In early 1978, RKO held itís annual managers meeting and handed out itís Achievers Awards. I won Superior Achiever-Program Director Of The Year, French was Achiever-General Manager Of The Year, and Dees was Superior Achiever-Outstanding Radio Personality Of The Year. WHBQ was taking one out of every three radio advertising dollars in the Memphis market. The success story made French the darling of RKO. He got the green light to knock out walls and expand. He was tired of his little cubby hole office on the first floor hall across from the newsroom. Dick wanted to be up on the second floor, closer to the TV GMs office. There was a recording studio across the parking lot on the south end of the WHBQ building. RKO purchased the land and building. The radio staff moved into the building while renovation was taking place. There were only a couple of offices so we divided the huge studios with curtains. There was no privacy, but the Q crew was such a close bunch it really didnít matter. Moving day finally came and I too got more than a cubby hole for an office. I decorated my office with my growing collection of gold and platinum albums. Chris Karb put a sound system together for me that included an Ampex reel-to-reel, cart machine, cassette, turntable, and recorder. I also had the capability to air check jocks with a skimmer (it cut out most of the music) in the office. I had a music library, music directors office, and prize closet with a door that led out the back of the building. That door also allowed me to enter the building and my office suite without going past the receptionist. That was handy for avoiding record people who just happened to show up and wait in the lobby for me. There was one guy who did just that. He absolutely could not or would not play by the rules. He worked for Al Coury, who many say was the consummate record promotion man of all time. Coury told the guy to camp out at the station until I added a certain record. I never added the record and banned the guy from coming to WHBQ anymore. Coury transferred him to Atlanta. The decorating budget was split, half for enlarging downstairs facilities and the other half for Frenchís office and a conference room on the second floor. Many eyebrows were raised when French hired his new wifeís best friend to decorate his office. The new radio lobby had a spiral staircase and a huge wall that needed something . I suggested to French that we sponsor an art contest with contestants designing a mural for the lobby. The winning entry depicted a lot of Memphis music history. Epic records used the same artwork for a WHBQ picture disc promotion.
I had been through a couple of secretaries and two music directors. I hired Sally Stafford, a gal who had done promotion work at WAPE to come to Memphis as my secretary. Sally was a trip. She graduated from Georgia and was close friends with a band from Athens. She kept after me till one day I finally listened to "Rock Lobster" by the B52ís. The 45 was on some obscure Athens label. I laughed when I heard it and she told me "Just wait, they're gonna be big!" She was right. I should have hired her to be music director. I hired Dave Nichols from WBSR in Pensacola to do mid-days and be music director when Stu Robb left WHBQ. Paul Mayer came to work for me again doing overnights and finally 10P-2A. Paul was a hustler and supplemented his income with DJ jobs. He had all the equipment as well as strobe lights and I think a fog machine. It was also a great way for him to meet girls. I think he would have done the gigs free just to meet the girls. Tad Griffin came to WHBQ as a part-time jock. He bugged Dick Edwards for months to play his audition tape for me. I told Dickie "you hire him, you train him." Dickie had been my right hand since we had gotten to Memphis. He was starting to get restless so I mentioned him to Drew as a possible PD at one of the stations. Shortly after that Drew resigned to devote all his time to a Japanese recording act, Pink Lady. Paul had signed an exclusive US management contract with them. Paul got to be great friends with the son of the President of Sony. The kid was infatuated with American Top 40 radio. That was the beginning of Paulís long and apparently successful business dealings with the Japanese. The last time I saw him was a couple of years ago in Augusta during the Masterís. Paul arranged for Japanese businessmen to come for the prestigious golf tournament each year. How Paul managed to get badges for these guys Iíll never know, but if anyone could pull it off, Drew could.
