OGDEN’s -Actor Richard Kiel taught math at Ogden’s in ’63

Those Ogden grads at the Burbank school location in and around 1963 were able to meet and be taught math by actor Richard Kiel who was just starting his acting career at the time. Ogden grad Denny Blair was one of those students with fond memories of those nights with Kiel .

Denny recalls:

“I attended Ogden’s in early 1963 when our math teacher was RICHARD KIEL, the actor who played “Jaws” in the James Bond 007 movies. He stood 7 foot 2 and that first night he walked into the class room….the whole room fell silent. We had not been warned ahead of time to expect him. Ogden’s little joke . He was a neat guy and we had some great times visiting.

One time, we went downtown with him in the front seat of a Jeep, his knees under his chin. You can imagine the looks he got from other drivers At that time he was doing the “Jolly Green Giant” at supermarkets and had done some Disney stuff. Kiel knew his math and was 24 at the time . He started acting professionally in 1960. It was a wonderful experience.”

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(Editor’s Note)   After receiving this information from Denny we searched on the internet and found Richard’s official fan club website.    We sent him an email asking if he had any information on Bill, Tally, Thora etc.  Here is his prompt reply:

“Hi Bob,

I am sorry to say that I do not have any information about Bill, Tally or Thora. The last time I saw Bill he was still on Olive Avenue in Burbank. I stopped by to see them the day President Kennedy was assassinated and went to work that day on The Man From UNCLE and never stopped.

I didn’t take algebra in high school and was terrified of the math part. I worked so hard at learning math that Bill said one day after one of the final exams, “I am mad at you Richard Kiel!” I wondered what I had done and then he said. “You’re the first student in the history of the school to ace the 75 question math final.” I guess it’s too easy and I will have to make it harder.

His son-in-law was teaching math at night when I attended and when the young man got a really good job at Cal Tech or some other similar institution Bill was left without a night time math instructor. He offered me the job and I worked from 7:00 – 10:00 PM every night for a couple of years except for Friday and Saturday nights when I worked as a doorman, I.D. checker and very rarely as a bouncer.

Acing Bill’s 75 question math final gave me a lot of confidence that if I worked hard enough I could accomplish almost anything. My Dad used to say, “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” and it’s true! Many obstacles were put in my way as I pursued my career as an actor that weren’t nearly as challenging as Ogden’s 75 question math final and I overcame them and became a successful actor.

Richard Kiel ” (Clovis, California)”

From Wikipedia—Richard Dawson Kiel was an American actor and voice artist. Standing 7 ft 2 in tall, he was known for his role as Jaws in the James Bond franchise, portraying the character in “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and “Moonraker.”   He lampooned the role with a tongue-in-cheek cameo in Inspector Gadget.

Denny Blair Remembers his days at Ogden’s in 1963

“I was employed at KCVL AM radio in Colville, WA when we had need of a First Class Operator. I was young, married a year with a daughter and one more on the way when I got on a bus and headed for Olive Ave, Burbank, CA. I rented a room in a private home close to the school and survived on 29 cent TV dinners for the two months I was there. Sometimes we splurged and went for a hamburger at this place close by that made burgers as big as footballs.

For a small town guy who grew up in Palouse, WA the 50’s, the whole California thing was a real culture shock. I saw a VW Beetle with “JUST DIVORCED” and trailing cans and streamers, what a sight. The Ogden’s were great. Thora was beautiful and reminded me of Harriet Nelson, everybody’s Mom, a real sweetheart.

I remember Bill was a friend of Moe Howard (The 3 Stooges) and he talked about him a few times. Our math instructor was Richard Kiel, the actor best known as “Jaws” in the Bond films. At that time he was doing the “Jolly Green Giant” at supermarkets and had done some Disney stuff.

I remember the first night he came into class (yes, NIGHT) classes were, as I recall, from 8 AM to 10 PM…something like that. Richard was so tall (7 foot 2 and 315 pounds) that he had to duck coming through the door. The room just fell silent when he walked in, we had not been warned ahead of time what to expect. Ogden’s little joke on us.

Kiel was very nice and knew his math. He was 24 at the time and had started acting professionally in 1960. One night some of us gave him a ride to LA and he was in the front seat of this little open top Jeep, his knees up under his chin. You can imagine the looks he got from other drivers. I really missed my family, but it was a wonderful experience. I remained in radio till 1979 when I went into real estate. I still have my Gold Pencil, ID card, and some great memories.”

Derek video clip of Solid Gold radio show.

MICROPHONE MAN-1

Note:    This page is under renovation.  We will  have it up in a few weeks. 

Part 1

Microphones have been around since Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. In radio, television and recording, the microphone is the the very first instrument used in the process of picking up sound. So the “mike” is

The Microphone Man , Gary Avey.

pretty important and went through development from relatively primitive devices in the early days to units that could very faithfully reproduce the full range of humanly audible sound.

In this segment I want to concentrate on those broadcast-type microphones that had a huge impact on the industry from the early 1930s through the 1960s.

Here is one of the most recognizable broadcast and recording microphones made in the USA. The RCA model 44 series. These were first developed back in the 1930s by Harry Olson of RCA Labs in Camden New Jersey.

