Top 5: The Key Men Open the Door

My first paying radio gig was at KDTH in Dubuque, Iowa, beginning in 1979. Across town, our competitor was WDBQ. I had some college friends who worked there, and sometimes, I secretly wished I did too—while KDTH was a full-service station that played mostly country music, WDBQ was a Top-40 station.

By 1979, the morning, midday, and afternoon guys had all been there a long time. The morning guy was not a rock fan, so almost everything rock-oriented was dayparted out of his show. (That he later put a classic-rock format on a station he bought surprised practically everybody who remembered him.) The midday guy always “looked in the ol’ lunch box” each day at noon, describing what he’d packed for that day. He also regularly promoted that he was going to do this, several times a day. The afternoon guy had the slick pipes of an old-school Top 40 guy. The night guy was younger, hipper, and generally more in tune with the audience, as night guys had to be. The overnight jock was a woman with a cool, sexy vibe, who eventually crossed the street to KDTH, where her husband worked.

Because the part-time staff was made up mostly of my friends, I hung out there sometimes, although I suspect WDBQ’s management would have been less than thrilled by that. The WDBQ studio seemed to have an energy that KDTH lacked. They were still playing 45s, while all of our music was on tape cartridges. In retrospect, the coolest thing at WDBQ was that all of their jingles and records were labeled by key, and jocks chose jingles based on the key of the record they were jingling into. (I wonder how widespread a practice this was in the biz back then.)

All of this is prelude to discussing a survey from WDBQ dated July 5, 1968, with its slogan, “Let the key men of music open the door to good listening to you.” The slogan is a bit less of a nonsequitur when you know that Dubuque used to call itself the Key City, but its lack of sizzle remains remarkable.

1. “Indian Lake”/Cowsills (up from 3). When I ring changes on the glory of bubblegum, I am forever forgetting the Cowsills, which I should not do, given “The Rain, the Park, and Other Things,” and this.

5. “Can’t You See Me Cry/New Colony Six (up from 8) and 9. “Young Birds Fly”/Cryan Shames (up from 10). Plenty of Midwestern flavor on this survey with these two Chicago-area favorites. Whatever the New Colony Six did was big in the Midwest (like “Can’t You See Me Cry,” which did only #52 in Billboard), and how they missed being massive national stars in the late 60s I do not know. I’m not quite as impressed with either the Cryan Shames or “Young Birds Fly” (#99 in Billboard), but the record must have sounded great on the radio back then.

14. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”/Rolling Stones (up from 24). Seems rather out of place compared to the rest of the stuff on this survey. In addition to being the hardest-rockin’ record by a mile, it’s also the blackest, although in the station’s defense, there was precious little R&B topping the pop charts at that moment. Another odd omission from this survey: “Mac Arthur Park,” although it had already begun its descent on the national charts, so maybe it was already gone from WDBQ’s regular list.

Discoveries (bottom of chart): “The Land Where Animals Are People”/Legard Brothers. This act is properly billed as the Brothers Legard, country-singing twins from Australia who became TV stars Down Under in the 1960s and even appeared in an episode of Star Trek in the States. “The Land Where Animals Are People,” a Jimmie Haskell production, is a bit of sunshine pop just trippy enough to appeal to the kids but not so psychedelic that it would put off their parents.

So it was probably OK for mornings on WDBQ.