Whole Lotta Legends: Cousin Brucie and Tony Orlando on WABC Saturday Nights
This time around we’ve got mostly good news. Since September, Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow has been back on the air at WABC AM, after a 45-year absence. Morrow is one of the all-time-great rock ‘n roll disc jockeys, and it’s a pleasure to hear him in his element on Saturday nights. The Cousin’s career developed coevally with a really important phase of rock history. He likes to play mostly 50s – 60s-era classics: sparkling soul, some Doo-wop, lots of majestic Burt Bacharach/Phil Spector Wall of Sound production. At any rate, Morrow, who is in his 80s, sounds like he’s having a lot of fun. He knows how to set up a song, he helped invent the format. Judging from the high volume of calls, the audience loves it, too. Aging boomers phone in to share their medical gripes and memories of how they used to listen to Brucie in their teen years. It’s really touching to hear listeners (the “cousins”) talk shop Brucie with about the best home jukebox.
Last Saturday, legendary crooner Tony Orlando called in to announce his upcoming show following Morrow. The two talked about how they have known each other over 61 years, and the love and affection was genuine. Orlando also credited Brucie with helping to start his career, giving him his first-ever shot on stage when he was a teenager (hear it out here, around the 59-minute mark).
For its part, WABC radio is barely promoting Tony Orlando’s Saturday night spot. Their website doesn’t mention it at all, which is a shame. Morrow and Orlando both credit station owner John Catsimatidis with setting up the roster. It’s unclear if this is yet another vanity move on the billionaire’s vanity station, akin to gobbling up a rare work of art. Catsimatidis is willing to push programs that have few listeners when he agrees with their message (just check out Rudy Giuliani’s weekday program, which often has more useless public service announcements than paid advertisers). In the case of quality music, WABC could probably attract actual advertisers—though Morrow’s show currently carries ads for life insurance, and an occasional conservative political book. For a a solid chunk of time every Saturday night, one of the worst stations in NYC is transformed into something that is quite good. Check out Cousin Brucie, Saturday nights, 6 -10 and the Tony Orlando Show, premiering this Saturday, Halloween, 10- midnight. WABC 770 AM.
Here’s some classic Tony Orlando & Dawn to whet your appetite.
Bacharach is back
Speaking of aging Rock n’ Roll legends, Burt Bacharach just released a new tune at 92 years young. Bacharach’s “the Great Divide” tackles the American conundrum, and as a result, will probably get zero airplay on WABC radio or on similar outlets. Bacharach’s work with Dionne Warwick is some of your editor’s favorite music, period. The fact that he is able to create work of such a high caliber at 92 years is mindblowing. Not sure I’m crazy about the vocalist, but to his credit, he doesn’t over-sing, as so many contemporary vocalists seem to do.
Check out this gem from Bacharach and Dionne Warwick and ponder: how the hell did humans make such beautiful sounds?
Tom Robbins, Deadline New York
This past Monday, investigative reporter Tom Robbins, also a legend, launched his Deadline New York: Tales of New York from a Veteran Reporter. Robbins has broken stories at the Times, the Daily News and the Village Voice, and knows NYC politics as well as anybody. The maiden broadcast featured a round table of heavyweight reporters discussing their roles covering president Trump since his early days as slumlord and developer. WBAI, 99.5 FM, Mondays, 5 p.m.
Democracy Now, heard on WBAI had an informative segment with reporter Ari Berman on what this week’s Supreme Court rulings on mail-in ballots might mean in terms of how your vote may or may not be counted. Weekdays, 8 a.m., WBAI, 99.5 FM.
Hardware Review: Bluetooth Beauty and the DX’ers Dream, by Dick Alexander
While we are generally focused on analog radio here at Freq-Amp we realize that some readers may be listening to the radio via their phones or other devices or heaven forbid even listening to their own music collection from their computer. With that in mind the first piece of gear up for review here is a Bluetooth receiver with very flexible output options that can be connected to a component system or pretty much any audio setup. The Dayton Audio BTR01 is a Bluetooth Audio receiver, which offers excellent lossless audiophile high fidelity with sampling rates of up to 48kHz/24-bit at a very reasonable price in a very small package. This powerful little unit is 4″ wide, 1.5″ high and 2.5 inches deep. It is powered by a 12 V DC wall wart, and has three separate output options, analog out via RCA cables, and two digital outs via an optical out and a coaxial out. The front panel has a power button which doubles as a switch between analog and digital outs. I just purchased this unit for $57, including shipping from Parts Express and can honestly say I am thrilled with the results. Listening to the new Lee Perry dub album, Heavy Rain right now on my home stereo from the computer via the RCA output option into the amplifier, the results are quite stunning with super warm bass response and delicious highs and mids. There is truly a round analog quality feel to the audio. Definitely a sweet little piece of gear at the right price.
Next up we have the C Crane CC Radio-2, a four-band analog radio with AM, FM, 2 meter VHF band and weather band. Dimensions are 11″ w x 7 ” h and 4″ deep, while it is regarded as a portable radio it’s not going to exactly fit in your pocket. Renowned with DX’ers for its ability to pull in distant AM stations, it consistently scores at the top or near the top of side-by-side long distance AM comparisons with the best radios. The 2-meter VHF band is a good way for the novice to explore Ham radio. Audio quality is pleasant with separate bass and treble controls. Powered by AC or alternatively 4 D Cell batteries. For FM reception there is a long telescopic whip antenna and it has two points at the rear for an external AM antenna and a ground. Also there are an aux input which allows use of the speaker by an external device and a line out. Five large buttons across the top are for station presets.
For tuning there are two buttons: up and down, hold down a button for more than 5 seconds and the radio will begin scanning plus there is a large dial for precision tuning. A small screen, which gives a digital read out of the exact frequency tuned, one of the few criticisms I have of this radio is that after 10 seconds this screen goes blank so you cannot see which station you are currently tuned to without touching the dial again. This screen has a light with a switch that is entirely independent of the power switch and so can remain on when the radio is powered off. Another excellent piece of hardware, this radio is suitable for a desktop or possibly pride of place in the kitchen, nothing like listening to some chill tunes on Zoomer radio from Canada while prepping the dinner.
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