Saturday, January 12, 2008

I Can Kick Higher Than You Can

One of my favorite memories is working for WBBY radio in the mid 70's.

This was really a neat place. But when you're 20 years old and have stars in your eyes, you perception is clouded by all the things it wasn't.

When I arrived in February of 1975, the station was playing a hybrid format of oldies and currents. The station, for a small station had a huge record library. For a number of years, the station had focused on being on oldies station, capitalizing on the stations call letters. WBBY was made to stand for We Bring Back Yesterday.

While I didn't consider WBBY my favorite radio station, I did listen to it often prior to working there. I worked at a county club in the late 60's and early 70's and we had a FM stereo in the pro shop. WBBY was one of the stations we listened to. I remember jocks such as Rick Seiler, Diane Townsley (who I believe was the first female disc jockey in the Columbus market), Denny Irwin, Scott Stevens and Joe Gallagher.

WBBY was ahead of it's time. For an FM station, it was actively programmed at a time when most radio operators had no idea what they were going to do with their FM signals. While superior in over the air quality to AM, FM had yet to really make it's mark. Most owners had no idea what to do with their FM signals. FM radios were not widely found in cars during that time and the programming ranged from religion to elevator music to underground. Nationwide's WNCI had also began to develop a following, but at that time I believe the audience between WBBY and WNCI were probably about the same.

WBBY was owned by Bill Bates. Bates, if I recall had retired from the state of Ohio and had worked on radio systems. He applied for an FM license and received it. Bill built the station brick by brick and the tower piece by piece. He was quite proud of his accomplishment as indeed as he should. That little brick house with the radio tower in the backyard was something to be proud of. Bill often told me that when he built the tower as it inched higher he felt closer to God.

One night on the air, the transmitter died. Since Bill was also our engineer, I gave him a call. He came out to the station and determined the problem was a blown rectifier. We had no spare so Bill began calling around to some of his radio chums. He found one that could be used at a station in Newark. He asked if I wanted to ride with him to that station's transmitter site. And as we drove along the highway, we talked about the radio station.

WBBY had began, according to Bill, to experience some financial problems. Being over 30 years ago, I don't remember specifics other than he was wasn't happy with the sales manager and the midday host who doubled as the morning news anchor.

Adding to his frustration, something in the county government, perhaps a real estate tax evaualtion, had agitated him. I think the stress and pressure of situation caused something to snap. Prior to that conversation, Bill was fairly quiet. Not long after he morphed into the person he would be longer remembered. Wild Bill Bates was born. And Wild Bill did everything he could to live up to the reputation of the name.

Bill went from being a very passive person to this very forward and outspoken individual. He became something of a showman under his own terms.

For a man in his 60's at the time, Bill was still quite agile. One of his prized accomplishments was from a standing position, he could kick a leg up and touch the top of a door frame.

He decided to run for Delaware County Commissioner. Because of his physical capabilities, he ran as the "kicking commissioner". He had business cards made up announcing his candidacy with his name, the fact he was running for commissioner and the tag line "The Kicking Commissioner". On the back was a photo of Bill kicking his leg over his head.

I believe he lost the race by a wide margin, but he non-the-less made the attempt.

He also became interested in the dancing sensation of the time, disco. Anyplace Bill could dance, Bill could be found. He had a panel van with a sheet of plywood over the top and he would climb to the top of the van and dance away. Sometimes scantily clad.

He started a Sunday evening radio show called Wild Bill's disco. He would play disco music and rant on about things that came to mind.

When the Wild Bill portion of his personality took over, his wife Marie decided she had had enough. She wanted to end the marriage.

Also waiting in the wings was a Columbus auto dealer who wanted to own broadcast properties in the worst way. The autodealer bought the former Mrs. Bate's shares she obtained in a divorce settlement and began everything he could to push Wild Bill out the door.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

On Paper, On Purpose

Imagine for a moment the picture you are seeing is your mind with all the competing thoughts and ideas slithering and striking out as the competion for place and recognition takes place.

Seriously, that's what happening when you keep all your thoughts, ideas, dates to be kept and tasks to be completed entirely in your mind.

I'm a serious student of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. The more I move through my work in this plan the more I begin to understand certain elements and actions that need to be taken, especially in the first few baby steps.

One phrase that is often heard from Dave is things such as budgets and purchases need to be on paper, on purpose. I even wrote earlier on what I called the Purpose Drive Budget. One of the main themes of that writing was.....on paper, on purpose.

I also like the way Jack Canfield goes about creating and setting goals guessed it, getting it written on paper. Now that's tough to say, considering I'm a guy and Canfield appeals to a largely female audience. But the fact is, what he proposes works for me. I'll thank my wife for turning me on to the guy.

