Dick Summer reveals the REAL father of classic rock radio in Boston

Donna Halper dlh@donnahalper.com
Sat Jul 29 12:28:47 EDT 2006

Steve wrote--

>Interesting story, though his recollection of WBZ's timeline differs 
>somewhat from mine.  First of all, WBZ did not go all-news in 1968 
>when they dropped Top 40...they were various flavors of AC for many 
>years, though they did add some talk at night.  He conveniently left 
>off one of the contributing factors of the demise of Top 40 on 1030, 
>and that was the fact that WRKO absolutely cleaned WBZ's clock in 
>their very first book (spring '67)...by that autumn it was clear 
>that WBZ's days as a rocker were numbered...and this was before 
>"Alice's Restaurant" was released.

WBZ began evolving towards all-news slowly, starting in the early 
1980s.  They abandoned top-40 in the late 60s/early 70s, as music 
began moving over to FM and AM stations began doing more talk and 
full-service content.  But memory is a tricky thing, as I have found 
doing oral histories.  People tell their story the same way for so 
many years that they begin to believe it... That's why, while it's 
great that Dick wrote his recollections, it's important to remember 
that he is recalling them nearly 40 years later, and it's easy for 
revisionism to set in.  I've got a pretty good memory, but if you ask 
me what I was doing in radio in 1968 (I was on the air at my college 
station-- first woman d.j. in Northeastern's history, in fact), I 
remember some of it, but not every single detail-- even though it was 
a major event in my life.

Steve wrote--

>I also don't recall WBZ being especially free-form...maybe they 
>weren't as tightly structured as WABC,  I really doubt that the 
>jocks brought in their own records from home and played what they 
>felt like...even back then you couldn't get away with that and have 
>a 25 share.  Even in 1965/66 I remember one of the O'Hara's making a 
>comment on the air about the music being pre-selected.  Perhaps Dick 
>had more freedom in overnights & on "Subway", but I bet the rest of 
>the jocks had a format to follow.

That is true to a certain extent-- daytime it was a straight-ahead 
top-40, but the overnight show always had more freedom, so Dick could 
use drop-ins (or "hacks" as they used to be called) and occasionally 
play songs nobody else on the station played, especially weird 
novelty records like "Grandpa's Grave."  ('They're removing grandpa's 
grave to build a sewer..'-- ah they don't write lyrics like that 
anymore.) But the daytime jocks also had their share of weird novelty 
songs too-- I recall Bruce Bradley using segments of Screamin' Jay 
Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You" as his favourite drop-in... Still, 
it's obvious the station used heavy dayparting and Summer probably 
had the most freedom to experiment.

When Dick briefly programmed over at WMEX, he tried to create an AM 
version of free-form progressive in 1969, if my memory serves. It was 
called "The Human Thing", and It failed miserably.  But it was an 
interesting experiment. 

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