Thursday, June 30, 2011

Greetings To A Listener

Hello, N5YCN Tim!

This is for you and for everyone else who has taken the time to write in to the Blog with their memories of listening to KAAY. It's also for everyone who reads but does not write.

I think I can speak for Jonnie King, Phil North, Clyde Clifford, Wayne Moss, Mike McCormick II, all the Sonny Martins, George Jennings, General Manager Pat Walsh, Engineers Felix McDonald, Tom Rusk and Dave Montgomery, and at least two Doc Holidays: we are touched and humbled to this day that you remember KAAY and still hold it dear.

Back When, we didn't think about any sort of legacy. We were just going about the daily business of playing the hits and having fun (this was Pat's not-so-secret formula for radio success).

We were very much "in the moment" and didn't give a great deal of thought to how--or even IF--we and our station would be remembered. All I can say is, it was one of the finest places to work that I ever set foot in. I believe everyone in that list of names above would agree. Maybe it was that common agreement, that unity of purpose, that has made KAAY endure like this.

Maybe it was magic and we were all having too much fun to notice it.

Whatever it was, THANK YOU for the love. You may rest assured that it is deeply felt and radiated back to you on the skywave a thousand times over.

Very Truly Yours,
Doc Holiday VII
(aka David B. Treadway)

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday, More Antenna Farm

I couldn't get over the massive proportions of the antennas.  Yes, I'd been around antenna systems all my life, but mostly on the Ham radio level, some commercial, but these structures are massive!  I am not sure what's been replaced over the years, or if much had to be replaced at all, but you can tell that everything here is strong, tough and resilient...

Backing up a bit, here are the feedlines as they exit the building, with the east tower in the background:

And as we approached the west antenna, you can see the damage done on the right, where the vandal ripped the old feedline out of the wooden sockets of the supports:

Those insulators at the bottom of the guy wire are massive, as was the concrete had to be there.  Absolutely impressive....

And looking almost straight up at the west antenna:

The sky at this point is a little misrepresentive of the impending weather, but it seemed things cleared and made way for us to have a great outing...I am so thankful, as Jerry was concerned about us coming to Little Rock and our trip being impeded by bad weather.  It did turn off bad later this particular evening, but I'll get back to that later.

Here's looking back at the center and east antennas...again, they are so massive:

Now, by today's standards, there are larger, taller structures.  There is a TV tower to our east in neighboring Baldwin County, Alabama on "transmitter hill" which is 1500+ feet tall- and there are others taller there and around the country still, than KAAY's towers.  All perform mightily in their own right.  KAAY's towers have withstood the test of time, storms and the everyday elements.  These are the towers that launched those beloved signals that we fans listened to day in, night out and the voices of Those Who Were There, whether they consider themselves great or not, launched in spirit halfway around this globe, by these towers.  Just standing in their shadows meant something to me and Them.  This is hallowed ground.

Just a little point of business: these towers had to be registered with the Federal Communications Commission as separate and distinct structures and those registration numbers are displayed on the gate.  It may not be of much interest to some, but it is another piece of history that must be preserved:

Next, we have a little fun!  We prove a legend, so don't touch that dial!

Bud S. (

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Greetings From A Listener


Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know how very much I have enjoyed all the posts on KAAY. I grew up in Gulfport, MS and every night after sunset, I would tune to The Mighty 1090. KAAY is an old friend that was always there for me in the 70’s. It is so sad to see this giant fall to the wayside. It makes you wish that we could get a group of investors together to buy the whole station and revive the warm wonderful sound of AM like it used to be. I remember the KAAY ID Jingles and the sound of reverb applied.

The sad thing is that kids of this generation will never know what that’s all about. I have had so many on air discussions about the good old days and I always mention KAAY when talking to other Hams about AM stations we grew up with. I sure would like to meet you on the air sometime, I bet our QSO could go on for hours about this great icon. Thank you so much for keeping the soul of the flame-thrower alive. Your photos and information bring back such warm memories.

Best of 73’s sir,

N5YCN Tim"

Thank YOU, Tim, for also keeping the memories alive!  I have also been in on-air discussions that went on and on about our favorite radio stations untill the wee hours and we were all yawning into the mics!  One deejay/newsman here in our area is in the process of writing his biography of on-the-air experiences here in Mobile and in Pensacola and I'll be proof-reading it for him...I'm so excited!

And you're correct, Tim, in that kids nowadays don't know the warmth and depth of a properly-processed AM station;  All they know is cramped audio from teeny-tiny cell phones, iPods and mp3 players.  We Hams still remember and many broadcast technicians and others still in the industry who have their Ham "ticket" have some wonderful-sounding stations.  I have mentioned before where some get together and rescue an otherwise to-be-scrapped 1 kW or 5 kW AM transmitter, get it home, rebuild it and set it up for the Ham bands.  With good audio equipment and an exciter ahead of it, they sound better than many stations on the air today!

Dear reader, if you notice "N5YCN" next to Tim's name, that is a Ham radio callsign...mine is KC4HGH.  And "73" means "best regards", coming from the days of Morse Code when Hams would abbreviate much of their transmission to get as much across in a little space.  It's what we call "Ham-speak".

Tim, we're looking forward to more memories and comments from you in the future!  As I've said before, nothing is unimportant, every memory is precious!  Keep 'em coming, folks!

Bud S. (

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Doghouse, Per Dave M.

The small building at the foot of each tower is called a "doghouse".

The doghouse at the base of the center tower contained the antenna tuning circuit for the center tower (daytime operation). It tuned the transmitter and feedline to electrically match the center tower for maximum transfer of the radio signal into the tower - the entire tower is used as an antenna.

