Brian Lord's Radio Stories
McCormick and Lord return to their roots.
I spent one of these posts explaining my own unpleasant return to Vancouver in 1966 which lasted only long enough to earn some money, go back to California and straighten out the mess. That was the saga involving John Peel, who went to London having had his fill of California and his American wife; a wise decision on his part because he became famous and was eventually presented with an OBE. (Order of the British Empire not the Scottish Disco/Funk/Punk Band with the same letters) and pretty close to the MBE scored by the Beatles back in 1965 which caused all manner of fuss, naturally -- 45 years ago lots of people thought those who composed Rock 'n' Roll songs were inspired by the devil. And that was before dope became common.
My close friend and fellow DJ in California was Dave McCormick who had been hired from CFUN for the Ron Jacobs controlled KMAK, cousin of K/Men where I worked. He and his 'soon to be pregnant wife' arrived in Fresno in May of 1962 and assumed the key DJ slot of 6-9 PM which inherently yielded a huge teenage audience. Fresno was the second largest town, after Sacramento, in California's immense San Joaquin Valley. A lot of grape farmers and agriculture types but being just short of bragging 'big city' status Fresno still had enough 'trend' about it to count for something.
The call letters KMAK meant nothing so Jacobs (who assumed Management) added a small e to KMAK so the station personnel could call themselves K/Makers. I know, I know, but that was the 60's and Jacobs felt the DJ's, the air-staff, should go by a name ... his Honolulu station DJ's called themselves Poi-boys after K/Poi, Honolulu. I was one of the K/Men, Dave was a KMAKer, Hawaii-based DJ's were Poi-boys. About as strange as one huge American chain calling all it's jocks Robin Bird or Jack Hill etc, no matter what their real names were. I wonder what their mother's thought?
Both Brian Forst and Fred Latremouille were offered Jobs at K/Poi but chose to stay in Vancouver. History proves they chose correctly. Around that time Vancouver icon Monty MacFarlane took a job offer at a Honolulu station -- an MOR channel -- and lasted about three weeks, he had misread the whole adventure and returned to CJOR, despite his hatred of Vancouver's weather which seriously destroyed his yearning for year-round golf. As for Forst and Latremouille, they went on to rule the Vancouver radio market for the rest of the century. Brian eventually going to CKNW and dragging in phenomenal numbers. Fred and Cathy later pioneered broadcasting from their own home.
Big Daddy Dave began bouncing. When Jacobs (Evergreen) sold off K/MAKe, a gold-class loser took over as manager. This guy believed in a Gypsy fortune teller. She had a short drop-in show and sold commercials. Apparently this pair consulted on when to run promotions and who knew what else. Anomalies.
Dave found a friend in the PD at cross-town KYNO. Bill Drake: the originator of the term Boss Radio. Drake invited Dave to a bowling alley for a drink one night and the carrot on a stick was the offer of a job. Bill knew KMAK was going ass-up and figured to hire one of it's better jocks, except both he and McCormick got piss-eyed and no formal deal was even discussed. At their liquid parting, Drake told Dave to meet him in his office the next morning. Hung-over as he was, Dave at least made the appointment. Drake had his flunky tell McCormick, "Bill didn't make it in but he says you're hired. Apparently you out-drank him."
A lot's been written about Bill Drake and he was, depending on whom you spoke to a nice guy or a dork. Dave was telling me on the phone, Drake had, as a DJ, used cue-cards -- one of which said "Good Morning Fresno". Then one time there was a big to-do surrounding the first airing of the Righteous Brothers monster "You've Lost That Loving Feeling". Composer Phil Spector (in happier days) was in Fresno and had an acetate of the song which he gave to his buddy Drake who gave it to McCormick who was on the air with instructions to play it when Drake called him using the phone in his baby-blue convertible Cadillac, a model of car and colour to which he was addicted. Spector wanted to listen to how the song sounded on the radio... and used Fresno as a test market.
Dave thought he would be heading for Los Angeles when he teamed up with Bill Drake. Wrong. Drake left him in Fresno and Jacobs who was the KHJ PD apparently forgot about his excolleague from the Great White North. McCormick was bummed... bad... to find himself stuck in Fresno. This was not the reason he'd gone to the Drake station. Sorely disappointed, he'd known Bill, his partner Gene Chenault and Ron Jacobs were taking over KHJ in L.A., the result of which ended in turning the AM frequency's ratings 180 degrees and Boss Radio was really on it's way. But Dave's abilities were too well-known on the West Coast and around this time Brian Forst, who had his finger on the Pacific Northwest radio market had heard they were looking for a PD at KOL, Seattle which indeed they were and Dave McCormick was hired. It was a heavy assignment -- KOL was up against Pat O'Day and his Rock giant KJR.
About this time I had taken over as Program Director at KLIV and called Dave to come on down to work in San Jose. He also offered me a job at KOL, but we were cutting our teeth as PD's and "thanks but no thanks", from the both of us.
Several months later I made a stupid mistake. I went back down to K/Men as PD where, as I have said, trouble brewed within several months which pushed me back to Canada for awhile. Yet while they were brewing, I got wind that Dave was not happy at KOL. The station had hired a manager who's job was sharpening pencils. McCormick was disgusted, he was doing "morning drive" and working 'till 5 PM as PD. He was tired, he was sick and he was fed up with KOL. He had a little girl by this time and things were closing in. I called him to do 6-9AM at K/men and he jumped at it. But fate has a way of changing things. Before John Peel and I could say goodbye, we flew away. Booted. At least we received airfare home. Incensed and infuriated we had no recourse but to accept our situation to fight another day... so...
...McCormick arrived at K/Men to find himself as Program Director, a position hours earlier vacated by me. He was also 'morning drive DJ' and was faced with a staff of three "On Air" people -- 8-hour rotation. Dave realized his first priority was to get his wicked air-staff can-of-worms bubbled out. Can you imagine listening to the same Rock 'n' Roll top 40 records for an 8-hour stretch? Took him a few weeks.
When I came back to Southern California, business accomplished and went to work for London Records as a promo man, Dave had built the K/Men staff up to full strength and he was cruisin'. However, a year or so later, the manager of K/Men, Jerry Jolstead, left the station which had been sold to an outfit in Minneapolis. In the manager's office sat some jerk by the name of Scooter Seagrave. McCormick quit. Took a job for a construction company and made twice the salary. It wasn't long after that, Dave arrived back in Canada, Frosty had sold 'NW manager Mel Cooper on hiring Dave who began a long service as swing-shift, Jack Cullen replacement and the originator of a one hour rock-musical history show DISCUMENTARY that was sold across Canada cementing Dave as one of the most knowledgeable DJ's in the business.
Brian Forst who had helped Dave, did a repeat for me, suggesting I go out to Langley and twist station owner Joe Chesney's arm for a job. I auditioned on the air and PD Barry Bell, who stayed only about three months after I was hired, left for a news job at CHQM and Joe appointed me Program Director. Thus began a new era in my radio career. The Chesney's, father and son, Waylon Jennings and Stompin' Tom Conners. A Country Music Station called CJJC, soon to be granted a 10,000 watt power surge.
Next time: I discover those great career builders: booze and marijuana.