News From The Woods - March, 2001

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published March 10, 2001


"Do I miss doing radio?"


You bet I do! But I also realize that the "Golden Age Of Radio" has come and gone. Back when I first got started in 1968 (my wife was only eight years old!), radio was still basically an AM media. 50,000 Watt KAAY was the biggest thing around this part of the country. I grew up listening to WLS in Chicago, back around 1964, with DJ Dick Biondi "spinning the platters" until midnight. Late night radio was some kind of mystical and invisible force which could only be captured by your car radio while throttling down some back road or lone highway. It was simple. Two knobs… One dial. 550 to 160 Kilohertz (whatever that meant). One speaker jammed right into the dashboard of your automobile. You had to be really careful not to leave your french fries on the dash when you left the drive in or you'd spill the salt into your speaker and it would buzz and rattle for months. It was later when somebody came up with the idea of placing a rear speaker in the back deck, but that meant a front/rear speaker fader! Hi Tech!

It also meant FM radio loomed on the horizon. Cars still weren't manufactured with FM radio tuners. Only homes with FM receivers could boast about FM stereo transmission. Of course, it was mostly lost on me because here in Arkansas there weren't many (if any) FM broadcasters around back in those days. But on AM radio there were entire volumes of previously unheard of music I could tap into. As I got older I started narrowing my scope down to Top 40 radio broadcasts, which played the very latest hit songs and up and coming new artists. Top 40 AM radio was still King in 1968, when I decided that I wanted to be a Disk Jockey. For about 4 years after graduating high school all my friends and even my mother told me I should be a DJ on the radio. Being the class clown in high school and the comedian in the band, I though about it and decided that it would be "fun". Somehow I learned that Draughon's Business School in Little Rock had a radio telephone operators course, so I enrolled in the fall of 1967. In those days, to be a radio announcer you had to pas the Radio Telephone Third Class Operators Permit, issued by the FCC.

I got a job working for a local magazine subscriber service as a "deal closer". The phone girls would make the sale over the phone and I went to the customer's house to close the deal and get their signature and first payment. It was a tough assignment but I did well at it and made enough money to live on while attending Draughon's. For me, the course was easy. Most of it consisted of knowing how to work a console (which I grasped immediately for some reason), operate a tape recorder (which I had been doing for years at home), and read news stories furnished by the Associated Press wire service. Since I have what is referred to as a "neutral accent" I didn't have the usual hurdles the other students had (sounding like a southerner), and was pretty good with pronounciation and the english language. And many students also had a hard time actually opening their mouths and saying something over a microphone. No problem at all for me! It became immediately obvious to my instructor that I was a natural for this line of work. I'm not going to say I was the teacher's pet, but I was always the one who shut down the gear at the end of the day and the first one in the classroom setting everything up for class the next day. While the other students toiled in the broadcast booth with announcing and technical assignments I mostly hung out down the hall with the students in the Second Class Ticket course. They were knee deep in soldering irons and gutted radios, tape recorders, and other such gear. It was a bit over my head but not so much that I could'nt at least talk shop with them. The instructors recommended that I not "waste my time" in the Third Ticket Class and move up to the Second Ticket Class. But I didn't want to be a "repairman" - I wanted all the glory of the Disk Jockey, so at the appropriate time I went to the court house and took my Third Class License Examination. I missed only one question - and I don't even remember what it was now. I was issued my Radio Telephone Third Class Operator Permit by the FCC on December 28, 1967. My first day on the air was January 1st, 1968. For a peek at what the official permit looked like, as well as more information on my radio career and even some RealAudio sound bytes, go here.

To me, the best years I had in radio were from 1968 to 1975. About that time, automation reared it's ugly head. Station managers loved automation because their "disk jockeys" never got sick, never complained, and always did what they were told. This spelled the end of personality radio. Live DJ's and their witty banter was replaced by "more music, less talk" formats. In short, radio became a job. There were still a few radio personalities but they were confined to only the larger metro areas, where the competition was so fierce that station management HAD to relent and hire real announcers to run live shows. But out here in the Hinterland it was just so much cheaper to buy a computer to do all your work for you and so the Program Director's job encompassed voiceovers and station liners to be inserted into the playlist.

Except for a brief one year stint doing a show with my friend Ray Miller in 1987, I have never returned to radio. I guess it's sort of like a "been there - done that" thing for me. Certainly I miss it, and occasionally someone will come out of the woodwork and tell me I ought to get back into it, but it's just not the same as it was then. First of all, I'm much older now and while I think the "class clown" still lurks deep within, I don't relish trying to discuss creative matters with a station manager who probably wasn't even born when I entered the profession. But you know….. just about the time I figured I had hung it all up for good, along comes the Internet! I am proud, excited, and happy to announce that once again I am merrily providing "audio radience for the radio audience". This time, however, it's on my internet radio station.

"What IS an internet radio station", you ask? (you did ask, didn't you?)

Internet radio is a means by which you can listen to your favorite station on your computer. But there are no transmitters involved, so there are no broadcasting boundries imposed. This means that if I want to listen to my pal Clyde Clifford doing his "Beaker Street" radio show I can do just that. Now, using conventional means of listening to the broadcast over Magic105FM in Little Rock, I would have to be physically located within their broadcast coverage area, which does not include the Mountain Home area. But thanks to the internet I can listen anytime I want to, as many conventional broadcasters now also stream their station content over the web. Think of it as sort of a "repeater station" which relays the signal all over the entire world. Now I can listen to broadcasters from all points of the globe and hear literally ANY kind of format I desire. But even more importantly, this also means that anyone with the desire to "broadcast" their own streaming "radio" show and the means with which to produce such a show can do it without footing the bill for a control room, transmitter, and tower….. Much less an FCC Permit. There are internet companies who's main intent on the web is to provide server space for such people to place their files, arrange their playlists, and stream their content. Live365.com is one of those providers. Currently they advertise over 30,000 internet broadcasters on their system. Imagine that! Thirty Thousand stations streaming content over the internet! And I'm one of them………..

I call myself "The Hi Tech Redneck" and at the time of writing this article I have enough content to stream over 12 hours before repeating material. Unlike most of the other broadcasters on Live365 who play songs by established artists that they like, I decided to use my station to promote some new artists and songs that no one has ever heard of. At the same time I am providing a much needed forum for those artists who have either recorded at ourt studio or have product available on our independent record label, HYPE Records. And to make it interesting for listeners I am including edited comedy material from my old radio show I did with Ray Miller. To visit my station page, point your browser to http://www.live365.com/stations/198456. Click on the speaker icon and you will be prompted how to configure your particular computer system's audio player to listen to the broadcast.


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