WSAY- Part I

[ MUSIC CLIP: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young- "Southern Man" ]

    Try to imagine a break-even commercial radio station, without outside advertising,
without a sales force, 20-year old equipment, minimum working wages with no raises and 
progressive rock 'n roll format- mixing with ethnic and religious programming and you'd
have WSAY in the mid-1970s.

DeHOND: Music from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young recorded live from Four Way Street. And 
a lot of these tunes going around the turntable for the last time. Maybe somebody will
give them another spin or two, as we move on into Saturday and a little bit of Sunday 
that will be… smattered with rock 'n roll.. as the end draws near. Monday morning.. 
it's uh..the "Country King" I guess.

    7-year disc jockey, Kevin DeHond-

[ MUSIC CLIP:      ]

DeHOND: I still tune in, you know. It's not even SAY, it's XXI.. I just gotta hear the
frequency, know what I mean? (laughs)

SIMMONDS: I know what you mean.

DeHOND: So everybody who never worked there must have tuned in once in awhile. And I
wonder if they thought we were the big bunch of rummies that everybody else seemed to
think we were-

SIMMONDS: They probably did.

DeHOND: Or if we were doing something that they always wished they could have gotten 
away with-

[ MUSIC:   ]

    Which was a musical format, so to speak,  that entrusted the disc-jockey to produce
commercials and play whatever music they wanted to.

[ MUSIC:   ]

SIMMONDS: (commercial clip) Well tonight, the Penny Arcade gives you the opportunity to
eat as much free popcorn as you want- as loud as you want. After all, you'll be there
alone won't ya, Casanova?! So cut the old girl a break and remove your face from her
sight, and stick it the beer where it belongs.. at the Penny Arcade…

[ MUSIC:   ]

SIMMONDS: Total.. creative.. responsibility.

DeHOND: Nobody told you anything. Make your own commercial, make it the way you want...

SIMMONDS:  Every sound that went over the air was your responsibility. There are the
turntables, there are the records. You have six hours. Go to it.

[ MUSIC:      ]

    In fact, it wasn't until Rochester Red Wings baseball came aboard in 1978, that a
direct line request line was available. Prior, listeners would mail in their music
requests, or be transferred from the downtown switchboard to talk with the jock. 
Horacio Martinez worked at WSAY for two years. And went on to DKX, VOR and spent two 
years selling time for WPXY.

MARTINEZ: Alright maybe late winter, early spring. I remember we painted the place-

DeHOND: Electric blue-

MARTINEZ: Yeah, electric blue and real bright orange- that was the trim. That's when we
got the phone. And I think we had a two-point-nine rating in the marketplace. And we were
never the cellar station. I think the other AM station there at three-W-G was always the
cellar station.

[MUSIC CLIP: Rainbow- "The Man on the Silver Mountain"]

    Despite continuous bottom-of-the-ladder ratings, WSAY maintained its small- yet loyal-
audience. Morning man Jack Simmonds says the listener could more-easily identify with the
jocks at SAY. He admits to spending nights at the studio when his paycheck ran out , and
he didn't have gas money to go home and get back to work again.

SIMMONDS: So I would sleep on the floor, and the engineer would come up, and I had a tape
set up with the national anthem on it. And that would be my alarm clock. And the engineer
would come up and hit the button. And I had like two minutes to get up and out of the
sleeping bag in my jockey shorts and get to work. That was the point: we had really
nothing. And I think the people that listened to us had essentially nothing, too.

[ MUSIC CLIP: Good Rats- "Klashkabob" ]

    Because of the open format, the jocks were at liberty to discover or "break" new bands
on the airwaves; some that may not ever attain great commercial success- still, excellent
musicians notheless. Groups like Triumph, Max Webster, The Good Rats, Moxie, Boomerang.
Listener "Rock'n Roll" Suzie Heikoop remembers.

HEIKOOP: Any new band that came along that was excellent, that was good, that one of the
guys thought was good was on the air instantly. There was no questions, there was no
debate. There was not "are they gonna like it?" "are they gonna hate it it?" "they're
gonna hate it, we can't play it". It was "it sounds good" "it sounds great" "it's new"
"let's play it". That was the type of attitude that the station had  and the spirit that
they had which made it so unique.