I decided it was time to retire the TM "You" jingle package. I went to Dallas to attend the recording session for a new one. After the singers finished, I took the master to LA for final mixing. Iíd been to LA several times and always found it boring. The most interesting thing that ever happened to me there was when Christopher Haze and I had gone to LA after the KRUX mass firing. We went to the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard to see Leo Sayer as guests of Warner Brothers. George Harrison was there. The show was ok, but what happened afterward was unbelievable. We had gone to the late show and when we came out, the valet parking guy had gone for the night. We had no idea how to find the keys to our car until this guy who seemed really stoned or drunk showed us how to get them out of the lock box. It was Joe Cocker. As we left, he was sitting on the ground outside the Roxy in a very disheveled state. After the mixdown of the jingle package I met some record promotion guys and a friend of mine. The record guys had planned an afternoon of female entertainment for my friend and me. I had never experimented with cocaine. My first contact with the substance back in Jacksonville had scared me to death and frankly I put it in the same category as heroin. That afternoon, I was exposed to cocaine, again. Unfortunately I enjoyed it. I went to San Francisco on that trip and hung out with Dave Sholin and Les Garland. I was in awe of KFRC. I hadnít seen Dr. Don Rose since the sixties when he was at WQXI. Back then, I helped DDR do record hops. I was managing "The Cries Of London" a band from LaGrange. Don and I would rent a National Guard armory in LaGrange, Newnan, or Carrolton, Georgia on a Friday night and The Cries would play. Don would plug the hop (jocks were allowed to do that at no charge back then as long as it was billed as a station event) on WQXI. Iíd go to the armory early with the band, set up, and work the door. Don would show up about an hour after the hop started, go onstage, do the DJ thing, give away some 45ís, maybe judge a dance contest then leave. I usually got 25% of the door after we paid the band. I also got 15% of the bands money as manager so I could easily make a hundred a week. Don would usually make a hundred fifty or better. He was a neat guy and always wore a tiger skin sport coat to the hops. After all he was a "Quixie Tiger" I also worked a couple of hops with Kris Eric Stevens when he was at WQXI. Kris became nationally famous at WLS in Chicago. I fell in love with San Francisco. Sholin took me to a couple of really neat restaurants. Garland lived in Marin, possibly the hippest place in the world at that time. I met Bill Thompson, manger of the Jefferson Starship. Bill and I remained friends into the eighties, then we lost touch. I met Michael Kleffner who put together the Atlantic Records deal for The Blues Brothers. On the plane back home, I made up my mind that I was going to do everything in my power to get the KFRC PD job if Les ever left.
Michael and Randy Jackson stopped by WHBQ
I got a call from Rick Sklar one day. He asked me if Iíd be interested in coming to work for ABC. I said I was always receptive to opportunity. He asked me to fly to Puerto Rico where the ABC GMs were meeting. I thought maybe a solid offer from them might pry something open somewhere else. Although KHJ would have been a nice job, I really didnít care for LA. New York was out of the question. WFYR in Chicago was trying to make itís mark, but I wasnít crazy about Chicago and Ft Lauderdale wasnít attractive. Boston sure wasnít my cup of tea. The more I thought about working for ABC, the more I realized that I wouldnít fit in so I called Sklar and told him thanks, but no thanks. Me wearing a suit and tie to work wasnít in the cards. Jeans, cowboys boots and hats were my wardrobe. Sure as hell, I get a call from Dwight Case asking me if I wanted the PD job at WRKO. I turned it down. Now, I realize that sealed my fate. If I wasnít willing to take the tough ones, I wasnít going to get a shot at the juicy jobs. WROR was still struggling and Dwight asked me to at least go to Boston and listen and make some recommendations. I went and came back and recommended Dick Edwards for the PD job at WROR.
The BeeGees kicked off a big tour that Summer and I arranged to go to Dallas with RSOís Long John Silver where they were rehearsing for the opening date there. I went to interview them for a special to be produced at KFRC and made available for all the RKO Top 40ís. I was fascinated at all the work that went into mounting such a tour. I was even more fascinated by the Bee Gees themselves. Barry was very intelligent and polite, Robin a little aloof, and Maurice just a regular guy. We hung out with them for a couple of days. Soon fans began to find out where we were all staying and there were groupies everywhere. They werenít teenagers, these were grown women. Long John and I put our "All Access" badges to full use. One of the BeeGees wanted to join the fun. We left him in Long Johnís suite with a beautiful girl. Long John and I couldnít leave Dallas without a trip to the cowboy boot and hat store. We flew back from Dallas with new cowboy clothes. Everyone on the plane thought we were in Dr Hook and The Medicine Show.