I first heard of the snake example from a former plant manager. In describing people with cluttered minds, he would often say they had snakes for brains. It took a few times of him saying this phrase to realize what he was trying to relay in that metaphore. Never once did he talk about getting things on paper or using those thoughts to create goals. Coming from the old school, he simply realized that people became tangled in their thoughts when they kept trying to pack one additional "snake" in their cranial cavity. They never uncluttered their minds by getting rid of that tangled slimely mess and doing something that would allow you to deal with all of it systematically.

I now tell people to envision the snake scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones and Sallah are exploring the the underground cellars around the dig that is going on looking for the Well of the Lost Souls. The snakes slither in piles on the floor and through the mouth and eye sockets of the skeletons and mummies. That's what I envisioned my plant manager was trying to describe when he spoke of people who had snakes for brains. Cluttered minds bring about the disorder of the snakes as their slimey bodies slither through ones mind.

To avoid this happening as you work on a budget or set your goals as the new year gets underway is to stop the snakes by putting your goals, priorities and things such as budgets on paper......and with and on purpose.

I'm sure this process will assist in putting an end to the ooozing and slithering that our gray matter turns into as we try to store all the competing information.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Mystery at Midnight on Route 3

In the mid 70's, I worked part time hosting the 8-12 midnight shift for radio station WBBY. Some day I'll have to share my experiences working with and for Wild Bill, the owner of the station. But that's for another time.

WBBY was located in Westerville. Except that Westerville is a relative term. The studios and transmitter were located about 10 miles northeast of Westerville on the edge of the village of Sunbury. And about a half hour to 45 minute drive from the station to my apartment at the intersection of Morse Road and Cleveland Avenue.

My shift, for most of my tenure, was the last shift of the day for the station. At midnight, we signed off the air until the following morning. Part of the sign off procedure was waiting for the filaments to cool on the transmitter before completely cutting power to the unit.

For my younger readers, this was the time when AM radio was king. FM was still a radio teenager, although it was beginning to show signs it was a force in the market place. Only luxury cars had an FM radio. At that time, many FM stations were still playing symphonic or easy listening (elevator music).

And night time was like Candy Land for radio listeners. The big clear channel stations would boom into Central Ohio with their big city and unique programming. Stations like WABC, WBZ, WCBS, WSB, WWL, WCFL and KMOX from St. Louis.

KMOX at 1120 AM at night sounded like a local station. Even though it was "hit-skipping" to my area, seldom would it fade out like some of the others. But the big treat on KMOX on my drive home was the CBS Mystery Theater.

We were fortunate to have a radio tuner in the WBBY studios. It was used to pick up for rebroadcast Cincinnati Reds baseball games that the station carried. That was prior to the time of satellite broadcasts. Station A would carry the game and Station B would pick up the signal and rebroadcast it. Station C would pick it up off of Station B.

While waiting for the filaments to cool, I would tune the radio tuner to KMOX and play it through the cue speaker on the audio board to hear the openning of the Mystery Theater. As soon as I could, I would bolt for the door and to my car to continue listening to the show on my drive home.

I mentioned in a previous note that my family enjoyed the Old Time Radio Christmas shows that aired every year on station WDLR. But the Mystery Theater was even better than those great shows. The scripts were more crisp, the sound effects more effective in allowing you to envision the drama unfolding. And yes, the shows were in high fidelity, unlike most of the old radio shows from the past. So they were easy to listen to.

The Mystery Theater had a ever changing cast of stars who would come in a read their parts. Doing search for this piece I found a list of actors who performed frequently or periodically on the Mystery Theater. From Wikipedia: Prominent actors from radio and screen performed on the series, including Morey Amsterdam, Mason Adams, Richard Crenna, Keir Dullea, Morgan Fairchild, Jack Grimes, Fred Gwynne, Joan Hackett, Larry Haines, Paul Hecht, Kim Hunter, John Lithgow, Mercedes McCambridge, Agnes Moorehead, Tony Roberts, Marian Seldes, Jerry Stiller, Roy Thinnes and a young Sarah Jessica Parker. You can see why the program was so well presented.

There was something unique in traveling down the road with the voice of Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster on television) or Agnes Moorehead (Endora from Bewitched) doing radio drama. Especially at midnight driving down a dark Route 3 toward Columbus.

Even the openning and closing were themselves as Masterpiece. Again from Wikipedia: The show began with the ominous sound of a creaking door, slowly opening to invite listeners in for the evening's adventure, accompanied by Marshall's disturbing intonation of, "Come in! ... Welcome; I am E.G. Marshall." At the end of each show, the door would creak and slam shut, followed by Marshall's classic signoff, "Until next time, pleasant ... dreams?," segueing into the show's haunting woodwind and string theme music.

For those who are interested in experiencing what I enjoyed so many times, this link will take you to a page that has links to listen to archived shows.

So until next time, plesant.....dreams?