Thursday, October 1, 2009

Break Time

The initial idea for this blog was to track down folks who had a hand in these records - the performers, the disc jockeys, and anyone else - and have them tell me their stories. This was never going to be a "what Lisa thinks of a record" blog.

At first, the reception to the project, and the response to requests for interviews was wonderful. Folks wanted to share their memories and history. However, for whatever reason, I'm having trouble finding willing participants to continue this blog, even with once a month postings.

The blog will remain - if only as an archive - until I eventually hear back from folks to continue it on a regular basis. If you are reading this, and either appear on these discs as a performer, or had a hand in the creation (disc jockeys, program directors), I would love to chat with you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Starstream Records

Interview with Gene Tognacci conducted June-August, 2009

While local radio station compilations have been around since the early 1960s, no label has taken the concept further than the Houston-based Starstream. Amassing an estimated 300+ albums and singles in its catalog, the company’s Big Music America, Rock to Riches, Superstar Talent Search, and Budweiser Showdown titles have given acts such as The Replacements and Bon Jovi their first big break on vinyl.

Ken Kramer, a Houston businessman, and Dr. Don Altfeld, a songwriting medical student who, in 1964, co-penned “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” came up with the idea to pitch homegrown talent albums to radio stations, as part of a nation-wide contest. They named their company Big Music America Corporation. The inaugural project on their new Nova record label would be the Big Music America contest.

View album songs and artists HERE.

“Kramer realized that since the project was basically a radio-driven promotion, he needed someone with more radio experience to run the company and he brought in veteran radio programmer Gary Firth as general manager,” said Gene Tognacci.

Tognacci had worked in radio at KTAR, KNIX and KOY in Phoenix, as well as WIRK-FM and WINZ, in Florida. He had crossed paths with Firth when they did time at KUPD in Phoenix. “He brought me in from Phoenix as production director and to handle affiliation relations – he wanted someone who knew radio to help him grow the company.”

According to Tognacci, the label’s first Nova release was a compilation of songs from various radio stations in Mississippi (unfortunately, he doesn’t recollect the name of the album). Soon after Nova released albums from Houston (KFMK), Pittsburgh (WDVE), Memphis (WMC), and Chattanooga (WSKZ).

Shortly after the release of Denver's KTLK Colorado Music ’80, the company’s corporate entity changed to Starstream Communications Group. They ditched the Nova label to reflect the change – and to honor their financial backer.

“Harold Stream III, a Louisiana oilman, was Ken Kramer’s lead investor in the venture, and I believe that either Ken or Gary’s wife came up with the name of the label,” Tognacci said.

While a handful of stations took part in the Big Music America contest, the concept was a hard sell.

“First of all, the contest had no real track record,” Tognacci said. “Second, album sales were dipping, and third, it wasn’t a fit for most pop stations.” Album rock stations were viewed as the best targets, but most, such as KDKB and KLOL, were already doing their own compilations. “The price tag for the radio stations to purchase several thousand albums was also very daunting.”

Starstream would go on to release 28 Big Music America albums.

“The Stompers, out of Boston, won the national contest the first year," Tognacci said. The band's winning song, "Shutdown," appeared on WCOZ Best of the Boston Beat - Vol. 2. While Atlantic Records offered the band a one 45 single deal, as part of their winnings (along with $25,000 and a sound equipment package), The Stompers ended up signing with Boardwalk Records, which offered them a full album deal.

"Interestingly, I see that they’re still playing in the New England area,” Tognacci said.

While the Big Music America contest was considered a success, it became obvious to the company that it couldn’t survive without a sponsor.

“So Ken and Gary set out to find corporate advertisers who would like to support the contest in return for promotional announcements on the participating radio stations.”

For the next compilation series, Rock to Riches, Miller Brewing Company came on board and gave the contest the dollars it needed to be promoted nationally, and the credibility it needed with the radio stations.

“Now, instead of asking the radio stations to foot the entire bill, we were coming in the door with promotional posters, local prizes, club nights for the bands—and of course the opportunity for the radio stations to chum up to one of the biggest advertisers on the radio at the time.”

The company hired additional staff to sign up stations, coordinate promotional announcements and book nightclubs.

“Our contract with the various advertisers dictated that we secure stations in certain key markets and we were paid by the national sponsor to deliver 'x' number of promotional announcements on major market radio stations with a certain rating,” Tognacci said.

At times it took some creative negotiating to deliver the contractual obligations.

“New York is a classic example,” he said. “We needed to deliver a station in the #1 market in the country, New York City, and WNEW kept turning me down for months. Finally within a few days of my deadline, WAPP changed format from beautiful music to rock, and program director Steve Ellis took the program.”

View album songs and artists HERE.

Ironically it was WAPP’s participation in the contest that gave Jon Bongiovi his recording debut. The album features the first appearance of the song "Runaway.”

Starstream went on to release 200 different Rock to Riches compilations, from 1982-1983.

“Most of the remix work was done at Cook Sound in Houston. We also used ACA, Sugar Hill and Inergy studios when we had odd format masters like 16 and 24 tracks. Mastering was mostly done by M.C. Rather in Nashville and Carl Rowatti at Trutone in New Jersey. Pressing was done at CBS records plants around the country and then later at Peter Pan Industries in New Jersey.”

Standard album cover art was provided to each station, however many handled the creative concept themselves. “Since there was a station expense involved in getting artwork ready for production, we always offered a “house cover” to the stations. The Big Music America cover was one version, the KZOK and WANS crowd cover is another.”

“Originally ballots were included in the album and counted by either the local radio station or mailed to Starstream for counting. Sometimes the radio station did away with the balloting and had local and national music celebrities and executives determine the best local band," he said. "When all local winners were determined we would divide the country into equal regions. Participating program directors were then sent a cassette of all the local winners in their region and they would vote for the regional winner. Voting criteria included originality, quality of recording, and commercial appeal."

When the regional winners were determined they were invited to the national finals to play before a panel of record company executives.

Finals were originally held in New York and then later moved to Los Angeles.

“The national finals were a big production – celebrities including Howard Hessman [Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP], and comedians Richard Belzer, Father Guido Sarducci [comedian Don Novello], and Judy Tenuta acted as hosts for the event,” Tognacci said. Special guests also included Rick Derringer, Night Ranger and the previous year’s national winner.

After the success of the Rock to Riches series, Starstream quickly unveiled the next contest – The Stroh’s Superstar Talent Search, which ran from 1984-1985. However the concept was not as successful as the previous series – the label only released 30 different albums.

“It may have had a bit to do with the regional nature of Stroh’s and their targeted markets,” Tognacci admitted. “Remember, by now this was a national promotion and the sponsor was directing which markets we approached and how much money was spent in each. Also, around this time, CDs were coming out and it was way too expensive for us to make that jump. It would have cost almost as much to just prepare the glass master as we were paying for pressing.”

The company attempted to make one more compilation series, using the LP format, in 1988, partnering with Seagram's Coolers.

In 1983, Starstream secured Budweiser to sponsor its Showdown series. As compared to the previous full album promotion, this series featured urban performers on 45s and 12” singles.

“We also felt that it matched the prevailing club scene better at the time,” Tognacci said. “Budwieser was looking to strengthen its presence in the urban market. The opportunity to tie in with a local radio station and clubs was a goodwill building effort.”

The national finals were elaborate affairs with the likes of Lou Rawls and Don Cornelius hosting, along with actress Jayne Kennedy, and singers Thelma Houston, Larry Graham, and Patti Austin.

“We had some great radio stations participating like KDAY in Los Angeles, WBMX and WGCI in Chicago, WBLS and WRKS in New York City and Majic 102 in Houston,” he said.

The series ran from 1983-1989.

Starstream also did a Hispanic talent search, for one year, with the finals at the Astrodome in Houston. “We had some help from David Thompson and Art Gottschalk, owners of Sugar Hill Studios with that.”

Shortly after the Budweiser series, Starstream decided to diversify its portfolio. “We went into radio syndication and other radio promotions that were expensive to run and ultimately generated little to no revenue.”

Starstream was sold in 1991.

Tognacci went on to become a successful voice actor.

“I also enjoy watching the crazy prices those Budweiser Showdown records are fetching on eBay.”

Starstream Discography
(NOTE: List is not complete. If you can provide any information, please contact me)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

WKLS Home Cookin' II (1981)

Interview with Brett Hart (Metalworks), conducted July, 2009.

Side One
Storm Inside My Head - Fortnox
Get it To Go - Illusion
Be My Man - Dreamer
Heart of Steel - Billy the Kid
Trip, Fall, Get Up Again - Bert Elliot’s Changes
She’s a Leaver - The Sockets

Side Two
In The Name of Rock and Roll - Metalworks
Earthdogs - Public Enemy
Be Somebody - Frank Furter and the Human Beans
Dancin’ To Your Heartbeat - Buddy Causey and the Handsome White Boys
Three Years Too Late - Heathen Girls
Please Buy This Record - John Diazo and the Duplicators

For those familiar with the famous bands of Georgia, DeKalb County, located just a few Metro stops away from Atlanta, is known as home to the Indigo Girls—but back in early 1980s, before Amy and Emily hit the Top 40, the music scene in the suburb was ripe with local talent, all looking for that one shot of stardom outside the Peach State.

“Clay Hayes and I went to the same high school, Shamrock High School, the same high school as the Indigo Girls,” said Brett Hart. “It was 1977, and I was 16 and Clay was 18. He had a Sears & Roebuck guitar/amp combo and I had a Gilbert copy of a Fender Precision that I had bought and taught myself on to play in the school's jazz ensemble."

After a short stint in the Navy, Hart returned to find Hayes jamming with Mike Hinton, a junior at nearby Redan High School, and bass player named Steve Botsford.

“One night, Clay took me, my bass, and my amp to Mike's house without telling Steve. We started playing together and the room just exploded. Steve had plans to join a band called Rampage, which became our "brother" band. We auditioned singers throughout the summer of 1980 until George Baisch, who graduated from nearby Stone Mountain High School, tried out and was accepted. We practiced throughout the fall and Metalworks debuted at the Christmas dance at Shamrock on December 6, 1980.”

Metalworks from left to right: Mike Hinton, drums and percussion;
Brett Hart, bass and keyboards; George Baisch, lead vocals;
Clay Hayes, lead guitar and vocals

The group honed their act across the Atlanta club scene, at schools, and keg parties. “We also played at an outdoor concert behind Stone Mountain organized by Rampage's former bass player, Lindy Potts, called Stone Mountain Jam II for over 4,000 screaming fans in the summer of 1981.”

That summer, radio station WKLS (96 Rock) announced it was taking entries for the second in its successful Home Cookin’ LP series. The band hooked up with disc jockey Steve Starnes to produce the band’s entry, at Monarch Studios.

The contest allowed each band to send two tracks for consideration. “Steve picked the songs, one from our first demo tape ("Queen for a Day") and one he had heard us play at Green's and liked a lot ("In the Name of Rock and Roll"), for us to record at Monarch Studios,” Hart said.

On October 27, 1981, 96 Rock announced the bands chosen to be a part of Home Cookin’ II. “I was sitting in my living room; Clay and Mike were on their way home from work; I don't know where George was. The DJ went down the list in the same order as they would appear on the album. I tape recorded the announcement. When the DJ said Metalworks, I jumped out of my chair and ran around the room whooping. Clay was the first one to phone me -- we screamed for five minutes and hung up on each other. Steve called and joked, "They did say Metalworks, didn't they?" I played the tape back for him just to be sure, and when the recording said "Metalworks," started screaming again.”

The band’s song, “In The Name of Rock and Roll” had been chosen.

After the release of Home Cookin II, Metalworks kept busy, playing regular gigs throughout Georgia. “We were immediately booked for about a year playing large venues such as the Agora Ballroom, Rumors, the amphitheater at Chastain Park, Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, West Georgia College, Emory University, and other mainstream concert bars.”

