“Not Necessarily the (Radio) News”




In the fall of 1998, NPR ran a year-long series called “Lost and Found”.  Every Friday, NPR would feature a story about a certain type of recording.  It could be one of the first sounds that was recorded by a phonograph, a recording of the wilderness, or an audio clip from an old-time radio program.  As an avid radio listener, I love wasting free time reading up on the history of radio and television from its infancy to where it is at today.

One particular segment that fall was a piece done by Don Gonyea about A.M. radio in the 60’s and 70’s, namely CKLW radio in Windsor, Ontario.  Gonyea, a Michigan native, grew up listening to CKLW.

In 1967, CKLW changed their radio format and what came out of it was unlike anything that Windsor and their neighbors in Detroit have ever heard.  The “Boss” radio (or commonly known as the “Drake format” because Bill Drake and Gene Chenault developed it) format was put in place.  The Drake format shorten the time that disc jockeys spoke between songs, added more songs to be played within the hour and if a song was popular, it would be played numerous times during the week.

KIOA still uses the popular and now updated version of the CKLW news intro. Click on the logo to hear it.

Within six weeks after changing its format, CKLW (aka “The Big 8”) became the most listened to station not only in Detroit, Windsor, and Michigan, but it’s 50,000 kilowatt blow torch reached across the nation.

One of the most memorable things about “The Big 8” was their news department.  They didn’t do the news at the top of the hour, but at 20 minutes before and 20 minutes after the hour. “20/20 News” didn’t do the news like everyone else did.  Former CKLW newsman Lee Marshall coined it “disc jockeys without music.”

He wasn’t kidding.

Today, no one in radio would get away with the fast-paced tabloid news updates the CKLW News team pulled off.

So, for all of you current radio guys and gals, and those who used to work behind the microphone, sit back and watch this great clip, courtesy of YouTube about The Big 8’s infamous and yet wildly popular news team!

Just for fun, let’s hear some airchecks that will bring back some memories for older listeners.

Did you hear a certain singer playing guest DJ?  Who was it?

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