Life, Stories told

Death of a radio station

Word reached me the other day that my college alma mater’s radio station, WMHD at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, is permanently shutting down its transmitter and will only stream on the Internet from now on. I guess it was inevitable. I don’t think college kids really listen to the radio anymore.

That wasn’t true a quarter century ago when I was a student. The iPod and Pandora were way off in the future – and more importantly, so was industry deregulation, which led to big companies gobbling up stations and watering down their programming so much that there’s no compelling reason to listen.

Radio was once a strong drive among Rose-Hulman students. It started in 1969 when students built a carrier-current AM station they called WRTR. The signal ran through the campus’s electrical system; you had to plug your radio into the wall to pick it up. But students dreamed of over-the-air broadcasting on FM. In 1981, after completing a bunch of engineering studies and filling out a pile of FCC paperwork, they got their license.

Me on the air in 1989

Me on the air in 1989

By the time I reached Rose-Hulman in 1985, WMHD was an active, thriving station. I joined the dozens of students who did weekly two-hour air shifts. There were enough of us that we were on the air from 7 am to 1 am on weekdays, and 24 hours a day on the weekends. We were a free-format station – you always heard whatever music the student on the air wanted to play. We hardly sounded professional, but none of us cared much. Listeners could hear the fun we were having.

Unfortunately, that listenership was small, thanks largely to our weak signal. At 160 watts, WMHD could be heard only within about two miles of campus. (We did get request-line calls from inmates at the federal penitentiary way across town, though. I never figured out how they heard us!) We yearned for a signal that covered the city.

It happened in 2003 when a religious broadcaster wanted to build a station that would interfere with WMHD’s signal. They paid to move the station to a new frequency and increase power to 1,400 watts. At last, you could hear WMHD all over Terre Haute!

But it was for nothing. Every time since then that I’ve visited Terre Haute and tuned to WMHD, I heard nothing but music, with no DJs ever. I don’t know why they didn’t fully staff the broadcast day, but I do know that they increasingly relied on some software that a student wrote to automate the station. Meanwhile, the station started streaming on the Internet. You can hear it here, if you want, but I wouldn’t bother. What’s the point of a radio station that’s just an iPod full of somebody else’s favorite music?

Because I found work in Terre Haute after I graduated in 1989, I kept doing weekly air shifts at WMHD into the early 1990s. Here’s 45 minutes of one of my last shifts, from January, 1992. You’ll hear my favorite music at the time, which was heavily influenced by 1970s progressive rock. Even if you aren’t a prog-rock fan, I think you’ll find this to be very listenable – because I took great care to mix the songs well, creating good transitions based on mood, key, and tempo; and because I came on the air from time to talk to you, which made it personal.

A lot of things have to happen to make a radio station viable, including a good signal and strong promotions to attract listeners. But once you get listeners to tune in, what keeps them there is compelling programming. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think that the magic formula has never changed: it’s about the people on the air as much as or more than the music that is played. It’s people that make radio fun and interesting. When a station forgets that, it quickly slides into obscurity and irrelevancy. That’s what happened at WMHD. That’s what much of the industry is doing to itself. It’s no wonder kids today don’t listen to the radio.

readmore2

I did the morning show on WMHD
for a couple years. Hear it here.

Advertisements
Standard

47 thoughts on “Death of a radio station

  1. Radio station. I wonder why they can’t play one or two songs or talk for the equivalent time. And do one commercial. I.sure hate sitting there and listen to 3 to 5 minutes of commercials. That’s when I change the station usually.

    Like

    • Yeah. Everybody hates the six-minute commercial breaks. If I were an advertiser I’d be ticked if my spot got slotted at the end if a break because by then who is actually still listening?

      Like

  2. I would guess that it would be hard for a young person to get a feel for what a big deal radio was back in the old days. I have to admit that even an old-timer like me seldom listens to music on the radio. Although I do still like to listen to baseball on the radio even though most of the games are now on TV.

    Like

    • Yeah, if your childhood began after 1990, give or take, music radio just wasn’t anywhere near the force in your life as it was if you were born before that.

      Heh, I remember my dad listening to the White Sox on the radio while he watched the game, sound off, on the TV.

