What could be the most important lesson I learned about doing good/entertaining radio I learned at my first radio gig. The worst radio station I ever cracked a mic at. Rambling on WADY-The Lady “Radio for Singles only.” Sex radio in Miami in the ’70s.
Mostly Somewhat Accurate Transcript:
Mostly Accurate Transcription:
John Ford: 00:37 So here's a question of the hour. Where do you get your best ideas? I don't mean where do those best ideas come from? I mean, where are you when you're get your best ideas? Is that when you're sitting on the crapper uh, is it when you were driving in your car? Now me and, and best ideas will keep in quotes because I'm not sure what I consider to be best ideas aren't necessarily what you would consider to be best ideas or Swhat anyone in the entire known universe and galaxy would consider to be best ideas. But I have a tendency to come up with really good ideas when I'm taking a shower. And you like that too, where if you are, you're pretty weird. Yeah, it's, I, for some reason, you know, when I'm scrubbing in, the bubbles are going, I come up with brainstorms. That to me seemed brilliant at the time.
John Ford: 01:24 It's like when you dropped acid and, and you, you figured out the meaning to life, the universe and the everything and it wasn't 42, uh, it was really deep and mysterious and suspenseful. And then afterwards, eight hours later when you've come down off your trip, one, you either can't remember it or two, you remember it and think it seemed brilliant at the time. But boy was that stupid. Now when I come up with an idea in the shower, it's often kind of interesting. I've come up with some, I've actually written songs in the shower and that's singing in my lie, but crafting the lyrics in my head, uh, whether that they were good songs and bad songs that I can't really even tell you. Uh, that sort of up to the beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that. But the other day, and now as I was doing the bubbly scribbly thing in the shower, I was thinking about the first radio job I ever had.
John Ford: 02:19 And this is going back quite a few years. And, and truth, the first radio job I ever had was at a Black Gospel station. Uh, it was a tiny little am daytimer. It was a tiny little am day timer. Now for those not of the radio world, daytimer means is that they couldn't be on a night. It was an AM signal. AM is like BM except it's not on an FM for those of you don't know what am is. I realize we're living in a different age now, but it was an am signal and it was called w e x, y, waxy, not be confused with, waxy, which was an Oldies station one that had Rick Shaw. And so yeah, my first job was at the station called wexy and it was a a m day timer. It probably had like a thousand watts, uh, and in a pattern with multiple towers.
John Ford: 03:16 So it wasn't just equally radiated. In other words, it went straight up in the air and straight back down outside of the format being Black Gospel. Nobody really, not, not very many people listen to the damn thing. It was kind of an interesting gig. Uh, one of the things I would have to do is I would have to show up at like five o'clock in the morning and go through the teletype, the wires, the wire, the UPI and AP and I would have to put together, and this is amazing, I would have to put together a one half hour newscast and about 10 minutes before six o'clock in the morning, half asleep. And you know, I'm a teenager for God's sakes. And of course I would screw around with the news, but the half an hour try reading a half an hour's worth of news sometimes. And it was all just rip and read.
John Ford: 04:07 Uh, I did the best I could. Uh, you know, and, and some of my friends would listen and I would, uh, insert their names into the story. Like a Winston Churchill today met with Fred Smith. Of course Fred Smith was my friend. Hey and I would just make up stuff in the news cause I knew nobody was listening anyways and whoever who would know it was a black gospel station. Like they would know who Winston Churchill was hanging out with. And this is not a disparaging mark and it was six o'clock in the morning or five 30 in the morning or whenever it was at the station side on whatever daylight was half an hour with the news. So I would screw around with the news and just rip and read off the teletype. Um, but the reason I started thinking about this, the station that I worked at, this Black Gospel station, it was really awful except for the music.
John Ford: 04:54 The music was kind of cool. I mean it was like, you know, real honest to God jumping Black Gospel music. I mean it was a real deal. Can't remember too many of the artists, but it was like the real, the real McCoy, not to use like a, an Irish word. It was like the real Rufus. It was a great radio station as far as music and the disc jockeys. Uh, then the disc jockeys were all old black guys and they were just awful. I mean, they were horrible. They were the worst discharge jockeys you've ever heard in your life. And what they would do is people would call up, uh, on the phone while they're playing the records and they would say, dedicate this to may bell or dedicate this to uncle Ralphie or dedicate this to sister June. And what they would do is they would turn the music up and down in the middle of the song in the middle of the song and you know, they'd be playing Oh Yea.
