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The last hours of Jet-FLI, WFLI
Can't see it?  Click here.


by Rollye James
Claude Hall

Rollye:  “Sad but official, Chattanooga’s WFLI is off the air.  As of March 31st, silence
permeates 1070 in the Scenic City.   In many ways, the medium market top 40 station was no
different than hundreds of others across the country when it began broadcasting in 1961, but
from today’s vantage point, it was magical.  It was owned and operated by a local guy with
aspirations no bigger than its signal.  (Maybe not as big, since engineer Billy Benns who
signed it on, managed to take it to 50kw in the day by the end of the decade.   Licensed to
Lookout Mountain, nights were trickier for the directional station [separate patterns day and
night] with 1kw after dark.)  By the end of the 70s, WFLI dropped top 40, first in favor of
country, and then a couple years later for a gospel approach that remained in place until the
Benns family opted to shut it down last month.  Chattanooga news anchor David Carroll, who
was a jock at the station in its heyday tells a great story on his blog here.

“For the record, by the close of the 60s, WFLI had serious competition in the form of newly
coined WGOW.  The directional facility at 1150 had been WAPO when Ted Turner bought it
in 1968.  It too had its share of night time signal issues, but unlike the WFLI, owned by one
man from its inception through his death,  WGOW went through multiple owners along the
way.  Turner got it from Martin Theatres who held on to it just long enough to satisfy the three
year rule.  Today it’s a Cumulus property.  WGOW ultimately outlasted WFLI in the format,
but to many of us, it never matched the early feel of Jet-FLI.  I say Benns was a local guy, but
he was originally from nearby Alabama and if the name sounds familiar, it may be because of
his association with the Brennans, who along with Benns signed on such engineering marvels
as Jacksonville's WAPE and WBAM, Montgomery.

Mel Phillips:  “What a great piece by Shadoe Stevens.  Shadoe came to WRKO Boston when I
was PD and I knew he wanted to go to LA and eventually did.  He was just amazing on the air
for us but Bill Drake was determined to bring him out to LA.  I missed his presence but kept in
touch through the years.  I loved his story on KMET and was surprised by his assessment of
Tom Donahue, aka "The Father Of FM Radio". One of the great joys for me was seeing
people grow and further their careers. Shadoe was a great example of one who did. I hope to
see Shadoe back east for the big 50th WRKO Anniversary June 2 in Boston.”

Don Sundeen:  “I enjoyed reading Shadoe Stevens recap of his career, but when he talked
about Tom Donahue’s KSAN format not working in L.A., it brought back memories.  KSAN’s
“looseness”  is often mentioned, but I don’t think a lot of folks know what that really meant.
Quick story: I was doing promotion for Liberty/U.A. in San Francisco in 1969, arguably one of
the peak times in the music business and an exciting place to be.  Bob McClay was doing
mid-day’s for Tom on KSAN  and also helping with the music.  I called Bob and asked when I
could see him, and he replied,  “Why don’t you bring me lunch tomorrow while I’m on the
air?”  So I got a bag of burgers and fries from the Doggie Diner (No McD’s in SanFran then)
and headed for the station. I was listening to Bob  on the air on the way over, and thought it
pretty weird that I was pitching records to a guy doing on the air. So I was escorted into the
booth where Bob was doing his show and presented the food. He had a Shuggy Otis album
playing and as we chatted (he just took the records didn’t listen until later) I noticed that the
whole “A"side of the record was tracking through. When it ended, Bob opened the mic and
gave the KSAN break, then turned over the record and played the whole “B” side while we
finished lunch. Driving back to the office in the Wharfside complex I cogitated about how as a
former Top 40 deejay it was hard to accept what these guys were doing. Then a couple of years
later when I was calling on Mary Turner at KMET in Hollywood, it was obvious why the
format that worked in laid-back SanFran had been a bust in hustling Los Angeles.” 

