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Record Promotion Man (extraordinaire) Bill Cook sent Ken Dowe a photo of him wearing a
"Granny Emma" sweatshirt that had been hiding in his closet for nearly 50 years. "Emma" was
Dowe's alter ego when he was on the air at "KLIF, the Mighty 1190," all those years ago.
(Ken humbly adds that "she" was far more popular than he.)
by Rollye James
Bill Cook (to Ken Dowe): “Look what I found hanging in the back of my closet today!!
Amazing, it still fits. Ken, please forward this to Granny as I am sure she is on some counter
intelligence mission in Europe.”
Ken Dowe: “That's wonderful, Bill! I appreciate your sending. Fifty years ago. Wow. Once
upon a time Gordon did send me to Europe on an assignment. Dottie and I were crossing a
street in (I think...) Copenhagen when a lady came walking toward me wearing that same
Granny shirt. A nice surprise!
“Bill sent that email to a long list of people. I'm getting nice comments from more than a few.
It's difficult to imagine how very much people can be affected by a voice on the radio.
Someone they've never even met.
“Once I was invited to a dinner in Arlington to honor Paul Volker, then Chairman of the
Federal Reserve. I sat next to a well dressed lady who was quite polite and seemed unusually
delighted to meet me when we were introduced. She explained that when I had been on the
air in Dallas-Ft. Worth she had listened every morning on the long drive to her office.
“I was always appreciative but usually a little embarrassed to be recognized or found out, but
this nice lady rocked me. She told me that her husband had died during the time she had been
my fan. Then, she said:
“‘The only way I could begin another day was by looking forward to your company while
driving to work. Your radio show was such good clean fun, interesting, and highly entertaining
to a lonely widow. And, there was the audacity of Granny Emma. Her feisty and hilarious
attacks, on just about everything and everybody. I laughed, and laughed, until finally....I
“‘Candidly, during that horrible time, I had been preparing to take my life, Ken. My
husband's death, was more than I could bear. But, you gave me joy. And, when the sun rose
with Granny and you, it did with me as well. You, literally... saved my life. And, tonight I get
to thank you.’
“That moment was when I learned that my unnatural insouciance was more important than I
ever realized. My acting wasn't just a silly way to earn a living. I was affecting lives without
recognizing the value of a God-given talent; or appreciating what my efforts might mean to
hundreds of thousands of others every morning.
“I would work harder and give my best, each minute, every morning. Not just for me, but for
the listeners. This little bit of showbiz was more important than I had realized. Granny was
"real," and really important... to a lot of people. I never knew who might be listening, or who
needed to hear a friendly voice...if only to momentarily blow the clouds away.
Bill Cook: “Marvelous story Ken and I am sure it is only 1 of thousands. Wouldn't it be
wonderful if you could write a book of those compilations of stories? Ever thought about
doing that, Old Friend?”
Ken Dowe: “This must be a sign...I've been thinking about a book of "threaded" vignettes for
a few days. I really like the idea. I was writing an email about it to Claude Hall, earlier
today... when "it lost itself," as my friends in Mexico say. (Good way to avoid accountability.)
I was about to ask friend Claude for his counsel. By copy of this to him, let's see what he
“As I have done little more than prep for the book Claude has strongly (and, so frequently)
almost demanded I write, I am discovering that the most interesting parts are more like
vignettes than a chronology of, ‘The next year I left Dallas for my first PD job in
Cincinnati…’ Boo! Hiss! Who wants to read that drek? That's as boring as stale peanut butter.
And, how do you write about a small number of people who were seriously important to such
a tiny audience. As the Little Prince said, ‘But, it's important to ME.’
“What if I used that small group as guides, if you will, and lined them up with the stars... to
help make the stories sparkle? What if I write instead a plethora of tales, told by a radio guy
reared in the Mississippi Delta...whose Standard Oil clerk father didn't have the money to buy
his 10 year old son a motorbike, so he showed him how to get one. "The old fashioned way."
