Ray D’Ariano – The Interview

 From Radio… To Records… To Radio

Ray D’Ariano’s career as a music industry executive/comedy writer/radio talent is a fascinating, studied journey. Ray was in the middle of music and radio pop culture during the 1970’s and into the 1990’s.

In the record business, he befriended giants such as Elton John, Keith Moon, Neil Bogart and Donna Summer.

On radio – he was part of the infamous WNNNBC talent team of Don Imus, Soupy Sales and Howard Stern.


Conducted By Gary West – www.mrpopculture.com

Ray Dariano - Hangin With Howard

Ray Hanging With Howard Stern

GW - Ray, you grew up in Westchester, where, as a teen, you got an early media start.

RD – I did. I was a big fan of radio, listening to WMCA and Murray the K over at WINS. At age sixteen I talked my way into a part-time on-air job at WVOX in New Rochelle.

GW – AM 1460. That’s fantastic. A lot of us would have loved that chance.

RD – It was fun. I got to emcee my first live show, The Young Rascals and The Left Banke.

GW – Not bad for someone still in high school.

RD – I wanted to be a disc jockey. I loved the rock jocks I was hearing, but my real interest was in the music. I wasn’t a musician. I just wanted to be the guy playing the hits.

GW – At that time – how did you rate the radio stations?

ray dariano - murry the k - mr popRD – WMCA was my favorite, the real deal. The DJ’s, the music. The Good Guys at Fabulous 57. Then Murray the K on WINS. He played a lot of new music and was a fantastic showman. This may sound like a sacrilege to some, but I wasn’t a fan of WABC. It was a great station. I dug Cousin Brucie’s Saturday night party show, but they also fired Scott Muni. That turned me off. But the early to mid sixties was an exciting time for New York radio.

GW – Indeed it was. Many believe it was New York radio’s best moment – (1964) with these three stations competing – all sounding (on top) of their game. Listeners flipped the dial between 57, 77 and 1010. (WMCA In 1964) What came next?

RD – I went to college for communication arts and got a job as a page for the Tonight Show at 30 Rock. That was a trip because my other interest was comedy.

GW – So, rock ‘n roll and comedy.

RD – Yeah and girls.

GW – It must have been exciting working on Johnny Carson’s show.

RD – It was an unbelievable time for me.  While at NBC NY, I was in a comedy group called “Cain’s Children.” We worked out at the original Improv on 44th street. I was hanging out with the unknown Bette Midler and the bouncer, Danny Aiello before he ever made a film. One night Dominic and Gail Sicilia saw our set.  He had just become the Creative Director at Buddah Records. He pulled me aside and asked me to call him.

GW – Did he single you out for any reason?

RD – I have no idea. Maybe he liked a bit I did. When I called he asked if I was interested in creating a humor-based sales presentation for Buddah’s annual meeting. I said, “Sure.”

GW – What year was this?

RD – Around 1970.

music history buddah records 1968GW –  Buddah was hot. It had come off some great years – 1968 and 1969 with the “Bubble Gum” sound. Under Neil Bogart.

RD - That’s right. When I got there, they also had Curtis Mayfield, Melanie and the Isley Brothers. Neil was a pre-Beatles pop guy. So Paul Anka was on the label as was my favorite, Johnny Maestro who was with the Brooklyn Bridge. The Buddah Group consisted of about five different labels and we had the first American releases from Genesis and Monty Python. It was my first exposure to the inside workings of a record company. I was a young guy and Buddah was very exciting.

GW – How did the presentation go?

RD – Great, it was in Las Vegas. Paul Anka performed. In the month-and-a-half I put this together, I got to know the staff. Great people like Larry Harris, Nancy Lewis and Jude Lyons. It was kind of sad coming home – my time at Buddah was over.

GW – I have a feeling your time was just beginning.

RD – Well, when I got back, Neil brought me into his office and said, “I have two ideas for you. First off, I’ll offer you a job, ‘because I think you’d make a good promotion man.”

GW – Nice!

