New York, New York, New Year (2010)

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

I know. I KNOW. And I’m sorry.

It’s been a number of weeks since I’ve posted anything here. Perhaps the longest time I’ve been away since I started this blog. The truth is I’ve taken on a project or two that’s been taking up more of my free time over the couple months and I haven’t been able to dedicate myself to the Radio Kitchen as much as I would like. And I really am sorry.

I’m not giving up this blog. At least not yet. But I’m not a good blogger in the traditional sense. I’m not so good at firing off quick and succinct entries, and my posts generally take some time. And there’s usually audio involved and research and rumination and it’s rarely a quick process for me. However, if there was actually some money in it, you can be sure I’d be packin’ this thing with content almost every week.

But I was inspired the other night. New Year’s Eve. And I didn’t have a gig. I didn’t have a party to go to either, and the girls here at the house were fast asleep. So instead of ducking into some local dive bar for some holiday misbehavior, I stayed home– like Jack Horner. In the corner. Just me and my radio. (And a recorder.)

And the result is this bandscan– an hour and twenty-minute crawl up the AM band recorded in my Brooklyn apartment as the year 2010 was sweeping over America. Right before midnight, I turned on my G5 and started crawling down from the top of the AM dial. A powerful Radio Disney outlet at 1560kHz is very close to my house, and that nearby fifty-thousand watt signal wrecks havoc at this end of the dial. So I opted to start this bandscan where their signal pollution yields to clarity– with a holiday greeting from the lovely and talented Alan Colmes on progressive talker WWRL.

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 1
(download)

And then, Radio Disney itself. Their transmitter (broadcasting at 1560kHz) is so close to me that I’ve heard their signal in on every possible band at some point, as well is in my home stereo and even on a pay phone down the street. On some of my radios, every frequency from 1530 to 1600kHz suffers from some form of Radio Disney intrusion.

Next up 1520, WWKB in Buffalo blasting in strong with a sleazy “get out of debt” commercial. Then a little “Auld Lang Syne” and a promo from “Federal News Radio” (WTOP 1500kHz in Washington D.C.). However, the magical odometer click itself is served Cantonese style at 1480kHz, WZRC. It’s quite exciting. Probably more so if you happen to be Chinese.

While I don’t know for sure, I suspect that this was probably a simulcast of the New Years festivities on the American Chinese-language TV network– SINO Television. While simulcasting obviously saves a lot of money, if you’re a serious radio listener you can usually tell the difference. There’s a lack of microphone intimacy, and the assumptions of visual cues make audio-only TV less interesting than real radio.

And then there’s a couple more ethnic notches on the NY AM dial– some pumping macho reverb from WNSW at 1430kHz and some kooky jubilance care of WKDM at 1380kHz. Whooooh!

And so ends all the “live” sounds of celebration captured in this bandscan.

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 2
(download)

“Thank you for inviting me into your prison cells.”

At first, I thought there was going to be a punch line. Or that there was something metaphoric going on I might have missed. But no, it was all real, just like prison. It’s some regularly scheduled religious inspiration for the incarcerated (with your host– a real "retired correction captain”). Although I typically I hear religious stuff at 1330kHz (WWRV) all the time, it’s usually a Spanish language scenario.

We pass by 1300kHz for a quick ID. I think it’s the ESPN Radio station in New Haven. And how about this Spanish language drama at 1280kHz? Wow. Give that guy a hankie. Man. Then a brief interlude with Smokey Robinson & The Miracles on WMTR, at 1250kHz in Morristown, New Jersey.

From 1250 we slide down to 1210– the Big Talker WPHT in Philadelphia, where they were replaying a Michael Smerconish program. He’s an odd bird, and the only right wing talk show host to support Obama in the last election. At least that’s what I’ve read on the internets. I don’t watch much of the talking head pundit shows on TV, but I gather he makes his appearances on a few of them too. And he has a shiny head.

Then on to some urban contemporary gospel from WLIB at 1190kHz. When Air America left the station to settle over at WWRL at 1600 they gave up a great signal for a pretty crappy one. That’s followed by some messy and overlapping signals. And then this clown…

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 3
(download)

As if there wasn’t already enough meanspirited blather emanating from this Clear Channel owned Fox News affiliate (WWVA at 1170 kHz in West Virginia), they also see fit to let this hateful son of a bitch run at the mouth on a transmitter that might reach a third of the U.S.

