PARTY LINE - WHAT WAS IT?
It began in 1960 and
aired on C-FUN 1410 every Saturday evening from 6pm to
midnight. It was created and hosted by Brian Lord and known
simply as "Party Line". The show quickly gained a sponsor
and from then was usually referred to as the "Ding Ho Party
Line", after the now defunct local Chinese food chain. All
evening listeners voted for their favourite songs while Lord
played the hits and promoted the "mouth-watering" Chinese
food delivered "piping hot to your door." I don't know how
many people actually picked up the phone, called Ding Ho and
ordered, but after a few hours, sitting at home listening
with my sister, I'd swear that when I opened a window I
could smell Chinese food clear across the city. (Sometimes
my sister broke down and ordered, but usually from the
Rickshaw. Maybe that's why Ding Ho went out of business.)
During the last hour from 11 to midnight, Lord played the
top 15 songs, referred to as either the Ding Ho 15 or the
Party Line 15. The results were actually used to help
tabulate the following week's Fun 50. When Lord left C-FUN
in early 1962 Cameron Bell took over the program and around
that time A & W became the new sponsor. The Party Line
show lasted through much of 1962 although I can't narrow it
down to exact dates. The charts themselves were never
printed and are lost to history. The name Party Line was
used in later years on C-FUN as well, but the format was
different, becoming a phone-in show that allowed you to
request and dedicate a song to someone. It wasn't the same
Brian Lord writes:
We would add a new record, and would know in 24 hours (or less) if it would be a hit, or a dud.
The Party Line Saturday nite feature, became so popular, that kids would call in, and literally cram (jam?) the REgent 1-6511 phone number, AND the REGENT exchange. As a result, somehow, on some Saturday nights, kids calling in, could hear other callers, and gave out their home-phone numbers, over the over-load -- so it became a teenage game, to get phone numbers of other kids (usually of the opposite sex!), hang up, and then dial their new phone-pals! A Dating Game!
Unlike regimented radio today, we didn't 'think tank' or sit around with department heads, or hire a consultant the listener phone line was our consultant. Our "format" was very loose, in fact just about non-existent! If it worked, we kept doing it!
still "the Big Daddy!"
" . . . I remember the Saturday night program as the A and W Partyline. It differed little from what Brian L. launched. We played as many songs as possible on the log-light Saturday evening. Solicited calls and tabulated them. A few times I recall working on the tabulation in the very few minutes of the 10:55 pm News. Then we played them back from 15 - 1. The handwritten list was scratched together and left in the library for Dave. I doubt copies survived the first music meeting on Monday.
The Partyline was an influential program, in its way. The volume of calls was large enough to provide a pretty good indication of the potential strength of the material.
The CFUN format allowed a few, very few, album cuts. For several weeks, I opened the program at 6:00 with Ray Charles covers of either Bye-Bye love or (I think the other was I'm Movin' On. The Everlys or Hank Williams treated as big, brassy, rollicking rocking, fully orchestrated dynamic numbers with Ray welding western and soul into truly great rock. I loved them. Played hell out of them. but...
They bombed. Got absolutely no reaction. don't think either ever got a vote. On the other hand, a friend visiting the studio one saturday night persuaded me to include an unlisted album cut. First play got a few calls. Second play brought an avalanche of support. The unscheduled renegade song jumped into the top 15 -- maybe even the top five -- and prompted Dave to get reaction from the label - upset we'd played it because they hadn't released it on a single.
It was Roy Orbison's Lana. It became a hit of sorts...don't know how far it went.* But its fan potential was established first CFUN A and W party line by my guest who was Ad man Bob Taylor of Vancouver, who also had a keen ear for the music of that era. All I did was risk the wrath of Dave and the others by including music not scheduled for play. [But I've always had a bit of a problem with rules.]
In those days, that audience knew what it wanted to hear, and gave pretty clear signals - partly through that program Brian L. launched.
(Someone else can tell you about the 'songs we couldn't kill.' There were a few titles which garnered hundreds of votes even though we had stopped playing them. Weeks went by, I was told, where Johnny Angel by Shelley Fabares was polling in the top ten -- but not because we were still playing it. We weren't. The teenies were loyal and, by god, they loved her.
I think the same thing might have happened with kid from the Rifleman - Johnny Crawford. But memory dims. The oracle for all this, of course, is Dave and you might also get some gems from Mike Powley who was one of our version of 'the kids in the hall.' He was involved in a lot of the music planning and assessment, I believe. hope this helps.
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