"Your Daily Fred Ration"

2008
Nov
10

When this site posted A Brief History of Defunct Electronics Chains in the Form of Old TV Ads, I was intrigued, and after reading it, somewhat entertained, but more than a little unsatisfied because of what it missed.

Here in Southern California, there was an outbreak of Stereo stores in the ’70s vying for the young, hip and hopefully-stoned-enough-to-buy-anything consumer. And they were primarily using radio to reach their potential victimscustomers. University Stereo kept the psychedelic ’60s alive well past their expiration date, with spaced-out effects thrown together by a DJ who called himself Shadoe Stevens. Cal Stereo had the motormouth Tom Campbell putting 90 seconds of ad copy in a 60 second spot. And Pacific Stereo took the high road with commercials that could’ve been for any retail operation.

In 1977, I was straight out of college radio and working at KGIL In The Valley (Suburban L.A.) as Assistant/PhoneMonkey/ThirdSidekick to the forgotten radio legend Sweet Dick Whittington (and yes, for the thousandth time, we DID call him Sweet Dick in the ’60s and ’70s, except me, emphasizing my role as Underling by calling him “Mister Sweetdick”). I’d had fun writing a parody of Tom Campbell’s manic commercials as “Tom Krell for Krell Stereo” but never got it to sound right (or come under a minute) at the college radio studio. At KGIL, I was answering the phones in Production Booth #2, which was equipped with a big reel-to-reel tape recorder with a homebrew variable speed gizmo. I tried doing Tom Krell at a higher speed and it was funny. In future listenings, I realized I had the voice all wrong, but KGIL was demographically aiming for the Over 30s and would never have gotten any business from Cal Stereo, so Sweet Dick said “let’s run this bit anyway… can you do a few more?” He used them to solve a problem semi-unique to him. He was very popular among advertisers who wanted him to do live ad-lib spots (probably because he always went well over the time paid for, but the commercials were often as funny as anything else he did.

But sometimes he was given so many live commercials to do, he had to do two back-to-back, and he found doing the segues painful. So he’d occasionally slip a fake commercial from Tom Krell for Krell Stereo between the real commercials. I felt honored. Another DJ at the station who did serious voiceover work on the side (including, if I remember correctly, as one of several voices for Pacific Stereo) played my Krell commercials for some influencial people, but I didn’t get my big break. Probably because I got the voice all wrong. I was never comfortable with my ‘radio voice’ until years after I left the radio biz. But I digress. Big time.

Shadoe Stevens broke up with University Stereo (which went under a frighteningly short time later) and started doing radio ads for Federated Electronics, aka the Federated Group. Rather than going psychedelic, he sold them on a Tom Campbell/Cal Stereo parody himself (and HE had the voice for it… you do know he replaced Casey Kasem on American Top 40 and is now the announcer for Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show, don’t you?). He called himself Fred Rated. From there he evolved into higher levels of general wackiness. Meanwhile, Pacific Stereo had begun advertising on television, just as uninterestingly as it did on radio. After a failed campaign with a production company with TV experience, Federated let Shadoe bring Fred Rated to the boob tube. The rest is L.A. television history (although some still insist it was all an acid flashback).

But wait… there’s more…

And more, and more, and more, and more, and more, and more, and more, and more? This orion10590291995 dude is semi-obsessed. There are worse things to be obsessed with…

And then there was the radio pitch man for Waterbed Warehouse who invented the word “humongous” to describe the big building the store was in. But I digress. All night long.

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