REEL TOP 40 RADIO REPOSITORY

Steve Farrington, Then
Steve Farrington, then.

Oxford College
Where most of these airchecks were made.

Steve Farrington, Now
Steve Farrington, 1998.

Farrington and Company logo

The Steve Farrington Collection

Steve Farrington was a long-time supporter of REELRADIO. His collection first appeared on December 6, 1998. Steve passed away on Wednesday, April 21, 2004, following surgery for cancer. Remembrances are welcome here.

When Steve first contributed his airchecks to REELRADIO, he wrote:

"It all started with a high-school graduation gift from my parents, a Webcor (I think that was the brand) suitcase-type reel-to-reel recorder..."

"I graduated from Greensboro (Grimsley) High School in North Carolina. The year was 1962, and I guess the biggest claim to fame for this school in recent years is a famous alumnus — Rick Dees himself who finished 6 years later. (By the way, Rick is very active in alumni affairs. Thank you, Rick!)."

"Before long I was off to Georgia for a two-year stint at Oxford College, a division of and original campus of Emory University. My junior year and part of the senior year were spent at the main campus in Atlanta. It was during these first three years of college that the Webcor was put to fair use recording from the radio. After 1965 the recorder and tapes went into storage at my Mom's house in North Carolina. During the next 13 years, I lived in Jackson, Mississippi (where I obtained a B.A. degree from Millsaps College in 1969), Atlanta (twice), Dallas, and Washington, DC. I have been back in Atlanta now since 1978 — sure feels like home to me."

"The story of finding old tapes in closets, basements, and attics is certainly not unique. That's exactly what happened here. I had all but forgotten about these tapes until the day I happened upon Uncle Ricky's Repository. I thought I remembered that my tapes had disappeared at some point years before in a family move. However, I searched through my Mom's more recent attic in August (1998) and...BINGO...there they were in a footlocker which I had used during earlier college days. (The Webcor, however, was not to be found.) I hope you will enjoy these exhibits. They are very crude — a lot of editing was done at the time of original recording. Most of these exhibits have been pieced together from non-contiguous segments. Snippets or not, I think you will relish these bits of Top 40 radio in its high-riding days."

"I work from Atlanta as a self-employed manufacturers' rep and have run my own business since 1986 selling finer stationery products to specialty retail stores."

"I would especially like to thank the following people who have helped point the way toward this new interest in my life: Uncle Ricky himself for having the most fantastic website in the world (and for me, the most appreciated); to Tom Konard of the Aircheck Factory who has been a very important resource in my collecting endeavors; to Russell Wells, a radioman in Troy, Alabama who has the most fantastic collection of Southern airchecks anywhere; and to Don Keith in Birmingham, Alabama, a great novel writer and a great dj. Without you guys, my tapes might still be in the attic..."

Steve Farrington maintained "A CELEBRATION and REMEMBRANCE of BYGONE SOUTHERN RADIO and RETRO DIXIE CULTURE" at www.wakeatlanta.com.

The Repository thanks Steve Farrington for sharing!

[Descriptions by Steve Farrington & Uncle Ricky]

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32Kbps (10Khz)
PLAY Ken Keen (Al Evans, Jr.) WAKE Atlanta, July 1960 (14:17)

. . . Young man, be a man! . . .

Our thanks to Sam Hale for sharing this recording from Steve Farrington.

Ken Keen (also known as Al Evans, Jr.) does double duty as overnight jock and newsman, complete with time tone, REVERB on demand, and FILTER on demand. That's a lot of buttons! It's Wonderful WAKE in Atlanta, and it's during the 1960 Republican Convention, held July 28-30.

There's a spot for Playtex Disposable Drypers, and even a very official "assigned frequency and power" announcement. Yep, 250 watts on 1340! Though this recording is very tightly 'scoped, (sometimes choppy - pay attention!) the fidelity is remarkable considering that on the debut date of September 7, 2008, it was made 48 years ago!

The jock tries to set up a date for a 15-year-old (and it's a regular station promotion!), and Miss WAKE is - well, those southern girls, with the way they talk... The jingles? Oh, the answer is on the site, we've heard 'em before.

