Radio Broadcasting History
440 International
Radio People
Favorite Radio Stories (Gs)
Bill Gavin

Bill Gavin was a friend of mine.

Early in my career, while in Denver at KTLN in 1959, I had broken a hit called, "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport". Bill Gavin picked up on the record breaking in Denver; and thru his weekly sheet, the song spread to nationally become the #1 song of the year. Bill asked me what made me discover a two year old record, long forgotten by even the label. I told him I had originally played it in a much smaller market where it was a big hit, but the label needed more proof. So two years later, in Denver, we did just that. It was Johnny Rowe's first gold record.

A few months later, Bill called one day to ask why I was late in adding "Dominique" by the Singing Nun. The Gavin sheet had been hammering it for weeks and still it was not on KTLN. I explained, it just didn't fit the sound of a rock station. Gavin interrupted, "then you're telling me that KTLN is willing to limit the number of listeners it reaches and is only interested in atttracting a younger, limited audience?"

Dominique soon was #1 in Denver .....and the nation and on KTLN.

So the next time Bill Gavin called to ask why my station wasn't programming "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" by Tony Bennett, I just added the damn thing. After all, one stiff for just a few days airplay couldn't hurt. Besides, it'd get Gavin off my ass.

John Rook

Bill Gavin was a friend of mine.....

In 1963, Bill asked me what I thought of "having some regional get togethers, where us Gavin people can exchange programming information". About a year or so later, the very first of what later became the Gavin Conventions, was held in San Francisco. Then, each year, the annual Gavin became a monster, with cities like Chicago, New York, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas, Las Vegas, all eager to host THE GAVIN.

I remember during the 1966 Chicago convention, Hal Moore, one of my old Denver buddies was in a deep funk. About the same time I had left Denver for KQV-Pittsburgh in 1964, Hal was on his way to be Program Director of the 50,000 watt giant, KYW-Cleveland. KYW was going after 5,000 watt WIXY in Cleveland.

With a background of having come out of the Denver market, in the late 50's and early 60's known as one of the nations most competitive (KIMN, KTLN, KMYR, KOSI, KDAB), Hal "Baby" Moore was expected to make short work of WIXY. Unfortunately, KYW had little impact; but Hal returned to Denver where he today is legendary.

It was at the Chicago meeting that Gavin had asked me to join a panel of major market program directors, who were to discuss why a well programmed, 50,000 watt station, failed to defeat WIXY, at 5,000 watt facility. Over a period of 90 minutes, none of us on the panel could find any reason why KYW didn't defeat WIXY. Hal had done a fantastic job programming KYW.

At the very end of the meeting, tapping a spoon against his water glass to gain our attention, Bill Gavin said, "These Pulse ratings don't prove which station had the most listeners, it only proved that KYW's listeners weren't involved in the survey as much as Hal wanted them to be."

He was right, and to this day every time a "a bad book" arrives, I just remember Gavin......somehow our listeners got left out of the survey.

John Rook

Bill Gavin was a friend of mine......

After twenty five years of programming some of our nations most respected radio stations, I was 42 years of age and programming KFI-Los Angeles. While I loved programming, it was time to be the P. D. of the entire station. I scraped every penny together and purchased my Spokane FM in 1983.

However, I continued to live in Los Angeles for several months, until one day, Bill Gavin telephoned saying he was in town from San Francisco and wanted to drop by. It wasn't long after he arrived at my house, Bill asked, "Why are you still down here when your radio station's in Spokane?" I explained to Bill that I wasn't sure I could accept such a change in locations, Los Angeles for Spokane. We had more people as listeners to KFI than there were in the entire Spokane market, that if I left Los Angeles for Spokane, my income would be cut in half. And besides, at my age, if I left Los Angeles then, I'd give up any chance of ever being invited back to program in Los Angeles.

Gavin took a long sigh, looked at me straight in the eye and said, "Johnny, I was past 50 before I even started the Gavin sheet, and I'm surprised you'd be satisfied repeating over and over, the same experience that's already taken most of your life."

A few months later, I was living on my little horse ranch, south of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and settling into my new job as radio station owner/manager, when I received a letter and picture from Bill, sitting on the back of an elephant somewhere in Africa. In his mid 70's Bill Gavin was having another one of life's experiences.

