Ask "Mr. Music"
Jerry Osborne

In syndication since 1986, and now in our 31st year — Over 3,100 questions answered
Most recent column here — 19 years of archived ones are linked below


FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 24, 2017

DEAR JERRY: Is there one radio station credited with coming up with the Top 40 format?
—Kris Richardson, Hollywood, Fla.

DEAR KRIS: Let me begin by saying where it did NOT begin.

Top 40 radio, essentially playing the most popular tunes repeatedly, did not originate in any of our major markets.

Its birthplace was Omaha, Nebraska, at KOWH, in the fall of 1951.

Whether an urban legend or not, one plausible account suggests that a radio executive noticed how often people played the same popular songs on juke boxes.

He wondered if a radio station could provide the same benefit, without requiring payment for each play?

Regardless of the inspiration source, the concept of a playlist made up of 30 to 60 records meant the listener is bound to hear either a proven hit, or a new release believed to be "hit bound."

Using this programming idea, the ratings at KOWH skyrocketed, and owner, Todd Storz, began to acquire more stations to present his new format.

Eventually, there were six Top 40 stations under the Storz Broadcasting Company umbrella: WTIX (New Orleans); WHB (Kansas City, Mo.); WDGY (Minneapolis-St. Paul); WQAM (Miami); KOMA (Oklahoma City); and KXOK (St. Louis).

Todd Storz, the Father of Top 40, sadly didn't make it to his own 40th, dying three weeks before his birthday (May 8, 1924 - April 13, 1964).

DEAR JERRY: I am a Canadian-born U.S. citizen who just started collecting Canadian-made singles, especially ones never issued in the USA.

I did appreciate your column of nearly 100 No. 1 hits in Canada that never charted in the U.S., but I would love to know the label information for any of those never issued here.

Why? Because then I can compile a want list!
—Arthur Jones, Grand Rapids, Mich.

DEAR ARTHUR: Of that batch of Canadian chart-toppers, over 80 percent were contemporaneously released on both sides of the border, leaving 20 No. 1 hits for which we know of no commercial issue in the States.

Chronologically, here are those contributions to your impending want list of Canadian originals:

1957: The Chantones - "Anne Marie" (Sparton 491R)
1958: Johnny Six - "Mademoiselle (My Used to Be)" (Decca 9-30512)
1959: The Del Tones - "Moonlight Party" (Quality K-1881)
1961: Craig Douglas With Harry Robinson and His Orchestra - "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" (Top Rank International JAR-555X)
1963: Cliff Richard - both "Summer Holiday" and "Dancing Shoes" (Capitol of Canada 72093)
1963: Bobby Curtola and the Martels - "Indian Giver" (Tartan 60-1015)
1966: Douglas Rankine With the Secrets - "Clear the Track Here Comes Shack [Eddie Shack of the Toronto Maple Leafs]" (RCA Victor Canada International 57-3384)
1966: The Ugly Ducklings - "Nothin'" (Yorktown 45001)
1967: The Ugly Ducklings - "Gaslight" (Yorktown 45013)
1979: The Monks - "Drugs in My Pocket" (Capitol of Canada 72831)
1980: Burton Cummings - "Fine State of Affairs" (Epic E4-4248)
1981: Streetheart - "Tin Soldier" (Capitol of Canada 72842)
1981: Rough Trade - "High School Confidential" (True North TN4-159)
1982: Split Enz - "Pioneer-Six Months in a Leaky Boat" (A&M 569)
1982: Kilowatt - "Lovers on the Run" (Dallcorte D-0701)
1983: Streetheart - "Comin' True" (Capitol of Canada 72902)
1983: Toronto - "Girls Night Out" (Solid Gold SGS-737)
1983: Jack Green - "Walking in My Sleep" (RCA Victor PB-50756)
1985: Northern Lights - "Tears Are Not Enough" (Columbia 7BEN-7073)
1986: Cats Can Fly - "Flippin' to the 'A' Side" (Epic E4-7132)

IZ ZAT SO? Looking back over 50 years in radio, I am grateful that since 1970 I have had a free hand. I choose my music, and say whatever seems entertaining, informative, and appropriate.

That freedom is light years away from how authoritarian Top 40 radio was in the mid-'60s, when nothing mattered more than ratings, and the competition was always fierce.

In most competitive markets, the on-air talent followed management's guidelines to the letter, that is if they wanted to keep their jobs.

Here are some real "Top 16" Top 40 dos and don'ts from the 1960s:

1. Open your show with an uptempo tune, and do the same when following the news
2. Keep chatter between records to under 60 seconds
3. The No. 1 song should be played once an hour
4. Pick to Click of the week should be played once per show
5. Regardless of the circumstances, never make an on-air apology
6. If you find a record to be scratchy or defective, get a replacement from the music director at once
7. Frequently give the survey position of the song being played
8. Announce call letters, time, and temperature between records
9. Pace should always be lively and up, unless there has been a tragic news story
10. Do not talk on the air with anyone in the studio who is unfamiliar to listeners
11. Never comment or ad lib when reading live copy, and do not opine about recorded spots
12. At least once per shift, plug the dee-jay whose show follows you
13. Unless it's a two-sided hit, and on the playlist, do not talk about what's on a B-side
14. Do not invite or take listener requests, unless you're doing an approved show for that purpose
15. Avoid playing two songs back-to-back with nothing said (we don't want listeners thinking you're in the john)
16. And finally, no dead air, ever!

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2017 columns

January 2 January 9 January 16 January 23 January 30
February 6 February 13 February 20 February 27
March 6 March 13 March 20 March 27
April 3 April 10 April 17 April 24
May 1 May 8 & 15 May 22 May 29
June 5 June 12 June 19 June 26
July 3 July 10 July 17

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