“I was always glad to play listener requests during my show. I also announced wedding anniversaries, which I’d find in the local newspapers. People wrote letters to me containing their requests.
We all tried most anything to keep our programs fresh and interesting. The first time we attempted an ‘on location-live remote’ broadcast for WMAX, Charlie and Joe delivered some records and a record player to the place where I was doing an outdoor radio broadcast. It was a really hot summer day and the records literally began melting and warping in the sun, so from that day forward they had another DJ play records at the studio while I did the talking at the site of the remote broadcast. “
“Someone at the station created a handbill which included my picture and a little story about me, to hand out at these ‘remotes.’ ”
Pat Boyd’s WMAX promotional flier (Pat Boyd Holton Collection)
“Each year we had to produce a list of the songs which we had played on the air at WMAX during a specified week. Our information was supplied on a printed form which we filled out and submitted to the Federal Communications Commission. It was part of our licensing process, but also was used to determine royalties that were due to the recording artists that we were playing on the air.”
WMAX was on the air from ‘sunup to sundown,’ as were many radio stations of that era. Pat held down the weekday ‘morning drive’ position which began between 5 to 6 A.M., and ended at 8 A.M. After she finished her early morning show, Pat drove directly to her job at General Motors, located on Burlingame near Burton S.W. “My boss at G.M. occasionally let me to do some things which were related to my radio show while I was at work. Occasionally I used their printer to make copies of items that were on WMAX stationary. It never became a problem, though.”
The early morning shift (‘drive time’) was the most desirable slot for a disc jockey to work. Radio ‘drive time’ basically means the same thing as ‘prime time’ as it relates to TV viewing. With radio, it consists of the morning hours when listeners wake up, get ready, and head to work or school, and the afternoon hours when they are heading home, before their dinner. These are the periods when the number of listeners are the highest and radio stations can charge the most for advertising. 25 Quite often, Pat also worked the late afternoon show during the week, after she finished her shift at General Motors.
“WMAX did not have a designated production studio. So they did not record commercials there. We did most commercials ‘live.’ We also used huge, sixteen inch transcription discs (recordings) which contained pre-recorded advertisements and ‘jingles.’ These were supplied by the various advertising companies. Ed Fitzgerald was given so many commercials to do that he had to interrupt the music in order to get them all done. The disc jockeys could sell advertising to merchants, too, and Ed was really good at it.
I specifically recall one really silly ad that we did for Gold Bond foot powder. It was about stinky feet. Sometimes I had a really hard time not giggling during that commercial.”
“If I wanted to record anything I had to go in to the studio after dark when the station was off the air.” Pat occasionally met Jodi Bancino at WMAX in the evening. They recorded Jodi’s demonstration tapes (‘demos’) for Jodi to send to Nashville. Jodi was a local songwriter and song ‘plugger’ who had a songwriting contract in the early 1960s with the Wilburn Brother’s Sure-Fire Music publishing company.
The WMAX studio and offices were located on the top floor of the historic Keith Theater Building at 113-117 Lyon N.W., which was located in downtown Grand Rapids. There was no elevator in this building so WMAX employees had to take the stairs up to the studio. The theater was still showing movies on a regular basis while Pat worked there.
“Once I reached the top of the stairs at the upper floor of the theater building, I walked to the end of the hallway. As you entered the doorway located at the end of this hallway, there was a little room with a coffee pot in it, and a rack where all of the records were stored and filed by category. The country records were all in one section. In this same general area was the station’s transmitter which I had to turn on in the morning because I generally had the first show of the day.”
“The control room was in this same basic area. It featured the typical glass picture window and a microphone was in there, and it was partitioned off from everything else. It was a studio that was used for live broadcasts and recording. “
Pat Boyd reading an announcement from the log book
“Other than that, there was basically one ‘open’ room with four desks where the advertising sales people and the ‘traffic’ person sat. They had one ‘hot shot’ sales lady, too. There were no partitions or cubicles in this room. WMAX office and studio was not a big place.”
“Basically, you had to learn to be ‘on your toes’ in order to follow the schedule that was made up by the ‘traffic’ person. She created the schedule for the entire day for all of the disc jockeys. She had it all mapped out for everyone. We knew exactly what time the AAA reports, station identifications, commercials and all of the other announcements were to be broadcast. This information was kept in a log book.”The ‘traffic person’ co-ordinated with the advertising sales staff so that they would sell advertisements at peak listening times, and of course, the advertisers paid higher rates for those preferred times.
“In the area where I sat during my radio program, there was a tall bank of equipment equipped with reel-to-reel tape players, and a phone which I never used. It was for communication with the radio tower or the Federal Communications System. Eventually we used eight-track tapes for playing ads and recorded messages, rather than the reels of tape. We used the reels for a long time, though.”