It seems that all the major religions (especially the powerful monotheistic ones that dominate our world) have a dark beating heart of intolerance and malevolence somewhere at their core that leads some twisted "believers" to spew forth the kind of filth that tumbles out of the mouth of this old geezer, rambling incoherently about “judgment” and “vengeance” and “punishments.”

The particular brand of stupidity at play here is uniquely American and Protestant flavored, which seems to the most popular type of religious mental illness you hear on the radio. If you’re interested in getting some good hate on for Obama (and all the Catholics and Muslims and almost everybody else), then you’ll probably find something to celebrate in this fulmination. Happy new year!

I let that guy carry on way too long before shuffling down dial to Bloomberg’s “business” station at 1130kHz. It’s a panel of experts on the human brain. Wow. The trouble is (again) that we’re obviously hearing some TV simulcast. And we’re supposed to be looking at some incredible computer generated images of the computing machinery of the brain. You see anything?

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 4
(download)

Then, the bewitching baritone of Art Bell from WTAM, 1100kHz in Cleveland. Since he’s retired (four times!) you don’t hear him host his old “Coast to Coast” show much these days. But he does often show up a few times a year– especially for his annual “Ghost to Ghost” program (with call-in ghost stories) around Halloween and then for his annual prediction (for the next year) show. And being a bit of a legend these days and rarely on the air, you can hear some real affection and fan awe from the callers who are able to get through to talk to Bell.

I used to be entertained by Bell’s late night sideshow many years ago. His love of everything radio has always been kind of inspiring to me. But I gotta say, he does sound uncharacteristically low-key in the samples in this bandscan. I guess he’s been though plenty of changes over this last decade. But you do hear a lot of people calling in predictions that are pretty dire and cataclysmic. And that, is typical.

Then we slide down into the lap of snarling neocon Laura Ingraham, care of WBAL (at 1090 AM in Baltimore). Then it’s 1050kHz here in the city, a frequency with a colorful history that’s been the home for a number of call letters over the years. These days it’s just WEPN– another syndicated ESPN yawner on the AM dial. Sad. And then 1010 WINS, one of the oldest all-news stations in the country (and they continue the teletype sound effects in the background to drive the point home). And here you get one of the joys of MW DXing for some, the local traffic and weather forecast. The crowds are dissipating in Times Square. And in the sky, a wintry mix. Meanwhile there’s been a few fire fatalities over the holidays. And through some unexplained turn of events New York City “apparently” has found some extra money laying around. A surplus.

And in a broader sense, I suppose that’s one of the things that make New York so appealing. Somehow, somewhere, there’s some extra money laying round. In a place like Detroit, not so much.

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 5
(download)

Mike Gallagher (AKAThe Smellster”) is one of the least evolved human beings I’ve come across in the national media. A man who does not seem to actually think, but just react to things (in a predictable and ham-handed partisan manner). And when he’s not scripted well, his program can really go off the rails. Yet he kind of sounds like Rush (which may account for his radio career), and his show is powered by the same kind of boomy and barely educated bluster Rush practically invented. Also like Limbaugh, Gallagher seems to get his greatest insights and inspiration from watching professional football on television. I suppose it’s almost like going to college. The fact that this guy’s show has risen into the low end of the talk radio top ten (at #8!) says a lot about the audience for this format today.

And while I’m all in favor of heartfelt apologies, this tear-soaked confessional from some a highly-paid prima-donna athlete is just so much difficult listening. However, to Gallagher all these sniffy regrets amount to a “life changing moment.” Usually all I get from the Smellster are “station changing moments.”

Then I move up to a man speaking in a language I don’t understand on another local “ethnic” (and brokered) radio station– WPAT at 930kHz. And then at 900kHz it’s the “old time radio” programming I’ve been hearing late at night on CHML for years (They’re in Hamilton, Ontario). It sounds like we missed the setup for the joke here.

Then into the nasty IBOC sound (in-band-on-channel) sound that surrounds WCBS at 880kHz. It’s an envelope of nasty digital noise that bookends the analog signal of AM stations carrying “HD” programming. And it’s also why you don’t hear WLS in Chigago at 890kHz anywhere near the city. And not a chance of getting WWL at 870kHz in New Orleans (which reaches well into Canada for some). 1010 WINS and WOR do the same thing. DXers hate it. And in many major cities you hear it across the dial.

On WCBS you hear about the eminent retirement of Robert Morgenthau. At 90 years old, Morgenthau had been the District Attorney of Manhattan since 1975. Amazing.

