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See Ya - Bye!

The Ron O'Brien Collection

Introduction by Scott Lowe

I got to know Big Ron O'Brien (October 24, 1951 - April 27, 2008) when he returned to Philadelphia in 1996. Thanks to Big Ron's mother Phyllis, along with Matt Seinberg at Big Apple Airchecks, Rochelle Rabin and a few others, I somehow got the privilege of obtaining and sifting through his life's work and archiving it for the rest of the world. I wish to thank those of you who felt I was qualified for this task.

There were over one-hundred reels in Big Ron's collection, about eighty-percent of them were not labeled. This actually made the dubbing process lots of fun, since I never knew what I was going to hear each time I would thread the next tape on the machine. All I needed was a sports score or a news headline and the Internet to identify the exact date of the aircheck. Some headlines took longer than others to check out. Ron also had a lot of aircheck material on CD. Unfortunately, none of that is included here, because they were stored with his music collection, which was sold before anyone realized all that was there.

I like to think of this project as something like when they digitally restore old movies in Hollywood. Much care has been put into each transfer with the highest degree of scrutiny, and has been rendered with meticulous care. I had to add leader tape to most of the reels and fix more than a few splices.

There was great attention to details for each tape, such as re-aligning the azimuth of the playback heads to maximize frequency response and keeping the heads super clean. Tape decks were connected directly into a professional computer audio interface (not cheapo sound cards). None of the audio was passed through a mixing console, processor or anything else that might add noise or loss.

Some of the reels were originally recorded on a consumer quarter-track stereo deck and the rest were either professional full-track mono or half-track stereo. There were many cases where Ron attempted to record over an old full-track tape using a quarter-track deck. Luckily when you do that, some of the previous recording still remains on part of the tape. I like to refer to these as hidden recordings, tapes that Ron attempted to record over, but, with the right playback machine, they can be retrieved. Otherwise, several of the above airchecks (including a few from KUDL and WCFL) would have been lost forever!

Also included here is audio that Matt Seinberg acquired from Ron shortly before his passing. Craig Allen also contributed a few unscoped items that he personally recorded off the air in Philly. There were a few stations that employed Ron that were not represented, so I added a few extras from my own collection to make the archive complete.

The Repository thanks Big Ron O'Brien's friends for sharing!

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[Descriptions by Uncle Ricky]

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32 Kbps (10 Khz)
Buddy Van Cleave, KUDL Kansas City KS January 2, 1970 (01:00:04) (RESTORED)

. . . Good Morning from The Early American . . .

Play Scoped This Exhibit 'SCOPED (13:05)

DO NOT COPY DO NOT TRADE DO NOT SELL

Buddy Van Cleave (real name: Edward Van Cleave) was the morning drive host at KUDL in Kansas City, Kansas, just about the time young Big Ron O' Brien was getting into radio. Maybe that's why he saved this aircheck, which has been professionally restored by Scott Lowe for this REELRADIO EXCLUSIVE.

Prior to joining KUDL, Van Cleave was heard on KISN/Portland, Oregon, and WTIX/New Orleans, Louisiana. In August, 1970, he changed his name to Adam North at KDWB/Minneapolis, Minnesota.

This aircheck was originally 'scoped. Thanks to Joe Accardi from WTSR/Trenton, New Jersey for help with music restoration.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32 Kbps (10 Khz)
Ron O'Brien, KBAB Indianola, May 17, 1970 (07:13)

. . . I'll see all of you on Monday, since I only saw part of you on Sunday . . .

This is the earliest known aircheck of 19-year-old Big Ron O'Brien. It's a Sunday afternoon in May, 1970, and KBAB in Indianola Iowa is a great example of a small-town station with no jingle budget, but lots of homemade jingles! Note the do-it-yourself "custom" jock shout for Big Ron.

In just five short years after this aircheck, Big Ron would have enriched the airwaves in Denver, Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago and New York City.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32 Kbps (10 Khz)
Ken Knight, WHB Kansas City, MO. October 2, 1970, Pt.1 (29:27)

. . . What's an annum? . . .

This unscoped studio recording of veteran Top 40 talent Ken Knight on the legendary WHB in Kansas City is one of the airchecks Big Ron O'Brien saved in his big stash of tapes.

Maybe Big Ron liked Knight's irreverent humor and rebellious wise-cracks? Maybe he liked the way Knight would sometimes whoop and yell in the background. We can only wonder if Knight was an influence on young Big Ron. In any event, he saved the aircheck, so we can now enjoy this priceless piece of radio history. Thank you, Big Ron!

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32 Kbps (10 Khz)
Ken Knight, WHB Kansas City, MO. October 2, 1970, Pt.2 (23:59)

. . . because Ozzie calls me on the phone . . .

Part Two of this unscoped studio recording of veteran Top 40 talent Ken Knight on the legendary WHB in Kansas City is one of the airchecks Big Ron O'Brien saved in his big stash of tapes.

Storz radio just past peak...

  • Personality, Production, Promotion and Best Hits.
  • Precise and Practiced Top 40.
Thanks to Big Ron for saving this, it's wonderfully independent radio. There are some yummy surprises here - how much happiness can you get from 24 minutes of magic?

