One night in college radio: The Tuesday Night Classics, WLRA-FM, February 23, 1988

WLRA 1988

(Above: The author, right around the time that this show aired. His fashion sense is only marginally better.)

February 23, 1988 was a Tuesday. I had just gotten back from a vacation with my family to New Orleans to take part in the Mardi Gras festivities – my first time ever visiting the Crescent City. I was actually eager to get back on the air. The spring semester of 1988 was my first – and only – semester as program director of WLRA-FM at Lewis University, and I had been promoted off of the wasteland that was Saturday afternoons to a prime-time slot – Tuesday evenings from 6p-9p.

The Tuesday Night Classics started to become a show done in front of a live audience, and we begin to see that this week. Several of the other DJs would begin coming down to hang around for the last part of the broadcast. My friend Dave, who did not attend Lewis, would drive out to serve as producer/co-host of the show. The show would end at 9pm, and the assembled group would walk across campus to the Flyers Den, a bar in the basement of the student union. As it was the union building, all students were able to gain admission, but were not supposed to drink if underage. This rule was often ignored by the students, and we’d often close the place talking about radio, and girls, and not going to class, and radio.

This show is a mish-mosh: the music is good, and the disk jockey alternates from being sort of amusing to extremely annoying. (It was my second semester on the air, and at the time of this broadcast I’m just short of turning 19. I’ll attribute some of the lack of focus to that.) Technically, it’s a smooth show, if it’s a little short on constructive content. One feature of the Tuesday shows was to alternate sets of classic rock with talk segments that feel interminably long. Much of the conversation has to do with girls who have called the station, or things that happened that day. It’s very much a hyperlocal conversation targeted to about eight people that just happens to be broadcast over an FM signal.

Let’s see what we have here. This is only the first half of the show, which might be more than enough. I’m not sure where cassette #2 is.

The previous show closed with INXS’ “Devil Inside,” which was currently on the charts. The mic opens, and I give the legal ID, concluding with “This is the only station you’re listening to right now.” I referenced that line in an earlier post from a later show, thinking I had made it up on the fly that morning. Clearly this wasn’t the case.

There’s a produced show open. We hear the whole opening theme to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, followed by a bunch of drops. This is clearly my attempt at a “wacky tape,” which was how Steve Dahl & Garry Meier opened their shows at WLS and later WLUP. I hear Mike Ditka, dialogue from Animal House, Caddyshack, and Julia Child saying “See that? That’s the bone. You want to leave that showing. It’s nice so that you see what you have.” Then, Elvis’ “See See Rider” gets things moving as I introduce the show.

Songs in first set: “Twistin’ By the Pool” by Dire Straits, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones, a quick stop to beg for phone calls, and then back to tunes with “Magic Bus” by the Who. The sweeper in-between tells us that WLRA stands for Where Len Rocks America. Sure. “Gimme Some Lovin'” by the Spencer Davis Group leads to discussion about how I hadn’t accomplished nearly as much as Steve Winwood by the age of 17.

Next set includes “Just What I Needed” by the Cars, “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen, and “Alabama Song” by the Doors. Irony alert: the introduction to Petula Clark’s “Don’t Sleep In the Subway” has a drop-in in the station voice saying “Your alternative is WLRA Romeoville!” Technically, a college station playing Pet Clark is alternative, I guess.

Wacky DJ patter includes joking about what sort of losers does Petula date if she has to tell them not to sleep in the subway. Apparently all manner of recorded drop-ins have been located, and it appears that they’re all going to get used tonight. A PSA features Willard Scott talking about the benefits of having a pet, and the phone number for the live tag is missing, catching the DJ off-guard. More solicitations for phonecalls and talking about requests, which the show is apparently getting.

Artist separation is an unknown concept. A caller has requested “Satisfaction,” and there it is. It’s followed by a request for Pink Floyd, and we hear “The Happiest Days of Our Lives/Another Brick In the Wall (Part 2).” It’s about there the first side of the tape runs out. “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding” is uttered as a PSA.

Dave shows up. We start talking about how Dave had to stop and get food before coming to the show, and how the headphones don’t sound right. I complain loudly how my car – “a fourteen thousand dollar new car” had to go to the shop to get its reverse gear fixed. Backselling records leads to a discussion about Justine Bateman, and how we’d like to see her naked. This leads to a phone poll for the show: Who would you like to see naked? This is basically a morning zoo show taking place at 7pm. Phone calls immediately start coming naming a variety of people.

Back to music: Zep’s “Communication Breakdown” is two-fered with “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do.”

Top of the hour legal ID is read over Spike Jones’ “Der Fuhrer’s Face.” The stoppage in the action leads to more talk, including banging on the microphones to make a spring sound, and how yelling into the mic makes lights on the processor blink. Supposedly one of the callers in the phone poll indicated that they would like to see me naked, and we use the sound effect of aroused girls to drive the point home. We also get the Jeopardy theme, encouraging submissions for the naked pool in the form of a question.

Back to music: Van Halen’s “Intruder/Pretty Woman,”Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” and Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend.” The station slipped here, and the recording is fuzzy for a few minutes. In that backsell we learn that Mike – my future roommate – suggested that one for a caller. We’ve got a full staff working on the show now here in hour 2. The PSA this time is from the postal service, encouraging you to keep your dogs from biting letter carriers. No one encouraged the DJ not to yell “Ouch!” during the middle of it. Another PSA for the Air Force, clearly aimed at rural audiences in small towns, is also played, followed by a discussion by the hosts about how they wouldn’t give up radio to enlist.

Update on the phone poll: Justine Bateman, Tom Cruise, Len O’Kelly, Bruce Willis. Someone calls in the middle of the bit and the “phoner” sound effect is used. This was one we used around the station conflating “boner” and “phoner” featuring the sound of something growing. “Grab that receiver, Mike – get it up!” This is a boys’ club, which is interesting that the calls in the nakedness poll are primarily from women.

Music features “Somebody to Love” by the Jefferson Airplane, “Time Of the Season” by the Zombies, and “Homeward Bound” by Simon and Garfunkel. I come out of that one, saying “I wish I were homeward bound, but I have an hour and a half left.” An introduction to Aerosmith ends the cassette. Since I cannot find cassette #2, I have no idea who won the phone poll.

So, what do we have here? Musically, it’s not a bad classic hits station, programmed about ten years before the format gained popularity. Personality-wise, it’s a morning show in need of a coach. But, above all – and the common thread I find with these old tapes – it’s people having a whole lot of fun making radio, and I wish my radio had more of that on it. (It also reminds me to find the eager talent on my college’s station and coach them a little bit more.)

If you are extraordinarily brave – or a glutton for punishment – you can hear the whole thing as it unfolded here.


One thought on “One night in college radio: The Tuesday Night Classics, WLRA-FM, February 23, 1988

  1. Pingback: One night in college radio, End of Semester Edition: WLRA-FM, May 3, 1988 | 45 Ruminations Per Megabyte

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