Friday, July 13, 2007

Weird Radio Is Not New

Many radio listeners today are just young enough to believe that "Coast to Coast AM" is the most innovative program of its kind ever presented. Not true.

As far back as the 1950s -- and even before that, depending upon one's definition -- there existed precursors to today's "weird radio." The most obvious to me is Long John Nebel, whose nightly broadcasts out of NY City beginning in the fifties gave his large radio audience a steady dose of UFOs and other mysteries. He routinely called upon a reliable stable of guests and took phone calls from listeners.

Actually, by the time the sixties and seventies arrived, the country was sprinkled with wildly successful UFO-related shows at radio stations, usually on a smaller scale. Wendy Connors (see the link for Faded Discs on the right), in fact, has taken a number of tape recordings of these old programs and engineered them into digital format before they disappear forever, thus assuring that inquiring minds will always know who the true pioneers of UFO talk radio were: Frank Edwards, Earl J. Neff, Gene Duplantier (Canada), Lou Corbin and so many others whose names belong on the list. But "Coast to Coast AM?" Just a Johnny, oops, I mean just an "Art-Come-Lately."

From my files, here's something from 1966. For a time, Bob Barry of Pennsylvania -- who, I'm not sure, but may be the same Robert Barry (deceased) unfortunately implicated in some tall tales of the UFO variety in the sixties, not at all to his credit -- offered tape-recorded UFO programs to U.S. radio stations for free. The only requirement was that the stations had to supply their own reel-to-reel tapes and pay the outrageous (!) postal costs of 10 to 15 cents for shipping. In return, he advertised his UFO organization during each episode of "The UFO Story" and listeners could contact him.

As you can see in his list, a number of stations dotting the nation picked up the program because the UFO subject was then, as now, an incredible draw for listeners. Again, look at "Coast to Coast AM," winner of broadcast awards and a hit with listeners all over the world.

However, on the other hand, I remain clueless to understand why so many station managers and program directors continue to avoid carrying even locally originated shows about UFOs and other topics of the unusual to this day, especially when it's a proven fact that listeners accumulate and sponsors are available. When I guested on numerous radio and TV programs throughout the sixties and seventies to discuss UFOs, audience response was always great. But when I approached the same stations to suggest doing a regular program, oh no, they just wouldn't, that "just won't fly." When will they ever learn?