The group also went back to the studio to record its first album—but the band would soon unravel.

“We recorded the other eight songs at Monarch in late summer or early fall of 1982 in preparation to move to Los Angeles. George got heavier into drugs, and we fired him. After George, we couldn't find another acceptable lead singer, so we disbanded about six months after the recording.”

In 1996, just three days before signing a record deal in Los Angeles, Baisch died from a drug overdose.

In 2005, Steve Starnes uncovered the original demo tape, recorded by the band during that 1982 recording session. “He later discovered that Larry Turner, our engineer, had a first generation tape made from the original masters, which had long since been destroyed - so he and Larry digitally remastered that tape on compact disc,” Hart said. The CD Unfinished Business was released by Catapult Records, in June.

The re-release of the band’s winning entry on the Home Cookin’ II LP, "In the Name of Rock and Roll," recently charted on the SoundClick metal charts at #137 (out of over 73,000 metal songs), and on the heavy metal charts at #47 (out of over 32,000 heavy metal songs).

Hart still occasionally picks up his bass, and now runs a Web site dedicated to his former band. “I now work for the State of Georgia in a non-law enforcement professional capacity, work part-time editing and developing a guide for CPA candidates to help them pass the exam, and trying to get Unfinished Business introduced to as many people as possible.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Story of Take 6 (1966-1969)

Interview with Joe Daigle conducted June, 2009

In 1963, Joe Daigle, fresh out of the Air Force, found a job in California repossessing cars – when his career would take a drastic turn.

“One of their customers was a local popular disc jockey who was always late with his Cadillac car payments. So I had to repo his car almost on a monthly basis. Then he would bring his account current and retrieve his car. He also had a very small record company that released oldies albums that he would sell mail order on his radio show. We sort of became friends and when I quit the repo business, he offered me a job handling all phases of his company.”

He was only at the record company a few months when David Rolnick a New York businessman, moved to Los Angeles and purchased the label, and merged it with his New York company, Take 6. Rolnick had an idea to pitch record album compilations to local radio stations as a promotional offering to their listeners. Through his connections, his first releases were for soul station WWRL in the New York city area.

View song listing HERE.

“My job was the production of the albums—get all of the master tapes from the various record companies, which allowed us to use their songs, get the album jackets printed and fabricated, get those sequenced and timed for the manufacturing process, and then get the vinyl records pressed and shipped to distributors.”

With two successful products under his belt, Rolnick’s new label took off, keeping Daigle editing and mastering at his second home—the famed Gold Star Recording Studio in Hollywood.

“I went into the studio and compiled, timed the master tapes, then took them to the lab where a master disc was made then delivered it to the various pressing plants. Where the actual discs were pressed or manufactured.”

“Mono was determined by the master tapes received from the participating record companies. Generally if the song was a single only, we probably would get a mono tape, but if the artists put out a album from the popularity of the single we might get a stereo copy of the included song.”

Mastering tapes was only a part of Daigle’s job—he was also in charge of the artwork for each cover. Sometimes literally going out and hunting down the perfect props.

View song listing HERE.

“The KLIF album, with the Beethoven in shades, was my idea,” he said. “I went out and found the statuette, shades and the medallion.” The concept was also used for compilations in Birmingham, Buffalo,and Cleveland.

Take 6 was also known for its cartoon album cover art, often featuring caricatures of disc jockeys, or local attractions. Artists Rusty Evans (WWRL's Soul Brothers 1600 Present Soul Souvenirs, Volume 2), Hy Roth (WCFL 21 Sounds of Sunset), and Bert Wade (WAYS 21 Good Guy Goldies) offered their talents to the earlier releases.

A more consistent style began to appear with the arrival of comic book artist W. T. Vinson, who alone drew more than a dozen “King Kong” themed album covers.

View song listing HERE.

“We usually gave him a general idea what we wanted," said Daigle. "He would send us some sketches and we would pick and choose what we wanted--it was mostly a consensus.”

