This week I’m sharing advice, inspiration, and “the radio vibe” from my sorely missed friend, Terry Moss.
I don’t have any photos of Terry. His sister, Mary, was kind enough to scan a few of her personal pictures and send them to me.
I don’t know where or when this taken, but it’s a family picture.
When I spoke with Mary, still in the family’s hometown of Rochester, New York, she said, “Although we fought a bit when we were kids, once we were adults we were such good friends. I always imagined that one day we’d both retire and live near each other, keeping each other company.”
Here’s some advice from Terry to radio DJs everywhere.
Note: The “comedy sheet” he scolds is O’LINERS, which I happened to write and publish.
This week I’ve been paying tribute to one of radio’s all-time greats, Terry Moss.
I remember visiting Terry at the new, eerily quiet Hollywood studios of Transtar.
It was a radical new idea: providing 24-hour live, “local-sounding” music programming to radio stations all across the U.S.
Transtar became Unistar, which ultimately was purchased by Westwood One.
Here’s Terry Moss, explaining a concept that now is familiar to everyone in radio but at the time was brand-new and unfamiliar to most of the industry.
Although this was the genesis of a trend that many radio people now despise, notice how Terry approaches it from the standpoint of a true radio personality, concerned about how to entertain and connect with his listeners.
Tomorrow: A radio personality pop quiz…in which Terry takes a shot at the comedy service I published at the time.
As any old American DJ will confirm, for many years radio stations were required to broadcast periodic tests of the Emergency Broadcast System.
Here’s what the listener would hear:
For the next 60 seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The following is only a test.
That would be followed by this test tone:
Then the announcer would return to say:
This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. The broadcasters of your area in voluntary cooperation with the FCC and federal, state, and local authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an emergency. If this had been an actual emergency, the Attention Signal you just heard would have been followed by official information, news, or instructions. This station serves the [ ] area. This concludes this test of the Emergency Broadcast System.
Invariably the jock would read that copy in a monotone, there’d be silence, then the test tone, then the jock would return to read the close with the same disinterested inflection.
Terry decided to change all that — with these two cuts from Cheap Radio Thrills. Here’s the introduction:
After the intro, the test tone would be broadcast.
Then this cut would be played, complete with a donut for the announcer to read the boilerplate copy that begins, “The broadcasters of your area…”
Question: As a listener, which test would you be more likely to pay attention to? The one delivered in the bored monotone, or the musical version?
Clearly far more people would actually listen to the musical rendition — which really upset the FCC. People actually paying attention to the E.B.S. tests??
So in its infinite wisdom, the FCC decreed that the Emergency Broadcast System test could not be sung.
Bored monotone that no one listens to = Good.
Entertaining version that many people listen to = Bad.
YesterdayTerry Moss teased “one of the greatest secrets” of show prep, revealed to him by “an old Italian morning man.”
Here, Terry reveals the secret.
I believe it was this moment that caused me to adopt a habit that people who know me instantly will recognize.
Hint: Something that’s always in my shirt pocket.
(L-R) Terry Moss, Kathy Holcomb, Carl Gentry, Mike “Happy” Hoyer
During his stint with Armed Forces Radio & Television, Terry (far left) portrayed the notorious “Black Bart” on a popular Panama Canal Zone children’s show.
Although popular with TV viewers, radio listeners, and his fellow servicemen, Terry was considerably less popular with “the brass.”
Gerald M. Fry recalls this incident — which I never heard about from Terry — from the Panama Canal Zone during the Vietnam War:
I was Terry’s commanding officer in Armed Forces Radio & Television. I should have kept the infamous anti-war morning show that Terry pre-taped in 1969. I turned on SCN Radio that morning as I always did while preparing to go to work and couldn’t believe what I was hearing — wall-to-wall anti-war songs of the day (this was the day of the big peacenik march on Washington, D.C.) with no Terry in between.
I called him to see what was going on and he confessed that he not only planned this personal anti-war statement, but knowing that he might be caught in the act, he had pre-taped the entire two-hour show.
I ordered him to dump the tape, go to a PSA, then resume a normal, live wake-up show with time hacks and community announcements and no more anti-war music. I also told him that I would try to save his rear end from a court martial should anyone above me have heard what was on the air.
Of course they were listening, and I was called on the carpet to explain how such a thing could happen. I successfully saved him from an Article 15 court martial, but I was ordered to pull him off the air permanently. My argument that we had no one presently on staff that good fell on deaf ears and I had to relegate Terry to strictly production duties where his pre-recorded stuff could be auditioned before it aired.
Naturally, everything he turned out of the production booth was highly creative, original, full of life, and mostly funny. Working with our limited production library, he found the elements he needed from our music library and turned out first-class work.
Terry was very apologetic for embarrassing me by his actions that day, but he felt strongly about the Vietnam war and had to express himself in the most creative way at his disposal. I was more upset with him for letting the cat out of the bag that we had all those songs in our library — my instructions had been to play them very selectively at times when command brass would be unlikely to hear them.
Tomorrow: A very different, legendary encounter between Terry Moss and a branch of the U.S government.
Terry Moss was an unpretentious, supremely talented, highly creative radio personality and production wizard.
He had cool, fun ideas and brought them to life — among them, the Cheap Radio Thrills series that still is used by radio stations around the world.
I’ve heard Cheap Radio Thrills cuts on the programs of virtually every “big name” in North America, regardless of format.
Terry was a friend, inspiration, cohort and pal.
He died 20 years ago. Saturday, October 25, is his birthday.
For the rest of this week, I’m going to tell you about Terry Moss.
Terry founded L.A. Air Force (which now is part of my company), and he was Editor and then Publisher of a show prep service I founded, Galaxy.
His sense of fun caused the Federal Communications Commission to make a new rule against — well, basically, a rule against having fun on the radio.
I’ll tell you that story — complete with audio — later this week.
His sense of conscience almost got him court martialed while broadcasting for Armed Forces Radio & Television in the Panama Canal Zone.
Terry Moss played the last Top 40 record on the legendary KHJ/Los Angeles.
He was one of a handful of air talents chosen to figure out how to deliver a personality-oriented music program via satellite to stations across the country.
People who knew him as a production guy don’t talk about his editing skills. They say, “When he was in the production room, he was so creative — Well, it was amazing.”
Everyone I’ve ever met who worked with Terry as a disc jockey says he was the most prepared jock they’d ever seen — and the most relaxed behind a microphone.
He never had to try to be a radio personality. He just sat down, opened the mic, and made his listeners feel at home as a host welcomes guests to his party.
Here’s Terry, as part of the first panel session I ever moderated at an NAB radio convention.
This is one of radio’s all-time shining stars, talking directly to you, trying to help if he can. That’s what Terry Moss always did.
Yeah, the rest of us on the panel thought he was talking about the power of “the tease,” too.
But that’s not it.
Because Terry chose not to reveal his secret immediately, I’ll honor his wish and wait until tomorrow to share it with you.
Tomorrow: Terry reveals his secret show prep method. Plus…the story of how he almost spent a couple of years in a military prison — because he had something to say that he was willing to risk his freedom for.