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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Lost Art

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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.

Ma And Pa Pinstripe

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It’s late on a Saturday night as I type this, and if I guess correctly what’s to come in the next few minutes, the Houston Astros will take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series beginning on Tuesday. The Astros are the first team, thanks to realignment, to go to the World Series representing each league, while the Dodgers made their first Series since their dramatic upset of Oakland in 1988.

With the help of the Tunein premium service, I listened to about half of the playoffs on the radio. Most of that time I spent listening to the Yankees games off of their radio network, with the branding of WFAN, the top sports station of the Big Apple. I found the broadcasts hosted by John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman strangely entertaining as the young squad made a run the stopped a game short of the American League championship.

Sterling I remembered from his days with the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks of the NBA. One night in particular stands out in my mind: the night Rick Camp, a relief pitcher, hit his only career home run to extend a marathon battle between the Braves and Mets on July 4, 1985.

Waldman is the only woman currently serving as a play-by-play or color commentator in the major leagues on a day-to-day basis. It’s somewhat interesting to hear their banter, and how they interact, and sometimes get in each others way.  With Sterling nearing 80, and Waldman in her 70’s, I do wonder how long they’ll stay a team. Reviewing some Yankee fan sites, a lot of Yankee fans don’t seem to like the pairing, but I didn’t mind them.

Congrats to the Dodgers and Astros, and may the best team take it all in a few short days.

The Great Crepitation Contest Of 1946

There was a lot of sad news this past week, and with the current headlines striking no resemblance to good news or no end to current controversies, I thought you all could use a laugh – I know I can use one. I know this is in a bit of poor taste, but considering what passes for good taste these days, I didn’t think most of you would mind.

(This was originally referred to on here back on December 27, 2011, back in the infancy of this blog. I thought it was worth mentioning again.)

I used to hear Neil Rogers play this bit around the holidays (either Thanksgiving or Christmas), to fill some airtime. Listeners would be busy with their lives (or not – Neil used to openly fear that those who listen to him live vicariously through him) around those times, or perhaps making travel plans to visit friends and family those times of the year. He wouldn’t get too many calls, and the calls he’d get around the holidays would request to hear this bit, as it had become a staple of the “Neilies” of that time who’d listen to his midday shows on WIOD (simulcasted up here in Tampa on WSUN for a time, which is how I heard of it) and later WQAM.

This was recorded in 1946, mind you. (I thought for sure when I first heard the bit it was recorded in the 50’s, maybe even the early 60’s.) World War II had ended the year before, and radio was still the medium of choice. Televisions were around, but really wouldn’t become a common medium for up to another decade. Up in Canada, CBC sportscaster Sidney S. Brown and producer Jules Lipton recorded this up in Toronto as an in-house practical joke. But the recording somehow made the rounds, becoming a novelty party record of its era. I couldn’t imagine Joe Buck or Bob Costas having the chutzpah to pull something like this off, but it worked for Mr. Brown, I suppose.

Oh – if you haven’t figured out what crepitating is, it will become clear once the “contest” gets going.