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Voltage Captive

In Ralph Emery’s autobiography, Memories, the country-music D.J. and host of TV’s “Nashville Now” relates one of his early experiences in radio:

An exuberant man of the cloth came into the studio one day with his wife, another woman and a guitar with an electrical short in its amplifier. I could tell it was defective by the loud hum in the speaker. I walked from the control room into the studio to exchange pleasantries, and then assumed my position on my side of the glass separating the rooms. I raised the sound as they played their opening theme song and then said, “Here again is Brother So-and-So.”

These fundamentalist preachers, many self-proclaimed and well-meaning, were, however, loud and demonstrative. To escape the screaming, I would simply turn off the monitor in my control room. I couldn’t hear any of his yelling, although I could see through the glass his jumping and straining. Every so often, I would raise my eyes from a newspaper and watch the Gospel pantomime.

Suddenly I heard him yelling through his sheer lung power, “Oh-oh-oh-oh!”—his face contorting.

My God, he’s having a seizure, I thought, and jumped to my feet. Then I noticed his thumb. The instant he had touched the steel string of his guitar and simultaneously reached for the steel microphone in front of him, he grounded himself because of the short in his amplifier. He was jumping and shaking at 110 volts shot through is torso. His moist palm was rigidly clamped to the microphone. The guy couldn’t let go. He was a captive of voltage. Suddenly his wife raised her arm, and in karate fashion, hit his arm with all her force. The blow broke his grip from the charged microphone, but his painful yells had gone over the air.

As calmly as I could, I said, “One moment please.”

With Tom Carter, Memories (Macmillan), Reader’s Digest, June, 1992, p. 66

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