TO RECEIVE THIS COLUMN BY EMAIL EVERY WEEK, CLICK HERE.
by Rollye James
David Gleason: “I was most amused to hear the first person retelling of the KRFX prank.
Wonderful. Of course, present day risk management and legal departments would not let us do
that sort of thing. Of course, my radio-size ego prompts me to tell a story of my own.
“The year was 1979, and the move to FM in San Juan, PR, had come late. In the fall book, all
the FMs had a collective 14 share. I switched our beautiful music FM to an all-salsa format and
was immediately rewarded with a 22.5 share in a 30 station market, growing to a 33.5 in the
next book. That made us an immense target, and, surely enough, another station came after us.
“The new station did a concert with ‘all the big names’ in its first month. As folks began to
arrive at the venue, they were met with a fleet of mobile billboards with our distinctive Z-93
logo on them. And as the arena filled up, a number of immense individuals, all looking like
they weighed over 400 pounds, took their seats. As the show started, and the competitor’s jocks
were to take the stage, it became obvious that the huge spectators were really skinny guys who
were stuffed with over 100 Z-93 T-shirts each. The T’s were compressed into balls, and thrown
out to the audience. As the logo on the shirts was revealed, the crowd began chanting ‘Zeta,
Zeta, Zeta’ which is the Spanish word for ‘Z’. The competitor’s jocks did not go on stage. A
voice simply gave the name of the first artist.
“All the while, the rest of the Z-93 staff, myself included, was putting a ‘winning number’ card
under the wiper of every car in the lot, using a previously obtained municipal promotion
certificate we had obtained. The card had a “listen tomorrow and if you hear your number…’
message. And our logo.
“As the concert-goers left, the mobile billboards were back, this time saying ‘thanks for
attending the concert’ along with the Z-93 logo.
“Next book: they had a 1.8 and we got our first and, lamentably, only, 40 share. The other
station changed format within the year.
“Interestingly, the guy who did the prank with me, Richard Santiago, is now the news director
and morning news guy on KLVE in Los Angeles.”
Rollye: “I asked David for a picture and he reminded me this was well before cell phones (and
I must add, well after anyone else was claiming 40 shares— at least none that I can recall in
1979— nothing lamentable about only one— that’s one more than everyone by then.). David
did send along a nice shot of the logo from a print ad in a local TV Guide-like publication with
local artist and read coverage. It leads this column. I thought it would be fun to start on a
happy note after all the sadness of last week. I haven’t heard from Claude Hall since then and
hope he’s just been busy, though I know Bobby Vee’s death hit him hard, as it did many of us.”
John Hawkins: “Your coverage of Bobby Vee's passing reminded me of another example of
him being a cool guy.
“When I was PD of KNEW San Francisco, DJ Hal Pickens was doing a New Year's Eve air
shift (probably 1972). Hal asked and I happily approved that he have a co-host, Bobby Vee.
Bobby and Hal became friends when Hal was at KFWB Los Angeles. KNEW's format was
Greatest Hits, a mix of about 50% currents/recurrents and 50% oldies, so Bobby Vee's
amazing records were often played. Bobby was with Hal for the entire evening, via phone,
sharing terrific stories and music trivia. (I don't seem to have an aircheck, alas.)
“I readily agreed because the highest priority for stations I programmed was for DJs be warm,
smart, interesting and funny (enabled by having a superb air team of "old pros"). My
inspiration for KNEW was Chuck Blore's original KEWB (by my day unfortunately renamed
KNEW) and KFWB. An important element was giving listeners little surprises. For instance,
when singer Jim Croce dropped by for an interview with me, I dragged him into the air studio
where DJ Tom Campbell had Jim choose and intro a few songs; Jim favored his inspiration,
the musical comedy The Coasters.
“Soapbox: It is unfortunate that so many amazing records have disappeared from playlists
because they don't fit some distorted notion of hip that has nothing to do with musical merit
and entertainment value. The idea that "old" records should be labeled "oldies" is also silly. A
favorite is a favorite because of what it is, not what it was. Someone hearing a record of any
vintage right now is experiencing it Right Now. In December when we all love White
Christmas, it's not because we are nostalgic for 1942. Thanks for the always-fun stories.”
