I made a comment to this diary, Rick Santorum flat-out lies about California universities, and it got me reminiscing about listening to AM radio over 50 years ago, especially to the evangelical AM radio preachers.
I grew up on a farm in southwest Iowa. On one of my birthdays (around the mid-1960's) I got a portable 5-transistor(Wow!!) AM-FM radio. There weren't many radio stations one could get during the daytime from our farm (mainly one from the neighboring town which had the weather forecasts and reports on hog, beef, soybean, and corn futures that my father listened to). But at night, especially if the ionosphere was really active, then I could pull in distant and interesting AM stations. I'd regularly get places like Little Rock, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, sometimes Chicago—and very occasionally on a really active night, could even pull in Las Vegas. That little transistor radio was my nightly window to the "world".
Many was the night I'd lie in the dark with my AM radio discovering what I could find out there. I could usually pull in an AM station from Little Rock, Arkansas, with a nightly progressive rock program called "Bleecker Street" (only later did I learn it referred to that famous street in Greenwich Village—no Google back then). I remember being thrilled listening to "The Court of the Crimson King" by King Crimson and The Doors and Led Zeppelin for the first time. It was like a whole new world being opened to a kid in corn-field Iowa.
But the thing that was just as interesting and entertaining to me was the late night evangelists doing their thing. I remember listening to some of the black radio preachers and being blown away by the deep emotion and honesty I was hearing from them and their congregations. For those Garrison Keillor fans, being raised a Lutheran in corn country was a totally different (and for me totally boring) experience. But listening to those black preachers, it was discovering a different world that would eventually lead me down the road to the blues, which I love to this very day.
But for sheer entertainment (and education), I loved listening to the religious charlatans, particularly Garner Ted Armstrong and his "The World Tomorrow" religious show. Pure entertainment for this kid, and also pure bullshit. But it was fascinating to listen to a slick and charismatic speaker say the most outrageous and unbelievable things and realize that there are people out there who actually believe this stuff (even as a kid, I was highly skeptical of religious and supernatural claims). What I learned is that some people could be convinced of almost anything if the messenger sounded slick and sincere enough (especially for the "you can fool some of the people all of the time" crowd). I wasn't interested in the message of these guys at all (except for maybe how more outrageous they could get each new night), but in the technique they were using. How if you say something often enough and sincerely enough, it actually starts to sound true enough. I loved those radio evangelists to discover what they're going to come up with next. There was nothing better for a skeptical kid, to hear his skepticism reinforced magnificently every night. I still think back to those full-moon nights in the summer with a breeze blowing through my bedroom window, hearing the hogs, cows, and chickens moving around, and turning on my "window to the world" to my regular Little Rock station, or scanning the dial to see where else was making it through the ether, and if that distinctive righteous shout or that snake-oil-slick voice came on, to lie back, smile, and enjoy the lesson.
Well that's it. For those old farts, like me, out there (and even the not-so-old farts), I'd love to hear if you had nighttime AM radio adventures like I did (or similar adventures of any kind). Peace and Love.