A new year is here. My file is filled with column ideas. So let’s dig in.
In the late '60s, early '70s, radio as we knew and loved it was changing. Rock jocks were giving way to other kinds of entertainers and one of them was a guy out of New York City (by way of Texas, then Cleveland). His name was Don Imus and his show was “Imus in the Morning”. We lost Don the last week of 2019. He was 79 years old. He was an innovative comic and commentator, the music he played was dwarfed by the skits he did. Later he’d turn toward being one of the original “shock jocks” (saying and doing outrageous things on the air) and, finally, a political analyst.
I have an Imus record album. It’s called “One Sacred Chicken to Go” and includes the Imus radio bits where he portrays shyster radio evangelist The Rev. Billy Sol Hargis from Holyland Texas and his religious amusement park. Other bits were more political and centered on Washington DC politics. A note on the album states “portions of this recording may not be suitable for air play.” I was a deejay at WIBF FM in 1973 when it came out and never played even one track though I loved the album and seldom missed his radio show.
Imus often offended people -- making one particularly racially insensitive comment about members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team -- and though he’d get benched for his behavior he always found his way back. Some say that Howard Stern refined the shock jock genre and I guess he did. But while Stern regularly shocks and offends people, as did Don, they were always ready to forgive Imus. At one time in their careers they worked on the same station with, of all people, Soupy Sales.
Back in the early '90s I was working on a nationally syndicated sports radio talk show out of San Francisco (“Sports By-Line USA") when WIP came calling. They were making inroads in the city sports talk field and looking for a new morning man. Apparently I had caught someone's ear during my five-year-run there. I was, they reasoned, a local guy so why not give me a shot.
I went to WIP for the interview, assuming I’d get the job (I usually got the jobs I interviewed for) and already planning my show format. But after about an hour the main honcho at the station said, “We like your voice and your knowledge of sports, but we are looking for someone like Howard Stern and we don’t think you can do that.” I agreed, that wasn’t my vision of sports said I; and so they hired, instead, Inquirer sportswriter Angelo Cataldi (and he’s still there).
Speaking of radio I was doing my 10 PM Wednesday show on WRDV a few weeks ago and I noticed that I wasn’t getting my usual listener phone calls. A friend called me on my cell and told me that the station’s lines weren’t working. I tried all the fixes that I knew and none of them worked. So I announced it on the air. Since it was 11 when we found it, the service call didn’t go in until the next morning.
After tracking the problem Verizon had us back on the phones, but we lost almost a whole day. Stuff happens. When the phone doesn’t ring while you are on the air it seems odd. Quiet, but odd.
A day or two later a longtime listener sent a nasty e-mail to the station GM -- and me -- because we didn’t get the phones fixed fast enough. I kid you not. It does point out how important radio is to people -- especially older people -- some of them all alone, for whom radio provides both a familiar voice and entertainment. We stress to our jocks that they need to answer every call, even if it is just to say “hi”. Hopefully the phone lines keep working.
As a Cheltenham High School graduate I was proud of the high school’s football team that made it all the way to the state championship game and lost, basically, on the last play. It was good for the community and gave all of us old Panthers something to talk about. In my day, a .500 season and a win over Abington was about the best you’d get. Now, apparently, the sky is the limit.
And speaking of ex-Panthers, Penn State honored former CHS gridder Wallace Triplett at the Cotton Bowl this year. (They wore a decal on their helmets with his initials) Wallace, who later would play in the NFL, was on the PSU Cotton Bowl team in the late '40s and, since he was African American, the team was denied access to the Dallas hotels and stayed, instead, 14 miles out of town at a military base. In telling the Cotton Bowl if they wanted Penn State they’d take all the players, the term “We are Penn State” was born. It came from the college’s declaration of intent to either play with a roster including Triplett or not play at all. Gotta love it.
Listen to Ted Taylor on WRDV FM (89.3)Tuesdays from 8 AM to Noon and Wednesdays from 10 pm – 1 am or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org