The center doghouse also contained a separate set of tuning apparatus, used to divide the power three ways for the nighttime operation. Power from the transmitter was divided into three separate, almost identical signals, and then fed into the east tower, the center tower, and the west tower.

The nighttime radiation pattern (an hourglass shape) was created by a combination of the amount of power fed into each tower, and the physical distance between the towers, about 500 feet. In some directions, the signals from the three towers would "add" together in free air and create a much stronger signal. In other directions, the signals from the three towers would add together in such a way as to cancel each other out. The result was a very strong signal to the northwest and southeast and almost no signal at all to the northeast and southwest. Looking at a map, the KAAY radiation pattern resembled an elongated figure "8", tilted slightly to the left.

(For some reason, the network would not allow me to download the coverage maps we'd posted before, so here's the link to them:

Bud S.)


Monday, June 27, 2011

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday, On The "Antenna Farm"

For those of you who are wondering, the term "antenna farm" is what we Ham radio operators call our antenna structures.  It seemed fitting here, since they were out in a field that was home to cattle and pigs at one time, and round hay bales were in the eastern end of the field when we arrived today....hence, the farming aspect!

Nonetheless, we ventured out to see the antennas, the great structures which launched that massive signal halfway around the globe.  Technically, the antenna system is probably the most important piece of the whole system.  I found out years ago that, without a good antenna, the best I could afford or build, power output and signal wouldn't make a difference, no matter how much you transmitted.  An old friend in the business once told me that if he had a $1000.00 budget, he'd spend a hundred of it in the radio and $900 in the antenna and feedline system.  He was right- I've launched an itty-bitty signal all over the place with a super-efficient antenna system.

I said that to say this: Felix McDonald, Dave Montgomery and all the others were serious about the equipment of this station.  There's several tales about the antenna system on this blog, some humerous, some informal- but all factual and serious about performance.  They maintained the antenna system to the max efficiency and it listeners and fans of KAAY can testify to the signal strength of the station!

Here's David B. heading out to the center antenna in the array, slowly, in deep thought.  David B., what was on that great mind?

I fell a little behind as I took in the scenery...those awesome 511-foot steel structures!  I'd noticed as we walked out, the moaning going on...the wind was picking up as there was an impending storm front coming through.  At first, I thought it was humming coming from the new transmission line, but I remembered that the transmitter was off-line the whole time we were there.  I realized that the wind was blasting through and around the guy wires and the towers.  It seemed like the old site was almost crying, it sounded so mournful.

Here's Jerry and David B. as we continued to head out to the center tower:

That fence-like structure to our left is the support for the antenna feedline.  Not in this picture, but the vandal had hooked a tractor to the feedline going out to the west tower, ripping it from the support.  The new feedline was already in place.  We'd all agreed that he ought to be publically whipped for desecrating this hallowed ground; we were told that he's already in jail...

This is Jerry when I caught up to him, with the east tower in the background and feedline behind him; it's hard to get a perspective, since the antenna is more than two football fields away, estimated.

And a shot of David B. when I called to him to pose with the center antenna:

...and the wind continued to moan.  Gosh, it sounded alive to me....

You can see the cage around the base of the antenna; there are counterpoise wires from the base of the antenna outward, like spokes in a bicycle wheel.  They're tired and sagging nowadays, as copper stretches as it ages.  There are more copper wires buried in the ground now; like the antennas, they are 511 feet, as they comprise the ground side of the system.

All I can say is, Felix would have a fit to see this field in this shape; he hasn't been here in a long time, and he only lives a half-mile down the road....

More later, as we continue our jaunt!

Bud S. (

Friday, June 24, 2011

EMP Blast Protection, Per Dave M.

Electromagnetic pulse, otherwise known as "EMP" is the result of a nuclear blast that WILL disable, forever, any electronic device within the area...and there was a scare during the Cold War that we would be disabled from using radios, televisions, computers (yes, they were in use then) and other such electronics if our opponants would blast such a bomb over the United States.  Still, it could happen today, if such a device came into the wrong hands.  I won't go into what is obvious on today's news headlines, but Dave M. cited some interesting information regarding EMP protection to KAAY's transmitter site 'way back then:

"When the electronic hazards of EMP created by nuclear blasts became known and the hazards understood better, the government decided that all stations designated for National Emergency Operation should be modified to be EMP resistant. One of the tasks undertaken by Felix and others was to install an EMP blast "kit" on the RCA transmitter, emergency generator, and antenna tuning networks. The kit consisted of a variety of arc gaps and other devices installed on critical transmitter circuits so that if a nuclear detonation occurred nearby, the transmitter should survive the EMP and stay operational for dissemination of emergency information.

Thankfully we never had to "test" it.

Thank you, Dave, for this interesting and valuable information!  Has anyone else out there, even at other stations, experienced or installed the same protection?
Bud S. (

The Building, Per Dave M.

Seeing the transmitter building brings back so many memories. What a sad thing to see it in disrepair and decay. When it's gone, it's gone, and there's "no coming back", except for the memories. Here are some notes just off the top of my fading memory and bald noggin':

When it was built in the early '50's, FCC regulations required the transmitter be staffed every hour it was on the air. Also, the FCC did not allow remote control of the 50kW's for fear that something in the great cosmic would cause them to run wild and create who-knows-what havoc.

So, when this building was designed, it included a full apartment on the 2nd floor. The thinking was that there was room for at least one engineer to live here, full time.

