Abdx membership is 233 members and still growing!

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Return With Us to the Thrilling Days Of Yesteryear—Via the Internet

Posted by: Kevin Redding

Wed Feb 24, 2010 7:04 pm (PST)

Return With Us to the Thrilling Days Of Yesteryear—Via the Internet

Fred Greenhalgh's Audio Dramas Hark Back To Radio Golden Era; It Sounds Like Snow


SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine—The script called for snow, and it was snowing.

"I wanted light and fluffy," said the director, Fred Greenhalgh. He was talking about the cozily muffled acoustics, not the pretty view. "This is perfect," he said. "Roll 'em!"

Windshield wipers slapping, a car wooshed to a stop at an old schoolhouse in this coastal city, now home to a theater company. Letting the car door slam as he got out, Bill Dufris, playing a cop in Brattleboro, Vt., said, "I'll do my best," and crunched up the wooden steps to a make-believe crime scene.

Overhead, a sea gull screamed. "I could hear that," Mr. Greenhalgh interrupted. "This is supposed to be Vermont." Thinking that inland Brattleboro shouldn't have sea gulls, he called for another take. Mr. Dufris got back in the car, drove around, slammed the door, and delivered his line again: "I'll do my best." Somewhere in the harbor, a foghorn blew.

"Cut!" said Mr. Greenhalgh. His sound man turned off his digital recorder. "The joys of recording on location," Mr. Greenhalgh said. "OK, one more time."

A 26-year-old with blond bangs and a goatee, the director was busy dramatizing a detective story. Not for the screen. For the iPod. The book it was based on—"Open Season" by Archer Mayor—begins with an image: "The snow lay before our headlights like a freshly placed sheet…" But Mr. Greenhalgh had no camera. His job was to translate the book into sound.

Radio drama, ranging from "Captain Midnight" to the high art of Orson Welles, thrived for 40 years in America. It was all but gone by the 1960s, killed off by television. Yet now that TV must contend with the Internet, the Internet has given radio drama a whisper of new life. It can't be called "radio drama" anymore, since hardly any of it gets on the radio. Mr. Greenhalgh settles for "audio drama," but the catchiest name for it is "mind movie."

Sue Zizza, a sound-effects artist who teaches at New York University, figures there are about 300 "true, quality audio dramatists" active in the U.S. She helps put on a one-week "audio theater" summer workshop that has lately been attracting 100 trainees. In 2006, one was Fred Greenhalgh.

"What amazes me is that audio drama just won't go away," Ms. Zizza says. "It's so primal in us. No matter how much we ignore it, there are still people out there like Fred."

He grew up on the Maine coast writing short stories. At the University of Southern Maine, unpublished, he rewrote one of them as a radio script, replacing sights with sounds, as in: "Storm increases with violent intensity until it unleashes a mighty burst of lightning."

Mighty bursts were produced in radio's golden age by shaking tin sheets in a studio. Now, mighty bursts are downloadable. But Mr. Greenhalgh can't afford studio rent and prefers not to buy (or steal) anyone else's thunder. He harvests lightning by walking out into a storm with a recorder and a microphone.

"Sonically, it's more interesting," he says. Add some editing software, and that's his kit. Cost: $1,000. In the three years since Mr. Greenhalgh started making audio dramas, the Mad Horse Theater Company's actors, all pros, have performed without pay—in bars, on beaches, in lighthouses—just for the voice experience. And the food. On this day, it was lasagna.

"I thought we'd be behind glass, and there'd be a machine with buttons," Martin Cohn said as he joined a few actors in a bare hallway to record crime-scene mumbling. Mr. Cohn, a Vermont public-relations man, had come with Mr. Mayor, who has written 20 well-reviewed mysteries, not one of which has been made into a movie.

They decided to try the audio-drama route and hired Mr. Greenhalgh to produce a pilot. The script, the theater, the actors, the sound man and the lasagna are setting Mr. Cohn and Mr. Mayor back $1,500. "It's the first time anybody's talked money," Mr. Greenhalgh confided earlier.

