Other Radio History
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Other Radio History
NY Deejays Spin Faster Than Disks
Billboard: May 12, 1958
“The disk jockey scene here is in a state of flux...”
Interesting article about the turnover of DJs, including Alan Freed, in NYC. Also announces the move of Scott Muni to WMCA beginning May 26, 1958.
“Rocking--and Rolling--With a Message'”
New York Times: June 30, 1965
“The most improbably show of the year so far....”
An announcement of the upcoming Murray the K TV special. It would become very controversial. More below.
Murray the K: It's What's Hapening, Baby!
New York Times: June 27, 1965
“For God sake Murray, you can't have everything.”
This article describes a CBS special that Murray produced for Sargent Shriver's Office of Economic Opportunity to try and get kids to stay in school and to provide some summer jobs for them. It was taped at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre on the day of the math Regent's exam in 1965.
The special was quite controversial: Congress got involved trying to find out why the taxpayers were paying for TV shows about rock and roll. The irony is that since the show was taped on the day of the math Regents exam, all the kids attending the show had either already dropped out of high school, or were in high school, but not in an academic diploma program.
I was on my way to take the math Regents exam when I witnessed Murray taping a scene in front of the Fox theatre, where he comes out of the subway station and into the theatre. Murray used this device often in his shows where this would be projected onto to the screen as the show opened and then Murray would enter the theatre from the rear in sync with the projection. (I saw the same device used a few years later at the Fillmore East for the Voices of East Harlem.) Murray was not in a good mood during the taping of this bit, so the mood described in this article sounds quite accurate.
The Ronnettes were a hit group by this time, having released "Be My Baby" in 1963, but before they started recording, they did a stint as "Murray the K's Dancing Girls". Look at those hero sandwiches they're carrying. They look amazingly good! Wish they made them like that today. And a few doors up the block, there's a sign that says, "homemade Italian ices"! I wonder what street that was - notice the cobblestones.
WOR-FM would launch almost exactly one year to the day of this broadcast and Murray would join the station about three months after that.
Communicating with the Dropout
New York Times: June 29, 1965
“90 minutes of relentless rhythm rendered by a multitude of vocalists who an only be separated from another only by the initiated.”
A review of the Murray the K special. Jack Gould was the NYT TV and radio critic, but he hated rock and he hated Murray the K.
Dropout TV Show Irks Republicans
New York Times: June 30, 1965
“I told the president of the broadcasting company, 'I am about to throw up.'”
Republicans in Congress didn't appreciate Murray the K and his rock music TV show special described above very much. But they wanted a "special showing of the film". Meanwhile 16 million people watched the show. Only "Sunday Night Football", "The Blacklist" and "The Walking Dead" get anywhere near that kind of rating today.
Murray the K Continues
New York Times: August 1, 1965
Another Murray the K TV special. We don't remember this one.
Murray the K on TV
New York Times: February 2, 1966
Even another Murray the K TV special. We don't remember this one either.
The Brooklyn Fox Closes
New York Times: February 3, 1966
Fabian's Fox Theatre on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn was the venue for most of Murray the K's Holiday Spectacular live shows. Murray took over these shows from Allan Freed, who held them a few blocks away at the Brooklyn Paramount before Long Island University took over the venue and used the theatre as a gymnasium.
The article states that while the theatre was going dark for movies, it would reopen on April 8th for a Murray the K Holiday show. That was probably the last Murray the K show held at the theatre.
The Fox had over 4000 seats. The Murray the K shows were continuous, usually from 10am until after midnight, although they'd play an incredibly awful movie inbetween each live show in an attempt to get you to leave. But there were probably 7 shows per day, which means they were selling something like 21,000 tickets a day, if you figure 75% of the seats were sold for each performance.
At one time, there were 139 theatres in the U.S. with more than 2800 seats. 29 of those theatres were in NYC.
The Fox was torn down and replaced by an incredibly ugly Con Edison office building which is still standing. As of this writing, LIU has built a new gymnastics facility and the Brooklyn Paramount is planning to reopen in late 2016 or early 2017 as a concert venue.
Murray the K Special for the Year 2000
New York Times: May 18th, 1966
An announcement of another Murray the K TV special. The Times didn't seem to like this one either.
FM Guide Listings
This is the first in a series of listings from FM Guide. FM Guide divided their listings into daily listings, presumably for schedules that varied from day-to-day and standard listings, where shows didn't vary from day-to-day, although some stations wound up in the daily listings that didn't need to be there.
FM Guide was quite useful if you were a classical music fan and wanted to know when a particular composition was going to be broadcast, but it wasn't very useful for rock stations.
