Bill Drake Dead At 71
December 1, 2008 at 5:26 AM (PT)
It's a huge loss for the radio industry, as ALL ACCESS reported on SATURDAY (NET NEWS 11/29) that radio legend BILL DRAKE died from lung cancer at age 71 in LOS ANGELES. DRAKE passed away SATURDAY at WEST HILLS HOSPITAL in the SAN FERNANDO VALLEY.
DRAKE, born PHILIP YARBROUGH, chose his last name from among his relatives' surnames, because it rhymed with "WAKE," the station in ATLANTA where he worked as a programmer and disc jockey in the late 1950s, writes WIKIPEDIA. Later, BARTELL BROADCASTING, which owned WAKE -- that he had programmed to #1 -- transferred him to KYA in SAN FRANCISCO, which also became #1. It was later at KYNO in FRESNO that he met GENE CHENAULT, who became his business partner. Together, the pair developed highly influential radio programming strategies and tactics, as well as working with future "Boss Jocks."
DRAKE-CHENAULT perfected the Top 40 radio format, which had been created by TODD STORZ, GORDON MCLENDON and other radio programmers in the late 1950s, which took a set list of popular songs and repeated them all day long, ensuring the widest possible audience for the station's music. Jingles, news updates, traffic and other features were designed to make Top 40 radio particularly attractive to car listeners. By early 1964, the era of the BRITISH Invasion, Top 40 radio had become the dominant radio format for NORTH AMERICAN listeners and quickly swept much of the WESTERN world.
DRAKE streamlined the Top 40 format, using modern methods, such as market research and ratings demographics, to maximize the number of listeners. He believed in forward momentum, limiting the amount of disc jockey chatter, the number of advertisements and playing only the top hits, as opposed to less-organized programming methods of the past. DRAKE created concepts such as 20/20 News and counter-programming by playing music sweeps, while his competitors aired news.
DRAKE-CHENAULT controlled everything, from the specific DJs who were hired, to radio contests, visual logos, promotions and commercial policy. DRAKE essentially put radio back into the hands of programming, instead of sales. DRAKE hired the JOHNNY MANN SINGERS to produce the BOSS RADIO jingles, ensuring a bright, high-energy sound that engaged the listener. The jingles were used going into music, either in sweeps or out of stop-sets ... to associate the station with music, not commercials.
A memorial service for DRAKE is set for WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3rd at 3p at The Little Brown Church, 4418 Coldwater Canyon Blvd., STUDIO CITY, CA.