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CHAPTER 7: GOSPEL MUSIC
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Thursday, January 2, 1:30 P.M.
For the second time in the same day, the ancient Bug chugged up the winding Greenwood Circle to the crest location of WMOR. Dan wasn't even sure why he'd gone out to lunch. He was tired enough to go straight home to Liverpool and be in bed when Karen got home from school. Still, it just didn't seem right for the brand new general manager to knock off at 12:30, even it he did start at six. So, he ran out to the Red Barn for an everything -on-it hamburger and a 32-ounce container of ice-cold Coke.
A Jeep Grand Cherokee with New York plates looked familiar as the Bug chuffed to a stop in the parking space next to it. As Dan strode up the shoveled walk he thought he remembered where he'd seen it before. He was right. When Dan opened the front door and stepped into the reception room, there sat the Good Samaritan of his early-morning snafu with the snow bank. He still looked sharp, sitting there scanning the headlines of the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
Betty had risen from her desk and Dan was spared the struggle of coming up with a name. "Dan, there's a gentleman waiting to see you. This is Rev. Jason Masterson of Liverpool. Rev. Masterson, our general manager, Dan Marlow."
Both men laughed as they shook hands and Dan waved his visitor into his office. "I thought I knew that car out there."
Masterson took the offered chair and Dan pulled up another side chair to face the minister. "You know, Dan, when you said this morning that you owed me a favor, I had no idea I'd be trying to collect it the same day. We often say the world keeps getting smaller and the time keeps going faster. I guess it's true."
Dan popped a mint in his mouth and offered one to his visitor. "I'm sure you didn't come here to philosophize but I have a theory about this concept of time going faster as you get older that I'd like to try on someone. By the way, did I hear Betty introduce you as a preacher. Is it Reverend Masterson?"
"Guilty as charged," Masterson said amicably. "I've taken over as pastor of the Bethany Community Church just south of Liverpool, right there on 11-15."
"Know the church," Dan acknowledged. "Never been in it but I know where it is. Beautiful church from the outside."
"Well, I'd like you to get to know the inside even better than the outside." Dan nodded noncommittally as the pastor continued. "As you know, we're fairly new at Bethany. The family just moved down this week. I commuted between Liverpool and our former pastorate in Corning for a while. But now we're full-fledged residents of Pennsylvania. Think we're going to like it, too."
"Can't speak for your parishioners, but from our family to yours, welcome to Liverpool."
"Why thanks, Dan. Betty was telling me you're a native of that pretty little borough. Just might be that our families can get together and do something sometime. I think Ronni would really like that. But say, weren't you going to lay some heavy philosophy on me a moment ago.?
Dan laughed a little self-consciously. "Nothing all that profound. More math than philosophy, really. Well, anyway, one day I got to thinking that when I was 10 years old, one year of my life represented 10 percent of my total experiences. But now, at almost 50, one year is only 2 percent of all that I have experienced in life. I just think that this simple math concept is the basic reason why folks feel time flies faster as they get older. May be nothing to it. Just my idea."
Masterson reached to accept the cup of coffee Betty had just brought in and watched the dollop of real cream soften its darkness. "I'm not sure I ever thought of life in quite those terms, but you know, I think you're right. In fact, this sounds like the making of a good Sunday morning sermon sometime."
Both men chuckled at. "Well, Pastor, I'm sure you didn't drive all the way down here to Camp Hill to pick my brain for sermon ideas. What can I really do for you?"
"To get right to the point, Dan, I'm interested in radio. I had a weekly Gospel music DJ-style show on a local station up in Corning. It was on Sunday afternoons from two until six. Mostly music with just a little commentary now and then. Very light, not much talking."
"I see. Are you thinking about doing something like that down here in this area?"
"I'm hoping to. Picked your station because it's FM stereo in the Harrisburg market and not so big that you folks can't think new thoughts. I would like to get on Saturday afternoon instead of Sunday, though. We evangelicals seem to spend a lot of our time evangelizing the evangelized. I'd like to have maximum exposure to a secular audience."
Dan slowly lowered his heels from the desk drawer to the floor. "Sir, I'm not sure this market or this management is ready for a Saturday afternoon of organ and chimes. And I guess that would go for Sundays, too. An hour or so, maybe, Sunday morning early, or something like that. But Saturday afternoon? That's one of our prime sales times." Dan had spoken calmly but with the conviction that this preacher had a poor concept of what commercial radio was all about.
Jason Masterson had been called to a lifetime of persuading people to do what was good for them. Therefore, Dan's early negativism was far from discouraging. He was even a little encouraged by the relatively mild manner in which the opposition had been phrased.
"Dan, I think we're talking about baseballs and marbles. Tell you what I'd like to do, if you have a little time. Can you give me half an hour?"
Dan was still thinking of getting home with his family but he did owe Masterson a big favor. Might as well hear him out. "I think I can manage a half hour," Dan replied pleasantly but with a paucity of enthusiasm. "What's on your mind?"
Masterson had enough enthusiasm for both. "I know you're a busy man so I'll try to keep this as short as possible. First, you have a production studio, right?"
where do you keep your Gospel promo CDs? The ones the various Gospel music companies
send to radio stations?"
Dan thought he could see what was coming and wasn't sure if he wanted in or not. However, he had already made a commitment for half an hour so he led the way back to the record library. About 200 CDs were stacked on a lower shelf at the back of the room. The pastor seemed impressed and began flipping through them.
"Dan, you have a gold mine here. An absolute gold mine! The best groups in the business, the latest releases, and all brand new. Most have never been opened."
Dan couldn't help smiling at Masterson's boyish enthusiasm. "Well, I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. What good are they to a station like this which doesn't do Gospel music?"
"That's just the point, Dan. You should be doing some Gospel music. Do you realize that the Harrisburg market has millions of avid Gospel music fans who would flock to your dial setting if you ran a block of Gospel music?"
"Yes, but what would the sound be like. A lot of the secular music on the market today is extremely popular but we'll never use it on this station. Our music format is designed to create a particular type of sound and I don't want to contaminate that."
Masterson rose from his kneeling position beside the shelf of Gospel CDs, still exuding an excitement which Dan couldn't fully appreciate. "Dan, we could stand here all day and debate what kind of Gospel sound I could create on your station with these CDs right here. Why don't you let me show you instead?"
Dan had the feeling things were going just a little too fast and it showed in his eyes.
Masterson was perceptive. "Hey, take it easy. I'm not going to barge into the control room and start doing a live show. Here's what I'd like to propose. I'll pick out about an hour's worth of music from this shelf and make a demo tape in your production room. If that's all right with you, of course."
Dan agreed and said, "We have A TEAC 3300 reel-to-reel tape deck back there. "Hasn't been used in over two years but Tim'll get the heads cleaned up and have it ready for you in a jiffy."
Jason's eyes sparkled. "Hey, just sold a 3300 on eBay before we moved down here. "Bought it new in 79 and some guy bid it up to $127.50. Walked in and paid cash for it, too."
Dan still wasn't sure he wanted to get involved but curiosity got the best of him and he told Masterson to go ahead and make his tape. What the preacher wouldn't know was that Dan could monitor the production room in his office while the tape was being made. If the sound was really bad, as Dan was pretty sure would be the case, the plug could be pulled before the hour was up.
"You got a deal. Use the production room for an hour or whatever you need and then I'll see if your music is compatible with our sound."
The men shook hands and Dan left to ask Tim to set up the production studio so Masterson could make his demo.
As soon as the library door swished shut, Jason was back down on his knees, pulling CDs for his demo. "Let's start with the Gaither Homecoming Choir doing Turn Your Radio On . . .," he mused.
In the front office, Dan leaned back in his swivel chair and stared speculatively at the monitor speaker on the wall. No telling what that crazy preacher is up to in there. Probably doesn't even know how to cue a CD. Hope he doesn't wreck the equipment. I might have been better off shoveling the Bug out of that snow bank myself this morning.
At that moment the office came alive with music and Dan gave full attention to the monitor speaker. The cut had started cold without announcement and was building nicely. Sounded like a choir, but like no choir he had even heard. Sounded like a good opening cut. Wonder if he can announce.