Michael O’Shea:  “It was really a fun read to hear Shadoe come ‘out of the shadows’ on
KMET history. I respect him even more for saying: "Hey, here's the real story"!  I'm like you,
not really possessing a personal history of FM Album Rock, in those formative years.  My
mid-70's was spent transitioning from the McLendon Top Forty on KLIF, to try to keep AM
giant "MOR's" with a little more longevity: KMPC, KSFO, KEX and KVI.   Remember this

Rollye:  “How could I forget it?  It was taken just after Michael gave up being a commuter PD. 
Several people have programmed two stations at once.  None, of which that I’m aware, other
than Michael O'Shea, programmed two of them in the same format,  in the same town, at the
same time, owned by two completely different entities.  The picture I’d like to have is Michael
walking the two blocks between KPOL and KMPC on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.   In
1979, when Michael left Golden West’s KVI in Seattle to program KPOL, 1540’s glory days
were in the distant past.  I felt somewhat guilty as I did my best to talk Michael into taking the
gig. I was pretty sure he’d hire me (and he did, bless him) and I wanted to go home.  (I’m an
Angeleno.)  I glossed over the facts— like the only reason Cap Cities owned KPOL was they
couldn’t pass a proof of performance.  I told him that anything in LA was much better than a
transfer to KSFO in San Francisco.  But the reality was that KPOL, even in the best light, was
a disaster. I have stories. I’m sure Michael does too.  I tried to console him with the fact that he
was now programming in Hollywood.  His reply put it all in perspective.  ‘A point .7 is still a
.7, no matter where it is.’  Point taken.

“In the end, it worked out wonderfully.  Golden West missed Michael enough to lure him back
as national program director for the chain.  He got to run KSFO and everything else.   But for
what seemed like a protracted period of time (and probably wasn’t much longer than a month),
he would dutifully trot back and forth on Sunset between KPOL and KMPC— two stations
that were so close in location, and so many miles apart by every other yardstick.”

Rob Frankel:  “I really enjoyed today’s edition of Vox Jox, particularly Shadoe Stevens
recollections of his time at KMET. I only heard Shadoe’s version of the Mighty Met briefly
during a visit to L.A. in 1974, but I was so impressed that the memories of what I heard there
have lasted a lifetime. Sam Bellamy built upon Shadoe’s foundation and made KMET a
market legend, but I believe the station’s creative peak happened under Shadoe’s watch, due in
no small part to his production skills. When I moved to L.A. in 1977, I was fortunate enough to
catch Shadoe’s last months on KROQ, and much of what I heard him doing there (and on his
University Stereo spots) became an influence upon my own production work. I recorded one
aircheck of Shadoe during that time. It included an “Adventures of Hy Cumes” episode and a
Burnt Karmaburger In The Restaurant of Life Award” bit, and it can be found on Reelradio.

“You mentioned the lack of availability of great soul radio airchecks, something I have also
lamented for many years. It’s so easy to find WABC, KHJ, WLS, etc. and yet the urban radio
giants of the past are mostly M.I.A. In all my years of searching, I have yet to find an Eddie
O’Jay aircheck (I asked Eddie himself about 20 years ago, and he  had no idea if any existed).
Same goes for the Magnificent Montague. But a few weeks ago, I came across an amazing
site run by Jason Stone, who calls himself “The Stepfather of Soul”. He has posted a number
of vintage soul radio airchecks, mostly from Chicago, but there are other markets represented
as well. The airchecks are of varying audio quality, but the content is terrific. And they are
downloadable. I would highly recommend starting with Dr. Bop from WAWA/Milwaukee, but
they are all worth a listen. Here’s the link. BTW, I have contributed a number of vintage
WWRL airchecks to Reelradio that are available now, and more are in the pipeline. Reelradio
also has a couple of excellent airchecks of Frankie Crocker on WMCA from 1969 and 1970.
It’s not quite like hearing Frankie on WWRL, but it’s the next best thing.   You are doing a
great job with Vox Jox, and it’s good to see that Claude is contributing again, too.  As Curtis
Mayfield and Junior Walker might have said, I hope you’ll “Keep on keepin’ on” for many
years to come.”

