From the Pages of
Los Angeles Radio People (www.laradio.com/)
July 6, 2000 - Don Barrett intro: The launch of KHJ as "Boss Radio" in the spring of 1965,
was a historic moment in the history of Los Angeles radio. Bill Drake and Ron
Jacobs have been quoted extensively about the beginnings; however, the djs
have another perspective. One of the original KHJ "Boss Jocks" was Gary
Mack, who worked noon to 3 p.m. He went on to be national PD for the
Drake/Chenault enterprises. The native from Cedar Falls grew up in Chicago.
Prior to his retirement a few years ago, Gary was Director for Network
Operations at WSB, Atlanta, where he built the largest radio network in
major-league baseball for the Braves (166 stations). This is his story:
Memories from Gary Mack
Had we known it would be so famous, I guess we’d have kept better records.
Maybe we should have buried a time capsule.
In 1965, I was working at KRLA in Pasadena when Bill Drake called, and he
wanted to get together. The prior year, I had been Bill’s Program Director
at KYNO in Fresno.
We met in Martoni’s, and while sitting at the bar, Bill told me he and Gene
Chenault were going to be consulting RKO General’s KHJ - and he wondered
whether or not I’d be interested in working there. He had me at "hello." I
didn’t know it at the time, but I had just become the first Boss Jock.
As the rest of the crew was hired - Robert W. Morgan, Roger Christian, The
Real Don Steele, Dave Diamond, Sam Riddle and Johnny Williams - we set about
the business of getting organized. Ron Jacobs was brought in as Program
Director - the best I’ve ever met.
At the time, Steve Allen, and his wife Jayne, hosted the morning show from a
studio in their home. Robert Q. Lewis did the afternoon drive show. They
were phased out, and we "no-name announcers" were phased in. During our air
shifts, we played a lot of Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney, and tried to
sound like mellow staff announcers. But as soon as our air shift ended, we
headed to a production room, where the real work was - the new Boss Radio
format was in rehearsal.
It was grueling. Ron Jacobs and Bill Drake stood in the control room with an
engineer, while the Boss Jocks practiced this new format. Every word and
every nuance was critiqued on the fly. "More up! More energy! End up!
Faster!" I remember the distinct odor of flop sweat. But every day got
better, and we made our mistakes off the air.
The planned sequence of events was to break away from the MOR format and go
into a more contemporary music format called the Cavalcade of Hits, followed
by a listener-driven Million Dollar Battle, and then hit with the Boss Radio
KFWB made us change our plans. A leak in our high security gave us away, and
suddenly KFWB became KFWBoss Radio. Hurried meetings were held, and we got
our first bath of fire. That afternoon, The Real Don Steele launched the
Preview of the Real Boss Radio. Bill Drake had recorded some great promos
suggesting listeners sample the imitators on KFWB and KRLA, and then return
to KHJ for the genuine original Boss Radio. It was fabulous.
When the smoke cleared, KFWB dropped their attempt to steal our format, and
we returned to the original blueprint - running the Million Dollar Battle,
then went to the format full time.
Our first big newspaper ad ran in the Los Angeles Times:
FOR 93 SWINGING HOURS
THE KHJ MILLION DOLLAR BATTLE
You dial the special "93" switchboard to rate the greatest record hits since
1950...year by year...for 93 consecutive hours around the clock! 93 hours of
excitement! 93 hours of your all-time all-stars...93 chances for YOU to
phone your vote for Champion or Challenger! And it starts Thursday, April 29 at
When we finally hit with Boss Radio, it was just amazing. We went from 23rd
place in the market to number one in 90 days! And we stayed there. It was
fast-paced, with short breaks, great music, constant contests and
promotions. And it just got bigger and better. Big-name artists dropped by
just to say hello - Mick Jagger, Sonny and Cher, all of ‘em.
At the time, I believe we Boss Jocks really didn’t know just how much we
could do—that is, until Ron Jacobs and Bill Drake told us. They eliminated
the limits. Then, whenever we reached a goal, they simply moved the bar up a
Jacobs was a motivational expert before that field had been invented. He
taught us everything - and heard everything. I still believe he listened to
KHJ 24 hour a day. And Ron was always working on something - he used to get
Beatle songs days before other stations. Then he’d whisper "KHJ Exclusive"
over the music, so other stations couldn’t tape it for replay.
Ron’s weekly jock meetings weren’t like any I’ve been to before or since.
They were like the coach and the players - John Madden exhorting the
Raiders’ in the locker room. There was some criticism, but always a lot of
positives. Ron did the real fine tuning in these sessions. They were good!
Most times, we left the meeting ready to go out and kill for good old KHJ.
Jacobs would unveil the latest promotion and liners every week. There was a
lot of oo-ing and ah-ing when he’d roll out the latest promos he had written
and Robert W. Morgan had recorded. What amazes me listening to them now is
the quality of those spots. They’re still better today than anything you
hear done on the new digital production consoles. And all of it done on ¼
inch mono tape! I’ll bet we went through a ton of splicing tape and razor
blades. KHJ’s studio and production facilities were really rudimentary.
Technically speaking, maybe we shouldn’t have been able to do what we did.
We just didn’t know that at the time.
Jacobs was way ahead of his time. Once, he decided to consult the geniuses
at the Rand Think Tank. He wanted to wire cash registers at Wallach’s Music
City to some sort of machine in order to have a constantly changing Boss 30.
Remember, computer technology wasn’t prevalent then, so after due
consideration, they told us to try it first with pencil and paper. A kid
could probably do it now.
When Ron Jacobs decided to leave KHJ and crank up Watermark, American Top 40
and all the rest, I think everyone thought KHJ would collapse. Come to think
of it ... I guess it did. But what a station it was.
I still get a kick out of hearing some of the phrases we used back then on
the air - still being employed by ad agencies and comedy writers. Like Bill
Drake said every hour - and they still say, "Ladies and gentlemen, The Beat