There were never two nicer gentlemen in the world than Dan Kops & Dick Monihan,
owners of WAVZ. Paul introduced me and we chatted for a few minutes then, the chief engineer joined us. Drew asked him if the skimmer (device which enables recording of programming when the microphone is open) was hooked up. The guy said "no"; and Paul said, "It's been two weeks since I asked you to do that, how much longer is it going to take?" The engineer's face got really red and he basically said he'd do it when he got good and ready. Drew turned to one of the owners and said something like, "What do I have to do to get the skimmer hooked up? John can't send me tapes of the jocks until it's done". With that, the engineer jumps up and stomps out of the room. They said they would talk to him. The guy was mad because the owners had agreed to hire Eric Small, the hottest radio engineer in the business, as audio consultant. The engineer quit within weeks of my arrival. We then went into Tom Hoyt's office and Paul told him I needed a full-time secretary since I would be doing an air-shift as well as my programming responsibilities. I couldn't believe it, a full time secretary; I didn't know how much I was going to need one. I met the staff, then Paul and I sequestered ourselves in my office and the note taking continued all morning. Now, I also had an earplug in my head.
My first "real" business card!
In addition to WAVZ, Paul consulted KAKC in Tulsa. The PD was Scooter Seagraves. He was a great help to me in understanding how Drew worked and what he expected. Paul could monitor the station anytime via the listen line, a phone line connected to the audio chain. It seemed that every time he listened, he heard mistakes. Then I'd receive a call from Paul with exact details, including the time of the infraction. If a promo or liner was supposed to be changed at a certain time, it had better be done. Scooter sent me some ideas on music rotations. I took those and came up with a "grid" system for every music category. This necessitated prep time for the jocks, a minimum of one hour prior to going on the air. They filled out a page for each hour, a "form" listing the elements in the hour, news, liners, promos, and a space for the scheduled songs. They went through each hour and resolved artist conflicts, cold start songs in liner positions, and made notes about "current events" gleaned from the mandatory daily reading of the newspaper and other periodicals. These rigid rules had a purpose. Paul used the analogy of the success of McDonalds. Customers knew what to expect: a sparkling clean environment, young cheerful employees, and consistently hot tasty food served in sanitary containers. He maintained listeners would be more loyal if the "sound" was consistent. Everything I learned made perfect sense, and I was learning plenty.
There have been many questions as to the origin of the now famous "General Instructions", the disc-jockey bible I used as a program director. The first time I saw them was when Drew gave me copies of the ones used at CKLW. My favorite was: "your salary is as private as your underwear". Every jock received a copy and had to sign a statement saying they had received and read them. Again, if a jock learned the "GI's", then he /she couldn't go wrong. I always told them if they adhered to them, the worst they would sound was average. As time went on, I added to and removed from the "General Instructions" as situations merited. The entire set had to be retyped at every new station, changing call letters and other things that made them relevant. The biggest editing challenge came at XEROK 80 (more in a future chapter). The last thing a jock wanted to see was the dreaded HOT LINE light illuminate. I knew that when I was on the air, it's flashing meant Drew was calling. "The Legend Of The Sun Lamp" has it that when Paul was PD at WIBG in Philadelphia, he put a sun-lamp bulb in the hotline socket. The jock with the darkest tan when the rating period was over got fired! I found that when I had to call, the jock immediately started apologizing for every mistake he'd made on the show. God forbid that the hot line ever be busy. That meant somebody's girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, or wife had the number; time to change it!
One of the biggest challenges was getting one particular guy's voice off the air. He had been
morning man for years, then came off the air to be in sales. His clients loved him and wouldn't advertise unless the guy did their commercials. He really yukked it up: "Hi everybody, this is _________ reminding you to go see my good friends at blah, blah, blah". The commercials he recorded also ran about ten or fifteen seconds over the time bought. I suggested that the first thing we do is reject any commercial that wasn't exactly the time purchased. It was a battle royal. The guy whined to the sales manager and the sales manager whined to Hoyt, but the rule stood: 30's are thirty seconds and :60's are sixty seconds. The old timer also did remotes every week-end. The breaks were supposed to be 60 seconds and always went about three minutes. My instruction to the jock on the air was to cut him off at 60 seconds, period. More whining and threats of cancellation. Finally, after about three months, the old timer left the station to form his own ad agency. I inherited some good guys. They had worked at WAVZ under a very loose format, and an even more casual PD. The new rules and requirements took their toll. Paul Robbins had one of the best voices I'd ever heard. He was an Italian kid, nice looking, and very smooth. I wanted him to remain in midday's, but he left for New York. Another killer jock was "Smokin" Joe Hager. I couldn't hang on to him either. Sadly, both of those guys have passed away.
