Whatever Your Source Of Stress Or Strife

We have had a wave of celebrity obituaries in the past ten days or so, and with so many passings it might have been easy to overlook the news that one of my work colleagues and bosses had died on Tuesday – Chuck Harder. A bit of an irony that Chuck died the same day former First Lady Barbara Bush had, as it never occurred to me that Harder was a fan of establishment politicians.

That being said, a lot of people considered Chuck a conservative wingnut and was often parodied and lampooned by hosts at rival talk station WFLA back in the 1980’s. I never felt that way. I think he discovered what many believe now – that there is an establishment class of politicians that run things up in Washington D.C., a class that many in the know now call the Deep State. These establishment politicians don’t want outsiders (like our current President) running things, and most times they team up to thwart such efforts. In the 2016 elections, they were not as fortunate. Chuck was a big fan of H. Ross Perot, the 1992 and 1996 third-party candidate – and he laid the blueprints for Trump’s successful run as a Republican infiltrator in 2016, I’ve always believed.

I worked with Chuck at the Sun Radio Network in 1991 – I believe (though I could be wrong) that it was around this time he moved from Cedar Key to the Telford Hotel in White Springs. After he helped with the formation of radio station WEND in Brandon and the Sun Radio Network, he had been rather unceremoniously dismissed there (no, I don’t know the details – my guess was he got in a power struggle with Liberty Lobby and lost) in the spring of ’91, replaced by the very capable Tom Donahue. In the proceeding years, Harder started up his own network, the People’s Radio Network – and he gave me a job and provided me with a room at the Telford Hotel.

The “For The People” show Harder hosted was not a small operation by any means. At one point in the 1990’s, the show was carried over 200 stations every afternoon – the only show on more stations in that era was Rush Limbaugh’s operation out of New York.

My memories of Chuck were pleasant ones, and one of the times in my life I wish I could do over again – sadly in life, most of the time you don’t get do-overs. It was just a bit of a culture shock for me as a 23-year-old to go from living in the Tampa Bay area to living life at a much slower pace. I’m not proud of how my stay there ended, and I always felt I had let Chuck down. Another instance of not knowing how good I had it, I suppose – which regrettably seems to have been a pattern in my career.

In all of my interactions with Harder, he was always positive and upbeat, always patient and not one to lose his temper as so many do in the radio business. One time up in White Springs in 1994, I was running the board for him on an afternoon shift, and my duties were mainly to run the commercial breaks and news updates at the top of the hour and on the bottom. Back then, everything wasn’t in electronic form – we used 8-track like “carts” on special machines. Harder always believed in using American equipment – but I was warned of a drawback in using these particular cart machines – that if you jammed a cart into the machine at the last moment, it would play the first few seconds at half-speed or thereabouts.

One day, I found myself in such a situation with Chuck’s bumper music – music used so stations carrying the show could identify themselves right before the host began speaking again. Chuck had a senior producer who screened the phone callers and coordinated with any guests he’d use – and I thought for sure “blooping” his bumper music would lead to consequences of some sort. Chuck mentioned my name on the air – but laughed it off. It was the kind of guy he was – if he ever castigated anybody for anything, I never saw it. At some other places I worked, had I done that – I would have been read the riot act.

I also think Chuck was an example of what happened to the radio business once the FCC allowed ownership consolidation took hold in the mid-1990’s under President Clinton’s watch. I mean this not as a political commentary per se, but to point out that when you have so few companies allowed to buy up so many radio stations, it’s generally not a good thing. The networks like PRN and Sun provided content for these “mom and pop” stations across the country – but once everything consolidated, these outlets withered away if one of the bigger corporations didn’t buy them.

Another quick example if I may: when I lived in Las Vegas in 1996 for a little less than a month, I could hear Chuck’s “For The People” radio show out there. Four years later when I went out there again, he was long gone off of that market’s radio dial.

Rest in peace, Chuck. You were a character.

 

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Flashback: “Right Back Where We Started From” by Maxine Nightingale

In recognition of the passing of Art Bell (who used this song as bumper music a lot), here’s Maxine’s biggest hit, peaking at #2 on the Billboard charts in 1975.

