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1964 lineup - Ruth Meyer  PD


by Rollye James
Claude Hall

Claude Hall:  “It was George Wilson who once told me that ten years from now “no one will
know who we were and more than likely won’t care.”  I find, today, that’s a condemning
statement and hope that it never happens … but I’m also realistic and quite well aware that our
noble and endearing achievements were more than likely more important to us individually
than the world at large.  Marconi who?  George Wilson who?  Jack G. Thayer who?
“You probably don’t remember that Jack G. Thayer was the first major radio personality to
leap from the microphone to the general manager’s chair?  Gary Stevens, once of WMCA in
New York City, later did it a la Phoenix, but he’d been on hiatus in France a while.  Thayer,
anyhow, is the main focus here.  The station was Todd Storz’ WDGY in Minneapolis and Jack
was an on-air god in the market.  Do they still remember him in the city?  I doubt it.  Yet, it
was a major achievement at the time.  All this, of course, happened before my days with
Billboard.  I didn’t meet Jack until years later.  My first recollection of the man who later
became extremely important in my life and, in fact, the life of my entire family was when he
invited me and my wife Barbara to dine in a modest Los Angeles restaurant with him and a
date.  I’d probably talked with him on the phone, but I was constantly on the phone.  Who
knows?  By then, I believe, he was general manager of KXOA in Sacramento and had hired a
fledgling disc jockey named Don Imus out of the high desert area, Lancaster, just north of Los
Angeles.  Don had made Vox Jox with an item about running an Eldridgre Cleaver lookalike
contest with a first prize of five years in prison.  Cute, huh?  But that was Imus; for example
he always announced that it was cooler than it actually was out there in the desert.
“Jack later invited me and Barbara to the wedding of his daughter (he was divorced).  His
success with Sacramento, CA, landed him a position in Cleveland and he took Imus along.  I
don’t recall his title, but Dick Janssen was his second in command when they took over the
Cleveland station, there was a reception in New York City for the advertising crowd and Jack
invited me over for the presentation and Imus was dressed in overalls made of an American
flag.  A bit zany.  But Cleveland was a huge success.  And Jack was soon head of WNBC in
New York City and Imus was there, too.
“I saw Jack in his office once.  Imus was there, as I recall.  Jack and I were good friends.  But
we were both busy.  Anyone who has ever worked in Manhattan can affirm to that.  When Jack
said he was ‘on your side’, he was exactly that.  A record promotion man was down on his
luck.  Jack mailed him a check for a thousand bucks.  Jack was soon president of NBC Radio
and also, as I remember, vice president of NBC TV.  I was living in Brockport, NY, and
teaching at the State University of New York when Jack had his stroke.  Barbara and I were
soon as his beside in Belview.  He later came to the college and talked with my students.  Don
Imus was kind enough to come to the college on another year.  Imus and Joey Reynolds, who
also appeared at the school, put their stints on the air at WNBC.  My students reported that
many parents had listened.  When Jack appeared, the students fell in love with him.  That’s the
kind of person Jack was.  I believe he stayed up most of the night talking with students.  He
had a room in the dorm, by the way.  A bunch of them took him in his wheel chair to the
airport the next day.  Jack was planning a golf outing in, I think, Connecticut when he passed
“He was the friend of many, this ex-disc jockey, from Ernie Farrell, once head of Reprise
Records promotion for Frank Sinatra to Jim Ramsburg, and I’m proud of have been one of
them.  May The Good Lord bless and honor Jack G. Thayer.  I always will.”

