Color Radio in Here!
One of the most enduring set of station call letters and musical logos are those used by Los Angeles broadcaster KFWB. In Chapter 12 titled Syndication: Nashville, LA and NYC in 1958 in my book “The Hits Between The Hits” I recall the story leading up to Chuck Blore’s introduction of Top 40 on KFWB and how he had hired Bob Sande and Larry Greene to produce the legendary “Color Radio” jingle package.
SANDE & GREENE made an instant impression with their first radio ID jingles produced in 1958. Approached by Bob Percell of KFWB, the pair was asked to come up with new jingles for the station's switch to Top 40. To accomplish this, Percell had hired Milt Klein and KLIF owner Gordon McLendon personality Chuck Blore. Blore had worked his way through the McLendon stations first at KSTA San Antonio and as Program Director at KELP in El Paso in 1957. Blore had imported the "Color Radio" phrase with him from McLendon and wanted to incorporate it on KFWB. Bill Meeks at PAMS had used the name "Color Radio" on a series of cuts he had done for WKDA in Nashville earlier in 1957. (PAMS Series #6)
To prepare for the KFWB session, SANDE & GREENE worked at home over a long weekend to create 16 new jingles. Bob Sande recalled the creative direction of the package, "The jingles were to have a Peter Gunn feel to them. The Mancini theme was what we wanted to have in the station's jingles." (Bob Sande 12-94)
I had interviewed Bob Sande and Chuck Blore for the book thought the subject of KFWB had been well covered. So I read with great interest Chuck’s internet memoirs titled “Okay, Okay, I Wrote The Book” at the Radio Daily News web site: http://www.radiodailynews.com/chuckblorebook1.htm
In chapter 18, Chuck fills in some more information about how the famous KFWB musical logo came to be.
December 21. Color Radio comes to L.A. New Years day. Less than ten days to do what under ordinary circumstances should take more than a month. But these were not ordinary circumstances. The President of The Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, owners of KFWB, told Bob Purcell and I to come to New York immediately.
Turns out Gordon McLendon had made a visit to glamorous Gotham where he spoke to the Crowell-Collier Board of Directors about all the things I was doing wrong, and how he was willing to take over the operation of the station and fix it ... He certainly hadn’t heard the station yet ... nobody had. But somehow he had gotten hold of those damn ‘secret’ memos I was writing and he was able to use them to explain to ‘the board’ how what I was doing would never work. It was all-wrong. They were nervous. Can’t really blame them, I guess. This was their first adventure into the broadcast world and they really knew nothing about what was good and what was bad, what would be cool and what was not so hot. And there we were, ten days before we were to give birth in L.A. on a plane to New York. Bob had all of my memos, which collectively I guess pretty much laid out everything I had envisioned for Color Radio and we spent the entire flight, which was then about 8 hours, going over every sentence, every thought in every memo, till Bob knew Color Radio every bit as well as I did.
I knew Robert M. Purcell was a brilliant man. You couldn’t spend thirty minutes with him and not know that. But I had no idea how that brilliance could light up a boardroom. He had the very same memos Gordon had used to make the board feel less than gung-ho about what we were doing. Bob went through each memo removing any doubt about their meaning. He explained all of what this Crowell Collier radio station was going to be. He laid out each facet of what we were going to do with such pride and passion the directors actually applauded. Every member of the board made it a point to shake his hand and tell him how proud they were to be a part of what Bob had convinced them would be to the broadcast world what Henry Ford’s Model T was to all of those out-of-work horses and buggies. “But this would be no Model T,” said he, “This would be the model for contemporary radio for years to come.” That could be, thought me, but there was still so damn much to do and we were still in New York.
It was now, December 23. I wanted to take the Red Eye back to L.A. but Bob had decided it would be ridiculous to be in New York and not see a show. He was very excited when he told me he was ale to get two tickets to West Side Story. “I never heard of it” said I, still hoping to be on that airplane.
“Well, I haven’t heard much about it either.” said Robert, “But my ticket broker says it’s a must. I also have plane tickets for tomorrow morning so we’ll be home for Christmas Eve.”
Yippee. I’m gonna have to be working nights from now till we go on the air and I get to start on Christmas Eve.
We still hadn’t found anyone to do the music for the station which was gonna be so much a part of the sound. KFWB! Color Channel 98! I could hear in my head, or maybe my heart, how it should sound, but I wasn’t musical enough to explain it to anyone. There were jingle houses in Texas trying their damndest to convince me that they could bring it off, but none of it was right. The problem was that what I wanted to do hadn’t been done ... at least on the radio.
Purcell and I came out of West Side Story absolutely dazzled by what we had seen. What we had seen ... and heard.