The first in this series was the 44A. The model 44 microphones were called “ribbon-velocity” microphones because the internal workings were comprised of a thin corrugated aluminum element, called a “ribbon” suspended in a strong permanent magnet field. This ribbon was the generating element taking sound waves and generating a tiny electrical current that was an exact representation of the sound. This small signal was stepped up by a transformer so it could be sent down the cable to the equipment it was connected to.

The basic ribbon-velocity microphone has a bi-directional pickup pattern. That means that it picks up sound equally well from the front and back of the mike but is relatively dead to sound arriving from either side. This pick up pattern was very useful in the so called “golden age” of radio…especially in dramatic programs where several actors could be grouped around the mike. There could be two or three actors facing the front side and another group facing the back side of the ribbon mike and all would be picked up equally well.

If the script called for someone to walk into a scene the actor would move from one of the dead sides of the mike to a live side providing a perfect “fade-in” The same could be done in reverse for a “fade-out”.

Radio announcers always loved ribbon mikes because they tended to make the voice sound more “bassy” or deep sounding when worked closeup. One of the problems with this is that the ribbon element was very fragile and could be easily stretched by a blast of breath from a close-talking announcer. This also caused a big “pop” in the audio. RCA recommended aworking distance of a foot or more for ribbon mikes….of course this was predicated on having a well designed studio with proper acoustics!

The RCA 44 series of microphones were manufactured from the early 30s to 1958. They went through several updates ending with the 44BX.

The RCA 44s were used by all the major radio and TV networks, local radio and TV stations, as well as recording studios. They were excellent for music pickup as well as voice. The 44 is a heavy weight in more ways than one….it weighed in at 8 pounds!! Obviously the 44 was not intended as a hand mike! Also it could not be used outdoors where wind was a factor and the big warning for any user of a ribbon mike was….”don’t ever blow into it”!

These mikes are still in demand and have seen a resurgence in recent years with digital recording. Although RCA stopped making microphones about 1973, there are ribbon mikes being manufactured new today by many makers here in the US as well as China and Russia. The ribbon mike has a very smooth, mellow sound that is very pleasing to the ear.

You can find old RCA 44 ribbon mikes selling on Ebay for up to several thousand dollars. This is a testament to the enduring quality of these units even after over 50 years since they stopped being manufactured. The amazing thing is you could have bought a brand new 44BX in 1957 for $129…of course, that’s in 1957 dollars!

“CBS modified this 44A with a Cannon “P” connector on the rear.”

There is a company in Pasadena, Audio Engineering Associates, that makes an exact replica of the RCA 44 called the AEA 44…..They sell for around $4,000. Some of the biggest recording studios are using these modern replicas in music productions of all kinds today.

So that’s the brief story of the RCA model 44. For more info on this and many other microphones, I recommend Stan Coutant’s website www.coutant.org. Stan has pictures and specs and also audio sound bites to give you an idea of how various mikes sound.

In future posts I’ll review other great broadcast mikes like the RCA 77 and the Western Electric/Altec 639 “birdcage” and several more.

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Our previous sessions have dealt with ribbon microphones by RCA, one of the two prime makers of broadcast and sound equipment in the mid 20th century. This time we’ll turn to the other of these major makers, Western Electric Company.

RCA and Western Electric were fierce competitors in this era. I think I am safe in saying that the majority of radio stations from the 1920s through around 1950 used either RCA or Western Electric equipment, or a combination of both. Western Electric was the manufacturing arm of Bell Telephone…but also made broadcast equipment designed by Bell Telephone Labs. In 1949 Federal anti-trust laws forced Western Electric to divest of their broadcasting equipment manufacturing. Both these companies made just about everything needed to equip a station from microphones and audio control to transmitters and antennas.

About the time RCA came out with the revolutionary ribbon microphone…Western Electric developed the first high-quality dynamic microphone. The dynamic uses the same basic principle as the ribbon….a moving conductor in a magnetic field to generate the audio signal from sound waves. Instead of a moving foil ribbon…the dynamic uses a round-shaped diaphragm that has a coil of wire attached that moves in the magnetic field…it’s a small electric generator. Another way of explaining a dynamic microphone is to think of it as a loudspeaker in reverse! A loudspeaker takes a signal from a radio receiver or amplifier and turns that electric signal into sound we can hear. A microphone, as we explained before, takes that sound we hear and translates it into an electrical signal so it can be amplified and sent to a loudspeaker, as in a PA system, or for broadcasting or recording.

Western Electrics’ new dynamic microphone was dubbed the model 618 and came out about 1931. The model 618 was an omni-directional…or non-directional mike that was relatively small in size and very rugged…making it excellent for studio as well as remote broadcasting, especially in the outdoors. This mike was not sensitive to wind and breath noises like the ribbon mike…and it was relatively insensitive to handling noises making it excellent as a hand mike for interviews and such.

The model 618 was a great improvement over the earlier noisy carbon and bulky condenser mikes of that era. The 618 was a big hit with the radio industry and these mikes were used clear into the 50s. RCA, of course, would not be left behind by Western Electric….so they shortly came out with a very similar-looking mike they called the model 50A. Internally the RCA model 50A used a slightly different way of embedding the wire into the diaphragm so as not to infringe on Western Electrics’ patents….but externally they looked very similar.