For one particular album cover, Vinson drew his version of a popular Janis Joplin album. “On the San Francisco KYA album we told Vinson to simulate the R. Crumb album of Big Brother and the Holding Company [Cheap Thrills cover].” The cover art was also used for KTSA in San Antonio and KEYN in Wichita.

View song listing HERE.

Daigle left Take 6 in 1969, “when Vice President Jerry Fine teamed up with Mickey Stevenson [former Motown V.P. and songwriter], to start their own company, People Records.” The label lasted a couple of years, and was merged with Canyon Records, which was owned by Wally [former member of the Heartbeats] and Rennie Roker.

I later moved to Original Sound Records where my old pal, Paul Politi, [who wrote “Those Oldies but Goodies”] had landed. I was there until 1984.”

Daigle served as promotions director at KRLA, during his later years at Original Sound Records. The label took over the management and programming of the station for about a decade. During that time, Daigle was involved in promoting the station on billboards, busboards, newspaper, and television.

“It was all a great learning experience as it was my introduction into the record business."

Daigle now runs a silkscreen business with his wife, and is the Webmaster for the late artist Leo Politi’s tribute site.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Unearthing the radio archives of Joe McChesney

Interview with Mike McChesney conducted February, 2009 and May, 2009.

Back in February I received a nice e-mail from Mike McChesney, the son of Joe McChesney, the disc jockey who spent 15 years at Dallas stations KIXL, KBOX, KMAP, WRR and KXXK. Mike had seen the blog entry I wrote on these KXXK jingle discs.

Read about that blog entry HERE

“I recognize my dad's handwriting on that picture you have of that record and I think I have more of those (as well as carts) in storage. My dad died a few years ago, and I inherited his collection. I've got all of this stuff that I don't know what to do with.”

Mike said he would contact me when he cleaned out the storage area.

The wait was agonizing. What treasures would he unearth? Then last month I received an e-mail:

“Give me a call. I’ve cleared out the storage shed.”

Nothing could prepare me for what I would be invited to view. It was literally a museum’s worth of Dallas radio artifacts. Boxes of carts, reel-to-reel tapes, records, pictures, fan letters, and cigarette lighters.

The history of not only a long-gone era of Dallas radio, but a well-preserved archive of one man—Joe McChesney.

Joe McChesney grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. After graduating from Central High School, he joined the Army in 1952. Just shy of a radio degree from Baylor, he landed his first radio job, in 1956, at KWTX in Waco.

Joe McChesney
KWTX Waco, 1957

After three years he headed west to KSET in El Paso.

In 1963 he would make his move to Dallas radio and the Greer Garson, William Holden, Tyrone Power-owned KIXL, where he would stay for two years.

McChesney would briefly man the boards at KBOX—as J. Morgan Van Buren—taking requests from March-November, 1965.

Click on picture to read fan letter.

After a brief stint at classical station KMAP, and then KXXK, he landed at oldies format WRR-AM – his radio home, for the next seven years. “I remember as a kid he would bring me up to the station because he had to work and I didn't have anywhere to go and he would set me up in the production room with a blank reel to reel and I would play DJ and record myself like I was on the air and do commercials. I still have some of those tapes. I knew how to run a board before I was 10-years-old," Mike McChesney said.

In 1978, the city of Dallas decided to dump the AM station, and focus on its FM holding. McChesney, along with numerous other staffers were asked to leave. 1310 became known as KAAM. In 1994, the station became sports-talk.

Click on picture to read termination letter.

Joe McChesney would later move to East Texas to manage KLUE in Longview.

He died in 2003.

Mike McChesney intends to keep most of the collection for his children, and hopes to give the rest to a university or Dallas historical society so others may learn about this era of Metroplex radio, and his father’s contribution to it.