John Ford: 05:51 Jesus. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then they turn it down and then they go, this goes out to brother Rufus and then they turn it back up. Joh Yea Jesus, dude, I do. I’d play music and show you how they did it. But current laws and regulations are so freaking prohibitive by playing music on podcasts that the FBI's going to come banging on my door and shoot me off to the jail. I don't need that. I don't want it. But yeah. Who So, and they would do this over and over. You live dead. Jesus. Yeah, yeah, yeah. This goes on to Miba woulda diseases. Yay. And just goes out to
John Ford: 06:23 Jesus is the Jesus. Yay.
John Ford: 06:25 It is, goes out to [inaudible]. And they were, it was so bad. And, and the, the, the, we had wooden floors, the floors were wood that, you know, and it was a sit down operation means they weren't standing up doing this show. They were sitting down having these roll guys too. And they would pile that musically play and they would pound their feet on the floor. And the, you'd have to put quarters, and this was records, they were records, they played records. It wasn't even high tech cart machines, man. They played records and they would literally put two quarters on the records and they would pound their feet on the floor. Boom, boom, boom with the music. Jesus. Yeah, boom, boom. And you could see like the papers and stuff bouncing up and down on the desk. Right. And sometimes they would get so into it. That is the record. You know, the needle would come up and visit Jesus ea.
John Ford: 07:29 This goes out and maybe, oh Geez,
John Ford: 07:32 boom, boom, boom, pounding their feet. Um, it was really, really bad. It was as bad as you could ever possibly consider doing a broadcast broadcast radio. But there was one thing, there was something that I learned from that and I even realized it at the time, even though I was just a dumb kid, what the hell did I know? What the hell do I know now? Not a whole hell of a lot older you get the more you realize you don't know. But there was one thing that I learned that was amazing and that I kept with me and it became more important as as life continued on its journey, is that these guys, they were having fun on the radio. They were really enjoying what they were doing. They were smiling, they were having a blast man. They were having a ball and it was infectious and the listeners could tell and it w it went through that microphone. It went out on the airwaves where the power of the air and it went into the speakers of brother Rufus. It was listening at home and, and the listeners could feel this fun and excitement that they were having like a, like a preacher man. And that was something, trying to remember the name of the one guy that was like the main gap, brother something brothers, something in the old age, brother Rufus and the old ship a Zion, no, brother Lee and the old ship of Zion on waxy am
John Ford: 09:14 okay.
John Ford: 09:14 You couldn't understand half of what he said. He mumbled through things. Obviously his dentures were ready to fall out. He was aged.
John Ford: 09:23 Yeah,
John Ford: 09:23 it was the worst radio you could ever possibly imagine. The music was cool in my opinion, quarters on the turntables. But he was having fun and the listeners could tell it goes my dog growl at the pussy cat again. And listeners can tell. And it came through the speakers and, and that part of it was just amazing. He was having fun and it and that's something you can't teach somebody how to do and broadcast or I would imagine even with a stupid podcast crap.
John Ford: 09:56 And I now remember another guy that I worked with, um, and this was at w s h e in Miami. And he, he'd had this down. He nailed this and he had great Mike Technique. Yeah. Great Mike Technique, man, pulling off that mic, wondering what that pattern was and making it sound kind of cool. Um, his name was Jim White. He went by on the air was long Jim White, and I think he's still in Dallas at, um, the rock station there. The one that guy red beard was on. Boy was he a nothing but Jim White. So anyways, when I worked with Jim White years ago at WSHE Miami, this was, you know, early in my early in by radio broadcasting career, he was kind of, he had stayed on after the station had switched from a very, very cool format. I mean, of course it was always a rock format, uh, but it was like, I think they call themselves the new rock of, uh, the new wave.
