Charlie Horner Reunited with Old Radio Console
When Classic Urban Harmony Visits
NJ Radio Station WDVR-FM
When I (Charlie Horner) first broke into radio in the late 1960's, just about every radio station used a couple of turntables (for playing vinyl records, of course), a microphone or two, a couple of reel-to-reel tape recorders and two "cart" machines (like the old eight-track carts, only you could record things on them to replay often). These were all mixed together on a kind of control board or "console" that the on-air radio DJ would engineer. With a series of large black dials (called "pots"), the DJ could turn on, control the volumes and mix each of ten components. All this while picking music, "cueing" up the next record and at the same time monitoring the sound levels, taking transmitter readings, maintaining the station logs, answering phone requests and talking over the airways. I won't even get into "slip-cueing" or talking up the intros or out the "outtros" of records. Sounds complicated, and it was, but a skilled DJ could do it in his sleep without a hint of "dead air". Don't even think about trying this at home - I was a trained and licensed professional!
Charlie spinning labels from two turntables, WXPN, 1980's
The control board of choice in the "good old days" of radio was the Gates Executive Stereo Solid State Console, made between 1962 and 1982. I used a Gates at Drexel University's WKDU-FM from 1969 - 1972 and again at University of Pennsylvania's WXPN-FM from 1975 until they switched to the modern "slide" type control board in 1990. I often wondered what happened to that old console.
Well I just found out from one of the attendees of our Bridgewater talk [thanks CJ] that back in 1990, WXPN donated that old board to a small startup radio station in central New Jersey called WDVR-FM. We've been hearing great things about WDVR and since that station is only 45 minutes from Classic Urban Harmony headquarters, Pam and I decided to head over there to check it out.
Sure enough, in a world where most radio stations have conformed to mindless computerization, WDVR-FM is a throwback to the Golden Age of Radio! Arriving at the station studios in Sergeantsville, NJ, we were met and cheerfully invited in by Frank Napurano, station president. WDVR has a wide variety of programming including some shows that emphasize 50's and 60's R&B and doo wop music. Frank graciously gave us a station tour. There in the main control room was the old WXPN console, the one I'd spent fifteen years at. And is was still being used for daily broadcasting. Frank explained that the console is being retired at the end of this week in favor of a modern control board. However, the old Gates Executive console will not be scrapped. Frank told us he intends to keep and display it, a reminder of the "good old days" of WDVR's humble beginnings.
Read more about radio station WDVR-FM at www.wdvrfm.org
Charlie visits his old console at WDVR-FM, May 2009
Charlie at the same console, WXPN-FM, 1975
The vintage Gates Executive Console at WDVR-FM, May 2009
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