I was born the same week that "Fire" by The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown hit #2 on the charts. Robert Van Winkle (Vanilla Ice) would be born nine days later. For what it's worth.
My parents gave me my very first cassette recorder. It was one of the small rectangular portable machines, with the speaker at the top, the cassette mechanism in the middle, and the buttons at the bottom. It had jacks for a microphone, an earphone, and an auxiliary input, and even had a neat level meter so you could record at the right volume. I dwell on these details because it was this little machine that started me down the road of musical obsession. You can still find these things for a few bucks at thrift stores, and in my opinion there is no better gift for a little kid than a cassette recorder, a mike, and a pile of blank tapes.
By now, I had amassed a large collection of portable AM and FM radios, and would routinely wire everything together with the 1/8-inch plugs and an unwieldy mess of cables from Radio Shack. To my prepubescent ears, the good stuff was on AM, and I loved WABC (77) and WNBC (66) in New York. To this day, there is no more joyous sound than Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" blaring out of a radio.
Someone gave me cassettes of "Grease" and "Saturday Night Fever", which didn't get played all that much. I thought records were way cooler than cassettes, and I got my first record player at Radio Shack at some point in '78. It was one of the black plastic "Clarinette" models that only played records (no tapes or radio), and had detached speakers that were permanently wired into the back of the cabinet. I would later upgrade to a cheap BSR "component" system, with a turntable that earned the nickname "The Grinder".
I bought my first two 45s: "Y.M.C.A." by the Village People, and "Le Freak" by Chic. Oddly enough, both songs still pack a dance floor to this day. My next two choices were less inspired: "My Life" by Billy Joel, and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond. For the next 8 years, I would visit the local Caldor store and buy the highest-ranking 45 on the Caldor charts that I didn't already own. One or two 45s a week, rain or shine. Please order by number. I kept buying them at the rate of about one or two a week until they fizzled out in 1993.
I was 10, and was a happy camper at Deer Mountain Day Camp in Rockland County, New York. Lo and behold, Deer Mountain Day Camp had a tiny carrier-current AM radio station - WDMC! The counselor who was in charge had about 20 albums, two turntables, a microphone, and a silver Numark mixer with a "talk" switch on it that knocked down the level of whatever else was playing when you wanted to talk. I thought this was the greatest thing since grape Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum (did that even exist as far back as 1979?) At some point during the summer, they gave us kids a tour of the local Rockland County radio station, WRKL-AM (91). I was floored. The inside of the radio station was littered with old 45s, and they gave all of us two promotional 45s each. I got promo copies of Leif Garrett's "Memorize Your Number" and Lynn Anderson's "I Love How You Love Me". There's nothing quite like the white-label promos (or the blue Atlantic label on the Leif Garrett single), and I would treasure those 45s for years.
I discovered American Top 40 on WXLO-FM (99X) in New York. Revelation! It was as if the voice of God were speaking to me through my radio and saying, "I'm Casey Kasem." I began writing down the positions of the songs every week, and somewhere in my mom's house, I still have the enormous loose-leaf binder full of years and years' worth of chart positions. Since then, I've bought a handful of books with the same information in it, but there's no replacing the loose-leaf binder.
The PBS television station in New York ran a few reruns of a British sitcom called The Goodies, which remains to this day the funniest thing I have ever seen on TV. Up until recently, I thought the whole show was gone and forgotten, but a few episodes have turned up on video, and I got to see a few. It's more like a rated-G Benny Hill than I remembered and less like Monty Python, and it's still outstanding. (Thanks to the many listeners who helped fill in some of the Goodies details.)
I helped DJ my first party with a friend of mine. Steve Adelman formed DJ Flash in northern New Jersey in 1984, and I would help Steve at his live gigs for the next few years until I went off to school. They were mostly Sweet 16's, and we could play what we heard on the radio and it would work just fine. I seem to recall playing a lot of Mary Jane Girls. Steve took up break dancing, and I would work the music while he'd spin on his elbow. Those were the days ...
I was in my first semester at the University of Rochester, and was a founding member of the Ultimate Frisbee Team. Ultimate didn't last long for me, though, because I discovered the school radio station. WRUR-FM (88.5) was a fairly typical college station, with black-wearing DJs playing college-type music. There was a carrier-current AM counterpart to the station that served mostly as training ground for the FM station. I found out that there was practically no interest in WRUR-AM (640), and I could practically own the place if I wanted. Woo-hoo!
