Tuesday, January 31, 2012


There has been a lot of vistors from Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Would you possibly be interested in some sort of informal get together this spring at Casa Whetston in St Paul?  Nothing is planned yet, just looking for interest.

What do you think?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

AFN Bremerhaven 1968

Guenther sent another goodie.  In 1968 he recorded a lot of clips of the Bremerhaven station.  He just put a bunch of it together and it's a fun bit.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Canadian and British Armed Forces Radio

In the early 60s, CFN was the Caribbean Forces Network in the Canal Zone.  In 2012 CFN is the Canadian Forces Network in Europe.  They stream live.

AND the run the classic AT40s on the weekend,

British forces also have a live stream
BFBS live stream

I wish we had a live stream.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

GI Jive 1945

Martha Wilkerson was GI Jill, the first really big homegrown star on the network. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Where does all of this come from?

Fortunately many people saved a little history from AFRTS.  We welcome anything you'd care to share.  Pictures, tapes, records taking up space at the house an most importantly, your memories.  Contact me if you'd like to help.  afrts@live.com

AFN's Bill Boyd with the "1605 to Nashville"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bob Stoffel

Bob Stoffel AFVN

We've lost a friend.  Bob Stoffel was the creator and moderator of the AFN group over at yahoo.  Bob did a lot for all of us and is in our prayers.  Bob told his story to our friends at http://www.macoi.net/ an amazing collection of AFVN biographies.  

Bob said:

Originally I was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division PIO office in Phu Bai.  After arriving in country in January 1970, I impressed the PIO Major, Richard Bryan, with my ability to take the Hometowner News Program to the Number One position of all Army Divisions worldwide.  The Commanding General of the 101st was also pleased, I was told.  By May of that year, Major Bryan allowed me to transfer, without orders, to AFVN DaNang, for doing such a good job at the PIO office.  I was told I would be doing two live sports shows a day to approximately 75,000 GIs and to the CG of our division who watched TV every day.  Major Bryan wanted him to see my Screaming Eagle patch on my uniform and not forget the 101st.  He only asked that I report back to the 101st each month on payday, which I did, to see that I was okay.

I soon discovered that AFVN DaNang was sorely lacking in sports graphics to help present sports news each night.  So I wrote to every major sports outlet in the United States begging for help.  Within weeks I was inundated with sports slides from NASCAR,the PGA, the NFL, the NBA, etc.  I never knew there were so many golfers.  I amassed a small treasure trove of sports slides of every conceivable sport on the planet.

I was on the air (two sports shows) daily, at 6 PM and 11 PM.  Roger Stillman (whose bio appears above) did the news with me.  After the 11pm newscast was finished, I (and several partners in crime from the station) drove down from Monkey Mountain to the PX at the Navy facility in DaNang.  The Navy Chief in charge of the mess area (and pastry shoppe) loved country music.  So each night I would take him a dub of country music.  In exchange, he would load up our jeep with everything from steaks to doughnuts.  I gained a few pounds during my time in Vietnam and it has taken 40 years to get rid of it.

One of the most interesting assignments I had while working at AFVN DaNang was to interview Miss America 1969 when she and her entourage of five runner-up girls visited the Camp Eagle headquarters of the 101st.  They would be putting on a show in the "Bob Hope Amphitheatre" (as we called it).  Since I knew Camp Eagle like the back of my hand, I was told that I was to do the interview.  Actually, I thought this was some kind of cruel joke since I had not seen an American girl in almost eight months.  Oh, there were "doughnut dollies" working in Vietnam, but I would only see them from a couple of miles away.  I knew they were girls because in the distance they jiggled when they walked.  Guys didn't jiggle!  The first American girl I was going to see was Miss America, up close, I mean two feet from me.  I was sweating (and dreading) this assignment.  I was nervous through the entire interview.  Their perfume smelled so great.  Their jeans and shirts looked great on them.  I did not handle this close-quarter torture very well.  To this day, I have no idea if I was able to get a usable interview to air on the radio.

