Thursday, August 29 | Keynote Breakfast
7:30 AM - 8:30 AM | Atrium Ballroom | Everyone is invited!
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM | Atrium Ballroom
RPMs and kHz: How Radio Rocked the World
Get Ready to Rock!
Jason Hanley PhD, Vice President of Education and Visitor Engagement, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Joe Butler, Education Instructor, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Guillermo Marconi in 1895 generated vertically polarized radio waves capable of propagating or “skipping,” off layers of the atmosphere. His discovery proved radio signals could travel beyond the visible horizon. By the mid-20th century these radio waves would usher music and rock & roll beyond cultural, social, and generational horizons as well.
Technological revolutions that allowed programming to whiz through Earth’s atmosphere at about 1.08 billion km/h inspired music revolutions of their own. Thousands of Watts of alternating current and amplitude modulation (AM) sent harmonizing voices soaring from cities like Chicago, IL to the rural Delta South of the United States. Young children in this region, many of whom would grow up to be some of rock and roll’s biggest stars, clutched their quieted radios to their ears late at night and never left home without them. Every note and word they discerned across the low fidelity of AM band signals would ring in their heads for days, weeks, and months, inspiring them to create new forms of music that didn’t exist in their own backyard.
The most popular and powerful frequencies primarily carried sounds of country, classical, and folk music until a Northeast Ohio DJ, Alan Freed, began broadcasting rhythm and blues (R&B) under the colloquial moniker of “rock & roll” in 1951 on the frequency of 850 kHz at 5,000 W. Freed’s friend Leo Mintz had witnessed firsthand the throngs of teenagers rifling through crates of R&B records and encouraged Freed to spin the “Big Beat” sounds during his late-night show “The Moondog House.” This show, along with the 1952 Moondog Coronation Ball concert helped to earn Cleveland its reputation as the birthplace of rock and roll.
In the next decades, advances in receiver technologies allowed broadcasting via frequency modulation (FM) to become a renegade, “free form” of radio. These frequencies provided higher fidelity, stereo sounds, and the freedom for pioneering DJs, like Dusty Street, to rock the West Coast of the United States. Notably the first female DJ in that market, she made her mark with an incomparable knack for creating radio programming “that took you on wild and exciting musical adventures.” She persevered despite corporate agendas driven by profits and continues broadcasting her favorite rock & roll songs from the Sirius XM studio at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In this keynote we will explore how radiating waves from 10 kilometers to 10 millimeters long, and at one time juiced by 500,000 Watts of power, have pushed the sounds of rock and roll through the air and into people’s hearts – from the early influences of Jimmy Rodgers and Louis Jordon to the iconic rock sounds of Little Richard, Janis Joplin, and The Beatles.
Jason Hanley holds a PhD in Musicology from Stony Brook University and has been with the Rock Hall since 2004. Before coming to the Rock Hall he worked in New York as a performing musician, songwriter, record label owner, scholar and author, his latest book, Music Lab, We Rock!: A Fun Family Guide for Exploring Rock Music History, was released in 2014. Music has always been a central focus of his life, from seeing Elvis Presley when he was only five, performing live at CBGBs in the early 1990s, and his current work at the Rock Hall. Hanley has spent time at the lectern in several schools teaching classes in music history, electronic music, and popular music studies at Hofstra, Cleveland State, Case Western and Stony Brook University.
Joe Butler has been with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for 3 years but, has accumulated 12 years of experience as a museum educator. As an Education Instructor at the Rock Hall he presents over 100 onsite programs per year for K-12 field trips and public audiences. The rest of his time in museum education included presenting and developing programming for the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, OH and the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland, OH. Born and raised in Akron, OH, Joe as a proud Buckeye attended The Ohio State University earning a B.A. in Middle Childhood Education focusing on Math and Science. Joe being a life-long drummer also participated in the Athletic Band while at Ohio State, rocking out on the drum set courtside at Ohio State Basketball games. He continues his love for playing music and learning by recently picking up the bass guitar and playing regularly with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s house band The Backbeats.