“There were manual control knobs which opened the microphone, closed the microphone and controlled the turntable. There was a switch that looked like a regular light switch mounted in front of the turntable. It was used to ‘cue up’ the records (L.P.s and 45s). If you wanted to get a record set to a specific spot you could listen to it without the music going out on the air, by using the switch in one of two positions. Once you had it where you wanted it and you were ready to play that song on the air, you just flipped the switch!”
“There was also another entry door from the corridor which was located close to the area where the DJs broadcasted their shows. I heard this door opening one morning while I was doing my show and there was Buck Barry! He told me not to mention (on the air) that he was there at WMAX to see me!
At one time he dedicated a song to me on his own radio show at WOOD, but then pleaded with his listeners to keep listening to him, not to listen to Pat Boyd.”
“I recall one time in particular when I messed up on my show: President Eisenhower was giving a speech and we were broadcasting it on WMAX. I wasn’t really concentrating on whether or not his speech was finished, so I just started my show at my normal time. I had cut off the President of the United States by mistake! I’m not so sure anyone noticed or cared because I never heard any flack about it.”
“Sometimes I was having so much fun that I turned my music up full blast in the studio. Tom Quain didn’t care for that so he would turn it back down. He wasn’t really angry at me, though, he just didn’t appreciate country music. We were good friends, and even dated a few times in 1956.”
Pat in 1960 at WMAX (Pat Boyd Holton collection)
“Nobody even ‘blinked an eye’ about me being the only woman DJ around town. I never even thought about it! Everyone knew that all of the other local radio stations had men announcers, but nobody at WMAX thought anything about me being the only woman DJ there. It was definitely not a boy’s club. Actually, Joe Hooker paid almost no attention to what I was doing. I hardly ever saw Charlie and Joe. They were strictly business men, not radio announcers. I was the only woman in the studio other than the lady who sold advertising and another woman who did the program scheduling, yet none of the men bothered us or were mean to us. I can honestly say that during the years I spent in the radio and entertainment business, no one treated me with disrespect.”
In reality, she dealt with more complaints from jealous women rather than having problems with men. Pat eventually became aware that some women did not like the idea of their men listening to an attractive woman DJ, so she started presenting herself on the air as “fat and forty with no chance of acquiring a mate.” The station manager, Charlie Sprague, asked Pat why she was misrepresenting herself on the air. She explained that she wanted her show to be popular with both men and women, even if she had to distort her image to females who might not want their man to listen to a woman DJ.
“I could play just about anything I wanted at WMAX, but a certain Wilburn Brothers ‘folk’ song about murder became one exception. Mr. Sprague told me not to play that one again after hearing the lyrics for the first time.”
Paul Collins, the renowned artist, worked at the Skaff parking lot (128 Lyon N.W.) located across the street from the Keith Theatre building, at the same time that Pat was at WMAX. Quite often he parked her car for her.
Paul and his business partner Randy Brown were also commissioned by Joe Hooker to paint WMAX DJ caricatures on a city bus. Joe ate at Kennedy’s restaurant in Ada and was so impressed with the artwork that Paul and Randy had done there, that he hired them to paint WMAX advertising on a city bus. Pat recalls that she “went to the bus barn after they were closed to take pictures of this bus.”
This photo, dated from November of 1958, demonstrates the commercial artistry skills of Paul Collins and Randy Brown, displayed on the side panels of a Grand Rapids city bus. From left to right are caricatures of WMAX disc jockeys Tom Quain, Ed Fitzgerald, Bob Martz and Pat Boyd. (Pat Boyd Holton collection)
Connecting with Musicians
“Because I was a DJ, I had access to the musicians. I was able to access them and correspond with them because they knew I would promote their music and their concerts on my show.”
“I sent questionnaires to country recording artists. I asked them to supply information relating to their careers and recordings. They would send them back to me, usually handwritten. Then I would write stories about these musicians to use on the air, based on the information they supplied to me. After that, I tossed the cards in the trash can. I sure wish I had those now.”
“The musicians appreciated the opportunity to go on the air to promote their recordings and their performances at the Civic Auditorium. Of course, I was thrilled to have them on my show. Back in that day, anyone was welcome to visit the station, so the musicians and other folks who enjoyed the radio show just dropped by.”
“I was so excited when Skeeter Davis and Ernest Tubb were on my radio program. They wanted to reach out to the radio audience to promote their show which was occurring that same night at the Civic Auditorium. Tom Quain noticed how giddy I was acting and told me to ‘settle down, little girl!’ I’m sure he realized how ecstatic I was to have them on my show, so he seized the opportunity to tease me about it.” The Wilburn Brothers, Ernest Tubb, Del Wood, Sonny James and Ferlin Husky are a few of the other musicians who made appearances on Pat’s radio show.
