It's electric !!

The AOR Nightly Progressive Music Radio Program aired on WTOC - AM Savannah, Georgia for about a year beginning in the winter of 1976.


These are My Observations and what I can remember of the AOR (Album Oriented Radio Show) radio days and the work done with my partners Bill Blab (Dan Von Jenef) and Barr Nobels.  Click here to play the show open


I was playing the part of overnight DJ on WSGF radio in Savannah about mid-summer 1976 when my friend Dan invited me over to his great new apartment to listen to some music.  Dan was the night DJ on a competing radio station across town and had given me my first job in radio just a year earlier at WXLM - FM an elevator music station.

Now Dan was "Wild Bill Blab" on the Love-Rock, WTOC.  Did I mention that Dan was sub-letting James Bond's apartment?  No kidding, and it just what you would expect.

After a having a few cocktails and listening to some great music that I had never heard before, we went out onto the roof where Dan, well actually James Bond, had set up a nice outside porch area high above the neighboring houses and overlooking the north end of Forsyth Park.  It was a perfect night.  When we came out Dan put on another tape of music that just blew me away.  It was a phenomenal mix of jazz, rock and a weird spoken word piece by Ken Nordine.  Then this wild announcer came on and talked about Chicago.  It was a tape of Triad Radio from a few years before. 

And it just blew me away again.  I had never heard anything like that before.  

Dan proceeded to tell me all about Triad Radio and over the next few weeks played me many more hours of shows he had taped while he was in Chicago.  We also listened to many hours of air checks done about 3 or 4 years before of Dan as Burt Crabz at WIIN in Atlanta.

I thought the WIIN Radio stuff was great, but Dan had the idea of doing another Progressive Radio format that would be better than his stuff from Atlanta.  He wanted to included the techniques he developed at WIIN Radio and things the Triad Radio folks had done.  He wanted to do something totally freeform in the music programming, and totally comic in it's presentation.  

But finding a station in any market that the owners would take a shot at something as crazy as this was going to be impossible to find.  

Or so we thought.

Dan was doing a top 40 type radio show on WTOC-AM that summer of 1976.  Wild Bill Blab was just about as interesting to listen to as you could get, for a top 40 radio show.  But nobody was listening to it.  WTOC after sunset was 5K directional.  Toward the Atlantic Ocean.  And it sounded like crap.  The Mud-Rock as it was affectionately known among the guys in the business in the local market.

And at 10pm each and every night, they played the CBS Mystery Theater.  Which was a fine radio show.  And after that each night from 11pm to 12midnight, Dan would track an album of the day and fill the remaining 20 or so minutes with whatever he wanted to play.  At midnight he'd simulcast the FM programming, which was country music.

At the time this was happening, the Knight family owned WTOC.  That included WTOC-FM and WTOC-TV.  We were all in one great funky old building located at 516 Abercorn.  The Savannah College of Art and Design own the building now.

W.T. Knight, the founder of WTOC was about 80 years old or older at the time.  He lived to listen to The CBS Mystery Theatre.  They used to tape it and play it at 11pm till midnight and then simulcast, but WT was having trouble staying awake later than 11, so they started running it live at 10pm.  Nice to own your own radio station, eh.

This gave rise to Dan's 11pm music hour, and pretty soon, the 3 folks that were listening called in with requests.

Since no one in management at WTOC gave a rat's ass about the radio station much less have a radio that could pick the sucker up after sunset at their homes out at Vernonberg, Dan started playing progressive rock albums and listener requests.  A small but very vocal following began being built.

Meanwhile, I'm working at WSGF-FM at 409 East Liberty street in the old WSGA building.  When Albert Wise bought WSGA, he left Don Jones with an FM station on 95.5mhz.  Albert owned WZAT-FM already and paid the largest purchase price for a Savannah radio station when he bought WSGA, then the number one rocker in town.

Donny Brook (can you believe that name? And he was the idiot that named me Jeff Davis) was my boss.  I was doing a live all night show playing some real crap.  Since Donny got drunk (by his own admissions) and passed out every night no later than 2am, I started playing more and more of the records I brought from home and borrowed from my roommate Skip Jennings collection.  A small following began to build here too.

Sometime around the last few days of 1976, Dan invited me over to see WTOC radio studios and hang out while he did his last few minutes of progressive music. 

