Showing posts with label WBRH. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WBRH. Show all posts

Monday, April 06, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em):
Never Mind the Bollocks

OK, back to the coal mine -- with my ghetto blaster.

The weekend intruded upon my recounting of 10 influential albums in my life. We resume the recounting with No. 6 in the series . . . the Sex Pistols' 1977 bombshell, "Never Mind the Bollocks."

I got stories about the Sex Pistols. I'll draw upon a 2006 blog entry to tell you about that anew.

But that story starts in the summer of 1977, when my Aunt Ailsa, an English war bride, flew home to Southampton to visit family. By that time, befuddled American foreign correspondents were sending back dispatches about this British phenomenon called "punk rock" and its antihero leaders, the Sex Pistols.

The current single by Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Paul Cook and Steve Jones was "God Save the Queen." It had been banned by the BBC. I was 16. Naturally, I had to have it.

And when Aunt Ailsa got back to Baton Rouge, I did. As far as I knew, I had the only Sex Pistols record in town. Maybe one of the few in the United States. You certainly didn't hear the Sex Pistols anywhere on local radio.

I preferred to think my aunt had to go in the back door of a Southhampton record shop and ask a cannabis-toking clerk "I say, do you have the stuff?" And then, in my teenage imagination, the clerk put down his bag of chips, slipped the 45 into a brown paper bag, and handed it to her. She then would have put a pound note into his resin- and grease-tainted hand, immediately lit a cigarette to mask the smell of second-hand marijuana smoke clinging to her clothes and slipped back out the back door.

MORE LIKE IT, she went in the front door of HMV, grabbed "God Save the Queen" off the rack and paid the teenage clerk at the front counter.

I like my 16-year-old imagination's version better.

Anyway . . . the fine folks in Red Stick thought the Beatles were dangerous and the Rolling Stones were spawns of Satan. Little did they know.

For example:
God save the queen
The fascist regime
They made you a moron
A potential H-bomb

God save the queen
She's not a human being
and There's no future
And England's dreaming

Don't be told what you want
Don't be told what you need
There's no future
No future
No future for you

God save the queen
We mean it man
We love our queen
God saves

God save the queen
'Cause tourists are money
And our figurehead
Is not what she seems

Oh God save history
God save your mad parade
Oh Lord God have mercy
All crimes are paid
Oh when there's no future
How can there be sin
We're the flowers
In the dustbin
We're the poison
In your human machine
We're the future. . . .
MAN, I WAS a blue-collar kid in the Deep South. I was, for the first time in my life, at a school where ideas mattered and, like, thinking was encouraged and not reason to label you a weirdo or a "n****r-lover" -- or maybe "queer."

I mean, in the redneck corners of Louisiana, one did not lightly refer to thespians while among people who thought a thespian was other than what he or she actually was.

No, being at Baton Rouge Magnet High School blew a blue-collar kid's mind wide open in a Technicolor frenzy of Dreaming Big. Such was life at the Maggot School.

"The Maggot School" is what White Trash Nation called Baton Rouge High throughout my tenure there -- 1976-79. It was the place where all the geeks, brainiacs, musicians and thespians could be weirdos together in relative harmony and contentment. Hey, at BRHS, it was good to be a thespian.

If Student X had admitted to being a thespian at Broadmoor Junior High, I garon-damn-tee you someone would have beat him (or her) up and administered an enthusiastic version of the Toilet Water Taste Test. And the boys would have been even more vicious.

You just as well had put on an ascot and admitted to being a Homo sapiens. Or, better yet, called Junior Martinez (pronounced MART'un-ez) a Homo sapiens.

Anyway, Baton Rouge High, by the 1975-76 school year, was a struggling inner-city school whose halcyon days had gone the way of poodle skirts, B-52s (the hairdo, not the band) and "separate but equal." Then someone had an idea -- a magnet school for academics and the performing arts.

My parents were leery of this thing (I'll bet you can guess why), but I got to go. Miracle of miracles!

Well, Baton Rouge High had -- and still has -- a radio station. A real, honest-to-God, student-operated, over-the-air FM radio station -- WBRH. And thus, in high school, your Mighty Favog learned everything he needed to know.

