Women Are Not Welcome Here !

After having had a nice long run with WIBC, WNAP, KVIL, WVBF, WIBG, WJNO and WRMF I decided to leave it all behind and move to sunny San Diego which had been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. The move was definitely not very popular with my family nor my best friend and Boss Jim Hilliard, but it was the one I think I was destined to make. Hey you don’t dare stand in the way of destiny do you. My plan was to start up my own business as a Radio Consultant and my first project was to see if  I could implement the KVIL concept on a bunch of radio stations at the same time. We had already replicated the format on WRMF in South Florida so I figured we had a pretty good shot at doing it successfully elsewhere.

I was once asked what word best described KVIL and the word Class was the only one I could come up with that even came close to describing that great station and it’s Hall Of Fame air staff. It was also the perfect word to use as the name for our new format. It’s hard to figure out exactly what Class is but you sure know what it ain’t. With Class as our new mantra we just simply ripped all the things off the air that didn’t have any. Our format was targeted at women so the first thing that had to go was “Sex Drugs and Rock & Roll” Women may like sex but they sure don’t like to talk about it much let alone hear some corny Disc Jockey quacking about it. Some Women may even have done a few drugs in their day but when they started thinking about making babies they immediately wanted all the drug dealers killed. I had picked up early on in my career that women never ever really liked Rock&Roll. Sure they went to all the concerts and screamed their lungs out but they were screaming for the Super Stars not the music. If you don’t believe me check out the ratings on a Classic Rock station. Being an old musician it was pretty easy for me to put the texture and flow together using the kind of music they did like.

Shortly after opening up an office in La Jolla I enlisted the help of my brother Reg and my friend Reid Reker. We needed some sales to help get this thing started so we brought Jim West on board and in no time at all he had the Class/Classy format on about forty stations all over the United States and Canada. Can you say “oversold” It was very exciting and rewarding to say the least but the travel was just brutal.

Bill Yde came into the picture as our CFO around this time and with his financial know how we ended up buying Fairwest from Fairbanks Broadcasting. Mr. Fairbanks no longer had any use for a syndication and jingle company now that Jim Hilliard was gone. Now that we had a real company it was time to do what every radio person dreamed about doing … Buy our own radio stations and start to wind down the consulting end of our company. We also bought Music Of Your Life from Al Ham to put up on Satellite to see how that all worked. Satellite moved around the country a lot faster than I ever could so maybe it was the new answer to syndication. Meanwhile Bill was busy putting a deal together with Tom Hicks to merge our two companies and form a new company called Capstar. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for various reasons but Tom Hicks did take me to Wall Street to dance for the boys of money which was very cool seeing as I was just an old song and dance man from Transcona anyway. (Hey Bill don’t we still have some shares in that company) Hicks then talked Reid into joining their management team using a piece of the rock as bait. My Brother Reg was just beginning to get into the digital world using the computer as the new thing with which to drive Ratings and Revenue. He invented a thing called the Radio Rewards System which turned out to be huge for him. Meanwhile when Reid’s deal with Hicks ran its course as all deals do Reid moved to Phoenix to launch a new FM. It wasn’t long before he popped out to see me in San Diego to find out if anything new was running through my head. The landscape had changed a lot since we had first done the Class/Classy thing so maybe it was time to do something brand new on Reid’s new FM.