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 6
(download)

I really don’t know a lot about the CJBC, except that it’s a CBC powerhouse that broadcasts in French at 860kHz. And it’s the only significant CBC station broadcasting to the U.S. It wasn’t always that way. Years ago, their English service reached a large swath of North America from 740kHz. But there was a move to consolidate all thier broadcasting to FM, and the far reaching AM frequency was abandoned by the CBC. CHWO (better known as "AM740") is a unique musical presence on the AM dial in these parts, but the loss of a major CBC on the AM band is still a damn shame. That said, I think I’ve been hearing interesting music late at night at 860 AM since I was a kid. And the music varies so much that I couldn’t even qualify what kind of music I’ve heard the most on that station. I don’t know what kind of pop music is at play in this sample. It’s old. A show tune?

Art Bell again. From WHAS Louisville this time (at 840kHz). Another kooky caller. I wonder if Bell ever succeeded in giving up the smokes. His voice has that same nicotine gravitas as Larry King (and a bunch of guys who ain’t around any more). At 820kHz we find the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. I’m not a fan, although he occasionally has good guests. It’s local. It’s NPR. Then the inevitable Art Bell once again, on 810kHz, WGY upstate in Schenectady.

CKLW (800kHz in Windsor) is a funny kind of talk station that you don’t hear really hear in the states. Or certainly not on a big transmitter like this. I’ve never heard a "political" show on CKLW (but lots of centigrade weather!) And listen to the promo for the nightly astrology show. “Life might feel like a struggle…” Lots of self-help and health shows in general on this station. In America, AM talk radio is about personalities agitating listeners with propaganda all day long. And while there is certainly political talk on Canadian radio, they seem to still be able to have radio stations and call-in shows that aren’t agenda driven or enslaved by the news cycle.

That said, I really can’t listen to “call the doctor” talk radio for very long. All those symptoms make my stomach hurt.

Nothing really comes in until I hit WABC here in the city at 770kHz. John Bachelor, who recently moved into a nightly slot on WABC since crazy blabbermouth Curtis Sliwa took his little red beret down to WABC’s relatively new competitor, 970 “The Apple,” where he’s their new morning-drive entertainer.

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 7
(download)

Now we’re at 760kHz. Detroit. (No IBOC from WABC, so the signal is still audible here.) There’s still a little crosstalk from WABC next door. It’s an ad for a drug rehab joint in the Detroit suburbs. The announcer says they can help “teens, college students, business people, CEOs, lawyers and health professionals” with their addictions.

I guess if you want to get a handle on the marketing of drug treatment services you could probably learn a little by decoding this list of less than socioeconomically diverse list of prospective "clients. Seems like they left the majority of common folk off this at list. Every style of addict mentioned here probably can afford their services, and some might have a willing (or desperate) parent who can come up with the dough.

Then it’s the ABC News. The world’s biggest pseudo-event of the season totally obscured any other feasible healdine that night. news focus for a few hours. Their reporter spends so much time “poetically” describing the panorama of litter and debris in the street in Times Square that it’s just a little weird. And sad for a major news outlet to lend so much weight and instant nostalgia to a run-of-the-mill clean-up scene at the end of a big party.

Then there’s three more quick headlines in ABC’s top of the hour news. And they’re all sports related. The last one is regarding the contract stalemate between Times-Warner and Fox, which was resolved a few days later. And the ABC take on this little media turf war was that if the se companies wouldn’t come to a peaceful resolution agreement don’t come to some agreement that a number of “Fox” football games might not air on Times-Warner cable the next weekend. Right before WJR cuts to local weather the football story is capped off with a sound bite from some media analyst. Although it wasn’t the intention, I think his words may capture some of the spirit and passion of our great nation as we enter 2010:

“There is no hue and cry louder and angrier than if you deprive the American viewer of football.”

I’ll bet that’s true. And ABC only has two minutes to encapsulate current affairs at the top of the hour, and this is what you get. No international issues. No war updates. And certainly no investigative reporting. There is no breaking news. Perhaps because the news is already broken. Tiger Woods? Still in trouble as far as I know.

At 750kHz you can hear WSB in Atlanta. But it’s not pleasant. Some nights this station comes in pretty clearly up here. But then again, often I come across a Neil Boortz rebroadcast on this station. This noise is more pleasant.

