I’m just old enough to have played a 78 RPM record as part of a radio show. It was 1983 and I was working at my first full-time job at CJRL, a 1,000 watt full-service radio station in Kenora, Ontario. Part of my evening shift was to operate for a guy who hosted a Ukrainian music show at 6:30 on Tuesdays. Every week he’d show up with a stack of 78s from the old country–no sleeves, no jackets–and then using pantomime gestures (he spoke no English) directed me which records to play.
The fragility of these records terrified me. Most were made the old-fashioned way. The primary ingredient was shellac, bound together by a mixture of cotton fibres and powdered limestone. They were as brittle as thin bone china. I remember the night I broke one. I thought my host was going to strangle me.
I bring this up because I’ve discovered an online radio station that plays nothing but 78s. Radio Nostalgia, based in the Netherlands, has a playlist that only features material recorded between 1900 and 1958. The program material is genuine 78 RPM records, complete with their original surface noise and scratches.
This is the way radio used to sound way, way back in the day. It makes for some fascinating listening. If fact, I’m enjoying some Tommy Dorsey right now.