You’ll see both of these mikes in news photos and newsreels of the day…they were used for President FDR’s “Fireside Chat” broadcasts. If you look closely at these photos you’ll see that CBS and Mutual (MBS) used the Western Electric and NBC and the Blue networks used the RCA because NBC was owned by RCA.

A few smaller manufacturers also made mikes that looked very much like the Western Electric and RCA units but these smaller outfits could not compete with the two giants in the broadcast industry and their mikes were used mainly in PA systems and some smaller radio stations.

The dynamic-type microphone is one of the most used units up to this very day…and Western Electric was the start of it all. These pioneering mikes were all omni-directional….picking up sounds from all around…later a small company, at the time, named Shure Brothers designed the first uni-directional dynamic mike called the “Unidyne”. Most dynamic mikes today are uni-directional picking up sound from the front side of the microphone and rejecting sounds from the rear, thus preventing sound system feedback (howling) and eliminating background noises, and all based on Shure’s ground-breaking development of the late 1930s.

We’ll save that story for another session.

Spec sheet for the WE 618 4

 

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Mel Freedman, 92

By -Derek Waring

Mel Freedman

The Modesto Radio Museum lost a very dear friend. Mel Freedman passed away January 11, 2017. He had suffered a serious stroke earlier in January. Uncle Mel, as he liked us to call him, was the engineer when I worked at KFIV. He was known for his cantankerousness which masked a loving and caring soul that subsequently became so evident. We remained friends over the years. I will miss our lunches and our drinks together Uncle Mel. I was privileged to have you as a mentor and such a big part of my life for so many years.   Mel was a Founding Board Member and the Secretary for the Modesto Radio Museum. He also belonged to the Central Valley Broadcasters (CVB). On behalf of the Modesto Radio Museum and the CVB, we dearly miss Mel.

Mel was was a veteran of World War II. He was laid to rest at the National Cemetery at Santa Nella, California.

– Derek Waring-
Modesto Radio Museum Board Member

Without Mel, we would all be silent. Top row, left to right: Dave Nelson, John Chappell, Derek Waring, Tim St. Martin, Rick Myers, Greg Edwards, and Wes Page. Front row: Bob DeLeon, Mel Freedman, John Huey, Kenny Roberts, and Bob Lang.

 

 

 

OGDEN’S- Neil Ross Remembers

“Accomplishment of the difficult tends to show what men are! “

By Neil Ross, Manhattan Beach, CA.

This piece was originally written for an LA radio website in answer to the question: Where were you when you heard about the Kennedy assassination? In my case the answer was 1150 West Olive in Burbank – The Ogden School.
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After getting my First Class License I worked twenty plus years in radio with stops at KGMB in Honolulu, KCBQ San Diego, KYA San Francisco and finally 710 KMPC Los Angeles. Then I left radio for voice-overs.

I went back to 1150 West Olive in 2008 for a recording session. What a strange feeling to stand, forty five years later, in a studio where the classroom had been. I told the guys at the studio a little bit of the history of their building. Then I told them this story.

On the morning of November 22, 1963 I was seated in class at the William B. Ogden Radio Operational Engineering School at 1150 West Olive in Burbank, California. The school was what was known in those days as a ‘ticket mill.’ It existed solely for the purpose of cramming enough knowledge into the empty heads of aspiring disc-jockeys to allow them to pass the FCC First Class License exam. A test which was infamous for its difficulty, frequently defeating even MIT graduates.

In those days most medium market radio stations were ‘combo’ – meaning the DJ would also be responsible for transmitter readings. Any station that was directional, or over ten thousand watts, had to have someone with a ‘first phone’ (as it was commonly known) on duty at all times. Major market stations had transmitter engineers, low powered small market stations usually didn’t require a first class operator. But in the medium markets the first phone was nearly always mandatory. A jock without one simply couldn’t move up. “We’d love to hire you but we had to go with a guy with a first phone – he ain’t half the talent you are, but he’s got the ticket.”

I only had to hear that a few times before I started making inquiries about the best way to acquire that ‘ticket.’ Without exception the old pro’s told me: “Go to Ogden’s.” William B. (Bill) Ogden was one of the most unforgettable people I ever met. Put five or six Ogden grads in a room together and they can talk about him for hours. An irascible, chain smoking little firebrand of a man with a razor sharp wit and a dazzling intellect, he was a true auto-didact. Continue reading “OGDEN’S- Neil Ross Remembers”

Letters, We Get Letters. . .

Radio Rick Myers, 1976

When DJs take on a subject, their train of thought often jumps the tracks.   One of us radio guys read an article that breast-feeding could improve the neuromuscular system involved in speech.  All that suckling activity is just darned good, healthy exercise.    That article morphed down into the lower levels of disc jockey humor.  “Hey, DJ guy, you’ve got a great voice, but imagine where you’d be if your momma breast fed you.   You’d probably be in New York by now…” I wasn’t breast-fed and I’m not in New York.   That’s my excuse.

