Whatever Happened to Radio?
First in a series
By Charles Chandler
In this moment of social media and popular culture technology like Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Podcasts YouTube, Spotify, SiriusXM, Alexa, Pandora and non-stop cable television is radio even relevant? Does it have some social and practical value in today’s media mashup?
Well, it depends on who you ask? There are a couple of folks around White Cloud that may have an interesting perspective on these questions.
I argue that in my ancient era radio was invaluable. It informed, entertained and facilitated a significant measure of social change. I saw firsthand how radio, and one radio station, in particular, changed American music.
In America, popular music is a change agent and always influences popular culture. If you want to challenge this assumption then ask your teenagers to let you listen to some of their current favorites. Or get the photo album out and look at some old photos of yourself and recall the music you listened to at that age. Let’s us senior rock and rollers take a moment of nostalgic reflection. And let’s also add a bit of background for those who have smartphones in their pockets and roll their eyes when you play your music.
“Listen, and you may learn something.”
Something my teachers and various family members would often say to us wee small nosy boys. We did learn to listen to the natural world around us and some adults. Especially those who were telling an interesting or funny story about some ancestor or a recent hunting or fishing trip. As time passed like most kids, we developed excellent selective listening skills. Those well-intended sound bites from on high meant to keep us from harm or develop our charter were expertly jammed. You remember those little instructive items, like ‘come home before dark’, ‘do your homework’, ‘finish your chores’, ‘wash up’, ‘say your prayers’, ‘watch for snakes’ and the ubiquitous ‘don’t do that’. When summertime life became a little boring some of my gang often prayed that we would find a big scary timber rattler or cottonmouth moccasin. Not me, I was raised in the Baptist Church and knew better than to do that. My nightly prayers were for the Brooklyn Dodgers to beat the New York Yankees and to get a bird dog puppy.
What we did listen to was hours of great radio programming. The radio was our home entertainment center. Those of a certain age may remember some of these popular programs. Arthur Godfrey Time, my Moms favorite, The Shadow ("Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"), The Green Hornet, Dragnet, The Roy Rogers Show and we pretend cowboys were happy to be Back in the Saddle again at Gene Autry's Melody Ranch.
The Inner Sanctum Mysteries. Remember that sinister creaking door which opened and closed at the beginning and end of the broadcasts? Who could go to sleep after one of those programs? I still have nightmares about Boris Karloff presentation of Edward Allen Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart.”
There was the famous and popular Amos 'n' Andy and my favorite Sky King to name a few. I had a crush on cute pilot Penny which may have resulted in my long career in commercial aviation. We listened to all the great baseball games often while trading our baseball cards back and forth.
These various radio programs also offered “Premiums”. These were manipulative schemes that program sponsors thought up to fleece gullible kids. The scam went like this, you would pester your parents into buying this certain product, most often some lame tasteless cereal.
Then you cut the box top off the product and send it in with some small amount of change to get one of these premiums (cheap toys). My parents participated in the scams on a seasonal basis. More so in the summer when school was out. This was because when an order was in, I would spend endless agonizing hours down by the mailbox waiting for the mail carrier to bring the next treasure. This inexpensive and wise practice kept pesky, ornery kids from underfoot and out of trouble at least until the mail carrier came by. I think I still have my secret decoder ring around here somewhere.
At night rather than doing homework, my gang would see how many of the powerful 50,000 watts radio stations we could pick up. If the weather was right, we could get WLS in Chicago, and great jazz from WWL in New Orleans. In Louisiana, everything is complicated and either political or connected to the Church.
Regarding WWL radio history “before the Jesuit priests who ran Loyola University New Orleans could set up a radio station, they had to receive permission from the Vatican. A piano recital was the first program on the air.”
And of course, being both a school and a religious institute “the first broadcast day also included a three-minute request to listeners to support the construction of a new classroom building on campus.”
The most important radio station in our southern white teen-age world was WLAC in Nashville Tennessee. This incredibly popular and influential radio station was off-limits to many white teenagers because they played “race music”. The intended audience for this radio station was southern African Americans. However, as mentioned, we had selective listening skills and ignored those irrelevant admonishments to refrain from listening to that kind of music.
Usually someone, most often an older cousin, would have a car and we would all pile in and drive to our favorite night time hilltop parking place and tune the radio to WLAC. Invariably someone would light up a Lucky Strike cigarette and pass it around.
