Chapter 6: The Crucial Years
Nineteen Sixty–Three and Sixty–Four proved to be very challenging years for the U.S. radio-industry in general and NBC and WBC in particular. At long last, the U.S. Supreme Court under the direction of Chief Justice Earl Warren (1891-1974) had finalized the legal procedures that commercial broadcasters must follow whenever trading stations. However, the fate of the ‘56 exchange and the more recent RKO petition still hung in the balance. On the first week of January 1963, Philco and NBC announced that a tentative compromise had been reached between those two parties. Had the FCC’s accepted the RKO-General proposal, at that moment, it would have led to an instant Philadelphia-Boston station swap. While everyone anxiously awaited the fed’s decision, the feds denied Philco’s most recent request pertaining to WRCV-TV’s license renewal. Now a part of the Ford Motor Company, Philco’s new set of lawyers redirected their current efforts.
That new approach called for Philco to drop its legal objection to NBC getting its license renewal with the full understanding that the network would pay Philco $9 million in damages. That $9 million figure would have amply covered any of Philco’s incurred radio equipment patent fees. In exchange, its sharp legal team guaranteed that the National Broadcasting Company would receive all of Philco’s earlier, very profitable color television patents. However, Philco representatives wanted to retain the legal right to hold on to all future color television patents at the customary license rates. It also sought all non-exclusive, RCA-licensed radio devices yet to be filed under domestic patents or patent application laws. In response, NBC demanded the right to avail itself of any future domestic color television patents that might be issued to the Philco Corporation. That agreement if approved by the federal courts would have nullified its earlier $150 million damage claim against the network as well as voided NBC’s $174 million countersuit.
RKO hoped that its carefully worded arguments presented in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals would be sufficient enough to reverse that court’s recent decision that had required NBC–WBC to flip their Cleveland and Philadelphia stations once again. If that reverse decision held it would prove to be a costly endeavor that neither NBC nor WBC wanted to participate in at that moment. At the same time, RKO lawyers demanded a further Federal Communications Commission inquiry directed specifically towards finding any other legal improprieties that might have taken place during the ’56 exchange. On another issue closer to home, the Cleveland newspaper strike entered its 68th day on February 6, 1963 with no end to it in sight. A number of local radio and television outlets, including KYW, held a major debate and Q& A session on that issue. KYW’s Editorial Manager Bart Clausen split the production costs among participating locally-based outlets.
Regarding Philco’s recent decision to drop its pending law suit against NBC, federal officials made it absolutely clear to all the parties involved that they had no intention of recusing themselves from that case or any other related legal matters. The unwillingness of the federal government to stand down seriously jeopardized the National Broadcasting Company’s chances of achieving a workable arrangement with RKO-General at least not at that particular juncture. It also stopped NBC from readily disposing of its Philly station. RCA-NBC officials firmly believed that their proposed swap with RKO met all the stringent federal requirements as set down by the ’59 DOJ consent decree. However, the FCC begged to differ on their pretense. It insisted that the Philco Corporation make a final decision as to whether it was going to pursue this Philly issue any further or simply end it here and now. Also, the commissioners reminded Philco’s legal team that WRCV-TV was fully operational and that the public wouldn’t be served if its legal counsel continued to pursue what many experts in the field viewed at that time as a worthless case.
The Federal Communications Commission’s Broadcasting Bureau also expressed some serious reservations regarding Philco’s upcoming case and its legal defense. In the eyes of the bureau, it appeared to be a last ditched effort presented by a very desperate Philadelphia company that was hoping to salvage what was left of its remaining business reputation. Again, the feds made it abundantly clear that it couldn’t approve any pointed agreement, like that, if it didn’t serve the public’s needs. The National Broadcasting Company had hoped for a quick response from the FCC provided that the Philco Company didn’t figure out somehow to gum up the works. However, if in desperation, Philco should decide at the 11th hour to pull out of this $9 million damage package that would destroy any chances NBC might have of recovering anything from the original proposal. It was a slippery slope that NBC might have to climb very soon. Undoubtedly, any further antitrust actions instigated by the Philco Corporation against RCA-NBC would have to be placed on the back burner by the feds as they redirected their attention towards what they considered to be more pressing legal issues.
NBC had already determined that any long-term delay on its license request would be considered a bone crushing defeat for this major network. In an unexpected move that greatly displeased NBC’s legal counsel, Philco officials announced that they would continue to oppose the RCA-NBC renewal application. Many experts in the field seriously doubted the wisdom of Philco’s attorneys choosing to pursue such a narrowly–focused legal course of action. But, that did not faze Philco’s sharp legal team who moved ahead with their plans even though they knew full well that their chances of winning that case were slim to none. By this point, it didn’t matter much to Philco whether the National Broadcasting Company had or had not intentionally violated numerous antitrust laws over the past decade starting with the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company trade eight years earlier. It was out for revenge.
During the prolonged Cleveland newspaper strike many of local newspaper columnists, reporters, technicians and writers worked temporarily at KYW-Cleveland. As a public service, the station increased its daily news coverage from just over three to six hours. Apparently, that was the right strategy to follow then as first quarter KYW revenues for ’63 reached a new all-time high level. Appreciating its expanded news coverage led the public to clamor for even more. The first years of the 1960s also foreshadowed fantastic breakthroughs in the way in which advertisers and their broadcasting partners sold their heralded merchandise over the local airwaves. Very simple messaging increasingly replaced the more in-depth analysis of the recent past as the advertising world gradually changed its mind as to what exactly constituted effective new promotional strategies and techniques. In larger and larger droves, advertising firms throughout the U.S. began to emphasize cooler” sounds and simpler presentations. That new approach towards advertising fitted right into KYW-Radio’s wheelhouse. Its shrewd promoters were always seeking effective new ways in which to expand their corporate brand and image by utilizing bright and effective new advertising methods.
