Music fads out “It’s hot, it’s humid and I hope your air conditioning is working. We are going to break all the records by this time tomorrow. It’s 6 o’clock and time for WSEX drive time news, sports, weather and traffic. Chuck DuPree, I hear we have a problem on the out bound expressway.”
“That’s right Dan, we have a major accident...”
Mic Off, Off with this damn headset. Had them on for the last 2 hours waiting for this break. Suppose I should introduce myself before I go live at the bottom of the hour. I’m Danny King, afternoon drive time DJ at WSEX FM. DJ, now that’s a misnomer now. Disk Jockey came with the early days of radio when we played records. You remember those plastic things with a hole in the center. Ok, Ok, CDs hole in the center but the spin at 36K rpm not 33.3, 45 or 78 rpm. Now everything is digital. A couple of key strokes on the computer and up comes any song you want by any artist. If it is not in our files, I go on-line and download it to our file in less than 2 minutes from our ‘Mother Ship’. You will find every record ever cut on the internet files.
Why, at 70, am I still doing this? First, WSEX is a Golden Oldies station. I cut my radio teeth when they were new releases. Next, the pay is good in a drive time slot and lastly, my son is program manager. Hey, take any break you can get, and my ratings are very good. He wanted to follow in my foot steps and got a BA in communications. Oh, and it keeps me off the streets and out of my wife’s hair. I got my start back in the early 60s when Rock and Roll was just getting hot. I remember the first record I played ‘ON AIR’. “Here’s Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs with their number one song, Sugar Shack.”
I also remember my first commercial.
“Ladies, ever wonder how your husband could milk all those cows, mend fences and work around the barn and still come home with soft hands. He’s been keeping a secret from you. Farmer John’s Udder bam. That right ladies, I bet he’s got a jar of Farmer John’s Udder Balm on the shelf in the barn. Tell him to bring you in some. Try it on your wash water chapped hands. I’ll bet they will be baby bottom soft in one week. You won’t find in your grocery store. You have to go to your local Landmark Farm Bureau Store. Ask for it by name, Farmer Johns Utter Bam.” Now that’s UTTERly ridiculous. Stupid but I couldn’t say it on air so now I can.
Yes, those were the days when music was music and not only could you understand the words, the words meant something. I had the honor of meeting Little Stevie Wonder, the Beatles and many more recording stars. It has been a fun and good life and I have no regrets. Well may be one or two. Its dog eat dog world to get a good time slot in a major market playing “Your” kind of music.
I have daughter, Carolyn, does weather at a local TV. She has a BS in meteorology with a communication minor. So you might say we have the market cornered.
But I digress. This is not a story about Radio but my life though my life kind of weaves around radio. Let me take you back to those early days of radio when AM radio was a major source of information and entertainment. No color TVs with 200 plus channels. 3 channels, ABC, NBC and CBS. PBS if you were lucky. There was the rare Dumont Network in some areas. No DVDs. You actually got out of the house and WENT to the movies.
I was just 21 and working the evening shift at this AM station getting my feet wet. Part of my show was two hours of requests I played on Fridays. Listeners would call in their request and dedications and I would talk with them a little. Some times on air but mostly not. At that time, we did not have tape delay so I had to be really quick with shutting off the phone patch so those famous seven words would not get aired. We had an outer studio and we would let teeny boppers in to watch me in the “Fish Bowl” control room doing my show through a 4 X 6-foot sound proof glass window.
There would be a mix of about 3 girls for every guy. Not bad odds for me or the guys. Sometimes there would only be a couple of “Kids” during the school year with sports games and all but school has been out for about three weeks now so I had about a dozen out there. I liked it better than being in a closed studio with just me and the records. I would pick two of them to be my “Runner”. One guy and one gal if I could. They would pull requested records and replace those played. Almost always, one of them would have done it before and they would train the new-be. My guess the wall of 45s and LPs and even had some 78s was about 7 feet high and 20 feet long with records in alphabetical order. I had colored Paint Stir sticks to hold the place where a record came from. If you pulled the record, you had to return it to the correct spot. Request were a real pain. That’s why most stations drop the idea. In front of me was the mixing console with two Gates turntables on one end and a stack of two tape recorder/players. One had the commercials on it in order to be played.
Every week this 5 foot something girl with brunette ponytail with nice shape and eyes to die for would be out there. That deep blue eyes, with that come heather look about them. She would be jumping around trying to get my attention to be picked. This weekend was different. She looked a little down and I thought I would cheer her up and pick her. Off the air, I ask her what was wrong. Her boyfriend just broke up with her as he was going into the service. They both graduated high school this year and now she was alone for the first time in a year and half. I told her that might be for the best as such relationships usually end up bad. I asked her if she was staying until the end of the show and she said she did not have any plans and would be staying.
Opps. I forgot to tell you her name. I found out when I interview her when I first brought her in to the studio. Karen Hamilton of this city. It was hard having much conversation with her during the program with answering the phone, taking request and playing the music. I was lucky that most of the commercial were pre-recorded on 7-inch reel to reel player. What is now called ‘Traffic’ would make up the tape with commercials in order. How simple that got when Bill Lear (Learjet) came out with the cart machine. Just plug in a cart and press the play button. I just had to do local weather and local news flashes.
I asked her if she would join me after the show at Ollie’s, a local hamburger shop. She agreed but would have to let her sister know she would be late getting home so she called her from the studio phone. We just kept a normal conversation for the last half hour of my show and after I turned the show over to my replacement, went to the outer studio and sign a few autographs. I could never figure out why DJs were treated like stars. We only played the records. Well not like a pair of DJs like Hudson and Landry
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGJyu5vQRvs )
or the Big Bopper with Chantilly Lace. Dick Clark and Casey Kasem.
She followed me to Ollie’s in her car. We went in and got a booth. My favorite waitress, Betty, was on duty and came over and took our drink order. She was a lot older than me and told me several time she wished she was younger so she would have a chance at me. I don’t know if she was serious or just looking for a bigger tip. Karen didn’t notice when she tipped her head towards Karen and winked. As they usually have my Friday show on their radio, Betty asked her if she was the same Karen that was introduced earlier. She said she was the same. Betty asked if she worked at the station and I told her she was just a guest. Betty said she had a natural radio voice. I had not noticed at the time but she may be right. It’s hard to tell when you are listening with a headset.
After we ate, we sat there and talked about her ex-boyfriend and life in general while sipping our sodas. We exchanged phone numbers and no cell phones. Not around yet. I asked if she would like to go out with me Saturday. We talk what we would do and she agreed. I told her I would pick her up around 2:00 and would make a day of it.
I walked her to her car and off she went. When I got home, I got the note out of my pocket not to forget our general staff meeting at noon Monday. Important. Ok, I hate these meetings and have missed a few. This one sounded important. I marked my calendar as a reminder. We had “Production” meeting every Monday at noon when the station went to network news and everyone could attend.
That night and Saturday morning went by pretty fast and now it was time to pick up Karen. When I got there, she answered the door and invited me in to meet her sister. Kathy was three years older than Karen and a one year older than their brother, Joel, who was away in the Air Force. It was then I found out why she lived with her sister. Their parents were killed in a bad auto accident four years ago. “Sister has been like my Mom the last couple of years.” Karen said. “Sorry” I replied, “I know it has been hard on all of you.”
I told her sister we would be late. We were going to a concert of sorts after dinner. Her sister is real nice. More my age but not as pretty as Karen.
.... There is more of this story ...