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Going to Flint was No Laughing Matter
A lot of things happened while I was at KIOA. There was the fire, the Cuban Missile Crisis (the station made me shave off my beard but paid me to do so. They thought that when people saw me they would think of Castro, even though my VanDyke was neatly trimmed and I was always nicely dressed, while he looked like his halftrack just blew up and he was eating a tumbleweed.) Also Bill Leslie came to town and started a record company called Success Records. Art Sullivan and I put money into the venture and helped cut the first two sides ("Lovers" by the Blendtones was a modest hit!)
At the beginning of the summer of ’63 the station had finished their new digs and were planning to move back downtown to celebrate the event. They fired me and some news guys. "We were under-insured," said the new manager. He got the job due to lack of interest. I think his name was Rich or something like that. When I brought up the fact that we were now number one in the afternoon and there might be a better way to save money than to fire me, he said that I didn’t know anything about running a radio station, and his face got all red (I noticed it clashed with his sportscoat, which he got at a Heywood Hale Broun garage sale.) The next day I talked to Ken Greenwood. He told me that he was tired of commuting from Tulsa to Des Moines to run both stations, and that he had to stand behind his new manager. He also told me that KIOA was for sale, and I probably wouldn’t stay there long anyway. Richy the manager gave me two weeks’ notice instead of pay, so I had to stay on the air. My replacement, a kid from a "tanker" in Fort Dodge, IA, had to find someone to take over his paper route. In the two weeks that followed on the air, he asked me to stifle my personality as much as I could. I said okay, I would be as boring as I knew how, to make my replacement look good. I could see the red starting to come up over his collar and I figured he was getting ready to clash again, so I left his office, being careful to wipe my feet before I did so.
Ken Greenwood was a very nice guy. He called me at home and gave me two tips on job openings. One was in Flint, MI, at WAMM, so I called them and said I’d send a tape. The P.D. said that they would rather I bring the tape with me and come in for an interview. So I went out to the airport to buy tickets. The guy at the counter asked me if you spell Flint with an F or a PH, and I told him he could spell it any way he liked as long as it was in Michigan. He pulled a book out from under the counter and blew the dust off just as I was lighting a cigarette and caused a small explosion. The next day was Saturday and it took me all day to get to Flint (back in those days DC3’s were like buses – they stopped in every town.) And I had a long layover in Detroit. While I was waiting, I struck up a conversation with a bulky-looking man who had a mouth harp. He said he was in search of the lost chord. "On a mouth harp?" I asked. "No on my pajama bottoms," he said. "I’m wearing them under my pants."
When I got to Flint I was greeted by two guys from WAMM. One was big, the other small. We drove in silence to the station. When we had been driving for awhile I noticed an abundance of gated windows and fur hats. "This must be the bad section of town," I commented. "This is downtown," said the big one! I thought about trying to escape and go back to the airport, but I was afraid to get out of the car. Before going to the station we stopped for coffee at a quaint little place called, "Watch Your Hat." The waitress came over and winked at the big guy. She had a little sawed-off bowling alley pencil. Somehow I knew she was going to touch her tongue with the tip of it (she did.) "Do you have any hard-boiled eggs and nut?" I asked. "No," she said. "Black coffee will be fine," I said (ironically there was no reaction from Laurel and Hardy across the table.)
Ken Greenwood had told me that WAMM was an R and B station that hired both black and white announcers. I had worked at a similar station (WSRS in Cleveland) years earlier. It was very hip at times, and working with guys like "Crazy Man" Kenny Hawkins and Andy Franklin was a hoot. But to this point I saw no evidence of hipness or hotness at this station! After a few minutes of making small talk, I heard beeping sounds coming from the big one (phone beepers were very new then.) "I think your eggs are done," I said. No reaction from the boss or his henchman. This is getting grim I thought. Then we went up to the station. I think it was a 3rd floor walk-up but it seemed like 4. We went to the office and although I knew I shouldn’t have, I let them hear my tape. As I remember it there were some good bits on the tape, stuff like this: Last night I had a dream that I was doing a Harpo Marx impression and I woke up in a trenchcoat full of forks. When the tape was over it got quiet. In fact I thought I heard legs being rubbed together. It was either a cricket or Flo the waitress down at the Watch Your Hat. Before they said anything I put the tape in my briefcase and said, "I gotta go get a sandwich," and left.
When I got back to the airport there were no flights to Detroit so I had to wait a few hours and go to St. Louis (I was careful not to sit by any lumpy guys.) I did notice, to my amazement, walking into the men's room was Dave Ketchum on his way to obscurity. You know, I've got a lot of nerve saying that. Who in the world ever heard of me (besides you, and I'm not sure about that!)
- Adam Jones