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The 100' Dash
Before music was on a CD or programmed into a digital device, we had records made of vinyl. They were simpler times but had more challenges.
I'd lift the tonearm, swing it over and set the needle on the vinyl disc. With the turntable shut off and the pod level (volume) turned down, I would manually spin the record forward until the sound started in the cue speaker, then give it about a half turn backward. It's called "cueing a record," and it had to be just right.
If it was cued too tight, the audience would hear the turntable picking up speed. Too loose, and you'd end up with a one or two-second delay. Neither was good and would cause the inevitable phone call from the program director telling you, "Get it together, tighten up your show! Do I need to come to teach you how to cue up a record?" Blah, blah, blah.
Then, there was always the DJ who would rapidly move the record back and forth repeatedly right at the beginning of the audio, resulting in "cue burn." An unpleasant scratchy sound at the beginning of the song.
I had side 1-A ready to go. Right at noon, I pushed the button to start the front turntable. You'd play track one. A few songs would play, the guy would talk about each, telling a story. Some theme music played, there was a national commercial, then a break.
I cued the second track while playing a couple of local ads. After the second track finished, I'd give the weather forecast, read a public service announcement to promote a local organization's upcoming event, and then start the back turntable with side 1-B. Next, turning the front record over, on the flip side, was segment 2-A, ready to be cued up.
After starting each segment, I would sit back, listen to the music, pick up a magazine, or work on a commercial I was writing. Sometimes, I would look at the record, estimating the amount of time left on the segment, and decide to make a run to the bathroom. Inevitably, from the back of the building, I would hear the theme music that ended the segment. Dang!
A foot race ensued to see if I could get back to the studio before the turntable rolled into the next segment, or worse yet, made that scratchy, clicking noise when the needle reached the end of the record.
Desperately trying to reach the control board before any dead air happened, I would trip over the rack on the floor, the rack of cartridges which recorded commercials. Carts crashed about the room. I knocked over my cup of coffee, and line two on the telephone was flashing. Yep, the program director heard it.
While I was getting chewed out, my mind would wander: Whose bright idea was it to put the studios in the front of the radio station and the bathrooms in the back - one hundred feet away? How stupid is that? If I ever build a radio station, the john is going to be right outside the studio!
Line three, the request line, would ring. "Can you play..." "Sorry, we're not talking request right now; you can call back after 4:00. Thanks for listening! "
I hung up, then looked at the phone as if I was still talking to the caller, "Are you even listening to your radio? Geesh! We're in the middle of the weekly countdown."
After playing all four albums, front and back, the announcer came on with some closing comments and a teaser for next week's show, then said, "...until next week, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars! I'm Casey Kasem, and this is the American Top Forty."
After the theme music ended, I opened the microphone: "You've been listening to Casey Kasem's American Top Forty, on K-98, and now here's..." Line two lit up on the phone. It was the program director.
"He just said you were listening to the American Top Forty; you don't need to repeat it. You're supposed to play a station liner and start the next song..." Blah, blah, blah.
Times would change. We stayed on the cutting edge of programming - who was the most popular, the hottest show running. Our weekly countdown changed from Casey Kasem to Scott Shannon, then to Rick Dees. The countdown show changed, but I didn't. I still made the same mistakes - on purpose sometimes, to rile up the program director.
Years later, I bought the radio stations and relocated them to a different building. I designed the new layout, and you can bet your last dollar, I put the studios upfront and the bathrooms in the back...one hundred feet away. Why should these new young DJs have it any easier than I did when I started? Besides, what better way to entertain the program director on their day off?
One Sunday afternoon, I picked the phone up and dialed 682-8712 - line two. "Come on, Chad, pay attention! Plan your bathroom breaks better, and don't be writing commercials during your air shift. You know the rules. There's just no excuse for dead air!"
While I was chewing him out, he probably was drifting off, thinking, "Who puts the studios in the front of the building and the bathrooms in the back, one hundred feet away?" Blah, blah, blah...
When the program's theme music ended, Chad opened his mic. "You've been listening to Rick Dee's Weekly Top-Forty countdown on KOTM, and now here's..." I picked the phone up and dialed 6-8-2-8-7-1-2... I swear he did that just to rile me up.
Albeit more challenging, radio was a lot more fun when every station had vinyl records and real-live disc jockeys working the studio - especially DJs who had not perfected to 100' dash.
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