Weirdest Station I Ever Worked For

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The weirdest station I ever worked for was KAGO-Klamath Falls, Oregon. “K-Go!” – Probably cool, right? In the winter of 1964-65, not so much.

Wilde, early ’60s

It was Top 40–I would do no other–but it hamstrung that with this jukeboxy thing, containing the whole playlist. It was in the room next door from the control room, maybe 60 vertical slots for the records. It would cue up the next side in line in its own good time, and want the line played in order–no priorities for the bigger or hotter hits. You’d come out of a newscast with some sleepy downer because that was what was next. The jock would press the play button about 3 seconds before he wanted the next sound (a lifetime against the tight pacing I held myself to). After the song ended, you had to do time, temp, ID, & blah blah while the next record in line cued up. Having few commercials, no jingles or anything to fill that time between records, I’d usually stay on the play switch for the entire break to bypass the time for backwards cueing, and just wait to be relieved from my banal rapping. (I never had that many non-banal radio raps.)

“Jukeboxy thing,”  at radio stations was  often a Seeburg jukebox

Yes, I’d sneak into the juke machine, moving some sides onto regular turntables for better control, being careful to put them back in the official order, plug side toward the rear. What a hassle. Even the hits seemed to sense the malaise, not rocking: You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Amen, Leader of the Pack, Come a Little Bit Closer, The Door Is Still Open to My Heart, Let It Be Me, Mr. Lonely, Goin’ out of My Head, Hurt So Bad….

KAGO Survey, Feb. 1965

The station was atop a steep hill–unnecessary for an AM. Snow made the trip uphill a real adventure. Once, the jock before me put on an album (complete with dead air between cuts) to deliver the station’s AWD Jeep to me at the bottom of the hill. Even the Jeep got stuck 40 feet up. The album ran out ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch long before I could get in to take it off. Riveting radio.

Broadcasting Yearbook, 1964

The boss was an angry hardass. Had me cleaning all the equipment with rubbing alcohol. Got me woozy & urpy–during my show. He had me trek out to the towers every night, even in deep snow, to take meter readings after my shifts, after midnight, power on. But he did provide big snowshoes. Sometimes I just didn’t. No other station made me do that. Of course he knew when I skipped that by looking at the undisturbed snow.

To help cut voice-killing congestion, sometimes I’d secret some brandy into the studio. Boss would make surprise checkup visits late at night. When he saw my bottle, he totally freaked. Called me in next morning to fire me.

Fine with me. I had just lined up my next job anyway.

 

L: Sixties ad in local newspaper; R: Early ’60s ad in “Broadcasting” Magazine

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Author: Kirk Wilde

Kirk Wilde, Tacoma boy, was in the Top 40 wars in the Pacific Northwest and Denver. He never stopped following the music.

20 thoughts on “Weirdest Station I Ever Worked For

  1. Kirk, you are the only person I know who surpassed the rest of us when it came to an obsession for the music we played.

    1. Gary…be serious now….as long as you had a new Tommy Roe single in hot rotation you were one happy DJ. I thought the jukebox interesting. I had never heard of that but in seeking info I found many stations used those Seburg units often for overnights. Kirk has good stories, glad to see he is writing up some of his experiences.

  2. I can’t say this was the weirdest station that I worked for, but the contest prizes at KBAM Longview were kind of strange. Typical prizes were grab bags with KBAM bumper stickers, corn cob pipes, ink pens, etc.) Listeners knew what they were getting. And the phones rang off the hook!!

    1. Jason…that is a weird batch of prizes. When I was a kid KPUG would give away singles that were broadcast copies. I still have Midnight Snack by Fantastic Zoo. Won it from Steve West when he was at PUG.

        1. I won an LP from KTW called Porter Wagoner and Skeeter Davis Sing Duets. The back had two cuts scratched out and there was no inner sleeve.

          I also won from KTIX a paper bag holding all six delicious flavors of Jell-O as well as chocolate, vanilla and butterscotch puddings, a good prize.

            1. Steve, I just listened to Midnight Snack on YouTube . . . that’s actually a cute little tune from ’66, the year I got into radio. It might have even been sent to KGEZ. There were piles of unopened 45s when I got there. Seems like every record we got was sent out by Little Richie Johnson. Just think. I might have made The Fantastic Zoo legends in the Flathead Valley.

              One single I remember well was “The Snakes Crawl at Night/Atlantic Coastal Line” by a new artist being heavily promoted by RCA Victor. The songs were from an LP released in the spring of 1966 called “Country”, RCA called him “Country” Charley Pride, and even though the album cover showed him in full color, the d.j. promo kit pointedly did not include a publicity photo.

