(Part Four of Five)
Chaotic Structure. That would be how it was at its best. But, a little preparation to get us there is required.
In 1979 Lonnie Allsup (Owner of Allsup’s Convenience Stores and Zia Broadcasting of which KCLV was the head) purchased a radio station in Borger, Texas. He had also purchased a station in Andrews, Texas around a year earlier. As with most every other thing in life that appears from nowhere, this next life-event came from “Who knows where?”.
It’s late 1979, maybe November or December. I am now the 3-7pm afternoon man for the station at KCLV in Clovis. Also, we had just received the Official Arbitron Radio Ratings for Clovis, New Mexico and the surrounding area. It was mostly used to determine the position of listenership at each station in town and then that info would translate into advertising pricing. Better the station rating, higher the station pricing. The second thing it determined, which is where D-J Ego-City is built and destroyed, is to rate the hour by hour strength at each station. Again based on listenership. And that information of the hourly ratings became the fodder for each and every d-j in town to lament or gloat over.
Chief Gloat Here! At this time the KCLV station was rated #1 and it showed that I was the highest rated d-j in Clovis, period. And when that information was shown to me? Well, “All Praise To Paul Steele!”.
Okay, let’s be a bit honest here. Paul Harvey being broadcast during my shift did not hurt my ratings, to be sure. Humility, now ended.
Well, only a few days after that report had been revealed I get summoned into the General Manager’s office. That was rarely if ever a good thing. So, before I went on-air that day I made the point to go face my doom. No matter the outcome, I figured as the #1 jock in the city the list of other stations calling my number would be long and profitable.
Here comes the unexpected!
His name: Jim Davis. Not any one of the d-j’s really ever wanted to get caught downstairs visiting with any of the female staff, most very attractive by the way, when Jim came through the back door of the building from where he almost always parked. That was just reality. But, Jim and I had kinda become friends. Of course that can be considered a matter of perspective. As I sat down in his office he walked in and shut the door. He sat down and lit a cigarette and then combed his hair as he said:
“Steelee, I need a Program Director in Borger.”
Okay, first off he always called me Steelee. I considered it a kind familiarity but was not sure for some time to come. Secondly, What did he just say??
Before all that info had fully registered within me the knock-out blow came.
“Are you ready to move to Borger?”
That was classic Jim Davis style. A master-manipulator of poor little aspiring one-day-to-be somebody’s. And that happened to be me right now. Here’s a little story he told me a couple years later in 1982.
“You know Steelee, I have the perfect solution for those hand-wringing jocks that come into my office to ask for a raise in pay. First off, I have them sit down in the chair. Then, I start looking real disgusted and leave the room for a moment. When I return I sit back down and say ‘Damn it! Mr. Allsup just chewed my ass about the money this station is losing!’ and I just sit there for a minute looking at a few papers on my desk. Then I look that little jock in the eye and ask “Now, what the hell is it that you want?” They will him-haw around and never ask for anything and just be glad to still have a job!” And he laughed. Actually, I laughed at that one too. And, I carried that little story with me for future use, if ever needed.
The momentary silence had to be deafening as I sat there with my mind totally fried. Only 5 months earlier Karen, my wife of 37 years this very day I am writing this, had become a main attraction of all my spare time. Especially after I got off my shift at 7pm. So there was that. And, “Where the heck is Borger?”. I wondered about that too. Then I thought, “A Program Director? Wow!!”
“I will be putting you on a salary of $750.00 a month and you will get a $35 Allsup’s gas card. How much time do you need to decide?” I wasn’t sure if Jim was being genuine or rhetorical.
“I will need some help to get there but sure, I’ll go.” The terms of timing were handled and right after Christmas, 1979 I left Clovis, New Mexico for Borger, Texas.
It all had happened in a matter of only a few minutes that my life had been changed. As Karen still had a plenty of schooling time ahead of her the concerns about our relationship would really not change in my mind. I would still come to Clovis from Borger all the time, right? After all, I’ll Have An Allsup’s GAS Card!
1980: I had been at KQTY in Borger less than a week when I got a call from the then long-time Program Director back in Clovis at KCLV. This is the guy that gave me the air-name of Paul Steele. And here again that prior question arose. “Paul, Do you know anyone that would fill the midnight to 6 shift here?”
So the Party Animal, Mike Dry, moved from Muleshoe to Clovis and began working the 6-hour midnight shift at KCLV. But only for a few weeks. I soon needed to replace and redo the staffing at that station in Borger where I am now Program Director (PD for short).
February 1980: Let The Chaotic Structure Begin.
I made the call to Clovis to ask for permission to hire Mike Dry away from KCLV. They had no issues with that and the second week in February of 1980 Mike moved into my apartment in Borger with only one bedroom and a one divan/fold-out couch located in the living rea. He slept on the divan of course. I am the PD after all.
I set-up the staff as follows:
Midnight to 6am – Captain Jack
6am to 11am – Michael John
11am to 3pm – Jim Wilson (alias Mike Dry)
3pm to 7pm – Paul Steele (alias… it depended on where I was)
7pm to Midnight – Jeff Olson
We took that horrible little nothing of a station into the Amarillo Arbitron Ratings about 8 months later. We were actually listed above several of the Amarillo stations and we were over 50 miles away. Chief Gloat strikes again. This time as d-j and PD!
Our Top 40 station rocked along without any real problems that I could not fix by simply doing it myself. Usually that meant filling-in on any air-shifts that someone failed to show for. That happened often on weekends. So, I was at work more than anyone including the Station Manager. One of my d-j’s would say to me one summer night while I was working a Midnight to 6am shift; “It’s no picnic being a Big Time PD is it?” We both laughed at that one. However, he was right on target with the sarcasm.
