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Moar inside-baseball music-biz schtuff!

Yet another repurposed comment I thought enough of you CF Lifers would find interesting, informative, and/or arcane enough to be promoted up to main-page status. First, the conversation-starter, courtesy of hhluce.

I think most “classic rock” stations are simply the digital version of a 24 hour tape loop without any human intervention, utterly soulless and boring, you can tell what time it is by what song is playing, day after day.

That triggered my response, which quickly outgrew its comment-section knickers and right on into a pair of Big Boy pants, before I ever even thought of hitting the “Post comment” button.

Oh, that is definitely the case, HH, has been for years and years. Mr Bill—a dear friend of mine who plied his On-Air Personality trade in unforgettable fashion for many years at WRFX in Charlotte (99.7 FM), after which extended star-turn he made his escape to the Florida beaches—used to gripe to me about the new radio-station production process all the time; he positively HATES it, as do all the other DJs I know. There’s a very good reason for their disgruntlement, one I can readily understand and sympathize with completely.

These guys (and several gals, too), without exception, grew up listening obsessively to radio, moved so much by the spell cast over them by the sound of those disembodied voices—cracking wise, spinning records, unleashing ad lib and in-the-moment a rock-steady flow of frenzied, improvisational platter chatter without a single stutter, stumble, or moment’s uncertain pause to give the more reflective and organized side of his DJ brain a chance to catch up—that a sweet, sweet dream took form deep in their hearts.

For all those kids who, like Mr Bill, got swept away in radio’s powerful thrall, the more they heard of this fresh new necromancy, the more adamant and implacable their resolution to somehow, someday, some way become a part of it themselves, no matter how lowly, thankless, and unheralded their first paid position in the business might be.

Nothing under Heaven would prevent or dissuade them from working their way up the radio ladder to the one place they so desperately wanted to be: all alone at the console in a dimly lit late-night broadcast booth, headphones on, waiting for the red “ON AIR” sign to light up, cueing him to start his spiel. In those anticipatory moments, the fearful pressure of being The Man On The Spot suddenly felt less intimidating and more exciting to The Man In The Booth.

These DJs were passionate about broadcast radio, deeply proud of the essential role they played in its continuation and development. This bewitchment was a heady, intoxicating blend which, over time, gave birth to something we might think of as a beast with three heads: the Music Historian, the Raconteur, and the Keeper of the Rock and Roll Flame. In the form’s glorious heyday, the DJ was the life of the radio party.

In certain well-known cases—Alan Freed, Bill Randle, Murray the K, Mad Daddy Giggle, Jack Spector, to name but a few—the DJ’s impact on rock and roll history was as profound and meaningful as that of the artists themselves. The contributions of these gifted radio icons can’t be overstated, and ought never to be forgotten.

So naturally, when their once-exalted, multifaceted role was reduced by the empty suits at Corporate to the ignominious one of mere talking robots blessed with an unusually mellifluous speaking voice, it hurt. It hurt a LOT. After being admired for their unique and irreplaceable talent, the poor saps were suddenly no more than hired hands. The Suits hadn’t just taken a job, a piffling (if well-compensated) livelihood, from them; they had taken the love of their lives. No wonder they’re pissed off about it; far as I’m concerned, they damned well oughta be. Hell, who wouldn’t?

And from what Bill tells me, a talking robot is exactly what a DJ is nowadays. He goes into the studio— no longer a broadcast studio, but a recording studio—no more than one day each week to spend a few hours laying down his between-songs chatter, which the tech-heads will then splice into place alongside the ads, announcements, and other such. When that labor of (something well-removed from) love is done, the station will have an entire week’s worth of dreary, inanimate pap securely in the can, as the tech-heads like to say—”the product” (as the tech-heads also like to say) carefully primped, manicured, and emasculated, to then be pumped out to touch-screen automobile receivers. This manufacturing process concludes with “the product” droning at modest volume from factory-installed Blaupunkt speakers, to the benumbed disregard of zombified commuters stuck in freeway traffic everywhere.

