Teen Programs

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Thanks to the contributions by a number of former FEN alums and friends, this account of the history of Teenagers On Parade continues to be revised thanks to recent contributions.

While details vary from story to story, and at times even contradict each other, a fairly clear history of the program has evolved. Your continuing input is welcome. We still need your tapes (we can handle any format including open reel-to-reel), pictures, newspaper clippings, or anything connected with Teenagers On Parade or FEN in general -- from any period of the network's rich history and from any of the studio locations. All materials will be returned to you and handled with extreme care while we have them.

The Seeds Are Planted

Geoff Smith, one of the first dependent teens in Japan after World War II during the Occupation, reports that his generation had a radio show that aired each Saturday on JOAK (known to FEN listeners as WVTR)  in the period 1948-1949. There were about 500 American teenagers in the Tokyo area going to Meguro or Narimasu High School (1949 was the first class.). The music of the day - Glenn Miller, the Dorseys etc. - provided much of the programming, but they did skits as well.

Bill McCain, Bob Davis, and Radio T-E-E-N circa 1958

It was the ingenuity of teenage military dependents in the Tokyo Area - Green Park and Grant Heights in particular - that led to what would later be known as Teenagers on Parade.

Bob Davis and Bill McCain originally cooked up the idea for Radio T-E-E-N while on retreat near Fuji in the Summer of 1958. Bob and Bill were living in Green Park at the time.

While many of us from the mid-sixties thought of the studio located in the Grant Heights Teen Club as the place where the show was born, Kevin Buey writes, "FEN did not build the studio at the Grant Heights Teen Club."

Originally, a studio built by Bill McCain across the parking lot from the Teen Club - in a closet - in the Youth Activities building was home to Radio T-E-E-N - a closed circuit operation that distributed its programming by telephone wires. It was a simple design, according to Kevin: two turntables, a couple of mixers, an amplifier and wires running 25 feet off the ground from the second floor to the Teen Club, and then distributed by speakers in Teen Club building.

Dave Robertson, another Radio T-E-E-N and FEN alum, credits Bill as "the brains of the operation."

Dave, a 1961 graduate of Narimasu High School, recalls that Bill and his staff arranged to get promos from the record companies, representing Radio T-E-E-N as "the only English language popular music station in Japan." Dave admits it was a bit of an exaggeration but the record companies didn't seem to care. They used printed letterhead to make things even more business like.

A stateside friend of Bill's at Billboard Magazine cut out the "Top 100" page every week when it came out and air mailed it to Radio T-E-E-N. Bob recalls an article in Billboard Magazine based on a press release Bill had sent them.

A year later in the summer of 1959 -- a year after the idea for Radio T-E-E-N had first been born -- Bob Davis returned stateside, often recording tapes for Bill so he'd have current music.

When the Grant Heights Teen Club was remodeled, a studio was built there.

This early incarnation of Teenagers On Parade was not broadcast over the air. Rather, when operations first began in the Youth Activities Building, Bill "transmitted" his daily and Saturday programs not only across the street in Grant Heights, but also to both the Camp Drake and Grant Heights swimming pools (during the summer), the Momote Village Teen Club, the Pre-Teen Club, The Washington Heights Teen Club, Craft Shop, BX, and Beauty Shop. This practice continued when the studio was built in the Grant Heights Teen Club. Bill had somehow convinced the Air Force to let Radio T-E-E-N use excess telephone lines to pipe the program around the area.

Mike Ragland, Stu Allen, Kevin Buey, and others hosted the closed circuit programs on a nearly daily basis.

Milton William Cooper tells us that he also was a regular on Radio Teen. Milton wrote:  "I had a show broadcast from the Grant Heights Teen Club during my sophomore year at Narimasu High School.  My theme song was 'Quiet Village' and my radio name was 'The Mad Lad.'   We moved to Tachikawa the summer before my junior year and that was the end of my Radio Teen career.

