Showing posts with label KOIL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label KOIL. Show all posts

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just to be perfectly clear . . .

I am still a geek.

In this view from the Revolution 21/3 Chords & the Truth studios as we get ready for the 200th episode of the Big Show, the CDs are Karrin Allyson and John Coltrane, the mixer is a Soundcraft Spirit ES stereo model, the microphone preamps run on vacuum tubes and the background on the computer desktop is from a 1944 ad for KOIL radio in Omaha.

Yep, geek.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

As dead as the American Dream

If you're from Omaha or hereabouts, remember this?

I found the little orange promotional sticker some years back on a still-sealed Three Dog Night LP at a local antique store.

KOIL once was everywhere in Omaha. It was the Top-40 powerhouse of this stretch of the Midwest.

It was the Mighty 1290.

But that was when a working man could support a family, marriage meant a little more than it does today, Americans had recently been to the moon, our longest war was Vietnam, and we talked about the American Dream sans a weary, cynical smirk.

Time marches on; old things fall away. New things take their place. Not all of them are better . . . or any g**damn good at all.

Today, KOIL is the overlooked 1180, not the Mighty 1290. Today, the automation server switches between this and that syndicated talk-radio program. Today, KOIL are four letters about which no one really gives a s***.

Today, its glories are all past, and its future isn't anything to waste time thinking about.

Yeah, I'm listening to Bruce Springsteen's latest album right now. At least The Boss is still singing our song, though a sad one it is.

Maybe someday we'll have enough of crying, and. . . .

Thursday, July 07, 2011

3 Chords & the Truth: Have a nice show

So far, it's been a crappy week.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to my happy place on this episode of the
Big Show. Musically, my happy place -- oddly enough -- is my elementary and junior-high years.

Oddly, because elementary school and junior high were adolescent hell for me. Hated elementary school. Hated junior high. Hated what was a difficult existence at home.

Hated it, hated it, hated it. It's my happy place. This week on 3 Chords & the Truth, it's all about the happy place.

With a little popular insurrection thrown in as teenage drama.

BEFORE YOU call the men with the nets and white coats, let me explain. It's my musical happy place because then, my happiness was on the radio. The Top-40, No. 1, pick-hit, blowtorch, adolescent-escape-pod, AM-by-God radio of the 1970s.

School might be hell and everything absolutely all wrong at home, but the radio always was all right. In Baton Rouge -- where I grew up -- the Big 91,
WLCS, was more than all right.

IN OMAHA, that distinction went to the Mighty 1290,

We start out 3 Chords & the Truth with a middle-age tip o' the hat to those days and those stations . . . and Barry White, who channeled our pubescent thoughts --
only cooler.


OF COURSE, WLCS in Baton Rouge, the Mighty 1290 in Omaha, blowtorch Top-40 radio and my youth are all long gone. Of course, I'd like to have them all back -- especially after, as I said, a crappy week.

But the music remains. And I have this here show. We'll make do so that, maybe, you can find your happy place, too.

We're all in this life together, you know.

IT'S 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Simply '70s: The day the music died

Back in 1976, the music really did die in Omaha.

That's when, on Sept. 2, just after midnight, the Federal Communications Commission ordered legendary Top-40 blowtorch KOIL off the air. As in canceled its license.

According to the commission, Star Stations owner Don Burden did very, very bad things. According to Burden and his employees, political and business enemies railroaded the Omaha radio tycoon.

Nevertheless, the flagship Star Station -- KOIL -- was toast after 51 years on the air. So was its sister FM station, KEFM. So were Top-40 giants in Portland (Vancouver, Wash.) and Indianapolis.

THE FEDERAL "death penalty" made news across the country. It was all over Broadcasting magazine (here and here) and the other trades.

And the Mighty 1290 was no more . . . for a while.

KOIL came back to the Omaha airwaves in December of '76, with a new owner. But never again was it truly mighty.

And soon enough, all that was left were the call letters, parked by corporate owners on another frequency, a robostation spitting out whatever the satellite and the automation dictates.

See, some things are worse than death.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Plowed Profile comes to corn country

John Barrymore, star of stage, screen and drinking establishments, blew into Omaha in May of 1939 -- still long on talent but, alas, rather short on cash.

"The Great Profile" was bringing his latest stage vehicle,
My Dear Children, to the Tech High auditorium in a triumphal homecoming for one of his co-stars, Dorothy McGuire. Thing is, that homecoming turned out to be more than a little mortifying for the Nebraska ingenue -- being that the great actor turned out to be an even greater drunk, not to mention a supreme offender of polite Omaha society.

And then somebody let him on the radio, an apparently bibulous session with KOIL where he rambled and snorted through listeners' written questions.

UH . . . YEAH. It's pretty evident the poor man was as plowed as the nearby cornfields that first of May. Reportedly, Omahans were offended.

Not half as much as the local theater guild, however. Even
Time magazine took note:
Soon the Barrymores' acting gave strong hints of their home life. With gusto John shouted at Elaine such stage lines as "You damned selfish brat." In the play he spanked her harder, she fanged his wrist more savagely, than was necessary.

