(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson,


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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 21 - - -

    In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., TV Guide was the theme, and this edition of T.H.A.T. continues to carry on with the TV Guide theme, though only a little of this edition of T.H.A.T. focuses directly on TV Guide.  If you have not read the previous edition of T.H.A.T., you should read it first, and one reason for that is it has a trivia question about TV Guide, which gets answered in this edition of T.H.A.T.  The answer to the trivia question leads off this edition of T.H.A.T.

    In T.H.A.T. #20, I asked--"Who hosted the TV Guide Award Show of June 13, 1961?"  (In each edition of T.H.A.T.,  I ask readers at least one television-trivia question).  The host of that 1961 show was Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who was then well known for being one of the regular performers in 77 Sunset Strip (a weekly prime-time series on ABC-TV) and whose daughter named Stephanie would, in the 1980s, be a regular performer in the prime-time series entitled Remington Steele, which would also feature Pierce Brosnan.  The 1961 special also had Nanette Fabray and the David Rose Orchestra.

    The previous edition of T.H.A.T. was a review of the "new" TV Guide, and in the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I noted many problems with the "new" TV Guide, and here are a few more that I wish to pass along, given that TV Guide is supposed to be a publication that pays writers and editors big money to make the publication appear professional.  In the November 14-20, 2005, edition of TV Guide, it is stated on page 67 under the listing for SOS: Coast Guard Rescue (at 8:00 p.m. on the Discovery Channel): "A rescue team a picks up an ailing man from an oil tanker."  In the November 14-20, 2005, edition of TV Guide, it is stated on page 19 under the listing for Drake & Josh (at 8:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon): "Drake's has a new girlfriend."  That notes two writing errors and editing errors that appear in the same edition of TV Guide, and they are errors that should not exist, since people are paid money to keep such errors from existing.

    I also have information about one big error that appeared in a recent edition of the new TV Guide, and it is an error I have to talk about because it continues on with a theme that has been covered in past editions of  T.H.A.T., and the theme--which can be called a "running" theme--is about made-for-TV movies that have the same title.  In the November 21-27, 2005, edition of TV Guide, you will see that a movie is listed for Lifetime at 9:00 p.m. on Monday (the page of the magazine is a program-grid page).  The movie that is listed is entitled Mind Over Murder, and it is specifically a TV-movie, which happens to be a TV-movie that was originally shown on CBS-TV on Tuesday, October 23, 1979 (at 9:00 p.m. Detroit time) and that featured such performers as Deborah Raffin, David Ackroyd, Bruce Davison, Andrew Prine, and Christopher Cary.  The movie that should have been listed in this edition of TV Guide (officially page 63, by the way,) is Mind Over Murder, which should have been listed as a new TV-movie featuring such performers as Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott.

    I noted in the previous edition of T.H.A.T. how the managers of TV Guide have stopped giving listings of local programs or non-network programs on television stations, and because TV Guide no longer, as a rule, lists the local or non-network programming of television stations, I almost missed seeing a special program on a local PBS-affiliated station recently--on WTVS-TV Channel 56 on Friday, December 2, 2005 (beginning at 8:00 p.m.).  The program was Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8, which focused on a radio station called CKLW-AM (Windsor, Ontario, Canada).  I managed to catch the program because a friend had told me it was going to be on and because the TV Book (a weekly television-shows-listing magazine) associated with the Detroit Free Press had had it listed for the station, as had had a free television-shows-listing publication distributed at some stores in western Wayne County and in Washtenaw County entitled TV GUIDE & SHOPPER.  (By the way, I could argue well the TV Book has more value than the flashy and glossy TV  Guide, and I find the weekly TV GUIDE AND SHOPPER, which has been published since 1973, a useful publication, though it provides only a little program-description material.

    Here are the basics of Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8.  The program was written, directed, and narrated by Michael McNamara, who happened to be at the studios of WTVS-TV on December 2, 2005, when the program was aired; the show was given a Detroit premiere on December 2, 2005.  The documentary mostly focused on CKLW-AM radio as the station was between April 4, 1967, and April 6, 1984, but the documentary did note some early history of the station, such as how the station was started as CKOK in 1932.  CKLW-AM, which still exists in name, was a hits-oriented radio station (related to "popular music") between 1967 and 1984, and though people often thought of the station as a Detroit-area radio station, it was really a Canadian-based radio station, officially based in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.  The program, which I do recommend as a program to see, talked about how the hits-oriented format was developed, talked about disc jockeys who were involved with the station, talked about newscasters who were involved with the radio station, and talked about other matters, such as the creation of the Canadian government agency (informally known as the "CRTC") that helped lead to the closing down of the "Big 8," as the station was informally known during the period from 1967 to 1984.

