At WUHN-AM in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, we had a stack of instrumental music carts, all that timed in at around 2:53 in length. Why? So that when we got close to the top of the hour, and had to hit ABC News on time, after the last full song of the hour played, we grabbed an instrumental cut and played it to successfully "back time" to the Legal ID, then the news.
Back in the good ol' days of radio, you would spend the entire hour working up to that point, especially in the final 20-30 minutes, making sure you could play full songs, get your commercial stopsets and other obligations in, and not have to cut any vocal tracks off early in order to make the news on time.
In fact, there, and later in my work here in Richmond on WDYL and WGGM from 1988 to 1997, I always wore a watch when I owned one, and I used it to help me back time hour after hour after hour. The best watch I ever had had both a traditional clock face and a digital readout at the bottom, and I would feel lost without it on my left wrist in the studio.
Interestingly enough, when I left that job 20 years ago this month (really? 20 years??), I took off that watch, and I've never wore one since. I also haven't had a regular airshift since then, either.
So, back to Pittsfield, my song of choice from the instrumental cart bunch was today's song, a great little tune from Bert Kaempfert. Still sounds as good as back in 1986, when I'd grab the pre-recorded cart provided by ABC, and, after a song, you'd hear:
"I'm Bill Diehl. Total News is next on 1110 AM, WUHN!", as today's song faded in. :)