On the far end of the building (the east end) was where the apartment was, on the second floor, along side the transmitter itself. There was a spacious living room, a fully equipped kitchen and bath, and a private bedroom. I don't remember anyone actually living in the building, although it's possible that someone did prior to the late '60's. Felix lived in his own house west of the transmitter property.

As time marched on, the bedroom (southeast corner, 2nd floor) evolved into a dry storage area. All sorts of second hands and discards began to collect there. Then when the Harris transmitter was brought in (early '80's) the living room (northeast corner, 2nd floor) was sacrificed to make room for the additional equipment.

On the northwest corner of the second floor was the chief engineer's office. It had an angular wall with large picture window that overlooked the main transmitter room. Felix kept a desk there, but it was usually not occupied, as Felix was busy tending the property and other things.

On the southwest corner was a large workshop area the opened out into the rear of the transmitter through one of the interlocked doors in the "cage".

The bottom floor held the blower room and the fallout shelter. The blower room had a filtered fresh air intake, which was used in the warm months. During cold months, the fresh air intake was closed off and air intake was from inside the building, using recirculated warm air. The transmitter provided enough heat to keep the building warm on all but the very coldest days. If the building got too warm on a winter day, we would open a window to regulate temperature inside the building.

The fallout shelter was typical of the '50's - a fully enclosed room with concrete walls, a steel door, and power. During the cold war, barrels of US Government provisions were kept there in case someone needed to stay there during nuclear war.

Out back was the generator set. The generator was powered by propane, and an underground tank** held enough fuel to run the transmitter at full power for about 30 days. The fallout shelter also had a small audio console, a microphone, and telephone lines so that "emergency information" could be broadcast. KAAY was designated as one of the clear channel emergency radio stations that the government would use in the event of a national emergency.

The underground propane tank was eventually replaced with an above-ground propane tank, located near the southwest corner of the building.

The building's front door (second floor, north side) was a double wide doorway. Felix told me that that's how the modulation transformer was brought into the building when the transmitter was being assembled by RCA engineers. In day to day operation, one side was kept locked, and only the other side was used for entry and exit.

On the west end of the building was an inside stairway used to go between upstairs and downstairs. During cool weather this stairwell was also the warm air return to the blower room, and there was usually a nice warm breeze blowing here on a cold winter day.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday, We Go Outside

Some of you have seen pictures, maybe a little dated, of the transmitter building.  Here are some as we went back outside, before going out to the "antenna farm":

Yes, the building is a little dilapidated, but it was built so well back in the late '50s, it could easily be renovated, in my opinion, not bulldozed.  I'm not a building inspector, but from what I could see, the main structure was very sound.

Again, Gordon Stephan standing at the corner near the roll-up door.  David B. and I viewed the building from the rear as we went out to the antennas and the roof needed repair in a bad way....

Now, here's a relic: the West 7th Street sign!  David B. Treadway and Jerry Sims are posing with the sign:

The poor paint is peeling, but it could be cleaned up carefully and touched up and would make a neat historical piece!  Awhile back, we posted an old photo of the West 7th Street studio with the sign:

You'll see this picture again soon, on this tour.  Next, we're out on the "antenna farm"!

Bud S. (

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Comment From Cuba

The comments we've garnerd on the post, "Clyde Clifford-Then & Now" have been downright heartwarming and totally supportive of Beaker Street.  Lots of memories there regarding Clyde and the show.  Here is one comment I thought interesting, from Victor Manuel from growing up listening to Beaker Street in Cuba:

"Many thanks to Mr. Clyde Clifford for opening a to us teenagers back in those great days. I remember many nights that my friends and I would spend hours listening to the many great that nowadays are considered classics! We used to catch Beaker Street as often as possible being that we had no access to the outside world. Growing up in Havana, Cuba was difficult for us kids who saw American radio as an escape. Incredibly, on many nights just after 12:00pm, we were able to come across your show and listen to great songs of our generation. Thank you so much for everything Clyde! For keeping our Rock and Roll dreams alive for so many years!"

We would dearly love to hear from more listeners who heard KAAY and Beaker Street from Cuba- would you regale us with your stories, please?

Thank you!

Bud S. (

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

RCA BTA Badge, From Greg Fadick!


I saw your pic on the blog of the missing RCA badge on the KAAY transmitter. Couldn’t resist pulling this from another website for you. No, it’s not from KAAY, but enjoy.


Monday, June 20, 2011

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday, More Giants

Ok, ok, we were running around a little disorganized, but there was so much to see...I'd later told Jerry and David B. that I wished I'd had another complete day to slow down and look around (I later found out that I missed a key area of the transmitter building..more on that later!).

Here's some "cheesecake" photos of Giants when we went back upstairs: the RCA, David B. and Jerry:

I didn't get back far enough to get all of the transmitter into focus; I should have tried harder....

Here's David B. hamming it up for us in the next two photos:

Just look at that salesmanship!  If I had the cash, I'd buy that transmitter, David B.!

And here's Jerry in front of the transmitter; giants, once again together:

Jerry has made mention several times to me how he took phone calls from people all over the country, who thought KAAY was one great party palace when, in reality, it was one young, lucky guy who was in a darkened studio, running things by himself...and his voice was projected over half the globe by this wonderful RCA transmitter!

Sadly, the badge is missing in the next photo, but if you have zoom capabilities, you can see the imprint, which says, "TYPE BTA 50F 1 TRANSMITTER" and "RCA" should have been in the round spot:

There's much, much more to this historical tour, so please stay tuned!

Bud S. (

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Warehouse, New Orleans, LA Link!

