Monday, August 17, 2020

The First Heavy Metal Radio Program

In April of 2010 I wrote the following:
"...The modern usage of "metal" in the musicological sense date back to 1968... This leads me to believe that no radio show can claim to have begun before the mid-1970s and truly have any metal music to air. So it is no surprise that few programs can be authoritatively dated to even the early 1980s."
So even having made a list [LINK] of very early and long-running metal radio programs, I supposed there could hypothetically have been a metal show that pre-dated the 1980s metal boom. But that the program could be no early than the mid 1970s. I have now found that radio program. But first a little etymology.

We can thank our favorite heroin addict William S. Burroughs for the origin of "metal" terminology. He used the words "heavy metal" in two books.  Published in 1962, The Soft Machine has a character known as "Uranium Willy, the Heavy Metal Kid". In 1964 he revisits the term in Nova Express with Insect People of Minraud with "metal music." Inspired by these books in 1967, the band Hapshash and the Coloured Coat  put out the album Human Host and the Heavy Metal Kids.
In this etymology "heavy" means profound and/or potent, a 1960s slang use of the word. In 1968 both Steppenwolf and Iron Butterfly prophetically used the word heavy in that context. The first confirmed use of 'metal' as an adjective to describe music appears in a review by Barry Gifford in an issue of Rolling Stone published in 1968. It described the band Electric Flag. But Lester Bangs writing for Creem Magazine in May 1971 used "heavy metal" to describe Sir Lord Baltimore which aligns more with the modern use of the term.

So in April of 1978 comes the program "The Vinyl Underground" hosted by Jeff Bender on WGTB. The program description in the Program guide reads as follows:
"Heavy-metal with a chrome edge-and buffed to a diamond-like shine by Jeff Benders eclecticism and tasteful choice of the very best (and some of the most obscure) hard rock produced. A real rock & roll alternative."
Bender previously co-hosted the program Hard Implosion with co-host Fred Cresce in 1976. This was probably more of a hard psychedelic rock program, but the sub-genre itself and the emphasis on "hard" in the name makes it a likely precursor to the metal radio programs that followed. By 1978 Cresce was hosting a program called Magic Carpet Ride, which leaned toward the psychedelic. But on Saturday nights at 9:00 PM he hosted another program. The description makes clear he too is using the term "heavy metal " in the Lester Bangs sense. The April program guide reads as follows:
"Some good party music to end the week with the accent on the heavy metal and just plain good old rock & roll. Please have plenty of speaker fuses handy!"
But thanks to Michael Manos, we have recordings of two episodes of Hard Implosion. One from December 29th of 1978, The other undated but due to the February release dates of the Judas Priest, and Alvin Lee albums, I believe it's from about that time. So we can examine these playlists and see that it bears out my original thesis as to the content.

[Note, Part 6 of the 12/29 tape is actually backsold on part 2 of the assumed Feb, 1978 tape so I think it's is incorrectly associated with that tape. I have transplanted it to it's assumed correct sequence.]

UNDATED TAPE (Assumed Feb, 1978)
April WineGimmie LoveRocks!1976
UFOLights OutLights Out1977
Blue Oyster CultDominance and SubmissionSecret Treaties1974
David Bowie Diamond Dogs Diamond Dogs 1974
Atlanta Rhythm Section Cold Turkey, Tenn Back Up Against the Wall 1973
Back Street Crawler New York, New York The Band Plays On 1975
Omega 6 Just a Bloom Nem Tudom A Neved 1975
Moxy Are You Ready Riding High 1977
Moxy Sailors Delight Under the Lights 1978
Head East Get up & Enjoy Yourself Head East 1978
Montrose Jump On It Jump On It 1976
Judas Priest Deep Freeze Rocka Rolla 1974
Lou Reed Andy's Chest Transformer 1972
AC/DC T.N.T. High Voltage 1976
AC/DC Ain't No Fun Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap 1976
AC/DC It's a Long Way To The Top High Voltage 1976
Van Halen I'm the One Van Halen 1978
Yesterday & Today Fast Ladies Yesterday & Today 1976
UFO Highway Lady No Heavy Petting 1976
Budgie In the Grip of a Tyre Fitters Hand Never Turn Your Back on a Friend 1973
Rainbow Sixteenth Century Greensleeves Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow 1975
N/A "Taking it Easy"? N/A N/A
Judas PriestBetter by You, Better Than MeStained Class1978
Uriah HeapDevil's DaughterReturn to Fantasy1975
Black SabbathParanoidParanoid1975
Judas PriestSaints In HellStained Class1978
Led ZeppelinDazed and ConfusedLed Zeppelin1969
RushBefore and AfterRush1974
MontroseOne Thing on my MindMontrose1973
MotorsWhiskey and WineMotors1977
GeordieCan You Do ItHope you Like it1973
SteppenwolfThe Night Time's For youFor Ladies Only1971
LonestarA New DayLone Star1976

