11:24:13 pm on
Tuesday 18 Jun 2019

Recording Radio History
Matt Seinberg


Matt Seinberg with "Fast" Jimi Roberts c. 2007.

I'm very lucky to have met many radio people through my website, mutual friends and Facebook. Some are here and some are gone; some remained acquaintances, many became good friends. The common thread we share is that somehow I had or have air checks of their radio work or something to do with that work, such as swag or photographs.

• Ed Salamon of WHN-AM.

In the 1970s, Ed Salamon was the Programme Director (PD) of WHN-AM 1050, in New York City. It was one of the most influential radio stations in the nation. WHN-AM was the first station to introduce crossover artists on a Country format.

Ed and I connected in the 1990s. I asked him to send me any tapes he may have of WHN-AM. A few years passed before I heard from Ed. He said finally got out to his shed and is going to send me some air checks and whatnot.

The package arrives. It's loaded with WHN-AM tapes from the 1970s; I mean loaded, there are at least three dozen tapes. This is a remarkable amount of real-time from the 19970s.

Tape to digital conversion takes time. Keep in mind that when a tape converts from a tape deck to computer, it's in real time. Whatever the length of the tape, 60, 90 or 120 minutes, that's how long it has to run. Three dozen two-hour tapes work out to seventy-two hours of real time conversion.

Not all the tapes Ed Salmon sent were pristine. Sometimes the sound levels started out okay, but then peaked so high the audio is unlistenable. Fixing many little problems, such as sound levels, can ruin a conversion or double the conversion time. Then there were the tapes that just stop, cold, in the middle of playing, but the computer, of course, kept going.

When a tape stops dead, the first thing I do is loosen the screws holding the case together. If that doesn't work, I transplant, putting the tape in a new case. If that still doesn't work, I bake the tape, in the toaster oven, for thirty minutes at 120 degrees. The theory is the heat will put all the tape molecules and backing together for at least one more playback.

It took a few years, but I finally got all the tapes Ed Salmon sent converted and saved to digital. After my hard drive failure last year, I had to redo half of these conversions and rip the remainder back onto the new hard drives. I also made CD back-up copies for some of them as well.

I emailed Ed and told him to expect a package with everything converted to CD. I asked if he had anything else to send. He thanked me and said he would look.

• Fast Jimi Roberts.

Then I heard from my friend "Fast" Jimi Roberts (above), formerly of WPLJ-FM, in New York City. He now works at WLIF-FM, Today's 101.9 in Baltimore, MD. Jimi and I met in the 1990s when he worked at WPLJ-FM and we stayed in touch for many years, even after he moved to Baltimore.

We saw each other, briefly, a few years ago when he was doing weekends at WCBS-FM. My wife and I waited in the lobby of the building where the CBS radio stations were located. While we waited, I also saw my old friend Pat St. John running up to do his shift on WCBS-FM.

Jimi Roberts messaged me last week, saying he found a box of cassettes. As he didn't have a cassette deck to convert them on, would I be interested in doing this project for him? Heck, yeah. A couple of days later, a box showed up with fifty-to-one hundred tapes; the question is where do I start?

Well, I found one marked 1-25-90. It was Fast Jimi on WPLJ-FM, when it was Power 95. Then there was one marked, Fast Jimi Roberts, that was evidently a demo tape, which, perhaps, he used to apply for a job; there was also an unlabelled tape. The unlabelled tape was the most interesting, as it has various air checks from the New York City Blackout of 1977. Talk about a chunk of history. He has no idea where that came from.

I recorded some airchecks from that blackout myself, but this tape had many more stations than I recorded. When I uploaded all these files for Jimi, he was most excited over that one. Okay, move to the tape dated 7-27-92, which includes Scott and Todd on WPLJ-FM it was important for Jimi as this was the day of the birth of his daughter.

• Recording radio history.

There is a long way to go on converting these thirty-to-forty-year-old tapes. I consider it not only radio history, but also a big part of the life of someone entrusted to me.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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