Wow, I got an e-mail today, regarding The Warehouse, 1820 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans, LA from Bob Wahl, who has a great website he wanted to share with us!

"I saw your post doing some research. Check out our site I think you might like it-bw"
I can't remember if I'd ever seen this before, or something mind is overflowing nowadays, BUT I just had to post it here (again), if I hadn't before.  There are some mp3 recordings there you can enjoy, of short clips and audio.  Lots of good stuff there to view, as well!
If you have ANYTHING Bob hasn't listed there, like posters, ticket stubs and other memorabilia regarding The Warehouse, please contact Bob at his links at the bottom of his website.
Thank you, Bob Wahl and technical guy/webmaster John Dubois!
Bud S. (

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday, A Little More Geek Material

Yes, just blame this radio geek for all this stuff!  Jerry Sims has told me time and time again, "You technical guys understand that stuff!"  I hope this is not boring anyone, because THIS is radio history that will one day "go away" and we need to preserve and chronicle as much of this as possible.  Dave M. has comments in an upcoming post that will be interesting about the RCA BTA-50F1 transmitter that some (I) didn't know....

Do you ever wonder about those tubes?  Dave M. mentioned that they sat in ceramic sockets.  These tubes were 325+/- pounds and required a tube trolley to remove and replace them:

I almost grabbed that handle to see how heavy it was, not knowing I'd never budge it!

Here are more comments by Dave M.:

"There was a small trolley with a lift fork that we used to lift them off the porcelain "socket".

The "socket" was just a cylindrical porcelain thing that was connected to the forced air chamber (under the tube). The tube just "sat" on the porcelain mount in much the same way you take your morning constitutional. Forced cooling air was from bottom to top through the fins and then out the chimney in the top of the cabinet.

All connections were external using oversized thumbscrew clamp-like devices.
The filament voltage (was) - 11VDC @ 285A Yikes!
The photo is the RF power amplifier cabinet. Two tubes were active, and the other two were "spares". Notice that on the left side pair, the filament leads are only connected to one of the two tubes on that side. Same for the right half of the cabinet. If you had to change a tube on the fly, you could swing the leads over to the "spare" tube and get back on the air quickly. Then when you had time on maintenance night, you could lift out the dud using the mini forklift, and swap in a fresh tube.

The modulator cabinet had three tubes - two on line and one in-place spare."
Dave sent me a specification sheet, which is too large to print here; suffice it to say, at Class B operation, one tube utilized 15,000 volts with a DC input of 90,000 watts to produce 25,000 dissipation watts...that's watts output potential per tube!
Here is a spec drawing:
That is one tough tube!  I think Dave also mentioned to me that, what with those cooling fins around the tube and all the air rushing around them, they'd collect a little dust; Felix McDonald would actually pull the tubes and wash them to get the dirt/dust out of them!  I'll have to find that bit o' correspondence....
By the way, Dave also writes, "There is a FANTASTIC writeup and tour of the BTA 50F transmitter at this site. I highly recommend a read - it's a wealth of information!

Here's a snapshot of the tube trolley I mentioned. (WGAR photo)":

You had to have all the tools of the trade to make things work...and KAAY enginners knew their business!  Thanks again, Dave!
Hang in there...we've got so much more!
Bud S. (

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Console Comments From Greg Fadick, a.k.a. "Hot Scott Fisher"


First of all, I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying the posts on your trip through the KAAY transmitter site. While it’s really sad to see the condition of the facility, it’s also like visiting an old friend.

The picture of David B. with the Gates Yard console really brought back some memories. I have no idea where that was used at KAAY, as I never saw it there during my time, but I did spend many hours with my hands on one of those at other stations. Small, but a very sweet board.

The other console pictured (the one with David’s hand on top) is, if memory serves, an RCA 7A. It’s an early 60’s vintage board, but RCA continued to manufacture it through the 1980’s. We had a couple of those at KAAY during my tenure in ‘76-’77 at the Cottondale Lane studios. One was in the main KAAY control room, another in the large production studio, and maybe another one running around. Here’s a kind of interesting video of one actually working:

As I said, RCA continued to sell this board through the 80’s, and in fact, we used one in the main control room at KLAZ during that time.

Again, if memory serves, the console in use in the main KAAY control room on 7th street, up until the move to Cottondale, was a Collins 212E. Here’s a link to some pics of one:

Note the telephone style switches next to the pots on the bottom row. These selected program or audition. What made them unique was they moved vertically, with the up position being audition and down being program. On most consoles of the day these switches moved horizontally, to the left being audition, to the right, program. Again, I believe this is what was in the 7th Street studios, hopefully David B. and/or Dave M. can confirm that.

Keep those posts comin’. I’m loving them.



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday, Pickin' Around....

I had to almost run to catch up, especially when David B.'s thunderous voice beckoned!  I was almost breathless, nearly in tears, on the edge of laughter, as I continued to look around.  This was a very emotional day for all of us.

When I came around the corner, David B. had a console called, "The Yard" in his hands:

...and yes, it was a yard long!  I forgot to ask, but maybe this was a console for remote set-ups?  If you look on David B.'s right, you'll see more of the rectifier tubes in a rack, ready for service.  Also, if you look around him, you'll see the jumble; we had to be careful not to bark our legs against anything in storage.  We were pickin' through all kinds of stuff....

