output range. The units were built by George Marti, former owner of KCLE-AM, 1120 and later, KCLE-FM, 94.3, who built and used them for his own purposes, then later built them for many other stations as they became popular. These units were much more economical than renting broadcast-quality telephone lines and caught on with many broadcasters. Later, George Marti sold his stations, to build these units; the company is still in business today. Here is a link for the story behind the man and the Marti Unit:

http://www.martielectronics.com/about/page.php?_page=19

There are several other stories along this line on the web. Back to my opening comment, I always tried to scan the airwaves for unusual signals, finding pleasure in hearing the behind-the-scenes comments before they went on the air (wish I'd've recorded them!).

In a similarly-related rabbit trail, when I was doing some production work, we had a Ku satellite antenna and receiver at the facility; while I was recording, I'd flip around to several of the news feeds and enjoy the candid (thought to be off-air!) remarks and watch the news personnel busy primping and preening themselves for the camera...funny!

Ok, for the KAAY personnel: Did you use Marti Units, do you have pictures of them and what stories and anecdotes do you have regarding these units? Nothing embarrassing, please, this is a family blog!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Comments, Re: From David B. Treadway On The Fouke Monster!

I agree, David...and we hope we can keep that magic alive here, as well! My hats off to you guys who did so much with, what we consider today, so little- innovation and imagination really shone with your production! Its no wonder KAAY ran such tight, innovative and imagination-laden programming, with the talent they had on-hand!

I listened to that particular cut several times this weekend and laughed so much- you guys really had fun running with the ball, didn't you?

We can hope that A. J. is looking down and laughing with us! I believe he'd be proud....

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Another Basketball Story From Jerry Sims (For Jim Clark)

Jim Clark had inquired again down the blog:

"Thanks for the answer. I wonder if Jerry may have recruited some Arkansas State Teachers College or Little Rock University players for that basketball team?

Jim Clark
Rogers, AR"

And here's Jerry's reply:

"Jim....

No college basketball players (usually) on our team, but we had to look respectful. Example: I had a brother-in-law who was a good athlete at 6' 4" who was always willing to go. I was the only one on mic besides The Emperor, so the crowd would not know who the jocks were until we introduced them. It was also easy to use Lt. Cavendish and Col. Splendid from the Emperor episodes. Better yet, we had Daphne (an Executive Assistant at the station named Barbara Lewis) in a cheerleader uniform, to excite the crowd (us too). She was a beautiful red head and might slip up behind one of the good ole boys at the free throw line to give them a massage, just to watch them shoot up a "brick" of a shot. We might tell our fill ins.... "Tonight you will be Buddy Carr. They will ask for autographs, so spell it right". It seemed to me that many of our D.J.'s, and other ones that I have known, were/are rather shy (me too, unless I have your attention), and did not want to make personal appearances. They usually had a great voice and some kind of All American image that they thought would be shattered with any kind of appearance. They certainly did not want to be on a basketball team where some coordination was required. I was always willing to make appearances and enjoyed them. Plus I was always playing sports, so the basketball team was mine while I was there.

The Commando Team never won a game. We could talk all week about how bad the next opponent would be and our first win would be against them. That would help bring in a full house. Sometimes though, the team (many times made up of their High School coaches, etc.) might be listening to us talk about how easy a victory we would have, and certainly would not want to be the first team we could beat. We would explain to them before the game that we guaranteed them a win, even if we had to throw the game in the end. We would tell them that the crowd was really not there to see a real game, but to see the show.

We always started off the game with A.J. running to center court (Purple Robe, Crown and all) to let the ref know that he always does the opening tip off. Then he would throw the ball to me racing my skinny legs down to our goal for the lay-up. Commandos 2, (Whoever) 0! We did it every game. I remember well a game at Havana, Arkansas which didn't go so well. I took the throw from A.J., went down court and was nailed to the wall, knees and elbows, by one of theirs, who apparently thought we were unfair and did not listen well to the opening conference. I thought I wasn't going to get up.

We actually got to play the Harlem Globetrotters when they came to town in a pre-game short game. They knew we would be talking about it all week for free publicity.

It seems the promotional possibilities were never ending and the staff nearly always ready to do whatever was needed....'cause it was fun.

I do not believe today's young listeners know what they are missing. They simply get...Corporate, cookie cutter, and rather boring radio..

Jerry Sims.....aka Sonny Martin KAAY"

Thank you, Jerry!

Folks, Jerry Sims has been a faithful and valuable contributor to the new blog. Jerry, we're glad you were able to survive that tackle!

If you look further down the blog, you'll also find a picture of Daphne (with A.J./"Doc Holiday").. We can see that she was most likely a welcome diversion at times (well, MOST of the time, eh?) for the Commandos to catch their breath!

I agree about the corporate radio comment... in many instances, it sounds neutered, in my opinion. That's why we're trying our best to gather as MUCH information about one of the greatest radio stations in history, KAAY.

Jerry, keep the good stories flowing!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where is Belle Starr?