Without a Vice President of Programming, the only corporate programming person was Dave Sholin, newly appointed RKO Music Coordinator. We had a weekly PD conference call during which Dave disseminated corporate stuff. There was Harvey Mednick, but none of the PDís took Harvey very seriously. He was more a sales manager/rep firm corporate guy. Those conference calls were a hoot. Naturally Garland and I competed with each other to see who could be most disruptive. Every week weíd see who could use the craziest drop-ins just when Sholin was trying to make a serious announcement. I favored flatulence sound effects, Garland used Dr, Donís library of wacky stuff. The NAB Conference was coming up that Summer and somehow I got nominated to plan a PD meeting. I decided that after the Chicago meeting, weíd go to the Playboy Club at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I chartered a bus, arranged for a caterer to stock it with food and beer. I figured weíd have a ball there. The NAB conference was the usual convention agenda with the exception of record company participation. Mostly equipment manufacturers did the entertaining and they were boring. The record companies found a way around the NABís strict guidelines by entertaining off premises. One evening, I and several of my friends had been invited to another hotel to a private cocktail party. When I walked in the hotel suite, I was met by a woman named Inga. I didnít know it then, but she was the premier madam in Chicago and had brought her harem. The evening was like a scene from Caligula. On the last day of the convention, I had arranged for the RKO Charter complete with signs to park right in front of the hotel. I wanted everyone at the convention to see us. Remember we were the RKO PDs. We were bad to the bone; well at least some of us. Off we go to Lake Geneva. It was about a three hour trip and we ate, drank beer, and played cards. Someone broke out a joint and pretty soon about half of us are out there. We arrived at Lake Geneva, checked in and Garland and I headed for the bar in search of women. There were bunnies, but they were off limits. We had meetings during the day with guest speakers, usually from jingle companies or a new thing, research companies. Harvey Mednick even came in for a guest appearance. Itís our last night in Lake Geneva and weíre so bored we donít know what to do. Bill Thompson, The Jefferson Starshipís manager had presented all of us with satin tour jackets. We decided to go into town and pretend to be the band. There werenít many bars there but we found one and trouped in. Pretty soon some Wisconsin farm girls started coming around. We didnít exactly tell them we WERE Jefferson Starship, but we didnít tell them we werenít. I donít know if anyone in our group got lucky, but we sure had a lot of fun. Some of the guys gave me a lot of grief about my choice of location for the meeting. A couple of weeks afterward, I got a call from another RKO PD. He said that Harvey Mednick knew about the dope smoking on the bus to Lake Geneva. Harvey had to approve the bills for our meeting and someone at the charter company had ratted us out. We were fearful that he would tell Dwight, but nothing ever happened.
RKO PD's about to board the bus for Lake Geneva Playboy Club
Top L to R: Les Garland, KFRC-Paul Ward, WFYR, Bobby Rich-WXLO, John Sebastian-KHJ, Mark McKay-WRKO, Bob Hamilton-KRTH Bottom L to R: Dan Griffin-WOR, Dave Sholin, RKO Music Co-Coordinator, ?-WGMS, Rick Shaw-WAXY, and me.
The fall of 1978 saw another Radio Music Report Convention in Atlanta. Once again I was one of the directors. We didnít do an elaborate awards presentation that year but Eddie Money was the headliner after the awards banquet. The convention was successful and everyone had a great time. I somehow got involved in a pie fight with Dallas independent promotion man Ernie Phillips and Davenport got into a fight with someone who wasnít suppose to be in the hotel. Security was always a problem at the conventions. Hotel personnel invariably invited their friends to show up and take advantage of the free fun. We tried to make attendees wear ID badges, but people forgot. The last night it was a blowout anyway. Jimmy tangled with a civilian and sustained injury to his left shoulder. It put a damper on everything when we found out about it about it the next morning checking out of The Royal Coach. It was decided then that the convention had to move the next year.