Bob said, “Chuck. What if ...”
I finished his thought. “What if our jingles sounded like that music?” “Yes. Exactly. With that huge orchestra. And those voices. Those powerful voices.”
I said, “Well, at least we know the kind of music we need. But Leonard Bernstein is probably not up for doing a jingle package right now.”
Bob said, “Wait here.” He went back into the theater and a moment later reappeared with a West Side Story LP which had been on sale in the theater lobby. “We’ll just find someone who can write music like this.”
“Oh, that shouldn’t be hard.”
“Well, all they have to do is imitate what’s on the record. The innovation’s already done.” Bob was excited, “And you know what the words are. You’ve already written half of them.”
“Yeah,” I said, “But my words don’t sound like that kind of music.”
“You can make them fit.” He was really pleased. “Made the trip to New York worth while. See? Everything is for a reason.”
And in a strange way, I guess that’s one more thing I owe to Gordon McLendon.
Next day, we took a taxi home from the airport when the lovely Lady Serendipity smiled again. We had the station on in the cab and tired as we were, we heard a spot for Mercury Cars that brought us both to attention. The music was right out of West Side Story. Obviously, the composer had been to New York too.
Bob lived in the heart of Hollywood. I dropped him off and then there was about a ten minute drive to Studio City where my wife Catherine was waiting at the door, phone in hand. Purcell. “Chuck! Mercury is Bobby Kaufman’s account.” Kaufman was the stations’ Number One sales guy, today he’d be called an account executive and he was a great one. “I called him and he called the Mercury Agency...” Bob sounded almost evangelical, he was so up! “A company called Sande/Greene did the Mercury Spots. Bob Sande and Larry Green. They’re going to be in our office in an hour!”
“Robert! It’s Christmas Eve.”
“Nah. Eve is evening. It’s only two o’clock.”
We met at three. They played us more of their work. The lyrics every bit as marvelous as their music. At four they were as excited as we were. “How many pieces do you hear?” asked Larry.
“Well”, I said, “I was thinking about maybe a dozen. Plus each of the deejays is gonna need a theme.”
“No.” Larry explained, “I meant, how many pieces in the orchestra? Do you think we could go as high as 18?”
“How many did Leonard Bernstein have?” Mr. Purcell wanted to know.
Bob and Larry looked at each other and answered as though they had rehearsed it, “He had to have at least 24.”
So Robert answered, “Then we need 24. Show them the words Chuck.”
“Oh.” Suddenly I heard a lot of strange humility coming out of my mouth, “You guys are a lot better at this than me, but I’ve written a lot of stuff. For the sports and weather, even a song about how we do the news.
And it’s all about Color Radio.”
Bob Sande: “Which is what?”
Me: “It’s an incredibly entertaining team of deejays, each with a distinctive and appealing personality and it’s a stream of compelling content unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. It’s programming that could change the sound of radio forever...”
Purcell: “Chuck. You’re giving a speech.”
Bob and Larry at once: “No, that’s what we need.”
For the most part, I was embarrassed to show them what I had written so I just listed what I though we needed songs for. You notice I keep calling them songs. Robert M Purcell had pointed out that Mr. Bernstein had never written anything that a sane person could ever call a jingle. But, there was one thing I had which I thought was pretty good and had the feel of what we were looking for lyrically. When I was in El Paso someone ( I’m sorry I can’t remember his name) sent me a note describing KELP at 920, “The most frequently frequented frequency”. I loved that and wanted to use it for KFWB. I handed it to Larry.
YOU CAN SEE
AND WE CAN SEE
AND *MR HOOPER, HE CAN SEE
THE MOST FREQUENTLY FREQUENTED FREQUENCY
IS ... COLOR RADIO. KFWB. CHANNEL 98.
(*Mr Hooper was a reference to the #1 ratings service at the time.)
One more thing. Till that time all radio station jingles sang the call letters in whatever melody fit the particular form of what they were doing. I said to Sande and Green, no matter what else they do, whatever the melody of a particular song, it must always end with the call letters and the frequency as a musical logo. Always the same melody. The tempo could change to match the song but the melody of the station ID would be constant. The first real station logo was about to be born.
There is a link to the first of the first that you can hear. It is the introduction of Color Radio to Southern California and it begins with my voice (in what was a God-awful delivery imitating some stentorian ass which I guess I thought would make it sound important. Please forgive that part of it.)
(...to be continued)
Visit Chuck at the Chuck Blore Company, online at www.chuckblore.com and send him an e-mail at email@example.com
So, as they say, now you know the rest of the story. Chuck’s book is a fascinating look into one of radio great minds. KFWB still uses the same musical logo created for them and first heard in 1958.