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About Us Section - How StereoManuals Got Started
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How StereoManuals Started
How Started Part 1 - Background
(Includes Pioneer "THE RACK" Info)
How Started Part 2 - Doing Manuals

How StereoManuals Got Started - Part One - Background
NOTE: This page contains nice information and pictures of the Pioneer THE RACK about half way down.

In the latter 1970s, I (Rick) was working in rural small-town America (Harrisville, WV) with a population of less than 2000. In many ways, it was much like the town of Mayberry depicted in the Andy Griffith show. I started (and will someday add to it) a short story about some of my fond recollections concerning growing up there in the 50s and 60s. My wages then were relatively small, but adequate for our area. When the mood would strike, "the big city" (Parkersburg, WV) was not too far.

During the 70s, America's first coast to coast highway (US Route 50) became a 4-lane (semi-interstate like) through our part of WV. This cut the previous hour-plus torture trip to about 30 minutes... or about 15 minutes for my little brother Mike on his big Yamaha cycle. It was his "duty" to challenge all police cruisers in two (or more) counties.

I should tell you of the time he AND the bike ended up in a surprised family's living room, but that, as they say, is another story. Today you can and should go buy a vehicle from him at the Lou Sobh Buick Pontiac GMC Oldsmobile dealership in Lithia Springs, GA. Tell him his big brother Rick sent you. He makes more money than God now, but perhaps his small town background will kick in so that he will be duly impressed and give you a mega discount...

Back to the story... I loved the massive and gorgeous audio gear being manufactured by the mainline consumer audio companies like Pioneer, Kenwood, Sansui and many others. Like many in those high-inflation, OPEC-oil-crisis, Jimmy (the malaise) Carter times, I really couldn't afford to look at the stuff, let alone actually "buy some." Nevertheless, I  would sometimes "indulge my fantasies" while in "the city."

At the time, one of "the" places to go while in the city was the Grand Central Mall. It was still "relatively new" having been built in 1972 and had become a major location for retailers of all types. One of the mall's attractions was the studio of the rock and roll radio station, WXIL-FM 95.1. My understanding is that WXIL stood for "Christ Is Lord." The studio had a glass wall so mall visitors could watch the disk jockeys "doin' their thang." The DJs were very well known and extremely popular both on the air and for live gigs (dance parties).

Side note about this station... WXIL was the first 50,000 watt FM station anywhere even close to our area and "the first" FM station that could be received by most folks for several counties around. David Strock of Vienna, WV ran the station and took it to incredible and unheard of success. In the second half of the 70s, WXIL became the highest rated station in America EVER! According to Arbitron, they held 64% of their target market (Adults 18-34), AND one third of the entire population of eighteen counties in West Virginia and Ohio AND 98% of teens 12-17. Whew... (NOTE: See new updated information at the bottom of this article.)

There are a couple of interesting coincidences between me and Strock. I'll tell you the second one later. In the late 80s I found myself between a rock and a hard place AND in desperate need of a car. One Saturday morning, I was on my across the county to buy some cheap junker and decided first to stop by our church's property as a workday project was underway that day. Upon arriving, my friend David Johnson, walks up to me and says, "Rick, could you use a car? Milton Smith came this morning and says that God told him to give his car away to somebody, no strings attached and did I know anybody who needed one."

I barely knew Milton and Cathy so I assumed they had no idea whatsoever that we needed a car. So I go find him and announce that I was indeed "the guy" God had in mind about being the recipient of his free car. By the way, what kind of old clunker is it?... Turns out to not be an old clunker at all. It was a very nice condition, good looking '78 Pontiac station wagon.

Milton had acquired it from David and Carolyn Strock. She is the long time manager of The Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport (and here). He had worked for them in another of Strock's businesses: Wilson Hobby Shop in Belpre, OH and Andy's Hobby Junction in the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport, WV. The next evening I gladly took possession of the car's title. Needless to say, I was beside myself with joy about "Daddy knowing me" and being concerned enough to take care of my very real needs. I was also very impressed with Milton's obedience that morning.

Again, back to the story... In 1979 I was walking from the Sears end of the mall toward the opposite (J.C. Penney's) end . As I walked, I began to hear music. The further I walked, the louder it got and the better it was sounding. Originally I had assumed it was coming from one of the stores I was walking near.

As I progressed, I realized it was coming from "the far end" of the mall. I wondered just what kind of thing was going on. If I recall, it was WXIL playing but it sounded like a live band (volume and quality wise). As if it was yesterday, I remember walking out from the central walkway into the large open area at the end (now the food court)...

