Friday, July 26, 2019

Soul on the Air #25 ... Bob Allen and Joe Thomas, WAUG, 1967

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"Soul on the Air" returns to the blog with a wonderful treat. "Get on Down ..." reader and aircheck enthusiast Matt Laube contacted me today with news that he had a rare soul aircheck to share with all of us, one that he found on a tape that came along with some vintage equipment he'd acquired. The tape, which featured the featured aircheck and some Armed Forces Radio Network material, was in very bad shape and ended up ruined by the time he'd managed to play it in order to digitize it - thank goodness he was able to retrieve this aircheck, though, before the tape was destroyed!

WAUG was an Augusta, Georgia radio station that began in 1952 and aired on AM and FM frequencies until 1980 (the calls now belong to an urban talk station owned by St. Augustine's University in North Carolina). It appears that 'AUG had several formats, including a soul format in the '60s and a Top 40 format in the '70s. I speculate that the station's switch from soul to Top 40 came as the result of James Brown: in my research, I learned that when Brown bought Augusta radio station WRDW (one of three he would eventually own - WJBE in Knoxville and WEBB in Baltimore were the other two), 'AUG filed an objection with the FCC, alleging that Brown would prevent the station from playing his hits! I'm sure having a competing soul station in the relatively-small market (whether or not 'AUG could play James Brown records) was significant cause for the station to make the format switch, and the station thrived with it's new sound, proving to be a close competitor to Top 40 station WBBQ, which stayed on top of the ratings in Augusta for over 35 years.

I know absolutely nothing about Bob Allen, whose October 8, 1967 appearance on this station seems to be a one-off: near the end of the aircheck, WAUG DJ Joe Thomas begins his show and states that Allen was doing an on-air audition for a Sunday afternoon DJ slot, along with others who had sent in audition tapes. It appears that Allen did not get the job, and the aircheck reflects possibly why not: despite the fact that Allen seemed to enjoy the chance to entertain his listeners, his performance did suffer from a lack of clear diction, occasional mishaps on the board (including one where he botches an "instant replay" twin spin of Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"), and a tough time reading news copy. That being said, he wasn't awful, and he moved things along well during this portion of the two-hour audition. (If anyone knows what may have come of Mr. Allen, or Mr. Thomas, for that matter, please let me know.)

Fortunately, I know a lot more about the music and fun that fills the aircheck. There are a lot of good tunes played by Messrs. Allen and Thomas here, including the aforementioned Aretha Franklin record, "Dirty Man" by Laura Lee, "Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie" by Jay & The Techniques, "Tell Him" by Patti Drew, "Casanova" by Ruby Andrews, "Get Down" by Harvey Scales & The Seven Sounds, and "Little Ole Man (Uptight-Everything's Alright)" by Bill Cosby. As usual, there are some cool commercials, news breaks, and a three great station promos done by William Bell, Bettye Swann, and "The Soul Sisters," a local high school group(!), respectively.

Although the fidelity of this recording leaves a lot to be desired, and the middle portion is clearly running at a slower speed than the rest, this is truly a rare gem, and I thank Matt for graciously sharing it with "Get on Down With the Stepfather of Soul!" (Thanks also to Dave Hamel for editing the airchecks into a cleaner-sounding, single file.)