Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pat O'Day - KJR Seattle 1966

Pat O'Day is still such a popular figure up here in the Northwest that I was riding around listening to this in my truck one day and we were a half an hour into it before my passenger realized that it was from 1966. His voice may be a bit deeper now and a tad road worn but the enthusiasm that was so catching in the sixties is still present. This week's Cruisin' has some great music and more than a couple cool car commercials, so down-shift, roll the window down and turn it up.

LP liner notes by Jerry Hopkins - The CRUISIN' series goes to KJR, "serving the Pacific Northwest from Seattle," and Pat O'Day, the disc jockey filling the afternoon driving hours of 1966 with an always cheerful shout.

It would be a little more than a year before an underground FM radio sound would begin to provide counterpoint to AM's Top 40 formula. In 1966, pop radio was, in the most literal sense, programmed; the playlist was rigidly limited to hits past and present, and the rap was equally sparse. As a result, many radio jockeys seemed as interchangeable as the bass lines of the records they played. KJR was as Top 40 as they came in those days, but Pat O'Day kept his personality intact, lacing his record introductions and public service announcements with corny jokes and puns, cryptic references to specific Seattle neighborhoods (puzzling unless you were living there) and sendups of fellow KJR staffers.

O'Day was 31 and had ten years in radio when he first played the records in this collection. His father had had a daily religious program on a Tacoma station when Pat was growing up, and he says it never occurred to him to try any other medium. Pat served his apprenticeship in smaller Northwestern cities, starting in Oregon the year Elvis hit, 1956, moving to Seattle and KJR three years later. He's still there today, as station manager.

In 1966, the album market was still "middle-aged." Of the ten best-sellers of the year, only two were rock and roll. (Best of Herman's Hermits, Best of the Animals.) The other eight were Herb Alpert (who had five!), soundtracks (Sound of Music, Dr. Zhivago) and Bill Cosby, all of which had almost nothing to do with the top-selling singles charts, from which KJR and the rest of the Top 40 stations in America took their collective musical cue. Here the blend was a more variant one, as shown just by the acts that had their first big hits this year —the Mamas and Papas, the Mindbenders, the Association, the Monkees, Simon and Garfunkle, Percy Sledge, and Tommy James and the Shondells, to name a few. This was also the year that Frank Sinatra sang Strangers in the Night and the Lovin' Spoonful recorded both Daydream and Summer in the City, while the top of the charts position went to, among others, the Beatles (We Can Work it Out, Paperback Writer), the Beach Boys (Good Vibrations), the Supremes (You Can't Hurry Love, You Keep Me Hanging On), the Rolling Stones (Paint it Black) and — of course — the Troggs (Wild Thing),? and the Mysterians (96 Tears) and S/Sgt. Barry Sadler, the deep-throated patriot who for five long weeks slogged through The Ballad of the Green Berets.

No less imposing was the wide range of news stories in 1966 when first the Soviet and then the U.S. made unmanned landings on the moon, Medicare went into effect for the over 65s, Lenny Bruce died of an overdose of society, Massachusetts elected the nation's first black Senator, and brutal, random violence claimed grim headlines as eight nurses were slain in Chicago and a youthful sniper at the University of Texas picked off 44 persons, killing 14.

Many of the headlines topped lighter stories, as when the Capital of England became "Swinging London" and Batman captured the largest television audiences in America; when "The Story of 0" became a controversial best-seller and after school the streets were a sea of granny dresses and Byrd glasses, pea jackets and bellbottoms. In Hollywood, Elizabeth Taylor won her second Oscar (for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?") and Ronald Reagan gave up his role as host of "Death Valley Days" to run for governor. Don Adams of "Get Smart" put it nicely: "Sorry about that, Chief."