The Country

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I wish I could travel more. Not a lot more, but a little more. But this year’s been tougher than most and even the quick excursions upstate haven’t been as common as in recent years. For any number of reasons I’m not so picky about traveling. Just about anywhere’s interesting for a day or two. And as is my nature, I’m always curious about what’s on the AM dial there. While moving through the FM Band can feel a little like strolling through the local mall, a journey though the AM dial can be more akin to viewing a town from railroad car window (if you’ve ever done that). You may actually get a feeling for how a town gets its work done. And perhaps a sense of how the other half lives. That kind of thing.

What I really like (and what I’d like do a lot more often if I had my way) is to get as close to nowhere as I can, within reason. To drive and drive until you can see the Milky Way clearly and distinctly after dark, and where local radio stations don’t really exist. Then when the sun sets on my picnic table or in the rented cottage I’m suddenly closer to the entire continent and the rest of the world when I turn on my radio. It’s such a powerful feeling to turn through the shortwave dial with no stray RF bumping and buzzing and whining through the frequencies. And then when I look up at night I can almost get a grip on my place in the galaxy. Or at least it feels that way, which is good enough for me.

That didn’t happen this year, so my almost annual trip to see the family in Michigan was even more anticipated. The dusty trail surrounding our galaxy is a little vague in the sky there. And the lights of sad old Flint have their corner of the sky. But the stars are much better. And so is the RF pollution. So, from my brother’s deck at night I still occasionally find my place in the broader circles of existence when the weather’s good. And I hear some radio too.

But that’s not what this post is about. Here I’m featuring the sound of small town radio in daylight. This particular station transmits just south of Flint, and it’s an earnest little heart-warmer. The call letters are WCXI, and this isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about this modest wonder. It’s a simple classic country outlet. No frills and only a thousand watts. But the music’s great.

WCXI – Fenton, MI August 2000 pt 1 of 4
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Brian Barnum (who I believe is the DJ in all four of these airchecks) is rock solid. Great voice. Low key banter. He doesn’t sound all that old, but his approach is old-fashioned. No matter what happens during the breaks between the music, whether he’s doing a live ad or talking about the weather or a local event, he’s usually arranged some seamless way to introduce the next song within the subject matter at hand. He’s almost as good as Tony Oren that way.
                           
I didn’t go through these recordings in any detail, but I did listen to quite a bit of them as I prepared them to post. I heard some hits I knew, some singles I never heard before and a few neo-traditional things I liked quite a bit. My only complaint was that I don’t know that heard any western swing. I mean, you gotta play Bob Wills every once in a while.

As I mentioned, I already posted a few airchecks from WCXI. And I go more in depth into the history of the station in this post. I just happened to catch a few hours during this trip. Just for my own enjoyment, and I thought I should share. There’s some funny whirrish noise on these recordings, which is mostly noticeable during the mic breaks. Some problem with some stray RF combined with some an auto-gain issue with the radio, tape deck or the radio station. If you can get through Brian’s breaks the music will blossom through relatively clear once again. And don’tcha just love a mandolin?

WCXI – Fenton, MI August 2000 pt 2 of 4
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A lot of people associate country music specifically with the American South. But once you get into the broad appeal of the genre you realize that country and western is as at home in the plains of Canada as it is in Kentucky or Texas or California. And in Michigan..well, that’s somewhere in between all that. And there’s lots of southern transplants around Detroit and Flint from the era when the automotive industry was still healthy and profitable.

One thing that’s always been associated with country music is the hardscrabble life, having to make a living with your hands. (Or trying to…) And that’s been part of the southeastern Michigan lifestyle since the settlers arrived. Through the 20th century a lot of farmers came to this part of the country to get the best jobs an unskilled laborer could hope for– building automobiles. Like my grandfathers. But they didn’t live long enough to see their beloved Pontiac and Oldsmobile brand names disappear into history. Like we are.

