Saturday, July 17, 2021

Weekend Post - RIP Chuck Blore

One of my radio idols has passed away.  Chuck Blore.  Quite simply he was a creative genius.  He was the architect of KFWB Color Radio in 1958 that took Los Angeles by storm.  There had been Top 40 stations in LA but nothing like KFWB.  Anyone who lived in Los Angeles from 1958-1964 can sing the KFWB Channel 98 jingle.   They were getting 50 share ratings.  Successful stations in LA today get 3 shares.

Chuck Blore was a showman and every moment you listened to KFWB was filled with excitement, personality, and fun.  Each disc jockey had a distinctive style.  Elliott Field (who God bless him, is still with us), Bill Ballance, B. Mitchell Reed, Gary Owens, Wink Martindale (also still here), Don McKinnon, Jim Hawthorne, Ted Quillan, Gene Weed, Joe Yokum — these were just a few of the larger-than-life DJ’s on KFWB.  

As a kid I was mesmerized by the station.  You never knew what was going to happen next and you didn’t want to miss a minute.  The promotions were wild, the jocks were hilarious, oh… and the music was good too.  

The meteoric success of the station was all built on ideas.  And they were Chuck Blore’s ideas.  

When Chuck left KFWB he started an ad agency designed to create novel campaigns meant to get your attention, sell the product, and of course — entertain.  You would go up to his offices and every square inch of wall space was covered with awards.  He must’ve won thousands of them.  

Ideas.

But he was also a true gentleman.  Very kind, very supportive, and one of those few people in your life who actually inspires you.   Chuck had this infectious energy — he made you feel good about whatever his latest idea was, and he made you feel good about yourself.   

I had the pleasure of knowing him the last thirty years of his life.  We’d go to lunch and he’d tell me amazing stories, all the while teaching me how to think creatively.  We’d email back and forth. At one time we considered doing a project together.  I cherish those emails.

There are very few times in your life when you know you’re in the presence of greatness.  I felt that way about Chuck Blore.  It was hard not to be in awe sitting across the table at Off Vine from Chuck.  And yet, he made you feel so comfortable and was so genuinely interested in what you what were doing, that you couldn’t believe he was talking to you.  

He lived a long life and brought joy to hundreds of thousands of people.  I am so blessed that I was one of them.  I hope to continue in his tradition.  He lived to be 92.  He should have lived to be 98.

30 comments :

slgc said...

My condolences Ken.

Steve Bailey said...

I've recognized only a few of the DJs and stations that you've mentioned on your blog (such as Gary Owens and WLS). But your continuous mentions of them makes me nostalgic for the good old days of the 1970's when, as you constantly point out, there were personalities that you could look forward to tuning into and having fun with. Nowadays, it's all one endless greatest-hits reel.

Gary Campbell said...

My dad took me to visit KFWB in 1959. I met Joe Yoakam, Elliot Field, and was given a tour by newsman Mike Henry. The thrill of a lifetime!

Pat Reeder said...

Sorry to hear this. Radio needs more Chuck Blores, but it's not likely to get them because even if they had the creativity, they'd be banned from using it.

When I started in radio, it was the waning days of DJs being allowed to ad-lib and entertain an audience. I left on-air jobs when they started handing me blue cards and telling me to read liners off them verbatim, like a human cart machine. I started writing a syndicated daily humor service used by the morning show guys who still had the clout to be funny. I finally gave up and moved into writing for the Internet and TV when the budgets and the numbers of local DJs with enough clout to show personality became too small to support the effort. It's a tragedy that such a great medium has been killed by uncreative corporate suits with no understanding of how to entertain an audience, who do everything by numbers and machines, and just play the same songs in the same boring style over and over.

My favorite example of their "thinking" was how they would take over a station and save money by axing the subscription to our service, which might cost $50 a month for their morning show's #1 source of topical comedy material. Then they'd congratulate themselves on their genius by going to a $100 lunch. That's how so many DJs ended up subscribing out of their own pockets. They were the last ones in the building who cared about doing a good show.

Michael Hagerty said...

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting and chatting for a few minutes with Chuck Blore at a Phoenix Ad Club luncheon about 15 years ago. Brilliant, funny and a very nice man. He'll be missed.

cd1515 said...

