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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:

BOSS RADIO
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 format.

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 7:00 PM

93 KHJ

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 little farther.

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 Goes On."

Gary Mack


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