My Tribute to Radio’s Neil Rogers

One of the web projects I am involved with is the tribute site to radio legend Neil Rogers. You may not have heard of him, because he broadcasted from Miami and was never syndicated. People in the industry knew who he was and greatly respected him. Howard Stern wanted him for his Sirius channel and Phil Hendrie recently said this about Neil:

The best I ever worked with. And the greatest goddamned talent I ever heard.

You can read more about Neil on his Wikipedia page. Even though he often talked about politics or sports (mostly hockey), his show wasn’t like talk radio of today. He was an authentic stream-of-conscious broadcaster. He was funny. He was angry. He was real. Not every show was great, but when he was on, he was brilliant.

Neil Rogers broadcasted in Miami from 1976 to 2009 and died in late 2010.

Neil Rogers

Becoming A Fan of Neil

When I moved to the DC Metro area in 1998, I had an office job where I could not get a radio signal. We also couldn’t stream audio. So when I was home I searched the internet for shows to download that I could burn onto a CD and take to work with me. I recalled someone in Tampa telling me about this show in Miami that I would enjoy.

That was the Neil Rogers Show.

From his website, I was able to download shows from the archive. Even though I never lived in Miami, I became hooked. I loved his rants about local politics. He had a way of making boring topics entertaining. I listened to the show until late 2000. The show was becoming increasing focused on national politics, which I found less entertaining than what initially drew me to the show. So I stopped listening.

Classic Neil rant

Building an Online Presence

In 2011, I was poking around on the internet and learned that Neil had died. I found a The Neil Rogers Facebook group, which included a number of fans along with people that worked with Neil. I joined the group. Then I shared with the group that I still had one of those burned CDs I took with me to the office back in 1999. I had 60 full shows.

I sat up an account with a free file sharing service and soon others were downloading these shows. The Facebook group soon began discussing where we might get more audio. Neil had his own website called NeilRogers.com, which was ran by a man named Eric Harold out of Orlando. I guessed that if anyone had old shows, it would be him. He ran the site at least going back to 1997 and based off my assessment of his technical skills, he most definitely would have saved backup copies of all the Neil Rogers shows from the digital era (1997-2009).

Just when I was about to reach out to Eric, I discovered he had recently died. Young man too. I believe he was in his 40s. Eric was a one man operation. At this point I realized it was just a matter of time before the NeilRogers.com went dark. Servers need human intervention and they also need someone to pay the electric bill. Using a download program I was able to grab all the audio from the site, which were the bits he played. A few months later the site went dark. There was no backup name on the domain registration. No one knew anyone associated with Eric. To this day the data on that server or any backups remain lost.

While all this was going down, I created a quick one page website using Google Sites. It pointed to the Facebook group and where others could download the few shows we had recovered. Using archive.org, I was able to recover a few more hundred shows by pulling up snapshots of the official site from years ago. Then others started coming forth with saved shows. The archive was growing.

In April 2012, YouTube notified me that my uploads would no longer be restricted to 15 minutes. I could now upload unlimited length shows. This seemed too good to be true, so I tested it with some 3 hour Neil shows and it worked. Soon all the MP3s that had been recovered for download were uploaded to YouTube. Neil fans found the shows and joined the Facebook group. This connected us with others that had more audio to share and the project grew.

Google is a weird beast. For reasons I’ll never understand, they never indexed the Google Sites page, so I created the NeilRogers.org site. Over time, I got a Twitter, Google+, Flickr and Pinterest account for the site. The audio continued to come in and working closely with a man named John in Florida, who is skilled in working with tapes, the archive now holds over 1,700 Neil Rogers shows going back as far as 1987. Along the way, a few hundred other shows from other South Florida hosts were discovered and uploaded.

Neil Rogers as Pope

Lessons Learned

I’m not going to say much more about the show. You’ll either like or you won’t. The important lesson of this story is about how easy important data could be lost without a backup plan. We were able to save a large number of shows from a legendary broadcaster before they were lost forever. From the start I knew I didn’t want to make the same mistake Eric did. Every show is saved to multiple servers. There is a document shared with a core inner group that includes all account and password information.

If anything happens to a member of the core, there is a documented procedure in place. There is almost zero risk that these shows will ever be lost now.

Legacy

In the past year or so, over 1,000 new members have been added to the Facebook group. Almost 800 have subscribed to the YouTube channel, which had over 2.5 million minutes of audio listened to in 2013. As someone with both web and data mining experience, this has been a highly rewarding project for me. Friends, co-workers and fans of Neil have been highly appreciative of the audio restoration project.

An article about this project appeared on the front page of both the Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald last weekend. Although the article was very positive, it was chock full of errors, which is one of the reasons I wrote this post.

neil rogers sun sentinel

If you are a fan of Neil Rogers and would like to share audio to the project, visit NeilRogers.org.

Life After XM Radio

After almost six years of listening to satellite radio, I gave it up and returned to regular old terrestrial radio earlier this year. If you want to know the reasons, read Why I Am Not Renewing My Sirius XM Radio Subscription. How am I holding up?

Here were the channels I most listened to on XM Radio and my new substitute.

