Bob Mayben says he “crept into radio in 1963, playing tapes and records on Sunday and cleaning the station for 10 bucks a week.” Moving up in 1964 he answered the “Pic-A-Burger” hotline request phone at WAAX(AM) and relayed the requests “from all those guys and gals out there.”
After he finished college he worked at several stations, taught broadcasting at a local college, built that school a noncommercial FM station and “managed to wear all the hats in the business from jock to sales to a piece of ownership.” “But,” he adds, “I was happiest as an engineer.”
He has been in charge of AMs ranging from 1 kW to 50 kW and FMs from 10 watts to 100 kW and engineer in charge of the CNN Radio network in Atlanta for a period of time.
He claims a trivia distinction — “In the 1980s and ’90s there were three radio stations on 104.5 FM in the state of Tennessee, and by the end of the ’90s, I had been the chief engineer of all of them!”
Mayben began selling broadcast equipment in 1999 and now works for Bob Cauthen and SCMS Inc. He says, “without a doubt it is the most fun I have had in the radio game … I get to talk daily with engineers, GMs and owners and have not missed a meal in years!”
But it’s his collection of old radio equipment that brings him to our attention. Check out BobMayben.com for some great photos of old equipment (and old DJs).
TechBytes: How did you get into restoring old radio equipment?
Bob Mayben: The equipment involved is really what got me in the business. I have always loved the logical look and feel of radio gear, and want to keep as much of what I “grew up with” working, if possible.
TechBytes: What is the value of restored old equipment? Is it just for hobbyist’s sake? Museum material? Or can old equipment be used in a modern radio station?
Mayben: Some items, especially tube-type compressors and limiters can bring large money on the market. I once sold a Gates Sta-Level that had been under water for nearly $2,000 after I replaced the caps and gave it a long burn in test. The consoles are a hobby thing to a great extent. However, some ol’ radio farts still use them on the air.
TechBytes: Is it getting harder to find old equipment? Old parts? Or do you make your own?
Mayben: With the help of that auction website that starts with E, old gear keeps coming to the surface. Just when you think there will be no surprises, up pops a hard-to-find console from the early ’50s or another station has cleaned out the transmitter building and offers up a complete ’60s–’70s control room.
TechBytes: Do you work with anyone? A local SBE? Do you have any young people showing an interest?
Mayben: I do this alone, in my spare time. I still make a living selling new gear for SCMS Inc., but at nights you might find me down in the basement, either in my vintage studio, or at the bench working on who-knows-what.
TechBytes: Do you have a favorite restoration project? Or is there a Moby Dick project out there? That one piece of equipment you want to get your hands on but haven’t been able to find?
Mayben: They have all been fun, but the latest was the reworking of a 1954 Gates CC-1 TV console, (that many radio stations used on-air as well). I had originally refitted it with stereo pots, but my friend Bob Savage who owns WYSL(AM) in Avon, N.Y., loves old gear as well, and wanted it to be outfitted for use as his production console. That was a good one. I enjoyed that, knowing that visitors to the station will see “real radio gear” in action.
I get to see something different occasionally, but over the past 40 years I have seen most of what we used back-in-the-day. My favorite console has always been the Collins 212E, and my good friend Dave Hultsman, who once was a Collins salesperson, and has worked for Continental Electronics since, also loved this board, and gave me one to restore. And it is in use at “my place” today.