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Date Posted: 10:02:17 03/29/17 Wed
Subject: Re: Missing the Overnight Hometown Talk Shows
In reply to:
Tom (The Original Tom)
's message, "Re: Missing the Overnight Hometown Talk Shows" on 07:23:25 03/26/17 Sun
Up until the summer of 1969, KDKA had played music overnight. Big Jim Williams was the last all-night DJ.
Jack Wheeler came in during the summer of '69 with no advance promotion. Westinghouse wanted to see if a talk show in those hours would find an audience without help. It did, within six months. Westinghouse's programming philosophy was that each show should be different. Mike Levine's evening show was for issues and newsmakers. Party Line was Party Line. They determined Wheeler's show should be everything BUT newsmakers and issues. So he got the drunks who were emptying out of the bars and the people who wanted to sing or play an instrument. He also built up a nice collection of phone numbers and did celebrity interviews, including some big names like Don Rickles and Bob Newhart.
KDKA still had enough demographic diversity to make the show viable.
Wheeler's show was interesting, partly because of his volatile personality. He'd start complaining about the quality of the calls, yelling at his producer and challenging people to come to Gateway Center and fight him. There was always an unpredictability about it.
Unfortunately, when Watergate broke Wheeler forgot the focus of the show was supposed to stay away from issues. He was a Nixon supporter and started opening the show with a long monologue supporting Nixon and whatever aides had been on the coverage of the hearings that day. The show devolved into partisanship and started sounding like too many other talk shows. By 1974, KDKA fired Wheeler, who went down the street to WEEP.
Perry Marshall took over the overnight shift then. As FM began to take over, younger listeners left AM. The KDKA all-night show became an outpost for lonely seniors to catalog their aches and pains and was never as interesting as it was in the early days of Wheeler. Doug Hoerth used to describe the all-night show on KDKA as "God's waiting room."
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