Black reminisces about the good ol’ days of radio
Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Ralph Black was happily playing music with the Auburn Knights Band when opportunity came knocking.
Opportunity didn’t exactly come knocking though; it came from a saxophone player with the band.
At that time, Black was an audio engineer with Auburn Public Television. The saxophone player alerted Black that WAUD, the “Big Wad” needed an announcer.
That was the beginning of Black’s long and storied career in radio and as a voice of WTBF Radio, Troy.
Black was the program guest of the Brundidge Rotary Club Wednesday. He shared his journey from the days of reading commercials “on the air” to his attempts to master the “devil box.”
“Back in 1964, we read every commercial live,” Black said. “All of the commercials were written in a notebook. We’d have to thumb through the notebook to get to the commercial to be read. You could hear the pages rattling on the air.”
Black told of the days of floppy discs that were actually “floppy.”
“You could wad the discs up and throw them in the trash can, then get them out, straighten them up and use them again,” he said. “The way the discs flopped, if you were in a hurry, you couldn’t get the disc in the slot in time.”
But better times – or different times – were coming and Black said he is amazed at the changes that technology has brought to radio broadcasting.
“Now, you can be riding down the highway and come up on a situation and phone it in from the road on your cell phone,” he said. “That’s how much times have changed.”
Black dropped a few names, names like Toni Tennille and “Pappy” Talbot.
He knew Toni Tennille when she played with the Auburn Knights Band and long before she hit the big time and changed the pronunciation of her surname.
“I saw her years later and asked her why she pronounced her name, ‘Ta-neil,’” Black said, laughing. “She said that’s the way it should be pronounced. The people in Alabama just didn’t know and pronounced it ‘Ten-al.’”
Black said Talbot, who was a cracker jack radio announcer on WTBF, was his idol.
“Pappy is 94 years old and his mind is just as sharp as ever,” Black said. “I’d like to get him back up here so folks could get a chance to talk to him. That would be a real treat.”’
Black said country music continues to be the music of the South and Steve Flowers and Robert Earl Stewart are the most popular analysts on WTBF.
Even in today’s world of ever-changing technology, Black said radio is holding fast.
“There will always be a place for radio because it’s local,” he said. “Radio will never go away. It’s here to stay.”