Annnnd SUCCESS! WE DID IT! High fives all around! Don’t leave me hangin’, bra!!

Sadly, even tragically, rock and roll radio is no longer a creative enterprise or artistic endeavor. It’s a fucking soul-blighting assembly line. This is decidedly NOT an improvement. Y’know, in case you were wondering about that.

No spontaneity; no creativity; no nothin’, really. Provocatively clever witticisms, raucous innuendo, or off-the-cuff flights of rhetorical fancy will NOT be permitted. No wandering off-script; all lines are to be rigorously toed, all rules strictly obeyed. Anyone caught thinking for themselves or attempting honest, uncensored communication with the listening audience will be caned.

Having glommed total control over broad regional swaths of broadcast facilities, the besuited Grey Entities of Big Radio Consolidated Inc™ have surgically excised any sign of life, warmth, or humanity from the jivin’ and thrivin’ medium they so brutally murdered. Those passionate DJs who once soared untrammeled to gleeful heights of rock and roll glory are now permanently ground-bound—their once-mighty wings clipped, their voices effectively neutered, their freewheeling creativity leashed and chained.

They loved radio, but radio didn’t love them back. Which isn’t just their personal loss, it’s everybody’s.

And there you have it, folks. I just called my homeboy Bill, a solid CF fan of long standing, to let him know about this post, and will text him a link to it when he gets back to me (Bill keeps busy enough that the first call is usually just the opening gambit of the process; after a day or so’s wait, he’ll call back). Let’s see if he shows up here to enlighten us further on this whole mess, and perhaps correct any errors or clear up any misconceptions on my part, both of which are always a possibility. I do hope he will. Bill, your thoughts will be most welcome, buddy.

Update! Remarkably enough, there are exceptions to the above depressing rule still extant here and there. One such is Greenville’s The Planet, WTPT 93.3 on your FM dial. Their morning drive-time program, The Rise Guys show (“The Saviors Of Morning Radio” or, as the hosts sometimes refer to it in jocular self-deprecation, The Rise Guys Tragedy), is a stellar example of the sort of thing rock radio was once known for, and in a better, more just world would be still.

The Rise Guys show prominently features not one, not two, but four (4) hosts: three funny, smart-alecky redneck dudes, along with newsreader chick Page And Her Great Big Hoo-Ha’s, who occupies her own solo time-slot right after the other Rise Guys cease hostilities and go home for a nice, refreshing nap. The team members—yes, even Page and her justly-celebrated fun bags—all proudly flaunt deep Southern accents, in unapologetic traducement of the industry’s ubiquitous insistence on a flat, nondescript, lukewarm universality of on-air speech patterns—a carefully-considered calculation intended to soothe, never to agitate; to lull, never to arouse; to Seem, never to Be.

The Rise Guys team incautiously skates right up to the very edge of the censorship line, reveling in a riotous rejection of every dogmatic requirement of the PC/Wokester catechism. Their schtick—which is likely not schtick at all, but their own natural personalities, not something anybody could just put on and take off like a cloak, not easily anyway—revolves around defiant, brash individualism, free will, and an innate unwillingness to bend the knee to anybody, any time, for any reason. Southerners were once renowned for their doggedly inflexible pride in possessing these very qualities, habits of mind which have gradually been subsumed in most of us. But not all of us, by God.

The Rise Guys show-topic list (partial):

