Chapter 6

My agreement with Westinghouse had me tied up so I couldn't work within 100 miles of New York. That's how tight the contracts were back then. With ten months remaining on my WINS contract I knew I'd have some money coming my way to hold me over until I found a new job.

 

The Westinghouse plan was to send me to one of their other stations. My options were Boston, Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, Chicago, or station KYW in Cleveland. I knew I didn't want to return to Cleveland and go up against my beloved WHK.

 

Before I left WHK for New York, my general manager, Jack Thayer, had promised the door "would always be open" if I ever needed work. Now, without a job, I did consider Jack's invitation. However, I knew in my heart that I couldn't recapture the excitement of what I had accomplished at WHK. I really couldn't go back. All Cleveland options were dead on arrival as far as I was concerned.

 

My next call came from Clint Churchill, owner of San Francisco's KYA, and the same guy who had tried unsuccessfully to hire me in Buffalo. I answered the phone, and Clint boomed, "Now I gotcha!"

 

"Yeah, it's a good chance that you do," I answered.

 

Clint flew to New York and we discussed his job offer over dinner.

 

"I can't pay you a lot of money, but I can get you what you came to New York for. You can work for me at KYA," he told me.

 

It sounded pretty great to me. I knew little about KYA, and I had never been to San Francisco, but I took his word for it and agreed to the job.

Clare and I packed up the house, our two girls, and our English pug, "Toasty the Wonder Dog," and flew to the city by the bay. Bill Gavin, with his wife, Janet, met us at the airport. Bill Gavin and Clint Churchill were the only people we knew in San Francisco, which was fine by me since Gavin was the most powerful man in the music business.

 

Fifteen years earlier, Billboard magazine had published an "Honor Roll of Hits," the Top 30 best-selling single records in America each week. Bill Gavin took that list and turned it into a radio show on station KNBC. The first of his real genius moves was when he thought to write disc jockeys across the country and ask them to send him their Top Ten record lists. "Mad Daddy" Myers was one of Gavin's earliest contributors.

 

Radio stations began to ask Bill if he would help them program their own formats around this "Top Ten" approach. Next, Gavin developed a rotation scheme where new records would be added once an hour. He first marketed this programming service to KYA and San Diego's KCBQ. Bill added a report three times a week on what songs he thought should be played and the tunes that other stations were tracking. This became the "Bill Gavin Record Report." It was the radio programmer's Bible.

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© Johnny Holliday and Steve Moore