RD – I’d never done record promotion. But, Neil started out as a promo man and saw something. I thought, “If he thinks I can do it, that’s good enough for me.” Then, he gave me another choice, saying – he thought I was funny, there was this comedy trend happening in records and, “if you’d like to make a comedy album, you can do that.”

GW – Neil Bogart. Two offers. One a record deal.

RD – Can you believe it? I’m in my early 20’s and I have the president of the company giving me this choice.

GW – What did you do?

RD – I went with the album. Dominic Sicilia became my manager. The album that came to fruition was called, “Are You On Something.?

ray dariano comedy album

GW - How was it received?

RD – It was all over the place on progressive FM radio: WEBN in Cincinnati, WMC in Memphis, stations like that. The late Alison Steele and Dave Herman of WNEW-FM did the radio commercial. That blew me away. At the time, George Carlin had made the switchover, Cheech and Chong were hot, so, this counter culture humor fit right in. It wasn’t stand-up. It was produced bits, so the stations could play tracks between songs.

GW – Did you appear at some of the radio stations?

RD – Oh yes, and performed live at places like The Exit Inn in Nashville and the Playboy Club in New York. Touring – You’d go into a morning radio show, then perform at some club. It was at this time I began making radio relationships. But honestly, I wasn’t happy. When I was on the road, alone I didn’t like it. Once in a while, I got to tour with a band. Remember Stories?

GW – Their biggest hit was,  “Brother Louie” or “Louie Louie Lou-eye.”

rock dreams pop history bookRD – We went out together a few times. They were great people and it was fun, but when I was doing it alone – it was a drag. So, by my own design I became an unemployed comic. From there – I got a little gig promoting a book called, “Rock Dreams” by Guy Peellaert.

GW – He was an influential illustrator and his work can be found on rock album covers from the likes of David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.

RD – He did all these surrealistic paintings of rock stars – and – that was the book. It was a two-week project. All I had to do was call radio stations and offer a promotional contest. I remembered a radio guy, Jon Scott in Memphis. I called the radio station, and they tell me he’s no longer working there. He was working for MCA Records as a local promotion man.

GW – There’s a radio connection from your comedy album days.

RD – That’s right. So I call and was kidding around – saying to him, “that’s an easy job.” He tells me – “there’s an opening in New York” and he would set up an interview. He called me a few hours later, told me I was set for the next day.  I thought of Neil Bogart and that he once said he thought I’d make a good promo man.

GW – That’s amazing.

RD – At the encouragement of some friends – I went – and got the job.

GW – What year?

RD – 1974.

GW – Who was at the label at the time?

RD – The Who, Olivia Newton John, Leon Russell, and Elton John was our hottest artist.

GW – So, here it is, 1974 and you are the local (New York City) promotion guy for MCA Records. What was your first record you got on the air?

RD – Turned out the station I didn’t care for as a kid, WABC, was the most important radio station for the record industry. You got a record added to WABC – you had something. If they added a record early, which they rarely did, every other top-40 station in the country would add the same song….beyond a home run. When they added a record when they traditionally did, the record would have to be top-15 nationwide and on a couple of other New York stations and it would have had to demonstrate local sales. Very tough to get on WABC. Rick Sklar was programming. WABC was the goal of every artist, every record company: the crown jewel.

GW – We forget how important this station was to the music industry. We talk about the ratings, the memories, the DJ’s – but, this side can be forgotten.

WABC Radio In 1974

RD – That’s right. So, my first week one of the national promotion guys took me around town to introduce me.

GW – Radio stations?

music history - skynard 1974RD – Yes. He gave me a breakdown on what to do. After that, I was on my own. So, I take over. I call WABC on a Tuesday to see if they added any of my records or if any of my records moved up on their survey. I had just met Rick Sklar, but that was it: an introduction. I hadn’t promoted anything, but, I find out, they added “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

GW – Your first call to WABC?

