SCROLL DOWN AND LISTEN TO A VARIED SELECTION OF AIRCHECKS FEATURING DJ’S FROM THE FREE FORM ERA
WBCN FM 1971 VINTAGE FREE FORM RADIO A BROADCAST TREASURE !
Boston’s WBCN FM was one of the premiere progressive free form station in North America. Have a listen to some fantastic clips from the station during it’s prime. The sound quality is excellent on most of these clips and they represent as good a sample of vintage free form radio as you are going to find anywhere. I have some more tape from the station to upload in the future.
CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO WBCN FM
PETE & GEETS 1983 & CAL BRADY WBUF FM 1975
A great double shot of Progressive Free Form radio.
The first clip is of Pete and Geets on CFNY from 1983 and they open with an oldie. When was the last time you heard Gene Pitney on CFNY ? Possibly when this air check was recorded. The great thing about early CFNY was that they were not limited to new or “Modern Rock” and the element of surprise and variety was alive and well. Audio quality is not the best.
Also check out the the longer set by Pete and Geets on CFNY and watch the site for more. I have some tape of them on CHUM FM.
The second clip is from WBUF FM from 1975 and features Cal Brady, the program director of the station at the time. The clip captures the essence of underground free form with a great psychedelic era station ID and a counter culture intro to a song by the Jefferson Airplane. Brady says “good morning…don’t believe everything you read in the papers.” The actual time was 5 PM. The clip is sadly too short but serves as a great reminder about why the free form format was so interesting.
ERIC TRAVER WBUF FM PART TWO
This clip features Eric Traver on his all night shift at WBUF FM from 1975. The station was probably the best progressive free form station in the area at the time. The musical selections include tracks by Todd Rundgren, Love and Jeff and Maria Muldaur. Eric can be heard after the commercial break which starts at 14:20.
JOHN FARREL WZIR FM – RENEGADE RADIO AT IT`S BEST !
Fantastic clip recorded during WZIR FM’s ( Wizard Radio, Niagara Falls, NY) first Birthday in June 1981. Sadly the free form format at the station barely made it past the first year and was gone just two months after this recording was made.
An exceptional set of music by the likes of the Grateful Dead, Michael Hurley, Brinsley Schwarz, Dave Edmunds, Traffic, The Sex Pistols, Cheap Trick and Quicksilver Messenger Service..
Gonzo radio at it’s best. Note the commercial at 11:48 for “Signals from Space” hosted by Dr Lobotomy or the commercial block beginning at 23:23 – leading into the news. Prompting newsman George Prentice to say “This place has a terminal drug problem, I don’t know how they allow this stuff on the air.”
John Farrell plays the straight man with his unique delivery. Hard to find better examples of commercial free form radio than this. I had posted this on the main page previously.
This is one of the older clips in my collection and quality is poor at the start but improves. The recording is from November 1972 and features DJ Ken Weir on WPHD FM 103.3 from Buffalo NY. PHD was the first free form station in the area to tighten it’s format and make a move towards AOR. Jim Santella had in fact resigned on air earlier in the year because of that. The creeping commercialization is evident in ads such as the one for Pepsi that I don’t believe would have aired in the pure free form days of the station. Still, compared to the tight formats of today, this does sound free form and the music is varied and includes selections by Chicago, Deodato, Chuck Manjione, Argent, The Moody Blues and Deep Purple. Some interesting commercials including one for a Bob Seger gig at a club called the Ghandi Dancer, a spot for Council Opticians that sounds like a holdover from the free form era of the station. Also an intriguing ad for Lou Reed’s Transformer album which had just been released.
JOHN DONABIE CHUM FM 1973
This is from one of the older reels that I have. John Donabie during the free form era from 1973. The voice on one of the ADs is Larry Green who was one of the early DJ’s at the station but I’m not sure if he was still on staff at the time of this recording.
The clip ends with a segment from John’s Sock Hop show where he used the Rockin’ Rebels as his weekly outro. The song was first recorded as the theme song for Tom Shannon’s Top 40 show on WKBK. I’m not sure about the date of the Sock Hop clip but I used to record all of the oldies as this was the first time I was introduced to many of them. Unfortunately I recorded the music and the DJ patter is missing except for this one brief segment. Wish I had realized the value of the DJ patter and preserved it.
The partial track that plays just before the Rockin’ Rebels is the rather obscure ” Country Judy-Jane” by David Rae. Thank you to the internet sleuths at the SH forum for helping me ID that track.
