The Worst AND Best Radio Station I Worked For-It’s The SAME Place!
by POPSIE 1956
Ever have a job SO bad you hated everything about it? The idiots who ran the place? The WAY the idiots ran the place? The frustration that you could do NOTHING to fix it?
I’ve had a few in my career, but the one I’ll talk about here would be VERY unbelievable to anyone who didn’t work there.
However, what made it among my FAVORITE places to work…was the group of people I worked with, and what we as a group did to fight the system, and for a brief moment, BEAT the system.
For those who know my background, you will probably know the job I speak of. If you don’t, I will speak in vague tones. The station in it’s past form no longer exists, nor do (essentially) the major players I will speak of. Nonetheless, I’m still covering my a**.
It was the early 1980’s and I was working in Mansfield, Ohio at my second full time Radio job. I had just gotten married…again (See reference point-Ex Wife # 2), and after nearly three years with my current employer, it was time to move on and move up.
I heard of a station in the suburbs of Cleveland that was going to have a format change. This was to be…or so I was led to believe..a real life WKRP, they were switching from a Beautiful Music station to a Top 40, or Contemporary Hit Radio station.
I was the last full timer hired, so I got the last full time shift, the Graveyard Shift from Midnight-6 AM.
I’m in my late 20’s at this point and was used to staying up all night so I thought this would be a breeze.
Before I move on; some background on the players.
The two radio stations in the building were (still are?) owned by the local newspaper, and the owner of said paper, let’s call him “Dolph,” was a very..very…VERY old German fellow, a confirmed bachelor I believe, who, according to the rumor going around by veteran staff, MAY…their words, not mine…MAY…have had some association with Nazi Germany.
The General Manager, let’s call him “Polka King”, for his time years ago when he was known for breaking major hits like “Who Stole The Kishka,” was an Old Old OLD School RADIO ANNOUNCER, the kind who could only talk on the air with a hand cupped next to his ear, smoked dog crap smelling cigars, always wore dark, pin stripped suits, and was in a foul mood constantly, like he was waiting for the Ex Lax to kick in.
The Operations Manager (in reality Program Director, but since, according to him, he didn’t “program shows,” didn’t go by that title) was the son of “Polka King,” who had the job ONLY because he WAS son of “Polka King.”
We’ll call this jackass “Polka W. King.”
So before the station even changed the format, we knew there was trouble.
The station’s slogan was “B” (one of the call letters) followed by the frequency.
We even had a cool logo of the slogan with an actual bee in front of it.
Problem was, the bee was already taken, it was the Honey Nuts Cheerios Bee, and no one got permission to use it.
This logo, and the bee, was used for bumper stickers, t shirts, and newspaper ads, but only in the company owned paper (See “Dolph.”)
According to rumor, an employee MAY have sent that logo to the General Mills people.
You can just imagine the reaction.
So Day One of the switch, again, we’re a Top 40 station, that means the hot tunes are played a lot in rotation.
The hottest songs, ten of them, were supposed to rotate every ninety minutes to two hours.
Except that “Polka W. King” wasn’t ready when the new station signed on, leaving us with I believe just SIX songs to rotate instead of the ten.
THAT meant the rotation was now EVERY 40-45 MINUTES!
To this day, whenever I hear “Allentown” or “Mr. Roboto,” I have a Grand Mal Seizure and become incontinent both front and back.
Then there were the songs we DIDN’T play that were VERY popular.
Ever hear of a little album called “Thriller”?
Ever hear of a little song called “Billie Jean”?
When that song AND album destroyed the charts, you never heard them on THIS station.
Because of Michael Jackson.
According to “Polka W. King,” Michael Jackson was (his words, and not mine) a “jigaboo.”
And if you don’t believe me, I can provide you a list of former co workers who will testify to that fact.
Truth be told, EVERY song by an African American artist was “Jig Music,” according to this guy.
As God is my witness…..
