Microphone Man- 3


Page 3

Western Electric microphones

Our previous sessions have dealt with ribbon microphones by RCA, one of the two prime makers of broadcast and sound equipment in the mid 20th century. This time we’ll turn to the other of these major makers, Western Electric Company.

RCA and Western Electric were fierce competitors in this era. I think I am safe in saying that the majority of radio stations from the 1920s through around 1950 used either RCA or Western Electric equipment, or a combination of both. Western Electric was the manufacturing arm of Bell Telephone…but also made

broadcast equipment designed by Bell Telephone Labs. In 1949 Federal anti-trust laws forced Western Electric to divest of their broadcasting equipment manufacturing. Both these companies made just about everything needed to equip a station from microphones and audio control to transmitters and antennas.

About the time RCA came out with the revolutionary ribbon microphone…Western Electric developed the first high-quality dynamic microphone. The dynamic uses the same basic principle as the ribbon….a moving conductor in a magnetic field to generate the audio signal from sound waves. Instead of a moving foil ribbon…the dynamic uses a round-shaped diaphragm that has a coil of wire attached that moves in the magnetic field…it’s a small electric generator. Another way of explaining a dynamic microphone is to think of it as a loudspeaker in reverse! A loudspeaker takes a signal from a radio receiver or amplifier and turns that electric signal into sound we can hear. A microphone, as we explained before, takes that sound we hear and translates it into an electrical signal so it can be amplified and sent to a loudspeaker, as in a PA system, or for broadcasting or recording.

Western Electrics’ new dynamic microphone was dubbed the model 618 and came out about 1931. The

RCA 618

model 618 was an omni-directional…or non-directional mike that was relatively small in size and very rugged…making it excellent for studio as well as remote broadcasting, especially in the outdoors. This mike was not sensitive to wind and breath noises like the ribbon mike…and it was relatively insensitive to handling noises making it excellent as a hand mike for interviews and such.

1930’s RCA 50A Velocity Ribbon Microphone

The model 618 was a great improvement over the earlier noisy carbon and bulky condenser mikes of that era. The 618 was a big hit with the radio industry and these mikes were used clear into the 50s. RCA, of course, would not be left behind by Western Electric….so they shortly came out with a very similar-looking mike they called the model 50A. Internally the RCA model 50A used a slightly different way of imbedding the wire into the diaphragm so as not to infringe on Western Electrics’ patents….but externally they looked very similar.

At left is an unknown announcer, center is Mickie McClung, the owner of KYOS, at right is Charles Kinsley who managed KYOS and later became a vice president and overall manager of KHSL-AM and TV in Chico, also owned by Mrs. McClung. The microphone is an RCA 50A omni-directional dynamic which was ideal for outdoor broadcasts.
“FDR giving a “Fireside chat” program on all major radio networks with both the RCA 50A (NBC) and the WE 618 (CBS and MBS)”

You’ll see both of these mikes in news photos and newsreels of the day…they were used for President FDR’s “Fireside Chat” broadcasts. If you look closely at these photos you’ll see that CBS and Mutual (MBS) used the Western Electric and NBC and the Blue networks used the RCA because NBC was owned by RCA.

A few smaller manufacturers also made mikes that looked very much like the Western Electric and RCA units but these smaller outfits could not compete with the two giants in the broadcast industry and their mikes were used mainly in PA systems and some smaller radio stations.

Shure 55

The dynamic-type microphone is one of the most used units up to this very day…and Western Electric was the start of it all. These pioneering mikes were all omni-directional….picking up sounds from all around…later a small company, at the time, named Shure Brothers designed the first uni-directional dynamic mike called the “Unidyne”. Most dynamic mikes today are uni-directional picking up sound from the front side of the microphone and rejecting sounds from the rear, thus preventing sound system feedback (howling) and eliminating background noises, and all based on Shure’s ground-breaking development of the late 1930s.

We’ll save that story for another session.



“Now You’re Talkin'”

In this story, The Museum points out The Excellence of radio.   A survey of radio professionals once concluded it takes one thousand to five thousand hours on the air to become skilled, to sound natural.   Yes, it takes  years to be an overnight success.

