The Magnificent Seven


Before heading north for some stories about CKLW, I’d like to circle back and expand on something from the KLIF chapter.

I met Don Barrett when he was appointed National Program Director for the McLendon stations, which owned KLIF. Don was based in Dallas, so we had quite a bit of time together.

Don Barrett

Don was discovered by Gordon through a unique program McLendon created to find a fresh group of super bright young broadcasters and put them through a personally designed training as future executives.

I asked Don to share some thoughts as one of the seven chosen for that experience. Don agreed.

“Radio pioneer and giant Gordon McLendon had a plan. Every time he had a plan, it seemed to turn to gold. He started the Liberty Broadcasting System to recreate baseball games in the late forties and early fifties. Gordon was an early pioneer of Top 40 radio with an exciting presentation of the 40 biggest records, punctuated with a dynamic news presentation and big promotions. He was first in the world to program all-news 24/7 in 1959 and later in the United States.

Gordon McLendon

It was in the mid-1960s that FM radio stations were just starting to make their mark. It would be a decade before AM radio would feel the pressure of FM stereo in the mainstream, but Gordon saw the future. At that time, the government allowed you to own 7 FMs and 7 AMs. Gordon thought that if he acquired the best FM stations in the top seven markets and then devise a plan that each station would be run by 7 individuals, it would be the future.

McLendon embarked on a campaign to seek out 7 individuals to run his 7 FM stations. He took out a quarter page ad in the trade publications. In his exuberant description of this program, he called it the search for “The Magnificent Seven.” He wanted seven young men to learn under his personal tutelage and then be dispatched to each of his seven FM stations.

Following a strange battery of tests and examinations, four months later, the selected group of seven from all over the world descended on Gordon’s 500-acre ranch in north Dallas, which was going to be home. Every day, the seven young men were tutored in every facet of the radio business.

Experts from management, ad agencies, and FCC lawyers came to the ranch or to the downtown KLIF studio headquarters. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. They even learned how to shake hands from Elmer Wheeler, author of ‘Sell the Sizzle, not the Steak.’

At the end of the program, each member of the Magnificent Seven was dispatched to a McLendon market to begin an exciting new adventure.”

Barrett graduated from a unique program, the likes of which are known only to a select few.

Don now lives in Avila Beach, California with his lovely wife, Cheri.

Thanks, Don, for sharing your experience.

Next stop…

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Comments (4)

  1. Nick Alexander

    February 18, 2020 at 8:08 pm

    Love these posts Charlie. Keep ’em coming!

  2. Hamilton Wallace

    February 18, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    Great story!

  3. Thomas Miller

    February 18, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    Wow. Just wow! Thanks for putting this out there.

  4. Norm Garr

    February 18, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    Wonderful. Looking forward to the next chapter.

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