We went through the door behind David B. to find more stuff:

I remember David B. making the comment about something in this rack from WAKY (a sister LIN station in Louisville, KY).  I e-mailed him later and he mentioned Dave M. might comment on the meanwhile, he said:

"The fourth box down in that picture was the Symmetra-peak I referred to a while back: the thing that decided whether the positive or negative peaks of incoming audio were hotter and "flipped things over" so the transmitter could act accordingly. I don't think it would have been very noticeable and/or important to anyone outside the station--and we didn't think about it very often."

Someone also mentioned that stuff got shipped around between the LIN stations as it was needed (or not?).  And Dave M.'s comments:

"From top to bottom here's what you have:

Top- An RCA calibrated line amplifier with "VU" meter panel and precision attenuator. The meter had a calibrated attenuator that allowed you to set the amplifier gain to suit its application. These were sometimes used to drive a telephone line to the transmitter from the studio, or to monitor the incoming audio. This is a pass through device.

Second from top- This is an RCA AM Modulation Meter. This was a required piece of FCC monitoring equipment, used to measure the percentage of modulation. It had to be calibrated yearly by a certified lab. It also had a "Peak" lamp that indicated 100% or higher. The FCC allowed peak modulation at 100% negative, and 125% positive modulation.

Third from top- A blank panel, probably used for for some type of project at one time.

Fourth from the top- A SymmetriPeak. This is an old audio processing device that helped insure the best possible peak versus average modulation (loudness). There are write-ups on this device on the web if you are interested in more info. It was a passive device, and had a really good set of input and output (audio) transformers in it.

Fifth from the top- A MARTI device. KAAY used MARTI microwave and MARTI STL (Studio-Transmitter link) radios, and this appears to be a MARTI changeover panel, when dual microwave receivers were used on a single receive dish. [NOT SURE OF THIS ONE!!]

Sixth from top- This looks like a cannibalized RCA audio amplifier of some sort.

Seventh from top- Another RCA audio amplifier with its front panel intact. Used as a utility line amplifier, controls were inside the drop down front panel.

Something you missed in the photo - the thing on the roll around cart behind the rack in the photo is one of the high power contactors for the BTA50F transmitter. This switch is the same type that Felix jimmied with a broom handle to keep it "latched" close in that great transmitter rescue story told several months ago on the blog.
(More of that particular story later!  bs)
There was a shout from downstairs, so we headed in that direction.  What a jumble.  Among the numerous things we found were several signifigant items:
A KTHS monitor speaker!  This picture was taken from across the room by me, while David B. held my high-output Fenix PD30 230-lumen LED flashlight on it.  It was so dark down there!  Only one light bulb for the whole downstairs, so I apologize for the grainy photo.  As many of you remember, KAAY came out of KTHS when LIN Broadcasting bought the station back in 1962, so this is a true relic of unknown year!
Now, David B. Treadway already has a voice that fills up all of Arkansas, but this manual reverb board made his, and others' voices, even more "boomy" over the air!  Some of you may remember us and A.J. Lindsey mentioning this reverb board and here is a link to A. J.'s blog about it:
David B. and I couldn't pick it up, so we slid it out of the alcove for this picture; it is in a steel frame and has a thin metal skin suspended in the frame.  There are two speakers behind it and the sampled audio made the board tremble.  I didn't see a mike pick-up on the other side, so I suppose someone suspended a mike somewhere around it.  That's Gordon Stephan in the background against the stairs.  Where he's pointing is a wall full of tapes we went through....
Just around the corner from where the reverb board was, was this console.  It is just like, or very, very similar to what Jerry mentioned he used in the studio back in '63-'67.  Again, sorry for the poor lighting by my LED flashlight, as there was NO lights back here.
More to come, don't touch that dial!
Bud S. (

Friday, June 10, 2011

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday With Dave M. Comments Continued

Such awesome power!  Not only in wattage output, but voltage and current input, as well...these magical machines ate it up and flamed it out!  More comments by Dave M.:

"OK gang, this is a busy photo with several interesting things to point out.

Most prominent in the middle is the "Y" looking thing. This is the main AC input to the rectifier stack.  You'll notice that the "wiring" at this point was all done with copper pipe, just like house plumbing. Except that very high voltages at high current went through these pipes. "Behind" the feed through you can see the rectifier stacks - most of them have been converted to solid state, eliminating the mercury vapor tubes.

In the near field, bottom left you can see the corner of a large steel enclosure. This is the choke for the power supply.

On the right near field, you can see another even larger metal enclosure with a pipe coming out of the top - - this is the modulation transformer weighing in at a nice trim 7,000 pounds. It is pretty much a conventional audio transformer, rated at about 35,000 watts average power handling capability. It sat in a tank of oil - the oil was used for cooling. In all the years working there, and as hard as we pushed the transmitter, I never felt the transformer tank running more than warm to the touch.

In the back of the photo to the left of the power feed through, and directly under the stack of boxes you can see a very small room with a bunch of black looking things. These were the control relays and circuit breakers for various operating sections of the transmitter. You could access these from the front of the transmitter when it was running - it is a "safe" room when the inside door is locked and the interlocks engaged. During normal operation, if a circuit breaker tripped, you would go into this room (from the front) to find out which circuit had tripped, and the CB could be reset from here. Each circuit breaker had a "flag" to indicate its status."

