Radio Waves, Lost Souls, Shadows from the Past, and some guy's Mist Tunnel...

This is something that has been working on me for the past few months, and I have not been able to put it into proper form. Hell, this is not going to be proper at all, and if you know me at all, you’d best send your kids away from the computer screen and put the shields up.

Because I am about to take you on a ride that goes back nearly all my life, and how I arrived at an industry that is collapsing around me, and the options that remain for its survival.

I have been in broadcast radio 32 years and 1 day, as I write. I’m surprised I’m still in this business, and still alive. Those are not completely separate from one another.

Let’s go back in time, shall we? And oh by the way? This is NOT going to be a nostalgic ride down the cosmic airwaves of the Good ‘Ol Days, or The Way it Was. Not completely.

I cannot find any old audio out there of either of the two radio stations that entered into my consciousness very early in life. I certainly didn’t know then what that was going to do to me…

There were two radio stations in particular that I remember hearing in the kitchen as I grew up in Vermont back in the late 60’s. In those days, think about it: no Internet, no Wifi, no cable. That part of NW VT didn’t get cable until the late 80’s.

TV? We had an antenna on the roof, one that was replaced when I was about nine. We got the CBS affiliate in Burlington, WCAX (Channel 3), CBMT (Channel 6), the CBC affiliate in Montreal…and everything else was fuzz.

The new antenna did give us a few more options. We could finally get Channel 22, which was WEZF (later WVNY), the ABC affiliate, and we got Channel 12 (CTV) out of Montreal. We also got the French equivalents, Channels 2 and 10.

Not much else. Oh, and the paper was the Burlington Free Press, or the Freeps, as one of my early mentors Peter Freyne used to call it.

Our adventures were very different growing up, but back to this radio thing…

WDEV Radio, at the time just 550 AM (more stations now) was and still is owned by the pioneer broadcast family, the Squier family. Name sound familiar? Yes, Ken Squier, the longtime NASCAR voice and face you used to see on TV is from the family and still guiding Radio Vermont to this day. One of my old friends growing up, Lee Kittell works for the man.

But I have to think back further…two familiar, authoritative, deep voices I used to hear in the morning. Their handoff to one another was as smooth as you could ever get:

“Good morning, Russ.”

“Good morning, Harold.”

The latter was Rusty Parker. There is a saying I’ve had applied to me many times: “You don’t look like you sound.”

It applied in some ways to Rusty. He just didn’t seem to look like that guy on the radio. But he was for me anyway, the voice, the one that started the whole thing, and I didn’t even know it.

For 40 years, Rusty had one radio job, I think the only one he probably ever wanted. From Waterbury emanated full-service radio: music, news, no-school announcements, updates of every kind, interesting interviews (not screaming, name-calling bullshit). It was always there.

Rusty lived it. And he went out that way. Read this:

“Don’t wanna die onstage with a (unintelligible) microphone in my hand…” – Garland Jeffreys, “Coney Island Winter”

I also recall something else. From out of Canada, pretty sure it was one of the stations up there. On Sunday mornings, we didn’t listening to religious stuff. There used to be a kid’s program I used to listen to, at least I think it was. I have no idea what station, but the sound was so different from the American, it had to be from up north.

I remember stories being told, interesting ones, fascinating ones. I remember child actors doing a space story, singing about building a rocketship.

Anyone from up there remember this? I’d love to know if you do.

I remember a commercial. 7-Up used to sponsor that show, and the announcer used to say this:

“24 bottles of 7-Up products…” will go to the winner of some such contest they did every week, I think it was a drawing of some kind.

You don’t do this on radio anymore. At least not on a national, regional or provincial platform. The weak attempts made at that over the years of my career were terrible in comparison. No effort, and too many people with an idea they were exceptional when they didn’t know what the fuck they were doing.

I also remember CJAD 800 out of Montreal. With the phasing out of AM up north, things are changing.

The world is changing. But some of us are not.

Now, music…a lot of that went by me, yet I well remember what my brothers listened to. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Doors, CCR. I remember them all well.

Mark and David could speak to the radio playings better than I could. FM was still new, and things were so progressive, different, and way out for its time.

Never knew much about this guy, but there was another of the people who opened doors.

I still didn’t have any idea of how important this would all become to me. Didn’t have much of a clue of any of it, really.

There are some occasional incidents in my growing-up life that I think may have encouraged some of this.

One in particular: early 80’s I think…like most kids, we don’t want to go to bed at night. Bored and wide awake one summer, I fooled around with the AM radio band on my old clock radio, and I caught something interesting. Again, I wish I could have taped this.

A DJ or someone on a radio station from the Midwest, Indiana possibly, talking about the flooding out there. On TV, I’d seen that the area was getting slammed by record flooding.

“We’re gonna need 20-thousand sandbags,” this fellow said, and was talking about where volunteers could go, and what they needed.

I’d never heard a radio station so far away. I knew nothing about skywaves or DX’ing, as radio geeks are wont to still do. I was taken out there, to the situation. I listened for two or three nights to this station, still not knowing which one it was, or who any of those people were, but it stayed with me.

There were some others, sure, but this is what I remember.

I also grew up with country music. I remember WLFE 102-something out of St. Albans, being piped into my high school’s system, for whatever reason one particular year.

It was the first time I’d understood a format, and the repetitive plays, and what good (and bad) that did to music. I remember this fellow’s hit in particular:

So fast forward to college. As I have said in the past, I was not a disciplined student. Emotionally, I am now aware that I was about one year behind my peers, and probably should not have been pushed into school at the age of four. I know why, and it’s over and done with but I wasn’t ready.

So in college…I had no idea what I would do. None, really. I thought I would be journalist, or a writer,