Is Pat O'Day the founding father of Northwest rock ‘n’ roll or the “Godfather” of the 1960s teen dance scene? A vampire or the catalyst? Or all of the above? There are many Northwesterners who would debate these points for days on end, but what is perfectly clear is that when it came to the business of rock music in the Northwest, Pat O’Day was the Chairman of the Board, the Grand Poobah, the Top Dog, the Big Kahuna. New York City had Alan Freed, Boston had Arnie Ginsberg, Los Angeles had Hunter Hancock, and Seattle had O’Day. As Seattle’s highest-profile DJ of the 1960s and the region’s dominant dance promoter, Pat O’Day ran Northwest rock ‘n’ roll for nearly a decade. ~~from HistoryLink. Read the whole story here.
These days, Pat O’Day, 72, the man who personified KJR (Channel 95) for so many of us, is a Friday Harbor businessman a Republican, an author (It Was All Just Rock 'n' Roll II) and ubiquitous spokeshole for Schick Schadel Hospital. He’s inarguably the most successful personality, programmer, and promoter in Seattle radio history.
Pat agreed to comment for BlatherWatch on the state of Seattle news talk radio. He takes no prisoners, and even though he’s a damn Republican, we wish he were directing some programming around Seattle in these dog days of talk-talk.
Let’s Do It Right For A Change!
news talk radio and play by play may be the last soldiers left standing…
By Pat O’Day
MUSIC RADIO UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF GEEKY, unqualified, non-creative, clueless program directors is gradually handing its audience over to iPods, and satellite programming.
There’s no reason why talk and news radio- especially that with strong local influences, can’t grow and not suffer!
One can’t evaluate talk radio, local or national, without establishing a base line and that base line today is Rush Limbaugh. He personifies the greatness of the medium and how it can be employed to maximum effectiveness. Limbaugh must be credited with being one of the five most important radio contributors in the history of the industry.
(And I’m not sure who the other four are. Probably we include Todd Storz, Gordon McClendon, and Sarnoff.) He saved AM radio from near extinction and provided a path to renewed and salient viability).
No, I’m not talking about Rush’s politics. I’m talking about Rush, the performer.
Rush uses radio as we used radio in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s- as a stage where theatrics thrive by employing radio’s third dimension, which is only possible with audio-only vehicles.
It’s called: the “Theater of The Mind.”
Rush says he was inspired greatly by Larry Lujack when Rush was growing up in Missouri and listening while Larry was on WLS Chicago. Well, Larry was a great role model as every Lujack show was consistent, well-prepared, topical; painting verbal pictures, cynical as only Larry can be- outrageously arrogant, and in the third dimension.
Now, Limbaugh employs those same tools, coupled with a conservative agenda, in creating the most listened to program in all of radio. I mention this for an important reason. Radio is only as good as its performer. The mere fact that you are a talk format, and you deal with controversial matter, doesn’t make for great listening, or large audiences.
Without great performers, without solid, gripping, electrifying personalities with the ability to reach through the speaker and grab you by the ears, talk radio is just another boring diversion in a world packed with excitement.
This brings us to talk radio and news talk radio in the Seattle market.
Seattle suffers, as do most markets, from a shortage of local talk greatness due to a lack of coaching and development on the part of the program directors. The tendency prevails to hire them, put them on the air, tell them what topics to avoid, which topics to emphasize, the let them succeed or hang themselves.
The days of disciplined, patient, talent development seem to have vanished. Aircheck meetings, goal setting, performance accountability, and a requirement of constant improvement are rare to non-existent.
Sometimes, the talent is so great, the talent overcomes this lack of direction. There are the exceptions such as the KJR Sports Talk lineup is loaded with talent. Grosby and Gastenau are outstanding and major league in every regard and Mitch ain’t far behind.
KJR is a station that leaves you disappointed when they switch to national hosts for late nights and weekend programming in that the local is so damn good!
Other exceptions are Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson on KVI, Dave Ross and oft times Dori Monson on KIRO. Bob Rivers and his team break through the sound barrier mornings on KZOK. Jeff Aaron up in Everett shows great effort and great dedication to his craft. And then there are the rest of the hours, days and weeks.
Blame should be placed on stations that rely only on research for direction.
Blame should be placed on GM’s and PD’s who haven’t the ability to
listen and truly understand the difference between sensational
communication and mundane jabber. If a GM or PD has to wait for the
book to come out to know how their station is doing, they were miscast
in their positions.
Magic is unmistakable if one is listening for it. But compelling, spellbinding, listener-grabbing programming can only be heard if pre-conceived notions are put aside.
Research must be put in the trashcan and any concerns over political correctness abandoned. These two things, which comprise the fixations of many in management, are the archenemies of great radio. Newscasts also suffer from the same blind oversight.
Let me explain.
There was once a time when the FCC required a percentage of programming, throughout the day, to be local and national news. One of the true tragedies visited upon our young people, and older populace, was the dropping of this requirement.
Radio was truly a great national resource that educated the young to the nation and world around them. That’s been wasted by a foolish Congress told by the broadcasters themselves that such requirements placed an unfair financial burden on the stations.
So radio took a big step back in relevance and a great disservice was rendered our citizens who until then were well informed, regardless of musical tastes.
The news requirement necessitated the development of stunning, exciting, gripping, newscasts- anything less would’ve chased the music audience away. Radio news was upbeat, sensational, and immediate, be it on a country station or a rocker.
Now, all that seems to be lost.
Radio news has become very lifestyle; very low key, very redundant and very boring. Oh yes, I know the research says people don’t want to be shocked, they don’t like the sensational, they don’t like bad news and they simply love good news. They state they simply adore nice lifestyle stories. They bullshit the interviewer every time! They tell the researcher what they think will cast themselves as an individual in a favorable light.
In short, they lie! In fact, they really want to know exactly what’s happening that impacts them, their neighbors, their families, their nation and community. They want it in the foreground with emotional variances between the critical and the non-critical. In today’s busy, noisy, media cluttered world, it must be delivered with high impact or they can’t hear it!
Seattle’s truly great radio newsmen, with an exception or two, have seemingly vanished and their traditions, the lessons they taught, have been ignored. Lou Gillette, Les Parsons, Dick Curtis, Bill Munson, Chuck Bolland, Bill Taylor, Frank Thompson, and Bill Foster, to mention a few, all set high standards of emotion, sensationalism and theater that no longer can be heard.
We don’t even bother to create ear-catching intros any longer. I guess they fear an inability to deliver anything as great as a big, exciting intro would promise. In that regard, they’re probably right!
Where radio news can be bombastic, and addictive, I find it to be generally insipid. But, some PD’s and their consultants will say. Things are different now!
We’ll post Part 2 of Pat O'Day's comments in coming days. Wait'll you read how he’d run an AM news talk station!