Russell Wells at age 4
DJ-to-be Russell Wells at his fourth birthday. Shown with his new record player, it looks like he's *cueing* the record to play!

Russell at KOTN
Russell at KOTN, Pine Bluff Arkansas, age 24. (1989)

Russell at WTBF
Russell at WTBF, Troy, AL. (1997)

Russell Today
And Russell recently, (October, 2000)

The Russell Wells Collection

A fan of radio since he was able to touch a knob, Russell Wells knew what he wanted to do for a living since kindergarten. He first began to notice radio stations at age 4, while living in a small town outside Huntsville, Alabama. "While my mother would run errands downtown, she'd always park in front of the drug store, and turn the key over to "accessory", and let me play with the radio. While it's not a smart thing to do with a small child, especially today, it was 1969 ... and Mom knew I was so focused on that radio that nothing else in the car mattered."

From there he discovered some of the great Southern stations, such as Birmingham's WSGN. That became his favorite station, and he enjoyed the likes of Steve Norris, Amaysa (Jo Jo) Kincaid, Jon Bass, and, later, a very young Rick Dees. "I moved a lot during my childhood, but my grandparents lived in Alabama, so I'd get to come back during the Summer. Birmingham radio during the 1970s was a hotbed of competition, with three stations - WSGN, WERC and WVOK - competing for the top-40 audience."

Russell went on to live in such exotic places as Tupelo, Miss., and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, followed by several places in Arkansas. His first job in radio was at KBHS 590/Hot Springs, at the tender age of 17. After graduating from Arkansas State University with a degree in - what else - Radio/TV, he started his fulltime career in Pine Bluff, Ark., working at KOTN, which was a major small-market top-40 during the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1990, he entered Public Radio, working for many years at WTSU/Southeastern Public Radio in Troy and Montgomery, Alabama, and recently became Operations Manager for the coastal Georgia Public Radio affiliates, WSVH/Savannah and WWIO/Brunswick, Ga. Russell has been active in the aircheck hobby since 1992. "I made 60 and 90-minute tapes of stations as early as 1979, but thought I was the only one who did this. Then, I discovered that other people did it ... this was a bona-fide hobby!"

The Repository thanks Russell Wells for sharing!

[Descriptions by Russell Wells]

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0 Kbps (16Khz)
WSGN Birmingham, Alabama Presentation, 1967 (23:40)

. . . and tonight, a glue sniffin' party will be held for all students . . .

[Description by contributor Russell Wells]

Narrated by Jim Taber (later of KLIF/Dallas fame), this is a very amusing "pitch" to a national ad agency (The Robert Eastman Company). While it does contain a couple of actual airchecks within, most of it is contrived, but to humorous effect. The 'tricycle' comment in the "Skylane 610" traffic report was a gentle poke at Ben McKinnon, the longtime GM of WSGN. Listen also for the digs at George Wallace and former Birmingham police commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor, who was infamous for masterminding the "fire hose and police dog" episodes during the racial troubles of the early '60s ... and for the clips from Mary Poppins, and cuts from PAMS Series 33.

WSGN was a major player in Birmingham radio beginning with its entry into top-40 in early 1957 until 1980, when strong FM competition bumped it out of the Arbitron top 5. It managed to hold on with a contemporary format until March 1984.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0 Kbps (16Khz)
Dave Brown, WHBQ Memphis TN 1968 (08:29)

. . . takin' care of hitline business . . .

[Description by contributor Russell Wells]

Here are two airchecks of Memphis legend Dave Brown from 1968. The first is from May 21, 1968, and the second (which begins at 5:01) is from September 28, 1968. A west Tennessee native, Brown came to RKO-owned WHBQ radio in the mid-'60s, as it made the transition into the Drake format.

The second aircheck is from Dave's last day on the radio; he went down the hall to WHBQ-TV, where he began doing some news and weathercasts, and co-hosting the local wrestling show. He was there until 1977, when he defected to rival station WMC-TV, and took the wrestling show with him. Brown became the station's chief meteorologist, a position he holds to this day ... and hosted the wrestling show well into the 1990s. Brown is well-known in WWF circles as one of the best ringside announcers.

