"Motown, Stax and Cadence and Elvis from the waist up..."

The item below was forwarded to us by Keefers and posted on the website in January 2001. It was attributed to 'Steve Berger', so we contacted a Steve Berger we knew who worked in radio, but he said he had not written it and that he could not recall the name of the person who had. Steve believed it to have been penned by 'someone who works for Clearchannel', which as Howie Castle pointed out, narrows it down to several thousand. Almost two years later, the Radio London website heard from the author of the piece, Dan O'Day, who has kindly given permission for 'A Brief, Incomplete History of Radio' to remain on the site. Dan writes:

In 1998, I wrote a reply to a question from a radio station program director and posted it on my website.

In 2000, some unknown person copied it off my website but first carefully removed my name from it. He (or she) also deleted the intro and ruined the ending by substituting a cliched quote. Then it circulated throughout the radio world; I probably received it from 15 different people.

It was reprinted in a number of radio publications, all of which later were gracious enough to tell their readers where it originated.

As a writer, of course, I was pleased that a lot of fellow radio folks seemed to like it.

So I thought maybe I'd reprint it as it originally was written, as my own very secular version of a holiday message.

By the way, you'll find the original version – along with original artwork by Bobby Ocean – here

This item is of course, American, and while we accept that not all the references in it will ring bells in other countries, so many of them are recognisable to anyone, anywhere, who has an affection for REAL radio. Dan is an author who acknowledges the important part of radio history played by the 'crazy young jocks' on the UK pirate stations and pays tribute to the genius of Kenny Everett alongside a list of famous US jocks and Chris and Mary salute Dan as a genuine World-Class Anorak. We would love to make his acquaintance.

A BRIEF, INCOMPLETE HISTORY OF RADIO
by Dan O'Day
Copyright by Dan O'Day; reprinted by permission from The Dan O'Day Radio Advertising Letter

A program director asks: "When training new DJs, what are the most important things to start with?"

ANSWER: TELL THEM STORIES...

... about how and why you got into radio, who influenced you, your best radio moments, what you still hope to achieve. War stories about broadcasting despite impossible conditions, accidentally locking yourself out of the studio, on-air flubs. Stories about personal connections that have been made with listeners: The girl who called to request her late grandmother's favorite song... The fan who sent you chocolate chip cookies on your birthday... The listener who berated you for mispronouncing the name of his favorite artist.

Stories about transistor radios under the bed covers and at the beach. Endless struggles to control the car radio buttons. Would you PLEASE turn that down, and wait, I want to hear this!

Novelty records and girl groups and Motown and Stax and Cadence and Elvis from the waist up and hearing 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' for the very first time. Stories about lovesick teenagers dedicating songs back and forth to each other. About children turning on the radio before they're even awake, feverishly hoping to hear those magic words from their local disc jockey: No school, snow day... .

About loneliness and a solitary voice reaching out to you. About making A complete stranger laugh or reflect or remember. About baseball games from far away on car radios. About someone driving across town or cross-country, with only you and your radio brethren for company. Stories about Larry Lujack and John Records Landecker and Robert W., and Wolfman Jack and Gary Owens and Dr. Don and Kenny Everett (ask someone from the UK about Kenny) and those crazy young jocks who brought American-style radio to Europe in the 1960s by taking to the seas in honest-to-God pirate radio ships. (Imagine broadcasting under the worst possible conditions; now imagine doing it whi
le seasick.)

Kenny Everett knew the meaning of mal de mer!

Stories about bad news and everyone immediately turning on the radio. About sad news and where you were when you heard it. About practical jokes, and misunderstandings, and mild or wild revenge. About getting fired, packing up the U-Haul, and being scared all over again. Getting angry, getting older, and the good old days. Static-y voices criss-crossing in the night. Fifteen-hour air shifts, flaky jocks, and disappearing engineers.

Stories about legendary radio people you almost met in an elevator at a convention. The major market PD who did you a favor; the request line caller you can't forget. Practical jokes on the news guy, disappearing stationery, and a bedroom full of promo records that one day will be worth something.

