I thought I was kinda funny, I just didn’t realize HOW funny.
Are you aware that I do nearly 100 different “voices?” Truth is, if you count the ones in my head, it’s over a hundred, but THAT is a completely different thing, trust me.
I recall, very early in life, hearing my Dad & my Uncle Fred at camp. Now THEY were funny, I mean knock down drag out Hilarious, the kind of belly laugh that leaves you heaving on the side of the table, unable to regain your breath, and wondering if THIS is IT. that kind of funny.
So I come by it honestly, it was left to me in an old grease stained paper bag when those two went to heaven, with magic marker on the outside that said “Use with GREAT care.” I thought they were talking about the bag, so I still have THAT, all neatly tucked away in a safe somewhere in Kansas, I think.
In the “early” years, we weren’t ALLOWED to be funny on the radio. Nope, Radio wasn’t a funny business, at least not in small town America. You had to go to the BIG CITY if you wanted to be funny on the radio. ‘Round “these parts,” it was time and temperature, and if you were really feeling froggy, why you could even mention that we were “In the Shadow of the Great Stone Fortress!”
So imagine my surprise, in the early 70’s, when I hit Hartford CT and they had this guy doing mornings named “Rusty Potts.” He was on the air banging pots and pans, creating C-R-A-Z-Y gimmicks and in general, having fun. I showed up in a suit and tie, and he showed up in gym shorts and sweat socks, no T-Shirt. We didn’t HAVE video back in those days.
It was quite an interview. He asked me to say something funny and I looked around for a second trying to think of something, and what came out was, “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” I got this funny, evil grin, and he suggested I might want to practice being funny before I started on the air.
I’m not really sure WHY he wanted me to practice. All we were doing six nights a week was “All Request Line Radio, Hartford’s TRIPLE C.” Every song was a request, and we had to record a short “interview” with the caller and then overdub it on the intro to the requested song. The only thing funny about that was, if you messed up you had Arlene sending “I love you Still” going out to Gloria in West Hartford. In THOSE days, we didn’t TALK about THOSE kind of relationships.
Sy Dresner was a quiet, unassuming man, kind of like Satan only without the tail. He had the horns and the forked tongue and all, but other than that, he was perfectly normal. Screw up Tuesday night on air and on Wednesday morning you’d be sending out airchecks and resumes across the country. We worked in the “dungeon” at 11 Asylum Street right downtown. Going to work was easy, getting out was a different story, you could easily get run over by folks trying to get on the Interstate, or, you could sit there for an hour waiting for a break in the action.
By the time I got to Johnston Island and AFRTS, I was fully prepared for doing straight laced radio, but I was NOT prepared for the group I fell into. For real.
There was “Jungle Jim” Schwilling. He came to work in a safari outfit complete with safari hat. Ken Rogge came to work in fatigues, and then proceeded to shred any sense of “straight laced” there was in the world. “Country Cuz” Jeff Shavers was a rolling tub of gooey goofball whose speaking style was laughing. I never heard the man actually SAY anything, it all came out as a laugh, right up to the day he left Dodge. Dave Harrington left before me, but he had a savvy style of a smooth operator. He’d get you believing whatever line he was feeding that day, right up to punch line, and you never saw it coming. Carl Sargent was about thee most straight laced guy on the planet. Always dressed to the 9s in Air Force Summer Uniform, always looking the part of the guy from WKRP, you know, the night show guy. Andy Anderson was a cutup, he never failed to impress, he came off like Herb the Sales Guy from ‘KRP.
What a cast of characters. And there we were, stuck on this island with one another, and the only entertainment we all had was the radio station. Well, there WAS a LOT of beer, but that’s another story too.
Now the really weird part is, by the time I got to JI, I had 7 years of radio under my belt, including one major market, and I was TOTALLY UNPREPARED for what would ensue. A year of fun, frolic, and scratching of the numbers on the calendar, counting them down until we could leave. If I’d known then, what I know now, I’d still be there playing songs for the birds.
I had no idea that you could have THAT much fun, on radio. In fact, when I left JI and went back to the world, I worked part time in radio and full time in Newspapers. It was hard to find a radio station where you could have that much fun, and it just wasn’t the same.
And THEN, I came back to Ticonderoga last year, and rediscovered real FUN radio. Sure, we do time and temp, but if I’m feeling my oats, or sometimes even my goats, I let ‘er rip, start doing my voices, and have fun again, like we did that summer.
Strangely, of ALL the people I’ve known in radio over the years, the one’s I’ve stayed in touch with, enjoyed the most, and still work with, are the guys from Johnston.
Truth of the matter, if I could get them all back here, we’d own the market in no time flat.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND, I WISHED THEY’D NEVER ENDED.
C’ya on the Radio.