AM740 is a big bunch of noise as well, which is unusual. In 2008 this station changed hands, and changed call letters. No longer CHWO, it’s now CFZM. I don’t hear much beyond the overnight programming, and at that timeit’s still a MOR/nostalgia mix, only with more classic rock. But it’s still the only full-time music format blasting out a full (“clear channel”) fifty-thousand watt signal in this part of North America (WSB at 650 in Nashville is the only other one you’re likely to hear in this area). AM740 has actually been coming better than I’ve ever heard it this month. Like a local. But on New Year’s Eve the reception wasn’t so hot…

The AM Dial in New York, NY – New Years Eve 2010 pt 8
(download)        

Let’s listen to the radio horrors of wading through that IBOC racket once again as I approach the “analog” version of New York’s WOR at 710. (Which denies us the chance to hear both CKAC in Montreal at 730kHz and WGN at 720 in Chicago.)

The local news is still underway on WOR with Pat Wallace. The news is a little more substantial than the trivial world synopsis offered by ABC. The Joey Reynolds show reconvenes after the news. As an intro (instead of playing one of his many “theme songs”) Joey plays some old comedy bit he recorded during his top-40 heyday in the 1960’s. Let’s just say some types of humor have a longer shelf life than others.

As I’ve written before, the Joey Reynolds show is kind of an anarchic affair. While there are some focused interviews, more often than not Joey gets a few folks behind the microphone and lets it rip without much of a game plan. When it’s not good it’s pretty bad. And in this particular clip it’s not so good for Joey as an unidentified guest (a local restaurateur who apparently knows Reynolds and his thrifty nature rather well) gets the better of the old "shock-talker."

However, the real roasting occurs when Reynolds makes a few cracks about Dick Clark’s brief appearances during his “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” spectacular. As you probably know, Clark suffered a massive stroke a few years back and the once glib "eternal teenager" now speaks in a somewhat slurring and halting fashion these days. While trying to avoid sounding cruel, Reynolds makes a few lame jokes about Clark’s performance that night and then wishes that he just wouldn’t appear on TV at all. As you can hear, the guest (sporting a hardcore NYC accent) directly takes old Joey to task and doesn’t let up. You don’t often hear a radio host let a guest chew him up like this on the air. Instead of standing his ground, or taking on the animosity directly, Reynolds keeps running away, trying to change the subject. Odd.

If it wasn’t for the IBOC digital garbage on each side of WOR’s signal, powerhouse WLW in Cincinatti would almost certainly have been audible here. But not anymore. The first credible AM signal I came across is a messy read of a Bob Seger song at 690kHz. I don’t know what station this might be. Typically I get French talk radio from Montreal here. There’s an oldies station in West Virginia at this frequency, but I see they’re running at all of fourteen watts at night, And then at 620kHz– WSNR, kind of a sad brokered station hanging out there in the breeze. Here they’re broadcasting something in a language I do not know. Hebrew perhaps?

Nearing the very top we find the once mighty WMCA at 570kHz. Once a top 40 giant, then a pioneering talk radio station in New York, WMCA is now it’s a lowly Christian outlet with a lot of brokered hours up for grabs. This is some kind of religious self-help talk show, featuring a woman complaining about her sister making the rest of her family miserable in the name of Jesus.

    “There’s something wrong, isn’t there?”

The answer of course is “yes.” Her sister reminds me a little of a certain scary relative my family tries to avoid. And it seems like a good place to close as well– because more significantly, there was something wrong with 2009 too, wasn’t there?. After that one night a year ago, when it was new, it wasn’t much of a "happy year.” And it seems stupid has become the new smart. At least we have football. And Jesus.

But I think things are going to get better. I really do. But I’m not counting on 2010. At least not yet. It certainly didn’t start out so well.  Maybe by 2012 will bring some good luck for us. And from what I understand, a lot of people are looking forward to that year anyway.

Meanwhile, I hope to get back to you soon. And to get another post up where before so much time goes by next time.

I suspect if you’ve gotten this far, that you might just have more than a passing interest in radio. (And if you got this far by skimming over this post, maybe might wanna read this. Or at least look it over…) And in closing, there’s two things I’d like to mention. For one, the Winter SWL Fest is coming up soon in Kulpsville, PA (March 5 & 6), which is a completely unique and entertaining way to spend a weekend. I certainly recommend it. I had a lotta fun there last year.

