Jeff Smith in 1971
Jeff Smith, 1971, "broadcasting" from the "station" in his basement.

Jeff Smith today
Jeff Smith at the Babcock Graduate School of Management, Wake Forest University.

The Jeff Smith Collection

Jeff Smith (reelradio at casasmith.net) writes:

"I was one of those kids who was bitten by the "radio bug" at an early age. When I was ten years old, we lived in Birmingham, Alabama, and I started to listen to WSGN ("The Big 610," owned by Southern Broadcasting Corporation). It didn't take me long to decide that the radio was where I wanted to be. By the time I was 11, I had built a radio station in my basement, from which I "broadcast" after school.

In 1970, when I was 12, we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where—as luck would have it—Southern Broadcasting owned another station, WKIX. As a source for broadcasting industry alumni, that mid-market station has certainly held its own. For example, John Tesh made his broadcasting debut in the WKIX newsroom when he was a college student ("This is John Tesh, WKIX 20-20 News"). Marc Mitchell, later a hit in Boston and elsewhere, also cut his teeth at WKIX.

By the time I was 14, I was known to some of the WKIX jocks as the station's biggest pest. But to others I was a young protégé who needed mentoring. And I'll forever be indebted to the guys who took me under their wings—Dale Van Horn, who taught me a good bit about production, and who passed away in August, 2001; and two of the station's most impressive alumni: Steve Roddy (Kenneth Lowe, now CEO of Scripps-Howard) and my #1 mentor during those years, Rick Dees.
Both Roddy and Dees were in school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill at the time, and they were also roommates for a while in a rented house. (Because he paid more rent, Roddy got the room with the window air conditioner; Dees would claw at the door and plead "air, air, please give me air.") Roddy spent hours going over airchecks with me, and Dees treated me almost as a younger brother (I was 13 or 14 at the time; Roddy and Dees were in their early 20s). Although it was strictly prohibited by station rules, Dees let me in the control room while he was on the air, and he helped me make fake airchecks in the WKIX production room. He even let me call in on the station's private line. Several times, he lent me his radio-cassette recorder so I could aircheck him from my house. Dees claimed the tapes were better when I made them, because he didn't know exactly when I would be taping and didn't get as nervous. We used that system when he submitted an aircheck to Billboard's competition in 1972. Rick won an award for outstanding air work in a mid-size market, but they listed his name in Billboard as "Rich Kees." I had the honor of writing to Claude Hall at Billboard to ask for a correction; it appeared the next week.

At the beginning of my 10th grade year, in 1972, I got my first job in radio at the "Rock of Raleigh," WRNC. Eventually, when I was a senior in high school in 1975, Steve Roddy decided I was ready to work at WKIX. I worked there on weekends and in weekday fill-in slots until 1977. By then, I was halfway through college and decided I needed to focus more on studying and some other parts of my life. Plus, I had finally reached a stark realization: despite lots of early mentoring from good people, I was not going to turn into a radio star. Luckily, shortly after kicking the on-air habit, I met Margaret, and we've been married since 1981 (now with three wonderful children). Other than a brief part-time stint in 1984 at G-105 in Durham, North Carolina, I haven't been on the air since 1977. I finished college in 1979, got an M.B.A. in 1981, and worked for IBM until 1987. Then I went back to school for a doctorate, which I got in 1990. Since then, I've been on business school faculties - at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, at the Babcock Graduate School of Management, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C., and since 2006, Professor and Chair of the department of Decision Sciences and Management Information Systems in the Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Oxford, OH.
Note from Rick Dees
A note from Rick ("Rig") Dees, at WSGN Birmingham in 1974.

Although "doing" Top 40 radio is a distant memory for me now, I still have some friends in the business. And I still get goose bumps when I hear a great break on an old aircheck. I regret that I've lost touch with some of my early mentors. I'll never forget you guys and those magical years that meant so much to me.

The Repository thanks Jeff Smith for sharing!

[Descriptions by Jeff Smith unless otherwise indicated]

G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 16Kbps (8Khz)
Rick Dees, WKIX Raleigh, N.C. September 7, 1971 (3:00)

. . . where's the fire, bay-bee . . .

This is the earliest aircheck of Rick Dees that I can find in my files. When Pat Patterson (PD) made Rick full-time at WKIX in 1971, he put him in the 6 to 9 PM slot. Frankly, Rick wasn't ready for it, and he sounded very uptight on the air. So, after only a few weeks, Pat moved him to 9 PM to Midnight, which Rick saw as a demotion.

At first, Rick was somewhat depressed about it, and he stopped caring about what he did on the air. Ironically, this helped him to loosen up, and he actually started sounding better. I've always remembered the moral of this incident: sometimes it's helpful not to care so much. In any event, here's Rick in one of his earliest outings in the later air slot.

(Apologies for the fidelity, but I think I made this on a battery-powered cassette recorder when I was 13 years old.)

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (16Khz)
WKIX Composite, Raleigh, N.C. 1972 (8:41)

. . . Rig is also a graduating senior at North Carolina over in Chapel Hill . . .

As I recall, this tape was part of a series that was distributed to PDs around the country during the early 1970s. The idea was that a station's PD (in this case, Pat Patterson) would put together a station composite and narrate it. On this tape, you hear short airchecks of the WKIX weekday air staff as of early 1972: Pat Patterson (PD and morning drive); Dale Van Horn and Jack Kane (midday); Steve Roddy (afternoon drive); Mike Mitchell and Rick Dees (nights); and Smitty Marshall (all night).

