Strike Up The Band

Baylor University’s 1961 Round-Up is chock full of merry music. From the marching band to the spectators…

To the upright bass.

There was crooning.

And dancing.

And whatever the heck this thing is.

On The Radio

“I Remember Distinctly”

The two ladies above are listening to the FIRST factory-built radio made for entertainment: a 1921 Westinghouse. Did you know that radios initially required headphones?

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A year prior, in 1920, Dr. Frank Conrad, while experimenting in a Pittsburgh barn, discovered that wireless enthusiasts enjoyed listening to the phonograph records that he put on the air, and the rest…is history! Except that we need the actual history to understand.

If he put music on “the air,” did that mean radio stations weren’t already playing music? Well, let’s ask Wikipedia. Conrad began work at Westinghouse Electrical & Manufacturing at 16 in 1900. At 23, he moved up to their test department, where he invented the circular-type watt-hour meter, over 30 million of which were in use by 1937. He would eventually be awarded over 200 patents throughout his life. But it was in 1916 that he installed a radio station in a two-story garage. It used a spark-transmitter, which could only be used to transmit Morse code. So no music.

When the US entered WWI in 1917, all civilian radio stations were silenced. But Conrad, working for Westinghouse, spent his time developing radio technology, using vacuum-tube transmitters, and inventing a wind-driven generator. Two years later, when the radio ban was lifted in October, he resumed his experimental station and was able to entertain other local amateurs by playing phonograph records.

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As interest grew, he adopted a schedule of music. In 1920, Pittsburgh’s own Joseph Horne Dept Store began selling radios, aka “wireless receiving stations” to listen to “air concerts.” It didn’t take long for Westinghouse to construct its own broadcast station and sell receivers for this free entertainment.

The first radio station, KDKA, opened on November 2, 1920. Initially a tent on a roof, it soon became the indoor studio you see below (the tent kept insisting on blowing away). Draperies covered the ceiling and walls to prevent reverberation. A disk hanging below the upper end of the slanting bar was called “the enunciator” (which we now call a microphone). Early listeners used crystal detectors in tubeless receiving sets, but the development of the vacuum tube expanded the radio audience significantly.

Soon entertainers were asked to provide music for radio stations.

Young people especially were excited by the new technology, and competitors soon crept in. This Crosley model was advertised at $3.75.

“Oh, boy! There’s London! Last night I had Honolulu, and the night before that Porto [sic] Rico.  Here’s where I get Rome. This Crosley sure does bring ’em in. There’s nothing like a Crosley.”

In 1928, Dr. Conrad received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Not until age 66 did he retire from Westinghouse, having spent his entire life in radio. He received many awards for his work, including the 1930 Edison Medal “for his contributions to radio broadcasting and short wave radio transmission,” and the 1936 Lamme Medal “for pioneering and basic developments in the fields of electric metering and protective services.” The next time you flick your radio on, pause for a moment and think of Dr. Conrad, shown below.

I Remember Distinctly

Making Merry Music

In the fall of 1947, the Jawhawker published its seasonal magazine, full of pictures of musical students on campus at the University of Kansas. Here we see trumpet major Dorothy Brewer (from Olathe) showing us what she’s got.

But she wasn’t the only one.

Horns were in fashion.

But the piano never went out of style. Old mentored young.

The ladies of Miller Hall gathered to tickle the ivories during this late night pajama party.

These days, however, they may look more like this.

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Folksinging Club Of ’65

The students at Hammond High School in Alexandria, Virginia sure seemed to enjoy their folksinging. And they must have been on the cutting edge of the term, as “folk rock” wasn’t used in the U.S. music press until June of 1965 to describe The Byrds’ music.

Perhaps Bill was singing Peter, Paul, and Mary. But maybe he was hammering out “Mr. Tambourine Man,” much to their delight.

Some fellows gave private sessions.

And maybe, just maybe, they might reach the critical acclaim of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.

Wordsmith Wednesday

Warning: it’s a long one, folks.

They say jogging can clear the mind. I suppose that’s true, but once the mind is cleared, it fills right back up again with new stuff. Maybe it’s just the XX chromosomes that always demand a dozen Chrome tabs open, finding resolution and closing them, only to CTRL-SHIFT-T them awake again to edit and research and reference. In any case, while my mind doesn’t find a John Denver mountainy sense of calm and peace in jogging, there is always the road to “fill up my senses.”

This morning, after a restorative and unheard of eight hours sleep, I awaken with hope in my heart. Nearly 355 days a year, I sleep a “patch,” lie awake for hours, and then sleep another patch, if I’m lucky. The other days are filled with zero sleep or (like hier soir) a full media-designated eight. It’s 9am now, or in my mind, time for “Live with Kelly and Ryan.” And whilst I hate to miss their shtick, I have to lace up those Asics and hit the pavement.