FM Guide needed a 2-3 month lead time to change the listings, so it was almost always out-of-date. But we still loved it at the time because we were desperate for any news about FM.
This issue is from August of 1966, just after WOR-FM changed to a rock format, but before the jocks appeared on the air.
Broadcasting Magazine: July 31, 1967
Ratings from July of 1967. WOR-FM was at the tail end of the progressive rock format and WNEW-FM had the "all-girls" MOR format.
Murray the K WPIX Special Review
New York Times: September 23, 1967
“Murray the K was relentless on the screen...”
A review of a special that included Aretha Franklin, the Doors, Richie Havens and the Association. This review by Jack Gould was pretty negative. But he didn't like FM radio and he liked rock even less. He was probably not the right person to write the review.
Dominic Sicilia's Progressive Rock Show
Billboard: January 13, 1968
There were lots of experiments with playing rock on FM that are little remembered today. One of them was Dominic Sicilia's show on WHBI.
1st FM Rock
FM-Guide: April, 1968
FM Guide noting that Pete Fornatale had the first regularly scheduled rock show on FM
and Pete Fornatale in 2009...
KSAN-FM Goes Freeform
Billboard: May 25, 1968
Metromedia's KSAN in San Francisco picks up Tom Donahue and team, formerly of pioneer progressive rock station KMPX-FM.
Hip Rock Radio Busting Out Across U.S.
Billboard: July 6, 1968
“We receive more letters from listeners of our present format than in all the years of our old middle-of-the-road format.”
Two years after WOR-FM launched and nine months after WNEW-FM launched its rock format, progressive rock was finally quickly spreading across the country.
Classical Music Played on Rock Stations
Billboard: July 20, 1968
A Billboard article noting that FM jocks sometimes played classical music on their rock shows.
Growth of Progressive Rock Across U.S.
Billboard: Oct 19, 1968
An article detailing the growth of progressive rock radio across the U.S., especially WNEW-FM and KSAN-FM.
1969 FM Ratings
Arbitron Ratings for April-May 1969
FM Ratings - note that Drake formatted WOR-FM is trouncing everyone
The Underground Radio Turn-On
LOOK Magazine: June 24, 1969
An article about the "new" underground radio. WNEW-FM, KSAN and KMPX are mentioned.
Central Park Music Festival Program
The Central Park Music Festival was held every summer between 1968 and 1976 (although on a greatly reduced schedule from 1975) at the Wollman Memorial Skating Rink. Tickets were incredibly inexpensive, even for the time: "orchestra" tickets were $1.00 and "upstairs" seats were 75 cents (the equivalent of $6.74/$5.06 in 2015). I remember seeing Richie Havens, the Butterfield Blues Band, Jefferson Airplane, possibly Jimi Hendrix, and many other great acts there, frequently on the same bill. However, my memory is completely incorrect as Havens, the Airplane and Hendrix never played there. But looking at the schedule I believe I did see an incredible array of acts. You can view the schedule here: Schaefer Music Festival on Wiki (off site)
Each year, subway posters would announce the acts for the entire summer and one would run to the ticket booth to buy tickets for the entire season. And if you didn't have a ticket, you could sit up on the rocks above the rink.
The festival was originally produced by Hilly Kristal (CBGBs) and Ron Delsener, and a program was produced. Part of the program was dedicated to bios of each of the DJs who hosted the shows. (I believe these pages were from the 1969, 1970 or 1971 program.) At one of the shows (I don't remember the act, but it was probably the Butterfield Blues Band), I was sitting in the first row of the "bleacher" section, way in the back, but John Zacherley came out to sit with us, which gave us a great thrill at the time.
Note the comment about Hal Jackson working on three different New York stations at the same time. Wow!
The Woodstock Festival flyer
circa Summer 1969
One of the original flyers for the Woodstock festival.
FM Radio...Maker of Record Sales and Stars
FM Guide: May, 1970
“It is my contention tht the record industry, haivng recognized what an impact stereo FM radio had on the buying public, changed its direction. The record industry has enlarged its recording perspective and embraced progressive rock.”
In the 1970s, WNYC-FM broadcast a program on Sunday nights called "Men of HiFi". The program addressed current and historical topics about both the technology and business of broadcasting.
FM Guide would frequently publish edited transcripts of those shows. This one is about FM's evolving rock radio formats and their impact on record sales. It featured Claude Hall, who was Radio and TV editor of Billboard magazine; Jack Maher, an advertising manager for RCA records; and Nat Asch, GM of KMET-FM and formerly PD of WNEW-FM. It was hosted by Harry E. Maynard.
