Gordon McLendon was the owner of KLIF Dallas and KILT Houston among others during the 50s, 60s and 70s.
The McLendon stations were innovators and very colorful.
He was the first to try an all news format, but Top 40 was where McLendon made his mark.
The stations were really promotion vehicles, with music and DJs attached.
McLendon promotions were imaginative and exciting.
A McLendon promotion could generate thousands of participants. They often included treasure hunts or other ‘event’ type promotions designed to stop traffic and get notice for the station.
Sometimes the promotion was so big and successful the city had to pass new laws to prevent traffic jams and property damage.
Other owners and PDs would fly into Dallas to listen and take notes. They’d try to identify what worked and bring the magic back to their own station.
McLendon was hard to copy, in part because he was so original and so driven.
The “old Scotsman” had a simple rule posted in the studio.
“Be funny, be informative or be quiet”.
Talk to any former McLendon PD or jock and they’ll tell you he meant it too.
McLendon believed certain elements made a station stand out from the others. He called these “sparklers’.
To quote from a McLendon memo; “a ‘sparkling station’ means one that is: alive, exciting, animated, buoyant, vivid, spirited, fresh, topical, exuding on air a feeling of what’s-going-to happen-next and something-continually-going on.”
“Such a station doesn’t just happen. It takes WORK by the Program Director and all concerned– lots of work. And if that work is not a labor of love, rather than a labor of continuing effort, the chances are that the station will sparkle only briefly.”
McLendon was so serious about the subject he laid it out in a ten page memo to Program Directors.
Every element was important.
He wanted the Program Director to pay attention to everything on air. The memo even outlines the right and wrong approaches to ‘time and temp’.
Does your station ‘sparkle’? Does it sound ‘immediate’ or ‘topical’?
Pretend you are a Program Director coming from out of town. Take a room at a local hotel for two days and listen to your station. Fill a notebook with everything you hear.
Is there anything you would ‘steal’ and take back to put on the air?
Is your station alive, exciting, animated, buoyant, vivid, spirited, fresh, topical, exuding on air a feeling of what’s-going-to-happen-next and something-continually-going-on?
In other words does it ‘sparkle’?