Monday, September 26, 2011

DJ Wink Martindale

Today Winston "Wink" Martindale is remembered as the host of a number of cheesy TV game shows. He hosted a total of 12 different game shows including Las Vegas Gambit, You Don't Say, Can You Top This, Headline Chasers, High Rollers, Debt, Tic-Tac-Dough and Trivial Pursuit. To modern sensibilities his accomplishments are cheesy, and trite. But in many ways he was a leader in this arena. Without Tic-Tac-Dough there wouldn't be Deal or No Deal, or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Today there's an all Gameshow network, GSN. Wink is a part of that somewhat grotesque legacy, and before all this... he was a radioman.

Martindale was born in Jackson, Tennessee in 1934 and got his first DJ gig at the age of 17 at 1490 WPLI-AM.he is listed incorrectly in the 1953 issue of the Broadcasting Yearbook as "Winkie" Martindale. At least I hope it's incorrect. That'd be an awful nickname. The station's license was cancelled 2 years later. He crossed the street to WTJS-AM then WDXI, but his last stop was definitely 1460 WJAK-AM. The 1957 Broadcasting Yearbook lists Winston Martindale as it's PD. He didn't stay in town long after that. He graduated from Memphis State College, with a Bachelor of Science degree that year.

He tried Television for the first time in 1958 at WHBQ-TV in Memphis. the program was a kids sci-fi show called  Mars Patrol. While at WHBQ-TV  Martindale became the host of the Saturday night "Dance Party" show. I dont' have the sequence cemented yet btu that same year Martindale recorded the song, "Deck Of Cards" and it went to number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The disc sold over a million copies. He even performed it on the Ed Sullivan Show. He was two steps away from becoming Dick Clark. Instead, he retreated back to radio. maybe the offer from  KHJ-AM in Los Angeles looked better than his prospects in TV. Fellow WDXI-AM alum Ron Meroney was happy to take over for him at WHBQ-TV.

In 1959, he became the host of the morning show at KHJ-AM. It was a Top-40 station at the time. About a year later he moved to KRLA where he stayed a bit longer. Then he moved to KFWB in 1962 where he stayed 5 years replacing Gary Owens in morning drive slot. Simultaneously he was hosting the game show What's This Song? on NBC.  (Two episodes are known to exist.)  But TV wasn't hsi mainstay yet. He had some more miles to put into radio.

He started at KGIL in 1968, and put in three years there. Then on to 710 KMPC-AM doing oldies under Golden West Broadcasting then owned by Gene Autry.  He worked briefly at KJQI and KOJY in 1993 staying less than a year then went back for another short tour stop at KGIL. But that was it.. he did another year of KGIL maybe then off to TV land for good. In 1966, Billboard had voted Wink the #1 mid-day personality. He was a hot item and he seized the day so to speak. He began hosting the game shows Everybody's Talking, and You Don't Say in 1967.  In the 1970s he went onto the big name shows like Las Vegas Gambit, and Tic-Tac-Dough. He's still at it today, he's slowed down a bit, but he's 77 cut the guy a break.


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