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Airwaves: March 3, 2006

Real Reel Radio

For the last ten years, ReelRadio.Com has been one of my favorite web sites. Originally called Uncle Ricky's Reel Top-40 Radio Repository -- recently "ReelRadio" has replaced "Uncle Ricky" as the site has grown -- the site is a radio junkie's heaven.

Airchecks, or recordings of legendary and not-so-legendary personalities and stations can be found here. The focus is on top-40 stations, but almost anyone can find something of interest. From 15 minutes with Bing Crosby on KHJ in 1931 to Charlie Tuna on KKDJ to Paul Freeman in the heyday of KIIS-FM.

Uncle Ricky is Richard Irwin, who worked in radio on both coasts since 1965. He left radio in 1994, but radio never left him: two years later he used excess file server space from a company in Sacramento where he worked as a contract web designer to start ReelRadio.

It began relatively small, but it was the first internet website devoted to the archiving of radio airchecks. For me it was a way to remember classic stations from a time of true formattic creativity. Soon after finding he site, I had to ask my wife, Jean, to buy me a new "fast" 28,000 baud modem for my Mac one Christmas.

Since those early days, the site has continued to grow, and the airchecks have gotten longer. In the beginning, everything was "scoped," with commercials and music edited for time. Now many exhibits are full hours -- or more -- of unedited recordings.

Along the way, the business side of ReelRadio has changed. Once a hobby of Irwin, it is now an official nonprofit corporation with a Board of Directors. Irwin is no longer a hobbyist, he is under contract as the official curator ... the same job as he had before, only now he actually gets paid. Probably far from what he deserves, but a start.

Unfortunately, it means the ReelRadio, as of mid-February, is no longer free to visitors. Fortunately, though, it's cheap. Way too cheap in my opinion. $12 per year, or more if you wish, tax-deductible. A great deal for radio junkies like me.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to the ReelRadio Tenth Birthday Special (still free if you want to sample it), which made its hitbound debut on February 16th. It features a sample of what was available the first ten years; here's hoping that the site goes on for many more decades.

Not Soon Enough

Don Barrett's reported Monday that The Bee Gees' Tragedy knocked Rod Stewart's Do Ya Think I'm Sexy out of the top spot of the KFI Hit Parade on this day of 1979.

It couldn't have happened too soon.

It's F-R-E-E

... Perhaps because no one would pay for it. KLSX, which now calls itself Free-FM in it's post-Howard Stern days, has embarked on a ratings slide that could mean real trouble in the future.

According to industry newspaper Radio and Records as well as ratings published by Arbitron, overall ratings for the station in the most recent trends were at 1.8 for all listeners aged 12 and over. This compares with 2.2 in the Fall Book released last month. The trend just released, however, covers November, December and January ... meaning that it only covers one month without Stern and two with him. That's a big drop for a trend.

Looking at just mornings, new host Adam Carolla earned a 0.7 share in January for those aged 12 and over; Stern never dipped below 2.9.

Certainly launching a new morning show is a big deal, and will take time to build listeners. But for years many people said KLSX would wilt as a talk station without Stern. Will they be proven right?


Copyright © 2006 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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