An era of tight playlists leaves little room for thousands of hit songs not regularly programmed on classic hits or oldies radio stations.
Still, Barry Scott has fashioned an enviably fortuitous career as host of "The Lost 45s," airing "records you never thought you'd hear again," many top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hits from the mid-'60s through the '80s that have failed to live on in most stations' regular rotations.
Since the weekly show launched on commercial radio March 9, 1986, "America's largest music and interview library" has registered ratings success in Boston and, from 1993 to 1999, in national syndication. (It can also be streamed at lost45.com).
"The Lost 45s" aired in Boston on classic rock WZLX until 1992, when it moved to WBOS (1992-93). Now-CBS Radio senior VP/programming Greg Strassell brought Scott to adult pop WBMX (1993-97), former '70s outlet WEGQ (1997-99) and, since 2000, classic hits WODS.
Despite radio's oft-shifting tastes, Scott has continually reinforced that keen audiences appreciate inventive programming, helmed by a careful curator of pop's past.
In an exclusive interview with Scott upon the show's 25th anniversary, Chart Beat celebrates what makes the "The Lost 45s" such a great find for listeners.
What were some of the earliest songs and artists that drew you to music?
At age five, I bought my first single for 69 cents at Two Guys Department Store in Newington, Conn.: Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park." Next was the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar." Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" soon followed.
I listened to both sides of 45s, as it seemed the best method to get my allowance money's worth. ("Keep the Customer Satisfied" by Simon and Garfunkel, thus, became one of my favorites).
My two older sisters later fed me an early '70s diet of the Partridge Family, Bobby Sherman and Helen Reddy. My younger sister used to lip synch (years before karaoke) numerous hits, so I got to hear "Half-Breed," "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" and "Alone Again (Naturally)" in a very intimate setting.
When did you become aware of your love for radio? Were you one of those young amateurs performing shows in your bedroom?
Growing up in the Hartford, Conn., area, I was exposed to legendary local AM stations like WPOP and WDRC; WABC and WNBC/New York; WRKO/Boston; WHYN/Springfield, Mass.; and, even high-powered CKLW/Windsor, Ontario.
I was truly a "chart geek" who followed weekly surveys, wrote them down and remembered the hits, as well as overlooked gems. One of my favorite memories is hearing the WABC yearly top 100, which was not counted down in order, so you had to keep listening to fill in every chart position ... which I did.
I never wanted to be anything but a DJ, as witnessed by a cassette tape, which still exists (unfortunately), of my earliest radio show at age five. Taped secretly behind my bedroom door by my hysterical parents, I can be heard playing Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass, giving the weather, time checks and even playing one song at the wrong speed and apologizing to my "listeners."
Let's just say I went through every level of schooling, right up to Emerson College in Boston, knowing that this was what I wanted to do.
Please recount the origins of the "The Lost 45s," how it came to be and why you decided to spotlight deeper hits.
While studying radio/communications and marketing at Emerson, the show began at America's first FM college radio station, WERS. In order to be on-air there, you had to propose something "different" in order to fulfill the mission statement for public service. By 1981, virtually all '70s top 40 music had disappeared from the airwaves, so that was the decade that prompted the program.
By my senior year, the first annual "Lost 45s Top 100 Countdown" aired - with the DeFranco Family's "Heartbeat - It's a Lovebeat" at No. 1. It received both local and national press and I became a rare college graduate with a hit show and even press in Billboard, Radio & Records and both the Boston Globe and Herald.
I was hired by WZLX/Boston, a few months before the station's actual start-up, as marketing director. After some begging, "The Lost 45s" aired for the first time March 9, 1986. The show has aired Sundays in Boston since.
Most listeners' musical styles are wider and more varied than any program director gives them credit for having. While the show features mainly huge, top 10 hits, some "stiffs" that made the lower regions of the Hot 100 are incredibly good records and, over the years, many of them have become listener favorites. I always joke that PDs at the time were not paid off or given enough illegal substances to make them top 10 hits. We spotlight them as "Shuddabeens" and listeners embrace the feature.
Listeners don't always want the same old, same old. They will find other places to go, be it their iPods, satellite or internet stations that play more than, say, 200 songs over and over.
The loyalty of the audience for this show is unlike anything I have ever witnessed in radio.