Russell Wells had recently checked in and we've had some nice e-mail chats...in fact, he has donated some airchecks, to be released here at a later date! Russell has been in the broadcasting industry for a long while and also has a neat website for all to enjoy:
Here is his story:
"In 1992, I discovered there was a hobby centered around airchecking .... or years I made tapes of various radio stations. Started doing so in 9th grade, in fact. But I thought I was the only one who did that sort of thing.
Well, after having come to realize this, I began seeking out old recordings whichever way I could. I focused on the areas I'd lived over the years ... especially my native Alabama. But Arkansas radio always piqued an
interest, given I lived in the state from 1982 until 1990. My own bumpy career got its start at KBHS in Hot Springs, at the time a real dungheap of a station, with terrible audio, but a daytime signal said to have been
bigger than KAAY's daytime coverage. With 5,000 watts at 590, it could well be true.
I also worked in Jonesboro and Pine Bluff, with some parttime work in Little Rock, for KEZQ. There, I have some fond memories working along some great people. People who put up with this green college kid who had a lot of growing up to do. My time in Pine Bluff included a stop at the once-great KOTN, which I'm told made that city the only one in Arkansas where KAAY had to take a back seat.
The one thing I observed, the big common thread between all these Arkansas cities and most of the radio people I worked with, was a sober reverence for "the old KAAY." For a couple of folks, that reverence bordered on idolatry! Yes, I remember hearing 1090 when I was younger, living in Mississippi, and especially in Cape Girardeau, Mo., where I lived prior to my Arkansas years. KAAY came blasting in like a local after dark. That amounted to what first-hand memories I had of The Mighty 1090. Of course, by the time I was fully aware of the station, the glory days were behind it. It still sounded good (I remembered the slogan "Music station of the South"), and it had that big sound I enjoyed. However, after I moved to Arkansas, I learned that the KAAY I remembered was nowhere near the legendary beacon it was under LIN Broadcasting.
So, naturally, when I dived into aircheck collecting, I wanted to hear for myself what all the fuss was about. Was KAAY that great a station? I figured I'd track down the man who helped make it happen. I made a
cold-call to Mr. Pat Walsh. I didn't expect much except some stories; fact is, few radio people saved any tape from their own stations. I learned this very quickly in all the phone calls I made during the pre-internet
horse and buggy age.
(A side story: because of this, in my hobby I've made many a dub for the jocks whose airchecks I've collected for them, it amounted to the one single way to have samples of their past careers. In one instance, I ran off some tapes for the daughter of one legendary jock, now deceased; it was the only way she was able to hear her Dad during his radio days!)
Anyway - With Mr. Walsh, I hit paydirt!! Not only was he most congenial, but he trusted me with dozens upon dozens of reels. This unknown person he'd never met, from two states away in Troy, Alabama. Imagine that.So I dubbed most all of the reels, and returned the booty to Mr. Walsh. Yes, "most all" ... there was a 3600-foot Concertape reel, on which existed 12 hours each of KAAY and KARK from May 1971. And another reel of tape from early '72 (the 02/06 Johnnie King aircheck) containing KAAY, plus KARK, KXLR and KLRA. But I dubbed only 90 minutes of each jock on the May '71 KAAY (but all of the King from '72). At the time, I was 27 years old and had zero desire to go near the other stations on the
reel. MOR bored me, and I could not stand country music.
So why did I dub only the 90 minutes each? This being 1992, and crazy pipedreams like Adobe Audition nowhere near the horizon, I had to be creative. The machines at the station where I worked running only 7-1/2 and 15 ips, I had to dub the reel at 7 onto another machine running the full 15 ips. That brought it to 3-3/4. Which then required ANOTHER bump to get it where it was supposed to go. (Meanwhile, my then-boss was becoming less than enamored about all this activity in our production room, although I did it all after hours, off the clock!!).
So I managed a sample of each KAAY jock from 05/18/1971. Better than nothing, I thought.
As I said, I returned the tapes to Mr. Walsh. Although, I would find out years later, not ALL of them. Somehow two reels of tape got separated from the bunch, and through two moves both managed to stow themselves away. I discovered them early in 2009. By then, he'd passed away, so I poured out
lots of apologies upward, hoping he'd hear them.
Those reels were the aforementioned May '71 Concertape and the February 1972 reel. Each recorded both sides, one station on each channel.
