Radio Waves: February 16, 2024

So Cal Sound Rocks

I’ve received enough emails regarding the station to know that the “So Cal Sound” of KCSN (88.5 FM) — broadcasting from the campus of California State University, Northridge — is a reader favorite. Usually the topic of the station comes up when I lament the lack of new music on the local airwaves.

The station is actually a simulcast of KCSN’s Northridge-based transmitter and KSBR, Saddleback College’s Mission Viejo-based transmitter. Both stations broadcast on the same 88.5 FM frequency, with relatively low power compared with most other commercial and public stations. If you happen to be near Northridge -great! Near Mission Viejo? Wonderful! Anywhere else or especially somewhere between? Interference city.

But that’s OK – they are on all the various apps, smart speakers or even using your smart phone in your car, you’re set … you can hear the So Cal Sound anywhere there is an internet signal  (which in many cases means everywhere except where you live or work. But I digress).

The format is AAA – Adult Album Alternative, which is akin, though evolved, to the old “mellow rock” format that ran on the original KNX-FM (now KCBS-FM, 93.1) in the 1970s and part of the ‘80s. The focus is album tracks of artists both old and new. The SoCalSound is indeed one of the few places to find new music on the radio, though not as much as I personally want.

It’s not likely to attract younger listeners – the “adult” in AAA is key. It tends to be a bit limited in scope as far as music styles go, but the presentation is perfect for what they are trying to achieve. You’ll hear music here that you generally won’t find anywhere else, and it is unlikely that you’ll know every song. Or even most. I like that.

Nic Harcourt and Jet start your weekdays at 6 a.m.; Harcourt is well-known in Southern California music circles with a longtime association with KCRW’s (89.9 FM) music programming prior his full-time gig at 88.5. He’s followed by Julie Slater at 10:00; Andy Chanley at 2 p.m., and Mookie at 6:00

You may remember Slater and Chanley on The Sound (now KKLQ 100.3 FM) …  Slater was also heard on Alt 98.7 FM, while Chanley has the dubious distinction of bing both the first and the last live voice heard on The Sound when it went on the air, then off.

The playlist is extremely varied, with artists ranging from The Replacements to Stephen Sanchez to Stone Temple Pilots to The Killers, and everything in between. As I write this I am hearing a Counting Crows song I have never heard before, and recently heard a brand-new song from Sinner called “The Last Dinner Party.” The overall vibe of the station is tremendously positive, and I can see how it is such a reader favorite.

Classic Silvertone

A (relatively) recent column on old radios I own brought in some interesting finds of your own, including an old Silvertone model I have never heard of before.

Silvertone was a house brand of Sears, Roebuck and Company; the model owned by reader Karen Davidson is, from my detective work, a model 101-831-1 that includes an AM/FM/SW radio, a phonograph (78 RPM only), and a wire recorder — the precursor to tape recorders. It cost a pretty penny back when it was manufactured in about 1948 – retailing for $495, or about $10,800 in 2024 dollars, and the fact that it includes a FM makes it quite advanced indeed … most radios back then were AM-only.

There is a clock on the wire recorded, which makes me think that the recorder would be used to record audio from the radio automatically, though I have not confirmed it. I am told that the FM section in particular includes a design that is quite advanced for the era, using a design that was similar to the Harman Kardon Citation III FM tuner of the 1960s and is quite selective.

“I found it while cleaning out my aunt’s home … need to find a home for it” Karen tells me.  I have no clue as to the value, but I think it’s a pretty cool find. Wish I had room in my house!