  • Broad sexual suggestiveness, all strictly hetero-oriented? Yep
  • Devil-may-care celebrations of drunkenness and nonspecific, good-natured, non-destructive civic misbehavior? Gotcha covered
  • Fast cars, fast women, fast times? You bet your sweet bippy
  • Outrageous flirting with random female callers whose physical attractiveness is unknown, but who come off as pretty cool people on the phone? Hey, why not?
  • Stinging jokes insulting “transgenders,” Pride Week/Month/Summer/Year/Decade/Epoch, BLM, Green Weenie-ism, Crypt Keeper Pelosi, Stumblin’ Jaux “Pedo Pete” Biden? Check, check, check, check, check, and emphatically check
  • Sincere-sounding compliments, snickers, and shameless pleas imploring Page to just pleasepleasepleasePLEASE bare them Great Big Hoo-Ha’s of hers and let ‘em breathe, an act of selfless generosity sure to gratify and delight her fellow Morning Tragedy reprobates? Damn’ skippy
  • Recounting of the previous weekend’s leisure-time activities, with especial emphasis on a slightly (if at all) exaggerated estimation of alcohol consumption, the resultant crippling hangover and morning-after remorse, and sundry other acts of stupefying debauchery, depravity, and self-defilement? Well, I mean, y’know, DUH
  • Explicit, defamatory exhortations for invading Yankee carpetbaggers to turn their sorry asses right around and skedaddle on the fuck back to wherever they came from, rather than ruining things here? But of course

From the above sampling, one can readily discern that nothing whatsoever does this rowdy, blunt bunch consider off-limits or out of bounds: no controversy too red-hot; no subject too delicate or nuanced; no bridge too far; no cow too sacred; no personage too august to elude a well-deserved whacking with the bloody snow-seal club the Rise Guys wield with merry aplomb. Bless their blasphemous hearts, they’re willing, able, and eager to turn the Morning Tragedy blowtorch on all of ‘em.

The Rise Guys bunch don’t play a whole lot of music betwixt the raging torrent of ribaldry, lowbrow wit, and Dixie-fried brigandry, a nonstop cannonade that doesn’t leave time for much more than a bare minimum of tune-damage. Contra my usual aggravation with the cavalier approach of most modern DJs—particularly their egomaniacal penchant for mindlessly yapping over the instrumental intro of even the most hallowed classic-rock megahit, only shutting down the drivel-factory as the singer draws breath to sing the first syllable of the first verse—GOD, how that shit makes my fucking blood boil!—can this self-absorbed subgenius be so delusional that he seriously imagines that his disrespectful jackassery, his inane prattle, is what anybody not locked away in a lunatic asylum tuned in hoping to hear?—with the Rise Guys, you really don’t miss the music.

Even if you did, the rest of the day’s programming more than makes up for it, packing a knockout musical punch which intermingles several disparate R&R sub-genres: classic rock, early-2000 vintage grunge and hard rock, even a 1st-generation punk song from the Ramones now and then. At first glance, one might well be forgiven for thinking that those styles would go together about like oil and water do. For my money, though, the stylistic mix is downright ambrosial, balm to soothe the savage breast. I love it all to pieces, and am glad indeed that my ex-gf Wendy inadvertently* turned me on to The Planet a few years ago.

The Planet is Preset Numero Uno on my car-radio tuning buttons, my go-to radio choice whenever I’m forced to leave my shabby abode and get out and about, and with very good reason. Should you ever find yourself within range of WTPT 93.3’s broadcast signal and have a hankering for a solid dose of some harder-edged, guitar-driven rock—never have I heard any Beta-male, unreconstructed-hippie folksters; weepy, Men Without Chests© balladeers; headache-inducing dance-trance abominations; or testosterone-deficient MOR sneaked onto the playlist there, not one time—I simply can’t recommend The Planet highly enough.

*I was dropping her ride off at a shop I know for a few minor repairs and tweaks which required a computer-diagnostic machine I ain’t got, see, and her radio was tuned to WTPT; I listened enraptured all the way to the garage, checked the station ID numbers, and straightaway plugged ‘em into my own car radio once I got back to my pad. Been listening to ‘em ever since. And yes, I did thank Wendy, profusely, for that serendipitous main-vein strike later


27 thoughts on “Moar inside-baseball music-biz schtuff!

  1. One of my friends that I played HS football with left the state and moved to Texas where he and his father started buying up small stations and automating them. IIRC, that included a disc jockey less canned music system, tape I believe it was back then. Made money I was told, lots of it.

    1. Yep, I don’t doubt it. These days, automation is about the only way a radio station CAN make money, which isn’t due to automation alone. With the advent of satellite radio and bluetooth streaming services, profitable radio stations have become the most rara of avises.

      What we’re witnessing here is the death by obsolescence of another industry, broadcast radio. The inevitability of it doesn’t make it any less sad, I must say. It’s just a fact of life here on this big blue marble of ours. I hate it, especially for my displaced DJ friends who got their asses chewed up in the gears of the ruthless March of Progress machine, I truly do. But how I feel about it ain’t gonna change a damned thing. Never has, never will.

      1. Hell, if you don’t believe me, go look around for an American manufacturer of old-style vacuum tubes, either for radios, televisions, or guitar amplifiers. HINT: ain’t none. Once a fiefdom dominated completely by the American companies that invented tube technology in the first place (RCA, Sylvania, GE) and with the notable exception of an infinitesimally small handful of boutique-style specialty outfits selling their exorbitantly expensive products in small-batch fashion, the American tube business effectively bit the dust long, long ago.

        So it will be with broadcast radio, for which I can see no possible path to long-term survival. With no means of adaptation in an adapt-or-die world, how could it be otherwise? Like many another species before it, whether biological or technological, evolution will drive the industry into extinction. T’was ever thus.

        1. Heh, some of my baby pictures feature me playing with vacuum tube boxes, courtesy of my dad. That was my earliest education in electronics, learning vacuum tubes. By the time I finished school they had largely been replaced.

          1. My Uncle Gene had a tube-testing machine in his drugstore in Mt Holly, which saw a lot of use for a long, long time, mostly by people with tube-style TV sets. When those went out of style, he gave the free-standing tester cabinet to my Uncle Murray, who put it in his ramshackle man-cave/refuge/alone-time getaway in the backyard, known to one and all simply as “the shop.”

            When Murray passed away, me and my cousins Mark and Steve went over to clean Murray’s cluttered old shop out preparatory to selling the house, and they asked me if I wanted that dusty but still fully-functional old tube-tester. I did, actually, but had no place to put it, so off to the landfill it went in the bed of Steve’s pick-em-up truck, along with a shit-ton of probably valuable old junk.

            I still wonder now and then if I might have royally screwed the pooch when I passed on that deal. I suspect I might very well have, being a dumbass and all, but I’ll never know now. Thinking back on it, there were an awful lot of things crammed in there that I really should’ve kept, but didn’t.

            1. Ha, I remember those. Of course, having a dad that taught electrical engineering for a period of time I learned how to measure and test with the volt/ohm meter. when I first went to work for him after finishing school we still had quite a few instruments with vac tubes in industrial applications. Back in those days you had to carry a box called a tube caddy with all the tubes in it as they needed replacement fairly often. I was better with the digital stuff though and was happy to see the tubes go bye bye 🙂

              1. Yeah, they weren’t great for radios and TVs, but to this day the sweet, warm, full sound of a tube guitar amp in the hands of someone who really knows how to use one has never been equalled, much less surpassed. It ain’t even close.

                1. Yep, that’s my understanding. All due to the nature of the amplifier I’m sure. My ears can’t tell the difference though.
                  OTOH, I’ve also read that the high end digital stuff is now pretty darn close. Those days are way behind me however.

            2. “…mostly by people with tube-style TV sets.”

              My fathers first job was working for RCA. After WW2 and his signal corp experience he got a scholarship to go to school but with the caveat that he had to work for one year after completion for the company. He did that, up in Ohio, and the day his one year was complete came home. His job was to oversee the TV testing as they came off the assembly line. When a line technician couldn’t get the set to work properly it got moved to engineering where dad would figure out why it wouldn’t set up properly.

              1. Ha! Uncle Murray worked at RCA over on West Morehead for decades, running the City Counter, chomping his ever-present cigars, and kibbitzing endlessly with customers. When Chet Atkins would come over to the house and urge Murray to go out on tour with him, his response was always: “Chester, what on earth would I want to do that for? I already have a job.” The RCA gig was what he was referring to. Coincidence? I think NOT! 😉

                1. I’m thinking he should gave gone with Chet 🙂 Although, that was probably a pretty hectic business in those days.

                  I wonder if people have any idea how big RCA was in the business of TV and music?