      Like

  3. Steve Miller says:

    Well, poo! I do hate to hear of college stations folding. But we lived in different times, Jim, and my time, 15-or-so years before yours was different yet. Commercial radio was still vital and inventive. Music was important to all of us and it was possible to distinguish between songs and artists. I know I mark myself as an impossible old fart*, but today’s drum and bass, tuneless, pseudo-rap, quasi R&B hasn’t even the appeal of elevator music.

    The student-run campus station at IU followed the same course as WRTR/WMDH. Started as a carrier-current station serving a single quad in ’62, WQAD was soon followed by WFQR, another C-C station serving a second quad. The two formed a campus network to provide news, some combined programs, and to offer a larger sales base — yes, these stations were commercial and self-funded!

    The stations and the network eventually became WIUS, moved to an IU-owned house just off campus. At one point, WIUS fed its signal by phone to 33 small carrier-current transmitters located the length and breadth of campus. Years after I left (and after the station was nearly killed by inept — if not larcenous — student management) new blood managed to get, first, low-power AM, then low-power FM. Yes, an incoming religious broadcaster did force the station to change its frequency, too.

    But it could have been worse. The threat of religious broadcasters grabbing the allocations forced WFCI at Franklin College and WNDY at Wabash to become, essentially, repeaters for WFYI-FM. So long, kids!

    Two side notes about WIUS and its alumni: All but one member of the initial air staff on the fabled WNAP came from WIUS (Chris Conner was the lone exception.) And in 1970, WIUS was joined by two escapees from WRTR. One went on to become, among other broadcast positions, program director for WIBC during its last days of glory; the other went on to write some of the best-known titles in comic-dom, including Superman!

    Far too long a reply, but though I’ve never had the fortune — good or bad — to have worked in radio, I have a circle of friends that have lasted over four decades and continues to expand as we together now at least once a year. As the tee-shirt says, “After 40 years, I still can’t get these voices out of my head!”

    *Socrates must have been the original impossible old fart, because even he complained about the kids’ music.

    Like

    • In what way did the religious broadcasters force WFCI and WNDY to repeat WFYI? I don’t know that story.

      Religious broadcasters seem to be mounting a takeover of the FM band.

      Thanks for the history of broadcasting at IU. A friend of mine was on air at WIUS in the late 80s to about 1990. She likes to tell a story about how Paul McCartney’s band showed up in the studio after a concert in Indy, while she was on the air.

      I am very grateful to have spent a little time on the air. Nine years, pro and college. I love it that I still have audio from all the stations on which I appeared. But I don’t know that I’d want to go on the air today, given how much things are different. I don’t think I’d enjoy it like I did.

      Like

  4. There are certainly plenty of outlets that began as internet only and there are lots of of broadcast stations that have added live streaming but I believe this is the first time I’ve heard of a station turning off an existing transmitter to go totally internet. That doesn’t seem like a good thing at all.

    Streaming is not at all a bad thing itself and one of its good points is that it allows you to point people in far away places to listen to local stuff. The Cincinnati area is fortunate to have a station with lots of music, lots of variety, and on air personalities who are allowed considerable say in what they broadcast & stream. So I invite you to listen to the PBS station at Northern Kentucky University (http://www.wnku.org). I think it’s all pretty good and they support plenty of new and breaking musicians, but I especially like Saturday afternoons when the local Real Mary Peale (12:00-4:00) can take listeners deep into the last century.

    Like

    • It seems like this move will continue to serve the students, who probably didn’t listen to the FM broadcast very much anyway. Every student at Rose is required to have a laptop computer, so those who want to listen to WMHD just have to kick off the stream.

      Times have changed.

      I still pine for good radio. I’d almost certainly enjoy WNKU.

      Like

      • Steve Miller says:

        Oh, streaming is definitely a good thing, provided one has access to internet and the equipment necessary (either computer, smartphone, or streaming radio receiver). But that throws another roadblock for those without access to technology — and further widens the split between population segments with and without access.

        That said, WNKU does sound interesting, and reminds me of the Saturday afternoon shows on Bloomington’s WFHB (wfhb.org, which shares some roots with WIUS and the heretofore unmentioned WQAX…). In Indianapolis, we have the “unpredictable” 919.WITT, though it has not yet developed to far beyond jukebox. Still, when the local NPR outlet launches into full-begathon mode, I send WITT a donation instead because I want them to have time to succeed at truly being “The Voice for Many Voices.”

