Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mike Agranoff and The Ballad of the Sandman

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Sometimes, it's good to stir things up a little.

This episode has nothing to do with aviation, aerospace, jet fuel, or tearing up the sky. If you're in the mood for an aviation-related episode and don't want to listen to anything else, please skip this episode and pick us back up in January. If you're tuning in ffor the first time, my apologies. This really is an aviation and aerospace show and you can check out prior episodes for your aviation fix until the first new episode of 2007 comes out.

But we're going to change things up this time. Airspeed is about to pay an homage that the podsphere owes to a very special medium and a very special time.

Airspeed is finishing out a great first year. A year in which we've met lots of new people, flown in a lot in different aircraft, and realized the dream of the podsphere - Ordinary people making the closest thing they can to art and reaching out to touch other ordinary people.

If you're older - over 40 or so - and you lived close enough to a metropolitan area - and you had an FM radio receiver in the mid to late 1960s - and if you were very lucky - you had a front-row seat for one of the most magical times in all of media before or since. When FM radio reached its critical mass and a backwater of the electromagnetic spectrum leaped up and captured imaginations and expanded horizons.

By the 1960's AM radio was a homogenious morass of largely mediocre programming. Relatively few people had FM receivers and FM radio stations were relatively few and far between, so you pretty much listened to what was on AM or you didn't listen at all.

Then, in the mid to late 1960s, guys like Jonathan Schwartz on WNEW FM in New York City started playing eclectic but carefully-chosen music and put out programming of a kind that you just can't get on the radio any more. It wasn't long before the iron heels of the program directors homogenized the airwaves and turned FM into the stereo version of AM that continues through to today. But, for a short time, there was a renaissance on the airwaves.

Podcasting brings back a little bit of what it was like during those pioneering years. It's as though your radio dial has grown by thousands of stations and, if you look, you can find places in the podsphere that are as eclectic, entertaining, and inspiring as the airwaves were in the late 1960s.

All of which is by way of introduction of what you're about to hear.

This, by very special permission, is The Ballad of the Sandman by Mike Agranoff. Mike is a folk musician from New Jersey who plays a mean fingerstyle guitar, concertina, banjo, and ragtime piano and sings. I have seen him live at a library, in a church basement, and in a community center and he is the consummate journeyman purveyor of melodies, spoken word, and traditions new and old.

I heard this piece for the first time in 1998 or so on public radio in Detroit. Mike has been kind enough to perform this at every show that I have attended. He does it entirely from memory and with a conviction that puts you in the darkened studio of the narrator.

The airing of this piece around the end of the year has become a tradition on WION in Ionia, Michigan, where this podcast also airs as a radio show. And it's always a part of my listening around the same time. I hope that you will adopt it as your own as well.

So, without further ado, let's let the podsphere pay tribute to the magic of the radio - Magic that once was and magic that can be again.

Here's Mike Agranoff with The Ballad of the Sandman.


The Ballad of the Sandman, (c) by Mike Agranoff. Used by permission. Thanks, Mike!

Mike's website:

Mike's e-mail address:

Text of The Ballad of the Sandman:

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