Depending on greater detailed customer surveys became increasingly important whenever updating a corporate image. Powerful surveys encapsulated much broader-based business and social issues that were affecting radio broadcasting companies throughout the country. The majority of those well-executed customer surveys not only dealt with the particular likes and dislikes of their locally-based listening audience; but also, provided a boatload of useful hints and suggestions intended to significantly improve current program options. Such was the case when marketers for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company tabulated their own surveys in late ‘62. They discovered that the public wanted Westinghouse Broadcasting to modernize its old fashion corporate image. They saw it as a way for WBC to identify more directly with their many listeners. Westinghouse officials took that idea to heart and in May 1963 they dramatically changed their rather outdated logo. Don McGannon saw that change as part of a much larger overhaul that would lead to some new programs directed towards younger people.
Westinghouse programmers were not alone in revising their corporate image. Both NBC and CBS had done the same thing at the beginning of the 1960s. The public loved Westinghouse’s new “Group W” logo. It was cool! Not only did it embody a modern image: but also, epitomized the many new economic and social forces that were sweeping across the radio industry at that very time. Group W publicists made it quite clear that their network was not some enormous, uncaring broadcasting company; but rather, six independent radio and five television outlets that had banned together to provide the best possible news and programming to its many loyal followers. A well-known industrial design team called Lippincott and Margulies oversaw it. Those smartly operated local radio outlets knew exactly what needed to be done to spruce up their corporate image and they were more than willing to do just that to maintain their lead over their competitors. Exploring new vistas enabled WBC’s many clever radio personalities to make the most out of their limited budgets while still outperforming their closest rivals. You might wonder whether that business approach would hold up over time. Well, the proof was in the pudding as Westinghouse radio repeatedly achieved high local ratings nationwide well into the following decade. As they said then “No one beats Westinghouse and that’s a fact.” Their cool DJs, relevant programming and desirable promotions became the new standard of broadcasting excellence that was soon emulated by many others from coast to coast.
The summer of ’63 saw the return of Tom Griffiths to late nights at KYW while Carl Reese (1931-2014) assumed the early evening duties. Also, KYW’s Music Director Jim Leckrone (1936-2012) was promoted to producer of “Contact.” Like so many other local radio leaders of the day, Leckrone ascribed to the tightly-held professional standards first established by Bud Wendell and others in the rebel rousing days of the late ‘50s. Over the years, KYW-Radio had received its fair share of prestigious awards for its many outstanding community-based programs. But, nothing seemed to equal the American Bar Association’s “Silver Gavel Award.” The previous November, KY-11 had broadcasted a series of interviews that led to a better overall understanding of how the law affects the average person. This special award thanked KYW for conducting such thought provoking presentations. An ad in the July 23rd Broadcasting, The Business Weekly of Television & Radio proclaimed that the new Group “W” now had their own European news bureau headed by Rod MacLeish. That overseas connection provided them with daily news feeds as well as weekly summaries on important world events.
On August 7th, the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company named Don McGannon to replace E.V. Huggins as its board chairman. That autumn, federal officials moved closer towards reaching a decision regarding the WRCV license renewal case. The FCC’s Broadcast Bureau strongly recommended that Chief Examiner James D. Cunningham deny NBC’s latest request. It argued that the network had secured its Philly outlet by bullying WBC into accepting it. Earlier that summer, KYW proudly announced the hiring of Jerry G. His fun loving nature was greatly appreciated at KY-11 as that station evolved from a local middle–of–the–road music and information station to a regional Top 40 block buster outlet. Jerry (Ghan) (Bishop) (1936-2013) not only had the privilege of touring with the Beatles during both their triumphant U.S. tours; but also, had recorded his-own popular 45 single called “She’s Gone.” He replaced Carl Reese who would later gain local recognition as a top notch broadcaster on WJW and WCLV-AM.
Jerry G’s arrival in Cleveland was not some random act initiated by desperate program coordinators needing to cover airtime hardly. He came to that city at a time when KYW-AM was rapidly developing into a Top 40 sensation. The many heated arguments among its many programmers over the past decade regarding the long-term value of middle-of-the-road music vs. rock and roll were finally put to rest. All of them had to admit that Top 40 broadcasting was here to stay and that KY-11 needed to assume a leading role in it ASAP. As you might have already guessed, the big question facing KYW program personnel in 1964 was whether that outlet should gradually ease itself into Top 40 by embracing the more moderate “contemporary sound” first or plunge right into rock and roll without looking back. It took the soaring numbers of teen listeners in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, before the scales finally tilted in favor of Top 40 programming over the more mellow sounds of “contemporary music.”
Highly vocal local advertisers that had progressively favored fast–paced Top 40 formats over more “contemporary sounds,” also played a decisive role in the outcome. The majority of those buying spot advertising on KY-11 fully believed that Top 40 stations, with very rare exception, gave them the biggest return. As you might remember, KYW-Cleveland had attempted to please its growing teenage audience in the late 1950s by playing more rock and roll music primarily through targeted programs such as the “Hi-Fi Club.” However, as everyone now knew “the times, they were a changin.” Its many program advocates also fully recognized that most Top 40 outlets made tons of money when compared to most of their rival “contemporary music” stations. If anyone had any doubts on that score they had only to review the extraordinary success of leading regional AM outlets such as WABC in New York or WLS in Chicago. By the 1970s, WABC reported a daily listening audience of over 8 million. Hard to beat that figure. Mid-sized broadcasters, such as KYW, fully understood that they must follow a similar programming format if they planned to stay on top. But, it was more than just that realization alone that sealed the deal for leaders such as 1100 AM. Growing competitive by Cleveland rivals such as WHK and WJW made that switch imperative.
