Wherever the Road Leads

The Day the Music Died

Music Lost Me in 1999

Bye, Bye Miss American Pie,

Drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry.

Them good old boys drinking whisky and rye,

Saying this’ll be the day that I die.

 

For me, the death knell for modern music sounded just before the turn of the century.

When I moved to Alabama in the mid-nineties, I was listening to ‘dance’ music on the radio. I liked the thump-thump-thump of the bass. Top forty radio had turned to what sounded like ‘grunge’ to me. There was no shortage of country music stations in the South, but I didn’t start to listen to country until I made the grave mistake of moving up north to Chicago and was homesick.

By the year 2000, Napster had been developed, as had reasonably-priced CD burning drives. CD players in cars were becoming standard equipment, especially in rental cars when I went back on the road. The ’45s’ that I had never taken care of in the first place, then eventually got abandoned in one of my many moves, were now once again readily available for download in crisp, clear digital versions. It was “Junior” who taught me about Napster in his quest for free music by Green Day and Linkin Park, two of the reasons I no longer listened to radio. Bless the little $hit’s heart… by now he’s either in jail, a lawyer or a Democrat.

I grew up on Top-40 radio’s high-intensity Drake Format. Windsor/Detroit’s CKLW – killed by the CRTC – altered their turntables to play the records 10% faster, the DJ’s had only seconds to say something witty leading into a high energy commercial, a station jingle and back to the music….

 

I loved that format. I wanted to be a DJ at the time.

Commercial CDs have long pauses between each track. I didn’t like that. Where’s the energy in dead air? At first, I made my own mix tapes – cassettes – using a CD player hooked up to a cassette recorder. I could get my songs to play back-to-back, but each song had a hard end, then the next song had a hard start…..

 

It sounded awkward, so I bought a  CD “Walkman” and an inexpensive Mixing Board from a pawn shop.

I plugged my two CD players into the Mixer then fed the mix to the cassette recorder, adjusting the fade in / fade out… referred to as ‘cross-fading’ One tune led into another with no dead air….

 

Once CD recorders became available and with the music digitized, ‘cross-fading’ could be done using the recording software in programs like Roxio, making my CD Walkman and Mixing Board as obsolete as my long-gone 45s.

The internet became an amazing resource, not only for long-lost oldies available on Napster in the beginning and torrent sites today, but also for a treasure trove of radio station jingles produced by PAMS

For fun I started inserting a radio station jingle in between every third song…

 

Creating an audio CD, I was very much like the man who took two hours to watch 60 Minutes, but it kept me out of trouble and it was a terrific learning experience.

Chicago, at the time, had an excellent Lite Jazz station with limited commercials and soothing music. No Grunge, no Electric Country Rock, no Morning Crews, Zoos or News, just peaceful music. “Lite” is the key word. Standard Jazz is too much for me. When the pianist starts up and down the keys seemingly in search of the right note, I would yell at the radio, “It’s B flat. Play B flat and get on with the song”. Or sometimes it sounds like someone in the band forgot what song they were playing, so off he goes on his own with the pianist playing ‘The Dixieland One-Step’ in 2/4 time, the sax is playing ‘Moon River’ in 3/4 time and the bass is on Dave Brubeck’s ‘Take Five’ in 5/4 with six flats.

When I moved to Atlanta, it had a similar Lite Jazz station but soon after it changed formats to something aggravating and loaded with commercials, so I was back to taking four hours to produce a one-hour CD. Until I bought a new truck and…

Sirius/XM Radio!! That new truck came with a six-month subscription to Sirius/XM radio and it was fantastic! For a while. I tuned in to the Sixties Channel until I had heard most of their playlist fourteen times. Then I switched to the Seventies. Next!

The Eighties Channel didn’t last all that long, intermixed with the Classic Rock Channel, making me hearken back to my days of being a big fan of Buffalo’s 97 Rock and the evening DJ, Carl ‘Blood-and-Guts’ Russo. By the time my six-month subscription ended, the novelty had worn off. But… but… but…. for those of you who have a subscription to Sirius/XM and think it’s expensive, here’s the trick….

My subscription couldn’t have been more than three days expired when I got a phone call from the Sirius/XM subscription department. I hummed and hawed about renewing my yearly subscription (for around $160 + royalty fees) when the representative offered me a deal – half price (plus royalty fee) to re-up for a year. Sold. When that year ended and the rep called, I said that I didn’t need Sirius/XM any more as I could BlueTooth Pandora (Spotify… whatever) from my phone to my truck stereo. I left the door open though, by saying that “I do have to confess that I miss the variety and the personalities of your service.”

Bingo… He/she would perk up and offer me a half-priced deal. Bob’s your uncle.

Sirius/XM is a super resource if you’re under forty and listen to Top Forty Radio, or current Country Radio. You get today’s tunes without the yap or commercials. However, today’s popular music doesn’t appeal to me, so my libraries are limited. There’s nothing new on the Sinatra Channel… poor Frank’s dead, no more studio time. I tried Fox News but it’s a simulcast of the television station, therefor has as many commercial breaks.

Two months after I retired, I think the poor woman was down to $25 for the year. However, I had gone from 50 miles per day of listening time, to about 50 miles per month. Even at that price, it simply wasn’t worth it.

Besides, I had a new way of listening to my oldies: a USB thumb drive loaded up with as many songs that I could think of, and I liked every one. This new truck indexes the tunes and gives you a number… 392/657. Yes, I have 657 songs loaded onto that thumb drive. That’s more tunes than some podunk radio stations.

When I came back to Canada this year, I tuned in Buffalo’s 97 Rock. Lord have mercy… Carl ‘Blood-and-Guts Russo’ is still spinning the tunes, bless his heart. I went to the station’s web site to see that he had been with 97 Rock for nearly forty years and he had recently been inducted to the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Good for him! I guess. Forty years playing Classic Rock and the same songs over and over? Forty years of Buffalo’s winters in a job that’s as portable as radio? Not I, said the Little Red Hen… I’d be playing Elevator Music in Arizona.

Speaking of which… a few years ago while staying in St. Augustine I discovered Jones College Radio. It’s strictly an internet radio station, available via the Jones College website…

http://jcr.jones.edu/index.php/the-music/

…or through Apps like Streema or iHeartRadio, do a search on WKTZ, Jones College Radio, or Jacksonville Florida radio stations. The station plays fifty per cent instrumental music, three commercials per hour with music that suits my retired, old man taste just fine.

I’ll leave the Black Sabbath to Carl, when he’s not shoveling snow.

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Comments

  1. elayne  July 15, 2017

    ok now I feel old lol excellent and informative blog presented with your usual wit Gordon.. Thank you for sharing.. I have missed your humour.

    Take care and please keep on posting. Hugs elayne

    reply

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