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Unless otherwise indicated, all commentary and photography on this site are by Grady McAllister.

Earl Nightingale and the morning I DXed with my FM radio

Most visitors to this site are familiar with the late Earl Nightingale and the radio broadcasts he produced during most of his career. His Our Changing World was one of the few successful programs based on good news and motivation.

I can remember the first time I heard Earl Nightingale. Back then, you could actually DX for FM signals even in the middle of Houston.

Early one summer morning when I was 14, I suddenly found myself in the presence of the sonorous voice of Earl Nightingale. It was one of about 7,000 broadcasts Nightingale would eventually create.

That voice had arrived on an FM station completely new to me, KTOD in Corpus Christi. The call letters stood for "top of dial."

A "skip" in their signal had suddenly ushered KTOD into Houston that morning. Unlike AM signals, FM radio only goes as far as the horizon — except when it breaks the rules. Don't ask me for a more technical explanation.

Around that same time, I also picked up WRR-FM, the city-owned station in Dallas, and a university run station in Minnesota.

That particular morning was the only time I ever heard KTOD. It was not the only time I heard Earl Nightingale. In fact, I eventually worked for a station that carried his broadcast. Later, I paid good money to hear him speak on tape and CD.

I am pleased that I now have an affiliation agreement with the company which Earl Nightingale cofounded.

Since 1986, I have purchased over 80 Nightingale-Conant audio programs. They are one of the main reasons why I don't listen to the radio much any more.


Distant Signals

Germany calling...

German Short Wave Signals Bouncing Off the Ionosphere

Now for something totally different . . .

This is primarily a Houston radio web site, but I will include other materials if they were recorded by me. These are my only short wave airchecks.

I am not a a big short wave hobbyist, but I do occasionally take an interest in the international broadcasts. Before the Internet, the short wave was the one medium which allowed a voice to skip across the oceans directly to the ear listening at home.

A German broadcast

Recorded in Bay City, Texas, on a night in the fall of 1979.

I don't understand much German, so I asked for help in identifying this material.

Thijs Wassens wrote from the Netherlands and identified the program as "Schlagerparade der Deutschen Welle," a program featuring a parade of hits.

Wassens adds that the station is probably RIAS Berlin, a station in the American sector aimed at Germans then behind the Iron Curtain. According to Wassens,"That would be why the presenter explains so much about the music. I think this program is rather progressive for its time."

Wassens also tells us that the woman at the beginning of the recording is Marion Maerz, a singer who had been popular since the 60's. Her voice was what got me to start this very spur of the moment recording. I had always assumed that the singer was someone who was very young in 1979, but she is actually older than me, born in northern Germany while the war was still raging.

A BBC Beatles documentary

Recorded in Houston one afternoon in early 1973. (Time of day and time of year are big factors in short wave reception.) If you're not used to short wave, bear in mind that these are radio signals which have to bounce across the ionosphere. The effect on the sound is dramatic, but often frustrating.

Both items remained on cassette until 2003.

The cassette used on the BBC 1973 recording was already four years old at the time of the recording, a Scotch C-60 in a clear yellow shell.

When cassettes first came out, some experts doubted whether they would last more than ten years. I have had my share of cassettes which jammed or distorted much sooner than that. With these two tapes, I was lucky.

Semi-technical dissertation: One thing which these materials have in common is that they were both recorded using cassette recorders, rather than reel to reel units. In both cases, a portable short wave receiver was patched into a portable cassette recorder.

Chicago Comes to Houston

WLS, Chicago, May 2, 1967-1

WLS, Chicago, May 2, 1967-2

WLS, Chicago, May 4, 1967-1

WLS, Chicago, May 4, 1967-2

WLS, Chicago, September 5, 1967-1

WLS, Chicago, September 5, 1967-2

WLS, Chicago, September, 1967

All of these airchecks were recorded in Houston. The quality of the September recordings was limited by poor weather in the Houston area.

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