WCXI – Fenton, MI August 2000 pt 3 of 4
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After you spend some years away from the area of the world that raised you, you start to get a better grip on the character traits of the culture where you learned to be a person. At least that’s been my experience. When I go back to Michigan I don’t so much feel at home as I feel almost reluctantly defined by the unassuming flatlands surrounding Detroit. The rust belt is full of reservation and restraint and a measured way of talking. WCXI always reminded of that introverted Michigan countryside. (Or at least the few miles you can see of it from US-23 out that way.) I hear it in some of the songs as well as their paced and simple approach to broadcasting. And I’m fond of the understated enthusiasm of Brian Barnum on the radio. It kinda reminds me of how I prefer to experience life in the face of adversity. Calm and Michigan. Nothing extra special.

WCXI – Fenton, MI August 2000 pt 4 of 4
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The last aircheck here is from the end of their broadcast day. But at least they’re still there, every day until six. And I don’t know for sure, but I suspect WCXI is one of those stations where the DJ’s might still be choosing some, if not all, of the music you hear when they’re on the air. Is that radical or what? Can’t they afford some consultants?

And if you happen to find yourself within the range of their one thousand watt transmitter you might wanna can call in and make a request. But please only one per day. Give everybody a chance.

Big Rig Tidings

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Ho ho and happy happy! It’s getting to be that time of year (if you know what I mean). While I don’t hate Christmas and all the accompanying festivities– the absurd shopping rituals, the ripe holiday cliches and all immature spirituality of the season have always been not just problematic, but almost tragic to me every year. Even after having a kid a few years ago it didn’t completely quell the queasy feelings of the season. The coming of the winter holidays still feels more like a saccharine onslaught every year rather than something… sublime (Okay, I kinda like the dead tree thing. And all the lights…) But what really gets my gut churning is ALL that old-fashioned Christmas music.

So, with this post I wrestle against my better judgment and go beyond my personal limits of good taste and present you– Christmas music. And before I say anything else– I am sorry. But I won’t apologize for great radio. And that’s what you always got when John Parker was bumping around in the dark.

One of the most popular posts here at the Radio Kitchen has been “Trucking Radio As It Used To Was,” which included a few hours of the great John Parker as the weekend host of the Road Gang on WWL. Just look at the comments on this post and feel the love. Not for me (of course), but for Mr. Parker. And that makes me happy. While getting a web obit on an obscure radio blog isn’t exactly a star on the walk of fame, it’s better than nothing. When I went to write the piece I was saddened (and almost shocked that) there was almost no web presence representing John Parker and his legacy of great overnight radio across America.

If you’re not familiar with John Parker or the Road Gang, let me briefly explain. From the 1970′s into the 1990′s or so, there were three or so all-night radio shows that ran on clear channel AM stations in the south, with programming that specifically catered to cross country truck drivers. And while advertising from obscure trucker gear and services made them exotic and fun for kooky night owls like me and others, what made these shows truly wonderful was the music– lots of classic country and western music. And plenty of songs about trucking life.

These days, what’s left of that trucking and country music radio legacy has been compressed into one XM (now Sirius-XM) satellite radio station, known as “Open Road.” But sadly, old John Parker didn’t make the move up to the new technology, and has since passed on. And if you want to read more, check out my original post on the man and his music (and especially the comments).

While I’ve planned to put together another post (or maybe more) of Parker’s airchecks, the other day I recalled that I probably still had these particular tapes at the bottom of a closet here at headquarters.– a couple of Road Gang programs hosted by Parker from the 1988 Christmas season. And now they’re yours too (If you want ‘em).

WWL – The Road Gang w-John Parker 12-23-88 pt 1  47:14
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This first tape is actually not so painful, as far as holiday nausea potential. It’s still a couple days before Christmas, so the seasonal stuff is just part of the mix anyway. In fact there’s some deliciously weird stuff that I’d forgotten, like a Red Sovine holiday melodrama I haven’t heard in years. And lots of trucker-style corn (And I do mean corn).