JOHN DONABIE CHUM FM & SOME WPHD 1972
The DJ patter on this clip is regrettably short. You will hear John Donabie at 00:59 for a few seconds plus Roger McCall on WPHD at 19:58 and perhaps John Farrell or Jeff Lubeck on WPHD at 26:32.
The clip consists mostly of music. The John Donabie segment features Van Morrison, Al Kooper, Otis Redding, The Bee Gees ( yes the Bee Gees and have no fear no disco, this is from the time the Bee Gees were actually an FM Act), Carly Simon, Dave Mason and The Chamber Brothers with a cover of The Midnight Hour. I know these selections are all from one continuous air check as there are no pauses or stops on the CHUM FM portion of the tape. The musical selection sounds very much like what Mr. Donabie would have played. An amazing seven tracks on one set with one spoken break near the beginning. Such spoken breaks were a feature of free form radio as the DJ would do more than back announce the tracks. They would often create a narrative or theme or tell a story with non commercial spoken-word breaks mixed with music.
The WPHD segment has the final moments of an hour of the Byrds. Daily features of various musical acts were common on Free Form. WPHD and WBUF in Buffalo both featured various artists for an hour each weekday and John Donabie on CHUM FM did the same for half hour sets. Comedy selections were regularly interspersed into the presentation and you will hear a few seconds of the great Firesign Theater.
Chronologically speaking, the latest release date for the musical selections is Anticipation by Carly Simon from November 1971 and so I think this clip is from late 1971 or early 1972 when John Donabie was doing the 10 PM to 2 AM shift.
I wish I had more of the announcers on this but the clips does re-open a window into the world of free form radio from the early 1970’s. I would appreciate any corrections to the dates and announcer names etc. Please send me an email.
The Radio Corner Presents Pete and Geets on CFNY/June 1983 Plus WUWU FM 1982
The Live Earl Jive on CFNY 1983
New wave dominates on this including The Stranglers, Way of the West, Hawaiian Pups. You also hear the Stones at the end with Under My Thumb. and Peter Tosh which to me demonstrate why diversity is a great thing and makes from better radio than fragmentation.
Listen also for the update on the Wankies from Nick Charles. I had completely forgotten about Frank Vetere’s pizza but the ad brought it back for me. Also some noodling around the radio dial at the end ending with Jethro Tull. No idea what station that was on.
The Pritchard Program CHUM FM May 23, 1975
David’ Pritchard’s over-night slot on CHUM FM was probably the most experimental radio program in the history of commercial broadcasting in Toronto. In addition to rock-folk-jazz-country he played a lot of cutting edge electronic music. Things were tightening up by 1975 and CHUM FM had already started a hit content policy where you would hear at least one top forty hit in an hour. David moved to a day time shift and his show become more conventional but was still quite eclectic compared to what we hear on any commercial radio station in Toronto today. Enjoy this broadcast from the waning days of free-form FM. The muscal selection is varied ranging from pop-rock to blues to jazz to electronic. Some of the artists featured include Tomita, Donavan, The Hollies, The Italian progressive rock band PFM and more.
The broadcast also features a full newscast with the Larry Wilson including reports from Bryan Thomas and Fred Ennis.
This is a feature I had posted to the main page but this version has improved sound quality. The clip is almost two hours long.
Tomita – Snowflakes are Dancing
John Farrel WBUF FM 1975
This air check clocks in over an hour and gives you a great taste of what a real free-flowing rock station could sound like. Farrell worked at least three of the Buffalo NY progressive rock stations WPHD, WBUF and WZIR. In a way BUF was the best progressive rock station that the city ever had. They were the longest lasting and the format was never watered down until they changed to pure album rock in 1978. John sounded serious and was concise and not prone to ramble. The atmosphere created on his show was one of smokey psychedelia. The music featured on this clip includes Spirit, Phil Manzanera, Armageddon, Weather Report, Emerson Lake and Palmer and an entire side of Hendrix.
Yeah this is far out man and you will be somewhat “experienced” in the art of progressive free form after you listen.
The end of the clip segues into the next show.
CFNY First Day After Power Increase 1977
The air check is from the summer day in 1977 when CFNY went to 40,000 watts and boomed throughout the city for the first time. Before this the station was available via a low watt terrestrial signal barely heard east of the airport and on cable FM. A few of the announcers had already been on the station for some time but big guns such as David Pritchard and Reiner Schwarz formerly with CHUM FM were brought in after the power increase and for both this was a welcome reunion.
Pritchard and Bruce Heyding discuss what’s planned for the station. Sadly the on air line-up they outline did not last long. The Leslie brothers of CHIC fame owned the station and I feel they did not give time for this format to thrive.
