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The Making of CRUISIN' Revealed!!!

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a Cruisin' fan from England. Here's what he wrote:

Hi
 
I was very interested to see your website about the Cruisin' series, which I remember fondly, and I was wondering how the various albums came to be put together, particularly the ones from the early years. I'm talking about the vinyl, not the CD's, which I've read Ron Jacobs' comments about.
 
Take as an example the 1956 album featuring Robin Seymour at WKMH. I always knew it wasn't an aircheck from an actual show, nor a composite of several shows. Ron's comments confirm that it's more a re-creation / simulation of a typical show of the period, and that's what it's intended to be. I read on your website that the 1956 album was one of the first seven in the series released in June 1970, so do you know when Robin actually recorded it?
 
I always assumed the recording dated from the era represented, or soon after. Now I figure it must be much nearer the time the Cruisin' series was conceived, maybe 12 or 13 years on? I probably wouldn't have thought anymore about this, but I just discovered from the Media Preservation Foundation Collection on the Reel Radio website that some of the Futursonic jingles featured on the 1956 album in fact date from 1959, others possibly later. Would this be regarded as a mistake, or just artistic license in creating the right sound and style?
- Alan

Well, in all matters technical regarding the CRUISIN' series, I turn to our "technical advisor": the one, the ONLY, Bill "Cap'n Billy" Hergonson, whose name you'll recognize from some of the credits on the CRUISIN' liner notes. And I must admit, I've often wondered this myself. What's the scoop, Bill?

Lee,

I did Cruisin' 1955, 1963-64,65,66, & 67. It was 1970-72 for those, where they were recorded in the same studio as American Top 40. But I can answer the question in GENERAL.

The toughest part of Cruisin' series was getting the old COMMERCIALS and JINGLES. ALL of the Cruisin' albums are recreations...however, there are some portions that are actual airchecks. I can only speak for the ones I recorded, but on Cruisin' 1965, Robert W. Morgan, KHJ, which I recorded* (and we considered the best of the series, because it was the original DJ, PD and 15ips TAPE MASTERS of the Johnny Mann a'cappella "Boss" jingles), there is a portion near the end that features "The Real Don Steele" calling in regarding the "Boss Mustang" and THAT is a snip of real, 1965 aircheck.
The FIRST series - 1956, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62 - were recorded sometime in either late 1969 or early 1970 before I worked at Watermark. Any errors in jingle packages from that early are probably due to the absolute lack of original material. If you've ever spent any time in a radio station, you KNOW that the chances of a master tape of jingles surviving is miniscule.
The early Cruisin' series from this FIRST round of releases were mastered so that the track change on an 8-track player would hit at the end of a segment and then start the next segment on the next track. This is because Jacobs saw people actually CRUISIN' to these on 8-track (this is BC...before cassette) in their cars and wanted to maximize the experience. The series I worked on the only consideration was side 1 and side 2 of an LP.

One other thing...we usually DID listen to old airchecks of these guys to really, truly "get it right." Especially true of 1963, B. Mitchell Reed, WMCA, NY. Most of the raps were transcribed word-for-word from an old "Good Guys" aircheck. Again, we used some actual clips on the record (The "Good Guys" singing "East Side/West Side/All Around The Town..."). The names of the listeners were real, contest winners, etc. No wonder people THOUGHT they were airchecks (our greatest compliment) but THE DEAD GIVEAWAY...too FEW commercials!! I'm sure if any of those people, who were kids at the time, bought the record, they were jolted out of their shoes. My PERSONAL favorite...1967, Dr. Don Rose, WQXI, Atlanta. We futzed around with THAT recording for days and days, and actually took it to Studio West in Kearny Mesa and ran it through their concrete echo chamber to get the echo as "wet" as the old Top 40 stations. I met "Dr. Don" some time later at a convention. I didn't record his voice tracks, so I hadn't met him before. He LOVED the finished album...his only comment, "I was never that tight on the board myself...you made me sound great!"

All the albums were pre-planned by Jacobs based on the music he had license to, the jingles he could get, paying this weirdo in Ohio a small fortune for old commercials, the great "cartoon series" cover art...it was a HELL of a lot of work and very well done by Jacobs. After the playlist was set, he'd line up the other elements and then we'd voice track the DJ. The albums were assembled on a two-track Sculley mastering machine at 15ips per side. I consider the CRUISIN' series to be Jacob's true legacy to the business. I was glad to be a spear carrier in the opera and have a hand in radio history. Plus, if you've ever heard rumors, Jacobs could be a VERY interesting guy to work for. "One Take City" for the engineer, my friend! (Then try working for him as a morning DJ!!) But when all is said and done, these albums are absolutely as accurate as we could make them at the time.

*The Morgan album was mostly recorded in the production room of KGB AM/FM, San Diego. Dr. Don Rose was recorded in San Francisco, LA and San Diego.

Yours Truly,

Bill 'Cap'n Billy" Hergonson

Thanks, Bill.

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