PHONE CALLS FROM HELL

"YOU WANT PRINCE ALBERT? I'LL CONNECT YOU. PLEASE HOLD."

To assure themselves that as many people as possible were getting the message (like Globe Shopping City's back-to-school LSD special"), Shaw and his cohorts took to the telephones.

It was the only way we could get anyone to listen to us," Shaw says. The odds that someone would just happen to stumble across the station by accident were practically nil, especially since we broadcast so sporadically and had to change our frequency so often." ²Posing as Pete Globner from KDIL radio," Shaw (or another KDIL staffer") would telephone local supermarkets late at night (right before going on the air) and ask to speak to stock clerks. I'd ask if they'd ever heard of us and, of course, they'd always say they had," explains Shaw. Then I'd tell them, `Tonight, we're at 1550 on your AM dial and we're having a special contest just for grocery-store workers.' The idea was that all the supermarket workers would be so eager to win this $1,000 prize-which never really existedÏthat they'd broadcast the station over the store's loudspeaker systems."

According to Shaw, this ruse never failed; after making the calls, off-duty KDIL staffers reportedly raced from store to store in order to savor the befuddled looks on customers as KDIL's signature sign-on(...one billion watts AM, one billion watts FM, one billion watts horizontal, one billion watts vertical...") blared from the store's public-address system.

The clerks would routinely fall for it," says Shaw. Number one, everyone making the calls had announcer voices, so it sounded legit. Number two, when we were on the air, we'd always say something like, `This song is going out to all our friends over at Safeway or Bayless or wherever.'" Shaw laughs. Still, can you imagine a real radio station calling up people and asking them to be the audience? The weird thing is that I can't remember anyone ever questioning what we were doing. It was really kind of amazing." During the DIL's fledgling days, then-alternative music station KDKB found itself on the receiving end of a particularly pointed DIL spear.

Valley musician Gary Russell, another KDIL alum, recalls the telephone stunt inspired by the rash of rock festivals then in vogue. We called up the station and said, `Hey, we're putting on a show in Seven Springs. Can you run this promo for us? The check is in the mail; it's on the way.'"

Ordinarily, a station will never do that," says Russell, unofficial archivist of the KDIL tapes. You get the money first, then you run the spot. But this was in 1971 and, being groovy hippies, the KDKB people said, `Wow, groovy, man!' So we fake `air-mailed' a cassette to the station and, of course, ever the trusting hippies, they played it."

That's how some Valley listeners happened to hear a promo for one of the strangest concert lineups never heard: A three-day rockathon over the Good Friday weekend, featuring such disparate talent as Jefferson Starship, Jerry When You're Hot, You're Hot" Reed and something called Fried Calves, all culminating in a special Easter sunrise performance" by Black Sabbath. If a pop historian ever decides to document Valley talk-radio of the late Sixties and early Seventies, he need look no further than the KDIL tapes. Thanks to the misguided tenacity and ingenuity of the Phoenix telephone pranksters, it's doubtful that any of the long-forgotten talk-radio programs of that era went untaped by the KDIL clowns.

One particularly popular target was the rash of phone-in swap meets. Here's what happened when KDIL called Shirley," hostess of Country Store" (station unknown):

KDIL: I've got some bricks of Acapulco Gold for sale.
Shirley: Okay.
K: And I'd like $200 apiece for them. S: Okay.

K: They weigh a little over two pounds apiece, real fine stuff. Anybody's interested, they can give me a call at 555-5345.

We were always listening to the radio, looking for somebody to call up and hassle," says Gary Russell. A perfect target was corn-pone celeb Jimmy Dean, then making the media rounds plugging his new pure pork sausage."

One of us would find out that Jimmy Dean was going to be on some talk show," Russell says, so we'd call each other up so everyone got a chance to stick it to Jimmy."

As in this exchange:

KDIL: I tried some of your sausage last week.
Jimmy Dean: You did?
K: I was over at my grandmother's house. She had some sausage, so we cooked up a little bit and had some and she took awful sick.

JD: She took awful sick?
K: Yeah.
JD: Well, if you're one of her offspring, she's probably a little sick to start with. Considering the fact that you're one of her offspring, she's probably a little ill at the whole world, to tell you the truth.

I'd like to think what we were doing was playful, more like a tweak of the nose," says Russell. Of course, I'll admit there were times when some of us did go a little overboard... ." He'd certainly get no argument from one Mary Ross, femcee of a long-ago call-in show on KRDS. During what had to be the worst day in her professional life (thoughtfully taped for posterity by one of the KDIL gang), the perky announcer stood by helplessly as she was besieged by call after call filled with filthy non sequiturs.

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