Also, if your DXing habit fell by the wayside during the interminable solar minimum over the last couple years you might wanna dust off your old receiver and try scanning around again some time. The sunspots are back! And although I haven’t been able to do much serious monitoring lately, I have noticed my portables seem rather lively lately when I’ve taken the time to sample HF the bands, with improved reception across the board.

Meanwhile, thanks a bunch for listening. And good DX to you!

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 7

Monday, January 30th, 2006

Radio_shack_power_2 This post resumes where the last one left off, scanning the AM broadcast band in northern Michigan late at night August 23, 2001. I  recorded this at a campsite located on a peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan. Far from urban and residential radio interference and situated in the midst of a giant body of uninhabited water, it was a promising location for receiving distant stations.

For those who are interested in such things, my equipment was an adequate workman-like setup, using a Radio Shack ripoff of the GE SuperRadio and the Terk AM loop antenna. I’m not a fan of Radio Shack by the way. However, for many years their stores WERE practical dealers of relatively inexpensive radio gear– especially if you had the patience to wait until certain items went on sale. But as I mentioned in the last post, this has changed.

Located just 740 miles shy of the exact center of the continent, my picnic table was a good location geographically to scan AM broadcasts at night. And the time placement was significant too. This session of radio monitoring occurred at the late end of the summer news lull preceding the onslaught of the endless media storm of fear and terror that we still can’t get enough of.

On the hot seat that evening– Gary Condit. The spooky centrist Democrat from California suspected of murder had just faced the television scrutiny of Connie Chung that evening on ABC. You may recall, there was no issue more worthy of our attention at that time. You heard some of the talk radio discussion of that TV incident in the audio presented with the last post.

But before I get into this radio reception of that evening, I wanted to say something about the practice and appeal of DXing itself, and perhaps about the art of it as well.

Ge_superadio In writing about a relatively obscure hobby, like DXing, I guess I’m hoping these will primarily be read by people who would never do such a thing, but are still interested in lo-fi old fashioned mass media. But I’m trying to make sure I have an idea of what I’m talking about because these will also be read by folks who also search out distant radio stations (Many who probably know about DXing than I do). As I stated in my first post, I’m a casual DXer at best and it’s my amateur enthusiasm for the avocation that I hope to pass on to readers here, more than any claim of expertise or knowledge. And in writing about a little known and possibly dying craft, I’d hope that a few readers might expand their radio diet, and that others might renew their interest in fooling around this way.

A_happy_dxer Although I hinted about in an earlier post, I might as well be straight-out honest– DXing is an intimate act. It’s you and the radio. While it’s hard to imagine there aren’t people who DX “together,” I have yet to experience a significant journey through the frequencies with another engaged human being.

While there was a time when people sat around together transfixed to the radio listening to news, dramas and variety shows, but for decades radio has been reduced to a background application in social situations. If you want to accomplish some significant DXing you’re probably going to need to reserve some personal time to do any significant listening. Maybe you have friends who are very patient or are intrigued by a session of tuner adjustment and antenna manipulation AND all the strange noises that goes along with testing the limits of a receiver. But I don’t. And unless I happen to sign up for an outing with a DX club sometime soon, I don’t envision sharing this hobby in the future other than writing about it. That’s just the way it is. You may have noticed that the listening experiences I’ve posted here all generally begin after 11 p.m. In practice, I generally don’t get a chance to get to huddle around a receiver until after my better half and the little one hit the hay.

Super_909_1 In the end, what I’m saying that even if you have an interest in DXing, or have gone out and purchased yourself a respectable AM radio or shortwave set, unless you’re able to reserve some time to yourself in the evening to play with the radio (hopefully somewhat isolated from RF racket) you’re probably not going to have much luck with searching out distant radio stations. If you happen to be a loner without a TV, DXing might be a viable alternative to more traditional activities, like reading.

Also, like most geeky avocations, DXing is a decidedly male habit. Sure there’s exceptions. Some women read sci-fi and design software too. But you know what I mean. I saw a good illustration of this the other day. I was looking at radios on ebay, and saw an auction for a particular digital shortwave receiver I covet from time to time. According to the text, the guy had purchased this rather fancy portable for his wife, but she wasn’t crazy about having to "tune around" for the Shortwave stations. So now the radio is for sale, and the wife is much happier with her new subscription to satellite radio.  Me? I prefer to tune around. There’s no real adventure in punching up satellite stations.