Rollye:  “Good to be reminded about The Stepfather of Soul.  I came across his site several
years ago.  If you have the patience to scroll back over the years, you’ll be well rewarded. 
Who else remembers “The Hamburger Song’ by Bobby Moore & The Rhythm Aces?  But
more to the point, Rob is right,  Jason stone has some fine midwest air checks.  He also has a

“My thanks to Rob for contributing the vintage WWRL stuff to ReelRadio.  There’s more soul
at Uncle Ricky's site than you’d expect to find given the dearth of material available, but not
nearly enough for me.  In desperation, I’ve tried search engines.  Looking for Houston's KCOH
netted me an hour long Gee Gee Hill air check here. It opens with a great Coca Cola jingle.... 
YouTube will also bear fruit occasionally, like this gem from Hank Spann.   And there’s
someone else similar to The Stepfather of Soul who has a nice modest soul collection, but try as
I might, I can’t recall who it is (and don’t know whether it’s still online).  I'll keep looking.  In
the meantime, I'm appreciative that Rob brought up Jason's site. 

“If soul isn’t your thing, Claude Hall, suggests Austin.  Woody Roberts chimes in:”

Woody Roberts:  The Austin American-Statesman has begun running 500 word excerps from
Eddie Wilson’s book, every Sunday the next six weeks.  Here's the first.

Rollye:  “The book in question is ‘Armadillo World Headquarters,’ which according to the
Austin American-Statesman is more than a collection of anecdotes.  The paper sees it as a
‘crucial measure of its time and place’.  For Claude Hall, it’s probably an overdue codification
of his own memories.”

Click on it to order

Claude Hall:  “Eddie haunted one side of main street ... I haunted the other side along Sixth
Street.   Just FYI, I mentioned to my beautiful bride of some 50-plus years last night that I'm
thinking about writing another book.  Don't exactly know what about yet.  Probably about a
program director.  Why not?”

Rollye:  “That’s the best news all week.  Not only do I love reading Claude’s work, but what I
love more is that he feels up to writing again.   Don’t know how long it will take Claude to
finish his next one, but do know it’ll be worth the wait.  I have a feeling there are books in
almost everyone who reads Vox Jox.  Most will never be written, let alone released.  I’m
frustrated by that.  Even when I think I know all about some facet of radio, someone with an on
the scene account comes up with a wonderful story I’ve never heard.  On the big events, we
usually know the facts (though those of us who were around at a particular time are often
mystified with how elastic some facts become),  but rarely do we get to enjoy the color behind
them.  Too many of us have gone on to that superheterodyne in the sky without sharing, so if
you’ve been saying you’ll write a book—  do it.  No one will care how well you conjugate or
punctuate.  What we’ll crave are the priceless tales that are in every one of you.  I’m grateful
Jack Gale put pen to paper.”

Jack Gale:  “Thanks so much for your help with Claire Petrie’s  ‘C’est La Vie’ as a tribute to
Chuck Berry.  Thanks also for the plug on my book.  I remember when it first came out,
Claude Hall gave it a terrific review.  Bobby Vee commented.. 'Claude Hall must have bad
eyes.'  Miss Bobby also.  As Claude says.. 'We come, we do, we go.'   You’re doing a helluva
job, Rollye.  What would we old codgers do without you?”

Rollye:  “You'd all be fine without me— but the reverse is not true.   Radio would not have
been nearly as fine without each of you.  I can’t fathom a time that could equal the excitement
spawned by the first decade of Top 40.  It’s a privilege to be able to share your stories.   So take
Jack’s lead and write!   Or follow Mel Phillips’ footsteps and plan a reunion.  I’ll do my part
and publicize any of your efforts any way I can.”

