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!