Super_dxer_guy That said, there are many ways to DX. On shortwave, you can look at a schedule of broadcasts and specifically tune to the frequencies (many stations have multiple simultaneous transmissions), which is better suited to digital tuners. Or with AM you can hunt out distant stations you think you might be able to hear. Although I’ve had a some success DXing this way, unless you have a hot receiver and/or a great location you’re probably going to run into a lot of disappointment.

Or you can "tune around," and search out busy sections of the dial. I find analog tuning best for radio exploration of this kind. And obviously I like to record what happens. I consider every dial scan I glean this way to be a unique media archive, and strange as it may seem I listen to most of them a number of times. Like the slave of any bad habit, I’ve grown to appreciate the side-effects, the musicality of distant radio reception and the poetics of capturing swatches of broadcasting. Each recording is unique and an artifact of its time and place.

And speaking of the glory of DXing, I was honored to see that these posts referred by some DXers to Glenn Hauser (of World of Radio) and mentioned in his “DX Listening Digest.” Nice to know that a few serious DXer’s are actually reading these. However, Mr. Hauser bemoans that I made a couple mistakes on the log of my first AM DX post. Of course, he was right, and I made the corrections. However, there is quite a bit of outdated information on radio stations on the web, and it’s not hard to make a mistake when coming across an Dx_outpostunfamiliar station. Although Radio Locator is easier to use, I believe that this site has more accurate listings. In that spirit, I’m always open to corrections, tips, comments and suggestions via email. And comments are good too.

I’ll get back to shortwave listening (or SWL as practitioners like to say) in future posts, but for now I’m going to reconvene where I left off– back to the Michigan picnic table somewhere around midnight in August 2001. It was pre-Patriot Act America, and the headlines were full of Gary Condit. The last station heard in the previous post was clear channel WSB at 750 KHz in Atlanta.

Segment 2 – Northern Michigan Radio 08-23-01 (760 to 900 AM)  29:04

(download)

This dial scan begins at the tail end of my reception of WSB, but quickly segues into…

760 – WJR Detroit, MI

Trucker show, country music. No ID, but I’m pretty sure about this one. Then things get more difficult…

770 to 830 – (Hmmmm…)

Like I said, I’m fairly loose about DXing and rarely log my listening. And trying to ID the next few frequencies that I received at an unfamiliar locale is baffling to me four years later. I never thought I’d be writing about these tapes.

Young_art_bell It’s just after one o’ clock in the morning, and Coast to Coast with Art Bell is just kicking in after the news. Coast to Coast is an overnight staple on hundreds of stations, so between one and five a.m. eastern time it pops up on the AM dial all over the place.

Just turning the dial slightly from WJR, there’s a weak signal bearing Art Bell, and I believe this is WABC in New York. But then another nudge of the dial (or rotation of the loop antenna) brings in a loud clear copy of a replay of an ancient “Fibber McGee & Molly” radio show. And no amount of internet detective work has provided an obvious candidate for this signal. There is a station at 770 in Calgary (CHQR) running 50,000 watts which does run Fibber McGee and Molly at that time, but because of the two American clear channel stations at that frequency they have a directional pattern at night, and it’s AWFUL far away (like 1400 miles) and it seems unlikely that it would come in this well.

Art_bell_studio_shot_1998_1 Anyway, this is where things get a little loose, because I’m moving back and forth on the dial for a minute, instead of moving in one direction. (Probably trying to get my bearings and testing out my loop antenna for the first time in a promising DX location). What you hear is some country music mixed with a LOT of Art Bell on different stations. In this section of the dial, his Coast to Coast program runs a few 50,000 watt stations in this part of the world– 770 (WABC), 800 (CKLW), 810 (WGY) and also at 840 (WHAS). I believe that I hit all of those here and eventually end up at WHAS coming in nicely. The country station is clear too, and seems to be at 830 KHz. This IS a country station at that frequency in Alberta, but…

Going either unfound or unidentified in this part of the dial, two other clear channel stations I would think would be quite readable– 780 (WBBM) in Chicago and 83 (WCCO) in Minneapolis.

Correction from 02-10-06: I think I figured out some of what was going on here. Although WBBM is an all news radio station, they do feature an hour of old time radio exactly at this time on weeknights. They call it "When Radio Was." That explains the Fibber McGee & Molly. Also, the country music in the middle of all the Art Bell is likely from CIGM in Sudbury, Ontario at 790 KHz.