RD – That’s right. So, I go, “OK” and call the West Coast, not thinking much of it. I tell the bosses WABC had added the record, and, it was off the hook. First of all, this record had been around for a long time. It was near the top of charts nationally. Now, a record about Alabama was getting added to WABC.  I just called and it happened to get added and I was given all the credit. MCA thought I was some kind of genius.

WABC Music Survey – Week Of September 24, 1974  (Thanks Allan Sniffen)

RD – They thought, “The guy’s been there one week. We’ve been trying to get this record on WABC for months and now it’s on.” Then, Skynyrd’s management called to thank me. Here’s the deal, honestly, I didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the band, but everyone who mattered believed I got the record on ABC and that’s what started my record promotion career.

GW – Right place. Right time. Right station.

RD – Exactly. The first time I ever heard that record was on WABC.

GW – Destiny.

Note: “Sweet Home Alabama” is dropped the next week by WABC. But, that was enough for Ray D’Ariano – because the week of October 8 – they added “The Bitch Is Back” by Elton John. 

GW – For pop – what station did you go to first when promoting a record?

RD – WABC – even though you knew they wouldn’t play it – at least at first. I don’t know what other promo guys did – but for me – you went to WABC because, there’s a remote chance you might get an early add. On the other hand, you don’t want to go to other stations first and have Rick Sklar get offended because they don’t have the record. WABC was the big dog and you had to show respect.

GW – Who else in town?

olivia newton john pop music history 1974RD – 99X (WXLO) was a big score, although they were RKO and run out of Los Angeles with Paul Drew. He always influenced what got added, but you still went to the station to pitch. The RKO chain was very important with stations such 99X and KHJ. The station that really helped the New York promotion guys was WPIX-FM. Program Director Neil McIntyre was the best. He was great to us record promotion guys and WPIX-FM always played things first. Those were the three. You also had WNEW-AM where you could get an Olivia Newton John or a Neil Sedaka record added.

GW – MCA Records had some great country talent, which in New York meant you needed WHN.

RD – That’s right. Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard. WHN played all our stuff.  It was no problem. We had star country artists.

GW – You did pop, country, progressive?

RD – That’s right. But, we all did. Other record labels did the same thing; one person all formats.

GW – Suburban stations?

RD – WBAB, WRNW. WLIR was a progressive station that leaned toward southern rock and later changed to new wave. WRNW had unknown DJ and then program director named Howard Stern.

GW –For progressive/album rock – you mentioned WNEW-FM. Did you have a set day for a particular radio station?

RD – WNEW-FM was my most important rock album station. From their start until the late 70’s it was the greatest station in New York. They made a much bigger contribution to the culture than  WABC just for the artists they broke, Springsteen, the Dead, Queen, Zep and on and on, As for the second part of your question, most of the stations had a set day. ‘NEW was a bit looser. If you had something hot, like a new Elton single,you got it out fast. WNEW-FM got everything first, The Who, The Stones, all the top stars. WPLJ was a good station with higher ratings. The PD, Larry Berger was a very nice guy. He knew radio. I know I had to frustrate him at times. He thought I favored WNEW-FM and he was right, but, WPLJ never touched your new non- superstar acts. WNEW-FM did. They gave them a shot. They were your place to break new records. They helped us keep our jobs. Meanwhile, the audience would decide if they liked the new stuff or not. WPLJ was a good station with some fine DJ’s, but they didn’t, as a rule, play new artists, just the big names. WNEW-FM would be playing the new “Who” album out of the sleeve – 10 minutes later – Larry would have it. (That’s how long it took to get the ‘PLJ). That’s just how it went.

pop music history elton john ray dariano

Ray w/Scott Muni, Neil Sedaka & Elton John

GW – Scott Muni was the WNEW-FM program director.

RD – And a great DJ. He ranks up there – on top of my all-time favorite program directors. Frankie Crocker too.

frankie crocker mr pop cultureGW – Did you get to work Crocker?

RD – Later on when I was with Casablanca. WBLS had a great music director, Wanda Ramos and Frankie was amazing. He’d play Count Basie into Donna Summer, into the Isley Brothers into Nat King Cole, and it worked. Progressive R&B.

