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August 23, 2018 11:02 pm  #1

Friday Flashback: Pleading No Contest About Contests

One of the great things about radio was listener involvement. For most of us, that meant contests. And I wasn’t immune from entering them when I was a kid.
In 1964, I won two 45s from CHUM’s Battle of the New Sounds – “Have I The Right” by the Honeycombs one week and “From A Window” by Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas later that year. I still have both of them, probably along with the envelopes they were mailed in, featuring the CHUM logo on the front.
But it didn’t end there. Many years later, now a young teenager, I was home sick from school, and just happened to be sitting in front of my phone, listening to CFTR. It was about a day or two after they officially went Top 40 and no one was really aware of the change yet. Which meant no one was really listening. They started “C.F.T.R.” – Canada’s First Tremendous Rip-off, a contest so monumentally simple, no one had ever done it before.
All you had to do was phone in. No question to answer, no song to know, nothing. Just be the first caller. And on that very first day on their very first contest, I was. I won a trip to Florida. I wound up giving the prize to my parents, because at 14, I couldn’t go alone and I figured they’d get a vacation and so would I!
So contests have been a big part of my radio life. (The all time best being The Last Contest, which helped CFTR finally catch up to CHUM and its “Don’t Say Hello” competition. You can hear samples of this remarkable contest on Dale Patterson’s Rockradioscrapbook site here.)

Here are a few of some of the lesser known on-and-off-air giveaways and promotional items that were designed to keep you listening just a little bit longer. 
CFTR Win Gas Sticker
Boy could we ever use this contest today. Place the CFTR Win Sticker on your car and use it to get free gas at what I’m sure would become an insane service station. I love the fact that they also had to include in an “*” that it was a limited time offer.

CFTR Superticket
It seems to me every station had some kind of cheap giveaway item, like a button or ticket or something that had your personal entry number on it. If your number came up while you were listening, you won something. This one makes me laugh because it says that major prizes will be given away once a week, and a skill testing question has to be answered to win them. So what were the non-major prizes they were doling out the rest of the time?

CKEY’s CNE Lucky Silver Dollar Survey 1962
These giveaways go back a long time. While CHUM Checks From The Ex, then rival CKEY was giving away “lucky” numbers at the CNE for a chance to win prizes. All you needed was their Silver Dollar Survey. (And boy, do I ever wish I had one of those “Twist Hats” now.) But forget about radio. The main attraction appears to be those new University subway cars.

CKFH: A New Contest Every Two Weeks
Always competing with CHUM in the early days of the 70s, CKFH had big aspirations but no real budget. So it’s small wonder they seemed to have a new contest almost every other week.
Name It And Claim It – a staple of many radio stations – debuted on Jan 8, 1970.

But you would have needed to name it and claim it quickly. By the following week, there was a new contest. This one was called Buck Fever.

But by the time January was in its final throes, there would be yet another contest on the Big 143. And it had something to do with a talking slot machine.

By September of that year, they were giving away dough for something called Un-Puns. I have no idea what this could have been, but your guess is as good as mine. (Although if you’re right, I won’t give you anything!)

CJBK Keeps Its Motor Running
Meanwhile, over in London, CJBK – in a heated race for ratings with both CKSL and CFPL – was trying to give you a hug by giving you a hog. Or two. (Did “reasonable facsimiles” ever win anything?)

 Turn Up The “Owen” Sound
Going north, CFOS (and CFPS) tried to up the ante with yet another display-and-win type sticker promotion. Looks like they made the winner a “beautiful thing.”

At around the same time, CKCY Sault Ste. Marie was not only playing the Top 5, they were giving it away, too.

WGRF In Wonderland?
Here’s one you don’t see very often – a border station giving away discounts to an attraction in another country. But that’s what WGRF-FM in Buffalo did for Toronto’s Canada’s Wonderland in this bumper sticker promotion several years back.

Save The Date
It wasn’t just local Ontario stations that were in on it. Here’s a calendar from KFDI in Wichita, Kansas that proposed to make a winner out of you every day. More expensive, but useful. And presuming you used it, a reminder of the station every day for the next 365.

You could win even more from the place if your “Country Club” card number was drawn. (Love the “Activator Card” title. Means nothing and sounds official.)

Win $25-Grand In Paradise
KGMQ-FM Honolulu wants to give you $25,000 in cash. As if living in Hawaii wasn’t reward enough.

WRKO Boston Is Hair For You
Here’s a very strange contest from a station that was known to have lots of them. WRKO was one of Boston’s biggest Top 40 stations when it held this bizarre contest to have listeners identify who’s behind those van Dyke beards. (I'm not sure, but I think #17 just might be Don Cherry, who was coach of the Boston Bruins at the time.)

And if you couldn’t do that, then maybe you’d win with this 1975 Super Card.

WCBS-FM: Goodbye Ron, Hello Italy
On the day one of North America’s most successful oldies stations bid arrivederci to legendary DJ Ron Lundy, it was asking listeners to say hello to Italy.

If you didn’t win, you could always stay home and sing the blues into your karaoke machine.