WWL – The Road Gang w-John Parker 12-23-88 pt 2  45:34
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However, tape number two is full pedal to the metal Christmas carol baby Jesus birthday from end to end. After all, it is Christmas Eve 1988. I think even I might have been a little less seasonally cynical way back then. Maybe.

WWL – The Road Gang w-John Parker 12-25-88 pt 1  44:10
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So, if you like your holiday sounds maudlin and religious and soupy, you’re gonna have a good time with this hour and a half of the Road Gang. However, this Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday night, when Honest John offered his weekly music history lesson (AKA “Country Music The Way It Used To Was”) for the last two hours of the Road Gang. So the tunes may be hard for a Christmas curmudgeon such as myself to bear, but the second part of this aircheck does offer some the rarities, as well as Parker’s insights and historical perspective.

Unlike just about any other audio I might post here, when I encoded this deep Christmas aircheck I had to turn down the volume. Sorry. I couldn’t do it. But I hope you enjoy it, if you’ve got the stomach (or the spirit) for a big dose of xmas audio, you’ll probably have a good time.

WWL – The Road Gang w-John Parker 12-25-88 pt 2  46:49
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Meanwhile, I’m off to finish up some preparations. And to gather a little fortitude. I do wish you well, and hope you get and give all the jolly and joy and jingle that you can handle during these trying times. And thanks again to John Parker, for plenty of inspired overnight radio, and for sharing the love and lore of country music. Which reminds me, I have a New Years Eve tape of Parker on the Road Gang around here somewhere. When I get a chance, I’ll root though those boxes in the closet again soon and see if I can dig it up.

I do hope you have fun, however you interact with the solstice and the coming new year. And good luck to you (and yours)!

Trucking Radio, As It Used To Was

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Once you get the bug to DX the AM band, out of your expanded choice of stations you typically find yourself a regular listener to some far-flung station after the sun sets. When I was a kid in southeastern Michigan, I got hooked on WCFL in Chicago, specifically listening to Bob Dearborn night after night. He had this late-night feature “Long Gold" where he’d play the full album version of a song that would normally abbreviated on top 40 radio (or perhaps not played at all). Seems silly now, but hearing the full version of the Animal’s “House of the Rising Sun,” or “Sky Pilot” seemed pretty heavy back then. (Remember when “heavy” was a good thing?)

Anyway, my longest DX love affair with a far-off radio station came a few years later. While still in Michigan, I came across the “Road Gang” on WWL in New Orleans one night in the mid 70′s. And for the next twenty years or so, WWL was always a signal I’d seek out when I could get my nocturnal fingers on a tuning knob.

Booming up the Mississippi basin, WWL comes in like a local many nights in the Great Lakes region, around a thousand miles to the north of the transmitter. In my listening experience, WWL at 870kHz has been the most dependable long-distance DX on the AM band. Although the reception isn’t nearly as reliable or clear here in the northeast.

Certainly, the original appeal of picking up the Road Gang back then was just how exotic it was to a Midwestern kid in the suburbs. The host back then was a guy named Charlie Douglas, and the music was old shit-kickin’ country music. Better yet, I discovered a whole country sub-genretrucker music. Songs like “Girl on the Billboard” and “A Kiss and the Keys,” are still favorites here at the house.

Then there were national weather reports, given by state and interstate highway. And commercials for every aspect of the trucker lifestyle. There was a time travel appeal as well. The whole approach to radio was from an era before I was born. Each time check was tagged as “King Edward Cigar Time.”

Actually, The Road Gang kind of started a radio format– the all-night trucking show. Today there’s a number of them, and none nearly as good. Douglas hosted the program for 13 years, until moving into some big national gig in Nashville. And weekend host of the Road Gang, Dave Nemo, moved into Charlie’s weeknight spot. And despite the rambling chatter that got me this far into the post, I’ve finally gotten around to the subject at hand– The man who moved into Nemo’s weekend slot on the Road Gang: John Parker.