Interesting trivia: After this tape was distributed, Steve Roddy (Kenneth Lowe) got a call from KCBQ with a job offer. But he turned it down to stay in college and get his degree. He's now the CEO of Scripps-Howard (I guess that degree helped).

[From Uncle Ricky: This composite appeared on the first issue of Programmer's Digest, July 10, 1972.]

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 32.0Kbps (16 Khz)
Terry Young, WRNC Raleigh N.C. December 1972 (5:27)

. . . call me 'Angel of the Morning'…on second thought, shut up and just give me a $20 bill, man . . .

Terry Young (Bob Bentley) went on to work at some great stations (two of his airchecks from WCAU-FM can be found in other collections on the site). At the time I knew Terry, he was 19 years old and in his first full-time radio job, the 6 to 10 PM shift at WRNC in Raleigh, North Carolina. I made this tape on a reel-to-reel drive that I had at my house - across town from the tower radiating WRNC's powerful 250-watt nighttime signal!

Although Terry's voice was very high, he had a pumping style and was able to come up with some pretty funny lines. He was a great devotee of Jackson Armstrong, and you can hear it in his delivery.

Trivia note: The deep voice you hear on the station overlays ("The Rock of Raleigh, WRNC") is Bill Bussierre, who worked for a while at WCFL (10 PM to 2 AM) as Bill Taylor. He was an old friend of our PD, and he cut the overlays for free.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (10Khz)
Tim Kelly, WPGC Washington D.C. 1976 (05:38)

. . . Rain will be playing in the place of Fire this morning . . .

In 1976, a series of American Airchexx Talent Telescope tapes was produced. On the second edition was a nice aircheck of Tim Kelly doing morning drive on WPGC, Washington, D.C.

Kelly was born into radio; his father did mornings in Detroit and later managed WYSL in Buffalo, where son Tim got his first radio job.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 20.7Kbps (14.5Khz)
Charlie Van Dyke, Rick Dees, KHJ Los Angeles 1976 (17:49)

. . . free pair of panty hose, and with that, of course, I'm givin' free installation . . .

Rick left Birmingham for WMPS in Memphis in 1974 (some of his WMPS airchecks appear elsewhere on the site). We continued to stay in touch after he got to Memphis (a few phone calls, notes and tapes exchanged occasionally), but Rick's career was starting to take off. His big break came in fall 1976, when his record "Disco Duck" hit the charts. But the initial results were bittersweet: His record company arranged a tour, and Rick mentioned it on the air at WMPS. The WMPS general manager fired him, claiming that he had been told not to promote his record. Although he quickly got another job across town at WHBQ, it was a jolting experience in the midst of a heady time.

While on the promotional tour, Rick did a guest spot on Charlie Van Dyke's KHJ morning show. This is the first time that Rick was on the air in L.A. In the first hour of the tape, you hear Charlie getting ready for Rick's arrival. Then Rick gets to the studio and starts doing bits, leaving Charlie in the role of straight man. Rarely do we get a chance to hear two top-drawer morning personalities sharing a studio this way.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 64Kbps (15Khz)
Jack Armstrong, WMQX Greensboro, NC, 09-03-2003, Pt. 1 (57:44)

. . . We gotta figure out where Saddam and his camel are hiding . . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

It's Jack Armstrong and The Breakfast Bunch on WMQX-FM in Greensboro, N.C., from the morning of September 3, 2003. Contributor Jeff Smith recorded all three and one-half hours of this program from his home in Winston-Salem, NC (part of the North Carolina Triad), and this is Part One, broadcast between 5:30 and 6:30 AM.

Joining Jack are Breakfast Bunchers Dee Brockwell, Sky Angel Karen (with traffic reports) and Ed Snow with Oh-Deez Ninety Three news. (In the Carolinas, the "L" sound is often considered optional.) I don't understand why Jack cuts a couple of records short in this hour, since he certainly had control over the time of the "live" segments. Also unusual — no talk over song intros — just a time check, and that's it. No attempt to "hit the post", not at all. But there is an edition of Tabloid Trash.

Wow, radio sure grew up in North Carolina since I moved away. The "Triad" was fortunate to have a morning show and radio station of this quality in 2003. But, I suspect it eventually ended up costing too much for the revenues it produced. This was not the fault of the Breakfast Bunch, this was an enjoyable morning show. But there was a dwindling audience of those who love "oh-deez". It was 2003, and hip-hop be happenin'.

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G2/5.0 compatible TOP STREAM 64Kbps (15Khz)
Jack Armstrong, WMQX Greensboro, NC, 09-03-2003, Pt. 2 (53:51)

. . .
The only problem is your nose falls off, and people mistake you for Michael Jackson
. . .

[Description by Uncle Ricky]

Here's Part Two of Jack Armstrong and The Breakfast Bunch on WMQX-FM in Greensboro, N.C., from the morning of September 3, 2003. This partially-edited segment was broadcast between 6:30 and 7:30 AM.

The Breakfast Bunchers (Dee Brockwell, Sky Angel Karen and Ed Snow) join The Gorilla for Jack's version of Animal Stories, (don't tell Larry and Little Tommy!) and Gorilla actually makes it funny! There are more guesses at Question Impossible, from the first hour, and still another contest feature called Words & Music.

One production note: I hope, eventually, someone put a nice slow fade on that Sky Angel intro, or extended it, or did something! It cuts off abruptly during her reports, and that sounds ugly.

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The Jeff Smith Collection has been part of REELRADIO since May 20, 2001.

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