    And though SAY never seriously threatened their progressive rock competitor at the
time, WCMF-FM, the AM station had a definate impact when CMF started getting requests for
tunes that listeners heard first on SAY. Jack Simmonds-

SIMMONDS: It wasn't that they were complimenting us either. It was: they had no choice.
The public heard tunes and wanted to hear more. And CMF said "I'm sorry, it's not on our
playlist". And eventually it got to the point where they would say, "Geez, we got 25 calls
this week to hear a band called The Good Rats. Where are these people hearing it? Well, it
must be from SAY but let's look around and see if they've got something a little more, you
know, 'hit' worthy. And that was  how we kinda got…

DeHOND: Credibility.


    Kevin DeHond-

DeHOND: And in the long run I think it was good for AOR/progressive rock stations like
CMF. I think actually they had probably had more success because we opened the minds of
some people. Kiss was the same way. They finally hit the new WBBF and they had that
single. The Kiss concert sold out and everybody gave BBF the credit 'cause they were
crankin' the single. But we had been playing them a year and a half before that-

SIMMONDS: Like "Black Diamond"…

DeHOND:  And "Strutter" and all that stuff. And CMF wouldn't play that because it was a
little bit too...


DeHOND: Too young, yeah. It was like the punk rock of its time.

MARTINEZ: I had a talk with a music director then at CMF, Gary Whipple. Gary said that 
for many years SAY was a thorn in CMF's side. 'Cause if we wouldn't have been there, CMF
would have picked up that point or point and a half  that we used to consistently get out
of the marketplace, you see. And that would have been much more revenue for CMF and much
more credbility.

[ MUSIC CLIP: Argent- "God Gave Rock 'n Roll To You" ]

    Tomorrow, the trio of disc jockeys will discuss today's music on so-called rock 'n
roll stations, remember groups that probably will never be heard from again, and
not-so-fondly recall the late WSAY owner: the technical genius, yet eccentric Gordon P.
Brown. Bill Flynn, WXXI-1370.

[ MUSIC CLIP: Argent- "God Gave Rock 'n Roll To You"  lyrics:
God gave rock 'n' roll to you
Gave rock n' roll to you
Put it in the soul of everyone ]


WSAY- Pt 2

[ MUSIC CLIP:     - "Gettin' Tight" ]

    At the helm, from 1936 'til his death in 1979 was WSAY owner Godon P. Brown- truly 
one of  radio's pioneers and technical genuises. He built a transmitter at age ten and
envisioned sattelite-tv direct hook-ups more than 25 years ago. He was turned down twice
on bids to own TV stations in Rochester. Remembered as a maverick and a fighter, he
actually lost his life's savings winning a challenge against his FCC license shortly
before he died. But as his former employees can attest: he was the "Ebeneener Scrooge" 
of radio owners- paying minimum to poor wages with no raises in sight. Seven-year disc
jockey, Kevin DeHond-

DeHOND: (mimicking Brown) 'I sell advertising. I don't buy advertising'.  And that ain't
the way it works. Nowadays you know, advertising agencies hire other advertising agencies
to advertise their advertising agency. He thought that was a waste of money… and maybe he
was wrong.

MARTINEZ: He bid for a TV as a broacaster in television, and then I think what happened

DeHOND: He didn't hire the right lawyers and he didn't spend the money, you know, to get
the people that have opened TV stations. He wanted to do it on his own his way- just like
we wanted to do it on our own our way. And where are we now? We're talkin' about it in 
the back yard, instead of doing it for a living! (everyone laughs)

    The story goes: current area radio general manager Jack Palvino lost a battle with
Brown over a half-cent raise in the 1950s. And that transmitter equipment in dire need 
was found by the boxful inside Brown's house after he passed away.  Water at the studio
site was un-drinkable because Brown refused to hook up with the town's system. And
employees who served for decades still received that same five dollar Christmas bonus.
Seven year disc jockey Jack Simmonds-

SIMMONDS: He liked his money. He counted it into dust. (mimicking Brown) 
"Records by the pound!"

MARTINEZ: In a way you an say that.

    Two-year SAY DJ Horacio Martinez-

MARTINEZ: He didn't go with the flow. And as a result he was a dinosaur in a time when
dinosaurs were extinct.

DeHOND: God bless you, Jerry Garcia. (everyone laughs)


    DeHond says it's a shame today's owners won't go with an old SAY format, because 
greed rules in radio also.

DeHOND: Every station in America is sold to people that want to make money off the

MARTINEZ: Exactly.

DeHOND:  And they will play whatever they have to play to get a bigger bite of the market.

