1978-1979: KCFM 93.7 FM
KCFM was the oldest FM Radio Station west of the Mississippi. For years and years, it was the live broadcast version of "Muzak," oozing sappy Montovani and 101 Strings versions of the classics. Owned by radio pioneer Harry Eidelman, Bo Jagger somehow managed to convince Eidelman to switch formats to an experimental "Soft Rock" format, years before the real thing came along. Mason was hired to do two 5-hour weekend air shifts for the princely sum of $5/hour. In addition to that, Mason convinced the Music Director Al Agius to let him become the "Research Director," whereby Mason would also work during the week, but receive no pay for his weekday efforts. (although he said he was happy just to get business cards)
The building was a pit - a run-down shell that long-ago housed a supermarket. It was on DeBoliviere, between Forest Park Parkway and Delmar, at a time when gunshots rang out regularly, and the only restaurant within miles served Pork St. Paul sandwiches for one dollar, through a bullet-proof glass arrangement. Joe said he lived on those sandwiches. Employees fought to park inside the building (it had a small garage door whereby you could drive into the building, but not many spaces were available) because if you parked on the lot next to the building, there was more than a good chance your car would be broken into. And if you left your car overnight or longer, you were lucky that it was still there on blocks.
The station was shoved into half of the building. The other half was reserved for Eidelman's "Muzak"-style music service, which he sold to hospitals and elevators across the city, where Montovani was needed commercial-free. He used KCFM's sub-carrier to broadcast the signal and somehow encoded it, so you'd have to lease a (rather large) decoder in order to actually hear the music. The recorded music played automatically from enormous reel to reel tapes that ran at an almost impossibly slow speed. Mason recounts overnight shifts when, as a prank, he would walk by the machines and press his finger against the feeding reel, thereby causing the music to slow down and render a "wow" effect. This would, in turn, cause the phones to ring with complaints from crabby all-night shift nurses, saying the record was warped and please change it.
Joe "Mason" acquired his radio name at KCFM. At the time, almost all radio announcers changed their names from their legal names to something "catchier." Mason asked if he could use his real name; the station said no. At 15 minutes before his first airshift started, he had still not picked a new on-air last name. Then evening and overnight jock Rich Vannoy recalls, "He (Mason) was looking over the playlist sheets we used to keep track of the reel to reels; there were dozens of songs and artists listed on each page. As he looked through the papers, he'd 'try out' each artist's last name as his own, with 'Joe' in front of it. He would read 'Paul McCartney," and then say out loud, 'Joe McCartney.' Then he'd shake his head 'No' and continue to the next name: 'Eric Clapton: Joe Clapton.' No. Then he read aloud (former Traffic member) Dave Mason's name. 'Joe Mason.' Silence. 'Joe Mason.' Silence. Then, Joe smiled and we just knew that would be his name: Joe Mason. (note: Mason relayed this story to namesake Dave Mason in 2008 when he M.C.d the Dave Mason benefit concert at Lucas Schoolhouse.
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