Realizing that major changes were about to occur prompted the Board of Directors at the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company to approve the transfer one of its brightest programmers from KEX–Portland, OR to KYW in Cleveland, OH. Within a few months, Ken Draper had successfully converted this middle–of–the–road Westinghouse broadcaster into one of this nation’s fastest growing Top 40 stations. Now called KY–11, its fast-talking, fun–loving radio personalities were some of America’s finest. They included Jerry G, Specs Howard, Harry Martin, Jim Runyon and Jim Stagg. The addition of a host of acclaimed newscasters along with continual high ratings was the icing on the cake. You might wonder how that programming change affected local advertisers. It revolutionized everything as more and more ad men joined the growing KYW bandwagon. Skyrocketing earnings meant that this Group “W” powerhouse was rapidly becoming a prominent force within the growing Top 40 radio market. Everything was cool as more and more people listened to the fabulous new and exciting sounds resonating out of the KY-11 studios.
On October 20th, station officials received a special award from the Ohio State Nurses’ Association for its many outstanding shows promoting better health. Influential leaders from a variety of fields such as broadcasting, education, entertainment and government participated in the 5th annual conference held in Cleveland starting on November 11, 1963. Featuring comedians Steve Allen (1921-2000) and Dick Gregory (1932-2017) along with Michael H. Dann (1921-2016), the VP of CBS Programs, this influential gathering included a wide range of well-known experts including Robert Lewis Shayon (1912-2008), the Television Editor of Saturday Review and Dr. Henry Lee Smith Jr. (1913-1972), a Professor of Linguistics at SUNY-Buffalo. Guest speakers included the U.S. Commissioner of Education Francis Keppel, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and FCC Chairman E. William Henry. Those sessions dealt with such important things as the great economic opportunities awaiting those were about to enter either advertising or broadcasting.
That same autumn, the feds released the latest U.S. Census figures. Philadelphia was the fourth largest market with 4.3 million people while Cleveland ranked eleventh at 1.9 million. Nineteen sixty-three ended with The Cleveland Plain Dealer interviewing James P. Storer (1927-2012). The GM at Cleveland’s WJW, Storer made some startling predictions about the future of radio broadcasting in the U.S. He envisioned the day when music and not talk shows would rule the local radio airways. Storer also hoped that his company owned and operated station in Cleveland would continue to maintain a prominent place in local broadcasting. However, he had to admit that WJW-Radio was no match against the likes of local radio giants such as KY-11.
The commercial radio industry in 1963 recorded a remarkable 78% increase in earnings since 1961. Also, billing had grown by 13% while the percentage of houses with one or more radios had reached a new, all-time high of 94%. Similarly, weekly radio listening time had nearly top 100 minutes while somewhere around 14 million to 15 million homes regularly tuned into FM broadcasts. Ken Draper introduced two major changes to the KYW daily radio lineup starting in January, 1964. The first one involved Al James who briefly took over the Midnight time slot following the resignation of Thomas Griffiths. The second change concerned a well-respected linguist and nationally-recognized television celebrity named Bergen B. Evans. He now hosted a new Wednesday night show on KYW-Radio called “Words in the News.” It immediately followed “Contact.”
One writer at The Cleveland Plain Dealer, James B. Flanagan, wrote an in-depth piece on January 18th devoted to KYW-Radio’s highly successful morning team of Martin & Howard. He had to admit that it took him a while before he fully appreciated their off-the-wall humor. But, he also had to confess that once you got used to it they were hilarious. Debuting in July ‘62, this dynamic duo had to fill the large void created when the city’s favorite Big Wilson left Cleveland. They did it admirably with memorable offbeat characters such as a songwriter named Clark Freeway; a drunk known as Barney Gulch and two prissy nieces appropriately called Bertha and Millicent Bandelaise Brown. Both jocks had engaged in some acting in college with Harry Martin singing briefly with the Robert Shaw chorale. With zany antics and a host of corny jokes ready to go at any minute, Martin & Howard rapidly became local broadcasting legends. Their combined talents made KY-11 the prime leader in the local Top 40 market by the mid–‘60s.
February 1964 saw the arrival of another popular DJ that was destined for stardom. A Miami entertainer and brother of the popular Hollywood actor Larry Storch, Jay Lawrence found himself drawn to the city of Cleveland by the phenomenal success of KYW-Radio. Everyone in commercial radio was talking about that AM station, and why not. Lawrence quickly became an influential force in Cleveland radio until 1968 when he left for Los Angeles. He later did broadcast stints on both WNEW-New York and KTAR–Phoenix. More recently, he served as an Arizona State Congressman. Without a doubt, his successful broadcasting career in Cleveland began when he took over the 12 Midnight slot. Lawrence’s colleague Jim Stagg also made quite a name for himself that same winter when he hiked all the way from Akron to Cleveland for the March of Dimes. When station officials praised him for this daring effort, he simply shrugged it off saying that it was a part of his job.
