Category Archives: Broadcasters

The Radio Kitchen: The Hip Spot On Your Dial

The following article originally appeared on The Radio Kitchen blog by Michael Pool, a.k.a. “The Professor.” In an effort to preserve his writings and recordings, we are republishing The Professor’s archived posts in a special collection here on the SWLing Post.

Note that not all of the original links and recordings could be recovered, but the majority have been. Of course, all of the views and opinions in this article were those of The Professor. 

“The Hip Spot On Your Dial” was originally published on December 10, 2007. Enjoy:


The Hip Spot On Your Dial

by The Professor

I’m old enough to remember when they first pulled the oldies radio concept out of the box and plugged it into the wall. And it literally was a gadget. A machine. I was a kid in suburban Detroit in the early 1970’s when I found one of very first all “oldies” stations to go on the air. The station (which started on FM, then simulcast on AM and eventually became an AM station), and then became known as “Honey Radio.” There were no DJ’s, just jingles, commercials and lots of dated top 40.

Automatic or not, the programming of Honey Radio was immediately intriguing to me and some of my friends at the time. As the album rock format was wandering deeper into crap like Uriah Heep and Kansas, I’d impatiently fumble with the dial looking for something (anything) different and kept perching the needle on this new station that played only old rock and roll. Half of it I’d never heard before.

It’s hard to imagine now, when most oldies stations play such a tight and boring playlist, but the original oldies format was born in the “American Graffiti” (and then “Happy Days”) era, when old rock and roll was immediately more evocative and uplifting than the arena rock epic thud and guitar solos that were clogging up the album rock format.

From what I recall of early Honey Radio format, the music spanned from 1955 until 1967 or ‘68. I started soaking it up– Rockabilly, r&b, doo-wop, even dopey pop. I loved it all (okay, except Neil Sedaka…). And it filled in a missing chapter in top 40 history for me– between my mom’s record collection and the music I had been hearing on the radio since diapers. Listening to the station turned me on to a whole world of recording artists I barely knew before (and ones you probably won’t hear much on oldies radio nowadays), like Huey “Piano” Smith, Ral Donner or the Impressions. And not just the big canonical hits, but other choice tracks that charted too. All that from a robot radio station.

A little later (after I’d stopped obsessively listening), Honey Radio added real DJ’s and in the final tally had a good run as Detroit’s premiere oldies station until shutting down in the early 90’s. The demise of Honey came as the format’s followers were surging into middle-age, and the new thinking in advertising advocated virtually abandoning that once valued demographic. This shift in advertising strategy drove more and more oldies outlets to desperately expand their playlists into the hits of the1980’s, and drop almost all the 50’s and early 60’s music that fueled the original format.

There are some good, even interesting, oldies stations that are still out there (WLNG, for example). And a few brave ones have popped up and bucked the era-shift gentrification of the oldies format, and specialized in the early rock era with music libraries much larger than the mind-numbing 300 tested superhits that make up the format in most markets. However, these days radio stations exist in a cutthroat environment, where anything but sucking in big piles of money every day isn’t just unacceptable. It’s fatal. The profit margin possible with creatively (or lovingly) programmed oldies radio is almost never enough to keep these stations alive for very long. It’s not that true-blue oldies stations don’t attract a loyal audience, it just isn’t big enough or young enough to have a chance in the dog-eat-dog world of contemporary radio advertising. That is, unless you happened to have purchased a radio station for a really reasonable price, and making a fat profit isn’t necessarily your goal. Then you have choices. Then you have WHVW.

A true media miracleWHVW in Hyde Park/Poughkeepsie, New York, is the ultimate oldies station for the culturally inspired fan of American roots music. While there’s a number of hosted regular programs, the majority of the WHVW’s air time is occupied by a music automation system, otherwise known as “Murray the Machine.”

