Can the Adamizer play in Peoria?
First I want to thank Dave Coopman for including me in his book, "Legendary Locals (or in my case Locos) of Moline, IL. To think that I'm in the same collection of people as John Deere who was not only a well-known industrialist but also the mayor of Moline, and best know for signing Gus DeClerk's liquor license (true - I saw it.)
Now back to Atlanta in 1963 where poor me was hung over and out of a job again! I had just stopped cussing to myself about Morton Downey Jr., when the phone rang. It was Bill Lesley calling back with some instructions on how to go out of business. He also said that I should call V.L.J. at WIRL in Peoria, IL.
"Do you spell out that J?" I asked.
"No," he said. "Just the letters V-L-J."
"Is he in the witness protection program?" says me.
"Don't insult him. He wants to hire you," Bill said. He went on to say that V was a friend of his and a real nice guy.
Just as I was hanging up the phone Martha came in. She had rinsed out a few things in the office sink and was there to pick up the wet wash. I told her that Success Records was kaput. I said that she had done a great job for us and gave her a dime for the dryer. Not really. I said that I was sorry the job didn't last longer and that she was going to get a bonus. Martha was a nice lady and she took it well. She said that she didn't really need the work because her husband was so busy at his job.
"What does he do?" I asked.
"He's a painter," she said.
"Houses?" asked unsuspecting me.
"No, men and women."
"Oh, he's an artist!"
"No," she said. "He's a specialist. He does restroom doors."
"Well, it's nice to have a professional in the family," I offered.
"Oh, also my father is a dentist," she said.
"Is he good?" I asked.
"Yeah, you'll have to come over some night for a Dad's Old Fashioned Root Canal! Pretty funny, huh?"
"Yeah, it's great," I said. "I'll put it in my memoirs, if I ever write any."
I called VLJ at WIRL. He said that he would book a flight for me to Peoria right after he hung up - and he did! The next morning I boarded a jet (only my second jet flight) to Chicago. I loved it! When we got to O'Hare I had a little time before my connection so I stopped in a bar called The Gray Ol' Hare (or at least it should have been.) It was crowded so I sat next to a lady who was drinking Wild Turkey and Rootbeer. After she had finished tossing back a few Wild Roots, as she called them, she started to tell me the story of her life while I drew a stick figure with a rope around its neck on my napkin. When I left she was slurring something about losing her husband in a poker game.
When I got to my gate, there it was - a good old DC3. The peeling paint said Ozark. When I was going up the stairs of the plane I made a remark about bombing Manilla. The stewardess gave me a harsh glance and wrote "no peanuts" next to my name. I loved the jet flight but I have always believed that the DC3 (C-47 army version) is one of the best planes ever built.
When we got to Peoria, VLJ met me at the airport. I liked V right off. He was of medium build, had red hair, and when he thought something was funny (which was often) he would sort of do a little Howdy Doody dance. It was around noon so we went to lunch before going to WIRL. V said if I liked ribs he had just the spot, and boy, did he! It was called Big John's Bar-B-Q and the ribs were the best I've ever had! We talked about my trouble with Morton Downey Jr. and how thanks to him I was aircheck-less. V said that he knew about me by my reputation and that if we could agree on the money he was sure that the job was mine. I asked him if WIRL had enough money to keep me in John's ribs three days a week with enough left over for a place to hang my bib. His mouth was full of ribs and sauce but he nodded his head. Our waitress asked if we would like some handy wipes. I said yes, that I didn't want to meet the GM with rib sauce in my ears.
On the way to the station V asked if I had attended college. I said I had gone to Oxford and had a master's in footwear (see my new shoes?) That cracked him up. I was glad he didn't do his Howdy Doody thing while he was driving. When we got to WIRL (upstairs over a bank), we went right in to meet Fritz the GM. When he told me how much the job paid I asked how long it would be before I could expect a raise (so I could go back to three meals a day.) Fritz said that if all went well, after six months there would be a $15/week raise. At that point I took him at his word. Big mistake! He asked when I could start and I said in a few days. Then I went with V to the studio to watch him do the afternoon drive show, which I would be doing. It was very hectic and didn't look like much fun, but I was lucky to have a job back in radio.
That evening at the Hotel Pere Marquette I called Atlanta and told Martha what was going on. She said that the office was all closed up and that she had shipped all the records back to Des Moines. I told her that I'd have her check for her when I got back the next day, and that we would go out for a drink to say goodbye to Success Records.
"By the way," I asked, "have you ever had a Wild Root?"
"No," she said, "Are you drinking hair tonic now?"