With that in mind, this February 21st, I came upon an “Ask the Doctor” column.   A woman wondered if it was all right to continue breast-feeding her twenty-six month old son.   I misread the column, thinking for a second it read “twenty-six year-old son.”    I did a quick double take, and talked about my goof later on the air.    All was fine, as I summed up the story with “But if there were to be a woman out there somewhere breast feeding a twenty-six year old son, I’d be happy to put myself up for adoption.”   It was just one punch line out of many, and I forgot all about it—until those letters started coming in.

Negative letters usually are addressed to the boss; favorable ones come to the disc jockey.   I wish it were the other way around.   The first paragraph of the first letter read:

“I am surprised that you would let a disc jockey profane himself on prime time public radio by making gross mockery of such a sacred subject as breast feeding babies….” The closing sentence had some holy wrath with it: “In my opinion this man should be ‘adopted’ as he wishes—only by a mental facility!”

Another letter decided to embellish what I said:  “And he wondered what it would be like for a 26-year-old to be breast fed and he could go about volunteering to be adopted and breast-fed by that young mother.”

That was more than what I said!   I closed by saying I wondered if I could put myself up for adoption.   This listener added to the punch line.  In radio, that’s called “talking past the punch line.”   The writer watered down what I said just to make sure it didn’t even remotely sound clever.   When it comes to humor I need all the help I can get.   As fellow disc jockey, J. Michael Stevens, once said, “Rick, to call you a wit is only half right.”

Radio stations do get letters!  Most are complimentary.  The critical ones seem release tensions.  The writer just feels better.   “I told them a thing or two.”   My Program Director, Larry Maher likes to say some people listen with one hand on the Bible, and with the other hand on a note pad ready to dash off a letter of protest.

Most protest letters come when the listeners are given the chance to be “righteously indignant.”     At the letter’s heart lies the assertion the disc jockey was insensitive.   One winter day, I made the comment, “It’s December 7th, and every year on this day, the Navy goes out and bombs Pearl Bailey.”   In came a letter:

“How dare one of your disc jockeys make fun of Pearl Bailey, a woman who is such a great entertainer, she is practically an American Institution…”

Oh, come on now!  Just because you don’t get the joke, don’t take it out on me.   (Note:  Pearl Bailey was a great entertainer, passing away in 1990.  The Navy never sought revenge.)

I’m not alone on these incoming slings and arrows; many DJs are Writers’ Wrath Recipients.   One foggy morning, Terry Nelson made the comment, “be careful out there, folks; it’s foggier than a pervert’s breath.”   In came a letter:

“…How dare you people!   I was in the car with my son when your disc jockey talked about a pervert, and my 10-year old asked, ‘Daddy, what’s a pervert?’   I was all embarrassed and didn’t know what to say.  Parenting is hard enough without idiots who think they have the right to ruin my day!!   Well, thanks; you succeeded!!”

Forever Young. Ron Posey, 2013

You’re welcome.   Another time, Ron Posey started his show with  “I got a letter here, let’s see what it says (then the sound of the envelope being opened).  Ron then reads, “It’s addressed to All the Virgins of the World.   It says, “Thanks for nothing!”   Let’s not even get started on those letters.

One brutally cold day, I mentioned that it was “colder than a Mother-in-Law’s love.”    Those incoming letters were pretty much universal, along the lines of  “I laughed at what you said, but, I want you to know that MY MOTHER-IN-LAW is a VERY NICE PERSON!!”  The letters all had that common theme.  I guess mothers-in-law have their own union, and they’re headquartered in Modesto.

Write us a letter, and we’ll sing you a song! Don Shannon, Radio Rick, Captain Fred James, Kenny Roberts, Larry Maher, Diane Cartwright, and J. Michael Stevens. 1976

So keep those cards and letters coming!   They let us know that at the microphone’s other end are living, breathing people.   Letters keep us on our toes.   DJs really strive to never cross the line.     We just like to get close.

I’ve learned threes things about listener letters:  1) they are certain to continue.   Therefore, 2) It’s better to limit any controversial comments for when the boss is on vacation, because 3) when he’s away, he’s put me in charge of the mail.

“I Honestly Love You,”

                 (Radio Rick Myers-1978)

I had two whirlwind romance chances with Olivia Newton-John.   Twice I held her in my arms, twice I dazzled her with my charms, and twice she left unimpressed.   To protect my ego, I must assume she simply doesn’t like younger men.

The last day of March 1976 was a sun-splattered San Francisco Sunday, and M.C.A. Records had invited me to an Olivia Newton-John cocktail party!    I was invited partly because M.C.A. knew of my undying devotion to Olivia.   I was invited mostly because KFIV was a “Reporting Station,” which meant we reported the songs we played to the record trade magazines.   If we discovered a song, then a station in say, Mobile, Alabama, might decide to give that song a try.  We carried weight.    M.C.A. knew who to invite to this party, bless its corporate heart.

This was my big chance, and I arrived predictably early; Olivia arrived fashionably late.   We were at The Sheraton at the Wharf.   Five-star hotels begin with “The,” as in “The Fairmont Hotel,” “The Waldorf Astoria,” but never as in “The Holiday Inn.”

