Remembering DJ Jackson Armstrong
When I was a high school student in the early ’70s, I used to listen at night to disc jockey Jackson Armstrong — real name John C. Larsh — on the radio. Armstrong died this past Saturday at the age of 62. This is hearsay but I understand he died as a result of complications caused by a fall down the stairs in his home in North Carolina.
Armstrong worked on twenty-some stations during his 45 years in the business. I heard him on WKBW Buffalo 1520 AM. “KB”, for short, put out a 50,000 watt signal that covered a huge chunk of the eastern seaboard at night due to skywave propagation. In my bedroom in Delaware, the signal would fade for a few seconds from time to time, but mostly it boomed in as loudly as any of the local stations.
The career and notoriety of Armstrong are covered pretty well on his MySpace page (check the interesting blog postings by Armstrong), his page on the WKBW tribute site, and his Wikipedia entry. When Armstrong was on KB, it was the middle of the glory days for personality-oriented Top 40 radio.
I was interested in radio before I heard Armstrong, but his fast patter, high energy, and synchronicity with the music inspired me. I went on to do college radio and later had a part-time mobile DJ business. Unfortunately, I squandered the one significant opportunity I had to pursue a career in radio, but I’ll leave that for a future post.
So where can you hear audio clips, known to collectors as airchecks, of Armstrong doing his thing? Try these:
- The Armstrong page on the KB tribute site has a brief aircheck from his KB years — scroll down about halfway and click “Air Check.” The sound quality of this aircheck is poor, but I consider that a virtue because it brings back memories of how KB sounded on my bedroom radio.
- Airchexx.com has several Armstrong airchecks. None of them are from when he was on KB, but they are likely representative of his work. Because listening to this site’s airchecks requires QuickTime, I haven’t listened to them myself — I’ve had poor results with QuickTime running on my computer.
- REELRADIO’s Reel Top 40 Repository has numerous Armstrong airchecks. However, a modest subscription fee is required to listen to them. So is RealPlayer. I was once a subscriber to REELRADIO — in fact it was the first website I ever visited on a regular basis — and I’m thinking of resubscribing in Armstrong’s memory. (REELRADIO is a non-profit organization.)
It was on REELRADIO that I learned of Armstrong’s death.
I’ve read that Armstrong had trouble finding work in recent years. The popularity of personality-oriented music radio programming has long since waned. In recent years the popularity of terrestrial (“regular”) radio has declined rapidly. Is there a cause-and-effect relationship there? The action today is in Internet and satellite radio (I’ll post in the future about my dabblings with Internet radio).
Indeed, one of Armstrong’s many imitators — one of the better ones actually — Terry Young, is one of the top personalities on XM Satellite Radio’s ’60s on 6 channel. I was a frequent listener of Young in the ’80s when he was on WCAU-FM Philadelphia.
Back to Armstrong. From all I’ve read the past couple of days, in addition to his many talents, he had a great work ethic and was a helluva nice guy. I mourn his passing.