When an announcer speaks the wrong word, or chooses the right word but mispronounces that word, the mistake is instantly out there in the real world, never to be retrieved.  Some announcers quit because embarrassments are too much to bear.  Others are spurred on, committed to a lifetime of improvements.   Bob Lang, a member of the Radio Museum’s Foundation,  fell in love with the pursuit of word excellence.  He kept track.  He wrote a book.   “Now You’re Talkin'” is a book you’ll enjoy.   If you’d like a career in radio or TV,  Bob’s book might help  you avoid a few hundred on-the-air blunders.    Bob’s book is available on Amazon. We recommend it.  Even if you’re not going into radio, this book is a good read, which  is the correct way of saying ‘it reads good.’

Here’s Bob:

Every so often I find myself yelling at my TV.  Not that it does any good.  It’s just so frustrating to hear so-called professional communi-cators regularly mangling the language on our daily news.

For example, there is not a single weather person on the air these days who seems to know that the word temperature has four syllables.  Nope, not a single one.  That’s why we hear “tem’puh-chur” all of the time.  These forecasters also tell us that temperatures will get higher or lower, but they don’t.  Temperatures warm up or cool down.

In 2012, I published a book called Now You’re Talkin’, a reference book for media professionals.  It’s a compilation of misused words and phrases in dictionary form with the intent to provide current and aspiring broadcasters, writers, speakers, and presenters with a guide for maintaining their professional integrity and credibility.  The book contains sections on misused, mispronounced, and misspelled words and phrases; written communication including punctuation, foreign words and phrases, even announcing tips.  For years now my book has been literally sauntering off book store shelves!

Bob Lang in the KTRB Studios.

Someone once asked me what I considered the most common mistake heard in our media.  The one that sticks out to me is when a reporter says, for example, that there were over a thousand people in the crowd.  Actually, correct would be more than a thousand people!  Over is spatial, like a plane flying over the mountains.  Likewise, another correct word would be fewer instead of under.

The word less as a designation, however, is different.  A correct use would be that the football team had fewer good linemen and less experience.  Yes, it gets tricky, but a credible broadcaster should know that!

Another blatant mistake that we hear a lot lately is when we’re told that the president or his staff members appear behind the podium.  They don’t!  They’re behind a lectern.  A podium is what Olympians stand on to receive their medals or a conductor stands on to lead the symphony.

Sometimes words are mispronounced because we’ve read them without actually having heard them pronounced correctly.  When Harrison Ford reprised his role as Indiana Jones, the correct pronunciation would have been with a long “E” as in “ruh-preeze’,” not with a long “I” as it is spelled.  In this context, it comes from the musical term which means the equivalent of “do it again.”

Bob Lang at KTRB

Occasionally, words have two acceptable pronunciations.  Data is a good example.  It can be pronounced with either a long or a short “A.”  Heard less often is onerous.  It means “arduous” or “tedious” and the preferred pronunciation is “honor us,” but most pronounce it with a long “O.”  In those cases, my book suggests to the reader, “take your choice.”

Lately we’re heard a lot about a “return to normalcy,” an expression adopted and made a cliché by President Warren G. Harding.  Shouldn’t it really be normality?  That’s the first choice, although normalcy is also regarded as acceptable.  Again, “take your choice,” even though, as a professional communicator, I would tend to opt for the first option.

Then, there are the meanings of words, and some are simply not interchangeable.  Reluctant means unwilling to take action while reticent means unwilling to speak about something.  But, lots of times, they get mixed up.  Or, for an example nobody seems to get right, when you put pieces of something together, you compose the object.  That thing then comprises the pieces.  Don’t confuse these words.  A CD is composed of individual songs.  Conversely, the CD itself comprises the tracks.  Or think of a musical composition that’s made up of chords and notes and lyrics.  The word compose is right there!  Here’s another hint: never say “comprised of.”

Bob Lang, in the classroom, using words to teach which words to use.

How about the way the word invite is used?  Some broadcasters use it as if it were a noun.  It’s a verb!  And some of them say it with the accent on the first syllable—it’s on the second syllable.  If you receive one, it’s an invitation.  That’s the noun!

Have you ever made a concerted effort?  Are you sure?  Concerted means it was “in concert” with the efforts of others.  You can’t do it by yourself!  Perhaps you made a concentrated effort.

Finally, here’s a phrase to simply avoid.  ‘Ever hear of a bad guy being forced to wear an ankle bracelet?  There’s no such thing!  If it’s worn on the wrist it’s a bracelet.  If if’s worn around an ankle, it’s an anklet.  More accurately, call it an ankle monitor.

