That Prick George Johns (new geo Blog for the week of March 05/18)

When I left CFTR in Toronto to join Fairbanks Broadcasting in Indy as their National Program Director, I didn’t have a very good relationship with sales departments. (I mean how many times can you be slimed by them until finally just say, “Fuck it?”)Years later, my brother Reg who had just been hired as the new PD of CFTR in Toronto told me that my reputation in Canada was still intact. He said that the day they were introducing him around, the sales manager upon hearing his name said, “You’re not related to that prick George Johns are you?” Hell, even after only being in the States only a short time, the WNAP sales staff in Indy marched into Jim Hilliard’s office and confronted him with, “It’s him or us?” Jim’s response to them was, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”
I soon found out that doing radio in America was very different than doing it in Canada and even the sales managers were different. They were a lot more driven than their Canadian counterparts but more importantly, they controlled the promotion money I needed. In Canada, the CRTC only allowed you to give away $5000 a month whereas in America you could give away as much as you wanted, you just had to figure out where to get it. It didn’t take me too long to discover that all the money I would ever need was in Dick Yancey’s and Jerry Bobo’s office. All I had to do was figure out how my new promotion would help their clients and they were all over it. When I learned that, it changed my life, so I hung up my guns and now some of my best friends are sales managers.
The way it worked at Fairbanks back in the day was, I was the National PD of the company and also the local PD of WIBC in Indianapolis where Fairbanks was headquartered. Dick Yancey, on the other hand, was the National Sales Manager of the company and like me, also the local SM of WIBC. We loved commercials at Fairbanks and ran enough of them to pay cash for all the new stations we bought. The reason we could carry so many commercials without hurting the ratings was that they fit into the flow of the station not to mention that we also had some of the best voices in the country doing them. Unfortunately, to accomplish that smooth flow, there were a lot of restrictions on what you could or could not do. No remotes, no yelling car dealers, and if you needed a live read, you better come with a boatload of money. Oh and did I mention, absolutely no remotes?
Thinking back on it all, I now realize that it was what we didn’t do on the radio had as much to do with our success as what we did do.
My soft spot has always been about promotion, and that’s where Dick Yancey and I came together. We prided our selves on coming up with stuff that the sales staff believed were sales promotions but the air staff thought otherwise. Amongst some of my favorites was the “Magic Ticket” which was so successful that the FCC investigated it. After it received a clean bill of health, Dick syndicated it which he and his sons Scott and Rich I believe still do in some form today. Other than the revenue and ratings it gave us, what I liked best about the “Magic Ticket” was that it provided me with my very first Mercedes.
When I first moved to Indy, Jim Hilliard was in the middle of purchasing KVIL in Dallas which was where I first met Jerry Bobo. (pictured above) Jerry who is now in the Texas Hall Of Fame is one of my all-time favorite Sales Managers and is right up there with Tim Reever and Tom Skinner. Unfortunately for Jerry, when I arrived in Dallas to launch a brand new format on KVIL, Jerry realized that he had absolutely nothing to sell. No ratings, no remotes, just a shitload of restrictions limiting what you could do or not do in a commercial if you were lucky enough to find someone who wanted to buy one. Oh yeh, and a new format the likes of which had never been heard before. C’mon Jerry, there’s no crying in radio, and you do have one great thing, Ron Chapman.
What made Jerry stand head and shoulders above other SMs was that when he discovered that all he had to sell was promotions, he became the best in the world at it. He didn’t bother sitting around waiting for me to bring him things like the “Magic Ticket,” the “Checks In The Mail,” the “Prize Catalog,” and the 50% Off “Free Fair” he’d head down to Ron Chapman’s office to ask if there was anything Ron wanted to do that he hadn’t done yet. Ron always had something so Jerry would go back to his office and package it up. The next thing I knew, Ron would be on the phone pitching me some promotion that he wanted to do that Jerry could sell if we could just give him a little help. The help, of course, consisted of a little bending of the rules which was ok by me because if Ron was for it, it always worked.
Once KVIL was cookin’, Hilliard would use Jerry to help our other stations get the sales side of the promotions off the ground, and one of my fondest memories was when he traveled to Boston to help launch the “Magic Ticket” on WVBF. During the presentation which was done at a fancy hotel in downtown Boston, Jerry was explaining how the promotion worked to the executives and all the store managers of “Friendly’s”  who were there along with their wives. About halfway through his presentation, Jerry said, “It’s impossible to explain to you how excited your customers are going to be when this promotion hits the air so why don’t I just show you. And with that, he reached into his briefcase and started throwing out fistfuls of bills. Before long the Friendly’s people were shoving each other and crawling around on their hands and knees trying to gather up as much free money as they could.
However as George Harrison said, “All things must pass” and after being at Fairbanks for eight years, I left to start my own consulting company in San Diego. Now when you’re V/P of programming, most of your ideas make the airways, but when you’re just a consultant, you’re lucky if half of them do. Luckily when I left Fairbanks, they, thanks to Jim Hilliard, became my first client and I’ll never forget my first visit to Dallas as their new consultant. When I woke up the next morning and turned Ron Chapman on, he was doing his show from the parking lot of a shopping mall which wouldn’t be open for hours. What the fuck! Upon investigation, I found out that on one of his trips to Ron’s office Jerry discovered something that Ron had lusted after for years, a tricked out RV with a studio in it that Ron could drive to the little towns that surrounded Dallas so he could say, “Thanks for listening.” Upon learning this, Jerry claimed that he could get Ron’s dream done but of course, would need a little help, but this time the help he needed was Ron doing a few trial runs out front of shopping centers and such before he took the show on the road. C’mon Jerry!
I wonder if Jews, Hispanics, Muslims, Native Americans, and Asians feel that they are better treated than black folks are?