I did my very first radio show ever, on a Saturday at the crack of noon. Beforehand, I had taped up a few homemade posters that proclaimed, "Ron Is On", and gave the appropriate time and station info. I used the station's records, since I hadn't brought any of mine from home. It's interesting to me that the music I would play on my show really wouldn't evolve much from that first show. I played a 12" version of a Human League song, an obscure B-side from Phil Collins, and some fine pop songs from Julian Lennon, Duran Duran, and Howard Jones. To this day, I still sing the praises of a well-written pop song, and I go out of my way to find alternate versions and obscurities. Of course, none of this was clear to me on the first show, and I did my best to play the records at the right speed and minimize the silence between tracks. Plus, I only screwed up once, by turning off the turntable that I had just started.
I ran unopposed for Program Director of WRUR-AM. They were right - I owned the place! Over the next two years, I would train 119 DJs on the basics of broadcasting, as if I were qualified to do such a thing. The training was mostly common sense, and the simple principles that I laid out for the new DJs still hold true for me now: Cue records up so that the needle sits 1/4 of a turn before the first sound appears. Do short, concise, breaks every other song. Know what you're going to say before you turn on the mike. Don't ramble. Always wear your headphones. Pull enough music from the library to fill your show - about 20 songs an hour. Stick to your format.
WRUR-AM put out its first Program Guide in many many years. The philosophy was simple. I gave each DJ a two-hour block. In the first week or two of the semester, the DJ was responsible for coming up with a show title and a format, both of which had to fit inside the box on the program guide. We then ran off about 1500 copies of the program guide and slid one under each dorm room door. Simple.
WRUR got its first CD player. It was a Magnavox machine that had big red LEDs on the front, and no model number. We rigged it up to start remotely from the board, but it was mighty flaky. It was replaced a few years later by some Technics machines, but the first one was pretty exciting. Unfortunately, a sad aspect of CDs is that it killed off the promotional 45s - there was a definite progression from 1986, when there weren't any CDs at all in the station, to 1990, when the promo CD singles had completely replaced the promo 45s. Sad.
I ran a show on WRUR-FM called the Graveyard, which ran on a weeknight from 12-3 AM. It was a novelty at the time because I freely played disco music; there was no "retro" on the air in 1989. I also DJed parts of the last four Dance Marathons that the University of Rochester ever held ('87-'90). I also did one guest show with my friend (and rock group Deth Boat founder) Jason Candler, on WNYU-AM (830?)
During the last semester of my senior year in college, I got my first and only paying job on the radio - I ran the board from 6-10 PM weeknights at WPXY-AM (1280) in Rochester, NY. The station was the AM counterpart to Top 40 WPXY-FM (98PXY), and the format was the painful "Music Of Your Life". The music and talk breaks came off a satellite feed, and my job was to run the appropriate commercials and promos during the designated clock breaks. Sometimes I got to read the weather, but my speaking parts were pretty minimal. As you might imagine, the fringe benefits to a job at a radio station were terrific: I had the 98PXY Weather music bed on my answering machine at school. I got dozens of promo CD singles. I recorded a bunch of music beds and synthesizer blasts from the 98PXY production libraries, some of which are still used on my Crap From The Past IDs. I picked up the musical shorthand used to identify cue points on the songs. And most importantly, I learned that radio is not all that much fun unless you get to pick the music you play.
I spent a year in St. Paul, Minnesota as part of my Master's program, and I worked for HBO Audio and Video DJing weddings and Bar Mitzvahs and whatnot. I bought my first and only tuxedo, and it still fits. It was in First Avenue, the Minneapolis nightclub where they filmed parts of "Purple Rain", that I first heard Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Needless to say, the sound of modern rock changed quite a bit after that one song.
Returned to Rochester, NY to finish my Master's, and returned to WRUR-FM. Only now, I called my show Crap From The Past, and I got a plum time slot of Fridays 2-4 PM. The first show ran on January 31st, and the response was overwhelming. Within 3 months, I had so much phone response that the show was 100% requests, which was totally unheard of for a 970-watt college station in Rochester. For the last show on May 8, I heard stories about people walking down the halls in the dorms, and hearing CFTP playing from every room. Creepy! By then, WRUR had a nice pair of Technics CD players, and the majority of music came from compilation CDs, about half of which I had bought over the border in Canada.
I think a lot of CFTP's initial success came from being in the right place at the right time. I figured that "retro" would eventually come back into fashion, and I was intent on being right there at the forefront when it did.
A lot of CFTP's success belongs to former WRUR Chief Engineer Dan Duperron, who suggested that I actually call the show Crap From The Past, since that's what I played. Dan's a genius! His title has since given my show the personality that is so sorely lacking in some of today's canned retro shows, and I can't overstate his contribution to my radio career since then. Kudos to Dan!
