Little things, happening at XEROK80, made me uneasy. Haze had told me not to trust the GM. The original jock staff disliked the guy, not just because he replaced their original leader, Jim White, but because he was a ego maniac. Kent Burkhart, quoted in R&R, mentioned only my name when commenting on the station's success; the GM was furious. I donít, never have, and never will tolerate MBY (management by yelling). This guy liked to get in peopleís faces and yell. He also had bad breath. The only person who liked him was his secretary, the promotion director. Paul Mayer, the consummate prankster, and the promotion director, lived in the same apartment complex, a few doors away from each other. Her door was knocked on at all hours of the night. She received prank telephone calls. At the office, pig sounds were heard in the background, whenever she passed through the hall. Mayer made her life a living hell. This unwanted attention often resulted in her teary early departure from work. The mood at the station was tense, to say the least.
One Sunday, Ishmael didnít show up to pick up tapes. After having someone who could speak Spanish call his house, I discovered the Mexican Engineers Union might strike at Midnight. It was a sympathetic action in support of another union. The entire country was on pins and needles because labor disputes in Mexico often resulted in bloodshed. Ishmael wasnít about to go anywhere near the transmitter. The only solution was to take the tapes, myself. As I crossed the border, I was nervous that the Fedarales might seize me, the tapes, or both. I didnít grasp the severity of the situation until I reached the transmitter. My usual welcome, "Buenos dias Senor Juan Elargo" was non existent, as I passed some of the engineers. The chief was there and we walked out into the desert away from the building to talk. He explained the situation and told me he would personally remain at the transmitter on duty until the strike was settled, if it occurred. He cautioned me about delivering tapes after dark ever again. There were enough "fresh" tapes to sustain normal programming until 1800 hours, Lunes (6:00PM, Monday). He promised to keep me informed; I left with the old tapes and nervously passed through the Mexican checkpoint, now manned by soldiers with fixed bayonets. In the end the strike was averted.
Many radio stations have sports teams made up of staff members. At WQXI it was the "Quixie Tigers". In Cedar Rapids, the KLWW "Untouchables" played flag football with only female teams. At XEROK80, the "Fumblers" played only female teams. Some of the promotion men were guest players on the station team. They planned their visits around the teams' schedule. The games were not serious to us, however some teams were determined to beat us. When they got a little rough, weíd ease up and let them win. The games always drew large crowds, raised money for charities, and spawned dates for some jocks. I had to caution the guys to stay away from younger girls when we played high school teams.
The X-ROCK Fumblers: Me, Lee Arbuckle of Capitol Records (reclining), Charlie Fox (peace sign), Paul Leigh (kneeling left), Ray Potter (with his hand on Paul's shoulder, and Chris O'Conner at a game.
Another teen oriented promotion was a school spirit contest sponsored with a chewing gum company. The school sending in the most signatures would win a free concert featuring a hit artist. I donít remember the group that was to perform, but the station received over one million signatures.
Mark Thomas went on to use the name Pat Garret. Jay and I still correspond. Courtesy Of R&R.
The Guess Who came to town for a concert. Their current hit was "Clap For The Wolfmaní The RCA promotion man arranged for XEROK80 to front the show featuring an appearance by Wolfman Jack.
Mark Thomas, SteveSeever, Paul Lee, Wolf, Me, Catfish and Jay Walker at XEROK.
Bob Wilson, editor of Radio & Records, was partnered with Wolfman in a syndication venture. I called Bob and asked him if he thought Wolfman would go on the air for a couple of hours. Wolfman loved the idea. He often used the line "are you nakid baby?". I got the bright idea of having a naked girl streak the studio while Wolfman was taping his segment. Finding a streaker was the next problem; the Hiphugger was the answer. The next "Boys Night Out" I approached a couple of the dancers with the idea. One named Linda agreed to do it. I told no one of my plans. I hired a photographer to take pictures of the jocks with Wolfman. I told the photographer to be ready for something unusual to happen. After posing for pictures with the jock staff, Wolfman went on the air with night jock Catfish. After about thirty minutes, Linda went into the studio One look and all Wolfman could say was "buh buh buh buh...you nakid ainít cha darliní". The photographer snapped a picture of Catfish, Streakin' Linda, Wolfman and me. I sent it to Wilson and he put it in the next issue of R&R. I was getting used to being on the front page. The GM was pissed...again.