Now considered radio legends, Charlie Douglas and Mr. Nemo were fun to listen to at the helm of the Road Gang– homespun showmen for the working class. But for a bundle of reasons John Parker was absolutely my favorite host on the show. With a big rugged baritone and a grab-bag of cornball slang and 18-wheel idioms, Parker was a humble charismatic voice in the night. A true radio companion for truckers, night owls and country music lovers.

So, let’s get to the meat of the matter. Here’s a full ninety minutes or so of Parker on WWL (in two parts) from January of 1988. As I said, WWL in New Orleans has a heck of a signal into the Great Lakes Region. Hear for yourself. Radio waves traveling roughly 920 miles arrive amazingly intact upon arrival. One thing you get used to when spend much time listening to distant AM stations, is "fading." You find that even loud and clear signals sometimes slip away into near nothingness (or reveal other faint stations on the same frequency). But the gaps are usually brief, and like so many things with AM & SW listening, often unpredictable. But the fading in this reception is pretty forgiving, and and doesn’t happen all that often. I think I made this recording because the signal was just so damn strong that night.

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This aircheck is unscoped, meaning nothing was edited out, including the news and commercials. As you can hear from the “Interscan” weather reports, it was a cold snow flurry kind of night across America. And John himself was nursing a cold, but it hardly dampened his spirits. It’s Dave Nemo’s voice you hear on the truck stop commercials. I remember when I first set foot in the Slidell Union 76 trucks stop after hearing those ads from afar for so many years, I felt like I was on hollowed ground or something.

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Yes, all the the trucker trappings of the show were a lot of fun, both for the real working class authenticity, as well as the corny mythos of American Trucker. But it was all the the great music that kept me coming back to the Road Gang over the years. This one program is responsible for making me a lifelong country music fan. The music format of the Road Gang was deep into the history of C&W– pin-balling all night from honky-tonk to old-timey to western swing, bluegrass, Nashville, Outlaw… The whole 40 acres. Each night a unique rich patch of tunes.

Then late each Saturday night, Parker held court for two hours on the AM dial with one of the finest music programs I’ve ever heard on the AM dial– "Country Music The Way It Used To Was." No slouch in music history, Parker was assisted by a musicologist or two in putting the show together. And each week he conducted a freewheeling country and western seminar, featuring hits and rarities from the first 40 years of country recordings. What a great program this was. So often, a deep musicology driven radio show like is presented by some excitable geek host, or a dispassionate or unprofessional one. And they’re like shiny museum exhibits on FM. With Parker you get history, music and great radio, and his program is on the historic AM band, where the music was first heard.

So let me offer you a couple of 47 minute chunks of "Country Music The Way It Used To Was." This first aircheck comes over a year after the first two in this post. And in that time I had actually moved from Michigan to New Orleans. So instead of having to put a special radio in a special place at a special time to pick up WWL, it was now a loud and clear local. So these two episodes of "Country Music The Way It Used To Was" are crystal clear AM broadcasts. However these airchecks are slightly edited. When I made these recordings I edited out most of the commercials, as well as the weather and news.

The first selection comes from February 26, 1989. (You may note that Parker makes note of their new satellite connection/syndication with KRVN in Lexington, Nebraska. It was a way of opening up the west to the Road Gang (foreshadowing the show’s eventual national syndication).  Nice eclectic mix in this hour– some tasty Texas Playboys, wacky Lew Chlldre and a bit of very early Johnny Cash (Little Woolly Booger?).

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The next offering is from "Country Music The Way It Used To Was" broadcast August 13, 1989. Some solid from Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, who were also passengers on the fatal plane crash that snuffed out Patsy Cline’s life as well. But what always gets my attention when I hear this archive are the songs by Hank William’s wife, Audrey. Wow. I never knew she was talented that way.

