When your cat goes out but doesn’t come back in, or a stray dog comes begging at your back door, do you call your local radio station and ask them to announce it? Almost certainly not. But there was a time when people commonly did so, and radio stations were happy to read lost-pet announcements—and not just in small towns, either. Take a look at the survey from KFRC in San Francisco dated August 21, 1972. Stations frequently sold advertising on the back page of the weekly music survey, but without an ad, a station promo would do. And on this particular week, KFRC promoted this:
Call day or night
If you have lost your pet or found someone else’s animal friend, we will try to help.
You’d get a call—sometimes from a child—reporting that their dog was lost. It could be heartbreaking to take the description and the dog’s name, and promise to read the announcement, all the while knowing that the odds of someone hearing the announcement and finding the animal as a result were slim. We also took pet-found announcements. The likelihood of reuniting pet with owner probably wasn’t any higher than with lost-pet announcements, but they were easier to take.
This sort of public service announcement was once just the tip of the iceberg. Thirty years ago (!), when I was at KDTH in Dubuque, we kept a Rolodex full of other announcements for the jocks to read whenever there was time (like when you needed to fill a little time before the network news). Chicken barbecues, church bazaars, boy-scout fundraisers, craft shows—if you sent us the details, we’d put the announcement into the rotation.
I don’t know why the community-calendar/lost-animal PSA fell by the wayside, but by the mid-80s, it had. I don’t remember reading many of them after Dubuque, but I also don’t remember why we stopped. Maybe the demand for announcements started to exceed the supply of time, or the value of the time became just too great to give away. Maybe it’s that many of the events were of limited interest and promoting them made us sound cheesy and small-time. But it occurs to me now that for making a station sound plugged-in to its community, you could scarcely do better. Any individual announcement didn’t get on much, but in the aggregate, it sounded like the station knew everything that was happening everywhere. And when members of the sponsoring organization—or the owner of the missing cat—heard their announcement, even if they heard it only once, they felt as though the station really cared about them, and by extension, the community.
Here are five songs you would have heard between the lost-pet bulletins on KFRC in late August of 1972:
7. “You’re Still a Young Man”/Tower of Power (down from 5). “You’re Still a Young Man” was the first hit single for the Bay Area’s kick-ass horn band. In an era when Chicago was still big and BS&T not long gone, the failure of Tower of Power to make a greater national impact is hard to figure.
8. “My Ding-a-Ling”/Chuck Berry (debut). The biggest hit of Berry’s career, and exactly the same shame it would be if the Beatles’ “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” were better remembered than “Yesterday.”
12. “Baby Let Me Take You”/Detroit Emeralds (up from 18). On the radio, the little guitar figure that starts this record sounded great out of a jingle. I blogged about the Detroit Emeralds here a couple of years ago; you can hear “Baby Let Me Take You” here.
23. “Motorcycle Mama”/Sailcat (up from 25). One of those hippies-on-the-road songs that once were everywhere, like hippies on the road themselves. Here they are performing it on American Bandstand and talking with Dick Clark. The video quality is awful, but you’ll get the idea.
NEW. “Dinah Flo”/Boz Scaggs. Another Bay-Area musician gets on Bay-Area radio. Boz has been around longer than most people think. He was on his fourth album in 1972, and was still four years removed from Silk Degrees—although “Dinah Flo” would have fit nicely on that album.