T'was a time when we only had seven television channels in the Los Angeles area. SEVEN! I also had to walk a mile to school barefoot in the snow during a blizzard and a solar eclipse, but that's a tale for another time. This time, I'm talking about UHF television, and a song that has been burned into my brain. After-School television in the seventies was a pretty healthy scene, even with only seven channels. Starting at 3:00pm every weekday afternoon, channels 5, 9, 11 and 13 would each attempt to woo the young viewer by showing a bounty of cartoons and 60's reruns. And for a while, it was enough. But then dad came home after a trip to Japan, with a portable television with a 7" screen. Unheard of at the time! We could carry it from room to room! And in addition to picking up the seven channels of Very High Frequency, it also picked up something called ULTRA HIGH FREQUENCY! UHF! Back then, there wasn't a whole lot on UHF. There were endless stock market reports on channel 22, and channel 28 was where we could see the PBS programs. After that, you had to dial all the way up to channel 52 to get something else to see. And it was a goldmine.
Channel 52 was KBSC, and they only operated for half the day, starting around 3:00pm in the afternoon. They played all the stuff the other channels had passed on. Three Stooges, The Little Rascals, Felix The Cat, Speed Racer, Kimba The White Lion...stuff like that. So not only did they play all these cool shows, they did it on this weird UHF channel that only a few people knew about. The station went through a ritual every broadcast day. At around 2:00pm the station would put up the station logo which looked sorta like the illustration. Just a big number 52 with with call letters and cities of operation. For an entire hour, the station would show that logo card and play one song over and over and over again. We didn't know the name of the song, we just knew it as the "Waiting for channel 52 to start" music. And often is the time we would sit there and listen to the song over and over, waiting. I mean, who needs to see Magilla Gorilla and Squidly Diddly again when soon there would be Speed Racer with all those wonderful crashes and explosions and gasping! And the song was really kind of...happy. Later on, during one of our teenage "KRUD" radio sessions when we were looking for music for commercials, Dana found an album in his parents collection. The Best Of Bert Kaempfert. Playing it, we recognized a few of the tunes. "Hey, that's the song to the old Match Game!" "Yeah!" Then we listened to a song called "That Happy Feeling" and the world stopped. "CHANNEL 52!!!" we screamed! The mystery had been solved, and we weren't even trying to solve one! The composer and performer of the "Waiting for channel 52 to start" was Bert Kaempfert and the song was really called "That Happy Feeling", and from that day on, I've been a fan. And because of the channel 52 connection, I've found quite a few people who feel the same way. I've also met those who despise the music of Bert Kaempfert, for example Stella's boyfriend, the King of Hair. Instead of associating the music of Bert with an afternoon of great television entertainment, the Buffalo, N.Y. born King of Hair associates his music with getting up for school with an icy wind blowing across a freezing Lake Erie and hearing Bert's beautiful music behind the local weather reports.
Bert Kaempfert and his Orchestra kick out the jams on a live version of "That Happy Feeling".