Hand gestures can help emphasize a point, not recommended for radio.

Why is all of this significant?  Potential mistakes like these become reflections on the integrity of those who have chosen to become our spokespeople.  Correctly-used language is their most valuable tool.  Think about it.  A professional communicator really has one essential thing to offer and that’s credibility.  For them, maintaining and protecting credibility is vital.

Speaking of being a professional communicator, I find it disappointing that so many of our spokespeople, both locally and nationally, care so little about the condition of their professional skills.  There’s even one morning show individual who insists on referring to others as “you guys” and, at the toss, regularly greets reporters with, “Hey!”  Worse, this person is often overly familiar with interview subjects and calls them “hon.”  (Insert wide-eyed emoji here!)

Sorry, but, to me, this is extremely unprofessional.  In fact, professional decorum prevents me from providing the complete identity of this individual.  No, I must respectfully refuse to provide full identifying information on this person.  It certainly would not be the thing to do.

That’s why I would definitely only agree to provide a first name:  Hoda.

Bob in 2008

Quite a Ride, When You Ride Shotgun


Tom Irwin (Shotgun Kelly) on K-Earth 101, Los Angeles.

The Modesto Radio Museum salutes Shotgun Tom Kelly.    Tom enjoyed Major Market fame in Los Angeles and San Diego.  He was as big a star as any disc jockey in America.

But before all that, he went to radio school where he met a bunch of aspiring announcers from Modesto.

Shotgun Tom Kelly in radio school. It takes hard work to sound like a natural.
Shotgun Tom Kelly, 18, waiting at the Bus Stop of Success, Ogden’s Radio School.










Tom has a gift.  It’s not  his on-air style, nor is it his marvelous, booming voice.   His gift is how he becomes an instant, and close friend with just about everyone.    His friendships continue to this day.


Shotgun Tom Kelly. His friend, Stevie Wonder, came to his Hollywood Walk of Fame induction.


Top-40 radio stations used big-voiced announcers at the top of each hour.   These “sounders” were legal station identifications, always delivered with Top-40 flair.   You probably heard many of them.   For KFIV, Shotgun Tom Kelly voiced them all:   “AND NOW, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOB DE LEON!”   “YOU’RE LISTENING TO JOHNNY WALKER!”  “AND THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING!”  “THE MILLION-DOLLAR WEEKEND CONTINUES!”    All of these were followed by the jingle, “K-F-I-V, MODESTO!!”   It was fun having this huge, national voice.   It made K-5 sound big, as big as Shotgun Tom Kelly.


How many DJs have been in the Oval Room of the White House?

We are honored to have Shotgun Tom Kelly as a member of the Modesto Radio Museum Foundation.

1972 – Shotgun Tom Kelly with the intro to the Derek Waring Show


What a journey, Modesto to Liverpool

(Oh, to be in radio and then to count Ringo Starr among your friends.   It was a FUN journey for this Modesto boy.)

                        By Bob Malik 
Bob Malik, from Modesto to Major Market fame!
It was tough trying to condense a 47 year career into a page. But, here goes.
I began my career in radio shortly after graduating from Central Catholic High School in 1971— It was Central’s 2nd graduating class.
During my senior year I had garnered enough school credits to earn a half day school schedule. I would leave Central around noon, and drive to Modesto Junior College, where I was taking Radio classes.
In the summer of 1971, I went to a broadcasting prep school in Huntington Beach, Ca. Shortly after returning to Modesto in the fall, I got my 1st radio job. I was hired by Program Director John Chappell to be the weekend DJ at KFIV.
It proved to be a critically important opportunity. The supportive staff at the station included my Central Catholic High School classmate and friend, Chet Haberle. That positive environment only served to inspire me to pursue this path.
Bob Malik, on air at K-101, San Francisco.

From there, I worked at radio stations in Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco, where I was fortunate enough to become Program Director at K-101. I found myself in the unlikely situation of advising the people I grew up listening to how to do their jobs. That was something I really hadn’t anticipated. But, it turned out to be a winning team. We were able to take the station to #1.

I also spent a few  years at the radio station many of us listened to in high school— KFRC.

