In 1971, Phil North and I would cut the Carlisle Dragway spots on Thursday, to start on Friday with a heavy schedule that would wrap up at the last possible minute (roughly noon) on Sunday.
Phil would set levels in the production room by having me yell at the top of my lungs into both microphones in the voice booth: an Electro-Voice 667 and an RCA 77DX. He would roll tape on an Ampex 350 (the left-hand rear machine) and join me in the booth, where it was literally off to the races.
“SUNday at Carlisle Dragway” was how they always began, with Phil taking the first line. We’d go from there, trading back and forth as loud as we could, as fast as we could. I remember “O.D. Brazil in his top fuel dragster” figuring prominently in the spots—after that it was a litany of racers’ names and their “stocks, super modifieds and funny cars!” “Time trials at 10:00 AM, racing starts at noon!”
Inevitably, we’d get the giggles somewhere in the first or second take. I’d blow a line and start laughing, but Phil always stayed in character. “I can’t BELIEVE you screwed up (NOT the term he used) something that simple!” he’d shout, just like it was in the script. “I’m working with a MORON!” We’d waste a bunch of tape before I could get it back together.
We usually had it by the third take and Phil didn’t have to edit the track for time. This was because of the considerable copywriting chops of Kaye Risser, another of the great women of KAAY. Before she turned in any piece of copy, she’d read it aloud and put a stopwatch on it.
The backing track was contained on a gray Fidelipac tape cartridge labeled “Drag loop.” Phil had found maybe ten seconds of music that sounded like the intro to the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” on steroids and had looped it out to a full sixty seconds—probably took him all of five minutes. The drag race sound effects came from the Major Production Library and featured the unmistakable roar of supercharged hemi-head Dodge engines from California strips.
The Carlisle spots were about the only ones where Phil would use the built-in limiter in the Collins tube-amp console. You had to lift the lid and turn a couple of knobs to get what Phil called the “big fat” sound. (To this day, my pet name for any good compressor/limiter is “fat box.”) When he had finished the mix, the needle on the VU meter barely moved.
Phil and I were by no means the only voices of Carlisle. I remember Mike McCormick (Barry Wood) and George Jennings taking their turns. No doubt, everyone who had ever been on production duty appeared on at lest one Carlisle spot. It seems that the raceway started advertising on KAAY shortly after the Great Debut of 1962 and was thoroughly integrated into the station folklore by the time I got there.
I don’t think even one of the Carlisle spots from Phil’s tenure made it to his extensive archives—and I sure hope I’m wrong about that.
“Carlisle Dragway, thirty miles from Little Rock, ninety miles from Memphis on I-40! Be there! Sundaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!”
I swear I can still smell burning rubber…
David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII