‘1918 Radio Ad’ For Hancock, Wisconsin Walker Company: New Suit Custom Made!

I was just messing about with some audio on this cold winter night and recorded this ‘1918 radio ad’ for Hancock’s Walker Company. The ad content is from a copy of the town’s newspaper, The Hancock News. Imagine a custom-made suit for only $15.00! The photo is from Main Street at about that time. I have not used this online platform before so this is not visually how I want it to look….but the broadcasting side is something I am pleased with. I did the ad in my recording studio in exactly 60 seconds. Ready for radio! With music, too.

Given one small technical flaw in working with this new platform it might be necessary to hit the restart button in the lower left corner of the YouTube video below. The icon is the arrow in partial circle.

Or watch it on YouTube.

Pat Cassidy Steps Away From Chicago Radio Microphone

When I was a youngster my brother had a yellow car that at times we would drive to one of the local towns for this or that errand. I recall the car radio was tuned to WMAQ from Chicago and country music would play over the speakers. But what most caught my attention was the voice of a broadcaster who would often be behind the microphone.

Pat Cassidy.

Over my life, there have been certain voices from broadcasters that resonated and impressed me so much that there is a vocal recall that can be quickly brought to mind when thinking of them. Orion Samuelson, Earl Nightingale, the legendary Paul Harvey, and my personal favorite as a teenager, “Chicago Ed” Eddie Schwartz.

The perfect tonal quality of Pat Cassidy stayed for many years at the NBC powerhouse in Chicago, until it was sold. WMAQ (AM 670) was the oldest station in the city, and I would argue simply iconic. In 1922, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover created the station’s call letters to WMAQ. The calls originally had no meaning, but went on to form the motto: We Must Ask Questions.

WMAQ.

The ‘voice’ then moved to WBBM (AM 780), the famed all-news radio station from Chicago. My dad would listen to that station while mom shopped in Steven Point stores. It does amuse me how the touchstones of my life often are the radio stations and broadcasters who made such fond memories.

Cassidy not only worked at WBBM for 21 years as part of the morning team but he was a driving force that allowed the time slot to reign in the ratings. He was akin to a rock star of the radio world.

The broadcaster ended his career at the end of 2021 and noted that “On January first I’ll hold a private ceremony to destroy my alarm clock!

Pat Cassidy is part of a long list of Chicago broadcasters and famed announcers who impacted my life such as Wally Phillips, a professional I so admired and respected, and when a young man wanted to emulate. There is also on the list Bob Collins, Spike O’DellMilt Rosenberg, Steve and Johnnie, and Roy Leonard. These were heavy-hitters that drove the ratings.

So much in radio has changed over the years. Walking into a broadcast studio today is a far cry from WDOR, where I worked in Sturgeon Bay.  The age of digital broadcasting has taken over.  And I know that is progress.  But I also know there is something missing.   No more albums and turntables.  No more cart machines that might eat the tape.  No more splicing reel-to-reel tape.  Granted things are easier and faster with the modern conveniences of better equipment. But still…

Here is a photo of how I looked in those heady days of radio broadcasting at ‘The Big 94-FM’ in the 1980s. ‘Let’s get to that live remote and help open the new supermarket!’

We can be heartened with our memories of the many radio friends we felt so comfortable with that we continually invited them into our homes and cars. Early in the morning or late a night they were our sources of news and entertainment.

With the end of Pat Cassidy’s career, we now have one more voice that will be heard only in our fond recollections.

Caffeinated Politics wishes Pat a memorable retirement. But do broadcasters ever really stop doing what they love? There is always an outlet called podcasting….just saying!

And so it goes.

“Naked Radio” Making Smiles Galore In Door County

A good friend came back from Door County and told James she had watched a play stating, “I laughed so hard and thought of Gregory at WDOR!”

I quipped back to James, upon learning the title of the show. “Well, radio announcers do it on the air!”

Our friend was talking about a getaway weekend where she thoroughly enjoyed Naked Radio.

When a small radio station gets swallowed up by a corporate parent, the local DJs are relegated to obscurity. But when a snowstorm knocks out the county and the station loses its tie to the pre-programmed feed, the guys have to punt, and a rejuvenated station brings back spontaneity and joy to the community it serves.

From the writers who brought you Cheeseheads, the MusicalMuskie Love, and No Bones About It. Dave Hudson and Paul Libman have created magic once again.

Libman’s prolific career composing for advertisers has left him with an exceptional skill for writing jingles, which fill the score with catchy, memorable, and often hilarious songs.

