Ever since the days when Glenn Miller fought to bring
swing music to the troops fighting in World War II, "modern music" has had a
place in the schedules of AFRTS affiliates. FEN is no exception.
We know with certainty that jazz on FEN dates back to
1951 when our own contributor to this site, Merwin Smith
presented "Time For Jazz."
While rock and roll is often still viewed with disdain
by military programmers, modern jazz seems to have fared a bit better.
The Best of Hoyle
The edition of Jazz Time presented here features the
mellow pipes of Airman Burr Hoyle -- a voice perfectly "cool" and suited to the
music that was the star of the show. Burr mixes a little musical history into his
commentary as he explores the range of jazz virtuosos from Jerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Wes
Montgomery on guitar, Clifford Brown on trumpet, and vocalists Mel Torme, June Christie,
and the Four Freshmen
In The Midnight Hour
Even though some jazz made its way into mainstream
programming at FEN, the time set aside specifically for the genre was midnight on Saturday
night. Like rock and roll, jazz was still considered "not quite ready for prime
time." Although, you can argue that jazzmen have traditionally preferred the wee
hours of the morning and so the midnight slot wasn't a reflection on the importance of the
genre. Leo Cheers, a St. Louis radio legend, has hosted an overnight jazz show for more
than three decades. And it's always had a loyal following.
Unfortunately, the air date information for this
program is not available, but given the surrounding evidence, it appears to be from 1965.
This recording was made from the original master on-air
copy of the program recorded on a 10.5 inch reel of Scotch 111. It was recorded at 7.5 IPS
so that the full 55 minutes of the program would fit on a single reel
Time has not been kind to these tapes. While not
particularly brittle, the outer portion of the tape has become badly warped making it
difficult to keep solid contact with the playback head on the tape machine. All in all
though, they are in amazingly good quality with the full fidelity still present in much of
Though not particularly evident in this RealAudio
files, you can even hear the surface noise and scratches on the transcription disks that
contained the original music and some of the features distributed from AFRTS headquarters.
Perhaps if you think of the anomalies you'll hear as the fading ever present in a
short-wave broadcast, the effect will add rather than detract from your listening
Found Treasures - Our Thanks to Norm Medland!
Much of the material on this site I like to think of as
"found treasures" and these air checks fit that description well. Though there
are exceptions, many of us didn't particularly think that we were making history during
our stint at FEN. We often recorded our shows for later playback and analysis, or perhaps
just to have the music, but then erased them just as quickly when something new caught our
In the 1960s, owning a tape recorder of any kind was
the exception rather than the rule. The cassette format and even the nostalgic 8-track
tape were still years away. We lucky ones saved our pennies and purchased reel-to-reel
tape recorders. Living in Japan and having access to a variety of electronics through the
local base exchange and Tokyo's Aki Habara made it a little easier to afford.
And just as blank VHS video tapes originally cost more
than $20.00 USD each when they were first introduced, blank recording tape commanded a
premium price. So we used and reused tapes. Those of us in radio gladly took donations
from the station when old tapes were discarded. That was the fate of these masters of
Norm Medland, an FEN staffer from the mid 60s recalls
that there were a stack of tapes that had been deemed past their useful prime. FEN folk
would take the big reels home and cut them up into smaller size reels that would fit
consumer machines. We are fortunate that before Norm had a need to do this, Norm went
through a PCS and the tapes got boxed up and sent off to storage, only to be rediscovered
years later when he no longer had anything to listen to them on. He has generously offered
to share these treasures with the rest of us.
What treasures do you have stowed away?
We still need your tapes (we can handle any format
including open reel-to-reel), pictures, newspaper clippings, or anything connected with
FEN in general -- from any period of the network's rich history and from any of the studio
locations. All materials will be returned to you and handled with extreme care while we
have them. Address your comments to the webmaster.