Brian Lord’s Radio Stories
A bit of a Twist; Welcome to the USA
I’d just like to make a comment here, before I continue with my trek through radio, about the current phenomenon known as Susan Boyle. This may not draw approval from all. Susan Boyle is a rather frumpy, middle aged, gleeful Scottish lady with a very good singing voice. I did not say excellent, I said good and with some luck she could have or may yet find that her singing will afford her a living. Not in the top line theaters in the US or England but certainly she is good enough to land some parts somewhere or cut a CD. However the BEST thing that Susan Boyle has done is to show up people like Simon Cowell and his ilk for their shallowness. What the “Idol” shows seem to have ignored is that ability has nothing to do with physical image. Susan’s judges admitted that. When they first saw her they said both they and the audience were against her “but you proved us wrong”. Why? Because she did not sound as she looked. I hope Susan goes on and wins her Command Performance because she is, in her own way, lovable. But this experience should impress everyone that there is no connection between appearance and talent.
Ron Jacobs called me into his office and played me an air-check of myself which he had taped. I came out of a record, back intro’d it, gave the time and introduced a song from the Spector school of over-indulged ultra sound and played Da Do Ron Ron, walking up to the post and hitting it (hurrah). He wasn’t impressed, pointing out that maybe I had told three or four people something that might have been of interest: the time. He then proceeded to do a brilliant 30 second rap on secret radio station cameras hidden in freeway overpasses and a blue T-bird that had just been caught doing 130 miles per hour by the fuzz and the driver was flat on the ground, quivering. However he cautioned me to pace such things because nobody ever called a radio station and said, “Hey man, that was a great sequence”.
I also remember him telling us in a meeting one time, “There is something onomatopoetically wrong with the word “suck”. So don’t use it when you’re talking to teenyboppers on the control room telephones”. He was a wild ride, Ron Jacobs. He said to me shortly after we had all arrived “Lordyoulikeallthismusicshitsoyoucanbethemusicdirector”. Jacobs never took a lot of time reaching conclusions and even less time expressing them.
So it was that I was the Music Director and the first to greet a record promoter one day who came to K/MEN 129, the call letters and frequency of our station in San Bernardino/Riverside, with a record called Deep Purple. Don’t confuse this song with the group who named themselves after acid and didn’t exist in 1962 (but don’t ever let anybody tell you that Deep Purple wasn’t the first heavy metal band). This was the song written in 1933 and had been a ‘standard” for the big bands and their refrain vocalists.
The version had a slight rock beat and featured the brother-sister team of Nino Tempo and April Stevens. It was pretty much assured of air play because our Program Director, Bill Watson, used to bonk April Stevens. I didn’t know this at that moment and gave the tune a thumbs up. It was a bit of a fluke because Nino had forgotten the words in the recording studio and April spoke them over his humming. The producer decided to leave it that way.
Many of you will probably recall that another version of this song, an exact replica, came out several years later sung by Donny and Marie, the Osmonds. You could hardly tell the difference unless you played them back to back however I don’t know if the Osmonds were even born at this time, early 1962.
Deep Purple became a number one hit on Billboard, sold a million and that meant I received a Gold Record for being the first Music Director to recognize its hit potential and play it on the air. The Gold record caused a considerable amount of consternation. Watson wanted to hang it in his office where guests could see it;, the station manager, Jerry Jolstead, wanted to hang it in his office and I wanted to take it home which is what I eventually did -- after all those guys didn’t make the decision to put it on our playlist. I recall there was a lot of swearing over all this. That was new to me. At CFUN, Frosty and Dave and Jerry and I didn’t refer to each other’s body parts and our social heritage like these guys did in California. But the K/men genuinely liked each other and were good friends.
We didn’t have a real Newsman, not at first. Except for the morning DJ, Huckleberry (if you ever saw him in those days you’d have known why he was called Huckleberry; that and his last name was Clemans.) My news-run was Afternoon Drive and Jacobs was always at me to get more balls into my news delivery. He actually drew a picture – which I’ll leave to your imagination – and glued it in front of my news mic. Being from the distant North I was a little slow in picking up Southern California terminology. The company’s name was Lockheed not Lougheed as in the Burnaby highway (I hit it cold). And the individuals name was ‘Hay-suse’ not ‘Jesus’ Martinez.
Some of you may remember the KHJ newsman, Jaaaay Paaaauuuul Huuuuddleston. Before he went to Los Angeles he was opposite me on the rival station. Huddleston had brass balls so I had to sound good. Many years later I got to know J.Paul, a great guy, and we became friendsish.
The K/men were very expectant waiting for the first ratings to come out and when they did they were abysmal – 3’s and 4’s. People had to be listening, I’d broken a gold record (big deal) somebody heard us? But Jacobs was cool, he'd seen this all before at K/POI in Hawaii. And the situation became clear in the second book; we were a solid number one and had eclipsed the slime over at KFXM.
Things got crazy pretty soon; we built an image in Southern California. There were some wild times involving the K/men and “the Stars”. Next time: Sonny and Cher, McCormick arrives in Fresno and Dean without Jan.