Got A Remote Today? Watch out for the Prize Pigs!

August 5, 2019

Let’s talk about PRIZE PIGS! Every station had ’em, but some were worse than others.

May, 1991. I had just moved to Florida and needed a gig. Was hired to do 7-Midnight at a country station in Ocala. Nearly every week, I had a Saturday afternoon remote.

The station’s “hook” in getting people to come to the remotes was customized T-shirts. Our logo appeared on the front with the sponsor’s logo was on the back. It was a great promotional idea except for one small problem: the PRIZE PIGS!

There was a small but determined group of pests who would show up first at EVERY remote. These enterprising folks always arrived early, just to make sure they got their share. They all demanded shirts, of course. One for Mr. Redneck, one for Mrs. Redneck, and one for each of the 6 kids.

And FOOD! OMG! If you had ANY type of free food at the remotes, these people would be on you like flies on you-know-what. At one of my events, Domino’s had co-sponsorship and gave us 15 large pizzas, designed to last the duration of the remote. They were gone in 15 minutes!

Besides taking all the shirts and eating every morsel of food, the presence of these prize pigs was a deterrent to actual customers showing up at the remotes. Their appearance left much to be desired. As a bonus, they were severely lacking in personal hygiene skills. That unbeatable combination of body odor, stale cigarette smoke, and last night’s beer was always enjoyable when standing in close proximity. Especially in the hot Florida sun.

We eventually implemented an “18 and over” rule and extended our “one winner every 30 days” limitation to remote shirts. The piggies would show up anyway, thinking they could pester us into giving them a shirt. Or, they thought we wouldn’t remember their faces from the previous 9,652 remotes they attended.

Prize pigs are everywhere. But I’m tellin’ ya, nothing beats country listeners in North Florida for tenacity, consistency, and determination!

WFLI AM-1070 Chattanooga “The Big Jet FLI”

July 16, 2019

As most of my regular readers know, I am a HUGE fan of the Classic Top 40 format. It’s what I grew up with, listening to radio as a kid in the 1970s and early 80s. The roots of this format trace back to the early 1990s when select stations began playing “The Greatest Hits of the Seventies.” A few years later, “and Eighties” was added to their positioning statement. In some cases, they didn’t want to mention the 80s. Instead, their tag line became “Seventies and More” with “more” signifying the addition of 80s music. Later still, most of these evolved into “Classic Hits” stations. Some were great, others were okay, and some were just plain awful. The latest and greatest entry into the genre is Chattanooga’s WFLI-AM 1070 aka “The Big Jet FLI.”

Back in the 1990s, I worked for with several stations that did variations of the Classic Hits/Classic Top 40/70s Oldies format. Each had some of the necessary elements, but none had the full package.

One of these stations was Star 104.7 (WSSS-FM) in Charlotte. We had a full 100,000 watt FM signal, great facilities, and some very talented people. Unfortunately, our hands were tied by corporate ownership, consultants, and focus groups. The same “carefully selected and researched” 300 songs were played over and over again. Very little personality was allowed beyond the liner cards. After the first few books, the ratings tanked. No surprise.

In Orlando, we had the opposite problem. WOTS-AM 1220 did an authentic recreation of 1970s AM Top 40 radio. Terry Mason (my boss) was a big believer in personality radio. He gave us the freedom to have fun on the air. The problem was that we were licensed for just 1,000 watts days and a ridiculous 110 watts at night. If you were more than a few miles from the WOTS transmitter, XEB in Mexico City would clobber us with their 100,000 watts!

When I jocked in Minneapolis, I hosted a Saturday night 70s show on WTCX-FM 105.1. This was 1993, just as the 70s format was starting to catch hold. At this time, nobody else in the market was playing those songs. It worked! We had callers. We had sponsors. Just as it was taking off, our owner decided to sell the place. Everyone got the boot and the frequency became home to Alternative REV 105 aka Revolution Radio. Game over.

