Tuesday, December 12, 2017

WLS, Channel 89, Chicago, Summer, 1967

Today, I have recordings that no doubt fit into the category of a "Holy Grail" for Chicago area collectors and collectors of radio recordings in general. That will follow at the bottom of this post, but before I get there, I have some thanks to give and some comments to quote.

First, and I apologize that this has taken five months, I received an anonymous comment from someone regarding "The Big Midwestern Hayride"; as follows:

I knew I recognized that Accordion & Piano Player playing in the Hayriders Band. That Randy Dirks is my Great Grandfather! Thanks so much for posting and making available!!! I think the Steel Player is Ray "Chubby" Howard. Do you have any photos or other memorabilia from the show? 

Here is a link with the band, my Great Grandfather (Randy Dirks) is on Accordion & Piano. Same fella in this audio reel of yours: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VglClQGWIHQ 

I will add that I do not have any more photos or memorabilia, unfortunately, but am glad I was able to share this piece of your Great-Grandfather's career.

A reader named Eric provided some helpful information regarding the Long John Nebel tape:

The initial program on the tape the guests are Judith Malina, actress and founder of "The Living Theater" and Rosemary McGrath, a conservative activist with Young Americans For Freedom. At one point Long John Nebel refers to one of the plays put on by the Living Theater starring an actor named Kheigh Dheigh who would later become better known for his role as Wo Fat on "Hawaii Five-O." This dates the program based on what fragmentary info I can Google to 1961 since that's when the plays Nebel mentions were performing.

Thanks so much for that research - I appreciate the time that took, and that you wrote. If you care to do the same regarding future posts, by all means, please do.

Speaking of research, another anonymous poster has done some digging on two recent posts (I believe it was the same person both times), and has shared his/her findings with me. I am impressed by your research, who ever you are, and enthusiastically encourage more in the future. Thank you very much for all of your information.

For a post featuring some Australian Short-Wave broadcasting, I received the following:

I enjoy doing a bit of detective work based on the clues in your recordings. For example, for the "Listeners' Mailbag" segment, the following information can be found from searching the Web:

1) Keith Glover's last broadcast was on December 28, 1980; this sets an upper limit on the date of the recording.
2) "Mr. R.B. Gee" gives his address as "843, 310 Bloor Street West, Toronto 5, Ontario, Canada". He was using a "4-tube receiver, two years old" and "80 feet above ground". The address corresponds to the Tartu College Student Residence and, based on his apartment number and antenna height, "R.B. Gee" probably lived on the eighth floor. Tartu college was built in 1970, giving a lower limit on the date. Canada introduced a 6-character postal code system starting in 1971; it would have been rolled out to Toronto by 1974. Since the address is given using the old postal zone "Toronto 5" rather than postal code "M5S 1W4", we can guess that the recording was made before 1974. This also ties in nicely with the fact that the 2-year old receiver used four vacuum tubes; transistors had pretty much taken over by 1974.

So my guess is that the recording was made sometime between 1970 and 1974. Does the original tape box have any markings which might confirm this? 

(Unfortunately, again, the tape box is essentially blank for this recording - with nothing of note written on it at all.)
For the more recent "Gathering of Rude Friends"

Something about the way these people talk (but certainly not the content) reminds me of conversations around my in-laws' kitchen table, when their neighbors dropped by. (They owned a beef cattle farm in southern Ontario.) My father-in-law always referred to his wife as "Mother" and the accents are the same as those of rural Canadians.

I have fun playing detective when listening to your tapes. Here are some of the things I deduced:
1) Although these people sound much like Canadians they are definitely American since they use terms such as "Sears" (instead of "Simpsons-Sears"), "railroad" (instead of "railway"), and "Internal Revenue" (instead of "Revenue Canada"). To my Canadian ears, they don't have a strong accent, so I would guess a northern state.
2) There's a reference to a "Mrs. Larson" ("Larsen"?) in a mock-Swedish accent and also to a Swedish co-worker. According to Wikipedia, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have the highest concentration of Swedish Americans.
3) The reference to "Michigan" makes it sound like it's a different state, so it can probably be eliminated.
4) When calling the police department, there is a reference to "Wisconsin [license] plates". This would suggest that these people are in Wisconsin (although Minnesota can't be ruled out).
5) There is a reference to "over in Bloomer". Although Minnesota has a Bloomer Township, in Marshall County, this phrase would better fit the Town of Bloomer or City of Bloomer, both in Chippewa County, Wisconsin.