When he graduated from Narimasu High School in 1960, Bill McCain, in his senior last will and testament, bequeathed "all my records and radio equipment to the Far East Network so that they can go into the broadcasting business." It served as a capstone to a contentious relationship between Radio T-E-E-N and FEN. The management at FEN was not amused by the article in Billboard. Bob Davis reports there was even a threat of shutting the operation down for a time. Bob notes that if FEN had broadcast more than 30 minutes of rock and roll hits per week, there wouldn't have been a market for what they were doing.

Fortunately, other teen pioneers took up the crusade and were successful in facilitating an expansion of FEN's teen programming.

(For additional information about Radio T-E-E-N, and especially the Grant Heights Teen Club, please visit Jazzbo's Dragon's Roar.)

Teenagers On Parade -- Yakota Style

Saundra "Sam" Cooper, known in 1960 as Sandy Cooper, recalls Teenagers on Parade being done as a remote broadcast from the Yakota Teen Club circa 1960.  The producer was Airman James Connally.  Connally unsuccessfully auditioned to be a guest announcer on TOP, but Sam got the nod instead and ended up joing Dave Robertson, the anchor of TOP at the time, for the Grant Heights broadcasts.  Sam's appearance was to have been a two week gig, but she was kept on until she returned stateside in March 1962.

Teenagers On Parade From Grant Heights - Dave Robertson circa 1960

Kevin Buey, son of one of the civilian program directors for FEN and a host of Teenagers on Parade himself, recalls that the first over the air broadcasts of a program titled Teenagers on Parade were hosted by military personnel assigned to FEN studios at Camp Drake and aired live from the FEN studios at Camp Drake on Saturday mornings.

According to Kevin, teens were invited to the studio during the live broadcast. To accommodate that crowds that were generated, the program moved to the Camp Drake Gym before finding its home at the renovated Grant Heights Teen Club.

Dave Robertson also recalls the FEN Saturday morning show originating live from the Grant Heights Teen Club. FEN staffers brought in the Air Force band which played their version of popular songs -- not even similar to rock & roll! The program also featured a Japanese guest band which played something akin to rock & roll but didn't quite make the grade according to Dave. The guest bands alternated appearances but one in particular came back week after week. They changed their name every week so that FEN would keep letting them come back! They were always "Danny and the . . . whatever's."

Obviously this format wasn't much of a hit. Dave was upset by the whole deal and was bold enough to write a letter to the FEN chief complaining about the format. The chief responded and set up an appointment with him.

Because he was working at Radio T-E-E-N at the time, Dave represented himself as a rock & roll radio announcer. The chief bought it! Dave was given the opportunity to do the show "his way" for two weeks -- if successful, Dave would be asked to continue; if not, the chief graciously suggested Dave should "get out of his radio station."

His first act as host was to dump the Air Force band but keep the live format. He opened the show with "Hi Teenagers" and started playing rock & roll records, most of the time borrowing them from Radio T-E-E-N.

Roy Goodwin was a part of the show as well running a contest called the "mystery melody" where a record was played backwards and listeners were invited to guess the name of the record.

With the first two shows a success, Dave gradually eased out of the live format, got rid of the Japanese band and the "mystery melody", and moved the show into the studio where it followed a basic TOP 20 music DJ format .

A "Teenagers On Parade Moment"

According to Jazzbo of the Dragon's Roar, one of the most popular bands to appear on the live version of Teenagers On Parade were The Teen Tops. All of the members of the band attended Narimasu High School. From 1958-60, they played at all the school dances, and on at least one Saturday morning they played live on FEN. Jazzbo describes the FEN show as "our American Bandstand," since there was no American TV or rock radio. 

Jazzbo recalls he and his friends making the bus trip from Washington Heights to the live broadcasts from the Grant Heights Teen Club to see the band. There were also dance contests with cash prizes.

