Bill Eberle, host of Radio Showtime and Classic Country, has been a DJ at WVKR since 1989. We caught up with him to talk about his twenty years at the station.
How did you get involved with WVKR?
I used to work with Doug Price at IBM, and he had and still does have a show, Blues After Hours, Friday evening, so he invited me one day to come to the studio and watch him, and I did. Doug knew that I had a collection of old time radio shows on tape, so he talked to the people here, and I was asked to do a show. I was a little hesitant about the fact that I would have to give a commitment, and then there was sometimes copyright things that I might have to worry about, but Doug talked to me a few days later, he says, “Why don’t you do it Bill?” He says, “I’ll go with you the first day,” so he did, and it turned out pretty well. And he said, “You need theme music.” And I said, “Well I know what that is, the William Tell Overture, the theme music for the Lone Ranger, my favourite show.”
Why old time radio serials?
I grew up with the radio before television, and my brother and I would listen to the shows. Matter of fact, sometimes we’d be playing outside with some of the other neighbour kids, and somebody would say, ‘It’s 7:30, it’s Wednesday! Or Monday, or Friday,” and we’d go over to somebody’s house and listen to the Lone Ranger.
You have to use your imagination, that’s the biggest thing. What I liked about the Lone Ranger, Fred Foy would describe to you exactly what was happening, and they had excellent sound effects, so when the horses were riding through the stream, you could hear it – you could hear the water – of course someone’s making the sound. In fact, I interviewed Fred Foy, and he said that they had a bathtub there, and they had a guy who’d put these boots on, and they would walk around to get the sound effects of the sloshing water, of horses going through. There were a lot of good shows out there, and as a little boy, I enjoyed listening to them.
What kind of changes have you seen over the years at WVKR?
The equipment has changed! And of course it seems funny to see the students come in and to see them disappear, and here we are. But it’s nice, it’s a nice combination between the students and the community DJs. The equipment has improved; we used to have – the parts were knobs. It gets worn out because so many people go through. And now we have more automation than we ever did before. Late at night, they just didn’t have anything …And I tell people I had dark hair when I started.
What are your hopes for old time radio for the future?
That we find more shows, that would be nice. There are certain shows, like Fat Man and Straight Arrow, only a few of the shows survived. In other words, they didn’t have everything documented, they didn’t keep records of everything they produced. And sometimes one of the producers have it, or one of the actors, and when they die, it gets found and it gets pooled. And the audio quality, I try to improve it sometimes – sometimes the recordings are not too good – but there are still digital things which still helps a lot.