Gene Garnes spent 1979-1987 as an engineer at 66 WNBC. It's a family tradition passed down from his father who spent 37 years at NBC Radio. He has gratiously put together some information on the history of engineering and operations at the Big 66.
WNBC RADIO ENGINEERS
I first joined the WNBC Radio Staff on October 27, 1979 as a Studio/Field Engineer. The line-up of engineers at that time were:
William Krause Chief Engineer
Oliver Tyler Supervising Engineer
Michael Bock Maintenance Supervisor
Prior to September 1979, the AM & FM Radio Engineering staffs were combined and there was much interchange between stations. You might start your shift on the FM side (WYNY-FM) and finish up on the WNBC side. When the FM station moved upstairs to the 9th floor in September 1979, the staffs were split up and little interchange occurred (although it should be noted, the labor agreement between NBC and NABET did permit interchange at any technical facility in New York, the big hang-up was each department reimbursing the other for the costs involved).
Responsibilities Of The WNBC Radio Engineering Staff:
The engineers at WNBC Radio had probably one of the most interesting jobs in radio at that time. They were represented by the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians(NABET) and as such operated most of the technical equipment at the Studios, transmitter and at most remote sites. They were responsible for all technical on-air operations, news, production and maintenance of the studios and transmitter.
WNBC Studios- A Perspective:
The studios for WNBC Radio were originally located on the 2nd floor at the 30 Rockefeller Plaza location.
In 1963, WNBC Radio moved upstairs to the fifth floor to the then new Radio Central Facilities which were combined with Network Operations. The engineering staffs were completely interchangeable, that is, they were assigned to both Local and Network operations. The Radio Central complex had 4 primary studios, Studio 5A, which was used primarily for WNBC Radio; Studio 5B, which was used for production and the weekend "Monitor" Network broadcasts; Studio 5C, which was used primarily for NBC News On The Hour. Studio 5D was a "dummy" studio, in that there was a console which could run any studio whose board should die. In later years, 5D was used for feeding out sectional commercials to the network. Additionally, there were two "Announce Booths"; 5A announce and 5B booth (which was hardwired to the 7th floor Radio Recording Department as a "loudmouth").
In 1970, WNBC Radio moved back to the 2nd floor to their new studios. The original configuration was Studio 2A, which was used for production and the Long John Nebel and Brad Crandall talk formatted shows. Studio 2B, was based on the WABC concept of having the engineer in the same room as the talent for music shows. Studio 2C was used for production and public affairs tapings. Studio 2CT (Tape) was used for news production. Studio 2D came along later and became the first stereo production studio for the radio station. The RCA BC 7A console for that studio came out of radio network studio 7R and was used for a few years before being replaced with a more modern console.
In later years Studio 2C became the on-air studio while studio 2A was being rebuilt with state of-the-art equipment. Studio 2B remained as part-time air and production. It is important to note that all of the studios had glass between the engineer and talent with the exception of Studio 2B. There were 2 announce booths at the radio facility for use by news anchors and staff announcers (NBC Radio used Staff announcers for many announcing chores both at the Network and local radio AM & FM Stations up to 1988).
By 1978, Studio 2A was completed and became the new on-air studio. It was an all-cart operation without the traditional turntables in the control room. Just 6 ITC cart machines. The console was a McCurdy stereo console. In 1982 Studio 2C was rebuilt entirely with a Pacific Recorders BMX 22 console to complement the control room. Series 99 ITC cart decks were used along with MCI reel to reel tape machines. In 1984 Studio 2B was rebuilt with a McCurdy/Pacific Recorders package and the newsroom was completely rebuilt using the Utah routing system and thus patching for the most part was a thing of the past. News reporters used a pre-fabricated announce booth (with no ventilation might I add) to record their reports. A transmission room was constructed where all of the DA's and other ancillary equipment was located. A new Studio 2D was built and was used exclusively for commercial and music transfers to cart.
WNBC Radio's transmitter at High Island was placed into service in 1962 and the old site in Port Washington, New York was closed down. We shared the tower with WCBS Radio with both signals being diplexed into the tower. Half of the building was physically occupied by WCBS & the other half by WNBC. In 1968 the tower was struck by a twin engine airplane and collapsed, killing all 6 on board the plane, and at the same time knocking the station off the air. The station used the spare WABC tower in Lodi, New Jersey until a temporary tower could be erected. Eventually WNBC had a main tower and a reserve smaller tower. WNBC used transmitter engineers until June of 1979, whereupon the station installed remote controls in Radio City and assumed charge of the transmitter. In 1980 work commenced on the rebuilding of the transmitter facility. Around 1983, new grounding radials were installed as vandals had made off with most of the original radials. Vandals eventually made off with most of the new set of radials. The original transmitter used at the High Island Facility was an RCA BTA 50A (ampliphase, 50 Kw) and an RCA BTA 5A(5Kw) with the latter being used as the backup transmitter. Upon completion of the new transmitter facilities in 1981, we employed the use of a Harris MW 50 (pulse duration modulated, 50KKw) transmitter and the RCA BTA 50A was used for standby. Eventually, the Ampliphase was replaced by a Continental 317 C (Doherty modulated, 50 Kw). In addition to the new transmitters, the building was physically expanded to accomodate a stand-by studio, maintenance shop, kitchen and a "dummy load" room.