KYW’s high ratings in March 1964 demonstrated Ken Draper’s program mastery at its finest. He was doing all the right things repeatedly. The station’s new and exciting rock and roll format did not represent some half-baked idea that would explode in their face at any moment. Everything affecting daily programming was carefully orchestrated by Ken Draper and his innovated crew. At the same time, his seemingly off-handed approach towards it all left the rest of Cleveland’s radio managers frantically searching around for their own new format. Nothing seemed outside their capabilities and yet everything seemed just beyond their immediate grasp. However, the internal programming struggles and turmoil facing so many of KYW’s local competitors in early ‘64 rarely reached the public. In fact, radio leaders appeared not to care in the least as to what KY-11 was doing. Nowhere was that more evident than in a special interview conducted by Alvin Bean of The Cleveland Plain Dealer with Jack G. Thayer (1922-1996) the GM and VP at WHK. Thayer expressed every confidence that his successful outlet could easily ride out the present ratings storm. He was equally sure that the Cleveland market would not have any trouble supporting several high quality “contemporary music” AM stations. Thayer firmly believed that the time was right for such massive programming changes and that KYW’s recent antics both on and off the air might produce the exact opposite effect it wanted with its many Cleveland listeners. Instead of guaranteeing fan loyalty, its recent actions might encourage some of them to make the switch to the all-new adult sounds of WHK at 1420 on your AM dial. A thoroughly competent and highly respected leader, Thayer later became President of the National Broadcasting Company.
If you think for one moment that Ken Draper gloated over his recent success you’d be dead wrong. If anything, he often tended to downplay his many program triumphs. However, that did not prevent him from taking great pride in the fact that a highly respected, unnamed rating service had purposely gone out of its way to congratulate him on his outstanding program achievements. When all was said and done, KYW and WHK jointly controlled about 50% of Cleveland’s early ’64 radio market. What gave WHK a slight edge in the local ratings occurred later that same year when 1420–AM was named the “official Cleveland station” for the Beatles.
Guess what, the legal bickering occurring in Philadelphia over the NBC license renewal continued right into the spring of ’64 with no apparent end in sight. However, the prolonged legal battle between Philco and NBC appeared to have turned a corner that March. In its closing arguments, Philco made it incredibly clear that the public’s interest would not be served if the FCC granted the National Broadcasting Company its license renewal. The rapidly approaching June 30th deadline requiring that this prime network rid itself of its Philly station only added further fuel to this already raging legal fire. Chief Examiner Cunningham’s earlier recommendations that had called for the FCC to approve both the NBC license renewal and RKO exchange only muddied those legal waters more. Who would have ever imagined that the commission’s Broadcasting Bureau would ever humble itself enough to support Philco’s claims over those articulated by RCA-NBC? But, that’s exactly what happened that spring. The Bureau argued that the National Broadcasting Company had a long history of coercing other broadcasting companies into accepting their questionable offers. The mounting pressure placed on Westinghouse’s legal counsel by RCA-NBC in the mid-1950s to accept the station swap showed the extent to which that network was willing to go to achieve its highly ambitious business goals and objectives. The bureau said that NBC must be punished for its unfair actions.
NBC’s counsel responded to Philco’s direct assault by challenging the legal motives responsible for Philco’s recent unprecedented actions. The network’s legal team further claimed that Philco’s original legal objection to NBC receiving its license renewal symbolized a feeble attempt by that Philadelphia-based corporation to justify its pending $150 million patent suit against RCA-NBC. As you might have already figured out, NBC’s signing of the DOJ consent decree took much of the wind out of Philco’s legal sails by provided NBC lawyers some sorely needed time in which to build up an airtight defense. Philco now had to face the fact that it would have to come up very quickly with a new legal justification for introducing its latest suit intended to gain WRCV-TV. Its hastily conceived suit represented its latest attempt to right this alleged wrong.
The irony in all of this was not lost to NBCs very sharp defense team. After all, its network leaders knew full-well that the Philco Corporation had not hesitated in the least eleven years earlier when it sold that same Philadelphia station to Westinghouse for a high price. In spite of all the recent hype to the contrary, Philco, in the early 1950s, had not come up with any worthwhile new business strategy intended to ensure the long-term loyalty of its growing listening audience in Philadelphia. Instead, it took the first train out of town when a legitimate buyer showed up. Philco countered those arguments by reminded the feds that NBC, and not Philco, had used coercive tactics to force the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company into agreeing to the ‘56 exchange. Considered by many legal experts as a compelling argument, the federal government still remained unmoved by the logical case presented by Philco’s legal staff. Federal officials claimed that Philco’s arguments weren’t nearly sufficient based on the seriousness of those charges.
In what many critics considered to be a very bold move, Group W President McGannon strongly suggested that more broadcasters become involved in the civil rights movement and in fighting poverty. A recent recipient of the National Association of Broadcasters’ Distinguished Service Award, Don McGannon further contended that the radio-industry had an obligation to its listeners to expose arrogant business leaders and dishonest politicians. He concluded that fighting corruption everywhere year after year only helped to make this country stronger. That May, two clever North Olmsted High School students formed the Hugh Danaceau Fan Club. A popular KYW newscaster in the early 1960s, Danaceau’s broadcasting career spanned six decades. KY–11’s Jim Runyon (1931-1973) warned club members that if he ran a record hop he would probably play Edward R. Murrow’s “Hear It Now” recordings. That same month, KYW-Radio won the local ratings war again beating its chief rival WHK. Not too bad for the newest kid on the block.
