Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Radio Show About...Radio

And now, back to our irregularly scheduled program. It has been a while since we revisited a classic Dan Lewis program. This time we go back to September 28, 2008. Dan was doing a WBCQ fill-ins for JL, who was taking a bit of time off from the radio.

This show focused on radio and radio people. Dan memorialized Irving Blonder, whose company owned, among other things, UHF Channel 68 near NYC. Dan reminisced about 1970s characters such as Larry McCann and Uncle Floyd who provided Channel 68 viewers with many a strange and interesting program. Irv also was involved in the development of radar during the 2nd World War and later put his radar skills to work searching for the Loch Ness Monster.

Dan shared memories of Tomcat, Tom Kneitel. Tom was a proflic writer about the radio hobby. He was the founding editor of Popular Communications and wrote a well known book about tuning in on telephone calls. His book probably led to the passing by Congress of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Tom also experimented with the Ouija Board as a communication method.

In hour 2, Dan speaks with Bennett Kobb, a community media advocate. In 2008, Bennett was promoting an idea to bring Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) to the 26 MHz shortwave broadcast band, but aimed at a domestic audience. It was a great idea that never materialized.

Dan responds to an email from a listener who enjoyed the July 2008 Dody Cowan interview and heard from Dody Cowan, too. He also talks about the tech used to produce the program.

I hope you enjoy this Dan Lewis reprise about radio. You can listen here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Visit with Hank and Jim

Tragic events often reconnect folks who have not otherwise been in touch for some time. So it is with the recent passing of Randi. I had a pleasant visit today from Hank Hayes and Jim Nazium. We spent several hours catching up on the last 25 years of our respective lives over coffee.

Hank and Jim are well known for their famous Brooklyn FM pirate, WHOT. Before they were Hank and Jim, they were Hal Hall and Larry McCrae of WFAT, a famous AM pirate that broadcast on 1620 kHz from Brooklyn in the late 1970s. And even earlier, they were known as John Doe and Perry Harris of WCPR. As mentioned in a recent blog post, it was because of WCPR that I was able to reconnect with Ed Armstrong a/k/a Randi Steele in 1975.

We talked about many things and compared memories of past events. It is a tribute to our collective lucidity that our memories are in general agreement on details and dates of events in which we collectively involved. I filled them in on Randi's memorial in Woodstock which I attended last Sunday evening. I also mentioned that I'd found a forgotten interview in the archives. The two of them were guests on a public affairs segment aired by 99X in 1979.

One question from the host was with regard to the momentum in Congress, at that time, to deregulate broadcast content. These changes, ultimately adopted, led to the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the end of requirements for public service programming. The changes also led to more commercials, more often. The response from the the young broadcasters was rather prophetic, considering the state of commercial terrestrial radio today.

I promised Hank that I'd get him a copy of the program. Here it is for your listening enjoyment, too.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Memorial Service for Randi Steele

A memorial service for Randi Steele a/k/a Randall Ripley has been announced via the "Fans of WIOLP Woodstock 104" group on Facebook. It will be held on Sunday October 8, 2017 at 6:30 PM at Mountain View Studio, 20 Mountainview Ave, Woodstock, NY 12498. Here are directions.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Just who was Randall Ripley?

I used to know a guy named Randall Ripley. I met him at the Diplomat Hotel in NYC during a phone phreak convention run by YIPL, the Youth International Party Line. They used to publish a newsletter, later called TAP. It was 2600 before there was a 2600.

The setting was a seedy midtown hotel around Labor Day of 1973. Randall had a microphone in his hands but didn't look like the mainstream media. As a 15 year old kid interested in all things tech and media, I let Randall interview me about party lines and loop lines. I then asked what station he was with. He told me that it was a pirate radio station.

Pirate radio! It was in Flushing, Queens. I lived in Flushing, Queens! I had followed the European offshore stations with interest, but now I found that I had a local FM pirate on 87.9 MHz. I was fascinated. That night, I tuned in.

WQLB was part of the Falling Star Network, a network of pirate stations started by Allan Weiner and Joseph Paul Ferraro of Yonkers, NY pirate fame. It had a tramsitter power of approximately 50 watts from an army surplus "TRC" that was modulated by an Eico signal generator. The signal generator was plugged into a crystal socket with a nail. The antenna was a type of circular loop. The studio was located in the basement of his parents' home, much to the chagrin of his mother who always believed that evil was taking place down there. I used to listen to that evil and call in regularly until the antenna came down that November in an ice storm. Randall went by the on air handle of Ed Armstrong.

We used to talk on the phone regularly. I remember one unusual conversation where Randall made a point of asking me if some unremembered person told me he was gay. I think I said yes and also said I didn't care. Randall found a need to insist to me that he was not.

Late in 1974 my family moved from Queens to Staten Island. I lost track of Randall until I next heard his voice on a Brooklyn pirate using the callsign WCPR. The guys who ran WCPR, Perry Harris and John Doe (later Jim Nazium and Hank Hayes), were referred to Randall as someone who could help them with the transmitter that was always on life support, and therefore nicknamed "Karen Ann". I called in, he remembered me, and we exchanged updated contact info. By that time I was in my first year of college, involved with the college carrier-current radio station, and lived and breathed radio.

Shortly thereafter, I was invited out to visit Randall at his house and to see the studio. It had a Gates style board, used 8 track machines as carts, and egg cartons for soundproofing. I wish I had photos! Anyway, it turned our that our interest in radio was supplemented by our mutual interest in marijuana, beer, music, audio technology and leftist politics. A strong and long friendship resulted which, unfortunately, lasted only until 1999. But that is a story for another day.

So who is Randall Ripley and why should you care? Randall was better known to many of you as Randi Steele of Radio Newyork International, WBCQ, and WIOF-LP. Regretfully, Randi's life ended last month, just shy of 63 years old.

LF Midwood, who knew Randall as Randi in the 1990s, put together a thoughtful podcast of his memories. I smiled and was sad as I listened and, for a moment, lived in the past.

Stony Stevenson, one of the several people still breathing who knew Randall longer than me posted this blog entry back in 2012. It is also well worth a read.

Update 10/08/17: Stony Stevenson's final thoughts on Randi were published today. Read his Requiem for a Pirate here.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

1991 Mis-Predictions for the Future of Broadcasting

With 2016 just around the corner, we look back at a vintage Dan Lewis program from April 21, 1991. This hour, pre-recorded the previous Friday night at Randi's Flushing, NY studio, featured an interview with my friend Robert Briel of The Netherlands. Robert has long been in media publishing and was, at the time, editor of Veronica Magazine.

The interview is notable for many reasons. You can sense the higher level of energy working out of Randi's place rather than JP's. It was easily noticeable to listeners as well, because the 2nd hour was done live from Yonkers. Of course, Randi HAD to point out the higher energy as proof of the superiority of his studio vibe vs. JP's.

Also of note, and with belatedly due apologies to Robert, I mispronounced his name repeatedly. It should come out as "Breel", but for some reason I gave it the pronunciation of a well known Staten Island street name, Brielle Avenue ("Bree-El"). Robert, ever the gentleman, never said a word.

Of more interest to listeners in 2016, however, is how we got it wrong all about satellite radio, digital broadcasting, and how no one would ever need better quality video than VHS HQ! It is a shame that youth is wasted on the young because I could use some of that youthful energy now to complement the wisdom of years.

This is another toaster oven tape rescue special, thanks to my trusty metal take up reel described in this post. As you get ready to pop the cork, give a listen to this rescued classic Dan Lewis radio program!

Thanks for joining us this year and there is more to come in 2016.

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!