Who Is Adam Jones and Why is He Watching Me?
A lot of things happened the first year I was at WQUA. Mr. Patak, the manager of the LeClaire Hotel, got me an apartment in the first month I was there. It was on the tenth floor and had a nice view over looking the rent, and downtown Moline. Off in the distance there was a big radio tower for WHBF in Rock Island. It was a real big one and the letters would light up one at a time and then all at once. You could see it from most of Rock Island and if you were high enough, a good part of Moline. Judging by how WHBF sounded at the time, I'll bet they had more viewers than listeners. To add to their viewership they also had a TV station by the same name.
Things went very well the first part of 1965. Mo, one of the girls who worked in the reception area, left for Nashville to work for Bill Anderson, a well-known country singer and a big cheese with the Grand Ol' Uproar. She probably started out wringing out his hankies. He used to cry a lot (at least on his records.) A few months later, another girl, Marty, went to Music City as well (it seems strange writing that; when I was a teenager Cleveland was called Music City USA. Oh well. We got the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)
One of the first things I wanted to do was buy a bunch of business cards with big eyes on them that said, "Adam Jones is watching you," so that I could give them out and strategically place them around town. The station wouldn't pay for them (no call letters on them.) So I paid for them. I had another idea that they wouldn't pay for either. There was a theater next to the LeClaire Hotel on 5th Avenue that had the same name and the same owners as the hotel. I asked Mr. Patak why it was closed. He said, "The last straw was Paul Lynde in Captains Courageous." I asked him if I could put up my saying on both sides of the marquee and if so how much it would cost for at least six months. "Fifteen dollars a month," he said. So,the sign went up and people scratched their heads.
I don't remember who was in charge of finding people for me to interview after midnight (I'll bet it wasn't easy!) My first guest was "Speed" Riggs. He was a famous tobacco auctioneer who did spots for the American Tobacco Company and Lucky Strike, shows like "The Lucky Strike Hit Parade" and "The Jack Benny Show." He could go from a dead stop to about 400 or 500 words a minute in an instant. Who knows why he was in town, but he didn't seem all that thrilled to be there.
In fact, none of my early guests were too happy about the station's back entrance. It was on a scary alley with a dim bulb over the door. Speaking of dim bulbs, a door rattler used to hang around out there (a man, not a snake.) He'd sneak up on people and say, "What are you doing out here?" That place was ominous enough without being confronted by "Mr. Moleturd with a flashlight." I started to not promote interviews because a lot of them didn't show up. One night I told my listeners that I went out back to empty the waste basket, and look who I found! Clu Gulager! He was in his Western garb, so I said, "It's a good thing you're carrying a gun. I lose a lot of interviews back there." After that we hit it off pretty good. He was well known for the TV shows, "The Tall Man" and "The Virginian." A short time later they fired the rattler for going on a four-day Southern Comfort bender, and trying to milk a bagpipe.
Along with interviews, I took phone calls on the air but you could only hear my side of the conversation (if the station wouldn't pay for business cards, then they sure wouldn't pay for a phone delay system.) Much later Dale Reeves told me that Arthur Godfrey did the same thing when he first started on radio in Washington, DC. (His station at the time didn't want to pay for inventing it.) For me, it turned out great. The audience only heard what I wanted them to hear. If a caller said my show sucked canal water, I'd act like they were paying me compliments, or were saying that "Davenport people" were over-stuffed and had little short legs.
Living at the LeClaire was great but I almost got in trouble with them about the third or fourth day I was on the air. For some reason the water pressure in that place was fantastic. Even the Overloader in Chief would only have had to flush it once. So I thought it would be funny to tell everyone who was listening in the hotel to flush their toilet at the same time when I counted to three. A few minutes later I got a call from the night manager telling me not to ever do that again! It's a good thing that I didn't have many listeners yet, or the building might have blown up.
There were lots of colorful places on that side of the river to talk about and drop names (a great way to make friends and get listeners.) One was on the corner of 15th Street near the station. It was called, The Sportsman's, or Wally Boubons. It was the dirtiest bar in the world this side of "The Casbah." It had antiques hanging on wires over the bar, some dating back to the turn of the century, and they were covered by dust that looked even older. One evening I stopped in and asked Arnie the bartender for a glass of beer. "Do you want it in a clean glass?" he asked. "If I wanted it in a clean glass I wouldn't come in here," I replied (which got a big laugh from the friendly flotsam seated along the bar.) Arnie was a Renaissance Man of sorts, having graduated from the Chicago Vocational High School. He worked his way through the Sorbonne as an apprentice janitor (he kept a bottle of Petrus Bordeaux under the bar, next to the fly swatter.)
PS A few years ago I went back to the Quad Cities with my son Steve and grandson Joel. We stopped in at the Sportsman's. It had changed a lot. The owners were very nice people and it was all painted up and very clean. What a disappointment.