That messy RKO-General petition ran into another roadblock in mid-June. The possibility that WRCV might be compelled to stop broadcasting if NBC failed to comply with the DOJ deadline only worsened when its legal team discovered that the new FCC ruling prohibiting different television facilities from overlapping might apply to its client. This new ruling specified a “minimum separation for all classes of stations.” Regrettably, the broadcasting radius of WOR-TV New York and WRCV-TV Philadelphia intersected. The only legal way out was to ask the FCC to exempt its recent application by invoking a carefully devised grandfather clause. However, that seemed highly unlikely given the current hubbub over that possible trade.
As noted earlier, “The Cleveland Long Song” also called “The Best Location Song” debuted on June 18, 1964. Promoters asked random shoppers to listen to it. Nearly everyone loved this tune. Throughout that summer, Martin & Howard continually played the week’s top ten hits as part of the “KYW Sound-11 Survey.” During the week of June 19th, the top spot belonged to Billy J. Kramer’s “Little Children” with Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto’s “Girl from Ipanema” holding the number ten slot. Bobby Freeman’s “C’mon & Swim” was the KYW “Pick of the Week.” As expected, WBC went all out for the ‘64 Presidential Conventions. Team coverage included thirty reporters headed by its highly respected National News Director Jim Snyder (1925-2001). The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Science Monitor Erwin Canham (1904-1982) along with author and arts critic Gore Vidal (1925-2012), Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Marc Connelly (1890-1980) and noted historian Allan Nevins (1890-1971) provided expert commentary. The summertime blues finally hit two Willoughby students who broke the spell by conducting their own KYW listening marathon. Both said that their forty-two hour marathon was rewarding.
Nationally, the U.S. 3rd District Court in Philadelphia granted NBC its second 90 day station extension. That July, the FCC said that its new overlapping rule would not apply to applications submitted before June 9th which included the RKO-General request. Later that same month, promoters advertised a Ruggles Beach extravaganza that featured Jerry G and two very popular singing groups the Majestics and the Secrets. The top three Cleveland outlets reported a $773,000 revenue increase over the previous year with spot advertising improving by an impressive $1.03 million. The long awaited federal decision concerning the Westinghouse trade was rendered on July 30th. The commission by a five to nothing vote ordered NBC and WBC to reverse their Cleveland and Philly stations. That meant they must return to their original home bases. This latest action by the feds overturned that federal regulatory agency’s decision rendered eight years earlier. The National Broadcasting Company immediately complied with the order. Reoccurring occasions of RCA-NBC employing strong-armed tactics against smaller broadcasting companies such as Westinghouse led to that decision. At the same time, the commission also flatly denied the RKO-General petition. It claimed that such an exchange would have given an overwhelming business advantage to those two networks. More importantly, if that petition had stood it would have afforded NBC unlimited opportunities within the growing Boston market. In terms of the mandated reversal, the FCC totally ignored the $3 million paid by the National Broadcasting Company to the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company in order to seal the deal. With the intention of completing this latest station reversal ASAP; the feds awarded RCA-NBC a two-month provisional extension of its current WRCV license.
Throughout this grueling legal process, the Federal Communications Commission did not hold any meetings with other local broadcasters interested in procuring NBC’s television rights in Cleveland. Apparently, that federal regulatory agency firmly believed that the public’s interest would be best served by returning those stations, as is, to their original cities. At long last, the feds had resolved that legal mess and they were not about to ignite it up again. The lopsided nature of the ‘56 swap became even more apparent when further investigations revealed that NBC’s owned and operated WRCV had generated far higher profits annually than Westinghouse’s KYW. FCC commissioners further discovered that the unwanted business pressures leashed against the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company had only served to increase NBC’s earlier business lead over its less than enthusiastic business partner. That revelation was not so surprising in itself although the clear difference in the two stations’ asset values did strike a note with leaders in the commercial radio business. According to an August 3, 1964 article in Broadcasting, the Business Weekly of Television & Radio independent brokers had determined that the asset value of WRCV stood at around $35 million while KYW was much less at $20 million. That appreciable difference meant a great deal to Group W board members. NBC’s legal defense tried unsuccessfully to block the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company from receiving added punitive damages resulting from this unfair trade.
Meanwhile in Cleveland, Harve Morgan’s nightly talk show faced two nagging problems. First, some topics popped up repeatedly. Second, his use of phone calls to stimulate nightly discussion just didn’t seem to work anymore. Some critics claimed that Harve Morgan was very capable of conducting intelligent conversations without relying on outside callers for direct assistance. On August 11th, KYW’S Jim Stagg and its News Director Art Schreiber started covering the upcoming Beatles tour that included among other things a September 15th stop in Cleveland. To celebrate this latest round of “Beatlemania,” Jim Stagg gave away tickets to a Beatles concert that was scheduled for September 14th in Pittsburgh. Also, Jerry G visited the Opening Day Celebrations of “Miss Revlon of Higbee’s” on the 17th. Three days later a vicious rumor began circulating around that the National Broadcasting Company was planning to trash KYWs Top 40 format. As everyone in the radio-industry already knew NBC owned and operated stations didn’t play rock and roll music. In all probability, this emerging outlet would concentrate on network news and softer music while forgoing traditional talk shows.
Eliminating daily talk shows from the Cleveland lineup seemed a bit out of character for NBC. In fact, two years earlier New York’s WNBC-Radio 66 had lured away popular talk show host Long John Nebel (1911-1978) from 710 AM-WOR for a whopping annual salary of $100,000. He remained a staple at WNBC’s broadcasting house until 1973. Why wouldn’t a similar scenario develop in Cleveland? That was a crucial question needing to be addressed quickly by the National Broadcasting Company. Perhaps the experts were all wrong. A revamped AM program lineup that all but eliminated local talk shows might be just the thing that Cleveland’s more sophisticated listening audience might need. After all, anyone listening to rock and roll on KYW could easily turn to that city’s other Top 40 station WHK. So, what was the big deal? As everyone knew, only time would tell. On a happier note, the California sound hit Euclid Beach Park when the “Beach Boys” came to town that August. Intended to be a promotion piece, A Cleveland Love Song sold more than two thousand copies in a month. Part of its proceeds went towards beautifying the Cleveland Mall downtown.
