07 July 2011


How things have changed.
AM radio is almost all talk-radio now.
If you want music, you listen either to FM or satellite radio. And that's progress, 'cause AM sucks as a conveyor of music. It is seriously degraded by thunderstorms and other atmospheric phenomenon.

But come back with me to 1966. I was a Private "E-nothing" (lowest rank possible) in the ARMY at Ft. Jackson, S.C., just outside the State Capital, Columbia. Homesick as I could possibly be, I was thirsty for anything that remotely reminded me of home. My most prized possession at the time was a General Electric AM/FM radio I had purchased at the Post Exchange. With it, at night, I could tune to 1190 on the AM dial where I could hear a station several hours drive from my hometown of Indianapolis come booming into South Carolina...
WOWO, Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
Top 40, news, weather and sports...
At least I got news from Indiana, which frequently included stuff from Indy.
I was comforted.
In the (infrequent) event I couldn't get WOWO to come in, I'd turn the dial to the left and 890 WLS out of Chicago would generally be there as an alternative. And if thunderstorms precluded me from listening to stations close to home, I'd drop even farther down the dial to 690 WAPE, "The Big Ape" out of Jacksonville, Florida.

There are still AM blowtorches out there that can be heard over much of the middle United States...
1020 KDKA, Pittsburgh. 1120 KMOX, St. Louis. 890 WLS and 780 WBBM, Chicago.
1200 WOAI, San Antonio. 850 KOA, Denver. 1040 WHO, Des Moines.

Late at night I still poke around on the AM dial to find a strong signal. But I listen today because I'm searching for news, weather, sports, and political discussion.
Near-perfect music listening is just a CD or FM radio frequency away.

But how I miss the days of being able to tune in WOWO as I shaved in the morning and hear "The Adventures of Chicken Man!"
My heart hurts a little...
Some things just aren't better than they used to be.


Rita said...

Don't you remember the Good Good Guys on WIFE? And I especially miss the smell of a brand new transistor radio.

Greybeard said...

Yes, I certainly remember the "WIFE Good Guys", Rita. But the WIFE signal didn't carry much farther than Monroe County.
For some reason, even though WIBC at the time was a 50,000 watt station, I could never receive down South.
Today, most home radio stations are available via the internet. I'm sure most guys in the service tame their homesickness not only by making video calls and writing/receiving email, but by listening to their favorite DJ's streaming online no matter where on earth they are.
Good for them.

Joe said...

WOWO is still out there, yo ucan pick it up just North of Indy, especially as you move pas tAnderson on I-69 and all the way over to Lafayette.

As I lose Indy talk radio I usually turn to WOWO or WLS as I pass Lafayette.

I remember the days of the late 1970s whe nWLS played "oldies". Since I only had AM in my truck, that is all I could listen to.

Now the classic rock of the 1970's I listen to is older than the "oldies" I heard on WLS!

Scotty said...

My home town station was 1180 WHAM out of Rochester, NY. I'd listen for it when I was on watch at night. That was at Fort Dix, in New Jersey.

That ended as my infantry training came at Fort Ord in California. No chance of a signal bouncin' that far......but I still tried to find it!

As a HAM radio operator, I STILL spend a LOT of time, listening for signals bouncing outta the skies!

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

And I'm part of radio in the late 60s and early 70s.

I cut my teeth on music AM radio on KROY, KNDE, WING, WWSU, KOBO, KEG, KERS and KFBK. Because I worked on each and every one of those radio stations spinning 45s and 33s and then transitioning to talk radio and news & information. I was one of the FIRST employees to work for the NIS network (News & Information Service) on KFBK-AM, the precursor to today's numerous talk-only networks! No one remembers NIS today; it was far ahead of its time.

We disagree a bit, however, in terms of venue. I submit that talk radio does belong on AM, not music. I believe music belongs on FM because of the quality offered.

But I DO agree with your history of AM with this caveat:

I remember actually LISTENING to Wolfman Jack, LIVE, in California, when he broadcasted from Mexico on XERB from Rosarita!

His station, then, was THE most powerful in the entire northern hemisphere!

Perhaps southern as well.

I miss radio a whole lot. Once I retire, I hope to start my BZ Trackside Chats and, then, perhaps, to start my own internet station or BlogTalk Radio point.


Greybeard said...

I don't think we disagree at all, BZ.
And I envy you your history with the industry... I've always been fascinated with radio of all sorts.
(Got my first CB when you had to have a license and no one would respond to you if you didn't know their call letters. It's a farce now.)

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Omigawd. I had forgotten completely about CB. Are there still CB channels and do people actually use them? Do truckers use them as they used to?

I don't recall seeing many CB antennas on trucks these days.

"Breaker, breaker, one-nine. . ."


Scotty said...

Are there still CB channels and do people actually use them? Do truckers use them as they used to?

I don't recall seeing many CB antennas on trucks these days.

Oh yeah, they're still being used BZ.

A lot of CB shops can doctor some radios so as to get extra frequencies to get out of the normal world of CBing. There are some frequencies in between the regular CB channels and some above and below the normal CB channels. Most are unassigned and non policed frequencies.

I bought a 10 meter HAM rig a few years ago that had the CB channels in the rig and all the territories in between.

I spent most my career in some type of truck or another. Many, like myself made the transition to HAM radio. I think more will head there as they have laxed the testing quite a bit, so that more are getting involved.