Bearing in mind that KLIF would have evolved even more in style by 1964, you can still hear how the station was the model for Radio London with this aircheck. Keep in mind that the listener involvement and interaction was a whole lot easier being land based but nonetheless the groundwork for the sound of Big L is clear to be heard.
McLendon believed that programming was the key to Radio Station success. Here is one account of the early evolution of KLIF to the Top 40 format:
"Somewhere around late 1954 and early 1955, then, all of the ingredients necessary for Top 40 appeared to be coming together at KLIF. The real catalyst in the development of a true Top 40 format at KLIF was Bill Stewart and the ideas that he brought to the station from his earlier association with Todd Storz. Don Keyes recalled that Stewart came in knowing what he was doing. And that's when he really tightened the playlist. "That's when we really went Top 40 - hard Top 40. Then we took off something fierce. We were still number one prior to that. But, if I had a record I liked, I'd play it. If the other disc jockey didn't like it, he didn't play it. It was kinda loosey goosey. We had jingles and contests and promotions, but it wasn't a rigid Top 40. And Bill came in and firmed up that music policy, and away we went."
The chemistry of whatever was happening at KLIF was beginning to have noticeable impact within the Dallas radio community. KLIF's station ratings-foremost indicators of a station's well-being in the marketplace, were indeed impressive. "Within weeks after implementing Top 40, KLIF jumped from a 2 percent share of the market to 45 percent," noted one source. Another said: "In its titan days, KLIF . . . had ratings as high as 52". Bill Stewart remembered that the station went from tenth or eleventh in the market to No. 1 in 60 days" when Top 40 was introduced. Gordon himself described KLIF's position in April 1954 as "the leading metropolitan independent in the United States in share of morning audience, third in the afternoons, fourth at night, and undeniably first on Saturdays". Hooper Ratings showed the station in June 1954 to be number one in the Dallas market in every time period.
There was no doubt that KLIF was knocking the socks off the competition. But how was it doing it? The Top 40 format was only the product of a very keen intuition about what kind of radio programming people wanted to hear. Once you have ascertained what your audience wants, Gordon felt, then give it to them. On that point, Gordon once wrote:
Time and again -without exception -successful broadcast operators have proved that in order to survive and prosper financially, any radio station must provide a programming service of utility to a meaningful segment of the potential listening audience. Neither sales nor general administration nor engineering comes first. Programming does. The station failing to provide some service of unique programming utility to one or another reasonably large demographic element of the population is doomed.
The programming-ahead-of-sales philosophy was really Gordon's broadcasting credo. "You can have the greatest sales staff and signal in the world and it doesn't mean a thing if you don't have something great to put on the air," he would say. If he kept his eye on the programming, Gordon assumed, station advertising sales would take care of itself. And, of course, he was usually right.
Programming at KLIF "received the constant attention and monitoring of its owner-to the station's obvious benefit". Gordon was convinced that much of his programming success stemmed directly from all of his attention to every detail. Gordon was forever fine-tuning his Top 40 format, while other station owners watched and followed suit. "People were coming to Dallas and monitoring KLIF, leaving with a briefcase full of tapes and going back to their hometown and doing likewise," noted Don Keyes. (It was not long before KLIF would become "America's most imitated radio station", and with good reason.) When asked what kind of audience he was programming KLIF for, Gordon replied rather matter-of-factly: "I geared it toward what I would like to hear. I assumed the audience to be interested in what I would like to hear".
Radio Now & Then
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