        Like

  5. The few years I spent working in “real radio” (live, cueing up and playing records, commercials off cart, back timing to live network news, taking transmitter readings, putting callers on the air, running a big Gates console, live remotes over telco lines, a wire machine clattering away in the newsroom) were some of the best years of my working life. College and small market stations were places where young radio talent could make mistakes and learn their trade. Not sure if today there are still places like that. Maybe the internet is where this is happening. Or maybe not.

    In any event, I feel lucky to have grown up listening to WABC over skywave at night on my transistor radio, hoping to someday be just like Dan Ingram. And luckier still to have had the opportunity to work at four small market stations and one big city station before I left radio for good.

    Like

  6. tk47man says:

    Yep. My first full time radio job paid $135 per week, but I was on the radio and it was glorious. I soon discovered though that “town to town, up and down the dial” was the norm for radio guys. Living in studio apartments, multiple divorces and chain smoking Lucky Strikes too!

    WLS was Chicago’s WABC, using the same jingle package from JAM Productions in Dallas. Musicradio WLS! Musicradio WABC! Those, indeed, were the days!

    Like

  7. "Naked" Dave S says:

    2005 WMHD DJ here–(non-Internet) Radio was only a part of our day during our drives to or from the Haute. I don’t think any of us brought any other radio that wasn’t an alarm clock!
    It’s awesome to hear of the initiative Rose kids had throughout the decades. They are still as brilliant and driven (possibly even smarter than us), just not about radio anymore.

    Thanks for the post.

    Like

  8. Merry Miller Moon says:

    I work at RHIT, and this makes me very sad. I used to listen to the ‘Monkey’ almost daily. I wondered why I couldn’t get the signal to come through for the past year or so. This makes me sad! Hopefully, it will come back!

    Like

  9. Jim – We appreciate the passion and support of the station. The FCC did not rule on Rose-Hulman’s most recent license renewal request, so it would be illegal for the station to be broadcasting on the 90.7 signal at this time. We can’t really speak on the future.

    Over the past few years, the amount of students interested in WMHD has dwindled. I think this mirrors the modern radio in many markets too. There are few DJs and more automation in many radio markets. The past 2-3 years, we have only had 3-5 active students interested in being DJs. It has made things very difficult in terms of programming and funding.

    Fortunately, we currently have a passionate group featuring several new music directors and others affiliated with the station. They are making a strong effort to make wmhdradio.org their own. Hopefully this can grow into a much more prosperous station. The opportunity to be a DJ is the same today as it was in your day – the only difference is that we are not on the actual over the air signal.

    Give them a listen! We appreciate the passion and support. The opportunity for students to broadcast, like much of the world, is changing – not going away. One growth opportunity has been within our international students, who like to be DJs in order to play music and be heard by their families at home. That’s one of the blessings of the new website.

    Like

    • Thank you very much for weighing in. It surprises me that the FCC chose not to act on the station’s license renewal. But it doesn’t surprise me (though it does sadden me) that student interest has gone almost to zero.

      The point I was trying to make in my post was that radio isn’t relevant to people under 25 or 30; the way the industry has gone since deregulation has made it that way.

      I’m 46; I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s listening to the radio. I have great memories of compelling entertainment over the air. So the chance to be on the radio at Rose was incredibly compelling to me, as it was to many, many other students. When I was station manager, the staff of WMHD used to fill the big classroom for monthly staff meetings — E104 I think it was, the one with the seats on an incline and the big sliding blackboards. We had 100+ DJs on staff, and people standing in line to claim one of the prime weekday-evening spots.

      I’m glad to hear that a small cohort still has passion for broadcasting and are trying to push forward with WMHD as an Internet-only resource. My other point remains salient: it’s just an iPod full of somebody else’s favorite music unless the human element is present. I still believe that what makes a broadcast compelling is that human element, where someone talks directly to the listener and shares something of value with them. I hope that as WMHD evolves into whatever it becomes, that it includes a strong element of this.

      Like

  10. Wow! Disappointing, but, as you point out, given the direction of the music industry, not surprising. WMHD was an anchoring presence for me at Rose-Hulman. It was an escape. It was stress relief. But more than anything, (most of the time) it was fun. I learned a LOT about different types of music and really enjoyed sportscasting, as well. It was awesome to be there as the Compact Disc hit the music scene. It made for many excellent trips to Headstone Records, which Facebook tells me still graces Poplar Street in Terre Haute.