    Although I recommend people see Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8, I do have to pass along one disappointment that I have about the program.  I contend "radio" in the U.S. has two main "heydays"; the first heyday is from the late 1920s to the mid-1950s or so, when radio was known for providing listeners with big-time network entertainment shows, such as shows featuring Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Red Skelton and such dramatic shows as Gunsmoke and The Mercury Theatre on the Air, and the second heyday was from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, which was the heyday of "disc-jockey radio," which was when, I contend, disc jockeys were creative, had good voices, could read well, had personality, worked hard to deliver their lines, knew how to sell records, et cetera (by the way, the two heydays should not be compared since they were different forms, and what can be called "disc-jockey radio" is the main form of radio today, but the best days of "disc-jockey radio" are gone).  Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8 gave a good impression of how the newscasters at the station did their work and how they presented their material, but Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8 did not give a good enough impression about how the disc jockeys did their work and presented their material.  For example, if you were to listen to the disc jockeys who work at the hits-oriented stations in the Detroit area today, you would gain a certain impression of what disc jockeys sound like, and because of what the documentary is, you might think you can attach that impression to what the disc jockeys at CKLW-AM (and what good disc jockeys at other stations) sounded like during the period from 1967 to 1984, but that impression would be wrong.  I think the documentary did not have enough video and audio of the disc jockeys at CKLW-AM or enough audio of the disc jockeys at CKLW-AM, such as a collage of walk-ups done by disc jockeys (maybe accompanied by still photographs or other still-image material) that would show why the disc jockeys of today are no match for the disc jockeys of CKLW-AM during the "Big 8" days.

    Okay, before I next add a piece of commentary, I must make a note about the version of the documentary that was shown on WTVS-TV on December 2, 2005.  The version that was shown--which was shown during pledge-drive time for the station--was a 72-minute version.  During the pledge breaks, it was stated that people could get a DVD of the program through the television station--by pledging money to the television station--that had more material than the version of the program that was being shown had.  Maybe, the longer version does a better job of giving a person an impression of what the disc jockeys at the "Big 8" did.

    Be aware--This paragraph is commentary and editorial material.  I cannot talk about through this edition of T.H.A.T. the styles and quality of all the disc jockeys that were at CKLW-AM during the period from 1967 to 1984 because there is no way to really give a good impression of the styles and quality, which would have to be done by providing audio material, but I will say that, for example, Johnny Williams had a smooth deep-voice delivery and Pat Holiday had a smooth lightning-fast delivery and Super Max had a wild delivery.  If I only talk about guys who do disc-jockey work at hits-oriented radio stations in the Detroit area today, I can say that most sound like boys--teenage boys; they lack power and conviction in their voices, and they are often sloppy in the way in which they talk, and they are known for having rather high-pitched voices, and some have what is called a "sing-song delivery," which is a form of speaking in which words and sentences are given improper rhythm and inflection.  What I can also say about the disc jockeys in the Detroit area today is, through their voices, a listener cannot really hear feeling and heart and art (the art form of a good disc jockey), and I can also say the disc jockeys who do the put-down jokes and such do not deserve respect.  (By the way, I have an old reel-to-reel tape that has the voice of a disc jockey from the 1960s or so called Mack Owens (a name that I might have misspelled here), and Mack Owens says his name on the tape--It showed deepness and power.)  Do not get the impression by listening to radio stations in the Detroit area that, as a rule, the disc jockeys that you hear have as much skill as the disc jockeys at the "Big 8" had.  To me, most of the disc jockeys of today have no idea of what it really takes--what work and what practicing and what concentration it takes--to be a good disc jockey.

    Incidentally, after seeing the Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8, I went to a drawer in which I keep a small collection of music guides from CKLW-AM to see which disc jockeys who are displayed on covers of the music guides did not appear in the program (through interviews).  The music guides cover the period from February 17, 1976 ("Official Issue 442") through February 27, 1979 ("Official Issue 521").  The disc jockeys who were in the program were Johnny Williams, Pat Holiday, Charlie O'Brien, Ted Richards, Mike Kelly, Bill Gable, and Tom Shannon.  The disc jockeys who were not in the program were Super Max, JJ Jackson, Al Dylan, Dick Purtan, and Len Robinson, and one music guide had a photograph of a guy only identified as "Moody" (who was "Cosmic" Bob Moody).