John Ford: 10:57 In other words, they were playing all this new wave music back in 79 and [inaudible] 78 when everybody else was jumping on the classic rock band wagon. And I think the [inaudible] 79, they won the rolling stone readers, Paul for the best radio station in the United States, which was kind of a big deal. And what are the reasons it was a big deal is because every year that was won by, I believe it was, and if I'm wrong, don't shoot me a WMS in Cleveland. And they basically that station one at every year and they had always been accused of stuffing the ballots, uh, to, to win that. So even if they did stuff, the ballots, they didn't win that year because she was such a great radio station. And you got to think, uh, you know, the, the Milners that own the station for letting Tommy Judge, uh, Tommy Milner do that. And Jim White was doing afternoons at during and he had stayed even after the station was sold and it switched to the Burkhart Abrams superstars format. For those of you not in radio, this means nothing except that they had switched from this really cool alternative rock thing in 1979 to your mainstream rock format. A Libra, miss Burkhart Abrams format. But Jim White.
John Ford: 12:18 Okay.
John Ford: 12:19 He wasn't when he was on the year Itchy Jim White weight. He wasn't the most amazing jock ever, but he loved what he was doing and just like brother lee and the old ship Zion, it came through on the air and he had this great mic technique where he'd back off from the Sennheiser and say, Hey, what's happening and rock and roll. And He, he was so infectious when he was on the air. The point I'm making here is that if you're having fun, if you believe in what you're doing, if you're having a good time, the wolf man, it'd be the perfect example of this. The listener can tell on the air that you're enjoying yourself, that you're having fun man, that you really into it, that it's part of your being and it infects through the airwaves to the listener, like a, like a staph infection, like a venereal disease.
John Ford: 13:17 Okay.
John Ford: 13:18 But they can tell man. And as opposed as going through the motions, written aligner cards, doing your thing, doing nothing. They can tell when you stop and your foot out of the four and the needles are going up and down on the record and you really enjoyed it and not just going through the motions. Since I seem to be on this kick of reminiscing about the old radio days this week on the evening ranker, what the hell? Let's um, let's continue the ponderings and many ways it's part of the bitch about politics. God knows everybody gets tired of that. Don't you get tired of that? I get tired of that. The insanity from both sides of the aisle. Anyway, so wait, let me take you back to the mid 19 [inaudible]. I think it was probably 77 or early 78. I'm thinking it was 77 I took a part time job at a country station in southeast Florida in Davey.
John Ford: 14:17 Actually the city of license was Davey. I think the station was actually physically in Hollywood, Florida, just west of Sheridan Street back then. That used to be just nothing but cow pastures, and Davey was always sort of like the cowboy area of south Florida. Kind of like the Texas of Fort Lauderdale. But I took this job at a country station. It was an am station 1520 I think 1580 out enough 15 something. It was WGMA and it was a pretty cool little country station, you know, it had a very active country lists I eat on and I enjoyed working on it, although I never really thought I would want to work on a country station, but I took this Gig at this country station and I will say this about country stations. They had the best listeners. I mean these people were pleasant, nice and great to talk to and they just loved the radio stations.
John Ford: 15:07 I think country listeners are just great listeners. Anyways, this was kind of a heritage country station for soft floor. That was one of the few countries stations on the dial. There were no FM country stations back then and the owner of this station decided to change formats and they hired a guy out of Hawaii by the name of Dave Denver. Well that was the name he went by on the air. Richard Lipton cod was who he was, who later became a record guy and you know, had programmed a lot of stations. He had programmed this station in Honolulu, which had this guy on a named Acu who, uh, who had like a 50 share some crazy thing, which meant that of all the radios that were on half the people were listening to this guy when he was on by Dave Dick, whatever you want to call them, uh, have, I can't, he had this idea for this format and he said, you know, why can we can put this format on him?
John Ford: 16:04 Why in Miami, because it's the Miami market, Miami, Fort Lauderdale Metro, and it'll be so wild that people will go to aim to listen to it if you would think about this today. Yeah. And am trying to compete with why 100 goose. It sounds crazy. It was crazy. It was never going to work, but you know, I guess they paid them enough to give it a shot and he brought a bunch of people with him to this, uh, radio stations, 1580 or whenever it was double the GMA in Davie Florida to switch the format. He brought a bunch of people with him from Hawaii. That was a guy by the name of Nolan Cruz who went by the name Susan Cruz in Hawaii and Buddy Hollis, I think, who later went to the Rock Station, k one oh two as a station began to flip. I was, I think the only person they kept on and they gave me overnights, which I was happy to have.
