Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Where Detroit Radio Plays On


February 27th, 2014

MarqueeTest-2From the MCRFB news archive: 1959

Newest Distrib-Paid LP Spin Plan Spark Solid Local Dealer Aids






WKMH Radio logo circa 1960

WKMH Radio logo circa 1959-1960


DETROIT — A new trend is evincing itself in the broadcast field, which — if adopted on a national scale — could conceivably lessen the evils of deejay payola. It’s the official pay-for-play plan, whereby stations sell record distributors time to spin and plug a specific recorded disk.

Pay-for-plays programs of various types have been conducted successfully by such key stations as WITH, Baltimore and KDAY, Los Angeles, with considerable success, and one of the most elaborate pay-for-spins operations is currently shaping up in Detroit, where station WJBK has been conducting a “Sound Special” promotion on singles (offering one play per-hour per week for $300.00) for the past few months, and now WKMH is preparing a similar promotion showcase for albums.

Album Of The Week

The WKMH promotion, tagged “Album Of The Week,” guarantees distributors 114 plays per week at a cost of $350 per week for six weeks. The plan will be set up with eight local disk distributors on a rotating basis, covering a period of 48 weeks. Each distributor will have one of his albums featured every eight weeks. Distributor must purchase the plan for the entire 48-week period.

Choice of album featured each week will be left to the distributors. However, L.P.’s must “meet the requirements of WKMH’s ‘Good Music Policy’.”

Each “Album Of The Week” will receive one play per hour from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. (excluding Dick Buller’s show) for a total of 18 plays per day Monday through Saturday. On Sundays the LP will receive six plays for a guaranteed weekly total of 114 spins by WKMH deejays.

Each time a selection from the featured LP is played, the WKMH jocks will recommend the album and give the name and the address of a record shop where the LP may be purchased. A list of recommended record shops will be submitted to the station by each participating record distributor and these names will be featured on the air on a rotating basis.

In addition to the 114 plays per week, dee-jay program director Robin Seymour will spotlight two best-selling albums of each participating distributor during his Saturday afternoon program and will “pitch” each best-selling album he plays.

Build For Dealers

The plan is designed to help distributors cement dealer relationships, since each record store (recommended by a distributor) will be mentioned at least once each week on WKMH. The station, which is paying all costs for the rack-displays, notes that they “can be taken out of any record shop that does not co-operate with the participating record distributors.”

Each week, WKMH’s deejays will appear at a different record shop (designated by a participating distributor) in Detroit to visit with customers, sign autographs and “promote the sales of albums and records.”

At the same time, WKMH will mail to the list of recommended record shops a list of the top 10 albums of each participating distributor. The station will also inform the recommended record shops a week in advance about forthcoming “Album of the Week” selections, so that the dealers will have it in stock and on display.

Although by its own definition the fee is a hefty one, a record shop where the LP is mentioned (“better than $2 dollars a play” according to one record manufacturer’s estimation), more than 90 per cent of Detroit’s disk distributors reportedly have agreed to go along with the WKMH promotion.

Leo Cheslak, of Cadet Distributors, for instance, opines that the plan sounds like a feasible one for building local album sales, on the basis of his experiences with the WJBK singles promotion. Under the WJBK plan, which Cheslak terms a successful sales-builder, distributors pays $300 per week to have a single record played every hour for one week. The featured disks are also made available at the special price of 75 cents by recommended dealer stores during the promotion week. END.

WKMH's Robin Seymour, as he appeared in 1959. In 1959, Seymour was the appointed PD at the station. (Photo courtesy of MCRFB senior contributor Greg Innis).

WKMH’s Robin Seymour, as he appeared in 1956. By 1959 Seymour was the appointed PD for the station, having held that position for a number of years. (Photo courtesy of MCRFB senior contributor Greg Innis)

(Information and news source: Billboard; February 2, 1959).


February 19th, 2014

MarqueeTest-2From the MCRFB radio notebook: 1957, 1959, 1961 and 1962







DETROIT (October 28, 1957) — DETROIT DISK BIZ SLOW: Echoing a national complaint of recording distributors in the industry, Robin Seymour, deejay-program director of WKMH, Detroit, reports that in recent weeks the best selling lists around the Motor City has been static, with fewer and fewer new records making their way onto the charts. Seymour opined that that poor economic conditions locally are to blame, but added the optimistic prediction that things should change soon, since Detroit record sales during fall and Christmas have topped each previous year for the past several holiday yule seasons. END.