And, so far, that's Dave's tour...I think I sent him more photos for comment and I'm sure he'll have more to add later.  In the meantime, here are several more pictures of the transmitter and feedline areas:

This circuitry was on the backside of one of the doors I opened...
...and the inside of the same area, I believe.
This is a little different angle of the aforementioned relay and feedline Dave commented can see some of the circuitry a little better.  There's David B. Treadway in the lower right-hand corner!
While my radio geek self was poking around in the transmitter David B. and Jerry were poking around all over, looking at stored items...more coming right up!
Bud S. (

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tom Rusk And The RCA Transmitter

Dave Montgomery recently stated to me that Tom Rusk "cast the life preserver" when things ran amock at the transmitter site and was Felix McDonald's long-time assistant.  as per dave's words:

"Tom Rusk was for a long time Felix's assistant at the transmitter, and he frequently cast the life preserver when one of the wheels ran off the road. Tom deserves high recognition for his work in maintaining the transmitter alongside Felix."

We've made reference to Tom Rusk a time or two on the blog and I never realized his importance to the engineering team at KAAY!  I have to apologize, folks, sometimes you have to hit me with a hammer to get my circuits aligned, I don't make the connection at times....

Does anyone know where Tom Rusk is nowadays?  The last I'd heard, he owned a station or two?  Please help, as I'd like to get in touch with him and, hopefully, get some of his comments here.

Thank you!  And thanks to Dave M.!

Bud S. (

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday, More Technoid Stuff

I can't even be able to convey in words how I personally felt, being not only at the transmitter site, but being able to actually touch and examine the circuits that flung those beautiful radio signals practically halfway 'round the earth!

I sent a few photos to Dave Montgomery and asked for comments, since he, as well as Felix, knew the transmitter in and out.  First the pictures, then Dave's comments:

"This is the high voltage rectifier "stack". These parts converted the AC power incoming from the power company to a very high voltage DC that was used in the high power modulator and RF amplifier sections of the transmitter. The original configuration was two rows of mercury vapor rectifiers - one tube can be seen in place in the photo. The other tubes have been replaced / updated with solid state versions that, theory, "never" burn out. If my memory serves me, we ran about 10,600 volts DC at about 5.6 amps for the final power amplifier . If you calculate this out, you see it is about 59,000 watts +/- - - transmission line losses and other factors reduced this to right at 50,000 watts at the tower."

"This is the rear view of the modulator cabinet. The modulator was where the audio from the studio was amplified many times over up to the equivalent of about 35,000 watts (!!). On the left side you can see the two power amplifier tubes (the round thing with the RCA emblem on it). On the right you can see the intermediate modulator amplifiers which boost the relatively tiny studio audio signal up to a signal compatible with the two big power amplifier tubes.

One thing that was nice about this transmitter was that RCA placed all components in the open, which allowed easy inspection and service when needed. Time was always the essence, so they made it very easy to work on when necessary.

One thing not in this picture is the modulation transformer. The transmitter's modulation transformer was a huge oil-filled steel tank with the transformer inside. It weighed about 7,000 pounds and was the single largest component in the transmitter. It was truly one of a kind. If it ever failed for any reason, there were no spares except in other transmitters. To replace it would also have required a partial demolition of the transmitter itself to make room for the lifts, cranes, and other heavy lift equipment working in a confined space."

(Probably one of the transformers in other pictures?  bs)

"This the antenna relay. Its function was to connect the transmitter to the towers, and to switch the transmitters between the daytime and nighttime tower configurations.
The building has a main transmitter and a backup transmitter, and each one had to be capable of being switched between the daytime antenna and the nighttime antenna configurations. That is what this switch does. If you look closely you can actually see three distinct relays in the photo. You can also see the two transmission lines (the copper "pipes" near the top of the photo). One of these transmission lines was used for the daytime antenna (all power goes to the single center tower). The other transmission line goes to the night time antenna configuration, which was three towers. During night time operation, the 50,000 power was split three ways, with some power going to each of the three towers."
(I'd wondered how that worked!  bs)
"This is the transmitter final power output cabinet. Inside you can see the RF (radio frequency) power amplifier tubes in their sockets. The coils are used to tune the final RF amplifier section to the antenna load. At the top of the photo you can see where the radio signal feeds through an insulator to the antenna relays mounted on top of the cabinet. When the RF left here, it went into the towers and on its way to thousands of listeners."
And there WERE thousands of listeners!  There was so much going on behind that dial we never knew of, more than we could ever imagine.  So much high-quality, beautiful circuitry goes into a radio transmitter, hardly anyone who visits a station ever gets this treat of seeing where the heart is!
More of Dave's tour later- stay tuned!
Bud S. (

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bury My Heart At Wrightsville‏

(Picture compliments of Jerry Sims, "Sonny Martin II")

It's hard to look at the KAAY transmitter site now. It hurts like watching your Mama die. "Ruins" is too strong a word, but not by much. If you ever listened to my station, if you ever did love it, if it was your constant teenage confidant, you have to know about the sorry shape that its heart is in. I struggle to convey the decay.

We had seen recent pictures of the site. They were taken from beyond the fence and they revealed traces of the neglect we would find when we were so graciously allowed in. When I saw the tall grass everywhere in the pictures, it didn't have any connection at ALL with the way Felix McDonald kept that property. What his cows didn't graze down was laid low by a high-wheel Yazoo Master Mower at least every other week. The high grass was just the beginning.

Our little convoy--Bud and Jerry Sims (Sonny Martin II) in Jerry's SUV, my son Matt and me leading in my pickup--rolled through the gate just after noon. It had taken four wrong turns to get us there and I wish I had never uttered the phrase "I know exactly where we're going." Time has this humbling way of erasing landmarks.

That two-story brick building from 1952 was meant to stand a hundred years. It was supposed to stay intact enough when the Russians nuked us so that KAAY could remain on the air. And now it's going to be demolished because it's falling apart. There's water damage on the inside and there are trees growing on the roof! I simply cannot get my mind around the way it looks now--because I remember how it was when Felix was Chief Engineer.