Now, Mr. Greenhalgh was asking everybody to mumble, and they did. "In a crime scene, there's more laughter," Mr. Mayor said when it stopped. Mr. Greenhalgh ordered another take.

The cost of this production is more than most programmers will pay, but it's still peanuts. The British Broadcasting Corp. spends $15 million a year on 750 hours of radio plays. One of them, "A British Subject," made it to a New York stage last year. "It's extravagant radio," says Alison Hindell, who runs the operation, "but it's very, very cheap drama." On American radio, talk is a lot cheaper.

A few of radio drama's old hands still fight for outlets. Yuri Rasovsky still produces his "Hollywood Theater of the Ear"for satellite radio. L.A. Theatre Works, a not-for-profit outfit, records classic stage plays with sound effects and distributes them to public radio. But its head, Susan Loewenberg, won't touch plays written for radio. "The best time to listen to radio drama is 1937," she says.

Old-time radio and its fans aren't her idea of the next big thing. Public radio's energy goes mainly into nonfiction now, not original fiction. On commercial radio, drama's last toehold is in the miniskits of commercials. Meanwhile, audio books have piled into the void and grown into a $400 million business.

Now comes podcasting. It has allowed a small number of audio auteurs—from a group called Bay Area Radio Drama to the Cape Cod Radio Mystery Theater—to build up a substantial cache of mind movies in easily uploadable episodes. The product, as Ms. Loewenberg sees it, often combines "21st-century technology and eighth-grade content." Fred Greenhalgh has higher-grade ambitions.

On his FinalRune Productions Web site, he podcasts his own episodes, plus 156 more, culled from around the U.S. "Our work is more like what you'll read in a literary rag," he writes on the site, which gets 1,500 downloads a week. He sees it becoming an "audio-drama warehouse."

If that is ever to happen, he'll need a smash hit first, one that crosses over into the iPod mainstream. His backers from Vermont want an Archer Mayor mystery series to be the big one—made on location, in Maine, with Mr. Greenhalgh's no-budget ring of authenticity.

"This is the body," the director was saying as he lay a coat onto the snow in the theater's backyard. Mr. Mayor's book set the scene at night in "a dazzling white circle of flood lamps." Mr. Greenhalgh intended to mention that later, in narration.

"OK, crouch over the body," he told his actors. Mr. Dufris (the detective) and Chris Price (a forensics man) crouched. "Crunch the snow," said Mr. Greenhalgh. They crunched.

Script in hand, Mr. Dufris began his line: "Were there any footprints…?" A dog barked and a door slammed. Somebody in the next house yelled, "Now you come here!" None of that belonged in the play. Mr. Dufris started over. But then an airplane passed. And another. The scripts were getting wet.

Mr. Greenhalgh said, "Let's just do it."

"Were there any footprints before this all happened?" asked Mr. Dufris. Mr. Price said, "Nope," and crunched out of microphone range with his exit line: "Hit the lights when you're through, OK?"

"You got it," said Mr. Dufris.

Mr. Greenhalgh said, "That's a wrap."

Write to Barry Newman at barry.newman@wsj.com


Loggings and stations

Net log

Posted by: kevin redding

Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:12 pm (PST)

Was listening to the Hall of Fame / Our Best to You music show on WPTF 680 from Raleigh / Durham, NC 2000 - 2359 ET.


Nice 50s, 60s, 70s, stuff.


Thanks Kevin,

73’s, Martin

You Don’t Need a Weatherman…

Nothing reported this month

Extra, Extra!

KSTP-AM 1500 switches format from talk to sports

Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal - by Sam Black Staff Writer

Radio station KSTP-AM 1500 will move to an all-sports talk radio format beginning Monday.

In an e-mail message it sent to listeners Thursday, Ginny Morris, president and general manager of Hubbard Radio, said the 87-year-old station is rebranding itself as AM1500 The SportsTalk Station.