In a last ditched effort to save its petition, RKO-General’s legal counsel appealed to the Federal Communications Commission to reconsider its most recent action. Its attorneys claimed that RKO had racked up $2 million in debt over the past two years to get its petition approved by the FCC and that the network could not begin to recoup its losses without it. RKO’s legal defense further contended that the recent decision leveled against the National Broadcasting Company was a total and utter sham. The August 30th “KYW Radio Days” was highly successful. Led by Jerry G; Specs Howard and Jim Runyon, this joyous event ended with a rousing sing-along. On the flip side of the dial, KYW-FM and WCLV-FM were battling it out to become Cleveland’s number one classical music station. In the case of 105.7 FM, its twelve hour broadcasting day continually spotlighted great classical music. It didn’t matter which classical album was currently being played, it was always an exhilarating adventure in good music.
On September 2, 1964, NBC, Philco and RKO submitted their respective appeals with the federal court. NBC took the lead by asked the feds to reconsider its recent denial of the RKO-General petition. A feature article published in the September 7th Broadcasting; the Business Weekly of Television & Radio closely examined the federal decision that led to this most recent NBC–WBC reversal. It also focused on why those federal commissioners rejected both Philco’s request for WRCV-TV and RKO-General’s petition. Although it never deliberately challenged the legal merits of either one of those federal decisions, Philco’s legal counsel contended that it was grossly unfair that the National Broadcasting Company with only a modest interest in nurturing its Philadelphia market should be awarded a temporary license in that city. Waiving its overlap restrictions to assist NBC and RKO seemed a bit odd given the fact that the feds from the very beginning had opposed their petition. What were the federal officials thinking and why did they so willingly acquiesce to the demands made by those two major broadcasting companies? Without a doubt, Philadelphia’s WRCV-TV’s broadcasting signal overlapped both New York’s WOR-TV and Baltimore’s WJZ-TV. Yet, the commissioners seemed to just shrug it off. It took Philco’s acceptance of $550,000 from NBC allegedly to cover its many application costs and additional fees that led the FCC to overwhelmingly vote against renewing NBC’s Philadelphia license.
Kids returning to school that autumn enjoyed the all-new sounds of KY-11. It began on September 12th when it played Beatles recordings and aired previously recorded interviews with the “Fab Four.” Narrated by Jim Stagg and Art Schreiber much of this show concentrated on the Beatles first U.S. tour. Over 11,000 teens knocked on their neighbors’ doors the next day as part of “The Aiding Leukemia Stricken American Children” drive. Done in cooperation with St. Jude Hospital, the money they collected went towards fighting that most dreaded disease. The earlier legal controversy over the Federal Communications Commission’s denial of the NBC-RKO petition continued into the autumn months with Philco claiming that RKO still had no legal right to claim financial damages or injury based on recent losses. The commissioners fought back by saying that repeated public outcries against it extending other RCA-NBC television licenses might compel the agency to reject other future requests submitted by RKO-General.
At the same time, Philco boldly pointed out that those same federal officials had undoubtedly overstepped their legal bounds when they ordered the most recent Philadelphia–Cleveland swap. Its counsel said that such actions directly violated all federal rules pertaining to radio and television license renewals. The noticeable silence on the part of Westinghouse’s legal counsel throughout the summer seemed somewhat odd. Why weren’t its attorneys responding? Finally in September, 1964, WBC broke its long-held silence by saying that it 100% supported the decision. In the end, the FCC’s, through its highly vocal Broadcast Bureau, made it quite clear that any future renewal requests brought forward by the National Broadcasting Company must first go through a rigorous federal evaluation process. Also, RCA-NBC did not have any legal right to transfer its WRCV-Philly license to another broadcaster or to claim that the July 30th decision that had ordered the re–swaping of the Cleveland-Philly stations had in some way violated Philco’s or RKO-General’s rights to a fair hearing. In reality, the FCC decision originated from a legal case that resulted from an antitrust federal court order that had forced the National Broadcasting Company to dispose of both WRCV radio and television. NBC officials had attempted to circumvent that specific court order by exchanging its Philly outlets for the RKO stations located in Boston. That might have occurred without any legal hitches had the Philco Corporation not submitted its own application for WRCV–Philadelphia. The submission of the Philco application mandated a special federal hearing which delved into a number of relevant issues including NBC’s many responsibilities as a premier license holder.
On a far more uplifting note, KYW-radio that October sponsored an overflow concert at the Cleveland Arena that featured the British rock sensation “the Animals.” From a purely business perspective, the bulk of early ‘60s advertisers and program coordinators truly believed that Top 40 radio was the best deal in town. Its limited playlist with plenty of time in–between for attention gripping commercials was the dream of every advertiser. In fact, its many catchy radio jingles and very convincing advertising pitches played critical roles in increasing sales volume. Although vaguely familiar to older, more traditional programming formats, its fast paced cadence outshone them all. KYW’s highly practical daily promotions successfully brought together that station’s very talented salesmanship with the many pleasurable aspects of rock and roll to produce an extraordinary new sound. In the case of its popular jingles, they not only spotlighted the fun loving jocks responsible for creating KY-11’s many energetic programs; but also, served to introduce that station’s numerous features such as newscasts, shows, weather forecasts, traffic conditions and sports reports.
