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Drake Vs. Sklar

MasterDJ

New Participating Member
I listened to a broadcast in San Diego yesterday, a noncomm section of the dial, and there was a conversation about radio giants of the top 40, mentioning that KHJ's Drake and WABC's Sklar were the kingpins of the day. Any truth to the assertion?
 
I listened to a broadcast in San Diego yesterday, a noncomm section of the dial, and there was a conversation about radio giants of the top 40, mentioning that KHJ's Drake and WABC's Sklar were the kingpins of the day. Any truth to the assertion?
Both were Top 40 stars in their own worlds.

Drake, from the time he started doing San Diego and then KHJ and the rest of the RKO stations, was a consultant. Sklar was a local station PD (but what a station!)

So it is best to compare Sklar, WABC's PD with Ron Jacobs, KHJ's PD. Each had a style that worked in their market... Sklar took over WABC well before Jacobs was named PD in LA, so much of what Jacobs and Drake did was a reaction to the situation in the mid-60's. Sklar came to WABC when they still had remnants of the ABC network and was burdened by that; Drake and Jacobs did a clean sweep of the lokd format at KHJ.
 
Thanks for setting the record straight regarding Sklar and Drake.
You have a mountain of informational nuggets.
Thank you!
 
Thanks for setting the record straight regarding Sklar and Drake.
You have a mountain of informational nuggets.
Thank you!
I admired WABC and Sklar so much the first station I built and owned in 1964 even used the WABC jingle package of that particular moment... but without the chime. We were "57... Radio Musical" so the syllables fit perfectly!

In later 1965, after reading in the trades about the huge launch of Top 40 at KHJ, Drake and Jacobs, I flew to LA to listen. I sat in a cheap motel near the airport and monitored for several days, noting the use of jingles, the rotation of every song, the way the jocks kept things bright and brief and, of course, the imaging.

I was 18, so could not rent a car and the idea of trying to get to KHJ in Hollywood by bus was too confusing. So I listened, and then flew back to Ecuador.

I never met Sklar, although I saw him at several conventions before his untimely death. I met Drake a couple of times, and worked with Jacobs along with Tom Rounds at Radio Express around 1995. Because I was mostly involved in stations outside the U.S., nobody ever paid much attention to what I did... which was good as it allowed me to slip into markets where nobody had ever heard of me... that is a different story!
 
My take on it is that Sklar was a lot more provincial than Drake. Sklar's success, as pointed out, was limited to one very big station. He failed to see the growth of FM. He mishandled the SupeRadio national format. That ultimately cost him his job at ABC. Drake on the other hand had multiple successes and made the transition to national syndication and consulting. Same with Jacobs. Sklar never did.
 
My take on it is that Sklar was a lot more provincial than Drake. Sklar's success, as pointed out, was limited to one very big station. He failed to see the growth of FM. He mishandled the SupeRadio national format. That ultimately cost him his job at ABC. Drake on the other hand had multiple successes and made the transition to national syndication and consulting. Same with Jacobs. Sklar never did.
To an extent, Sklar was a one-station PD. Unlike the CHR consultants of the day like Mike Joseph, he apparently did not like working with different teams at other stations.

SuperRadio was mishandled by ABC, who thought they could do a networked format back when U.S. radio was very local with remotes, concerts and the like.

Drake liked having other people work for him. He was the ideal consultant who gave orders but did not do much of the work himself. He loved delegating and not having responsibility for the details; Sklar was much more hands on! Drake was good at getting owners to buy in... the way he handled San Diego was turned into the whole RKO deal!
 
To an extent, Sklar was a one-station PD. Unlike the CHR consultants of the day like Mike Joseph, he apparently did not like working with different teams at other stations.

That was my take too. ABC made him corporate PD, but the other stations still had their local PDs who made all the music decisions. It sounded to me that Sklar was just a rubber stamp.

SuperRadio was mishandled by ABC, who thought they could do a networked format back when U.S. radio was very local with remotes, concerts and the like.

But it was Sklar's baby. He had oversight of it, and programmed it with his people. They missed the window of opportunity in the late 70s, when they instead launched the Love format on their FMs. Sklar's inability to understand the bigger playing field cost them millions with SupeRadio. They leased a floor in an expensive midtown building, invested lots of money in offices and studios, and then ended up subleasing it all to NBC when it failed. Then, a couple years later, ABC bought the Satellite Music Networks, a company that had figured out the national format business better than they. Meanwhile, Ed McLaughlin, who was President of ABC Radio Networks, left in 1984 to work with a guy from Sacramento named Rush Limbaugh. Compare Ed's career to Rick's.
 
That was my take too. ABC made him corporate PD, but the other stations still had their local PDs who made all the music decisions. It sounded to me that Sklar was just a rubber stamp.



But it was Sklar's baby. He had oversight of it, and programmed it with his people. They missed the window of opportunity in the late 70s, when they instead launched the Love format on their FMs. Sklar's inability to understand the bigger playing field cost them millions with SupeRadio. They leased a floor in an expensive midtown building, invested lots of money in offices and studios, and then ended up subleasing it all to NBC when it failed. Then, a couple years later, ABC bought the Satellite Music Networks, a company that had figured out the national format business better than they. Meanwhile, Ed McLaughlin, who was President of ABC Radio Networks, left in 1984 to work with a guy from Sacramento named Rush Limbaugh. Compare Ed's career to Rick's.
Ed found the opportunity to lease a couple of spots on ABC Talkradio's satellite networks as ABC was trying to exit that business. He first took over Dr. Dean Edell's contract (eventually adding the Dr. Dean Edell Medical Minute.). The opportunity to syndicate Limbaugh presented itself when Owen Spann retired (and several other things had to happen).
 
