Monday, October 15, 2012

Remembering WLS

>>>There are literally MILLIONS of us out there who listened ... and we haven't forgotten ... that sound you hear in the background is our hearts breaking ... while we quietly switch the station ... looking for something ... ANYTHING ... new and exciting on the dial again. (kk)

Why not let it be you? Much like the major TV networks, who have lost a substantial part of their audience to cable (can you believe that this year ... for the first time ever ... not a single network television show was nominated for an Emmy in the Drama Category?!?! EVERY single nomination went to a program on cable, proving audiences are willing to PAY for good television!), terrestrial radio is losing THEIR audience to Internet Radio, where, instead of corporate rule dictating what 300 songs they have to play, they are allowed the freedom to program much of their music by choice, offering up a FAR greater variety and diversity than what regular radio stations are able to offer. Here again, people are paying monthly fees for the pleasure of enjoying satellite radio like XM/Sirius, which offers "specialty" stations for whatever genre of music you happen to be into. Direct TV and Comcast OnDemand now have similar packages. We are not limited to listening to what radio feeds us anymore ... we have CHOICES!!!

So why NOT let it be you??? Why NOT buck the system ... push the envelope ... step outside the box ... (and every other cliche you can come up with on your own) and offer your listeners something DIFFERENT ... something off the well-beaten (to death) path ... why NOT have your station stand apart from the others?    

Take a bold stand ... stand by your convictions ... and make radio, fun, exciting and interesting again. Throw out the "norm" ... the predictable ... and do something DIFFERENT!!! The listeners ... and advertisers ... will come. Win over the listeners first ... and then, when sponsors see the ratings spike, they'll be coming to YOU looking for airtime for their various products and services. Take the blinders off ... give it a shot for just six months and see what happens. Program the radio that YOU loved growing up ... program the radio that made you want to get into the business in the first place. Program the radio that YOU'D want to hear if YOU were a listener. (Would it REALLY be 14 Steve Miller songs a day, augmented by 12 by John Mellencamp, 12 by Billy Joel, 12 by The Eagles and 12 by Fleetwood Mac? Is that REALLY what you believe constitutes "entertainment"???) Take the blinders off ... mentally deprogram what you've been led to believe by consultants and research is what the listeners want ... and BE a listener. If given the choice, would YOU listen to your own station? Or would you keep pushing buttons (like the rest of us our doing) trying to find something better ... or different ... something that'll catch your ear and maybe make you stay? (Let's face it ... if you push the button ten times ... and STILL land on a Steve Miller, Fleetwood Mac or Billy Joel song, your only choice is to listen ... or turn the damn thing off! More and more of us are turning it off, popping in a CD or driving in silence because even that beats the madness and monotony of the same incessant drone that radio has become.)

I, on the other hand, still believe in radio ... but my patience is wearing thin. We've been campaigning for better radio for thirteen years now ... and every time I think we've made a turn for the better, we seem to slip back into the same old "tried and true" pattern again.  I haven't forgotten ... and I'm trying not to give up hope.

That's because I still remember what it meant to me growing up ... I remember the joy ... the countless hours of listening ... but I've got to be honest with you ... I'm about ready to throw in the towel. You're wearing me down ... I have little hope left. So we're using our forum once again to beg you to try something different. Scrap the research for six months and see what happens. Play some of the 8500 OTHER hits that made the charts between 1956 and 1985 ... let your disc jockeys talk and display their personalities ... entertain their audience ... share their knowledge and experience ... share their joy ... make radio FUN to listen to again. I remember ... do you???


People don't believe me when I tell them this, but I can still remember the very first week I ever listened to WLS. It had to be middle-to-late June of 1964. I know this because the very first program I ever listened to was Dex Card's Silver Dollar Survey Countdown Show, where he played back ... on a DAILY basis, Monday thru Friday ... the 40 most popular songs in Chicago. The week I first tuned in, "Little Children" by Billy J. Kramer was #1, and they held that spot for two weeks on the survey weeks dated June 19th and June 26th of 1964.  That's how close I can pin it down.

"Little Children" was a two-sided hit, backed with the Lennon and McCartney-penned track "Bad To Me". Back then, two sided hits (or, as WLS called them, "TSW's" ... two-sided winners) were quite popular ... so, since Dex essentially played the same countdown every day, he would sometimes rotate which side of that two-sided hit he would play from day to day ... but I remember it like it was yesterday, hearing Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas' "Little Children" coming in at the #1 spot.

And what a chart that was ... "I Get Around" by The Beach Boys, "A World Without Love" by Peter and Gordon, "Love Me Do" by The Beatles, "Chapel of Love" by The Dixie-Cups, "Memphis" by Johnny Rivers, "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small, "Dead Man's Curve" by Jan and Dean and "Three Window Coupe" by The Rip Chords were all in The Top Ten that week. (So was "Love Me With All Your Heart" by The Ray Charles Singers, showing you how diverse our music appetites were back then! Records by Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Al Martino, Jack Jones and Webb Pierce ALSO held positions on this incredible chart ... right alongside the biggest pop and rock artists of the day. It truly was a different time and place!)

Other great tracks on the chart that week were "Do You Love Me" and "Can't You See That She's Mine" by The Dave Clark Five, "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying" by Gerry and the Pacemakers (yes, The British Invasion was in full swing during the Summer of 1964!), "The Girl From Ipanema" by Getz and Gilberto and the long-forgotten (hit) "Hickory, Dick and Doc" by Bobby Vee (which I played the heck out of back in the day!)

Oddities included the Bobby Rydell version of "A World Without Love" (in at #14 that week ... Peter and Gordon had topped The WLS Silver Dollar Survey the week before with their version) and "Sie Liebt Dich", the German version of The Beatles' "She Loves You", up to #17 on the chart!

And we listened to them all, side by side, never questioning why some of these might be here. (Now I may have left the room ... or switched the station ... during something like "People" by Barbra Streisand or "Tell Me Why" by Bobby Vinton ... but I came back three minutes later because I wanted to know what great song came NEXT after these dreary tracks finished up!!!) This was the day of "can't miss" radio ... and we LOVED it!!!

WLS was part of my life. Every week I faithfully stopped to pick up the brand new survey, sometimes going to two or three places if a particular store happened to already be out of copies. My world back then revolved around the music I was hearing on WLS and (a few years later) WCFL. (Some might argue that it still does!) I haven't forgotten ... nor will I EVER forget ... what this music meant to me. Have you? (kk)