Programmer/owner “Pirate Joe” Ferraro has radically expanded the oldies format with Murray. But instead of following the present-day model of stretching the format forward in time and taking on dodgy material, Joe has lopped off the late 60’s music and everything that followed. No psychedelia, no bubble gum, and thankfully no Jim Croce. While he’s held on to the doo-wop and rockabilly of the classic 1955 to 1964 era (adding a helping of folk music that was popular at the time), the rest of library goes further back in time. But unlike the hit parade highway you might hear on senior citizen radio, Ferraro opts for the rural routes of r&b, blues, old jazz, and classic country. All and all, it’s the rockin’ 20th century– an “oldies” overview based on favorites of record collectors and the kind of music that kept people putting nickels in jukeboxes for decades. While I haven’t done a scientific study of all the ingredients of Pirate Joe’s automated format, but I can tell you one thing– it’s compelling, and unlike any radio station I’ve ever heard. And it makes a lot of sense.

For the last decade or so, I’ve had family in Poughkeepsie, which places me within the transmission range of WHVW a few times a year.  I’ve stacked up a number of airchecks of WHVW over the years– mostly captures of Murray on the job. But what a well nursed and well-fed automation system Ferraro has set up. No matter how many tapes I’ve gathered of his automation over the years, it always sounds fresh.

WHVW – Murray the Machine 11-23-07  61:35

(download)

While the Pirate Joe’s music machine does a heck of a job, there’s a skeleton crew of real live on-air personalities who keep WHVW human as well, and fun to listen to. Like Pirate Joe (who does a wonderful afternoon drive weekday shift himself), the DJ’s musical appetites are mostly variations on Joe’s musical themes– record collector/characters who live and breathe old jukebox shakin’ hits and rarities. Curt Roberts, the morning drive guy goes for more of an eclectic golden oldies approach, adding some soul and garage sounds to the mix. And what a voice. And the personalities of Roberts and Ferraro set the tone for the on-air persona of WHVW– wry and dry and isn’t the music great. It’s straight-forward– rarely exuberant and rarely boring. And I like it.

WHVW – Curt Roberts 11-22-07  29:55

[This audio has not been recovered.]

I don’t get up in WHVW territory enough to know the schedule well, and their website (which looks like it was put together with mid-90’s know-how) usually seems a bit out of date. But you can see what the official schedule was late last year here (the link to this page has mysteriously fallen off the home page). And while it’s not much a web site, there is some history of the station and a few pictures. And sadly, they do not stream their air signal there (or anywhere). But if you want to get an idea of some of WHVW’s glowing fan mail, Joe has posted a bit of it on this page.

One show that’s been a Sunday mainstay for well over a decade now is Darwin Lee Hill’s “Real Hillbilly Jamboree.” It’s a three hour hand-crafted hootenanny, featuring  hits & obscurities from all the classic country music sub-genres, as well as some more recent material from neo-traditionalists and aging legends. That said and all technical descriptions aside, Darwin’s show is consistently warm and informative radio, including occasional interviews with country legends. And the music is always heartening. Kinda makes you wanna buy a second home in Poughkeepsie.

WHVW – Darwin Lee 11-25-07  62:08

(download)

I wish I could say that WHVW could be the harbinger of a new creative era of AM music programming. But I’m a realist, and there’s little reason to think that the glory of this little radio station is much more than fortunate happenstance. As his nickname implies, Ferraro is a former radio pirate, someone with synergistic mastery of musicology and old radio technology, who happened to get a good deal ($350,000) on a lowly class D AM station. While there’s still bargains like that around, they’re more likely in desolate North Dakota or rural Mississippi. WHVW is located in an actual city (albeit a small one), surrounded by the fringe suburbia of New York City. It’s a convergence that brings a big chunk of musical Americana to the radio dial in a place where people really live and play, or at least drive through on their way to Albany.

And the station doesn’t operate in a vacuum, WHVW really serves the community. They have locally oriented talk shows and local news, something you don’t hear very often these days on stations with far larger budgets and bigger transmitters. And requests from listeners carry a lot more weight when the DJ actually programs their own show. For folks who live in the mid-Hudson Valley who love great (and occasionally obscure) old music, WHVW must be a godsend.