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In ended up in Florida for the first half of the 1990′s, and despite the fact that WWL’s transmitter is a few hundred miles closer to Tampa, the signal doesn’t have nearly the oomph it does beaming toward the north of New Orleans. I rarely picked it up while I was there. When I moved to New York City in ’97 I totally lost track of the Road Gang until I got home internet a year or two later. Then when looking online I discovered the program itself had relocated to Nashville. And although it was still syndicated on WWL, Parker had fallen off the schedule

In the summer of 1999, I sent a few emails to some folks at WWL trying to find out what happened to Parker and whether he was still on the air somehow. When I finally did get a response, it wasn’t good news. “John Parker still works for us,” the woman wrote. “He’s the overnight board operator… on from 11pm to 5am.” Board operator? One of my favorite radio voices was reduced to pushing buttons and adjusting levels? Don’t get me wrong, I think radio engineering is a noble profession. But it was distressing to hear that a great radio talent was reduced to technical duties.

The email from WWL gave me the number to reach Parker at the controls and assured that if I called in the middle of the night “John might be inclined to pick up.” As much as John Parker was an inspiration, I wasn’t inclined to reach out as a fan on the phone. I mean, what would I say?: “I thought you were really great on the radio. What happened?”

One thing I did learn from my time in New Orleans is how hard it is to leave the Crescent City. Especially if it’s always been your home. If you’ve never been there you might not understand, but suffice to say New Orleans has a sustaining quailty for those who love its humid maternal grace. (Which made the Katrina fiasco all the more tragic.) So it’s only a guess, but tend to think Parker didn’t follow the show to Nashville because he wasn’t willing to run away from home.

Then again, the music-heavy trucking radio format on continent-covering AM stations (as created by Charlie Douglas and others in the 1970′s) is long gone anyway.  Beside’s the Road Gang on WWL, there were also semi-national overnight shows out of 50,000 watt AM giants WLW in Cincinatti and WBAP in Fort Worth. Now trucking radio on AM is like most of what you hear on the dial– syndicated talk radio, only instead of discussing politics or sports, its trucker talk. Which can be kinda fun, but it’s not like hearing rare Bill Monroe tracks at three in the morning.

But the funny thing about that triumvirate of trucking radio shows that used to rule the night, is that like some rock supergroup the big named hosts from each program joined forces a few years ago to invest their decades of radio into an truckin’ all the time national satelittle station. The "Truckin’ Bozo" from WLW and the "Midnight Cowboy" from WBAP have teamed up with Dave Nemo to host their own programs on the "Open Road" channel on XM Radio. Since I’ve never been near an XM radio, I’ve never heard "Open Road." And while I realize that time marches on, I still have an aversion to paying a fee to listen to radio.

A year or two ago I ran across a fellow traveler in the radio business, and in the course of our introductory conversation we discovered we had both worked in New Orleans, which somehow led to the topic of John Parker. I found out this man I just met had been a fellow board-op with John. Apparently, Parker never let on that he used to be one of the hosts of the Road Gang for many years. As I write this I don’t recall all the details of our conversation, what stuck with me is that although this guy really liked John Parker, in real life he wasn’t exactly the easy-going gentleman I heard on the radio. He noted that Parker could be moody and odd. Even an introvert. Or maybe he was just pissed off that since he couldn’t or wouldn’t move to Nashville with the Road Gang that he was reduced to babysitting knobs instead of talking to half of America? And the most significant fact gleaned from that conversation was that John Parker had actually stopped living not that long ago.

So, my little anecdote of radio glory ends on a sad note. Both John Parker and thoughtful overnight music programs like his on U.S. clear channel AM stations are really part of history now (OK, there’s still WSM…) DXing medium wave just isn’t as much fun. And personally, I guess I blew my chance to pick up the phone and thank him for all those nights of great music and radio fellowship.