In 2001, I was offered a job as News Director at CBS Radio’s flagship station in Los Angeles— one year after I had retired from radio. And, that offer came from someone I had hired— 20 years earlier. I would end up staying at K-EARTH for a dozen years.
In 2004, I began hosting a nationally syndicated radio program called The Beatle Years. Which would eventually lead to an interview with Ringo Starr.
In 2015, I got a phone call from Capitol Records. Ringo Starr was about to release his new album, “Postcards From Paradise”. His rep said Ringo had heard The Beatle Years, and they wanted to know if I would be interested  in doing an interview. I told him- I would think about it….Just kidding!
Ringo Starr and The Radio Star!
After I got up off the floor, I said “Are you serious?” “Of course I want to interview Ringo!”. I met the drummer inside the Capitol Records building in Hollywood. Was it all a bit surreal? Yes, it sure was!
The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9, 1964. Less than 80 days after the assassination of President Kennedy. That performance was a pivotal moment in American pop culture. It pulled this nation out of a deep depression. We went from black and white—to color. Overnight.
Even though Ringo Starr was one of those 4 guys who changed the world—he was very kind, unassuming —and, well… shorter than I expected. He wanted to talk more about his new album instead of The Beatles. However, I did get a few questions answered about the band. And, I sure didn’t expect to ever see him again.
But, last summer they called again —with an invitation to Ringo’s 77th birthday party on July 7th.  Yes, he turned 77 on 7/7.  I was able to sit down for another one-on-one with him. This time, he answered all of the Beatle questions I wanted to ask. My final question: “How would you like to be remembered, Ringo?”—-His answer?  “I’d like to be remembered .… as being taller”
When the interview was over—he said, “Come here, brother” and gave me a hug. It was an unforgettable day.
My advice to current CCHS students:  Discover what you truly love. Then, pursue your dream. It will make your career so much easier—and, more meaningful. And, pass along the inspiration you’ve received from others. (Who knows– you may run into someone you haven’t heard from…in 20 years!)
Listen to Modesto Radio Museum’s   Bob Malik – Aircheck

The story of Bill Bates and KTRB

By Cal Purviance

Bill Bates was born October 18, 1900 in Whiskey Hill, California (near Watsonville) where he attended elementary school. He was stricken with polio at the age of 10, which left him strapped to a board for 6 months and his right leg crippled for life.


His father was a major in the US Army who moved his family from the Bay area to Delhi. Growing up included picking prunes and chopping wood, which led Bill to the conclusion he must work with his head. In 1916 at the age of 16 Bill took up radio as a hobby. He became a licensed amateur radio “ham” operator with the call sign of 6KL, which was one of the first licenses issued in California. It was later changed to 6CF and then W6CF which he held until his death in 1969.

At the age of 17 he joined the US Merchant Marines as a radio operator. After his tour of duty he went to work for RCA in Southern California.   RCA sent him to Mexico to work on President Alvaro Obregon’s ship. He helped install radio equipment on Mexican navy ships.

Bill Bates became the Chief Engineer of KNX, owned and operated by CBS, Los Angeles.

In 1925 he came to Modesto and operated a radio store inside the Hotel Covell building until 1928. That year he moved to Los Angeles where he took a job with KGFH as an announcer/engineer. A few months later he took a similar position at KNX in Los Angeles where he later became chief engineer. In 1931 Bill, wanting to further his education, returned to the Modesto area and enrolled at UC Berkeley in physics classes. While there he worked as an announcer /engineer at KWBS, later KLS in Oakland.

He and local businessman Thomas R. Mc Tammany, formed a

The “T” in KTRB was for Thomas McTammany, Bill Bates’s partner.

verbal partnership to start a radio station in Modesto. After much planning, haggling and appearances before the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, KTRB was granted a license to begin broadcasting on June 18, 1933.

The station’s call letters came from the initials of the partners. “T” and “R” from T.R. McTammany, and “B” from Bill Bates. The FCC assigned the letter K that designated a station West of the Mississippi river. KTRB went on the air June 18, 1933 from studios behind the Sylvan Clubhouse on the northeast corner of Sylvan and McHenry Ave.

KTRB on McHenry Ave
KTRB first studios at McHenry and Sylvan in Modesto from 1933 -1942.

in Modesto. Bill and fellow engineer C.E. Peack built the first transmitter in Oakland by modifying an old ham radio transmitter.