For those who might have dreams of snatching up a cheap radio station and running it on a shoestring, Ferraro’s WHVW offers an intriguing model. Two people on staff (including the owner) handling the weekly drive-time slots and then a roster of weekly volunteer hosts doing shows for the love of it (and perhaps the advertising they can generate), with the rest of the broadcast day filled with the offerings of a tasteful and compelling automated music mix. This way a small radio station can maintain a local connection and eschew the predictable dependency on pre-packaged music formats and syndicated talk shows. And I think that WHVW disproves the bias of a number of non-conformist radio types I’ve known who equate radio automation with a lack of imagination or laziness. It all depends on who’s programming the machine.

Now in the age of mp3 players, I suppose you could spend a couple of years loading up on thousands of old shakin’ and stompin’ classics and kinds create your own WHVW in your pocket. But it would still be an imitation of Pirate Joe’s musical vision. Which is on the air right now by the way. Filling the sky of Dutchess Country with radio waves carrying the likes of Coleman Hawkins, T-Bone Walker or Harry “The Hipster” Gibson, proving that automated radio can be a non-conformist’s best friend. And that it’s not impossible for a radio station to be a better music machine than a money machine.

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Website devoted to the history of WOWO

Photo source: historyofwowo.com

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Snyder, who shares the following in reply to our previous post about a chunk of the WOWO fire escape in lucite:

Thomas,

Have you ever visited “www.historyofwowo.com“–?

This site was put together by Randy Meyer and has hundreds of photos from 95+ years of broadcasting. Many pictures are from me as I worked there from 1969 to 1982. The link below is to the promotional items page where there is another picture of the “World Famous WOWO Fire Escape” chunk of steel cast in lucite.

These were made in 1978 after the station moved from the Gaskins Building to the Central Building. (By the way, the Central building is no longer there.)

The Gaskins Building was a dismal place with no windows. The air and news people had to open the door to the fire escape to see if was sunny or raining. That is why the local temperature was from the World Famous Fire Escape. My piece of fire escape is in a box in the basement.

http://www.historyofwowo.com/the_rest.html

Many thanks for sharing this, Dave! WOWO is such an iconic AM station with such a deep history–I’m grateful all of these photos and history are being archived and shared online.

Click here to view HistoryofWOWO.com.

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Guest Post: Indian DXer enters into Limca Book of Records

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Sandipan Basu Mallick (VU3JXD), for sharing the following guest post:


Indian DXer enters into Limca Book of Records

Jose Jacob from Hyderabad, India has collected QSL from 132 different stations of All India Radio over a period of 42 years. Radio stations ranging from Shot wave, Medium wave, FM to the latest DRM mode. In the process he has achieved the feat of creating an Indian Record of collecting maximum number of QSL of different stations of a radio broadcaster in India.

As a teenager Jose started listening to radio and started to write to stations way back in 1973, when in his school days. Few years later in 1976 he first wrote to All India Radio, when his reception report was first verified with a QSL. Over next 42 years, he has used various mediums, ranging from inland letters, post cards to emails, for sending reception reporting. Currently he has over 2500 QSL from 130 different countries, many of which left the airwaves.

Over the years, with his special interest in All India Radio, he is one of key country contributors, from India, of World Radio TV Handbook updating about All India Radio to the directory of global broadcasting.

Jose Jacob, is also a licensed amateur radio operator with call sign VU2JOS currently serving as Asst. Director at the National Institute of Amateur Radio (NIAR) www.niar.org

Jose Jacob (VU2JOS) with Certificate from Limca Book of Records

Limca Book of Records is an annual reference book published in India documenting human and natural world records. The world records achieved by humans are further categorised in education, literature, agriculture, medical science, business, sports, nature, adventure, radio, and cinema with Limca book of Records rules. (https://www.coca-colaindia.com/limca-book-of-records)

Limca Book of Records has recognized the feat as one of the Indian records in the radio category and awarded the certificate acknowledging the achievement.

