(From the unpublished novel Copyright 2010, Donald Riggio)
...By 1954, there were over two thousand AM radio stations in America. They ranged from small 250-watt local operators to the major 50,000-watt stations. When the weather was right, those signals could bounce along the ozone layer in much the same way a flat rock could be scaled across the surface of a quiet pond.
But the golden age of radio was over and the medium was in big trouble. Revenue had fallen from $215 million in 1950 to $40 million in 1953. Almost overnight, television had stolen radio’s crown. The number of TV stations more than doubled from 125 to 349 in 1953 alone. It became apparent that for radio to survive, it needed to re-invent itself. Popular music provided the answer.
In Kansas City, Missouri, Robert Todd Storz, a radio maverick sought to increase the ratings for a group of radio stations his family owned throughout the Midwest. He conducted a survey of local restaurants, taverns and other locations to determine how often the most popular records were played on jukeboxes.
The results surprised him. In almost every instance, patrons chose the same titles over and over. Storz believed the same thing could work in radio. He applied the concept at his station, WTIX in New Orleans, and saw ratings improve. When rival stations initiated a top twenty play list, Storz doubled his station’s list to forty songs. He also fine-tuned the shows, insisting his on-air personalities speak in a quick, rapid-fire style. They broadcast short, sensationalized headline news reports and jingles. Listeners were encouraged to call the station and request specific songs they wanted to hear. Storz debuted the first, forty-song, reverse order countdown survey of the hit songs of the week. Soon, stations all across the country were doing the same thing with shamefully little or no differences.
Ratings soared and Top 40 radio was born. Teenagers everywhere listened to the sound of the big beat.
Rock and Roll quote of the day: "Walk on through the wind...walk on through the rain...may your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on...walk on...with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone." From: You'll Never Walk Alone -The Brooklyn Bridge (R.I.P. Johnny Maestro (1939-2010).