KTRB engineers, Cliff Price and Joe Rice doing some antenna work.



KTRB went on the air with 250 watts on 740 KCs limited to daytime hours of operation. The frequency was changed in 1942 to 860 KCs when the station moved to Norwegian Ave. and power was increased to 1,000 watts.   Over the years the power was increased a number of times finally ending up with 50,000 watts in the ’90’s. KTRB was the only broadcast station in Modesto until 1948 when KBEE FM signed on the air.

KTRB studios on Norwegian Avenue.

KTRB FM became Modesto’s second FM station and Modesto’s third broadcast station signing on the air in 1949. KBEE-FM owned by the McClatchy newspapers became the second commercial broadcast station (first FM station) on the air in the market. KTRB-FM simulcast the programming from KTRB-AM for many years thus the station identification of  “This is KTRB AM and FM, Modesto”

Derek video clip of Solid Gold radio show.





RCA 88A Microphone

As 1940 was fast approaching…RCA needed a more modern dynamic microphone design to keep up with their main competitor….Western Electric. As we saw in previous articles, Western Electric had the jump on RCA with their very state-of-the-art models 630 “Eightball” and the 633 “Saltshaker”. The RCA model 50A “inductor” dynamic was becoming outdated.

RCA 88A Vintage

RCA engineers came up with an excellent design to compete directly with Western’s “Saltshaker”…it was dubbed the 88A. The 88A utilized the same “moving-coil” dynamic principle as Western Electric used in their dynamic designs which meant that RCA probably had to get licensing for it from Western Electric! This mic was non-directional and had kind of a “saltshaker” look to it as well using a rounded chrome perforated screen on the front.

The 88A was “pill” shaped with quite a different mounting arrangement than previous mics. Rather than having the stand mounting on one end of the mic they used a side mount location just back of the front screen that normally had the mic in a horizontal position…although it could be tilted to any position with its ball socket-type swivel. As with most of RCA broadcast mics the stand mount used a half-inch pipe thread. RCA thought that this made it easier for stations to make up their own mic booms using readily available half-inch pipe. Most other mic manufacturers used a 5/8th inch size mounting which continues down to the present.

RCA showcased this new mic at the national political conventions in 1940. All of the floor mics…one for each state delegation were RCA 88As. Russell Pope, the chief engineer for McClung Broadcasting was able to purchase all of the RCA mics used in the Republican Convention in 1940. These mics were mostly 88As…but probably included a few RCA ribbon mics that were used on the podium and other places during the convention. Russ portioned out the mics to the various McClung stations…including: KYOS, Merced; KHSL, Chico; and KVCV, Redding. I worked at both KYOS and KHSL and I know each station had several of these RCA 88A mics that were used mostly on remote broadcasts away from the station…but also studio use, as well.

The 88A was a very rugged, high quality mic that was used at hundreds of radio and TV stations clear up into the 60s. It was great for interviews and news broadcasting. As a teenager in the 4-H Club I did my very first radio interview on KGIL, San Fernando from the San Fernando Valley Fair in the early 50s. The announcer and an engineer were touring the fair getting interviews on reel to reel tape and the microphone used was an 88A. I never did get to hear the interview but one of the 4-H parents said she had heard it!

The NBC network and many local stations fitted the 88A mic with a unique “handle” to make it easier for an announcer to handle the mic in interview situations.  A short length of half-inch pipe was threaded into the mic swivel attachment and over this pipe was fitted a motorcycle rubber handlebar grip.

The venerable 88A served the industry for many years…even well into the TV era.  As 1952 arrived…RCA decided it was time for an update and the 88A was replaced with a modernistic looking mic called “the Commentator” with the model number as BK-1A. ` The BK-1A was a cone-shaped mic that earned the nickname “Ice cream cone”. This mic looked similar to some of the modern lighting fixtures of the 50s. The specs for this new mic were similar to the 88A…non-directional with similar frequency response…60-10,000 cycles per second or “Hertz” in the modern designation.

RCA again supplied all the microphones used for the sound systems at the two national political conventions in 1952…and the new model BK-1A was the most used mic at these conventions.

The NBC News anchors, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley doing a political convention using BK-1 mics.

The BK-1A was also much used in TV….NBC, of course, used this mic for news programs like “Meet the Press”,where each participant had a mic, and the Today show as well as the Tonight show. NBC Radio used the BK-1A on “Monitor” as well.