This is a special day for me because only a month ago, I threw my back out. Actually, I don’t fancy that term; most times it just takes a sneeze or a step off a curb to “throw” the back out. Just the tiniest of movements (a “toss,” if you will) that send the muscles into a frenzy and make you ACHE for your 20s again. It’s not just the beautifully unwrinkled skin and pert everything; it’s the way you could move and twirl and do the centipede and roller skate and perform amazing herkies and David Lee Roth Texas T’s on trampolines that I miss the most. The freedom to move without hindrance. Without FEAR that you’ll be out of commission, out of work, out of EVERYTHING for days or weeks.

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And while I skip the why’s and how’s of this particular incident, I will say that I did not leave home for 10 days, save one twice-postponed dentist visit which I should NOT have attempted, and confirmed to me that if my later years have this in store, I should prefer to go see Jesus tout-suite. So the fact that the quad cane is no longer necessary, and I can go out and walk again, knowing full-well the luxury that even walking is to some, is liberating.

As I say, it’s past nine now, so Ellis, the ZZ Top-bearded crossing guard and his Wham!-colored vest are in absence. In his place (at least several yards from his place) are several workers, who have evidently knocked down the fences of half a dozen neighbors and rebuilt them with shiny pine, an HOA project that was approved last year. Refencing has commenced! The homes that face the street will now have welcoming shiny brown pine instead of crumbling, paint-peeling 2008 pickets. The rest of us will make do with what we have. Same as it ever was.

I jog toward the city middle school, recognizing that each time I jog this path, something new is going up. And it’s not just the fences. The middle school is getting a whole new wing. Foundation has been poured, and workers and machines abound. That bouncy red track that has been ripped up and redone over the years, the grass that has been mowed and been resodded, the bus and car lanes that have been directionally-switched and amended, the new left turn lane for the new elementary school. I would say it’s brand-spanking, but corporal punishment is no longer allowed. Everything is making way for more people, and it never stops. La la la la, life goes on.

I have jogged this track on days when it was 110, trying to lose weight and sweat out toxins. I never lost a pound, and Adam Ruins Everything will tell you that you can’t sweat out toxins, just water. One day, my little one would attend this red brick building and be a tiger and go through the ugh of adolescence. And the days passed, and he became a tiger, and three years later, he left, never to associate as a tiger again, because as we all know, high school trumps middle school. Unless perhaps you are a Hutto Hippo and cannot stand being a lifelong hippo.

The thing is, I don’t jog that track anymore. It’s not just the lack of trees from a harsh Texas sun; it’s that you’re going in circles. Literal boring circles. Yes, you don’t have to dodge cars or wait on corners. You probably will not get jumped and raped on the school track or get jarringly honked at. But you miss out on the little things the townspeople do. The men trimming the trees near the power lines of the trailer park, whose unpaved drive is oft-filled with unleashed beasts. The folks mowing their yards, hanging Christmas lights, the Methodist church filling their lawn with hundreds of pumpkins. The mailmen sorting unnecessary junk mail at the boxes and the electric cooperative and cable trucks parked at homes, ready to fix, fix, fix. The kids flying by on bikes, the ones whose parents don’t worry about the safety of their lone nine-year-old in bustling morning traffic, as though it were 1975 again with nary a care in the world.

Across from the track is a laundromat, and it ever sends out fabric softener scent into the air, falling onto the lawns of dilapidated neighboring mobile homes, several of whom always seem to have enviable newer model cars. The flashing sign is particularly bright neon pink and attention-getting in this gloomy overcast weather. It’s been drizzling for 15 minutes now, and I have to wipe my lenses with the hem of my navy tee, then stare at the sign again. It flashes O-P-E-N, letter by letter, and then the word in its entirety: OPEN, OPEN, OPEN in rhythm. I hate spelling rhythm.

But you see, that’s where the mind-clearing ends, because rhythm reminds me of the docushow I saw on Elton John ayer, and how they mixed “Bennie and the Jets” into sounding live, though it wasn’t, and how producer Gus Dudgeon (isn’t that the BEST name ever?) jazzed up the track by making it sound like an audience was clapping INTENTIONALLY on the 1 and 3 because Brits, in their soulless inability, only clap on 1 and 3. Can you imagine? The horror!

And now—rather than elaborating on all of the rest of the jog/walk, I shall leave you with this earworm. B-b-b Bennie and the Jets. You know I read it in a magazuh-EEEEN…