So my guess is that these people lived on a farm or small village in (or near) Chippewa County, Wisconsin.

Again, thanks for all this research.

Finally, Brother Herbert offers up a suggestion regarding the "Check Your Phone Book" guy:

"Check Your Phone Book" guy sounds maddeningly familiar but I can't quite place him. Tone and delivery are similar to James A. FitzPatrick of TRAVELTALKS fame - perhaps it's him? 

I had never heard of FitzPatrick before, but I had a listen, and it seems at least possible.

And now, on with the countdown:


So here's a tape I'd had for years, and had honestly forgotten about. But I've recently begun trying to arrange my tapes in a more coherent way, and as part of that, I've been replaying those which were poorly marked or unmarked. The first fruit of this project to be interesting enough for this site is that "Holy Grail" I referred to above, an hour of recordings from WLS, 890 AM (or Channel 89), largely from the late summer of 1967.

And interestingly, there is a lot more DJ chatter here than you'll find on many surviving tapes of the era. Usually, over the air recordings feature the songs a young person wished to listen to again and again, often with the beginnings and the endings cut off, with little or no DJ personality heard.

This isn't quite the opposite - there are several songs here - but the DJ in question, Ron Riley for most of the recording, had a lot to say, and kept saying it. He was back from (and talking about) his vacation, he was reporting on the demise of Pirate Radio in England (nicely dating the primary recording here to roughly August 14th, 1967), and engaging in a bunch of unrelated banter. There are also several commercials, and he even interviews that dream James Darren shortly before the tape runs out. The recording quality is not the best, but it'll do.

Side Two is much less interesting, until near the end. On this side, the sound quality worsens considerably, and is honestly awful during the first half of that 30 minute segment (it's bad after that, too). This doesn't seem to be from the same day, but the host is still Ron Riley, until near the end, when we jump forward several months, to Groundhog Day, 1968, and hear a (typically darkly) humorous audio essay from the legendary Larry Lujack, shortly before that side of the tape runs out.

I hope you enjoy this tape as much as I do!

Download: WLS, Mostly 1967, Side One

Download: WLS, Mostly 1967, Side Two

The best news is, I believe there are several more tapes down in the basement, also featuring Chicago radio from the same era!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Gathering of Idiots

Okay, I can't stand these people.

I've been sitting on this tape for quite a while now, but have decided to spring it on you nice, unsuspecting folks today. You're welcome.

What we have here is over 100 minutes of a group of people - at least some from the same family, and probably some friends, too - who seemingly never tire of talking about, joking about, and laughing at, bodily functions, body parts and sexual acts. It would be one thing if anything here reached the even the lowest level of being funny, OR if they moved on for even a moment into discussions of anything else.

But no, for nearly the entire hour and forty-one minutes (excepting only the first few minutes), this gang of cretins just fall over each other laughing about variations of the same dozen-or-so bodily/sexual references and dirty words. I find this tape nothing short of astonishing.

I've never known anyone like any of the people heard here - well, at least not well enough to know that he or she was like this - and I truly hope I never do.

Oh, and a side note - the tape opens with some badly recorded, god-awful drumming, which lasts less than 30 seconds. Then, for the first 20 minutes or so, the speed of the tape is fairly iffy, with the voices sounding noticeably fast at times. The sound is normal from that point on.

Download: Unknown - A Gathering of Rude Friends and Family

Monday, November 6, 2017

"The Jeff Martin Case", and More!

I have three unrelated tapes today, shared with the hope that you'll find something of interest in at least one of them.

