The concept, in case you don’t know, is about product inventors showing up to pitch their new inventions to a panel of rich investors. After watching a few episodes, I was very confused. The stuff I really liked and thought would sell well, the investors wouldn’t give them a penny towards further development. Then I finally picked up the pattern and before long, could predict exactly who was going to get seed money and who wasn’t.
Like most successful entities, you need a secret. In radio, Jack McCoy did a promotion called the “Last Contest” which literally blew up the phone system San Diego. However, what he syndicated was the secret of how to do it without going bankrupt.
A decade later he came up with another blockbuster called “The Prize Catalog” which also, of course, had a secret and when that secret got out, he sold the company. Hey, even the Class FM format which I syndicated, had its own secrets.
Steve Jobs and Bill gates had secrets, as does Google, new drugs, and most inventions. In fact, if your new product doesn’t have a secret, no matter how good it is, don’t bother taking it to the Shark Tank, because there’s no way they’ll ever invest in it. You’d be much better off trying to get into a good school, or better yet, go to a trade school and make some real money.
Doug Erickson: That KVIL staff — and I mean the whole staff, news people, traffic reporter, sidekicks — may have been the best air staff ever assembled in one station. There were some WLS staffs that would be up there with you, but daypart by daypart, major and minor roles, there just wasn’t one weak link.
Geo: Most of them are in the Radio Hall Of Fame, Doug, so Texas agrees with you. (I Got Lucky)
John McQuaker: Hi George: I enjoy reading your stories. I worked at CKY FM, and then CKY 580 from 1966-1971 and worked with some of the people you name, such as Frank Roberts, Bill Grogan, George Dawes, and Embree McDermid. There are probably many others whose names I don’t remember but I got into the news side in about 1970, when I think that John Pierce was the news director. These days it’s hard to imagine that the big 3 AM stations in Wpg, (CKY, CKRC, and CJOB) each had an 8 person news team. Keep up the good work.
Geo: Thanks for the read, John, I left CKY in 1968 to become a Program Director at CKOM in Saskatoon. I started in radio as a part-time board-op at CKY-FM and worked with all the legends, Jack Wells, Jimmy Darin, Gary Todd, Chuck Dann, Daryl ‘B’ Mark Parr, Deno Corrie, and J Robert Wood, as well as the names you’ve listed above. Real heady times for a lad like me who was just beginning his broadcasting career. (Register)
Jerry K: Correct about the freight trains, when ACL and Seabord were around it wasn’t so bad. Add to that the mess in central Florida where Amtrak doglegs over to Tampa and back, making stops in Winter Haven Lakeland and Plant City, or did all a few years ago. One screwup and it becomes a dog and pony show.
Many years ago Amtrak had a train link between New Orleans and Jacksonville but a hurricane took out the track. Still waiting for the service to resume.
Geo: When Cami was a little girl, Jerry, we took that link from Jacksonville all the way to LA. Not a pretty ride, but very relaxing. (Train Wreck)
Marshall Quelch: I wonder how many entertainers and actors who give assistance to p.e.t.a. wear leather footwear and clothes. (Music & Sex)
Haynes Johns: (No Relation) George: I learned volumes by reading about KVIL in the trades, and watching the results in the ratings. On rare occasions when I got to hear Ron Chapman, his enthusiasm and energy were very obvious and infectious to those of us who were tuned in. We wanted to just keep listening so that we could stay plugged into his outlet of fun!
Thank YOU (and Reg) for spreading the gospel and recipe for great radio. I began to learn when we became a Fairwest station in 1986. (Crazy Man Crazy)
Bill Gardner: I remember hosting a KVIL morning show in the late ’80s and wondering at 6.15 about our scheduled 6.20 newscast since Andy McCollum had yet to arrive. When he walked in about 6.19, I hit the intercom and asked if he wanted me to scrub the 6.20, he said, “No, I’ll be ready.” When I introduced him, Andy proceeded to do a newscast that sounded every bit as good and prepared as all the rest! An amazing guy and fun to work with.
Saw Andy last at one of our KVIL reunions, and Bob Morrison who you also mentioned, and even the legendary Ben Laurie, miss them all personally and professionally. (News To Me)
Scott Vowinkle: Never worked for KVIL, George, but admired it from “afar” during the two years I spent in sales at KOAX and KLUV. My introduction to the Fairbanks way, however, started during my years at Butler University in Indianapolis where everyone in the Radio/TV department was enamored with WNAP/WIBC. KVIL was cut from the same cloth. Today when I start missing those great sounds, I punch up the over two hours of WNAP airchecks I have, or the fall 1981 version of Ron Chapman’s “promo majora”…the 25-minute, “Here’s what’s coming up this fall on KVIL.” Competing against them though wasn’t fun. Thanks for the memories.
Geo: We used to promote the hell out of the playing of that 25-minute promo, Scott. Who we really wanted to hear it was the management and staff of all the other radio stations. In it, we unveiled all our promotion plans that started in the fall, hoping to intimidate them. It worked, everybody got out of the promotion game. (Kay-Ville’s Obituary)
Kurt Johnson: Thanks for the story/obit. It was a sad day here in D when she passed. I am grateful I got to spend a few years in the PD chair with Kay. She was grand, classy, and a real presence in any room. (Kay-Ville’s Obituary)
Tim Moore: Geo, that’s where it all started for me: fall 1977 recruited by the vaunted TM Companies (Regal Row) to come to DFW from northern Michigan! TM’s VP Jerry Atchley flew up to beautiful Charlevoix overlooking the harbor, saying I’d been nominated to him by several people, and, TM couldn’t figure out why our station was using so much Masterplan and Producer Library material. He asked that I fly to Dallas and spend a couple of days; “if I didn’t want the job, it would be okay.” I was 27.
Well, 2 days inside the TM studios and TM Programming hallways convinced me it was an incredible opportunity. But the REAL education came after moving there. I kept hearing hall buzz…”KVIL this,” “KVIL that,” “Ron Chapman…” and so it went. Thus, I asked my top sales guy Mike Baer, “What is so great about KVIL?” He looked at me like I was retarded and in his Texas drawl asked, “Have you LISTENED man?” I pledge to do it.
Over the first 2-3 days, I said to myself, “Okay, it’s upbeat, positive, but…” Then, after a full week, I told Mike Baer that it was the greatest, most complete, totally aligned station I’d ever heard. When after three years I returned to Michigan to launch my own 100,000 watt “106 KHQ” (Coastal NW Michigan) I unabashedly took everything I learned from you, Fairbanks, and Ron, and applied it. I even had Ron on my Morning Show! Oh…when the first-ever Arbitron in that 7 County, 21 station regional market along the beautiful Lake Michigan coast, KHQ scored a 14 share 12-plus and won every female demo that mattered.
That all led to our large consultancy today, where we still refer to principles of “cinematic radio” and KVIL. As well, I was very proud to nominate Ron to the NAB when they asked me about a Hall of Fame suggestion. Thank God they agreed! (Kay-Ville’s Obituary)
Geo’s Media Blog is an inside look at Radio, Music, Movies, and Life. For a sneak peek at some upcoming Blogs or to see some that you may have missed, go to GeorgeJohns.com. On Twitter @GeoOfTheRadio. Sharing and commenting is appreciated.