Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The history and evolution of Seldom Heard Radio part one

Deep in the recesses of my childhood memories, I spent many hours exploring my father’s “cavern” in the basement of our suburban house – his electronic repair shop, which smelled of must and damp and solder. His work benches were strewn with the chasis of televisions & radios, and mysterious tubes of all sizes. At some point in my early childhood – I think it was around the age of eight, I simultaneously started collecting 7” vinyl records (the first record I ever bought was Atlantis by Donovan)… and heard a shortwave radio which had been brought in for repairs. The deep tones and unfamiliar languages intrigued me, as did the static and strange noises between the stations. The airwaves were alive.

This is one of the hazards of starting a “blog” … it’s part journal, part news, part advocating. This whole musing was triggered by a letter from John Campbell of Devon, UK who heard Seldom Heard Radio on 6235 kHz in April via Jolly Roger Radio International in Ireland. He said, in part “I’ll be very interested in … any information about the history and style of programming of your station …”Alas, John, you may get more information in these posts than you expected!

My initial encounter with shortwave was quickly forgotten, unfortunately, as I focused on “dx’ing” (distance listening) medium wave (AM band) stations in the US. As a child I spent hours tuning in stations from as far away as Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Nashville, Canada and even Mexico. Around this time, my local AM station, WFEA had a sort of underground 60s pop and rock format, and I became determined to hang out at the station if I could. I rode the five miles across the river on my bike, and found that a couple of DJs would actually talk to me! Years later I learned that my father had played cowboy music live on WFEA in the late 1930s before he was stationed in India during World War II..

As I became ten, eleven, twelve, friends of mine & I would play “DJ”, rigging up homemade Radio Shack transmitters, or recording music and shows onto monolithic tape recorders. Back then we could get an AM signal out almost a quarter of a mile by rigging our crystal set … and we were triumphant. Thus the seeds of Seldom Heard Radio were planted …

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