GW – When did Casablanca Records come calling?

RD - In 1977. MCA offered me a job as Vice President of promotion out in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, my friend and Neil Bogart’s right-hand man, Larry Harris – offered me the same job for that label. Same week!

GW - That had to be a tough decision.

RD - It was. MCA had been good to me for the last three years. I was tight with Elton John, Keith Moon and Ronnie Van Zandt and their managers. I hated turning Neil and Larry down, but it was just business, not personal. I moved to L.A and worked in the Universal tower.

GW – You’re in LA! What was that vibe like?

RD – I loved my home – the whole LA deal – pool, weather. I had some really great staff members, Shelley Hoppers, Jeff Lymon, Sandi Lifson, but “New Kid In Town” by the Eagles told my story.  I learned quickly that I preferred being on the street than being an executive. It was a totally different job. I was a buffer between executives and my staff….expense reports, justifications…it was a big hassle. I was there less than a year. During that time – we had one super big hit – “Car Wash” by Rose Royce, MCA’s first platinum R&B album. That was it. Elton, Olivia ,Sedaka…they all cooled off we really didn’t have any product.

GW – A&R and Promotion…was it one side blaming the other?

RD – Yes, but my defensive side says, we had the same promotion team who delivered hits for years, and Carwash as a crossover that year. The product was not good. For example, does anybody remember “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” by Olivia Newton John? It was before the play and nobody understood the record. Nobody played it either. We had a nice run – but MCA was cooling off. The days of WABC adding Elton John out of the box – were gone.

GW - So, you miss New York?

RD – Yes and, I’m not crazy about being an administrator and we had no product. As that was going on I see giant billboards for KISS, Donna Summer, The Village People. I’m thinking, “wow, maybe I made the wrong choice” – not going to Casablanca.

donna summer pop music history 1978

GW – What turned it around?

RD – I’m in New York and I ran into Larry Harris. He asked me how it was going. I told him and he said I should talk to Neil Bogart. Long story short – I go to see Neil. I had already made up my mind that – I wanted to move back to New York. I meet Neil – and he tells me he wants to open a New York office.

GW – Again – the timing was perfect.

RD – The great Neil Bogart was my fan.

GW – You’re not under contract to MCA Records?

RD – No. I really didn’t want to disappoint those folks, but – it was time to move on.

GW – New York – Casablanca Records. What year?

RD – This was the fall of 1977.

neil bogart pop music historyGW – Tell us a little more about Neil Bogart** – a record industry legend?

RD - In my opinion – the greatest record man that ever lived. Nobody before or after him comes close. He was a creative genius, promotion man and not afraid to take chances. If he hooked up with you, he believed in you, he’d just keep going the distance. KISS’ first three albums stiffed. Neil stuck with them, investing time, money – even producing one of their albums. Neil made KISS happen.

GW – He had a lot to do with disco’s rise.

RD – He did. While others panned it Neil Bogart embraced it. He had two promotion staffs, one to work radio and another to work the discos/clubs. Nobody else was doing that. Plus he always had great people working for him.

GW – Let’s go back to Neil MacIntyre at WPIX-FM. He was the first on radio to feature disco – as early as 1975 with “Disco 102” – a nightly show.

pop history disco 1978 casablancaRD – That’s right. He was responding to what was going on in the New York clubs. His philosophy – all the people getting ready to go out to those clubs would listen. That format was copped by WKTU in 1978. At the time, disco was the most popular music in the world.

GW – You think of Casablanca as disco and KISS. Where there any (other) pop or rock artists on the label?

RD – A band called Angel, they were compared to KISS. They were very good, but suffered at Casablanca. Another great one was Trigger. The problem was the label wasn’t taken seriously by  progressive rock stations. This was during that “disco sucks” BS.

GW – So, you’re at Casablanca – what are you doing?

RD – I was running the New York office – and this time, it was fun. We had people such as Worthy Patterson, Roberta Skopp, Tracy Gold, Ruben Rodriguez, Neil’s two brothers – Ira and Lance – all as creative as you could get. It was a great time.

