Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Some KPF941 to stuff in your turkey

The perfect stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey is a classic Dan Lewis program that aired on KPF941 31 years ago. The date was November 11, 1984. It was a rainy day in and around New York City. That included the City of Yonkers, just north of The Bronx. Yonkers is known primarily for as the home of a trotter horse racetrack (and now casino), the hometown of Tom Carvel of Carvel Ice Cream fame, and for pirate radio. You see, Yonkers is the hometown of Allan H. Weiner and Joseph Paul Ferraro.

Allan and JP ran a number of famous pirate radio stations from Yonkers, but did you know that they also had a licensed station there? Well, sort of licensed.

The callsign was KPF941. It was a licensed broadcast auxiliary station on a frequency of 1622 kHz with a power of 100 watts. In 1984, the AM broadcast band ended at 1605 kHz in the United States of America. Most AM radios tuned a bit beyond that. Allan thought he found the ideal loophole.

It didn't last long. But on Sunday November 11, 1984, I took a ride in the rain from Tompkinsville, Staten Island to Warburton Avenue in Yonkers, NY. The station was located in JP's apartment where 6 years later we would broadcast as Radio Newyork International via the transmitters of WWCR.

So this was a typical rainy Sunday evening wind down your weekend type of radio show. I do recall how free form open minded JP and Randall (Randi was still Randall at that point) both got bent out of shape because I played that 11 minute Donna Summer song with the lines "It's raining, it's pouring..." to take a break and probably have a smoke in the rear staircase of the residence. Free form radio only was allowed under their terms, apparently. I would experience this again, years later, on the "The Very First RNI Mailbag and Freedom of Speech?" program when JP's dictatorial tendency again reared its ugly head.

But for you, dear listener, it is all about listening and enjoying some classic freeform non-commercial radio. Hopefully you won't think it a turkey!

What are you thankful this year? One of the things that I am thankful for that I got to take part in real New York City radio history and to meet and work with some of the interesting and crazy radio people that I met over time. Many went on to great success in the commercial part of the industry and some are still carrying the torch of free radio.

To all of them and to all of you I wish a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bake me a dozen reels please?

Toward the end of last winter, I came upon a cache of reel-to-reel tapes going back to the early 1980s. Among them is a complete recording of a KPF941 program from November 11, 1984.

A short segment of this program was replayed in a Pirates Cove program, hosted by Allan Weiner and aired on WBCQ on December 21, 2003. Alan's copy of the program was recorded via a telephone feed from the studio in Yonkers, NY. What I found was a more complete copy of that show recorded off air at the studio.

When I went to digitize the tape it tape squealed like a pig and wobbled like a weeble.

A couple of other tapes were exhibiting this behavior, too. So, I thought it time to give some maintenance attention to the Akai 4000DS Mk II tape deck that I have owned since about 1977. Lot's of rubber was replaced. I replaced belts, I replaced the pinch wheel roller, and I adjusted what could be adjusted. Yet the tapes still squealed and wobbled.

Further reading on the interwebs revealed that older tapes can absorb moisture and shed metal oxide as they age. This leads to friction as the tape passes over the heads. I then read about a service that would bake your tapes for about $100 each and return them to you. The baking was supposed to remove the moisture build up long enough for you to get a good enough play to digitize the contents. The price was for a single sided 30 minute tape.

So I decided to take up home baking. I found a suitable metal take up reel on eBay that used to go for $6 at Radio Shack but with rarity inflation factored in cost me about $40. The metal reel was important because a plastic reel would warp or melt under extended heat conditions. If this process worked for one tape I would be way ahead of the game. I wound the tape that I wanted to bake onto this reel, loosely wrapped it in aluminum foil and baked in the toaster oven for 90 minutes at 150 degrees F.

This may sound crazy but last night I baked. It worked so far on 2 tapes. I have salvaged some classics and you will soon hear the results!

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Very First RNI Mailbag and Freedom of Speech?

Sunday September 30, 1990 was just a couple of days before the long awaited October 2nd German reunification, the true end of World War II.  Hope was in the air despite the rain in and around NYC that day.  And the most unique mailbag program ever to hit the shortwaves debuted that night at 9 PM Eastern (0100 UTC Monday).

Things did not exactly get off to a smooth start.  Even before the initial broadcast, the staff was embroiled in an argument over whether a song featuring profanity could be played, if it could be bleeped, or as Pirate Joe wanted, not to play it at all.  Dan seriously considered boycotting the maiden mailbag broadcast over Pirate Joe's authoritarian stance (no bleeping in MY studio!) on the matter.  However, the program proceeded and the conflict resulted in a good discussion around the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.  In the end, Dan prevailed and the profanities were bleeped, ironically in a song called "Freedom of Speech".  The prohibited utterance that did go out over the air the WWCR airwaves that night ended up coming from a caller rather than a song.