RCA BK-1A semi-directional pressure microphone

And as they say: “That’s a wrap for this time” Enjoy the photos.

Microphone Man-Index

Got a question?   Click here and ask the Microphone Man

RCA 77 Series Microphones

In my mind there are about three microphone designs that most people would recognize as iconic. The RCA 44, which we covered in the first of this series, the RCA 77 and the Shure Unidyne model 55. This session we will take a look at the RCA 77 series of ribbon mics starting with the very first model, the 77A.

77A on the right compared to the last in the series, the 77D and DX models.

Dr. Harry Olson was RCA Labs expert audio designer. Dr. Olson was responsible for developing the ribbon microphone . The basic ribbon mic has a bidirectional pick up pattern, that is it picks up sound from front and back and is relatively “dead” to sound arriving from the sides. On May 1, 1931 Dr. Olson delivered a paper entitled “A Unidirectional Ribbon Microphone” at the meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Cleveland, Ohio. The unidirectional microphone, as described in this abstract, consisted of the combination of velocity and pressure ribbon microphones which produced a heart shaped, or “cardioid” directional pattern. Simply stated, the mic picks up sounds from the front side and rejects sound from the rear. This microphone was commercialized in late 1933 as the RCA 77A Unidirectional Microphone. The microphone was an instant success. The RCA 77A was followed by the RCA 77B, 77C, 77D and finally the 77DX. The 77A was a huge mic which had a rounded top and a flat bottom. The 77B and the following models were much reduced in size due to stronger magnetic material available at the time. All of the 77 models used a rubber shock absorber in the stand mounting connector.

77B–the second in the model series–cardioid pattern only.

The internal workings of the mic consisted of a straight bidirectional ribbon unit in series with a pressure ribbon unit (omnidirectional). In the straight ribbon mic the ribbon is open to the atmosphere on both sides resulting in a bidirectional pickup. The pressure ribbon mic is achieved by leaving the front of the ribbon open to the atmosphere but closing off the rear side of the ribbon by a tube connected to an acoustical space within the mic body that is filled with sound absorbing material. This results in the nondirectional or omnidirectional pattern. Connect the output of the two-mics-in- one in series and the geometric result is the unidirectional pick up pattern.

The first two mics in the series, the 77A and 77B, had a fixed unidirectional pattern. The 77C gave the three basic patterns: unidirectional, bidirectional and omnidirectional selected by a screwdriver switch on the bottom of the mic which electrically selected the mic elements singly or in combination for the uni pattern. All three of these mics used a double ribbon element.

77C—Third model with cardioid, bi-directional and omni patterns.

The last two models in this series the 77D and 77DX were called “polydirectional” due to a more effective means to adjust the pickup pattern. A screwdriver adjustment on the back of the upper screened part of these mics let you choose unidirectional, bidirectional, omnidirectional and also three additional variations of the unidirectional pattern. This selection was not electrical but by a shutter mechanism that was mounted in back of the ribbon element. The shutter adjusted a single ribbon in relation to the acoustic tube and damping system to achieve the variable patterns. This gave great versatility to these instruments for the audio engineer depending on the type of sound pickup problem encountered. There was another screwdriver switch on the very bottom of the mic body that selected low frequency or “bass” equalization. This allowed the mic to be used for close talking without a “muddy” or “boomy” effect for a cleaner sound transmission. All ribbon mics tend to emphasize the bass when used close up. This was a huge revolution in mic design and made it possible to overcome many microphone sound pick up problems like imperfect acoustics causing too much reverberation and noise in rooms and studios. It is also a great help in public address systems by reducing the tendency to “feed back” or “howl.”

77D and 77DX last in the series–both looked basically the same.

In TV production the RCA 77 with it’s broad front side pickup pattern was perfect for overhead boom use; it rejected studio noises from the back of the mic like camera and other background noises. In radio and TV the RCA 77 series, especially the later models, 77D and 77DX, were very popular. RCA had a beautifully designed art deco style table stand for these mics. They were also used on Floor stands in radio and TV studios. If you watch the reruns of the old Lawrence Welk TV shows from the ’50s you’ll notice that ABC used the RCA 77D mics, usually two in front of the sax section and two more in back to pick up the trumpets and trombones. Later in the ’60s ABC audio engineers changed to the Electro-Voice model 666 cardioid dynamics for the Welk orchestra pickup.