GW – I knew Worthy growing up in N. Tarrytown – use to play basketball with him. Way back – like pre-teen. He was close to a mutual friend – the late Mike Lofaro. Small world.

studio 54 1978 pop cultureRD – For sure, but if you worked for Casablanca you got right into places like Studio 54. Disco was like “Beatlemania.” It’s hard for people who don’t buy into disco to see that. But as far as pop culture goes, come on. Once we had a party at Studio 54 for the movie “Thank God It’s Friday.” We’re working the door… Casablanca. One guy is giving us a lot of trouble. We wouldn’t let him in. Turns out it was one of the owners – and we did eventually let him in. He wasn’t happy.

GW – At Casablanca – who were some of the artists you knew/befriended?

RD – We had Parliament, Cher, Donna Summer was by far, the nicest recording artist I have ever met. She was so talented – and a super lady. Giorgio Moroder produced her.

GW – She had staying power beyond disco.

RD – She was the best.

donna summer with ray dariano

GW – Disco went up like a rocket and came down rather quickly. By 1980, it was pretty much over.

RD - There was such a disco backlash – it had to cool off. It never did with the clubs.

GW - What next?

RD – I was asked to come back to MCA by Leon Tsilis. Bob Siner, a guy who became a friend when I was out there, had become president. So, the time was right to leave Casablanca and go back to MCA as Vice President in New York.

GW – How was MCA Records at that time?  c1980.

keith moon pop culture music historyRD – Pretty grim: Keith Moon of the Who had died and there was the awful Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash. It was bad, but on the bright side Elton had come back with “Little Jeannie” and his big Central Park concert. I had a little to do with that.

GW – How so?

RD – His manager and I were throwing out ideas on how to give EJ’s career a new push and – it just came out – “how about a free concert in Central Park?” It was one of two dozen thoughts, but that was the one that stuck.

GW – Amazing! Your comment made this event happen?

Elton singing, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” at Central Park

GW – Ray – What else was happening in music at this time?

RD - In New York – The Ramones and Bruce Springsteen. Both doing very different, but exciting rock ‘n roll. The Punk scene was going on, but unfortunately the biggest event at that time was John Lennon’s murder. At MCA Ronnie Van Zandt and several others died in the plane crash, so did Moonie. Elton John was leaving the label to go to Geffen. Then Lennon was murdered.  That was it. I walked away. The record business was behind me.

GW – And, you kept busy.

RD - I wrote a screen play for Warner Brothers and a lot of comedy – eventually getting into radio – first Dan Neer’s production company where I wrote Joe Piscopo’s syndicated show. Then I wrote for Jay Thomas at WKTU and that evolved into doing characters on his show. One day Soupy Sales was a guest. We had a great time. A week later he offered me a gig on his new show on WNBC.


RD – Soupy was hired to do the midday show between Don Imus and Howard Stern.

Soupy Sales w/Ray D’Ariano – First Day on WNBC

GW – What a superstar line-up. Those were great days at radio 66.

wnbc imus stern 1985

RD – It was big time.

GW – What was it like between the talents?

RD - Imus hated Soupy, Soupy hated Imus and they both hated Stern and vice versa. Dale Parsons – the program director – held it all together. Each one believed he was the biggest star. I had no part of any of it. All the stuff on the air – the animosity – was real. Great for the listener – but to work there was insane.

GW – You got there around 1984. WNBC was sounding great.

RD – If I didn’t work there, I’d sure be listening.

GW – It was another exciting time in New York radio – with WNBC on AM, the new Z-100 with Scott Shannon, Larry Berger’s WPLJ and the resurgence of top-40 radio. WAPP was rockin’ and WKTU even tried top-40 with Dan Ingram. The only thing that was missing – was WABC, which had switched to talk in 1982.

Ray Dariano wnbc photoRD – It was great working on the same station as Jack Spector and Dan Daniel who did fill ins. Two of the Good Guys from WMCA back in the 1960’s.

GW – Dave Sims was a terrific sports host at WNBC as well. Nice, nice guy. Tell us about Howard Stern?

