Amateur Radio News

Spurious Emissions

No, not THAT kind!

Sendin’ code again
Just can’t wait to be sendin’ code again
The life I love is runnin’ pileups with my friends
And I can’t wait to be sendin’ code again

(Bonus points for figuring out the original songs and artists!)

Hams worry about spurious emissions like harmonics and noise, but that’s not the only kind of spurious emissions to worry about—there’s a whole band of them! The Spurious Emissions (out of the) Band has been having fun ham-i-fying the lyrics of popular songs and playing them at the Dayton Hamvention. What’s up with that?

Radio waves fly through my brain
Lately bands don’t seem the same
Soundin’ funny but I don’t know why
‘Scuse me while I work this guy!

How did this all start? Well…back when I was the editor of the ARRL’s Contest Update newsletter (originally the Contest Rate Sheet) I would occasionally slip into the character of Dr. Beldar, L1AR, and mangle a lyric for a little comic relief. One thing led to another and during a Dayton hotel room jam session, the idea occurred to us (alcohol may have been involved) to perform a couple of tunes for the contesters—whether they liked it or not. Thus, in 2010 we showed up with acoustic instruments (Sean Kutzko, KX9X, used a pizza box for a drum), commandeered one corner of the largest room, and let ‘er rip. SuperSuite organizer Tim Duffy, K3LR, invited us back instead of throwing us out and it was off to the races.

You can’t always work what you want
But if you try sometimes, you might work what you need

Soon things got completely out of hand. Retired audio engineer Gerry Treas, K8GT, said to us after the 2012 performance, “You guys need help!” That could be taken any number of ways, but we cheerfully signed him on to set up a small mixing board and PA. It seemed to work—in 2013 so many people crammed into the room that the pizza delivery guy couldn’t get in. (You can find videos of some of our shows on YouTube by searching for “spurious emissions” and “Dayton”).

I turned twenty-one unlicensed, ticket down the toilet bowl.
No one could steer me right but Elmer tried, Elmer tried.
Elmer tried to show me better, but his teachings I denied
That leaves only me to blame ‘cos Elmer tried.

After one more SRO show in 2014, Tim decided it was time to “go big or go home,” so in 2015 we had a larger room, a real stage, a bigger sound system, and a somewhat bigger audience. Everybody seemed to laugh at the right times and nobody left until the free pizza showed up and could actually get in.

Ground control to Climber John
Cinch your climbing belt and put your hard hat on…
For here I am hanging from a gin pole
Far above the world
SWR is 2 and there’s nothing I can do

Suffice it to say that things got fancier, the band got louder, the audience got bigger, and it’s been a lot of fun ever since. Our eclectic repertoire spares no genre—rock, country (AND western), soul, even Broadway musicals. We aren’t doing tours—heck, we barely get to play together! We meet up in March or April, decide on what songs to play, bang out the arrangements, and go our separate ways to Carnegie Hall— “practice, practice, practice.” During Hamvention week, we do a sound check, run through the set “one more time,” and that’s pretty much it. What you see during the show is really our third in-person rehearsal ?

Up on SSB she sends me
If I lose the log, she mends me
If I spring a leak, she depends me
Contester’s dream if I ever did see one

Who are “The Spurs” anyway? The current lineup is:

  • Sean Kutzko, KX9X, drums
  • Kirk Pickering, K4RO, guitar
  • Scott Robbins, W4PA, bass
  • Nancy Livingston, N9NCY, vocals
  • Brad Brooks, WF7T, road manager
  • Ellen Zerr, KDØPES, lyrical projection
  • Matt Wilhelm, W1PY, (absent this year), talent security
  • Yours truly on mandolin

Over the years we’ve been augmented on and off stage by W1BXY, N5OT, KØBJ, K1SFA, WY7YL and WY7FD, KJ9C, NV9L, N6TV, W4NZ, and the dearly departed AA4NC. (Hope I got everybody!)

I get by with a little help from my friend,
I score high with a little help from my friend,
Beat you guys with a little help from my friend.

Kirk does a great job finding just the right sound to echo the original with tasty licks and solos. Sean is a fine drummer and can sing at the same time—that comes in handy! Scott lays down a dandy bottom line and seems to know the chords of every song ever written. I “adjust” most of the lyrics (everybody contributes some and we all sing) and try to keep up with the good players in the group. This was Nancy’s first year and her Joplin-esque version of “Piece of My Log” was over-the-top.

Each time I tell myself that I, well I can’t stand the pain,
But when you send that LCR, I’ll read it once again.
I’ll say come on, come on, come on, come on, take it!
Take another little piece of my log now, baby…
I know I worked it but I can’t prove it’s good!

It’s all fun and games, totally pro bono “for amusement purposes only,” and seems to put a smile on everybody’s faces, including ours. Keep an eye on to see if there will be an emission from the band on Hamvention’s Friday night. We hope to see you out there laughing it up and singing along!

We’ve developed our skills
To give us all kinds of thrills
But the best thrill, we’ve got to say
Is the thrill that’ll getcha
When you get your picture
On the cover of the NCJ

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