Rollye:  “I was so delighted to get the above from Claude Hall that I felt compelled to lead
with it.  Great stuff.  Charlie Murdock was another Storz personality offered the manager’s
chair.  (I believe that was the same opportunity that Jack Thayer took.)  I remember talking
with Charlie about it and he felt he needed sales experience first.  He got it, but not in the
usual way.  Ever the entrepreneur, when Charlie discovered there wasn’t an entrenched
company selling trophies to high school teams, he saw his opening.   After all, WQAM, which
he programmed, was a big part of high school events, hosting pep rallies and blaring ball score
results at night (like most top 40 stations of the day).  He formed a trophy company and
pitched the coaches.  How could they say “no”?  (Well if it’s an ethics discussion  I can think
of a few ways, but that didn’t enter into this equation, at least not until Charlie was called on
the carpet for it by Jack Sandler a couple years later, but he was on his way out by then.)   By
the time he felt he had the requisite experience, the opening he took was at WSAI in
Cincinnati.    Both he and Thayer had enviable careers.

“But I’m still shaking my head about Gary Stevens’ ascent.  A night jock who never
programmed anything, let alone had sales experience?  He came back from Switzerland,
where near as I could tell he lived on whatever royalties he got from Lost Night Records for
those compilation albums Jerry Greene put together. No one was taking him seriously, and
then one day he comes back from lunch with Dave Scribner and says he’s the new GM at
KRIZ?   My first thought was “What were they eating?  My second was “Didn’t anyone else
want to go to Phoenix?”  Actually that last thought was half true when Gary was promoted to
KDWB in Minneapolis.  I remember him telling me that no one else wanted to go to the Twin
Cities.   Accurate or not, Gary did very well there, and you know the rest of his story.   But
where would he have been if Ruth Meyer didn’t hire him at WMCA in 1965 when BMR was
heading back to L.A.?  He’d been pitching Ruth for the job since he was on the air at WIL. 
She finally hired him from WKNR.  Speaking of Ruth, Claude asked  Burt Sherwood to
share his memories, and I’m so glad he did.  Burt went above and beyond for this, as he
initially couldn’t find what he had previously written and re-wrote it from scratch.  As it
usually works, just after he hit send, the original surfaced.  I’ve taken the liberty of blending
the two, without messing with Burt’s writing style”….

Burt Sherwood:   “In the late 50s and early 60s women were seldom seen and heard on the
electric radio.  I know when I was WMCA we had no women air people.  That came later...
Ruth Meyer was a Kansas City , Missouri native and is buried there today.  She was only the
second woman I know of that programmed or managed station in those days...the other at that
time had been Bernice Judas at WNEW.  Ruth came to us from Storz radio....she came to
WMCA as a continuity director and was brought in by Steve Labunski, with whom she
worked in Kansas City.   I believe she joined us in 1957 or 1958.  When program director
Leon Goldstein left us, he was replaced by Ruth.

“She was a smart and friendly lady, who joked a lot and made no enemies that I know of at the
station.   What she did not know she quickly remedied.   You have to understand what was
happening....the then  manager was replaced by Labunski, hired by Ralph Atlass (owner of
WIND Chicago) who was our consultant ...WMCA was fighting the musical world until then
by playing mixtures of conservative rock (no “race music”...only the white covers) and the
standards of the about to be bygone era. 

“Ruth did not come as a shock to any of us and she made our lives more fun....we immediately
(this was late ’59 or ’60) went total rock and roll, as did at that time WMGM (later WHN) and
WINS.  WMCA had a great signal in Brooklyn but were not as strong as WINS or WMGM
elsewhere....but we did well in the ratings.  We “owned” Brooklyn!  Bear in mind, Nathan
Straus was first and always a news person...so this era was tough on him....he brought Peter
(his son) back from our Embassy in Geneva to help him and eventually run the station.
“Ruth had to engineer it all around Mr. Straus’ wishes.  He was the first to do editorials
himself on the air...and we did 24/7 hourly and on the half hour newscasts...we could not
sweep the other stations at the top of the hour as we had an automatic chime on the hour...once
in a while one of us would grab it and make it appear later...not too much later.....Ruth loved
that move .  She had to maneuver the music around to make us acceptable to the time buyers
and to Mr. Straus....she was a fighter and kept at it to pioneer WMCA into the limelight.   The
goal from her thinking was to make us the # 1 rocker in NYC...we carefully added color...in
day parts...and we let it all kind of hang out evenings with Scott Muni....who took us every
night up to Barry Gray..... he was  the one show that could not be replaced...The Barry Gray
Show...probably the greatest “talker” ever.  I followed Barry over nights for most of my time
on WMCA ...and Ralph Atlass sent in Herb Oscar Anderson to be our new morning
man...replacing Gallagher and O’Brien.  Ruth put Joe in afternoon drive.

