How 13Q Was Built

This excerpt is from Quincy McCoy's book. No Static. A Guide To Creative Radio Programming.

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Chapter 11 - Buzz and Batt on the Creative Ride

     When I joined the staff of WAVZ in New Haven, John Long, the PD gave me an aircheck of a station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He wanted me to listen to it. He insisted that I pay special attention to a jock named Batt Johnsonin order to get a better idea of how he wanted me to sound. I was blown away. The station was called 13Q - so simple, so cool - and there were no jingles. The jocks, somehow, magically tied everything together. They were catalysts who regulated the momentum of the station, who controlled the flow of energy
     When I returned the tape to Long and told him how impressed I was with Johnson and the station, he told me that 13Q was programmed by Buzz Bennett, a new breed of programmer who was revolutionizing the industry. It wasn't long before I discovered just what he was talking about. Bennett's combination of music. money and magic altered the radio landscape forever.
     "Buzz was a god," says Batt Johnson. A veteran broadcaster, acting coach, speaking coach, and communications professor, Johnson first met Buzz Bennett in 1968 while working for KDKD-FM, an automated rock radio station in San Diego, California.
     "My job was to change the reels of tape," Johnson remembers. "Buzz was the PD of KGB, AM sister station. We became friends, then roommates, and we spent a lot of time studying Eastern religion and philospohy, reading metaphysical books, and ahving lengthy discussions about all of it. I knew him as a leader, teacher, and a mystic."
     Their friendship transcended business. In fact, Johnson now confesses, "When Buzz left KGB and crossed the street to KCBQ, Charlie Van Dyke replaced him as program director at KGB, and I became a spy for Buzz. Whenever I heard anything about Charlie's promotions or programming plans, I'd call Buzz and tell him." Johnson was rewarded with his first full-time on-air job/ "I did overnights on KCBQ, and was assistant production director under Bobby Ocean," he recalls. "I was at KCBQ for a year. Then Buzz and our general manager got into a fracas, and Buzz got fired. About ten or fifteen people quit because he was let go. I've never seen anything like that before or since in my career. It also speaks volumes about Buzz's charisma, charm, and leadership powers."
     Bennett's programming philosophy began at KCBQ, then moved across the desert to Phoenix, Arizona, at KUPD and KRIZ, and finally arrived on the East Coast in the form of 13Q Pittsburgh. "Pittsburgh is one of my hometowns," says Bennett. "A lot of my relatives lived - still live - there. When I started 13Q, the competition at KQV thought I was just a West Coast hippie. But I knew Pittsburgh."
     Buzz also knew who he wanted on his staff. From WPGC in Washington, D.C., he hired Dennis Waters for middays and Mark Driscoll for production director and afternoon drive. From WKBW in Buffalo he hired the fastest-talking mouth in the East, Jackson Armstrong. "I wanted a madman on the air at night," says Bennett. "Armstrong was not your normal disc jockey. When I heard him on the air fast rapping and screaming 'your leader,' I called the request line and hired him on the spot."
     The rest of the lineup included Sam Hall from KDKA (the heritage power-house station in Pittsburgh), Johnson, and Dave Brooks. Buzz was now VP of programming for Heftel Broadcasting. He hired Dave Daniels as PD of 13Q.
     "We all arrived in Pittsburgh about three weeks before the staion kicked off," Buzz say. "We were staying at the Marriott, having strategy meetings every day. We'd listen to the competition and dissect the format, playlist, and promos. We would also write promo ideas, work on our format, and create visual logos for the playlist."
     Johnson remembers helping out on research" "Buzz would send us out around the city of Pittsburgh with tape recorders, talking to people on the street," he says. "We asked them what they thought of Pittsburgh radio. What did it need? What if a radio station came to town and gave away ten thousand dollars? Would you listen if a station was giving away fifty thousand dollars? We'd take all this material back to the radio station and make promos out of it. These 'people promos' were powerful - regular folks talking to regular folks."
     "We ran these people promos about this station, 13Q, that didn't exist yet, on WKTQ, which was still operating as an all-news station. We started with a thirteen thousand dollar cash call jackpot. All the listeners had to do was answer their phone - 'I listen to the new sound of 13Q' - and win thirteen thousand dollars. The phones started ringing at the news station instantly. In other words, we had Pittsburgh's attention before we played a single record. It was a combination of the cash call jackpot and the city of Pittsburgh talking to the city of Pittsburgh."
     In it's first book, 13Q pulled a 15.7 share of the audience. With the people promos running day and night, the listeners became the stars of the stations. "That was his genius," says Johnson. "Buzz really knew how to take the listeners and use them s the messenger." But Buzz's work wasn't done. His contract with Cecil Heftel was a package that included two stations. Next up for Buzz was to turn a 100,000-watt FM in Miami into a winner.