by Jay Mark
I met Bob when I was about 13 – I
guess he was 16 or so – and we both used to hang around a radio station in
I think the thing that pulled us in that direction was that we were both
monstrous fans of one of the DJs there, a guy named Bob Mitchell.
McClay had already gotten to the point where Bob would let him run his
board for him, and I used to play the ukulele, so my big thing with Mitchell was
that he would interview me on the air, but I wasn’t allowed to answer his
questions verbally – I had to play the uke instead.
It was pretty bizarre, but not at all out of context for the kind of
stuff Mitchell did all the time.2
Anyway, McClay and I got to be
friends, and after a few years there came a time when he had a car and I
didn’t, so he would frequently let me borrow his. The first car I remember him
driving was a big Pontiac or something, and after a while he got into
Austin-Healy Sprites (the Miatas of their day), and he had quite a few of them,
one after the other.
I didn’t have my first car until I
was around 22, so Bob frequently let me borrow his, and I remember one time when
we were both together in one of those Sprites -- I was driving -- and he said
that we should put a sign on the outside of the passenger’s door that said,
“My Car,” and another on the driver’s door that said, “His Car.”
As anyone who knew Bob can attest, he
was a very generous guy. One time
we were both dating girls who were best friends, and Bob took us all up to New
York for a St. Patrick’s Day weekend and paid all of our hotel expenses.
A few years after we met, Bob had
made it to having an on-air gig at WMID himself, and I used to go up there and
hang around with him and a bunch of the other guys.
(At that time I was persona non grata at the station, and the DJs used to
have to sneak me in and out of there, but that’s another story.3)
By this time, the station had relocated from the Brighton Hotel, which
was just off the Boardwalk, to a second floor studio on Atlantic Avenue,
directly above a shoe store, with three huge windows overlooking the street.
(When Joe Pyne was working there a lot of the guys were afraid that
somebody would drive by one day and start shooting at them, but as far as I know
that never happened. It’s sort of
a sad commentary on our times to think that if that studio were bring built
today the glass would automatically be ordered bulletproof.)
Anyway, it was a pretty small studio,
and right next to the control room was the production studio, which was about
the size of one of those parallelograms you used to draw in geometry class.
Well, the station's patch bay was located in that room, and one day Bob
and I discovered that the line from the studio to the transmitter4
could be broken by sticking a patch cord into the transmitter feed.
(In other words, we could take the console feed off the air without the DJ
knowing it.) So we developed this kind of sick practical joke,
which we played on a number of new guys (and a lot of them passed through those
doors, believe me) where Bob and I would stand just outside the control room
door (which was usually open) and start talking.
Now, unless we shut up when the DJ went on the air, our voices could be
heard in the background. And
everyone at the station knew this, so whenever they were in that area they would
be quiet when the ON AIR light was on.
Well, what Bob and I did was wait til
the guy went on the air, and then one of us would shove a patch cord into the
patch bay line to the transmitter, and we would start screaming “FUCK YOU!”
at each other, and then quickly pull the patch cord out, leaving the guy on the
air thinking that the audience had heard what we said.5
And while I can’t remember any specific comments they made after
undergoing this little shock to their systems, I do remember that some of them
referred to it in some way on the air, and I always wondered if the listeners
ever said to themselves, “What the hell did he mean by that?”
By the time McClay took over Tempo, I was a DJ and Production Director at WMID, and he encouraged me to come out for a visit, which I did, in December of 1967. Once again he was extremely generous toward me, introducing me to Hank McGill6 and a number of his other friends, and treating me to a weekend at Big Sur. The west coast blew my mind, and six months later I too was a San Francisco resident, working at Columbus Recording with many of your hippie-era favorites.7 After I made the move to SFO, Bob sort of took me under his wing, and allowed me to crash on his living room floor8 until I found a place of my own.
Unlike Bob, who made San Francisco
his home from then on, I wound up back east, managing and becoming chief
engineer of a recording studio in New York.9
But we stayed in touch and visited him a number of times over the years.
On one of those occasions, when he was still at KSAN, I did a little
thing on the air with him where we traded favorite segues.10
There are a million other incidents I could recall if I had the time (and brain cells), but what I remember most about Bob was that nothing ever seemed to faze him. He always had this amazingly resilient and generous nature, which I found evident not only in his relationships with others, but in his relationship with himself as well.
I like that in a guy.
(2) I vaguely recall one time when he got on the air and played the drum solo from Sing Sing Sing for something like an hour straight, the humor of which was somehow lost on the boss.
(3) The owner hated me, as I used to sneak in at night and rewire the place. But that all changed eventually, and I wound up working there as a techie when they were building their new studios in Venice Park, and then I went on to have a number of on-air gigs, as well as becoming Production Director.
(4) which was located a few miles away, in Venice Park, on the outskirts of town
(5) I’m actually laughing as I write this.
(6) He was the chief engineer and manager of Columbus Recording, a small 8-track studio in the basement of Tempo's building at Columbus and Kearny, and he offered me a job (which I accepted) as an assistant engineer there. But that too is another story.
(7) Also another story.
(8) He had a terrific garden apartment on Filbert Street, off of Grant, at the time.
(9) Sigma Sound Studios
(10) At the time I had a show in Philadelphia at WDAS-FM.