Courtesy Of R&R
We received listener mail from all over the Western United States and South America. A San Francisco promotion man sent me a recording he made of the station. We receive a lot of DX cards. Theyíre sent by ham radio enthusiasts to confirm reception of faraway signals. I believe that had something to do with the original X Rockers calling the station X-ROCK80, FARAWAY ROCK. The engineer for XEROK was a character. Ray was his name and he was a real hippie. He could fix most anything. The studios had huge ElectroVox monitor speakers. Power failures were common, and we had to be sure to turn off the monitor amplifier when this occurred. The return of current and surge of power would blow them. The GM issued a memo threatening anyone who didnít turn the amp off when the power failed.
Ray and I plotted the cards and letters on a huge map with push pins. Our best guess was that somewhere between Kansas City and St Louis, our signal was canceled out by The Big 8, CKLW. XEROKís huge signal was beneficial to the jocks who were on the way up. Bill Young was PD at KILT, Houstonís highly regarded AM Top 40. One day, Catfish came to me with news of an offer from Young. Bill apparently listened to Catfish every night, liked what he heard and offered him a shift at KILT. I was very happy for him. I think I gave him his first radio job in Cedar Rapids. I never tried to prevent guys from moving up. If they had given me their best, they deserved the opportunity to go to bigger markets and earn more money. If I believed in someone and they felt the urge to move on, I made calls to PD friends and recommended them jock for openings.
December 1974, I had been invited to be on a panel at the Gavin Conference in Kansas City. XEROK had been nominated as medium market station of the year, I was nominated medium market PD of the year, and Haze was nominated as medium market disc-jockey of the year. Thatís the only reason, the GM agreed to pay for me to go. I was on a panel moderated by Gerry Peterson. I ran into several old friends including George Klein from WHBQ in Memphis, Bobby Rich who was now at KFMB in San Diego, and Buzz Bennett from KDWB in Minneapolis. Buzz created quite a stir when he hosted a panel in a darkened room with a tiny light shining on his face. Later that month, Time magazine did a feature on Buzz.
Used without permission from Time Magazine
I got to see Doug Lee for the first time in a long while. It was fun, however, we didnít win any awards. I know this sounds trite, but being nominated WAS enough for me.
I returned to El Paso and was promptly fired. The GM ordered me to clean out my desk, while he watched. I was so mad, I was shaking. I wanted to kill the bastard. Kent Burkhart was cut loose as consultant. Paul Mayer, Chris OíConner, Jay Walker, and Roz Frank walked out at the station in protest. While my firing was taking place, Mayer (he was Paul Leigh on the air) passed by my office and overheard the GM. He went back into the studio and the rest of the show was devoted to trashing the GM. He called him every name in the book, made fun of his wife, children, and secretary. Since it was taped, the GM wouldn't know about it till the next morning when it aired. It was hilarious and the GM was REALLY pissed. Two weeks before Christmas, coming off the greatest Top 40 ratings in America, nominated for national awards, and Iím on the beach. Additionally, most of my troops walked out and I felt responsible. The worst time of year to find a job in radio is the holidays.
Courtesy Of R&R
The gang assembled at my house to discuss a strategy. Resumes had to be written, air checks had to be edited and duplicated, and we had to eat. I was fired with no severance and since the others had walked, the GM was holding their checks. We had done a Thanksgiving promotion on XEROK in which we gave away coupons for turkeys, redeemable at a local supermarket. I had extra coupons left over and they were in my briefcase when I left XEROK. The wives began planning meals using turkey. Long before it became fashionable we made turkey burgers, turkey chili, turkey spaghetti, and my all time favorite turkey pizza. We needed a typewriter, copy machine and access to a studio. Kent told me to call his old friend, Jim Phillips, at KHEY. Jim allowed us to use everything we needed. We started mailing out tapes right and left. The speakers in XEROKís studios were blown due to a power surge. I later learned that some prankster had switched off the power at the utility box. Obscene bumper stickers mysteriously appeared on the GMís car. The way I figured it, a little revenge was a good thing as long as no one got hurt. The "out-of-work gang" hired a lawyer to get their final checks. I had no money so I called my folks for a loan. I also sold one of my vehicles, as well as my Suzuki 175 dirt bike. The nanny had to be let go. I was scared.