June 24, 1970
“There are some things of particular interest. 'Impromptu in E Minor' employs a male chorus that sounds like early Christian chanting which adds to the drone effect...”
While top-40 stations could rely upon Billboard and other trades or their surveys of local record stores, progressive rock stations had a harder time deciding what to play. In this era, many stations still permitted air personalities to pick most, if not all of their own music, but many music directors needed additional help to decide if they were playing the "right" tracks. Tip Sheets, which were simply lists of tracks either recommended by the "consultant" or played by other radio stations, served that purpose.
Many of the creators of these services later became radio consultants.
I wonder how many radio stations started playing the Mae West album on the basis of this recommendation. How many of these tracks/albums do we remember today? And note that WABC-FM participated, but WNEW-FM did not.
Dissidents Take Over FM Rock Station
Broadcasting - Nov 30, 1970
“...the station became "violently radical." Its music went beyond rock to include avant-garde jazz, African music and other sounds calculated to attract a multinational "free community" audience...”
With the exception of listener-supported WBAI and possibly WFMU, radicals never really gained any positions of power in New York FM stations. But on the west coast, they did. But what I really love about this article is the quote above.
Hmm...'can't have any of that radical avant-garde jazz stuff -- people who listen to that might get violent -- and we don't want any hyphenated-Americans listening to our station. What will that lead to?' Having said that, the people who attempted to take over the station were probably power-hungry fools themselves. But I wasn't there, so perhaps it's unfair to make that evaluation.
What does this have to do with New York radio? Events like this scared broadcasters across the country (as well as the FCC) and it probably helped lead to more control, more management, the hiring of consultants and the start of a decline in the power of the air personality, which culminated at the end of the 80's, when air personalities lost most control over their programming.
The funny thing about all this in retrospect is that rap and hip-hop became far more radical than avant-garde jazz and African music, yet rap and its offshoots were embraced by the corporations who had taken over radio after deregulation. They realized that in the pursuit of bonus money and shareholder value that politics no longer mattered (and they didn't understand the politics anyway) -- if it made money, they were for it.
Broadcasting - March 8, 1971
Syndicated radio specials really started to take hold in the 1970s. FM Progressive rock stations went with things like the King Biscuit Flower Hour, a live concert show. Top-40 stations went with American Top-40, a countdown show originally hosted by Casey Kasem. I always failed to see the appeal of these countdown shows, since they could be produced locally fairly easily, aside from the fact that it was usually free programming.
Here are two trade ads from AT40 from Broadcasting Magazine in 1971.
The State of Radio 1971
Broadcasting - June 21, 1971
“Billy James Hargis was one of my inspirations for this kind of radio...he was playing Phil Ochs and Dylan and Joan Baez. And after every number he would get on and say 'Did you hear what that commie said?' But in the process he was also putting on some music no one else was playing. It was a hell of a show.” -- Tom Donahue
A special report detailing the state of radio in 1971 with a special emphasis on FM rock radio with comments from Les Turpin (CBS-FM), Tom Donahue (KMPX) and Bill Drake.
Another Scare Thrown Into Undergound Radio
Broadcasting - Aug. 23, 1971
“Mr. Westen, for one, feels that the commission has spelled out 'the end of free-form underground stations'”
An article detailing potential FCC interference in free-form radio stations.
1971 Music & Radio
Broadcasting - Dec. 27, 1971
“Between 1964 and 1966, the years of the British invasion of the U.S. music industry, record sales jumped 34%.”
An article detailing the relationship between 1970s music and pop radio.
Live Music Revival Wins Radio Fans
Broadcasting - Jan 10, 1972
“WNEW-FM had two special holiday broadcasts, a presentation of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass," and a taped concert of Led Zeppelin, obtained from the BBC.”
Back in 1972, progressive rock stations were still brave enough to take a risk and broadcast a live concert, frequently from a single act. As the article states, WNEW-FM claimed three million listeners for a Grateful Dead live concert. They even had the guts to broadcast a winter holiday broadcast of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass". Today we'd be lucky if WQXR took that kind of "risk". There are two views one can take on this. Either you believe that this was bad programming because there was too much of a chance that a listener would tune out if they didn't like the group or didn't hear the hits, or you believe that this was brave and exciting programming.
Censorship Snag Over Dylan Record
Broadcasting - Jan 10, 1972
“Clearly, Bob Dylan...could publish a book of his songs and if a four-letter word appeared, no one would be alarmed. To say that same song cannot be performed on records is frankly demeaning to the medium.”
An article about the controversial song, George Jackson, by Bob Dylan. Some things never change. The FCC and the courts are still debating this issue. But the word in question is now regularly heard on television after 10pm, so maybe things do change.