The college education was for my liver.

ANYWAY . . . let me tell you about when WBRH introduced Baton Rouge to punk rock in 1977.

I found out about the Sex Pistols on Weekend, the NBC newsmagazine that preempted Saturday Night Live once a month back in the day. In this case, "back in the day" was, I reckon, spring 1977. Anyway, it seemed that the Pistols were about as pissed at the world as my teenage self, they could rock and -- best of all -- they terrified polite society as much as anything I had seen in my young life.

The fall of '77, I was enrolled in Radio I. I wasn't allowed an air shift yet; back then you first had to get a federal license -- by passing an exam. But I knew bunches of people in Radio II who had their third tickets (radio operator's licenses). Soon, the Sex Pistols were on the Baton Rouge airwaves, via the 20-watt blowtorch signal at 90.1 FM.

One fall afternoon, I was sitting in with Charles, a junior, during the afternoon rock show. He was skeptical of the Sex Pistols, but played it and asked for listener feedback. What feedback you get from a high-school FM blowtorch (that is, not a bunch) was decidedly mixed.

AFTER A WEEK or so of playing Baton Rouge's one copy of a Sex Pistols record, we did get some strong feedback. It was from the licensee of WBRH, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board. And it went something like this: We don't know what the hell that is you've been playing on the radio station, but we want you to cut it out. NOW!

The radio instructor and general manager, John Dobbs, liked his teaching gig. The 45 was confiscated, and the Sex Pistols faced the same fate at WBRH that the lads did at the BBC. Banned.

I did retrieve my record from The Iron Fist of the Oppressor, but only after I agreed never to bring it back. It sits, carefully preserved in its famous picture sleeve, in a plastic file box, along with all my other 45s from Back in the Day.

Now, Charles was -- is? -- an interesting guy. Think of Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties a good five years before there was a Family Ties. Only African-American.

It probably was in the spring of '78 that I was again hanging out with Charles in the radio control room, playing the likes of David Gilmour, The Fabulous Poodles, Toto, the Cars, Journey and Queen. Maybe some Commodores -- Brick House, baby! -- and Parliament/Funkadelic.

Well, that day, obviously not enough "Brick House" or "P-Funk."

(Flash. Flash. Flash. Hey, radio-studio phones flash; they don't ring. OK?)

Charles: WBRH!

Caller: Hey, man, why don't you play some n****r music, man! ("N****r" = Not Polite, Racist and Offensive Term for African-American -- then, now or ever.)

Charles: Uhhhhh, excuse me, but I happen to be black.

Caller: Oh, uhhh, oh . . . oh, I'm sorry, man! How about playin' some BLACK music for me, man!

Charles: I'll see what I can do. (Slams phone down.) Redneck son of a bitch!
I DON'T THINK the guy got his "n****r music" played, man.

Now, I think there was a point to this post when I started it. I'll see whether I can get back to it.

When the Sex Pistols' first LP, "Never Mind the Bollocks" -- you know, the point of this whole missive -- came out in November 1977, I made it to the Musicland at Cortana Mall in the manner of someone whose head was on fire and his ass was catchin'.

Is what I'm sayin'.

And it did not disappoint when I got it on the stereo. I was dangerous, too -- in both 45 and 33⅓.

I'd like to think I still am at age 59. My wife of almost 37 years might disagree.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Fear and loathing in high-school radio

Who's the leader of the station that's made for you and me?

N-O-T  Y-O-U,  teen-age disc joc-key.

And when it comes to our public schools and the people who run them, the exercise of authority over the inmates students can, indeed, quickly become a real Mickey Mouse operation. This usually comes down to raw politics . . . and the sad reality that once they turn 18, the kids who sat in the back of the classroom are eligible to vote for school board.

Another other sad reality -- and this is one teenagers generally learn long before graduation -- is that what you learn in civics class is 75 percent aspiration and only 25 percent actual execution.

Take your constitutional rights as public-school students, for example. Despite the case law on, say, high-schoolers' First Amendment rights being pretty well settled since the early 1970s -- and since 1943 in the case of those choosing to not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem -- every year, some principal or some school board will try to show some dissident somewhere who the real boss is.

I think you can get the right answer to this question even without the benefit of a multiple-choice exam.

So, every year some principal tries to censor or shut down some high school newspaper or, this year, threaten prep football players with "fire and fury" if they take a knee against racial injustice during the Star-Spangled Banner on Friday night. And unless the student knows a really good lawyer. . . .

Because people are stupid, politicians feel the need to be even stupider. It's a matter of solidarity with the electorate. Mostly, though, it's a matter of getting re-elected.

WBRH bumper sticker, circa 1978
WHEN I was growing up in Louisiana, and on the student side of the power equation, things could get a little weird.  This had a lot to do with how politics pervade everything in Louisiana . . . and how politics in the Gret Stet tend to have this certain Venezuelan je ne sais quoi.

This is where the "fear, loathing and radio" part of the post kicks in.

In any banana republic, the first lesson one learns -- or else -- is not to piss off the Maximum Leader. This goes double for the party newspaper and state radio. When the party organ is your local high-school newspaper and state radio is, for instance, the student beacon of Hometown High, students may have their First Amendment rights, but the Maximum Leaders in the principal's office and on the school board still have leverage.

Like money, for instance. Like the power to hire or fire faculty, for another. Like just shutting this troublesome radio station the hell down. When push comes to shove, "freedom of the press" belongs to him who owns one.

Does the Maximum Leader have to threaten a thing? Nope. Sane employees with house notes to pay and kids to feed know who butters their toast. And Maximum Leader Is Watching YOU.

August 1977
IN THE CASE of WBRH, the radio voice of Baton Rouge Magnet High School, the licensee isn't the Autonomous Students of Baton Rouge High. It is the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.

Can the state exercise prior restraint against students who staff official, publicly funded media? Theoretically, no, if Maximum Leader cares to pay lip service to the U.S. Constitution.

But does the constitution require the state to fund a radio station or any other official organ? As far as I know . . . no. There's always an angle.

Especially in Louisiana, a state filled with geometry savants.

In banana republics, the peasants always are seditious, Maximum Leader always has an itchy trigger finger, and the employees on the bottom of the government's food chain always are nervous.

WBRH radio now takes you to the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, where Smiley Anders' universally read local column has just rolled off the press. It is June 1, 1981.

IT IS DELUSIONAL to think that everybody who was anybody at the East Baton Rouge Parish schools central office didn't either read, hear about or field jokesters' telephone calls about Smiley Anders' column that day.

It likewise would be delusional to think that the WBRH general manager, radio broadcasting and electronics teacher John Dobbs, didn't quite reasonably think "Oh, shit . . ." when he saw Smiley's column. Or was told about it in no uncertain terms.

We again take you to the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, where Smiley Anders' universally read local column has just rolled off the press. It is June 3, 1981.

MY LAST airshift at WBRH came a couple of years before that -- I graduated in May 1979. And it's true: It was a tradition and, thus, a coincidence.

But there's no denying that it was an epic and happy coincidence. Well, not for Mr. Dobbs, but still . . . coincidence or not, in the world of student media, you take your shots when you're able, and you count your victories when you can.

In my student-media days, I counted a few victories. I also racked up some defeats and collected a couple of battle scars.

First, there was the time I helped introduce Baton Rouge to the Sex Pistols when I brought my British-import 45 of "God Save the Queen" to the studios of 90.1 FM. Maximum Leader was watching. Or listening, actually.

After a few spins during the fall of 1977, "God Save the Queen" was as banned in Baton Rouge as it was on the BBC. Mr. Dobbs even confiscated my 45. I got it back when I promised never to bring it back.

Then, maybe a couple of months later, there was the time we had Fannie Godwin on Teen Forum, the 20-watt, high-school FM radio version of Meet the Press. I'm sure it was indistinguishable from Bill Monroe's NBC program but for the acne.

Godwin was a local activist, vice-president of the Baton Rouge ACLU chapter and a "school board watcher," meaning "watchdog" in regular American English. In the fall of 1977, the organization had undertaken the controversial, nay, subversive practice of . . . passing out booklets to high-school students informing them about their constitutional rights.

