Early Zoo staff; Ken Rundel, Laurel Ornish, Mike Taylor, Jon Dillon 1973
1.Jon Dillon 2. Gary Shaw 4. Suzette Smith 5. Mark Addy 7. Tommy Rogers 8. Ken Rundel 9. Mark Christopher 10. Joan Green 11. Jamie Friar 12. Rob Dayton
I was originally hired as the program director of WFAA AM in Dallas but lusted after their FM frequency - 97.9. I had been PD at album rock WWWW in Detroit, working with General Manager John Dew, who moved to Dallas and brought me on board to be PD here. John finally convinced the board of directors that we should change the format of automated beautiful music WFAA-FM to a new album rock format.
After a lot of brain storming, I finally came up with the name for the station. At the time all station were K-This or K-that. I decided to give us a totally different identity --- The ZOO. The name captured a unique identity, sort of a wild place to be.
We filed for the name change with the Federal Communications Commission, so our competitors knew what our call letters would be. But prior to our first day on the air, we sent them a note about our call letter change and attached a kazoo. They all thought that the station would be named KAZOO, and the industry buzz was all about the new KAZOO. It was a great scam. We had fun with that.
The original lineup was Ken Rundel in Morning drive, Mike Taylor middays, Mark Addy doing afternoon drive, Gary Shaw evening, Mark Christopher late night and Jon Dillon overnight. The staff was killer. I gave them a lot of freedom to put together great sets of music from our library, and encouraged them to relate to our audience. We added a lot of great live music events and unique promotions and the station exploded. After one year our main competitor KAFM gave up and went top 40, and it was clear sailing after that. The station was hugely successful and made radio history. I was the creator of the format and served as Zoologist/Program Director/Operations Director until 1978 when I left the ZOO to concentrate on consulting and voicework.
I hired 3 guys who had worked for me in Detroit --- Ken Rundel, Mark Addy, and Gary Shaw. On a talent hunt in central Texas we discovered Mike Taylor,who was working at KRMH in Austin. We also welcomed Mark Christopher and Jon Dillon, who were working at other stations in Dallas.
Ken Rundel... actually, the first voice on The Zoo played Simon & Garfunkel's "At the Zoo" as the station begin broadcasting from Communications Center in Dallas. With a 97.9, nearly 100,000 watts of power and the backing of what was then The Belo Broadcasting Corp., the station went from "beautiful music" WFAA-FM to KZEW-FM, aka The Zoo.
Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show - RS 131 (March 29, 1973) Illustration by Gerry Gersten
The first ad for the Zoo. -The newest entry into the radio sweepstakes, the most ambitious undertaking in FM rock programming, the emergence of old staid, automated WFAA-FM into the vibrant,new, personable KZEW_popularly and euphemisticly referred to as "the Zoo", not entirely because of all the hair on the staffers.And a zoo it is also because station manager John Dew has managed to corral an impressive array of talent, many coming from his former station, WWWW in Detroit.That station was rated number two in the Motor City with a progressive rock format, and Detroit is a heavy town.
Dew has his work cut out for him.In Detroit he brought his station up from twelfth to second but most folks here weren't even aware of the existence of WFAA-FM.Freak program director Ira Lipson, also one of the former Detroit crew, is primarily responsible for how the station actually sounds.And it sounds good.Lipson hates jingles and hokeyness of any kind, so the station is determined not to insult their listeners' intelligence. The news is in the same lowkey manner.No taped teletype machines in the background, no big introduction, just a fresh approach to news that actually relates to people's lives.(The Zoo would never run story about a plane crash in New Zealand, for instance.)"We broadcast the kind of news you don't get anyplace else," explains Lipson.
In the first few days of broadcasting, the news department-Guy Gibson,Laurel Ornish and Martin Lowy-had a story on how a group of Ft. Worth women are trying to deal with the problems of rape, a tongue-in-cheek look at government's unsuccessful attempts to get motorists wear seat belts, and an interview with the New York Dolls.The news department uses passages off popular records to make editorial comments or underscore certain points.
The jocks play a lot of music between newscasts too, at least 17 minutes of each 20 minute set.They never talk down to their listeners-or over the music. Jon Dillon, who is to Dallas progressive radio what Morton is to salt, was coaxed out of retirement to join the Zoo.The Kid has the freewheeling all-night shift, and if you've ever had to stay up all night to make a deadline you know how nice it is having a friend play nice music for you.The Zoo had to replace all WFAA-FM's old Frankie Layne and Prez Prado albums with heavier stuff-new,of course-so none is all scratchy yet.That's nice.And the addition of a new 100,00 watt transmitter will make their signal sparkle as far north as Tulsa and south to Waco. Their current schedule is as follows: 6-10 am Ken Rundel 10-2 pm Mike Taylor 2-6 pm Mark Addy 6-10 pm Gary Shaw 10-2 am Mark Christopher 2-6 am Jon Dillon
Ken Rundel interview with Keith Reid of Procol Harum 1974
Album:Omega lll (1973) The most successful Hungarian rock band in history, OMEGA is one of the rare bands to have been known outside in his country. The legend has it that as albums were released in other countries it became necessary to brake the language barrier.
David Hefner and Dave Thomas handle the weekend chores.Thomas is a contributing editor of Buddy as well as a familiar voice to listeners of progressive rock.
The Zoo broadcasts at a frequency of 97.9 mHz, close enough that they call it "98 FM" "They say that it's all happening at the zoo, I do believe it, I do believe it's true, At the zoo, at the zoo...." -Paul Simon