Popsicle (my father) was part of The Greatest Generation. That’s right. He was in the navy for The Big One – WWII! But he never shipped out. Daddy was the band leader on a base out in Brooklyn. Thus the joke “Daddy fought the war on the BMT,” the train that ran to the base. Regardless, after my parents’ divorce, I found a lot of old, dusty navy electronics down in the basement which the old man had obviously somehow commandeered during his service.
Most of it was high tech stuff like oscilloscopes and other even more unrecognizable apparatus. But mixed in all the electronics of the day was this big-ass/battleship gray/hundred pound metal box with a huge multi-band dial. The behemoth looked like it might be a radio…so I brought it upstairs to check the monster out. And sure enough, one of the bands was AM. I had myself a “new” high tech radio.
What separated this receiver from all of the other “transistors” of the day was that to go from one end of the dial to the other took like twenty turns of the wrist. Thus, you could really fine-tune this bad boy to the exact frequency desired. And that meant late at night, I could pick up WOWO from Fort Wayne, Indiana…WKBW from Buffalo, NY…and WBZ from Boston…among others. This was completely awesome because in that era, only proven hits would make the playlists in NY. But out in those hinterlands lay the cutting edge of rock and roll. Classic records like “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by “The Thirteenth Floor Elevators,” “Hey Joe” by “The Leaves,” “The Urge For Goin'” by “Tom Rush” were the gems which lullabyed me to sleep every night.
By that time in my life, Daddy was gone…my brother was off at Amherst College….and the house was inhabited by just mom and me. It was a crappy little domicile but given that only two people lived there – and our rooms were as far from each other as possible – I could operate more or less with impunity in my little radio dial-lit sanctuary! Yeah, it was a cramped little room with angular ceilings so I’d bump my head half the time when I awakened in the morning. But just so I had my daddy’s navy radio – and all the music that came out of it – I was good to go.
Buying those out-of-town hits was another thing entirely. Sometimes, the stuff I heard and liked would eventually make it to the New York market. And then it was easy to buy. But for whatever reason, many of my favorites never aired on local radio! And those records were not for sale in New York unless months later, I’d occasionally find one in the returns bin at a department store. Thus, going to Green Acres Mall was like a mining expedition. I’d head straight for the bargain racks to see if I could find any of those records. And when I did, it was like discovering gold nuggets in a river! To think that in 2018, anybody can go on You Tube and not only find any record that’s out today – but those same obscure records from over 40 years ago. Times sure have changed.