IN 1977, this was a full-blown, red-alert controversy in Baton Rouge. I'm sure it would be today, too. 

The Other Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook informed East Baton Rouge Parish students, right there on the cover, that "You are not in the Army. You are not in prison. It only seems like it. . . ." This was because 40 years ago in my hometown, in most high schools, it seemed like you were in the Army. In a few, notably Zachary High School under Obergrüppenführer Jerry Boudreaux, some freethinkers swore it was a lot more like a prison.

This seems to be the part that got folks the most riled up. Naturally, it involved the First Amendment.
You can speak your mind, wear buttons, and arm bands, hand out literature, picket, form clubs and invite speakers, all on school grounds as long as you don't clearly interrupt the normal school process. It will be up to the administration to prove disruption. You do not need prior permission (even though the parish handbook says you do) to speak, wear buttons, hold meetings, and form clubs.
THE PARISH school board called the Zachary High administration, parents, students and good Christian townspeople of Zachary before it to mount a defense against the horrible allegations with which the American Civil Liberties Union was filling reporters' minds -- and stories.

Obergrüppenführer Boudreaux denied all. Parents decried the civil-liberties troublemakers. Students took the microphone to pull what we'd later come to recognize as total Tracy Flick moves.

"A former Zachary student, who did not give his name, said he was 'unlucky enough' to have also attended other high schools," State-Times reporter Linda Lightfoot wrote in the Sept. 16, 1977, edition of the evening paper. 
"Nobody makes us salute the flag," he said. "We are proud to be a Christian community.“

He added that the "ACLU is dead wrong if it is saying Jerry Boudreaux is running the school in a totalitarian manner."

Darwin Williams. a senior at Zachary, said a "glint of Communism" shows through in the ACLU literature.

Jill Wilson, editor at the Zachary High school paper, said that the ACLU leaflet seemed to imply that she could say anything she wanted to say in the school paper. “Well, I don't want it that way," she said.
State-Times, Sept. 16, 1977. Click for full-size version

IN ZACHARY, obviously there was no pravda in Izvestia and no izvestia in Pravda.

This was the milieu amid which WBRH had Fannie Godwin, second-ranking "commie" in all the parish, on Teen Forum. Charles Knighten was the moderator; I was one of the panelists.

We were keen to know about these constitutional rights students possessed. And we talked much about the ACLU's alternative student handbook.

A just-graduated friend -- a former WBRH staffer -- had dropped by the studio as we were about to tape the program. He told me of pre-performance prayers by the drama students and teacher, suggesting that would make for a good line of questioning.

It was a good topic to quiz the local ACLU vice-president about. If you were (1.) an independent journalist at (2.) a news-media outlet (3.) somewhere in the United States of America.

My journalism and civics teachers would have told me I was, WBRH was, and Louisiana was. Facts on the ground would come to indicate (1.) no, (2.) no, and (3.) "What have you been smoking?"

We thought the show went swimmingly and that Fannie was a great guest. After all, her needling of members during school board meetings surely was high performance art before anyone had heard of performance art.

Someone somewhere in the Maximum Leader ranks thought otherwise. Apparently, I had passed classified material to the enemy.

I was off the Teen Forum panel. And I don't think Teen Forum was back for a second season.

SO, what have I learned in these 40 years since my high-school radio days?

Well . . . I'll tell you.

I've learned that WBRH is made of sturdy stuff. Baton Rouge High's FM station has survived many Maximum Leaders in the school board central office, has endured the politics that infest every single damn thing in my home state, and has grown exponentially despite it all . . . by sticking to the music. Teen Forum still is dead as a door nail, though.

I've learned that digging through old hometown newspapers from one's salad days sure knocks the rose color off your glasses right quick. Ugliness in black and white beats the crap out of nostalgia and sentimentalism every time. (I also am reminded of why I got the hell out of Baton Rouge -- for the last time -- nearly 30 years ago. According to contemporary headlines, things there haven't much improved.)