Notably on the February tape after a particularly metal-leaning set of songs Crese makes the prescient remark "We heard what I felt was a sound-alike set, where these three groups: Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Uriah Heap sound the same to me, OK?... What did you think?"  None of these bands knew in 1978 that they were blazing a heavy metal trail that thousands of other bands would follow. In the intervening decades tens of thousands of new metal bands and a litany of new metal subgenres would be born. In that moment, Cresce is so close to realizing what we all now know.

On both tapes Fred Cresce does a nice professional job back-selling the songs so even though the tape starts at one song, he tells us what he aired in the prior 20+ minutes in order. It also helps me identify what are now fairly obscure songs in some cases. Consequently we get a bigger sample playlist.

DECEMBER 19th, 1978 TAPE:
JourneyMystery MountainJourney1975
Three Man ArmyWhat's My nameA Third of a Lifetime1971
Blue Oyster CultETIAgents of Fortune1976
StepsonRule in the BookStepson1974
MontroseJump On itCrazy for you1976
James GangCruisin' Down the HighwayMiami1974
Sammy HagarRock 'N' Roll WeekendSammy Hagar1977
Captain BeyondMidnight MemoriesDawn Explosion1977
Pat TraversRunnin' From the FuturePutting It Straight1977
Henry GrossTraveling TimePlug Me Into Something1975
Bachman Turner OverdriveIt's OverHead On1975
Judas PriestKilling MachineKilling Machine1978
ChilliwackLast Day of DecemberRockerbox1975
Black SabbathNever Say Die!Never Say Die1978
Joe WalshWelcome to the ClubSo What1975
PiperCan't WaitCan't Wait1977
UFOLights OutToo Hot To Handle1977
Ram Jam404Ram Jam1977
Ace FreelyI'm in Need of LoveAce Freely1978
The Real KidsDo The BoobThe Real Kids1977
SteppenwolfThe Night Time's For youFor Ladies Only1971

Diamond Rio

Scratch My Back

Dirty Diamonds
Dirty TricksGet Out on The Street
Hit and Run
AC/DCSoul StripperHigh Voltage1976
Lynyrd SkynyrdBaby Don't You CrySecond Helping1974
Alvin LeeRocket FuelRocket Fuel1978
MoxyCause There's AnotherMoxy II1976
GranmaxLet Me KnowA Ninth Alive1976
Ted NugentWhere Have You Been All My LifeTed Nugent1975
DetectiveDynamiteIt Takes One to Know One1978
Dirty TricksLast Night of FreedomHit & Run1977
Yesterday & TodayAnimal WomanYesterday & Today1976
Thunder MugBig CityTa-Daa1975
Judas PriestHeroes EndStrained Class1978
Black SabbathThe Thrill of it AllSabotage1975
Uriah HeapShady LadyReturn to Fantasy1975
Judas PriestBetter by You, Better Than MeStained Class1978

It seems probable that there were other similar programs at about this time, probably even Jeff Bender's Vinyl Underground also on WGTB. But Hard Implosion is the earliest that I've been able to document fully— down the playlists. For that reason I feel confident calling it the first known metal radio program.

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