In the Summer of 1970, the PIO Major told me he was promoting me to E5 and changing my MOS from Journalist to Broadcast Specialist.  By late October, a new Major had taken control of the PIO office at the 101st.  He decided that all of his personnel should be in the field in some capacity getting the story of the GIs on the front line.  I had only two weeks to go before returning home, so I dreaded the thought of going into the field and putting myself in harm's way.  Fortunately, I was able to stay at the PIO office before shipping out.

When I returned home on my way to Europe to finish out my Army commitment, I was going to be married.  I contacted my former Major (now a Lieutenant Colonel) Bryan at the Pentagon, and he agreed to be my Best Man.  He and his wife flew to Charlotte to participate in the ceremony.  I was so pleased that he would go out of his way to come to be a part of my wedding.

Today, I live on disability following a heart attack in 1997 and a 25-year career in broadcasting at the ABC-TV affiliate in Charlotte.  My free time is spent running a website for former members of The American Forces Radio and Television Service worldwide.  It began as a way to keep in touch with those who had worked at AFN Europe but soon grew to include anyone, military or civilian, who worked with military broadcasting.  Today (as of March 2011), my group numbers 418.  The earliest serving member began working at AFN Europe in 1946 . . . and some members are still working for AFN in Europe today.  Even the Commanding Officer of AFN is a member.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Johnny Magnus 1965

KMPC was truly represented by AFRTS.  I don't know a lot about Johnny Magnus, but here's a 1965 visit.  In the picture it's Johnny with RC taken at a Christmas promotion of KMPC.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Big Picture: Bringing the World to All of the Troops 1971

Here's some 1971 video about how we used to do it. This time they visited AFKN. Ed Masters is having a staff meeting at about 16 minutes.  In the AFRTS-W segment, that sure looks like Cal Lamartinere

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Thom does Madrid

Andoni, my boy Victor and myself

So I'm back from Spain and everything is getting back up to speed.  Andoni has a Spanish blog dedicated to American country music ( http://www.escountry.com )and is another Gene Price/Harry Newman fan, going back to the days that they were being broadcast on the airbase in Madrid (Torrejon).  Since I was going to be in town I stopped by.  He told me he worked at  a radio station.  That was an understatement.  His facility was HUGE.  Four huge stations operating out of the same facility, multiple studios capable of most anything.  A couple of years ago I visited the Clear Channel setup in the Twin Cities and was underwhelmed.  That had a handful of people not enjoying their jobs watching the computers play voicetracking.  THIS was like when they used to do it right here. 

I couldn't swing a visit to Rota.  We covered a lot of ground.

AFRTS to a Dependent

Karl Bartlett sent in his AFRTS memories:

I’ll start my story at what is (sort of) the beginning.  For the record, I’m what’s affectionately known as an “army brat.”  I was twelve years old in the summer of  1966 when my family moved from Paris, France, to Athens, Greece.  That was around the time I first heard what at the time was called “Armed Forces Radio.”  The next five years would prove to be a very special part of my life.

Prior to moving to Greece, I spent three years in Paris, France. I had my own transistor radio, and
grew up listening to French music and news. I knew where all the stations were on the dial, and at what time all the shows came on. That was the beginning of what would become, for better or worse, a life-long obsession.

When we moved to Athens after a brief stay in the States, my faithful transistor radio of course came along for the ride.  I went to an American school in Athens, and because of that my French was
and still is much better than my Greek. My radio listening habits changed somewhat, and I discovered
the local AFRTS outlet.  Somewhere along the way my parents bought me a shortwave set at the local
PX, and the obsession with radio continued.  My memories at this point were being made by AFRTS, Voice of America, as well as the BBC, Radio Luxembourg, Radio Monte-Carlo, and other European super-stations, both on what we call “AM” (it was called “mediumwave” over there) as well as on shortwave. 