Lost Art

artbell

Art Bell died on Friday the 13th. In a way, fitting.

As one person put it on Twitter, of course, Art Bell would pass away on Friday the 13th. But it did happen, with a mournful George Noory breaking the news on Coast to Coast AM late on Friday evening on the very show Mr. Bell used to host.

I’ve never met or spoken to Art, but his impact on radio in the era I worked in the business was profound. I’m pretty sure that Art was briefly on North America One, a satellite sister entity of the Sun Radio Network, in either the late summer or early fall of 1991 – though my recollection of that is a bit fuzzy here in 2018.  When I worked for Valentine Communications producing Radio Free America in 1995 out of WBDN in the Feather Sound area of Clearwater, Art’s show was on the station, airing at 1:00 in the morning through to 6:00. I’d often run errands when my radio shift ended at midnight, and I’d catch the starts of Art’s shows driving around in my car.

WFLA, the big talk station in the Tampa Bay area, eventually picked his shows up locally. I heard him again in 1996 on a Greyhound bus heading out to stay in Las Vegas for a few weeks, then got hooked hearing him out in Sin City listening to his shows on 720 KDWN. I’m living in Florida again in 1998, driving up with my mother to North Carolina one overnight with Mom getting spooked out listening to the “Sounds Of Hell” recording Art frequently played in that era. Memo to future self: don’t scare your mother when you’re driving a car.

In the last two decades or so, he was on and off the air numerous times. He’d sign a new deal with someone, then find the deal wasn’t up to snuff and leave just as quickly as he returned. As many of us in the profession, my guess was he wasn’t too fond of the consolidation the radio business has gone through since the FCC laws changed in 1996, trying satellite radio, then online radio with what became his last sortie in the business.

My sincerest condolences to Art’s family on their loss this past day.

 

 

Hawking

Hawking

The world lost one of its most brilliant minds with the passing of physicist Stephen Hawking.

One of the things he warned us about in his waning time on Earth was his fear that the planet was heading for changes that would end humanity’s time on it within the next 200 years. If so, that’ll happen long after my trip into existence comes to an end – unless they find a way to extend everyone’s lives significantly by the time I check out.

Is there such a thing as global warming, or is it some sort of scam? I’ve always been of the belief that in life when there are two outcomes that aren’t conclusively true – the answer is somewhere in the middle. How much or how little the answer is in that “middle” is open to interpretation. I guess I’m saying global warming may exist but could be exaggerated for political purposes.

My introduction to Hawking came probably the same way many of you were introduced to him: watching him play a holographic image of himself in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. He was one of those people who refused to let his physical limitations be the limit of what he can do, and that’s something I think we can all learn from as we face the obstacles of our lives.

Flashback: “Dreams” by The Cranberries

A wave of sadness hit me on early Monday afternoon when I learned about the passing of Dolores O’Riordan in London. I can’t say it was because I was the biggest Cranberries fan, but because I learned in the past few years that Dolores was born the same exact day I was: September 6, 1971. She was what I call my celebrity birth date doppelganger.

If you don’t think you’ve heard this song before, you probably have. I remember hearing it on commercials promoting travels to Ireland in the mid-1990’s, and the song has made appearances in scores of TV shows and movies since. This particular song peaked just south of the top 40 in 1994, while “Linger” was their biggest hit in the US earlier in the year.

Ireland has lost one of its signature musical voices, but the recordings will endure for a much longer time. Godspeed, Dolores.

Sutherland Springs

It happened again. This time it was a church east of San Antonio. Once again, it was some demented coward taking out as many people as he could find. Once again, the toll of death was alarmingly high.

I guess you can tell I’m getting tired of all of this. But how do you stop someone highly motivated to kill from doing so if the killer is smart about his or her plans?

The left will say it’s the guns, the right will say the opposite. Neither side will compromise, so the stalemate will go on. Then someone else will die needlessly, and the cycle repeats itself, as it now has dozens and dozens of times.

This is our world. This is our time. This is what happens, I guess. All I know is that this isn’t right.