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Atlanta Overnight: WPLO,WQXI,WAKE Summer 1962 (3:00)

. . . we proudly salute Bucksnort, Georgia . . .

The bits and pieces in this one were recorded in a motel room on West Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta in the Summer of 1962. It was my first time to hear Atlanta Top 40 radio, and I remember how impressed I was with the "big" sound! At the time, I chose WAKE as my favorite of "The Big Three".

Included: Ricky Rivers on WPLO (590) as he proudly salutes Bucksnort, Georgia (did he really mean "Buckhead"?); WQXI (790) and the famous Quixie Time Tone (I was fascinated with time-tones); and peppy Johnny Angel on 1340 (WAKE).

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G2 5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbs (10Khz)
Bob Boo Boo Baker, WAKE Atlanta, April 13, 1963 (41:43)

. . . Augusta shelves stripped of canned tuna! . . .

This aircheck is presented in The Steve Farrington Collection by Paul Allen. It is one of many classic Atlanta recordings made by Paul in the early '60's. Paul Allen passed away after a sixteen-year battle with multiple sclerosis on December 5, 2011.
By April, 1963, Bartell had sold WAKE to Basic Communications. The new owners left things pretty much as they had been (at least, for a while.) The playlist included the usual heavy dose of R&B, which had always been a big part of the southern "hit parade". Time tones, news bugs, reverb on demand, various promos and public service announcements are all included. It Happened at the World's Fair and How the West was Won were the big movies on this Easter weekend.

While Bob Boo Boo Baker was quipping and tripping his way through this Saturday afternoon megashift (Noon to 6), the local Top 40 radio wars were underway in earnest. WAKE was still a showcase of talent, and WPLO had put together its own impressive air staff. In fact, Baker moved to WPLO in 1964. But it wouldn't be long until both stations pulled the plug on Top 40. WAKE left the format in 1964, WPLO in 1965, and WQXI had nothing but smooth sailing ahead.

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G2 5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbs (10Khz)
Ernie Phillips, WAKE Atlanta, August 31, 1963 (44:44)

. . . This hootenanny music is going to present a problem, I believe . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

This aircheck is presented in The Steve Farrington Collection by Paul Allen (d. December 5, 2011). This is another of many classic Atlanta recordings made by Paul in the early '60's.
It is another of many classic Atlanta recordings made by Paul in the early '60's.
Ernie Phillips is featured from Atlanta, Georgia in the first hour of the WAKE overnight show from Saturday, August 31, 1963. The music on this mostly unscoped recording is of particular interest. It's a Hootenanny weekend, and every other song is a Hootenanny song.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines 'hootenanny' as "An informal performance by folk singers, typically with participation by the audience." For the most part, that's what gets played here. What is truly surprising is that a respectable number of these songs charted on the Billboard Hot 100! I suppose it's reasonable to say that American Folk Music enjoyed a peak in popularity in the early '60's. Depending on your age and "cultural roots", you may find a number of these tunes familiar.

As for Mr. Phillips, his performance is typical of smaller market overnight guys in the early '60's: Casual, self-deprecating and sometimes, honestly confused!

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Dino Summerlin, WAPE Jacksonville, 1963-64 (8:29)

. . . Don't break our hearts tonight . . .

1990 picture of WAPE studio building The WAPE studio building, bulldozed in January of 1999, showing the second aeration pond built for transmitter cooling. (Picture taken in 1990, courtesy Charles McHan. Click for a WAPE transmitter story)
WAPE, "The Big Ape", started construction of its state-of-the art facility in the late '50's and began broadcasting soon thereafter. It was a force to be reckoned with — 25000 watts (later boosted to 50000) on 690 KHz with an enormous signal travelling up the eastern North American coastline. WAPE was a unique Southern experience, though folks all up and down the East Coast tuned in daily. "From the Capitol to the Coast, From Washington, DC to Key West, Florida", the Big Ape was BIG on power, yet there were no fancy bells and whistles — just the unforgettable "Ape Call", featured liberally in this composite assembled from Fall 1963 and February, 1964.