“HOA liked to sing  in the morning...Ruth wanted more Rock and roll, guess who won that
battle. She and I always got along, she was devoted to the Storz way of Rock and Roll (it was
very good)  and she slowly dragged the station into it.  She got rid of anything that smacked of
the old...as an instance...Nathan Straus had insisted when I got there that all music should be
back announced this way...two taps of your foot...and then who it was.  That went away just
before Ruth’s arrival.... Since there were two five minute newscasts an hour, and I was the all
night guy, I did 14 newscasts with no actualities every night.  The content had to be a full five
minutes as it was their commitment to the FCC. Ruth was not in favor of that, as we became
disc jockeys and not newsmen.

“Herb Oscar and I saw each other daily...we both liked Ruth and I think she liked us.  Herb
was driving Ruth crazy with his singing (he was very good at singing).   She growled but he
was so very good, she let him be....yes, he left us early on to go to WABC (that is another long
story)...our Pulse number began to soar...and WMCA was making early  rock history.  HOA in
my mind was and is the greatest morning man I ever heard and worked with....Ruth
acknowledged that many times....he made you feel good...still does as he is on the air these
days in Florida...he played the music and made our station close to being the #1 rocker....and
Ruth liked that.  She developed the Good Guys idea (I was long gone then) and it caught on
and WMCA had huge success all thanks to her  work and inventiveness...there are a couple of
us left who you might want to coax into writing their thoughts.

“The music was in the hands of Alan Lorber and the promotion direction was all Ruth.  We
got 40 records to play and we did...I do not recall a scheduling of order then...all that came
later...if it was too raucous we day parted then.  Bear in mind WWRL was the only station
doing black R&B...during my time in NYC it was owned by Egmont Sonderling a wonderful
man who had been one of my bosses in Chicago before my coming to  NYC.  However the
R& B industry found a new way to get on the “white” stations....and Lorber and Meyer started
putting it in to the mix.......and then we had an all “white” staff... sounds silly today but that
was then, and things were different.  Suffice to say we broke a ton of records for the industry
and got great  ratings numbers, and WMCA was making a ton.  Ruth made it happen with her
fresh approach and her enthusiasm.  Ruth loved the work we did...she could have never been
an announcer...she had a very high pitched voice and never even thought about going on the
air.   She was a Midwestern lady to the core.

“Following all the happened at WMCA with the changes, the advent of WABC, the trauma of
Scott Muni and HOA going there and I will leave it at that, as this story is about Ruth...things
changed...and she went to work with aft at NBC as I went on my managerial way to NBC’s
Chicago radio stations WMAQ & WKQX....we were all good friends, and Chuck and Ruth
did a great job for NBC ...they were frequent visitors and soul mates in trying to cope with the
bureaucracy of network and NBC .  She and Chuck left NBC when we all did (departure of
Thayer, Silverman, etc.)...then went to WHN in New York and put country on the air there,
and that is most of what I know.  Ruth never married, was a devout Catholic and lived well..
vacationed in France whenever she could. However, she was always underpaid in my book. 
She told me her salaries, and it was shameful treatment of her gender that made it happen. 
She was a friend to our family and I talked to her about every month when she finally gave it
all up and went home to Kansas City.
“How does this all end?  Not too well...  Things did not go to well for her career in the last few
years and after she moved home to Kansas City, she became quite ill with cancer and battled it
for a number of years.  I talked to her every month , and there is so much to the end of this that
I hesitate to write....I will try....she was in love with Joe O’Brien, whom she called the best
announcer ever...and he was good!  One day when I was talking to her she said she was going
East to see Joe...his wife had passed away, and that changed things, but she would not marry
Joe and I know he asked her to do that many times...she and Joe were in his car coming out of
parking lot when he was broad sided by another car....he died, and Ruth was injured...  I called
Peter Straus and told him about it, and he was very solicitous, and surprised at Joe’s death......
however, a  bunch of us got together and helped  make her life easier..... one of her employees
( a good guy and I cannot recall his name) from WHN had her headstone made stating she was
the #1 lady of radio....I understand that the stone faces a busy street in a cemetery in KC. 
“I miss her...she and I really talked and talked...she told me who was what and what was who
in her life.....and I will keep this part all to myself.....there were plenty of us who knew her and
I am hopeful that a few are still alive and will make Claude happy by adding to this tome.”