Race music and cigarettes? Straight to hell in a handbasket.
What was the attraction to WLAC? It was frowned on by the adults and it is my strongly held belief that WLAC and Randy’s Record Shop in Gallatin Tennessee formed the collective birthplace of rock and roll. I also think it was a catalyst for the civil rights movement.
WLAC was the place where that revolution started. Long before the sit-ins, protests, demonstrations, and marches began our American music was already integrated. In the 1950s at WLAC, it had been a few small steps from African American gospel and rhythm and blues to Rock and Roll. From there it was straight down the road to the end of the old order.
Randy's Record Shop of Gallatin, Tennessee, was one of the sponsors of WLAC programming and the Shop was increasable successful. “The historians and musicologists state that it hadn’t been for Randy Wood and Randy’s Record and WLAC we wouldn’t have the popular music we have today.”
Randy’s Record Shop opened in 1946. During the 1950s and 1960’s it was the largest mail-order record shop in the world. In its heyday, the shop mail-ordered a half of a million records each month. Shop owner Randy Wood also founded Dot Records which featured artists like Pat Boone and Lawrence Welk, the Fontane Sisters, Johnny Maddox and others. Careers of artists like James Brown, Ray Charles, B. B. King, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, and Little Richard got a jump start or were promoted at WLAC. You could buy anything at WLAC. Albums for $1.00, beauty products, fruit trees, and baby chicks. We all listened, loved it and bought our rebellious little records from Randy’s.
Little did we know that those of us sitting in those cars smoking cigarettes and listening to “race” music were part of a tsunami of social change. Because down in Tupelo Mississippi the dark demolisher of the musical order himself, Elvis Aaron Presley later to become the "King of Rock and Roll" was also listening to WLAC and probably practicing to those $1.00-dollar albums bought from Randy’s. On September 9th, 1956 the wheels came off the cultural wagon when “Elvis stunned TV viewers with his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sixty million Americans watched either spellbound or shocked as he made a sensational debut on the country's most popular program.”
This was the moment when, big bands, folk musician and crooners like Pat Boone, Andy Williams and Pattie Page were handed their walking papers. After that show the rock and roll wave hit America in full force as Elvis, James Brown, Ray Charles, B. B. King, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and Bill Haley became overnight sensations on radio and Television.
You can’t talk about commercial radio and rock and roll without mentioning WolfMan Jack and his nightly howl from XERF-AM at Ciudad Acuña in Mexico. A station whose high-powered border blaster signal could be picked up across much of the United States. “It is reported that the XERF signal was the most powerful in North America. Birds dropped dead when they flew too close to the tower. A car driving from New York to L.A. would never lose the station. Most of the border stations broadcast at 250,000 watts, five times the U.S. limit, meaning that their signals were picked up all over North America, and at night as far away as Europe and the Soviet Union. The border stations made money by renting time to Pentecostal preachers and psychics, and by taking 50 percent of the profit from anything sold by mail order. The Wolfman did his signature howl and jamming that rock and roll across the universe. You also had to listen to endless marketing. “You would get a guaranteed double your money back pitches for dog food, weight-loss pills, weight-gain pills, rose bushes, and baby chicks.”
I still don’t know why those early radio station sold chickens?
Rock and Roll. Oh my goodness what could happen next?
Plenty, because the next year on Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union not only launched the first artificial satellite but also officially inaugurated a "space race" with the United States. The space race and subsequent cold war with Russia and the hot war in Vietnam soon followed. If that wasn’t enough, we were also about to be invaded by the British. Not only had American teenagers been listening to rock and roll music but so had the British kids. “On February 7th, 1964 The Beatles' Boeing 707, Pan Am flight 101, touched down in New York City” and the British invasion began. After that, things got a little crazy including radio programming.
Was radio relevant and did it influence American Culture? The next time you watch a performance by PSY – Gangnam Style, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber remember that when Elvis performed on the Ed Sullivan Show he was censored. Often the cameras would only show him from the waist up.
Thank you, Randy Wood and your little Record Shop, and to WLAC in Nashville Tennessee. It was a great ride.
So, to the question is radio still relevant? I for one say yes because SiriusXM is an ever-present part of my life.
Don’t touch that dial, stay tuned for an interview with two local radio experts. White Cloud’s expert Mr. Verne Williams and Lincoln Township Supervisor Buck Geno.