That was the night that John Doe was born.

As I sat in the studio while Dan was on the air, he suddenly introduced me on the air and asked me for a comment or two.  After I recovered we just hit it off great on the air together.  Totally in sync.  We were a team.

Where there's a will, there's a way - and frequently a dupe too

From that moment on, Dan and I schemed as to how we could take over the airways of WTOC-AM and put on our Savannah style of Triad Radio playing progressive rock album music.  AOR for Album Oriented Radio was invented in my kitchen about 4am one hazy crazy morning/night.  

Bill Blab and John Doe were going to launch AOR very soon on WTOC-AM radio.

Sometime after John Doe was born but before AOR was born, The Jeff Davis radio show on WSGF-FM was abruptly cancelled.  My small but very vocal following included Hank Orberg, a writer for the local newspaper.  And Hank got me busted.  

Donny read in Hank's column about my music selections, and showed up in the middle of fucking night and pulled the plug on my show.  I think I was playing King Crimson – In the court of the Crimson King – 21st century schizoid man - when he walked in and asked why I wasn't playing Neil Sedaka.  I made a smart-assed comment about Neil Sedaka and that was it for the New and Improved Jeff Davis radio show.  I expected unemployment the next day.

But the fucker didn't fire me - can you believe that?.  He EVEN gave me a better shift, more hours and easier work.  Which left plenty of time to scheme with Dan about our plans for AOR and start producing stuff.


On left giving the camera the finger -One of the few photographs in existence of  Dan Von Jenef (AKA - Bill Blab).  JJ Hemmingway on right talking to Ted Kelly.  From the WTOC Radio picnic and concert with "Backwater" at Lake Mayer Spring 1977.

WTOC was an interesting place in the last days of 1976, the Bicentennial Year.  The TV station in that great old building at 516 Abercorn Street really made for a lot of activity all day and most of the early evening, every day.  They were pretty much at the top of their game in those days.  Richard Lantz was there and a drunk guy named Gil Fryer were anchors.  The FM station (WTOC-FM 94.1mhz) had recently discovered country music and actually had people listening to it for the first time in it's history.

But the AM station (WTOC-AM 1290Khz) was all but forgotten.  They were still going through the motions during the day when people were in working in the offices, but they had almost no listeners.  

What gave Dan and I the idea that we might actually be able to put our AOR show on the air on WTOC was the real fact that they could not turn off the transmitter - EVER.  If they did, it would never come back on.  Or so everyone believed, and we did our best to find reliable people to reinforce that notion.  Management sure was convinced that would be the case.  I really can't say if it was true or not, we never turned it off the entire time I worked there, but this one simple fact allowed everything else to happen.

WTOC-AM would simulcast the country music that was being broadcast on WTOC-FM all night via an ancient automation system.  When Dan completed his album show, he's bring that up on the AM board.  

We figured, hey !!  They are already paying for the transmitter to run, what if we could bring them enough clients, that we would produce our AOR styled commercials for,  to pay for someone to work the shift.  Maybe even make a few dollars over the overhead?  If we could do that, they would not only let us play whatever the hell we wanted, they'd kiss our ass.  Right?

Right !!

Around the end of January 1977, Dan and I struck a deal with Millard Gainey (now dead), general manager of the radio operations at WTOC, to allow us to do "whatever the fuck you want to do, I don't care ..." on the air from 11pm each night until 5am, provided we kept a minimum number of clients under our belt, kept them paying each month, and met certain financial goals.

We also had to collect.  Which we did monthly in wearing black leather jackets, sunglasses and hats with our violin cases under our arms.  

They all had a good laugh.  And wrote us another check.

So AOR was born on WTOC-AM around mid-February 1977, as best I can remember.

Bill Blab continued to do his top 40 radio show from 7pm - 10pm each weeknight, but went from "Wild" Bill Blab to "Mild" Bill Blab during that hour of CBS Mystery Theatre.  No question there what was happening.

Then I would come on at 12 midnight and play tunes till 5am.  Dan would stay there with me helping to select the records and deliver bits with me and other guests through the night. For a few months we had this guy named Larry Fabian working with us, but he was left over sort of from the daytime operation and was gone within a few weeks.

