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Finding Fred

Radio, riders, records and other stuff

First … It’s that time again! Yes, the NAB convention 2018 in Las Vegas is right around the corner and you should have received your reminded from them if you’ve attended in the past. Rates are still reasonable on hotels, and NAB is offering their “early bird registration.” It’s earlier this year from April 7 thru April 12. Here’s the link, and the registration code (from their page) is THRIVE1 (for a 50% discount and/or FREE admission to the exhibits). Here’s the link.

Most of my time on the air (as an “air personality” … AKA “dumb jock”) was in rock radio. I was fortunate to work at some killer rockers like WONE 97.5 in Akron/Cleveland, 106.7 KAZY in Denver, and WLVQ/QFM 96 in Columbus, Ohio, among other places. Of course, working on-the-air in radio doesn’t make many people rich, though your “record collection” (CDs) grew quickly from the generosity of the record reps (“back in the day”), but the big benefit was the many concerts you’d get to see (a few of my memorable ones include The Kinks, Bryan Adams, Dire Straits, Chicago, The Grateful Dead, The Moody Blues, ELO and soooo many more — and never paying a dime to see the show!).

Sometimes getting the artists on stage was show in its own. Some artists had special “riders” (the little “extras” they want to perform … like all red M&Ms and stuff like that), I never really knew the details. This link is pretty entertaining to read because you can see what groups like The Beatles to Metallica to James Brown included in their performance riders.

Stairway to Heaven (Or Other Places)
As regular readers of Off the Beaten Path know, I love architecture! Had I not gotten into broadcasting, that would probably have been my career. Today I work at New World Center on Miami Beach, which was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. It’s incredible to see it from the inside, outside, and even get to climb through the incredible engineering that produced the infrastructure! Sometimes we take little parts of architecture for granted … like stairs. I mean, what is there to a stairwell? Risers and treads, right? Not when you look at these cool staircases!

Old Radios
If you’re like me, you explore YouTube for help on many things. There are so many excellent videos from entertainment to “How to” videos. Of course, you have to remember that sometimes this information may not be completely accurate (or accurate at all). (We’ll call this my “disclaimer” so you don’t go to YouTube and do something “wrong”).

In any case, whether you are trying to figure out how to pull a door panel off a car, or fix an old radio, you probably can find a video on YouTube. Years ago, I was given an ancient floor-standing Stromberg-Carlson console radio with the “magic tuning eye.” The cabinet itself was beautiful and nearly a work of art, but the radio didn’t work. Locally (in Dover, Ohio), I found a guy named Fred Davis who was probably in his 80s or 90s, and I took the electronics into him. He met me at his old radio/TV repair shop which had been closed for years (a store-front place with paper over the windows). We walked in, and I kid you NOT that it was like walking into a radio/TV shop from the 1940s or 1950s!

It was so cool! Original RCA tubes and parts in original boxes, dust covered, but NEW! Just incredible!! (Side note: sadly, I believe Fred is now gone and that stuff all is gone as well). Anyhow, Fred took the electronics, put it on his bench in the back, and plugged it in. Tubes started glowing, but nothing. He then pulled the caps of the metal tubes and started touching things (while it was plugged-in and on) and said “Hmm, there should be more voltage there” — no volt-ohm meter, just his hand and eyes. Fred then pulled the plug and started looking at the tubes. He then, said, “That’s not the right one,” “No, this one goes here,” “That shouldn’t be in this radio,” and he went on like that.

No, he had no manual or schematics for reference. He just did everything from memory! This guy was simply amazing!

He said, “Come back in a week, I’ll have it working.” A week later that old radio sounded better than anything you could imagine being manufactured today with chips and ICs! I took the electronics home, reinstalled, and had that radio for years (finally sold it as it was too big to be lugging around the country on my travels). There aren’t many engineers like Fred … and it was my pleasure meeting him and seeing a REAL “radio & TV repairman” at work!

Unfortunately, “finding a Fred” isn’t very easy today. Most are gone. But with YouTube, maybe you can find someone to show you how. This video is specifically for a Stromberg-Carlson 240, and the host is “Mr Carlson’s Lab.” Excellent video, and fun to watch!

Modesto Radio
I stumbled across a local radio site called “Modesto Radio Museum,” located in Modesto, Calif. Sometimes these localized radio sites (whether statewide, regional, or local) contain some excellent information related to radio, as this site does. Even if you aren’t from Modesto, you might enjoy exploring this site.

Electronic Kits
Many engineers today got their start playing with an electronics kit. Some of us still have our Radio Shack 100-in-1 project kits (like me), while others have built Heathkit TVs or other electronic devices. One of my first electronic kits was a beautiful old Knight-Kit. Those kits came from Allied Electronics. Today’s kids have similar kits, including many computer-related project kits. In the past, I’ve posted stuff related to Heathkit and Radio Shack. Now, here’s a link to old Allied Electronics catalogs which show some great old electronic kits and electronic items.

World’s First Pocket Radio
Here’s a neat link to another website from Dr. Steve Reyer. There are great links and pics within this site related to the Regency TR-1. The TR-1 was a widely-sold transistor consumer radio from 1954 that is credited as “the world’s first pocket radio.” The little box has a lot of fans. Here’s another TR-1 site.

And Finally…
Though this happened a few years ago, it’s still a fascinating find. Here’s the story of a found time capsule. What makes it special is WHO buried it! The story is about the discovery of a time capsule actually buried by Paul Revere and Sam Adams.

If you stumble across a good or unusual website that might be of interest, please don’t hesitate to send me the link and any info you might have about it. My email address is [email protected].