Robot surgery brings high-tech care to Newaygo County
This past summer, I had the privilege of performing the first robotic surgery at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial. More Gerber Memorial physicians are getting trained on our DaVinci robot, and our experience using high-tech tools to perform surgeries is another sign that Gerber Memorial is investing in treatment that helps improve the quality of care for our patients.
For the surgeon, the biggest advantage of the DaVinci robot is visualization and operative accuracy. The three-dimensional view allows surgeons to be precise in a way we’ve never been in standard laparoscopy, surgeries that use small incisions. Surgeons are also less likely to be tired during longer, more complex surgeries, which can improve the safety of the procedures.
And because of the design of the instruments, I found that I could do more intricate surgeries just like I would with a big, open incision, but with the benefits of a minimally-invasive approach.
In population studies, minimally invasive surgery using the DaVinci robot has consistently shown improvements in recovery time, shorter admission, shorter return to baseline functioning, and significantly lower complication rates.
In hernias specifically, patients experience a lower rate of postoperative infections.
Because the robot is designed to move around the entry point through the abdominal wall, we see less trauma to the abdominal tissues compared to open techniques and compared to traditional laparoscopy.
Less trauma at the incision area means less pain after the surgery. Combined with nerve blocks that our anesthesia team uses, patients are using less narcotics after their surgeries. Some patients have even told me they use none at all! And in light of our national opioid epidemic, a surgical method that can cut the use of narcotics will benefit our community as a whole.
As someone who came from a Nebraska community very similar to Newaygo County, I know what it’s like for our patients to want to get back to work as soon as possible. Robotic surgery means faster recovery times, which means patients can get back to work quicker, with fewer lost work days.
Here’s what I always tell patients about this new technology: The robot does only what I tell it to do. I have total control. The robot is not plug-and-play. As the surgeon, I make decisions and adapt the surgery because everyone’s anatomy is different.
The DaVinci robot is seeing more use beyond just scheduled, elective surgeries. Physicians are using it in emergency surgeries, from removing gallbladders to appendectomies to repairing perforated ulcers.
Having the DaVinci robot and physicians trained in performing minimally invasive surgeries means Newaygo County now has the kind of cutting-edge medical technology that we used to find only in larger cities.
Dr. Erich Schafer, Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial, general surgery
For more information, contact general surgery at the Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial Multispecialty Clinic: 231.924.4200.
Legislature Passes School Budget
Sen. Bumstead, MEA Prez weigh in
The state Legislature on Thursday approved record public school funding for the 2020 fiscal year.
“This afternoon’s vote was a record investment in Michigan students and teachers,” said Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo. “We were able to agree on a responsible plan that boosts funding for public education without raising taxes. My colleagues and I remain committed to our state’s educators as well as the taxpayers.”
School Aid will see a record investment of $15.3 billion — an increase of $424 million over last year and the largest investment in the state’s history. Under the measure approved Thursday afternoon, schools will see a foundation allowance increase of between $120 and $240 per pupil, an increase from the governor’s proposed $120-$180 formula.
Other notable items include $522 million invested to help at-risk students, a $21.5 million increase in career and technical education funding, and a $60 million increase for special education. The measure also includes funding to improve school safety.
“I am happy we were able to negotiate a final product that puts us one step closer to getting a budget in place,” Bumstead said. “I hope the governor signs this legislation quickly so school districts across the state can finally get their finances together.”
The 2020 K-12 budget will now go before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for consideration.
Michigan Education Association President Paula Harbert statement on passage of education budget:
"While this budget isn’t everything we had hoped for, it is a good first step to ending the decades-long underfunding of public education.
“But it is only a step. It addresses only a fraction of the $2,000 gap in per-pupil funding schools face. It doesn’t eliminate the effects of 25 years of last-in-the-nation education funding increases. For us to truly invest in the success of every student, lawmakers need to make a long-term commitment to addressing these issues.
“First, we must provide equitable funding that accounts for the differing needs of students and the differing resources needed to meet those needs. We owe it to these students – at-risk, special education, English language learners, career/technical, to name a few – to recognize that ‘equal’ and ‘equitable’ are not the same.
“If we focus only on how much we spend, and not on how we spend it, we risk leaving countless students behind because their needs are more costly.
