Sunday, June 01, 2014

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.


Stoney said...

What was the KYA programmer's issue with the Irish Rovers?

I'd gladly listen to the same songs on two different stations rather than hearing George Noory's nightly kookfest on 90% of stations on the AM dial.

Keep the radio stories coming Beev!

Mike Botula said...

I love your old radio stories, Ken. That was a classic. We always had good personal friends at the competing stations. You never knew when you might need a job, and chances are good you might land at the competition. Back in the '60s in San Fran for me KFOG AND KPEN (later K One Oh One) were arch rivals. But Bill Browning and I were good personal friends. He was at KPEN.I was at KFOG. At the industry cocktail fests we started a schtick where the archrival shook their fists at each other, call each other names, loudly excoriate the other's stations. For extra fun we carried our fake rivalry shouting to a point where others would step in to separate. After the opening scene, we'd sit down for drinks and friendly chatter while our wives gossiped. It worked. The record promoters kept inviting us back. And, a couple of years later Bill and I wound up working at KRLA.

Mister Charlie said...

I was here during your KYA/KFRC period but never heard your shift (too late at night).

In Chicago as a kid I loved the rivalries they had at WLS between Ron Brittain (7-10p) and the morning man Clark Weber.

Breadbaker said...

There were green alligators and long-necked geese.

The Mutt said...

Stoney, I actually owned that Irish Rovers album. The Unicorn was by far the worst song of the bunch.

Why does that always happen? That the worst song on an album is the hit? I call it the Peter Gabriel Syndrome.

Victor Velasco said...

Re: ethnic names for dj's a few days ago; forgot about Beauregard Rodriguez Weaver. Thanks

Cap'n Bob said...

I lived in the Bay Area in those days but wouldn't be caught dead listening to an AM top 40 station. FM was the thing for us non-teens.

Pamela Jaye said...

It just occurred to me that this was relevant - so much TV writing stuff that I forget, and you may have already covered it, or have nothing to say, but I've been following the Casey Kasem fiasco lately. Ever meet him? Any thoughts? So sad. Glad his kids have gotten him back to medical care. I started listening to him in September 74 once I finally found the Top 40 did exist and was not just a dream of mine.
Off to read this post now.

Pamela Jaye said...

Great story!
Somehow I've always found Beaver Cleaver a weird name for a DJ.
I remember that when the radio did anything when I was a kid, it took me a whilet o catch on.
About the 3rd playing of House of the Rising Sun, I noticed Battle f the songs.
Sorry, typos. odd browser bounces my cursor

Unknown said...

But the loveliest of all was the!
Dr. Ed

Anonymous said...

Friday Question: Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child’s name?

Judy Berman said...

Lessons learned. Thanks for the dark memories of radio and the laughs. I remember those days well.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

The reason the Unicorn Song became such a hit, is it is considered a Canadian song, or CanCon, and the radio stations in Canada were required to play it every hour on the hour for nearly 30 years, plus the Irish Rovers had their own TV show in Canada, where, you guessed it, the Unicorn song was their theme song, plus at Expo '86 the Rovers, had their own nightclub, where everybody had to sing the song (with appropriate hand gestures).

Irv said...

Cap'n Bob-

I hope you weren't listening to KSFX on FM.