Radio Lonesome Dove by
| At the television
station in El Dorado, Arkansas we had a studio full of people every night. It
was usually like a bee hive with announcers, control room personnel, camera operators,
floor crew members and guests buzzing around the place.. Sometimes I longed for
a little peace and solitude.|
Be careful what you wish for.
the radio station in Monroe, Louisiana I sat alone each night in the middle of
a cotton patch. I worked from early evening until midnight. The first several
hours were filled with network programs. By this time almost every household in
the county had a television set. Hardly anyone listened to network radio anymore.
The droll sound of the programs reminded me of the sight a poor soul sitting on
the curb waiving a flag long after the parade had passed by. In the brief breaks
between programs I gave a station identification, read a commercial or two and
that was it until eleven o'clock. Then I played recorded music for an hour and
signed the station off for the night. After a few weeks of this I felt as if the
walls were closing in on me. Peering out the window became my favorite pastime.
was a dirt road with a fork in it leading to the station. When I saw car lights
approaching I held my breath while waiting to see which branch it would take.
Almost every time the car veered away. I watched sadly as the taillights faded
into the darkness.. On the rare occasion when they took a turn my way it was a
reason for celebration. "Hooray, a human being is coming!" Sometimes it was the
engineer who came to perform routine maintenance but more often it was someone
who took the wrong fork in the road. I would try to prolong the inadvertent visit
as long as possible. I didn't care who it was as long as I got to see another
human being for awhile.
When I shut down the station for the night I headed
for my lonely apartment. Actually, it wasn't really an apartment. I had only a
bedroom in a big old house and I was the only tenant. Many times I lay on my bed
and stared at the walls. It felt as if all the air had been sucked out of the
room. The ones who meant the most in the world to me had been stolen away like
a thief in the night. Sometime the gloom was so consuming I could not stand to
remain there another minute. I would dress, go to my car and just drive around
aimlessly. This seemed to help somewhat but sooner or later I had to return to
my dismal dwelling.
Before I decided to rent the room I asked my landlady
if I could have use of her kitchen so I could prepare my own meals. With all my
financial obligations and child support payments eating in restaurants was out
of the question. She agreed. but I sensed a bit of reluctance. When I came back
from the store she took one look at my sacks of groceries and bristled. She threatened
to renege on our agreement I told her I would have to find another place to stay.
I didn't mean to be disrespectful to a woman old enough to be my mother but that
was the way it had to be. She backed off. From then on there was an air of tension
between us. Shortly after that I found she had a drinking problem and often forgot
what was discussed previously.
My social life was virtually at a standstill.
I had been single for some time now and I figured I should be thinking about moving
on with my life and to pull myself out of the darkness. I learned much too late
that people seem to sense desperation and gloom in a person. I must have reeked
of it. Try as I might, nothing went right with any of my attempts at sustaining
an affiliation with anyone. I had forgotten how to act single. I still felt married
and I'm sure that shined like a beacon to everyone around me. At the time I couldn't
figure it out though. With one failed try after another I soon cultivated a profound
inferiority complex. I decided to concentrate all my energy in the direction of
my work instead.
I started to look for a way to breath life into my mundane
job at the radio station. As I lay awake one night searching my mind I thought
of something I had long forgotten. Years before I entered the radio business my
father listened to baseball games on the radio. He sat there completely engrossed
in the exciting action. I knew it was actually done with nothing more than sound
effects and the announcer ad libbing an account of the game from a news ticker.
My dad would not believe it when I told him. I could understand why. A complete
description of everything going on was related in vivid details; the pennants
blowing in the breeze, the pitcher shaking off signs from the catcher, the outfielder
squinting into the sun as he catches a pop fly. It seemed all too real to be anything
else. I had that one hour before midnight to fill and It dawned on me that I could
apply the same technique to create what would sound like a live radio show with
the great singers of that era.
I sat through the boring network shows
each night with excitement building toward that final hour that was all mine.
At first I used only applause and cheering but I noticed when that faded out there
was an awkward silence. I had to create the constant noise level in the lull between
songs just like I had heard many times on the Louisiana Hayride broadcast. When
that was worked out I also found a way to get the reverberation needed to make
it sound as if it were coming from a big auditorium. Each night at eleven the
show would open with lively theme music and my announcing the line up of stars
for the evening. With hardly a pause I introduced the first performer to the sound
of a wild cheering crowd over the opening notes of the song. I must admit that
the finished product was full of excitement and energy and I got caught up in
the spirit of the whole thing.
In the beginning I was practically doing
the show for myself but it wasn't long before people started talking about it
and then the word spread. The other radio station in town had a much larger audience
than ours because of their Top 40, all music, all the time format. That all changed
at eleven o'clock each night. I was told you could hear radios all over town switching
over to our station. Even at this late hour people were staying up to listen.
It seemed to be contagious.
For the first time since I came there the
phone starting ringing constantly. People wanted to know where the show was so
they could come and see it. They wondered how I got such much great talent all
on one concert. I was honest with them and revealed how it was all done. Some
refused to accept that explanation. It was the greatest compliment I could have
received. As far as I know it was the first presentation of its kind anywhere
in the country. My roller coaster ride was once again at its peak.
confidence and my social life began to improve somewhat.