    "For the record," almost as if I were presenting statistics about a program in a television review in weekly Variety, I now pass along "credits" related to the version of Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8 that was shown on December 2, 2005 (and I do not list all the production-staff credits).  The production staff was: Michael McNamara (writer, director, and narrator), Judy Holm (producer), Roderick Deogrades (editor), and Sarah Jane Flynn (associate producer), and the sound crew was Bruce Cameron, Aaron Holm, Christopher McNamara, Mark Obradovich, and John Thomson, and the camera operators were Jim Borecki, Rick Boston, Walter Corbett, Patrick Lobzun, and Michael McNamara.  The people who were interviewed were: Alice Cooper (rock musician), Rosalie Trombley (librarian and music director at CKLW-AM), Charlie O'Brien (disc jockey), "Big" Jim Edwards (disc jockey), Ron Foster (board operator), Ted "The Bear" Richards (disc jockey), Bob Lusk (board operator), Les Garland (program director), Grant Hudson (newscaster), Tom Shannon (disc jockey), Johnny Williams (disc jockey), Art Vuolo Jr., Dave Marsh, Walter "Baby" Love (disc jockey), Ed Buterbaugh (engineer), Bill Hennes (program director), Russ Jenkins (engineer), Fred Sorrell (general manager), Pat Holiday (disc jockey), Keith Radford (newscaster), "The Hit Line Girls" (Mrs. Bill Gable, Mrs. Pat Holiday, and Mrs. Ted Richards), Kelvin Ventour, Joe Summers, Mitch Ryder (rock musician), Wayne Kramer (of the rock group the MC5), Jack Richardson, Tony Orlando (singer and musical performer), Joe Evans (disc jockey), "Brother" Bill Gable (disc jockey), Scott Miller (disc jockey), Mike "Killer" Kelly (disc jockey), Pat St. John (disc jockey), Bert Serre (newscaster), Dick Smyth (newscaster), Lee Marshall (newscaster), Mark Daily (newscaster), Randall Carlisle (newscaster), Joe Donovan (newscaster), Ike McKinnon, Mike Felch, Claudia Sanford, Martha Reeves, Grant Hudson, Rob Bowman, Armen Boladain, Jo-Jo Shutty-MacGregor, Stan Klees, Walt Grealis, and  Dr. George Pollard.

    Since the 1960s, broadcast television networks have aired prime-time series that have a radio station as the main setting, and none of the programs, if you were to see them today, give a good impression of what "Big 8" jocks did from 1967 to 1984.  Good Morning, World was a series that appeared on CBS-TV during the 1967-1968 season. WKRP, in Cincinnati was shown on CBS-TV from the 1978-1979 season through the 1981-1982 season and was followed by a syndicated series entitled WKRP in Cincinnati and The New WKRP in Cincinnati  (the 1991-1992 season through the 1992-1993 season).  FM, which was sort of based on a theatrical movie of the same name, was shown on NBC-TV for two seasons, the 1988-1989 season and the 1989-1990 season.  Martin was a series shown on Fox TV from the 1992-1993 season through the 1996-1997 season. Malcolm & Eddie was a weekly series shown on UPN for four seasons, starting with the 1996-1997 season.  Rock Me Baby, which featured Dan Cortese and Bianca Kajlich, was shown on UPN during the 2003-2004 season.

    Here is a question, which you have to find the answer to before I publish the next edition of T.H.A.T. (officially T.H.A.T. #22): What was the name of the retrospective special about "WKRP" that was shown in syndication?  The focus was the 50th anniversary of the fictitious radio station.

    Let me make this clear--This paragraph is commentary and editorial material about why CKLW-AM was closed down in 1984.  One reason the "Big 8" style of radio was put to rest is it was presented on an AM radio station, and from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, radio listeners--especially young people--were choosing more and more each day to listen to music on FM stations than on AM stations; by the way, "staticless radio" is what FM radio was originally thought of, such as in the 1950s.  Another reason is, in the 1970s, the Canadian government created an agency that forced radio stations in Canada to play at least so much Canadian-based music a day (at least 30%), and, by the way, I can argue well when the Canadian government set down the 30-percent rule, which happened in 1970, and affected the format of the station, musical performers and bands (at least from Canada) did not have to try as hard to make good songs and get them on CKLW-AM and other Canadian radio stations, and I can argue well the Canadian government indirectly helped lower the standards of radio stations and disc jockeys in Canada and the U.S. (especially in the Detroit area), because when CKLW-AM became hampered by foolish government law, staffers at radio stations other than CKLW-AM did not have to work as hard to beat CKLW-AM, which had set a high standard of excellence, and I can also argue well, over the next two decades, the next generations of disc jockeys grew up following ever-lowering standards (and that is one reason many radio stations have disc jockeys and the like who have an unlikable tone to what they do or have a beginner-type feel to what they do, and that can apply to some of the people who are at the all-news radio station in town, who have a sing-song delivery or cannot properly pronounce the "W" in call letters, and to some of the people who are at other big-name radio stations).  And one of the other reasons that the "Big 8" disappeared is the "Big 8" even adopted the FM-type presentation of music, such as the idea of playing blocks of songs and back-selling the blocks (which made CKLW-AM a follower of style and no longer a leader of style).

    Enjoy Radio Revolution: The Rise and Fall of the Big 8.  May you be lucky enough to see it listed in a television-shows-listing publication before it is run where you are.  Do not expect it to be listed in TV Guide.

Stay well!


copyright c. 2005
Date published: December 10, 2005

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    P.S.: To hear sounds of the "Big 8," you could go to http://www.the big8.net/sounds.html.