A look at a radio station. 

BEHIND THE SCENES AT OLDIES 99.9 

After the article below was written, OLDIES99.9 was purchased by Clear Channel Communications and changed format. At USBOOMERS, we have received e-mail asking for the old format to come back. If you would like to make a comment about the new format, please send your e-mail to the VP of the new 99.9, Mr. Rick Musselman rickm@999thehawk.com . Please be constructive. Their statistics show an significant increase in listeners with the new format, but we miss the oldies! Their website is 999thehawk.com. Look there for information on the Christmas Spectacular to benefit Camelot House. (Lehigh Valley, PA)


Ever Wonder?

In the Hot Seat
The Daver's Many Hats
Henry Callie: General Manager
Burning Up the Airwaves
Ever Wonder?

Switch on the radio, pick a station, and you're listening to your favorite songs.

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes? The folks at Oldies 99.9 in Lehigh Valley, PA were nice enough to show us the answer.

Oldies 99.9 broadcasts 50,000 watts of energy over the Lehigh Valley. Lehigh Valley residents can be proud of their local oldies station. Most oldies stations gain 4 to 5% of market share. Oldies 99.9 spring 2000 ratings were a remarkable 9.3% market share- among the highest in the nation.

The Daver at the broadcast consoleIn the Hot Seat

Local Disc Jockey celebrity, "the Daver", was my guide at the station. The "hot seat" for the live DJ is a surprisingly small room packed with electronic equipment, computer screens, and mixing boards used to combine different audio feeds of music, advertising, filler, and the voice of the DJ. Most of the music is played directly off computer storage although special CD's with 28 songs each are available to the DJ. Flashing lights signal the doorbell, telephone, dead air, or emergency broadcast information.

Living up to his reputation for constant motion, the Daver was a never-ending flurry of activity during his on air time. Much of the broadcast schedule is prearranged and controlled by computer. But the DJ must be always attuned to the countdown to the next live announcement. I think the Daver actually did break the speed of light when nature called with less than three minutes left on the countdown.

The Daver's Many Hats

In addition to being a DJ, the Daver is also the station's chief operator and resident enthusiastic inventor.

As chief operator, the Daver keeps the station operating and meeting regulations. There is daily checking, adjusting, and tweaking of rooms filled with electronic cabinets characterized by indecipherable lights, switches and dials. This is no problem for the Daver whose interest in radio and electronics started as a child whose friend had a basement radio station broadcasting at under one-tenth of a watt. Completely legal under FCC regulations, this tiny station could cover only a couple of blocks.

The Daver earned his electrical engineering degree at night while working full time and is the stations designated inventor. The flashing doorbell lights, the dead air alarm are all creations of the Daver. But the masterpiece of this enthusiastic inventor is his millennium clock.

FM transmitters high on the AM towerThe Towers

Setting above Lafayette College hill are two towers, the tallest being 400 feet and the other much smaller. Oldies 99.9 has a sister AM station, WEEX, a talk show format at AM 1230. I assumed one of the towers was AM, the other FM. Not so. The FM transmitters are disk like structures mounted high on the tall tower. The station's AM license is directional. Both towers transmit an AM signal, but the one signal is transmitted to partially block the other, effectively canceling out the transmittal in directions that are not authorized.

The AM station is fully automated with the talk shows supplied by satellite feeds. I hope this type of technology is not the beginning of the end of the live DJ. Without the Daver and others like him, it just wouldn't be as much fun.

In 1999, as we were all counting down to the year 2000, someone at the station came up with the idea of a large countdown clock to be taken around for local advertising. This idea was clearly profitable and so simple that there was great concern that the idea would be stolen. The project was codenamed "Flasher" and the Daver assigned to invent and build such a clock.

The Millenium Clock at a local promotion eventStarting with a tiny timing chip, and the inventor instincts fully unleashed, the Daver was able to take and decode the outputs, amplify the signals, power the lights, modularize the design, and create a portable, take apart millennium clock of impressive proportions. The secret project was a huge success.

When the station participates in charity softball games, the Daver is well known for wearing a different and bizarre hat each inning. How fitting that, both on the field and off, he is a man of many hats.

Henry Callie: General Manager

With a career starting as a seventh grade teacher, to sales person, to general manager, Henry Callie was well regarded by the staff I spoke with. The station has about 24 full time employees and several part timers. There are currently no interns, although an intern would be welcome. Organized into Sales, Programming, Business Office, and Promotions, the team has clearly functioned well to achieve the station's 9.3% market share.

For TV, viewer habits are recorded by Neilson boxes atop viewer's sets. How's it done for radio? Henry explained that a company called Arbitron conducts four surveys a year by having viewers write down their listening choices in a diary. In the midst of our electronic world, there's still a place for pen and pencil.

What about the rights to play copyrighted music? Henry told that almost every recording artist is affiliated with two companies: ASCAP and BMI. So the station simply has contracts with these companies to gain the rights to play almost any song.

I asked Henry what was his proudest moment as general manager. He referred to the annual Christmas Spectacular concert. This concert hosted by Oldies 99.9 and is a fund raiser for the Camelot House, a local Allentown, PA. charity founded in 1987 as a gathering place where sick children can find love and support to help them and their families face their problems. Last year's concert almost doubled the contribution from any previous year. Being able to hand Camelot House a check for $72,000 dollars was the event Henry chose as his proudest moment. That choice says a lot about Henry Callie. Camelot for Children
2354 W. Emmaus Ave.
Allentown, PA. 18013
610-791-5683

"A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove - but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child."


-Sign in Camelot House

Burning Up the Airwaves

Joey Mitchell, Jay Sands, Gene Kay are all radio legends in the Lehigh Valley from prior decades. Oldies 99.9 brought back Joey Mitchell for a special "Legends" week. Resurrecting a penchant for romantic songs, Joey hosted "Lover's Gold". It must have been quite a show because it set the broadcast console on fire. Now, the Daver told me it was just because of a stuck "off" button, but I prefer to believe it was those beautiful romantic oldies heating up the airwaves.

Special thanks to Henry Callie, the Daver, and salesperson Debbie Kay for their support of this article. 

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