    I was one of the first freshmen to get an air shift in the fall of 1984. My heart was pretty hardcore AOR, but in order to get more airtime, I would grab shifts in almost any format. I board-opped the Derry & Voltmer’s Bluegrass show, I covered 60’s/70’s & Heavy Metal shifts. I dropped daily Stardate segments from giant reel-to-reel tapes onto cassettes or CARTs. I was a bit player in our original comedy show Radio Free Terre Haute. When I had the last air shift of the day, I ended with Sachmo’s “What a Wonderful World.” And, finally, to be filed in the “you’re probably trying too hard”, I stayed on campus over my spring break freshman year and pulled 12+ hour air shifts most days to pass the time. I’m sure there was a much broader range of experiences I’m not remembering…

    I returned to campus this fall for homecoming and one of the first places I visited was the basement of Baur Sames Bogart hall. I was disappointed to find a very limited broadcasting schedule – typically only a few hours a day and none that coincided with my brief visit.

    A couple weeks ago, one of the icebreakers we did for my son’s cub scout pack’s first camping trip this fall was for them to match leaders with interesting experiences they’ve had in life. One had crossed the equator twelve times. One went through the Suez Canal four times. We had volunteer firefighters & floutists. My unique experience was calling college football games for WMHD. The kids enjoyed my mock play calls and asked for an encore at the end of the game.

    WMHD was one of my favorite Rose memories.

    Like

    • Michael, thank you for commenting. I am right there with you: WMHD was my anchor at Rose. There were a couple times I didn’t think I was going to make it as a student, but I pulled it out because I didn’t want to leave WMHD behind. I did everything there: DJ, news, sports (very, very badly), production, janitorial, and finally station manager. WMHD gave me my first chance at real leadership, and I found that I had a knack for it. I’m very glad for that experience.

      Like

  11. WMHD. It’s where TALK… TALK… ELLLL-EPHANT TALK! aired. Relevant (and sometimes no-so-relevant) campus issues were cussed and discussed.

    WMHD. It’s where I discovered, as general manager, that my leadership style is very hands-off, and there are some organizations which simply weren’t compatible with that style, WMHD being one of them. I, too, am very glad for that experience.

    WMHD. It’s where we learned about the intricacies of an industry most of us would never touch otherwise. The music industry continues to amaze me with its Byzantine rules and its self-destructive attempts at self-preservation.

    WMHD. Where you could enjoy spinning some vinyl and playing the occasional CD on one of those new-fangled and sometimes temperamental CD players. (Thank you, Columbia House, for your clearance sales!)

    WMHD. Where you could bring a date and double your listenership, all in one smooth move.

    Double-you em aich dee. It was where I discovered enunciation and a passion for saying things correctly. Thanks, Jim.

    And so it ends.

    Or does it? While we may get misty-eyed over the final power-down of the transmitter in the basement of BSB, part of the goal of WMHD was to train us to deal with technologies in a real, working environment. And as FM slowly commits suicide, or is replaced by inscrutable technologies so specialized as to become unserviceable, perhaps WMHD’s transition to the next iteration of “transmitting” is appropriate.

    [And then there was the guy I trained who didn’t realize that “INXS” wasn’t pronounced “inksez…” But then, it took me a few plays to realize that “NOZ MO KING” was pronounced “no smoking.” Ah, those were the days…]

    Like

    • Bill, I’m delighted to hear from you, and thanks for painting a picture of the station in those times. You’re right, it is perhaps appropriate for WMHD to transition to whatever the next iteration of “broadcasting” is becoming.

      And I didn’t know how to pronounce INXS at first, either. Someone corrected me via the request line. Wow, was that embarrassing.

      Like

  12. Pingback: College Radio Watch: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to Sell WMHD to … | Higher Education Guide

  13. John Seiler says:

    I really enjoyed my time Dj’ing at WMHD. One of the strange memories was during my shift, I dragged my roommates down the the station to do my shift. One of them was licensed, one of them was not. Chris, bless his soul, begged to be allowed to say something, so we had him do station ID at the top of the hour. He lost control of his tongue and dropped the F-bomb. We signaled him that he just live mike swore to which he responded (live mike again)….”S^&*, I just said F&*& on the radio.” That ended his career.

