What Was the Jingle Bell Rock?

Frank Mueller, general manager of KUNV radio and host of The Jazz Lounge. Photo: R. Marsh Starks / UNLV Photo Services)

Frank Mueller, general manager of KUNV radio and host of The Jazz Lounge. Photo: R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Radio stations and interactive listener promotions go together like egg and nog, from the safe “caller number XX” (I once scored a Proclaimers LP from KUNV), to the more dangerous “Chase down our promotional van for free concert tickets!” I vaguely recall one where if you found KORK traffic reporter Chuck Emory (and his “IM 007” license plate), you won a small cash prize. And once, a girlfriend and I were washing my old Volkswagen when KOMP announced a live remote, adding “the first person to come and show us your tattoo gets a free pair of Vans!” The store was just around the corner, the announcer got an eyeful, the girlfriend strutted out with a fresh pair of skate kicks, and I got a new box to carry my cassettes. Triple play!

Bigger prizes and higher stakes mean more listeners, so local radio stations once held ridiculous car contests. Try living in a new car full of folks desperate to remain longer than you, or simply standing and touching a new car until everyone else collapses. My favorite was the KLUC Jell-O Jump, which paired the provocative bar stunt of Jell-O wrestling with the potential of winning a new sled. The contest used the “caller number XX” game for a chance to show up to the Jaycee State Fair, leap into a vat of Jell-O and grab one of dozens of hidden keys, of which one would start a new car.

Despite my fond memories of the Jell-O Jump, each holiday season, Gen X Las Vegans likely recall KEDG’s infamous Jingle Bell Rock contest. Concert tickets and cars? Please. Beginning in 1992, the Edge ponied up $10,000 in cash and listeners “simply” had to find the hidden slab of stone sporting the KEDG logo and present it to the station. Just after Thanksgiving, a series of cryptic daily clues launched the frantic Valley-wide hunt. Competitiveness gave way to collaboration, then desperation. Such was the frenzy that, according to a Las Vegas Sun story (12/18/96), teams of Rock hunters often ignored both the rules and common sense, digging up private property, wandering runways among taxiing planes and even forging fake Rocks. The Jingle Bell Rock was the talk of the town, and the day it was found, we sadly went back to our cash-poor lives.

Thanks to radio personality Chet Buchanan, our city’s most enduring radio promotion turns the giveaway on its head. The KLUC Toy Drive is as old as the Bellagio (1998) and stages Buchanan on a 30-foot scaffolding for 12 days. But instead of giving gifts to listeners, he’s collecting toys from them for needy kids. Visit Chet at the Nevada Energy parking lot through December 15, unwrapped toy in hand, because embracing the spirit of generosity might be the season’s best prize.

Know of any other deals? Send them to askanative@vegasseven.com.