Radio Waves: September 13, 2020

Readers Respond …

Many interesting responses arrived recently related to the last few columns; it is obvious that radio means as much to you as it does to me. Here is a sample.

“I saw your article in The Sun recently. I didn’t grow up around here but spent most of my time in the Mid West and the South, traveling between Kansas City MO and Nashville TN.

“There was a station in Little Rock Arkansas, KAAY.  They were a typical top 40 station, but around 10:00 or 11:00 at night the Clyde Clifford show would come on. Clyde would play something a harder than top 40. He rarely talked during the show, but just played music.  The show would go on for 3-4 hours, followed by an hour long radio serial called Chandu the Magician.  The station could be picked up in Kansas City and in Nashville at night. I would stay awake until 1:00 to 2:00 in the morning just to listen.”

“Thanks for letting me share.” — Jay Still

Thank YOU for sharing. I love the memories.

“Love your column! To add to the subject of early AM radio and DXing, I began as a listener in the late ‘40s when we would listen to the radio in my Dad’s 1940’s Chrysler.  We had only one station in Yuma at that time.

“Later, as a teen, we would wait until after sundown to tune into KOMA/Oklahoma City (1400 AM) or the “Mighty 690” in Tijuana for our daily dosage of rock n roll. Eventually, we got our own station, KBLU and had access to local DJs.

“By the way, the radio in my dad’s car had a buzz like a hornet coming from it. I later understood that this was an object called a vibrator which changed DC current from the battery to a form of AC. This was needed to power the vacuum tubes within the radio!

“Currently when I DX, I frequent KSL/Salt Lake City (1160 AM), KKOB/Albuquerque (770 AM), and KKOH/Reno (780 AM). Keep up the good work!” — Nick Yagar, Anaheim

Those vibrators are interesting. It doesn’t quite generate AC, but it creates pulses in the DC, allowing a transformer to, as you stated, increase the voltage required for the tubes which was then smoothed out again with a rectifier. Back then they were mechanical and not the most reliable part made … today there are electronic versions that can be used in vintage radios. Much quieter, too!

“I meant to email you last week, but I got busy. One top 40 radio station you may not be familiar with was KFXM (590 AM, now KTIE), which covered what we now call the Inland Empire. It was (is) based in San Bernardino. I graduated from Hemet High School in 1971 and it was the station that many of us listened to. The school cafeteria even played it at lunch time! They even printed up weekly handbills which they distributed to record stores, including ours here in Hemet … one side listed the top 40 singles for the week. The back had a listing of the DJ’s and their shifts. KFXM had a professional DJ staff equal to any Los Angeles station.

“Thanks for bringing back those memories!” — Mike Christie

My wife, Jean grew up in Redlands; she has memories of listening to both KFXM and KMEN (now KKDD, 1290 AM). Both stations helped launch many careers in broadcasting. And you can learn more at

“I really enjoy reading your articles in the Star news….Listened to KRLA and KHJ religiously as a teenager. I remember Dick Biondi coming to our school for a football rally! Dave Hull was a kick; Bob Eubanks, Casey Kasem, and of course Emperor Bob Hudson all made and impression in my life as teenager growing up in the sixties

“And the crew at KHJ did the same…the Real Don Steele and  Robert W. Morgan to name a few. But I wanted to add one more name to your top 40 stations….KOMA/Oklahoma City. My girlfriend went to OU; I went to the University of Arizona … and I could tune in KOMA at night time and listen to it. I always thought my girlfriend would be listening to it at the same time, and it made me feel closer to her. That girlfriend became my wife in 1973.

“Keep up the good work.” — Tim Sheedy

What a great memory! Radio was my companion growing up … and it’s why I write this column today. Thank you for sharing.

“On Aug 23rd, 2020 I picked up radio signals on a San Diego AM radio station late at night. I could not believe what station I was getting that far away. Though it would fade in and out I was able to hear that it was in San Diego CA. 

“As a young teenager in Alaska in the 1960’s we could occasionally get radio stations on the car radio late at night from California. Most likely the stations were more powerful and there was hardly any interference. There were no FM stations here at the time. Would you have an explanation for me how I was able to access a station so far away on my little portable battery radio?  — Jane Sparks. Wasilla, AK

You may be the most-distant reader I have ever had, Jane! To answer your question, AM signals actually bounce off the atmosphere at night (technically, they do during the day but the energy from the sun absorbs/blocks them during daylight hours). So essentially, the signal hits the sky, bounces back to earth, bounces back up to the sky … (I may have that slightly wrong). It’s called “skip” and it allows and AM station to travel quite far under the right conditions.

I was told that the EARLY AM stations could be heard across the country even at their low power, due to so little interference and so few stations; the farthest I ever got was WCCO/Minneapolis from my home in Southern California in the 1970s and ‘80s. Used to get WLS out of Chicago,  but another station is on the frequency now.