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32 Kbps (10 Khz)
Larry Lujack, WCFL Chicago, April 11, 1973 (21:45)

. . . What a stupid job this is . . .

This somewhat generously 'scoped aircheck of Super CFL and Superjock Larry Lujack from April 11, 1973 turns out to be one of the funniest we've heard, though it takes a while to get there. It includes selected segments from 3 until nearly 6PM, and it's obvious why Big Ron O'Brien saved this one. Lujack is excellent, even when you think he's finished being good, he gets better.

Big Ron saved several Lujack airchecks. The others couldn't possibly be as good as this one, could they?

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G2/5.0 compatible STEREO TOP STREAM 64 Kbps (13 Khz)
Ron O'Brien, WXLO (99X) New York, May 1, 1975, Part 1 (59:05)

. . . Lady Marmalade is a trademark for roll candy . . .

Big Ron O'Brien stays busy with a commercial after every record and the 99X shotgun jingle before every record in this high-energy full-fidelity capture of New York's competively-processed WXLO-FM.

Part One of this unscoped treat from May 1, 1975 opens with the Time Bomb contest.

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G2/5.0 compatible STEREO TOP STREAM 64 Kbps (13 Khz)
Ron O'Brien, WXLO (99X) New York, May 1, 1975, Part 2 (56:32)

Play Scoped This Exhibit 'SCOPED (14:44)

. . . I'm down on my luck and my baby smells like a truck . . .

Big Ron O'Brien is cookin' in the second hour of this high-energy almost full-fidelity capture of New York's competively-processed WXLO-FM. Big Ron has a phone babe do the legal ID, a fine application of regulation for identification.

Unfortunately, something was "sticky" on the original recording machine, and infrequently, you'll hear the "p-tooey wow" sound as the reel goes 'round. It becomes more obnoxious toward the end. Big Ron also tries to simulate Casey Kasem, but since there were technical issues, we'll avoid evaluation. Still, we gotta love this rare aircheck of Big Ron on 99-X. It's fun!

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G2/5.0 compatible STEREO TOP STREAM 64 Kbps (13 Khz)
Ron O'Brien, WXLO (99X) New York, May 7, 1975, Part 1 (57:59)

Play Scoped This Exhibit 'SCOPED (15:05)

. . . and I, am naked . . .

May, 1975 was a big month for authentic Big Ron O'Brien WXLO-FM/99X studio airchecks - here's Part One of a two-part capture from May 7, 1975. It is LOUD, just the way they made it. The playlist is predictable. Big Ron may not be predictable, but he fits the format - size XXXL! A Special Sports Report is included, too.

Hot Spots and Culture Captures abound, while Big Ron is fast and flawless in this over-compressed sample of 1975 99X, and this was probably processing as usual, at the time. Always loved the way turntable rumble was sucked up to to 80%. NOT! We miss you, Ron. Thanks for the airchecks.

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G2/5.0 compatible STEREO TOP STREAM 64 Kbps (13 Khz)
Ron O'Brien, WXLO (99X) New York, May 7, 1975, Part 2 (01:06:54)

Play Scoped This Exhibit 'SCOPED (16:11)


UNSCOPED

'SCOPED

. . . Big Ron O'Brien lookin' for a sleaze on down the road . . .

And here is Part Two of Big Ron O'Brien on WXLO-FM/99X from May 7, 1975. Lots of phone bits in this hour, and Ron plays around with some sfx right at the start.

There are national spots, local spots and live spots in this hour. Ron uses a honking horn to introduce the weather updates, and he loves those phone bits! Lots of contests, too. This is great New York Top 40 on FM in 1975!

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32 Kbps (10 Khz)
Ron O'Brien, WFIL Philadelphia, December 7, 1977 (25:01)

. . . Where am I working again? WFIL - boy I musta made the big time . . .

Big Ron O'Brien is "trying desperately to regain consciousness" and noticeably restrained and 'scoped on Philadelphia's WFIL, obviously programming for 25+ demos in December, 1977.

Great JAM jingles, and there's much going on at Philadelphia 56. Ron is making Big Money calls, giving away lots of albums, and Christmas Wish is underway.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32 Kbps (10 Khz)
Shotgun Tom Kelly, KFMB-FM B-100, January 7, 1978 (07:55)

. . . Oh blipity-blip . . .

Here's a nicely 'scoped aircheck of Shotgun Tom Kelly in Saturday morning drive on KFMB-FM/B100 helping San Diego get their pants on and their peepers open.

Great energy and lots of fun! It's easy to hear how this station was a ratings monster.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32 Kbps (10 Khz)
Ron O'Brien, KFI Los Angeles, September 28, 1979 (01:01:59) (restored)
Play Scoped This Exhibit 'SCOPED (09:02)

. . . I think it's a dislocated groove thing . . .

The Ayatollah of Rock & Rolla is Big Ron O'Brien, with 50 Large Kilowatts courtesy of 64/KFI. It's late September in the City of Angels and there's some electricity in the air, though most of it can be attributed to Big Ron.