    I also had a shift in mid-April 1986 which happened to be the day that the US bombed Libya. A friend and I tried to find every vaguely patriotic song to play. Born in the USA, Bad to the bone…. Fun times.

    Much like Jim, when things weren’t going well in class, spinning albums made me feel a lot better. A fine distraction.

    — John

    Like

    • John, so nice to hear from you here. I’m sure worse slipped out on the air at WMHD a time or two. Fortunately for us, the FCC would have had to work pretty hard to hear us given our effective two-mile radius.

      My news moment was that I was on the air when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. A buddy of mine came downstairs with a portable TV and we sat in the studio and watched. I broke the news for our listeners and then let it go to album sides while we mourned with the rest of the nation.

      Like

  14. It’s very sad to read this. I actually started at Rose in fall 1970 and was one of the first people to work for the newly-vitalized WRTR. A fellow named John Lawrence (now sadly deceased) spent the summer rebuilding the homebrew mixing console and fixing up the “carrier-current” AM transmitters so that we could dive in as soon as everyone was on campus for the fall semester.

    Some trivia: the original board was built by a EE student who very probably neglected his studies to get the thing built; John ripped out all the tube gear and replaced it with very clean, quiet transistor circuits, adding some features and making it easier to repair as well. Later that year someone donated a couple of Ampex reel-to-reel tape recorders and a pair of professional broadcast turntables which made things work more smoothly.

    The “carrier-current” system was actually a series of low-power AM transmitters stashed in each of the dorms, and were powerful enough to be picked up outside the property limits. Later we hooked up someone’s GDO to an FM dipole on top of BSB hall and went on FM as well. Very lucky for us that the FCC didn’t patrol the area, or we would have caught some flak for our violations, no doubt!

    The first year or so, there were so many volunteers wanting to work at the station that we had a hard time finding a free shift. Later, as people got busier or lost interest, slots opened up and it was not unusual for someone who had a class or a job to fail to show up for their gig. At that point the only option was to try to contact the tardy DJ, load up the “emergency tape” and walk out. We heard that pre-made reel quite a lot over the winter months… The guy after me quit showing up, so my 2-hour Saturday gig was more often an 8 PM – close session. It was sometimes lonely, but alwa

    Just about the time Spring quarter rolled around, a local grad named Paul Ford (who owned his own station WPFR – Paul Ford Radio) offered to let us use a 3-hour segment of his evening time with the caveat that we had to try to bring in some ad revenue. We hooked up a MARTI remote transmitter at BSB and sent our programming to WPFR’s site where they rebroadcast it; we had an engineer on site to handle their transmitter during the shows. Several of us had to get our FCC licenses to be able to run the transmitter. Looks like WPFR is still around, but is part of a network now.

    I could tell a lot of stories about the 4 years I worked for the station

    Like

    • Thanks so much for adding the WRTR history! We still used those Ampex reel decks in the late 80s, btw.

      I gathered materials for a station history in about 1988 and found lots of info about Nightrain on WPFR. I met Paul Ford about six years ago. He had sold the original WPFR sometime in the 80s. The calls stayed on 102.7 for several years after that, but about the time I left Terre Haute in 1994 the station changed format and calls. Paul said in the early days of WPFR, he just couldn’t get advertisers; nobody wanted to advertise on FM. Hard to believe now. Anyway, he started a bunch of low-power Christian stations in the late 90s and found the WPFR calls available, so he snagged them and put them on one of his stations. When I spoke with him, we sat in the studios of his stations, which was off the front room of his house on US 40 west of Marshall, IL. He had lots of great stories and was delighted that I had spent some time working at WBOW in Terre Haute, as he had worked there too, decades before me.

      Radio at Rose helped me grow up and shed some personal limitations, too. I did a lot around the station, including two years as station manager. It’s where I learned that I had a knack for leadership. WMHD was in many ways the most important thing I did at Rose-Hulman.

      Like

      • Night Train (Nightrain? Nighttrain?) did sound like it was a lot of fun. By the time I arrived in ’85 of course we were on FM and WPFR was no longer owned by Paul Ford. I met Paul Ford, by the way, in about 2007. He was broadcasting out of his house on US 40 near Marshall, IL, on a non-comm frequency.

        Like

  15. Well, something caused my unfinished entry to post while I was typing. :-( That unfinished sentence was supposed to say “It was sometimes lonely, but always fun to be on air sharing my love of music with the listeners.”