If you read Part I of the article about Emperor Holiday, you probably remember well Ron Henselmen's intro to the story:
I first heard A.J. as Doc around 1963 or 64 in the evening from Melrose Park, IL. Doc had a young lady on the show he called Belle Starr. She had one of the sexiest voices I have ever heard. Sometimes he called her Belly Starr to make fun of the way the name is spelled. Once in a while Doc referred to himself as The Rockin' Doctor. I'm not sure he even remembered that. All of this stuff was very important to me when I was sixteen or seventeen.

So, who was Belle Starr? And is there is a recording of her?

A few years ago, Ron asked that question to A.J. himself in an email he sent at the end of December, 2006:

I remember hearing a young lady on a couple of the early Rob Robbins shows. She was called Belle Starr. I loved her voice. Do you have any idea who I am talking about?

On January 1, A.J. replied to Ron:

Yes, I remember Belle Starr. She started doing requests when I was doing the night show. She was a very attractive girl from Little Rock University where I was going to college. The Belle Starr name obviously came from the Doc Holiday connection. She kept doing requests at night when I moved to morning drive. I wish I had a photo.

A.J. did a bit of research and reported back on his blog on
http://kaay1090.blogspot.com/2007/01/belle-starr-remembered-on-kaay.html January 2, 2007:

"Her real name escaped me, so I asked Jim Pitcock a/k/a Ron Owens. Her real name is Sue Phelps and his last information was that she is living in Baton Rouge, LA. All of us at KAAY and the listeners alike, were in love with Belle Starr. I met her at Little Rock University and asked her if she would like to read requests and dedications at night on KAAY. She agreed and started when I was on at night. When I moved to the morning show she continued on the Robbins show. The name Belle Starr was used because of the Doc Holiday tie. Anyone have any pictures or tape?"

And that's the 64-dollar question --- any pictures or tape? I searched A.J.'s audio archive, and I found a great audio clip of Rob Robbins in 1962, broadcasting from "Arkansas's Giant":




but, alas, no Belle Starr is heard on the clip.

By the way, the Rob Robbins clip was donated to A.J. by Ron Henselman himself, who did significant restoration work to bring it up to decent audio. Thanks, Ron, for your efforts!

I let Ron read a first draft of this post, and Ron's response adds to the "mystery'' of Belle:

"I'd pay to hear her voice again.

About the aircheck: I am not sure if it was the same Rob Robbins.

And about Rob Robbins: I was upset when Rob appeared because I liked Tom Campbell (I think) --- he was the first voice I ever heard during the KTHS transition to KAAY; then there was suddenly another DJ called Rob Robbins. Then there was Rock Robbins after awhile. I wasn't aware personnel changes were keeping existing LIN names. The whole thing seemed strange to a sixteen (at that time) year old kid who knew electronics but nothing about the business end of broadcasting.

Belle Starr might have been my initial attraction to the Doc Holiday show. Our friend A.J. was the first Doc Holiday I ever heard because the first Doc was never on the air during the hours when signals were bouncing."


So, there are a number of us now who are intrigued by this story --- please contact us if you have any info, trivia, or materials regarding the mysterious, sultry Belle Starr....

---Dave S. (schmidt1953@gmail.com)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

David B. Treadway comments on the FOUKE Monster

Much as I LOVE my boy Eric/Rico/Phil North, I frequently felt the need to correct his spelling (the only way I could come close to feeling equal with him!): that is FOUKE Monster, not Faulk. Fouke was (probably still is) a small town in Miller County, Arkansas, where the beastie was reported.

"The Legend Of Boggy Creek" caused a bit of buzz around the state and I seem to remember KAAY hosting the Little Rock premiere of it with numerous ticket giveaways.

Naturally, we couldn't let it go at that; we had to pump it up to outrageous, cartoonish proportions. I suspect the reward for the capture of the monster originated with General Manager Pat Walsh--may he rest in Glory forever. He was all about what I call "Stupid stunts in public" because he well knew what kind of word-of-mouth these things generated. It was the kind of promotion that could not be bought.

So Pat came up with the reward money idea, and the rest of us ran (amuck) with it. We'd just get in the production room, roll tape and let it happen. It didn't matter back then whose ideas made it to the air: the whole was always, magically, greater than the sum of its parts. It invariably would come out better than we expected, due in no small part to Eric/Phil's utter wizardry and unflagging energy.

Yes, Virginia, there WAS magic on this Earth, once upon a time, and a big ol' chunk of it radiated through that Mighty 1090 transmitter at KAAY in Little Rock.

David B. Treadway
a.k.a. Doc Holiday
1971-72

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Airchecks from Phil North (Eric Chase)!

We've been contacted by Phil North (Eric Chase), of KAAY fame, 1969-72! (Thanks to Jonnie King and David Treadway for their help in connecting us with Phil!)

Phil's doing well, and he has some airchecks to share with us. We'll get started with three short ones here (and more to come....).

The first is a collection of station IDs done by Gary Gears at the time Phil worked at KAAY:


(Click here to play stream.)


