Monday, December 1, 2008

Radio: Number One then....Number one NOW!


There’s not much I can add to the many fitting tributes I read today about the late, great radio programmer Bill Drake.

I never met him, never worked for him – but I knew him well. Most of what I learned about radio programming came from listening to endless hours of top 40 radio in the sixties - especially my hometown Drake station, WRKO in Boston.

The secret to Bill Drake’s format was that it wasn’t complex. It was, quite unmistakably, logical. Play the hits in a structured format that refined one’s air personality. The fewer words one uses makes each word more important. He perfected top 40’s forward motion.

Drake ran one contest at a time, one giveaway at a time.

Drake stations weren’t conservative. On the contrary, they broke a lot of hits.

Drake stations played fewer commercials than the competition and charged appropriately for the exclusivity.

Drake stations weren’t impersonal. They respected the listener.

Drake’s stations weren’t like McDonald’s franchises. WRKO was Boston, KHJ was Boss Angeles, CKLW was the Motor City. The music, the personalities, the promotions all spoke the language of their city of license.

Drake’s stations didn’t employ just liner card readers. They were genuine personalities whose names and dayparts we can immediately recall forty years later.

Radio & Records reprinted an interview they did with Bill Drake in December, 2007. It’s a must read - here. (link is fixed.) I hope someone's able to dig up that great story on Drake done by Cheetah Magazine in 1967.

Bill Drake…..Number one then, number one NOW!
----

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a bit surprised to hear the comments about BilL Drake from someone whose radio history is so closely tied with FM album rock. At the same time I listened to top 40 radio before FM and there was a time when it was a highly entertaining and diverse format.

Anonymous said...

John, you are from Boston?

Did you work in Boston radio?

What stations? What years...?

D

Anonymous said...

The link to the 2007 R&R interview is dead.

:(

:j:

Anonymous said...

John you hit it on the head. Drake's actual stations were full of dynamic and entertaining personalities. The format had such a wonderful structure that as Drake said, even if the Jock was having an off day the formatics would carry him. It's funny that Bill Drake created so much, yet never really needed to toot his own horn. He was the chairman of the board.

Kevin Barrett

Anonymous said...

John, thank you for the nice tribute to Bill Drake.

You once said in a magazine article that your WMJI was a tribute to Drake and that era and I would have to agree. It was one of the best forward motion oldies station I have ever heard. You captured the essence of Drake and added your unique style as well.

We need more Drakes and Gormans in radio today.

Anonymous said...

It's sad that Bill Drake is gone, but good to see that so many people are giving him the credit he deserves. For too long his reputation was one of "killing personality radio" and "turning it into a jukebox." Maybe some of his imitators did, because they took the mechanics and ignored the aesthetics, but Drake-consulted stations were unique and like no others in their time.

That Cheetah article from 1967, written by the one and only Harry Shearer, was reprinted in an anthology called "The Age of Rock," edited by Jonathan Eisen and published by Vintage. Copies of that may be easier to find than the magazine.

Anonymous said...

FM Radio is just about dead now.

Anonymous said...

FM Radio is just about dead now.

Ouchie!

You could've posted something a little more thoughtful, instead of leaving a dumb hit and run statement

Anonymous said...

If Mike Trivisonno is #1 in Cleveland then radio has truly hit a new low.

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