    And the last paragraph was supposed to read “I could tell a lot of stories about the 4 years I worked for the station, like how we’d get calls from ISU asking for help with math homework and such. It’s sad to see that the station has gone under; it was a fascinating part of being a student at Rose, and helped me overcome a lot of my personal insecurities.”

    Greg Dunn
    EE ’74

    Like

  16. It’s funny – the “Night Train” moniker came from an old AM show run by Arnie Ginsburg, and our program director didn’t want us to spread that around. :-D But it suited the format pretty well. I remember someone thought it was cool to use a bold font and run the words together as “NIGHTRAIN”, and others thought it was too trendy. I guess it stuck. John Lawrence took the first show, and the rest of us who were interested queued up behind him; it was kind of a big deal to have 50kW at your disposal, but since I’d already gotten used to the gig, I didn’t choke as I would have a year or so earlier.

    We’d take turns running the transmitter and manning the studio during the show, so everyone got a chance. Then after we went off the air, someone would take over the studio and produce commercials, bumpers, etc. – we didn’t have a spare board or anything to use so all the production took place between about 2-7 AM. I remember I got a call one night about 4 AM to come into the studio and record voiceovers because the guy who was supposed to help our assistant PD didn’t show. I think my voice was a full octave below what it normally is because I was still half asleep.

    It was a lot of fun to put together a play list and slowly progress from very up-tempo stuff down to very dark and “underground” tunes, then back up again to give the next DJ something to segue from. I don’t know how many actual listeners we had most evenings, but it didn’t really matter – it was about the experience.

    When I ran the transmitter, I got to talk to Paul Ford occasionally, but never saw him after I graduated. I know radio was a big deal for him, and I hope he’s still doing what he enjoys.

    Like

    • The Ginsberg connection seems harmless enough to me!

      When I arrived at Rose in 1985, the broadcast studio in BSB was going strong. Students were building a production studio in the big room next door. It took a few years, but it finally opened in maybe ’87 or ’88. Before that, we did all of our production work in the station office, across the hall from the studio. The production studio let us record bands and do more serious production work. We even bought a 20×8 Tascam mixer, which we dubbed “Knob City.”

      It was sad to see it all shuttered and locked the last time I visited campus. I’m going back for Homecoming and I’m not sure I’ll visit the BSB basement this time.

      I get 100% what you mean about it being about the experience. I used to power up WMHD at 7am and do a morning show, and I’m sure I had two listeners most days. I know I had at least one, a guy in Seelyville who called most days to say good morning. I still have tapes of about a half dozen shows, long since digitized, and I treasure them. Here’s a post with a clip: https://blog.jimgrey.net/2013/07/31/the-electric-breakfast-2/

      Like

  17. Well, I think the concern was that Ginsburg’s show was a loud, AM type pop show with lots of commercials and wacky FX – just the opposite of what we were trying to project. Rick, our PD, was concerned that anyone who remembered Arnie’s show from the late 50s might think we were trying to steal his programming style. In fact, on the first night we went on, John (who used to work at WBOW part time) started with an AM-style type of patter between songs. A couple of our staff came in and got a little bit excited, asking him to calm it down. :-) We found our footing soon enough.

    One of my M.E. friends used to harangue me all the time that I wasted too much time memorizing equations and ‘pointless’ stuff for classes (remember, this was before even the HP-35 or any other common calculator) – until he was in the studio one night and a couple of ISU coeds called in and asked for help on their homework. They just knew that a Rose student would have the info they needed to convert temperature values! We chatted for a bit, and when I finally hung up, Don realized that I’d just shown him one good thing about being a nerd. I didn’t get too many calls, but they were usually from interesting people.

    Another great thing about working in the studio was that we got to listen to hundreds of unfamiliar albums for free, which expanded our musical landscape dramatically. I spent way too much money buying albums at Headstone Records (I miss that place) because I heard so many interesting things.

    We had an EV 664 mic as our sole interface to the outside world; another reason why we had to do production when the station was off-air. We didn’t have any other units to record with – heck, we didn’t even have a studio monitoring system till one of the engineers built a Dynaco ST-80 and stuck a couple of AR-4x speakers on the wall. I sometimes wonder what happened to all that 50s and 60s-era electronics when the station upgraded its hardware.

