First, They Came For Alex…

black and silver cassette player

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I think it’s perfectly normal that when the big events of our time and in our lives happen. that it’s fair to seek out answers – even from outlets and people you wouldn’t ordinarily think of.

The first time I ever heard of conspiracy entertainer/talk show host Alex Jones was back in 2004, maybe 2005. I had gotten a DVD through the grapevine of a symposium hosted by actor Ed Begley, Jr. and introduced by Jimmy Walter which had suggested that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job. The theories of the different presenters varied a bit – some were more liberal, some were staunchly conservative, but the purpose was to get your interested in the idea that 9/11 wasn’t what the media represented it being. One of the snippets presented on the DVD was a much younger and less raspy Alex Jones and his “Road To Tyranny” documentary.

I certainly don’t agree with everything Jones has said – for instance, there was a time when he called Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC host, “Mr. Maddow” on his shows. I thought that was grossly homophobic. I also don’t deny that he’s probably 100% accurate when he said he was an “entertainer” in a recent court appearance. Talk show hosts are entertainers by definition – they present premises in a manner that tries to get more viewers than a given host’s competition.

Where I draw the line is what the social media outlets did on Monday – censoring Alex Jones solely from Apple, Facebook, and YouTube among other social platforms. Why just him when there are dozens of other lesser-known hosts on radio stations and the Internet that do exactly what he does all over the world? Making one person a scapegoat when others do likewise – that’s always a slippery slope. Makes you wonder why it happens now, three months before the mid-term elections, and why it didn’t happen two years, five years ago, whatever.

I don’t like playing social justice warrior – but I took my little itty bitty shot at Apple in response. I took their podcast app off of my phone, and don’t intend to listen to any podcast anytime soon. A small gesture, but if they are going to tell me not to listen to such-and-such a show, why listen to any show Apple offers? They should allow me, their consumer, to make such choices.

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Aircheck: ABC, 6/5/1968

I’ve always felt that the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles may have been a more sadistic blow to our country than the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, roughly four and a half years earlier.

ABC was the only network that stayed on the air continuously as events transitioned from election results to a breaking news event. Shortly after 3:15am Eastern time on June 5, 1968, the network was just returning from a B.F. Goodrich commercial and was about to sign off for the evening at approximately 19 minutes into the clip – the very moment RFK had been gunned down. For several moments, the John Phillip Souza march “The Thunderer” is heard.

Howard K. Smith is seen taking phone calls at his desk on the left, and a crowd forms in the upper right part of the screen by the wire machines above the “Race to the White House: California Primary” graphics. (Bill Lawrence is on the right side of the screen, whom ABC used as a political analyst.)

As the music re-cues a minute later, an announcer informs the audience to “Please stand by.” A minute later, the music stops and starts again, this time the announcer hints something serious is afoot by saying, “Please stand by for a special report.” Smith is seen furiously writing down notes and fielding a few more calls. About four and a half minutes into a static shot of the studio and the nearly continuous music, Smith returns to break the news at about 3:20am:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve kept the air on because we’ve heard an alarming report that Robert Kennedy was shot in that ballroom in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. A very loud noise like a clap of thunder was heard, a small explosion. We waited to see what it was, and then came a report that Senator Robert Kennedy was shot. We will bring you more news as we learn it.”

The details came forth in the following minutes and hours. RFK would cling to life for a little over a day before dying in the wee hours of June 6, 1968. I wasn’t alive when it happened (I came into the world three years and three months later), but it had to have been a cruel blow to the country – and I’m sure many wondered in the 50 years that have now proceeded the event what would have happened had RFK not been fired upon.

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.

 

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.

 

 

Aircheck: CBS, 4/14/1968

The final round coverage by CBS of the last 50 Masters golf tournaments (from 1968 to 2017 at present) went online on YouTube this past month. I’ve always wanted to see how the controversial 1968 event was handled, so kudos to Augusta National for finding and archiving this footage.

Long story short: the ’68 Masters should have ended on April 15th, not April 14th. Under the rules of the time, if there was a tie for the lowest score (in golf, the lower your score is, the better), the golfers tied would come back the following day for an 18-hole playoff. The Masters scrapped this format in 1976, opting for a hole-for-hole “sudden death” format that was first used three years later.

Roberto DeVincenzo lost his shot at a playoff with Bob Goalby that year during to a scoring error made by DeVicenzo’s playing partner that day, Tommy Aaron. Aaron incorrectly scored Roberto having made a par on the 17th hole, which DeVicenzo actually birdied. The error was alluded to by Pat Summerall late in the coverage but wasn’t officially announced until the “Butler Cabin” ceremony anchored by Frank Gifford. Instead of the playoff, Goalby was declared the winner by one stroke with USGA rules stating that in the event of the error (that went uncaught by DeVicenzo), the higher of the disputed scores stands.

To me, even in 1968, this is the kind of thing where an error like that could have been corrected. Golf hasn’t embraced modern technology the way other sports have, and on this one day, it worked to DeVicenzo’s detriment.

Freedom At 432 Hertz

Going back to the early 1990’s, I’ve been a bit interested in how there are certain frequencies out there that can be used to help our bodies and minds with whatever it is they went to accomplish.

This goes back to when I worked at WTAN in Clearwater working the overnight shift. The one weird thing I found out about working odd hours is how life is totally geared to the “normies” who either work first or second shifts and sleep conventional hours. Sleeping could at times be a bit difficult, though I did have a cheat available to me.

Most of the time I worked I was the sole operator at the station, and I would go 30 to 45-minute ranges of time without anything to do. When that happened, I brought in a digital timer with me and took some catnaps, setting all the commercial “carts” up ready to go at a moment’s notice. If I knew the cassette tape I was running would be on for, say 30 minutes – I’d set a timer for 28. If I had 45 minutes, I’d set my digital timer for 43. Remember, this was WAY before the iPhone made all of this possible by verbal request with Siri. I think I got my trusty timer at an Ace Hardware store – then later I’d get them at Radio Shack.

One day in 1990, a caller to one of the talk shows I was a board operator for heard me discuss my sleeping woes, and sent me a tape of delta waves designed to help me sleep. For me, it worked – though I’m sure that there are people out there who are skeptical about the whole thing.

Here I am in 2018 reconnecting with the power of waves and music at 432 Hertz. The YouTube clip I’ve posted with this entry helped me immensely, and has been a great coping aide for me in the week or so I’ve been off of Facebook – that is, keeping me away from it.

Anyway, give it a try if you wish. It served for me, but for some of you, I imagine your mileage can and will vary.

Aircheck: WABC Radio (New York), 7/13/1971

With some added computer hobby time with my newfound exclusion of Facebook, I thought it’d be a good time to bring back the Saturday “Aircheck” feature.

Howard Cosell would have turned 100 on Sunday.

Not too much tape exists of his “Speaking Of Sports” broadcasts that aired several times daily over the ABC radio network. Here is one such clip of the “The Gifted One” the day of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game of that year, famous for Reggie Jackson’s bodacious home run blast that hit Tiger Stadium’s roof.