The Coming Out of Undergound Radio
Broadcasting - Feb 26, 1972
“...the hybrid format with its less restrictive playlist is slowly making its mark in the mass-oriented conservative world of AM radio.”
An article detailing the move of FM-style progressive rock programming to AM in Los Angeles. An attempt to compete with FM, but did it last?
Waves Upon the Ether (Pt. I) by Larry Yurdin
Crawdaddy - April 30, 1972
“Donahue combined the kind of free-form style that Bob Fass in New York, Uncle T. on his Freedom Machine in Boston and Peter Bergman on Radio Free Oz in L.A. had been doing on non-commercial radio, with his own pragmatic commercial sense.”
Part 1 of a two-part article analyzing the state of free-form radio from the perspective of Crawdaddy magazine, including sidebars on Alex Bennett, Bob Fass and Tom Donahue.
Waves Upon the Ether (Pt. II) by Larry Yurdin
Crawdaddy - May 14, 1972
“There's one basic problem with free from radio and that's the total lack of direction”
Part 2 of a two-part article analyzing the state of free-form radio from the perspective of Crawdaddy magazine, including sidebars on Mike Turner and Steven Segal. Turner was part of the ABC-Network freeform experiment and Segal was on the air at KMET in Los Angeles.
While this article is quite interesting, it's also self serving. Yurdin was involved with WABC-FM and he writes negatively about WNEW-FM in general and Rosko in particular as if he was a third-party observer.
Murray the K's Live Show at the Academy of Music
New York Times: Feb 19, 1973
“...workingf on a 1973 variant of one of the rites of puberty, the sick (sic) hop.”
Apparently, Murray decided it was time to return to oldies as this show presented Jay and the Americans, the Drifters, the Shangri-La's, the Ronettes, Sam and Dave, the Impressions and other 50's groups.
I thought the New York Times did a much better copy-editing job in decades past, but this article belies that theory. Note the quote above. The writer probably thought that "the sick hop" made a lot more sense than "the sock hop". And then there's that extra "f".
Billboard: Nov 17, 1973
“I would surmise that KSAN-FM is the most successful progressive station in the nation with regards to ratings, though WNEW-FM...might be grossing more dollars.”
An interesting article about progressive KSAN (San Francisco) and how well it did with women listeners.
Murray the K leaving WNBC
New York Times: Feb 4, 1974
“They want to tell me when to play the Top 30, the Top 10, and when to play a 'gold'" he said after going off the air. That radio is not for me...”
An announcement that Murray would be leaving WNBC. This is one of many stations that Murray did short stints at the final decade of his life. Little did he know that controlling when he played a top 10, top 30 or oldie would be considered to be a massive amount of freedom just a decade later.
Murray the K Planning TV Show
New York Times: Feb 15, 1974
“The music is ten years ahead of the way it's presented on the radio...”
Murray always seemed to have another scheme at the ready when leaving a prior position, but not all of them came to fruition. This looks like one that didn't make it.
New York Radio Guide Listings
Radio Guide - July, 1978
Program listings from Radio Guide, a short-lived publication about AM and FM radio in New York.
Women In Radio
Radio Guide - July, 1978
“At last count, New York Radio stations employed 11 female deejays and five female station managers...”
An article from Radio Guide featuring Alison Steele, Carol Miller, Vivian Rountree and other fem DJs.
New York DJs
We don't know much about this. The file was sitting in our "to do" folder with no indication of where we got it from. It appears to be from a newspaper, but we can't tell which one, although I'm guessing it might have come from the NY Daily News. But it's a great review of all the radio air personalities of the time, which we're also guessing is 1979.
(Click for a larger version).
Promotion from Q104
Pete Fornatale Returns to WFUV
Billboard: March 24, 2001
A Billboard article announcing Pete Fornatale's return to WFUV, which happened a month earlier. Fornatale had the first rock show on New York FM radio, beginning in 1964 on that station before joining WNEW-FM.
The Last D.J.: Pete Fornatale
Long Island Press: July 7, 2005
An article about long-time New York DJ Pete Fornatale and his return to WFUV.
“The thing that happened at CBS FM was so offensive to me...”
NEWS: "Once A Ghoul, Always A Ghoul: John Zacherley" from the NY Times
October 21, 2012
“For someone who became famous for looking dead, John Zacherle, 94, looks pretty darn good.”
Here's a nice feature about Zach from the New York Times. While he's not a household name, I wouldn't say, as the article claims, that he lives in obscurity. He's still the leading draw at the Chiller Theatre conventions every year.Link: John Zacherley NY Times Article