On My Way to a Fistfight - Part One
Working at WNUW was a real downer. The sales manager told me that he was hearing good things about our new "Put you in a trance" format. (I think he was getting this from his mother.) So there I was, hour after hour, talking in a monotone with harp music in the background. Fordyce said he missed the fun times, so I did one of our short breaks in Pig Latin, which is not easy to do with no inflection in your voice. No reaction, no phone calls: no listeners! One day the boy manager asked me what I thought of the new sound. I told him that before I left town I was going to get him a great big whoopie cushion that played Clair de Lune!
Looking for a new gig was always a hassle, but kind of exciting at the same time. I had a good aircheck, and I got a few leads, including two from Indianapolis. One was from WFBC where the owner said I was too funny for all-night. I told him I was taking no-talent injections and I would call him back when I came out of my coma. The other one was from Bob Lions at WIFE. He was the PD and wanted me for afternoon drive, but the station was owned by a guy named Burden (I think) and the FCC was after him for a bunch of stuff. They wanted to take his broadcast license and write, "Specimen" on it. So from time to time they would send an inspector to the studio while you were on the air to make notes (that would make anyone swallow their ad libs!) I told Bob I'd pass on that. Geemaneeze, that gives me chicken skin just thinking about it. Ken Warren called to give me a tip about an all-night show opening. I had worked with Ken at WCAW. He was working at a country station in Chicago (there's a funny story about him; remind me sometime and I'll tell you about it.) The all-night opening was at WQUA in Moline, Illinois, part of the Quad-City market - Moline, Rock Island, and East Moline in Illinois, and Davenport in Iowa. The Mississippi River is in between. The metro area ranked 86 in the country with Peoria at 87, a big step down from Louisville, which was 26. But I wanted to work all-night so I sent them a tape. In a week or so I got a call from them saying they wanted me to come over for an interview. They said that of about 200 tapes mine was one of the top three (radio stations always said they received 200 tapes. Chances are they got three tapes and mine was the one that wasn't postage due.)
Dale Reeves was working all over the place - sort of a minimum wage version of Steve Harvey. I don't know how he got two days off to go with me, but he did, and we left the New Albany Inn around noon on a Friday. It's about 400 miles from Louisville to Moline. I had a 1956 or 1957 Desoto (tell them Groucho sent you!) Snyder and I were booking some shows here and there and we used that big old four-door to get to and from those gigs. It was a nice comfortable road car. We got to the Quad-Cities about 9pm and checked into a motel in Geneseo. The next morning I called WQUA. They were expecting us to meet them at the station but we didn't know how to get there, so the sales manager met us at the edge of town and drove us in. While I went to the station for the interview, I don't know what Dale did to kill time but I think he must have gone to a laundrymat (the next time I saw him he was all linty and was wearing a different pair of pants.)
WQUA's studios at the time could best be described as a double-decker dump over-looking the rent, but a lot of old radio stations were like that then. The CEO of "The Small Radio Group" was G. Lavern Flambo. A good place to work if you like strange names. As my dad would say, Flambo had "lots of rocks." I wonder why a guy that rich had an office across the hall from a ladies room with a sticker on the door that said, "In Your Heart You Know He's Right AUH20." We hit it off pretty well. When he found out that I had worked at WIRL he said that the Smalls owned that station too, and asked why I left. I told him that Fritz the manager had tried to stiff me out of the $15-a-week raise we had agreed on. That seemed to satisfy him. Then we talked about some people in radio we both knew, I told him how much money I needed and that was about it. On the way back to our car the sales manager said that there was no way that Flambo was going to pay that much for an all-night jock. He said I would hear from them in a few days.
Continued: Part Two