"Dedications" (remember those?) were an integral part of the broadcasts. Then there was the legendary swimming pool, the main function of which was to cool the transmitter (water-cooled transmitters were something of a rarity). BUT,

"then the weekends came and a bevy of girls in two-piece bathing suits began cavorting in the pool and prancing around for the benefit of those disc jockeys and anyone driving past....Some say a fall cold snap ended the practice. Others swear that the sheriff got tired of pulling cars out of ditches for drivers who couldn't keep their eyes on the road...an outsider would have thought that Hugh Hefner had built a Playboy mansion annex on U.S. 17." 1
It WAS the "Radio Country Club of the South", after all. During the second half of this Dino Summerlin show from February 29, 1964, a girl gets thrown in the infamous Big Ape swimming pool.

1. Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), Mary Jo McTammany, 8-20-97 (on-line edit.); other material from stories on 9-24-97 and 6-27-98. Thanks also to Russell Wells and John Long, Repository: WAPE, 1972 Comment section.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 16.2Kbps (8Khz)
John Larsh, WAYS Charlotte N.C. October 1965 (23:08)

. . . How can I miss you if you won't go away? . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky] One short year after this October 8, 1965 aircheck, John Larsh was working at WIXY in Cleveland as Jackson Armstrong.

Program director Jack Gale must have had some influence on the then 18-year-old Larsh, who is heard using many of the sustaining character drop-ins and sound effects that Gale used on his morning show. In fact, he appears to use as many as he likes, frequently and with sparse restraint!

This is fairly early BIG WAYS. Stan Kaplan hired Gale in the Spring of 1965. Larsh was the "original" overnight guy.

Jack Armstrong passed away March 22, 2008 at his home in North Carolina.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 16.2Kbps (8Khz)
John Larsh, WCOG Greensboro N.C. 1966 (01:39)

. . . Cowabunga! . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky] These very short aircheck samples are most likely from early 1966. Note the PAMS "Go-Go" jingle without the call letters. Larsh first worked at WCOG in 1962 and left for WAYS in 1965.

Contributor Steve Farrington wrote:

These very early airchecks (WAYS, 1965 and WCOG, 1966) bear witness to talents which are inborn and natural rather than developmental--it was all there, right from the very start, and it is a rare, rare trait indeed. The pure energy so evident here has remained to this day. No wonder Big Jack will forever be "Our Leader". Thanks to Paul Allen (d. December 5, 2011.)

As of June 17, 2000, John Larsh was working as Jack Armstrong at WMQX-93.1 in Greensboro, NC. Jack Armstrong passed away March 22, 2008 at his home in North Carolina.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (14.5Khz)
Bobby Reno, WTIX New Orleans, December 1968 (43:41)

. . . comin' out of your radio, baby . . .

The Mighty 690 is in a slightly mellow mood, fitting for the day after Christmas (December 26, 1968 - notice the custom holiday promo.) Some DJ inflections are very reminiscent of Buzz Bennett in an aircheck from 'TIX earlier in 1968.

By this time in the life of 'TIX, most of the earlier bells and whistles are totally gone — no more accent reverb, no more spine-tingling news sounders (compare to the Ed Ripley 1962 exhibit in the Repository). We are left with a very simple no-frills format for 20/20 News which purports to be "professional journalism in New Orleans" (rival WNOE used that exact slogan in its newscasts earlier in the 60's). The famous TIX jingle signature is ever-present.

[Additional by Uncle Ricky] Newsman Scott Hodges features sound from the Apollo 8 lunar fly-by, an important milestone in the Apollo program. A few of the musical selections are surprising. The very unusual Coca~Cola spot with Jay and the Techniques is as fat on the bottom as the records, which are quite a bit bassier than the shrieking acapellas. And I never knew that John Fred (of and the Playboy Band) was a native of New Orleans...

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32Kbps (10Khz)
Bill Young, KILT Houston 21st Birthday, 1978 (12:18)

. . . they called the regional-type music we had here in Houston, 'Houston Crud' . . .

Bill Young is in fine form on this portion of the 21st birthday Reunion/Revival of The Big 610/KILT, Houston Texas, from May 18, 1978.

Rick Shaw and Steve Lundy, (both deceased) are featured. Ed Shane is included with weather and news.

Bill Young passed away on June 1, 2014.

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Many Thanks to The Steve Farrington Collection.


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