Rollye: “Love the White Christmas analogy, John. The irony is that on some levels
programmers demonstrated an intuitive understanding of your point when they avoided such
things as Sgt. Barry Sadler’s #1 record when playing the hits of the 60s. ‘Ballad of the Green
Berets’ worked in context in 1966, but wasn’t relatable in 1986. So how they could succumb
to chronology over sound is a mystery to me, too. But the gift of the golden ear isn’t
quantifiable, and bankers shy away from ‘it sounds right’. They want to make art into science
and there’s no shortage of ‘experts’ willing to oblige— and it sounds it too.
“Great news on Warren Cosford….”
J. Robert Wood: “Just wanted to let you know that Warren Cosford is on the short list of
candidates for next year’s induction into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
For those of you who wrote letters of support, thank you!”
Mel Phillips: “Wow Rollye. Great job on John Markle. It was our promotion director Harvey
Mednick who dealt with the local owner of the Savoy Theatre to put the "Casino Royale"
premiere together (I think his name was Ben Sacks). I had not known about John Markle's
involvement all these years but I'll bet Harv did. Since he reads Vox Jox, I hope he will
comment on this [me too! —Rollye]
“Way too many deaths of people we all knew. One sidebar on the great John Zacherle. My
ex-WOR/FM Music Director Gail Sicilia remained close friends with Zach and told me that he
loved visiting graveyards until the end. I'm writing this on Halloween about a person who not
only played the ‘cool ghoul’, he was the ‘cool ghoul.’”
Cary Pall: “I heard WRKO a bunch during the Drake days when I was in college. I always
wondered this about their Johnny Mann jingles...did they sing the call letters with a "Boston
R" (Double-you-ah-k-o)? The ID sounded like it had the Boston accent in the "Boston" sing
(BAHSton)., Maybe Mel Phillips can clear this up. Or maybe I was just imagining it.
“I will be seeking out the Herb Kent airchecks...I've heard him a couple of times when I was
in Chicago and was thoroughly impressed. And John Zacherle...what a joy it was to be able to
listen to him every chance I could on WPLJ. R.I.P. to both of these giants.”
David Gleason about the October 24th column: “I read it almost instantly …and I saw the
note about my site and expansion to surveys and other radio memorabilia. I’d love to add some
samples of surveys, but only if you and I can get a few of the programmers from the 60’s and
70’s to write some short pieces explaining how songs were added and moved around the
charts. And why the trade charts were not always followed. I’d like to preserve the knowledge
that stations did not just take a national chart and follow it, but it will look better if someone
with PD credentials at significant Top 40 stations writes it.
“Feel free to give my mailing address to anyone who has anything of interest: 80960 Bellerive,
La Quinta, CA 92253.”
Rollye: “At first I thought, gee, George Wilson and everyone else is gone… then I realized
how many great candidates we’ve got who read this column. Jack Gale would be spectacular.
Mel Phillips, by his reunion updates alone, is clearly in a great position to comment. Gerry
Cagle, if he’ll take the time to do it… Bob Hamilton… Jerry Del Colliano would be perfect.
And I’m just getting started. David Gleason sent along a sample. No snazzy graphics, hand
typed on 8 1/2 x 11 plain paper, but take a look at the 3-page KEWI Tunedex from 1969 and
see if you notice what I did:”
Rollye: “Allrighty then.. we’ve got all the usual suspects at the time— from the big acts like
the Rolling Stones to one hit wonders like Shannon, or arguably Tony Joe White— some hot
instrumentals like Quentin’s Theme (from Dark Shadows), even Henry Mancini which fits
particularly well with their day-parting (where Dean Martin leads the Housewife Hit
Parade)… and then you notice what is number one….
“Clarence Reid?! Are you kidding me? And it's number one for the second week in a row??
Not that there isn’t some soul on this chart— inexplicably they brag about the former pick hit
being “Nobody” by The Jerms, a Shelby Singleton remake of an obscure Kaleidoscope single
Shelby cut on Okeh that was covered early and unsuccessfully by Three Dog Night. The
Kaleidoscope version was bad enough, being a cross between soul and psychedelia, though the
group boasted both Larry Williams and Johnny Guitar Watson, but The Jerms? At least that
one wasn’t number one. Yet.
“I’ve thought long and hard how Clarence Reid could have topped this chart. Not that I don’t
like him— he was a big part of 60s Miami Soul (and much more influential in the 70s). The
Overtown sound would not have been the same without him— but still, KEWI is in Tulsa. I
knew Henry Stone had far reaching tentacles, but nothing that I can conjure explains this.
