Betsy King, the Youngest Disc Jockey on Radio

Radio's newest program type to run the gamut and come through a success is the kid disc jockey. The latest is Betsy King, daughter of Gene King, program director of WCOP, Boston. Betsy handles a much longer session than most of the disc jockeys who have to sit on phone books to cue up discs. She handles the program as though it were two half-hours from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. She calls her hour Let's Have Fun, and she does.

Because she feels that Sundays must have prayers, she ends each session with a prayer -- one of her own -- and sends her listeners off to church. The reason she has planned her program as two half-hours is a religious one, also. She feels that the first group of listeners start for church on the half hour and that the second has returned home from earlier services.

One reason why it's possible to have a disc jockey session for the youngsters is because today there's a wealth of recorded music, nursery rhymes and stores especially pressed for the just-out-of-diapers trade. Whereas a year ago a disc jockey like Betsy King would have run out of discs to play in a very few weeks, today there are literally thousands of recordings which are not only entertaining for the youngsters but have the approval of the PTAs and educators generally. When there are plenty of discs to spin, it's logical that there will be a solid increase in jockeys to spin them.

Betsy King's appearance on the air was an accident. ABC cancelled Coast-to-Coast on a Bus, a network program with a big following in Boston. WCOP wanted to hold that audience and decided to replace the network program with one of its own that had the same basic appeal. It was one thing to make this decision, and still another to create a program that would hold the critical young audience.

Practically all the children who auditioned for the program went stiff before the mike, and the station was about to forget the whole thing when Gene King finally sold Mrs. King on letting their daughter have a crack at it.

Although Gene is program director of the station, he is a disc jockey at heart. He held down the Midnight Jamboree at WEVD New York for a long time, and then moved to WOR for an afternoon period of record spinning.

Eight-year-old Betsy had grown up in a show business disc jockey atmosphere, and when she sat down to play records and talk about them, it was just as though she were mimicking Daddy. She doesn't go to the studio, she goes to Daddy's office. That doesn't change the fact that she feels she has a responsibility to "her audience." She has to earn the dime a week her stint pays her -- the rest goes into a bank account about which she knows nothing.

Recently Betsy offered 100 sundial watches to the first 100 writers of letters to her program. She received 2,655 requests from 145 different communities. The cards and letters were not only bids for the watch, but also included requests for favorite discs like "I Luv a Wabbitt," "Mickey and the Beanstalk," and Betsy's theme song, "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater."

Betsy insisted on checking each postmark on the letters to make certain that the first 100 writers received their watches. To the rest she insisted on writing letters telling them that she was sorry there weren't enough watches to go around. "After all," she explained to Daddy, "I can't afford to lose all my listeners."

It's Betsy's unspoiled quality, plus the extensive collection of discs from which she can choose records to spin, that has given her a higher rating than Coast-to-Coast on a Bus was receiving when it went off the air. It's only a Pulse of 4.3, but that's slightly terrific for Sundays at 9 a.m.

While giving tiny Betsy a great deal of credit, it's also wise to keep in mind that her scripts are written by her program director father. Also, Betsy rehearses. What she does comes naturally, but the reason that she's such a success is because even at eight, she's a performer.

There's an extra factor. Dad has never forgotten that it takes promotion to build even a kid session. Burl Ives crowned Betsy "Queen of the AFRA Ball" in Boston, and that too was part of what it takes in show business, on or off radio. The program hit the air for the first time last November, and it's growing in impact practically broadcast by broadcast.

From Sponsor, June 20, 1949

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