The wood panels on the lower-story garage doors are warped and buckled and split from lack of paint. There's junk scattered everywhere on that lower floor. Parts dating to the time of KTHS are laid about haphazardly. Shelves that hold hundreds of reels of tape are falling down--one nearly got me later when I stupidly moved a two-by-four. I saw a literal avalanche of tape cartridge shells covered by cobwebs in one corner. You cannot walk two paces without having to step over something else that looks like it was just tossed aside and left to molder.

We initially did not spend much time downstairs because I wanted the boys to see Big Mama--my pet name for the fabled RCA BTA 50-F transmitter upstairs. There are things in this world that will just not fit into a photograph; you've got to go stand next to them to see how grand they are. Pyramids and canyons and the West of Ireland and 50,000-watt RCA vacuum tube transmitters from Camden, New Jersey, in the early 1950s. Big old things like that, some of which will kill you if you touch 'em wrong.

Paint flakes stirred like a snowstorm as we climbed the stairs. (Paint flakes in the House of Felix! How bad would it have killed you misers to spring for a new coat of paint every five years or so?) The fear of lead in the particles was quickly shoved aside by the gallows grin that the prospect of PCBs in the transformers brought. It was WAY too late to worry about the small stuff.

My soul shriveled when I saw the RCA. There were cracks and jagged shards in the enameled front that Felix had once used Simoniz paste wax upon. I swear, she was WRINKLED! Did you ever see somebody put into a nursing home and just…LEFT? The transmitter didn't look like she'd had the least bit of love since April 3, 1985. (Yes, that would've been the Last Day; we ran her like a racehorse for better than seventeen hours that day and she never broke a sweat. At midnight, Felix literally had to knock her loose from the antenna array.)

I put my hands on her, I snuggled my face up to her. I am just this side of tears to try telling you about the love between me and such a supposedly inanimate object. That transmitter recognized me. She knew who I was. She CARRIED me--and Phil and Clyde and Jerry and Sonny and George and Jonnie and Wayne and everybody else at 1425 West Seventh Street--to a chunk of the Western Hemisphere all the way from Canada to Cuba, and all the way LIVE.

And now they're going to tear her down and junk her. Young Frank The Engineer was pretty casual about telling me they (and I may never speak or write the name of the company again) plan to bulldoze the building and put up a new one. They won't be keeping the RCA because she's too big. That little tidbit has left me numb to where I can't even muster any outrage: it threw me right past anger into despair. Let me see if I've got this. It looks like the company didn't spend a dollar to maintain the building--but now they'll be laying out the megabucks to demolish and rebuild?

A good few of my compatriots are in a cold sweat over what will happen to the thousands of miles of tape, papers and memorabilia in the building. Thank God, there's a group working to get items of historical import into museums and archives. More power to them; everything we couldn't store at 1425 West Seventh or 2400 Cottondale Lane "went to the transmitter," as we termed the process. One or two loads a week were hauled and stacked over the years. (And you can bet that everything was put in its place 'cause Felix didn't take no clutter!) The task of removing and sorting the important stuff is going to be mind-boggling.

Sentimental old fool that I am becoming, the imminent loss of the RCA has me running through the stages of grief like an Ampex 350 on fast forward/rewind. At this point, it looks like she cannot be preserved whole because nobody has the room to take her. Not even the Smithsonian Institution, and they hung a blue whale from the ceiling. Damn the very eyes of whoever has let it come to this!

In a just world, I'd have a barn big enough to hold Big Mama. I'd be rich enough that my power bill wouldn't even be a nuisance. I'd run her into a dummy load on weekends so that the faithful could see her the way I did: lit up and ROARING.

Oh well. Just about enough time left to spin that Jamie Brockett tune that was such a favorite on Beaker Street. You know the one. It's got the chorus that goes:

"It was midnight on the sea,

The band was playing "Nearer, My God, To Thee."

Fare thee well, Titanic,

Fare thee well."

David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII
The Last PD

Monday, June 6, 2011



First I want to thank Bud for the GREAT "KAAY Travel Memories" that he's been presenting for the last week...just super info & pix.  (David B. looks a dapper as ever ! )

I wanted to Post this info below last week, but thought I'd let Bud's Posts pre-empt mine for awhile.  So now, it's time and here goes:

THOUGH MOST OF YOU COMING to this Site will know me because of my career in Broadcasting, you may not be aware that my "roots" were based in Acting...and that's where my original skills of Communication were formed & honed.

Accordingly, I'm extremely proud of this newest  Section entitled:  "ACTING 101...AND BEYOND !" as it takes into account my COMPLETE History in the Theatre...DONE IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER .
READY ? Okay, your journey will include, among many other things, Shakespeare, the Navy & the Army, a Million-Selling Record, The Chipmunks, and, even a Ghost ! It all starts here: just click-on here , sit back, relax, learn, and, most of all ENJOY !

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday, For You Technoids

...and into the workings of that gentle giant we went.  I noticed a warning sign about fire and that if anything happened, we had to evacuate immediately, due to the halon system.  No problems, however, as the RCA was not on-line.

Standing next to giants, in their own rights and in my eyes, I wondered what were they thinking and feeling?  Both Jerry and David B. seemed deep in thought over being there once again.  Jerry was getting important pictures, as I was....  What was stirring in those great minds, guys?