Bill died in 1985; and in 1988, I was invited to program KABC-Los Angeles. Gavin was right again.

John Rook

Bill Gavin was a friend of mine.....

In life and in death, Bill Gavin gave us honesty with style.

It was his handwritten two page personal letter of June 15, 1984, that Bill first advised, "You had better know about this from me before it reaches you via the rumor mill. I'm being treated for lung cancer, which the doctors now tell us is incurable, no prediction on how long I'll last, but they caution me against a trip to Italy that we had planned for October."

In his July 3, 1984 letter, Bill writes, "What great news, your arriving in Idaho, sorry I can't respond with good news from this end. The extra days have given me a chance to evaluate a lot of things in my life, and I come out pretty well. My life has turned in some worthwhile help for others, and I'm proud of the standards I've set. I'm not going to permit a regular funeral, but if there's some sort of gathering, of just close friends, consider yourself invited. John, I've trusted your friendship for many years, and know you will keep up the good thoughts....Loving thoughts from me."

Just before Christmas, Bill wrote, "You can't take it with you, they say. That's okay, but I'd like to leave it...just some of it...with you." He adds, "My work of the past fifty years has brought me a richness of friendships, loyalties, and a variety of experiences that are available to only a few. As time grows shorter, I notice a feeling of growing intimacy - growing dependence on my favorite recordings. It seems that the closer I approach "ground zero", the more meaningful the music becomes. It makes me increasingly grateful to the artists for making great music everlastingly available to all of us. Surely the richness of love and life must continue well beyond any limits of time and space. You and I have a one-way ticket to an unknown destination. Neither has a definite date on it. Yours might come up before mine, no problem. Death is sadness, I suppose, but nothing to fear."

The final written word from Bill Gavin arrived after his death on January 27, 1985. He called this last communication.....

"Last Days"

So, you've come at last,
I've often wondered when we'd meet,
and where and how.

I'm glad you've picked a small and quiet place,
Instead of a messy highway crash
or anonimity of listing as "civilian casualty".
Or worst of all, age that robs the senses of their memory
and brings oblivion before its time.

I thank you for this pause,
To gather strength and dignity,
The time to set my worldly house in order,
To savor warming love of family and friends.

And most especially I hold this space and time
for memories of love and hope and disappointment.
To feel again the pride of being honored,
To feel again the companionship and love
of Janet and Josette.

Of course, I'll fight you,
Hanging on, as nature bids me to do,
With all of my strength, "such as it is",
As once I made a marriage vow.

I have fought intolerance , and bigotry,
And sneaking greed within my little world.
And won enough to leave a memory
of things worth fighting for.
However such small things endure,
They're all beyond your power to limit or destroy.

So do what must be done,
Yet know that you will never quite succeed.
When memories of love and caring,
Are the legacies we leave.

Bill Gavin

Yes, Bill Gavin was a friend of mine....

John Rook

Bill Gavin

Bill and Janet Gavin were great and motavating personalities in my early radio career. Bill had a unique sense of humor that at times was just outrageous. I remember one time, when I was working at KYA, I happened to be in Bill's Office when a local rep (who shall remain nameless, much as he was then) brought in one of his mentors from New York. He introduced the two with "I'd like you to meet my good friend Bill Gavin." Bill looked at the rep with a slight surprise on is face and torted back "Slight acquintance possibly, but good friend, certainly not." There was a deadly pause in the room. I'm sure the rep was mentally surveying the quickest route to the unemployment office when Bill broke into one of his gentle laughs.

Rick Johnson

Arnie 'Woo-Woo' Ginsberg

When I was 16 I came up to New Hampshire's Hampton Beach for a weekend and the hottest radio station was WMEX and 'Woo Woo' Ginsberg was THE personality. One of his sponsors, Adventure Car Hop, had named a hamburger plate after AG and I have a recorded copy of the commercial when it was introduced. The burger was served on a record, and if you said, "Woo-Woo Ginsburg" when you ordered, you got two Ginsburger Platters.

Although Boston was somewhat out of our way for the ride home, (we were from Springfield, in the western part of the state) we made the trip to Boston and the Adventure Car Hop.

Ron Mart


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