The first one presents more than a bit of a mystery. Several years ago, I acquired an ancient Concertone reel to reel tape machine - the same model as the one my father had bought way back in 1952, and which I've spoken about before. My brother and I hoped - and were rewarded in this - that it would work, and would more accurately and effectively play our beloved 1950's reels in the half-track mono in which they'd been recorded.

The owner of the machine - a man in his 80's - also donated to me all of his tapes, well over 100 of them. These proved to largely contain recordings of the local classical music organizations, of which he was a sometime member. These tapes have provided some interesting listening from time to time, but nothing I'd be likely to share here.

The outlier was a tape in a truly ancient Scotch box, labeled "old tape", and with a note that indicated it would only play correctly on the Concertone. The first item in our playlist today is the 17 minutes or so which are recorded on that tape. This seems to be a radio drama, perhaps titled "The Story Behind the Headlines", in this case, an episode about The Jeff Martin Case. The recording quality is quite good, and certainly doesn't sound like an over-the-air recording, so this may have been a studio reel.

But I can find no record of this show ever existing, and, sadly, the entire show is not contained on the tape - it ends with a teaser about more information yet to come. But what's there is certainly entertaining and sort of fascinating.

Download: The Story Behind the Headlines - The Jeff Martin Case

Next up, here are the 14 minutes that make up a tape simply labeled "Northrop Sounds", starting with the track "Space Mice", followed soon after by "Earthquake Ernie", and then moving on into other equally interesting sounds. Before playing it, I'd assumed this tape came from the Northrop Corporation, but very little, if anything, heard here seems related to the manufacturing of aircraft.

Download: Northrop Sounds

And finally, just a reminder. Check your phone book.

I mean it. Check your damn phone book. Maybe then he'll shut up.

Download: Check Your Phone Book

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Long John Nebel on WOR Radio

A couple of months ago, I posted a slide show narration about historic New Jersey, and mentioned in passing that the remainder of the tape contains multiple segments of broadcasts by a New York radio character named Long John. I received multiple responses to share this part of the tape, and am honoring those requests today.

Rather than blather on about the contents here (not because I don't love doing so, but because time is short this month), I'll just offer this up. You can read about Long John Nebel here. Based on that article, and since these recordings are from WOR, we can assume these were taped no later than 1962.

I will say that the main reason I did not initially plan on sharing this tape is that part of it features terrible sound quality. The first several minutes are nearly unlistenable, and the rest features an annoying hum. But don't be thrown by the quality at the start - it does improve, right about the 13 minute mark. Oh, and there seem to be segments of at least episodes heard here.


Download: Long John - WOR Radio Excerpts

For those who are interested, there are many more Long John broadcasts housed here.

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Paper Reel, Featuring an Exceptionally Rare Recording

I'm always excited when I can get my hands on a reel of tape from the paper-backed tape era. When I see that listed on a box (or, in this case, see it when I open the container), I know that the person who used this tape bought it either in the late 1940's or very early 1950's, when the format was phased out in favor of the more robust tape with (a variety of) plastic backings. I anticipate a recording which could be anywhere from 65 to nearly 70 years old, quite possibly a home or media recording. 
And this tape did not disappoint. The side of the box (not reproduced here) notes that the initial recordings made on this tape were from 1949, so that dates the purchase to at least that point. And the back of the box, seen below, show that the tape was used again to record something called "Town Hall", as well as someone named Elmer Davis (most likely this news reporter). I have little doubt I'd have preferred those recordings to what we now have, but even the existing recording is something unique, and compelling in its own way.
For the owner of this tape decided, on October 11, 1953, to record an episode of an apparently short-lived, Sunday afternoon network radio show, from NBC, titled "The Golden Treasury".  I can find almost nothing about this show online, except for some newspaper radio guide listings (from a site which requires payment to view the material, and a single item on a Jimmy Stewart-related website, which you can find here.
If the information on that site is correct, there may only be two recordings of this show in existence, one housed in the Library of Congress, from one week before this episode, and, now, this episode.
There is a moment of a news report, then the show begins. All that said, it's not the most riveting recording you've ever heard. The person recording it had trouble with the speeds he was using, and apparently, with keeping it going, leading to some odd sounds. This is disorienting and hard to listen to, but it passes within the first couple of minutes. Also, the sound is iffy in places, with a lot of white noise - which I've found to be common to paper reels. And the show is... well, let's just say I'm not surprised it doesn't seem to have lasted very long.
But that this tape exists at all is remarkable. Here is a show which aired briefly, on Sunday afternoon radio, captured on a soon to be eliminated form of reel tape, and recorded by someone who decided it was good enough to keep. A big thank you to that person.
Incidentally, for those who might wonder why the owner of this tape continued to reuse and reuse it - please notice the price tag on the front cover of the box.  That which cost $3.50 in 1949 dollars - a tape capable of recording 30 minutes a side, at the lowest speed typically used in those days -  cost more than $35.00 in today's money.
Also, I have received multiple requests for the radio tape I mentioned a month or so ago, from WOR in the late '50's/early '60's. As soon as I re-locate that tape, I will digitize it and get it up on this site, hopefully for the next post.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Audio Diary of a Retired Mailman, 1989-1990

