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Monday, December 1, 2008

Bill Drake 1937 - 2008

Boss Angeles TV station KCAL is reporting the death of radio programming giant Bill Drake. He was 71. Of the stations Drake programmed KHJ in "Boss Angeles" was the most famous. Drake took the already popular Top 40 format and made it exciting. He gave Top 40 a streamlined style. The Wikipedia entry for Bill Drake explains his importance to radio in the best way.

"Drake streamlined the Top 40 format, using modern methods, such as market research and ratings demographics, to maximize the number of listeners. He believed in forward momentum, limiting the amount of disc jockey chatter, the number of advertisements and playing only the top hits, as opposed to less-organized programming methods of the past. Drake created concepts such as 20/20 News and counter programming, by playing music sweeps, while his competitors aired news. Drake-Chenault controlled everything from the specific DJs that were hired, to radio contests, visual logos, promotions and commercial policy. Drake essentially put radio back into the hands of programming, instead of sales. Drake hired the Johnny Mann Singers to produce the Boss Radio jingles, ensuring a bright, high-energy sound that engaged the listener, while providing a bridge from song to song, as well as a smooth transition from songs to commercials."

Yes, he created a strict format but it was a fun and enjoyable one. His stars were fun guys like Robert W. Morgan and the Real Don Steel, not screaming right-wing wackos. He made radio appealed to those who liked to listen to the radio for new music and maybe a joke or two, rather than people who complain about hearing the same liner or jingle more than once a day. Drake didn't suffer fools and whiners, he made radio for those who wanted to be hip and belong to a generation.

For a sample of KHJ and Drake's master touch there is a composite of stuff from the 70's on, a 1968 KHJ aircheck of Robert W. Morgan is here on Rock Radio Scrapbook, and a compilation from You Tube with photos of the Top 40 fliers.

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