              That first single didn’t chart, but Charley’s next seven hit the Top Ten and the six after that went to #1. In the next ten years, “The Pride of Country Music” had 23 more #1 hits.

              From 1971, a gold record, Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’
              https://youtu.be/Xw7VYF8hM8s

              1. Dick…Charlie Pride did good stuff. I actually hear Midnight Snack occassionally. I have a video of people in Asia eating fresh teredos out of a salt water bog… I put Midnight Snack on as a backer track,

                1. Sounds more than tasty, Steve. You and Lay’s should get on board. I see special bags of Doritos with free minibags of Teretos inside and then Jumbo Party Size Teretos with a QR code on every bag to download your musical video. Royalties! Royalties!

  3. Yeah. That’s a reach. Like KRWM using the moniker WARM. KKWF Wolf. My issue is that stations have moved away from using the call signs assigned to them. I think it is the dumbing down of listeners. I think this was done for the sake of Arbitron surveys. People must have been really confused before these cutesy names. I guess my parents had higher IQs, because they knew that their favorite radio stations were KIRO and KAYO.

  4. One chain of stations I worked for had these jukeboxes sold by Gates at the larger stations to fill in for the all nighter on Sundays. The smaller stations had a DIY arrangement of two RCA 45 record changers controlled by silent sensing circuitry so they would alternate playing the scratchy, hand-me-down hits from the studio.

  5. Weirdest things I can think of in my career included when I worked part time at KOQT playing MOR and suddenly the owner donated the station to a church. They began melding gospel artists like the Gaithers and Swaggart in with songs like Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town and King of the Road. Other oddities were the significant number of jocks fired by KPUG and then days or months later they were rehired. KBFW had the weirdness of being above a drive in movie theater as part of SRO theaters. And the staff got movie passes for all the SRO theaters and SRO had six or seven in town. That was good weirdness.

  6. Gene Loffler, GM at KGEZ, would accuse us “contrary” employees of trying to “get my German temper up”. Then he would threaten to make us stand in the corner and not think about white bears.

    Back in the 1930’s, Gene had done color to Ronald “Dutch” Reagan’s play-by-play of college sports over WNAX in Yankton, South Dakota. He got livid if someone called it Yanktown.

    Our PD Bob Perry, a real good guy who always had a cigarette for me when I was broke, was doing afternoon news one day and read a story mentioning the Montana gubernatorial contest. Gene ran in and told him to never say that word on the air again. I’m not sure how Bob was even able to pronounce it, since he always referred to Mao Tse Tung as Mayo T. Sung.

    I spent my days writing copy. My only air time was “Tops in Pops”, ninety minutes wedged in between Fulton Lewis III and the folk music program, and I eventually lost even that little bit of stardom after I got Gene’s temper up one day. But I was told to report one time for a Saturday afternoon board shift (we were never on the “air”, always on the “board”). Gene was in his office. I was pulling some records and found a 45 called “Goodness Gracious Me” by Sofia Loren and Peter Sellers that I’d heard KQTY play frequently when the all night automation was on. It began with the breathy Sofia saying, “Oh Doctor, I’m in trouble” and Peter’s reply, “Well goodness gracious me”. Suddenly the door flew open and Gene yelled, “Where did you get that record?” and he made me get up and show him exactly. He stood there fuming until the record ended and I potted down, then he grabbed it off the turntable and broke it in half. I thought he was going to throw it at me but he just stormed out of the room.

  7. Dick…I had a GM get really angry when as a parttime jock I played Fighting Side of Me by Haggard. He was a good GM but was pretty enraged. That was about 1972, Vietnam going on and all and THE GM did not appreciate the sentiment of the message. The album ended up with stick-ums on that track.

    1. Steve,

      I just went back and listened to The Fightin’ Side Of Me twice. I don’t get what peeved your GM. Merle seemed to me to be expressing both sides pretty well. He stated his view and said the other view was O. K. too.

      Check out this video of “Fightin'” with a bit of harmony from Haggard spouse “Queen of the Coast” sweet Bonnie Owens. She was one of his and he was one of hers.

      https://youtu.be/uIxBmyRQlwQ

  8. I have not heard it in years, but I believe he got angry with about everything after the line..”if you are running down our country then you are walking on the fighting side of me.” The GM was liberal and supported anti war protests. I do not think he spent much time analyzing it, just felt it was reactionary right wing. I just watched the video, good performance by Hag.

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