AIRCHECKING ADVENTURES

By Bob Gilmore

The summer of 2003 I had the chance to make some wonderful recordings in Canada and the North East US. There are still some great treasures to be found if you look for them. Most of the good radio shows were during the week with live talent but there were still good weekend shows too. Some of my favorite Canadian stations this summer are 1050 CHUM Toronto , as well as CHUM-FM, Jack-FM 96.9 Vancouver, BC, CJFX 98.9 Antigonish, NS, and 720 CHTN Charlottetown, PEI. As the summer goes on I will have a complete listing of the stations I airchecked listed on my web page. The photo to the left is CBC Sydney, Nova Scotia. I snapped this photo in June 2003.

November 2003 I had the chance to aircheck in the Atlanta and North Georgia area. I found one station that plays just about any 70's oldie they can find, and it's wonderful! The station is LAKE 102.3, WLKQ Buford, GA. They sound great! I haven't found any station like this before. A true treat to listen to!

In 2004 I had the chance to travel to Northern New England and get some recordings of WHOM, WKTJ, WXXX, WWOD, & WEZF plus many more to list. In 2005 I traveled to Harrisburg, PA and got some recordings of WRBT, WNNK, & WRVV. Stockholm and Örebro, Sweden were also places I did some airchecking. Later in 2005 I made recordings in Miami and here in Connecticut. 2006 I traveled to the Orlando area and northern New England and made airchecks from these locations.

This airchecking all started years ago. In the mid 1970s I can remember wanting to record the radio, and saving that neat sound of a DJ, or a song I may never get the chance to hear again. Well, I did, and in a big way. It was like bringing back a souvenir from another city. In the mid to late 70s I had the typical portable cassette recorder. It worked, but with low quality. I knew I needed to get a better machine. So in 1978, I spent $500 on a Pioneer CTF-900 cassette tape deck. A far cry from the old tape recorder. I was still using that deck as recent as the late 90's along with other high end decks like the Tascam 122. With that Pioneer deck, I made many airchecks with great quality. For a while, I was using only high grade tapes to make some recordings. I'm glad I did. Today I make most airchecks on Minidisk, track them and burn them to a CD using a professional Tascam recorder.

Every chance I could get, I was on the road to make airchecks. I still do! I live in Connecticut, and back in the 70's I would drive down to a friend's house in Emporia, VA. capturing as many of the stations as I could on the way down. While there, The deck would run often recording stations. My friend's dad was the owner of WEVA in Emporia, and I would get recordings of them too with their fantastic clean AM sound. Ahhh, the memory of listening to Q-94 (WRVQ), and WLEE in Richmond, VA. What a treat. I know Q-94 is still CHR, but it's not the same as it was in the 70's. Some of these trips south took me to Myrtle Beach, SC. There my favorite station was WTGR 1520. This photo to the right I took back in 1977. WTGR was a Top-40 station back then. Today it no longer exists.

Trips to Maine were frequent from my home in Connecticut, as I had family up there to visit on weekends. My favorite to listen to on the way up were 68 WRKO, & WROR in Boston, 92 PRO-FM in Providence, and 1470 WLAM in Auburn, ME. All fast, Top-40 stations. 1470 WLAM, and 92-PRO-FM were doing the Music Radio thing in the 70s. Boy do I miss that. Today WLAM is an affiliate of ESPN Radio. I used to call up the DJs and request an un-scoped aircheck of them, and they would send one to me. It was truly the beginning of the airchecking fun to come. WRKO is talk, and WPRO-FM is CHR.

The photo to the left is JR Robertson at WLAM in Auburn, Maine circa 1979.

Wisconsin was another annual trip to visit cousins. On the way I would hit up Cleveland radio on a stop over from Connecticut. Stations like WMJI, WMMS, & WGCL were fun. Next Id get as much of Chicago radio as I could. Even if it meant stopping off for a bite to eat to pro-long the signal until the tape would end. It was fun to record WBBM-FM, Q-101, 89 WLS, WFYR, and more. I never erased a single copy.

By the mid 80s I was taking plane trips to the west coast, and recording the famous 93 KHJ, KRTH, KIIS, KKHR, KFI 640(now Talk Radio), and more. What a thrill it was to finally hear, and record radio stations that I only heard about. Im sure this has happened to most of us involved in radio. In the mid 80's I invested in a portable AM-Stereo receiver to capture the stations starting to use the technology. Some that I have captured are WNBC, WICC, WELI (now talk radio), (KFQD in Anchorage also Talk), WNNR Hamden, CT, and a handful more.

By the late 80s I had already been to Europe airchecking. I had taken a few trips to Iceland to visit friends Yes, all the stations are in Icelandic, except the US base station, 1485 AM in Keflavik. This frequency may not be used anymore.

European Radio is starting to change quite a bit. There are more privately owned stations. This gives the government stations a run for the money, if they really care. I was in Sweden, in July 1998, and I visited Radio RIX in Örebro. Radio RIX is a network of "RIX" stations in Sweden that have the same programming except for some local news, and a few hours of their own programming as required by the Swedish government. The newer car radios are equipped with electronics to change the station to the strongest transmitter of the same station. Similar to the cell phone technology. The LCD display also displays the station, and scrolling commercials too. Just got to get those commercials in! Megapole, and a few others have the same technology as Radio RIX. The AM band is dead in the daylight hours, and full of European stations at night. Yes, there are still some stations on the AM band still playing music. I did notice some stations were on an automated computer system, like many smaller stations are over here, but still plenty of live stuff.

In most recent years there have been a number of smaller stations going to a computerized programming system like the one's from Scott Studio's, and ENCO. I was most disappointed to hear the local stations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have gone this way, but it's not limited to just Northern New England. I really enjoyed the local sound. One of the best sounding local shows I heard on a recent trip was afternoon drive on 92 Moose (WMME) Augusta, ME. Not bad! There have been a few cases where the automation systems can fool me if they are done right. Technology can be a good thing sometimes. On my road trips I always used bring a book called FM atlas to help me find the stations I want to aircheck. Now you can just fine all the info you want on the smart phone!

I'm so glad that a good number of us have taken the time to record stations and put them away for the future. To be honest, I thought I was the only one who did this until 1998 when I found others here on the web that did the same. I've got to hand it to a few friends that have, and still continue to record on trips.

 

Copyright © 1998-2014 Bob Gilmore Shelton, CT USA