Remembering my first transistor radio. That would've been 1966. It was an off-brand from Japan and came with an earphone. It proclaimed in bold letters that it was a 6-transistor radio. This meant nothing to me, because I had never had a 4 or 5 transistor radio. Surely 6 must be better. In any event I was impressed, because it didn't need to "warm up" like the TV or record players or other radios. You just turned it on and it instantly worked. Zowie. In 1966 top-40 AM radio was a big thing. FM didn't really exist. Well it did, but it was all classical music. We had just learned about stereo, but only a couple of people on the block had a stereo record player. We were too poor. Ditto for television. I had seen a colour TV in the store, but all we had was black and white.
I usually listened to 'KKIS' (channel 99) from Pittsburgh, California - on the Sacramento River delta. That is until bedtime. I popped in the earphone and slipped into a twilight sleep listening to the Monkees or Aretha or the Supremes or the Ballad of the Green Beret or the Mamas and Papas. Then about 11PM I moved the dial to 109.
Around 11:30 you would start to hear some crackling start to fade in and out. Then about 11:45 it all started to happen. The Reverend Ike show. Ike preached the gospel of money. "The best thing you can do for the poor is to not be one of them". This radio was coming in on skip waves from a 'border blaster' in Rosarito Beach, Mexico called XERB. Reception was spotty and faded in and out over 3-4 minute intervals. You did your best to stay awake while listening to Reverend Ike try to get your money over and over again. Buy the 'prayer cloth' and say goodbye to poverty. There were testimonials from all the people who bought a prayer cloth and were now wealthy beyond their wildest imaginations. It certainly made Ike wealthy. He bankrolled this entire border blaster with his 15 minute show.
And then Ike said goodnight. Suddenly I was fully awake. This is when the airwaves sprang to life. This was rock and roll, baby. It always started with something you never heard before. But you would hear it on top-40 radio a year from now and it was to become a part of your life. Jefferson Airplane. Chicago Blues. Soul. Lots of blues and soul. Strange music you had never been exposed to before. Then there was psychedelia. Big Brother. Electric Flag. And then the hoarse shouting began. "This is Wolfman Jack, Baby". And you listened for about an hour before sleep finally won out and you couldn't focus any longer. You'd wake up in the morning to the soft static in your ear. Had it just been a dream?
I went through a lot of batteries in those days.