In previous From the Crates columns, I’ve written about my memories and experiences at wonderful concerts at some of Atlanta’s prime venues from back in those days.
Wherever you enjoyed your first concert, I feel fairly safe in saying that you were listening to the radio when you first heard—and heard about—the group or performer you were going to see. More than likely, in the ’60s or and ’70s, their hits were heard on AM radio, because that was before FM stations started playing not only singles, but cuts from albums.
Yes, we actually played 45s on the air!
Chances are they were “stock” copies, just like the ones you bought and played at home. But there were special copies made just for radio station use, too. Those promotional copies were unusual. Some had the same song on both sides—one side had a mono recording, the other was stereo. Most had “intro times” on them to inform the on-air person how many seconds they had to speak over the beginning of the song.
We played records a lot, and after much use, a hit record often accumulated pops and scratches that didn’t help the song quality. If you heard a song broadcast that had a fuzzy, crackling sound at the beginning, the term for this noise was “cue burn.” We had to “cue the record” to the right location on the single so it would immediately begin once we started the turntable.
Quite often a record was marked to show whether the song faded at the end or ended abruptly, with what we called a “cold ending.” If the records didn’t have this information printed on them, it could be written on the label by hand, or—to really look professional—with a typed sticker.
All the information helped an on-air person to run a “tight board.” The enemy of radio is “dead air,” when nothing is being broadcast. The sound of silence is the worst radio nightmare. Silence occurred when someone wasn’t paying attention or didn’t have enough song length for a bathroom break. We just hoped for long songs when we had to pee.
Now, back to the vinyl.
Record stores were ample in the ’70s and ’80s. The bigger groups back then included Record Bar, Turtles, and Franklin Music. There were the great old family, or “mom and pop” stores. Jim Salle’s Music Store in Buckhead is where you could buy 45s, albums, instruments, and concert tickets. Clark Music on the square in Decatur was another local fave.
For a nominal fee and obligation to be a regular customer, Columbia House record club could allow you to purchase albums by mail for mere pennies and a subscription to buy more. We had Richway stores, K-Marts, Zayres and other discount places that sold vinyl. Sears stores sold records and tapes. They also sold musical instruments. I remember shopping at Sears on Ponce de Leon and in Buckhead.
Peaches Records and Tapes, the “mother ship,” opened in 1975. Not only could you find any album by any artist known to mankind, Peaches offered merchandise included clothing and the highly coveted Peaches record-storage wooden crates. Most major artists that were touring through Atlanta would hold promotions there to meet their fans, and, of course, offer plenty of fresh copies of their music for purchase.
By the late ’70s, there were around 45 Peaches locations. They closed in the early ’80s, but longtime Atlantans still tell stories about Peaches.
Vinyl has made an amazing comeback in recent years as some fans think the old records sound better than new methods of delivering music. I recently read an article that said even cassette tapes are returning, so I guess we can look forward to seeing more long strands of skinny tape on the side of the road.
I also must mention the 8-track tape. Yes, the convenience of playing them in your car or home was wonderful, “scratch free” and convenient but it did take years for me to be able to listen to some songs without the anticipated interruption that would happen midway through the tune as the next “track” began.