by Tom Read
yes, I certainly did. I was the engineer who hooked up the
equipment and tested the phone line out with the station, and was the
game "color" announcer. I don't know about later,
but in those years Clay was not one to show up for a broadcast very
early. At least not in the broadcast booth. Most of
the time I would already be on the air with Clay not in
sight. Same for the TV show. It used to drive
the TV director wild at KMO-TV so I always made it a point to show up
about an hour before air time. For the sports broadcasts on
radio, I would often show up 90 minutes or two hours ahead of air time.
NBP: Were you concerned that Clay would be late and you would have to start the game?
TR: That never happened. There was no way I could bluff my way through calling a basketball or football game. I always knew that by the time the game started, Clay would sit down next to me and be on time for the play by play. You need to remember that the announcer or "color man" NEVER interrupted the play by play announcer and never made a comment about the play on the field. He simple did "color" and the commercials. From my work in the theatre, I was a very good ad libber. Like a politician, I could fill time without a problem.
I always took Clay being late as a compliment. Clay knew I would take care of the technical matters in being sure we got on the air and would do a good job with color until time for the game to start. At half time, Clay would often hand me a note that he was going down to find someone to bring up to interview and he would be back shortly. I would talk about the attendance, fan reaction to the game that I had noticed and of course, read commercials for our agency clients.
If Clay did not have confidence in my ability, he would not have allowed me to go on the air without his being at his mike.
NPB: You made broadcast history with the concept of buying the bulk time from the stations and putting agency clients in the game broadcasts?
TR: Yes, as far as I know that had never been done in Tacoma radio before and I don't think even around the country. I am really proud of one Thanksgiving broadcast about which we also made history.
NPB: Was that the Stadium/Lincoln Thanksgiving Day football game where you and Clay had an exclusive on all three Tacoma AM stations?
Yes. KTNT started as only an FM station even before I put KTWR on
the air. There were few if any FM receivers at the time and
virtually none in cars. But eventually KTNT applied and was granted
a small AM station at 1400 on the dial. KVI had long ago moved
from Tacoma to Seattle but KTBI changed frequency from 810 to 850 and
was now full time again and able to be on the air at night to do play by
play sports as was KTNT AM. KMO was always heavy into play
by play sports. So for the one big game of the year on
Thanksgiving Day, we ended up with Clay and I on one station and the
other two both broadcasting the same game. The problem was
that our sponsors were not receiving an excusive. We heard
complaints from advertisers who reported that people said they listened to the game but did not hear
their commercials. They were listening to the wrong station.
So after hearing some of these complaints from advertisers, I suggested to Clay that maybe he should try to buy the time next Thanksgiving on all three stations and we could offer an exclusive to our advertisers. Thanksgiving being a legal holiday, stations found they were paying overtime for engineers to do the game, and decided it would be easier to just collect the money from Clay Huntington Advertising Agency and not have the problem of trying to sell the same game that two other stations were on the street trying to sell. That was the pitch Clay used with the stations and it worked. I arranged for equipment that would feed three stations simultaneously and we made history. I don't think the same program, sports or otherwise, previously or since, has been aired on all three stations simultaneously other than maybe some news event, but I can't even think of a news example where it has been done.
By the way, I was successful in using the same concept with the live opening ceremonies of Expo 74 in Spokane, years later.
NPB: I would like to get back to the early FM stations. You sold KTWR to KTAC and eventually Clay sold KLAY. I had always heard that the plan was that you were going to buy KLAY. That never happened. Why?
TR: True. As I have said earlier, Clay always gave me credit or damnation (with his famous laugh and smile) for getting him into station ownership. Clay became more and more interested in athletics, a founding member of the Tacoma Athletic Commission and eventually politics. He was elected a Pierce County Commissioner but was discouraged when he lost a reelection to, I think, the Mayor of Gig Harbor.