Music doth have charms
"Good afternoon. KXRQ, FM." "This is Sheriff Hagedorn. Who's responsible for all that music up there?" "I am, sir," I answered proudly.Skip to next paragraph
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"Well, shut that stuff off right now!"
Wait a minute, I thought. He's screaming. Stop being so proud for a minute and find out what he's trying to say. And so, in my deliberately cool and mellifluous FM radio voice, I softly intoned, "Don't you like Art Tatum?" Wasn't it enough, ipso facto,m that the sweet sounds of the great jazz pianist were being broadcast throughout the airwaves -- that this brilliant jazzman, this pianiste d'orchestre,m was displaying his virtuosity with an extraordinary sense of harmony? Whatever on earth was the sheriff screaming about? If he didn't like jazz, why couldn't he change to another radio station?
"Who's in charge up there?"
"I am, sir."
"I want to talk to your engineer."
"I'm engineering, sir."
"Then shut that stuff off. Now!"
"I can't." My radio voice got swallowed up by my scared littlem voice.
All of this occurred only a few years ago -- before the present time and acceptance of lady broadcasters. That was the reason for my pride. The ineluctable fait accompli!m Girl disc jockey. Me.
"Are you still there?" He was becoming a thunderous drum roll on the phone. I couldn't answer him. Because the record was coming to the end. I had to turn the left pot down at the precise moment it ended, not touch the mike pot, turn the right pot up, and segue into Benny Goodman.
"Lady. . . ."
"I'm segueing," I answered sweetly.
"There! That blaring horn!" Sheriff Hagedorn screamed again.
"That's a clarinet, sir. It's cool."
"Cool . . . schmool . . . it's blasting all over downtown. Shut that thing off!" He hung up.
I had one angry sheriff after me and I still didn't know why.
I cued up a tape for a public-service anmouncement, turned on the mike pot, and adlibbed a few of what I thought were clever bon motsm of my own and a few quotes from great authors that I had carefully gleaned from my paperback edition of "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations." That's cheating, I know. When it was a real up day, I would play happy jazz interpersed with a line like, "Music is well said to be the speech of angel."m Thomas Carlyle.And then do a tight segue into a Chris Connor vocal of "I Hear Music." I was having a good time.
But this day was during the week of the Christmas holidays, and Christmas music was pouring out over the city loudspeakers for the gaiety of the shoppers. Sonic-tone, the poor man's Muzak, was piping it out. It was going also into the restaurants and into the offices and into the stores. Its monolithic tape deck with its creaking, slow-moving reels was directly behind where I was sitting and running a board that looked like the controls of the Star Ship Enterprise. In addition to running the radio broadcast, I was also responsible for changing the Sonic-tone reels. It was only my first week.
A little later, the red light on my phone flashed again.
"Sheriff Hagedorn, here. Why haven't you shut that noise off yet?"
"I don't know what you mean. It's not noise."
"You're jazzing Erroll Garner all over town."
"Oh, you know Erroll Garner? This one's 'Shadows,' with Kelly Martin as percussionist. . . ."
"Look, miss, my phone's been ringing off the hook.You've got drums and horns and . . . that's notm Christmas music! I'm coming up there."
He was coming up to arrest me, it sounded like. And whatever for? We had the best jazz-collection library for cities around and one terrific all-jazz FM radio station. The engineer had taught me well. Girl disc jockey was keeping the log, running the board, and monitoring the sound meters. I had practiced diligently at home, using books and cards marked for all of the dials and switches. I just knew I was doing it all right. And I was running a tightm show. That was important in radio. I had learned to modulate my voice for the best possible effect -- since I was the only girl deejay around. Wary of the sound of female announcers -- that the world was then.
More immediate was the problem of why the sheriff was coming up to the tower studio.
I was in the midst of selecting a track from Thelonious Monk's "Brilliant Corners" when Sheriff Hagedorn, ignoring the "ON THE AIR" exploded like Mt. Vesuvius, pouring himself into my little FM control booth. Our engineer was with him.
I pointed to the album in my hand most calmly and asked, "'Bemsha Swing?'"
"No, 'Little Town of Bethlehem!'" he roared.
The engineer swiftly headed toward the Sonic-tone tapedeck behind me. He pulled a lever.
Somehow, with all those dials, I had switched my radio broadcasting into the background music airwaves -- all over the city streets. Into the restaurants and into the stores. Jazz, quotes, and all.
"Girl," Sheriff Hagedorn said, "Please, go home."
Well, I didn't. I stayed and learned to run that board like a pro. No amateur girl deejay, I. And I'm still proud. Because I think, in one small way , I was a part in paving yet another way for all us girls.m Oh . . . the sheriff never called me again.