Monday, July 6, 2009

Radio losses................

Sorry to see the recent radio “losses” which have nothing to do with cash flow and bottom line. One way or another, radio has lost 3 major contributors within the past week. Unfortunately, 2 are due to deaths.

Earl Finckle, the radio weather voice of several radio stations around the country who probably enjoyed his biggest success on Milwaukee radio for more than 30 years, passed away over the weekend. He will be remembered for his hard work of personally predicting local weather forecasts accurately enough to make his living from it year after year as much as, or even more than, his easy going radio demeanor.

We also lost long time radio and TV game show host and voice Ken Roberts over the past weekend.

Yet, the “loss” that will generate the most talk was not from a death, but from the 4th of July marking the end of a radio institution. There will probably always be a “countdown” of the top hits of the day as well as oldies lists and songs to fit whatever the format. But there will always have been only one “American Top 40”. As of this week, that is past tense.

Casey Kasem quietly aired his final “Casey’s Top 40” show this past weekend after 39 years of “counting ‘em down all the way to number one” and reaching for the stars every single week. The only good part of this is that Casey says he is not retiring and will continue working on other projects even at the age of 77. For a while, maybe we can forget about Casey losing the “American Top 40” show to another host and basically having to compete against himself, along with all of the typical radio “stuff” that was thrown his way over the past 15 years. We should remember Casey taking such a simple idea and making millions with it.

Every radio market had a “top 40” station and a survey of music sales and requests which it updated every week and caught the attention of the 12 – 34 audience around the country wondering what would be the next number 1 song. In the early 70’s, Casey managed to get a countdown show broadcast around the country, usually on a weekend shift such as Saturday night or Sunday morning.

American Top 40 was recorded early in the week and literally mailed to all of the participating radio stations on vinyl records throughout the 70’s. Each segment would be separated by grooves, just like album tracks used to be. As a result, stations could program as few or as many commercials as they could sell. Designed to be a 3 hour program, the show might end in under that time, or run 10 or 15 minutes “over”, depending on how local stations would handle it.

Somehow, the records themselves were of high enough quality not to skip or stick, as so many of our consumer LP’s would when we would play them at home. As a result, there are probably some people who just read the previous paragraph and had no idea that the show was not some sort of a live feed every weekend at the same time.

That’s the way to remember Casey. The simple idea, and making it seem dramatic as “we count down the hits until we reach the top” as if even he wasn’t sure what was coming. Add in his extras, and an occasional oldie or dedication and you had the radio show for all time. Taken from the most simple idea anyone has come up with.

I’ll admit that I probably haven’t heard a fresh “Casey’s Top 40” in at least 2 years, and didn’t even know which station aired it locally. But upon learning that he has finished doing the show, I can tell you that now there is still another void on AM/FM radio as we knew it. Thanks, Casey, and keep reaching for the stars………………

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