So, if you never heard Parker on the Road Gang years ago, I humbly implore you to have a listen. And get a taste of what it was like to have Honest John Parker bumpin’ around in the dark, makin’ all that noise.

How I Love My Country

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

A couple weeks ago I went home. Not exactly, but close enough. I went to Michigan. We were subjected to the incredible hospitality of my brother and his family and had a great visit. I spent many hours in their suburban backyard listening to the radio with the recorder engaged, scanning the broadcast bands for my radio series on this blog. As I ford through those tapes and digest all the reception, I thought I’d share something special I found on the AM dial there– WCXI.

During past visits, I hadn’t paid much attention to WCXI. Years ago, a contemporary country station with those call letters at about the same place on the dial was a mainstay in the Detroit market, and when I came across it I just assumed it was the same station. It isn’t. The old WCXI ceased to exist in the early 1990′s, and their AM frequency (1130 kHz) is now the home of yet ANOTHER sports talk station. This WCXI, based out of Fenton, Michigan (just southwest of Flint) broadcasts at 1160 on the dial, and grabbed up the old call letters in 2000 to help brand their new “classic country” format in southeastern Michigan. And six years later, in an era where AM dial music stations across the country have been almost completely replaced by talk, news, sports and ethnic brokered programming, WCXI is bucking this trend and doing it the old fashioned way.

I don’t know exactly when classic country became a format, but I suspect it occurred in the early 1990′s, coinciding with either the rise of Garth Brooks or the runaway success of Billy Ray Cyrus and his “Achy Breaky Heart.” Country music was changing, and traditional artists and old classics were increasingly left behind on the newly popular “hot country” stations to make way for the new sound. While never a big player in the U.S. radio scene, the classic country format filled a niche out there for an (aging) audience who wanted to hear fiddles, pedal steel guitars, mandolins and rollicking Nashville rave-ups coming out of their radio. And who could blame them.

Well, a decade and a half has passed, and in the world of radio programming that’s a long time. A fringe format that appeals to middle-aged to older listeners doesn’t get a lot of oxygen these days, when advertisers have nearly abandoned trying to sell to anybody older than thirty assuming they are already “brand loyal” (and/or not as easily subject to marketing ploys). In fact, the most successful format for the older set, talk radio, is filled with ads for OLD people. Any talk radio listener quickly becomes familiar with a number of anti-aging supplements and local cancer and heart disease treatment facilities via advertising. Here in New York, I’ve always gotten a good laugh from the jingle for the “Hebrew Home For The Aged” with the lyrics– “This is the place you’ll remember…” I don’t think so.

Not so on WCXI. The advertising is almost embarrassingly intimate, and not cynically based on demographic studies and focus groups. Almost all the ads I heard on WCXI were live D.J.’s reading ad copy, not produced spots and nothing national. It’s advertising for adults, not just senior citizens, with ads for car repair outlets, shops, restaurants and assorted services. You can bet the ad time is CHEAP and the account executives have to work overtime to make a living. Instead of the usual national ad campaigns and overtly-ironic (i.e. Geiko Insurance, etc) jokey stuff, you get earnest appeals to patronize striving local businesses. For people who love this station, it’s easy to imagine they might be swayed by an ad on WCXI just as a way of supporting the music they bring into their lives everyday. It’s the way advertising was supposed to work.

And why or how in 2006 could a station playing grandad’s hillbilly favorites survive, and possibly thrive, north of the Mason-Dixon line? It probably has something to do with vehicles.

Much of the glory and tragedy of southeastern Michigan is based in the automotive industry. In the early to mid-20th century, the area thrived making cars and car parts for America and the world. Decades ago, when the U.S. was transforming from a rural economy to an industrial one, landing a job in the automotive industry was an unprecedented surefire ticket to a middle class life for unskilled workers. And not unlike today’s influx of immigrants across the Mexican border, many thousands of job hungry Americans from the south and southern midwest flooded into southeastern Michigan looking for profitable work they couldn’t find in their region of the country. I can trace my own origin to this migration as both my grandfathers came to Michigan from farming communities south of the state to build cars and trucks for the rest of their lives.