THERE "IT" WAS... wheeled out into the entranceway of the audio dealer's showroom... blasting the entire area with super sounds.  I remember walking up to it and just staring like an idiot. I had never seen anything like that before, that was for certain.

The "IT" was Pioneer's double-wide, dealer display rack jammed full of the prettiest audio gear I had ever seen. The equipment mounted in it was basically the same gear I now own. I think it was probably a SPEC-1, SPEC-2 system with HPM-100 speakers, but I'm not sure. I don't recall if it had a RT-2044 or a RT-909 reel to reel tape deck. The model number of the rack was appropriately... "THE RACK". It came in two nearly identical versions. One had a cutout in the shelf for mounting a turntable, the other did not. Here are some pictures of it.

 
 
Picture of a Pioneer THE RACK full of 70s silver-face rack mount audio equipment   Picture of Roxy's Pioneer THE RACK full of 70s silver-face rack mount audio equipment   Picture of an empty Pioneer THE RACK for their rack mount audio equipment
Click for full size   Click for full size   Click for full size
         
From a Pioneer Brochure   My friend Roxy in Chicago has one of them. She appropriately... works in the radio industry.   An empty THE RACK sitting in a garage door opening which gives some perspective of it's size.
 

I told you I would share a second coincidence between me and Strock. During the mid 80s, someone took me to his home to discuss some business things. While there (and busy talking business), I saw some gorgeous rack mount stereo equipment. I don't think we talked about it much, but recalled that it was some of the same stuff I had seen in the mall a few years before. Other than that, it was twenty years from my first look at the stuff till I thought much about it again. So, I didn't spend years dwelling on it, but I didn't forget either.

When I began to purchase my own collection, I remembered that I had seen some of it at Strock's house and decided to give him a call. Sure enough, it had been "my favorite Pioneer silver stuff." I don't recall if he told me about the rack mounting or not. I must contact him again to see if he happened to have acquired THE RACK from that audio store when they closed down.

 
NOTE: After I posted this page, David contacted me and had this to say.
 
Rick,

When I first got my system I had it in a broadcast rack. The Pioneer rack was a "half rack" and it didn't appeal to me. I had all of it mounted in one large rack from the (WXIL) radio station. However, it was kinda ugly for the living room so I got a couple of nice Pulaski Furniture Stereo cabinets which still hold the system. I have the Pioneer SPEC-1 preamp, Pioneer SPEC-2 amp, Pioneer RT-707 reel to reel, Pioneer CT-F1000 cassette deck, Pioneer SG-9500 Equalizer and Pioneer TX-8500 tuner (they didn't have the TX-9800 tuner in stock and I didn't want to wait). All this stuff still has the rack mounting handles. The speakers are EV Sentry III and the turntable is a Technics 1350 Direct Drive Changer. Yep, a changer with a Stanton 681EEE cartridge.

I will go back to your web site and read it a little closer. There is a lot to read on it.

If I can be of service in any way, please feel free to ask. Right now I am restoring "The Evolution of Rock" to CD. This was a 64 hour long radio documentary that WXIL ran in 1977. It was originally produced by CHUM in Canada and distributed by TM here in the US. It came on LP's in mono. It is a fabulous show. There are two of us working on the project. We are up to hour 40. It has been a long labor of love. It sounds fairly good too.

Dave

UPDATE: October 24, 2004, www.reelradio.com put up this tribute to David and WXIL radio.


 
HITBOUND! New Exhibits for the Week of
October 24, 2004
Introductions by Uncle Ricky
This week, we offer you Arbitron's Highest Rated Radio Station. The benchmark is a 64 Share in 18-34 adults. The ADI was Parkersburg, WV and Marietta, OH. and the year was 1979. The David Strock WXIL Collection welcomes you.

UPDATE: January 3, 2008, David Stock debuts his new web site, http://www.dastrock.com. It is a Forum/Blog being developed as a place to discuss the present and future of Digital Broadcasting, in all its forms including, but not necessarily limited to: Programming, Formatting, Trends, Ratings, Viability and Much More. His first blog entry is long but quite interesting as it talks about the demise of popular radio as we knew it back in the day before they all became owned by a conglomerate with canned, computer programmed song rotation and no interesting DJ's.
 

This was the "How StereoManuals Got Started" Part One - Background. Continue to Part Two - Doing Manuals
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