840 – WHAS Louisville, KY

It’s Coast to Coast AM, with the creator of the program, Art Bell. You heard Bell’s hearty reading of his commercial load in the jumble before this. Now it’s on to the matter at hand– a new crop circle.

Crop_circle_081901 If you’re not familiar with Art Bell, though the nineties his overnight talk show went from being carried by a small network in the southwest to become the biggest program in its time slot in North America. At some point on, Bell went from being a maverick right wing talk host to creating a program specializing in topics supernatural, conspiratorial and unusual. And did I mention the aliens? It’s all there.

From his compound in the Nevada desert, Bell was doing a five hour show five nights a week and a three hour weekend program by the late 90’s. And then when you consider that he spends some of his off time chatting on his ham radio, the guy’s truly a compulsive broadcaster. And he’s had a erratic career in the meantime. Bell has “retired” from radio three times since 1998, and has been through a series of bad luck and tragedies over the years. The worst was the untimely death of his wife just a few weeks ago. Bell’s show is now owned by Clear Channel Communications and as the Coast to Coast franchise there’s been a number of other hosts. These days Bell just does the show on the weekends and George Noory is in charge during the week.

Here’s an extended clip that’s typical Art Bell. There’s breaking news in the paranormal world. A crop circle has appeared in England that looks like the “Face on Mars.” And the message? “Soon.” The guest is non-stop chatterbox and fringe science guru, Richard Hoagland.

850 – KOA Denver, CO

Talk radio giant in the west. I believe this still the furthest west AM band catch I’ve received in Michigan. It’s not a strong signal and there are few stations pulsing underneath, but it is 1100 miles away. I remember once I was in Alabama talking on the phone to a friend in California one night. We were both able to pick up KOA at the same time. That’s coverage.

It’s a small dramatic talk radio moment going into an ID and spot break. The topic? Mr. Condit and Ms. Levy. Talk radio was overloaded with Condit outrage that night. Unless you were following the crop circle situation.

Cjbc_tower 860 – CJBC Toronto, ON

Sounds it’s being broadcast from a tower down the road, but it’s coming from almost 300 miles away. I’ve heard a wide variety of music over the years on this French language CBC outlet– jazz, rock, classical, and some great ethnic stuff. Tonight it’s some lovely French pop.

870 – WWL New Orleans, LA

“The wind chill factor was probably about ninety below zero. The fuel in the fuel tank …looked like Vaseline.”

It’s the Road Gang trucker show with Dave Nemo, which I believe was the first all night trucking radio program. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Nemo has moved on to XM satellite radio and he’s sorely missed on the AM radio dial. When Nemo was playing non-stop classic country through the night and talkin’ truckdrivin’ this was the one of the best listens when driving in the dark across the eastern half of the U.S.

On this night Nemo is taking calls from aging truckers as they share harrowing tales of sub-zero trucking. I could listen to old geezers tell tales like this all night. And not a word about Condit.

870 or 880 – (Art Bell again)

This station is another mystery to me. I believe it’s at 870 KHz in a null from WWL (picked up by turning the antenna.) Again, it’s the ubiquitous Coast to Coast program here with Bell and Hoagland continuing the update on the mysterious crop circle.

Bell mentions his website, which was an extremely popular and huge site filled with information on strange topics. Lots of pictures. However, artbell.com is long gone now. Bell took it down when Clear Channel/Premiere officially took over the show. Now they have their own site. For a while, the original webmaster was selling CD-ROM’s of Art’s website online, and I’ve even seen the whole thing posted on Usenet.

880 – WCBS New York, NY

Traffic and weather on the 8’s. Construction on the LIE, Lincoln and Holland look great. 58 degrees. Top stores coming up. Something about a congressman and an intern. Tell your friends!

890 – WLS Chicago, IL

Condit_levy “Chandra and I never had a cross word.”

It’s ABC News, and a little Canadian news as I dip into CHML a couple of times. ABC features their sound bites from Connie Chung’s TV inquiry. And even the ABC news anchor seems angry at Condit. It’s bad enough that Bin Laden has gone missing all this time, but why hasn’t this man been brought to justice by now? Oh yeah, the other big story– A crazy Ukranian killer on the loose.

900 – CHML Hamilton, ON

Hah! The lead headline in Hamilton? The Ontario Teachers’ Federation elected Hamilton teacher Pearse Shannon as its 58th President. Gary Condit is four or five stories into this Canadian newscast. And then there’s Bubba O’Neal, with sports.

More of this next week.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)