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MARCH 25, 2011: WHEN AM RADIO WAS THE KING OF THE RADIO AIRWAVES

By on March 25, 2011
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AM radio used to rule the world. Sure it took a licking when a young punk named TV came to town, but radios were still a big part of our lives in the past.

 

These days AM radio still has a pulse, but its days as king of the airwaves are a faint memory.

 

AM radio has become a bit player for news and talk stations that only require a cheap in-dash speaker to deliver their product.

 

The broadcast range of AM signals is still mush larger than its FM sibling, but AM radio’s primary audience has morphed into a niche market of conspiracy theorists, political wackos and a herd of idiots with opinions about their sports teams.

 

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Consequently we can light a candle for the dearly departed world of AM radio that played such a big role in our lives as we grew up. The dynamics of radio meant for an interesting mix in our house when I was a kid.

 

AM radio was actually a blend of many musical styles in those days. Roger Miller could play on the same station as the Rolling Stones on the CHED pop charts. The 1910 Fruitgum Company could rub musical elbows with Jimi Hendrix on CHED and it made sense.

 

The morning guys in AM radio always seemed larger than life. CHED had the legendary Wes Montgomery to carry the torch and he was a man who was very social in his day. Some of his morning antics seemed to be an extension of a busy night that had yet to end for Wes.

 

Our family breakfast morning radio guy was a man named Ron Henry from CKRD-our local station that was more middle-of-the-road. He served up a mix of easier listening tunes from The Irish Rovers to lighter pop songs.

 

Ron added a few wrinkles such as his morning call to breakfast (a series of reminders that it was getting late for school or work) and his “march- around- the- breakfast table” (a John Philips Sousa number) that was corny- but part of the morning ritual. Incidentally, none of us actually marched around the table.

 

I have never had any fondness for early mornings, but those two guys really helped make it tolerable.

 

A car ride with my Dad usually meant a steady diet of CHQR and CHQT; sister stations that played mostly vocalists like Sinatra and conductors like Mancini. It was a little high brow for kids, but the musical lesson really stuck with me.

 

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Night time was always interesting for AM radio. The signal strength was dropped and we had a different game with radio. CKRD would switch to a younger crowd and play more Top 40 songs, complete with an opportunity to dedicate songs to our romantic interests.

 

The Dedication Line meant that we had to man up and tell the world who we really “liked-liked” at school. It was a frightening experience.

 

Night time also meant that we could get skipped radio signals from all over North America. It was our window on the world that drifted in and out on the dial as the signals came and went.

 

I will always have a soft spot for AM radio. It opened up a big world of music and endless possibilities at an impressionable time in my life.

 

More of Jim Sutherland at http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/

COMMENTS

ROBERT:”The old AM radio. When that was all there was, we listened in every chance we could. There were rules though. #1 was don’t change dad’s station.My first car a 1957 Chevrolet Belair convertible was very cool. But it even gets better, it had a reverb. What’s that. It was an echo chamber. We’d sit at the hamburger stand on Saturday night listening to AM radio with an echo chamber effect. Now that’s cool.

CINDY:”630 CHED and CKCK Regina on a really good nite!!!

DENNIS:”We had big speakers in the back window of our cars but they didn’t ‘break the sound barrier’ with every drum beat. The radio was the radio, not the ‘information center’ for the car computer. You didn’t have to worry about turning your car into a ‘lawn ornament’ by pressing the buttons in the wrong sequence”.

 

 

 

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