Weirdest Station I Ever Worked For

 

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
Kirk Wilde

Author: Kirk Wilde

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

20 thoughts on “Weirdest Station I Ever Worked For

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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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