In 1970, WDAS (AM) was one of the top rated radio stations in Philadelphia. The disc jockey lineup at that time was one of the best in the station's history. The daily schedule was as follows:
6 am to 10 am - Georgie Woods
There were three minutes of news at :45 past the hour and 15 seconds of headlines (called "WDAS Banner Lines) at :28 after the hour. Newscasters included Joe Rainey, Jim Klash, Bob Perkins, Ed Sciaky, Steve Schorr and Charlie Harmon. The station ID at the top of the hour was done by "The Gospel Queen," Louise Williams," who was married at that time to the station's Program Director, Jimmy Bishop. The station was owned by Max M. Leon, a former Vice-President of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia.
For Halloween during 1970, WDAS decided to run a contest created by the station's recently hired Operations Manager, Gerry Wilkinson. The concept was called "Mystery Mansion," based on an idea Gerry had for quite some time. Both the name and concept were created long before Wilkinson came to WDAS. However, within two days of starting the contest, WDAS was threatened with legal action from WFIL, Famous 56. They were running a contest based on a totally different concept than WDAS. The only similar part was the title. WFIL was airing a little attention getter called "Mystery Money Mansion." The similar names were developed totally independent of each other.
The concepts were totally different. Gerry Wilkinson had created the name in 1968 when he pitched it to the station he was working at in suburban Philly. The station passed on the idea and when he went to WDAS early in 1970, he pitched it again and PD Jimmy Bishop loved the idea.
WDAS rather than fight, decided to change the name of the contest to "Horror House." However, when LeBaron Taylor, the voice of the promotion, re-cut the tracks (while Gerry was on a lunch break), he thought the name was "Horror Castle," and thus the contest became called by that name. Taylor was the station's Assistant General Manager.
There were 3 parts to "Horror Castle." The first was a pre-recorded invitation for listeners to call. The second was to get the caller on the line and ask "which WDAS Soulful Jock would be next to arrive at Horror Castle." Then the DJ would play the pre-recorded middle section which had six cuts, one for each of the WDAS air personalities. The cart would rotate so that the same name wouldn't come up two times in a row. "After a day or two, we would cue passed a cut every once in awhile to keep the selection random choice," said Gerry Wilkinson.
During this era, there were no digital editors, so the station tried to add the bits and pieces to the production while they recorded the voice tracks. What we have are the six voice tracks with some sound effects added live as the tracks were being cut. "For some reason, I still have the voice tracks 35 years later, but no tapes of the finished product," said Wilkinson. "I have no idea why I saved these tracks and not the completed versions," Gerry added.
The third segment of the contest was tagged after the middle part played. It was recorded and asked the listeners why the WDAS Soulful DJs were meeting at "Horror Castle." Wilkinson stated, "I have no recall to what the answer was supposed to be. Maybe, it was to wish everyone a Happy Halloween, but I don't think so." This portion of the contest was a mail-in promotion.
Each of the six cuts to the middle segment tells a short story. Jocks are chased by werewolves and caught by vampires. Just the right vehicle for Halloween.
The promotion was so successful that the next month (November of 1970), they aired a similar contest called "Soulful Pilgrim" where WDAS DJ's would show how certain traditions started. "One was," according to Wilkinson, "Georgie Woods was carrying the non-usable parts of the turkey (Giblets) to the trash pile and fell. All the giblets went flying and landed in a big pot of gravy. You heard Georgie say to Carl Helm. Let's not tell anyone about this and thus this was how Giblet Gravy was invented."
What we have for you are the voice-tracks including some sound effects added. It was mixed through a four pot mixing board and into an Ampex 351 tape recorder which was heavy on bass. To correct for this, the tape was cut at 15 ips but the equalization control on the recorder was set at 7 and a half ips. The result was that extra highs were added to the recording which countered its bassy sound. There were two cartridge machines in the studio and the voice talent sat in the same room as the production guy.
The final production would be produced live onto cart (maybe that's why there's no copy of the final production) with effects, music and voice all mixed live into the cartridge machine. Sounds weird by today's standards, but "that's how we did it at WDAS until we got a real production board with four cart machines, three turntables and two stereo Ampex tape recorders," said Gerry Wilkinson.
It is also believed that these voice tracks may not all be the ones that were actually used on the air. Some may have been re-cut. However, this is what survived through the decades. Keep in mind that these are just the voice tracks and not the finished air product.
Several of these voice-tracks suffered problems because of aging. The one that had the most problems was the one done by Butterball. We decided that we would produce one cut as it "might" have been done in 1970. Gerry Wilkinson who created and produced the original contest, produced the 2005 version. It was done with the usually extremely "hot mix" that the station used in those days. While the original definitely sounded different, this, at least, can give you an idea of what it was like.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Audio originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
Written by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
© 2005, All Rights Reserved
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