WNUW – "We Never Understood Why"
I'm sitting here (never mind where) between Metamucil shooters, thinking about the demise of WOWI. Oh, we understood why the station ran out of money. It was really a shame. We had all worked hard to make that little daytimer a success and we had some luck. When I got there WOWI had no measurable audience in the Louisville ten-station market. After almost a year we were number nine, having beat a Louisville daytimer that played classical music, and were gaining on another station that was on our side of the river, if I remember right. (See picture below. The caption read, "Why are these guys disappointed when they're on the grow!") Before we changed to the new format, "The Music of Your Dentist's Office," Snyder wanted me to speak to a group of New Albany business people. The discussion went like this:
Gene: Aw, come on, Mize!
Me: No go away
Gene: I'll take you to dinner
Me: Will we have a waitress?
Me: Will she wear a paper hat or a hairnet?
Me: Will she engage us in a conversation about the availability of fries?
Well begrudgingly, in a day or so I put on my good pants and showed up at a meeting of about half a dozen business guys and their secretaries. They were each rearranging a plate of boiled mutton and half-frozen peas. The president of the group was sitting in the front with what must have been his wife (she looked like Charles Laughton in a pantsuit.) I tried hard to convince them that they should support WOWI, instead of complaining that we sounded like a Louisville station. But they were all looking at their watches like they were waiting for a bomb to go off. As I was leaving, I saw Mrs. Laughton trying to get one of her shoes back on with a tablespoon.
Meanwhile back at the Albany Inn, my friend Dale Reeves moved in on the third floor. (I lived on the second.) The rooms up there were mostly for truckers and people on the lam. Each room had a bed, a dresser, a lamp, a window (too small to jump out of), a sink, and a radio that took nickels. Everything else was up the hall. They kept the trucker theme going in there, with a roller towel that had I-80 printed on it, and a picture of Claude Akins over the sink where the mirror should be. Dale liked the room. OK, sure it was cheap, but then again - it was cheap! He liked going down in the elevator because it was so roomy. (Cap. 5; his room was Cap. 1.) Dale worked at a station in Corydon, Indiana. The town's claim to fame, other than his working there, is that from the year 1813 to 1816 Corydon was the capitol of Indiana (then everybody sobered up and said, "It's where?") I think Dale was off to a good start in radio even if he pooh-poohs it. (He never really said pooh-pooh but I think it looks funny in print.) He does say that he got jobs because he would work for $1.25 an hour. Well there are lots and lots of kids in radio today working for minimum wage, and most of them don't sound near as good as he did.
Sometime at the end of 1964 we were told that WOWI was changing formats and the new call letters were WNUW. The programming consisted of instrumental elevator (Cap. 5) music with harps playing in the background and Fordyce doing the news once an hour. Russ Wittberger told me that the station was out of money and that he was trying to unload it. Russ was nice enough to let me stay at the station until I got another gig. I told every program director I knew in Louisville that I was tired of going away and coming back. I said that if they thought they were going to have an opening any time soon they should speak now or forever hold their long-distance calls because if I blew town this time I wasn't coming back. I also let it be known among all my old cronies that I would like to find an all-night show like Pat Murphy's (maybe a little more sane.)
I don't think WNUW lasted very long. I know I left at the end of January 1965. It was the first and last time I worked in a format where the announcer faded into the wallpaper. I found that if I dropped my voice an octave and a half and spoke in a monotone I could say almost anything and no one would notice: "And now here are 101 strings, eighty-eight of them on the piano." If by chance anybody reads this who worked at WNUW after I left until they changed their call letters to WHEL, drop me a line. I have some questions, the first of which is, "What the hell were you thinking?!!"
Join us again next time when Adam finds his new job by following the Mississippi River east to west.
PS Snyder lied. She wore a paper hat.
Back row: Gerry Fordyce, Adam Jones, Terry Armstrong
Front row: Gene Snyder, Joe Fletcher, Russ Wittberger
The New Albany Inn
WOWI Survey September 1964