Fortnight ago their quarrel burst like a boil: Elaine quit the show in a spuming huff. A few days later, performing before Omaha's highbusted Drama League, John was royally pickled. Up & down traveled his voice, to a bull-like bellow, to a bird-like whisper. Scandalized were Omaha's great ladies when he ad-libbed such lines as "Albert, you look like a pregnant string bean." Afterwards Barrymore's press-agent offered the excuse that he had been "very tired." Concurred the Drama League's lady president: "He must have been very, very, VERY tired."
THE 'ENCHANTING' Dorothy McGuire -- she who had the hot mom -- wouldn't be taking in the spectacle much longer:

"Mr. Barrymore was a great disappointment to Dorothy," reported a November 1941 profile on the young actress in
She toured with him for eight months, and was particularly embarrassed on the occasion of a one-night stand in Omaha, where his classic vocabulary and uninhibited stage presence made a shocking impression of old family friends of hers in the audience. By the fall of 1939 she found the Great Profile's shenanigans so taxing that she abandoned the troupe in Chicago, thus missing the New York opening. "I'd come blissful and starry-eyed from Our Town into this roughhouse," she said later. "I really and truly was shocked."
IN THE biography John Barrymore, Shakespearean Actor, Michael A. Morrison has this account of the Omaha tour stop:
As the tour progressed through the South and Midwest, however, Barrymore soon came to resent the play and his fourth wife. Again there were much-publicized quarrels with Elaine Barrie; Barrymore showed up in an inebriated state and made unprintable comments at a luncheon in Omaha designed to promote the play. He improvised on the script whenever his memory failed or the impulse arose , and on at least one occasion resorted to four-letter words. After further marital tumult, Elaine Barrie agreed to be replaced and left the tour in St. Louis.
I GUESS you could say a lot of things about my "damned town," Omaha. If you're paying attention, though, you'd know one of them wouldn't be "boring."

And you don't have to be well and properly plowed -- or, for that matter, as high as an elephant's eye -- to know "it's one of the most enchanting places" you've ever been in.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

My hit parade

This is our iPod. It has vacuum tubes, and you can't stick it in your pocket.

But it does get nice and warm, and the hot tubes in the guts of the 1956 Zenith hi-fi console smell like the magic dust of a long-lost childhood.

There apparently is something out there called "the slow-media movement." This, in our living room, is the "slow-music movement."

Tonight, Mrs. Favog and I were listening to a stash of 1940s home recordings, from back when home recording meant putting a cutting stylus to a blank transcription disc, then carefully brushing away the shavings as the music made its way out of the radio and into the acetate.

I WONDER whether that long-ago Omaha recording enthusiast imagined -- as he (or she) plucked favored songs out of the ether and hid them away in homemade records -- that someday, someone in Future Omaha would listen to those recordings and, however briefly . . . however tenuously, rend the veil between our worlds.

I wonder whether they could grasp that, amazingly, Your Hit Parade would live on -- that the world the recorder knew in 1944 would again emerge, not from the ether but from a homemade record to touch a future world of atom bombs and television and space stations and a computer in every . . . lap.

DID THEY imagine that the youthful Frank Sinatra -- the star of the show who drove legions of bobby-soxers to squeals of ecstasy more than a decade before Elvis got in on the act -- someday would be the long-dead Chairman of the Board . . . and that those frenzied young girls would be great-grandmas?

Someone in 1944 put a heavy stylus down on an acetate-covered aluminum disc rotating at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute. The stylus cut tiny grooves into the acetate blank. Message met bottle, and that union was cast into the currents of time.

Ah, but I have a time machine. It's a 1956 Zenith.

It's April 2010. It's December 1944. Ol' Blue Eyes is dead; long live Ol' Blue Eyes.

The slow-music movement can zip you across time and space in just the time it takes needle to meet record.

Listen! Sinatra's singing the No. 1 song on Your Hit Parade. Oh my God, you barely can hear "The Trolley Song" through the screams of the bobby-soxers!

L.S./M.F.T! L.S./M.F.T! Lucky Strike means fine tobacco . . . and lung cancer just in time for the Space Age. This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Well, 1944, it was good to make your acquaintance. So long . . .
for a while.

Monday, April 12, 2010

'Sweet' sign at the supermarket

Here's the deal. It's always yesterday somewhere.

And in the parking lot of the Peony Park Hy-Vee in Omaha, you still can party like it's 1999 -- at least judging by the vintage Sweet 98 radio station and "Gary Coleman Has a Posse" stickers on the back of a sign there.

If you've been in Omaha a while, you certainly remember Sweet 98, which reigned as the undisputed champion of FM radio here for a couple of decades.

NOW, IF YOU'RE new to town or happen to be under 20, you would be one of the few people who don't still call KQKQ radio "Sweet 98," even though it changed format and name six years ago. For your edification, that previous incarnation of Q 98 Five played all the hits, had all the great contests and enjoyed the undying loyalty of every teenybopper in eastern Nebraska (and some of their parents, too).