KIIS Your L.A. Bumper Goodbye
In this contest from KIIS Los Angeles, you had to sport the sticker and listen for your licence plate number. If you did both, you stood to win money, trips or “other great prizes.” Given the traffic in L.A., the chances of your car being picked seemed so remote as to be non-existent.

Non-Contest Freebies
Not everything stations gave away involved contests. Here are a few promotional items that were more winning than winnable.
WCAU’s Bill Corsair Was A “Rascal”
In the 1970’s, overnight talk show host Bill Corsair and his “Rascals” reached dozens of U.S. states and Canada over WCAU Philadelphia. If you joined his club, he sent you all sorts of stuff. His show, which allowed listeners to call in and create their own personas or characters was one of the most entertaining and creative things I’ve ever heard on radio. It was highly unusual – although almost no one talked about anything controversial, it was hilarious and you couldn’t turn the thing off.

Corsair left for WTIC in Hartford, then became a well known voice over artist for commercials. He retired quite well off and was last heard of living in New York City.
WTFM, New York: If You Can’t Find Us, Find The Competition
I have to admit I don’t fully understand this giveaway from what was then easy listening WTFM New York. (How times change. It’s now WKTU, a rhythmic Hot AC format.) This FM guide for the Big Apple was supposed to pinpoint where to find WTFM on the dial (103.5.) But it also basically advertised every other station there, too, making its usefulness as a promotional tool somewhat questionable.

WJR & WXYZ Detroit:  If You Can’t Listen To Us, Listen To Them
Another odd item came with WJR’s name prominently featured on The Michigan Radio Guide, although I suspect they had little to do with it. It was a reference for travelers, designed to show them what to listen to and what was available on the radio as they passed through various cities in the U.S.

Here’s another variation on the same theme, this one “put out” by then Top 40 station WXYZ. Its supposed purpose was to guide you to other rock stations on your journey. Oh and by the way, you’ll notice that the listing for Detroit only mentions one station – WXYZ. No CKLW. No WKNR. Nothing on FM.

And you have to love the warning on the bottom that screams "Do Not Attempt To Read While Driving." Proving, if nothing else, that cell phones weren't our first instance of not paying attention behind the wheel.

The publicity value of the handout obviously didn’t work. While WXYZ is still at 1270, it’s now WXYT – an all sports station.  
KRLD Dallas: Talk About A Great Concert!  
I’ve never seen this before – a talk station sponsoring a rock concert. But I guess it worked. “The Talk That Rocks” got the best of both worlds, as seen on this official souvenir T-shirt.

CHCH, Hamilton: A Mystery Of History  
It wasn’t just radio stations that offered prizes for you to tune in. TV outlets tried the same thing. Here’s one from Hamilton’s CHCH that’s lost to history. The mystery of “Musical Mysteries” will perhaps remain unsolved. It aired Thursday nights at 7:30 PM in 1956 and promised a thousand bucks would be added every week, presumably until somebody won something. Offering money. Now you’re playing my tune.

WKBW: Do You Know The Count From The Amount? 
A classic out of channel 7 in Buffalo, it used to follow Rocketship 7 every day. Dialing For Dollars was both clever for its day and completely stupid. A host would dial a number in the phone book at random and if you were watching the show and knew “the count from the amount,” you’d win it. But really, the odds of them calling you were astronomical.
Still, someone was watching. This local show was on for years and years. And until I came upon this ad, I never knew Canadians – including those in Toronto – were eligible to have their phones ring.

WNBC-AM, New York Is A Winner
Finally, here’s an official “winner” letter from WNBC-AM in New York. In this case, the lucky listener won tickets to an air show – and an official WNBC T-Shirt, which was – IMHO – the real prize!


August 24, 2018 8:12 am  #2

Re: Friday Flashback: Pleading No Contest About Contests

Re Dialing For Dollars: It actually started out as a radio show in 1939 on WCBM in Baltimore. When it came to tv in the late 50's, it was a franchised program all across the U.S. with each market supplying local hosts. I think it premiered on WKBW in 1964 with Nolan Johannes [died in 2015 age 81] as the first host. The show morphed into AM Buffalo which still airs now.                                                                                                                                              Re Contests: When WGR was a very successful A/C station in the 70's and 80's, they had a very simple contest called Hi-Lo. A cash prize would be given away if you could guess the correct amount. There was usually one or two opportunities per hour to call in. A recorded voice would advise the contestant whether his guess was too high or too low. Of course you had to keep listening to narrow down all the incorrect guesses. The prize money wasn't a large amount, maybe $100-200. It was always so precise like $220.56.                                                                    This isn't exactly a contest, but when Jim Johnson [with Richard T. Bruiser] did AM drive on WRIF they would give away D.R.E.A.D. cards. Detroit Rockers Engaged in the Abolition of Disco. The Saturday Night Cleaver was a nice touch. One morning, while driving to work, a nice tropho opening allowed me to listen to them for an hour or so.Wish I still had the card.


August 24, 2018 10:52 am  #3

Re: Friday Flashback: Pleading No Contest About Contests

Here are some pics of stuff that I have saved from radio trivia contests over the years:

Cool Airchecks and More: