Johnny’s in the Basement, Mixin’ Up the Medicine: Back Then…The Unofficial History of NJ 101.5
Johnny’s In The Basement, Mixin’ Up The Medicine…back then.
The above was a line from an old Bob Dylan song. I recently discovered something about some of New Jersey 101.5’s talent that I will share with you. Turns out a few of us here spent more than a little bit of time in the basement, mixin’ up the medicine of our futures in radio!
One day recently, I was talking to Don Tandler. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned that when I was a teenager…you know, back then?… I built a little radio studio in the basement of my family’s home, where I used to play music, do news…you know practice all of the skills an aspiring radio guy would need. Don, told me that he also had his own little radio station in the basement of his father’s home.
When I told this story to my boss, Eric Johnson, he admitted that he also had his own little studio, complete with turntables and tape machines in the bedroom of his parents’ home back then. Wow!
I have to wonder how many other radio people started out by doing this somewhere in their familial nest. I know that I spent a good portion of my misspent youth practicing, practicing practcing… to fine tune my announcing/radio skills. I am quite sure Don and Eric did the same.
I remember one time, back then, I got tired of just practicing by taping shows in my basement studio. So I decided to go, “on the air.” I purchased a cheap little AM transmitter with a couple of tubes at “Lafayette Radio.” I hooked it up to a steel pole that I attached out of the bathroom window of the family home, and sure enough! I was, “on the air” back then, with a signal that basically got out to all of the homes in my immediate neighborhood!
The euphoria was short-lived, however. Along came a really violent thunderstorm, and my father said, get that, “lightning rod” off the roof before we take a lightning bolt and burn the house down. So there I was, outside the bathroom window, removing the steel pole, with the wind blowing and the thunder crashing, in a scene reminiscent of, “Frankenstein,” removing that pole.
I continued to practice in the basement studio after that until I eventually found my first job in radio. A tiny station in South Jersey. The building was so small you had to go outside to change your mind.
But it had a real transmitter, and no pole attached outside the bathroom window!