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Old Automation Formats

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Calvert DeForest
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Old Automation Formats

Post by Calvert DeForest » Sat May 30, 2020 2:31 pm

Radio automation in the 60's, 70's and 80's was a far cry from the digital automation that exists today. Companies like Bonneville, TM and Drake Chenault marketed formats on open-reel to stations with sequence-based automation systems. Most automated formats aired on FM stations, making it possible jocks working live shifts on their AM counterparts to maintain separate programming without the need for two air staffs. While many FM's used automation to air Beautiful Music formats (a.k.a. "elevator music"), suppliers offered a wide range of formats to automated stations, ranging from Top-40, to AC, to Country. Pretty much anything a station could want to program was available for use with automation or live-assist. As the 80's progressed and owners concentrated live programming on the FM side of the dial, more AM stations adopted automated formats.

I worked for WILS in 1984 when automation was installed on our AM side. The format was Drake-Chenault's Hitparade, which at the time was a Big Band/Nostalgia format. It was later replaced by an AC format called Lite Hits, also from Drake Chenault. A few years later we used yet another DC format, Urban One. The open reels were categorized by genres within the format (currents, recurrents, gold, etc). Although we didn't use them, there was an option to receive back-announced current reels with generic voice talent back-announcing the music. The same talent would produce station-specific image liners if requested.

The format I remember most from those days was Stereo Rock from TM programming. It was marketed as an Adult Top 40 format and featured a guy by the name of John Borders for back-announcing and imaging. It was used by a number of automated FM stations across the country, making it possible to take a road trip and hear Borders' voice on multiple stations in multiple markets.

These old formats were klunky in comparison to the technology of today, but they got the job done.


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Musicrewired
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Re: Old Automation Formats

Post by Musicrewired » Sun May 31, 2020 3:49 am

"The Wonder Rabbit"was an announcer on one of those contemporary formatted stations. I found a reel of tape once with a series of his voice cuts laying around a few years after the station went to beautiful music.

We had the reel-to-reel tapes, plus two cart carousels and a number of cart machines at the top for ID's and the news. It ran on the FM while the AM was live.



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rugratsonline
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Re: Old Automation Formats

Post by rugratsonline » Sun May 31, 2020 4:03 pm

When WWWW Detroit was introduced around 1970, they used automation for the music but live DJs for the patter. Here's an example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biG8jY3CDMg



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Musicrewired
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Re: Old Automation Formats

Post by Musicrewired » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:13 am

That's a great video. It's interesting to note the extensive use of tape with live-assist. When our FM was automated, our AM was also run off of 2 or 3 reel machines, operated completely manually, along with cart fill-ins. We didn't use the turntables much, even though they were in the studio.



ChrisWL1980
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Re: Old Automation Formats

Post by ChrisWL1980 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 5:45 pm

WJR-FM 96.3 ran "Solid Gold Rock & Roll" from Drake-Chenault from roughly 1969-73. WSPD-FM 101.5 ran Drake-Chenault's "Hit Parade" around 1970.

Reelradio.com has demo airchecks of both formats using KHJ-FM Los Angeles as the base.


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Calvert DeForest
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Re: Old Automation Formats

Post by Calvert DeForest » Thu Jun 04, 2020 9:11 am

Musicrewired wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:13 am
That's a great video. It's interesting to note the extensive use of tape with live-assist. When our FM was automated, our AM was also run off of 2 or 3 reel machines, operated completely manually, along with cart fill-ins. We didn't use the turntables much, even though they were in the studio.
Same thing when I worked for WQTK/WCXK in St. Johns a million years ago. We used TM Country reels on the FM side with manual control. There were three series of reels....one for currents, one for recurrents and one for gold cuts. The current series was packaged with two songs per cut, with the segue on the tape. The TM reels were wound tails out to keep the tape smooth on the reel. We would have to rewind each reel before playback. The AM was separate during the day and simulcast with FM early evenings and weekends (it was a daytimer). Same format with different jocks. AM eventually picked up Al Ham's Music of Your Life format, which was also live-operated open-reel.

We had a policy of rolling the music cold and not talking up intros. Being that the reel-to-reel decks were directly behind us in the studio, the mic picked up the "click" from the machines when we rolled tape. The trick was to make the jock-to-music transition as tight as possible so the click sound wasn't so obvious.


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Musicrewired
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Re: Old Automation Formats

Post by Musicrewired » Mon Jun 08, 2020 11:49 pm

Our reel-to-reel machines in the AM had that click as well. I'd hear it when listening to others on the air.

We also had a hot line phone in the AM studio that actually rang out loud. I recall dialing that phone number when a new announcer was in one of their first air shifts, just to see if they could handle the sudden live diversion.



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