All Traffic, All The Time

i275

On top of the Howard Frankland Bridge on I-275 North, April 17, 2014.

We’ve all had days where we wished we had stayed in bed as the day developed, and I’m no different. One of those days in my life was one of my first days at the Sun Radio Network and it’s flagship station out of Brandon, Florida, WEND back in 1990.

I was one of two board operators in Clearwater working simultaneously one Friday in December of that year, with one board op handling the calls and commercials for SRN, and the other taking SRN’s feed and getting commercials on and off three times an hour. The boards were right next to each other, but if you ran the local station, you’d need headphones, as the WEND signal would be on a seven second delay. During the overnight hours, there was just one board op running both boards simultaneously, with 10 second “sweepers” (brief promotional messages) thrown in with automation.

As many markets across the country did then (as they do now), there were also traffic reports to keep listeners who may be in their cars updated on local road conditions. WEND used an aggregated service that was then known as Metro Traffic for such updates, and I’d tape a few reports to be aired on a slight delay at various points during the shift. Most of the time the reports were given live, which is how things got interesting this one afternoon.

Metro Traffic didn’t just provide updates for our station at the time, but for most of the stations in the Tampa Bay area. On this one day, I thought I had potted down (turned off) Metro and went on to one of my other tasks, ripping and classifying copy from the United Press International wire. A few minutes later, I’m being urgently alerted that the Metro Traffic pot was still up, and that traffic reports meant for other stations in the area were being broadcast on our air!

The reason why this was doubly embarrassing for me was that the reporters at Metro use different names on different stations, so “John Smith” reporting for WEND would be using the name “James Jones” doing a similar report on another station or stations. Making that kind of error got everyone’s attention, so when everyone in management knows the rock you pulled you get put on a lot of people’s s*** list rather fast. I had inadvertently made fans of talk radio in the Tampa Bay area more aware of Metro’s inner workings.

I sat in front of the board the rest of the day thinking, “All right, so what else is out there that can I do for a living?”

The good news is I didn’t get fired that day, and managed to survive there until the local station was bought by Sonny Bloch, moving to Brandon in 1992. Over the next four years, I’d work for WBDN over in Brandon at times, then for them again when they moved back to Feather Sound in Clearwater shortly before the station went all-Spanish in 1996, remaining that way these past two decades, still broadcasting today as WLCC.

The lesson: pay attention, and when you think you’re paying attention, pay attention some more.

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Another Work Found!

Another show that I ran the board on has been found. Actually, I was probably manning the phones for this show.

It’s December 6th, 1995. The sun set on the Sun Radio Network a few weeks prior to this, so Radio Free America needed a new home to base their operations, so Tom offered me and another producer, Ron Michaels, a chance to stay off the unemployment line, and so for $300 a week we did 15 hours worth work, plus we dubbed RFA tapes at our homes. The cassettes were a selling point for the show in the era prior to the Internet, and SRN headquartered a dubbing operation on top of producing radio shows around the clock.

WBDN, the station that was originally WEND and had moved over to Brandon when it split off of SRN when the network moved to St. Pete in 1992, had by this time moved back west over to the Feather Sound area in Clearwater to the same building Sonny Bloch’s Independent Broadcasters Network once was based from.  From November 1995 on to some point in 1996 (after I had moved to Marietta, Georgia), WBDN was the flagship station for Radio Free America, and had a handful of stations across the country for our weekday 10pm to midnight Eastern time show under the Valentine Communications banner.

actor John Quade...

actor John Quade…

The guest is John Quade, probably best known in his acting roles for his role as Cholla, a Black Widow biker gang leader in “Every Which Way But Loose” and its subsequent sequel, “Any Which Way You Can” made in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Clint Eastwood plays Philo Beddoe, an aging bare-knuckle Southern California fighter who travels looking for the big fight and big money with his orangutan Clyde. Quade was quite a fighter against the New World Order and a believer in jural societies and was quite intelligent in his presentation, a good guest.

At about 18:50 (and again at 25:30), you hear my voice prompting for phone calls, which was pretty neat to listen to all these years later!  Thanks to Eustace Mullins (himself a rather prominent populist writer) for preserving this.

Proof Of (A Former) Life

About two and a half years ago, I had mentioned I was a board operator for a various radio stations from 1989 to 1996.

This weekend, a little bit of proof of that former life of mine came to light as Stan Major’s first show on SRN was posted on YouTube from October 1, 1991.

Just as I remembered a couple of years ago, I had to pot down the phone numbers that first night because the numbers mentioned were incorrect, and Stan mentions that I should rip off the label on the cart in question! Listening to these first few moments once again for the first time in a couple of decades, I realized either I had him on the wrong microphone, or he had the wrong one on, and it took me a few moments to grasp this.

You could tell right away, even from my board operator’s perch, that Stan was in his own league in terms of the level of skill he brought to the table. I didn’t know much about him at the time (though I’ve learned a great deal afterwards), but I left work that early morning thinking he’d bring stability to my employers, as long as we kept him. He’d wind up at Sonny Bloch’s old Independent Broadcasters Network a year later, which wound up being of the first few nails in Sun’s coffin, as SRN folded on October 31, 1995.

