That’s My Home Town
Lisa Wheeler’s radiouseonly.com shares her radio compilation collection with the world.
We’re always glad to see orange on the tower, that means victory,
Austin Municipal Airport is buzzing with activity,
The K-N-O-W is a modern sound,
Of Austin, Austin, that’s my hometown
If you love Austin and you really love radio, it’s hard not to get just a bit choked up when you hear “Austin My Home Town,” a 1961 vinyl recording made for Austin’s KNOW 1490 radio station.
The recording is on a 45, and it might never have reached eardrums again if not for Lisa Wheeler. Wheeler started a Web site to share her collection of records put out by radio stations across the country called radiouseonly.com. The project began two years ago when Wheeler, who used to work in radio, began collecting.
It was a common practice for many years (which continues today in the CD/MP3 era) for radio stations to put out novelty records as well as collections of music by local bands with chatter by DJs.
What started as a way for Wheeler to list the the contents of her albums has grown: She started a blog on the site that includes clips from records as well as interviews with DJs and musicians. We spoke to Wheeler about her site.
What was your background in radio?
My first radio job was changing reel-to-reel tapes at a “beautiful music” station in Pueblo, Colo., in 1980 — I was 19. From there I did time at stations in Colorado Springs, Amarillo, Midland-Odessa and Austin (KLBJ-AM from 1991-1994).
How did you first hear about these kinds of radio compilations?
Throughout my high school years, I would spend my summers with my grandparents in Dallas. Back then I religiously listened to KZEW-FM. One summer, while shopping for albums, I found a KZEW LP, and picked it up for my record collection. Ironically, I completely forgot about the record until about two years ago, when I rediscovered it — that’s when I decided to start the Web site. It got me wondering just how many radio station compilations were out there.
I’ve always been a record collector. After rediscovering the KZEW LP, I started collecting radio station compilations. Before too long I had about 100. I began to search for more information, on the Internet, about these albums — and I found nothing. So I decided to create my own online collector’s resource.
How did you build the site, and what skills did you learn to put up audio samples from your collection?
I credit quite a bit of the design of this site to my husband, Bryan. We have quite a creative partnership. I put together the layout concept, and he designed all of the logos. We used Adobe Dreamweaver for the HTML, Adobe Illustrator to create the graphic elements and Adobe Photoshop for the other images. To capture the audio for the 45 pages, I dub off the vinyl through Roxio’s CD Spin Doctor and then convert that into an MP3 in Apple’s iTunes.
Has the Internet helped you expand your collection? Do you troll eBay for these kinds of recordings?
We are really blessed to have so many used record stores in Austin. I’m all for buying local, so I’m usually trolling around Friends of Sound or End of an Ear on any given Saturday. Plus the Austin Record Convention is a must for anyone looking for anything ever recorded on vinyl. At the last show, I scored 14 never-before-seen radio compilations. It’s a fabulous local resource.
After I found as many as I could around town, I started searching on eBay. Now I have a little over 400 in my collection. Last year, I decided to expand the site to include 45s put out by radio stations, so that’s been a lot of fun discovering and collecting those.
What makes a good radio compilation?
I’m incredibly nostalgic. A good comp to me is something that’s somewhat of a time capsule of what radio once was — musically and visually. Quite a few of these show pictures of disc jockeys in wide-lapel suits and muttonchops of the era. And then there are the pictures of the audio boards and reel-to-reel players and cart machines that are almost all obsolete now.
Do radio stations still make a habit of putting out recordings like this on CD or online or has the practice died out?
Radio comps are still incredibly popular: Look at the success of the “KGSR Broadcasts” CDs!
Who are your readers and what kinds of things have they shared with you?
When I first started the site, two years ago, I heard mainly from record collectors, folks who had never heard of these discs and were surprised to find so many. Then when word got out, I started to hear from the disc jockeys, and the band members who appear on these records. It got me thinking, what ever happened to them? So I started a blog this year where I interview the former DJs of these stations and the bands who were a part of these music compilations.