This migration brought a southern flavor to parts of lower Michigan. When I was younger, small towns like Ypsilanti and Walled Lake were jokingly referred to as Ypsi-tucky or Wall-tucky, in reference to the number of the twangy accents you might find there. I once met a teenage girl who was born and raised in Saline, Michigan who had a genuine Tennessee hills accent, despite spending her whole life an hour away from the Canadian border.

Of course, country and western music is now popular all over North America and around the world. But the older and more traditional stuff  is rarely heard on the radio these days (except for certain shows on non-commercial stations). While I don’t have the facts and figures to prove it, you can imagine that there are still some full-time classic country stations in places like Texas and across the south, and most are probably on AM. Then there’s WSM, the AM clear channel powerhouse in Nashville (which can be heard many nights across eastern North America). Still the home of the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night, WSM almost shifted to a talk radio format, but loud protestations from fans of WSM’s country music heritage prevailed, the station did not become a run of the mill propaganda outlet.

Now, those of you who have followed some of my extended musings on this blog know that I listen to a lot of talk radio. (And if you’re as sickened and/or bored by all the right wing talk garbage flooding the dial as I am, you know how difficult this can be.) However, I still I have a soft spot in my heart (or my head) for AM music radio, specifically stations that program music originally made to be played on AM (or jukeboxes). Call me strange, or old fashioned (you wouldn’t be the first), but I sort of PREFER to hear old pop music on AM instead of FM, or in any digitally rendered scenario. I often find it jarring to hear an old song I grew up with in hi-fi stereo on an FM oldies station. It just sounds wrong. I enjoy the old hits in mono, as well as limited, compressed and modulated in an amplitude fashion. But I don’t experience them that way very often these days.

As I noted in an earlier post, there is not one full-time English language music station on the AM dial in New York City. And not only is music leaving the AM dial in general, but commercial radio formats across the board have dropped almost any songs recorded before the 1960′s or 70′s. So, it doesn’t take a psychic to realize that classic country stations like WCXI aren’t going to be around forever. And while I was recording faraway AM and shortwave reception by night, I was having a blast cranking up WCXI around the house and in the car during the day. Toward the end of my trip, I realized I really needed to capture some WCXI to take home.

So, here’s all the WCXI I managed to tape while I was in Michigan, all available below for your downloading and listening pleasure.

This is "Sweet Sue" filling in on Friday for the regular host, Brian, who apparently had some car trouble that day.

WCXI – 07-07-06 pt 1  47:03

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WCXI – 07-07-06 pt 2  47:02

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WCXI – 07-07-06 pt 3  47:02

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I’m not sure if the DJ in the recordings below ever mentioned his name on these recordings. In fact, he sounds like he’s been on the radio for all of a month. But that’s okay, he tries hard enough and seems to get all the song titles and product names right. (The little bit of buzzing and whining interference you hear on these recordings thankfully dissipates quickly.).

WCXI – 07-08-06 pt 1  55:38

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WCXI – 07-08-06 pt 2  56:27

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As you can hear, WCXI is obviously a low budget operation. While the jocks are endearing, a lot of the air talent I heard on the station had a bit of a “minimum wage” quality– lots of goofs, repetition and cornball sentiment. But I gotta tell you, when I travel around the U.S. I kinda like to hear the sound of earnest amateur announcers on local radio. It can help flush some of the accumulated irony out of your media intake valves.

If you love old country music, or the sound of REALLY local smalltown radio, you may find a lot to love about WCXI. To get the full effect, take your MP3 player out in the car and hook it up to your stereo and take a drive down a lonely two lane road somewhere on a sunny day. It doesn’t have to be a flat tree-lined Michigan highway to have the same effect.

I also have another post about WCXI which includes almost four more hours of airchecks. You can find it right here.

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