As we get into “the season” beginning with the thankful month, thank you for giving me a few minutes of your time. My word morsels will be few.
It’s my monthly pleasure to recall and enjoy some of the glory days of Atlanta’s radio, music, and entertainment scene. Those days when AM and FM radios gave us our musical diets. Fast forward, and isn’t it great that today we older people have these mind-blowing ways to receive our media? Today’s technology and the sound simply blows me away – and I’ve got only one good ear!
I recently enjoyed lunch with seasoned pros retired from the business, who could tell even more stories than me. There were five of us, and most had known each other for more than 45 years. Some in radio, some in the record business. We discussed outrageous stunts and promotions we’d all done as well as the great on-air people we knew and worked with.
Payola and wise guys in the business also popped up. Wise guys – not to be confused with the ones who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh – but crooks in the music business, mainly record labels. I’ll use the word: Mafia.
The subject of bootlegged product also came up. Not the drinkin’ stuff that was more than likely happening a few miles north of Atlanta, but fake copies of records and tapes. There were bribes, threats, exchanges of cash all in the name of a hit song. Fun times!
A few disc jockeys were dirty because the allure of those special favors the labels could offer was too enticing. There are a few books on the subject if you care to find out more. I’m not going to promote any book, and I’m certainly not going to give any names.
The visitors from main headquarters in New York, LA, and Miami certainly enjoyed the finest Atlanta had to offer for their accommodations. Also, quirky places like the recently demolished Aunt Fannie’s Cabin. We southerners really took a lickin’ about our accents, while they didn’t have a problem lickin’ their plates clean of their vittles.
I can truthfully say every one of the “suspected family members” were always sharp, professional, warm, and friendly. I had pleasant professional friendships with some. I’m assuming payola, play for favors or other means of exposure, are still around. Not necessarily for radio. I recently read where the social media platform TikTok breaks, or exposes more new music product than radio.
Reflecting on greats no longer with us while preparing this column, I had a moment remembering my longtime friend Larry Munson, the legendary sports commentator renowned for his play-by-pay of Georgia Bulldog games. He would have been 100 this year. Wow!
Larry could tell great stories, and they had nothing to do with football. Some Dawgs will never die, and I’m so glad I was with him for many years. I still miss him, and tell Munson stories. One of the reasons he liked me? I never discussed football. It would be like asking a multi-platinum recording artist what their favorite song is. Dumb. Annoying.
And Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without the Great Turkey Drop on the hilarious sitcom, “WKRP in Cincinnati.” I won’t burst your bubble, but that radio promotion-stunt was embellished, and enhanced a bit by the writers of the show. How do I know this? I had the pleasure of working for “The Big Guy” for seven of the best years of my life at WQXI, the station the show was patterned after. It was a year before my time, but I worked with the actual people the characters portrayed. I won’t divulge the secret.
At the end of our two-hour lunch for old guys, we joked that we were all in our 20s and 30s at the top of the heap in our careers. Being a senior now, we all realized how we were “children” running the most successful radio stations and record companies in the world. It’s frightening.
Once again, thank you for your time. Have an amazing holiday.