Tag Archives: KHJ Inside Boss Radio

Your Idea Is Ugly

44Ever had someone say that to you? How did it make you feel?

Well, all ideas start out as ugly.

Ed Catmull, CEO of Pixar writes in his book Creativity Inc. that early in the creative process every movie Pixar has ever made sucked.  They all start out as “ugly babies” that are “awkward and unformed, vulnerable and incomplete.” And that’s OK, because the public never sees these “ugly Pixar babies.” Catmull says it’s the company’s job to protect these original, fragile ideas from being judged too quickly. They understand that great ideas aren’t born; they are created from ugly ones.

Ideas Are Born Ugly

The problem today is too many ugly ideas are released to the world while they are still ugly. No one has invested the time, love and attention to craft them into something great. Or, just as bad, ideas not ready for broadcast are put on-the-air piecemeal. Radio is famous for doing this sort of thing when they change music formats and start off with 10,000 songs in a row. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. So why put something on the air that is not going to be what it will be when it’s finished?

Practice, Practice, Practice

You don’t see a Broadway show open without there being a lot of practice first. You don’t see any type of performance art take to a stage without practice. “All of showbiz except for radio has rehearsals,” observes programming genius George Johns. Why is that?

When Did Radio Stop Rehearsals?

Ron Jacobs, the first Boss Radio PD in America at 93/KHJ writes in his book KHJ Inside Boss Radio that before the new KHJ launched, every air personality and board engineer spent two weeks practicing for the station’s debut. “Every word and every nuance was critiqued on the fly by Jacobs and (Bill) Drake,” said Boss Jock Gary Mack. “More up! More energy! Faster! I remember the distinct odor of flop sweat. But every day got better, and we made our mistakes off the air,” said Mack.

The entire original Boss Jock air staff was all seasoned radio professionals by the time they were hired to launch the new KHJ. But they all had to attend “Boss Jock Kindergarten” before they could go on the air. Boss Jock Tommy Vance put it this way, “I was to spend six hours a day doing it (practicing) until he (Jacobs) decided I would be ready for the real thing. He would be listening in his office. If the red phone rang, pick it up and listen to every word he said – very carefully. Take notes and follow his directions to the letter. Jacobs left me in my Boss Jock kindergarten.”

“Six hours every damn day I played the records. Read the commercials. Again and again, and yet again. The red phone never ceased ringing. Criticism was heaped upon me hour in, hour out. I began to picture Jacobs as the force behind the Spanish Inquisition. As the Marquis de Sade. Jack the Ripper. Eventually I was let out of the bag and given the six to nine pm shift,” said Vance.

That Used To Be Us

This was the way radio worked once upon a time. Nothing went on the air unrehearsed. Everything that went on the air was screened to insure it would meet the standards set by the station. “Ugly babies” were nurtured until they became great ideas that became great radio stations.

Great radio takes work. Great radio is exciting to listen to. Great radio gets results.

Let’s make radio great again.

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Attention to Detail

I just finished reading Ron Jacob’s book “KHJ Inside Boss Radio.”  It’s an excellent read and I highly recommend it.  It’s out of print, but a new & improved Kindle version is now available from Amazon that brings in more detail about the birth of this legendary Los Angeles Top 40 radio station.

May 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Boss Radio – 93 KHJ.

One of the really unique aspects of this book, that will have any radio geek savoring, are the volume of memos written by Ron Jacobs and sent to his Boss Jocks; Robert W. Morgan & The Real Don Steele among them.

Ron Jacobs competed against Bill Drake in Fresno, California. When Drake was hired by RKO Radio to turn things around at their decrepit AM 930 “K-indness H-ope & J-oy” he hired the guy who gave him the most competition; Ron Jacobs. Together they would launch a new contemporary sound on the radio and Top 40 Radio would never be the same.

Ron Jacobs later in life would interview Bill Drake and that’s also quite an interesting read.

What I learned as I poured though the memos Ron Jacobs wrote over his four years at KHJ was his tremendous attention to detail. Ron was a talented air personality in his own right, but he never did an air shift at KHJ. I asked Ron that very question and he said the only time he was ever heard on KHJ was in a promotional bit involving his most famous summer promotion “The Big Kahuna.” What Ron DID do was listen to his radio station. Relentlessly.

Think about that for a moment; one radio station and disc jockeys with 3-hour air shifts and a program director that wasn’t on the air.

Ron worried about EVERYTHING. He also dreamed up incredible promotions for the station; so many in fact, that a new one might be beginning before the current one ended. Oh and Ron told me he had a $50,000/month promotions budget (1965-1969).

RKO had two media properties in Los Angeles in the 60s; KHJ-TV9 and 93-KHJ. All the money was made on KHJ-TV, until the team of Jacobs/Drake launched Boss Radio. The station became so successful that it would out-bill the TV property and of course, the format would be placed all across America on other RKO owned and operated radio stations (The Drake Format).

But it’s not just radio that has lost this attention to detail. A headline caught my eye that read “And then there were none.”  It was a news story about how the copy desk at The Cincinnati Enquirer was no longer going to be staffed.

For those of you, who may not be familiar with what a copy desk is or does at a newspaper, let me explain. The copy desk is where the copy editors work. Copy editors read over the copy composed by journalists for things like spelling, punctuation, grammar, usage and a continuity of style that make a newspaper’s published prose look polished and professional. Copy editors also ask those awkward questions like: Is this clear? Is this right? Is this plagiarized? Is this libelous? Is this a story? Is this true?

Sounds like a lot of attention to detail, much akin to what I read in the memos of Ron Jacobs to his Boss Jocks.

I’m sure there are similar stories in TV land too.

Watching the Golden Globes the other night, I couldn’t help but notice the TV winners were from places like Amazon, Netflix, Showtime and HBO, and not ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX et al. What separated the winners from the losers? I would profess it was attention to detail.

If TV viewership, newspaper readership, radio listenership are down, might it be the fault of the decision of trying to save your way to success?

I’m sure you know of a TV station, newspaper or radio station that sees the world differently. Pays attention to detail and owns the loyalty of their audience.

Call me naïve, but I believe if you build a media property with attention to detail, they will come.

It’s a universal law of success.

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