Ten days before Christmas I got a call from Paul Drew. He offered me the PD job at WXLO, New York. I said yes and he told me heíd call me right back. An hour or so later, Paul called to tell me there was a prepaid ticket to New York at the El Paso airport. I asked him about my wife and daughter. "Bring enough clothes for a week and weíll work the rest out when you get to New York". I was amazed Paul had called me. Everyone wished me well and Mayer took me to the airport. I had $150.00 cash and no credit cards. I arrived at Kennedy and caught a cab to the hotel where I was to meet the WXLO GM. It was late afternoon; the cab cost me about $20.00, but I got a receipt for reimbursement. At the hotel, billing arrangements were suppose to have been pre-arranged by WXLO. I had to shell out almost $100.00 to get checked in by six or my reservation would be cancelled. The GM was to meet me at seven. The bellman took my bags to the room and I tipped him and now Iím down to less than $30.00. I sat in the bar and the waiter kept asking if I wanted anything. He was getting annoyed and said so to the bartender, loud enough that I could hear; I was taking up a seat and he wasnít making tips. I finally moved to the lobby. The GM finally showed up about 8:00PM. He apologized for being late and the reservations mix up. We moved to the hotel dining room and ordered dinner. The GM and I discussed my qualifications and he said "the job pays $25,000.00 a year and weíll move you up here". His offer was rather cold. He almost seemed annoyed.
I was in shock over the salary. I had made more than that in each of my last three jobs. I tried not to let my disappointment show. I needed a job. New York, the largest market in America and RKO, largest independent radio chain in America were calling. Also, I would be back with Paul Drew. I accepted, the GM signed the dinner tab (over $100.00 for two steaks), and he told me to call Paul and give him the news Paul told me heíd be in New York two days later and weíd discuss programming strategy. "Well, youíre a Program Director in the number one market in America. All that hard work in New Haven paid off", he said before hanging up.
I went to my very small room. I looked out at the Big Apple skyline. A thousand thoughts were racing through my mind. The money really bothered me. I was going to have to live well outside the city to be able to afford a decent place. I would have to commute. I began to realize my familyís lifestyle would change drastically. How was I going to relate to this place? Iíd seen how past PDís had thrown a lot of money at the market and gained no more than a tenth of a point. I was used to being able to touch the audience; get inside their heads. New York had millions of people of all nationalities. I stayed up all night long trying to convince myself that everything would be fine. About 7:00 AM I called my Dad. I explained my dilemma. I donít remember exactly what he said, but when I hung up, I knew I had to turn the job down and I knew it was okay to do it (not with my Dad, but with myself). The GM was to meet me for breakfast. He arrived and we went to the coffee shop. Before he could order, I told him I would not be accepting the job. I told him my airline ticket had been one way and I needed a return ticket. We didnít even order, he took me to the lobby travel desk, purchased a one way ticket to El Paso, told me to send him the hotel and cab receipts and heíd send me a reimbursement check. I barely had enough time to make my plane. Iíll never forget the sense of relief I felt as the plane lifted into the sky. Some RKO GMs hated Drew's PD selections. This guy didnít really want me, hence the inattention to details, such as hotel reservations, late arrival for dinner, and ridiculous salary offer. He figured I would balk and that would get him off the hook with Bruce Johnson and Drew. I screwed his strategy up by accepting. He probably didnít sleep either, trying to figure out how to fire me, quickly. His choice was Lee Douglas. I had no regrets, but knew that Iíd probably NEVER hear from Drew, again. I got home with about three dollars in my pocket and I was the happiest unemployed man in El Paso, Texas.
My wife, daughter and I went home to Georgia for Christmas, the longest drive Iíve ever made in my life. It was tough to return to El Paso, but the gang was there and I still felt responsible. I think they were all disappointed about WXLO, thinking it would mean jobs for all of them. That was a big problem and I kept telling them that my finding a job didnít necessarily mean employment for them. The first week in January 1975, I got a call from Don Burdon, owner of the Star Stations (KOIL, Omaha, WIFE, Indianapolis, et al). He asked me to fly to Omaha to talk to him about a job with his company. The Midwest in January did not make a possible job offer appealing. I flew into ice-covered Omaha. Someone from the station met me and took me to a hotel. After a couple of hours, Burdon called my room and said heíd pick me up in ten minutes. I had heard rumors about Burdonís unusual personality; they were true. We went to Star Company headquarters. After a brief tour of the facility, we went to his office where he talked for about an hour. He rambled on about his problems with the FCC (they were threatening to revoke his licensees). "Well, Iíll get someone to drive you back to the hotel and the shuttle will take you to the airport in the morning. Have dinner at the hotel tonight and just put the charges on your room tab." He never once mentioned a job. I figured he just didnít like me. I never head from him again. Several months later he lost his fight with the FCC and his stations.