KFI was Big Ron's first stop in L.A. He played the hits at KIIS-FM a couple of years later.

DO NOT COPY DO NOT TRADE DO NOT SELL The original aircheck was very tightly 'scoped, so there's very little of the commercial sets. This aircheck is EXCLUSIVE to The Big Ron O'Brien Collection at REELRADIO, and the music was flawlessly restored by Scott Lowe.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32 Kbps (10 Khz)
Big Ron O'Brien, WNBC Music Magazine,
November 7, 1982
(01:04:41)

Play Scoped This Exhibit 'SCOPED (27:10)

. . . trying to ruin his reputation for being laid back . . .

WNBC Music Magazine was apparently a new name for an old idea — the weekly Top 30 — with the addition of music-oriented features, hosted by Big Ron O'Brien. Ron's presentation here was a precursor to his successful run of syndicated countdown shows, On The Radio.

This was originally a studio recording of the first hour of the show for November 7, 1982. It sounds as though the tape itself suffered some damage, accounting for the infrequent drop-outs. And even though WNBC was broadcasting in stereo, this exhibit was recorded as monaural.

The Music Magazine feature in this hour includes Rock 'n' Roll Revival promoter Richard Nader (d. December 1, 2009) and singer Johnny Maestro (d. March 24, 2010).

Robin Quivers, later best known as news anchor and co-host for Howard Stern, is heard with a 66-second News Update.

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G2/5.0 compatible STEREO TOP STREAM 64 Kbps (15 Khz)
Big Ron O'Brien On The Radio, October 23, 1987 (55:57)

Play Scoped This Exhibit 'SCOPED (18:02)
. . . ah, A renaissance woman! . . .

The late Big Ron O'Brien hosted the nationally syndicated weekly countdown show On The Radio from 1985 into 1992. This show, from the week of his 36th birthday, features the Top Five CHR hits, as published by the now-defunct Radio & Records newspaper.

The show was provided to stations on a barter basis, that is, stations would air commercials included in the program. Three classic Levi's 501 Blues jingles are included in this show, which was distributed on vinyl. You'll also hear pre-recorded comments from Sting, Christine McVie and the late Michael Jackson.

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G2/5.0 compatible STEREO TOP STREAM 64 Kbps (13 Khz)
Big Ron O'Brien On The Radio, April 29, 1988 (56:23)

Play Scoped This Exhibit 'SCOPED (16:47)


UNSCOPED

'SCOPED

. . . On The Radio, takin' you down to Paradise City . . .

Here's more of Big Ron O'Brien hosting the nationally syndicated weekly countdown show On The Radio. This show, in remembrance of his passing on April 27, 2008, is from the week of April 29, 1988. Special Guest Guns n' Roses is featured.

There's a vote between Living Colour and Debbie Gibson, as representatives of the variety of Top 40 radio in 1988. A couple of Paul Harvey drop-ins, and a muddy drop from Alfred Hitchcock. Eddie Murphy's "kid brother" makes an appearance, too, and there's another segment of Sleazy Secrets of the Stars.

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G2/5.0 compatible STEREO TOP STREAM 64 Kbps (13 Khz)
Ron O'Brien, WYXR Star 104.5 Philadelphia July 26, 1996 (34:03)

Play Scoped This Exhibit 'SCOPED (03:03)


UNSCOPED

'SCOPED

. . . It's the day of the great Melissa Meltdown . . .

Continuous Hit Music - Twelve in a row! Who wants to spend a week in the Star 104.5 Summer Shore House? How about Concert tickets for Melissa Etheridge? Hey - there's a 17-year-old "oldie" in this aircheck.

Lots of stuff to win, but not much of Big Ron O'Brien in this portion of a music sweep, but plenty of glistening imagers and - an ID between every record. No back-to-back ipodism here, these folks were serious. The songs were long, and the seques were short, so the 'scoped version of this exhibit is only 3 minutes long!

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G2/5.0 compatible STEREO TOP STREAM 64 Kbps (13 Khz)
Big Ron O'Brien As The Unknown DJ
WOGL-FM Philadelphia, October 3, 2001
(55:57)

Play Scoped This Exhibit 'SCOPED (14:40)

. . . Just don't call me a marionette - that's not manly enough . . .

This is the first hour of an overnight debut appearance of Big Ron O'Brien on WOGL-FM (Oldies 98.1) in Philadelphia on October 3, 2001.

Maybe he just wanted to practice a bit, or maybe the details of his employment were not yet final, but he is identified only as The Unknown Disc Jockey. This was Big Ron's last station. He worked there for almost seven years, until a few weeks before his death in April, 2008.

One of the great things about this station in 2001 is that they formatted their hours like a traditional top 40 station. Music, ID, Music, ID - there were NO iPod seques (song-to-song without ID). And there was only ten minutes of commercial time in this hour, comparable to limited spotloads of the '70's.

The difference? There are only two stopsets. The first is 4:30 in length, the second is 5:30. There are also apparently mandatory music sweeps with recorded promos. Would an hour with four stopsets of half the length and more of Big Ron be a more listenable hour?

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More to Come from The Big Ron O'Brien Collection!
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