Harry Scarborough Meets Humble Harve
In 1969, while doing afternoon drive at KMEN in San Bernardino, I was offered mornings at KYNO, the Drake-Chenault farm club up in the San Joaquin valley. Like all my friends at the time, I was looking for the chance to play REAL Boss Radio. Also, Fresno was where most of the first-rate rock-jocks in California were vetted during the KYNO/KMAK radio war of the early '60s. It was the stuff of legends--the encounter between wildman programming genius Ron Jacobs at Colgreene's KMAK and straight-arrow formatic innovator Bill Drake trying out his newly conceptualized "Boss Radio" ideas at Gene Chenault's KYNO. Drake's victory led ultimately to the resurrection of RKO's KHJ as the Boss Radio flagship with, ironically, Ron Jacobs as its program director. And redefined pop music radio presentation. Needless to say, I leapt at the invitation to drive up to Fresno the next weekend to see their layout.
First, I was shown around "BAWSS RADIO!" It was an AM in a roomy free-standing frame building in a semi-residential neighborhood. Not only was it impressively equipped for a market that size, but I remember asking about the little white stickers on everything. They were everywhere! I was told they indicated "last date maintenanced," put there by Dave Evans, the impeccable and wonderfully eccentric chief engineer. Out back was a garage in which were manufactured the newly-invented QRK quick-start turn-tables. Already on their way to becoming the top-40 standard (before CDs, kiddies), they were invented and built by yet another KYNO engineer.
But...one of my favorite memories of radio happened after we left the station.
The Drake-Chenault A.I.R. syndication facility had just been completed by Dave Evans. He had figured out how to automate rock'n'roll without the whirs, buzzes, and weird tones punctuating long seconds of momentum-killing dead-air between the hits. This studio, called "Barton" by Boss folks, was presented as the coup de grace of my recruitment tour. It was on the top floor of the Security Pacific Bank building in the center of the down-town mall. (In the '60s, Urban Renewal closed off the main street to cars and turned the heart of Fresno into an open-air mall ... and virtually every other medium-size town in California.) Opening the front door, we noticed some activity down the mall, but locked the door and climbed into the elevator. Going up, I was told I might get a peek at Humble Harve in the booth, since it was his weekend to drive up from LA (he wouldn't fly) to record the liners for national syndication.
Arriving at Barton, we were greeted by an impressive array of technical stuff with stuttering meters and blinking lights and giant spinning reels ... but no humans. Suddenly a young man popped in through a window from the balcony. He was the engineer on duty and he announced breathlessly, "There's a fire down on the mall!"
"Where is it? Are we OK?," I asked selflessly.
"Oh yeah, we're fine," he replied, "It's across the mall from us and you can see it out on the balcony. Frederick's of Hollywood is burning!"
I scrambled out through the window, dashed to the waist-high wall that bordered the balcony, and looked down at the frenzy below. (Geez, this was much more fulfilling to an aspiring Boss Jock than all that technical stuff inside!) There was a fellow already standing at the wall, a chunky guy with a beard and shades and dressed casually. ('Another engineer,' I thought.) We were looking directly down and across the open-air mall at firemen dragging hose through Frederick's front door, past the ground-floor windows smoked-up by smoldering and naughty negligee.
Without even looking at him, I asked the guy next to me, "What's going on, man? Is it a bad one?"
"Naw, brother, it's just smoke. They're gittin' to it in time," came the reply in that hey-babeh-its-yo-brudduh-humble-harve voice I'd admired all those nights listening to KHJ.
At that point, I made my first effort to see just who was standing next to me. And, of course, it was Humble Harvey Miller Himself, taking a break from voice-overs. I don't remember my response, but it seemed to launch him into the funniest, most colorful narrative I've ever heard.
For at least ten minutes Harve did play-by-play commentary on the action below: the firemen, the spectators, and especially the damage done to Frederick's specialized merchandise. After all these years, I don't recall much of what he said. I missed a lot of it because I was laughing so hard and trying to keep from falling over the wall. And, of course, there was the shock of having Humble Harve all to myself -- one-on-one -- doing stand-up! But he seemed to enjoy my appreciation of his amazing improvisational gift, only hinted at in the restrictions of format radio. What HAS stayed with me all this time was his hilarious warmth to an impressionable young jock that afternoon. Oh yeah....and this one line:
"Awww, maaan, look at all that smoke! It's gotta be a 48-D-Cup!"