Carefree melodies with simple messages, those jingles were updated on a regular basis. Some of the more memorable ones of the early ‘60s included “My Baby Listens to KYW, Yea, Yea, Yea,”; “KYW Has a Happy Sound,” “Make Your Radio Feel Good Again, KYW Radio” or “Take KYW Any Time, Any Day.” The station’s DJs, known collectively as the “KYW VIPs in ‘64,” also received extensive recognition. Examples included “Here’s the Double-Martin & Howard;” “Mr. Runyon, Someone is Calling You,” “The Lovable Swinging Cat Jerry G & Company,” and “The J’ Bird Flies Tonight.” Also, who can forget those striking sound bites such as “Jerry G Swinging at Record Hops;” “Jay Lawrence Music & Comedy Bits,” “Jim Runyon Spinning the Latest Pops” and “Jim Stagg Nightline for You.”
A September 28th press release announced that the National Broadcasting Company and the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company had reached an agreement and that they would adhere to the latest federal mandate requiring them to switch stations. Both Philco and RKO maintained their right to appeal that Federal Communications Commission decision. However, if they decided to exercise that option it well resulted in a federal restraining order. The feds also rejected RKO-General’s most recent proposal for a temporary station exchange with NBC by claiming that it violated the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree. This decision requiring the station switch further stated that NBC must pay WBC an additional $150,000 to cover any needed improvements to its present downtown Cleveland studios. Also, both parties had to reach an agreement regarding any additional expenses owed NBC by Group “W” television for showing its films. The FCC also agreed to review any further appeals presented by Philco or RKO in a timely fashion.
That unprecedented ruling left the National Broadcasting Company for the first time without a Philadelphia television affiliate. Certainly, WBC had no intention of affiliating with that network. As everyone knew, Westinghouse had showed no qualms whatsoever when it came to cutting its ties with NBC radio several years ago. That decisive action by Westinghouse’s Board of Directors enabled this smaller network to become a driving force in today’s independent broadcasting. As NBC officials weighed their future options in Cleveland, the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company forwarded its KYW call letters to their new Philadelphia home. To no one’s surprise, NBC’s latest Cleveland station still did not have official call letters.
 In terms of spot advertising revenue for 1963, Philadelphia ranked fourth nationally at a very impressive $7.4 million while Cleveland was listed eighth at $4.3 million. Total broadcasting expenses for the National Broadcasting Company in 1963-64 had increased substantially from $1.6 million to $6.7 million. In what many thought to be a very expected move, Philco’s legal counsel announced that it would no longer pursue the WRCV license.
In November 1964, the FCC announced that the station swap was moving along on schedule. With the exception of the Mike Douglas Show that had already moved its operations to Philadelphia, KYW programming continued on as usual from its downtown Cleveland studios. Everything went along smoothly until later that month when the feds discovered that the National Broadcasting Company and the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company had been secretly working on another major station swap. This time the NBC leadership wanted to exchange one of its prime television stations for Westinghouse’s WBZ. At the same time as that was going on, the FCC demanded NBC and WBC to file a separate federal appeal that would have prevented RKO-General from interfering with the upcoming Cleveland-Philadelphia trade. In a surprising move, the feds granted the National Broadcasting Company a temporary television license for WRCV. However, network officials fully understood that once that transfer was completed it would have to surrender it to the Westinghouse Broadcasting Company. To assure a smooth transition, NBC placed a full page advertisement in the December 14th Broadcasting, The Business Weekly of Television & Radio. It said that the National Broadcasting Company fully intended to play popular music without excessive interruptions until the day of the official transfer. Referred to as “cluster music,” the National Broadcasting Company took great pride in still being able to offer its many WRCV listeners the best in music without the distractions equated with rock and roll music.
No end of the year was complete without KYW’s annual review of major events. Narrated by Bob Hagen (1935-2004), it dealt with many things ranging from the Beatles concert in Cleveland to the NFL Champions Cleveland Browns and everything in between. Who knew what lay ahead for the radio industry, but one thing was certain it had been an extraordinary year for NBC and WBC. In terms of Cleveland radio itself, a new day in local broadcasting was about to dawn with the departure of KYW and the arrival of a brand new NBC powerhouse and the public was very excited about it.
