Recently my Brother Reg and I were having a discussion about how we thought the word No was probably the most hated and the most heard word in the Radio Industry today. No Money, No Time, and No People. Reg pointed out that No may in fact be a good thing because creativity doesn’t even begin before hearing that dreaded “N” word. Some people seem to rise above No and use it’s immense negative power to heat up their creative juices and turn the gloom of No into the warm bright neon glow of Yes!
I believe Todd Storz and Gordon McLendon may have been may have been amongst the first in broadcasting to hear the big No. Being Radio Station owners like they were, can you even imagine how nervous they must have been when they heard these words … No we don’t want to listen to the Lone Ranger anymore we want to watch him on the new thing called TV. After hearing those words a little too often legend has it Todd and Gordon were having coffee at a local diner talking about what appeared to be the immanent demise of Radio. They began to notice their waitress was putting most of her tip money in the Jukebox and playing the same song over and over again. As this was becoming a little irritating, they asked her why she didn’t play something else. She replied, That’s my favorite song why would I play something else. At that moment Top 40 Radio was born.
Another example of No being overcome was when Bill Drake and Ron Jacobs were getting ready to launch the Radio changing Drake format at KHJ in Los Angeles the Musicians Union went on strike. Bill Drake loved jingles and couldn’t imagine for a minute launching a brand new format in America’s largest radio market without them. After talking it over with Johnny Mann they decided to go with Acapellas as they were the only thing left to do. Acapellas went on to become the staple of all the Drake stations and their many copycats. After recovering rather nicely from the jingle scare the word No showed up again just before their historic launch. Their major competitor in LA, KFWB started calling themselves The Boss Jocks. “Boss” was Drake’s whole theme, everything was Boss. Boss Angeles, Boss this, Boss that, now his Jocks were devastated and looked to Drake and Jacobs to come up with a new solution. Bill responded with … They’re Not The Boss Jocks how could they be. We’re the Boss Jocks and we’re at KHJ. The rest is history as they say. Very few people ever heard, remember, or cared that KHJ was not the first Radio station in LA to use the Boss moniker.
A few years later Buzz Bennett did a great job in San Diego of finally knocking off a Drake station. Shortly there after he walked with the entire air staff and Jack McCoy was brought in to save the day by becoming the new PD of the famous KCBQ. The good news for Jack was it was a very high profile job. The bad news was he had … No Money, No Time, and No People. His answer overcoming all that negativity was to invent “The Last Contest”and put together the money saving concept of using nothing but part time Jocks. He recruited some great talent that were in between gigs. People like Charlie Tuna who was working out a non compete in LA and a bunch of others he got by convincing them that it was easier finding a well paying permanent job while working and also having the famous KCBQ call letters on their air check and resume couldn’t hurt either. Jack did some magnificent promos and in no time at all they blew the phones and San Diego apart.
In my own case I stumbled across a new music format in Canada after hearing a real strong No. CFTR Toronto had an Adult license which meant it could only play music for Adults. It was clear and simple to the CRTC if teens showed up in your ratings you were expected to turn in your license. No Teen Music Baby! Most stations in Canada who had the adult requirement resorted to the Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett types knowing teens would never listen to that kind of stuff. I decided to do something brand new. My theory being that the new generation of adults like me didn’t like the stuff from the 40’s so we went with top 10 hits that sounded adult. Whenever I was in doubt I simply congered up my Mother’s face and if she even started to scrunch up I threw the tune out. The Toronto broadcasters were positive we had gone Rock because we were only playing the hits. What they didn’t realize was we weren’t playing them all. They were sure we had just blown our license. What we had done instead of blowing our license was to start a new long lasting format called AC, because No forced us to.
My next big No built my entire radio career. When Jim Hilliard hired me to be his National PD he had just purchased KVIL but he wasn’t quite ready to launch it. He was waiting for Arbitron to come out with their proposed new rating book which combined the two separate markets of Dallas and Ft. Worth and shoved them into the top 10 as one. Our plan which had never been done before was to go after both markets. Until then Jim suggested just rollin’ that music I had been doing in Toronto. But he did get us some great Heller Jingles bless his heart, which spiced it up a tad. So there I was in the home of The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders with No Money, No People, and a way Too Much Time. Luckily for me I did inherit one great person, the now Radio Hall Of Famer Ron Chapman. Whew! Because we had No money but unfortunately a lot of time to fill is what forced us to come up with a concept called ” Build Your Own Radio Station.” Here is what the folks heard as we stalled. “We have turned 103.7 on the FM dial over to you the good people of Texas. This radio station is now yours to do with what you will. We are standing by to execute your wishes and do them exactly how you want them done. Tell us what kind of music you want and how you would like it presented. Do you want any News Weather or Sports. Do you want Dee Jays. We await your call. (the year was 1974, just a little ahead of Pandora) Ron and the late great Chuck Riley our afternoon guy in Indy cut all the promos. The sincere way they did them caused the folks to respond with tons of suggestions very quickly. That smooth Texas accent combined with their name and where they lived made us sound completely local. Each Monday we would launch something new as we slowly grew our sound. W always tried to use a recorded request from a listener suggesting what new thing they wanted. We would tag their requests with … You Want It, You Got It … And it all begins Monday on your K-V-I-L. For giggles we would even mix in a few dopers and some nasty sounding people who would claim our whole thing was bogus. They would say we needed to play nothing but the Grateful Dead or in some cases Polkas and Bluegrass music. These type of promos would get everybody really stirred up and cause a lot of listeners to say … No! No! No! Don’t do any of that. The people were so into this concept that a couple of years later a guy called us and said … Hey remember me I was the one who suggested you should do some news and now I’ve got another idea! I think we had recorded requests for everything you possibly could do on the radio. Necessity is a “Mutha” but little did I know what we were really doing was inventing a brand new Radio Concept that my Brother and I would use in over 40 markets when CLASS/CLASSY FM was born.