Frank Kingston Smith
Bruce Bradley left WBZ [he was one the people who inspired me to get into radio] to go to whatever WNBC-FM was called back in the late 70's. When he got there, all management raved about his on-air style at WBZ; kinda free-wheeling and hilarious. So guess what? The first thing they did at NBC was to shut him up. Then, management commented that he wasn't as funny as he had been. (?) Then they tried to force-feed a format to him. Then he went to St Louis. What a waste of outstanding talent.
When Fairbanks canned me at WVBF, they had already hired Dale Dorman to do weekends. As an ex-morning jock, the stuck him right into my hours with a producer. The producer's job was to get Dale to sound like me. "Do it like Frank did it...." Finally, one morning, Dale went to the GM and asked: "If you want me to do it like Frank, why did you fire Frank?" Yeah....
Frank Kingston Smith
Gib Goff Remembers Breaking Into (and out of) Radio in Spokane, Washington
I came across your site (440.com) when researching the old stations in Spokane, Wa. You asked for info on old radio personalities, so I thought I'd add mine:
I was in the Air Force at Fairchild AFB in Spokane from 1977 to 80. About to get out, late in 1978 I took one of those career path tests, figured it was time to quit Law Enforcement and get a real gig. The test yielded a 3 digit code. The closest thing to the code on the results sheet was "D.J.", or radio announcer.
So during my last year in the AF I took the KZUN School of Broadcast at KZUN, Spokane. I had Jerry 'Jer-theBear' Anderson as an instructor, and I'll never forget him. What a wealth of knowledge, what a great guy! I did my practice time in the old studio in the front of the station - with the big glass windows so people could see in, and everything. It was truly the romantic picture radio everyone envisions.
Cars would stop by and sit there, the folks waving. I was in heaven. A few times I was allowed to help with sound effects for the on-duty jock, or switch music while they grabbed a quick sandwich.
Then Jerry got me my first gig - at "Double Cross Radio", KXXR in downtown Spokane. I was there in 1979, and was the last part-timer before they sold out the FM side. I went by 'Gib Gibson'.
I would finish my shift at Fairchild Friday at 16:30, change clothes and race down to Spokane to be on the air at 17:00. I did three shifts, Fri evening, Sat midnight to Sun morning, and Sun late evening.
Then about 3 months later the engineer showed up with some pencil necked guy and said they were there to take the FM transmitter out of the rack. We were to go to all AM, sun-up to sun-down. They asked if I hadn't heard about it. I got on the phone to the PD, and discovered I had been the sacrificial lamb, as it were.
I had known the the top jock at the time, morning drive at KJR, was only getting a little over a grand a month, and had no desire to follow the career progression to Seattle, then on to L.A., so as quick as my career in radio started, it was over.
Jerry tried to tell me to not let the experience sour me, gfave me a great pep-talk. But it didn't look like there was any money there. So I stayed in Law Enforcement, and ended as a PI in Seattle in 1999.
Now I'm still creative, as a freelance writer (gibsongoff.com), living in Maryland at the top of the Chesapeake Bay. That short time in radio - the romance of it all, the late night AM signals going for thousands of miles, still greatly influences my life. Even short, I loved the experience.
Thanks for the opportunity to add some meat to the bones of early radio, Johnny. It was great to find your site! And I wish you all the best!
Gib Goff (11/07/2011)
Symphony Sid (Torin)
(From 440 Radio Historian Joe Benson)
> 08:41 PM 6/14/02 -0400:
> My husband and I have been wracking our brains to come up with some names of djs from our past.
> Got your name from a letter you had written about WABC.
> Anyway do you remember Symphony Sid? Milkman's Matinee? Do you know the full name of the hosts?
> Thanks for your help. If you don't know can you pass this on to some other radio > experts of the past?
Symphony Sid (Torin) was a very well known WMCA and, later, WABC "announcer" who had a penchant for 1) drinking heavily and 2) smashing records in a fit of rage if it was something he didn't like. You can see a bit of what Symphony Sid was like from days in New York in opening scenes of the movie "Private Parts" starring Howard Stern. Howard's father was Sid's engineer.