RD – When I first met him at WNBC I didn’t realize that we had met before. I didn’t know what to expect. One day he approached a group of us in the hall and said, “Ray – I love this guy.” He tells the story that when he was at ‘RNW and was “nothing” – that as a promotion guy – I use to give him concert tickets and treated him very well. That’s how I operated, but I honestly didn’t remember meeting him, well what goes around, you know? Even when he was feuding with Soupy we stayed friends. He’s brilliant. I can’t say enough about what a great guy he really is. I haven’t seen him for a while – but, his success is well-deserved.

GW – Ray – this interview has been terrific. Can you sum it up?

RD- In high school all I wanted to be was a rock jock in New York City. After Soupy left I got to do it right up until the last music show on WNBC. It only took 20 years to get there and you just heard how it happened. Now I have a company called Lone Duck Entertainment. I do marketing, writing projects and artist representation. I’m almost done writing a book that goes into great detail about what we skimmed on today. Hopefully it will be hysterical. When you think about it, it’s been a funny journey.

Don Imus/Ray D’Ariano – last day on WNBC (1988)  

Gary West – What a pleasure to interview Ray D’Ariano as we wait for his forthcoming book.

**Neil Bogart passed away in May of 1982 at the age of 39. The same week former music giant WABC radio went all-talk.  Here’s that week – from the Mr. Pop archives: May 8, 1982


Three Memorable Radio Jingles/Commercials – 1960′s/1970′s

There’s just no comparison to the art of the radio ad – yesterday and today. What’s missing? Besides clever, creative writing – it’s the art of the jingle. Or just jingles (so very few today). I picked three memorable campaigns that – decades later – listeners still remember – and – if you’ve never heard these – you just might like them.     Gary West

First one – is a clever re-write from the catchy “Georgy Girl” theme/song for the East Coast-based “White Rock” soda people. This ran for several years beginning in 1966:


Next up – another soda – this time Canada Dry and “tastes like love” from the mid-1970′s:


“Pick-A-Pack” 1970′s Juicy Fruit Gum:

Radio History 1950′s-1970′s – When Night Disc Jockeys Ruled

The Hours Between 6p And 11p Could Be Moneymakers For Stations

Teen Idol” DJ’s 

Since Alan Freed began playing rock ‘n roll on evening radio – there was no doubt – the evening DJ could bring in tons of ratings and revenue. Back then – many radio stars were born out of the 6p-11p area time slot – even with prime-time television viewing. Mostly teens and young adults listened, but, if you had them – you could have big ratings. At times – their average audience share could be bigger than the rest of the station.

The teen DJ set the tone for the next morning as well. If you listened at night – chances are – you had the same station tuned-in the following morning.

Every city had these night DJ stars – and New York City was no exception. Besides Alan Freed – there was – Paul Sherman, Bruce Morrow, Murray the K, Scott Muni, B. Mitchel Reed, Gary Stevens, George Michael, Chuck Lenoard – and others.

Unlike today, this could be a huge advertisingrevenue. I found this  from Spring of 1966. Holding the 7 to 11p shift at WMCA – Gary Stevens was then, New York City’s #1 evening personality – and within a year – had served-up over 200 sponsors. Unheard of in modern radio.

Stevens just came off 20 shares in the New York radio ratings – beating big-time rival “Cousin” Bruce Morrow – with a 12 share.

This was an era when all evening radio was live. In many places today, it can be voice-tracked – especially in medium and smaller markets – and, some large markets contain voice-tracking between 6p and 6a.

Most of those who grew up during the 1960′s and 1970′s – can name their favorite DJ – and usually – they came from the evening hours. Do you remember?

WMCA - Gary Stevens - May 1966

Gary West


NBC Saturday Night History & Trivia – Pop Culture/TV History

In Late 1975 – There Were Two Shows And A Hit Pop Single Called, “Saturday Night” 

We Loved Our Saturday Nights Back In 1975

 1975 Howard Cosell TV trivia abc-tv bay city rollers music historyNBC-TV’s “Saturday Night Live” debuted in October of 1975. Originally, it was suppose to air Saturdays (after) the first week of each month.  The original title of the show was simply, “Saturday Night” because – ABC-TV had just debuted “Saturday Night Live” with Howard Cosell – a week prior.

