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 show.

JB, Vancouver Top 40 Radio website


In posts to the Radio West forum, here are what some of the former C-FUN swingin' DJ's have to say about the original Party Line:

Brian Lord writes:

". . . I ran the Ding Ho Party line. Actually it started out unsponsored. Sometime in 1960..within weeks of the format change, I just ran a telephone survey from 6PM to 11PM to determine the most popular songs of that Saturday night...a way to relieve the boredom of a 6 hour show. After two saturdays, the phone's were so heavy that I had to have my wife Carol come in and man the front office switchboard. I'd play the top 15 tunes back (with a couple of flashbacks and the week's pick etc) between 11:05 (post news) to midnight starting with last and ending with the top tune of the evening.. I don't remember any charts being printed. Unless Ding Ho did something...that is really hazy but you are correct.... no charts on the Ding Ho Party Line. I didn't know, didn't want to know to keep it honest, what the top songs would be until Carol brought the tabulation in during the 11PM News. (It was just that, a tabulation not even looking like a chart) She took hundreds of calls...all lines humming from the get go to cut off at 11. I left for California in early 1962 and what happened after that, I have no idea although Cam Bell took my show and inherited the Party Line. I gave my tabulations to Dave who made up the "Funtastic 50" ...and took the telephone survey into consideration although it was just an "assistance piece" much the same as my Housewive's Hitlist that I ran daily as a write-in thing... draws were made and food hampers were given as prizes. Dave very occasionally would refer to it as well... it was a much softer sound...Anita Bryant "Paper Roses" type songs more than Chubby & "The Twist" Hope this helps. Brian L."


Dave McCormick writes:

"Yes, Brian Lord accurately described the DING HO PARTY LINE feature, that just kind of happened. It was Brian's idea for a late nite feature of his 6-hour show. It happened, as a lot of programming did on C-FUN. It was such an incredible radio scene -- we literally experimented On the air -- our young audience was Very responsive, and if they liked a song or a feature, they let us know instantly -- i.e. our phones told us how to proceed.

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!

Regards

Dave McCormick…and still "the Big Daddy!"


Cameron Bell writes:

" . . . 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.

Cheers

Cameron

*
Editor's note: Lana charted number one for three consecutive weeks on the Fun 50, and then hit number one on the Dec. 1963 Soundathon.


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