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 THE DISC JOCKEYS


Mel Hall
 

'It was my good fortune to be Program Director at four of the hottest radio stations of the late 50's and early 60's'. Those are the words of Mel Hall. The personable Hall talks enthusiastically about his time spent in what was truly a remarkable era. To begin with, Mel was assigned to Camp Rucker, Alabama in 1952. Having just returned to states from combat duty in Korea, Hall broke into radio part-time at WIRB in Enterprise, Alabama. Upon discharge at the end of 1953, he was hired to do nights at WABB AM/FM in Mobile, playing everything from early Elvis to Stan Kenton. Mel says, 'In very early 1955, I returned to my home in California and got on at KOCS/KEDO-FM in Ontario. They made me a salesman and DJ and shortly, I had my first PD assignment. By this time I had gone from bad to mediocre, and for the very first time...read a live 60 second commercial all the way through without blowing it. A short-lived victory, 'cause I blew the next one'. Mel resigned in '57 to pursue work as a TV commercials star. He spent most of the year out of work, though he did stand in line that year to collect unemployment insurance behind Charles Bronson, 'I'd talk, Charlie would grunt'. In January, 1958 Hall auditioned and won a job at KLAC, Hollywood. He became one of the 'anonymous' DJ's in a format created by George Norman. The 'FutureFonic Sound' was designed to compete with Chuck Blore's 'Color Radio' at KFWB Channel 98. George's 'secret sound' turned out to be a garden hose. A speaker would send the studio signal thru the hose to a mic at the other end to relay it on to the transmitter. The DJ's were not allowed to say their names, introduce records or display any personality whatsoever. Just time, temperature, station promos, and live commercials. KLAC's format was strictly MOR. KFWB played Rock and Roll. Channel 98 blew out KLAC, the staff was canned (including Mel), but Hall was invited back to KLAC each time the format changed. Around 1959, Mel decided to try for a gig in San Diego. He was hired by PD Sam Babcock at KDEO. This was Hall's introduction to Rock and Roll. When he made the move, he reunited with two buddies from his army days in Alabama, Harry 'Happy Hare' Martin and Allen Heacock. As of 2001, Harry is still on the air in San Diego doing oldies at KPOP. Hall became Production Director at KDEO. In early 1960, Babcock left for KDAY in L.A. and Hall got the PD gig. He hired (in Mel's opinion) the world's funniest and best DJ, the late Don McKinnon. Other hires during Hall's tenure at KDEO included Sam Riddle, Shadoe Jackson, Mike Ambrose, Jim Washburn, Sie Holliday (who became L.A.'s first rock and roll lady at KRLA), Dick Williams (still on the air in London, Ontario, Canada), Irv Weinstein, Johnny Huddleston, and Raymond Spencer. By the late Summer of 1961, Mel Hall made a move to the Windy City. As PD of WJJD in Chicago for the better part of a year, Mel says that was a great experience. 'WJJD, Chicago was the most fun of all the stations I programmed. To compete with a rather 'conservative' WLS, I programmed the station with wild, crazy, satirical, sometimes dumb & silly DJ promos...contest promos... features, and off-key jingles, etc. We did extremely well'. As 1962 drew to a close, Mel took his satchel of success to the legendary 14 KQV in Pittsburgh. Once more, great jocks & a great sound took care of business. KQV would rule the ratings in Pittsburgh throughout the 60's. With radio programming success on his resume, Hall moved back to the West Coast in '63 to begin a 2 year stint at Channel 6 TV in San Diego. By 1965, Mel became PD of the great KRLA in Los Angeles. By this time, KRLA was facing stiff competition from upstart KHJ with the 'Boss Jocks' format. At the same time, Mel was facing other challenges: 'Most of the staff was not of my choosing and there was constant bickering, positioning, and political intrigues premeating all aspects of operations. It was like there were individual stations within the station. Most of the DJ's ignored the format, or simply didn't have the talent, showmanship or conceptual understanding to make it work. I put up a valiant battle, yet lost the war. I felt so beaten down that I wanted nothing more to do with Rock and Roll radio'. In January, 1966 Mel Hall established the Cinira Corporation...providing full service radio and TV production of commercials and original music. Working out of his kitchen with his radio savings to sustain him, Mel began to secure work from many of the area's larger advertising agencies. As he put it, 'Life started to get fun again'. In 1972, San Diego's largest ad agency (Phillips Ramsey) hired Mel as Executive Producer with the stipulation that he could continue to operate Cinira...with Cinira producing all of Phillips Ramsey's radio, TV, and original music work. What a deal! From then on, Mel's company began to grow. He left Phillips Ramsey in 1977, bought Western Video Systems in 1980, and throughout the 80's, expanded into L.A. In 1997, Hall sold his 5th Avenue office building in San Diego, his other business interests, and went into semi-retirement. Today, Mel Hall is still active in Southern California with occasional production and voiceover work. In 2000, Mel Hall was presented with the 'On Call. Lifetime Achievement Award' by the San Diego Film Commission. Says Mel, 'It was a warm and generous thing for them to do. After all, I'm the guy who couldn't read a live radio commercial without blowing it for about 5 years'. E-mail Mel at melhall.cinira@cox.net.

  

 
     

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