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.