I got two big invitations in 1978. One was to go to London to celebrate Columbia Records resigning Barbara Streisand. I didnít attend although RKO had given the green light for the PDs to attend. The other was to the White House for a barbecue. Before Drew left RKO he and Chip Carter had become friends. I guess when your dad is President, you try to find something to do in the administration. Itís almost, but not quite as bad, as being Vice President. Chip had asked Drew if radio could play a bigger part in getting kids involved in energy conservation. Drew told him how to do it and who to get involved. All the RKO PDs were invited as well as selected PDs from other successful top forty stations. I donít remember seeing any ABC guys there. To kick off this committee formation, Chip threw a barbecue on the front lawn of the White House on September 25, 1978. The Atlanta Rhythm Section was the entertainment. I met Jimmy Davenport in Washington and we hooked up with Sholin and Don Benson at the White House. The barbecue and hanging out at the White House was fun. Everyone waited on line to shake hands with the President and Mrs. Carter and have our pictures made. After the concert some of the gang went upstairs and played ping pong with Chip. With all the security and scrutiny, there was some misbehaving, I know I was one of those who participated. The secret service found no humor in my standing up on a picnic table during the barbecue yelling "FOOD FIGHT". I left and met Charlie Minor and a couple of others for a night on the town. We had a limo and at nearly every stop light, hookers were trying to jump in the car with us. Finally, Charlie could stand it no longer and off we went to the hotel.
President Jimmy Carter greeting me and Dave Sholin
Jim Davenport, Bob Lenihan, me, Don Benson, Cliff Gorov, Dave Sholin
Bill Lowry, Buddy Buie, Jim Davenport, Me, Bob Lenihan, Pat Burkhart, ? Kent Burkhart
Don Benson, Dave Sholin
Bob "Gator" Lenihan, Dave Sholin, Don Benson, and me having a beer at the White House
Back home, my wife and I had finally split up for good. I had started seeing someone else. It wasnít fair to keep up the charade, plus my new love was growing weary of my leading a double life. I rented an apartment across from WHBQ, although I was rarely there. It was a red herring I think itís called. Out on my own, I began to spend more and more time in the street. With that came greater temptation and availability of substances. I practically lived at the Bull Shotte when I wasnít at my girlfriendís. I also started associating with some unsavory characters, most of whom were dealers. Not big time, but enough that I increased my usage to the point that I lost interest in the radio station. Then something happened that got my attention. I received an invitation from Radio Shack to attend a preview of a their new personal computer, the TRS80. I went to the event at the Hyatt Regency in Memphis and was fascinated. I met the Memphis District Manager and told him I wanted to discuss how I might use the TRS80 in broadcast application. I was looking for a way to simplify all the calculations and paper work we did each week in preparing our music charts and music rotations. The guy introduced me to Mark Herring. Mark and I spent a week or so designing a program to do some of the work. French had approved the purchase of a TRS80. I donít remember the price tag but it seemed like a lot of money for an unproven piece if equipment. The TRS80 was a neat little package but is to todayís PCs what PONG is to todayís video games. Mark finally finished the program and I couldnít wait to show it to Dwight Case. A few days before the 1978 WHBQ Christmas party, French summoned me to his office. I rarely went up there so this was going to be important. I was hoping that maybe it was about a job change. It was, but not mine. French told me his wife had gotten an offer to be GM at an KYND-FM in Houston and that the company had offered him the GM job at the AM, KULF. He would announce his resignation at the party. I immediately asked who would be GM. He said, "I donít know why donít you apply for the job.?" "I wouldnít have the job", I replied. "Why not?", French asked. WHBQ had reached itís peak. It had defied gravity as an AM station in a market where FM was beginning to make in-roads. Even with Dees, the best we could hope for was winning mornings. I knew that, French knew that, and more importantly Dwight Case knew it. The Christmas party was sad. It was the end of an era. I totaled my company car that night. Fortunately, neither my girlfriend or I was seriously injured. I struck a utility pole about two blocks from her condo but managed to get the car back home. I parked across the street and the next morning the car had been towed by the police. My bad boy behavior was beginning to catch up with me.
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