Milkman's matinee was a WNEW original that became part of the Metromedia Radio group through the years. Each of their stations had a "Milkman's Matinee" all night. I remember growing up in the Philadelphia area and listening to Nat Wright "All Night with the Milkman's Matinee" for many years in the 60s and 70s. KLAC in Los Angeles, WASH in Washington, WCBM in Baltimre...they all had them.
Dick Shepard was the host on 'NEW. Of course, the "Original" Milkman's Matinee started on 10-10 WINS...
Here's a little something from "Symphony Sid" ...New York's best known jazz DJ...
Jumpin' With Symphony Sid
Jumpin' with my boss Sid in the city
Jumpin' with my boss Sid in the city
Mr. President of that DJ committee
We're gonna be up all night gettin' ready
We want you to spin the sounds from the city
Far down in the land that's real real pretty
Let everything go real crazy over jazz
Make everything go real crazy over jazz
Let everything cool for me and my baby
I don't wanna think we're listening too lazy
It's gotta be Pressburg cheering all the Basie
It's gotta get it all set right clear on the eighty
Let it roll
Let it roll
In the beginning, there was Symphony Sid...
Close enough, anyway. When Sidney Torin (1909-1984) came to Boston from New York City in 1951, he brought with him a taste for jazz and Latin music. He engaged in those twin passions as a disk jockey at WBMS radio, one of the area's jazz stations of that era.
Symphony Sid was born Sidney Tarnopol on New York's Lower East Side on Tuesday, December 14, 1909, and he grew up in Brooklyn. An early job involved selling classical records at the Symphony Shop. When he started as a jazz disk jockey at WBNX in the Bronx, he was given the moniker, Symphony Sid, and it stuck. He worked at a variety of New York radio stations, including the powerful WJZ; and he made quite a name for himself with his broadcasts from the original Birdland nightclub. He was the greatest jazz disk jockey of his times.
During his Boston days, Symphony Sid broadcast often from the city's jazz clubs, including the Hi-Hat and the Southland. Evidently his taste was quite broad. In addition to the jazz and Latin music that he favored, his WBMS broadcasts included rhythm and blues recordings -- introducing to many New Englanders "rock before it was called rock," as Ed Duato Scheer of the Love Dogs would say. Ken Malden of WBMS also began broadcasting R&B records. Thus, rock radio was born in Boston.
Symphony Sid hosted a gospel music show on WBMS. He actually split his time between two of Boston's radio stations. The other, WCOP, is generally remembered for its country music programming, and especially for the WCOP Hayloft Jamboree. None of the materials which our research turned up gave any details or included any reminiscences of Symphony Sid's work at WCOP.
Symphony Sid returned to New York City in 1956. Late in life, he lived in Florida where he enjoyed the pursuit of fishing. Symphony Sid Torin died on Friday, September 14, 1984.
The spread in New England of early rock or proto-rock seems to be a bit of a mystery. There's good reason to believe that New Haven, Connecticut, was an early hotbed; and in Boston, of course, we know that Symphony Sid and Ken Malden got things going. Actually, I am reliably informed that a number of Boston disk jockeys, apprarently including the great territory-band leader Sabby Lewis, started working rhythm and blues recordings into their broadcasts in the 1940s and early 1950s.
Glossary entry for Symphony Sid:
"Symphony" Sid Torin was a famous disc jockey in New York City during the forties, covering the jazz scene, with a large and loyal following. The reference to "close to eighty on the dot" (or "on the dial") in the song "The New Symphony Sid" is a reference to the position on the radio dial where Symphony Sid's Friday night show could be found, on radio station WMCA.
Stan Shaw conducted "The Original Milkman's Matinee" at night. Veteran NBC sports director Bill Stern presented a breakfast-time talk show. Disc jockey Alan Freed and his record collection came to WINS on 8 September 1954. Often cited as the man who coined the expression "rock'n' roll," Freed was certainly a pioneer; he had already garnered an audience in the New York area through his Cleveland program syndicated through WNJR. He stayed with WINS through 1958, at a time when the station had one of the strongest program lineups in the city.
Enjoy...and thanks for visiting us at 440 International!
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