Thursday, March 5, 2015

Something I found

Digging through some old boxes of whatnots the other day, I came across my official United States of America Federal Communications Commission Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit, which was what was required to be the disc jockey/news person/transmitter operator/telephone answerer and trash can emptier at one of America's radio stations.

In April, 1972, I began my radio career at a small station in Prince Frederick, MD.  The station was built into what was described as "an old hermit's house" and that hermit did not have exquisite taste (so few do) but in the kitchen of his old house there was an FM radio transmitter, and on the wall in various frames, the kind of FCC licenses that we needed in those days to run the transmitter and take readings to make sure we were a) still on the air and b) not cranking out so many watts that radios and WaterPiks all over town were not melting down.  They changed the licenses a few years ago, and for all I know, anyone can have one by filling out an online form.  We used to have to study all sorts of arcane laws that seemed to have more to do with SOS signals sent by sinking ships than reading commercials for used-car dealers, and then go downtown to the Federal Building and take a test on those laws in order to be issued a license, signed by the noted Ben F. Waple, Secretary, to allow us to play records and read commercials and love every second of it.

It was always fun to visit other radio stations to see their equipment and arrayed licenses.  Here is where we would see the real names of the people who dedicated their lives to bringing you the music of Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods.  That wacky morning DJ - "Rockin' Ron" Reno - who played the sounds of people doing the technicolor yawn while he read the school lunch menu turned out to be someone named J. Ronald Renoscopy. And the deeply sensitive evening guy?  The one who played "Desiderata" and read Rod McKuen poems as he urged listeners to dim the lights and get real mellow?  He called himself "Eros" on the radio, but his license identified him as Lester L. Crackenbush.

Old style
Now the DJs play what a computer tells them to and they aren't even "live" in many cases - something called "voice tracking" allows them to record a show in advance, and many stations have syndicated jocks playing the same records for people in Dubuque, Cincinnati and Brattleboro at the same time.

It's just not the same.

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