Timmy Manocheo:  “This was sent to me by Harvey Miller.  It’s a sad write up indeed, for
several reasons…”

Rollye:  “The headline for the article forwarded by Timmy is indeed a shocker..  that Norway is
shutting off FM.  But those words bely what’s really happening.  And the saddest part of the
story is unwritten in the linked piece— how the US missed the DAB boat.  First, Norway is not
doing away with radio— not shifting to internet entertainment, or anything like it.  What is
happening is the natural outgrowth of Norway’s launch of Eureka 147 in 1995.  As far back as
1981, plans were underway for digital radio broadcasting.  Switzerland demonstrated it in
1985.  Germany made the first transmissions in 1988.  The foundation was solid.  Rather than
relying on AM or FM,  Eureka 147 (“Eureka” as in “Europe” where it was developed) utilized
another band entirely, one that was conducive to Digital Audio Broadcasting.  It was based on
an open standard for the world to share and the best part was… it worked. 

“American broadcasters wanted none of it.  It may have been the answer technically, but the
economic fallout on a nation of stations that allocated a good chuck of their purchase prices to
stick values, made it a non-starter.  Something had to be done to preserve the understood value
of a good dial position, and a plan where AM and FM was equal was as far as you could get
from that.  And so it was that In Band On Channel was developed.  Compared to DAB, IBOC
is in another universe, and not a particularly good one.  On top of that, IBOC is private, so it
costs broadcasters to adopt an inferior system.   But hey, stick value is preserved. That it
doesn’t work on AM at night is rarely discussed (or admitted).

“The hype was that HD sub channels would allow stations to experiment with programming,
diversifying what’s available to the public.  But that rarely, if ever, occurs.  Today HD-2 and
HD-3 channels are more often utilized as an FCC sanctioned way to launch an FM translator
for an existing AM or FM outlet.   No wonder HD radios are hard to find in stores.  There’s
absolutely no consumer demand for them.   So, from the American vantage point, the loss of
FM is not only sad, it’s incomprehensible.  But in nations where DAB has existed and radios
have been sold for decades, it’s not a major change.   Norway is turning off analog in favor of
digital, but it’s still radio in every manner listeners use it.

“Switzerland has plants to dump analog beginning in 2020. The UK will make the switch when
digital receiver thresholds warrant it.  Sweden has gone both ways.  The latest is they nixed a
switch to digital due to insufficient usage, and have called for evaluating online listening (that
is a much scarier proposition).  Canada is disappointing.  I was delighted when they adopted
DAB, but mystified when they dumped it for IBOC.  Maybe Warren Cosford can weigh in on
that one.   I hope it wasn’t just a matter of it’s what America did.    Japan’s doing very well
with DAB.  The island nation is among 30 countries that have embraced it so far.

“Downside to DAB?  About the only one to consumers is that DAB+ was developed in 2007.
It’s superior in all manner, but it’s not backwards compatible, which means that early adopters
will have to buy a new receiver to enjoy it. 

“So, I’m not sad about Norway dumping analog.  But more than being an appropriate move for
them, in the grand scheme of things, it should be irrelevant to anyone, anywhere. When we
discuss AM, FM, DAB, IBOC—  or online efforts, for that matter; we’re talking about the
delivery truck.  When you order something from Amazon, you probably don’t notice what
trucking company delivered  it, let alone the condition of the vehicle that brought it to you.  It’s
also a good bet you don’t notice the box it’s in.  All you care about (assuming you’re not
psychologically unbalanced), is what’s in the package.  For radio, programming is what’s in the
package.  I stand by the contention that if programming is sufficiently compelling, listeners
will find it, no matter where it is.  And it’s been proven repeatedly.  Tons of articles on Norway
turning off FM.  Not a scrap of evidence about what’s been on it (never mind that whatever it
is, will still be available on radio, albeit digital).  Thoughts?  Email info@voxjox.org.

Ron Brandon said he wasn’t sure what he’s sent for the column…  just as well, as I'm no
longer sure what we've run.  But I found a couple covers I don’t think you’ve seen that should
bring back a few memories.”

