Geo’s Media Blog. (It Was 29 Years Ago Today) 05/20/19

As I sit here in the Sun Dome at USF in Tampa proudly watching my youngest daughter, Cami graduate, (shown with me on top) I’m reminded that I watched her sister Candis do the same thing at UCLA twenty-nine years ago. (shown with me above) What, you ask? Well, it’s a story much better told when adult beverages are involved, but I’ll give it a shot.
 

Shortly after Candis graduated in LA, my good friend and mentor Jim Hilliard persuaded me to leave California for a six-month project in Boston. He wanted me to help pump up WVBF so he could sell it for Mr. Fairbanks. With Candis all set working for a record company, I said, “What the hell” and headed for New England.

Upon arrival in Boston, I figured out real quick that the only thing we had to work with at WVBF was the morning show. The show which featured Loren & Wally (shown above) along with Len Mailloux doing news was great, but what the hell, we upgraded mornings and anyway. We added in funny man Chris Paul from LA and then teamed Len up with local legend Nick Mills to punch up the morning news. Officer Bill did the traffic and then it was time to fix the rest of the station. For middays, we brought in the deep-throated Jeff McKee from Austin and then stole Boston’s angry Irishman, Tom Doyle, from WHDH to do afternoons. We wrapped it all up at night by importing the soon to be famous Delilah from Seattle. (all shown above having Thanksgiving Dinner)
 
To make a long story short, somehow this little project which was supposed to have me back in San Diego within six months, stretched into five years. However, I did manage to escape the cold in Boston now and then when I’d fly down to South Florida to visit our sister station, WRMF in Palm Beach. It was in Florida during one of those visits that I met the woman who was about to change my whole life. Her name was Kari and not only was she beautiful and fun, but also a psychotherapist who would soon become the mother of Camera Anne Johns Summerfield whom I am sitting here watching graduate some twenty-three years later. (Cami’s name was by far the longest announced at the ceremony and the guy who had to read it, laughed out loud when he saw the camera she had drawn under her name so that he wouldn’t mispronounce it.)
 
I loved living in Boston, hey what’s not to like when you’ve got Fenway and the Garden all within walking distance. Oh did I mention that we also had a suite overlooking third base at Fenway? Unfortunately, being from Winnipeg meant that I’d already done my cold time, so when Kari got pregnant, I moved to West Palm Beach where I’ve been ever since. (sadly, I never did return to San Diego)
 

The five years I spent in Boston was not only some of my best radio years, but they also provided me with a lot of great memories such as when Jim Hilliard and I were walking by the production room at WVBF and noticed the newly arrived Tom Doyle in there chatting with Lorne & Wally. We, of course, couldn’t resist popping in to say a quick hi, but before anyone could say anything, Jim said, “Hey, I’ve got a lot of money tied up in this room, somebody better make me laugh real quick.” Lorne, without missing a beat, said, “Wally, show him your dick!”

COMMENTS

Bill Gardner: Great stories on Mr. Fairbanks! Having been a long time employee in Dallas, Philly, and Boston, I now know why he and I never had dinner together or even met. 🙂  But come to think of it, same for Les Moonves during my ten years at CBS!

One story you shared that I always loved was when you told me that back in the ’70s, every year Mr. Fairbanks would request a list of all the employees whose salaries were above $25,000 a year. I always loved that one, true or urban legend?

Geo: Very true Bill. He didn’t think that anybody who lived in Indy needed more than $25,000 so we corporate people were paid a base of 25 grand which kept us under the radar. However, we also got two bonus checks a year which before long dwarfed our salaries. Unfortunately, our family had to live on the twenty-five, but when bonus time came around, we all bought new homes and cars. Oh, and the dinners you never got to have with Mr. F, I envy you.

James Ford: I love this blog. I remember KLZS in Wichita using the “The station you are helping to build” approach. It was a great concept.

Geo: Thank you, James. The original concept was conceived in Dallas where we were stalling the launch of the new KVIL until the Dallas and Ft. Worth rating books were combined. It all turned out so well that I used the concept at a bunch of stations all over America including a station I owned in Portland called K103, which is still #1. The listeners were so into the concept that years later they would call and say, “I was the one that told you that you should do some news, now I’ve got another idea.”

Doug Erickson: “The only way to be right is by not being afraid to be wrong.” I’ll keep and repeat at some point.

Geo: Help yourself, Doug and thanks for the read.

Don Walker: George, something I learned in a timeshare. If you ask a room full of adults what they like about vacations, their answers will vary. However, if you ask a roomful of kids, they only have one answer…Because they’re fun! When I was a kid, I loved radio because it was fun…Can anybody say that today?