DETROIT (July 20, 1959) — Robin Seymour, WKMH, Detroit, has launched a daily 15-minute segment (6:15 – 6:30 p.m.) featuring musical highlights from a different year each day, along with commentary about news events of each date. The segment is produced by Arlene Schubert, who is currently the Dearborn-based WKMH music librarian. END.

DETROIT (August 28, 1961) — Two new jocks have joined WKMH, Detroit. Bob Green, formerly with WGVA, Geneva, New York, has moved into the 8-10:45 p.m. time slot on WKMH. Ray Otis, ex-WHK, Cleveland, has taken over the outlet’s 12 noon to 3:00 p.m. across the-board-time slot and its Sunday noon to 4:00 p.m. time-frame. Bob Green will also act as WKMH’s production director. END.

DETROIT (September 11, 1961) — Plans are now on the drawing boards for deejay record hops to be run direct by local arenas, with evening jocks doing their shows direct from the spot and featuring guest recording talents. Records by the artists would be available for purchase as well by recording distributors’ rack-jobbers. The idea of deejay broadcasts from rink locations is not new. Only in recent weeks, Lee Alan, WKMH, Detroit, staged a successful teen dance at the Riverside Roller Arena in that city with such acts as Bob Beckham, Little Caesar and the Romans, also the Marvelettes and the Edsels present. END.

DETROIT (March 10, 1962) — A flock of stations around the country last August supported city drives to encourage teenagers to return to high school and reduce “drop-outs” which result when youngsters find summer employment and don’t want to go back to school in the fall. For example, Dave Prince, WKMH in Detroit, sponsored a “back to school” contest, asking teenagers to complete in 25 words or less the statement: “I’m going back to school this fall because . . . ”  Winners received wrist watches and transistor radios. The response was so great that the Michigan Education Association plans to stage similar contests next year with WKMH and other Michigan radio stations. END.

DETROIT (March 31, 1962) — (Billboard Programming Panel) — Question: “Do you have special promotions or programming ideas which are designed to build better relationships with local schools and students?”

(Dave Prince, WKMH, Detroit) — ANSWER:

“Station WKMH deejays lead yells at the high schools each fall. We have our own WKMH cheerleader sweaters, megaphones, and a special series of school chants and yells, using the deejays’ names, station call-letters, etc. I also sponsor a “Back To School” contest at the radio station during the fall in co-operation with the Michigan Education Association, giving away 10 wrist watches to the best ten letters. The MEA will incorporate the idea throughout Michigan next fall.” END.

– (Information and news source: Billboard Magazine. All excerpts culled as was first published from the dated editions as noted above).


January 30th, 2013








Capitol jazz artist Nat King Cole with Detroit radio personality Ed McKenzie on WXYZ radio, earlier in 1954 (Click on image for larger view)

Capitol jazz artist Nat King Cole with Detroit radio personality Ed McKenzie on WXYZ radio, earlier in 1954 (click image for larger view).

DETROIT — Veteran deejay Ed McKenzie resigned from station WXYZ here last week in protest of the station’s “formula radio” programming policy.

Rallying to his side was his long-time competitor and another Detroit veteran spinner, Robin Seymour, of WKMH, who came out strongly last week for McKenzie and against “formula radio.” Seymour stated that, “It’s a crime and a shame when one of the true deejays – one of the men who made the jockey a major factor in broadcasting – has to bow to the dictates of a program director.”

Although Seymour and McKenzie – two of Detroit’s key deejays – have vied for audience ratings for the past eleven years (they occupied the same afternoon time slot) Seymour said they remained friends – their friendship dating back to the time McKenzie gave Seymour his first radio job at WJBK here.

Seymour had asked McKenzie to appear on his WKMH show to discuss the whole formula radio situation and his reasons for leaving WXYZ. Seymour said they will explore the jockey’s need for freedom of programming and will discuss further on whether the advent of “formula radio” has anything to do with the fact that no new name deejay (other than Dick Clark) has come up from the ranks in recent years.

WKMH deejay Robin Seymour

WKMH deejay Robin Seymour

Seymour said his station, WKMH, is now the only major Detroit station operating on a non-formula programming policy. The outlet did adopt a non-rock and roll format last year, but Seymour said the management dropped the policy last January, and put record programming back in the deejay’s hands. As a result, the jock said WKMH’s ratings are already showing a small rating climb – the first rating increase for the station in some time.