The name (Naked Radio), according to Hudson, has a double meaning. The first is the radio station itself is laid bare in the storm without the insulation of the corporate broadcasts. The other meaning suggests things get a bit unhinged in the station, though Hudson reassures us the play will be fit for Northern Sky’s usual audience. “Well hey, we’re on the radio, you can’t see us.”

I would absolutely love to see this comedy.

My years in radio were written about in my book Walking Up The Ramp (which is a phrase for the time/temp and add-ons over the musical intro to the song with my ending any talking as soon as the singer hits the first syllable.) One of the fond memories I had–though clothed–was with wild weather when on air.

My first night alone at the station a massive thunderstorm knocked WDOR AM/FM off the air. I had no knowledge of how to turn the station ‘back on’.

Back home when the power went off due to a storm, we logically called the electric company, and alerted them to the problem. Who would have guessed that listeners would call a radio station to alert announcers they were off the air? Did people really think broadcasters at a studio would not know when they were no longer transmitting something over the airwaves? Grateful for the help, did I really need the extra stress of answering the phone? The five telephone lines lit up before me. Five little orange buttons on the face of the telephone blinked frenetically, and I was suddenly fielding calls from very well-intentioned people. “Yes, thank you for your call. We are indeed experiencing a bit of technical difficulty. Things should be back to normal soon.

Yes. I appreciate your call. Do have a good evening.

Hello. WDOR. Yes, thank you for your call…”

At the same time, I was of course trying to figure what was to be done to set things back on course. I felt a nervous sweat trickle down my back.

I have fond memories, however, of winter snowstorms.

Were snowstorms to have occurred while I was on the air, there would have been a flurry of contact with listeners. First, there would have been the usual report from the local police about the road conditions, urging caution with the slick streets. I would have listened, and yawned as I had heard if many times before, but thought to myself that the well-intentioned law enforcement official did not provide the type of information I wanted.

Rather, I would wait for the man who called himself ‘the Egg Harbor Reporter’ to dial me up and give some gripping account of how a car nearly wiped out at the curve where he lived, or how many inches had stacked up on his mailbox. (The Egg Harbor Reporter performed his job earnestly. I can still hear his slow deadpan delivery of the information he called to share.)

Egg Harbor Reporter: “Hey Trevor, it is coming down mighty heavy right now.”

Me: “It is snowing huge flakes here, too.”

Egg Harbor Reporter: “The dog wanted to go outside but once I opened the door he only was interested in being outside for a minute. I can’t blame him. I cannot even see the bird feeder up in the tree; it is blowing so hard. Have the scanner on and there are lots of slide-offs. Today is when you want to have a wrecker service.” With that he would give a hearty chuckle. “Say, what happens if you cannot make it home and have to stay at the station?”

Me: “I call in the military for an airdrop of food!”

Egg Harbor Reporter: “You have any Kenny Rogers handy to play for me?”

Me: “With or without Dolly?”

Egg Harbor Reporter: “Well, everything is better with Dolly.”

Me: “Will do. Let me know if things get really interesting up your way.”

The Egg Harbor Reporter was a clear favorite of mine, and often had a song request. I am not sure the man ever slept, as he had a reason to call and chat about the weather every chance he got, and I must say he was highly entertaining. He wasn’t the only one, though. I also loved to hear from the folks on Sunday when snow piled up who had made it over the ‘Brussels’ Hill’ in Southern Door County as they came back from church but wanted me to alert others to take another route.

Perhaps the best account of the local streets in Sturgeon Bay came from the lady who from time to time delivered a baked good from her oven to me at the station as she went to church. She would pop into the back door of the studio, thank me for the Southern gospel music I played starting at six o’clock in the morning, update me on the streets in winter, and drop off some wonderful sweet. Some people are nice to the person who delivers their morning paper, but she appreciated her local neighborhood radio announcer.

If you have the opportunity to see the Naked Radio play please do so. As one of the reviews noted….“It’s part warm remembrance and part regret about the vast disconnect that technology and simplification and instant gratification have brought – but mostly a clever, if soft-paced, offering of entertainment.”

And so it goes.

I Hear Ed Allen Sr. Calling…..

While watching the CBS Evening News about the horrific tornadoes that struck large portions of the South an odd memory came to mind. During the report video footage from the RV service and repair business in Moundville, Alabama was shown. It was most dramatic to see the large vehicles tossed about like match-box cars.

