By 1981, music on AM Radio across the U.S. was well in decline. Stations at RKO General were typical of many ownership groups of the time and most of their AM stations had either already abandoned their highly successful Top 40 formats of the previous two decades or were in the process of doing so.
This aircheck was recorded on Memorial Day, 1981. At the time of this recording, WRKO was a very different sounding radio station than just a few years prior. As had occurred in Philadelphia at WIBG (which changed call letters with its format), WRKO had become a rather sleepy, personality oriented Adult/Contemporary station. Furthermore, the broadcast day was split in half, with the AC Music format being aired during the day, but then shifting to talk shows evenings and late night, most notably, two Boston talk legends: Guy Manella, who had been almost an institution at crosstown WBZ in the 1960s and early to mid 1970s, and one David Brudnoy, who would go on from WRKO to WBZ and go on to legendary status.
With this background, consider the sound of WRKO at this stage of the station’s evolution. The man responsible for steering WRKO into the AC wind was Charlie Van Dyke, one of the single best and most important program directors in the RKO General fold. WRKO sported a laid back morning show in May of 1981 called “Morning Magazine”. It was a far cry from the lightning fast show done by Van Dyke himself just two years earlier on what was then clearly a major Rock station in the city of Boston.
You will hear some WRKO jingles, some rather melodic, yet modern sounding jingles at that. We don’t know what company sung them, but we’d like to think it was Jam. Somebody knows. Musically, you be the judge. Frank Kingston Smith mentions the day’s programming included the “Kenny Rogers Special”, to run from 10am to 6pm.
This is an important glimpse into the sound of WRKO, which was entering it’s final year as a music station before flipping to News/Talk. The audio quality isn’t the best, but we trust you’ll be interested enough to listen to this all the way through.
*Note: We’ve had to perform a bit of surgery on this in an attempt to improve the listening experience. This was recorded on ‘Lazer’ brand tape, some cheap, Mars Bargainland or something store brand of tape that they could sell at an unbelievably low price (Remember the old saying, you get what you pay for). In processing this for presentation, I had to wipe out the right track, since the audio was significantly more degraded on the right channel, copy the audio from the left channel and insert it into the right channel. What you end up with, thus, is a monoized stereo recording at 128k/44.1hz. From there, a noise profile was captured for white noise reduction, and then some eq was added to boost fidelity. Finally a bit of compression was added in an attempt to recreate that incredible punch that WRKO had on the air.
Remember, when I talk about a ‘monoized stereo recording’ I’m referring to the fact that each cassette side was recorded with stereo record heads, and plays back the same way. Obviously, WRKO was a monaural AM station, but in trying to restore audio to something resembling the original product, you have to fix the audio in the manner in which it was recorded. However, there is one fact that remains constant every time I try to restore a badly worn tape: You can’t get any better quality than the best portion of a tape recording. Sadly, most of this one probably belongs in the dusty old box it was found in.
Hopefully, you’ll find it listenable 🙂