26 January 2008

TOTR jumps the shark

November 18, 1999. I was hosting a weekly classic rock show called Thursday on the Rocks on a small radio station in the lead-poisoned environs of Troy, Alabama. It was heard on the local AM station with a night power of 500 whopping watts, using a directional pattern which resembled a fish one might find in Pike County Lake.

Ignore the purple and blue "distant" and "fringe" lines here; at night, the signal was doing good to fill in just the red area -- 500 watts didn't pierce the AM hash on 970 very well. Today, the station replaced three towers with one, and now run nights at some 44 watts. Viva la blowtorch!

But late in September of 1999, the program moved to the FM station, giving it an immense boost in power and reach. 'TBF-FM could be heard very nicely 60 miles to the southwest in Dothan (population roughly 55,000). When this happened, I started getting something called "telephone calls" full of what we in radio have always called "requests."

On this magical night, November 18, I logged nearly two dozen requests. One of them I remember very well: a guy said the show "reminds (him) of the old 'IRB." I took that as a high compliment, because WIRB-FM 96.9 in Enterprise, which had something of a laid-back AOR (album-oriented rock) format in the early to mid '70s, was exactly what I trying to emulate.

I came out of 67 West Court Square that night feeling on top of the freakin' world. It was that simple.

My show, and the Tuesday night '70s-'80s pop show hosted by my friend Birdman called 8-Track Tuesday, were both beginning to be talked about.

And I'm afraid that was the beginning of the end. I can only speculate here, however I'm not alone in my theories. Much as I love 'TBF -- and much more than I did my day job over there -- WT-ummm, something or other -- there was, and is, a strong franchise called "The Morning Show", hosted by one of the station's owners. And I suspect that was the only "success" certain parties wanted. That night I left a note for the program director listing all the requests, which came from as far away as Campbellton, Fla. and Evergreen, Ala. (!!!).

I remember being asked not to "grovel" so much for requests. They kept coming in ... and pressure began to be felt. We were too "outlandish" with some program elements. I felt the harsh cold wind of micromanaging behind me. I had the program director on my side .... for whatever that was worth (and, in this case, it was becoming worth less and less).

And in January 2000, the format of the FM (oldies) was changed to "soft, relaxing favorites" -- basically your soft "oatmeal" AC. While my classic rock show, and Birdman's "8-track" show were reasonably compatible with the oldies format, the new "mellow" sound of 94.7 was not.

Birdman walked away, but I preempted the change by voluntarily removing my show from the FM, and kept it on AM. TOTR stayed, but I lost the audience. In 2000, nobody in Troy listened to 970 after dark, unless a ball game was on (and only then, provided folks could friggin' hear the station!). Much of the time, the only people listening were the program director and Birdman. It was like my old newspaper column over there -- few read it, except for Doc and Bird. So I pretty much wrote it for them.

Here is the playlist for the night of November 18, 1999. Thursday on the Rocks at its peak.........

6:05 - 7:00 PM::
I'm a Man Spencer Davis Group
American Girl Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
With Your Love Jefferson Starship
Hold On Kansas
Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime The Korgis
Love Is the Drug Roxy Music
Highway Song Blackfoot
Take It on the Run R-E-O Speedwagon
Unidentified Flying Tuna Trot R-E-O Speedwagon
On the Dark Side John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band
Invisible Sun The Police
Burning Down the House Talking Heads
I'm a Man The Yardbirds
7:05 - 8:00 PM:
Any Way You Want It Journey
Only the Young Journey
Send Her My Love Journey
Light My Fire The Doors
Little By Little Robert Plant
Darling Be Home Soon Joe Cocker
(I'm a)Road Runner / Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours) Peter Frampton
The Grand Illusion Styx
Everything Works If You Let It Cheap Trick
Shakin' Eddie Money
Parker's Band Steely Dan
8:05 - 9:00 PM:
Rock & Roll Never Forgets Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Hollywood Nights Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Coming Home Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
My Head's In Mississippi Z Z Top
Sunshine of Your Love Cream
Jailbreak Thin Lizzy
Poundcake Van Halen
Cry Baby Janis Joplin
Say What! Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
Going Up the Country Canned Heat
War Games Crosby, Stills & Nash
9:05 - 10:00 PM::
No More Neil Young
My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) Neil Young & Crazy Horse
You and Me Neil Young
English Sunset The Moody Blues
Gypsy The Moody Blues
Don't Say You Love Me Billy Squier
Rubber Bullets 10cc
Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights) The Pat Travers Band
Mr. Roberts ("Molest") National Lampoon
When the Levee Breaks Led Zeppelin
Ballad of Easy Rider Roger McGuinn
10:05 - 11:00 PM:
Everything's Coming Our Way Santana
Singing Winds, Crying Beasts Santana
She's Not There Santana
So Fine Electric Light Orchestra
Old Old Woodstock Van Morrison
Tomorrow Never Knows The Beatles
Don't Bogart Me The Fraternity of Man
She Belongs To Me Bob Dylan
Dreams I'll Never See The Allman Brothers Band
Hey Joe Jimi Hendrix
A Salty Dog Procol Harum
Embryonic Journey [closing theme] Jefferson Airplane

I'll post more playlists if there's any interest in seeing 'em again.

In closing, I have to say that I'm blessed to have been able to do this kind of radio at a time when it could be done. I doubt I could do this show in a place like Troy, Alabama post-9/11. I took advantage of the light audience late at night, especially when it was on AM, to get a little, ohhhh, subversive.

And the memories keep on comin'

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "The host with a heart of solid rock" Gleck

1 comment:

nettiemac said...

You will never know how much I have enjoyed all the TOTR copies you have given me. When radio here is desolate (as it often is), I'll pop in one of the CD's and remember what good radio is like.