Meanwhile, a lot of water had passed under the bridge since 1992. Good water. "Water" such as TECHNOLOGY. Digital editing was the norm. I had Adobe Audition on my computer ... plus, a few years earlier I'd gotten hold of an old Akai reel machine.
The other "water" was MATURITY. I was now 44. And a higher sense of nostalgia had taken root ... I'd become quite fond of hearing tapes of the old middle-of-the-road stations. So the KARK represented a fantastic goldmine. What's more, I'd since cultivated a love of old country music (sorry, but I still can't take what passes for current C&W!). I now wanted to hear those other stations which my younger self 17 years earlier had turned up his nose. Oh, and there was the small matter of unfinished business: ALL of that 12 hours of KAAY. It had to be transferred. Every inch of that tape.
Soooooo ... I fired up that Akai, racked up the first tape, and proceeded to give that decrepit machine the workout of its life!
The Akai had a 1-7/8 ips setting, but the speed was too warbly. No problem: I recorded the 1971 reel at 3-3/4 into my CD recorder (the '72 tape's content was 3-3/4). Once that gargantuan (!) task was completed
over the course of a week's time I then ripped all the raw CD-Rs into my computer, and went to work in Adobe Audition. Did I mention digital editing is wonderful? A simple pitch tweak, and I had everything mostly where it was supposed to. A little cleaning up, and I had MP3 files of each hour. Every bit of tape was recovered, and digitized. The result you see in this package. :-)
Sad postscript: no sooner had I completed the last run of tape (the final minutes of KARK from 05/19/1971), the power supply in the Akai gave out on the last rewind. Poof ... it reminded me of the scene in "The Blues Brothers" where their old car literally fell apart toward the end.
Thanks to A.J.'s blog, and to Arkansas sports personality Grant Merrill (a fellow radio history junkie), I was astounded to see that what Pat Walsh loaned me was a small fraction of what he had. Wow!
The fact is, KAAY 1090 might well be the most airchecked radio station anywhere outside of the big guns WABC, WLS or KHJ. And all thanks to one man, who saw fit to roll lots of tape!! (It's a good thing Pat's
generosity with production tape extended to his own personal use)
As for my time working with A.J., there honestly isn't much to tell. When I landed in Pine Bluff — and I rapidly realized there's a reason the city has a reputation to live down — my first stop was KCLA. There, I worked with some good people like Charlie Okle and Royce Wolfe. I knew about KOTN, and how just about everyone in Pine Bluff thought the sun rose and set at 1490 on the dial. A.J. Lindsay was PD over there when I was at KCLA. For a time, I did morning drive (while also news director), and two
commercials we ran were produced by A.J. He had a great voice, and all this time I had no idea at all as to his former stature as a KAAY jock back in the day.
I never met him, in fact, until I left that station and signed on to help put a new station on the air in Pine Bluff, KPBA-AM 1270, wowwed and wooed by grandiose promises from its owner. And it was there I met him in person. He was, to my recollection, very friendly, genuine. A good radio man, through and through.
Two days. For what amounted to two days, Doc Holiday and I were co-workers. Very shortly after I left (what, did I offend?), A.J. defected to KCLA, where oddly enough — he took over my old slot of of
news director. I can only wonder if he saw the writing on the wall. I was "promoted" to his slot of Operations Manager. A position I held for two months, and for which I earned the princely sum of $Goose Egg. Bad
pay, even by radio standards.
Welllll, just in the nick of time (my savings from KCLA were drying up fast!), KOTN called. Their midday slot needed filling, and they offered me the gig. KPBA was going nowhere fast, so I too left the station. It
eventually signed on, but I don't think it lasted but six months. I worked at KOTN for 10 months before I realized that ship was sinking and I left Arkansas for a Public Radio job in Alabama. I've been in the noncommercial realm ever since.
So, there you are. A.J. and I swapped places in a very short period of time. Isn't this a crazy business??
Again, I am really enjoying the blog ... I'm so happy somebody picked up where A.J. (too soon) left off. KAAY deserves this tribute. It was a station as distinctive as the state in which it was located. I never
appreciated Arkansas when I lived there it took being away for years before I realized what a special place Arkansas truly is."
Thank you, Russell! We're looking forward to hearing from you often!
Bud S. (firstname.lastname@example.org)