We jumped in my old Benz, put the top down and headed up the PCH looking for a great smokey dark bar where all the great radio formats are born. If this new format was going to be any good we needed a little help. Canadian Whiskey usually brought my old pals the muses out into the open for me. I through a lot of experience found out Muses love dimly lit bars with dark furniture and they hide all their best ideas at the bottom of a tall glass. After flirting with the busty tattooed bar maid for a while we got down to some serious talkin’ mixed together with some serious drinkin’. Because the Class/Classy was more about what we didn’t do than what we did do we thought maybe this one should be about what we do do. I said to Reid that as far as I know men only talk about 3 things when they’re together, sex, sports and business. Reid thought for a moment and said nope there are four … Sex, Sports, Business and Sex. The concept we came up with that afternoon was called “Radio For Men” The station was going to be kinda like a Sports Bar and just like any bar does we were going to throw in a little Rock&Roll now and then but it was going to be stuff that more than just old hippies like. The best part about this new format was we were going to talk about the things Men like to talk about and play all the music Men really like. “Radio For Men” how cool is that going to be. OK we’re on to something here but seeing as the first rule of Show Biz is to get noticed we needed to come up with a great get noticed plan. We came up with a killer. Reid was now ready to pitch our new concept to his owners but didn’t think it would be a problem because they were both old programming guys and would “get it” It was soon a go! The next move was to find some talent locally as quickly as we could and just like the Oakland Raiders we we’re looking for edgy guys who were a little too much for the other Phoenix stations. Reid found some great castoffs and all we had to do was explain to them where the lines were. It was OK to bump into the lines now and then but there was no going over. Going over the line is just crude. Wondering if the talent is going to go over the line is where all the fun begins.

Time now to get noticed! The first thing Reid does is buy some TV time along with a few Billboards. The TV spot was brilliant. It showed Reid sitting on top of a huge Radio dial and saying as he turns the dial … Is it just me or does everything on the radio seem to be for women. As he turns the dial every station is playing Barry Manilow.  It’s all a way too wimpy for me Reid says. He goes on to point out the fact that there is absolutely nothing on the FM dial for men. He then says as the new GM of a brand new Radio Station I’m prepared to do something about it right here and points to his dial position which of course leaps out of the screen every time he points at it. In fact I’m going to do something about it tomorrow morning at 7. This position on the FM dial is now officially reserved for the men of Phoenix and women are not welcome here!  The billboards were great, very plain with just the symbol you see on the ladies restroom doors except ours included the red circle around it with the line going through it. Underneath the symbol it simply read “RADIO FOR MEN” with just the dial position.

The next thing we know the the NOW organization immediately marched on us which caused the station to get a ton of attention. USA today did a big story on us along with People Magazine and Entertainment tonight. The local TV Stations were camped out in our parking lot interviewing women who were saying we were discriminating against them and it must be against the law to have a radio station for men only. Talk about getting noticed we were on our way because we knew the more we kept saying women couldn’t listen the more they were going to listen.

That may have been the best launch I have ever been involved in and I’ve been involved in a few. Things couldn’t go much smoother so I headed back to San Diego. The next day Reid called me and said … It’s over man! What do you mean it’s over I shouted. The big guys have pulled the plug, they’re worried about women boycotting the station’s clients. The whole city is just buzzing about us so I know the ratings must be crazy good but the owners are too frightened to continue. They say they like the concept and how it sounds and everything so they want me to continue the programming but we can’t call it “Radio For Men” nor can we make any reference to the fact that women are not welcome here. Are you f**king kidding me Reid! This was the first time we didn’t have to do a slow build because we were all set and we came out of the box just smokin’ This new format is a monster and was poised to be “The Next Big Thing” I’m outta here Man!

18 thoughts on “Women Are Not Welcome Here !

  1. This is a story about PASSION.

    Whatever happened to that in radio?

    Who ever got passionate about an Excel spreadsheet? NOT a single listener.

  2. Which is another symptom of why even simple things that are “no brainers” do not work in this country anymore. (Would this have happened in Canada, George, or have the rule-makers in Canada gone full-tilt P.C. ?) While I believe in “do no harm”, everybody takes themselves way too seriously !

  3. Funny how regardless of how good it is on the radio, it still takes some outside promotion to help people find you.

  4. Bravos, George! You spin such wonderful yarns, thanks for sharing. Storytelling was always your métier.

    Chasing your ending here, Reid went on to achieve great success with his male targeted format in both Chicago and Dallas.