Staying up late talking radio, swapping tapes, borrowing ideas, embellishing your ratings, deepening your voice, losing your voice, losing your place, losing your keys, losing your cool. Wire service copy paper, 15-inch reels, pin-controlled automation. Caffeine addictions, and junk food, and whatever the station could trade for. Old friends, borrowed headphones, uncontrollable sleep-deprived laughter. Razor blades, splicing tape, grease pencils. Draping the tape edit over your shoulders until it was safe to throw away. Cue tones, cue sheets, in cue, out of breath. Slip-cueing, back-announcing, and hitting the post. Egos, rivals, and friendships.

Imagination, excitement, Orson Welles, and Jack Benny, and Ma Perkins, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Arthur, and Don McNeil's Breakfast Club.

Losing jobs, gaining weight, changing names. 'How do they do that?' and 'Listen to this!' Storz, McClendon, Drake... and Chuck Blore's Color Radio. Play-by-play and blow-by-blow sports scores, and election returns and Number One on the charts this week. 7-7-7, First Ticket, Hooper, Pulse, You don't look anything like you sound!

What am I doing with my life, and 7-day workweeks and I can't believe I get paid for this! Slow-starting turntables, nickel on the tone-arm, the cart-machine sticks. Stories about hotlines, hotshots, skimmers, phantom cume, time-checks, time-warping, ratings, feelings, winning, showing off. T-shirts and coffee mugs and iridescent Frisbees. Billboard, and Claude Hall, and Cashbox, and Record World, and Rand R and Bill Gavin's green pages. Floods and tornado watches and power outages and school lunch menus. Lost dogs, lost accounts, lost tempers. Jiving, shouting, rhyming, whispering. Hiccup remedies, lemon 'n' honey, and good old-fashioned adrenaline to save the day. Embarrassed, elated, delighted. Hi-Low, Name It And Claim It, and Dollar-A-Holler. Playlists and station surveys and Good Guys. Q, Zoo, and Boss, Bob and Ray, and Mike and Elaine, and The Monitor Beacon.

Jingles, stickers, Chickenman and The Oidar Wavelength. Silly stunts, intense rivalries... Passion. B-sides and label colors and songwriter credits. Favorite songs, favorite artists, favorite moments. Newspaper wars, live remotes, and meter readings. Shouts, stingers, sweepers, stagers, stabs. Make-goods, live tags, rip 'n' read and backtiming to the news. Allan Freed and Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie. Beat the Bomb and Lucky Bucks and Battle of the Bands. Pinning the needle, pegging the meter, riding gain. Feedback and wrapping the capstan and 'Hold on a sec, I gotta go on the air...' Sign on, signoff, warming up the filament and Compression, Compression, Compression! Gates board with rotary pots; Automax and Volumemax. Intros, outros, ramps, talk-ups. False endings and records popping and skipping and carts jamming. Philosophical differences and late night resume photocopy sessions. Tight board, good pipes, will relocate. The big break, bad luck, skip waves, skipping town with the air staff's paychecks.

Cueing past the splice, heavy phones, cue burn. Solid Gold, Hot Nine at Nine, Hot 100. WABC and KHJ and KLIF and WOWO and WL S and making it to the big markets. Friday night countdowns, Saturday Swap Shops, Sunday drag racing commercials, twin spins, doubleplays, triple shots and instant replays. Romantic entanglements, broken hearts, big dreams, small wins, and 'Garbage Mouth Leaves Cleveland'. 'NO ONE is to touch these carts! And that means YOU!' 'Were you listening when... ?' and 'What'd ya think?' and 'You should have been there.'

Now you are there. What are you gonna do with it?

Reprinted by permission from The Dan O'Day Radio Advertising Letter. Subscribe for FREE right now: www.danoday.com/free.shtml

Thanks to Raoul Verolleman for the photo of Kenny

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