After this explaination of how it all started...click the link below it and listen to the VERY first live coast to coast call in program in radio history.
There were some glitches (to be expected) like the wrong mic on...the first 2 minutes and no calls...but then IT...started happening and didn’t stop for years!
....How LIVE all night National talk radio really began!!!
and about getting NO credit for the invention of it!
Sometime in 1991 I sat in my car very late at night and dialed around the radio. The only talk shows I heard were re-runs from that day...most were Larry King off his Mutual network show which was live from about 9 or 10 at night until about 1 am. Then Mutual re-fed the show for the late, late night folks.
There was basically NO live talk on the air all night.
An acquaintance in Miami Beach had told me of a small network that had set up shop in the Clearwater/St.Petersburg area in Tampa bay.
I called and made an appointment to meet with the boss man there the next day. His name was Bill Wardino and he liked the idea of a live national talk show from midnight to 5AM each night.
At that time I had no idea who the moneymen were behind the Sun Radio Network. It didn’t take long to find out.
I would be following the Tom Valentine show and Tom was sponsored by Spotlight...a conservative publication backed by Willis Carto of Liberty Lobby.
I didn’t care. Nobody talked that stuff to me...nobody said we’ll put your new show on the air for five hours a night but you have to toe the Liberty Lobby party line. I had free rein and nothing was ever said about content...although Carto loved my Kennedy assassination shows.
Money was flowing freely into the network to make it work. My deal was....I sell advertising...I keep the money. They liked that as they were getting me for free...but they did pay me a stipend which was helpful in the initial stages of the show. The network could also sell spots on the show and keep their share.
The part that really worked was Wardino and our new affiliate guy...Bill Miller. In the next nine years of live national talk I would never work with anyone as smart and successful at getting stations as Miller. My show would move through four or five networks and nobody came close to Bill for getting new stations on line.
We were helped by Wardino who contacted “Talkers”...a brand new publication on talk radio and worked a deal for advertising with them.
Miller devised some ads about me and the show and I was surprised to see them as full page ads in Talkers each week for months and months. This and Bill’s constant emails and calls to potential stations began to pay off and before the first six months ended we had a strong station list and I was able to pick up some excellent advertisers like
Oreck VacuumCleaners, Gold Bond and Ovaltine...and several money making outfits pushing gold or investing deals.
Wardino also helped by arranging trade for hotel rooms in the area for me as I had to remain in the area Monday thru Friday and then drive back to Ft. Lauderdale and return Sunday nights. I was really living out of suitcases for months. I missed my family and the baby but things were getting exciting with the show.
The station list just kept growing. I had no competition in 1991-92. It wasn’t difficult to get stations to commit...the enticement was their listeners could now call an 800 number and participate in our discussions. The name Art Bell was unfamiliar...I think he was on a few stations in the northwest...but my show was already on KVI Seattle...KSDO San Diego...WWRC Washington DC...KLIF Dallas...WTIX New Orleans...WXYT Detroit plus about 50 other stations.
One station...KDXU St. George, Utah had a powerful signal booming into southern California resulting in calls from Los Angeles and San Diego and all parts nearby. In fact some nights my show would sound like it was based in L.A. which made me happy as hell! (Remember all those times I drove out to L.A. looking for work?)
Within the first year I was picked up in several Florida markets...WBZT West Palm Beach (probably regularly listened too by Rush Limbaugh who once got a call about me and responded that he didn’t like my politics)...WWNZ Orlando (great because I got free suites and dinners for years at the fabulous Peabody Hotel...which included doing my show live from that hotel a few times.)...WHNZ Tampa and in Melbourne, Key West, Vero Beach, Panama City and Naples.
That’s how it all began. And...this is how the very first show sounded:
LIVE FROM TAMPA BAY...EVERY NIGHT FROM MIDNIGHT TO 5AM: