Have you listened to “the Cuz” on Sirius/XM yet? He’s still on the radio …
In the sixties, AM radio was the rage; FM radio was still limited in both the number of stations that were available and the distance that an FM radio signal could travel. The best rock ’n’ roll music was played by a few great AM radio stations that rural baby boomers couldn’t hear until the evening because of reception issues, including interference from the aurora borealis. If you lived on the east coast, there were a number of power radio stations, and at night baby boomers could listen to programs from WABC in New York City, WBZ in Boston, WKBW in Buffalo, New York, and WIBG in Philadelphia.
Certain disc jockeys, also known as “DJs” or “deejays” became larger than life, almost pop-culture stars. Along with Alan Freed, the disc jockey from Cleveland who is widely credited with coining the term “rock ’n’ roll,” there were two New York City guys, “Murray the K” Kaufman and “Cousin Brucie” Morrow (who would later become a staple of satellite radio); “Wolfman” Jack, who broadcast on the West Coast from a pirate radio station in Mexico; Casey Kasem and “The Real” Don Steele, from Los Angeles; Dick Biondi, from Chicago; and Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsberg, from the Boston area. The “Wolfman” was prominently featured in American Graffiti.
These DJs were responsible for creating hit records and hit performers by repeatedly playing their music on their respective stations. And then, the industry was hit by a scandal, and a new word was created, payola, a contraction of the words “pay” and “Victrola” (LP record player). The aforementioned Alan Freed was indicted for accepting $2,500 which he claimed was a token of gratitude and did not affect airplay. Freed paid a small fine and he was released. Unfortunately, his career faltered, and he drank himself to death in 1965.