                  1. An excellent question. After all, it was RCA who signed an awkward, modest, painfully introverted, unassuming, unpretentious, and almost dangerously naive young country boy from Memphis via backwater Tupelo to his first major-label recording contract and molded him into the once-and-forever King of Rock and Roll almost overnight. Not all by themselves, of course, but still, there’s just no gainsaying that, I don’t believe. When I think of RCA, that’ll always be what immediately springs to mind before anything else.

      2. I almost never listen to actual broadcast radio anymore. The last vestiges of it were in the car…
        But then I upgraded the radio in the Avalanche for one reason only – so I could get apple car play and that just so I could play my Pandora stations. Then I bought the Denali with the newer radio already in place.

        And as I sit here in pain from being on my knee’s all day fastening new deck boards down, I’m listening to pandora through my smart TV.

        1. DUDE, I got one word for ya: Spotify. Well worth the $10/month subscription fee for the unlimited version, which among other fine things lets you download either individual songs or entire albums pretty much at will*, although the free one is pretty good too. I had been an avid Pandora guy until I discovered Spotify, and I never looked back from then on. The complete control it gives you over your music collection makes Pandora look like a bad joke in comparison, it really does.

          Heck, a substantial percentage of the music in residence on this very iMac was downloaded on Spotify, it was…well, it was worth every penny of ten smacks a month.

          *Some artists disallow Spotify downloads, but most of them suck anyway, so who cares. I never ran across anything I truly wanted that I couldn’t get on Spotify.

          1. Yea, I looked at it and I’m sure it’s good. I’ve had the Pandora account since 2006, shortly after it came out. It was free for a very long time and with no ads. Now I pay the 5 bucks a month version because it’s really all I need. I don’t download, don’t really do anything. I’ve had it so long that my “stations” are well tuned to my liking. I think the 10 buck/month version does all the things spotify does, or close to it. Pandora isn’t very high resolution streaming, but my tin ear doesn’t really care. One oddity about me, I have very good hearing, but not very good hearing definition. I can hear a mouse a mile away, but I cannot really distinguish the words in most music. The voice is just an instrument for me with he exception of very clear stuff.

            Edit to add:
            I’m a musical klutz. My business partner has hundreds and hundreds of songs all organized in nice playlists. If I spent 10 minutes trying to do that I’d go bonkers, it’s just not my thing 🙂 Which is why I like pandora. It does a good job of playing what I want it to play. Every once in a while I hear something that sounds odd to me, pandora is trying something out on me I suppose, but I just downvote it and never hear it again.

            1. Like you, I was on Pandora in its early days, it having been pre-installed with a one-year subscription in my 2010 Ford Explorer, the first and surely only brand-new car I ever owned. I was perfectly happy with it, until my friend Brian climbed aboard with me for a whirlwind trip to NYC to spend a long weekend visiting my mother-in-law. I started Pandora up, whereupon Brian scoffed, “Oh HELL no, Pandora sucks dead donkey dick! Here, try this…”

              He unplugged my phone, paired and connected his via Bluetooth, and proceeded to blow my mind when one great song after another from his blues playlist emanated from the car speakers–I mean, there wasn’t a single clunker in the whole bunch, all the way from CLT to NYC, then back home again. After that, I ditched Pandora for Spotify, without qualm or hesitation. From what you said, it would appear that Pandora brought in some new options and functionality since those days, though.

              1. My biz partner has Spotify and likes it quite well. It’s probably the better choice for someone like you, or him. Maybe it would be for me but I’m too damn cranky to try something new if it means learning yet another new system that does the same thing as the old system 🙂

              2. Dayummm, a sobering thought: new cars, vintage cars, frighteningly-fast Harleys, guitars, amps, trumpets, guns, restaurant meals, bar tabs, rollaway chests full of SnapOn tools, a kitchen well-stocked with expensive professional-grade cookware, my choice of hot women…how very far I’ve fallen from those halcyon days of yore. Now it’s all I can do to scrape up money enough to buy food and cook my own damned dinner.


