Here’s another foray into the AM band, as explored in the middle of the night. This recording begins just before 1AM local time, and was captured in the Catskill mountains of New York on Sunday October 1st (or the 2nd officially). Usually I start a scan recording at the low end of a band and work my way up, but this time I’m going the other way. Usually when starting at 530kHz and moving up the AM band, I never quite reach the end of the band, so this sample of broadcasting starts at the ass end of AM, and then I roll backwards through the dial.
I don’t spend that much time DXing though the higher end of the AM band. There’s less powerful stations, and especially here in the city there are far more ethnic talk outlets up that way. But unlike the previous post where I offered a taste of these frequencies, this reception was snatched from the sky out in the country away from the RF noise and the bullying strong local signals of the megalopolis. In fact, there are really no local AM stations in the central Catskills where we stayed that weekend. By day, the AM dial was basically silent all the way across the damn thing. Of course, once the sun went down there was some kind of noise or better at every 10kHz stop. Not a bad location to DX medium wave. And this was recorded with my Tecsun BCL-2000, a very sensitive, but buggy analog radio, which should have been on its best behavior on AM without powerful local signals stirring up annoying images across the dial.
Again, this starts from the right and the dial moves slowly to the left, stopping at every place a radio station that might be something, and then listening. The first station I found was in rural Michigan. Here's the audio...
1590 - WTVB Coldwater, MI
A good way to start, with a solid (if faint) station ID from a distant low power station. It’s a one kilowatt oldies station in south central Michigan broadcasting in a directional pattern (to the northwest!). Station identification comes right before the top of the hour. It’s just about 1 AM EDT.
An oldies station broadcasting from the other side of Lake Ontario. Starts out with some syrupy 1970's EZ pop song (sounds like Hall & Oates meets Smokey?) that I’ve never heard before. Maybe it’s some of that “Canadian content” the government forces their music stations to integrate into their playlists. Then “Green Onions,” still one of the greatest insurgent instrumentals around. Sounds great with static too.
1570 - (a hopeless mess)
Lots of talking.
1560 - WQEW New York, NY
Back home in Brooklyn, this waste of a booming clear channel AM signal (carrying the moronic Radio Disney) that lays waste to most of this end of the AM dial. Here’s it’s just an annoyance I can just pass by. Some urban greasy vocoder number on the subject of loneliness.
1550 - CBE Windsor, ON
It’s the news on CBC One. A BBC story on Brazilian politics, and a report of a horrific airline crash there as well. And a tropical storm watch for Newfoundland!
As I’ve complained before, it’s a damn shame that CBC sold their English Language clear channel station in Toronto (at 740kHz) a while back. As much as I appreciate what CHWO does there now, it would be great to have a full service CBC English language station covering the northeastern US on the AM band by night. While everyone is all abuzz over satellite radio, digital radio, streaming radio, and all these new audio broadcast technologies, they seem to have forgotten that AM radio is still so much more efficient, and almost everybody has a receiver that's ready to go. It just seems like with all this continuing interest in talk and news on AM that it ought to make some national media outlets like NPR, CBC and BBC reconsider snatching up some clear channel AM frequencies in North America, where they would get far broader coverage per transmitter than on FM, and more oomph than any new audio delivery system currently offers. And jeez, they could start with WQEW at 1560 in Queens. Although they squander fifty-thousand watts on mindless kiddie crap, the transmitter is actually owned by the prestigious New York Times.
And another good example of what the Times could do with WQEW, would be the in-depth news and issue radio station the Washington Post offers at 1500 AM in the DC area. But obviously the New York Times doesn’t respect or understand the power of AM radio, and especially the broadcasting potential they’re sitting on (and the NYC market!), and they lease all those kilowatts out to Mickey and Goofy. Just like the way NYC radio powerhouses sellout primetime hours to infomercials on the weekend, it's really stupid and short-sighted.
After the news, it’s CBC Overnight, a rebroadcast of a Radio Netherlands feature. Of course, there’s not a chance I could pick up this station in New York City because WQEW’s RADIO DISNEY eats up anything near it on the dial, but I can pick it up OK in New Jersey.
Weather and a Jim Bohannon promo from Iowa. It’s a 50 kilowatt clear channel signal broadcasting from over nine hundred miles away.
By now I’m noticing a trend in this DX session-- Windsor, Coldwater, and Waterloo are almost all in a line straight west from the Catskills. I don't know enough about propagation to tell you why, but I’ve seen this before when listening to distant AM and shortwave. If I’m picking up some faraway signals from a certain part of the continent or globe I often end up coming across other distant broadcasts from that same direction. It must be some radio "wind" out there.
1530 - WCKY Cincinnati, OH
It’s the culty and crusty Christian geezer, Brother Stair (or Brother Scare as he’s known by people who’ve actually seen the guy). I wrote briefly about this dark Rumpelstiltskin-like codger before (here). The old fart seems to always be carrying on over several shortwave frequencies at any given time. However, this Clear Channel owned Cincinnati 50kW station sells him a few late hours every night. Not only that, but after Brother Stair, an even more disturbed character comes on WCKY, Roy Masters. Masters is so creepy, he makes cult leader Stair actually sound kind of avuncular, and almost normal.
1520 - WWKB Buffalo, NY
It’s "The Joey Reynolds Show," originating from WOR in New York. It’s the number two overnight radio show in America, after Coast to Coast AM. So as an overnight radio listener, I run across Reynolds show quite often. And, I confess I’ve tried to like it.
