Saturday, April 17, 2010

Back in the days when radio was fun

The best career choice I ever made was getting out of radio and into television writing. Well... actually it was all the radio stations that fired me that helped nudge me in that direction. But in between my long stretches of unemployment and pleading for all-night shifts in Fresno I did have a lot of fun... and compiled a lot of stories.


There once was a time when Clear Channel didn’t own every radio station in America. There used to be such a thing as “competition” (an arcane word you may have to look up in the dictionary). In the mid 70’s in San Francisco there was quite a battle raging between KFRC and KYA. I was a disc jockey at KYA at the time (as Beaver Cleaver), working the coveted 10 pm – 2 am shift. Across town, KFRC countered with Beau Weaver (pictured). Despite this “heated” rivalry, Beau and I were friends and I would usually meet him for a bite after we got off the air (unless I got a better offer from one of the hot young listeners. In other words, I met Beau every single night.)

KFRC’s playlist was very rigid. At KYA I could pretty much play anything except “the Unicorn Song”. One night I had an idea and called Beau on his hotline. I had him tell me the songs he was going to play that hour and in what order. I then played the same songs at the exact same time. The phones at both stations went nuts. People were breathlessly telling me that KFRC was playing the same songs I was playing. I told them that was ABSURD! I hated those motherfuckers! Beau told his flabbergasted callers the same thing. Why would he play the same songs as those pathetic losers at KYA?

We got a good chortle out of this and decided to repeat the stunt…every night from midnight – 1:00. The listeners were just going bat shit!! One called the Guinness Book of Records. Another sent the probability tables. Eventually, the KFRC program director found out about this, blew a gasket, and that was the end of that. It was great fun while it lasted.

And then the ratings came out. From midnight - 1:00 Beau Weaver creamed me. And I thought to myself, Jesus how bad am I when we played the exact same damn records???

It’s a lesson I learned in television, and when I was on MASH and we were up against THREE’S COMPANY, no matter how much they begged, I wouldn’t give them any of our sucking chest wound jokes. I like to think it’s the reason MASH lasted 11 seasons instead of six. Thank you, Beau Weaver.


Phil said...

Ken, great story! Have you considered compiling more stories like this into your own version of "Radio Days" (à la Woody Allen)?

Cap'n Bob said...

I remember not listening to either station. Not because of the dj's, I just hated the music. Which station had the amped up guy screaming "High energy total rock!"? I really hated that station.

Jeff Parker said...

Those were incredibly fun days in radio and San Francisco. I helped "Marvelous" Mark McKay do high school sports scores on KFRC in the late seventies and he gave me zillions of free albums for my efforts. The station was owned by RKO back then and Dr. Don Rose, may he rest in peace, graciously tried to teach me everything he could about the fun of being on the air. I was more interested in chatting up the business guys and trying to understand how the station worked financially ("if a spot goes by that you haven't sold to someone at some price, it’s money lost forever").

Mostly I remember everyone there at that time being surprisingly nice. Thanks, Ken, for bringing to mind those long forgotten good times.

blogward said...

The world is ready for a sucking chest wound joke. BTW We in the UK are loving the volcano-inspired complete absence of planes and vapour trails from our beautiful blue skies.

WV; unuch = a non web-savvy eunuch

Tom Clendening - General Manager, KSER Foundation said...

Ahh, the Unicorn Song.

Maybe Bristol Sourcox will sing the Unicorn song this week on AI.

Did you see that former Sen. Gordon Smith, now head of the NAB, wants a further 'easing' of ownership limits for broadcasters!!??!!

Is this Bizarro World, or what?

The whole radio industry is in the crapper as a result of consolodation.

Now they think the answer is to own more?!!?


Dale Dorman said...

Ken, Maybe sometime you will tell the group about when you hit the air at WLS!
Love the blog

christietayloronline said...

Ken, as a former radio personality (with CC) I loved the post! Also thanks for the lesson to one who is now venturing into TV/film writing...don't share the secrets.

Kirk said...

A lot of surfing back and forth between those two stations that night. Funny post.

dougR said...

Summer of 66, I was a seasonal apprentice forest ranger way up in the Colorado Rockies, and flatland radio just didn't get that high, except at night, courtesy of skip distance. Then it was the mad, screamin' sound-effects-laden (pre-Drake) top 40 sound of KOMA-AM, Oklahoma City, which seemed at times like a lifeline to "civilization." Couple years after that, I dj'd at a rural station where the morning guy (craggy old coot whose air name was "Happy Johnny") always arrived with a beat-up satchel full of yellowing joke books and a pint (which is where his "happy" came from, I guess). Take THAT, Clearchannel!

Thanks to one of your previous radio posts I located a 1966 aircheck of Charlie Tuna on KOMA-AM, Oklahoma City, and it took me straight back to those pine trees, moonlit nights, and the Stones' "Satisfaction" blaring away. Apropos of your post, how the heck many Beaver Cleavers were there, anyway?

gih said...

Such a nice story mister. Well, me, as a regular listener in our local radio station, I always love the music esp. country.

SharoneRosen said...

Great story!!!! God I miss when being a jock was fun, loose and creative... at least that's what my liner card says I should say