I've learned that even though I disagree with the ACLU on some things, America damn well needs the ACLU.

Finally, I've learned from the latest effort by "good, Christian Americans" to vilify and intimidate those who, in protest of injustice, take a knee for the national anthem that some things never change. At all.

I have learned that, in this country, there is a wide gulf between the rights society tells people they possess and the rights society permits them to exercise in peace.

BATON ROUGE HIGH,  God bless it, was not the Army and was not a prison. Despite the best malevolent efforts of Louisiana's various Maximum Leaders, my old school was a great old school . . . and still is. There, I learned pretty much everything I needed to know in life.

College was just for the advanced degree in drinking.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

3 Chords & the Truth: The spirit of '76

There's no percentage in the present, so let's try the past.

Does 1976 sound good? Sounds good to me -- '76 was a very good year to be young and in love with music.

So it's settled . . . and the spirit of '76 it is! And it's all goin' down on the Big Show.

Now fasten your seat belt for a journey to the center of the Seventies. Stay tuned for complimentary 8-track tapes and some really cool tunes.

Right on, man!

Next stop: Recaptured youth and another crack at high school.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

We're gonna party like it's . . . 1992

This is 90-something minutes of alternative rock 'n' roll greatness.

This is WBRH, 90.3 on your FM dial in Baton Rouge, La., almost a quarter century ago now. This also is a high-school radio station -- the broadcast voice of Baton Rouge Magnet High School.

I don't know who the DJ is . . . but she is on fire with the music she's choosing.

Likewise, I don't know when in September 1992 this aircheck was recorded, nor do I know the time of day. All I do know is this is my old station (1977-79) near the height of its musical powers.

I had been living in Omaha for more than four years by the time someone rolled tape on this bit of radio history . . . and there is no way the much larger city up Nawth had a rock station as good as this back then.

Or now, for that matter.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Simply '70s: All I want for Christmas

Santa: Click on ad for better resolution!

Dear Santa,

I know I'm jumping the gun a little bit, this being just the end of September, but I figured you'll need a little lead time to get this for me.

I don't know how many Spotmaster 5300 Multi-Deck broadcast cart machines there are out there anymore. I enclosed a 1976 ad for one from Broadcasting magazine so you can see what it looks like. If you find a Spotmaster 5300 Multi-Deck broadcast cart machine, you probably will have to have your elves fix it up some so I can play with it.

It's like a great big 8-track tape deck, only with six fewer tracks and more better sound quality!

I used to use a deck just like this a lifetime ago at WBRH, 90.1 FM, the booming 10-watt radio voice of Baton Rouge High School. Since it's probably too much of a job even for Santa to transport me back 35 years (and many more than 35 pounds), this, I suppose, will have to do.

I hope you can find me one of these, Santa . . . that would be really swell!

Oh, the fun I could have!

Please give the reindeer some apples for me.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Some people (namely me) never learn

Anybody know how to get a 33-year-old bumper sticker off a flat screen?

I'm so stupid! I vaguely remember cracking open a bottle of cheap Canadian whiskey last night, then something like, "Hey, y'all! Watch this!"

Should I just buy a new monitor?

One day, I swear, I will learn my lesson. You'd think I would have following the time I touched my tongue to the storm door when it was 15 below zero outside.

The doctor says that with one more surgery, I should once again be comfortable with the letter "S."

That's it! Lesson learned.

From here on out, I will stay away from the cheap Canadian whiskey and drink only the expensive stuff.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Your Daily '80s: High school radio, 1987

The WBRH staff, circa 1980

This evening on Your Daily '80s, we listen to a full three hours of high-school radio the way it was in 1987 in my hometown.

The station: WBRH, FM 90 in Baton Rouge.

The school:
Baton Rouge Magnet High School.

The student disc jockeys:
Judy Jetson and Stan Malone.

The date:
Friday, Sept. 18, 1987.

The music: Rock 'n' roll, baby!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

3 Chords & the Truth: Crank it up!

The last time I posted a "WBRH episode" of 3 Chords & the Truth, it was an accident.

