“Oh, good,” my wife Jean says sarcastically as we drive somewhere. “You’ve found another ‘70s song.”
You see, my wife thinks I live too much in the 1970s. She’s right, of course, though only half way. I also live in the 1980s. Not that I have any particular affinity for the era itself ... it just happens to be two decades that included some great radio. And I love radio. I’m one of those radio geeks that listens to “scoped” airchecks ... recordings of great radio stations and DJs with the music mostly removed but commercials, Dj announcing and newscasts usually intact.
More on that later.
It turns out, based on some quality time spent with the TuneIn app available for smartphones, I am not alone. There are apparently quite a few people who like radio from that era.
A quick search shows three - count ‘em three -- Tune In stations dedicated to WCFL, a top-40 station in Chicago once owned by the Chicago Federation of Labor, that hasn’t played top-40 tunes since 1976.
KFRC was a station in San Francisco that was once the RKO-owned sister station to KHJ (930 AM) here in Los Angeles. On Tune In you can hear not a tribute in the traditional sense, but a continually-running set of old airchecks from its top-40 glory days, generally focussed on the late 1970s to mid 1980s.
Closer to home we have The Mighty 690, mentioned here recently, that acts as a tribute to the Border Blaster XETRA (690 AM) from Tijuana, Mexico. One of the last of the powerful AM top-40s, it played the format until changing to oldies sometime around 1984.
And of course KHJ, which shows up with a few choices including one that doesn’t work, a station out of American Samoa using the name as a tribute but playing current music, and Radio Bop ‘60s that uses the slogan “Boss Radio is Back!”
Then there’s RichBroRadio programmed by Rich “Brother” Robbin and Bobby’s B100 (tribute to San Diego’s first FM top-40, KFMB) programmed by Bobby Rich, both legendary programers in Southern California radio.
BossBossRadio is one of the few that has actual current DJs spinning the records, though they are on tape, not live. Makes for some fun listening though ... complete with new jingles. Rachel Donahue is among the DJs you can hear (Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.), as is former KLAC (570 AM) adult standards programmer, Brad Chambers (Sundays from 4 to 7 p.m.)
I call them tribute stations, but that is a bit of a misnomer for a few. Some simply play music from the era and a few jingles, which is a great way to hear music but not truly a real tribute. Stations were not ever about the music. Or the jingles. Or the contests. It was the full package, and that included DJs who were real stars. This made radio that was bigger than life. Regardless, check them out, find some of your own, and let me know what you think.
I’m not sure how much longer Richard “Uncle Ricky” Irwin wants to continue with ReelRadio.Com, an online museum of airchecks -- the most you can find in one place.
It’s a lot of work ... a true labor of love ... and the costs to cover the running of the site, which includes paying the appropriate music licensing fees for the “unscoped” airchecks -- those with music still included -- continues to rise.
The thought that the site may go down scares me (see how I live in the past, above). Hopefully donations will increase in the next few months, which in turn may convince Irwin to continue; in the meantime, if you haven’t ever visited the site, head on over. A small donation of $10 gives access until February, 2016, which is the site’s 20th anniversary. More donations will help the site live longer, but Irwin hopes to make it to at least that date if possible.