“I gained a new appreciation for all of it and there was so much I wish I had asked him. My dad was so humble that I had no idea how big of a deal all of it was and what a golden age of radio that he was involved with. I wish I had appreciated it more.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Oldies But Goodies and Boogie Biggies - KPOI (1972-1975)

Interview with Glen Martin conducted March, 2009

In 1968, Glen Martin got his first break in radio, at powerhouse KHJ in Los Angeles. “I was an off-the-air, part-time employee in the promotion department, hired by Don Berrigan. As a junior in college, I worked three days a week and nights when needed.” But while the experience working with legends like Charlie Tuna and Don Steele was a dream come true for a college kid, the $2.00 an hour gig hauling stage equipment and screening Battle of the Band entries was not what he had in mind for a long-term career. A friend suggested he move to Hawaii, where he got his first full-time job, engineering the board for the morning show, and then working his own nine-noon show at KORL, in Honolulu.

“My first impression was that radio there was lagging several months behind the mainland and couldn’t hold a candle to what I grew up listening to in Los Angeles. But the stations sounded pretty good and grew on you once you got used to the place. KGMB dominated the ratings, and the morning star was the late AKU. One of the Top 40 stations was the legendary KPOI where the Mighty Leader, Mike Hamlin held down mornings and was terrific in the production studio too with some incredible rock concert spots. The other Top 40 was KKUA. Both were good and very competitive with one another, but it was KPOI where I wanted to work. After a few months at cross-town KORL, I got my chance.”

Martin started out as a newscaster and board operator at KPOI. “I ran the board and played the public affairs tapes including the old Powerline show,” he said. Just two months into the job he was offered his own on-air time slot. “I took over 9AM-Noon from mid-1972 into early 1974; did PM drive the rest of 1974 and early 1975, and then AM drive my final three months there.”

Using vinyl as a promotional tool was nothing new for KPOI. In the 1960s the station put out “Twist to Radio” and “Oldies But Goodies.” In the 70s the station decided to revisit the concept.

View song listing and back of album HERE

“The “Oldies But Goodies” series was a twelve volume set and we cooked up a deal to give away individual albums and full sets with the Original Sounds records people. We slapped our own promo piece on the back of each of the albums that featured the air staff at that time.

View song listing and inside of album HERE

“Boogie Biggies” was a similar album promotion done a couple of years later. It was a double LP and we were allowed to use the full inside fold out to promote the station and did so with a photo collage of all the air staff and some of the listeners.”

The station also offered listeners singles, with “Convention Confusion,” playing up on the “break-in” record craze of the era.

“I think General Manager and Program Director Tom Moffatt came up with the idea,” Martin said. “The record was done in the election year of 1972 and was modeled off of a concept that Dickie Goodman had tried with novelty records nationally – and not with much success either until “Mr. Jaws” in 1975. “Convention Confusion” did well on the air in 1972 and we did a similar record in late ’73 early ‘74 called “Gas Lines.” It was centered on the gas shortages and alternate-day rationing that was taking place then. When “Gas Lines” too was well-received, both novelty creations were pressed onto a collector edition single and given away in station promotions.”

The records were produced and recorded at KPOI, with Martin taking over mixing and editing duties on the discs. “The writing was a collaborative effort among Tom Moffatt and a few of the air staff including myself and KC Dennis.” Members of the air staff were featured under pseudonym reporter names on the “Convention Confusion” record, and the “Gas Lines” reporter questions were all voiced by News Director, Don Smith. The records were used as on-air giveaways.

By 1975, KPOI’s management and format changes (going from Top 40 to what Martin called “Chicken Rock”—“A watered-down version of Top 40 but without the edgier rock, and more oldies”) were reasons enough for Martin to leave the islands after five years and head back to the mainland—and KFMB-FM in San Diego. It wouldn’t be the only career change he would make.

“There was already a “Martin” on the air at B-100. Billy Martin was there first and was a good guy. I thought it would be better and respectful to use something different. I had only a few hours to come up with something before my first air shift. (Paul) McCartney was hot then and the name was more showbiz than Martin so I went with it (Glen McCartney). I wound up staying with that as an on-air name for most of the balance of my radio career.”

Martin would stay in San Diego for almost ten years, before heading to Chicago (WFYR and WCLR), and later Seattle (KLTX and KJR). He left radio in 1993 to become a financial planner and investment advisor.

