“And now for your listening pleasure, “Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra (Mozart) III. Rondeau – Allegro” by Alexander Murray, flute and Ann Yeung, harp, with the Sinfonia da Camera of the University of Illinois: Ian Hobson, music director.” Barry sat back and began listening to the interplay between flute, harp, and orchestra, Mozart was a favorite of his and this piece reminded him of why he has studied music through his life. After five minutes he rose and walked out the door of the studio and into the equipment room. The hourly inspected only took five minutes and he duly noted the readings of the gauges on the maintenance log. His other love had been ham radio and he had taken pride in obtaining his first class FCC license at the age of 18. He had been one of the youngest to pass that test. That was the reason why the radio station had hired him over several others who applied for his position. He was licensed to work on the transmitter if it broke down during the night. Saved the owners from hiring a third shift engineer.
Barry walked out the back door of the station and looked up at the night sky. He was thinking about bringing his telescope at night and perhaps doing a little star gazing between the recordings on his play list. The night was partly cloudy, a lot of haze from the city’s light pollution. Maybe when the station moved to the top of the Crown Height’s building there might be an opportunity to benefit from some reduced light pollution. He looked at his watch, ‘time to get back in and see if there were any calls on the request line.’ Barry had taken two steps toward the studio when he heard the telephone ring. As he settled into his chair he picked up the receiver and spoke, “WCAL request line, what’s your pleasure for tonight?”
“Hi, I’m Charlene and i work graveyard at the McConnell Corporation. We listen to you as we, us repair clerks, that is, prepare the morning’s loads for the technicians. The girls and I would like to hear the Telemann’s William Tell suite if that’s alright with you.” the voice was soft and warm to Barry’s ears, almost beguiling in its sound quality.
“I’ve got the Bach fugue coming up next but after that I’ll play the William Tell Overture. Would that be okay with you?”
“Yes, we would love to hear it, it gives us that bit of excitement to carry us past the three AM mark, if you know what I mean.”
“Thank you for listening and calling WCAL”. With that she hung up.
The next night the same voice called about the same time. “We would like to hear Bizet’s Carmen Suites, would that be possible?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact I’ll play it next if you like.” Barry was pleased when real people called in to request some piece of classical music. It meant that they were listening to his show, not that he was all patter and prattle. ‘No, let the music speak for itself.’ was his thinking.
The same voice called about the same time each night and requested a wide range of of classical music. and each time Barry was happy to comply. He spoke about this experience to the manager one morning, “It’s most gratifying to have people call in and request their favorite classical pieces, I feel as if I am reaching out to people. By the way, do we have money in the budget to acquire these recordings?” The station manager merely smiled and said he would see what he could do.
Barry passed the studio and saw Claire looking up from her desk. The next recording was beginning to play and so he turned to enter the studio. “Hi Barry, how’s graveyard going?” Claire was one of those eternally pert and chipper women whose happy banter seems to have no end of energy. Barry smiled and replied, “How’s our lady of perpetual happiness?”
A radio personality is just that. He sat down in the chair across from her desk. “I think my audience is growing.”
“What, more insomniacs? I thought you always put them to sleep.” A wry grin clearly showed on Claire’s face. “I hope those extra listeners translate into better ratings for you, the station could use the money.”
“Your sunshine is spilling over this morning. I may have to soon wear blinders when I sleep today. True, I’ve been getting a few more calls at night. A couple of women working the night shift over at McConnell have been calling in requests, so I must be doing something right.”
“You mean like answering the phone.”
“Oh you are a mean sunshine this morning. What’s the matter, did your day break?” They both laughed a little at that tired and worn out pun. “I’ve got to go, run a couple of errands this morning.” Claire turned back to the microphone, she had an ad to inset before the next recording.
Over the following month Barry became busy with all the requests every night. More graveyard workers from other businesses were calling in, asking for specific recordings. His new found audience please the station manager and the salesman added a couple of new accounts for Barry’s shift. There was less and less talk of the need to sell out to one of that giant corporate media outfit, Clear Channel, the king of canned radio. And small changes came over Barry, barely noticeable at first, and then out in the open. Claire took to calling him ‘Mr Moonshine’ for that energy and romance he injected into his show.
Then one night Charlene called in with her usual request but before hanging she paused and the asked it he would like to have breakfast with them. “We always go to Al’s over on Market. It gives us a chance relax a little and Al serves a good breakfast along with the Manhattans he makes.” For the first time he, as a radio personality, was speechless. “I’d love to come. I can be over there by seven thirty if that isn’t too late.” He hesitated, “Or too early.”