Sometime in the summer of ’68, I arranged for a “tour” of the AFRTS studios. I was an avid listener
of Athens-A-Gogo, the locally produced show that featured the current hits of the day.  I had already
written several letters, one of which was read over the air. (What ever happened to Air Force Sgt. Joe
Wilson?) I asked why they never played any flip sides, and Joe said something about “special” records.  Until I actually saw the pressings, I imagined them to be 45-rpm records with a blank side!
Turn the calendar ahead one year, to the summer of ’69.  On Saturday mornings at 1000 (I’m going
to use military time, since this is Armed Forces Radio!) there was a local show called TeenScene. After hearing a couple of my classmates on the radio, I decided that, well, why shouldn’t I be doing this?  During that summer, I managed to land a part-time summer unpaid “job.” Looking back, I guess it could be considered an internship!  My first duties were to file the weekly shipments of records numer-ically by taking a Sharpie and marking those infamous generic brown folders with the disc number; then I had to go trough the enclosed three-by-five cards, and take any titles that already existed and type them up on an existing card; this was a space-saving measure. The idea was to have one card (or two, or three, if necessary,) listing all versions of the same song.  The same principle was applied to the artist cards as well. Part of the fun of all this was trying to deal with some of the inconsistencies that popped up from time to time. Enoch Light and the Light Brigade would be filed as “Light, Enoch, and the Light Brigade” or “Light and the Light Brigade, Enoch.” As I write this, I find it rather scary that I actually remember that.

It has always been strictly verboten to play anything over AFRTS airwaves other than officially
sanctioned material, namely, the aforementioned record library. It was permissible to “lift” tunes from
the pre-recorded shows, although this was usually rather tricky, since the DJ’s usually talked over the
beginning and end of any given song.  (I will digress quickly here and mention that much of AFRTS
programming at the time was an early form of syndication. Many of the big names in Los Angeles ra-dio recorded special shows for AFRTS, and the shows were shipped, on vinyl, to the stations along with the weekly additions to the library.)  The AFRTS-LA jocks would sometimes play material that wasn’t in the station library. I never understood why they could play tunes that we (the locals) couldn’t, but I guess “that’s the way it is.”

One Saturday afternoon that same summer, I was listening to the station, and heard an interesting tune called “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire. The next time I was at the station, the first thing I
did –  of course – was look up the song on those infamous index cards. I looked backwards and for-wards, thinking it was somehow misplaced. I would, of course, immediately correct the error! After not finding “Eve of Destruction,” I proceeded to look for the artist. I must have looked for any variation of “McGuire” that I could think of; I may even have looked under “Barry.”

The next time I ran into this particular staffer (he shall remain nameless to protect the innocent as
well as the not-so-innocent) he admitted that he brought the record in from home. It would have been
one thing to bring in a commercial copy of a song that was already in the library – but in those days, at
the height of the Vietnam War, protest songs weren’t exactly welcome by AFRTS brass. 

Unfortunately for him, the manager also heard the offending tune. I seem to recall him (the staffer, not the manager) being “re-assigned” to the base post office, and he may or may not have been allowed back, but I can’t recall. I was reminded of this incident years later when the movie Good Morning Vietnam! came out.

Even as a mere teenager, I learned that at AFRTS there were hard and fast rules, and there were certain things that you just didn’t do. As someone once told me, “there was an Adrian Cronauer, and he did say ‘good morning, Vietnam!’ but he didn’t do half the crap Robin Williams did in the movie.”
Sometime in the fall of 1970, TeenScene needed a new host, a student from the area, since this was
not a paying position. Naturally, I applied for the “job.” However, the station wanted to keep an appearance of fairness, and since I was connected with the station, management did give me the position, but I was given a co-host, a girl from the same American school I attended.  We essentially
tried to be as famous as Athens-A-Gogo, which at this point was hosted by Air Force Sgt. David Hart.
(Thanks, Dave, wherever you are!)  TeenScene  lasted about six months, after which point it was canceled for reasons still unknown (to me, anyway.)
We left Greece and headed back stateside in the summer of ’71, and unfortunately my association
with AFRTS came to an untimely end. Maybe that small little station at the Hellenikon Air Base was
never a major player in the AFRTS fleet, but it was to me.

It’s strange. Today we have the capability of putting the entire AFRTS music library on a flash drive
no bigger than a human finger. We can hear all of  latest tunes on YouTube the very same day they are
released. Back in the “good old days” a number of songs that were hits in the States never made it to
AFRTS, either because of musical content, licensing issues, or any number of other reasons. We can
listen to stations from almost anywhere in the world without having to string an antenna across the
back yard, and they even sound better too! It’s strange, but even with all the technology that’s available today, the magic has disappeared.  Those were the days, my friend; We thought they’d never end...