(By the way, you can hear a couple of additional examples of Gary's work at this ReelRadio page: http://www.reelradio.com/gb/index.html

Next, Phil sent us a couple of ads he and David Treadway recorded for "The Foot Store". In the first, you get a stirring rendition of the William Tell Overture in the background to get you hopping (to the Foot Store, that is); in the second, we hear Phil and David play the memorable roles of "your right shoe" and "the one that's left" as they tell you about The Foot Store's incredible selection:


(Click here to play stream.)

Well, it's hard to top that last one, but we will. We'll finish this session with an incredible collection of promos based on the "Faulk Monster". (In case you don't remember the famous Bigfoot monster of Faulk, Arkansas, you can read about it at the end of this post!) Here, Phil, David, and Mike McCormick do the voices on some wild-and-wacky skits that boil down to "deliver him ALIVE to KAAY for one-thousand-ninety dollars!" I hope you can tolerate obsessive alliteration and bad John Wayne imitations. If so, well, play at your own risk:


(Click here to play stream.)

Finally, about the Faulk Monster. He/she/it was a cousin to Bigfoot, which was a kind of cultural icon of the late 60's. Here's a quote from http://www.wintersteel.com/Bigfoot.html:

The Faulk Monster, made famous in the United States, in the 1970's, by the Charles B. Pierce film "Legend of Boggy Creek" is the "Arkansas Bigfoot". Allegedly sighted in the environs of the small town of Faulk, Arkansas, it supposedly bears a close resemblance to the Sasquatch and "Bigfoot" of farther North. Regardless of the standing of the Pierce film as a "cult classic", this creature is an absolute and undeniable hoax.

(Aw, rats --- I wanted that one-thousand-ninety dollars....)

Thanks, Phil, for these airchecks! By the way, can anyone give us some background about the "Faulk Monster" promotions? I suspect there are some good stories here....

---Dave S. (schmidt1953@gmail.com)

Question From Jim Clark/Answer From Jerry Sims!

Jim commented on "A King-ly Interview" with a question:

"I've been reading all of the old posts on A.J.'s blog, many of them bemoaning the passing of AM radio, and I agree with them. Modern FM automated radio is so boring. No "live" disc jockeys playing songs, no patter, nothing but monotony. O course, I am old, and this might influence my thinking, but I lived in Little Rock during the first years of KAAY, and it was exciting. I was surprised, in reading this blog, that the KAAY jocks were so young. A.J., apparently was only about 21 or so when he became program director and the second Doc Holiday. Maybe, it was the exuberance of youth that made the station so different and interesting. I have one question. I would swear that, during the British invasion back in 1964, KAAY had a late night jock who called himself Bill Shakespeare. Does anyone remember that?
thanks,

Jim Clark
Rogers, Arkansas"

And, once again, Jerry Sims comes to our rescue with some great information:

"We had a friend named Gary Robertson who was the son of the General Manager of KTHV Channel 11 (that was in the same building with early KAAY). Gary could do a great British voice, so we put him on the air for a while. I am not sure what name he used on the air, but surely this was Gary. I am not sure he was comfortable doing a regular shift. I believe he decided to end it himself. 1964 was also perfect timing for that.
We had a show called Top of the Pops, which came from England. It featured various groups and had interviews, as well as music. I sent A.J. a portion of one of the shows a good while back, and he posted it on the blog.
Yes, we were a very young bunch of jocks. Most of us were local, after the first sign on bunch. A.J remarked to me, I believe on the blog too, that they found we would work cheaper. We had so much fun that it did not matter. Also when we had the KAAY Commando Basketball team traveling around the state, I made enough money that sometimes I would realize that I had not cashed my payroll check. We always played for 50% of the house. I think we had a minimum, but the 50% was always much higher. We would talk about it on the air a lot, and would usually pack the house. I was about the only one of the "real" jocks who played, but could bring in enough players to play, and I would tell each one who they would be for the night. They would not be on mic so nobody would know the difference. I have several stories that I can share on this subject if anyone is interested.
Jerry"

Yes, Jerry, we would really like to read those stories! Thanks for sharing more great information!

Jim, I agree...and I may have said it before, but corporate radio seems really...well, sterile. There are a few instances where its fresher and more lively, but there's more to radio than a string of the same 200 songs played over and over....this is exactly why I still dial around these days, listening for local "mom-n-pop" stations that refuse to sell out, who still air local, home-grown programming.

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)

Clear-Channel Frequency Update, from Dave M.

Regarding our recent posts on clear-channel stations, Dave M. contributes a website, as well, listing the clear-channel frequencies:

"...here is a link to a list of all the clear channel (lower case) AM frequencies.
I enjoyed looking over the call letters list to see just how many of these I listened to when I was growing up in east Texas -
KAAY is a Class I-B clear channel. KAAY is non-directional daytime, and directional night-time. KAAY shares 1090kHz with WBAL Baltimore, and their respective nighttime patterns "protect" each other so that KAAY does not interfere with WBAL, and vice-versa.

/DM/"

I, too, enjoy looking over some of my logs from when I was a kid..such good memories! Thanks again, Dave!

Bud S. (staceys4@hotmail.com)