Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bogarting the beatles

It was not immediately obvious that The Beatles were going to be such a success. it seems ridiculous now, but in radio that's how things are.

When the WABC disc jockeys first heard Fab Four records in 1963, they were hardly impressed. They were not alone in that assessment. There were many in both the music and the radio industry who felt the same way. ...But as beatlemania set in, their opinions changed quickly.

WABC set upon a way to own beatlemania.
1. they would get new Beatles music before anyone else
2. they would debut it on Fridays to keep it out of the hands of other stations for as long as possible

Of course, WABC was not the only New York radio station trying to jump on The Beatles bandwagon. So were WINS and WMCA. Competition was intense for everything The Beatles did from releasing new records to their visits to New York. At WINS, Murray "the K" Kaufman dubbed himself the "Fifth Beatle" and WMCA battled WABC for every exclusive. This created one of the great radio station battles of all time. The prize for the station that could ultimately outdo the others and attract that huge "Beatlemania" audience was going to be the ratings winner. And, they all knew it.

For its part in the rivalry, WABC was up to the challenge. Specific Beatles jingles were commissioned from PAMS centered around the theme "W A Beatle C". These jingles were attached to every Beatles record played. There were Beatles look a like contests, poster contests, and name your favorite Beatle contests. WABC even gave away a giant photo of The Beatles that was used as a backdrop for the ABC TV show "Shindig".

But it was long John Wade at WDRC that was the real winner. He was the only American Dj allowed to tour with the band. In 1964 he was one of two Americans allowed to actually fly with them, an unprecedented level of access. Even Murray "the K" Kaufman, the so-called 5th Beatle wasn't allowed that close.