Don Sainte-Johnn

Don Sainte-Johnn

Those were good times — even though we bitched from dusk to dawn, telling management the opposite was true. Of course, then, we did not know how good we really had it. Wasn’t it William Bell who said you don’t miss your water until your well runs dry?

The times? They were good, great, fantastic — at times — even orgasmic! We did not have iPods, MP3s, DVDs, DVRs, PVRs, PDAs, PCs, SatRad, online radio, cell phone radio, TiVo, Satellite TVs, 500+ channels, or other New Media marvels. KFRC was top banana! The head-on competition was great: KYA, KSOL, KSFX, K101, KDIA, KLOK, LIVE 105, KMEL (with the two humps).

The talent was of the Top Gun-variety, including, but not limited to Rick Shaw, Sue Hall, Chuck Buell, Bobby Ocean, Mucho Morales, Dr. Don Rose, Dave Sholin, John Mack Flanagan, Beverly Foxx, Jack Armstrong, Bill Lee, Big Tom Parker, Mark McKay and numerous others.

KFRC management would seek out the talent; they would — in the words of Bush 2 — hunt you down, offer the job to those who fit the mold, those who had kept their noses clean, those who had that “RKO Sound” (whatever that was), while most other stations would wait for the DJ to approach them for a job.

Also, there was bias towards hiring former program directors, talent that knew the inner-workings of the radio business, talent that often times did not require heavy maintenance; however, there were a few exceptions — those rebels who made the General Manager sweat bullets.

Most of us cut our teeth — doin’ the PD thing — in small-to-medium markets. Personally, the PD bug bit me in St. Louis (KWK Radio) and San Diego (Rock 95), where I worked before coming in for the landing at The Big 6-10.

The pay was top-shelf dollars, with actual performance bonuses, phat talent fees and contracts to boot. The company took an affront to talent leaving, as was the case when I threatened to bail, after an L.A. station pursued me for the second time within a year. The company’s top brass moved in to squelch that notion, bringing mo money, and I quickly came to my senses — that’s right, green money is spoken here! BTW, while working (playing) at 6-10, we were given the company-preferred discount when purchasing General Tires (the station was owned by RKO-General). Wow!

Thought I’d never be able to admit it, however, the time does seem appropriate and the statute of limitations had surely been exhausted by now. I, Don Sainte-Johnn, once made an on-air “boo-boo” while working at RKO’s KFRC in San Francisco! During the mid-70’s — when the incomparable Doctor Don still ruled the airwaves — there was a Bay Area sponsor called Shirtique [Pronounced: (1) shirt-ah-Q, (2) shirt-teek]. The name isn’t terribly important, but it is connective to the story.

The closing line for the spot was “get your shirt together!” — which proved to be nightmarish for me one late Saturday night and early Sunday morning at approximately 1:50-ish. After doing two shifts in the same day — an event that was unheard of at the time — I managed to give in to over-exhaustion and replace the “shirt” in the tag line with “sh*t.” It was the most embarrassing moment in my career, up until that moment.

As fate would have it, I did have an ENGINEER-board operator who was America’s #1 prankster, Sir Kent Hedberg, and who somehow managed to incidentally, and quite innocently, I should add, roll tape of the show as I announced to North America: “GET YOUR SH*T TOGETHER!” The tape has surfaced at many Christmas parties and proved to be a thorn in my side for years.

(Doctor: Now that I have done this on-the-couch thing, I feel much better.)

Don Sainte-Johnn was elected into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2010.

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