Steve Warren:  I hope you are keeping warm in your WOR sweatshirt, not that keeping warm is
a problem in Arizona.  The Ruth Meyer WMCA “Good Guys” sweatshirt was sold to Kristin
Stevens, daughter of Gary Stevens, original WMCA Good Guy.  Happy to keep it in the
family.”  [Click here to see all of Steve's eBay store.]

Rollye:  “Glad to hear it.  I remember when Kristin was born.  Gary figured he needed a real
job and somehow over a lunch in New York convinced Dave Scribner to hire him as a GM,
even though he had no sales, or even PD experience.  I surmised no one else wanted to go to
Phoenix in 1970.  Actually it wasn’t bad then, but I drive around Arizona now wondering about
the folks who came here earlier than that— in the pre-air conditioning days.  That’s a kind of
hearty to which I can not relate.”

Dave Anthony:  Here’s an e-mail I received last week from a guy I hired at KLUC in Las Vegas
in the late ‘70s. It shows the human kindness of Don Rickles:
“‘It was '78 and I had just been hired at KLUC-FM, Las Vegas. My sister and her husband
came to town and wanted me to join them at the Sahara for Don Rickles. Don apparently
‘surveys’ his audience before the show looking for certain ‘types’.  We were ushered into the
theater to sit at a table at the foot of the stage. Somewhere during Rickles' spiel he motions to
me to join him on stage. I mention that I had just started at KLUC radio. Rickles asks me for
my name ... I stammer out ‘Bill Schwarz’.  Rickles gives me a look and says ‘Jewish or
German?  Jewish or GERMAN??!!’ I respond, ‘uhhh...German’. Rickles takes his mike,
throws it down on the stage and stomps it. Hilarious! As I'm leaving the stage, Rickles, off
mike, says to me ‘Good luck at KLUC, Bill.’ That happened!’”

Rollye: “Don Graham forwarded the latest Reynolds Rap...”

Can't see it?  Click here.

Joey Reynolds:  “I don't do a political show or answer phones.  But I take my pregnant
daughter being bumped by united personally, like Charlie Wilson's War with Tom Hanks or
Colbert's struggle to get someone to watch him on regular tv with Trump cheap shots…”

Joey continues… “Bet you thought this greeter at Church was customer service at United

Mel Phillips:   “The following partial list of WRKO's 50th Anniversary Dinner (June 2,
2017) attendees joins those mentioned last week. This week's list includes: Al Gates, J.J.
Jordan, Arthur Katz, Buzz Brindle, Ron Hurst & Rich Stadlen. If you haven't yet
confirmed your dinner invitation, you're running out of time. The deadline is May 18. Sorry,
but no walkups will be allowed to the Charles Ballroom (bar or dinner). To add your name to
the above list of names, send your check ($75 per person) and completed RSVP forms to me
today. All the information you need is on the invitation you already have...

Friday, June 2, 2017: WRKO 50th Anniversary Dinner with cash bar at 6pm. Dinner will be
served promptly at 7 in the Charles Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza (Newton). Dinner, coffee,
tea, dessert goes till 11pm. Since the cash bar stays open until 10pm, don't rush to get there
until after 6 and self-park in order to avoid a parking fee. You'll also want to get your parking
ticket validated at the front desk before leaving. Jordan Rich (above left) will emcee and a
video tape of the event will be shot by Art Vuolo (above right) for inclusion into the Radio
Hall Of Fame...
Saturday, June 3, 2017: A 4-hour tribute (7pm-11pm) to WRKO with 5 members of the
original NOW CROWD playing hits from the Top 100 of 1967 using the original WRKO
jingles. Live broadcast aired on WRKO (AM/Streaming) & Backbone Networks (Streaming)
produced by George Capalbo Jr. Seen below (left-right): Al Gates, Joel Cash, J.J. Jeffrey,
Arnie Ginsburg, Chuck Knapp, George Capalbo Jr. & your (shy but friendly dinner host)
Mel Phillips.”