Licensed to Lookout Mountain, WFLI has the whole enchilada. They use their original calls. They operate on their original frequency. They even broadcast from the original building where it all began in February, 1961! I love their sweepers which include actual aircheck clips from the original FLI jocks! One of these talented folks is still there today, doing afternoons. Congratulations, Gene Lovin! It’s obvious from the first listen that these guys absolutely LOVE what they do! In an age of satellite delivery and voice-tracked stations, you just don’t hear this very often anymore.

The Big Jet FLI’s music is dead-on. All hits. No filler. Not the same burned out songs that everyone else plays. Their processing is perfect for this format. When you listen to the online stream, you get the actual AM air signal. Not a lifeless, hollow sound from the output of a computer. Their engineers have done an amazing job recreating that authentic Top 40 “sound” of the era. To anyone who doesn’t believe AM radio can sound great, lend your ears to this station’s feed!

Of course, having a 50,000 watt signal doesn’t hurt, either! In recent months, WFLI has added FM translator W249BR on 97.7 which covers the immediate Chattanooga metro area.

If that’s not enough, they have turned the entire facility into a museum! The National Top 40 Hall of Fame & Radio Museum offers tours to the public on a regular basis. It’s a great way to get the full experience of how Tennessee radio was back in the golden age of Top 40.

WFLI has become my go-to station, owning the first preset on my phone. If you own or manage an automated jukebox, this should be your inspiration. It is the best example around of what a great Classic Top 40 station can and should sound like. Give them a listen on TuneIn when you have a chance. Thank you, Big Jet FLI, for doing justice to this format!

Jeanne Andersen’s Twin Cities Music Highlights

July 15, 2019

I wanted to give a shoutout to my friend Jeanne Andersen and her most excellent Twin Cities Music Highlights website. Jeanne covers the history of live music acts and venues in Minneapolis/St. Paul up to 1974. Special emphasis is given to her hometown of St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Of particular interest to Drew’s Radio Site readers is her extensive section on Twin Cities radio stations and disc-jockeys. As you would expect, the powerhouse stations are included here: KDWB-AM 630 and FM-101.3, WCCO-AM 830 and FM-102.9, WDGY-AM 1130, KSTP-AM 1500 and FM-94.5. As you might not expect, history of the market’s smaller stations are also provided. Even long-defunct operations like KDAN-AM 1370 and WJSW-AM 1010 are covered here.

If you ever wondered what happened to the Request Radio format on KRSI or Polka Power on WMIN, this is the place to find out! Lots of rare photos and original newspaper ads are also included. Check out Jeanne’s site when you have a chance.

Happy 72nd Birthday to KXXX in Colby, Kansas

July 13, 2019

Drew’s Radio Site would like to wish a Happy 72nd Birthday to KXXX-AM 790 in Colby, Kansas. KXXX was the original radio station in northwest Kansas, signing on for the first time July 13, 1947. KXXX-FM 100.3 (later KQLS and then KRDQ) was added in 1970. Both stations are currently owned by Rocking M Media, LLC.

KXXX enjoys a huge daytime coverage area. I have personally received them on my car radio in Colorado Springs, Wichita, Topeka, and Lincoln. Those 5,000 watts on 790 travel a long way because the tower is anchored in some of the most conductive soil in the world! Country music, farm news, and agricultural information has been their format for as long as I can remember. “The Mighty 7-90” is one of few remaining heritage AM stations that’s still playing music and making money in 2019. Happy Birthday, KXXX!

Rewound Radio Dan Ingram 4th of July Weekend Special

July 6, 2019

What are you listening to this 4th of July Weekend? If you’re surfing the streams (the modern day equivalent of “scanning the dial”), don’t forget about the Dan Ingram Electric Radio Theater on Allen Sniffen’s Rewound Radio.

