Radio DaZe: WCFR is fun

Radio DaZe:

WCFR, at least for the most part, was a dream come true for me. I loved working on the radio, my needs were being met because I was living at home with Mom and Dad (Although this would eventually become not so great, more later) and I was expecting my first child!

The program director at WCFR, Dylan McDermit, paid no attention to me. I got most of my feedback from a former classmate from college, Rick Kelly, who was also working at the radio station perched high above the town on a hill in Springfield, Vermont.

The WCFR studios were the most soundproof I have ever worked in. The actual broadcasting area of the building was underground and under many feet of lead lined, hardened cement. It seems that the government was, at one time, handing out subsidies to radio stations if they would build studios that were bomb-proof. Carlos Zezza obviously took the money but actually did it, digging the studios deep into a hillside. There were Geiger counters, survival rations and mysterious sealed boxes marked “Open only if under attack” which gave one pause.

One time I noticed a huge earth-mover perched to the side of the parking lot. I thought nothing of it and went in to do my shift. When I took a break and wandered outside I found the Caterpillar D4 track-type tractor, a bulldozer weighing five tons, running back and forth over the studio area. I hadn’t heard a thing!

Rick Kelly (Eric Elemendorf) who I would years later on be forced into firing (sorry, Rick) taught me oodles about programming, what worked what didn’t and how to tell. He also got me out of the “yucking” stage of announcing. A “yucker” throws his voice into an unnaturally deep mode and draws out words. It’s a parody of announcing and it sounds awful. I was deep into it. Rick kicked me in the ass and made me stop. I owed him and I did eventually get him work in a bigger market with me. Also fired him. Radio sucks sometimes.

But after the purgatory that was WJNC, playing top 40 records for a living, talking on the radio and soaking up the skills that would serve me well in coming years, WCFR was pretty great.

With a 5000 watt signal on 1490 AM we had a geographic reach that was huge. Of course the station was only a “Daytimer”, sunrise to sunset, but in those days it wasn’t that big a deal.

The equipment at WCFR was old but very serviceable and it all worked. The station had a full time Chief Engineer who was equal parts genius and mad scientist.

He also weighed in at about 500 lbs.

“Gordy” (never knew his last name) was a huge man with terrible hygiene. We knew for a fact that he bred flies in the crack of his ass because we would find maggot larvae on the toilet seat (which was usually pretty much demolished by his tremendous bulk) after he shat out one of his legendary meals. I once saw Gordy eat four chain store Bar B Q chickens in one sitting. I never found any bones in the garbage so I assume, like an owl, he ate everything.

Gordy would park his 1965 lemon yellow (faded) Chrysler Newport near the Springfield A&P, consume mass quantities of food and fall asleep. The car listed badly to the left as I am sure the shocks and springs had long ago succumbed to Gordy’s tonnage. The car had so many antennas in every location that it looked like some sort of cross between an insect and a porcupine. In those days you summoned an engineer with a radio, cell phones being a distant dream. Gordy could talk to Jupiter with the various transmitters in his jalopy. Gordy was out there. But he did a great job keeping WCFR on the air.

WCFR had the best ribbon mike I ever worked behind. Pictured here:

The Altec Lansing 639a looked to my eye like the mask on a medieval suit of armor. It was a fat sounding mike with unreal proximity effect (the closer you got, the more bass it produced) and made me feel like I was Thurl Ravenscroft-the guy who sang the “Grinch song.” It was a heavy unit and the folks at WCFR were too cheap to buy a mike stand so it was suspended above the console with some sort of chain rig. You could raise or lower it by hooking the chains at different points. One day it came loose and darn near took me out!

Those who have ever worked on the air on an AM station will understand this; those who have not will think I have been smoking something strong. I have never thought that I sounded as good as an announcer, at least in terms of vocal quality, as I did on AM. It makes no sense from a technical standpoint. FM is capable of carrying far more sound information than AM. But maybe that is what I mean. AM gave me “Balls” and confidence. The first time I heard myself on FM I thought I had been castrated!

The music in 1974 was wonderful. WCFR was a traditional Top-40 station in that they played most every song that charted. Oddly enough my younger son, James, was born July of that year, the month that (You’re) Having My Baby – Paul Anka, started its rise to Number One with a bullet. As sappy as it was I dedicated that tune to my wife every time I played it. The listeners must have been having dry heaves by the time James was born. Rick yelled at me when I did this.

“Don’t be so trite!” he would tell me.

I ignored him.

The best thing for me was that I was finally getting to play Let It Ride – Bachman Turner Overdrive on the radio! I turned the monitor up to Armageddon levels and cranked my headphone volume to the max every time it came up in rotation.

Here is a chart from May of 1974, about the time I would have started at WCFR:
This Week/Previous Week Title/Artist
20. 23. Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me – Gladys Knight & The Pips
19. 10. Dark Lady – Cher {1 Week @ #1}
18. 24. Help Me – Joni Mitchell
17. 18. Let It Ride – Bachman•Turner Overdrive
16. 17. Tell Me A Lie – Sammie Jo
15. 19. The Entertainer – Marvin Hamlisch
14. 22. Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield
13. 20. You Make Me Feel Brand New – Stylistics
12. 14. Piano Man – Billy Joel
11. 7. Star – Stealers Wheel
10. 5. Bennie and The Jets – Elton John {1 Week @ #1}
9. 13. (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long – Chicago
8. 11. Oh My My – Ringo Starr
7. 8. Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo – Rick Derringer
6. 9. Midnight At The Oasis – Maria Muldaur
5. 1. In The Mood – Bette Midler {1 Week @ #1}
4. 6. The Locomotion – Grand Funk Railroad
3. 4. The Sounds Of Philadelphia – MFSB f/Three Degrees
2. 2. Jet – Paul McCartney & Wings
1. 3. Hooked On A Feeling – Blue Swede {1 Week @ #1}

Top-40 jocks were supposed to be funny, quick with a line about the songs they played. I once said (and I probably stole this)

“There’s Maria Muldaur and when it’s Midnight at the Oasis the Arabs are eating their dates.”

Rick Kelly yelled at me for that one but no one else seemed to notice.

James came into the world in the usual way. My Mother and Edna got into it over breast feeding James (Mom dead set against it, Edna stubbornly not giving in) and we vacated the family homestead. Edna and I moved into the first of a series of bad apartments we would live in for most of our married lives and big changes occurred at WCFR.

NEXT: WCFR is sold, I become management by default and I began to have anxiety attacks.

The Rant D’Jour is about a bad restaurant experience.

I rarely leave less than a 20% tip. Even if the service is completely unacceptable I will leave at least 10%. I know that most of the problems…The more


Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks

About James Rising

A recovering radio addict wrestles with the written word.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply