Sunday, March 09, 2014

So long Jim Lange

Growing up in San Francisco in the 50 and 60's was a great time. As a preteen and teenager, things were a lot less stressful then they are today. I remember walking a few blocks to Haight street and hopping on the #7 bus that took me downtown to Market street.

Getting off at Van Ness I would spend most of the day wandering around the various radio stores. There were about a half dozen all located within 4 or 5 blocks. My Saturdays were filled with these weekly trips.

The big one was Zack Electronics another one was SF Radio. These stores had myriad of radio and electronic parts which you could look at and purchase individually to build up a radio or transmitter.

 There were several radio magazines that had circuits of the latest hobby items that you could build. From PA amplifiers to Ham radio receivers, there were always more stuff to look at , read and wish for.

It was during that time that I got also interested in radio broadcasting. The big popular radio station was KSFO for middle of the road music and information and KOBY which was the top 40 station. KOBY and KYA were the big rivals playing the hits and publishing a one page popularity sheet of what the most popular record of the week were.

KYA later became more popular because the talent they had there seemed more cool then at KOBY.
FYI, the top number one in October 1962 was The Lonely Bull by the Tijuana Brass.

In those days kids could wander off during the day and all was well as long as you were back in time for dinner time. My parents and parents of other friends never were worried what we were up to as long as we always showed up for dinner time.

I can imagine now having a 10 year old get on a bus in San Francisco and wander around Market street in today's weirdo world.

One of the ways kids got intersted in vocations was to hang around businesses. Wether it was a shoe shine shop, toy store, hardware store, plumber or radio station.

In my youth one of my first jobs was being a security specialist at a toy store called Carnival of Toys on Haight street. My job consisted of wandering around the store checking to see that the kids weren't stealing Tonka Toys or Matchbox cars.
I took my 25 cent an hour salary in trade for the latest Lionel Train accessory. That position lasted a summer or two and after school.  I got that one by hanging around looking and touching in the Lionel Train section of the store.

Some of my friends where hanging around car repair garages another friend was spending time at a hardware store and was enjoying picking up the nuances of deadbolts, lock-sets and associated hardware. In those days that's how you got good at stuff, like today's Intern programs.

I also was able to spend some time at one of the local TV repair shops. Talking to the crusty TV service guys, rummaging around the garbage box for old tubes and parts that I took home and tried to use on projects.

My first year of high school, was in 1962 and the school was located downtown one block off of Van Ness Avenue and on the edge of the Tenderloin district. This is when I was able to go wander around to hang around couple of radio stations and TV stations. We only had 3 TV stations and all were located within walking distance of my high-school. So with a couple of hours to kill before I had to be home for dinner, I spent time being a nuisance at those places.

I enjoyed the concept of radio and was able to set up a small radio station at my house that broadcast a whole 5 blocks. Between myself and a few friends we would have some of  our afternoon fun by playing records and playing around thinking that someone was actually picking up our signal.... 

Yeah sure.

To make my home radio station more believable I would ask the people at the radio stations if they had any old records or old commercials. They were happy to dump their old 30 and 60 second spot records to me instead of tossing them out in the trash. In those times commercials were recorded on a acetate disk. The soft acetate would wear out after about 50 playings making them noise and unusable for broadcast.
These acetate disks were available for people that wanted to cut their own records for minimal distribution and required a special cutting head and special turntable.
These acetates, most of the usage was for low use records, like demo disks, commercial and PSA's,       ( public service announcements.)
 Tape cartridges would start appearing in a few years, as well as reel to reel tapes for the same use.

It was in one of my hanging out sessions that I first met Jim Lange. He had the commute time slot, working at KSFO between 3 and 7 each weekday. This was just about the same time that he was also working as the announcer for the locally produced Tennessee Ernie Ford show which was done daily at the KGO TV studios at 277 Golden Gate st.

I had met several other D.J's as they were called at lots of the radio stations, but Jim Lange was one of the ones that  would take the time out and really discuss his history and how he had broken into radio in a small station in Minneapolis.

Lots of the DJ's were too busy to take the time to talk to a teenager and couldn't be bothered by taking any time, Jim Lange was different in that he knew that I was really interested in the business.

Over the years I got to know him better and would come by the station and sit in on his show as his guest.
 A few years later he landed the MC position on the Dating Game and was commuting to LA each day.
The Dating Game was a very popular show and lasted for several years and was known to have matched several young actors and acressess from the Hollywood area. The show with him lasted from 1965 to 1980 and even went on for several more years and in syndication.

After a year or so of commuting to LA, he gave up his afternoon shift and was replace by Dan Sorkin who was around for another dozen or so years.

We had kept in touch over the years, exchanging Christmas cards and often meeting for lunch while we still were around in the Bay Area.

Jim always had time to stop and talk to people and enjoyed his audience and fans, unlike many people in his business who wouldn't give you the time of day.

A lot of his unselfishness in talking and spending time with a high school teenager made an impression in my passion for the radio business. 

One of these days, maybe I'll continue my stories of my radio broadcasting days.

From all night programs to booth announcer in TV.

Too many memories, too little time.

1 comment:

Calypso said...

We have a lot of parallels amigo. I read Jim died a week or so ago. I was friends with Chuck Barris (still kicking ;-) and knew Jim threw Chuck (I was even on the dating game in 1966 ;-)

Have many Chuck Barris stories in the vault ;-)