Late March 1980: I got up to go to work at my usual time of around 7am. Got dressed and headed out when… “Ethel, Put Your Clothes On!”.
I had to walk through the living room to exit the apartment. Mike was sleeping there on that fold-out and someone else sleeping on that fold-out without a stitch of clothing on. It took only a second to notice that scene and I kinda smirked to myself as I looked away. No sheet on her and only a thin sheet on him. “Oh Brother.”
My exit was swift.
Her name was April. I soon learned that every guy in Borger knew about her or biblically knew her. Within less than a week they were both moved out of my apartment and into a newer place. Mike became the money man for this venture. Okay, that’s a given. She set-up house and, she did know how to spend his money. But, he had plenty of it, remember? How much?
I received a call from the home offices of Allsup’s with an inquiry that took me a day or two to respond back truthfully.
“We notice that Michael Dry has not cashed any of his paychecks for the last 60 days. Is he receiving them?” The lady on the other end of the phone was nice enough but, I knew she answered to Barbara Allsup, Lonnie’s wife, and I had already had my run-ins with her when I was working back in Clovis. So, I took the lady seriously and went to work trying to see what Mike had done, or was doing, with his paychecks. At least I knew there was no doubt that they were not being stolen as they had not yet been cashed.
File this next report under: That Cannot Be The Truth!
Mike had already gone home for the day when I received that Allsup’s lady’s phone call. So, I decided to swing by his new place with April, and find out about the checks thing. I arrived to find the driveway overrun with cars. So, I parked across the street and thought, I’ll only be a minute.
It was the first time I had been to see his new place. And, with me living in my Leave It To Beaver era apartment, I knew I would probably be a bit jealous. Wrong!
He met me at the door and as I walked inside I began being overwhelmed by all the noise and noise was not a result of Mike’s latest albums buying ventures. The album that was playing? Pink Floyd’s The Wall. The music playing was almost just a faint noise when compared to all the racket that was happening in the other rooms inside his newly leased home. By the way, the Mike Dry purchase of 5 albums a week has been updated. He now has to buy 8 every week. Eventually it required making trips to Amarillo to find albums he did not already have. That was a perk of living with Mike. The music selection. I had complete access to the entire library and I took advantage of that.
The CA$H still flowed in weekly from his parent’s. Only more like $800 a week now plus everything already paid. He had a P.O. Box there in Borger but the only mail he received was from his folks sending money. All the home bills went directly to his parents in Winters.
Mike pointed to the couch that was only a few feet from his stereo. We sat down and I asked: “What is all that noise?” But before he could answer there were two girls, both looked to easily be in their mid to late 20’s, who walked through the living room where mike and I were sitting. And, to top it all off? One of those girls was carrying a loudly crying child.
I knew by Mike’s appearance that he had already smoked a good amount of what we now call ‘California-legal medicine’. I decided just to sit there for a minute and see what happened next. Then, Mike got up from the couch and turned the volume up on his stereo so that Pink Floyd’s album was very clearly and loudly overriding the noise of anything else in the house. That’s when it happened…
April came into the room literally screaming at him. “Turn down that damn music!” She never acknowledged that I was even there. Mike just sat there as I began the process of exit. He grabbed my arm and asked me to stay until that side of the album was over. I did.
“Who are those girls?” It was still a mystery to me.
“Her sisters. They are both moving in right now.”
The album ended and as I left I thought “What a sad looking creature.” He just probably needed more ‘medicine’. I knew he always had plenty. I did not mention the uncashed checks inquiries until the next morning at work.
“I threw them in the trash. They are not even worth cashing.”
That was his answer to me the next morning. My head almost exploded in confusion. I knew he had plenty of money but, who is crazy enough to just throw it in the trash???
“Are you being serious? I have to tell that lady at Allsup’s that you are throwing your checks in the trash? Mike, they are not going to believe me! I have a bank account. I will cash them for you and give you the money. I can’t handle calls like that. Additionally, throwing your paychecks in the trash just makes any sense.”
He just grinned and got up to go do his air shift. I waited until the next day. I made sure this phone-call happened before Mike made it out to the station to begin his air-shift which began at 11am. So finally I got up the nerve to call that Allsup’s lady. If you think I was dumbfounded by mike’s answer, try explaining it to some lady who has to make the books balance for a major corporation while some goof-ball is throwing checks in the trash. After several minutes of talking and hen laughing the phone call ended. I just sat at my desk thinking… “Mike Dry. What a life.” He finally started cashing his own checks.
Only a few weeks later and, following the April episodes, Mike agreed to split the rent with me and we leased a nice trailer house. It did have two bedrooms, one on either end, and that trailer became the place for all future developments. And trust me when I say “There were plenty of those developments to still be presented.” I was working hard and playing hard and Mike did the same. Some trips to Amarillo to purchase albums with Mike and some trips to Amarillo because we were both awake after some things happened. At 2:45am we decide the trip would be great. Away we go to Amarillo. It was now already July 4th, 1980. We got back to Borger just in time for him to go on the air at 11am. Again, I went to my little office and just sat there. The world was flying past us both and we just kept working and playing and always playing music.
As for that gal April? She was moved in with another guy only days later.
Even for all the chaotic structure that I tried my best to control, there were still many things that found cracks to disappear into. I kinda hope they always stay there these days.
I lived there with Mike until I made the next big decision of my life. It’s really the one that led me to where I am now. Sometimes a clear decision can be made despite the volume of smoke might be in the air. And trust me, in 1980 the air contained plenty of smoke!