Ruth Meyer

Claude Hall:  “My mistake was in not interviewing this magnificent lady. She should have
been in This Business Of Radio Programming. I planned a Vol 2 and had already done
interview with several people including Gordon McLendon.  I hope Chuck Renwick
follows up with something about her.”

Rollye:  “Ruth joined me on the air in 2003.  I had a great time talking with her.  If you’d like
to hear it for yourself, I uploaded the file.  It's about a half hour long.  Click here.  

“I wasn’t a close friend or confidante, but I greatly respected Ruth and looked forward to
every interaction we had.  She was not only bold and talented, and a lot of fun, but it was
obvious that she was a truly good person.  Ruth was secure enough in herself that she hired the
best people she could find, and focused on the best in all of them.  With Ruth, what you saw
was exactly what you got.  She was all about camaraderie, not personal agenda.  The fellow
from WHN Burt mentioned is Steve Warren, who was a great friend to Ruth. It was Steve
who kept me updated after Ruth returned to Kansas City.  I don't know if he reads this column,
but if so, I hope he'll chime in.”

Bob Levinson:  “Hi Rollye…. I smiled bigtime seeing pal Claude Hall’s plug this week for
my newest crime novel, THE STARDOM AFFAIR, and it grew wider when you thought to
mention that Beach Music Awards show in Myrtle Beach I produced and the brilliant Stanley
Dorfman directed. I hadn’t remembered your involvement on the Beach Music board of
directors, for which I apologize, or the fact that taping the show ran us until three in the
morning. It was well worth the time and effort, a terrific gathering of artists putting oomph
behind the “shag,” the acts introduced by a dozen-plus film and TV actors imported from
Hollywood. (The most popular Russ Tamblyn; every woman on stage and in the audience
wanted the chance to dance with him…)

“Adding to Claude’s mention, I’ve had music stuff in just about every one of the thirteen
novels I’ve pumped out over the past decade, often elements of truth disguised as fiction,
sometimes just for the fun of dropping in the names of friends. Even Claude wasn’t safe. In
one of the books (I forget which), I paired him with our great friend George Wilson as a
popular singing duo in Nashville. I’ll be telling a few tales out of school when THE
STARDOM AFFAIR is launched Tuesday, May 10, 7:30 p.m., at Skylight Books in L.A. 
Would love to have any and all blog readers who might be in the neighborhood drop by and
say hello, test the refreshments, enjoy a helping of Dandy Don Whittemore’s super-special
ice cream, and maybe even buy a book. Cheers! : )”

Marie Davis:  “Thank you so much for all the nice words on Danny Davis.  All the cards and
letters sent to Danny were appreciated.  He smiled every time he read them and he rarely
smiles anymore.  Thanks again.”

Rollye:  “Tom Russell’s got a new CD out.  Gunpowder Sunsets: The Tom Russell Anthology
2 was released last Tuesday.  It’s a companion to Volume 1, with some overlooked gems not
included, as well as some unreleased material.  19 tracks including a handful from the Rose of
Roscrae.  Order a copy directly from Frontera Records here.

“We’ve mentioned the upcoming radio get together at Fuddruckers next month.  Dave Hull’s
going to be there.  Here’s the flyer he sent out about it.  I’ll be there in spirit, and right here
next Monday with another column.   Have a story to share?  I’d love to include it.  Write to me