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Big WAYS reunion
L-R:  Ron Brandon, Jack Gale, J.J. Jeffrey, and Long John Silver.


by Rollye James
Claude Hall

Ron Brandon:  “The (above pic) was taken a few years ago on a visit to Jack Gale at his home
in Florida.   Jack was the PD and morning man at the hugely successful Big WAYS Charlotte
in the 60s.  JJ  Jeffrey did afternoon drive, Long John Silver nights, and I did overnights
(replacing a gentleman named John Larsh who had departed to begin a career as Jack
Armstrong).  And yes, most of the stories about WAYS are true.  Last to first in one rating
period, shares at times in the 40s.  WIST, the top-40 leader in the market when Stan and Sis
Kaplan bought WAYS sent a telegram welcoming them to the market.  Stan replied that he
would force them to change formats, and they did within a year or so.  They bought every
billboard available in town to promote their $10,000 treasure hunt and it was so successful
(including considerable damage to public property from listeners digging or breaking in
attempts to find the treasure), that the FCC changed rules to prohibit such activity (not serving
the public). A truly legendary radio station.” 

Rollye:  “Stan and Sis are a quintessential example of what made radio compelling both on the
air and off.  As for treasure hunts, the FCC was already viewing them with a jaundiced eye. 
Todd Storz not only had to rebuild a library, but when he bought WQAM from the Miami
Herald in 1956, he had to promise he’d never do contesting again— which lasted about six
months until McLendon and everyone else continued on their merry way. 

“For KRLA in Los Angeles, it cost them their license. (The contest wasn’t the problem— but
the investigation of it lead the commission to discover the station was owned by a foreigner.  
Canadian Jack Kent Cooke controlled  it, though the license was in his brother’s name.   By
that time it didn’t matter that KRLA was on the air giving clues to the location of the golden
key which would power up the new transmitter... when the golden key wasn't yet hidden
anywhere at all.)    But wait.  There’s more  …from the RMR archives.  My thanks to Ron
Brandon for sharing them. ”

Hal Whitney:  “In last week's column, Cary Pall's comments on abandoning call letters when
AM and FM stations switch formats was very interesting.  It reminded me of a similar but
slightly different situation in Hartford, CT back in 1975.  WPOP-AM, a 5kw Top 40 rocker
was in competition with with WDRC AM & FM.  The rivalry had been going on for almost 20
years.  WDRC consistently beat out WPOP in the ratings. but it wasn't simply because WDRC
was a better station.  WPOP was handicapped by a highly directional signal that put it in a
distinct disadvantage for audience share. 

“WPOP was owned by Merv Griffin at the time and I was working there in sales after leaving
my morning drive air position in early '74.    I was replaced in AM drive by Doug "The
Greaseman" Tracht.   Greaseman's unique approach was getting results and ratings were
improving against WDRC. Local sales were up and I was finally making some good money as
a salesman.  In spite of that, management decided to abandon the decades old Top 40 format
and switch to NBC's brand new "News and Information Service", the first all-news radio

“Not a bad idea, but they dropped the ball (in my opinion) by not taking the switch a step
further.   Merv Griffin also owned WIOF-FM, a high powered station that, although licensed
to Waterbury CT,  put out a great signal over much of the state including Hartford.   WIOF was
doing a Country and Western format at the time.  But it wasn't "Modern" country that works as
a legitimate format today.   I can only describe it as "Hillbilly" (for lack of a better term.)  
WIOF had very low ratings and was a difficult sell for those of us on the sales team. The
audience for this type of Country music here in the northeast just wasn't there.

“The air and sales staff of WPOP begged management to switch our entire AM Top 40 format
to WIOF-FM and take on the legendary WPOP Call letters.  I and many of my old buddies
from back in the day still believe that this could have been a monster change that would have
been a huge success and a giant money maker.  But it was not to be.  For whatever reasons
(that I still do not understand), the decision was made to keep WIOF Country and go with an
All-News station with the call, WPOP.    I didn't last too much longer as a salesman there.   All
of my clients were geared to a young-adult, contemporary audience that had no need for
All-News or Country.   I lost more than half of my income and had to move on.   It still pains
me to think of what might have been.”

Rollye:  “Hal’s story is utterly alarming.  And I’m right there with him shaking my head
thinking ‘How did they miss that boat?!’   I’m not sure there is a better example of ignoring the
obvious.   As for call letters, I still give the award to Jack Roth for not wanting to keep
WAME in Miami because of its connotation of local black radio— replacing  the WAME calls
with WWOK without realizing that nationally the OK Group was totally associated with soul
formatted stations, though I’m not sure it ever did him any tangible harm. 

“The aforementioned KRLA, however, was imperiled by preconceived notions— in their case,
from the station’s new ownership.  I’ll spare you the details but in hoping to serve an audience
they didn’t have (and probably signal-wise couldn’t sufficiently reach), the new guys threw out
over a decade of strong heritage built by Art Laboe—  including the ubiquitous blue and
yellow bumper stickers.  I remember KFWB GM Frank Oxarart’s frustration that those
stickers were everywhere.  About the only consolation I could offer at the time was that most
often they were seen on cars broken down on the road’s shoulder— a snide slam at Laboe’s
East Los Angeles core. I was joking but Laboe’s replacements were dead serious (and dead
wrong) when they eagerly dumped very valuable history.”

