Monday, August 18, 2008

KCAC Tapes Digitized!

A drum roll, please, and perhaps a brass fanfare: I have finished digitizing all of the KCAC tapes from the Jeff & Jennifer Crawford collection. It took a long time, and the results leave a lot to be desired technically. Nevertheless, the tapes now exist in a reproducible format, and the digital copies are safely backed up in a number of locations. Jeff and Jen and I are in talks with the Arizona Historical Society about permanently archiving the masters. We'll also try to find a way to make at least some of the tapes (or a collection of highlights) available on line, subject to technical limitations. Some of the files are huge - the biggest file is almost 176,000 KB and it contains over three hours of uninterrupted audio in mp.3 format.

There are 17 tapes with a total run time of about 55 hours. They consist almost entirely of public affairs programming, news, announcements, interviews, and advertisements recorded between June 1970 and August 1971 (with a pretty strong emphasis on the period running up to Election Day 1970). There is very little music - the taper usually stopped the recorder 30 seconds or less into the first song of a set, then resumed recording when the music stopped. There are three notable exceptions that I'm aware of so far: (1) some live-in-the-studio music from the mighty Beans; (2) portions of a special Christmas collage by Bill Compton on 12/23/70; and (3) KCAC's final sign-off on 8/14/71, with a long and beautiful set of music chosen by Bill to say goodbye, and which the taper fortunately captured in its entirety.

Few of the tapes have been systematically indexed yet. It was all I could do to manage fragile tapes, cranky software, and tape decks on their last legs during the digital transfer process. In fact, the tapes had to be played back at double or triple their recorded speed, resulting in Alvin & the Chipmunks-style gibberish that was later slowed down electronically. There was no time to actually listen to a given tape all the way through, list its contents, and figure out the broadcast dates and personnel. (That's the next big task!) The three treasures I described above are merely the ones I found while spot-checking the results, so hopefully there are many more of these special moments waiting to be discovered.

There are more KCAC tapes out there. I know for a fact about some of them; others are just tantalizing rumors that, if true, could add another couple of dozen hours to KCAC's recorded legacy. Got tapes? Please let me know via the "comments" section below, and let's work together to get them copied and preserved.

Thanks again to Jeff & Jennifer for their foresight and generosity. Without them, this audio archive - 55 hours of prime KCAC!!! - wouldn't exist.



Marty said...

We all owe Tom a huge thank you. He has worked really hard to resurrect these tapes which all the rest of us had given up for dead. It took a professional archeologist to have the patience and vision to put himself through what Tom has done. Tom started out as a listener, making his own tapes of KCAC and the early days of KDKB while he was listening, and he serves as a reminder to those of us who work on the air of the impact that these stations and others can have on people's lives. It cetainly gives me a thrill to have been a small part of that. And while I agree with those who say that we shouldn't be living in the past, it certainly is nice to be able to visit. Great job, Tom ...THANKS!

Dan said...

Tom , I have some old reel to reel tapes with some 1976-1977 KDKB airplay. The 1976 KDKB aircheck on the KCAC blog is one of the tapes I sent to Gary Pheifer a while back.. I'll dig up the old tapes and see what I can find. Dan

vagabondvet said...

I'll second that! Well said, Marty. And no, you're not chopped liver, at least not that I've heard! Thanks, Tom. You really are a rock... er, you really rock. I'm impressed by your efforts, know you've spent a couple thousand hours on this (let's see, at a professional rate of say $45/hr that would make quite a bundle!), and trust that it'll be rewarding for a lot of people. Way cool, Tom.


vagabondvet said...

Oh! And Dan! That's awesome, you've got MORE tapes!!! And I'll bet Tom thought he was gonna get a break from all this, right? Ha-ha!


Jeff and Jennifer Crawford said...

Mission Accomplished! Hope to hear the gaps that other tapes, reel to reels come up.
Preservation is a good thing here to keep it alive.

Tom Wright said...

Thank you all for the kind words. I'm still doing some final adjustments here and there, most notably trying to even out the more extreme volume changes. On some of the tapes you have to turn the volume up to 10 to hear a faint segment, then BOOM there's a sudden edit into something recorded at eardrum-shattering volume. Once I get this done (hopefully over the weekend) I will start making copies on disc so everyome can hear them.