“But we also must recognize that there is not enough revenue for our state government to fully fund our state’s priorities, including education and infrastructure. Whatever revenue options you prefer, they won’t be passed into law to fund our schools and fix our roads unless we create the political will with our leaders in Lansing to make it happen.
“I’m proud of Michigan’s educators for raising their voices to demand change in how we fund our schools – and we will continue to help others raise their voices in favor of fully solving how Michigan shortchanges its students.”
By Ken DeLaat
Cokie Roberts, who passed away today at the much too young age of 75 was a personal hero.
She, far more than anyone I see on the media landscape these days, was a true journalist. An unassuming and seemingly fearless commentator who teemed with integrity and could be trusted to deliver accurate accounts of the goings on at one of the most screamingly elusive and evasive institutions in our land, Congress.
A few years back she spoke at the January Series, the Calvin College annual winter gift to us all that is broadcast live at the Dogwood Center. One glimpse at the schedule that year and I knew that whatever else was going on in my life that day could wait because my behind was going to be in a good seat to hear her presentation.
And she was, most assuredly, not disappointing.
Roberts was candid, funny, and unafraid to be opinionated yet refraining from being unnecessarily unkind. She called out politicians and expressed her frustration at seeing how they were focused on sustained incumbency rather than any real problem solving.
And her wealth of historical knowledge provided an odd sense of relief when she said that today’s political divisiveness is perhaps not the worst our country has faced, referencing the 1850’s and the caning of a senator in the halls of Congress by a member of the house incensed at being referred to in a speech by the canee as 'an imbecile who held slavery as his harlot' among other things.
She reminded us, however, that the era she spoke of ended in Civil War.
Roberts spoke of her deeply rooted Catholic faith and had 2 years prior written a book with her husband about their 40+ year marriage and how they incorporated her Catholicism and his Judaism into an interfaith melding of both in celebration and worship.
I left impressed even more by the woman I had long admired.
During elections Roberts occasionally made appearances on one of the network news stations among the cadre of regular correspondents who always seem to clamor for the clever word or searing speculative thought. Her responses were always like a breath of fresh air arriving in a much too stuffy room. Marked by clarity, insight and a boatload of inside info she radiated competence and the others paled in comparison through no doing of her own other than being who she was.
A journalist...a consummate correspondent.
She was a sheer delight to listen to over the years and will be greatly missed.
Thank you Ms. Roberts.
And well done, Ma’am. Well done indeed.
As a resident who is deeply engaged with our community here in Newaygo County, I wanted to raise awareness about an opportunity for women to take charge of our health.
On Friday, Sept. 6, Spectrum Health will be bringing one of its mobile mammography vehicles to Hesperia. This service on wheels will offer 3-D mammograms, capable of taking detailed, precise images that can more accurately identify abnormalities. A 3-D mammogram is quick, minimizes discomfort and pain during screening, and provides accurate, timely results, all done in privacy and comfort.
I’m pleased that Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial is helping bring quality healthcare to our community. As a school board member and an advocate for economic opportunity in our community, I view events like this as one way we can access healthcare. Spectrum Health is helping make it easier for women to get screened. I join countless people around the nation in reminding women that early screening can save lives.
Cancer in all its forms touches so many lives. It affects the individual, their families and often times entire communities. Hesperia and Newaygo County are no different. We know so many people who have faced this disease with courage. We know those who took proactive steps to address cancer early.
Unfortunately, we also know those who caught the disease too late.
Breast cancer is curable. When found early, breast cancer can be treated and managed. The challenge is detecting it early, and that’s where 3-D mammograms can help.
By taking 1-millimeter-thin images at a time, 3-D mammograms can look through dense breast tissue. The result is a three-dimensional image that a tech or doctor can look at from all angles, as opposed to two-dimensional images like a simple photograph.
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer will affect one in eight women during their lifetimes. The ACS recommends that every woman 40 years or older get a mammogram once a year.
On Friday, we can take that opportunity by getting screened when the mobile mammogram comes to Hesperia. It’s also free to those who qualify.
The mobile mammogram will be at the Family Dollar, 9585 E Sunset Blvd, Hesperia, MI 49421.
Hope to see you women on Friday!
BEFORE YOU GO:
Because the mobile unit can take a limited number of patients, women are asked to make an appointment to reserve a spot.
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