The Curse Of Kenny Rogers

The Curse Of Kenny Rogers

The story I am about to tell is true. You will not believe it.

I am a radio man from way back. My career began in 1971 when I disassembled my old grandpa’s cathedral-style tube radio in his Dearborn basement. I wanted to see how it worked.

I failed. Worse, I never succeeded re-assembling it. Worst, I never actually asked permission. But my gramps was a far greater man than I will ever be, and he forgave me.

It wasn’t long after that I went at my mother’s transistor kitchen clock radio with a screwdriver. I can report to you that everything you see in the movies about how electricity, when encountered in its raw form, can throw bodies great distances is true. To this day, I’m not sure my mom knows why the radio broke (Hi, mom).

The Air Force finally paid me to routinely shock myself. And also to learn about flip flops, bi-mags, tubes, and that bad booze rots young guts but vodka goes well. I became adept with o-scopes, solder suckers and wicking wire. And I figured out how radios worked.

In due course, I became a ham (no stretch) and began the quest for radio’s holy grail: the perfect antenna. I have never found it. But I still listen.

Now I have complained here before that location of my apartment on the small, but densely populated, island on which live is constructed almost wholly of EM radiation. Picking up radio stations, even local ones, is a battle between noise and interference. So to feed my habit, I switch to listening on line.

There exists a few hundred software-defined radios which their hosts graciously make available to the internet. They can be controlled much like a local radio, but with the added benefit of waterfall displays (to spot signal intensity), variable bandwidth, filters for different modes, and so on.

I mostly enjoy broadcast AM. You can log onto a machine in, say, Mala, Sweden, which I did just yesterday, navigate to the first visible station, and out comes…”Allaaaaaaah”. A call to prayer? Indeed, four or five stations in Sweden were in (what I took to be) Arabic, and were religious broadcasts. I found a Christian one, too, with songs in English. As well as one with a DJ speaking heavily accented English. First song: AC/DC Back in Black. I settled on a German station playing volksmusik. Let’s Polka!

But this was not a normal session. Something else usually happens to me instead. And I promise this is true. It’s a thing that occurs so often that I sure it cannot be a coincidence.

First example, from maybe a year ago. I though, “Let me try Julusdalen, Elverum-Norway. That’s sounds exotic.” Strong signal at 1215 kHz. Click!

You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille
Four hungry children and a crop in the field
We’ve had some good times, we’ve had some bad times
But this time your hurtin’ won’t heal
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.

I need to go to Norway to hear Kenny Rogers?

The very next station I tried was in Athens, Greece. I believe it was 854 kHz. Get ready to zither! Click!

And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me
I told her someday if she was my girl, I could change the world
With my little songs, I was wrong
But she has faith in me, and so I go on trying faithfully
And who knows maybe on some special night, if my song is right
I will find a way, find a way…

Opa! Kenny Rogers in Norway, maybe. But simultaneously in Greece? I shut the site off.

These were not the only times. As I said, it happened to me not infrequently, and all around the world on stations I had never heard of. It happened again today, this very Thursday evening. I switched on KXPA, 1540 kHz in Seattle.

You got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run.

I ran. Spooked, but still wanting to listen to some music, I launched Accuradio. They had a suggestion for me. “Top 40: Week of May 21, 1977.” Say, 1977 was a good year. Living on the lake in northern Michigan. Fireworks. Fishing. Food. I clicked. This, I swear, was what I heard:

You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille
Four hungry children and a crop in the field…

No more radio for me.


  1. PK

    One could ask what is the chance that that happened, but I know it’s 100%. I just tuned in Johnny Cash radio yesterday and what do you know, his version of The Gambler boomed out. Not quite as good, but actually recorded a few months before Kenny’s version. Now, what’s the chance of that?”

    Do you remember the commercial “Welcome to the Kenny Rogers quick pickin’, fun strummin’, home guitar course?”

  2. brian (bulaoren)

    Bland, bland, bland… How else to draw you in?
    Did anyone out there ever hear of Art Bell? He died around a month ago, but little notice was given in the M.S.M. Now, That was radio!

  3. John B()

    What would have really torn it would have been a First Edition tune.

  4. Sheri

    Worldwide group think in the 70s?

  5. PK

    Those were frightening years. Thanks to the oil companies we reversed the cataclysmic global cooling and avoided an ice age. The weather feels about the same now almost 50 years later.

  6. Gary

    I began late night AM listening on a tiny transistor radio in the 1960s. My goal was to find the most distant station. And yes, Brian(bulaoren), I’ve visited the Kingdom of Nye occasionally.

  7. acricketchirps

    Misheard lyrics: the whole time it was on top forty rotation play I was thinking, ‘no wonder she left; 400 children?!!’

  8. John B()

    Yup! 400!!! freakin’ Children!!!

  9. brian (bulaoren)

    I reproach myself for not liking Kenny Rogers. My reasons are quite subjective; When I lived in Santa Barbara, I had a favorite suburban bar/restaurant called the “Chase Uptown”. It was sold and became a Kenny Rogers chicken depot…yuck! Also, I suppose I sort or resented K.R.s chummy relationship with “Price is Right” model Dianne Parkinson…Would that it were me!
    Also, I really, REALLY hate that gambler song. Anyhow, Kenny has made some truly bad cosmetic choices, that’s enough punishment for the poor fellow.

  10. PK


    Thanks. I thought I was the only one that heard “four hundred children and a crop in the field.”


    How far could you reach on AM? The best I’ve been able to do is about 1,300 miles, New York to New Orleans. Have not been able to hit an AM station in Europe from the US East Coast.

  11. I used to listen to BBC Gibralter and Radio Free Europe (German) from my multi-band radio in central Ohio. I leaned the antenna up against the window frame, and listened at night. I learned to love radio dramas listening to Radio Canada every weekend.

    Love of radio eventually led to a brief military career in SigInt. Ah, those Pensacola beaches…

  12. McChuck:

    I wish I could say I was surprised to see you continue to support the agenda of the pedophiles who are attacking our civilization.

  13. acricketchirps

    Lee seems to be pretending to have become unhinged in service of some obscure point. I’m quite enjoying.

  14. John B()


    Is this a carry over from a previous post?

    I myself kinda hate that comments seem to expire after a week? (automajically?)

    I had wanted to continue discussions with Nigel and Oldavid but oh well…

    Ships sail

  15. Gary

    @ PK
    Rhode Island to Indiana, but that was back in the 1960s. Lately it’s not nearly so far.

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