The 1992 shows jumped between musical reverence and musical abuse, and there was rarely a song that fell between the two camps. The good songs got their praise, which usually amounted to "What a great song", and the duds got a barrage of sound effects, screaming, and "What a bad song". There was no need to expand much beyond that simple atmosphere, since no one else in the "retro" world was even close to us back then. It's funny how today's canned retro shows still live in that simple world, and don't feel much of a need to expand, either musically or in the commentary.
The most popular songs from the 1992 WRUR shows were "Come On Eileen", "Stayin' Alive", and "Whip It", which received five plays each, or about one play every three weeks. The musical palette was rather limited back then.
Moved to Tucson to get my PhD at the University of Arizona. Bought a pair of good sunglasses. You don't realize how bright it is in Tucson unless you come from dismal Rochester. Did Crap From The Past on the U of A's school radio station, KAMP. KAMP was available only on the local cable TV system, as the background music to a text screen. I doubt that anyone outside the KAMP studios ever heard the show. It was a one-hour show, usually right before lunch on a weekday.
The most popular songs from the KAMP shows were "One Step Beyond" and "Play That Funky Music", which received three plays each. Repetition was decreasing, and the music was slowly moving away from what would be known as commonplace retro tunes.
I worked at Tucson top 40 station KRQQ-FM (93.7KRQ) as an unpaid intern every Thursday morning. The morning show, Mike & Jimmy, was hosted by Mike Elliott (formerly of Q105 in Tampa, and later owner and PD of WBZN in Bangor) and Jimmy Kimmel (later of KROQ in LA, Comedy Central's "Win Ben Stein's Money" and "The Man Show", and ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live"). Betsy Bruce did the news, and the producer was Curly (a.k.a. Chris Patyk, later music director for Star98). Despite the pain of waking up at 5 AM and then driving across town, I thoroughly enjoyed working with these guys. I was also a call-in character, Mr. Science, who would give them factually correct but completely useless information, like "Deer have no gall bladders." It appears that they were far too hip for station management, and naturally we all got fired. Betsy stayed at KRQ mornings, and the rest of us moved on. I also worked briefly doing a retro night in a club in Tucson, Sgt. Pepper's. Good sound system, bad name.
I moved my Mr. Science character to Power 1490, an AM hip-hop station, but that never gelled, then to KKLD94.9, a mix station run by Bobby Rich that had a pleasant demeanor but not a lot of edge. I soon lost interest in the Mr. Science character, after an erratic run of over 70 short bits.
Crap From The Past ran on community-run KXCI (91.3 - 50,000 watts!) in Tucson. It ran on the second Friday of every month, from 10-midnight, as part of "The Tough Tulip Audio Revival," all hosted by like-minded retro people like myself and show owner Steve Shannon. The show had a cool set of liners, read by then-overnight guy Chris Wilcox from KKLD. Since they only ran once a month, the shows became an event for me, and I put a lot more work into these than I had on any of the earlier shows. The show became less crazy/wacky and more informative, and I began to dig up some nice obscurities from the pop world. At this point, there were other retro shows on the big commercial stations, and they were content to live in the crazy/wacky world.
Out of 575 songs that aired on the KXCI shows, here are the most frequently-aired, along with the number of times I played them. All the others aired only once or twice:
4 GOODY TWO SHOES - Adam Ant (1983)
4 I KNOW THERE'S SOMETHING GOING ON - Frida (1983)
4 THE SAFETY DANCE - Men Without Hats (1983)
3 99 LUFTBALLONS - Nena (1984)
3 CONJUNCTION JUNCTION - Jack Sheldon, from Schoolhouse Rock (1974?)
3 GENIUS OF LOVE - Tom Tom Club (1982)
3 I WANNA ROCK - Twisted Sister (1984)
3 KUNG FU FIGHTING - Carl Douglas (1974)
3 ON THE LOOSE - Saga (1983)
3 RAPTURE - Blondie (1981)
3 SATURDAY NIGHT - Bay City Rollers (1976)
3 SWITCHIN' TO GLIDE - The Kings (1980)
3 TAINTED LOVE - Soft Cell (1982)
3 TARZAN BOY - Baltimora (1986)
3 WHISPER TO A SCREAM (BIRDS FLY) - Icicle Works (1984)
3 YOU DON'T WANT ME ANYMORE - Steel Breeze (1982)
I got the opportunity to see Stevie Wonder on his "Natural Wonder Tour" at the Gammage Auditorium in Phoenix, and I can't imagine there could ever be a better concert than this one. I still get chills thinking about it.