The WXYZ “formula” (featuring the Top 40 singles was adopted by the station about a years ago, and WXYZ vice-president in charge of radio, Hal Neal, opined “Our interpretation of radio is that it is a step moving forward.”

WXYZ's Ed McKenzie interviews jazz great Anita O'Day on his WXYZ radio show in the mid-1950s

WXYZ’s Ed McKenzie interviews jazz great Anita O’Day on his WXYZ radio show sometime in the mid-1950s (click image for larger view).

McKenzie on the other hand expressed his opinion that this “formula” did not jibe with his interpretation of radio as “being intimate and friendly.” He stated that his ratings were dropping since the “formula” policy had gone into effect and that he would sooner “dig ditches or sell hot dogs” than go back to formula radio “because I can’t do something I don’t believe in.”

The radio station disagreed with use of McKenzie’s bird calls on the air and his “on the air” comments on office typing and the programming. The station also found themselves in disagreement with McKenzie about their new policy to boost the station on his programs, which the jockey termed “unnecessary.”

McKenzie’s 3 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. spot is being taken over by Mickey Shorr, who will have another replacement for his own Night Train program. Reportedly making between $60,000 and $80,000 a year in his 29th year with radio, McKenzie was Jack The Bellboy at WJBK before he changed to WXYZ radio in 1952. END.

WXYZ's Ed McKenzie extend handshake with his friend Robin Seymour, late 1950s (Photo Credit: from the collection of Greg Innis)

WXYZ’s Ed McKenzie extend handshake with his friend Robin Seymour, late 1950s. (Photo Credit: from the collection of Greg Innis).

 (Information and news source: Billboard; March 16, 1959).


November 23rd, 2012

From the MCRFB radio news scrapbook:

Bob Seymour of WKMH, one of three local radio jocks, opens Hit Tune Party for Detroiters






DETROIT, July 30 – The first Hit Tune Party of the season was held Sunday, July 24, at the Eastwood Gardens, Eastwood Park, by the Michigan Automatic Phonograph Owners Association (MAPOA). The event drew a crowd of between five and six thousand teenagers, one of the biggest turnouts in the history of the organization.

Gene Krupa and his orchestra played for the event, offering an afternoon of dancing. Tunes picked as “candidates” for the hit tune selection were featured. Winner was Someday, as recorded by Vaughn Monroe on Victor. The number will be the hit tune of August here, and will be placed in the No. 1 position on all juke boxes in the Detroit area. A second-number to be co-featured will be selected later, according to Roy W. Clason, MAPOA business manager.

Billboard, August 6, 1949

Three disk jockeys made personal appearances and assisted in handling the program for the evening. They were Bob Seymour, WKMH, Dearborn; Doc Lemon, WJR, and Johnny Slagle, WXYZ, both of Detroit. Clason acted as master of ceremonies.

A personal appearance was made by Frankie Mullec, Continental Records artist, whose new number Tell Me A Story was also played. Plans for a Hit Tune Party for August, with another name band to be featured, are now being made, according to Clason. END.


(Information and news source: Billboard; August 6, 1949).


November 23rd, 2012

From the MCRFB vinyl archives:

CRUISIN’ 1956  Increase Records (1970)






Cruisin’ 1956 was released in June, 1970


By Jerry Hopkins




The CRUISIN’ history of rock and roll radio begins in 1956, one of the most exciting years in “pop” history, and to take us down this memory lane (with a beat) is Robin Seymour of WKMH, which was, when he joined it, a little-known station In Dearborn, Michigan. Robin came to the suburban Detroit station from the Armed Forces Radio Network and he brought with him a voice that mixed the warm, confidential tone of an intimate friend with the slick disc jockey rap we all know today, a blend which made him a natural for housewives and teenagers alike.

WKMH’s Robin Seymour

Robin never had any particular ethnic identification or allegiance but the “Bobbin’ with Robin Show” quickly found its audience, as he constructed a bright, orderly program that featured (almost exclusively) the records listed on the sales charts printed by the music press. He also was among the first of the nation’s deejays to ask his listeners what they thought about new records, and hosted some of the earliest sock hops and commercial tie-ins with local record stores. In 1953 he was named “Disc Jockey of the Year” by Billboard, the music trade magazine. The following year he was given the same title by another publication, Hit Parader.