Dan is probably the greatest DJ that I never got to hear live. Because I grew up in Minneapolis, there was no way I could hear WABC-AM 770 during the afternoon hours. By the time it got dark enough at my location, it was already after 6PM New York City time and Dan’s show was over. Needless to say, it’s great to be able to hear him all these years later on Rewound Radio.

Besides WABC, Dan’s years on WCBS-FM 101.1 are also featured here. These are not scoped airchecks. All of the original music and commercials are included. You will hear Dan Ingram’s shows just as they originally aired. In cases where the source audio is an aircheck that had originally been scoped down, Allen has added the music back in. No doubt, this took a lot of time to do correctly. Definitely a labor of love, much appreciated by us radio geeks!

Whatever you’re doing this July 4th weekend, make sure you give a listen to this annual broadcasting extravaganza. The Dan Ingram Electric Radio Theater, airing Thursday, July 4th through Sunday, July 7, 2019 on Allen Sniffen’s Rewound Radio.

American Top 40 1970s 1980s Affiliate Station List

June 29, 2019

Did you grow up listening to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem? So did I! Each week, I’d listen to the entire countdown. I’d write down each song, it’s current chart position, and it’s change from last week’s chart position.

A few years later, I began recording and archiving these shows. In the 1990s, I worked at radio stations which ran a “Greatest Hits of the 70s” format. Since I still had all my tapes, I wanted to rebroadcast these shows. They would have fit our format perfectly. Unfortunately, this was impossible due to contractual and copyright laws. In 2006, my prayers were answered when these shows were rescued from the vaults and aired once again: first on XM Satellite Radio, then distributed by Premiere Radio Networks for broadcast on terrestrial stations.

Thanks to the Internet and online streaming, you don’t need a local station to hear these classic American Top 40 with Casey Kasem shows. You can listen whenever you like, to whichever station you prefer. Here are the most complete station lists I know of:

American Top 40, the 70s

American Top 40, the 80s

Both of these lists are updated frequently. This is important since radio stations are constantly changing formats and programming. The exact time and day of broadcast is listed. Also included are notations on whether or not a station plays the “extra” songs at the end of each hour which were not included in the original 1970s/80s broadcasts. Typically, these are songs which were on Billboard’s Hot 100 and moving up during the week of the show but had not yet debuted on the Top 40. Most would go on to become Top 10 hits. Not all stations broadcast these extras, however. If the station has a heavy local commercial load, the extra song will be deleted to meet time constraints. This is why they are called “extras.”

To me, these classic American Top 40 shows are as great today as they were 25+ years ago! Truly a treasure that has (luckily) been preserved through the years. Kudos to Shannon Lynn for taking the time to remaster these shows from their original reel-to-reel master tapes. Shannon does it right. His commitment to quality is evident in every show. Be sure to check ’em out this weekend when you have time. Until then, as Casey says: “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”

Columbia House Record & Tape Club

June 18, 2019

Many of us loved buying music when we were kids. Problem was, our allowance money didn’t buy much. An occasional 45 or two for 88 cents each (remember the “Tops in Pops?”), but that’s about all.

Enter Columbia House: 11 records or tapes for just $1.00. It sounded too good to be true. But you did it anyway because, what the heck, it was worth gambling for a dollar. (And later, just a penny!) So, you filled out the form, put it in envelope with your dollar, and sent it off to 1400 North Fruitridge Avenue in Terre Haute, Indiana.

A few weeks later, a LARGE box arrived from the previously-mentioned address. THIS WAS PURE MAGIC! It was true! You didn’t get ripped off after all! Excitedly, you tore open the box and there was the mother lode: 11 brand new albums of your choice! (Or 8-tracks, or cassettes.) Unbelievable! Time to lock yourself in your room, turn on the stereo, and not be seen for days!

Later, you realized those “8 more selections” you agreed to buy came at a grossly inflated price. But for today, you were on top of the world. You were in Record Geek Heaven and enjoying every minute of it!