AOR began to gather some steam real fast.  Within a few months clients were calling requesting to buy time on "that radio show everyone is talking about".  By the beginning of the summer of 1977 demand was so great that we were able to expand our program to start at 6:25pm each day and run until 6am.  AOR had more hours on the air each day than the love rock.

We hired legendary progressive DJ Barr Nobles to fill weekend and some evening shifts.  Since all the DJ's programmed their own music, each show had it's own identity.  I was a heavy rocker and space Jazz player, Dan played a lot of good Jazz, Zappa and light rock, and Barr was the Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Beatles/Elvis player.  AOR Rocked.  And it had personality that you couldn’t find anywhere else on the dial.

And Rocked.

During the summer of 1977 Dan I and were selling commercial time and producing commercials for a number of local business non-stop.  Schroder’s Music Store was one of our biggest clients.  Fueling their commitment was Frank Andrews, whom Dan and I worked out a trade arrangement with for some graphic equalizers. 

We installed one of the EQ’s in our production room, which was a joke (more on that in a few minutes) and the other went in the line at the transmitter to fix some of the Mud in the signal.  They worked wonders, making us sound better than ever.

In exchange for the EQ’s, we produced the Pilot Jack Smith ramming the plane with a Gibson guitar into a mountain spot and ran it about 2000 times.

The production facilities at WTOC in those days was a real joke.  We had a small mixer, a turntable, 2 cart machines and 2 Ampex reel to reel mono recorders.  Oh, and the graphic EQ and we could put the telephone into the board.  Which we used often.

During the summer of 1977 we recruited some of the guys that worked for WTOC-FM doing live shows in the afternoon and morning.  Ed Haney and Bob, I believe it was Brandon or Brannon did some shifts on AOR filling in for me or Barr.  They had a great time cause they got to play everything they had always wanted to play on the radio.

Dan and I would eat at O’Leary’s on River Street or Spanky’s almost every day.  We sold them some radio time and had a few meals on the house that year.  We did some really funny commercials for those guys.

One O’Leary’s commercial was based on real events involving sliding beers down the bar.  In another O’Leary’s commercial we recruited everyone we could find to come in and cut a laugh track for a Happy Hour commercial.  We overdubbed from mono machine to mono machine and had everyone laugh over and over again.  It was so funny to hear the original laugh track and laugh at it during the overdub that we got some of the funniest laughter you ever heard.

One Spanky’s commercial was made with Dan and I reading off the menu while we ad-libbed and playing a sound effects record. 

1977 was the year of everything going great.  Dan and I were selling commercial time by day and producing our AOR styled commercials and putting on the radio show all night.  Besides never sleeping, I was having the time of my life, and learning more about production from a true master than I could have anywhere else.

I was the music director of AOR and in that capacity it was my job to get us records and build our music library.  So we struck a deal with the Record Bar, a record store by Oglethorpe Mall.  From the record bar we go all the stuff I wasn’t able to get the record companies to give us. 

A few of the record companies gave us their catalog and told us to let them know what we needed, and new releases were no problem.  But a lot of the really good old stuff that we needed we couldn’t get our hands on. 

I do have to give credit to my close friend and roommate at the time Skip Jennings for letting me borrow many of his records to play on AOR.  Which is kinda funny when you consider that Skip had a weekly show on WZAT called Alpha Omega on which he played progressive music.  

The Scumbag Bob Powers sets things in motion

Around the end of August 1977 Dan got a call from Bob Powers, the guy that purchased WXLM from Russ Fredrick. Bob wanted Dan and the rest of the AOR crew to come to work for him because he was going to change the format of WXLM to an album rock station.  We knew right then the handwriting was on the wall, the end of AOR was near.

One of the few criticisms made of AOR by it's loving audience was our mode of transmission, AM (amplitude modulation).  Everyone wanted to know "when are you going to get on FM". Dan, Barr and I knew AOR on WTOC was an anomaly, a freak, a real mutant, something that could never happen on a commercially viable radio station that the owners took seriously.  And with Bob Powers making noise about making 97 Rock an FM version of AOR we knew it was over.

I knew Bob was full of crap the first time I met him, which was shortly after Dan consented to take the job as manager and make a bunch more money than the cheapskates at WTOC were paying him.  I met with Bob in early September to discuss coming over to WXLM.  But the meeting was a sham and Bob didn't even offer me a job.  He just wanted to meet me to see if Barr and I posed any real threat if we were to keep AOR going without Dan.

