Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Still Classic After All These Years

A reader who found his way here via a Google search sent me an e-mail recently. He had been looking for information on the WLS year-end countdowns, and wondered if there are any Internet radio stations playing the hits from those days in that style. Well, the single best site on the Net for Classic Top 40 is still Reelradio. They've been on a subscription-only basis since February, but a mere $12 a year will get you access to a wide variety of airchecks from the 50s to the 80s. Normally, an aircheck is jock-talk only, but more and more Reelradio airchecks include all the music, commercials, and newscasts, so you can hear the shows just as they were heard back in the day.

If you're looking for free sites, there are a couple of good ones at Live365.com, streaming free of charge 24 hours a day. Oldies Generation programs playlists from various classic-era Top 40 stations such as WLS, WCFL, WABC, WQAM, WRKO, and so on. For example, as I'm writing this, they're playing music heard on WABC during the week of March 8, 1961 (the set started with Lawrence Welk's "Calcutta," but also included Elvis, the Shirelles, and others). The program also include occasional jingles, news bits, comedy bits, and station promos, although not airchecks as such. But if you're looking for the music from back in the day, Oldies Generation has it.

Many young Top 40 geeks spent hours recording their favorite stations off the air. I did a bit of it myself, but the few tapes I made are long gone. At WLS Airchecks, they live. This station programs a collection of actual WLS recordings from the 60s to the 80s. The audio quality isn't always great--but I am guessing what we're hearing are ancient cassettes. The airchecks include the music, the jocks, the commercials, and occasionally the newscasts. If you want to know why I fell in love with Top 40, this station gives you the chance to find out, in real time.

You'll need to download the Live365 player to hear these stations, and if you register (which costs nothing), you can customize your player with presets for your favorite stations. Be sure to browse the station listings--if you can't find something you like, you're not trying hard enough. Some stations require a subscription fee, but the vast majority do not.

Coming later this week: My return to radio cranks up another notch.


At 6:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I trade WLS airchecks.

At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Dave P said...

You might also get a kick out of http://www.keener13.com/ -- a tribute to the Detroit pop station's glory days.

At 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have (on cassette) much of the WLS "Big 89 Countdown of 1978." One of the biggest snowstorms to hit the Midwest took place that night on December 31, 1978. The number one song of the year was "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. Art Wallis was the jock for most of the countdown. ---Shark

At 6:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

can you leave me a way to contact you about that tape?


At 7:19 AM, Blogger jabartlett said...


E-mail me at the address in the right-hand column and I can put you in touch with Shark.

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the things I'm surprised not to find on reelradio are the WLS Christmas Remotes from Bethlehem. This was a simulated live remote newscast in which an announcer initially reports on huge crowds pouring into the city for the big census/ tax registration, the overcrowding such that even a pregnant girl and her husband couldn't get a room... The reports were very brief, no more than 30 seconds to a minute each, and ran after the network news five minutes before the hour, along with "Santa on the radar" weather bulletins.

If anyone knows what I'm talking about, please contact me via ksol1460 at livejournal.com. I can trade airchecks from Dec. 8, 1980 -- WABC and others.

Thanks, Jay Young


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