QSL received in 1997 from All India Radio, Nagpur

QSL received in 1988 from All India Radio, Nagpur

QSL received in 1987 from All India Radio, Nagpur


Congratulations to Jose Jacob VU2JOS for an amazing accomplishment!  Thank you for sharing this news, Sandipan!

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DOJ wants RM Broadcasting to register as a foreign agent for broadcasting Sputnik Radio

(Source: Washington Post via Mike Hansgen)

Sputnik radio, a media organization funded by the Russian government with offices around the world, broadcasts from a studio in downtown Washington blocks from the White House. It airs talk shows hosted by, among others, Lee Stranahan, a former Breitbart News reporter, and Brian Becker of the far-left ANSWER Coalition. Its website recently featured a discussion of Russia’s “Great Society” and a chat titled “Is Doing Business in Russia Really That Difficult?” The Weekly Standard once likened the experience of listening to Sputnik to “being immersed in some menacing alternate history timeline: It’s like ‘The Man in the High Castle,’ but for Cold War kids and with real-world implications.” And it has caught the ear of federal authorities.

Since U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Justice has tried to compel Sputnik’s associates to register as foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA. So far, those efforts have mostly been successful: Rossiya Segodnya, the Russian news agency that funds Sputnik, has registered under FARA, as has the managing member of the company that owns 105.5 FM, one of two frequencies that Sputnik broadcasts on in Washington. (Before Sputnik, 105.5 FM played bluegrass.)

There is one holdout: Arnold Ferolito, owner of RM Broadcasting, which leases airtime to Sputnik on 1390 AM in Washington.Not only has he refused to register his company as a foreign agent, the semiretired 76-year-old Florida man is suing the Justice Department over the request. “I’m not being caught up in somebody’s agenda. I’m a business guy,” he told me. “No one gave me anything unless I fought for it. There’s a principle here. In the United States, a person should be able to do business without government interference. … It’s nuts that you have to do something like this.”

In his complaint, filed last fall in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Ferolito contends RM Broadcasting doesn’t have “any kind of joint-venture relationship whatsoever with Rossiya Segodnya,” and that the two entities are simply engaged in “an arms-length commercial business transaction.”

The Justice Department isn’t buying that. In its countersuit, it alleged that Ferolito broadcasts Sputnik news under “the direction and control of Rossiya Segodnya” and is an “information-service employee.”[…]

Click here to read full story.

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Guest Post: A Visit to Radio Tarma


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–author of  Following Ghosts in Northern Peru–for the following guest post:


A Visit To Radio Tarma

By Don Moore

(Note: A more extensive set of photos from Radio Tarma, and other Peruvian radio stations, can be found at Don’s website. The website also contains details of the Peruvian travelogue book he recently wrote and published.)

Radio Tarma building

Shortwave stations in South America are few and far-between these days, but those of us who have been tuning the bands for a few decades remember the days when the tropical bands were filled with Latin American broadcasters from dozens of scattered mountain and jungle towns. One such place was Tarma, a picturesque but chilly city of about 50,000 nestled in a narrow valley in the central Peruvian Andes at 3,000 meters above sea level. Tarma has been an important commercial center since colonial times and archaeological findings indicate that the region was heavily populated long before the Spanish came. Today it sits at the junction of two major trade routes, so it continues to be a bustling place.

View of northern Tarma from the Radio Tarma transmitter site

While wandering around central Peru in April 2018, I made a point of stopping in Tarma so as to visit the town’s namesake broadcaster, Radio Tarma, one of the few Peruvian stations still on shortwave. Radio Tarma’s frequency of 4775 kHz has been a fixture on the sixty meter band for over four decades. What I didn’t know was that this would turn out to be the best of the over one hundred Latin American station visits that I have made in my travels.