The Cosell show ran earlier in prime time and was the sports announcer’s shot at becoming a mainstream talkshow host. He’d been associated with ABC Sports and Monday Night Football – and somehow, convinced ABC – he should get a shot. He did. The debut “Saturday Night Live” with Howard Cosell featured hot pop artists, “The Bay City Rollers” who, interestingly, were about to have a hit titled, “Saturday Night.”  The ratings for Cosell’s show were OK at first – then trailed off quickly.

In November, 1975, Cosell was quoted as saying, “The Saturday night time slot that ABC placed my variety show in has a deathly history. I inherited a cemetery.” By, the end of the 1975-1976 season, the show would be canceled.

art garkunkle 1975 saturday night nbc october music trivia popculture history First ads for NBC’s “Saturday Night” were few and far in-between. They usually came from record artists/record labels – who promoted upcoming appearances on the program. The first such ad for “Saturday Night” was from Art Garfunkel – who was making an appearance on the program – its second airing – on October 18, 1975. Also on that program, Paul Simon. “Saturday Night” made an immediate star out of sketch cast member Chevy Chase – the first to bolt for bigger and better things such as TV specials and movies. It quickly became a breeding ground for future movie stars such as Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy, among many others. Bolting actors almost became the bane of producer Lorne Michaels – although he wished them well, he really wasn’t happy when one of his stars left for other pastures.

So, in 1975, you have not one, but two, “Saturday Night” TV shows – but wait… The Bay City Rollers just released, “Saturday Night” – a top-10 record later in the year:

Can you tell me the first sports “personality” show that set the standard?

"Inside The NFL" with Jimmy The Greek, Irv Cross, Jayne Kennedy and Brent Musberger

“Inside The NFL” with Jimmy The Greek, Irv Cross, Jayne Kennedy and Brent Musberger

From Len G – Mr. Pop – With so many sports shows on ESPN, the Bob Costas NFL program on HBO and all the networks, can you tell me the first sports “personality’ show that set the standard?

Mr. Pop History – I don’t think there’s any doubt it was “The NFL Today” on CBS, back during the 1970’s and into the 1980’s. Brent Musberger and Jimmy the Greek were just terrific. There was such a give and take energy and I’m not sure if these two got along off camera. Jimmy the Greek Snyder once punched Musberger in a bar. On the following program, they broke out an oversize boxing glove and laughed about it.

You get the picture – those dynamics made for a great sports show. Other members of the program included Irv Cross and over the years, folks such as Phyllis George and Jayne Kennedy. As good as some of these shows are today – and I love the Costas HBO program myself, I can’t help think it all began with the original “NFL Today.” It set the standard.

I just heard that Neil McIntyre passed away September 11. I can’t find his obit anywhere.

Radio Programmer Neil McIntyre During The 1970's

Radio Programmer Neil McIntyre During The 1970′s

From Christy – I hope you can help me. I just heard that Neil McIntyre passed away September 11. I can’t find his obit anywhere. Do you know more about his life?  I was an old friend from the 1960′s at 1010 WINS NY: a teenager trying to break into rock. We would practice with my girl group at WINS. Murray the K’s friend was our manager. We kept rehearsing so that we could meet Phil Spector but we never perfected ourselves to that degree… circa 1964.

Mr. Pop History – Radio programmer Neil McIntyre was indeed at 1010 WINS in 1964 during their last gasp at top-40 and WINS sounded great that year with DJ’s such as Ed Hider, Jack Lacy, Johnny Holiday and Murray the K. The problem was, WINS had WMCA and WABC breathing down their backs and there just wasn’t room for 3 top-40 stations. McIntyre had come from WHK Cleveland and brought WHK DJ Johnny Holiday with him to New York. WINS decided to go full-blast top-40 (again) and hired him during the fall of 1963. WINS scooped the world after all the Beatles came to New York in February, 1964, when John, Paul George and Ringo gave WINS all kinds of promos: “This is Paul McCartney and You’re Listening to 1010 WINS.”  (Ringo and John Lennon did the same for WMCA).

