Tom McMurray, formerly of Thomas McMurray Ideas, quietly left radio in the late '70's after reviving 50KW WBT, Charlotte, and consulting numerous stations, among them WJAR, Providence, a former home of the Repository curator.
Tom McMurray passed away in September of 1999.
Tom is remembered today as a gentleman who cut big deals with big radio stations. Uncle Ricky remembers vividly the class and style of the WBT "Sunday Night Hall of Fame", which introduced Chuck Berry to a generation of Carolinians who had never heard such things on their dependable, 50,000 watt radio station, ever! It was a remarkable time, and WBT was only one of the stations that Tom touched during his career in broadcasting.
Mr. McMurray sold Ideas - and for radio, they were BIG Ideas, requiring major studio construction, equipment, jingles, advertising budgets and most importantly - talented people. Once Mr. McMurray knew he could do it right, he continued to sell more Ideas, which required exceptional skills with both management and staff. I asked Tom why he didn't do radio anymore, and he offered some very special comments.
This marvelous thing called the Internet allowed Tom and Uncle Ricky to share Ideas once more - these ideas included cherished airchecks, comments, insights, and all sorts of ways to Increase Your Joy. Thank you Tom, for all the GOOD THINGS.
[Descriptions by Tom McMurray, unless otherwise indicated]
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1971 Gavin Radio Conference Awards Show (43:07)
"Let us begin our annual awards show, where I hear it is said......we present our most sincere...insincerity".........
From 1966 through 1973 Bill Gavin held an annual Gavin Conference. They were largely attended by Top 40 and Adult Top 40 PDs, General Managers, a sprinkling of jocks and for every Broadcaster, there were at least 4 record company promotion men. While Bill was most conservative and certainly not a part of it, the "after hours" of the convention were the stuff of which legends are made. Party and Hooker City, courtesy of the record companies. All of them. This is the story of the 1971 Conference in New Orleans.
Listening to the entire tape is a special treat as you get to hear some of America's very best Air personalities ever. They don't have events like the Gavin and Billboard Conference anymore. No one takes the time to produce a show like the Gavin awards where each year you heard a whole new array of Top 40 Hit parodies. (You can hear these just prior to the announcement of Nominees in each category.)
Smaller Market DJ of the Year:
Progressive Radio Station DJ Award of the Year:
Good Country Music Good DJ of the Year:
Chuck Blore introduces a Tribute to Gordon McLendon
And the winners were? Hey I was there, but that was 25 years ago. I think I remember, but believe this should be historically accurate. Hit the comment button and send Uncle Ricky the winner's name. The 5th caller wins.....
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PAMS WBT Charlotte Custom Jingles, 1971 (05:11)
. . . dubba you bee tee . . .
[DESCRIPTION BY UNCLE RICKY, July 28 2002]
I really wish that Tom McMurray had lived to write the description for this exhibit. It is a worthy example of a custom jingle package. In this case, a package created for one client, from scratch, involving dozens of musicians, plus singers, plus engineers, and hundreds of hours of work - all for one station. Very expensive, and all for WBT in 1971. This is a small, edited sample.
I remember Tom telling me that players from the Dallas Symphony were brought into the PAMS studios. The signature itself was claimed as original and dubbed "Logo One". Throughout this exhibit, you'll hear the repetition of that five note signature, "Dubba Yoo Bee Tee". After a while, the notes by themselves sing the call letters in your head.
Here's what you'll hear in the order it happens: Acapellas: For the first few months of the new format, all of the jingles on WBT were this very unusual vocal blend. It grew on me quickly. Here are some of the deejay jings and something for Jefferson-Pilot's WBT/WBTV production company Jeffersonics, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Stagers: Tons of signatured quickies. The first more aggressive news open was never used; the second more placid open was. Lots of different instruments, beds for promos, tags and formatic elements.
Logo One Version Two: Beginning at 3:39, you'll hear the upgraded set of basic logo jingles with instrumentation. These were rolled out several months after the acapellas.
And at 4:34, the uplifting show closer which always included a Johnny Olson voiceover.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you've been listening to the Tom McMurray Show, Produced Exclusively for W B T, Charlotte!
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WBT Charlotte, Composite, 1971-1972 (13:05)
. . . No matter what time it is, it's Eleven Ten in Charlotte . . .
[DESCRIPTION BY UNCLE RICKY]
The composite begins with Tom's "mission statement" about community involvement, (previously featured in the Thomas McMurray Ideas 1973 Presentation), a quick montage of WBT music, and at 1:58, three examples of custom WBT Public Service Announcements. The vast majority of radio stations of the time considered public service a pointless FCC requirement. At WBT, Tom took a different approach, creating memorable first-class PSAs. Later, at WJAR, Tom explained to me that he required everyone on his air staff to spend a few hours in the production room each month creating these announcements. It was considered part of the job at WBT.
Following the PSAs, we hear a sample of Charlotte morning icon Ty Boyd. Tom told me that after WBT, Boyd made his living as a motivational speaker! H.A. Thompson, a short excerpt of newsman Frank Richardson, Jack Petry, Mike Ivers and Bob Lacy follow Boyd. There's also one cut from McMurray's All Kinds of People campaign - again, an example of "community involvement".
The final element of this composite was the closer for a 1971 sales demo.
WBT Great Modern Radio History, 1972 (8:26)
. . . Over the past two years, a radio station came back to the people . . .
[Curator's Note: GREAT MODERN RADIO HISTORY was prepared for a WBT Staff Meeting in 1972. It is representative of the high production value of WBT and of the respect and love that programmer Tom McMurray had for the station and staff.]
Magic Happened Here
In the Summer of 1970 I was approached by Blair Radio, the national advertising representative for WBT Radio in Charlotte, North Carolina. WBT, a 50,000 watt Clear Channel powerhouse had historically been the number one station in the Charlotte area of dominant influence (ADI) forever. Once owned by CBS and the spawning pool of many talents such as Charles Kuralt, Nelson Benton, and too many to mention, it had a rich heritage.
In the Spring of 1970 the ARB showed WBT as the overall ninth station in the market. No longer could Blair and its powerful Blair radio Network (BRN) feed WBT the national clients. David Klemm, Blair's secret agent, acted as the CIA of Blair and all the stations they represented. He knew the score and more about every major market radio station in America than anyone, at that time. He was a smart, articulate and brilliant communicator. He was very well liked, respected and a truly nice guy. David's job, bottom line, was to keep Blair stations number one.
Secretly, working with David Klemm, Harold devised a plan to have a "palace coup". If WBT was going to change, it would take hard factual data to get permission from Jefferson Standard to shorten the skirts on their Grand Lady WBT. From August through September I worked totally behind the scenes. I was not even in or near the station. I designed quantitative and qualitative research that was performed by Mel Goldberg's New York based Magic "C" research company.
Questions also elicited various demographic and economic information, attitudes and preferences on all different kinds of programming. We played all air personalities voices currently in the region and sought to find out if they could identify the personality without hearing their name or station.
Mel and a crew of seven experienced researchers fanned out through 78 counties in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Thousands of people were personally interviewed. Mainframe computers compiled the data. Mel interpreted the facts, Harold, myself and a professional writer prepared concise white papers for the Jefferson Standard hierarchy.
Over the next five months three major studios were reconstructed and state-of-the-art equipment installed. A new staff was blended with some of WBT's traditional announcers so that an evolutionary (as opposed to revolutionary) sound would first hit the air when WBT changed formats in March 1971. As early as January 1971 two top 40 DJ's, Rob Hunter and H.A. Thompson were hired, but kept in the wings.
WBT never in it's life had done any stunts. It was a graceful 50,000 watt tradition.
At 7 PM on March 14th, an "official announcement" was read, and WBT started it's new format with the Original Sunday Night Hall of Fame.
Over the next 2 years WBT attained the highest ARB ratings ever recorded by any station ever or since in the Charlotte metro area.
WBT was Number One in every time period and every demographic. I have never had, seen or felt the magic, fun and success of the WBT years before or since. WBT was one in a million. What to say? "Thanks for letting me be there".
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Egocentrifugal Force by Tom McMurray (05:05)
. . . The finest thing you can give to anybody is to let them belong . . .