I informed my date that if I could sweep Olivia away on the wings of romance, she, my date, was to get home the best she could.     I was at the bar when Olivia entered.   I couldn’t believe she was unescorted!   She stood there in the middle of the banquet room, alone.   I drove a hundred miles to see her, this was no time to be shy.   I walked right up to her and said, “Olivia, I would like to shake your hand.”  She placed her hand in mine and smiled.   In retrospect, I believe she smiled because she was relieved she was no longer unnoticed.  Under my breath I was humming, “This Could Be the Start of Something Big!”

Olivia, with twinkling blue eyes, said, “My, you must be a radio announcer!”   I knew what was going on, I lowered my voice another notch and asked why she said that.   “Your voice, it’s so low!”   I now lowered my voice to the point of pain and explained I was from Modesto, California.

I asked if she had ever heard of Modesto and she said indeed, she had!   I never learned what she had heard, for it was time for more pressing matters.   I pressed my arm around her waist as we posed for photos.  A line of invited guests/fans had woven its way all the around the hors d’oeuvres table.   She autographed a few colored glossies for me, smiled again, and it was time for me to move on.

Jim Lange of KSFO Radio, and “The Dating Game” TV Show

The cocktail party continued another forty minutes.   I had another drink, but the exhilaration of the moment was more powerful than any intoxicant.   I stood next to Jim Lange, radio personality at KSFO, and host of the “Dating Game” television show.    He gulped down double shots of Scotch.   He was friendly and funny.   (Mental note:  when you reach the big time, make sure you enjoy it.)

Olivia soon left the party, and like that, my/our romance was over.   As she left, my heart melting, she turned, smiled, waved to the room and disappeared.   Who knew destiny would soon bring us together.

M.C.A. Records, the corporation with a heart, invited me to yet another Olivia Cocktail Party!     This was December, 1977, and Olivia had been re-signed!    Kill the fatted calf, we’re going to have a party!   This was the biggest gala I ever attended.     M.C.A. booked the Grand Ballroom of the Marc Hopkins Hotel.    Easily 500 were in attendance, 125 tables for-four lined the perimeter.   Two identical wall-to-wall hors d’oeuvres tables traversed this gigantic room.   Each table had two ice sculptures anchoring the ends.   The San Francisco 49ers were there!   The San Francisco Giants were there!    Over there, was Willie McCovey!!

Olivia, this time, did not enter alone   She was escorted by two M.C.A. big shots, a body guard, and the record promoter who knew all the little people, like me.    The Queen had arrived.    This was a formal audience with Olivia.    We were to sit at our tables, and wait to be introduced.

When my turn came, I mentioned that perhaps she remembered me from last year!   She smiled, being too polite to say no.    I had photos of our last, brief fling; maybe they would refresh her memory!    Again, Olivia smiled.   She autographed my photos, and then posed with me for others.

Her escorts thought it was time to resume the procession.   Now was my chance!    From last year’s photos, I made posters!     If she would autograph them, I would give them to listeners during my show!!

She said she would like to sign them, but over 500 people were waiting, and first she had to circulate.   (Mental note:  when you make the big time, while others walk around, you “circulate.”)

Les Garland is the Program Director of KFRC Radio.   When it was his turn, he rushed to Olivia, tripped, and spilled his drink on her gray-on-white three-piece suit.   (Mental note:  even when you make the big time, sometimes all you can do is want to hide.)


In her own hand writing, Olivia says she loves me

 

 

Olivia circulated and departed.     Like that, she was gone.   The record company officials said she had retired to her suite.   Had my second chance come and gone?  I had nothing to look forward to now except enjoy some shrimp in the shadow of an ice sculpture, and have a pleasant conversation with Gene Nelson, a true radio star from KSFO.   Gene was wearing a turtleneck sweater.  (Mental note:  though not fashionable at this soiree, one is always forgiven once one has reached the big time.)

The party had continued for another 45 minutes.   Suddenly, I felt a tapping on my right shoulder.   I turned around and stood face-to-face with Olivia Newton-John!!    “I came back to sign your posters.”  She came back by herself, all alone, just to see me!   Gene Nelson was my all-time radio idol, but now I had bigger fish to fry.

Gene Nelson of KYA and KSFO Radio

Olivia and I turned and I placed my hand on the small of her back escorting her to my table.  Five hundred sets of eyes were watching us!   “What?    Olivia is back?”  “What’s going on?”  “Who is that guy?”  Altogether I spent 47 years in radio; this was my finest moment.  She autographed the posters, and left.   Leaving me had become a habit.

I love her to this day.   My love was not reciprocated, but I will never forget when Olivia Newton-John returned to a party just to see me   (Mental note:  I had made the big time.)

Jocks Who Box

(Radio Rick Myers, 1975)

      An irate listener once punched me in the mouth.    Please remember, radio schools would graduate “golden throats,” not “golden gloves.”    When a listener wants something, usually it’s an autograph; very few want blood.    Radio industry magazines never advertise:  “Wanted:  Jocks who Box!”   A radio career is a soft, passive profession.   An announcer comes to work, plays some records, and goes home.   Apparently on some days, he limps home.

