Steve Schappell-My Blog

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Radio Days...

"Good evening Beaver Falls, My name is Steve Schappell. And I'm Brian Johnson,  And together we are THE MEN, Thursday nights, 9-midnight on FM 88.3 WGEV..."

With those words, my college pal Brian and I started off our weekly 3 hour radio show at our college radio station.  From 1984 to 1988, we were THE MEN, a combination of comedy, music and mayhem.  We took our theme from a song by the band, A.D., and their song "We are the men."

In addition to our radio show, we each had our own slots.  I had mid-Monday with Steve and Weekend shifts.  Here is a photo from the archives when I was on air, showcasing my only one time beard, and the incredible 80's technology.

Let's take a trip back in time to the Reagan 80's and a small college in Western PA.  Geneva College and WGEV, our christian radio station.  I was a communications major at the time, and our radio station was a small building on campus, right along route 18th.  The upstairs had offices, production rooms, storage and the studio, while the downstairs included classrooms, offices, and our mock studio for training. 

Back then, you had to train offline, and then take your FCC test in order to have a Class 1 Radio License, allowing you to broadcast.  Our station was run as a real world station.  We had a Music Director, a Production Director, Newsroom, and other positions.  The positions were unpaid, but were part of the station flow.  We received a playlist for our shifts, but had room for requests.  We had a log of when to play station sounders, commercials, and music.

Once you received your license, you were put into the rotation and were broadcasting weekly, or daily.  Most of our shows were weekly, due to the number of people broadcasting, and our college schedules being more important.

But the technology...that's what I wanted to talk about.  We are in the 80's...well before Cell Phones, CD's, Computers with digital music.  Look back at my photo and what do you see?  In the upper left, a Reel-to-Reel Machine.  To the right of that, (2) Cart Machines that played what looked like 8-track tapes.  Upper right corner are the Carts we played with commercials, music sounders, intros, etc.

I have headphones to listen to songs that were cued up, and there is a clipboard, with the playlist and log.  We had knobs for everything across the long board.  These controlled the sounds from all the machines, and the music from....wait for it...the albums we played.  Yes-VINYL rules!    Of course, later on, we were also using cassettes, but still.

I almost forgot the studio phone at the left.  At least it was push button, and not rotary dial.  No wait, is that a rotary dial there?  Hmmm.

For news, we relied on "Sparky,"  He was our Associated Press, or AP teletype machine.  News and sports scores would come over the wire, and we could enhance it with news from the local paper.  Sparky had a bell when news would come in.  It was what you would call a PUSH service, news was sent to us, after it happened, and then it would be edited together by staff or a DJ for the news.    I remember the day of the Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion.  I was attending Mass Media class with my roomate.  When the class was over, we were walking upstairs and past the studio when Sparky went wild.  The news flowed out and we ran back to our dorm to watch the news unfold on the lobby TV with others in the dorm.

Between our shows, we did production work to prepare for our shows.  For THE MEN, Brian and I would record spots on the Reel-to-Reel tape machine, and then add layers one at a time for sound effects, etc.  To edit our spots, we used an editing block, razor blade, and special tape.  That's how we edited.  Cranking the reel-to-reel back and forth listening for the place to cut and splice the tape.    It was a lot of work, but was the latest technology for the time.

OK, back out of the time machine and back to 2016.  Over the weekend, I volunteered for the Kids Cookie Break Fest, held at the Junction Center in Manheim, home of WJTL.  They are a Christian Broadcasting station, that includes the studio, outside concert venue, indoor stage and event center.  Before my shift began, I was able to attend a studio tour.

The tour included offices, the "Live at the Junction Center" indoor cafe and stage setting, Production rooms, and the Radio Studio.   Part of the time in the studio included asking questions with the current on-air personality (Not a DJ), and looking at how they work on the air.  Take a look at Radio Friend Phil working the controls.

Compare this to my photo.  What a difference.  What you don't see completely are the (4) Monitors.  To the far left, that monitor is open to their facebook and twitter accounts, plus email.  All the social media that comes in is displayed there.  So requests from listeners some in to that terminal.  The black terminal in the photo is the playlist and the digital archives.  For example, I call in a request.  The on air personality can type in the song title or artist and get a list, then select the song and have it ready to play.  There were no records, cassettes or CD's here.  The music is computerized, digital and ready to play.  The other monitor in the photo are for station information related to the transmission, commercial information, and other stuff.  The board is smaller and has sliders for volume control.  No more knobs.  There are tables and microphones for guests and artists, who perform in the studio.

It is not a large studio, but then neither was ours in college.  You don't meet that much room to broadcast out.  We got a look at their production areas.  No Reel to Reel here.  All digital editing, including a recording studio, where personalities create on air content.  For example on Saturday nights, there is a Top 25 countdown.  I thought it was done live.  Nope.  Completely recorded in advanced, edited and then played for 2 hours. 

For me, I was amazed because I have not been in a radio studio in a long time and it was a great treat.  Thank you WGEV for the college memories and experience, and thank you, WJTL for the tour and some new memories.

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to let you know that I want to be a clone