But it was when the name of business owner Tommy Muckenfuss was carefully pronounced on the air that I smiled. And thought of the owner of WDOR, the Sturgeon Bay radio station where I had my first job in the 1980s. I had come across a name much like that Alabama man while on-air in a newscast and learned the hard way why always pre-reading the copy is a good idea.

When I slipped up shortly after starting my radio job and added a hard ‘k’ sound to the-then-City Attorney Staufaucher’s name it created a phone call from the owner. At least on-air I always had the ability at times like that to never look back and just keep talking. It was soon apparent to the owner that I knew my slip-up was not professional and I was determined that type of error would not be repeated.  

Ed Allen, Sr. knew I had an old-school reverence for radio broadcasting and took my on-air time seriously. So he just reminded me to pre-read the names of local people I had not before encountered.

I had to smile broadly tonight as the CBS reporter, David Begnaud, eased up and over what Trevor James (my on-air radio moniker) would have plowed through with the hard K echoing over the country.

Rush Limbaugh As Low As Father Charles Coughlin

I would be remiss if not mentioning thoughts about the death of Rush Limbaugh at the age of 70. If you are looking for some great tribute to the man or lauding his time as a broadcaster, this will not be the post you were hoping for. After all, Limbaugh did more to undermine radio than to lift it, sully it more than to enrich its long history in our nation. The medium that I love, and once worked in was stained by his actions.

Over the years the bombast, crude remarks, and low-balls that were a daily aspect of Limbaugh’s on-air time brought his ratings down and his advertisers far fewer in number. (I have commented on these matters relating to Rush 34 times over the years.) While the ratings and ad revenues are the milk and bread to the industry, I would argue there is something more fundamental that should be considered about his abusing radio.

The stories are countless of those who have looked to radio over the many, many decades for friendship and companionship.  Radio has been there late nights when the baby will not sleep, during morning drive time, at work for music and sports scores, and then catching up on news and weather in the evenings.

Even though television allows us an image, radio remains the most intimate medium.  It is the place where we get to know the announcer and hear the banter about the morning drive into the station, or insights into their life.  The effective radio broadcaster gives us glimpses of who he/she really is and that creates a bond between those on both sides of the radio dial.

But Limbaugh worked feverishly to erode civility on the airwaves. That is how his life can be best summed up.

I am well aware that the low-bar in broadcasting now takes place on both right-wing and left-wing programming as the announcers and hosts seem more interested in red meat tactics for political purposes than striving for high marks in broadcasting. But let us not forget it was Rush who created the basement from which the others could also reside. While there are still many stations that will not stoop to the level we heard about in the news repeatedly with Limbaugh, it remains unsettling to know that national broadcasting standards slipped in large measure because of him.

This morning, after the news was reported Limbaugh had died, a broadcasting friend reached out and asked who else might be viewed as a broadcaster who influenced radio in the past 50 years? He had already placed Larry King on the list, and I readily added Paul Harvey. All my life I have never forgotten the professional standards of Harvey, one of my radio heroes based on his ability to enunciate words, and who wore a tie for his radio broadcasts.  He knew the way he looked and acted in a radio studio would come across over the airwaves.  And it did.

Then while picking up dishes in the kitchen another broadcaster who made history, and like Limbaugh brought hate and bile to the airwaves, came to my mind. Though he was ‘famous’ for his rants about 85 years ago, his linkage to Rush is very clear.

Father Charles Coughlin.

Coughlin is one of those truly interesting, though sad stories, from history. He used his radio program to all but incite violence on Jewish Americans, and over time ramped up his peddling of anti-semitic bigotry to the bizarre. By the time fascism was better known, Coughlin had become a supporter of some of the ideas advanced by Hitler and Mussolini. The broadcasts have been described as “a variation of the Fascist agenda applied to American culture.”

Limbaugh had a different era to play with but used the same base motives and instincts to stir hate. He used white supremacy, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, and misogyny as his weapons. He even mocked the deaths of people from AIDS on his national broadcasts.

Somewhere along the way, those who harvest radio licenses have created a mean-spirited and pitiful listening landscape where now the most base commentary can be heard, and the most pathetic hosts can reap huge profits. Today the one who fostered so much that is currently wrong with radio has died.

There is no reason to feel anything about that news other than a sense of the loss of radio as we once knew it.

My New Doty Land Podcast: Larry King Tribute

My latest podcast is ‘on the air’. From my in-home studio on the Madison isthmus comes this episode about Larry King. I hope you enjoy it.

