Anyone who heard the great top 40 stations like KHJ and CKLW knows his voice.
He introduced the jock at the top every hour…”and now ladies and gentlemen…The Real Don Steele”, with the ID jingle that followed.
Bill Drake the legend passed away this weekend at age 71.
He was often accused of taking personality out of radio.
Drake’s contribution was bringing discipline to the Top 40 format.
Many Drake jocks of the 60s became some of the biggest personalities of the 70s and 80s.
He demanded discipline but loved talent that could bend the format just enough to standout.
There was a huge difference between the big ‘Drake’ stations like CKLW and those in smaller markets.
The small guys did the format, but lacked the sizzle of great personalities able to entertain within the tight format.
A Drake station required more than discipline, talent was a big factor too.
Stories about Drake are as large as the legend.
A CKLW jock told me a story about how difficult it could be to work for Drake.
The format at the time required the jingle to play after the commercials.
They NEVER jingled into the spots.
On this day the jock did his break and the engineer hit the button, but instead of going to commercial a jingle played.
Drake was at home in California tuned in on the listen line.
He called the jock and said, “you’re fired”.
The jock told him it was the engineer who hit the button, not him.
Drake asked to speak to the engineer and promptly relieved him of his duties.
The stations sounded fun on the outside, but they were doing serious business. There was no room for error.
Ron Jacobs required new jocks at KHJ to perform shows off air until he felt they were ready for prime time.
Drake also became known for syndication, creating The History Of Rock N Roll, and automated formats in the 70s.
In recent years he consulted K-Earth 101.
The Drake sound was well defined. Every station used jingles sung by Johnny Mann, and of course Drake voiced the ID.
The jocks were a who’s who of top 40 including Robert W Morgan, Charlie Van Dyke, Charlie Tuna, Walt Baby Love, Sebastian Stone, Steve Clark, Sean Casey, Al Brady, Bill Brown and so many others.
Drake PDs included the likes of Jacobs, Paul Drew and Ted Atkins.
We can only hope that another Bill Drake or two are waiting to be discovered and will surface to put their mark on the industry.