I've learned a lot since that meeting because I kinda remember telling Bob that breaking up the AOR crew was like breaking up the Beatles, you just can't continue, which was a mistake to do.  He left me with a vague promise of bring me on when 97 Rock got going.  

Within a day or two of Dan accepting the job working for Bob and my meeting we got together to plan the funeral for AOR.  At this point the only thing that mattered to any of us were the records, our final good byes on air and a clean getaway.

The End

Working for a radio station like WTOC-AM in 1977 was a once in a lifetime experience, just exciting beyond words every day I was there.  The things that happened in that building at night and sometimes even during the day can never be lived again but the memories are with me every day.  With a big active TV station occupying most of that great old building and the madness our folks added each night, it was an adventure that few people have experienced in their broadcast careers.  

One of the biggest perks of this gig was every day when I came in there were boxes of records waiting.  We must have gotten 50,000 free albums that year from record companies, record stores and artists.  We gave thousands of records away on AOR but we also made a mirror of the AOR record library in volume but using top 40 records we never played on air.

We all knew from the start that one day AOR was going to end.  Freaks like this have a short lifespan.  And WTOC would have no use for our brand of music when we were gone.  So our plan was to switch the library when no one was looking.

The last days of September 1977 are kinda sketchy in my memory.  I do remember we had carefully planned the last days of AOR.  Dan was going to sign off and then Barr and I would do the same a couple of days later.  But after Dan left Barr and I didn't have the will to continue going through the motions.  The next night Barr and I would throw in the towel at midnight.

But in order to get to that point we had to execute the great music library switch.  While WTOC-TV news is on the air from 11pm to 11:30pm, Barr, Dan and I carry every good record from the AOR record library out and carry in thousands of top 40 albums we've been saving to replace the ones taken.  Dan drives the getaway car and by the time the news was over the deed was done.

I later heard no one at the station ever even noticed the entire music library was switched. 

About 11:45pm on September 30th 1977 I put on Jim Morrison and the Doors performing The End.  Just before midnight Barr and I say our good byes on air and told our listeners to look out for us on the FM band.  CBS News plays and just like when it all began, Country 94 played all night on WTOC-AM again.


Excerpts from the journals - Important dates in the history of AOR

8/16/77  Elvis Presley dead.  Barr Nobles does tribute on AOR and Jerry gets the night off.

8/18/77 Two days after the death of Elvis Presley, Skip Jennings and Jimmy Mulvaney set out to see the country. David Stoelting accompanies them as far as New York. They go as far northeast as Boston, northwest as Seattle and southwest as Los Angeles. Many stories are told of the next few months.

9/77   Bob Powers changes format and turns WXLM-FM into an AOR station.  Hires Dan away from WTOC.  Jerry and Barr keep AOR on the air at WTOC for a few days but see no point.  It’s just not the same without Dan.

9/30/77  AOR ends.  While WTOC-TV news is on the air from 11pm to 11:30pm, Barr, Dan and Jerry carry every good record from the AOR record library out and carry in thousands of top 40 albums they have been saving to replace the ones they’ve taken.  No one at the station ever even noticed the entire music library was switched.  Jerry and Barr say their good-byes on the air and resign.

11/77 Skip starts working for Bob Powers as music director at the new AOR station, 97 Rock, WXLM. Barr Nobles is the morning man and program director. Skip does 4:00 to 10:00. At first, Jerry is working there too. Bob Powers fires him for no reason and brings in the lame Mike Prince.

New Years Eve  77/78   Jerry and Skip throw biggest New Years Party ever at 140 Jefferson Street.  Everyone is there.  Hundreds of people come through the house over the course of the evening and nothing gets stolen or broken.