John Ford: 16:54 Now what made the station so strange is that, and you could never, you think about this as I explained what the station was to you, you could never ever get away with this today it was called radio four singles only and it had a silhouette of a woman, kind of like that silhouette that a, the Peterbilt trucks had. But it was in pink of the naked woman reclining. And the whole concept was basically it was like sex radio. So it was done like a top 40 format, like a CHR format. Uh, all very forward motion. I'll talk over music and you know, lots of it was, it was a CHR was a top 40 station, but we had playboys and penthouses strewn all over the place. Uh, that was where you got your ad libs for your breaks and the PSA is were wacky man.
John Ford: 17:45 The public service announcements for things like, I can still remember this one after sex, a warm damp towel is the perfect thing for your mate. Yeah. That was the PSA, right? That was a public service announcement. I always wondered how they were going to get pat that past the FCC is serving the public interest. It was actually kind of a cool radio station, but it's the things, the windows and the sexual oriented stuff that we would do on there. You could never ever get away with it today. Not because we live in such a conservative world of Covey's, we live in such a world that is buffeted by this, you know, social justice world. The social war. It's also just social justice warriors. They would never allow anything like this on that. They, they, it wouldn't be Jerry Falwell out there protesting your radio station. It would be the left.
John Ford: 18:35 Isn't that wacky? How things have worked out. Isn't that just strange? So here's the story I'm going to tell you about that station the day where we're going to flip that format. Um, all the music had been carted up, but it's a very busy thing. You know, we had recorded all the staffers ready to go, and Dave Denver, Richard Lippincott had gone on the air. He was actually, he was actually okay on the air. I said to him once, how come you're not out of the year? You're kind of good. And he said, look, if on the best thing I can find it put on the air, we're all in trouble. But he was actually okay on the air. So he opened up the Mike for about four or five hours before we flipped the format at midnight, I guess starting at about seven or eight o'clock in the evening.
John Ford: 19:12 And this station was in the middle of nowhere, uh, it literally in a cow pasture, uh, which I'm sure now that, that area is built up and has million dollar homes on it. Uh, but it had a big parking lot in front of it would where the towers were. And he flipped the mic and went on the air and just started. Lambasting country listeners, country listeners are just people that sit around picking their nose and their stupid and taking phone calls on the air from these country listeners. And Man, did they get pissed? So what ended up happening is, uh, and I had split just before all the mayhem started. Uh, what ended up happening as I took off and he was doing this on the air. I was like, I have to get home, get some sleep because I've been taping music and carting up music for hours is, uh, the station had a big plate glass window in front of where the parking lot was.
John Ford: 20:05 And, uh, all the country listener started showing up in the pickup trucks and you know, getting fricken peer kid and drunk and yelling and screaming and throwing things at the window. And eventually it came to the point where he had to dive under the studio with Mike and hand and asked for the police to come because these people were riding and they were getting ready to trash the radio station and the cops did come and everything would wacky and the format eventually did flip to the, the lady, which I think the ladies 1320 the lady, for singles only. And you think about it in the 70s, in south Florida, that format should have worked if it was on FM bright just wouldn't have worked on am cause nobody was listening to music on am at that point at or at any point that, you know, after the 60s, early seventies, because of that incident, we ended up getting all kinds of press, national press pay.
John Ford: 21:00 Playboy magazine covered it. Uh, yeah. You know, you couldn't have asked for better [inaudible]. I mean as far as the launch go, you couldn't have asked for a better launch, but people just didn't listen to it because it was on am and bull of what a weird place to work, man. All the Geeky you can imagine the listeners to that thing, and he's a crazy women in the 70s in Miami that would a Yab for sexual favors or the for these ugly disc jockeys at this radio station. It was weird, man. It was wild. One of the strangest trips I've ever been on. Well, I guess that's about it for this week's program. Thank you for coming with me down. Radio Memory Lane helps. Some of it was interesting. I've got even more bizarre stories in that, but that'll have to wait for another time next week. Who knows what the hell we'll talk about on the John Ford podcasts the evening rankor till then.