Bruce Buchanan: KVIL was the only station in which I worked that had an engineer on duty over the weekend during the rating period. I remember having a turntable failure one weekend, but one call down the hall and repairs were on the way. I have no complaints.

Geo: No complaints and your name don’t go together smoothly, Bruce. 🙂

Xrey: I worked for George Wilson for five years. The KIQQ morning show of Bruce & Tony was better than Rick Dees, but Outlet B’castg didn’t give us the promo $$$ like Gannett had. No TV, no billboards. Just T-shifts & bumper stickers. Very frustrating.
To me, generally, LA has always had mediocre radio. Growing up with Gordon McLendon’s KLIF 1190 as a kid, I was glued to my transistor because the music was great, the news, talent, and events were compelling too. By taking those elements to KVIL like Ron did, made us great and beat them at their own game on FM. KVIL didn’t have a traffic service. We heard about unusual delays from listeners. I’d use a reverse phone directory to call a business in front of, or near the action. Chapman would put the eyewitness on the air, and they’d give us a PxP of the accident scene. Jingle out into “Daniel” or “Seasons In The Sun.” The end. That’s how we did traffic before Suzie & the KVILecopter era.
We *never* ran 15 spot sweeps like pre-Entercom, CBS, and Cumulus. 2:00 MAX, then a song.  We were almost always sold out, but the spots flew by before you could punch out because we always teased something. Half the time our follow-up promos teased “the next big something.” (xrey:) “What will it be, Ron?” (RC) “Oh, we’ll figure that out later!”. Some of the greatest promotions happened with random phone calls. We’d put two or three modest ideas together from them and come up with something great.

PS: in my eight years we didn’t have a “promotions & marketing department” or road crew, or an “HR dept.” or corporate “risk management officer” to tell us how crazy we were and not to do something that turned into something brilliant.  “The Man In The Carpeted Office” knew better than to f*** with us or he’d suddenly be working for some daytimer in Mineola.:-)

Geo: When I showed up at KVIL, Xrey, one of the few rules that I brought to KVIL was the one that said, “Thou shall have a new promo on the air every Monday announcing that something special was on the way.” Also, every Monday, something new had to begin. As they say, X man, “Necessity is a Mutha!”

Duane: We need to make radio more of a social media form of entertainment. If some genius could create a radio version or Facebook with music, you would be on to something big.

Geo: That will take a real genius, Duane.

Doug Thompson: What amazing memories, George. When Donny Burns came to Toronto, was he doing radio? He got to CHUM, if I remember correctly, about 1967.

Geo: No, when Donny left The Phantoms (later called The Jury) in 1964 Dougie, he went to Toronto to record a Christmas record for Arc Records called Cool Yule. When Donny and I played in the band together, we used to be booked by a dance promotor by the name of John Wood. (J Robert) However, none of us had any idea at the time that we’d all end up in radio. A couple of years ago I got a voice over demo from Donny, it was one of the best I’ve ever heard, but I haven’t heard from him since.

Dan Shively: Gordon Zlot and I grew up in Vallejo, and both started working at a 250-watt daytime, KGYW/KNBA when we were 12 and 13. I was more interested in on-air work; he was more interested in engineering, although he did on-air work as well. Even at that age, he built a carrier current station at home, and we broadcast to the neighborhood from his bedroom. No one deserves the Hall of Fame induction more than Gordon.

Bruce Walker: Maybe it’s just me, but I find that there is now too much advertising cluttering up the radio and even more on TV. I just hit the mute button or change stations when it comes on. It seems that many radio jocks are getting lazy and just picking up stuff that has already been done on social media.
I like the deep dive. Things are getting tough when I am actually noting that CBC radio is doing a FEW really interesting stories and great humour programming.

Brent Farris: The business people are always there to tell us what we can’t do or must do. But when you tell the stories….when you invoke the great names of the true talent who have come before us… when you wave your wand of words, the mists part and we all get a chance to see a glimpse of what radio could be.

As we were walking together, to dinner the other night, I realized that you are that impish muse who breathes life into the air we broadcast upon.

It is an honor to walk in your shadow.

Ok, enough sappy shit…let’s drink.

Brent

Geo: ​You never walked in my shadow, Brent, you were always a part of it. Our relationship has served us both well.

Geo’s Media Blog is an inside look at Radio, Music, Movies, and Life. For a sneak peek at some upcoming Blogs, or some that you may have missed, go to GeorgeJohns.com. On Twitter @GeoOfTheRadio. Sharing and commenting is appreciated.

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