The 77D and DX series units were used on TV overhead mic booms in the days when TV producers tried their best to hide the microphones whenever possible! The 77 was a popular radio control room mic too, usually hanging from a fixed or flexible boom. KYOS in Merced used a 77D in the control room. KYOS also had an RCA 77C model from the early ’40s. I visited the old KTUR, Turlock studios just after they had changed call letters to KCEY in the early ’60s and I saw more than one RCA 77D mic in their studio and control room. KBEE, Modesto was another station that used the RCA 77 as well as KRJC, the Modesto Jr. College station, as you can see in some of the photos on this web site for those stations. Other stations in the area including KSTN, Stockton used the 77 as well as TV stations KCRA and KOVR, Sacramento back in the day.

I worked in Chico most of my career in broadcasting at KHSL-AM and KHSL-TV. Both these stations used the RCA 77D mics. The TV station had one on their main studio boom as well as in the announce booth. KHSL radio used this type mic in the master control room as well as in the production studio for many years, clear up into the ’80s.

Remembering back to the “golden age” of TV…all three major networks used the RCA 77D and DX models in all phases of production. NBC was owned by RCA back in that time and they would only use RCA mics and other equipment made by RCA. The long succession of Tonight Show hosts had an RCA 77DX on the desk for years even to the early years of Johnny Carson.

If you search “RCA microphones” on Ebay you often see several 77s up for auction and they fetch up into the one thousand dollar and more range! There are several ribbon mic repair experts who will install a new ribbon in these old mics and make them like new again. One of these guy’s father used to work for RCA and has the original equipment used to repair these mics. The old RCA company ceased operations back in the 1980s; the RCA name is still around on consumer electronics but nothing is made in the USA like it was back in the glory days!

The RCA 77 series of ribbon microphones had an incredible impact on the audio industry and even today, in this digital age, are in demand by recording studios for their versatility as well as their smooth wide range sound quality.

Microphone Man-Index

Got a question?   Click here and ask the Microphone Man

Microphone Man-2


Page 2

Last time we featured the RCA 44 series of high fidelity ribbon microphones

RCA 74B inside showing the corrugated aluminum-foil ribbon between the magnetic pole pieces.

which were the “top of the line” in their day. Radio Corporation of America was in the business of making money…so the audio division decided to design a less expensive version of their very successful model 44 that would appeal to a wider segment of the audio industry.

Somewhere around the middle 1930s RCA came out with the model 74 ribbon mike (microphone) …it was nicknamed the “Junior Velocity” Velocity is another term used to describe a ribbon microphone. This refers to the way in which a ribbon mike picks up sound…by the velocity or speed of air particles pushed by sound waves toward the mike.

The Jr. Velocity was a junior in size compared to it’s big brother. It was about half the size as well as being much lighter weight. The model 74 did not have quite the extended frequency response…or fidelity of the model 44 series….but it still was a very good sounding mike. It also did not have the rubber shock absorber or forked mounting of the 44. It had a unique ball and socket type stand mounting that allowed the mike to be tilted up or down toward the sound being picked up.

RCA’s Model 74B came out somewhere in the late 30s and was very popular. It was manufactured until, I believe, about 1950. The first 74B’s had a shiny chrome windscreen with a black bottom and then in the 1940s RCA changed the wind screen to a brushed chrome and the color of the bottom part to what they called “umber gray”. Umber gray looked more like brown to most people! The change in color scheme was necessary for television as they didn’t want shiny parts becoming a “glint” in the camera’s eye.

The model 74B cost less than half of it’s big brother the model 44. This mike was very popular with smaller radio stations, but even many larger stations used them especially for announcing and for indoor remote broadcasts because of their small size and light weight. The 74 was very much used on PA systems, too, due to it’s lower cost. Even though the quality of sound did not quite match the model 44…the Junior ribbon still had the smooth, clean sound typical of a ribbon mike.

Radio stations in the local area that used the RCA Junior Velocity included KBEE, KFIV, Modesto Jr. College radio and KYOS. The McClatchy stations like KFBK, Sacramento and KMJ, Fresno also used the 74B.