“I think it wasn’t the same passion for me any more. My competitive urge had been greater than other management’s at the last two stations I was at. Programming was also a job only really well done if you committed to staying on it at some level of supervision 168 hours a week. I didn’t have that left in the tank anymore, didn’t want to miss my kids growing up and didn’t really relish leaving Seattle for the next big paycheck. I’m in financial services; connected to the same company I joined in 1993, but essentially working for myself consulting primarily smaller, closely-held businesses on financial, succession and estate planning.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Homebrew - WMYK K-94 (1980)

Interview with Wynn Evers conducted January, 2009

"WMYK 94, Love Broadcasting, from 1000 feet above Earth,
out in the woods, from the 100K watt Dismal Swamp tower."

In 1974 WMYK, or K-94 as it was known, signed on. The station broadcast rock across the Hampton Roads – the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area of Virginia and North Carolina.

On any given day the station’s jocks made themselves visible, taking part in any number of remotes, events and contests. The promotions were wildly popular, if not notorious in the community.

“In 1980, or ’81, we gave away $25,000 to the 25th caller who called in when they heard “Another One Bites the Dust,” said Wynn Evers, the station’s 6-midnight jock. “However, when we actually aired the song, we actually locked up the phones surrounding Hampton, Virginia Beach area, knocking out phone service for the mid Atlantic Eastern seaboard.”

The telephone company wasn’t pleased.

“I believe people, as far away as Baltimore, had their phones knocked out – there were no dial tones,” he said. “They [the phone company] kindly informed us that if we pulled that stunt again, that they may pull our telephone service. So when we did the contest again, we had to notify the phone company, telling them when we were going to give away the money, in confidentiality, so they would have personnel on hand, to cover the switchboard.

In another promotion, the station produced its own “homegrown” album, Homebrew, featuring local bands, including Bull, Homegrown Vigilante Band, Bubit, Boothill Express, Streettalk, X-Raves, Sutters Gold Streak Band, Snuff, Virginia Fire Band, and Super Grit Cowboy Band

“The cover was taken at an outdoor concert that benefited MS research,” Evers said. “The photo of the air staff lineup was taken at one of those memory lane photo shops. We thought the photo would keep the theme of the southern rock outlaw sound of the album.”

DJs pictured: Randy Berner, Jim Stanley, Stella Jones, John Rodman
John Heimerl, Wynn Evers, and Mac McClellan

But while the station’s shtick was to make themselves visible to their audience, some personalities managed to maintain an illusion of character—namely the wildly popular, Zonar.

“Jim Stanley was our morning man for years,” Evers said. “He came up with a character for the morning show called Zonar.” Based on some of the fans often seen at the station’s outdoor concerts, Zonar was an outrageous, spaced-out, Tommy Chong-styled personality, who instantly took off with listeners.

“The listeners thought Zonar was real,” said Evers.

In reality, the character of Zonar was produced each day prior to the Stanley’s next show. “Jim would pre-record all Zonar drops onto a cart and then he would just interact with Zonar, who was on tape.”

To seal the deal with the listener, Jim Stanley dressed up as Zonar, complete with wig and beard, and appeared at one of the station’s Portsmouth concerts. “We brought Zonar out to emcee. Once people saw him at the concert [about 25,000 people], he was real to the listeners.”

In 1983, WMYK’s run would end, when WNOR and shock jock Henry "The Bull" Del Toro would dominate the market. Sensing a need to reinvent itself, WMYK changed its format to new wave-modern rock, a format that had taken off on the West Coast. “That was not the case in Virginia,” Evers said. “Basically it was the death of that station. East coast wasn’t ready for it.”

After less than a year playing Talking Heads and New Order, the station changed its format again—to urban contemporary, and was known as "K-94 The Rhythm of the City.” After several additional format and call letter changes, the station is now known as WPYA, and is now a “we play anything” Bob format station.

Evers left the station in 1986 for a production director gig at WNOR. He left radio in 1992 and is currently a successful commercial voice talent.

“It was a great place to work. When I went to a couple of other stations, before I got out of radio, it wasn’t the same. Those days of radio are gone.”