Ad from the "Kudzu" underground newspaper 1968.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Some of my friends have asked me to write a journal or a blog. They seem to think I have interesting stories and insights. I feel that if I do this, it will make us happy. I am happy with life these days and enjoy each day as it unfolds. The recent songs I have been writing reflect my joy.
I hope that in future blogs, I will have some of my new songs on here so you can listen and hopefully enjoy them. I understand from my friend Fred, that some of the other old blues singers are feeling that positive muse in their new songs too.
Fred sent me a link to some stories about WJDX-FM in 1968 that reminded me of our early days in FM rock radio. There were some amusing stories about how it all started that prompts me to reveal, "How I Did It..."
I moved to Jackson, Mississippi to please my 1st wife. She wanted me to get a "real" job. So I got a job as an artist for a printing company. Good. Then the art director for WLBT_TV asked if I would take the job of art director at the local TV station. I said ok. Good. While I was art director, I met a producer named Mims Wright. He asked if I would play characters in TV commercials. I said ok.
The commercials didn't work out, but we started filming me doing three songs on Thursday nights that they would use during a Saturday afternoon TV show called Teen Tempos. We did that for awhile, then they asked me to replace a girl named Judy Moon as MC. I said ok. Good.
Now, during this time, a funny thing happened in the art department...I was fired! I was fired one morning for accumulated crimes against the established guidelines of visual presentation. Reeling from that blow to my artistic integrity, I walked out of the art department, went two doors down the hall and got hired as an announcer for WJDX-FM. Could I start on Saturday morning? I said ok. Good.
People had been telling me for years, that with a voice like mine, I should be in radio. So there I was, on the radio in Jackson, Mississippi. The station played,"Waiting Room", music and had been losing money for 20 years. NOBODY was listening except the nice lady who hired me. One morning I tested to see if anyone was listening. I offered a free album to the first caller....nothing! Ok, I offered a free dinner for two....nothing. By the time I offered a trip to Hawaii and a new Cadillac convertible and nobody called, I realized that I had to do something. I put together a proposal showing how the station could make money with a FM rock format. I bolstered my proposal with articles from Billboard, Cashbox and various other trade publications and presented it to management. They went for it. I said ok. Good.
This is where it got to be a lot of fun. I now had this TV show and a local following. So I used it to promote the new WJDX-FM rock station. With the help of Mims Wright, we crafted some really cool promotional spots to be run daily on TV. One of them encouraged people to buy FM radios so they could listen to real rock music at home or in their cars. One local business pulled their Ad's from the station because they couldn't stand the sight of that damn hippie,(Me), on their TV set.
To give you a clearer picture, there were only 2 TV stations in town. Cable and Satellite were still a future concept. The transmitter for TV and Radio had an 1,800 foot high antenna. We could reach about 7 states! There was a nice man named Bob Rainey, who took on the job of buffer between me and management and I couldn't have done any of this without his help and support. During the process of interviewing potential DJ's, he and I would sometimes differ on who to hire. He tended to like top 40 types and I leaned more toward people who knew something about music. My favorite compromise was being able to hire Fred Mitchell in exchange for Bob hiring some top 40 guy. To appease the timid powers that be, we included some top 40 music in the daytime, but still could play album cuts. I did some weekday shifts, but what I really enjoyed was the freedom to do anything I wanted on my Saturday night show.
WJDX-FM DJ's. Fred is the guy with legs and a wristwatch.
I also have a wrist watch. I don't know who the others are.
Then things really got interesting;
Fred Mitchell, http://www.deltamusic.afraid.org, liked the songs I was singing and took me to a club in town where Stephan Anderson was playing and I sat in for a song. It felt good to play with a band again. Fred thought we should form a band and record a couple of my songs. So we did. But that's another story.