“I didn’t make much money at WMAX. I really just wanted recognition. I had opportunities to do radio commercials for WMAX and the station eventually gave me a stipend for this work. I was also offered a full time office job working for the radio station. But I decided against that. We had no contracts with the radio station management and it’s a good thing I didn’t go to work for them full time, because the station completely changed their format to ‘Top 40’ by 1961. That was when my country show was discontinued. I recall that the people who managed and worked at the station had a meeting with a consultant concerning the direction of the programming. This consultant did not recommend continuing with a country music show, yet admitted that the ratings for my show were good.”
Hosting of Country Music Concerts in Grand Rapids
On November 5, 1955, only a few months after her start with WMAX, Pat Boyd was recognized by Billboard magazine as Grand Rapids’ ”only fem DJ and President of the Del Wood fan club.” 26
Five weeks later, Phil Simon brought country music legends Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells to the Stadium. Pat served as the emcee for this event.
Grand Rapids Press advertisement for the Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells concert at the Stadium, December 9, 1955 27
Entertainment ad from April 5, 1956, Grand Rapids Herald
On April 6, 1956 Del Wood came to perform in Grand Rapids at the Stadium with other stars from the Grand Ole Opry including Jimmy Dickens and Hankshaw Hawkins. The show was presented by Phil Simon. “Del stayed with Mamma and I at our little house on Pinehurst. Del appeared on my radio show and I took her over to WGRD for an interview with ‘Cousin Ed’ Denkema. At that time I had only been at WMAX for a few months.”
She continued to work as an announcer for most of the local country music concerts at the Civic Auditorium, well into the 1960s. Pat enjoyed the honor of introducing Roger Miller, George Jones, Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Faron Young, Johnny Cash, June Carter and the Carter Family to the audiences at these shows.
Phil Simon also hired Pat to record advertisements which were used to promote his concerts on Pat’s radio show.
Simon generally presented each tour package over the course of three or four consecutive nights. The concerts were offered at various Midwest cities including Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Battle Creek, Saginaw, Lansing, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Toledo.
“The Saturday night country shows were always well attended. Phil Simon wished that he could have staged seven Saturday night programs per week because the weekday shows were generally failures in terms of attendance. Back then very few people would come out to a concert that was not held on Saturday night.”Normally, there were no reserved seats for the country music events at the Civic Auditorium. Some people would show up at the auditorium several hours ahead of time if they wanted front row seats. However, the concerts at the Stadium offered a reserved seating option.
“Phil Simon sent me to Muskegon one night to announce for a Buck Owens show, without much notice. I already knew Buck Owens. I was unprepared, so Buck came up with some jokes for me to tell while I introduced each of the bands that appeared that night. “
“In 1959 I went to Lansing to see Hank Snow play, and the following day he performed in Grand Rapids. Attending and working at these shows was a big part of my life back then.”
A few promoters other than Phil Simon occasionally scheduled country music shows in Grand Rapids. On April 8, 1959, Johnny Cash’s soon-to be manager Saul Holiff brought Conway Twitty to the Armory, as well as organizing another concert in October of 1960 featuring Marty Robbins and Bobby Helms at the Civic Auditorium. Pat Boyd served as the announcer for the Marty Robbins show.
Phil Simon came to know Saul Holiff, and sometimes they worked together to arrange the lineup for some of these concerts. Fred Barr was the manager of the Civic Auditorium, and all bookings had to be scheduled through him.
Additionally, WGRD announcers Bruce Grant and Tom Quain brought Bobby Bare and Del Shannon to the Civic on April 8, 1963. “That was before Bare went full time into country music.”
Pat Boyd worked hard to establish her reputation as a radio announcer and as a concert compere, in addition to working full time at General Motors. She also kept the Del Wood fan club running smoothly. By the summer of 1957, her status as a radio announcer and M.C. were well established.
On Saturday, August 29, 1957, Pat hosted a live remote broadcast at Sparta Record Store. It was estimated that five hundred people stopped by to meet Pat that day. She also served as emcee for the Sparta Rodeo during the following two days, September 1st and 2nd. 28
Through the course of her radio career, she was the announcer for numerous remote broadcasts, as well as working at teenage dances and ‘sock hops.’
Pat Boyd was gradually attaining local ‘celebrity’ status. In December of 1957 it appeared certain that she was going to host her own show on WOOD-TV. Articles describing the prospective program appeared in both Billboard and in Nashville’s ‘The Music Reporter’ magazines. 29 Pat’s plan was to apply an “established country format,” similar to the Grand Old Opry programs in Nashville. It would include “dancing girls, musicians and fiddlers, and occasional guest star appearances featuring professional country musicians who were visiting Grand Rapids to perform at the Civic Auditorium shows. “What killed the show was that no one had the time to organize and rehearse for it, including me. WOOD-TVs program director, Frank Sisson, was ready to move ahead with the show, but I just didn’t have the time to see it through. “
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Two of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Three of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Four of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Five of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Six of Seven
Pat Boyd’s “Magnificent Obsession” – Part Seven of Seven