“Fond memories of Larry King, including podcaster Gregory Humphrey’s audio recording of a call to the late-night radio host, are included in this episode. In addition, the one interview broadcasters wished King had given about his decades behind the microphone. A most respectful tribute to a radio legend.”

When Not Blogging…..

During the past year and a half one of my greatest pleasures has been the hours spent working in my broadcast studio. Working in radio in my young adult years, in fact loving radio broadcasting my entire life, has added to the joy received from the studio on our third floor. Presently my podcast work is revolving around a tribute to radio legend Larry King. Granted, the world has thrown a number of curveballs over the past year, but it is essential that we locate our space to find needed calm and pleasure. This broadcasting work has grounded me, taken me back in time, and also pushed me forward. Seems perfectly timed for where life has placed me.


Radio ‘Schools’ During Pandemic

When the COVID pandemic struck hard last winter my first question to a friend, who is a public school teacher in Madison, was how youngsters who relied on lunches and food from our schools would be impacted.  I was heartened to learn how those students were not falling through the cracks by receiving meals.

As the months passed along, however, all of us were focused on how the closure of schools due to the virus impacted students, the learning process, and as the Wisconsin State Journal reported above the fold today, how graduating seniors are filing fewer federal aid request forms.

Roughly three months into the financial aid application cycle, the number of Wisconsin high school seniors who have completed the FAFSA is down 13% from the same time last year, according to U.S. Education Department data analyzed by the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), a nonprofit trying to close equity gaps in higher education.

The decline is even worse at schools that serve a large number of low-income students and students of color.

Clearly, there is a growing amount of data to demonstrate school closures stymie the learning and development of students. My husband was a college professor for many years in this city.  He has noted the challenges which instructors will face when the next school term starts without students having become proficient with this year’s classwork.  In addition, comes the reality that the economic disparity is playing havoc with remote teaching across our nation.

Today a most interesting article was sent to me from Christine, a friend, and reader. It underscores that the issue of pandemics and long-distance learning is not new. The fact our nation was not preparing for such a time as we now find ourselves is the question that screams for an answer.

In 1937, a severe polio epidemic hit the U.S. At the time, this contagious virus had no cure, and it crippled or paralyzed some of those it infected. Across the country, playgrounds and pools closed, and children were banned from movie theaters and other public spaces. Chicago had a record 109 cases in August, prompting the Board of Health to postpone the start of school for three weeks.

This delay sparked the first large-scale “radio school” experiment through a highly innovative – though largely untested – program. Some 315,000 children in grades 3 through 8 continued their education at home, receiving lessons on the radio.

By the late 1930s, radio had become a popular source of news and entertainment. Over 80% of U.S. households owned at least one radio, though fewer were found in homes in the southern U.S., in rural areas and among people of color.

In Chicago, teachers collaborated with principals to create on-air lessons for each grade, with oversight from experts in each subject. Seven local radio stations donated air time. September 13 marked the first day of school.

Local papers printed class schedules each morning. Social studies and science classes were slated for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were devoted to English and math. The on-air school day began with announcements and gym. Classes were short – just 15 minutes – providing simple, broad questions and assigning homework.

The objective was to be “entertaining yet informative.” Curriculum planners incorporated an engaging commercial broadcasting style into the lessons. Two principals monitored each broadcast, providing feedback to teachers on content, articulation, vocabulary and general performance. When schools reopened, students would submit their work and take tests to show mastery of the material.

Sixteen teachers answered phone calls from parents at the school district’s central office. After the phone bank logged more than 1,000 calls on the first day, they brought five more teachers on board.

News stories reporting on this novel radio school approach were mostly positive, but a few articles hinted at the challenges. Some kids were distracted or struggled to follow the lessons. There was no way to ask questions in the moment, and kids needed more parental involvement than usual.

This blog, in one way or another, continually stresses education.  Too often posts on CP need to underscore what happens when a lack of education is demonstrated.  I have blasted those who demean education, the teaching profession, and paying the bill to make sure we instruct our future generations.  Now we need to up that verbal game, given the awareness of stunning shortcomings that have been exposed as a result of this pandemic.

We have learned just how unprepared we are to meet the educational challenges. When it comes to our school-age kids the deep economic inequalities are glaring.  We see which school districts have funds for the infrastructure so to allow for the devices and bandwidth.  We see where parents have the luxury to be at home and direct at-home education of their kids.

And we also see where the tax base is not anywhere sufficient to afford the needed means for a sizable segment of our youth to get the education they also should expect during a crisis.