I finished my PhD and got a job with Eastman Kodak in Rochester, NY. Sure enough, one or two people remembered me at WRUR, and they gave me a nice time slot - Wednesdays 6-8 PM. I was on right after one of the former students that remembered me, Adam Boardman (also of WHAM, Rochester, and later of The Edge in Buffalo). His show was "Air Raid" and he went under the name "Siren". He'd usually sit in with me for the first half hour or so. He considered himself to be a "rock historian", and I thought of myself as a "pop historian", so we took great pride in the reams of trivia that we unearthed. He regularly used Dick Dale's version of "Hava Negilah" as a closing theme song, so you can imagine his surprise one week when I used "Hava Negilah" as an opening theme song, as done by Percy Faith in 1975 on his album "Disco Party"! I also did a weekly retro night at a Rochester club, Freak-A-Zoid (they would never let me call it Crap-A-Zoid, though), and wound up doing one guest show with a guy named Pete at RIT's radio station, WITR-FM (89.7).
I got a job in Minneapolis, and I toiled in obscurity at community-run KFAI-FM (90.3 in Minneapolis, 106.7 in St. Paul) for almost two years waiting for a time slot to open up. I did some production work, and was one of the engineers for the weekly community access hour, The Wave Project. For some reason, I was invited to sit in and do a short CFTP segment on one of the KFAI morning shows, with Tom Barth (later moved to Chicago) and Stacey Taylor (later of KFAI's "Ultimate Contact"). It was a truly upsetting experience for the KFAI audience, hearing Crap at 7 AM. It was a winter day, and I remember describing the weather as "It's gonna be cold outside, so you better throw a few more cats on the fire." I was not invited back. I did some production work with KFAI's Nancy Oleson, and engineered the first episode of "Mom-bo" that was submitted to the Pacifica Network. I began producing 15-minute CFTP segments for the KFAI website in May 1998, and stopped production of the shorts shows in April 1999, because...
... "Crap From The Past" got its own weekly time slot on KFAI. Sunday nights from midnight-2AM was less than ideal, but I was lucky to get a time slot at all on a station that veers violently away from pop music. For what it's worth, that's Monday mornings from 7-9 AM (drive time!), if you live in France. The show has introduced me to a few fellow radio people, some of which have co-hosted or guest-hosted the show. From KFAI's "Friday Night Poker Party", I've had Babs and Dangerman on the show. From 770 Radio K's "Cosmic Slop", I've had Chuck Tomlinson and Joel Stitzel on the show, and I've co-hosted Slop as well. I even did two Saturday afternoon CFTP shows (May 13 and July 1, 2000) on short-lived KSMM (1530), a daytime-only station in the southwest suburbs of Minneapolis. Mondo Kudos to KSMM PD Brad Savage for having the chutzpah to put me on the air and letting me trash his format for an afternoon or two. I doubt that I'll ever be given such an opportunity again.
This website crapfromthepast.com was put online. I became neither rich nor famous, but now it's easier to find me.
The show celebrated two years in the same time slot. Out of boredom, I compiled a list of all the songs I've played, and it numbers over 2600. Out of all 2600, there are only fifteen that I've played four times or more, and here they are along with the number of plays they've gotten:
6 SAUSALITO SUMMERNIGHT - Diesel (US#25 in 1981)
6 HUBBA HUBBA ZOOT ZOOT - Wesley Willard and the 709s (Did not chart in 1982)
5 I CAN'T STAND THE RAIN - Eruption (US#18 and UK#5 in 1978)
5 SHOULD I SEE - Frozen Ghost (US#69 in 1987)
5 GLORIA - Umberto Tozzi (Did not chart in 1979)
4 MURPHY'S LAW - Cheri (US#39 and UK#13 in 1982)
4 SUPERMAN - The Clique (B-side of a chart hit in 1969)
4 BOYS DO FALL IN LOVE - Robin Gibb (US#37 in 1984)
4 AH LEAH - Donnie Iris (US#29 in 1981)
4 YOU BE ILLIN' - Run-D.M.C. (US#29 and UK#42 in 1986)
4 STAR - Stealers Wheel (US#29 and UK#25 in 1974)
4 YOU DON'T WANT ME ANYMORE - Steel Breeze (US#16 in 1982)
4 YO LITTLE BROTHER - Nolan Thomas (US#57 in 1985)
4 CHILDREN OF THE SUN - Billy Thorpe (US#41 in 1979)
4 RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES - Wax (US#43 and UK#60 in 1986)
Now THAT's a playlist that I'm proud of. And I only played the Diesel and the Wesley Willard that often because I get loads of requests for them. Otherwise, I'd like to think that CFTP stands alone in its little bottom-of-the-pop-charts universe.