(Site note: For a coverage map of WNBC from the High Island (I have also heard it called City Island) patern, see the "Jeff Baker" page under Logos & Images)
Remote Broadcast Operations:
WNBC did many remote broadcasts through the years. Most were sporting events, such as the N J Nets, NY Knicks & N Y Rangers. Normally, one engineer would be assigned for each remote site unless the remote required more.
The Howard Stern Show usually required at least 2 engineers assigned due to the technical requirements of the show. The normal procedure would be to assign one Studio/Field engineer and one Maintenance engineer.
In 1986-87 on Wednesday nights, WNBC broadcast live from "TJ Tucker's", an upper scale combination restaurant/tavern located on the east side of Manhattan. The normal procedure was to assign one Studio/Field engineer who would arrive in the afternoon, set-up the equipment, run tests with Radio City and go back to the studios and change into more formal clothes for the evening broadcast.
WNBC also did various other sporting remotes including simulcasts from Madison Square Garden.
In November 1984, NABET ratified a contract which would permit combo operations at it's AM & FM facilities nationally. WNBC did not institute the combo operation until February 12, 1985. Alan Beebe had the distinction of being the first Air Talent to run his own board. As a matter-of-fact, at the beginning, during the week, he was the only one, and on weekends, with the exception of the the public affairs and Jane Dornacker show, most shows were combo. On weekends, the station assigned one engineer (usually Gene Garnes) on Saturday and Sunday to be on duty and if there was not much to do, he would run the board for Bill & Gail Grundfest even though he wasn't assigned to. The station gradually shifted into combo operations with the exception of AM Drive and production. When the station changed hands on October 5, 1988, there were four staff engineers left. The other engineers had been transferred to televison operations.
Although all of the engineers worked with all the jocks at one time or another the normal operation was to assign an engineer to a show on a regular basis and generally only if the regular engineer was on vacation, sick, etc, would another engineer be assigned. The following shows normally had the following engineers assigned.
Imus In The Morning - Harry Tucker
Johnny Dark - Ashley Faulkner
Frank Reed - Bruce Leonard
Michael Sarzynski - Michael Arpino, Gene Garnes, Steven Vogel
Alan Beebe - Carl Williams, Jr., Steven Vogel, Gene Garnes
Scott Bingham - G. Victor Lombardo, Jr.
Howard Stern - Robert Massell, Bruce Leonard
Bumper Morgan - Carl Williams, Jr., Gene Garnes
Ron O'Brien - Carl Williams, Jr., Gene Garnes
Wolfman Jack - Rodney Belizaire, Robert Riggio
Other WNBC Talent/Part Time:
Norm N' Nite Left WNBC in November 1979
Ted McClain Worked in Philly at WIFI - FM
"Jessie" Anderson Worked until around 1984?
Gary Bridges Worked in Philly at various radio stations
Leslie Patten Worked in Philly at WYSP - FM
Lee Chambers Left WNBC in 1987 - Now at Shadow Traffic in LA
Jane Dornacker Also did traffic reports - Killed in a copter crash in 1986.
Peter Shane Last Weekend Air Talent to work at WNBC before the sale of station.
Jack Scott Started in 1987, left in 1988.
Danny Lyons Worked at WKCI - FM; left station in 1984
Jay Lawrence Worked one shift; bombed out, never rehired.
Jim Collins Also served as Assistant Program Director
Dale Parsons Also served as Program Director
Kevin "Pig Virus" Metheny Also served as Program Director
Public Affairs Hosts:
Lee Spiegle Host of "Edge of Reality"
Dr. Ellen Siroka Host of ?
Al Angeloro Host of?
Betsy Torres Host of Puerto Rican Reality
Joyce Hauser Host of ?
Vic Roby Host of "In Contact"
Claudia Polley Host of ?
Davida Rothberg Host of ?
Charles McCord News Anchor - AM Drive
Catherine Smith News Anchor - PM Drive
Robin Quivers News Anchor
Jim Eyer News Anchor/Reporter
Neal Seavey News Anchor/Reporter
Lon Braithwaite News Anchor/Reporter
Marc Gibson News Anchor/Reporter
Judy DeAngelis News Anchor/Reporter
Julia Hernandez Reporter/Assignment Editor
Morrison Cruz Reporter/Desk Assistant
Meridith Hollaus Reporter/News Director
Doug O'Brien Reporter/News Director
Vacation Relief Engineers:
NBC, for years had a "Vacation Relief" program which, in essence was a training ground for those seeking staff positions in the engineering field. Vacation Relief Engineers, or "VR's" as they were known as, usually worked from April thru the end of October of any given year. Many "VR's" were college students home for the summer and generally after a couple of summers of successful "VR" tours, if a position opened, you were given consideration. Many of today's staff engineers started out in the "VR" program. Here is a partial list of VR's that worked in WNBC Radio from 1979 and on;