Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Jingle All the Way

Silly, maybe. But there's only one radio jingle I've ever wished I could program into my alarm clock for a wakeup call.

It featured on a certain New York City station in the late 1950s and earliest 1960s, and even today I can hear the earliest bustle outside the Webb Avenue apartment in which I spent my early childhood, from the trash truck prowling down the street to other kids hustling down to the candy store to bring Mother and Dad the morning papers, and right back to hot oatmeal with sugar and a banana before hustling off to school.

One of the "Best Sound" package created by Chuck Blore, it kicks off with a mixed chorus (that's male and female to you) in stop time before slipping into a pleasant, jazzy swing, starting with the ladies singing the melody and the gentlemen warbling "Good morning" behind them for eight bars, before they join up to ride out the conclusion.

Hey, wake up!
Get up!

We can start your day with a great, big smile
Turn your radio on and stay awhile
570 on your dial
when it's morning in New York.

We bring you music old and new
and maybe a happy smile or two.
From Manhattan---Manhattan---W-M-C-A

I know, I promised this blog would stand athwart nostalgia, yelling "art!" The lyric isn't exactly the second coming of Ira Gershwin. But the breezy music requires no apology. If you think you haven't heard worse ways to wake up! get up!, you sure haven't set your alarm clock radio to whatever station has the dishonour of bringing you Mancow in the Morning.

And it's no crime every so often to be sent back to Webb Avenue in the north Bronx, sneaking a listen to WMCA on the kitchen table radio at age seven, and feeling the crisp shaft of early winter through the kitchen window as that swinging, warbling wake up! get up! wafted forth, before Mother and Dad barreled in and locked the breakfast table dial on WNEW's four-hour Klavan and Finch morning show. (Yes. Their professional name sounded more like a partnership of corrupt lawyers than a radio team. Bob and Ray they weren't.)

WMCA went from the Best Sound period to become a kind of paradox but a memorable one. The disc jockeys looked clean and played clean (they weren't exactly known as the Good Guys because it was just a cleverly catchy tag phrase), but the music they played ran such a broad spread of rock and soul (they played what the other top forty stations wouldn't touch unless it was On The Charts) that they seem now to have been the edgy cousins to such New York repositories as WABC (before the notorious "Musicradio" seven-song playlists), WMGM (before it switched to what would become known as adult-oriented radio in 1965), and WINS (before it went all news in 1964).

By 1970, the station's weaker signal (five thousand watts), ill-advised early 1969 stab at a talk-and-music format, failed bid to revive the Good Guys style later in 1969 (after fracturing it under sales staff pressure in the first place), and inability to resolve the fragmenting of music that seemed to have hitched a ride in the FM hip pocket, left WMCA weakened enough that the Straus family who owned it finally had what room they needed to force the station into what they really hoped to make it in the first place: an all-talk station.

The station became a religious "teaching and talk" outlet (the "teaching and talk" is their phrase) in due course and remains so today. Something similar happened with maybe the only New York-area station that could have been called WMCA's rock and soul mate successor, WWDJ (that's 97DJ to those who listened and loved), about which David Hinckley of the New York Daily News recalled appropriately that it aired on AM but behaved like FM before the fragmenting---much like WMCA. Low-signaled, free-wheeling, and unable to sustain advertising support. 97DJ went religious in early 1974 and remains likewise today.

It never had half as swinging a wake up! get up! as WMCA had, but that isn't exactly a smudge against its three years of rock and soul survival. Nobody else really did, either.


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