Bonus points if you can remember all 11 of your introductory selections. In the spring of 1977, these were mine:

1) Boston – Boston
2) Chicago – Chicago IX (Greatest Hits)
3) KISS – Alive!
4) KISS – Destroyer
5) KISS – Rock and Roll Over
6) Barry Manilow – Barry Manilow (I)
7) Barry Manilow – Barry Manilow II
8) Barry Manilow – Tryin’ to Get the Feeling
9) Barry Manilow – This One’s for You
10) Steve Miller Band – Fly Like an Eagle
11) Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees

In a world filled with instant .mp3 downloads (legal and otherwise), kids will never know the sheer ecstasy of coming home from school, seeing that big brown box on the kitchen table, and ripping it open. Cheers, Columbia House!

The First Radio Firing & Unemployment Benefits

June 17, 2019

One of my radio friends contacted me yesterday. She had just been fired and needed advice as to what she should do next. Those of us who are seasoned vets know that being fired is just a regular part of the business. As one of my favorite PDs in Iowa told me, “You ain’t no real broadcaster until you’ve been fired at least 3 times!” My friend is new to this business, however. She’s only been in radio for a few years. This is her first termination. Naturally, she’s panicked, emotional, and wondering what she did wrong.

Because this is radio, the station is contesting her eligibility for unemployment benefits. This also comes with the territory. Out of all the times I was fired in radio (there were several), I can only think of two times when management didn’t attempt to deny my claim. In one case, the station had been sold and the entire airstaff was let go. There were zero grounds for contention there, especially since the owner apparently failed to pay state unemployment taxes on my behalf. I learned about this when I went to apply for benefits. That was a fun day. In the other case, management didn’t bother to contest because the program director who had fired me was himself terminated for cause shortly thereafter. Trying to explain that to the Division of Labor might have become a bit messy.

In every other instance, the station attempted to deny my benefits. Some would stretch the truth while others would outright lie in order to stop me from collecting what was rightfully mine. My favorite was a Florida entity which claimed “theft of station equipment” as grounds for my dismissal. The item in question was a frequency spectrum analyzer which the chief engineer had reported missing. It was later returned, but damaged. I had no use for this piece of equipment. However, our weekend jock who just happened to be operating a pirate FM station in his spare time found it a very useful tool in the calibration of his illicit transmitter. It was my word against theirs. My benefits were denied.

Why do radio station owners/managers routinely contest legitimate unemployment benefit claims by their former employees? The first reason is money. In most states, the employer’s unemployment insurance premium is determined in part by their claims history. The more claims, the more they pay. So there is an incentive to contest all claims against the station, valid or otherwise. The other reason is ego. The radio industry is full of egomaniacs. Some of them eventually end up in the GM chair. If the disgruntled former employee has an axe to grind, it becomes a grudge match. Management/ownership knows the unemployment benefit process better than the average jock who has just been terminated. Within the state system, there are a limited number of appeals available for denial of benefits. Once the appeals process is exhausted, the ex-employee has 2 options: drop their claim or hire an attorney and pursue civil litigation against the company. How many unemployed radio folks have the resources to do this? Very few. Management/ownership knows this, so they use the process to their advantage.

Back to my newly-fired friend: I told her to hang in there. “It’s not you, it’s the business.” She’s quite talented as well as extremely good at asserting and promoting herself. Despite the extremely tight job market for air talent today, I don’t think she’ll have any problem finding another job. Consider it a blessing to be out of a bad situation. I’ve always said “Why would you want to work for someone who doesn’t want you working for them?” She’ll be fine. If you’re reading this and happen to be in the same situation, things will work out for you also. Again, “It’s not you. It’s the business.”

The Cars “Candy-O” Released 40 Years Ago Today

July 8, 2019

On Wednesday, June 13, 1979, the Cars’ second album was released. “Candy-O” was my most eagerly awaited album of that summer. When “Just What I Needed” became popular a year earlier, I bought their first album. Actually, I bought the 8-track tape so that I could play it in Mom’s car as well as at home. Played it so much that I wore all the high end off of the tape!

