'Naptown' rock-radio documentary vying for Emmy

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

"Naptown Rock Radio Wars," a locally produced documentary about dueling radio stations from the late-1950s through the 1970s, has been nominated for a regional Emmy Award.

The Lower Great Lakes Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has nominated the film in its "Nostalgia Program" category, and will announce the winners June 1 in Cleveland.

The event is a high holy day for local television stations gunning for honors for various special reports and newscasts—and for producers of films that often have little in the way of commercial potential.

Naptown radio wars documentary 15col"Naptown Rock Radio Wars" documents the battle between local stations in the 1950s through 1970s. (Image courtesy Videopolis.tv)

"Naptown" producer Dave Fulton, president of Indianapolis-based Videopolis.tv, said an Emmy would be satisfaction enough for a film released last year that will “never break even."

“This film was never about the money,” said Fulton. “Somebody really needed to document what radio was like back in the day.”

"Naptown Rock Radio Wars" was shown last year at the IMAX theater at White River State Park. It also aired on WFYI-TV Channel 20, and during special showings around the region. Earlier this month, a showing and reunion of sorts was held downtown at Central Library.

The film took Fulton and former WNAP-FM 93.1 program director Al Stone four years of research and interviews with numerous radio personalities of the day. Fulton said he wanted to document those radio years for younger and future generations who today—if they listen to radio at all—hear a largely homogenized format at stations owned mostly by big, out-of-town corporations.

“People always connect to strong personalities. The corporations have largely forgotten that. Everything now is focus groups,” said Fulton.

Back then, you bought a record or tape or listened to local radio stations with outlandish promotions and big personalities. Locally they included people like Buster Bodine, Tom Cochrun, Cris Connor, Bill Donnella, Roger W. Morgan, Reb Porter and Bill Shirk.

In the early years the airwaves were ruled by WIBC-AM 1070, which then was owned by Richard Fairbanks. But then came WIFE-AM 1310, which played hits and was known for wild promotions under owner Don Burden.

“WIFE was so big, it’s hard to believe how big it was. … A tornado wouldn’t have that big an impact on a community,” Jeff Smulyan, CEO of radio broadcasting chain Emmis Communications Corp., says in the film.

But as WIFE ruled the ratings book, then came WNAP-FM 93.1 “The Buzzard,”  which played album tracks and famously did the opposite of what WIFE was doing. When WIFE decided to stop playing The Doors, WNAP decided to play a Doors track every hour.

And then there was the crazy programming. The film recounts how WNAP spent one weekend playing songs that had been recorded during concerts. To make it sound like listeners were there, the station rigged a public address system of sorts that made the announcer sounds like he was talking at the concert. The concert was dubbed “Fantasy Park,” and supposedly was being held at an undisclosed location north of Indianapolis.

But it got out of hand, with people driving down from Chicago and roaming Hamilton and Boone counties in search of the concert. Apparently they didn’t realized that Janis Joplin, one of the “concert” performers, had died years earlier.

And then there was the time that former WNAP personality Tom Cochrun (who later went on to a career at WHTR-TV Channel 13) decided early one morning that he would hop on a jet and broadcast live from the Boston Marathon.

That kind of spontaneity you don’t find in radio today.

Today's technology also has erased the local feeling of radio, whether it’s satellite radio or digital programming services. “You can’t connect to Pandora or Spotify or satellite radio” the same way, Fulton said.

The film “should be kind of a remembrance of what things could be.”

Fulton gets numerous requests for a DVD version of the film, but it is cost-prohibitive. “I would sure like to. The problem is the licensing [cost] of the music.”

In the old days, someone might have run a “radio-thon” to help raise money for the legal fees.


  • good memories
    Sorry I missed the Channel 20 viewing, hope they do it again, I would definitely buy a DVD. Somewhere in a closet in a box are the 'Fantasy Park' concerts I recorded holding a microphone up to the radio. It was an exciting time then growing up with local radio content before syndication changed everything. Who can forget 'the wrath of the buzzard'. I remember before David Letterman headed out west he had an afternoon talk show at a little station WNTS (news, talk, sports). The building is still along Raymond St. east of Sherman Dr. sadly shut down years ago. Thankfully Chick McGee and other local talents are now doing podcasts. jim
  • Love to See
    When and where will the documentary be played again?
  • great show
    Really enjoyed this, even though most of the events it chronicled were before I was even born. If you get a chance, see it!

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. With Pence running the ship good luck with a new government building on the site. He does everything on the cheap except unnecessary roads line a new beltway( like we need that). Things like state of the art office buildings and light rail will never be seen as an asset to these types. They don't get that these are the things that help a city prosper.

  2. Does the $100,000,000,000 include salaries for members of Congress?

  3. "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

  4. That's the mentality of most retail marketers. In this case Leo was asked to build the brand. HHG then had a bad sales quarter and rather than stay the course, now want to go back to the schlock that Zimmerman provides (at a considerable cut in price.) And while HHG salesmen are, by far, the pushiest salesmen I have ever experienced, I believe they are NOT paid on commission. But that doesn't mean they aren't trained to be aggressive.

  5. The reason HHG's sales team hits you from the moment you walk through the door is the same reason car salesmen do the same thing: Commission. HHG's folks are paid by commission they and need to hit sales targets or get cut, while BB does not. The sales figures are aggressive, so turnover rate is high. Electronics are the largest commission earners along with non-needed warranties, service plans etc, known in the industry as 'cheese'. The wholesale base price is listed on the cryptic price tag in the string of numbers near the bar code. Know how to decipher it and you get things at cost, with little to no commission to the sales persons. Whether or not this is fair, is more of a moral question than a financial one.