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Louisville 1, Charleston 0. But Who Won is a Matter of Opinion
You remember last time . . .
Daddy Cool was leopard skinning and bad rhyming his way into radio anonymity on WCAW in Charleston, WV. I remember reading on the air once that some college professor said rock and roll stifled brain development and reasoning ability in teenagers. I pooh poohed it. But after seeing some of those blowhards at town hall meetings this summer, I think I should have stopped at one pooh!
Christmas Eve 1961 was a big night for me. I was doing my show from Shoney's studio in Kanawha City, it was snowing, my feet were cold, and there were just a few cars on the lot. I was playing "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." I remember wondering where Santa Claus gets coal at the North Pole and whether Little Jimmy Dickens was related to Charles. The restaurant was going to close early so I ordered two Big Boy sandwiches to go. The only thing I had to eat at home was box of Fiddle Faddle and a half empty Pez dispenser. (The latter came with the apartment along with a gallon of prune juice and an empty wallet that must have belonged to Franklin D. Roosevelt. It had a picture of Eleanor in it and I can think of no other explanation.) I heard a knock at the door which was locked to protect Daddy Cool from hoards of screaming teens ("Get off the air!" and the like.) I thought it was my Big Boys. It turned out to be the Big Man, Alex Schoenbaum, the owner of all the Shoney's. I didn't know him very well but he always seemed nice. Well, he came in, handed me the sandwiches and a check for one thousand dollars, wished me a merry Christmas, and told me not to tell the station about the money. I didn't! He said he liked the show and the ratings even though we had only had one book. I was in a state of shock (you could have knocked me over with a french fry.) That was equal to about 7 weeks' pay. I don't remember much else about that holiday season, but that was enough.
It just occurred to me that lots of other guys must have broadcast from that studio since it was a permanent structure. (Maybe even Mark Aulabaugh from KSEY in Seymour, Texas. He worked at CAW.)
That extra money helped pay for my move to Louisville the following February. Gene Snyder called WCAW one day and left a message (I didn't have a phone. In those days if you lived real close to the station it was better not to have one. It kept the management from calling you to fill in when some guy overslept or came down with the brown bottle flu.) My apartment consisted of a bedroom, a bath, and a kitchen that the landlord said "could use a little cleaning." To clean that room you'd have to use napalm. It really creeped me out. I could have rented it out for Halloween. The fridge had a sign on it that said, "Open at your own peril" (I never did.) There was green stuff growing around the edges of the door, and sometimes there was a strange pulsating sound that would keep me awake. A few years ago my son Steve and I went looking for the place when we were in Charleston for a baseball game. It was at 1303 1/2 Quarrier Street. But the buildings had been torn down. In fact, the whole downtown area was all new. It's a great looking city now!
But getting back to Gene Snyder's phone call, he said he had just come back from L. A. where he had been working for the ABC Radio network as a tape editor and that he was now the P. D. at WINN in Louisville, KY. "I've got some bucks, you can play jazz, and do anything you want on the air," says he (knowing how to peak my interest.) Well, I thought, this rhyming gig is getting a little thin and I felt guilty about lifting the idea from Pete "Mad Daddy" Myers at WHK in Cleveland.
Now the last time I had seen Gene, it was at C. E. Franklin's (Granada at the top of the stairs) in Parkersburg, WV. So my first question was: "Is it a dump?"
"Sure, but not as bad as WCEF," he said (knowing that would apply to anything short of a Hooverville.)
"Bless my soul and don't you know, Daddy Cool has got to go!" I said, instantly hoping it didn't sound as bad on the phone as it did in my head. It did. There was dead silence at the other end of the phone. "I'll do it!" I exclaimed.
"You're not going to do THAT, are you?!" Snyder asked.
"I promise." I said
- Adam Jones