    Like

    • Aha no, can’t sound like an AM screamer! :-)

      Holy cow, yes, the expanded musical knowledge the station’s record collection provided. I used to borrow records from the studio and dub them to cassette and listen to them in my room and in my car. Most of my musical tastes were formed during my four years at Rose.

      By the time I arrived I believe all the old equipment was gone. Here are a couple photos of the broadcast studio from the mid-late 80s. We had a Broadcast Electronics board and a newer mic (I can’t remember what kind). We had two Technics SL-1200 Mk II turntables, which were about to become the rap DJ standard. Our production room had two more of those turntables, the Tascam mixer, another good studio mic, and a homemade patch panel. We had a closet full of mics and other gear. We were truly set for bear.

      Like

  18. I see the AR-4x speakers are still there! And that board looks a lot less complex than the one we had; ours, being homebrew, had a lot of auxiliary controls, much like a modern recording mixer. It was pretty impressive for being thrown together over a summer break, but big and heavy!

    Like

    • Heh, the studio monitors! The screens used to fall out when you cranked them up too loud, and once one of the screens fell right onto the turntable that was playing. That was exciting. Not. Anyway, those speakers were still in use last time I visited the studio, which was probably five years ago.

      Like

  19. Yes, they would play very loud! We were operating on a shoestring, but we still managed to get some quality gear in there due to the diligence of our engineering staff. One of the guys was a carpenter, and he was responsible for the original LP racks as well as some of the trim in the booth. It was not unusual to see volunteers in there wiring and testing gear in the back room (which was originally supposed to be the production studio, but never got finished while I was at Rose) during shifts.

    At one point (maybe 73-74?) so many people were missing their scheduled shifts that you could almost guarantee hearing the “emergency tape” during the day. Even now, when I hear Steve Miller’s “Living In The USA” I start to get up from my seat, with the intent of running across campus to check on the studio. :-)

    Like

    • in ’85 when I arrived Sony DADC had given every radio station in town a new CD player and a short stack of CDs. When a DJ failed to show, the guy in the booth would start one of the CDs, press Repeat, and walk out. The most popular CD for this was the Who, Who’s Next. So for me, every time I hear Baba O’Reilly, I want to sprint down the hall (as I lived on BSB 0, down the hall from the station) to check!

      When I was General Manager, one of my major accomplishments was making the station compelling enough that we had plenty of dedicated DJs. Absenteeism fell dramatically.

      Like

  20. Bob Shaw says:

    Stopped by the studio over 2015 Homecoming weekend. Sad to see it empty, but glad to hear it is coming back in a new form. Spent many hours in the studio in 71-72, my freshman year. Probably way too many hours. Also worked at the WPFR transmitter for Nightrain, and sometimes the weekend. Country music format until we took over at 9:00. Paul Ford had some us selling commercial time for him, then produced the commercials. As a freshman, it was really a great way to meet and work with some of the upperclassmen. Jobn Lawrence was a frequent name in conversation, as he refined the transmitters and dealt with AC hum, frequency whine and other issues. Rick Engelman went on to a high level position with the FCC.

    Like

    • Bob, thanks so much for stopping by. Your name rings a bell. I compiled a station history in the late 1980s; perhaps your name appeared in some of the papers we had on hand. Thanks so much for sharing these stories and names. I stopped by the studio over homecoming weekend, too. I’ve never much cared for the remodel they did in around 2000 and it was sad to see the broadcast studio gutted. But I’m encouraged that there’s some renewed interest in broadcasting and here’s hoping they’ll start streaming again soon.

      Like

      • Steve Miller says:

        Wonder if you’ve run across these names — Roger Stern and Jed Duvall. Both escaped Rose to IU, where we all worked together in campus radio.

        Roger, after working in radio in Indianapolis, captured his dream job of writing for both Marvel and DC, followed by a couple Superman novels (and consulting on TV’s “Smallville”). Jed was a producer for WIBC’s morning show, followed by stints as program director for a number of high-profile radio stations around the US.

        Like

  21. Today, while looking at Google Maps for an alternative route to Terre Haute from Indianapolis I saw the call letters WMHD on the Rose campus. This caused me to do a Google search on the letters which led me to your blog. It has been great fun reading it.