Your description of radio then—-“excitement, personality, fun, you never knew what was going to happen next”—-seems to be the exact opposite of what radio is today.

Steve Bailey said...

This is not directly related to you. But I'm sure you'll be delighted to read this quote from John Cleese, his Twitter response to a fan who complimented his guest appearance on "Cheers":

"The speech at the end was one of the best pieces of writing I was ever given. Thanks to the Charles brothers."

Bob Paris said...

I grew up in L.A. in the sixties and listed to KRLA and then KHJ. I don't recall listening to KFWB and wonder if it had a different format than rock & pop. I do remember my dad coming home one night and mentioning that he was listening to Gary Owens' who played a long song called "MacArthur Park" and he then quoted the lyric, "Someone left the cake out in the rain.
I don't think that I can take it. 'Cause it took so long to bake it. And I'll never have that recipe again." We all thought it was pretty good and were looking forward to hearing the song ourselves.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I'm a little too young to have listened to KFWB in its heyday. I remember it primarily as an all news station. But I know older individuals with pleasant memories of KFWB. I would have liked to have heard it just for reference. (Anyone have a link to some old air checks?) But even if it wasn't as great as everyone remembers, things rarely are, Ken lost a good friend and for that I'm sorry. My condolences.

Off topic: For a while now I have been suggesting Cheech Marin as a guest host on "Jeopardy." But I'd also like to recommend his comedy partner Tommy Chong. Why not? It would be interesting especially after he has had a few puffs.

M.B.

Mitch said...

Truly a genius. Anyone who lived in L.A. during KFWB's pop years would remember the phrase "My mommy listens to KFWB." I worked there in the all-news years, long after Blore's association with the station ended, but his name frequently was brought up by some of the veterans there. It was a big thrill to meet him.

BillS said...

Is it the Wink Martindale who did "deck of cards" ? He sounded old sixty years ago.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Thank you for the Chuck Blore post. Wish I could’ve known him.

“excitement, personality, fun”

I remember them, kinda.

TmyB. said...

"Chuckie" Blore was a genius. Everything he touched was pure gold. I was lucky enough to sing some songs he wrote for the Infamous Milline Club. Should also mention Dal Williams of "hey Culligan Man" fame also contributed some songs too. TmyB.

Russ DiBello said...

With all the completely deserved honors that will be heaped upon Mr. Blore for giving Radio the kick in the pants it needed, some of the lesser known marks he left have faded with time. One of my personal faves was around 1969 (a full decade after KFWB Color Radio!) when he created a custom jingle package for one of the most innovative radio stations to which New York City was ever treated, WCBS-FM.

No, not the Oldies/Classic Hits icon we all know. At the dawn of Woodstock, a group of very hip, enlightened jocks primarily from the West Coast tried something new: Album Rock hits and talented Top 40 personalities. And JINGLES. I don't think "Black Rock" (they were located there too!) even gave it three years to take, but from their music down to their graphics, WCBS-FM Stereo 101.1 was hands-down the best station in the City.

And they knew that using jingles would mean you'd need a Chuck Blore to do it justice.

Please click my link here to one of Ellis Feaster's fantastic Radio exhibits, and enjoy something you may find a tad unusual... but believe me, at the top of every hour, when the crankin' rock group sang "New York is something that you've got to feel/To touch, to taste and see...", you got the message. And 52 years later, maybe a few chills. Long live Chuck Blore!

Valerie Geller said...

Thank you Ken for writing this about Chuck. 💔

WendyT said...

And those of us who grew up in the SF Bay Area can sing the jingle to its sister station, KEWB Channel 91. Thanks for the wonderful tribute.

Chris said...

Can’t you imagine him on the other side, pitching God? “Religions are collapsing all over the world. Your image is tired and your programming… well, I have some ideas. You mind if I sketch them out for you?”

Mike Barer said...

That DJ Lineup at KHVN in the sky, is getting harder and harder to crack.

VP81955 said...

There are KFWB airchecks (one from January 1959 promotes Ritchie Valens' famed Pacoima Junior High School concert weeks before his death), "Color Radio 98" surveys and more. Fascinating stuff. I had never heard of Chuck Blore, but I sense he was a precursor to Bill Drake, whose success at KHJ in 1965 likely led KFWB to go all-news in '68.

