Legendary radio announcer air checks capture the history of broadcast personalities, particularly the rock jocks of the sixties and seventies. Listening to these brings back many memories.
Sadly, we are all getting older. You may have noticed recent obituaries for many of the famous radio personalities of our younger years. These include New York’s Harry Harrison and Don Imus, as well as country music’s Bob Kingsley.
What you might not know is that much of listening history has been archived in legendary radio announcer air checks. For example, while Wolfman Jack passed away in 1995, you can enjoy his style online.
Most of the great rock jocks broadcast from places like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Toronto. But, regardless of where you lived, you could hear many of them long distance on AM radio during hours of darkness. Also, we enjoyed the syndication of many legends over our local radio stations. More recently, come of these aging announcers broadcast on satellite radio.
An air check is simply a recording of all or part of an announcer’s program on a certain date. I used to have a few air checks of my shows on CJOB and Student Radio, but unfortunately I lost them during one of our moves.
Radio Announcer Air Checks – Snapshots of Performance
Most air checks were telescoped recordings of an announcer’s show. Scoped air checks focused on the announcer. You will find these contain just the times when the microphone was on – typically before commercial breaks and just before the next song.
You could record scoped air checks by placing a relay across the circuit controlling the “On Air” light at a studio. “On Air” simply meant that the microphone was turned on. We then used this relay to start and stop a recording in tune with the microphone turning on and off.
Why did we make air checks? Two reasons mainly. First, so management could listen to an announcer’s performance quickly. Your one hour program could be telescoped down to 5-8 minutes of air check. Second, so you could look for a new job. Announcers used air checks to apply for jobs at other stations.
My favorite air check? The late, great Gary Owens at KMPC Los Angeles in 1970. It’s a classic.