2/78 Dan Von Jenef (a/k/a Dan Eden, Wild Bill Blab, Mild Bill Blab) has returned from Los Angeles to reunite with Tricia Macias. At the revolving door of 97 Rock, Barr Nobles has either been fired or quit. Dan comes back to 97 Rock as “Dick Wrench” doing the morning show. Skip decides to quit as of March 15th to return to Georgia Southern. Both treat work at 97 Rock as an insane temporary situation, requiring similar behavior. Neither is ever seen at the station without sunglasses on. They usually appear to be generally antisocial, arriving at work, going into the studio and immediately turning the monitor all the way up, thereby discouraging conversations. Skip starts wearing progressively bizarre clothing, on occasion tearing his clothing, writing on his clothing with magic markers and wearing his pants inside out. On his next-to-last day at 97 Rock (3/14/78), Skip shows up in blackface. On March 15th, Skip runs into Bob Powers in Telfair Square. They engage in meaningless conversation. Finally, Bob says, “Tell me Skip. Why did you have that black stuff all over your face yesterday?” “I don’t know, Bob,” replies Skip. “I was just feeling good.” Bringing the matter full circle, Skip immediately gets his hair cut short and shows up for his last day in the same suit he wore for his job interview. Dennis Eversoll says, “Gee, Skip, we thought you were going to show up naked.” Bob Powers remains clueless.

3/17/78 Skip is the emcee for the free Dixie Dregs concert for St. Patrick’s Day on River Street. Skip stumbles over, leading to the following on-air exchange: “Well, it’s Skip Jennings here with us on River Street. How’s it going, Skip?” “Well, Dick, I’m really wrenched.” Dan decides to keep the interview short.

Meanwhile, Jerry has had to return home to sleep for a while. After drinking scotch all morning since 6am, he is only able to stay awake long enough to stager home.  He wakes up right after missing the Dixie Dreggs concert and is really pissed.  Another really big party builds for the next 12 hours at 140 Jefferson st.

Elvis Presley dead.  Barr Nobles does tribute on AOR and Jerry gets the night off.

 

 

From Skip Jennings journal

2/78 Dan Von Jenef (a/k/a Dan Eden, Wild Bill Blab, Mild Bill Blab and Burt Krabz) has returned from Los Angeles to reunite with Tricia Macias. At the revolving door of 97 Rock, Barr Nobles has either been fired or quit. Dan comes back to 97 Rock as “Dick Wrench” doing the morning show. Skip decides to quit as of March 15th to return to Georgia Southern. Both treat work at 97 Rock as an insane temporary situation, requiring similar behavior. Neither is ever seen at the station without sunglasses on. They usually appear to be generally antisocial, arriving at work, going into the studio and immediately turning the monitor all the way up, thereby discouraging conversations. Skip starts wearing progressively bizarre clothing, on occasion tearing his clothing, writing on his clothing with magic markers and wearing his pants inside out. On his next-to-last day at 97 Rock (3/14/78), Skip shows up in blackface. On March 15th, Skip runs into Bob Powers in Telfair Square. They engage in meaningless conversation. Finally, Bob says, “Tell me Skip. Why did you have that black stuff all over your face yesterday?” “I don’t know, Bob,” replies Skip. “I was just feeling good.” Bringing the matter full circle, Skip immediately gets his hair cut short and shows up for his last day in the same suit he wore for his job interview. Dennis Eversoll says, “Gee, Skip, we thought you were going to show up naked.” Bob Powers remains clueless.

   

 

 

The last known photo taken of Dan Von Jenef – AKA Bill Blab, Burt Krabz, Dan Eden and others

Photo from WGUL Radio 1985

Audio Files from AOR (more coming soon)

AOR Aircheck of Bill Blab September 1977

The Association For Golden Envy commercial

Mysterious Female ID

Bonzo's Dog Farm

It's Electric Man on the street ID

The Audio Appreciation Doctor

Import Auto Parts commercial

2 Savannah Wine and Cheese Shop commercials

Hi-Fi Soundz - very high strung guy on phone

O'Leary's Pub & Grub commercial

Schroeder's Music Store - Pilot Jack Smith crashes plane

The Chicken Shack commercial

One of the AOR Show Opens

AOR Promo - Another AOR at random phone call to sleeping guy

AOR PSA Musicians National Referral Service

Another AOR Show Open

AOR Bumper

AOR Aircheck of John Doe May 1977

 


Authored 2001 and hasn't been looked at since (looked at again Jan 2009 still OK)(added some stuff July 2010) - Jerry Perlman - Big Time TV Productions  - On the Beach (Moved to the River)
Feel free to use anything on this website.   Original images in most cases.  Some images I've lifted from other websites, some images were given to me by others and I don't know where they came from.   Credit given when the author is known. 

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