Pirate Joe joined Dan in the studio for the first hour of the program, which was hosted from the Pirate Central Yonkers, NY studio -- so while we announced NYC on the air, we were about a mile or two north or the city line.  Plenty of letters were read, including mentions of pirate scholars Andy Yoder and George Zeller, well known DXers and NASWA members Jerry Berg and Rich D'Angelo, and of course, a commercial for Popular Communications.

Jerry's letter mentioned the Committee to Preserve Radio Verifications (CPRV) and Dan offered further publicity to this still worthy and ongoing effort.

Listen here and enjoy the show.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Planes, trains, 800 numbers, and the RNI Mailbag on WWCR

November 11, 1990 was Veteran's Day in the USA and Armistice Day in France.  Tina and I were still in the throes of our initial infatuation, and I was hosting the RNI Mailbag each second and fourth Sunday via WWCR's 100,000 watt 7,520 kHz blowtorch.

Al Gore had not yet invented the commercial internet, 800 toll free service only worked within the US and most of Canada, and the cellphone was still in its infancy. Shortwave was still a viable international communications medium and we received letters from all over the world, which I read on the air. The TSA had not yet been invented to dehumanize our air travel experience nor had the Euro been invented to tax the Europeans wallets and inflate prices.

This episode features a story of how we almost missed the show because of an airline ticketing error -- and how, with the help of a wonderful KLM representative in Amsterdam, we were home in time anyway -- much to the dismay of a Parisian bureaucrat.  It also features commercials for Offshore Echoes, Monitoring Times, and Radio For Peace International.  Listeners call in with their travel stories, letters from around the world are read and there is a brief mention of our visit to the Veronica radio ship "Nordernay" which was anchored in Maastricht.  I also confuse the legendary PCJ callsign, predecessor of Radio Netherlands, with PJB, which was the 800 kHz callsign of Trans World Radio in Bonaire.  Ah, hindsight!

Enjoy as you listen to this RNI Mailbag flashback from 25 years ago!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Second Night of RNI -- Live from the Radio Ship Sarah

On Friday evening, July 24, 1987, my AM radio was turned on. It was tuned in to 1620 kHz and the cassette was in the deck. It was all a buzz until -- the frequency was abuzz with the sounds of the 2nd test transmission of Radio Newyork International. My friend Randi Steele was at the controls, about to show NYC what free form radio was going to bring to the city. The first transmission, the prior evening, went well, but lacked the professional polish that Randi was about to bring to the airwaves. Not that there weren't audible studio glitches, but then it was free form.

My own recorded air contributions to the short lived RNI-fest of 1987 were never aired. They are probably sitting on VHS cassettes on a dilapidated school bus in northern Maine, perhaps never to be heard, perhaps to end up on Area 51 some day as others have. I was to have been part of the original air team on a part-time basis (wisely keeping my day job). Nonetheless, my contributions to the station are heard two-fold in this transmission. I coined the expression "The Wet One" as a station slogan, and Hayes Hayes delivers on its promise as a station slogan for a shipboard station with his deep, laborious pronouncement. I also provided the recordings of the "original" Dutch RNI jingles that were used as production material.

The station was heard all across the Eastern USA. QSL cards were issued and the legend had begun. While RNI is now simply a name used on WBCQ by a Johnny-come-later, this recording of the promise that Allan Weiner and Randi Steele offered NYC media remains for your listening enjoyment.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Allan Weiner and Randi Steele on 66 WNBC

Allan Weiner and Randi Steele, organizers of the Radio Newyork International (RNI) pirate ship broadcasts, pay a visit to the studios of 66 WNBC on the 2nd floor of 30 Rockerfeller Plaza in New York City. They are joined by longtime associate JP Ferraro. The date is July 28, 1988 and there are thunderstorms in the area which can be heard as static bursts on this off air recording.

The trio speak about their experiences with the FCC and take calls from supportive listeners. Also of interest are the commercials for NYNEX Mobile, proud that they are adding a new 5 MHz of spectrum to their cellular system; and regular advertisers Sears and K-Mart.

Host Alan Colmes also pokes fun at Randi as a former troublemaker, based upon phone calls that he -- yes Randi was still identifying as a he at that time -- made to radio stations back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is also revealed that Randi worked nights at WNBC back in those days as a producer to Big Jay Sorensen who these days is to be found on WCBS-FM in NYC.

Give a listen and I hope that you enjoy it.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Ed Armstrong and Marconi on KPRC

I was quited surprised this evening to hear a KPRC broadcast from 30 years ago being aired on WBCQ. I tuned past 7,490 kHz and heard some vaguely familiar segues and then the voices of Ed Armstrong (aka Randi Steele) and Marconi (aka Dan Lewis) coming out of my radio. Allan Weiner, owner of WBCQ, found some old reel-to-reel tapes in storage that had not seen the light of day for 30 years and decided to put them on the air. The pogram will resume at 10 PM Eastern (0200 UTC) on 7,490 kHz and on the web. Join me as we travel back 30 years in time to Pirate Radio Central in New York City.