What we don't know is had RKO let WOR (AM) become a top 40, how a head-to-head Drake/Sklar battle would have sounded and turned out.
 
Bill Drake's and Rick Sklar's Top 40 formats were the antithesis of each other. Drake's was streamlined and eliminated much of the clutter in Top 40 radio. Sklar's violated every Drake rule, playing jingles over ramps of record and between commercials, and having what seemed to be far less restrictive periods of talk by the jocks. Out-of-town programmers familiar with WABC's big ratings would fly into New York and be stunned by what they heard. But somehow, everything including the chime, reverb, jingles, personalities and 50,000 watts at 770 combined to make WABC a unique and great station.

Growing up in Baltimore, I listened to WABC at night. But when our family visited New York, I listened to WMCA, which I thought was the better station.

In 1973, ABC sent Sklar to San Francisco to put a Top-40 format on KMPX-FM. The station sounded exactly like WABC down to the chime and the reverb. It didn't work and made me think Sklar was a 1-trick pony. But I suppose you could say the same thing about Bill Drake.
 
In 1973, ABC sent Sklar to San Francisco to put a Top-40 format on KMPX-FM. The station sounded exactly like WABC down to the chime and the reverb. It didn't work and made me think Sklar was a 1-trick pony. But I suppose you could say the same thing about Bill Drake.
Drake only had one or two absolute failures... WCPO in Cincy was one, but it was a 250 watt Class IV station against George Burns' WSAI with 5 kw.

There were even non-RKO stations, like Scooter Seagraves' station in Oklahoma.

Drake, on the other hand, went on to form Drake-Chenault and offered a half-dozen taped formats including, even, Beautiful Music. And he adapted well to the return of a really good oldies format on KRTH in LA later in his career.
 
Drake had a really tremendous influence on Top 40 radio. I drove across the country in 1972, and virtually every Top 40 station copied its overall sound from Drake formatics.
 
When I was at the U of I from "73-'75 I had a roommate who endlessly listened to WLRW 94.5 when they featured both the "Hit Parade" and "Solid Gold" formats from D/C. To this day, anytime I hear classic hits from that time period, in my mind I can hear the prerecorded announcer providing the title/artist and sometimes just the artist at the appropriate place in each song.
 
When I was at the U of I from "73-'75 I had a roommate who endlessly listened to WLRW 94.5 when they featured both the "Hit Parade" and "Solid Gold" formats from D/C. To this day, anytime I hear classic hits from that time period, in my mind I can hear the prerecorded announcer providing the title/artist and sometimes just the artist at the appropriate place in each song.
I grew up with CKLW which was under Drake from 1967-71, and my local station carried Hit Parade '68, '69 and '70, then in the mid 70s I listened to WLBC-FM with "Solid Gold" which mixed currents with oldies
 
A few things:

"Love" was the summer of 1969 until early 1971, not the late 70s. And in the fall of '71, the ABC-FM stations launched the "Rock n' Stereo" thing, which was a hit everywhere but SF.

As David said, Drake was really a consultant who relied on his local PDs. No offense to Bill Drake's memory, but I'm not sure he could have won in Los Angeles without Ron Jacobs, who was brilliant within the structure Drake created.

Thanks to Hoff, I've got a pretty healthy ratings timeline (back home in Sac---I'm in Georgia visiting the grandkids for another week) and the difference between Jacobs and everyone who followed was pretty dramatic. In San Francisco, it wasn't until Drake was out of the picture and Paul Drew was doing the consulting that KFRC finally put KYA away once and for all.

Drake had eight years with RKO. Sklar had what---20?---with ABC. No, the WABC thing didn't translate well at KSFX in '73-'74 nor do I think it would have worked nationally if Superradio had ever gotten out of the gate.

I'd say that the contest really would be Sklar vs. Jacobs, but Ron got bored very easily---and would never have stayed anywhere as long as Rick did.
 
I'd say that the contest really would be Sklar vs. Jacobs, but Ron got bored very easily---and would never have stayed anywhere as long as Rick did.
Ron was always a "Poi Boy" at heart, and he had trouble staying put anywhere else... and even greater difficulty with supervision!
 
A few things:

"Love" was the summer of 1969 until early 1971, not the late 70s. And in the fall of '71, the ABC-FM stations launched the "Rock n' Stereo" thing, which was a hit everywhere but SF.

As David said, Drake was really a consultant who relied on his local PDs. No offense to Bill Drake's memory, but I'm not sure he could have won in Los Angeles without Ron Jacobs, who was brilliant within the structure Drake created.

Thanks to Hoff, I've got a pretty healthy ratings timeline (back home in Sac---I'm in Georgia visiting the grandkids for another week) and the difference between Jacobs and everyone who followed was pretty dramatic. In San Francisco, it wasn't until Drake was out of the picture and Paul Drew was doing the consulting that KFRC finally put KYA away once and for all.

Drake had eight years with RKO. Sklar had what---20?---with ABC. No, the WABC thing didn't translate well at KSFX in '73-'74 nor do I think it would have worked nationally if Superradio had ever gotten out of the gate.

I'd say that the contest really would be Sklar vs. Jacobs, but Ron got bored very easily---and would never have stayed anywhere as long as Rick did.
"Rock 'n Stereo", I believe that's about the time KABC-FM became KLOS...
 
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