Saturday, April 20, 2019

April 21 Radio History


➦In 1940... the radio quiz program, “Take It or Leave It” aired on CBS. Contestants were offered a top prize of $64 by Bob Hawk. Losers left as there were no lovely parting gifts or consolation prizes.

"Take It or Leave It" was a very popular radio quiz show in America during its run. The title was derived from the fact that each time a contestant answers a question correctly, he or she will be asked to either "Take" his/her winnings and walk away, or "Leave" it and proceed with the next question. 

The show ran for 10 years on CBS (1940-1947) and NBC (1947-1950), and was hosted by Bob Hawk (1940-1941), Phil Baker (1941-1947), Garry Moore (1947-1949), Eddie Cantor (1949-1950), and Jack Paar (1950). It became the precursor of another American game show called "The $64,000 Question" on NBC Radio.


Dick Clark
➦In 1960…Dick Clark testified before a congressional committee investigating payola.

In 1950, there were approximately 250 disc jockeys in the U.S. By 1957, the number had grown to over 5,000. The increase was partially due to the sheer amount of new records being produced, both by major and indie labels. As the name suggests, a disc jockey was responsible for sorting through all these releases (naturally, the sorting was influenced by payola). These on-air personalities had so much clout with younger listeners, Time magazine called them the “poo-bahs of musical fashion and pillars of U.S. low- and middle-brow culture.”

Aware of their rising status, jocks established flat rate deals with labels and record distributors. A typical deal for a mid-level DJ was $50 a week, per record, to ensure a minimum amount of spins. More influential jocks commanded percentages of grosses for local concerts, lavish trips, free records by the boxful (some even opened their own record stores), plus all the time-honored swag. As Cleveland DJ Joe Finan later described the decade, “It was a blur of booze, broads and bribes.”

Clark admitted that over a period of 28 months he'd had a financial interest in 27 percent of the records he played on his "American Bandstand" TV show. Clark was ordered to sell off some of his conflicting interests, but had his name cleared -- unlike disc jockey Alan Freed, who refused to admit that payola was an illegal or immoral practice.

Alan Freed and Dick Clark both played important parts in the rise of rock ’n’ roll (Freed embodied the incendiary spirit of the music more than Clark, refusing to play white cover versions of black songs, such as Pat Boone’s “Tutti Frutti”). And though they both denied ever accepting payola, it’s almost impossible to imagine two young, popular jocks not succumbing to a little temptation. Guilty or not, it was Freed who ended up taking the fall for DJs everywhere.

Why did the committee single him out? Freed was abrasive. He consorted with black R&B musicians. He jive talked, smoked constantly and looked like an insomniac. Clark was squeaky clean, Brylcreemed, handsome and polite. At least on the surface. Once the grilling started, Freed’s friends and allies in broadcasting quickly deserted him. He refused—“on principle”—to sign an affidavit saying that he’d never accepted payola. WABC fired him, and he was charged with 26 counts of commercial bribery. Freed escaped with fines and a suspended jail sentence. He died five years later, broke and virtually forgotten.

Previous to the trial, Dick Clark had wisely divested himself of all incriminating connections (he had part ownership in seven indie labels, six publishers, three record distributors and two talent agencies). He got a slap on the wrist by Committee chairman Oren Harris, who called him “a fine young man.” As Clark told Rolling Stone in 1989, the lesson he learned from the payola trial was: “Protect your ass at all times.” Surprisingly candid words from the eternal teenager.

After Freed went down in 1960, Congress amended the Federal Communications Act to outlaw “under-the-table payments and require broadcasters to disclose if airplay for a song has been purchased.” Payola became a misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to $10,000 in fines and one year in prison.


➦In 1982...The TV sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati” aired for the final time after four seasons and 90 episodes.

WKRP in Cincinnati featured the misadventures of the staff of a struggling fictional radio station in Cincinnati, Ohio. The show was created by Hugh Wilson and was based upon his experiences working in advertising sales at Top 40 radio station WQXI in Atlanta. Many of the characters and even some of the stories are based on people and events at WQXI.

The ensemble cast consists of Gary Sandy (as Andy Travis), Howard Hesseman (Johnny Fever), Gordon Jump (Arthur Carlson), Loni Anderson (Jennifer Marlowe), Tim Reid (Venus Flytrap), Jan Smithers (Bailey Quarters), Richard Sanders (Les Nessman) and Frank Bonner (Herb Tarlek).

The series won a Humanitas Prize and received 10 Emmy Award nominations, including three for Outstanding Comedy Series.



WKRP premiered September 18, 1978, on the CBS television network, and aired for four seasons and 90 episodes through April 21, 1982. Starting in the middle of the second season, CBS repeatedly moved the show around its schedule, contributing to lower ratings and its eventual cancellation.

The station's new program director, Andy Travis, tries to turn around struggling radio station WKRP by switching its format from dated easy listening music to rock and roll, despite the well-meaning efforts of the mostly incompetent staff: bumbling station manager Arthur Carlson, greasy sales manager Herb Tarlek, and clueless news director Les Nessman. To help bolster ratings, Travis hires a new disc jockey, New Orleans native Gordon Sims (who takes on the on-air persona of Venus Flytrap); and allows spaced-out former major market DJ Dr. Johnny Fever, already doing mornings in the easy listening format as John Caravella, to be himself. Rounding out the cast are super receptionist Jennifer Marlowe and enthusiastic junior employee Bailey Quarters. Lurking in the background and making an occasional appearance is ruthless business tycoon Lillian Carlson, the station's owner and the mother of Arthur Carlson.

➦In 1998...radio-TV host Peter Lind Hayes died at age 82. Hayes may best be remembered for being "designated substitute" for Arthur Godfrey on both his CBS-TV and radio programs, as well as several short-lived television series.

➦In 1998...Giant Records distributed the first single from Brian Wilson‘s album “Imagination” to four U-S radio stations via the internet. It was the first time the Internet was used to distribute a song to radio.

➦In 2016...Singer-songwriter, actor, multi-instrumentalist, philanthropist, dancer and record producer known as Prince, died from an accidental fentanyl overdose at his Minnesota home.  He was aged 57.

➦In 2016...Blues-rock artist Lonnie Mack died of natural causes at age 74.

No comments:

Post a Comment