MARTINEZ: The problem with an SAY format is that it's low quarter-hour radio… the appeal
of such programs, and compared to what the industry demands-

DeHOND: I'll take a two-share of the market. I'll run that place. Just let me have that
place, give me the equipment. I'll take a two-share of the market and I'll be happy, with
my forty grand a year, okay? But these guys don't. They have to make hundreds of thousands
of dollars-

MARTINEZ: There you go. It's again what the industry demands. And I'm not saying that it's
right. I don't agree with it in many ways. I think it, in a sense, homogenizes the
industry to a great degree.


    Shortly before the break-up of the progressive rock format, WSAY was behind a bumper
sticker seen around town: "Rochester Radio Insults My Intelligence"- a blast at
uncreative, repetitive, so-called rock 'n roll stations that were actually just playing
the hits over and over.

DeHOND: You know, nowadays the record company comes in with "Hey Mr. Radio Guy, I got 
this brand new group, these are the two hits on the album, push these. Hey, when the 
group comes to town, I'll give you first shot at an interview. The program director goes
boom, carts up the two tunes, those are the two tunes you hear. But the cranker is on the
"b" side of the album, and it's seven-and-a-half minutes and they jam!

MARTINEZ: And they won't play it-

DeHOND: And they won't play it!

SIMMONDS: It'd be nice for you to have another reason to buy the album than the one song.

[ MUSIC CLIP:  Roy Buchanan- "Ramon's Blues" ]

    Mike Thompson, known as "O.T." during on-air requests, remembers the dull rock 'n roll
offerings of area radio, before stumbling on to WSAY.

THOMPSON: And I listened some more and then all of a sudden there was some lady saying
some prayers, and I said: what's going on here? Then there was some more hard rock coming
back on, then a ballgame. And I figured then and there that I had to seek this place out.
What it reminded me of was just going over to a friends house and playing some records..
getting together with your friends, and they're listening to the same music that you 
like. And they would honestly put on a request.


    One sad outcome with the loss of SAY's rock 'n roll format was the actual loss of 
the music.

SIMMONDS: A group called Good God… Bull Angus… Neil Merriweather-

DeHOND: Oh, yeah!

SIMMONDS: Neil Merryweather… was.. a killer!

DeHOND: Michael Fennely.. Crabby Appleton they were hip. Like, REO Speedwagon I, Gypsy
Woman's Passion- you ever gonna hear that song again? Never again! And like it's one of
their best songs- they don't even play it live anymore, it's so good… White Witch.. Eric
Quincy Tate… Beck, Bogart and Apocey, right? But Bogart and Apocy started in Cactus- they
should play old Cactus just like they play old Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but they

MARTINEZ: I guess they weren't playing at Woodstock. (laughs)

DeHOND: Johnny Winter. Oh sure, he comes and plays a blues concert once in awhile in a
small club out in the outskirts of town-

SIMMONDS: (sarcastic) Yeah, didn't he work with Muddy Waters?

DeHOND: The rock 'n albums he's got that burns!


    Looking back, it's easy to remember the good and forget the bad. And Jack Simmonds
says he wouldn't have changed anything- other than to make his SAY days last longer.

SIMMONDS: I got memories that'll last me a lifetime. I mean it's not like I'm living in
the past. There's plenty-enough going on now to keep me busy. That part of my life is very
special to me. There's a special.. something.. about-

DeHOND: It's like your first girl.

SIMMONDS: It is. And I did make some money at it. It wasn't you know, like I was starving
to death, but very nearly. I'd save the tartar on my teeth for Wednesday afternoon when
things got tough, sure. I know what it was like.

[ MUSIC CLIP:     

    Horacio Martinez-

MARTINEZ: I think SAY's listening audience wanted exactly what they were getting. They
couldn't get it any place else- not with the continuity.. not with the desire to find new
music that fit along  those parameters. And that's what kept them there loyally.

[ MUSIC CLIP: Tommy Bolin- "Teaser" ]

    And, Kevin DeHond-

DeHOND: It was like a…

SIMMONDS: Cult following.

DeHOND: Yeah, a sub-culture. As much like Greatful Deadheads, as much as yuppies and
hippies and what ever you want to call them. There was like an SAY cult.. you know,
hanging out at the beach, with their cars and windows down, listening to AM radio and
turning it up loud and just having a good time.

SIMMONDS: Part of a lot of people's growing up process was SAY.

[ MUSIC CLIP: The Good Rats- "Songwriter"  lyrics:
The songwriter can make you laugh or cry
He's pumping gas at night just to survive
And all he asks of you is sing his songs
And put his name in lights where it belongs

    Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370

[ MUSIC CLIP: The Good Rats- "Songwriter"  lyrics:
They won't play my music, so I'm never coming back