BTW, I fell ill (infected lower extremities) in February and only now am recovering. Good to be back.

Geoff said...

He was actually credited as Win not Wink, but yeah, same guy.

Geoff said...

He was actually credited as Win not Wink, but yeah, same guy.

DrBOP said...

Chuck's picture should be in the dictionary under "mensch".
Rest In Rhythm.

And now for something completely different:
This GalaxyCon site features video chats, one-on-ones and autographed memorabilia.
For example, they have just listed a Cheers "Virtual Experience" for Aug 21 at 2pmET.
I could see you doing one of these, and I'll only charge 10% for the tip ;>0
Seriously, I think you would be GREAT on one of these (and click their home page to see list
of up-coming chats):

https://galaxycon.com/blogs/33/aug-21-cheers

Cheers!

blah said...

Well put, Mr. Levine. I didn't grow up in California, or the Bay Area, or the Twin Cities. But I heard Chuck Blore's influence just the same. Before Bill Drake, he was the most imitated programmer in radio. But by all accounts, he was a truly remarkable human being, someone who could make his boundless enthusiasm contagious and motivate people to exceed their own expectations. I've heard KFWB on tape since then and it was amazing. To consider how it sounded in its time, when all of it was brand new, is difficult for us now, but what it must have felt like in Los Angeles then!

It might be apocryphal, but I understand Bill Drake once said that if Chuck Blore had still been running KFWB in 1965, he wouldn't have taken the KHJ gig.

WTK said...

Well put, Mr. Levine. I didn't grow up in California, or the Bay Area, or the Twin Cities. But I heard Chuck Blore's influence just the same. Before Bill Drake, he was the most imitated programmer in radio. But by all accounts, he was a truly remarkable human being, someone who could make his boundless enthusiasm contagious and motivate people to exceed their own expectations. I've heard KFWB on tape since then and it was amazing. To consider how it sounded in its time, when all of it was brand new, is difficult for us now, but what it must have felt like in Los Angeles then!

It might be apocryphal, but I understand Bill Drake once said that if Chuck Blore had still been running KFWB in 1965, he wouldn't have taken the KHJ gig.

JoeyH said...

What a creative genius!

With your dad's Chicago history I'm sure you're familiar with Blore's WCFL jingles. At our campus carrier current station it's possible we borrowed some production elements from this campaign. I'm not sure there's ever been anything else like it.

Here are some of the jingles if anyone would like to listen. http://jinglesamplers.com/chuckblore.htm

Chuck, you had a "mass of class."

VP81955 said...

BTW, the other day I learned about a record often played on KFWB in the summer of '59, the classic "I Only Have Eyes For You" by the Flamingos. Here's the story, from member (and arranger) Terry "Buzz" Johnson, some 16 minutes long: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_GidEL_blU

David Kaye in SF said...

Chuck Blore also ran KEWB Oakland and KDWB in Minneapolis. Thanks to him here in the Bay Area we heard the Real Don Steele and Robert W Morgan in their years before KHJ boss radio. Nightly we also heard Casey Kasem when he was still doing character voices and before he started doing the music trivia he became noted for.

Among the DJs we heard were bill ennis, cannox, Don mckinnon, Jim wayne, Buck herring, and the radio School founder, Chris Borden.

KEWB of course had the same jingles as KFWB, which we'd love to listen to. In the days before boss radio we'd listen to k e w b all the time.

Tom Asher said...

Sorry to hear... the KFWB airchecks of his era are so unique.

Gary West said...

Chuck Blore - he was an amazing programmer. KFWB was so successful and eventually - a victim of its own success when the jocks went on strike. But for at least for four years... it ruled LA radio... and... many early 1960s stations borrowed something from KFWB including WMCA and WABC NY. I dare say - dozens and dozens of markets borrowed from Chuck Blore. This is sad news indeed.

Greg Barman said...

I see how appreciated Chuck Blore was for his pioneering work at KFWB. But I grew up in the Chicago area during the mighty WCFL vs WLS radio war. Those wonderful, long, creative WCFL jingles that Blore made were stamped into my brain at an early age, and I have never tired of hearing them. "You are listening to WCFL -- You have a mass of Class!" So did Chuck Blore. May he RIP.