At 14-years-old I started in radio in Lincoln, Nebraska as the host of a weekly 10 minute interview show called Unique Youth. I would celebrate kids in the community who were making a positive difference in the lives of others.
Rick Alloway was my mentor and defender. Unique Youth aired on KFOR 1240 — the number one station in the city — and on their FM sister station X103 (now known as KFRX 102.7 after the advent of digital stereo tuners) at 5:30am Fridays.
I was quickly able to move up to weekend air shifts and I steadily worked in radio at KFOR and X103 as well as KLMS 1480 (the call letters at the time were pronounced “Kay-Elle-Aim-Esh-ah!” on air in an old-time classic boss jock performance) and KBHL FM. Later I added television to my resume when I became the teen movie critic on Kidding Around — with hostess Leta Powell Drake — for broadcast powerhouse KOLN/KGIN-TV and those stations had a coverage map the shape and size of the entire state of Nebraska.
I was honored to work with radio greats like Scott Young, Tim Moreland, Jim Miller, Dick Terhune, Skip Willis, Emmet Jones, Greg Jackson, Francis J. Grabowski, Jr., J. Marshall Stewart, Dave Graupner and Christopher Morrow.
I’m sure I’m leaving out lots of other greats so remind me if I missed you. I am listed on the Nebraska Radio People website as well as the Where Are They Now? page so you can root around there to see what all those greats are doing now. I love radio. It is Theatre of the Mind. I was raised on radio.
As a youngster I would sleep with my portable GE radio next to my ear as I tried to tune in Larry Lujack’s late night show on WLS in Chicago when the air was clean and clear and 50,000 watts were able to reach me through the thin atmosphere to land softly and tenderly in my prepubescent ear.
Today kids are raised on MTV where their eyes replace their ears and images ruin their imagination. I would not trade my radio days — listening or performing — for anything. The double-shifts I worked at KFOR from 6pm to Midnight and then again 6am-Noon were backbreakers and spirit-testers, but that experience helped build character.
I learned how to think fast on my feet in real time and how to problem-solve mishaps that happened live on the air. I was delighted to find an outstanding radio site called ReelRadio where, for $12 a year, you can login and listen to incredible airchecks from radio’s recent glorious history.
An aircheck is what disk jockeys use to document their on-air performance. There were in-house aircheck reel-to-reel tape recorders that would start recording when the announcer’s microphone was activated for live communication.
Some jocks saved their airchecks. Most used them as a system of self-checks and then threw them away or they mailed them off to get jobs in other radio markets. An aircheck contains only snippets of music. If you haven’t heard an aircheck before you might be put off by the jerkiness of the editing but the purpose of an aircheck is to only condense the work of the announcer — nothing else matters.
There were radio fans at home who would record airchecks of their favorite personalities and you will find many of those fan-created airchecks on ReelRadio. You will instantly be transported back to a time in the 60’s and 70’s when radio was boss and when radio mattered most in the everyday lives of everyone in America.
Radio was driven by an intricate mix of music and personality back then and the airchecks you hear on ReelRadio demonstrate that tight relationship between culture and curing. On ReelRadio you will find preserved the work of The Real Don Steele, Charlie Tuna, Larry Lujack, Wolfman Jack, Don Imus and many others. My favorite boss jock on ReelRadio is the great Robert W. Morgan who had the number one show on KHJ in Los Angeles for five years straight from 1965-1970 and he had a 20 share in the ratings.
A 20 share means 20% of radios in Los Angeles were listening to him. At 28-years-old he was number one in Los Angeles. His style was warm and welcoming and cutting and curious and when you listen to this particular aircheck: Robert W. Morgan, KHJ Los Angeles, October 18 1968 You will be transported back to a moment when you can experience in “real time” the following:
- Wichita Lineman makes its debut as a song and Robert W. Morgan hopes it becomes a hit and he tells us he will play it again in an hour to make sure it sticks.
- You will hear news about Apollo 7.
- You will get an update on Jackie Kennedy’s impending marriage to Aristotle Onassis.
- There will be a rumor of disruption at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics where a “Black Power” salute was demonstrated.
- Songstress Lulu will sing a commercial jingle for you about shampoo.
- Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” will also make a debut as a single. An advertisement for the new Laugh-In album creates a smile.
You can see a video aircheck of — Robert W. Morgan, KRTH March 28, 1994 (57:17) — that fascinates as it teaches. Robert W. Morgan ran his own sound board and answered his own phone. You will also enjoy a final video tribute to Robert W. Morgan here — THE ROBERT W. MORGAN BOSS-OGRAPHY (35:58) — that took place on January 9, 1998. Robert W. Morgan died of lung cancer on May 22, 1998 and, as he says on camera in his own tribute video, “smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for 35 years might have something to do with it.”
Seeing Robert W. Morgan bald and frail from chemotherapy and ill-of-voice from trying to catch his breath is a terrible, but necessary, way to appreciate his gifts and to harshly remind us all how easily a life can be puffed away at its peak. He was
ReelRadio is memories that made history and its role as a celebration of radio and as an archive of talent is invaluable. You may find a free taste of ReelRadio by listening to their 10th Anniversary Special. Your ears will remember through your heart.