[DESCRIPTION BY UNCLE RICKY]
Targeted at radio program directors and managers at a time when regulation created genuine competition, this treatise touched on two of McMurray's favorite subjects: Recycling Ideas and Motivating People.
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Thomas McMurray Ideas Presentation, 1973 (22:38)
. . . Ladies And Gentlemen, It's Showtime! . . .
This presentation was created to make people excited about Radio and making changes to their radio station. The whole premise was to showcase Thomas McMurray Ideas quality. It was never intended that we would make "your" radio station sound like the presentation. Hundreds of copies were mailed as promotional material to stations across America. Accompanying this piece were 400-500 35mm slides that were shown and synchronized with the audio track when presented "live" for potential clients.
From beginning to end it tells the story of what I grew up hearing, then later in a contemporary sense listened to and created everyday. If I could go back, my business card would read Radio Producer.
It begins with a brief montage of Radio's earliest days, then a montage of what radio sounded like nationwide in 1971. The 1971 montage that I recycled was produced by Chuck Blore for Miles David at the Radio Advertising Bureau. I also mixed in several special pieces personally collected. It's hard to recall every 10 second mix and apply sequential credits. Consider this a collection of incredible sound created by many talented and special people that I post produced. Recurring effects were "needle drop".
Starting with a Simon & Garfunkle idea in 1966, jocks and programmers all across the country often pulled those magnificent "All Night Without Pay Sessions" - Incredible things were created. Is this done anymore? I did my share, all from the heart. My mix of Nixon and Sinatra was one of those "lost" sessions.
The Neil Diamond, Fifth Dimension and Jackie DeShannon parodies are from a Gavin Awards presentation circa 1970.
My only reward was to "strike an emotion and make something happen". For me, those times were the best part of radio. Let's Make Tomorrow Together is a TMI original track, that yours truly wrote, participated in and produced. My mission statement, on which I based my success, and which I applied to all I believed and practiced follows the Let's Make Tomorrow Together jingle. It's lovingly voiced by the late Jimmy Patterson and myself.
Next are airchecks of WBT 1972, featuring Patterson, Frank Richardson, Jim Forrest, Ty Boyd, Jack Petry, Geoff Fox and Mike Ivers. All jingles and stagings are PAMS, various series and custom. We are also treated to the magical voice of Johnny Olson who graciously contributed (without remuneration) many of the WBT ID's, Show Openings and Closers. That's Big Dan Ingram on the General Motors Commercials, produced in the WBT Jeffersonics studios.
The presentation ends with the WBT Surprise jingle, a cut from a contest that Johnny Olson and I co-produced at Mark Century Studios in New York City. The Surprise contest was never aired.
My most special thanks to Mike Ivers, John Lambis, Chuck Blore, Jim Hampton and Jeff Mathieu.
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TOP STREAM 32.1Kbps (16 Khz)
1000 Days - The Life & Death of JFK, WBT Charlotte, 11/22/1973 (29:28)
. . . All of this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1000 days . . . but let us begin . . .
[DESCRIPTION BY UNCLE RICKY]
1000 Days - The Life & Death of JFK was produced by the late Tom McMurray and WBT, Charlotte, for the tenth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy . Narrated by the late Jim Patterson, this moving documentary includes dozens of authentic radio news clips. Particularly powerful are the reports of the events of the assassination as they unfolded on that terrible day.
Also included, clips from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Masterfully blending various production elements, McMurray demonstrates, in the final minutes of this presentation, his self-admitted talent for knowing "what to steal".
This polished production does justice to the memories of this event, and the talented radio producer who created it.
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The History of Rock & Roll Time Sweep, 1977 (38:20)
. . . Every Number One record, in order, beginning in January, 1956 . . .
The soundtrack of a Top 40 career.
[Curator's Note]: The closing credits for this release of The History of Rock 'n' Roll are included in the final segment. This is from what we believe was the next-to-last release (still available in 1980) of the Drake-Chenault syndicated program, which ran 52 hours. The program was shipped on high quality vinyl, and only a limited number of copies were ever available. The Repository is honored to feature this version of the syndicated radio classic.
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We wish there was more from the Tom McMurray Collection!
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