AJ and JT Go to Philly

AJ Moulfair

This is the second part of a series that began with Part 1.

I can’t find anything to help me date when Pat introduced me to AJ Moulfair, nor can I recall anything specific that can help me assign an approximate date to it. Best guess is that it was sometime in the fall of 1978. It may have been a bit earlier.

Once again, AJ and I got along swimmingly. Chalk that up to our mutual admiration for the music of Wagner and Strauss. 

But AJ had a problem. WMSP was nagging him, as it was nagging all of its on air hosts, to obtain a Third Class Radio License. Apparently this was a relatively new mandate that had come down from the FCC for anyone who sat behind a microphone or operated the controls on a radio broadcast. AJ had been doing his Opera Showcase program for several years, and it was one of the most popular shows on WMSP, so he thought he could tough it out, but management had laid down the law. He must get his license along with everyone else or he would have to go. Management in this case being Dave Zett, the station manager, one of the few paid employees of WMSP.

Meanwhile, I had glommed onto the idea that all the WMSP hosts were volunteers, and recalling my days as an Irregular doing the morning show over the PA system at Elco, I thought that hosting a classical music program might be something that I’d enjoy doing. Were there any openings? How might I go about applying?

AJ told me how to set up an audition, and sometime in early 1979 I was sitting in the studio with engineer Russ Neff (another of the paid employees) creating an audition tape. All I had to do was read a script into a microphone as Russ recorded it. When I finished, Russ said:

“That was very good. You have a good voice for radio. But you mispronounced ‘fantasia’”.

“Oh, I gave it the Italian pronunciation.” 

“Gee, I hope the panel understands that.” 

“I’m sure they will,” I replied, but I wasn’t so sure. Had I outsmarted myself by going with an Italian pronunciation when the good old American one was so well known? Had I even gotten the Italian pronunciation correct? Russ’s comment filled me with misgivings.

Well, the panel must have understood, because shortly thereafter I received the news that I had been approved. But I wouldn’t be allowed on the air until I got a Third Class License.

So I bought a copy of the study guide for the test, and AJ, realizing that he had run out of time bought one as well, and sometime in late February or early March we set out in my blue Rabbit for Philadelphia, as that was the nearest place where the test was being administered.

As best as I can recall, this was my third trip to Philadelphia in my life. The first was to see a Phillies game at Connie Mack Stadium when I was about ten, and the second was for that Rolling Stones concert. I think our destination was the federal building at 6th and Arch Streets. The main thing I remember is driving across Market Street and passing around City Hall; it was the first time I had ever seen that incredible structure and I was duly impressed.

We were both nervous going in to take the test. The study guide had been extremely dry reading and I wasn’t sure if I had retained anything from it. But the stakes were higher for AJ, as his show had become a pretty big part of his life, and he didn’t want to lose it. We were both quiet as we entered the testing room.

I was thinking of putting up another “To be continued…” here, but hey, you can probably guess what the test results were.

In fact, when we came out of that room we were both giggling like school kids; the test had been that easy. We wouldn’t have even needed the study guide. It was multiple choice, of course, and nearly every question had had as a wrong answer: “Shout into the microphone.” 

That became a running gag between the two of us for some time. At the oddest moment one of us would say, “Shout into the microphone” and we’d both break up. We couldn’t imagine how anyone, even the most dull-witted of persons, could possibly fail that test.

I’m not sure how long it took, but we both received our licenses in the mail shortly thereafter. Mine is dated March 14, 1979.

(Several years later in Philadelphia I got to know Frank Scott, who was a newscaster for WIP radio at the time. He told me that the FCC had eventually dropped the requirement because too many radio hosts were failing the test. Perhaps there are more Ted Baxters out there than you realized.)

To be continued… 

Third Class License

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