Radio Tarma Frequencies

When I first stopped by on Monday afternoon, everyone was busy and no one had time for a visiting gringo. By chance I had arrived on the station’s sixtieth anniversary and they were preparing for a big celebration that night. I was invited to come back in the evening when there would be a huge street party with live music. That evening I got to talk to several members of the station staff and was introduced to owner-manager Mario Monterverde, who invited me to come back for a tour in two days after the celebrations and ceremonies were over.

Radio Tarma’s 60th Anniversary Party

The Radio Tarma Party Band

Radio Tarma Owner/Manager Mario Monteverde

The reason for Radio Tarma’s continued presence on the sixty meter band is Mario Monteverde, Radio Tarma’s energetic owner-manager.

Mario Monteverde in the old record library.

Running radio stations is his passion, and that includes reaching distant listeners on shortwave. Don Mario remembers what shortwave used to be like in Peru and he can rattle off station names and frequencies from past and present as good as any serious DXer. We spend a lot of time talking about stations I used to hear and the ones that I visited in my 1985 trip to Peru. We mostly talk in Spanish, although he speaks English well. He studied in Lima and later in the United States for several months. In the 1980s, he lived in San Francisco for a year while working as a DJ at a Spanish language FM station.

Don Mario thinks that it’s unfortunate that there is so little use of shortwave in Peru today, but other radio station owners think he is crazy to continue to use shortwave. The only listeners to shortwave in Peru are peasants in jungle settlements and remote mountain valleys. That may be a suitable audience for a religious broadcaster, but these listeners have no value to commercial stations, such as Radio Tarma, as they are mostly outside the money economy and of no interest to advertisers. But Don Mario doesn’t care and so Radio Tarma continues to broadcast on shortwave several hours every morning and evening for whoever might happen to tune in.

Studio for Radio Tarma

And, Radio Tarma can afford to broadcast as it sees fit. Don Mario’s Grupo Monteverde is one of the most professionally run and profitable communications companies that I have visited in Peru. In addition to Radio Tarma (on MW, FM, and SW), the company operates two television stations in Tarma, the local cable network, the local FM repeater for Radio Programas del Peru (Peru’s radio news network), and Radio Tropicana, a chain of FM music stations in Tarma and three nearby towns.

(Click here to open video in separate window.)

Founded in 1958 by Mario’s father, Radio Tarma was the first radio station in this city. Using two homemade 500 watt transmitters, the station initially broadcast on both medium wave and 6045 kHz shortwave, but the shortwave went off the air after about a year. Then in 1978, Mario’s father dusted off the old shortwave transmitter and applied for a new license. He was granted 4770 kHz, but that was soon changed to 4775 kHz, where Radio Tarma has been ever since. In the past four decades, Radio Tarma has been logged by thousands of DXers all over the world and, although it’s hard to believe, when I visited Tarma in April 2018 they were still using that original 500 watt transmitter that Mario’s father built sixty years before. However, a new one-thousand watt solid state transmitter was currently in Lima being tested by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. It should be on the air by now.

Studio for Radio Tropicana’s Tarma station

Don Mario starts by giving me a tour of the station building and its well-equipped offices and studios. He shows me the closet where the transmitter for the studio-to-transmitter-site link is and then takes me  upstairs to the record library. Radio Tarma has one of the largest and oldest collections of vinyl records in the Peruvian Andes and includes numerous rare recordings. Many of the disks are EPs, or extended-play, which was once a very common format in the Andes. These records are the size of a 45 but recorded at 33 rpm so that there are two songs on each side. Don Mario keeps the records for their value but they aren’t used on the air anymore as Radio Tarma and its sister stations are all fully computerized. When there’s time they work on digitizing the better historical recordings from their collection.

Radio Tarma mountaintop transmitter site

After seeing the studio, we get in Don Mario’s four-wheel drive SUV for the trip up a steep and winding dirt road that leads to the mountaintop transmitter site. For most of the station’s history, Radio Tarma broadcast from a field on the north side of town.

Radio Tarma’s pre-2012 transmitter site was in the large field in the center of this photograph.