As a special treat, you hear a full, uncut James Brown concert promo! Listen for what sounds like a gaffe in the Plymouth Road Runner promo; it seems like the announcer is saying "Talent 13 Channel Party" instead of "Channel 13 Talent Party." (I've played that over and over and it sounds like a mistake!) We've all heard of that program's host, George Klein.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7 Kbps (14Khz)
Clyde Clifford, Beaker Street, KAAY Little Rock 1972 (07:07)

. . . underground music service of the Lin Broadcasting Corporation . . .

[Description by contributor Russell Wells]

Beaker Street is an Arkansas institution which began quite literally as a cost-cutting move for 50,000-watt KAAY. Radio stations which had directional antennas were required to have an engineer on duty at the transmitter all the time. However, KAAY had studios in downtown Little Rock, and station brass didn't want to pay two people during graveyard shift, so they had the engineer do the show from the transmitter (located in the small town of Wrightsville). It was 1966, and the overnight engineer wanted to do something different, based on the emerging "underground" FM formats on the west coast. The managers basically said "Just go do it, and leave us alone!"

Nobody expected much to come of this experiment, dubbed "Beaker Street" (legend has it the name is a drug reference - LSD was mixed in beakers). It was the station's 50,000-watt nighttime signal, blanketing Canada down to Central America, and through the midsection of the U.S., which carried Beaker Street, and the rest of KAAY, to fame. Concert promoters bought time on Beaker, advertising events in places like Iowa, where KAAY had a large share of the nighttime audience. The show brought the likes of Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Joan Baez to mid-America, exposing them to such music for the first time.

Why the background music during the breaks? It came into being because the poorly-insulated makeshift control room was close to the giant 50-kW RCA transmitter, and required huge cooling fans which made a racket. The music bed helped cover the roar of the fans! (The "music" is a 17-minute acid trip called "Cannabis Sativa" by a group called Head).

Beaker lasted until the mid '70s, and was put in mothballs until 1987, when Clyde Clifford revived the program on an FM station in Little Rock. Today, it still goes strong, as a Sunday night fixture on KMJX (Magic-105) in Little Rock.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32Kbps (10Khz)
Rick Dees WSGN Birmingham AL February 1974 (12:20)

. . . There's a Moon Pie, I can eat that later . . .

[Description by contributor Russell Wells]

Rick Dees' first radio job was during college at WKIX/Raleigh, NC. Soon after graduation, he was transferred to WKIX's sister station, WSGN. For about two years he pulled morning drive at The Big 610, but it was obvious Birmingham wasn't quite ready for this kind of radio. At the time, he had a running feature called "Rev. Billy Frank Birmingham" (obviously carbon-copied from Don Imus's "Billy Sol Hargus"), and jokes about Vulcan, Birmingham's famous mountain-top statue.

Preacher parodies weren't very safe to do in the South during this time, and Dees managed to offend more than a few. Early in 1975, Dees left town and went to WMPS/Memphis.

WSGN, though, let bygones be bygones - it was one of the first stations that played "Disco Duck", Dees' #1 hit in 1976.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0 Kbps (16Khz)
TM City Song, KGMO Cape Girardeau, MO 1975 (01:34)

. . . We DIG it! . . .

[Description by contributor Russell Wells]

KGMO, then a top-40 station in this southeast Missouri market, earns a place in history as being the first radio job for a high school-age Rush Limbaugh (nepotistically enough, one of the owners of KGMO in the 1960s was Rush's father). I lived in Cape during my junior high and early high school years (1978-1982), and this is part of my life's soundtrack.

It's every bit as cheesy and lame as any other city song, but this one runs deep in the hearts of many who grew up in Cape Girardeau in the 1970s and 1980s - for many years KGMO actually logged requests for "The Cape Girardeau Song".

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The Russell Wells Collection has been a part of REELRADIO since May 27, 2001!

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