Who's a Disc Jockey?

Bits and Pieces of BC Radio History

Who's a Disc Jockey?

Postby cart_machine » Mon Jul 19, 2021 6:51 pm

Here's Dick Diespecker's column in the March 7, 1950 edition of the Province.

He takes a pretty literal view of the definition of "disc jockey": one who actual handles the music. I guess today we would call that a "computer." He's also baffled about the appeal of jocks, and has a consultant-like attitude that the music should fit one kind of category. It seems straight-forward to me. You listen to a jock because they're entertaining. J.B. Shayne and I could both have the exact same playlist, but I'll guarantee you'll be listening to J.B. because he's far cooler to listen to than me. It isn't all about the music.

We still had only TV station accessible at the time. It didn't have a full broadcast day yet.


Disc jockeys, depending upon their locality and coverage area are today among the top money earners in radio. Most of them, wherever they are, get all the latest recordings for nothing straight from the recording companies, and therefore most of them are building substantial libraries. In some places they live on the fat of the land and pay nothing in return. The king of the disc jockeys on this continent is a fellow named Martin Block, who originated what is known as the “Make Believe Ballroom.” The biggest money earner and most phenomenal character is Arthur Godfrey. How did they get that way?
Well, strange as it may seem, 12 of more years ago there were disc jockeys, but they were not known by that name and most of them did not live off the fat of the land. The great majority of them drew down salaries ranging from $15 to $25 a week, and that was where the matter ended. Here in Vancouver, people like Gerry Wilmot, Jack Peach, Bernie Braden, Hugh Bartlett and others too numerous to mention all fell into this category. Most of them worked either the early morning show or the late night shift, which meant 6:30 to 8 a.m. or 10:30 to midnight.
They simply played records and chatted in between, either briefly or at length, depending upon their mood. It was part of their job and most of them thought little or nothing about it, looking upon it in the main as a boring chore.
One of the first disc jockeys in Vancouver to make money out of the proposition was the Gee Gee Man. But neither he nor his listeners called him a disc jockey. He was an early morning zany, who selected records for their humor or their brightness and invented a lot of imaginary characters, all of whom he played himself. And in the true sense of the word he was not a disc jockey . . . for that means a man who spins his discs. The Gee Gee Man used to sit in a studio and have an operator do that. He became a disc jockey in fact during the war when a shortage of help developed and he did his own operating and record spinning.
People like Arthur Godfrey became disc jockeys more or less by accident. They livened up their boring shifts by wise cracks and in the case of Godfrey by kidding sponsors who happened to have spot announcements in that period. Now, however, the million-dollar-a-year Godfrey spins nothing but gold. Minions do his work while he sits and chats with the studio audience, the air audience and various guests who appear. He also has branched out and developed other programs, like Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts.
Some disc jockeys, notably, Steve Allen, are not disc jockeys at all. Allen, who presides at KNX, Hollywood, and over some of the coast lines of the Columbia Broadcasting System, sits on a piano bench and talks for half an hour or an hour. I saw one of his shows last summer and there was not a single record played on it. He, too, talks to his air audience, his operator, his producer, his studio audience, and quite often to himself. And believe it or not, he is quite funny.
Some people might call Billy Browne and Bill Ward disc jockeys because their programs are made up of records and talk. Yet neither of them operates his own show and I have a feeling Billy Browne would just as soon be called anything rather than a disc jockey. As a matter of fact, he said recently: “I was a disc jockey when most of the present crop were still nothing more than a blush on their mother’s cheek. The difference between me and a disc jocky [sic] (in Vancouver anyway) is that a disc jockey has lots of records, lots of time and no commercials.
That is stretching it a bit of course. Because disc jocks like Jack Cullen, Vic Waters, Bob Tweedy, Phil Baldwin and Wilf Ray do have some commercials. And Bill Rea, who has about as many commercials as it is possible to cram in without making time out of rubber, might also be called a disc jockey.
But it still does not account for the strange fascination that DJ’s have for some many listeners. Their programs have absolutely no unity. They just play fistfuls of records which run the gamut from bebop to ballads. Some, like Ross Mortimer on his afternoon Take It Easy, even sling in a few classics for good measure. Maybe it is because people’s moods change, and the mad mixture of all kinds of music fits this rapid change.
I don’t know what it is. But one thing is certain. A good many of the disc jockeys now household words around this or any other part of the country are now making pretty good money out of doing almost precisely what they used to do ten, 12 or 15 years ago for nothing but beans and bacon. Funny world, is it not?
* * *
Bill Good and Doug Smith will do two separate broadcasts daily on CBR at 3:45 and 10:30 p.m. The latter is NOT a rebroadcast as reported earlier in this column, but a new broadcast with latest results.
* * *
5:00 p.m.—Henry Morgan, CBR.
5:30 p.m.—Canadian Cavalcade, CBR.
6:45 p.m.—Bonspiel, CKNW.
7:00 p.m.—Jack Short Show, CJOR.
7:30 p.m.—People Are Funny, KOMO.
8:00 p.m.—Mr. President, KJR.
8:30 p.m.—Gentlemen of the Press, KJR.
9:00 p.m.—America’s Town Meeting, KJR.
9:15 p.m.—Vancouver’s Pop Concert, CBR.
10:30 p.m.—Toronto Symphony, CJOR; Bonspiel, CBR.
6:45, Roberta Quinlan Show; 7:00, Kukla, Fran and Ollie; 7:30, The Black Robe; 8:00, Milton Berle Show; 9:00, Life of Riley; 9:30, Morey Amsterdam Show.
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