KSTP also has started a new partnership with ESPN Radio Network. Beginning Monday, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd program will air from 9 a.m. to noon. Eventually, the station will broadcast ESPN’s “Mike and Mike In the Morning” show and some other ESPN programming throughout the week, according to Morris’ e-mail.

The station has had exclusive rights to broadcast Minnesota Twins games for the past three years.

“This new position enhances and strengthens our relationship with the Twins and their many fans. We look forward to being up and running before the Twins’ inaugural season at Target Field,” Morris said.

As part of a program shake up, current morning host Patrick Reusse will move to a slot from noon to 2 p.m. Longtime KSTP host Joe Soucheray and Reusse will be together from 2 to 4 p.m. Then, from 4 to 6 p.m., Soucheray will host his traditional show, “Garage Logic.”

The switch means that the Twin Cities will now have three AM sports stations. The other two are KFAN-AM1130 and The Score, 970-AM, sister stations both owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc. KFAN is the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Vikings radio broadcasts. WCCO-AM 830 is home to the Minnesota Wild and many University of Minnesota sports, but it’s considered a talk-radio format.

Five people, including three producers, one co-host and a newsman, lost their jobs as part of the shake up, according to a report on MinnPost. Program Director Steve Konrad couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

KSTP-AM is owned by St. Paul-based Hubbard Broadcasting Inc. and its signal is 50,000 watts.

Bargain Barn

Nothing for sale this month

Show and Tell – New Toys

Richard Berler – Grundig G3

The G3 that I got from the Radio Shack last Friday has been a pleasant surprise. It's volume isn't as generous as the G5, and weak stations aren't as steady as the G5 perhaps due to AGC, but when stations are tuned on lower or upper sideband by zero beating the signal (ECSS), the signal is steady, and as strong as on the G5. The audio is improved over the G5...not so muddy. The display is also easier to read although backlighting does not light up the keyboard as in the G5. Best of all, the sync holds lock on rather weak signals!  My sample holds lock better on upper sideband than lower, but is a little better than my experience with the SONY 7600 GR. When lock doesn't hold up, ECSS zero beating is a fine alternative On mw, the set is much less sensitive than the G5, particularly above about 1100 KHz. Even here, though, weak signals are much improved when zero beated or synced. On airband, the band is much cleaner than the G6 as regards fm signals mixing in. On fm, there is almost no fm images from locals...this in great contrast with my G5. Although the G5 is good at rejecting adjacent frequency mw stations (allowing for weak stations 10 KHz away from a local to be heard), the choice of upper or lower sideband or sync does much better...a 5 KW station 140 miles away comes in great on LSB or LSB/sync on 1360 KHz, sandwiched between locals on 1340 and 1370. The G5 and even my Tecsun PL-310 on 1 KHz filter cannot retrieve the 1360 KHz station.


Powell E. Way III – Panasonic RF-032D “Mr. Thin”

My ULR test to see what the RF-032D Panasonic "Mr.Thin"  is really like.  I expected it to do pretty well.  But it handily beat out these:

Sangean DT-400W

Kaito WRX-911

Tecsun R9012 (Gary modified)

Sony SRF-59 (Gary Modified)

Eton / Grundig G8

It was about equal or slightly better than my Eton E-10 which I do not consider that much of an ultralite. 

Testing, Testing…

Call Sign Changes

No call sign changes released by the FCC this month


I Got The Bird!

ABDX consists of:

Editor/List Owner: Kevin Redding

Webmaster: Michael J. Richard

Moderators: Phil Rafuse

Powell E. Way III

LW Editor: Jay Heyl

NBN Editor: Martin Foltz

And 233 of the greatest DXing contributors on earth!

Please pass the ABDX Journal to all the DXers you know. The dues are free and all we would like to do is see you contribute your logs on occasion.

To join the DXers at ABDX either go to this URL:


Or email dc2daylight at gmail.com
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