A caller from San Diego (the first of many women to call Stan’s show) ironically asks what happened to Jim Bakker. I say ironically because I wound up meeting him in Charlotte in eight years later.

Thanks to the Neil Rogers YouTube channel for posting in, and Stan Major himself for preserving this piece of tape.

Fun With Stan And Jade

Back on January 18th, I had a clip of Stan Major talking to the late Robert Ludlum back on New Year’s Morning of 1992.

Today, I have another goody for you thanks to the Neil Rogers Audio Restoration efforts over at NeilRogers.org:

This time, the clip comes from August 27th, 1992.  Hurricane Andrew had hit just south of Miami as what was thought as a Category 4 hurricane. (Years later, the storm would be reclassified as a “5” hurricane, the strongest category possible). Stan’s fielding calls from the Clearwater Sun Radio Network studios where I worked.

As was the case with the clip from January 1st, I am not the board op here, but the “ship” was in capable hands as one of my pals from those days, Troy L., was running the board. By that time, I only ran the board on Stan’s show on Friday nights.

A couple of more notes to set the scene, if you please:

This is one of Stan’s last shows on Sun Radio Network, as he was replaced by Frank Kinsman about a week or so after this show aired.  Stan simply went down Ulmerton Road about a quarter of a mile and did his overnight show on Sonny Bloch’s Independent Broadcasters Network, which was a spin-off of SRN of sorts when Bloch got canned from here in 1991.

At the 47:30 mark of the clip or so, you’ll hear the infamous Jade from Tampa that I mentioned back in December and that sexy voice of hers.

And finally, it wasn’t too long after this that the SRN studios moved from East Clearwater to new digs in northeast St. Petersburg, which was actually a trip of a few minutes and not even a mile away. I was the last board operation on shift at the Clearwater location and the first one at the new location.  We switched locations at 12:30 on a Monday afternoon, so when the mid-hour news summary came on, I took the carts that I had used that half-hour, walked down to my car, and drove over to the new location while another board-op station keeped until I could get there.

As Your Attorney, I Advise You To…

So I watched “Where The Buffalo Roam” on Netflix recently. I had seen it years ago, knowing who Bill Murray was, but at the time not knowing who Hunter S. Thompson was.

If it wasn’t for producing Stan Major’s late night national talk show back in 1991-92, the name still probably wouldn’t ring bells for me.

You have to be a bit of a character to call a late night show, that’s for sure. One of the more unique characters was a lady named Jade. She’d mention Dr. Thompson a few times to me before I put her on with Stanley, and Stan would flirt with her on the air (part of his shtick) and she’d play coy back.

By the fall of 1992, Stan left our network and had gone literally down Ulmerton Road to Sonny Bloch’s IBN. Frank Kinsman had taken over Stan’s spot, and one night one of my co-producers had brought in a guest, which wasn’t too unusual.

And that’s how I wound up meeting Jade. As best as I remember, Jade was a slender built woman with salt and pepper hair, roughly 40. She looked like she had a good share of parties in her day at the point I had met her.

But we in Radio Land tend to be disembodied voices. When faces are inter connected, sometimes the thrill departs. A shame our network didn’t consider hiring Jade, she would have been a good hire if someone taught her how talk radio works.

Radio Free Agency: Valentine Communications, 1995-96

After my fifth and final run with the Sun Radio Network in 1995, my radio future was looking bleak.  I had already made plans to move to Marietta, Georgia in February of 1996, helping my mother and her boyfriend with their business, which was getting offices and businesses set up with phone lines for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.  It was, outside of my month or so foray to White Springs, my first move outside of the area I had grown up in, the Tampa Bay area.

As Sun was quite literally setting, I got a call from Tom Valentine, host of Radio Free America sponsored by Liberty Lobby.  Like many SRN shows, RFA was making plans to find another means of syndicating itself for broadcast.  He asked if I’d be interested starting up Valentine Communications under “new digs” (as he would say) just down the road in Feather Sound at WBDN’s new headquarters.

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Radio Free Agency: WBDN, 1993

I turned 22 years of age on September 6th, 1993, and had already had (and lost) three radio jobs.  My last job to this point, WHNZ, was a bizarre one.  The job I was hired to do, that of being a board operator, seemed to be the last thing the management wanted me to do.  The good thing was I still had a lot of “clout” built up with my two and a half year tenure at Sun Radio Network, and that gave me chances to work at other stations.

It was right around this time I had the idea to visit Orlando and apply at some stations in that market.  Ed Hartley was working over at 540 (I believe the call letters back then were WGTO) as their midday talk show host.  He took one look at me and said “You, again?!?”  I knew he was saying that in jest.  540 had a part-talk, part-sports lineup back then, and I thought it’d be perfect for me to work at.  I wound up not getting the job, and it turned out to be a blessing.  Paxson Communications, who owned WHNZ back then, would buy the Orlando station the following year, 1994.  Had I gone to work there, no doubt I would have been blown out (fired) as payback for quitting on them the previous year.

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