Right off the bat I will disclose that as a younger man the advent of a clear FM broadcast channel and the music played on said channel might have been linked to my steering away from having a career in baseball. A fair to good hitter, an outstanding All-star infielder, and while not the ace of the staff I was a pretty good pitcher. Then, slowly, something happened.
It just might be the two AM radios that I remember most. Two radios exactly the same model except one was black which was in my parent’s bedroom on Dad’s nightstand, the other a white model on top of the Frigidaire in the kitchen. Very rarely if ever would either be on but when one was, especially “whitey” in the kitchen, the sounds would be amazing. The magical tunes seemed to send the cares and woes of this seven year old far away. When I was tall enough to switch it on that one in the kitchen got a good workout. Then Christmas of 1959, I received a small transistor radio all for myself.The first tune I heard was MACK THE KNIFE by Bobby Darin and life would never be the same.
“Oh, the shark babe has such teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack-knife has ole MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it out of sight”.
In 1865 Guglielmo Marconi was credited with inventing the “wireless” that is the first practical signaling system, therefore he was later granted the title of the “inventor of the radio”.
To me it seems humorous and somewhat prophetic that the town I live in, Copiague, New York, a small hamlet located on the south shore of Suffolk County, Long Island would once have been named Marconiville. There is still a large iron awning in the center of town proudly declaring to all visitors “MARCONIVILLE”. And of course, there is the obligatory Marconi Blvd, which years later in my story will be the location of The Record Rack, a short lived but interesting shop where I purchased many of my vinyl wares. Yes, at one point in his life Marconi resided in my town, however so short a time it was.
In November of 1967 I was purchasing mostly albums, having drifted away from single (45rpm) releases.This change in my purchasing, as well as the purchases of like minded teens listening to the same current music, was due in part, a large part, by one singular event; that being the change in FM radio broadcasting.
(A brief history thanks to Allen Sniffen) In 1966 the Federal Communications Commission ruled that major market FM radio stations could no longer simulcast their AM sister stations. FM had to become separate with individual programming. This was deemed necessary to allow FM to grow and develop its own audience. The ruling put radio station owners in a bind. They needed to come up with new formats for these weaker and less desirable stations. Since FM was more difficult to receive, its universe of potential listeners was much smaller… and so was its billing.
The new formats therefore had to be both different and relatively inexpensive to program. It was in that environment that RKO General Broadcasting launched its new WOR-FM (98.7Mhz) “Hot 100” format on July 30, 1966. The name is deceiving because, in fact, it was the first progressive rock station in the country. It marketed itself as stereo as a way to distinguish itself from AM radio. The problem was that many of the records played by the station were not in stereo. While it was true that most record albums were stereo, singles were not. Since the singles came out before the albums, much of the new music it was breaking was in mono.
So to me as a 14 year old, my listening experience changed overnight, well actually after purchasing an AM-FM radio which did not exist in my house.The newly staffed WOR-FM hired some of NYC’s hottest “Top Ten” dj’s, specifically MURRAY“The K”(Kaufman) from 1010 WINS, SCOTT MUNI from 570 WMCA and later 770 WABC, and ROSKO, the coolest sounding person on the radio, anywhere. Murray The K appeared to be the draw for WOR-FM and the “new” MURRAY was a 180 degree departure from what I was familiar with while listening to him on 1010 WINS (AM). This was not “Top 40” jive talking any longer, as a matter of fact it was a “cool” MURRAY, one who it has been claimed broke the song “Society’s Child” in the Summer of 67 (because it should be heard), as well as PROCOL HARUM’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” simply because HE “liked it”. AND Murray was famous in the area for his holiday stage show extravaganzas, the last which brought THE WHO and (as billed) THE CREAM to NYC for the first time, Easter of 1967. My buddy went and raved about those two bands.
But WOR-FM was a short lived experiment as program directors tried to rein in the playlist, to the chagrin of the radio hosts. Murray was fired in September of 67 despite having the highest rated FM program in NY, even higher than most AM shows. During his short tenure at WOR-FM “The K” attracted not only a large audience but in the audience advertisers found a different demographic, a newer demographic, that being a more mature college aged kid and with this newer, older audience the station drew in record companies as their advertisers.
Record companies had found the station (WOR-FM) was highly valuable at influencing sales of rock albums especially new artists and groups like Cream, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, acts which were having their records played and /or being introduced. At WOR-FM (October 1967)with a new tighter playlist ROSKO quit while “on the air”. He was soon found (October 30,1967) hosting the 7PM to midnight program at the “all girls dj’s” of WNEW-FM 102.7 FM. WNEW-FM was a MOR station with an entire staff of female Dj’s, a unique experiment at the time. But at the 7PM hour Rosko had a free hand to “do his thing”. JONATHAN SCHWARTZ (10AM- 2PM) was added on November19, and a few days later SCOTT MUNI (2-6PM) joined the staff. ALLISON STEELE later dubbed “The Nightbird” (2AM-6AM) was held over from the formerly “all girl” staff and WNEW-FM took off.Note: a few years later the line up included John Zacherle and Pete Fornatale with Vince Scelsa added on weekends.
Today, this FM experience is an unlistenable offense to the ears. Psycho babbling “Morning Shows” with an announcer (no longer dj’s) ramble on while a partner is laughing uncontrollably. Example: #1: “He was wearing a yellow shirt…” #2 responds while chuckling, “A yellow shirt?”…#1: “yes, yellow”…#2 laughing even louder, “No way, truthfully, a yellow shirt?”…#1: “Yes, yellow”… #2 is now just laughing and sounds like he is hitting his hand on a table…#3 joins in: “Did you say yellow?”… and on and on it goes for five minutes. All of the above is almost verbatim. It sucks, what happened? The music played is all top 40 hits heard on all the other stations. Truthfully, this is not broadcasting but rather “narrow” casting with a cast of idiots.
to be continued…
Oh, Ye, gentle mistresses and most distinguished gentlemen, and others… The opinions and observations are solely my own views, and I take full responsibility for any errors of fact, not to mention any predictions that prove to be wildly inaccurate.
Today’s Listening Pleasure: Satellite Radio (Meg Griffin)