Friday, September 8, 2017

Bob Crane — Radio Pioneer, Radio Genius

In talking with many people worked with Bob Crane in radio—from WICC to KNX to KMPC, it became perfectly clear to my research colleagues/co-authors and me that Bob was a radio genius. In fact, his radio colleagues often used the phrase "radio genius" when describing Bob and his on-air talents.

After decades of research, we learned that Bob Crane was, indeed, a rarity in the broadcasting industry. He paved the way for future generations of radio DJs, talk show hosts, and personalities. According to so many who worked with the "King of the LA Airwaves" or listened to him on the air during the 1950s through the 1970s, Bob Crane was unique. He had a style all his own. It was a gift. 

Colleagues described watching Bob perform his show as if they were watching "a spectator sport." Listeners to Bob's radio show claimed they never knew what to expect. From commercials to drumming to impersonations and skits to celebrity interviews, Bob worked his magic and wove a program that kept listeners and advertisers at the edge of their seats and coming back for more. It all sounded completely spontaneous, as if everything he did was just springing to his mind, out of thin air.

Some of it was. It was a live show, after all.

Bob had a quick wit, and he could improvise. This served him well because he could think on his feet and rebound when things didn't always go according to plan.

But there was a plan. In addition to his innate capabilities behind the mic, Bob had something else.

Dedication.

You see, Bob Crane didn't just walk into the studio every morning and start talking into the microphone. Oh sure, he made it sound easy, as though he was just casually winging it.

He wasn't.

Bob's entire show was produced through extensive preparation. He worked hard at perfecting his show because he believed he owed it to his listeners to give them the very best listening experience he could offer them. People have a choice. They can buy a record (or today, download a song or album) or turn the dial. Bob wanted to make sure they wanted to to tune in to his show. He wanted his listeners to be entertained. He didn't want his show to be boring. And he did this by doing his homework, by reading the trade magazines, by studying the music artists and record labels, and keeping himself informed of everything going on in the entertainment/music industry.


As a result, The Bob Crane Show was everything but boring. It was captivating. It was wild. It was hilarious. It was dynamic. It was unprecedented.

For this reason and more, we will continue to petition for Bob's induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame, where he deserves proper recognition for his talents in and his dedication to the radio/broadcasting industry.

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Excerpts from Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography:

Bob threw himself into his work. He was out the door in the morning before most people were even conscious to arrive at KNX by six o’clock a.m. He would prepare extensively—exhaustively—for his radio shows. He made people laugh, and he loved making people laugh.

Everything Bob did on his radio show was rhythmic, as if he had rehearsed it a dozen times or more. He had prepared for it, retrieved the album out of his growing stockpile records, located the tracks, and decided which ones to use within a commercial. However, his on-air delivery was unrehearsed and unplanned. He had a natural feel for both music and comedy, and as one joke slid into another, he maneuvered through his show the way a cab driver maneuvers through rush hour traffic.

“Bob told me that he had everything prepared in the afternoon,” [Bob's cousin] Jim Senich recalled. “He would never go home when he went off the air. He said, ‘I would stay there so that when I came in in the morning, everything was ready to go.’”

Bob’s son, Robert Scott Crane, explained that his father was a workaholic. “I don’t understand when he slept or ate. The amount or prep work he did for his shows was just amazing, preparing dozens of sound effects that he would play during the show.”

[KNX announcer] Leo McElroy said, “So much of Bob’s show seemed to spring from his brain instantaneously. I think that for many of us, it was hard to tell what was pre-thought and what was something that just suddenly cropped up. He managed to make it appear that it was spontaneous even if it wasn’t.”

In preparation for his show, Bob would read everything he could get his hands on. He was perhaps one of the most knowledgeable individuals in the entertainment industry of his era.

“He would read the paper,” said [KNX salesman] Gordon Mason. “He would always a have a comment or two on the news. In fact, that was important to him because eventually that became part of his on-air material. So he read the paper quite a bit. He was very well informed on world events, and he was very well informed on entertainment events because I think he always had an eye on opportunities, especially if they occurred on TV.”

As had been the case with KNX, KMPC also granted Bob a waiver to perform his show to his liking, with his engineer handling the commercials and songs, and Bob having special dispensation to play other records throughout the show to enhance the performance. He was both prepared and off-the-cuff, producing his radio show as he had done so fluidly in the past.

According to [KMPC engineer Bob Maryon], Bob was a “fascinating, hard-working, and nice man. I’ve worked with some people who have really big egos, and because of that they’re not really pleasant to work with. I never found that with Bob. Bob just wanted to do a good show. He wanted to do it right."

Excerpts from Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography
© 2015 Carol M. Ford
Do not reproduce without written permission from the author.


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For more about Bob Crane, visit http://www.vote4bobcrane.org

For more about Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, which was published on September 17, 2015, visit http://www.vote4bobcrane.org/book.html