Bill Drake, who created Boss Radio, the Top 40 format that dominated American radio from 1965 to about 1972, died November 29 of lung cancer. The radio pioneer was 71. Drake’s fast-paced Boss Radio format featured the top 30 songs instead of 40 and aired fewer commercials than other stations. He made sure Boss Radio had no dead air. A cappella jingles were sandwiched in between fast-talking deejays who were told to say as little as possible. Boss Radio’s flagship station, 93 KHJ in Los Angeles, was launched in May 1965, but the format was perfected in San Diego a year earlier at 136 KGB. Former KGB Boss jock Rich Brother Robbin says KGB’s success led to KHJ going Boss. The Boss sound drove KGB and KHJ to the top of the ratings.
“In the late ’60s and early ’70s, every market in the country had at least one station that was Boss or that copied the Boss format,” says Robbin, who was brought to KGB by Drake in 1969.
Robbin was hired away by major competitor KCBQ (1170 AM) in 1971, where the pace was even more frenetic: “To the point we even sped up the records so our competitor sounded like they were dragging.” Robbin describes his delivery as “going a million miles an hour with my hair on fire. The pace caused an adrenalin addiction with listeners.” The rapid-fire delivery worked. Radio insiders say KCBQ’s
14 share may have made it the most successful local station of the past 50 years. The number-one local station now has a 5 or 6 share.
“We completely decimated KGB. We out-Draked Drake. We forced KGB to abandon the hits and switch to album rock in 1972.”
Robbin says this year marks his 50th year in radio. He now runs his own online oldies station,richbroradio.com from his home in O.B.
Robbin says live deejays on music stations “are a thing of the past for the most part.” Regarding the radio industry, “Budgets have been slashed and staffs have been reduced by greater numbers this year than in any year in radio’s history. Several major radio companies’ stock prices have fallen to below a dollar a share. A couple are in danger of being de-listed by the NYSE. In other words, radio is about two steps from life support. Drake died at the same time that radio seems to be doing the same thing.”
– Ken Leighton