I began to look for replacements for guys as they
left. During my first few weeks, I'd been in
touch with Bobby Rich. He wasn't very happy at WMYQ and I asked him to come to WAVZ to do afternoons and be production director. I was thrilled when he accepted. He arrived in New Haven pulling a small U-Haul trailer; someone broke into the trailer and stole his TV his first night in town. He was very upset. He'd left his family in Miami; they would follow when he found an apartment. I know that was tough on him not to mention a not-so-friendly welcome to New Haven. I told Tom Hoyt about what had happened; he took me upstairs to the prize closet and told me to get a TV for Bobby. Later that week, I got a shock when Hoyt resigned. He just wasn't happy leaving Washington. I really like him and was sad to see him leave. Kops and Monihan decided not to hire anyone. I would be in charge of the operations and the sales manager was in charge of sales. Labor Day weekend 1972, I flew back to Cedar Rapids to pick up my wife and return to New Haven.
News was an important part of "The New Waves" and we started looking for a news director.
Bobby suggested Charlie Steiner from KSTT. Charlie was from the New York area originally,
and was interested in getting closer to home. We hired Steiner then started looking for a
suitable jock to join him in mornings. I don't think that Charlie really enjoyed working with Drew that much. Paul was very demanding. While Charlie was technically my responsibility, Paul contacted him directly on the way the newscasts were to be done. Charlie and Drew butted heads repeatedly about when the work day started. Nonetheless, the newscasts were as good as any on the New York stations. Paul and I listened to a lot of tapes and finally gave up on finding a suitable guy for mornings. We decided we'd have to come up with a gimmick; hire a guy with a decent voice who could follow the format, name him "Cash Sunshine", introduce him to the market using the "Money Man" promotion, then continue to give away a lot of money every morning. It worked again! The old line station in New Haven, WELI, ran the story, so did the paper. Same routine as in Cedar Rapids, except I had much more money to give away and someone to drive him around. Cash was really paranoid about Drew and got really nervous every morning, knowing he might be listening. When Paul would come to town, Cash would be a nervous wreck in critique sessions. Also, working that close to New York was tough with competition like Don Imus on WNBC and Harry Harrison on WABC.
The missing piece of the puzzle was nights. Paul
sent me a tape of Mason Lee Dixon, then
working at a station in Chattanooga. He was a tough hire. It took us a few weeks to get him to Connecticut. Once there, he was ok, but I know it was a tough adjustment for him, just as my move to Iowa had been. All we wanted Mason to do was COOK, and he did it as well as any night guy in America, including Jack Armstrong. Mason also worked the phones well, for on and off air purposes. There was a girl in New Haven who called herself "Roberta W. Morgan" who had a crush on Mason. She would come to the station and try to sneak past the receptionist to see him. She was a trip and known by jocks from Philly to Boston. We hired a gal to answer phones for Mason and tabulate requests, which were factored into music selection and rotation. A WAVZ alumnus told me later, she became a porn star! The lineup was set for the fall book: Cash Sunshine mornings, me midday's, Bobby "Boogie" Rich afternoon drive, Mason "Truckin" Dixon nights; Brian Phoenix and Buzzy Hart rounded out the staff. Eric had also put the finishing touches on the audio chain. There was so much compression the needles on the VU meters looked like they were on Viagra. The station was gaining audience daily. We were getting calls from Greenwich, South Hartford, and Long Island.