1964 was such a great year to be in top-40 radio with the British invasion of the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and so many others. Murray the K’s exclusive Beatle interviews were tops. WINS and WMCA tried to scoop each other with “firsts” in New York and it made for exciting radio. It was music competition at its best. The WINS sound in 1964 was exciting and highly produced. If a record was in the WINS top-10, it was in the “WINS Winners Circle.” You gotta love it.

Group W transferred McIntyre to KDKA  Pittsburgh in 1965 after the WINS all-news change. Later, Neil McIntyre programmed WPIX-FM (New York) during the early and mid-1970’s and was it my favorite choice for top-40. Like WINS, the station was loaded with personality DJ”s like Dennis Quinn, Les Marshak, Alex Hayes, Ted David and Jerry Carrol.

He was 68 and passed away from cancer. I’m told McIntyre was one of the nicest in the business. I’ve sent you his obit and thanks for a great e-mail.

When did Mr. Microphone come out?

From Rich C. – When did Mr. Microphone come out?

Mr. Pop History – Sometime around late 1978, but the TV airwaves came alive with Ronco’s Mr. Microphone in 1979. Click here for 1970′s technology timeline.

Who could forget that 70′s guy exclaiming “Hey good looking, we’ll be back to pick you up later.” Mr. Microphone was actually a low-power FM modulator, but through the magic of Ronco advertising, the device was turned into a hip tool to pick-up girls. The only problem with this commercial: you had to know what station the receiving FM radio was tuned to, so you could infiltrate their radio. Getting the frequency just right would have taken much insight and tuning time. Oh well, it’s only TV. It’s one of the classic commercials of the 1970′s.

I never ever remember red M&M candies when I was growing up

Red M&Ms

Red M&Ms

From David G – Mr. Pop – Is my memory correct in that, I never ever remember red M&M candies when I was growing up, but I see “red” today. Didn’t Mars discontinue the little red candies, then, bring them back?

Mr. Pop History – You have a good memory, Mars discontinued red M&M’s in 1976 because its dye was considered a health risk. But, they were brought back in 1987. Here’s something from the www.mrpopculture.com files from January 15, 1987:

Mars announces that red M&M’s are coming back after an absence of 11 years. The return of the little candy was prompted by a national outcry that included thousands of letters to the manufacturer and the formation of college campus societies. Red M&M’s were discontinued in 1976 because of “confusion and concern” over Red Dye No. 2, which was banned by federal regulators as a health risk. Red M&M’s were always safe though, as they contained Red Dye Nos. 3 and 40. Mars always sold a limited number of packages of green and red candies for the holidays.

Who was Larry Kings worst guest ever? Has he ever mentioned it?

Demond Wilson

Demond Wilson

From Diana G – Hello Mr. Pop. What a fantastic site. I’m finding the search engine now works great. Did you do some tweaking?

Also, Larry King, who never seems to have a bad guest. My question: who was his worst ever? Has he ever mentioned it?

Mr. Pop History – My apologies. Up until recently, the search on this site stunk. It was bad. One of the problems is the size of Mrpophistory. It’s probably the largest accessible (privately-owned and produced) content website in the world – now at 13,000 pages.  What I mean by accessible is that, you can get anywhere on this site without a fee or as much as a password.

Now, part 2 of your question… Larry King once said his absolute low-point came back in the 1970’s, with his overnight national radio show. The guest was actor Demond Wilson, who many remember as the son in “Sanford and Son.” According to Larry King – during that live interview – Wilson answered questions with either a yes or no. He refused to elaborate when King wanted to know. At one point,  Wilson blurted out – “When Am I Going To Get Paid?” And lastly, he refused to take telephone calls. It must have been a nightmare for King.