I turned my attention, as they scurried about, to the innards of this wonderful, beautiful, magical, historical beast...and yet, a tamed beast, since it performed so wonderfully and faithfully all those years.  I started opening doors in wonderment; being a Ham radio operator, Extra Class Level, didn't prepare me for all the wonderful, marvelous circuitry I beheld.  Jerry says that this stuff interests "you technical guys", but I was in 'way over my head in wonderment:

Do you recognize that half-wave rectifier tube in the center of the picture?  Yes, it's dusty, but you can see the quality of workmanship and great materials installed in this transmitter.  Felix McDonald gave Jerry one of these tubes awhile back:

Dave Montgomery told me that they had a puddle of mercury in them and glowed a "satisfying purple glow when operating at full gallop".  Many tubes still use mercury in their make-up.

Talk about POWER: this, and other transformers had to feed the RCA:

I'll bet every hair would stand up when these things were working!

But wait, there's more!

Bud S. (

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday, Gentle Giants Reunited

Well, it was about time to meet David B. Treadway and his son Matt, on the way to the transmiiter down in Wrightsville!  Jerry and I kept contact with him and Jerry stopped for gasoline on "the old highway" (must have been the road, before I-530), while I ran across the road to the Dollar General for more batteries for the camcorder.  Upon exiting the store, I heard a thunderous voice: "BUD!"  When I puilled my hair back in place, I looked and there was David B. and Matt!  I wanted to run over to his truck, but I didn't want to seem overly anxious- you know how celebrities are, they get skittish with exited fans- so I quickly sauntered over and got one of the warmest greetings I'd had in a long, long time!  David treated me like I was his best friend and I was immediately at ease.

In the meantime, Jerry joined us in the parking lot; as Jerry had only been to the transmitter site once before, he told David B. he'd follow, so I jumped in Jerry's vehicle and we took off.  Now, David B. said that many years ago, he'd drive until he saw the towers line up, then he'd take the first right.  No go on this tactic, since the trees had aged along with us all, so he began going down road after scary road (you had to be there) until we got the right one (about the fourth one- NOW we know!).  Very shortly. the transmitter building hove into site and I had to catch my breath- we were finally "THERE"!  I think I sucked all the air out of Jerry's vehicle....

When we arrived, we were greeted by Gordon Stephan, who opened up for us.  I didn't know if I should laugh, cry, run around whoopin' and hollerin' or kneel and pray, I had so many emotions stirring inside of me!  There was already a technician there, working on the transmitter.  It had gone down ("lost its finals") before we got there.  Later, there was nothing to be done except order parts, so the tech tried to fire up a 5 kilowatt Harris, but no go, either; he finally had to go back to the studio for an AM Optimod, I think he told us.

I'd jumped out of the auto and tried to use the videocam (I'd never used this particular one before), but it was in "set-up" mode, so I ditched it and grabbed the camera.  I later got a video, when I figured it out.  Nonetheless, it was time to enter the mythical building....

...and, holy smokums, what a mess.  Felix McDonald would have a whole litter of cats, the place was in a shambles and dirty...

We made our way upstairs and I immediatly teared up; thank goodness for a self-focusing digital camera, I wouldn't have made very good pictures.  You'll see why, just take a look at two gentle giants being reunited after all these years:

David B. gently carressed the face of the RCA as Gordon looks on...

...and David B. listening to the soul of the transmitter as Jerry and I take another picture....

If this doesn't get to you, nothing will.

As you can see in the background, there's the current transistorized transmitter in blue, only taking up part of the far wall; the RCA commands the whole wall it is installed in.  Heck it IS the wall!  "Bigger 'n six Cadillacs", Dave Montgomery once said.

Yes, this area was cluttered and dirty, as well; heart-breaking, really.  I snapped a few more pictures from different angles, one through the glass into the transmitter:

There's David B.'s son Matt reflected in the glass.

Yes, the paint is peeling, but the surface still shines, as if the RCA still has pride in itself and its accomplishments.  This unit deserves to live in a museum, where its story can be told.

Jerry and I attempted to take a few items off this control board (not a main console, I was told) to take a picture; it was in the center of the room, directly in front of the transmitter:

(I have a telephone just like that at home! Bud)

At this point, they told me that we could actually go INTO the transmitter, so we caught up to them....

...and catch more in the next episode....

Bud S. (

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Trip To Little Rock: Tuesday, Touring With Jerry Sims

And what a day!  This post will be in several parts, due to the large amount of pictures snapped and experiences.....

Jerry Sims ("Sonny Martin", 1963-1967) picked me up at the motel and we immediately went to the current KAAY (and sister stations) address, at 700 Wellington Hills Rd.  We'd tried to rush there so that I could try and meet Bob Steel ("Michael O'Sullivan", 1972-1973), but we'd just missed him after his shift, as he had to immediately leave the KARN studio for another engagement.  I never had another opportunity to try and meet him.  But, I got Jerry at the entrance of the studios:

And, although I couldn't snap a picture of the studio (they seemed a bit sensitive to pictures) I did get a picture of the latest KAAY logo and one of the vans outside:

After leaving the studios, Jerry took me by the Fairgrounds, where he was perched up in a sailboat during one of the state fairs and in front of Barton Collesium:

Many may remember several posts awhile back regarding Jerry's almost perilous stay in the sailboat- it nearly flipped over, due to the large sail catching a lot of wind!  Well, here's Jerry with a photo of himself from about 1963, against the building; the current facade over his left shoulder is where he was in the sailboat so many years ago (the roof used to be totally flat):

For the original stories of Jerry in the boat, here is a link to the earlier posts:

Oh, there is SO much more!  Please stay tuned!

Bud S. (