Any thoughts? I’m hoping David will be swamped with surveys, especially some out of the
norm gems like the KEWI chart, particularly if they come with the explanations he’s
David Gleason: “And then I read about the medical things. I was in the hospital 4 weeks ago,
and they sprung the “sepsis” word on me when they looked at me in the ER. Of course, I
googled it and got rather paranoid. Off to the big hospital, and they put me on antibiotics and
drips and fluids and gave me mush and jello and lots of pain killers. When I told them “nuff”
on the pain pills, they said, “You are ready to leave” and out I went. I got the impression they
were mostly playing CYA for three days and doing far more tests than needed. Turned out to be
a little urinary infection that had spread a bit, and it was gone in 24 hours. I hope your situation
is over quickly, and that they are not putting you through tests and examinations just to make
sure you don’t sue them a year or two later!”
Rollye: “I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling better. Strangely, I am too. The dire warning of it
being ‘a potentially fatal condition’ requiring emergency surgery did not come true. The way I
see it, life is a potentially fatal condition. I’m ignoring the predictions that my feeling good will
not last, though I have agreed to a couple non-invasive tests, which I concur David, are
probably more defensive than medical. At our age, none of this is surprising, but then there’s
Joey Reynolds: “What can I say? I am grateful.”
Bob Levinson: I was PR repping the DCC Compact Classics label when DCC honchos Bobby
Roberts and Marshall Blonstein met with Sid Luft, ex-husband of Judy Garland, who
happily showed off the Motion Picture Academy Juvenile Oscar award presented Judy for her
performances in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Babes in Arms.’ From left (seated) Bobby Roberts,
Sid Luft; (standing) Marshall Blonstein, Bob Levinson.”
: “Have you read Bob’s book, ‘The Stardom Affair
’? Click on it for a great deal from
“In the February 17th column, we ran a Smothers Brothers’ picture from 50 years ago, around
the time of WRKO’s debut (more on the 50th reunion below). That prompted Roger Carroll
to share a memory of his own:”
Roger Carroll: “Two great talents and good guys Tom and Dick Smothers. I was the
announcer Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”
Mel Phillips: “We are 7 months away from the WRKO 50th Anniversary weekend. All the
music and jingles from 1967 are being downloaded now. It's guaranteed to be a memorable
weekend. Following these memories from 1967, look for the important reunion dates to mark
down on your 2017 calendar...
“The ‘Summer Of Love’ in the U.S. brought war to the Middle East in June.
LBJ and his national security team in the White House Situation Room
during the Arab-Israeli crisis in 1967
The six-day war would end when Israel & Syria agreed to a U.N. mediated cease-fire. Actress
Jayne Mansfield is killed when her car collides with a truck...
but there was much better news when 400 million viewers watched "Our World", the first live,
international satellite TV production. It featured the live debut of the Beatles' song "All You
Need Is Love"...
The Beatles' 1967 Our World appearance (colorized in 1995.)
“1967 was an unsettled year. There were race riots in Newark, Detroit, Milwaukee and the
rioting spread to Washington, D.C. The war in Vietnam raged on
1967 Vietnam war protestors
but in August the first line-up of Fleetwood Mac made their live debut at the Windsor Jazz and
Blues Festival in the U.K....
Al Gates Joel Cash J.J. Jeffrey Chuck Knapp Arnie Ginsburg
and many more WRKO air personalities will be coming back for the reunion and will be
featured on WRKO-AM & Backbone Network (Streaming)...
‘Reunion dates to remember:
Friday, June 2, 2017 Reunion Dinner in the Crowne Plaza (Newton) Charles Ballroom starting
at 6 pm. Jordan Rich (WRKO, WBZ) will emcee. Parking fees will be waived with front desk
validation for those driving to the event. Email invitations will be sent out in the spring..
Jordan Rich George Capalbo Jr. Art Vuolo
“Saturday, June 3, 2017 7 pm - 11 pm: Live on WRKO & Backbone Network streaming
(produced by George Capalbo Jr.) featuring a lineup including Al Gates, Joel Cash, J.J.
Jeffrey, Chuck Knapp, Arnie Ginsburg and other WRKO Radio greats (TBD)...
“Art Vuolo will video tape the reunion, a copy of which will go into the National Radio Hall of
Fame in Chicago...
“Reservations for rooms at the Crowne Plaza (Newton) Check-in Friday (June 2) Checkout
Sunday (June 4). Call 617-969-3010 and ask for special "WRKO Reunion" rate of $159 per
night (tax not included). You'll pay about $175 after tax but more if you park your car at the
hotel. We suggest using a cab or car service getting to the hotel and while staying there. We'll
see you in 7 months.”