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Bill Ballance, KFWB Los Angeles | August 19, 1959

Here’s one that barely needs any introduction. Bill Ballance was a legendary Deejay from the dawning days of AM Top 40 radio. The format hadn’t been around that long in 1959, but KFWB was on top of the ratings in those days. KFWB began doing Top 40 a year earlier, in 1958. Programmed by Chuck Blore, The station was known on the air as “Color Radio, Channel 98” and at that point in time, the format was relatively loose, with the Deejays pretty much picking the music to play themselves.

KFWB might actually have been the first radio station in the U.S. to employ Disc Jockeys. History records that as early as 1946, Maruice Hart and Martin Bloch were brought in from New York City by KFWB as Deejays. With no established Top 40 format, these two gentlemen picked their own records to play and generally played whatever the popular hits of the day were. Bloch would go on to New York’s WNEW and become a fixture there. He was the one who began the program “The Make-Believe Ballroom”.

Here on this aircheck, we hear a rather poor-quality recording of Bill Ballance playing the hits of the day on Channel 98. The All-News incarnation of KFWB was 10 years away, and it would take six years for a guy by the name of Bill Drake to launch “Boss Radio” 93/KHJ in a city which was as much a hotbed of pioneering Top 40 radio stations as New York City was. In many ways, THIS is where it all began…

980 AM Los Angeles KFWB Bill Ballance Color Radio Channel 98 All News Chuck Blore Martin Bloch Westinghouse







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8 Comments


  1. Thanks for the aircheck, Steve.

    I had never heard Ballance on KFWB although I had heard most of the other jocks.

    Ballance at 10 p.m. must have been quite a contrast to the fast-talking B. Mitchel Reed from 6-10.

    The music Ballance plays is not at all different from what you might hear on an MOR station at the time and is quite different from what you would hear on KFWB a few short years later.

    Tony

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  2. KFWB launched Color Radio on January 1, 1958, so this is actually closing in on 2 years. The sound changed very little until ’63 or ’64.

    And KFWB jocks may have picked the songs to play, but only from within what was on the playlist and in the oldies library. Not many people know this, but Drake gave the KHJ jocks the same kind of freedom. There were no rotation categories until after Ron Jacobs left in 1969.

    The flip to all-news was 8 and a half years after this aircheck…March, 1968. But KFWB had lost its dominance to KRLA 5 years earlier.

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  3. Decades later, my wife and I were playing with alliterative series of multi-syllable words — and Bill’s name came up (leading to this site).

    His iconic talent for wrapping words around themselves is still an inspiration (at least to some of us).

    Listening to some of his shows could encourage broadening of vocabularies, which is a very handy skill.

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  4. Bill Drake would have gone nuts with all the talking.

    As Drake simply said to a jock once, “You sure do talk a lot.”

    Whatever happened to Robert Hall? Google time.

    Tony

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  5. Martin Block did not originate the program “Make Believe Ballroom.” It was pioneer radio disc jockey Al Jarvis who created “Make Believe Ballroom” at KELW-Burbank, KMTR, KFAC and KMPC-Beverly Hills between 1932 and 1934, before he was asked to do the program on KFWB-Hollywood in 1934.

    For some reason, they had trouble selling ads for the show. So, Al Jarvis went out and sold air time for the show, and Martin block was hired to host the show on the air at KFWB. Later, the two had a misunderstanding, left KFWB and took the show to WNEW in New York, where he claimed Make Believe Ballroom was his idea. Jarvis tried to sue Block more than once over copyright infringement, but was not able to stop Block from using the title. Jarvis stayed at KFWB with Make Believe Ballroom on and off in the ’30s, then to KMTR/KLAC and back to KFWB by 1956.

    Jim Hilliker
    Los Angeles radio historian

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  6. Ironic is that both Jarvis and Block appeared in the 40’s era movie “Make Believe Ballroom”. This is clearly ancient history, but Block’s story was that Jarvis took over the show at KFWB, but it was Block’s show. Block was hired at at WNEW in 1934, he became famous at WNEW by playing music during court room breaks for the Lindberg kidnapping trials.

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  7. It was 1935, not ’34 that Block, was hired at WNEW. Well, it was Block who was hired as a substitute for Jarvis. This is backed up by KFWB’s station manager Gerald King in a 1959 letter to Broadcasting magazine. As you may also know, Block came to KFWB again in the late-40s to go on against Jarvis at KMTR/KLAC-570, but Block only stayed in L.A. a few months and did not beat Jarvis in the ratings.

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  8. Jarvis came back to KFWB from February of 1953 until March of 1960, so he was part of Chuck Blore’s color Radio Top 40 disc jockey team for a while. Jarvis next was at KLAC and KHJ, then made another return to KFWB in April 1962 until February 1963.
    By the way, in the movie of Make Believe Ballroom, from 1949, Jarvis got the money for the film rights and was credited as technical director. Block was in the movie with Jarvis, but did not get a screen credit.

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