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On Thursday, August 21, 2003, at 2:45pm, my wife of 34 years, Rebecca, died in my arms in an emergency room.

The last words we spoke were in perfect synchronization: "I love you with all my heart."

 

THE RADIO SHOW

About November, 1998, I was asked to do an unusual and unique project:  a three hour radio show in which I was responsible for the entire playlist.  No restrictions - complete freedom.  I'd never done anything like that before, and the radio station wanted a STAX free-for-all.  I'm familiar with STAX, having worked there for a few years, and STAX has always been my choice of music throughout my lifetime. 

Details of the broadcast

WMNF Radio was located inside an old house in a pretty bad part of town.  The house had been converted to a station, and held two or three control rooms, engineering rooms, an enormous library of vinyl albums, CDs, tapes, and cassettes.  The albums were neatly categorized on roll around "walls" - I've never seen so many albums in one place at one time.

For several weeks, Soulman, a 20 year DJ with the same show at the same station, had been announcing the upcoming "STAX Special" on the air, so the audience in Tampa Bay, St. Pete, and Clearwater, Florida already had an idea what was pending.  Soulman had a very good spot - Friday night, 9 pm to midnight.  The show was broadcast January 8, 1999.

A fairly recent addition to WMNF was internet broadcast of radio shows.  They had one or two techs who took the audio feed from the control room and connected it to several computers, supplying the internet with live broadcast.

I spent weeks trying to come up with a playlist.  There's so much great STAX music and much of it hasn't been played on the air for 30 years, if at all.  I tried to avoid "typical" songs - you could hear them on any oldies station - and concentrated on obscure songs, but most of all, on Booker T and the MGs.

I finally decided on a 65 song playlist, knowing I'd never get all the songs played in three hours.  I arrived at the radio station with about 250 CDs, DATs, and a small pile of vinyl records.  I had several copies of the playlist - they were my roadmap to get through all this.

To give you the picture, I need to describe the control room in the station.  It was a dark room approximately 10' x 10', filled with a console, tape, CD, and phono players.  EV speakers were suspended from the ceiling.  Several Sennheiser 421 microphones were on booms and goosenecks on the console.  Two or three computers were near the console, and we could see the incoming emails as they scrolled down the pages.

When I arrived, the control room was cool.  Within 30 minutes, it was hot, and just kept getting hotter.  Several phone lines were connected to flashing spotlights, there were no ringers in the phones.

The first couple minutes of the show started in a haphazard way, and quickly got on track.  My job was to follow the playlist, hand Soulman the next CD, vinyl, or DAT, and specify which track to play.  Then I checked off the song on the list, and started searching for the next CD, vinyl, or tape.  In addition, I was supposed to be a radio announcer (never tried that before), and answer phone calls.  It sounds like something one could do easily, but for me - on my first try - it wasn't.

Within 10 minutes, the spotlights started flashing.  Calls were coming in on all the phone lines at once.  Emails were scrolling down the screen at an alarming rate.  People were wandering in and out of the control room, more were staring through the window at us.  I felt like I was in a cage at a zoo. 

Not realizing that I was there to actually talk, I had the idea that all I had to do was keep feeding cuts over to Soulman, and that took ALL my concentration.  We mis-communicated on only one track, early in the show.

In a short time, an engineer came in and told us the server had collapsed - too many people trying to access it at once.  Lights were flashing, songs were being played as fast as I could get them onto the desk, and the emails were piling up.  Pretty soon, it was over 100 degrees inside the control room, and Soulman was out on the edge: he cranked up the broadcast amp and put some power on the antenna.  The EV speakers were about to come down, you could see the woofers moving, they were so loud. 

I had set up another server at home using the line output from a tuner, into my console, to the computer, and into some software that broadcast streaming audio right through my cable modem.  I'd only given the IP address to about a dozen people, but it turned out over 700 IP addresses had accessed my computer for the show.  I can't even guess how many logged into WMNF servers, but a lot of the emails coming in said, "I can't get on to listen". 

It didn't take very long - well under an hour - and that place was a zoo.  The servers collapsed repeatedly, and just less than 1100 emails came in in under 3 hours.  According to the WMNF engineer, we had already broken every existing record at the station for calls, email, and network logins - in just over one hour.

I never even got a chance to talk on the phone, except to Duck, and didn't come close to answering an email.  It was just too frantic there.  There was so much energy in that room, I needed a beer or 3.  I couldn't even go to the bathroom and get a soda until we planned two songs in advance with no talking.

Thinking back, it was pure insanity for three hours.  And it was a lot of fun, because I'd picked songs - and an order of tension and release - that really impacted the listeners.  Very few songs were not STAX, I felt I should break things up slightly, so I snuck in a few Ike and Tina, Billy Preston, and Etta James.  But the whole show really revolved around Booker T and the MGs.

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