A Virtual Tour of the WABC studio in August, 1978

In August of 1978, I took the following pictures of the WABC studio and its setup.

Both WABC and its sister station WPLJ ran full time studio board operators, better known as engineers. The "disc jockey" was responsible for running the personality part of the show, but not the mechanics of it. The engineers did that. The two sat facing each other in the same studio (not separated by a glass wall as was the case with most stations who had engineers at that time). The idea was that they could work together closely as a team to produce the desired sound. And, as you can see from the setup, there was a constant discussion between the two that went on between records (actually, there were no records... everything was on "cart" which look like 8 track tape cartridges). Of course, they had to both work well together and like each other for this to work. A four hour shift in such close proximity with two people that did not get along could have been a disaster!

In these pictures, the disk jockey is George Michael the evening DJ at Musicradio WABC from 1974-1979. George Musgrave is the studio engineer.



The door leading into "8A". It had a window so that, hopefully, visitors would look in before just opening the door and going in. The sign below it indicated this. The door was very heavy. You had to give it a good push to get through and when it closed it felt like you were being "sealed in". The idea, of course, was to eliminate outside noise inside the studio. There was a special "smell" to the place and an energy you could feel as you entered. There was always the sound of music or somthing else going on. It was never boring.

The other side of that door. The studio engineer, George Musgrave is seated facing the disc jockey (not visible). Behind him are "carts" which are tapes with commercials and jingles. The studio had clocks on three of the four walls. The one seen here faces the disc jockey and is the one used to give the "WABC Music Time". The speaker behind him stayed on all the time, even when the mic was open. The level would reduce to a point where there was no feedback but visitors and engineers never heard silence in the studio.


The control board from the engineer's side, standing behind him to his right. George Michael, the disk jockey sits facing him on the other side of the console. (The person standing is a friend of mine who was visiting the studio with me). You can see the large number of controls, dials and meters the engineer manipulated. You can also see the horizontal digital clocks at the top of the console. These were for monitoring lengths of songs, commercials, jingles, song intros and almost everything else that was on the air.

From directly behind the engineer. On top of the console are carts with music which George has placed for the for the engineer to play at the appropriate time. To the engineers left and right are "cart machines" which were the units that played back the music, commercials, and jingles. The racks behind the disk jockey contained the music identified by name, artist, length, intro time to vocal and a colored adhesive "dot" which indicated the category the song fit into (current hit, oldie etc.).


The view as seen from the door of the studio. George Michael is chatting with another WABC engineer, Michael Phillips, seen standing. The round "WABC" globes illuminated as songs were ending to alert both the disk jockey and the engineer that whatever was to happen next was imminent. Note the additional WABC clocks on the other walls. As you can see, while the music was playing things were relatively relaxed. But, when the mic went on, the entire mood changed. Everyone "took their places". The engineer sat upright with his fingers on the controls. George would point with either his pen or finger to cue his engineer to do what was next.

From the disk jockey side of the console. Here, George Michael is selecting the music which is coming up. In front of him is the programming notebook which contained live commercials, tags, contest information and other items which George attended to throughout the show. Note the stop watch to the upper right. George hit that to time talk ups over songs, music beds or other items so he could talk for precisely the correct amount of time.The lights above the copy book were indicators of when to play the next hit record, whether or not the microphone was live and other general condition of the station indicators.


To George Michael's right is a table with telephones (note how many of the lines are lit with callers trying to get through). George has placed carts with music and is arranging them before giving them to the engineer. The top telephone was a private line.

Taken from the opposite side of this table. George sits back and spins the racks of music around to find the songs he plans to play. Note the colored dots on the back of the carts indicating how each song fits into the WABC format. See the WABC format sheet.


Standing just to the disk jockey's left (you can just see George Michael in front of the mic) you can see a glass window which separated the main studio (8A) from the production studio (8N) where the engineers recorded programs and network feeds. The transmitter controls were also in this room along with tape decks which could be controlled by the studio engineer.

George Michael sitting in front of the WABC microphone. You can see a copy of "Billboard Magazine" to his left and more revolving cart racks with music behind him. George is reviewing the copy book for an upcoming telephone call in contest. His headset sits just in front of him. Very little was left to chance and George was careful to prepare for whatever was coming next.


During a "record", George Michael makes notations in the WABC log during his first hour on the air. George behind the microphone that opened WABC to millions of listeners a week. Imagine that feeling!


A "live" call in contest!

George Michael runs a phone contest. Here he announces the contest over the air and tells the listeners to call in to win. Compare this picture with the one where everyone was chatting during a song. The entire atmosphere has changed. George is trying to build as much excitement as possible. Once the winner has been selected from the many phone calls, George speaks to her off air while his engineer records the conversation for playback in a few minutes. As you can see, he is speaking into both the microphone and the telephone at the same time while trying to get the winner as excited as possible.
Now, live on the air, George does an intro into the recorded contest winner which he is cueing his engineer to play back just as this picture was taken. Another picture of George Michael behind the WABC microphone. Behind the round racks is a window to another studio used for interviews and discussions.


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