Jay Michael Stevens preceded me on the air.   On this fateful day, he ended his show by saying, “Radio Rick is next at ten.   Poor Rick, he’s so dumb he thinks Sitting Bull is a talk show.”

Larry Maher and Jay Michael Stevens, 1975

Thanks, Jay.  An American Indian just got insulted.

During business hours, a radio station is sometimes without adult supervision.   This happens when the sales staff and management are out of the office.   When the disc jockeys are left in charge, our station becomes The K-5 Day Care Center.   This was the case when, one hour later, in walks a large man wearing a flat-brimmed cowboy hat, and carrying a trumpet under his arm.    (Soon I would wonder if he had planned to use the trumpet to play “Taps” up an orifice of his least-favorite radio personality.)

This man had the features of an American Indian.   He had the Mexican surname, Fernandez.   He told the receptionist he would like to see Radio Rick, and then waited an incredible two hours for me to finish my show.

I came out to see him and he seemed pleasant enough.   Shifting the trumpet to under his left arm, he introduced himself and shook my hand politely.   It was then he said,  ”I want you to know that Sitting Bull is every bit as good a man as President Ford.”  With that he popped me on the chin!!

One thing about my fights, they never last long.   I’m one of those two-hit guys; you hit me and I hit the ground.   As I received this solitary blow, I took a step back, and my one quickly thought-up counter offensive was to kick this large man “where the sun don’t shine no more.”    This idea might have evened up the odds, but my assailant was content to stop at one punch.    He hadn’t hurt me but he had my attention.

He also got the attention of a witness, Jay Michael Stevens.  Jay was watching through the window to the Production Room studio.   Jay decided that mayhem is best viewed from a position of safety.   In one motion, he turned and locked the studio room door.   He was ready to watch Round Two.

Round Two never happened.  After taking one on the chin, I figured this listener-turned-sparring partner would wail on me until his arms got tired.   Instead, he removed three quarters from his pocket, placed them in his palm, and said, “Now that we’ve made peace….”

“I don’t want to hear anything you have to say!   Get out of here!”  I interrupted.  (Under pressure, I’m seldom clever.)  Was it the force of my plea?   I’ll never know, but he abruptly turned and walked out the front door.    To this day, I have no idea why he carried that trumpet, or why he offered the three quarters.

I also didn’t know what Jay had said, so I had no idea why he hit me!  “Fernandez the Ferocious” left the station in a battered, old yellow Ford with Arizona license plates.   The receptionist, Penny Sharrock, another witness, quickly chimed in she would call the police if he returned.    At long last someone was thinking!

The coast was clear, so my disc jockey friend unlocked the studio door, told me what he had said, and admitted that since the Sitting Bull punch line was his, the punch too, should have been his.

The confession, though good for Jay’s soul, came a bit late.   The man who talks with fists had departed.   The saga of Sitting Bull’s revenge had come to an end.    But, a right cross, once delivered, may yet be transferable.   To this day, Jay knows he owes me one.

 

Be Careful Out There

(Radio Rick Myers, 1975)

  Promoters, from Colonel Tom Parker to P.T. Barnum to the high school teacher who organizes faculty fundraiser basketball games, all ask the question, “How can we promote for free?”  Throughout my radio career the answer was simple:  Create a celebrity event, and invite disc jockeys! Well, why not?   Appeal to our ego, and we’ll go anywhere.    Plus we’ll talk about it on the radio, which is Free Advertising!   Plus radio stations love to get DJs “out in the public eye.”  It’ll be fun.  Listeners enjoy getting to see what their favorite air personalities look like.   Make a good impression and we’ll have more listeners.   What could possibly go wrong?


Photo courtesy of Davis High School. Radio Rick voted school’s favorite disc jockey, 1978

