Sunday, April 27, 2008

Radio Radio

When I was about twelve years old I became interested in pop music; you know, "the hit parade."

This was right around 1970.

Now, back then, the way one heard the latest tunes was by listening to the radio. I'm talking about the AM radio; the FM band was reserved for "easy listening" and educational programs beamed from the local college station.

In Buffalo, NY the station for breaking hits was WKBW. Oh, there were other stations, I suppose. WYSL was the distant second place for happening hits. WGR usually came in the best, but always seemed to be a tad too conservative. WBEN was downright stodgy.

At least that is how I remember it.

There were little "things" that 'KB used to do that used to fascinate me.

1. Back in the old days, Buffalo was a "major market" and the 50,000 watt blowtorch that was 'KB quite often got advance copies of records before anyone else. They would gloat about it before and after spinning these sort of discs. In fact, they would even gloat about it while they were playing the record! Jeff Kaye's voice would intone "WKBW EXCLUSIVE! WKBW EXCLUSIVE!" periodically during the song, just to make sure it couldn't be taped and replayed by any of the other stations!

2. Another gimmick they used to do was the "WKBW INSTANT REPLAY." As a hit song was fading out, the big DJ voice would announce, "WKBW INSTANT REPLAY!" and, get this, the song would start to play all over again! What intrigued me is that it was an edited version of the song. You'd typically get the first verse and then, bam, you'd be into the final chorus and fade out courtesy of the engineer's editing block. This could be very jarring if the song changed keys or tempos.

3. Just in case a listener forgot which station they were listening to, they would created versions of songs that had the WKBW call letters inserted into the beginning. It's kind of hard to describe. One I particularly remember was Wings' "Jet" wherein the four note opening (Duhnn Duhn Da Duhnnn) was overdubbed with singers crooning, "KB Fifteen / Music Machine!"

4. The evening DJ during the early 'seventies was a fellow who went by the name of Jackson (Jack) Armstrong. He was the motor-mouths to end all motor-mouths. He was perhaps the last gasp of the "Wolfman Jack" sort of AM radio personality. It was his show I'd listen to in the evening so as to track the all-important hit parade.

5. Then one day, the unthinkable happened. It was announced that Jack was leaving WKBW and moving on to another market. The station cooked up an idea where they would have a two week (I think) "live audition" contest. They had a different DJ-wannabe come in each night and tackle Jack's shift. Listener voting would determine who the new nightime disk jockey would be. I have since found out it was a rigged non-contest, which goes a long way toward explaining why the absolute WORST guy in the bunch ended up with the job. Some fellow who called himself "The Janitor" supposedly won the contest and took over the shift. Yeesh, was he bad.

6. One of the "also-rans" from the above contest was a guy by the name of Max Gibson, who, as "Shane, Brother Shane" eventually cleaned up after "The Janitor" was given the ol' heave-ho. Shane went on to have a lengthy career in Buffalo radio. I never warmed up to his supposedly "cosmic" pontifications, but he was an improvement.

Well, those are some of my radio memories from the days when the AM band would play new records from CCR, Deep Purple and Badfinger right along with tunes by Erine ("Rubber Ducky"), The Pipkins ("Gimme Dat Ding") and Bobby Sherman ("Julie, Do You Love Me?").

8 Comments:

Blogger Lee said...

Mmmm... radio.

There are a whole generation of kids who don't know (or care) about radio "dials."

April 27, 2008 9:42 AM  
Blogger citizen of the world said...

I have a vivid memory of all of us kids singing the radio station's traffic report song, something like "WGBH Highway Patrol, WGBH in Boston"

I still listen to the radio a fair amount.

April 27, 2008 11:14 AM  
Blogger furiousBall said...

radio, when done right was as classic and profound as a summer afternoon baseball game or day at the beach.

April 27, 2008 2:14 PM  
Blogger whimsical brainpan said...

Radio just isn't as fun as it used to be. The only exceptions are the public, college, and independent stations.

April 27, 2008 5:03 PM  
Blogger RED MOJO said...

I had a huge crush on Bobby Sherman and had a poster of him on my bedroom wall wearing pink hip huggers, and a black velvet (i think) choker!

April 29, 2008 6:30 PM  
Blogger Allan said...

The radio here was so bad that we built a station out of leftover electronics. Three years ago - and still on the air!

May 07, 2008 4:26 PM  
Blogger Shane said...

my parents named me after the Shane, Brother Shane dj. He used to dj in Richmond Va.

May 27, 2008 11:24 PM  
Blogger HipKat said...

Ahh, Shane Brother Shane. He was the Johnny Fever of Buffalo Radio.
I always wonder whatever happened to him. I remember he had a short come back, but I don't think it lasted long.

The best FM combo was The Bear Man, and Snortin' Norton. They once made Playboy's Shock Jock story in the early 80's.
Wonder where The Bear Man ended up, too.

Norton, was jerk. I met him as a kid, and he was the reason I never went back to 97 Rock when it came back on the air.

November 29, 2008 5:20 PM  

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