blind_html Fwd: Charlotte FM radio pioneer silenced

  • From: Nimer Jaber <nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blind_html@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, BC Shuttleworth <shuttleworthb01@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 07:27:33 -0600

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:        Charlotte FM radio pioneer silenced
Date:   Wed, 29 Apr 2009 10:04:20 -0000
From:   Ray T. Mahorney <coffee-craver@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Reply-To:       Blind-chit-chat@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
To:     <Undisclosed-Recipient:;> <>

One of the voices of old-time Charlotte radio has gone silent.

Calvin Walker, who worked at 10 local stations and outlived most of
them, was found dead in his home Monday. He was 62 and had been in
failing health.

During his heyday in the 1970s, he was a pioneer of the new FM sound of
album rock. It was called "underground radio" in those days, an
undisciplined blend of emerging groups like Grand Funk Railroad, Led
Zeppelin or Black Sabbath.

Even as a child, Walker was fascinated by radio. At age 12, his voice
rode invisible waves on a new ham radio, and he was hooked.

In 1963, as a student at Myers Park High School, he took a job sweeping
floors at WGIV-AM. One day he found an empty studio and pretended to be
a DJ, recording introductions to songs and ads.

He forgot to take the tape home. WGIV's production engineer found it,
listened to it and was impressed. At 17, Walker took a job as a
professional disc jockey at WGIV.

He later moved on to the old WIST-AM, WAYS-AM and WRNA-FM -- the latter
which became the old WROQ-FM, one of the first album-rock stations in
the Southeast. There, he went by the name "Calvin," and was among the
first to use a slow, soft-spoken, whisper-in-your-ear patter -- creating
almost a conspiratorial conversation with listeners.

"He did a show at night that was the beginning of album rock in
Charlotte," recalls Larry Sprinkle, longtime Charlotte broadcaster and
forecaster on WCNC (Channel 36). "The way he modulated his voice, it's a
style nobody uses any more. He had his mouth right up to the mike.
Nobody else could do that technique."

It was an era before corporate masters made the play lists; Walker chose
his own music. In a time when most stations would play no song over
three minutes, Walker would air the entire 11-minute version of "The
Pusher" by Steppenwolf.

"He was one of those free spirits in radio," Sprinkle says. "He was
always a little ahead of his time. He broke format. He was always
playing innovative music."

He left WROQ in 1980 and resurfaced a year later at WPEG-FM with a jazz
show that ran for seven years, then moved on to WRFX-FM. He also did a
stint in New York as a producer of the old National Lampoon radio show.

His final radio gig lasted a decade on WXRC-FM, a show called "Tunes
From the Attic." That's where the show actually originated from. He had
built a studio in his attic and spun music from his voluminous collection.

But radio had changed. And Walker didn't like what the industry had become.

"He was pretty bitter about the corporate mind-set," says Jim Huggins, a
friend and former radio colleague.

"Massive companies were buying up radio stations. He felt like he didn't
have the kind of freedom to be creative and have fun. He felt left out."

After leaving WXRC in 2005, Walker posted a note to friends on a
radio-insiders Web site.

"I finally quit the radio business after watching it change from a fun,
creative and popular industry to be in, to an automated, and humiliating
place to hang my hat ... I have vowed to never again enter a radio
station ... Thanks to Clear Channel, Infinity, and all you other idiots
big and small who have ruined the radio business."

Sprinkle says he thinks Walker died feeling unappreciated for his role
in Charlotte radio. "He was one of these people who might have been
overlooked and shouldn't have been. He was an innovator and was there in
the beginning of Charlotte FM radio, and left us without that recognition."

Walker never married and had no living relatives. He often told
acquaintances he was the end of his line. Friends are organizing a
memorial service for next week.

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