    One of my favorite Reid Reker stories involves his earlier, first run in Chicago at WMET. Reid ran a TV commercial featuring Smokey Robinson and a cast of crying babies which was created by the brilliant Dale Pon (Creator of “I Want My MTV”). The tag line, delivered by Smokey, was “Don’t cry, baby. Listen to 95.5, WMET.” The spot caused such a controversy that it became the subject of an entire morning on the market’s then #1 AM drive program. WGN’s Wally Phillips took calls from listeners who were, in the majority, negative on the spot saying it was horrible and should be taken off the air immediately. Reid got an incredible free commercial for his station on WGN!

    Alas, the battle was lost when the general manager folded. He demanded the commercial be pulled. Several of the station’s biggest clients were “concerned” and worried how those precious little babies were made to cry in the making of the spot. Still, for my money, one of the most clever and certainly most talked about TV commercials ever run for/by a radio station.

    p.s. It should come as no surprise to readers here that George was behind the scenes during Reid’s run at WMET and was very supportive, vocal about the merits of keeping those crying babies on the air. “Take it off? Are you crazy? How often does anybody get the entire market talking their advertising?”

    • Wow the great Dave Martin as a reader how cool is that. Yeah Dave, Reid wanted me to mention the successes of the spinoffs he did of “Radio For Men” but he didn’t send me any checks for them so I figure they couldn’t have been similar in any way Right! I also told Reid the article was not about good radio it was about GREAT radio and how clients have always unfortunately destroyed most of it. I’m not a big fan of Mel but I do admire him for never giving into the clients when Stern was on his way to greatness. Someday Dave I will tell the story of owning WMET for 15 minutes and how great that would have been for a lad from Transcona. Thanks for reading.
      PS The babies were crying because they thought Gary Stevens was their Daddy(-:

  5. Billy Poobah, an alter-ego from another radio reality altogether, would argue the point of radio being about the client(s), but then Billy was a bit of a demo psychotic in that respect. Get the demo and the clients have little say in the matter. Besides, ain’t no point in beatin’ a dead horse here, but then again… can’t hurt none neither.

    • As one of the sales managers told me lately, in all the meetings he was in with Hilliard, all Jim ever said was … Nothing happens in Radio until somebody sells something. My response to him was to say in all the meetings I was at with Hilliard he would always say … We don’t have anything to sell until you guys put something decent on the Radio.

  6. George, you are a great story teller. I did a TV commercial and jingle for your Classy Kansas City and I think also for Seattle with my company Eagle Marketing
    ..was that Sandusky broadcasting , I think Dana Horner was one of the GMs a great format.
    Keep em coming George…

    • Yes that was Sandusky. Toney Brooks was running the company then which was mostly AOR but decided to give us a shot with KLSI in Kansas City Steve Dinkle was the GM. That went well enough that he also gave us KLSY in Seattle where Dana was the GM. Fun days!

  7. Paul, every once in awhile I get out the song that was written around that TV commercial and play it. No one would ever play a 2 to 3 minute promo song anymore. But when you get the University of Missouri marching band playing your song at a Chiefs football game.. not too shabby! And at the beginning of KLSI we were the strangers in the AOR mix at Sandusky… until the money truck pulled up at our door and unloaded! They were fun days George.

    • Steve I just remember all of us from the wimpy AC station in Kansas City showing up in Phoenix for the Sandusky conference with our station presentation tape and your station blew the room away.

  8. I was a Top 40 jock who once worked for Hilliard and Fairbanks at WNAP. I was motivated and inspired by the creative freedoms allowed and promotional concepts generated, The audience was entertained. But, my answer to a love for broadcasting and the foresight that corporate handcuffs would not allow for the growth of the radio medium from the entertainers standpoint, I became a TV Meteorologist. Here, the creativity rests in the changes of daily weather patterns and the winds of change are not simply measured over the skies of wall street.

    • John it was pretty easy in those days, all you had to do was come up with something Hilliard just had to hear on the air and you got the budget. All Mr. Fairbanks cared about was not losing money and we certainly didn’t do any of that so money was no problem. The idea was the thing. We didn’t have to pitch anything to a board, a committee or a group head. You pitched Jim in the morning and had the promo on that afternoon our competition didn’t have a chance.

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