XM Radio ChannelSeattle Solution
XMU 43 - Indie Rock90.3 FM
BPM 8189.5 FM
Real Jazz 7088.5 FM (when NPR isn't on)
Soul Town 60MP3s
1970s Pop104.5 FM (partially) and MP3s
Opie & Anthony, Ron & FezPodcasts

For the most part, I am pleased with the substitutes. KEXP 90.3 FM is a great station and as a result I listen to more indie rock these days. My biggest shock turned out not to be programming, but sound quality. I miss the higher quality sound of satellite radio. I am strongly considering getting HD Radio. Going from XM to FM is like going from FM to AM.

Note that this post is not an endorsement of XM Radio. They are a bunch of criminals. Read the 40+ comments on Filing Fraud Charges Against XM Radio before you sign up and hand them your credit card number.

Why I Am Not Renewing My Sirius XM Radio Subscription

I have been a paid subscriber of XM Radio since June 2004. For the most part I am very satisfied with the technology and programming. However, at the end of this month I will not be renewing. Sirius XM messed up. Here are the reasons I will be returning to terrestrial radio (AM/FM) in March.

  1. After XM and Sirius merged, they lowered the sound quality for online listeners and then had the gall to demand a higher monthly fee to get what was previously defined as part of the service. I paid for a 4 year renewal based off the high sound quality of their online offerings. After they lowered the bitrate, the music stations were unlistenable. Basically they went from near CD quality to AM radio quality.
  2. Poor customer relations. Channels were added and dropped and I never once got an email or letter. The only time I ever got an updated channel listing was when there was a bill. On a few occasions, I emailed stations asking what song they played at a certain time. Only once was any of my emails ever returned. Don’t ask your listeners to contact you if you have no intention of responding to them.
  3. The May 2007 suspension of Opie and Anthony for something a deranged homeless man said. The station is marked XL for explict language. That 30 day suspension was uncalled for and showed that XM Radio is a spineless company that cared more about the merger with Sirius than free speech.
  4. Call center in India is unprofessional. I have absolutely no problem with call centers in India. The majority of my experiences have been positive, but not with XM Radio. When I have called XM Radio, it takes forever to connect with someone. Once you get someone on the line, they have music blasting. I was able to overcome the Indian accent, but not with Snoop Dogg playing in the background.
  5. Call center in India deals with sensitive financial information. American laws protect my financial data on American soil. Although India has data protection laws, I do not feel comfortable that I am protected or have recourse if that trust is violated overseas. In other words, I will not be reading a credit card number to anyone that is not in America. Tech support, no problem. Financial transaction, no way.
  6. The most important reason is that XM Radio has fraudulently charged my credit card twice, lied to me and has not apologized or made peace with me. I was forced to cancel my credit card number and file fraud charges on them. The full details are on the post Filing Fraud Charges Against XM Radio.
  7. Seattle has at least three good commercial free radio stations on the FM dial. 88.5 has dance music, 89.5 has jazz when NPR isn’t on and 90.3 has a killer selection of indie music. There may be more good stations, but I haven’t ventured past 90.3.

There you have it Sirius XM. I predict your company will go into bankruptcy. When people like me that have been early supporters and die hard backers of your technology walk away angry – you have problems.

After you go through bankruptcy, fire Mel Karmazin, bring the call centers back to the States and emerge as a new company I might forgive you. Until that happens, you’re dead to me.

XM-Radio

Photo by Tom Magliery

You Either Shut Up Or Get Cut Up

Last night I got the opportunity to watch a local live radio talk show. The show is called TBTL. Other than the show I watched last night, I’ve only heard two hours. It is different than the guy hot talk shows that I normally listen to (Opie & Anthony, Ron & Fez and Adam Carolla). The humor is more conversational and subtle. It has been over four years now since I abandoned AM/FM radio in favor of satellite programming. Hearing a local talk show again was a nice experience.

TBTL show in Seattle. Just kidding. This photo is RAF mobile radio station by Flickr user Adelaide Archivist

The hour I watched was a segment called Meet The Kates. They took three local Kates from different Seattle neighborhoods and an online Kate listener from LA and ran them through a personality test. They wanted to determine if girls named Kate have the same or unique personalities. I won’t give away the results (show link: April 15, 2009 8 PM- 9PM).

When I saw the great Bob Lassister do an hour of radio, I got to sit in studio. This time I was in a side room with the engineer and news guy. I witnessed how the radio spots were scheduled in real time and I was there when their news guy gave a vocal tips to an intern.

Bob Lassiter RIP

I just learned that Tampa talk radio legend Bob Lassiter died last October. When I lived in the Tampa Bay area I listened to his show frequently. Bob was the one of the greatest storytellers in radio.

It may have been late 1996. Bob had been hinting for a week that he might do a show for a few listeners. Instead of setting a date, he said if he decided to do it there would be no warning. I lived a few blocks from the WFLA station in South Tampa at the time. Then one evening Bob gave the word that he would let a few listeners come down provided they brought their own chair.

Bob Lassiter

I grabbed a folding chair and drove down to the station. Once I arrived at the station I was padded down for weapons. Bob, being the only liberal on a conservative station, had a few enemies. Then for about 90 minutes or so I got to watch a live talk radio show from one of the masters.

His Christmas shows were legendary.

Bob Lassiter Christmas Show 1996