Radio DaZe

The first time I spoke words on a radio station was from my friend’s basement.

This deserves some explanation.

Jeff Goldfield and I became buddies because he was a guitar player in a band and I hung around. I was sort of a roadie and sort of a groupie. The band broke up but Jeff and I continued and during Junior High and High School I would say we were “BFF” as the kids say now.

Oddly enough we lost touch in my senior year in High School when I moved to another town but ended up going to the same college without knowing until we met at registration. Life is weird.

When we were in Junior High (Lyman C. Hunt Junior High –imagine what we called it) Jeff had a neighbor who was an engineer at IBM. As I think back on it now I never met the guy. But he built a small AM transmitter that was frequency agile (could be tuned to any frequency) and put out either 100 milliwatts (legal) or 10 watts (not so much legal) and used a simple dipole antenna. We built a little studio in Jeff’s basement.

Jeff’s Fender “Tremolux” amp head served as our audio console. As I recall, and forgive me but this is 40 some years ago, we used the four inputs for microphone, tape recorder (maybe two) and maybe two turntables. This involved some juggling of inputs.

We of course knew not of ‘cueing’ or any of the finer technical points. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. So we just went on blindly as “WGLR”. Goldfield/Rising radio. Jeff’s name came first. It was his basement.

My “show’ was the “SS 396” show – named for a car I lusted after. We played what 45’s we had but mostly used the tape recorders for songs we lifted off the local radio stations. We became quite adept at fading in and out of the tapes to avoid the DJ’s and jingles from the other stations.

SS stood for Super Sport

One station (WDOT-which would later figure importantly in my life) had an exclusive on a few tunes and would a layer a “WDOT Exclusive” liner over the instrumental part a few times. We would, not knowing anything about editing, just play the songs (Valerie by the Monkees was one) and do our fade thing.

I don’t recall a lot about what announcing we did. I do know that Jeff, ever the entrepreneur, struck a deal with a local Mom and Pop store to give us snacks and soda for mentions. My first radio trade!

Announcing was fraught with danger. Nothing was grounded properly and if you touched the wrong thing and the microphone at the same time you would get 110 volts AC, usually on the lips.

At ten watts we could talk from his basement to Mallets Bay. I knew this because my family had a camp there and I could hear the station. Where we went in other directions we never knew. We were 13 year olds with bikes and limited other means of transportation.

7 or 8 miles as the crow flies

Our broadcast schedule was erratic to say the least. After school sometimes. Weekends when Jeff wasn’t doing something else or being punished. It didn’t last long and I can’t remember for sure but I think it all ended when the IBM guy took back the transmitter.

It set the hook in me deep. It took years before I would actually talk on a “real” radio station but I knew in my heart that I had found something that would be a big part of my life. I didn’t have any idea how big.

The Rant D’Jour has to do with P.T. Barnum. Not really. But he is mentioned.

P.T. Barnum once said that whole deal about suckers born and those born to take them. He would be delighted with….more


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About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
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