                1. Yea, life has a way of throwing twists and turns at you. I’ve always believed the journey is more important than the destination as all of us have a final destination point/time. Boring was not your style 🙂

                  With that I’m going to turn in

  2. I was one of those radio/recording heads back in the day.

    I won’t get into why I bailed out. Short answer – too many assholes.

    That said, I still love it. But radio around here in DFW sucks balls. Even the classic rock stations play a fair amount of un-listenable shit.

    I’ll get in the hoopty, hit the radio box, and I may get one or two decent tunes. Then, it’s wall to wall commericals. Reminds me of that scene in ‘demolition man’ where the stations were all commercials all the time.

    I wind up listening to talk radio more and more. But other than one or two local hosts in the morning, the rest of the day is voat-hoarder! buffoons.

    Fuggitall. I got spotify and itunes.

    1. “Even the classic rock stations play a fair amount of un-listenable shit.”

      That is why I can’t really listen to them. It’s not the commercials as much as the screeching shit that I don’t like or outright hate.

  3. He left Wolfman Jack off the list. The guy even got in the MOVIES as the quintessential DJ.

    In the 70s I discovered 102.7 WNEW FM. One of the historical greats. From Scott Muni playing Beatles every third song to Carol Miller opening every show with Led Zep, each DJ had a persona all their own. Some had quirky weekend shows and broke a lot of newer acts from England and America. Dave Herman was perhaps the best morning show host, breaking you into the day of Rock and Roll smoothly, but never boring, like a nice hot cup of caffeinated coffee.


    They practically broke Punk/New Wave in NYC with their famed Live On Air Broadcasts.

    Other legends there included Pete Fornatale, Dennis Elsis (he of the famous John Lennon pops in to say hello famed interview totally off the cuff), Dan and Richard Neer, Vin Scelsa, and The Nightbird, Alison Steele.

    I can STILL remember vivdly when WNEW played the first single from Some Girls, Miss You, as I rode my ten speed with a boom box blasting it out to the neighborhood. It was an incredible moment.

    Back in those days you’d hear stories of DJs getting a new 45 and they liked it so much after the initial playing that they’d play if 3 more times!! Try THAT in a Small Town on the Radio today.


    When WNEW was converted to some other format, it was indeed like something from my youth had died. It was painful not to be able to tune to 102.7 and hear brand new Rock and Classic Rock mixed in together.

    Therein lies part of the problem. “Classic Rock” is a time capsule. So little of it that is contemporary filters through to us today. The Suits don’t want to take a chance on new stuff when the Oldies still draw an audience.


    Even worse, the Suits don’t play ANY deep cuts. The Stones, Beatles, Led Zep or others in the Top Pantheon get about a half dozen songs played over and over. The rest get one or two, as if they were one hit wonders instead of having a deep library of extraordinary songs to choose and mix. But that would require sifting through their catalogs, or having deep existing knowledge of Rock and Roll.


    It’s just NOT SAFE to take a chance on deep cuts. Play the SAFE 40-50 songs over and over. The ones everyone supposedly likes.

    I have an iPod or a vast CD collection for the car and home. I NEVER tune to the radio these days. Except every now and then I turn it on in the car in the hopes that someone around the dial is doing something interesting. Alas, I am disappointed.


    1. He left Wolfman Jack off the list.

      You’re right Kenny, I did at that. No slight intended, I figured he’d most likely be the first one everybody would think of anyway.

      1. Your aura of perfection is tinged with some slight doubt now! 😁

        Let me not cast the first stone though…


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“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”
Ronald Reagan

"Ain't no misunderstanding this war. They want to rule us and aim to do it. We aim not to allow it. All there is to it."
NC Reed, from Parno's Peril

"I just want a government that fits in the box it originally came in."
Bill Whittle

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