Part 21 - Worst Case Scenario

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 21 - Worst Case Scenario

Postby Brian Lord » Fri Feb 05, 2010 11:33 pm

Brian Lord's Radio Stories


As the 1960's edged towards the end of the decade a lot of things seemed to go crazy. Kent State, Robert Kennedy, Vietnam and the record business had gone through changes, fads: Surf music; Motown and Phil Spector and of course the biggest blast of all -- The British Invasion as it was called in the USA and Canada. Not only music changed (there's a radical difference between "Da Do Ron Ron" by the Crystals and "Tell Me" by the Rolling Stones) -- but Top-40 radio took it all in stride and the music was actually getting better -- at least for most listeners.

To capitalize on the huge success of British Rock music, the US kept an eye open for English Disc Jockeys. I had been on sabbatical in San Jose and returned to K/Men in 1967 as Program Director and inherited a very different group of announcers than had been on-air when the station started five years before. Adding to this, a guy named Bill Drake, who is recently deceased, began a format which cut down on news, spruced up commercials but mainly boosted the number of records a jock should play during a given hour. It was called Boss Radio and it took off until Rock station's announcers were screaming ten words in 3 seconds and segueing songs when possible. Great for the listener -- more music -- but a drag for some DJ's who had his creativity sapped.

K/Men was not a Boss affiliate, a member of the group overseen by Drake and his people, but his format grew ratings like trees grow branches and even if we weren't using Boss Radio in our station breaks we were playing more records, talking faster and having less fun. I realize there are a few former boss-jocks who read this will howl. sorry. I visited Drake once. He lived in a mansion in Bel Air where he had all manner of electronic paraphernalia, a lot of telephone lines and a huge swimming pool. He seemed like a nice guy but we didn't have a deep discussion--that's just my impression. One had to hand it to him, he boosted radio audiences and made millions.

So much for mass-market fever. One of my inherited DJ's when I came back to Southern California from the Bay area was a guy named John Ravencroft who had my old shift 6 to 9 PM. He was a Brit, sounded like it and all in all was an asset to the station. He wore his hair long and dressed like a Texan; a sort of salute to both the UK and the US. He wasn't a bad looking guy, a wee bit heavy but he sure knew his music and I made him music director after a couple of weeks.

Now comes the unfortunate news that most DJ's know about. Some love it, others hate it and very few don't care. It is still with us today. I am speaking of the fan support DJ's get when they go out on a remote or appear at a concert.... whatever. They were continually hustled by a vast sea of young girls. Ravencroft was our most popular DJ, largely because of his London accent, distinctly British. The Beatles were British, hence John was something like a Beatle who didn't sing but that was okay... young girls screamed at him. The screamed at all of us for that matter.

John and I became friends, not tight personal buddies but certainly the 'beer after work' kind. My working day began around 9AM and finished about 9PM just when Ravencroft was ending his show and we took advantage of our common cause -- the radio station -- and got to know each other quite well. As the year rolled on the groups of young girls would usually show up at the station in the evening hours and ogle John. A young girl who has nothing better to do with her time than run over to some radio station and become groupies to the DJ's is a young girl who has too much time on her hands.

Instead of doing homework, a small section of the local, female, teen society would always be hanging around asking questions, and.... well ....asking. John and I were a bit too old to get involved with this very dicey, unlawful way to pass time and besides we were both married although both of our marriages were on the skids. However, we all know there is an unwritten law among DJ's that activity bordering upon or involving in sex was strictly forbidden. Those who were smart never gave this group the time of day. Polite but quick like a fox, into their short and away from any scene.

Ravencroft and I and a couple of other DJ's made the mistake of talking to the girls, telling them experiences and trying to answer a flood of pointless queries. In other words we were not very smart. We were circumspect to keep some distance but that didn't help a few of these young people from writing fantasy letters. One day the parents of one of our groupies read a letter written by another describing the relationship she had with John and Brian. It was rather intense. And it was damning.

The parents went to the police, the police decided to investigate and made a visit to the station manager with a warning they might have to become involved if the parents decided to press any charges. John and I were toast... the manager booted our asses out of the station with an admonition never to darken K/Men's door. Ever again. And he furnished both John and I with airplane tickets ... John to London and I to Vancouver.

Talk about spoiling the party, I was devastated. For a few months I worked at CJOR and when I had enough money I hired a lawyer in San Bernardino. The fact that I had left the town did not bode well for my professed innocence but as often happens when it hit's the fan, changes occur. The police had determined that the letter was indeed a fantasy because both sets of parents refused to bring charges as their kids came clean and admitted to what was basically a fairy tale. I walked out of my lawyers office with a clean slate and went to work for a record distributor in Central L.A. John did nothing of course, he heard from me that the whole mess had become a washout.

John Ravencroft however did become an entrepreneur. In London he worked for awhile at the pirate station Radio London and later the BBC. He began bringing together young musicians and publishing records. He changed his name from Ravencroft to John Peel and went on to receive an OBE for his work with underground music. He had his own record label, an immense audience and a great ear for what would take off and become a hit. He died at age 65 of a heart attack a couple of years ago while visiting Peru.

It's not easy to write this serious stuff about ones self but it happened and these columns are a discourse on my radio days.

Next time: payola, free stuff and the Coconut Grove.
Brian Lord
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Re: Part 21 - Worst Case Scenario

Postby Russ_Byth » Sat Feb 06, 2010 5:59 pm

Brian, I continue to be amazed at how clear your memories are from these days. Thanks for sharing again!
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Re: Part 21 - Worst Case Scenario

Postby CubbyCam » Sat Feb 06, 2010 6:12 pm

Just goes to disprove the old adage... "If you remember the 60's, you weren't really there... " :-) Another great episode Brian! You da man!
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Re: Part 21 - Worst Case Scenario

Postby Steve Sanderson » Sat Feb 06, 2010 6:19 pm

Agreed!...Another great episode!
Keep them coming.
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Re: Part 21 - Worst Case Scenario

Postby tuned » Sat Feb 06, 2010 6:35 pm

Thanks for another great installment Brian! Our paths crossed at CJJC in the mid 70s. Looking forward to more great stories from when radio meant something.
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Re: Part 21 - Worst Case Scenario

Postby BossRadio » Sun Feb 07, 2010 11:21 am

You still have the knack Brian! Was a pleasure working with you at 'JR years ago, and I still have a CFUN Fantastic Fifty chart featuring your pic in my collection!
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Re: Part 21 - Worst Case Scenario

Postby hagopian » Sun Feb 07, 2010 12:55 pm

Mel, as his old buds call him, is going to kill me for saying this.

Brian is a genius.

His intellect and grasp of concepts and ideas has always been a way ahead of the curve. He is one of the few people that write beautifully and is also artfully eloquent.

Some of the funniest and most memorable things happened, when Brian was "In the House".

I am like you all, glad for the fresh writing, and on a more personal note - Praying that hopefully life is improving for Brian and Family, after your Island's nightmare. Mr. Lord and his Family and neighbours have been sorely tested over the last year, and it bears testament to this man's jam, that he can come up with superb stories, while outside the door, it has been chaos and sometimes tenuous,recovery.
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Re: Part 21 - Worst Case Scenario

Postby RationalKeith » Sun Feb 28, 2010 1:54 pm

Many scummy people about, a big question is why people believe them.

About 10% of sexual assault claims are false - an OPP officer who is central to their work is really aggressive against that, she believes false claims really hurt the process of prosecuting true claims.

In Canada the crime of "public mischief" applies to making a false claim that results in a police investigation.
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