Art Bell was not an overnight success...but Stan Major was!
When we started the live overnight national talk show back in the fall of 1992 it was an immediate success. Stations had NO live programming to pick up and we gave them the option and they grabbed it. Their listeners could now call a toll free number (even from Hawaii and Alaska) and participate on the show.
We had nearly a hundred stations before I knew it...including some of the most popular and highly listened too radio stations in some major markets...Detroit, Boston, Dallas, St. Louis, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Tampa, Orlando, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Cleveland, New Orleans and of course KDXU in St. George, Utah booming into Los Angeles!
Bell would stick with his initial syndicator TRN out of the northwest and not make an important move until 1998 when he joined Premier...an arm of the Clear Channel group. It wasn’t until that period that I began to feel the pressure of the “aliens!” My station list and advertising was still good...in fact the ad time would still be selling well even as Bell began to overtake me in affiliates.
It was well before that that Doug Stephan the morning guy contacted me again about making another network move. He said he had cut a deal for us with the Radio America Net in Washington DC. Things would get political but not earth shattering...as this network was run by a former White House aide in the Reagan administration and was a not-for-profit organization. Doug’s morning drive show survived all the political doings and he’s still on that net each morning even today.
My show lasted several years and my station list held up, despite Art Bell, and the Gold Bond and Ovaltine commercials were still running about four an hour....six hours a night.
The year 2000 was interesting because of the Gore vs Bush election for President. The network wanted to “pre-empt” my overnight show in favor of a couple of news dudes reading wire copy as to who won. I said no...those hours were mine and I would be happy to have the news guys join me and that was accepted. Luckily so...as the election results became so clouded the Supreme Court would give the final tally! It was exciting that night...watching the tv coverage and trying to figure out what was happening and it was great radio. The network brass should have paid me a bonus for our cool coverage.
Instead they became cool about my show. They had hired and paid handsome dividends to a few Republic big whigs like Ollie North and Michael Reagan who hosted daytime slots. I was not hot on North (who could be) but I did like Michael and we are still friends.
Doug Stephan tried hard to keep my live show going as he realized that if the network went to tape all night it would cut heavily into his station list so in a last ditch effort to keep the combination going he told his sale manager to drop some of his spots on my show and he paid me for them. This move helped as I could send the net more bucks...which they wouldn’t get from the tape “names” they wanted to replace me with.
But it didn't last and I was made aware of that when the network hosted a party on the river abroad a huge tour boat and I had to pay my own way while they picked up the cost for others. I wasn’t even introduced and spent the evening sitting alone until someone felt sorry for me and told my fine board operator, Nate, to keep me company. So from all that I ascertained the writing was on the wall and there was little or nothing Doug or I could do.
c’est la vie...D.C.