TERRY DULLUM — The Dullum File: The Shortest Song In The World

An interview I did with Dan Keating of KMAV/KMSR Radio in Mayvillle stirred up some memories for me earlier today. Clomping down memory lane a bit.

For me, before there was television, there was radio.  And before there was television news, there was radio programming.

KMAV is where I picked up my first paycheck in broadcasting “some” years ago. In 1970, and again in 1972, in between my stint keeping the world free by serving in the U.S. Army, I worked at KMAV, now KMSR-AM. At first, I “signed on” the station with a program of “middle of the road” music. Good for me because I was familiar with the likes of Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, and of course, Frank Sinatra.

Later that year the owner decided to switch formats to country music, taking advantage of the then new “Nashville Sound” which was sweeping radio stations across the country that year. Not so good for me.  At least I didn’t think so. But eventually I learned to like, if not love, country music. Later I would meet and interview on television artists like Bill Anderson, Eddy Arnold, Glen Campbell and Ray Price whose music I played on radio.

Like any business, hay must be made while the sun shines. In this case, the hay we’re talking about is commercial advertising dollars during the holiday season of 1972.

As we got closer and closer to Christmas that year I noticed that the station’s log, which dictates exactly what gets heard in radio and when, was getting more and more crowded with commercials. There was no time to play any music. What I mean by that is that there was no time for ANY music. Literally, no time! There was network news at the top of the hour, weather at a quarter to and a quarter after the hour, and local news at the bottom of the hour. In between there was solid, back to back commercials.

Finally, I complained to my boss who said, “Don’t worry. Nobody will notice.” Nobody will notice?

I decided to take some action. In those days we played mainly 45 rpm records with an “A” side meant to be heard on the air and a “B” side which was some times something of a throwaway. I found a 45 by Kenny Price the B-side of which was called “This is the Shortest Song in the World.” Not only is “This is the Shortest Song in the World” the record’s title, it is also the song’s entire lyric. The whole thing is about 18 seconds long.

On the air, I played a cluster of, I don’t know how many, 30-second commercials. Then I said, “Now, here’s Kenny Price.”  Then, “The Shortest Song in the World” and then another half dozen or more commercials. It was my little passive-aggressive commentary of what I thought was commercialization gone mad.

I was also quite certain I’d be fired for it. Sure enough, just as the segment aired, out the window I could see KMAV’s owner/operator Austen Kramer driving in to work for the day. And sure enough he made a bee-line for the control room and me.  Here we go!

Instead I got, “Do some more stuff like that. That was funny.”

As I recall, it was shortly after that that I got a raise. Coincidence? I think not.

Interviews with some former KMAV employees will be heard on KMSR-AM and KMAV-FM on October 20 beginning at 4 p.m., the date and time the station first went on the air 50 years ago.

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