The first mistake is in not asking the question, “Is this dangerous?”   But when asked, the second mistake is accepting the answer, “Hey, that’s part of the fun!” Oakdale is the “Cowboy Capital of the World!”   But to make sure the world takes notice, they created “The Disc Jockey Calf-Tying Contest.”    It’s pretty safe, if you’re a cowboy.    You’ve seen this event:  A young calf, about 150 pounds, is let out a chute.  The cowboy on horseback races out and lassoes the critter.   The rope goes taut, the calf is jerked onto its back, the cowboy jumps off his horse, and while the calf is still dazed, ties up three of its legs.   Done and done in 6 seconds.   It looks easy, so bring on the disc jockeys, and we’ll all have a good time! Out goes the calf, out goes the cowboy on horseback, and out goes the first disc jockey, on foot, falling further and further behind the action.   The cowboy lassoes the little doggie and then sits motionless; where’s the DJ?   The crowd starts to laugh; this is quite a scene.  The doggie staggers to it feet and starts running.   But the rope is one big tether, forcing the little critter to run in a perfect circle, around and around that horse.    The DJ, not in great shape, runs after the calf, losing ground with each stride.   This is Keystone Cop stuff!    After a while, the DJ gives up the pursuit, and waves to the crowd as he walks out of the arena. I’m next and I have a plan!   Out goes the calf, out goes the horseback cowboy, and out I go.  I run straight to the horse!   At the saddle horn I grab the rope, and follow it zip-line style while I chase after the running-in-circles calf.   That solves one problem.   I reach the calf that doesn’t want to slow down.  Here I am, skidding along, holding onto its neck until we finally come to a halt.    The crowd is having a hoot.   The calf is not happy.   I’m to reach over the calf’s body, and jerk upward as my knees buckle into the calf’s ribs, tossing it on its side.      In that bent over position, 150 pounds is a lot of weight.    I manage.   Now my knees fall on the calf’s ribcage.   The calf is kicking up a storm.  My job is to grab three legs and tie them together.   With two hands I grab the three legs.  My little rope is between my teeth.   I need two more hands!   I’m supposed to wrap the rope two times around those legs and then cinch up a Hooey knot.  What’s a Hooey knot??  One leg slips free, so I start over.  Two legs slip free, so I start over.  All three legs slip free, so I start over.    This goes on for a while.   The crowd loves the comedy.   Three minutes go by and my time is up.   My chest is heaving like I just blew up a truck tire.   Several thousand have watched me fail.    Don’t try this at home, folks.  What fun. Next up is Larry Maher, K-5’s afternoon guy.    He liked my “run-to-the-horse-and-grab-the-rope” idea.     Down the rope line he goes.  The calf jumps up and takes off running.    Larry gets to the end of his rope, where he picks up and slams down his calf.   All calves have the same DNA, and this one is another kicker.    Larry gets right down into this buzz saw of flailing legs, and one hoof kicks him right behind the left ear.   Larry is also hapless when it comes to Hooey knots, a rope trick that’s too darn tricky.  Soon his three minutes are up.


Bridal Shows are safer than rodeos! Larry Maher and Captain Fred James, 1976

The crowd’s laughter (this is all good-natured fun, right?) turns to a gasp when they see bright red blood streaming down Larry’s neck.    That fleshy part behind the ear bleeds like a stuck pig.  (I don’t know anything about stuck pigs, but barnyard descriptions seem to fit here).   Larry hadn’t noticed the blood, but three little words got his attention:  “Larry, you’re bleeding!!” An ambulance is always present at rodeos.   It’s all good-natured fun, right?   Today, six stitches and a turban bandage around Larry’s head is all part of the fun. Next week, it’s Celebrity Roller Derby!   What could possibly go wrong?

POST SCRIPT:     At the Celebrity Roller Derby event, they invited us to come down that afternoon and practice on the banked, oval track.  It was a bit tricky, but I learned to go into the corners low and come out high, just like NASCAR.    I won the event, mostly because I stayed upright.   A KTRB DJ thought you win by knocking everybody else down.   He lunged at me; I ducked, and down he went, breaking his arm (hey, it’s all good fun, right?).   The Bay Bombers congratulated me, but offered no contracts. 

KTRB owner, Bill Bates, 69

April 3, 1969

Bill Bates Jr.

William H. (Bill) Bates, Jr. died Thursday April 3 ,  1969 of an apparent heart attack while at his daughter’s home in San Jose. He was 68 years old and had been ill and off work for the past three weeks. The apparent fatal heart attack occurred shortly afternoon at the home of his daughter, Delores Williams in San Jose where he had been staying following his release from a hospital where he had been several weeks. He was a native of Freedom, CA (Santa Cruz County).

Mr. Bates entered Oakland Technical High School in 1919 where he studied for his commercial broadcasting license he obtained a year later. He became interested in Amateur (Ham) radio and a year later earned one of the first Amateur radio licenses issued in the country. The call sign was 6KL, which, in later years was changed by the FCC (Federal Communication Commission ) to W6CF . He  belonged to the Century Wireless Association as well as the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

Hotel Covell , 1914 opening in Modesto, CA,

Mr. Bates worked for RCA corporation and as a radio technician for the Mexican Navy in the early 1920s. From 1925 to 1928 he owned and operated a radio repair business in the Covell building in downtown Modesto before building KTRB in 1933.

Mr. Bates, and his partner, Thomas R. McTammany, put Modesto’s first commercial broadcast station KTRB on the air on June 18, 1933 operating from studios at the corner of McHenry Ave and Sylvan Rd. in Modesto. A location, at the time, that was nearly 3 miles out in the country from the then city limits of Modesto. In 1941 Mr. Bates purchased 40 acres of wheat land on Norwegian Ave. in Modesto and built a new facility. In 1949 he added an FM station, KTRB-FM, to his business.

Mr. Bates had been heard on the station for more than 30 years with his “Old Time Tunes Program”  from 8:15 to 10:30 Monday through Saturday mornings.

He was active in the Elks lodge and the originator of the Fourth of July parade in Modesto. Through the years he remained as the general chairman of the event.

Bates is survived by his widow, Maxine Bates; two daughters, Delores Williams and Carmelita Lockbaum, both of San Jose, and six grandchildren. Final rights were held at the Franklin and Downs Funeral home April 7, 1969 with the Rev. Donald G. Weston of St. Johns Chapel of the Valley officiating. Interment was at Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson.