In the opening music set Pritchard starts with Brahms and on to Hank Williams to Bob Marley. Talk about eclectic.
David hands the reins over to Reiner Schwarz who we hear in his inimitable style and and we can feel the excitement and promise of what’s to come. His first set of music is also diverse.
After his departure from CHUM FM and before CFNY, Reiner had spent time at CHOM FM, the Montreal free form powerhouse. He was a pioneer in both radio and television and started MTV like programming well before there was an MTV on his Night Music show on TVO. He also had a second stint at NY 1989-1991.
I have another set or two from the first night which I will upload later. Enjoy this for now.
Grateful Dead – Truckin’
Eric Travers – WBUF May 1975
Clouding Up The Mind on a Rainy Night
The air check can be dated to sometime in late May 1975 judging by the ad for a rescheduled Lynyrd Skynard concert and the fact that Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is played as a brand new release. That track is at the beginning of this set and that’s probably the most mainstream song to be heard. The hockey game on TV won by Buffalo is referenced. The Buffalo Sabres were in the NHL playoff finals that year and they won on May 20 and 22.
This can be taken as a companion piece to the John Farrell air check posted on the main page. Diverse set of music including everything from Tom Rapp and Pearls Before Swine to Eddie Harris to Seatrain
You can also hear a technique often utilized by free form DJ’s and that was to intermix two different tracks and in this case you hear Tomita intermixed with the progressive-psyche group Quartermass. The clip is over an hour long.
Seatrain – Marblehead Messenger
A Mixed Bag – WCMF FM, 97 Rock and WUWU 107.7
This is an intriguing clip that provides a picture of the rock radio dial in western New York during the summer of 1982.
Things get started with selections played on the Import/Export show on WCMF FM – Rochester, New York with Uncle Roger hosting. Alternative rock and some of it never played in Toronto (cuts by The Dream Syndicate, Fleshtones, The Cramps and Chesterfield Kings). CFNY was not big on this type of garage rock but WCMF’s Import Export and WUWU gave well deserved exposure to the genre.
You also hear a bit of mainstream AOR by way of WCMF and 97 Rock from Buffalo All of the tracks are recorded off the radio but the announcements for some are missing unfortunately,
The best part of the clip is near the end when we hear a DJ on WUWU Jeff Gordon playing a comedy cut by George Carlin and a special dance mix of Our House by Madness called Madhouse. Creative programming could still be heard in some quarters in 1982 and this segment is a great example.
Listen also for a syndicated segment from Pete Fornatale of WNEW FM. He was one of the legendary free form Jocks and in later years hosted the “Mixed Bag” program on WNEW and WFUV.
The Fleshtones – Ride Your Pony
Jim Santella – In The Belly of The Beast
Jim Santella could be called the Dean of all Buffalo DJ’s from the free form era and beyond. He started his professional career at Buffalo’s first free form called WYSL. That station changed it’s called letters to WPHD and Santella also made the transition. He later moved to 97 Rock where he stayed for many years. More recently he had a blues show of public WBFO and has since retired.
This clip finds him firmly in new wave land on WUWU FM ( June 1983) playing tracks by Q-Field, The Talking Heads and more. Some jazz by Jean Luc Ponty for a change of pace. My favorite musical selection on the clip is “Church of The Poison Mind” by Culture club which finds Boy George in full Motown mode.
An interesting commercial for for a WUWU party plays during the first break.
There’s around the dial twisting starting at the 47:00 minute mark you can hear Rick Ringer on CHUM FM announcing his last set. Yes this was the time when they actually played Quiet Riot. You can also hear James Scott on CFNY announcing an interview with Kajagoogoo by The Earl Jive later that day. Unfortunately I did not stay on any one station for too long during the dial changes, save for a classical station near the end. Quality is so so on the clip and falters badly at the end as the tape rolls off the reel. Highlighting the ephemera of the listening experience.
The clip ends where it began in “the belly of the beast” with Jim Santella. That phrase, used by Santella in his ID’s, quite aptly described the format and vibe at WUWU FM and I hope you enjoy this clip from one of the legendary broadcasters from Western NewYork.
CFNY FIRST DAY AFTER POWER INCREASE – PART TWO
This is the remaining portion of the CFNY tape from the first day at 40,000 watts (1977). Relatively good quality clip which provides a great window into the vintage free form format with Reiner’s unique delivery and some great music by Tim Buckley, John Lennon, John Mayall , Catherine Lara and more.