When you’re young, you worry about what people think of you. When you’re middle-aged, you don’t give a damn, but as you grow older, you finally begin to realize that they were never thinking about you in the first place.

My nephew Jamie Boychuck who is an executive with CSX Railway got to ring the bell to begin trading on Wallstreet last Friday. How cool is that? 
Your destiny isn’t about your getting lucky; it’s about your ability to choose what it is you want it to be.
Each dumb mistake you make gives you another opportunity to become smarter.
Is there anything louder than the silence you hear when the crickets suddenly stop?
It’s tough to defeat the enemy who is inside your head.
The time to start worrying about the stuff you don’t control is right after you get what you do control perfect.
Following the well-worn path leads to nothing of consequence.
It’s not the all the great things that you do now, and then that makes the difference, it’s the everyday things that you do every day.
As sophisticated as Shakespeare’s writing appears to be, it was written for the common man as were the Beatles compositions.
The difference between winners and losers is the winners are the ones who got back up one more time to give it one more shot.
Unfortunately, we only get to elect our presidents but not our kings who are the wealthy big business guys.
The rest of the world may not like what America stands for, but they sure love our benefits.
Why is it so much harder getting the generic medicine out of the container than the original?
In this politically correct world that we live in, people only want to communicate with those who agree with them thus leaving the planet running in place.
What if Mother Nature intended us to screw up the planet and that’s why we have global warming. Maybe she’s hoping that we’ll eliminate ourselves and then she could get on with whatever is next without her having to send another comet.
Why do politicians once elected work on everything except what we elected them to work on, “The economy and jobs?”
Having enemies is a good thing claimed Winston Churchill because it means that at one time in your life you stood for something.
The only thing more irritating in South Florida in the winter time than a person from Quebec is an even ruder New Yorker with a horn.
Any person who is not a little wiser today than they were yesterday is on a fast train to nowhere.
Since deregulation began can anyone point out any good that it has done? All I see is radio groups going into bankruptcy and people losing their jobs.
I dislike negativity so much that I get excited whenever anything positive shows up like waking up and realizing it’s Friday. Even though the days of the week stopped being a big deal to me when I got into radio, Friday still feels special.
Isn’t it weird when somebody quits smoking they immediately start lecturing us on the evils of smoking whether we smoke or not? It’s so bad we almost start praying that they start smoking again.
How do we free our politicians from the chains of lobbyist money which would free him to do what’s right?
When I first got a record deal I thought the dealin’ was done, little did I know the dealin’ had just begun.
Have you ever noticed that the evil money that flows from lobbyists to politicians has been criticised by almost everyone except the Democrats or Republicans?
Listen up ladies, what most men want the most from a woman is unconditional adoration.
Much more @ On Twitter @GeoOfTheRadio. Sharing appreciated. 