Around 1950 RCA replaced the 74B with the KB2 “Bantam Velocity”. This mike was much smaller than any previous ribbon mike. The Bantam used much stronger magnet material that came out of WWII…this allowed the smaller size. The actual case of the mike was part of the pole piece of the ribbon magnet. Another name for the KB2 was “paint brush” because it had a built-in handle that made it look very much like a small paint brush. Inside the handle, under a cover piece, was an “XL” type connector. The “XL” connector was made by Cannon Electric Co. of Los Angeles which would later bring out the “XLR” connector that everyone knows today. RCA claimed that they commissioned Cannon to make the “XL” connector especially for the KB2 series of mikes.

In about 1954 RCA replaced the KB2 with the SK-46…this also was a relatively small size ribbon microphone that RCA continued to manufacture until they stopped making mikes. For more information on these mikes go to “www.coutant.org”,

RCA brought out one more bi-directional ribbon mike before they went out of the broadcast audio business. Actually this mike, the BK-11, was to replace the 44BX. It is about the same size as the Junior Velocity but with a more curved, modernistic shape, it also has a swivel mounting on the bottom. The BK-11 is an excellent quality mike like the 44BX. This mike is still seen once in a while on Ebay but I don’t think RCA sold as many of the BK-11 as compared to the model 44s and 74bs…which are seen all the time on Ebay. Until next time…this is Mr. Microphone signing off for now!









Abel Pulido, 80

Abel Pulido, a Latin radio host, and famed entertainer for nearly four decades, passed away November 17, 1992.  He was 80.  Mr. Pulido was best-known as the host for many Spanish-language music programs on several radio stations in the San Joaquin Valley.  He also performed in vaudeville shows.

In addition, Mr. Pulido owned and operated Frank’s Market on South Ninth Street in Modesto and helped with his wife’s  restaurant business, Abel & Lupe’s Café, next door.  The restaurant was well-known for its authentic Mexican dishes, and was popular with local patrons.

Abel Pulido had a long broadcasting career in the central valley.

He began his broadcasting career in 1945, working for KCEY, Turlock, and continuing on KMOD, Modesto (which became KFIV), and KTRB, Modesto, for nearly 40 years.  He retired in the mid-1980s due to ill health.  As a young man, Mr. Pulido performed in vaudeville shows!   He played with live mariachi bands, Mexican dance  troupes, and big bands.

Abel Pulido on stage.

In addition to his wife Lupe, he is survived by his son, both of Modesto and two grandchildren.

He was  a member of St. Stanislaus Catholic Church and President of the Tuolumne School Parent-Teachers Association.

Remembrances were directed to Community Hospice, Visiting Nurses Association and St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, all of Modesto.

Mel Williams, Jazz Disc Jockey, 69



Best known for his jazz program that ran on KUOP-FM radio for some 13 years, the famed Mel Williams died May 30, 1999 at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. His radio career began in 1974 with a one-hour program on KHOP in Modesto.   He was 69.

Williams, a wise and well-respected member of the Modesto community, was familiar to radio audiences for nearly a quarter-century as a genial program host who offered up mellow sounds and insight commentary drawn from his encyclopedic knowledge of music. In addition, Mr. Williams was an accomplished musician.

Mel Williams (Courtesy of Lori Jensen-Hooker)

He retired in 1992 from the city of Modesto, after having served mostly as a supervisor in office services. He is credited with establishing the Sickle Cell Anemia Program, which tested 11,000 people in 18 years and which was funded through jazz benefits. He also created the Mel Williams Physical Fitness Program, which began with a few persons in his back yard and later was offered at Modesto Junior College. The program grew from 10 youngsters to more than 100 of all nationalities

Every Friday evening for thirteen years, jazz listeners from throughout the valley would tune in at 6 o’clock to hear Williams open his KUOP-FM show with: “Good evening, my wonderful listening audience…this is the world of Mel Williams.”  In a 1990 interview, he said: “Music is my first love, and it will probably be my last.

Mr. Williams is survived by his children:  Monte Williams and Morris Williams, both of Modesto, Mel Williams of Ohio, Mike Williams of San Jose and Marcus Williams of Virginia.  Marcus continued in his father’s footsteps and enjoyed success as an area radio personality.   Mel also leaves behind  nine grandchildren.

Mel Williams Aircheck Page. Listen to samples of the “World of Mel Williams.”