Just within the past month, I stumbled upon this marvelous tape recording, a tape which is utterly unique among all of those I have in my fairly vast collection. I've never heard anything quite like it on any other reel.

It features an elderly man, a retired postal worker, offering up his thoughts into the microphone, not for anyone in particular, but for posterity. It's clear from listening to this, that this was one of a series of tapes he had made (and presumably, continued to make). I wish that I had more of them (it is, in fact, possible that I have one or more other tapes from this gentleman, given the chaotic nature of my arrangement of tapes in the basement).

The man's name is Bob Hoppe, or Hoppy or Hoppie, or Happe, or something. Even though he gives his age a couple of times, makes it clear that he had lived in Aurora, Illinois, for years, and speaks multiple times of having been a mailman, I cannot find any record of him online, even an obituary. Those have sometimes proven fairly easy to locate, even from 30 years ago, so maybe I'm spelling his name wrong. If any of you want to take it upon yourself to figure this one out, by all means, please do!

These audio diary entries could not be more everyday, life-passing-by sort of things, and I find it just that much more endearing and fascinating as a result. His tone is a mix of upbeat, and can-you-believe-it, and "well, whattaya gonna do about it", and he starts every entry with a hello and a 'bye, as if he was talking to someone. But that doesn't actually seem to be the case (except that he makes it clear that he sometimes listens to the tapes himself).

The entries are chronological, as would be expected on a tape, except for two early ones, which are reversed in date - he quickly explains what happened. It's mostly just Bob narrating his life, but there is a bit of a broadcast of a St. Patrick's Day parade at the end of side one and start of side two (featuring Tom Skilling, who is still at WGN, nearly 30 years later), and near the end of side two, there is a segment recorded at what seems to be a party of some sort, not explained.

(One more thing - this tape was falling apart - the backing was rubbing off on my heads, and I will never play it again. I had to clean the heads three times between copying parts of it into my computer. The tape whined while going through the machine, which accounts for the metallic sound you'll hear throughout. There is a way to "bake" these 1980's reels, which are notorious for losing their coating and squealing across heads and rollers. The process fixes them, at least temporarily, but I don't have the equipment to do so.)

I hope you find this as enjoyable - as captivating - as I do.

Download: Bob Hoppe's Audio Diary, 1989-1990, Side One

Download: Bob Hoppe's Audio Diary, 1989-1990, Side Two

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Travelogue Through Historic New Jersey

I've had several requests to post more of the "slide show narration" tapes that I've come across. I will have to do more searching to find the remaining ones that I own, as I don't always remember to label things well, but just by chance I came across this extensively researched, fairly professional sounding narration of a slide show, one which is largely focused on historic locations found in New Jersey.

I am dating this to some time in the 1950's or very early 1960's, as the remainder of the tape has poorly recorded segments of someone called Long John on WOR in New York, a position that host (who sounds very interesting) left in 1962. I can share those recordings, too, if anyone is interested.

I hope you can picture the images in your head while the narrator takes you on tour!

Download: Unknown - A New Jersey Travelogue