Merrily, We Rolls Along

Radio Rick Myers–1976 

  [A radio promotion put me behind the wheel of a Rolls Royce. I wrote about this in 1976]

 To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich, is like supposing that we could drink all day and stay sober.

                                                                 –Logan Pearsall Smith

 

It was a day unlike any other, the day I drove a Rolls Royce!   When in Rome, do as the Romans do; when in a Rolls, do as aristocrats do.   My moment of aristocracy had arrived.

McDonald’s was giving away Flair Ink Pens with Egg McMuffin breakfasts.   KFIV decided to make it Breakfast with a real Flair!   We would chauffeur winners to McDonald’s in Rolls Royce limousines.   Oh, the incongruity!   Similar to “Brooklyn Yankees,” or “Roman Greeks,” the mind will not couple Silver Clouds to Styrofoam cups.

What’s more, the chauffeurs were tuxedoed disc jockeys  (A disc jockey driving a Rolls Royce is another mind-rejecting thought.  Also hard to believe was that we got the cars!   An auto dealer owned a collection of these classics, and he loaned them to us!   I mean would you give the keys to your Rolls to a disc jockey?)

My Rolls–yes I quickly became possessive–was a white 1964 Silver Cloud, with an interior of blue leather seats, a teakwood instrument panel, and a right-side steering wheel.   In the parking lot, I couldn’t even begin!  Who knew that a Rolls Royce transmission will not shift into gear unless a button on the gear-shift lever is depressed?  (Hmmm, to drive a Rolls one must first be smarter than the Rolls.)  I’m sensing trouble here.    And what’s with this rear-view mirror?  Rolls Royce uses convex mirrors which gives more complete viewing, but the mirror delivers the distortion of a fish-eye camera lens.

Let me destroy one myth:  The clock is silent!   For years, I was told the clock’s ticking was the only interior noise.   That myth never made sense, anyway.   Why install a loud clock in a quiet car?  The only mechanical sound was the clicking of the turn signal indicator.

The era dictated the fashions, and I was the cat’s meow, decked out in a brown and apricot tuxedo.   Don’t judge me!   At eight a.m., I was off to chauffeur the first of my two families.

I was pleased that my first winners were “all-in” on this promotion.   The dad and the two sons each wore suits, and the mother wore a floor-length gown!  Dressed to the nines, they were making the most of their Breakfasts with a Flair!

The dad had a facial twitch, who knows why?    It reminded me of a Don Knox routine about an over-stressed air traffic controller.   I was a little nervous as it was, and that blasted convex mirror zoomed an unobstructed, up front and way too personal view of this guy’s twitch.   “Try not to think about it, ole boy,” I told myself, noticing I was starting to formulate thoughts with a British accent.

KFIV Bridal Faire 1976. Radio Rick and Ron Posey, “Mr. Entertainer.” Tuxedoes become us.

The passenger may have twitches but this auto was smooth.    After delivering the winners, the Rolls and I were off to our next adventure.

Our next winners were waiting for the car and me.    In fact, their entire block had assembled for “The Great Rolls Rendezvous.”  The winner’s father was leaning against an elm tree, taking home movies as we approached.  He motioned me to wave at the camera, which I did.  I used the Royal Wave, as used by monarchs and at Rose Parades.

The neighbors—fathers in Saturday work clothes, mothers in house robes, and children, many still in pajamas—congregated around the Silver Cloud.  After the spectators had studied the grill and examined the interior, the four honored guests and this overly proud chauffeur were on our way.

I drove the Rolls cautiously.   On a quarter-mile stretch, you could have timed me, not with a clock, but with a calendar.   The passengers enjoyed the ride.    This was not a hotrod Lincoln.    I figured to gun the engine would be an insult to its noble heritage.

The winners enjoyed a nice breakfast, got their Flair ink pens, and were returned, regally, to their respective homes.   I was the real winner!  I got to drive a Rolls Royce!  I got to play celebrity!  Not only that, I was being paid extra!   Reggie Jackson gets millions for hitting a baseball, and I got paid to drive a 1964 Silver Cloud through the streets of Modesto.   Life isn’t fair; sometimes it’s lop-sided in your favor.

My mother liked to remind us kids that pride cometh before the fall, and here it came.   As I sat majestically on the right-hand side and steered down a country road, tragedy struck!   A terrible, grinding, clanking, gear-stripping noise bellowed from the rear of the car.   This aristocrat of the roadway lurched, then shook, then shimmied like a dying fish gasping for air.  Death was sudden.  After less than a hundred more feet, the Rolls rolled no more.  Later I learned I had dropped the transmission.

I knew what I needed; I needed help.  A broken down Rolls Royce is one of life’s little levelers.  So is walking down Albers Road in my brown and apricot tuxedo.   I walked to a nearby farmhouse.  The farmer heard my story, and all he could say was that common farmer phrase, “Well, if that don’t just beat all!”

Tragedy can turn to comedy if you add enough time.  As I reflect on my day, I can’t help but smile.  From the car, looking out the windshield, I viewed the ultimate incongruity:  just beyond that beautiful Rolls Royce hood ornament,  I also viewed my tow truck.