Candy-O was even better. It was more of that New Wave/Top 40 crossover sound that everyone seemed to love at the time. As a bonus, the album cover was absolutely PERFECT for a 15-year-old boy. Within days of its release, I pestered Mom to drive me to the local Musicland so that I could buy a copy. Also on 8-track and also worn out within a few months. Mom was happy when I turned 16 the following year and got my driver’s license. One big reason was that she didn’t have to listen to the Cars anymore!

Radio loved this album. Immediately, Top 40 stations began playing “Let’s Go.” Album Rock radio concentrated on “Dangerous Type” and the 3 song medley of “Double Life”, “Shoo Bee Doo”, and “Candy-O.” Whereas the first Cars album only made it to #18 on the charts, Candy-O reached #3. This ties 1984’s “Heartbeat City” as their most successful release. The chart performance of Candy-O’s 3 singles was somewhat disappointing, however. “Let’s Go” only made it to #14. The followup “It’s All I Can Do” failed to even crack the Top 40, peaking at #41. “Double Life” (the final single release) didn’t even make Billboard’s Hot 100.

Speaking of the Candy-O 8-track, that format contains an extended version of “Dangerous Type.” I’m guessing Elektra Records did this so that Program 4 would time out correctly without blank tape at the end. This version is not included on the record, cassette, or CD.

7/12 Television KCMT Alexandria KNMT Walker

June 11, 2019

Back in the day, if you had a cabin in central or northern Minnesota, KCMT and KNMT were what you watched. Before the advent of satellite TV, you could receive just one channel. Actually, if you happened to be located between the two transmitters, you could receive two channels, but both aired identical programming. Channel 7 and/or Channel 12 was what you watched. Hence, the name “7/12 Television.”

KCMT Channel 7 was licensed to Alexandria with transmitter near Westport. KNMT Channel 12 was licensed to Walker with transmitter near Hackensack. Originally NBC affiliates, they switched to CBS in 1982. Five years later, WCCO-TV in Minneapolis purchased the stations, changing the call letters to KCCO (7) and KCCW (12.) In 2002, both stations ceased local programming to become 100% rebroadcasters of WCCO. This was the beginning of the end of 7/12 Television. Here is their final local newscast:

KCCO fell silent in 2017. On April 18, 2019, the 1,000 foot transmission tower and 138 foot antenna were taken down by Controlled Demolition, Inc. It was truly the end of an era. Strangely enough, KCCW Channel 12 (originally a satellite of KCMT) continues to serve northern Minnesota as a satellite rebroadcaster of WCCO.

I should mention that KCMT also had an FM station. KCMT-FM 100.7’s transmitter was co-located on the same tall tower. It was a full Class C with 100,000 watts of effective radiated power. Before the FM band became junked up with drop-in stations and translators, you could carry KCMT-FM on a car radio from the northwest Twin Cities suburbs to Fargo! Today, this station is KIKV, owned by Hubbard Broadcasting and transmitting from the KSAX-TV 42 tower which Hubbard also owns. At 876 feet above average terrain, the signal contour is not quite as large as it was previously. Furthermore, fringe coverage is limited by KLDQ-FM 100.7 north of Fargo, the KUOM 100.7 FM translator in Minneapolis, and the KPRM 100.5 FM translator at Park Rapids. Still, KIKV provides an impressive signal across most of central Minnesota.

Farewell, Channel 7. Thank you for being our “TV lifeline” to all of us at the cabin or when we were camping in the area. Even though we now have over 200 channels on our portable satellite dish, it’s just not the same. I’ll always miss watching “Adam 12”, “Jeopardy”, “Sanford and Son”, and the 7/12 News on my 9″ Wards Airline black & white portable.