Reynolds is a consummate broadcaster, originally a Top 40 DJ who had gigs in a number of big radio markets in the 60's through the 90's. Supposedly, Reynolds was a key figure in the early “shock jock” scene, although hearing his late night yuk-it-up show you’d never know it (on his page at WOR’s site they call him the “Mr. Nice Guy of Night Radio”). When Reynolds gets on a good rant, he can be quite entertaining. And if he has a good guest, Joey has a personal and quirky interview style that often works quite well. However, most of the time the show is just a messy free-for-all where Reynolds holds court with TOO many co-hosts, or panelists, all talking over each other and carrying on in a less than compelling fashion. And a good example is what you hear in this clip. I believe it’s a repeat of Joey’s weekly “Jewish Hour” (look at the crew here) where there’s usually plenty of kvetching and kooky conversation as they pass the pastrami, but not much more.
And perhaps more significantly, in this piece of his program you hear Joe and the gang discuss what it’s like to be Joey Reynolds, a quasi-celebrity– almost famous, almost great, and almost invariably infatuated with yourself-- and mildly insulted that more people don’t feel the same way.
Although Reynolds is mostly apolitical (although he does oppose the Iraq war), here he's on WWKB, one of those Clear Channel “progressive talk” stations ("Buffalo’s Left Channel”). And significantly this particular station features absolutely NO Air America programming. I often listen to WWKB from midnight to one AM when the final hour of Lionel’s show is cut off on WOR (by an extra local hour of Joey Reynolds). And for listener’s in the New York City area who haven’t heard the Ed Schultz show (the biggest liberal talk show in the country now), with the sun is setting so early now you can often catch the last couple hours of most nights on any decent radio (from 5 to 7 PM). However, the local host they rebroadcast from 7 to 10, Leslie Marshall, is a bit shrill and has a rather exuberant gym teacher approach to talk radio which really isn't my cup of tea.
1510 - WWZN - Boston, MA?
It’s the most likely suspect. It’s sports, that’s for sure. Superbowl hysteria, etc.
1500 - WLQV Detroit, MI & WTWP Washington, DC?
Another broadcast from the direct west. A Detroit religious station. At first there a spot advising listeners to avoid all those awful secular snowman and reindeer holiday cards, and order up a bunch of official Jesus Christ type Christmas cards. Let your friends know just how holy you really are! The show itself is “Walk in the Word,” where there's a discussion of some super-Christian boy scout type organization and a day in a car pool. Sorry I didn't catch the whole thing. In the background there's a Geico commercial, probably WTWP which normally comes in fairly well in the city.
1490 - (a big throbby mess)
This is one of the infamous graveyard frequencies (along with 1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, and 1450kHz, where all the stations are VERY local, and are only allowed tiny transmitters. Unless one of these babies is fairly close to you, or you get lucky, this is what you usually hear at one of these stops on the dial– LOTS of far off stations, all at once.
1480 - (Joey Reynolds again)
Don’t know what this might be. In looking for a Joey Reynolds affiliate at this frequency I did find WABB in Mobile, AL, but that seems a bit unlikely. Then oddly, the bumper music on Joey Reynolds (going into a Tanya Roberts Vegas ad) is the Four Tops, and then turning the radio brings in another Four Tops song, which might be an oldies station in Canton, OH (WHBC).
It’s Coast to Coast, with Art Bell. Which can be found on dozens of stations any night of the week, almost anywhere in America. However, looking through the CTC affiliate list I found a few possibilities for this frequency– three in the Midwest and one in Georgia. Hard to say.
1460 - (mess)
Music, and somewhere in there, Art Bell again. In fact, I think Art Bell can be heard somewhere in the next two indecipherable heaps of reception as well.
1450 - (mess)
If you like cacophony, you got it here. You can hear why I say this end of the band can be a real morass.
More pulsing noise and voices. One talk show rides on top with of the confusion, but never breaks out into anything very readable.
1430 - CKYC Toronto, ON?
Another jumble to be sure, but it sounds like Chinese is spoken throughout, and this ethnic Toronto station seems like a likely suspect. Reception is poor.
1420 - (another stinky mess, with one station dominating)
Lots of advertising, invitations to go online, etc. A very hazy collection of low power AM stations in competition here too. If I was more patient I could have stuck around figured out where the dominant station (featuring a set of ads) was probably coming from.
1410 - KQV Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh news station rebroadcasting old radio shows in a late night segment called “When Radio Was.” Here you get a segue from “The Adventures of Sam Spade” to “The Shadow.”
Well, that’s as good a place to stop as any. As I look at my log here, there’s really not any decent reception until I get up into the 1300-1200kHz range. But you get the idea, lots of local stations and less important outlets in larger markets. The few big clear channel AM’s in this part of North America are mostly in the 1500's. If I continue on with this scan in another post, it will start further up where you can actually hear what’s being said without eight other stations pulsing in the background.
I must admit that I would still love to hear some AM scans from across the country. I’m really only familiar with the AM radio scene east of the Rocky Mountains, and I’d sure like to hear (and post) some recordings of medium wave scans from way out west, and from other places as well. I kinda set out what I was looking for in general, if any readers would be so kind to record their adventures in amplitude modulation and send them my way-- you can get an idea of what I might be looking for in this post. Actually, one reader sent me a good one, but that's all I've gotten so far. I’m still interested in other ears, other radios and other parts of the world, if you’d like to chip in you can email me here.
And if you’re interested in this kind of static ridden radio fun, all the other posts can be found with this link with audio. And if you’re wondering why the hell I’m spending all this time thinking and writing about the esoteric radio crap, you can start with these first two posts that kind of spell it out, or at least offer my excuses.
And as always, thanks for listening.