It goes without saying that -- like the vintage bumper sticker there in the Hy-Vee parking lot -- was back when teenyboppers still listened to the radio. Which, of course, was back when radio was the picture of health and the iPod hadn't come out yet.

Back in the day, however, Sweet 98 was a hell of a station . . . if Top-40 was your thing. It inherited the mantle of "king of the teen-age hipsters" from the previous Omaha Top-40 powerhouse, "the Mighty 1290" KOIL (always said as "coil").


KOIL reigned from the late '50s through most of the '70s, but difficulties with the Federal Communications Commission knocked it down -- even off the air for about six months -- and then when "Sweet" came along in 1980, that was that, forever and amen.

I'm not from here, and my glory days were in the '70s, not the '80s, but I understand how it is. Sweet 98 was to KOIL here what KOIL was to WLCS, which wasn't in Omaha, but instead in Baton Rouge, La., where I grew up. Are you following me here?

IN OTHER WORDS, when I was a kid,
"the Big Win 910", was like KOIL, which was like Sweet 98, except that 'LCS got knocked off by WFMF, not KQKQ. Get it?

Whatever. If you're from my neck of the woods, and you still miss WLCS, go to the Big Win 910 CafePress shop and buy one of my shirts. Poppa needs a MacBook, OK?

They call this "full disclosure," I think.

But what we're really talking about here is sainted memory, isn't it? The little things long gone and -- objectively -- of little import, but which mean the world to me. And you. And everybody.

Usually, these things live on only in our hearts and minds. But sometimes . . . sometimes . . . they hang on and hold out -- kind of like those long-ago Japanese soldiers deep in the jungle on an island somewhere in the South Pacific, still fighting a war that ended long before, fighting on simply because no one told them it was over.

Obviously, not many people -- OK . . . no one, actually -- would mistake the parking lot at 78th and Cass for deepest, darkest New Guinea. But there, Sweet 98 holds out, ambushing unsuspecting grocery shoppers with promises of "Today's Hit Music."

Trying to win a brutal Top-40 ratings war that, for the rest of the world, is nothing more than a distant memory. A "sweet" memory of a time when radio mattered, and kids still listened.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Music and magic in the night

The magic is gone. Radio is dead.

Not so long ago -- OK, long ago -- the moonlight brought magic into the lives of American kids, their rooms illuminated by the dial lights and vacuum tubes of bedside radios and their ears filled with the soundtrack of amazing worlds that lay somewhere behind four-inch loudspeakers.

Where now lives -- if one can use the term so loosely -- syndicated fare like George Noory's all-night freak show and angry AM-radio ranters used to exist a world where DJs spun records through the night, both across town and halfway across a continent.

LATE AT NIGHT, the old tube radio filled your room with the faint smell of ozone and the powerful magic of stepping into worlds not your own -- the kid in a burg like Baton Rouge eavesdropped on the big-time rock 'n' roll sounds of the big city via WLS in Chicago. Or he might have an entirely legal psychedelic experience in Little Rock -- Little Rock??? -- on KAAY's Beaker Street . . . or, closer to home over on the FM band, on "Loose Radio" or maybe aboard the Chad Noga Choo-Choo on "Rampart 102" out of New Orleans.

Up here in Omaha, kids lay in their rooms listening to the late-night "Good Guy" on the "Mighty 1290" KOIL. Or maybe to whomever was pumpin' out the hits on KOMA in Oklahoma City or KIMN in Denver.

Others, to be sure, had rigged up an FM set so they could tune in and turn on as their radio "guru" dropped the needle on some Moby Grape over on "Radio Free Omaha," and all the groovy cats of the upper Midwest dreamed dreams of Max Yasgur's farm.

We are stardust. We are golden.

We are no more.

THE MAGIC IS DEAD. Our radios -- and our alternate universes -- have collapsed upon themselves in a computerized corporate cataclysm, leaving shards of smashed tubes and smashed dreams scattered across the landscape of our culture and our minds.

After the Buy n Large Corp. bought and consolidated an entire medium, there was no room for such inefficiencies as magic. Soon enough, the airwaves no longer could support life at all.

The children of the magic took it for granted, and it vanished beneath mountains of financial, cultural and human debris. And BnL didn't even leave a Wall·E to clean up the mess.

NOW OUR CHILDREN go through life with cell phones and iPods wired to their brains. They'll never know the magic of conjuring up entire worlds out of a box of capacitors and electron tubes.

They'll do a keyword search for "theater of the mind" on YouTube. All the results will reference an album by Ludacris.

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to turn on my old radio -- the one with the glowing vacuum tubes -- and see whether I can tease the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. out of the ether from up there in Winnipeg. I'm becoming a fast fan of In the Key of Charles and Tonic with Tim Tamashiro.

Maybe somewhere out there -- somewhere beyond this all-American, all-capitalistic Iron Curtain of our own making -- there be magic.