Then in 2010 Don Mario decided to modernize by buying a modern 3000 watt solid-state transmitter for the medium wave frequency and by building a modern transmitter facility on a ridge overlooking town. The new site, which was inaugurated in 2012, is at 3,600 meters elevation (over 600 meters higher than Tarma) and located about 1.5 kilometers south of the old site. (If you’ve logged Radio Tarma both before and after 2012, I think it’s fair to count these as two different transmitter sites.)

Radio Tarma’s mountaintop transmitter plant.

Another view of Radio Tarma’s mountaintop transmitter plant.

Radio Tarma MW and FM masts

The transmitters and antennas for all the Grupo Monteverde stations in Tarma (MW, FM, SW, and TV) are housed in the gray fortress-like cement building covered with a jungle of antennas and satellite dishes, for both receiving and transmitting. All of Peru’s main cellular services have towers nearby, as do several other FM and TV stations in Tarma, but Radio Tarma has the best location, right at the end of the ridge overlooking all of the town. For shortwave, Radio Tarma uses a dipole antenna strung between two masts.

Radio Tarma’s shortwave dipole

The transmitters and other technical equipment are all housed in a large room that takes up most of the first floor of the building. Upstairs there is a small apartment, complete with a living room and kitchen, for the technician who lives here plus another small apartment where Don Mario comes to stay when he feels like escaping to the quiet mountaintop for a night or two.

Radio Tarma SW and three MW transmitters

Radio Tarma transmitter room

Don Mario takes pride in showing me the original 500 watt medium wave and shortwave transmitters that his father made. Normally the shortwave service is shut down for several hours in midday when the frequency won’t propagate, but he turns on the transmitter so that I can see the tubes come to life. The three medium wave transmitters – the original 500 watt one, its 1978 1000 watt replacement, and the new 300 watt solid-state one – are lined up against the wall adjacent to the shortwave transmitter.

Mario Monteverde and Radio Tarma’s original 500 watt shortwave transmitter

Alfonso, transmitter operator at Radio Tarma

Don Mario tells me that the two older medium wave transmitters are regularly maintained so that they could be used at a moment’s notice if needed. He then proceeds to show me that he means just what he says, and shuts down the solid-state transmitter. Once that’s down, he powers up the original Radio Tarma MW transmitter that his father made, and we watch the old tubes light up. Then when it’s operating fully, he turns his father’s transmitter off and switches on the 1978 transmitter for a few minutes before finally returning the signal to full power on the new transmitter. One wonders just what his listeners thought was happening with all this on-and-off transmitting on a beautiful sunny day barely a cloud in the sky!

View of southern Tarma from the transmitter site

Radio Tarma and the Grupo Monteverde are a model operation for radio in smaller cities in the Peruvian Andes. Getting to know both the city and the station was one of the highlights of a seven-month journey through the northern Andes in South America.

Don Mario’s father built the foundation and Don Mario turned Radio Tarma and its sister stations into the small but professional media group that they are. He’s now in his mid-sixties and plans to run the radio operations for several more years. But he is beginning to think of the future. He never married and has no children, his siblings live in Spain and Lima, and all his nieces and nephews are in the United States. It’s not likely that anyone in the family would return to Tarma to run a radio station. He is investigating options of how to set up the corporation so that Radio Tarma and its sister stations would continue as locally-owned and operated radio broadcasters. Whatever he works out, let’s hope it includes a commitment to continue broadcasting on shortwave for many years to come!

If shortwave conditions aren’t the best, you can always listen to Radio Tarma on the web.


Wow–Don, this was amazing. Thank you for taking us on a tour of the amazing Radio Tarma! What a special station to encounter during your travels!

Post Readers: If you like the photos Don included in this guest post, you’ll enjoy browsing even more on Don’s Radio Tarma page

Check out other radio travel photos’ on Don’s Peru DX Photos Page.

Don’s new book, Following Ghosts in Northern Peru: In the Footsteps of 19th Century Travelers on the old Moyobamba Route is available in Kindle and print formats via Amazon.

Purchasing through this Amazon link supports both the author and the SWLing Post. 

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