Re: The Joe Hehn Collection

Joe Webb

The Hehn reels have been happily dominating my OTR time of late. Some of the collector names on the boxes or contents sheets are interesting, all names that were well known at that time in the hobby. It is funny to see notes written on the boxes, such as "restricted until May 1976." There are also notes related to the account of number of hours traded, who owes who what, and what's coming later. Trading was negotiated by total program time, usually trading a fixed number of hours for the same number of hours in return. I was reminded in one note that one of the key negotiating points was the brand and grade of recording tape to be used. OTR was expensive! If they were using 1200' tape, half-track, at 7.5ips speed, that meant in inflation-adjusted terms, the tape alone was costing them in the range of $3.50 PER HALF HOUR PROGRAM. It also meant that the programs had to be copied in real time, that is, copying a half hour program took a half hour to copy. How amazing it is nowadays to download recordings so quickly.

In terms of all of the recordings that have been reviewed so far, there are many programs that are in bad sound today that were in bad sound then. At least they can be processed with today's tools to be less bad and more listenable. It's also curious to hear disc recordings that have what would be considered as unacceptable today because they were not processed. Early disc transfers had significant levels of disc rumble that they really didn't have good ways of filtering out until equalizers became more popular and more affordable. If you ignore the rumble, there is a crispness to the sound of some of these recordings that is very satisfying. One thinks of how exciting it must have been to be in on the discovery of so many of these recordings when they were new and there was a deep sense of rescuing the era, not just compiling a collection recordings.

The contents sheets indicate that collectors were groping around for accurate show dates, especially the case when they encountered many AFRS recordings. They were also having difficulty with assigning consistent show titles for those series that did not announce any titles as part of the program. And... there's always bad handwriting -- so many of the reel contents sheets were handwritten, and it is easy to see how the differences in forming numbers led to mis-dating of recordings and misspelling of names and titles as the recipients tried to decipher what was on the contents sheets. We are lucky to have logs to refer to today, but there were none at that time. Those would come in the mid and late 1970s, but there were not many and most were not complete.

It has been an incredible journey back into OTRdom's founding years... with many more surprises to come.

Reel transfer volunteers are still needed. There are separate volunteers who do not have reels but have audio processing capabilities who are anxious to work with folks who can make the transfers. Please private message me if you can transfer reels and we'll try to match up the reels you get with some of your favorite series.

Join to automatically receive all group messages.