The fall promotion was "Don't Say Hello". Every
hour, 6AM to 10PM, we made calls to
residences selected from the New Haven phone book. If the phone was answered "Hello" the
person lost. To win $1,000.00, they had to answer, I Like The New Waves. Bobby did a killer job on promos for the contest. Drew wanted new ones every other day. We used THE
production piece made famous by Jack McCoy's "Last Contest" promos; we called it the
"we-wop". It was lifted off an A&M instrumental album, "Electronic Hair Pieces". Every promo ended with the shotgun jingle made famous at KCBQ. Bobby had a natural talent for doing those highly produced promos, and he managed to do them on less than sophisticated
equipment. Eric and I were designing a new control room, production room, and newsroom to be built in early '73. I was having a ball giving away and spending money. Whenever we'd have a "Don't Say Hello" winner in the evening or morning, I'd call Bobby to come in early to produce a winner promo. Then, he was not an early riser; I'd call him and before I could say anything he'd say "I know we've had a winner and I've got to come in early to do the winner promo". I was spending twelve hours a day at the station and usually most of the weekend. How, then, could my wife have gotten pregnant? Best we could figure, it was Thanksgiving day 1972, the only day I hadn't worked since Labor Day.
The first "Don't Say Hello" contest winner getting her $1000.00 prize.
The Fall book (ARB) came out. WAVZ was the Number one station in New Haven in teens and adults 18 to 24. We celebrated at Steak and Ale and Bobby and I entertained the staff with a wine soaked rendition of "That Old Black Magic".
When I returned from Florida I had a
message from Bill Gavin asking me to come to New York for a meeting with him and
several others to plan an upcoming conference. I rode the train there and walked
from Grand Central Station to the hotel for the meeting. I can't remember who
else was there, but I felt honored that Bill had invited me. It was my first
trip to NY. The next one would not be as pleasant. Work had begun on the new
studios, McCurdy boards, triple deck cart machines, headphone eq control for the
jocks and for Bobby, a four track reel to reel, flanger, and other production
toys. One day Monihan called me into his office and handed me an envelope.
Inside, a check, plane tickets to Miami, rental car reservation and confirmation
for a condo at Inverness for a week. Paul had suggested he reward me for the
hard work and great ratings. When I got back, Paul called to tell me that he was
going to LA to be PD at KHJ, but would still be able to consult WAVZ. His time
was more precious and I was programming more and more without training wheels.
Paul suggested that I take a road trip, monitor some stations and get some new
ideas and inspiration. I drove from New Haven to Philadelphia to Washington to
Pittsburgh. I listened to WIBG, WFIL, WPGC, and 13Q. Buzz Bennett was PD and the
staff included Sam Holman, Bat Johnson, Mark Driscoll, and Jack Armstrong. The
music was sped up to the point that some of the songs sounded like the
chipmunks. Buzzy's promos were a departure form the "Twilight Zone" genre; it
was just slow jazzy music and him, speaking quietly. The station was the best
sounding Top 40 I'd heard since KCBQ.
Bobby and I started working on a new contest for the spring book. We thought McCoy had
gotten his inspiration for "The Last Contest" from the movie "The Last Picture Show".
"Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex" was a hot movie, so we named the
contest "Everything You Always Wanted To Win". Promos on the air asked listeners to call in and tell us what they'd like to win. After the set-up, listeners were instructed to call when we gave the word and everyone won something. We gave away T-shirts, money, TVs, stereo, albums, and of course some big prizes; a pair of dirt bikes a swimming pool and a Corvette. We were ready for the book with lots of eerie promos with the obligatory "we-wop", new equipment rivaling anything in The Big Apple, sped up music, and tightened down compression. We blasted through the spring Arbitron. Programmers Digest, a monthly audio LP, featured WAVZ and some of those promos.
How Eric Small and I spent Mssrs Kops and Monihan's money!
Top left to right: jocks prep area/music cart storage; control room
Middle: left to right jock prep area with light on high (they were on a rheostat )!; control room different angle.
Bottom: production room; control room, yet another angle.
One day, Drew called me and told me he wanted Bobby to come to KHJ. Paul allowed me to
break the news to Rich. I called him about ten in the morning. Bobby answered "We've had a
winner and I've got to come in early to do a promo". I said " No, Paul Drew wants you to come to KHJ." I think he mumbled something like "yeah, sure". I assured him that I wasn't kidding and told him Paul was waiting for his call. By the time he got to the station, he was so excited I thought he wouldn't be able to do his shift. Paul wanted him immediately, so there wasn't a lot of time for good-byes. Another Steak and Ale party (we had trade there), more wine, more "Black Magic", and he and family were headed to LA. I sure hated to see him go, but I was really happy for him. One of his goals was to get back to the West coast; he was from Washington, originally. That summer, we hit the streets and beaches with the "New Waves Summer Fun Patrol". The station bought the hottest little vehicle on the market, a Mazda mini-pickup. We painted it with logos and the jocks took turns pulling people over and giving them prizes.
