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.
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.