To celebrate Cinco De Mayo, I did a show entirely in Spanish, including the music and all the talk breaks. It's far and away the most terrifying thing I've ever done on the air, but it sounded pretty good.
I did a show called "Silent Night, Holly Knight", which consisted entirely of songs written by pop songwriter Holly Knight. Shortly after the show ran, I corresponded a bit with Holly Knight herself. She seemed very appreciative (although I don't think she liked being lumped under "Crap From The Past"). It was my first real contact with any of the artists I play, and I enjoyed it. Shortly afterwards, I heard from a former member of the Dynomiters, and a former member of the Extras. (The posted playlists on this website have been paying off!)
The show turned 10 years old, and I did my first, and probably last, all-clips show. For the hard-core fans only.
CFTP celebrated 3 years in the crappy Sunday nights at Midnight time slot. Out of more boredom, I tallied up the playlists from the past year (3/01-2/02), and here are the most-played songs:
3 FIGHT THE POWER - Barenaked Ladies (1993)
3 DON'T WANNA FALL IN LOVE - Jane Child (1990)
3 THINK (ABOUT IT) - Lyn Collins (1972)
3 GOOD TIMES - INXS and Jimmy Barnes (1987)
3 AH LEAH (Live) - Donnie Iris (1981)
3 IF I ONLY KNEW - Tom Jones (1994)
3 SUPERNATURAL BLONDE - Marvelous 3 (2000)
3 BAD BOY FOR LIFE - P. Diddy, Black Rob and Mark Curry (2001)
3 I WISH - Stevie Wonder (1977)
Everything else got played only once or twice, and I counted 1120 songs total for the year. How's THAT for your no-repeat workday?
Starting with the Oct 4 2002 show, CFTP moved to Friday nights at 10:30 - one of the highest-profile time slots on the station. Fame? Riches? Whatever. At least I won't be dopey on Mondays anymore.
CFTP got picked up by an affiliate in New Zealand, raising the show's status to 'syndicated'! (Kinda.) CFTP airs on Saturday nights at 7 on GoldRush Radio (91.1 FM and 1440 AM, Lawrence, Otago, New Zealand). We're very honored to be on the air there.
CFTP got picked up by the Shander Radio Network! We're now heard Saturday mornings at 8:30 on 1620AM, KFHX Radio, Fountain Hills/Phoenix, Arizona! As well as a few other stations across the country! Ain't life sweet?
Cosmic Slop, the finest 1970's show in existence, retired, after 12 years of playing "forgotten pop". Hosts Chuck Tomlinson and Joel Stitzel did Slop on Sunday afternoons on Minneapolis's Radio K. They're both good friends of mine so I can still talk to them, but Sundays haven't been the same since.
The guy who was hosting the "archives" section of this website for the past two years lost his free T1 connection. Uh, oh... After some panic, I found archive.org, a fabulous free website dedicated to this sort of thing. We upgraded everything in the process: no more crappy RealAudio 3.0 files (although there are still a few left on the website), now everything in a variety of compressed and uncompressed formats. Quite a sonic upgrade, and all because Mike in the tiny town of Bath, New York lost his T1! Change is good.
We got Steven Greenberg on the show! He wrote, produced, and played nearly all the instruments on "Funkytown". He lives here in Minneapolis, so I asked him, and he agreed to sit in with me, for 90 minutes, live in the studio! Woo-hoo! Add this one to the short but happy list of other interviews I've done - pop songwriter Holly Knight, and tragically-unknown power pop giant D.L. Byron.
This website got a facelift, making it look like it was written for DOS. Silly.
I managed to get a phone interview with Thomas Dolby! Yes, THAT Thomas Dolby! We came through town on tour, and I got a half hour of his time on the phone beforehand. We padded the interview out with music and filled up an entire 90-minute show. Science!
CFTP picked up an affiliate in Germany. We're on Friday nights on Radio700.eu! According to their website:
Radio 700 - Nachtclub "Crap From The Past" mit Ron "Boogiemonster" Gerber
Die Sendung aus den KFAI Studios in Minneapolis mit Popmusik, fur Leute, die schon viel uber Popmusik wissen.
How cool is that?
CFTP picked up an affiliate in Liverpool, England. We're on Saturday nights at 10 on "All 80s Nova" at 80snova.co.nr! First the Beatles, now Crap From The Past!
CFTP picked up an affiliate in Dodge City, Kansas. Welcome!
Ron lost interest in keeping up this page. Best to just listen to the shows.