The Carpenters came to town to play an outdoor theatre. The jocks played them and their road crew in softball. Karen wasn't skinny at all, back then.
There were three other concerts I remember that
summer: Deep Purple, Elton John and Carole King in Central Park. We took a
busload of winners to New York for the latter. Mason was getting a little
restless after Bobby had been invited to KHJ; after a few weeks he headed back
home to Memphis to work at WHBQ.
While in New Haven my contacts with record companies had improved. One of the nicest guys I met was Bill Greenburg. His son, Jerry Greenberg, was VP at Atlantic. Bill was local man in New England. Bill introduced me to some of my all time favorite places to eat in New Haven: Louis Lunch, downtown, alleged birthplace of the hamburger, Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana, supposed birthplace of pizza in America, and Jimmy's at the beach, home of the famous split-grilled hot dog. Doug kept in touch with product he was working. I didn't socialize much because Drew pretty much called the shots on the new music adds. That was fine, I didn't have time for much more than seeing the local guys one day a week. Davenport and I talked regularly. He always wanted to know about format stuff. He was constantly trying to make WFOM more competitive. He even hired Eric Small after I told him about the improvements in our audio chain.
Early, on the morning of August 23rd, 1973, I was sitting in the waiting room at Yale New Haven Hospital with the earplug in my head. My wife had gone into labor. Charlie Steiner had called the OB ward and told the head nurse the program director of WAVZ was sitting in the father's waiting room and he most certainly was listening to the station. The point was, Charlie wanted to break in with a news story when our child was born. Just before 7:00AM, Meridith Byrd Long was born. Guess who was asleep and missed the announcement on WAVZ? Bob Hamilton spelled Byrd (a family name) "Bird" in the Radio Report; he probably thought it was left over from my hippie days. I was a very proud father. It was a happy time for me.
My year at WAVZ had gone extremely well. My personal life was doing better. I really wasn't partying, socializing, or running around. The station was doing well. I'd hired Ron Foster to replace Bobby, and Quincy McCoy to take Mason's shift. In October, I received a package from Drew; inside a magazine that looked more like a tabloid newspaper. It was the first edition of Radio & Records. The note attached said "tell Monihan I suggested you subscribe to this and call Bob Wilson and arrange to start reporting your music information".
Fall, 1973, also marked the end to Paul's
consulting WAVZ. He had been promoted to Vice
President Of Programming for RKO Radio. He recommended our old friend Kent Burkhart as his replacement. I hadn't seen Kent for several years. He had moved to Denver to head Pacific and Southern Broadcasting a year or so before and then back to Atlanta to open his programming consulting firm. A few weeks after Kent became our consultant, I got a call from Drew. He had recommended me as PD for WROR-FM in Boston. I was to drive up and meet with GM, Jack Hobbs. At that time, ownership was limited to two stations per market. RKO, in it's infinite wisdom, decided to sell off it's FM's in the markets where they had combos in order to get into more markets. They sold WHBQ-FM in Memphis, KFRC-FM in San Francisco, and WRKO-FM in Boston before that insanity ended. The sales in Memphis and San Francisco went through without a hitch, but Boston bogged down when a minority group filed a petition to deny the sale to Cecil Heftel, owner of 13Q. RKO already had license renewal problems stemming from parent company General Tire's alleged improprieties involving foreign oil. Heftel and RKO abandoned the sale. Most all the staff at WROR had been terminated or absorbed into TV or AM. The station was automated, the Drake oldies format. WRKO AM was a monster. That pesky FM was a loser, now they had it back. Of all the PDs in radio, Paul wanted me to come to Boston and "make it a winner". I was excited with the prospect of working for RKO, largest independent radio chain in America. The company of KHJ, KFRC, WOR, and Bill Drake fame. I wasn't necessarily ready to make a move. I called Jimmy. He said "you can't turn Drew down". He was right. I accepted the job, although I had doubts about my assignment.
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