Morris Diamond:  “Thanx for sending me Vox Jox issue with Jerry Sharrell's great
dissertation on Tommy LiPuma.  As head of promotion for Mercury Records we had 31
distributors.  And I had hired 31 record promoters.   Jerry was, by far, the best of the lot.  He
made me look good.  Years later, after a couple of years as an exec at the Warner Bros. Records
division, I was able to convince Ginny Mancini to hire Jerry as the new Prez of the Society of
Singers.  Again, Jerry made me look good.  He was a great MC and helped SOS raise big bucks
for performers in need.  Glad that he's still helping performers as a DJ and performer as well!”

Mel Phillips:  “Chuck Berry's passing brings to mind a personal story.  I was doing 7p-11p at
WNOR Norfolk in 1965 and Chuck was one of the acts on a huge show we presented (Dionne
Warwick was also on the bill).  Alan Freed had recently passed away (in January) and I got to
talk to Chuck about Freed and mentioned when he and Connie Francis (strange pair, I know)
toured local movie theaters with Freed in Brooklyn (where I grew up). Chuck loved the man
and was saddened by his passing.  He said he never would have made it without Freed's help. 
At that point, Chuck had already done a few shows with Freed in NYC. 

“When Chuck died, I immediately thought about that conversation.  Chuck had no overhead
when he traveled to venues.  He didn't have a band.  He traveled with his guitar from town to
town, would hire a local band, teach them how to play his hits and when he hit the stage, no
one cared what the band sounded like, anyway.  Because he was screwed out of money during
the early days of his career, he would only play for cash.  He wouldn't go on until the money
had been counted. What a legend. What a lifetime. What a career…”

Chuck Buell:  “The ColumBuella Golden Record of the Decamillenium Club” thanks you for
including our Chuck Berry Voyager story in last week’s VoxJox!
“Now then, here’s a personal Chuck Buelly-Berry Memory.  Back in the Summer of 1964,
when I was but a promising young hotshot collegiate-age disk jockey hosting afternoon drive
at KIMM in Rapid City, South Dakota, station management would not allow us to play Chuck
Berry’s “No Particular Place to Go” because of the ‘suggestive’ lyric line, “I couldn’t
unfasten her safety belt!”    We Guys On the Air loved the song, but as much as we tried to
convince them that that line simply referred to a Car’s Seat Belt and nothing more chaste, they
would have none of it. They only relinquished their self-imposed no-play "morals protective
safety belt” dictate later on when Berry’s song safely reached Top Ten and higher status forcing
them to do so!”  

Rollye:  “For more Chuck Berry stories, check out last week’s edition of The Late Joey
Reynolds Show:”

Rollye:  “Joey sent me that YouTube link just after I put the column to bed last week, so I had
viewing time available, and I took advantage of it.  If you don’t watch on this page, I suggest
going to Joey’s Sunday Night Live page to see it here.   Not only was it a thoroughly enjoyable
hour, but it was a living reminder of how entertaining radio can be.  Regarding Chuck Berry,
Joey’s stories, punctuated by phone by LA promo ace Ron Farber were great, but the real
knockout was Solomon Hicks.  At 22, this guy gives me hopes for the future.  You’ll get to
know him if you watch the show, and if you do, I think you’ll probably want to check his
website out too.  It’s here

And then there’s Reynolds’ Rap….

Can’t see it? Watch it here.

Joey Reynolds:  “Not bad for an old jock...  

Joey: “This is what you get when you don't retire.... The SUCKER.  Not the girl.”

Ken Dowe (sent on March 22, 2017):  “Today is the 55th anniversary of the day a lucky guy in
San Diego was hired by a Hall of Fame broadcaster to join him in Dallas.  Chuck Dunaway
(now in Houston)  a patient and kind employer in taking that kind of risk with a green kid.
 Still my great friend! I was... that “lucky guy.”   Thanks, Chucky!!”

Rollye:  “Ken Dowe also forwarded an email he got from Steve Eberhart who wanted to
know who owned this, back in 69:

“Steve saw it on eBay for sale and started to wonder.  Ken passed it on to some of his KLIF
co-workers from back in the day.  Maybe we’ll get an answer.   I figure Gordon, if anyone, had
KLIF-1— so who would be #2?”  

Mel Phillips (WRKO reunion update): “I’ll soon be posting a list of attendees who will be
coming to the June 2nd anniversary dinner.  In the meantime, with the May 18th deadline (for
RSVP's/checks) less than 2 months away, please let me know if you need copies of forms for
mailing back. 

Friday, June 2, 2017: WRKO 50th Anniversary dinner with cash bar at 6pm and dinner served
promptly at 7 at the Crowne Plaza in Newton. Dinner goes till 11pm.  Since the cash bar won't
close until 10pm, don't rush to get there at 6.  (If you self-park after 6pm you won’t incur a
parking fee.  You'll also want to be sure that you get your parking ticket validated at the front
desk before you leave.) Jordan Rich (above left) will be emceeing and a video tape recording
of the event will be made by Art Vuolo (above right) for inclusion in the Radio Hall Of Fame...

“Saturday, June 3, 2017: A 4-hour (7pm-11pm) tribute to WRKO with 5 of the original NOW
CROWD playing all the hits from 1967 using the original WRKO jingles. Live broadcast
carried on WRKO-AM/Streaming & Backbone Networks Streaming produced by George
Capalbo Jr.

                    Al Gates                                           Joel Cash                                       J.J. Jeffrey

        Arnie Ginsburg             Chuck Knapp            George Capalbo Jr.                  Mel Phillips

“See you on June 2, 2017.”