1956: President Eisenhower underwent an operation to relieve blockage of the small intestine due to ileitis, but physicians said he would be physically fit to run for re-election. Scientists said radiation was a peril to the future of humanity, Egypt seized the Suez Canal and the United Nations established the first international police force on the Sinai Peninsula. The first trans-Atlantic telephone cable system went into effect. The Hungarians revolted. Six Marine recruits were marched into a stream at Parris Island and drowned. The Andrea Doria sank off the coast of Massachusetts. And Elvis Presley and the spread of rock and roll nearly pushed everything else in this list of news stories right out of the conversation.

This was the year Elvis recorded Heartbreak Hotel, Don’t Be Cruel, Hound Dog and perhaps half a dozen other million-selling songs . The first of these (Hotel) appeared in the number one position the end of April and that song or another by Elvis occupied the same lofty spot twenty-five of the year’s remaining thirty-six weeks.

1956 was the year “rock ‘n’ roll” became an angry epithet, blamed by psychiatrists and religious leaders (not to mention thousands of parents) for the rise in juvenile delinquency; some even said it was all a part of some Communist plot. Elvis and his pack of noisy imitators were called obscene and there were real riots at dozens of concerts. There were non-rockers on the record charts, to be sure, but it was Carl Perkins’ Blue Suede Shoes and Bill Haley’s Alligator that became a part of the New Culture, not Gogi Grant’s Wayward Wind and Morris Stoloff’s Picnic. The war babies had come to teen-age.

Most adults in ’56 thought it was a fad and that “it” would go away. Most radio listeners believed otherwise. There were a number of rock giants on the popular music charts in 1956 and many had made their abrupt and rhythmic appearances there after serving an apprenticeship in the ghetto called rhythm and blues.

That’s what 1956 was: the teen-age 1776. There’d been rumblings earlier, but this year all the lines were drawn.


— Jerry Hopkins


Crusin’ series conceived and produced by Ron Jacobs

Recreating one of his old radio shows from 1956 is Robin Seymour, who then was with WKMH in Dearborn, Michigan. He had come to this suburban Detroit station from Armed Forces Radio and soon his warm, confidential tone had won him teenagers and housewives alike. His BOBBIN’ WITH ROBIN show was the reason BILLBOARD named him Disc Jockey of the Year in 1953, and HIT PARADER magazine did the same in 1954. Today he’s in television and concert promotion in Detroit. For this album, Robin Seymour was the first of the seven disc jockeys in the CRUISIN’ series selected as the best living representatives of Fifties and Sixties radio from seven top American radio cities.

(Cruisin’ LP series notes by producer Ron Jacobs, for Increase Records; 1970).

And today, a Robin Seymour video message from 2010 . . . .


August 29th, 2012

From the MCRFB news archives:

It’s What’s Going On In And Around The Detroit Music Scene….





Detroit — Columbia Records, Tom and Jerry Schoenith’s Upper Deck of the Roostertail and CKLW combined Monday, July 3 in an all-out promotion for Columbia’s Moby Grape. Columbia Records promotion man Russ Yerge brought the Grape into town that day and arranged with the Schoenith’s to have a special Moby Grape night at their club, which is normally closed Mondays. The public was admitted free. Paul Drew, program director of CKLW, co-operated in promoting the evening with a barrage of spot announcements about the free show. Drew also put the group’s single “Omaha” on his CKLW Big 30 playlist. All of the CKLW deejays, including Tom Shannon and CKLW-TV personality Robin Seymour, were on hand at the Upper Deck to introduce the Haight-Ashbury San Francisco band. The new group earlier in the day appeared on Seymour’s TV show. . . . Terry Knight is booked into the Chess Mate for two weeks beginning Monday, July 10. . . . The Bee Gees are coming into Detroit on a promotion trip Thursday, July 13. . . . Gordon Lightfoot is playing at the Living End the week of July 17. . . . Nanett (Fabray) was in Detroit Tuesday, July 4 to promote her Canusa record, “The Look Of Love.” END.

The Grape in 1966.

San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury band Moby Grape in 1967. (Michael Ochs Archives).

(Information and news source: Billboard; July 8, 1967).

Motor City Radio Flashbacks

Where Detroit Radio Plays On

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