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Wake Up Donnie I Think I Have Something to Play for You

April 27, 2015

Rod Stewart, Maggie May

 

As in most businesses, well-made plans in the Record Business didn’t always work out as planned, but sometimes even better.  Such was the situation I faced when I flew into Houston one Monday morning to bring Rod Stewart’s first single from the new “Every Picture Tells a Story” album, to Program Director, Bill Young, at the mighty hit machine, KILT.  The selected track was Tim Harden’s great ballad, “Reason to Believe,” sung with soul by Mod Rod.

 

Bill Young had an impeccable reputation, honest to a fault, so if he added your record everyone would know it was legit.  He was also one of a carefully selected group of program directors at big stations that participated in the "Gavin Call," a weekly conference call that would discuss the new releases and usually select certain records to add to their playlists all at the same time.  Bill and Janet Gavin, whom I knew from San Francisco, had a Weekly Tip Sheet that was considered the most legitimate and unbiased reference on new music in the business.  They were also classy and proud grandparents.

 

So I sit in the Lobby with some Very Heavy other promo guys waiting my turn to see the man; when my time came I went into the Production room where he held court, eating a Burger and Fries and sipping a Coke…and the room smelled like it.  I greeted Bill and said something like, "Got your next hit, 'Reason to Believe,' from Rod’s new album."

 

"You’re on the wrong side," Bill said, "I’m going on 'Maggie May'."

 

"But we’ve already got 17 stations on 'Reason,' and expect at least 20 more tomorrow," I pled, but it didn’t matter; the big guys on the Gavin Call had decided to flip it. My stomach began to churn… this would not be good news to the boss.  There was nothing I could do, so I thanked Bill for adding the record, even the wrong side, and went out to find a telephone.

 

Cell phones wouldn’t exist for another 30-40 years, so it was a pay booth on the corner.

I called the office and broke the news, and as expected the response was, "Well tell him to flip it back."

 

"You tell him," I replied, "I’ve got an airplane to catch." Of course Maggie May went number 1, and "Every Picture Tells a Story" was the second biggest album I ever carried, behind only the Beatles, "Let It Be." So the plan didn’t work out the way we planned it, it worked out better.

 

I’d like to add a P.S. We recently lost the great, Bill Young much too early, but he was one of the brightest, "real gentleman," whom I ever had the pleasure of calling on, and he is truly missed.  His book, "Dead Air," is a must read for anyone interested in the radio and record business of the Golden Days of rock.

 

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