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Tuning In To A KC Era Gone By

The reel-to-reel recording format was used in the earliest tape recorders.
H. Michael Miley
Wikimedia Commons
The reel-to-reel recording format was used in the earliest tape recorders.

DJs pride themselves on the rare grooves they can dig up and play for audiences. But there’s another kind of audio lover who searches for artifacts of eras gone by, whether it’s radio broadcasts, commercials or speeches.

In a series we're calling Cratediggers, KC Currents is bringing you some of those stories of the search for lost sound.

When Tim Goodwillie was growing up, he played around a lot with tape recorders and loved collecting old recordings. As he got older and his skills improved, his tape experiments started to approach the musique concrete of composers like John Cage and Halim El-Dabh, who used pre-recorded tape to make music. But when Tim went on to study sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute, the distraction of analog tape became a problem.

“Even in art school I was spending more time at home playing with the answering machine than in the studio,” Goodwillie says.

After college, Goodwillie and his wife, Heather, lived in LA where they ran a music venue. They moved back to Kansas City about three years ago. In their new Overland Park house, Goodwillie found a treasure left behind by the previous owners

“In the attic there was this plastic bag full of reel-to-reels.” Goodwillie says. “Most of them were recordings from the KCMK Dinnerbell Jamboree.”

The Dinnerbell Jamboree originally aired on KCMK, 93.3 FM in the mid ‘60s. At noon on weekdays, the hour-long show featured live country music performed by an in-studio band and sung by three men: Randy Ritter, Don Johnson and Gene McCowan. For Goodwillie, the commercials in these old broadcasts are nearly as valuable as the music. They reflect an older style of laid-back, local radio. And the Kansas City these ads portray is a simpler, humbler place.

“It was the stuff I remember from the '70s and being in the back of the car while your mom’s in the grocery store,” Goodwillie says.

The highlight of the Dinnerbell Jamboree was a singing contest for local amateurs. Daily winners would return to compete for the grand prize: a chance to record in Nashville. The actual musical ability of the amateur singers is sometimes questionable, but Tim says that’s not the point.

“The amateurism makes it even more endearing because it’s just pure passion,” Goodwillie says. “It is that hard earnesty, no irony, true faith about a broken heart.”

This story was produced for KC Currents.  To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents Podcast.


As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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