Tuning in to AM broadcast history and the venerable RF-2200

Panasonic-RF-2200-2

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric (WD8RIF), for sharing a link to this excellent article in the Illinois Times by James Krohe Jr. Here’s an excerpt:

Tuning in: Making a small world bigger and the big one smaller

So much of happiness, I’ve realized, depends on getting tuned in. When he was a young married, my father used to tune in the console radio in the living room of the Krohe family mansion on Manor Avenue to the live broadcasts of big-band music “from the beautiful Blue Room in the Roosevelt Hotel” in downtown New Orleans. He was able to be in two places at once thanks to WWL-AM, whose 50,000-watt clear channel signal was beamed north. For all I know, while he tapped his toe on the sofa in Springfield, Inuit couples were jitterbugging on the tundra.

For Springfield teens in the 1950s and ’60s, getting a chance to listen to what kids in bigger cities had already decided they liked was important. WCVS-AM was just crawling out of its cocoon, having crawled into it as a country station and emerging as a rock station – although in the late ’50s there wasn’t that much difference. “Rock ’n’ roll” was, in stations like WVCS that catered to mostly white markets, rockabilly and pop-ish country ballads. (Geezers will recall when Brenda Lee was, briefly and laughably, marketed as a rock artist.)

For Top 40 music, as for so many other things, if you wanted to get the really good stuff you had to go to the big city. Around here that meant WLS-AM, WCFL-AM out of Chicago (whose Ron Britain made Soupy Sales look, or rather sound, like Noel Coward), and KXOK-AM out of St. Louis. George Lucas’s American Graffiti brilliantly captured the ways that car radios, transistors, radio stations blaring over PAs in drive-ins, permeated the bubble in which teenagers then lived.

Later I learned I could hear WBZ out of Boston if I acted as the antenna on my transistor. (“Turn on, tune in, drop out” to me meant losing the signal when I lighted a smoke.) WBZ was one of the first stations with the newest 45s from Britain, which allowed us yokels to hear The Yardbirds while the records were still on their way to Midwest stations by stagecoach from Boston harbor.

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Krohe also mentions the virtues of the Panasonic RF-2200 which is, in my opinion, one of the best AM broadcast portable receivers ever.

Click here to read the full article at the Illinois Times website.

Side note: The Panasonic RF-2200 still has a loyal following among mediumwave DXers of the world. The RF-2200 can be found on sites like eBay (click here to search), but make sure you’re purchasing from a reputable seller and not over-paying.

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2 thoughts on “Tuning in to AM broadcast history and the venerable RF-2200

  1. Mario Filippi

    I agree that the RF-2200 is one of the best and most “fun” portables produced, got mine at Grand Central Radio in New York City back in the 1970’s. In short order I had it up and running and listening to Shortwave and AM DX’ing using the pop-up rotatable ferrite antenna. Late at night while in bed I’d listen to hams sending morse code (2200 had a BFO) and use the built-in dial light (another nice feature) to check out the other bands.

    Wish someone would come up with a comparable RF-2200 these days. Great story by James Krohe. Radio indeed shapes our lives.

    Reply
  2. Eugene Paradis

    That rf2200 is a great radio..I had on and sold it to my brother…ai may pick up another on on ebay..I am using an Electro Brand multi band radio and it has great medium wave band with an antenna on the top you can face tward the stations..ait really pulls in the signals…The antenna is like the rf2200 on the top of the radio…I mostly do my listening on my Kenwood ts 850s..still trying to figure out what the ships are talking about on 16.540 .. I have them on tape and will see if anyone at the local college can identify the language and tell me what they are saying…..This listening hobby is the greatest…

    Reply

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