18 thoughts on “That Prick George Johns (new geo Blog for the week of March 05/18)

  1. Thanks George for the kind words. As you know, Jim, You and Yancey brought to all of us at KVIL a new and fresh way of thinking regarding the business of Radio. We simple listened and put our own spin on it and made great things happen.

    • And what a long great ride it was for all of us, Jerry. However, I wish we could have skipped CBS’s fresh new way of thinking that they brought to the table though.

    • How did that work out for them and what are the new call letters? Hell Jerry, they paid what like 85 million for it and now I doubt that they could get “stick value” for. That line for who was responsible for KVIL was a long one for the longest time but it’s real short now. 🙂

  2. George, my favorite Ron Chapman story: he gave away the prize of a 240Z to the wife of a contestant, who called in because her husband, who had entered the contest, was on the flight line and couldn’t respond to call within the required time. Ron asked me, KVIL’s FCC lawyer, if that was okay. I said, “Well, no, because the contest rules required the person who entered the contest to call personally.” What did Ron do? He took it to his audience, asking, “Should we take the car away from her?” Then he did the classiest thing: he let ‘em keep it, and . . . did a do-over: he gave another car away! No one ever out-classed KVIL.

    • You’re right John until CBS bought KVIL, every other radio station in town was just playing catch up. KVIL owned the promotion category. Mike Bader as you knew was our counsel at Fairbanks and every promotion I came up with he would turn down. Finally, I blew up at Mr. Fairbanks.(how ballsy was that?) and the next thing I knew I got to deal with you. I’ll never forget the very first promotion I ran by you, I had all my I’s dotted and T’s crossed but in the middle of my presentation you interrupted me by saying, “George George, tell me this, are you planning on giving away the prize?” When I answered that I was, you said, “Then get on with your contest and stop selling it to me.” 🙂

  3. “Magic Ticket” was that it provided me with my very first Mercedes… once again proving the best cars in the parking lot belonged to the sales staff.

  4. George, I believe looking at degreg as the killer of radio is surprising, especially for you. Radio was slow to adapt to new tech and opportunities and most importantly, not fully understanding that their only way to survive what was to happen was TALENT, creating compelling content. Radio was crippled by short sited, to cheap operators! My venting 🙂

    • Deregulation led to the demise of the great radio stations and the terrible ones Ivan. Rules cause creativity, Howard Stern was much better when he had to overcome rules. All we’re left with now is mediocrity.

      • George, I am surprised, creative can be fostered with in the rules! Case in point Ron Chapman, he was never anything but compelling! And never outside of the rules. Creative costs $$$, the ownership were more focused on pushing the bottom line. That’s when I left the business. I started Hipcricket truly because I thought it could save radio. I would argue the point that it every well may have been able to lead the charge bringing in tech, early, not trailing! Love to have a deeper discussion with you on all this 🙂

        • Hell, I never even started to got creative until I heard the word no Ivan. In fact, when we had a shot at hiring the Mayor of Dallas to do sports on KVIL, we were turned down because he was too expensive so Ron and I added a spot an hour to morning drive and paid for him ourselves.
          Always available for deep discussions with you anytime.

  5. George, when I worked for you at WIBC, I thought you were the Zenmaster, because you never yelled, even when displeased or tired from all of the traveling. You led by example. You were like a wise rabbi, as if you had seen and heard it all, because you could communicate in few, well-chosen words. If I asked you a question, usually, you responded in a short, pointed question that provoked thought and insight…simple and direct. When I worked for Jim in Tampa, I, too, enjoyed working with Jerry Bobo, whom was in many ways, very similar to you…simple in expectations (to be the best) and always direct. I do not recall that you lost your temper upon your return when “Wild Willie” (Bill) Hennes occupied your office before going to Philadelphia to join Burt Sherwood to be his “Ernie” to Burt’s “Bert”. You may have expressed your feelings to Jim Hilliard, but you kept your countenance and stayed cool, to wait for the inevitable collapse of the Sherwood / Hennes regime at WIBG. I don’t recall hearing a discouraging word on that sorry situation. That is very much in contrast to some of the consultants and grand poohbahs’ at R.K.O. General that I encountered in 1980, whose rants and raves were inversely proportional to how successful they were.

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