Twenty years ago I went off the air at WDOM, 91.3FM in Providence, RI. Spent three years having a ball at that station.
When I first got there in 1985 we had an ancient Dukane (Now a part of GE Security Products) mixing board, but we did at least have two very nice Technics SL-1200 turntables as well as cartridge machines, a CD player, and a phone patch.
The board itself was so ancient that we took to carrying tools with us. It was always fun when mid-show you’d notice either a right or left side of one of the channels wasn’t working. Then you’d break out the soldering iron, spare wire, solder, etc. and make the repair right then and there.
By 1986 they’d replaced the old Dukane with it’s mixing knobs with a nice modern board with sliders, pre-cue units, etc.
We used to do our own reverberation by putting a boombox at the back of the studio and setting it to the frequency we were transmitting on. Then we’d adjust the volume so as to prevent feedback but give us a nice little reverb effect.
Then of course there were phase crossovers. Oh those were fun – get two copies of the same record and put them on the turntables and start them at the same time. When phase crossovers occurred there’d be a gradual muting and unmuting of certain elements of the music.
Then of course there was the night my partner in crime brought in an empty thread spool and a stub of a pencil. But the spool on the spindle, the record on top of that and secure with the pencil. Then counterweight the tone arm and you could play things backwards.
Then we also figured out how to boost our transmitting power. Sure that ran afoul of about three dozen FCC rules but who cared. It was a little non-commercial college radio station.
The phone patch was interesting. We didn’t have what in the industry is known as a gate. A gate would buffer anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds on on-air or phone content. In essence, what you said on the mic or phone didn’t go out for a few seconds. This lead to some interesting thing going out over the air.
It got so interesting that we developed a hair trigger reflex for any of the seven words you couldn’t say on radio or television. The second we even got wind we’d de-select the phone patch and then re-engage when all was clear.
The best part was digging through the record vault. We found some really old and interesting stuff in that vault. And we put it on the air. Why not, some of that stuff was really good.
Ticket giveaways were always fun. The phones would light up like Christmas trees and caller number n would get the tickets.
The most interesting part was when we did our final sign-off. There was a thank you party going on at one of the local clubs and so when we all showed up they were in for quite a shock. You see, our show was R&B/Funk/Soul. Here I was this skinny Italian kid that when on the air sounded black. It’s a little talent I have, speech alteration a la Michael Anthony Hall in Weird Science. But once the shock wore down, they realized I was touched by the funk, the whole funk, and nothing but the funk.
It was an experience I was glad to have.