Courtesy of Kal Rudman's Friday Morning Quarterback
If I was so loved, why was I out of work and only worth $25K a year in the number one market? I did what all out of work PDís did, I started hustling stations to consult. I already had a paying agreement with WLOB in Portland. John Walton owned KELP in El Paso and several other stations (Dallas, Tucson, and Carmel, California). I contacted the KELP general manager was a neat guy, Bob Gourley. They loved the idea that I wanted to help them. Buzz Bennett had gone form KGB to KCBQ and beat his old station, so, Iíd do the same. John Walton was a very wealthy man. He had a pilot on staff at his corporate office in El Paso. John was very spontaneous; he liked to jump in his Lear and fly somewhere with pals on a moments notice. I showed up at KELP one morning and he said "come on". Gourley, John and I got into his car and went to the airport. Within minutes we were headed to Tucson to visit his station. En route, we had Bloody Marys. I asked Gourley why heíd brought me along, he said "just keep your ears open, there may be something for you with the company". I was thrilled. I liked El Paso and John Walton. If I could get a group PD thing going, it would be great, plus I could probably get Jay, Paul, Roz, and Chris jobs at the Walton Stations. In Tucson, The local GM (Marty somebody) met us and we went to lunch, then back to El Paso. The corporate job never panned out, but I sure had a lot of fun with Walton and Gourley.
Bobby Rich was doing evenings at KFMB in San Diego. After several years of trying to convince the GM to let him change their FM to Top 40 and go after KCBQ, he succeeded. Bobby asked me to help him put the station together.
Courtesy Of R&R
The only stipulation was that the call letters, KFMB-FM could not be changed. It was the old fear of "hurting the AM story". Our dilemma was how to establish a new identity for the FM, when we had to use those calls. I honestly donít know how we arrived at B-100, but it seemed right. Picking air talent was fun. We hired a guy named Bob Landree to do mornings. Willie B came from KELP to do nights. Bobby was to do afternoons. We scraped together an oldies library and I contacted all the record companies for service. I wasnít there for the launch, but have heard tapes and it was nothing short of a barrel of fun. Bobby had no promotion dollars, no equipment (station was automated beautiful music previously), yet he made magic with that station.
The GM of KRUX in Phoenix called and asked me to come for a job interview. Christopher Haze was PD and Kent Burkhart was consultant. The GM didnít like either of them. It was an odd predicament. I called Kent, and he said, "donít worry about it". I called Haze and he said, "donít worry about it". They were both right, I shouldnít have worried about it. I accepted the job and was able to bring along Mayer, to do mornings and Roz to do continuity or traffic. Since KRUX was paying my moving expenses, I made arrangements for the movers to get everyoneís stuff. We drove to Phoenix in a caravan.
Above Courtesy Of R&R
Courtesy of Kal Rudman's Friday Morning Quarterback
The GM was heavily involved in programming decisions. The staff was pot friendly and had a sort of cosmic attitude. Call letters like KRUX were difficult to work with. I called PAMS (jingle company) and asked them to record the word crux using their patented "Sonovox" (it sounded like a belch!) It was our only jingle besides a Drake a capella. KRUX almost sounded obscene. One evening in a "smoky creative session" we decided to KRUX the audience. We tell them to call and give them money. Not BIG money but back then any money given away on the radio seemed to be the ticket. Perhaps I exaggerated in this blurb.
Courtesy Of R&R
I sped up the turntables and called in Eric Small to tune up the audio. We had very little money for promotions. We accepted every invitation for any charity event just for exposure including playing broom hockey with the Phoenix Playboy Club Bunnies.
Daniel Ohse (KRUX jock) me and the bunnies.
We hooked with Columbia Records to do a promotion with Mark Lindsay.
Tree Black, Columbia promotion man. Mark Lindsay, and me.
We dusted off "Dollar A Minute" as our main Spring sweeps promotion. Sometime after the top of each hour, the jock wound up the "KRUX Cash Clock" and when the alarm sounded on air the first listener to call won a dollar for each minute that had passed. It was an okay promotion that generated a lot of great winner promos. At XEROK, Haze wasnít promotion director, just a great jock. I discovered that he was a killer production man, also. We were rocking along when, after less than 60 days, Howard Kalmenson, owner of KRUX made the brilliant decision to pull the plug and hook up with the new NBC "all news" syndicated format. The GM made the announcement on April 1st and we all thought he was kidding or had "burned one" on the way to work. It was no joke. The NBC "all news format" folded about six months later. The tables had been turned and we got KRUXED! For the short period of time I was at KRUX, the station garnered a lot of press attention and that was the name of the game.
Courtesy Of R&R
LISTEN TO A COMPOSITE AIRCHECK OF KRUX AT REELRADIO.COM IN THE JOHN LONG COLLECTION
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