Here’s something for the radio people reading this, at the time, ALL of our music was dubbed onto a cart (non radio people, a cart was like an 8 track tape…younger readers…ask your parents).
Radio people KNOW when you hit the button and the cart starts to play, you expect music INSTANTLY.
That’s not the way “Polka W. King” did it.
He would start to hit record on the cart, take a drag or two or three from his smoke, THEN start the turntable.
There could be from 4-9 seconds of dead space before you would hear the song.
As radio people know,dead air is deadly, and you could NEVER keep track of how long the dead spot was, keep in mind, we had a library of say 500 songs, EVERY ONE OF THEM recorded the wrong way.
In time we had an employee come in late at night and rerecord the songs the right way, and because “Polka W. King” was such an idiot, we knew we’d never be caught.
OK, there’s the set up, I still have a little more, and honestly I really can write an ENTIRE BOOK about this pit of Hell, so I’ll just give you a couple of other examples.
So as I said, Week One, I’m doing Overnights.
Week Two, I’m doing Afternoon Drive, and (if memory serves me) the Afternoon Guy went to Overnights.
Never understood that, the guy was great, but it was the decision (and a poor one at that) of “Polka W, King,” to this day for reasons unknown.
Eventually I did the Morning Show there, till I was taken off and put on the Beautiful Music AM station there doing nights, but that’s for another time and another blog, since it got me back home to Albany NY.
You know how many music stations today sound like their music is speeded up?
We did it first, but we did it in a…unique…way.
Due to “Polka W. King” farting around when he started recording songs on carts, many times the cart would run out of recording tape BEFORE the song ended.
A classic example was the great Eagles song “Take It Easy.”
The song is, say 3:37 in length.
“Polka W. King” recorded it on a cart with only 3:30 worth of tape.
You know the banjo part at the end?
All “Polka W. King” did was pitch up the song AT THE END IN ORDER TO GET IT ALL ON THE CART!
So the song played normal till then, when the banjos were suddenly played by The Chipmunks!
I also don’t remember the exact title, but we had a Jackson Browne song that actually SKIPPED for the last ten seconds of the song ON THE RECORDED CART!
He just kept it that way.
Because he was…sorry…he is…A F*CKING MORON!
Two last bits of bad.
1984, I’m doing Mornings, AND doing my own News. It’s the day AFTER the Ohio Presidential Primary, won by Gary Hart, followed by Walter Mondale, with Jesse Jackson third.
I’m doing the News and mention all three, all of a sudden, Polka W. King comes in, rips up my copy, and says “Jesse Jackson is a minority candidate in more ways than one,” and alludes to the fact that if I say his name again, I’m fired.
True, true, true.
According to a rumor, someone in the News Department either was yelled at strongly or fired (can’t remember which) for doing a story about a memorial at Kent State University.
Kent State, as in “Four Dead In Ohio?”
In the minds of management, the National Guard was right and justified for killing those kids.
So when I say WORST, trust me I MEAN worst!
I lasted there a little over three and a half years. In time, “Polka King” retired, we got a new General Manager (aka “The Nice Guy”) and “Polka W. King,” without Daddy to protect him, got shown the door.
Now, what makes it the BEST place I ever worked for?
Simple, the people.
During this time, every one in that building had a mutual hatred for not just “Polka King,” but EVEN MORE SO, for “Polka W, King.”
So much so, we had a mutual enemy.
We became one force.
We became family.
In time, we beat the bastards.
During our times of strife, we would get together weekly at the local bar, get hammered, and spoke out about the two f*cks in charge.
We talked of torture.
We talked of revenge.
Most importantly, we talked as one.
I have not seen these people since late 1986.
God how I miss them.
Thanks to Social Media, I still keep up with a number of them.
If I’m lucky, when I return to Ohio in 2018 for my 40th college reunion, I’ll have a chance to see some of them again.
I leave you with this, if your co workers of the past are your friends of the present and future, you are truly blessed.