The band cut an album titled, "Teen Tops On Parade" for Universal Record Company in Tokyo.  Their 45 hit single was a cover version of "Little Star." While a connection between the album title and the radio program Teenagers On Parade is speculative, it's nice to think that one influenced the other.

Coming To You Live From Studio C of the Far East Network

"It's Teenagers on Parade..."

Over time, invited guests sat in on the show and did teen news and played some records. Dave continued to anchor the show until mid 1963 when he went home stateside. Two of the show's guest announcers, Ray Carrol and Pat Heath, picked up the show after Dave left.

Pam Heath, also of Narimasu High School, joined for a while and was replaced by Donna Temple.

Kevin did the program for a year or so, then left for college in California and was replaced by Marty McCool. Marty was replaced by Stu Allen, who was doing the show in 1965.

Voices in Time

A number of teens were heard during the years of the show. So far, we know of the following:

  • 1958 - Bill McCain and Bob Davis conceive the idea for Radio T-E-E-N

  • 1959 - Bill McCain builds the first Radio T-E-E-N studio

  • 1959 - Dave Robertson, Roy Goodwin, Fred Todd, Steve Oyen, Milton William Cooper on Radio T-E-E-N

  • 1959 - 1960 Judith "Judy" Manley-Doyle hosts TOP

  • 1960 - Saundra "Sam" Cooper (then known as Sandy Cooper), becomes the first host of TBA.  She will go on to work with Dave Robertson on the remotes from Grant Heights until her return stateside in March 1962

  • 1960 - 1963 - Dave Robertson and Roy Goodwin host TOP on FEN

  • 1962 & 1963 - Ray Carrol, Pat Heath, Donna Temple, Sandy Green also host TOP

  • 1963 - Kevin Buey hosts TOP

  • 1964 - Marty McCool hosts TOP

  • 1965 - Stu Allen hosts TOP

  • 1965 - 1966 Chris Bergstead hosts TOP

  • 1966 - Paul Shefield hosts TOP

  • 1966 - 1967 Jim Grubbs hosts TOP

  • 1966 - 1968 Suzanne Stevens hosts TOP

  • 1967 - 1968 Tim Snider hosts TOP

  • 1968 - 1969 Kay Nishioka hosts TSD

Producers

During 1965 / 1966, TOP was produced and engineered by Airman Wayne Lewis of "Fun Dial" fame. The 1966 / 1967 school year was produced and engineered by his "Fun Dial" cohort, Navy Journalist Craig Smith. Both of them were absolutely super guys.

Teenagers On Parade Canceled circa 1968

In 1968, "Teenagers on Parade" was replaced by "The Teen Scene Discotheque" hosted by Airman Gary Griffin. Jim Grubbs returned during a visit from school in summer 1968 and appeared on the show which was broadcast live and on location. Jim recalls a show from the pool at South Camp Drake along with a band called "The Green Apples" featuring none other than Severin (we knew him as Ed then) Browne. Severin now has three albums to his credit.  Severine is the brother of Jackson Browne.

Kay Nishioka was Miss Teen Scene during the summer 1968 shows.

Meanwhile Back at the Grant Heights Teen Club circa 1963

By 1963, Teenagers On Parade,with teens hosting the show, had become a staple of FEN programming. Unfortunately, at the show's birth place, things weren't going well.

When a snack bar was opened in the Grant Heights Teen Club in 1963, a cut was made through the station's soundproof wall to install a door, while blocking the access Radio T-E-E-N personnel previously had at the back of the studio.

In early 1964, an effort was made to restore and update Radio T-E-E-N. New equipment and wiring were installed but unfortunately a military SNAFU derailed the project.

By 1965, a fire that burned the Youth Activities Building next door to the ground, destroyed prized oldies. Other records had been given away by an errant director.

By the time I arrived in 1965, only the remnants of the Radio T-E-E-N studio remained, but the room was still there with the sound equipment for the public address system.

Is It Live Or Is It Scotch 101?

There are two versions of how Teenagers On Parade moved from being a live show to a recorded show.

Kevin Buey, who had an inside track when the practice first began, says that FEN began taping Teenagers On Parade after Dave Robertson and Goodwin left because it was easier than doing a live remote. At that time, it had nothing to do with being afraid of what the announcers might say on the air. Kevin adds that there were lots of Saturday football games in those days which limited the crowds at the live shows.

I recall watching a number of Chofu Varsity football games from the sidelines on Saturday mornings with a camera in hand to record the action for the school newspaper while listening to a transistor radio plugged into my ear while our taped Teenagers On Parade show ran at 11:05.

By 1966, it does seem likely that the military in general had tightened security in response to the increase in civil protest, especially by youth. The story goes that the brass at FEN was "nervous" about having the teens in complete control of Teenagers On Parade during the "radical 60s." To ensure that nothing unruly happened, the show was pre-taped, generally on Friday afternoons prior to Saturday morning broadcast.

During the same period, efforts were made by AFRTS Headquarters to control the distribution of music to all affiliates. The 16 inch transcription disc had long been used to distribute programming and became the preferred way of distributing new music releases that were officially sanctioned. While there was an efficiency in distributing music this way to so many stations, it was also clear that control of what reached the affiliates was a significant factor.

By 1966 when I began my affiliation with FEN, it was rare that we played anything not included on an official transcription disc. In a few cases, 45s were purchased on the local economy in order to get a late breaking TOP 40 hit on the air a bit quicker, but generally only after a check with AFRTS headquarters to receive their assurance that the song was "on the way" just not pressed yet. "Last Train To Clarksville" is one of the 45s that comes to mind.

At one point in 1967, even Fun Dial, the mid-afternoon and evening TOP 40 show hosted exclusively by military personnel, was subjected to the same limitations. Some of the remarks and music were considered subversive and inappropriate for airing on FEN.

But like so many things, this too came full circle. In 1968, Teenagers On Parade was replaced with The Teen Scene Discotheque which, during the summer, originated live from the swimming pool at Camp Drake, included live band performances, and a teen audience.

Record Rap

An official FEN schedule for the period August through October 1971 does not list TOP or one of its clones.   The 1105 time slot was filled by the Johnnie Darin show -- a TOP 40 AFRTS packed program.

The schedule shows that from 1215 to 1400 (minus 5 minutes for news at 1300), "Record Rap" filled the airwaves.  It is described as an FEN produced TOP 40 show that was usually done "on location" and hosted by two FEN DJs.

Before Fundial There Were "Teen Beat on the Air" and Other Programs

In the early 1960s, there was a mid-afternoon program called TBA - To Be Announced.  Saundra "Sam" Cooper, then known as Sandy Cooper, the very first TBA announcer, recalls that a contest was held for weeks to pick a more fitting name.  Many of the letters came from Japanese listeners.  In the end, TBA was retained but modified to mean Teen Beat On The Air.  Sam credits their engineer, Sergeant Carl Estebrook for coming up with the new title.  Airman James Connally produced TBA cira 1960

Circa 1962, Dave Robertson also produced and sometimes announced a Saturday night show called Top 20, usually borrowing records from Radio T-E-E-N.

FEN also had an interview program called Koffee Klatsch which featured interviews with personalities visiting Japan. When rock & rollers came, they let Dave Robertson do the on air interviews. He interviewed Bobby Vee, the Ventures, Brian Hyland, Chubby Checker, ate lunch with Neil Sedaka, and actually drank a few beers with the Kingston Trio!

Sources

Our thanks to Saundra "Sam" Cooper, Dave Robertson, Kevin Buey, Ray Carrol, Geoff Smith, Bob Davis, and Jazzbo for their valuable contributions to this revised account of teen programs on FEN.

We have evidence of other teen programs dating well back into the 1950s.  We're still working on gathering details to share with you.

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This page last modified on Wednesday, 10-Jan-2001 17:31:15 EST

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