I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of radio legends during my career but the most memorable has to be Jack McCoy.(pictured with me above) I’ve known Jack since 1972 when the station I was with in Toronto, CFTR, bought his “Last Contest.”
This necessitated that my counterpart from Hamilton, Chuck Camroux and me traveling to San Diego (oh darn) where Jack would cut our promos. When we left Toronto it was very cold but when we arrived at our hotel in Mission Beach, it was warm and sunny, and I remember thinking, “Man, I gotta live here someday.”
Jack had booked us into a beautiful two bedroom suite, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find the air conditioner. When I called the front desk to ask for help, they told me to walk over to the sliding glass doors that overlooked the bay, open them, and then stand back and let God do his thing.
Early the next morning, we headed to Santee where the KCBQ studios were located to meet with Jack and cut our promos. What I remember the most about that meeting was how much he reminded me of Clint Eastwood. He wore a leather cowboy hat, a poncho, boots, and even smoked those small cigars just like Clint did in his spaghetti westerns. Jack’s voice though sounded more like Rod Serling’s than it did Clint’s and here’s where it gets a little crazy. After interviewing Chuck and me about our stations, he used his great voice to ad-lib our promos which blew me away then and still does.
A couple of years later when I moved to Indianapolis to be the National PD of Fairbanks Broadcasting, Jack owned a research company called Ram Research. I think I bought almost everything he had, but before I did, I insisted that he cut me some promos which he agreed to do if I stayed in the studio with him.
Taking no notes, he would begin our session by interviewing out of me what it was that I was trying to communicate with the promo. Next, he’d ask if I had any movie soundtrack albums which I did, and after listening to a few tracks, he’d say, “Ok, I’m ready … Roll tape.”
As I said, Jack never took any notes, because as he explained to me, “If you take notes, the client is your consultant, instead of the other way around.” It was amazing to sit there and hear him describe exactly what I was trying to say, but the difference was, he did it with words that were almost poetic. He’s always claimed that it was the music that gave him the copy, but even though I’ve seen him do it this way many times, I’m still amazed by it.
Since I’ve known Jack, he’s always been more comfortable inventing things like green yachts, or coming up with some form of new research than doing promos. His reluctance is unfortunate because it’s what he does best and our industry could sure use a few great promos right about now. His are magnificent because they sound more like movie trailers than they do radio promos.
Jack is not afraid to live on the edge with his inventions, and is ambivalent about things that would scare the hell out of most people. However, like all gifted people, he is also vulnerable. This vulnerability may be the reason that Jack’s always insisted that I stay in the studio with him while he was recording, if I left for even a moment, he would be right behind me. He liked to watch my eyes as he ad-libbed his way through our many sessions, he could tell how it was going from the look in my eyes.
Almost ten years after our first meeting, KVIL in Dallas became the darling of the industry which allowed me to live my dream. I moved to San Diego to start my own company, and Jack talked me into living in Coronado where he lived so got to I hang out with him a lot. I spent many a fine day aboard his 65ft ocean-going yacht where I also got to peek at his newest radio creation, “The Incredible Prize Catalog.” (pictured above)
Here’s to Jack McCoy, the best I’ve ever worked with. Love Ya Man!
(To hear Jack adlibbing his way through some promos back in the day, click on the links at the bottom of the page.)
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Geo’s Media Blog is an inside look at Radio, Music, Movies, and Life. For a sneak peek at some upcoming Blogs or to catch up on some that you may have missed, go to GeorgeJohns.com. On Twitter @GeoOfTheRadio. Sharing and commenting is appreciated.