- “RCA-Philco Multi-Million-Dollar Suits Settled,” Broadcasting, Business Weekly of Television & Radio, January 7, 1963. ↵
- “9 Million Kiss Between RCA and Philco Settled; Patent Dispute and Ch.3 Philadelphia Hassle,” Broadcasting, January 7, 1963. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “That NBC-WBC Deal,” Broadcasting, January 28, 1963. ↵
- “Cleveland Radio-TV Pool for Strike Debate,” Broadcasting, February 11, 1963. ↵
- “FCC Insists on Making a Decision,” Broadcasting, March 18, 1963. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Philco Keeps its Hat in the Ring,” Broadcasting, March 25, 1963. ↵
- Bert J. Reesing, “Radio and TV News Coverage is Lauded,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 8, 1963. ↵
- “Cleveland Radio-TV Back to Normal,” Broadcasting, April 15, 1963. ↵
- “Westinghouse Broadcasting Unveils Communicative Name,” Broadcasting, May 20, 1963. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Group W, A New Name in Broadcasting? Almost,” Broadcasting, May 27, 1963. ↵
- Bert J. Reesing, “Hitchcock Grammar Are Odd,” Broadcasting, June 12, 1963. ↵
- Alvin Beam, “From Chairborne to Airborne,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 16, 1963. ↵
- “Group W Means a Direct News Line from the World to Boston, New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago,” Broadcasting, July 23, 1963. “WBC to Document Peace Corps,” Broadcasting, June 11, 1962 ↵
- “Westinghouse Names Officers,” The New York Times, August 8, 1963. ↵
- “Broadcast Bureau Charges Coercion by NBC,” Broadcasting, September 30, 1963. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Radio Programs,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 27, 1963. ↵
- Bert J. Reesing, “Networks, Stations Must Limit Output,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 21, 1963. ↵
- “Westinghouse Plans Public Service Parley,” Broadcasting, October 28, 1963. ↵
- “Westinghouse Conference Draws 300 to Cleveland,” Broadcasting, November 11, 1963. ↵
- “New Market Area Rankings,” Broadcasting, October 28, 1963. ↵
- James B. Flanagan, “WJW’s Jim Storer Never Cries Over Blinding Tear Gas Stroke,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 28, 1963. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- James B. Flanagan, “Sportscaster McKay Spends Days Off Watching Sports,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 15, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- James B. Flanagan, “Martin-Howard Rouse Drowsy with Corny Humor, Zippy Music,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 18, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Schedule of Saturday Radio Programs,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 8, 1964. ↵
- James B. Flanagan, “Disc Jockey’s Life Not Easy, Says Stuntman Jim Stagg,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 29, 1964. ↵
- Alvin Beam, “WHK’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Sound Runs into Challenge by KYW,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 7, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “NBC-Philco Reargue for Channel 3,” Broadcasting, March 30, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “McGannon Calls for Leadership,” Broadcasting, April 13, 1964. ↵
- Bert J. Reesing, “WJW Will Pick Up Another Big Band,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 1, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Philadelphia Dilemma,” Broadcasting, June 15, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Shoppers to Hear Best Location Song,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 18, 1964. ↵
- “Martin & Howard’s Pick Hit,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 20, 1964. ↵
- “WBC Sets Intensive Election-Year Coverage,” Broadcasting, June 22, 1964. ↵
- Bert J. Reesing, “Two Willoughby Youths Stage Summer Listening Marathon,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 23, 1964. ↵
- “NBC Gets Extension on Philadelphia Case,” Broadcasting, June 29, 1964. ↵
- “FCC Clarifies Overlap Rules,” Broadcasting, July 13, 1964. ↵
- “The Note Ruggles Beach,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 17, 1964. ↵
- “Individual Market Revenue for 1963 Compared with 1962,” Broadcasting, July 27, 1964. ↵
- “NBC Accepts Trade with Westinghouse,” The New York Times, September 29, 1964. ↵
- Eileen Shanahan, “FCC Bids NBC Return Station,” The New York Times, July 30, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Philadelphia Circle is Complete,” Broadcasting, August 3, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Alvin Beam, “Harve Morgan’s Fate Talk Show Limps When Phone Rules,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 9, 1964. ↵
- Bert J. Reesing, “Local Teen-Agers Set to Back Beatles’ Second U.S. Invasion,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 12, 1964. ↵
- “Miss Revlon of Higbee’s,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 16, 1964. ↵
- Alvin Beam, “A Big Break for the Rock Gang,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 20, 1964. ↵
- Donald Bain, Long John Nebel Radio Talk Master Salesman, Magnificent Charlatan, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1975). ↵
- “Beach Boys on KYW,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 21, 1964. ↵
- Bert J. Reesing, “Promotional Song is Top 10 Hit,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 25, 1964. ↵
- “RKO Stays in Fight for Ch. 3,” Broadcasting, August 31, 1964. ↵
- “Yesterday was KYW Radio Day,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 31, 1964. ↵
- Alvin Beam, “Curb on Simulcasts a Break for FM Listeners in Area,” The Plain Dealer, September 3, 1964. ↵
- “Broadcasters Appeal Swap Order of FCC,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 3, 1964. ↵
- “NBC, Philco Attack Philadelphia Decision,” Broadcasting, September 7, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Beatles Preview KYW Has Weekend Teen-Age Sound,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 10, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “RKO Plea to FCC Opposed by Philco,” Broadcasting, September 14, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Broadcast Bureau and WBC Agree,” Broadcasting, September 21, 1964. ↵
- “RKO, Philco Turned Down,” Broadcasting, October 5, 1964. ↵
- “RKO Claims Foul in Philly TV Case,” Broadcasting, March 1, 1965. ↵
- Mary Hirschfield, “Republican Perk Gets $100 Bite from LBJ,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 25, 1964. ↵
- “Program Formats? Here’s How They Average Up,” Broadcasting, September 28, 1964. ↵
- “KYW Jingles,” https://youtube.com/watch?v=pfCTD53udkY. ↵
- “NBC, WBC Start Rewinding,” Broadcasting, October 5, 1964. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- Ibid. ↵
- “Top 50 National Spot Radio Markets, 1963 FCC Reports,” Broadcasting, October 12, 1964. ↵
- “Philco Drops Off of Ch. 3 Merry-Go-Round,” Broadcasting, October 19, 1964. ↵
- Alvin Beam, “Last Roadblock is Withdrawn to Orderly Swap-Back of KYW,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 5, 1964. ↵
- “WRCV’s Emphasis Music,” Broadcasting, December, 14, 1964. ↵
- “KYW Reviews Year’s News,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 30, 1964. ↵