As the music did a fadeout at the end of the cut, a very pleasant but unfamiliar voice came on. "From the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, the was the Gaither Homecoming Choir advising you to turn your radio on and listen to the gospel. And this is Jason Masterson along with you, sharing some good sounds in Gospel music as we do every Saturday afternoon between one and five. Hope you can stay tuned. We'll be hearing from Janet Pascal right after this good word from Corning Lumber and Hardware."
Dan half rose from his chair, a look of anger on his face. Then he realized he was not listening to a live broadcast. Masterson must have had a commercial spot in his brief case that he used on his old show in New York. Dan listened carefully as Masterson came out of the hardware spot and slid into a cut by somebody named Janet Pascal. The guy was good. Even with such a small sample, Dan's trained ear could easily identify the sound of a professional radio announcer in the way Masterson spoke. Good modulation, good timbre and inflection, accurate articulation without sounding pedantic or BBC-ish. No doubt about it, Jason Masterson was a radio announcer, in spite of being a preacher. Nice touch on the controls, too.
For the next 55 minutes Dan limited himself to activities within earshot of the monitor speaker on the wall. By the time the demo tape was half made, Dan told Betty to go back to the library and remove the plastic films from all the Gospel CDs. Gospel music, Jason Masterson style, would be the Saturday afternoon format and Dan was sure of that without knowing exactly why. He wasn't really a religious man and as a broadcaster, didn't even know that Gospel music existed before meeting Jason Masterson. At least not as he heard it being done on the demo tape.
When Masterson returned to the office Dan told him that the Masterson brand of Gospel music would be the Saturday afternoon format as soon as Jason was ready to produce it. For the next 20 minutes or so, the men discussed the various ramifications of broadcasting Gospel music on WMOR. It was decided that current Saturday afternoon sponsors would be notified of the proposed format change with an option to run their spots elsewhere on the log if they didn't care to be connected with Gospel music.
"Judging from my experience up in New York, most sponsors will accept the Gospel format with no problem. And for those who do drop out, you'll be able to recruit Christian businessmen who see both the market and the mission of this kind of programming."
Dan was beginning to like the idea more all the time. Not that money is everything, but a drop in sponsors as a result of a rather drastic format change wouldn't look so hot in his first monthly report as the new general manager.
Masterson noticed with a start that the studio clock read 3:30. "Man, I didn't realize how late it is. I have to get up to Liverpool, get dinner, and get back down to Hershey by eight. Say, I think I just had one of my better thoughts of this particular day. You and your wife doing anything tonight?"
Dan had returned to his desk and was reaching for some papers but looked up with a puzzled expression at the question. "Well, no, I guess not. Haven't talked to Karen since early this morning, of course. No telling that a wife can cook up in a day's time."
"How about the husbands cooking something up this time. Ronni and I have four fantastic tickets for a Gaither Homecoming Concert tonight over at the Hersheypark Arena. We were planning to take a couple from the church but their little boy came down with a bad case of the flu and they hate to leave him with a baby-sitter. It would be great if you and your wife could come along with us as our guests. What do you say?"
Dan had seen the name Gaither on several of the Gospel CDs back in the record library and was sure he didn't feel like sitting through a church service after the day he'd had. However, Jason was persuasive and finally Dan agreed to call Karen and see how she felt about it.
Both men called their wives. Arrangements were made for the women to drive down together in the Buick, bringing appropriate clothes for their husbands. At first Karen had been just a little skeptical about going out with a parsonage couple but the lure of dinner and a show had overcome her misgivings. For his part, Dan hated to miss seeing the twins before they were tucked in bed by some baby-sitter. But, he had arranged for Tim to take the morning shift tomorrow and that would give him a chance to see them before they left for school. Also give him a chance to sleep in to a luxuriously-late seven o'clock tomorrow morning.
The way things were shaping up, it should be a pleasant evening.
men shaved in the station's men's room, using the communal electric shaver. Then
they stretched out on the carpet in Dan's office for a catnap.
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