When I finished putting that particular program together back in February, it struck me that one of the musical sets sounded a lot like what we might have done at the radio voice of Baton Rouge High School 3o-something years ago. Or something like that.

This "WBRH episode" of the Big Show, however, is entirely on purpose -- as in, "If I could bring the WBRH of old into the present day . . . and then do the afternoon rock show there again, what would I do?"

THE ANSWER is simple: Something a lot like this edition of 3 Chords & the Truth. Of course, that's a lot like most editions of 3C&T, but not exactly.

If I had a shift on my high-school radio station once again, there's probably one or three things I do here I couldn't do there. But after I'd had a while to work on 'em . . . who knows?

This week, it's the spirit of '78, updated and plopped down in July 2010, right here on WBR . . . er, the Big Show.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

3 Chords & the Truth: This reminds me . . .

WBRH radio was where I got my start doing this kind of thing . . . with "this kind of thing" being 3 Chords & the Truth, the musical half of the Revolution 21 media empire.

The FM voice of Baton Rouge High School has been around for nearly 33 years now. Without the training your Mighty Favog got there during the station's earliest days, the Big Show would be hugely nonexistent all these years later.

THAT'S WHY it's so appropriate that one of the sets in today's episode is soooooooooooo quintessentially WBRH: The Rock 'n' Roll Days. It just is.

If you're up for a bit of sport, see whether you can figure out which set. This should be easy if you're from Baton Rouge and go back a ways.

And if you're interested, you can read more about WBRH here. And here. And here. And here.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

When you can't find a friend . . . you're SOL

I'm a radio guy. I've loved radio since I was old enough to twiddle the knobs on the old vacuum-tube console my parents had.

FOR CLOSING IN on five decades, I've listened to the radio, been entranced by the magic of the radio and, eventually, did my bit in creating some radio magic myself. (Though, I'm sure not many people fondly remember the faux, on-air FCC raid Darryl "Cowboy" Young and I staged during the rock show on WBRH way back there then. We thought it was funny at the time.)

For these and other reasons, it breaks my heart -- and enrages me -- that what Nanci Griffith sings about in "Listen to the Radio" no longer is true -- at least the part about "when you can't find a friend, you've still got the radio." At least for the most part.

The corporate leeches have fired all your friends on the radio. Though you maybe could be friends with Data in a Star Trek world, it's not going to work out with HAL 9000 . . . hiding out in some
Cheap Channel server room.

All that's left for us to do is rage against the machine -- and the bastards who, in the name of the bottom line, thought it was a substitute for our friends on the radio.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

WBRH: Where mercy met grace

The damnedest thing about adolescence is that so many of us survive it.

This strange fact is a good starting point for a discussion about grace. Grace means that a lot of the really ill-considered things we do as youngsters -- Ill-considered? More like dumb . . . silly . . . perilous . . . idiotic -- end up as fodder for funny stories told by middle-aged survivors of their own youthful folly.

They also serve as fodder for middle-age worries that the young'uns we know and love will find out we once were as dumb as they, and will somehow use this Kryptonite against us.

A BUNCH of us 1979 graduates of Baton Rouge Magnet High recently have been getting reacquainted on Facebook. Facebook -- amazing thing, that. Naturally, all the old yearbook photographers have started posting yellowed pictures of our glory days.

And recently, one classmate was confronted by a picture of her underaged self at Mr. Gatti's pizza, pitcher of beer before her.

"Oh, @#$%! If my daughter sees this picture, I am toast."

Sooner or later, we all end up throwing ourselves upon the mercy of the court and wondering whether "older and wiser now" is a winning defense against capital hypocrisy charges.

Thirty years ago at Baton Rouge High, I wasn't much for boozing it up at Mr. Gatti's. I was more of a Sicily's beer person, myself.

I remember one time, a high-school radio colleague and I got bored during our WBRH class period. We were in the studios of 90.1 FM by ourselves, and at some point we developed a mighty thirst.

Well, we were on the air, so we couldn't sneak over to Sicily's, the pizza-and-beer joint just off campus. Now, we were both already 18 back when that made you legal, so we had a brilliant plan . . . we gave an underage classmate some money and sent her over to Sicily's to get us a couple of big-ass beers.

Which we proceeded to drink at the station. During class. In violation of all manner of federal and school regulations.

What could go wrong? Who would know?

Well. . . .

WE WERE ABOUT half done with our beers when we saw someone walk into the station. It was Charley Vance, who was filling in for radio teacher/WBRH general manager John Dobbs that semester.


So, my anonymous colleague -- let's call him "Bud" (his real nickname) -- and I were madly stashing our beers in studio cabinets and putting on our angelic, what-me-worry faces when Charley walked in the studio.

He sniffed the air.

"It smells like a damn brewery in here."

Busted. Dead. Going to get expelled and lose our federal Third Class operator's licenses.

WORSE, we were going to have to pour out our beer.

"Y'all better hurry up and finish your beer before Mrs. Guillot walks in." Mrs. Guillot being the principal, and someone you'd just as soon not mess with.

Mr. Vance exited stage right, an angel of mercy and a humble agent of true grace.
Gratuitous, unmerited help at a moment when it all could have gone south. Very south.

I don't know where Charley Vance is today, but if somebody sees him, tell him I owe him a case of whatever fine brew he would like.

Friday, April 25, 2008

3 Chords & the Truth: Pretty jazzy, eh?

Back during America's previous era of stagflation -- otherwise known as the Carter Administration -- I was a teen-age disc jockey at WBRH, the FM voice of Baton Rouge Magnet High.

THE BEAUTY of working at what then was the city's only "educational" station (all 20 watts of it) was we programmed pretty much everything the commercial stations didn't. Like classical. And jazz. And progressive rock. And big band.

Once in a while, you might have an airshift that began with "Jazz Set," the name of our contemporary-jazz program, then gave way to the rock show ("Leisure Landing," named for the record store just off the LSU campus, and which provided new records every month) and finally ended up with an hour of big-band music before our broadcast day came to an end at 6 p.m.

IF YOU HAD "ears to hear," spending your time down at 90.1 on the FM dial could be quite the musical and cultural education.

Rock, most of us already liked. But discovering a growing love for jazz and, likewise, big-band jazz could be an eye-opener for a teen-ager. Realizing that you liked your parents' music could do a number on one's mind . . . not to mention wreck a few perfectly good prejudices.

What do you know? "Educational radio" actually was.

So think of this week's episode of 3 Chords & the Truth as an afternoon in the life of WBRH . . . back in the day. And realize that that's cool, because it's all good.

It's the Big Show, posted fresh every week for your eclectic listening enjoyment. Be there. Aloha.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

WBRH: Major MARKETing unSAVVINESS in '78

The reason God created high school was so we'd be forced to chuckle at ourselves much later in life.

WHEN I WAS HOME on vacation in September, I did what you sometimes do when you live far away and then go back home -- rifle through old crap in boxes stuck in closets in your parents' house.

My haul, now safely back in Omaha, included the old Kodak Brownie camera responsible for all my baby pictures, some vintage flashbulbs for said Brownie camera, a few early-'70s shortwave QSL cards I got for sending reception reports, a couple of vintage Channel 9 hurricane-tracking charts, a 1959 transistor radio and this (pictured above).

This is the first bumper sticker printed up to promote Baton Rouge Magnet High's FM station, WBRH, then at 90.1 on your FM dial. It has to be either very late 1977 or early 1978 vintage.

CAN YOU TELL we were, back then, the only station in our decidedly uncosmopolitan city playing classical music?

But only on Turntable 1. On Turntable 2 during those classical-music shifts (and I know this, because I was one of the hosts doing it), you were likely to find Led Zeppelin. The Zep went over the control board's "audition" channel and out over the big studio monitor speakers.

Loudly . . . very, very loudly. And bleeding ever so slightly into the over-the-air classical feed.

Some old retired geezer used to call up to complain about this. We assured him he was . . . how shall we put it? Nuts. We thought ourselves very clever, pulling one over on some old square.

That is, until shortly before graduation, when the old guy called in yet again to bitch about Led Zep -- yet again -- and just happened to let slip the profession from which he retired.

Audio engineer.