If you get in the habit of digging into the AM band at night, you’re bound to become familiar with some of the big regional 50,000 watt “clear channel” stations in your part of the world. Growing up in Michigan, stations like WCFL in Chicago, WLW in Cincinnati, and WGAR in Cleveland usually came in like locals at night. The east coast from Boston down to the Carolina’s offered all sorts of signals. Often WWL in New Orleans and WSB in Atlanta came in strong as well.
In the late 1980’s I had gotten into the habit of listening to KMOX in St. Louis on Saturday nights, and despite the fact that I happened to move across the country from Michigan to Louisiana, and then on to Alabama within that handful of years, I never lost the ability to tune it in. And what originally hooked my to KMOX on the weekends was an excellent big band program hosted by a old fellah named Charlie (Menese?). Although it was a great show (I’ll post one some time), and probably a long standing feature of KMOX programming I wasn’t able to find any reference to it on the web. However, what I really grew to love was the show that immediately followed– “Music and Musings” with Tony Oren. (I found one online reference to Tony’s show here.)
Oren’s program, which like the big band show is long gone by now, was the last of a breed of programming I sorely miss, grown-up easy listening. By that I don’t mean the seconal super syrup of “beautiful music,” or the yawny yearning of a “quiet storm.” No, I mean the low-key jazz flavored pop of “middle of the road” radio, specifically the sound of that format by night.
Okay, there’s the nostagia factor I won’t totally deny. If you grew up in the 1960’s, this is probably the kind of radio your parents listened to. And as I’ve written previously, there was a wonderful overnight program on WJR in Detroit, “Night Flight 760,” that played an array of smart easy listening that is embedded in my childhood memories as some of the best radio comfort food I’ve ever heard. And Music and Musings with Tony Oren was the last time I’ve heard anything like it. And I happened to record a show or two back in 1990 when I was living in Mobile, one of which I can now offer you here.
KMOX – Music and Musings with Tony Oren 10-27-90 pt 1
Yes, it’s true you can still find a few radio stations offering this kind of content. Over the last few years, I’ve known a number of like-minded friends who seek out stations who carry on with pre-rock pop music, calling them “old man stations.” It’s the only radio format left for seniors, and it’s certainly endangered. You’ll can still find a few local stations carrying on this kind of programming in senior hotspots in places like Florida and Arizona. And there the “Music of Your Life” syndicated/satellite thing (which I hear quite often on small town stations when I’m on the road), which is listenable but with no surprises. And AM 740 in Toronto’s mix of oldies and pre-oldies probably makes a lot of old fart DXers across North America feel at home, but I think the kind of radio you hear on this aircheck is probably extinct. These days, stations that cater to the oldest demographic groups inevitably mix in Elvis, the Beatles and the Carpenters. It’s not the same. “Music and Musings” offers something different. Something gone. And there’s nothing rock and roll about it.
To me, a guy like Tony Oren is the penultimate announcer. Just warm enough. Even a little dry. And able to conversationally segue together every element of the broadcast with simple panache and confidence. His pacing is remarkable. It’s not easy to sound so relaxed coming across as sleepy, preposterous, or just boring. I wish I heard more announcers like this today. A total professional. I guess you could call it style. To my ears, so many NPR types strive for this kind of presence and fail.
KMOX – Music and Musings with Tony Oren 10-27-90 pt 2
But it’s not NPR, it’s just musings. A little anecdote about ol’ Dan Rostenkowski and a big lobbyist funded luxury junket in the tropics here, and some this day in history stuff there. But this aircheck is unedited, and in the second half you get the a CBS newscast. It documents the point in history where Pappy Bush broke his moronic “Read my lips!” campaign promise and signed on to a tax increase and forever pissed off some of his Republican buddies (and may have cost him the 1992 election).
However, I’m not posting this for the news or the commercials, but as an artifact of long gone breezy broadcasting. And as a personal remembrance of all those Saturday nights years ago when I tuned KMOX in on the clock radio and shut out the light.
Tagged with: easy listening • KMOX • tony oren
A follow up to this post (including another aircheck of Tony Oren) can be found here.