    First, if I may, one small correction – WRTR (Rose Tech Radio) was on the air by the spring of 1967 and might have begun earlier that year. All the equipment was cobbled together by a classmate (class of 1970) whose father worked for an Indianapolis radio station as I recall. We did have carrier-current transmitters covering all the dorms (fewer of them in those days) with 1 in Speed, 1 for the new dorms that were still called A, B and C at the time and one in the station that covered B-S-B and Deming. These AM transmitters were tuned around 1550 khz (or KC as we said then) with each tuned slightly differently to reduce interference with each other. Also, we had a wireless FM microphone broadcasting on 91.1. This device had been altered to operate above its legal power of probably 100 mw and was putting out 5 to 10 watts. I have no recollection of what it had for an antenna but our signal could be picked up a considerable distance toward Indy on US40. We speculated that the still extant PRR tracks behind the campus somehow ducted the signal. The FCC unapproved FM transmitter was just another of our questionable actions; the Call letters WRTR belonged to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

    Late shifts on Friday and Saturday were my favorite. I did not care if anyone was listening. It was my personal jukebox. It was free-form radio at its finest. The station did have a list of the era’s top songs which we tried to play with some regularity but we were free to play just about anything we liked and had in our personal collections. While probably none of us ever entertained thoughts of playing a selection by Rusty Warren the only song truly outlawed by the station founder was “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen. Our fearless leader lived 2 floors up in B-S-B and said he would be down to shut off the power before they could sing their first “we gotta go.”

    I might have had the first named program on the station calling my show “In the Belfry.” At first it was full of the overuse of sound effects such as jets flying over and church bells ringing. That did not last long.

    My most memorable night on the air was the night I began a Beatles marathon. After about 3 hours I received a phone call from some football Fighting Engineers who registered a rather threatening complaint. They were playing poker and wished to hear some variety or they would come to the station and break every Beatles record they could find. Quickly switching to other artists for the next hour or so, I finally signed off about 3am.

    A classmate who lived across from me in B-S-B (I lived in 131) would join me on Sunday evenings for a program of Broadway musicals. He would read the story as listed on the album cover or liner notes and I would cue up the musical selections and start them at the proper moments. If I were to see Paul today he would still deny that he called one song from West Side Story “Gee Occifer Krupke.”

    We published the “WRTR 1550 Survey” that “Spotlights the top15” and “Highlights the top 50.” I still have my copies of Volume 1, nos. 1, 2 and 3. I also still have the typed out playlist for one night of my show. It took years but I eventually acquired all 23 songs and now have them as a Media Player playlist on my computer.

    WRTR and the Rose Drama Club were the 2 extra-curricular activities that I continued to pursue even though I had been placed on academic probation after my first quarter at Rose Polytechnic Institute. My enrollment there ended after a disastrous summer session. I enrolled at the University of Evansville immediately and a year later decided that engineering just was not for me. Switching to a liberal arts major, within 7 months I had received my 3rd class FCC license with broadcast endorsement and went to work for UE’s 5700 watt FM station, WEVC. Most weeknights there featured classical music but weekends were back to free-form radio at its finest. Three months later that led to an additional job one-day-per-week on Evansville’s rock station, WJPS. I had to leave WJPS 7 months later in January 1970 when I was hired as a six-night-per-week engineer at WIKY performing maintenance on studio equipment while an automation system played the music. Eventually my shift was the graveyard shift. My wife (now ex) hated that and in July of 1974 I left broadcasting for good.

    Reading the comments on your blog was interesting from a particular angle. In about 2000 or 2001 I got to know Bill Eccles through the Haley Tower Historical and Technical Society in Terre Haute. While he and I sometimes talked about Rose I do not believe I ever knew that he had been WHMD’s general manager.

    Can images be attached to posts? I would like to share WRTR’s 1550 Survey vol.1 no.1 from May 7 – 13 of 1967. Some might also enjoy my playlist from about the same time.

    Ralph

    Like

    • Ralph, thank you so much for commenting with so much great info about WRTR! I was going from memory in this post, after writing the Rose broadcasting history way back in the late 80s.

      If you’ll go to my contact form on my About page (blog.jimgrey.net/about) and contact me, I’ll reply and you can send me the images you mentioned. I’ll post them here. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to attach an image to a comment — unless you host that image somewhere and then hotlink it in the comment. You can use the a href tags in comments here.

      Like

Share your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s