“My family was filled with raconteurs. That's kind of a genetic gift in Mississippi.
Remember William Faulkner? Eudora Welty. John Grisham. Greg Isles. Shelby Foote.
Willie Morris. Kathryn Stockett. Donna Tartt. Beth Henley. And, the story tellers. Jim
Henson of MUPPET fame. In songs, too. Charley Pride. Elvis. BB King. All the greatest
Blues singers are "soul-ly" from the Delta. The first country music star was Jimmie
Rodgers. The spoken word, as well. Oprah Winfrey. Morgan Freeman. Mississippians.
And, so many more.
‘Why not tell stories? Maybe they would have more appeal to a much larger audience than
just old radio buffs. That's been my great concern. Over five plus decades there are so many
tales to tell. For example, I can think of music, and Mississippi, and stories will just pop into
my head. I mean..there have been a LOT of years to build a repertoire. From around the
So, it was midnight in Atlanta. At the airport, I was waiting to board when a lean and hard
black arm slipped around my neck. A softly articulate voice whispered in my ear: "Where you
goin' Ken Dowe?"
"Right now my first answer would be, 'Where ever you say."
" Hahaha! It's me. Charley!”
Charley Pride had been in Nashville, recording new material. He wanted me to sit with him on
our ride home to Dallas and listen to his newest songs. As we passed over Mississippi,
Charley leaned into the port hole window, looked into the early morning darkness, and said:
"There it is, Ken. Where you and I grew up. Mississippi. Tell me what you were thinking
when you were there as a boy."
"Mostly, from the time I was ten, I was out on the carport reading newspapers as I folded
them, and loading them on my motorbike to make my daily delivery. What I was thinking...
was: 'How can I see the world from here? How can I...from so far away? I must escape. What
were you thinking, Charley?”
"Me? I was looking up at the sky and watching these planes from down below the Mississippi
field where I was working...and saying to myself: "One of these days, I'm gonna be on one if
And, there we were, two friends from once segregated Mississippi. One black. One white.
Sailing into the night at 36,000 feet above the Magnolia State's alluvial soil, am still living
dreams of long ago.
Charley and I were great friends for many years, until he vanished from my life without a
word. I never knew why until he wrote about me in his book. So...
Listen, Charley. If you are reading this book, I never, ever said: "You can't have a hit with
steel guitars in your songs" I said, "..in POP songs! You can't have a pop hit with a steel
guitar in the track."
You misunderstood. Now, say you're sorry.
“What do you say, Claude?”
Rollye: “I say it’s terrific, Ken. I’m sure Claude will concur.”
Hal Whitney: “There's plenty of info on the net about the Jocks at WOR-FM in 1970 but I'm
trying to find out who the GM was at that time and I can't find any info. Maybe you or one of
the many radio veterans who read VoxJox will remember.”
Rollye: “I’ll defer to Mel Phillips’ on this, but my memory was that was around the time that
Ron Ruth became FM GM. (Robert S. Smith had been GM of the combo until then.) One
Broadcasting Yearbook (among thousands of other publications).”
Mel Phillips: “Oh my. What wonderful memories - RMR - The Strangeloves - The Billboard
Convention. After Muhammad Ali's passing I wrote on Facebook and Twitter about meeting
'The Greatest' twice and both times I thought he was a greeter for industry parties. Obviously,
the Billboard Convention was one of them. Both times, Ali was alone, standing in the corner
of the room quietly. I introduced myself to him both times and he put his hand out to shake my
hand. Nice man. Cosell was a different story. When I was clearing stations for ABC
syndication, I worked in the same building where Howard did his radio show (West End
Avenue, NYC). Howard had been out for a few weeks due to illness when I saw him on a
crowded elevator. Me: "Hi Mr. C. You look great." Howard: "Thanks. You look terrible."
Funny thing about Howard. When I worked in the ABC mailroom at 17 and going to radio
school at night, I would watch Howard do his local half hour sports show at channel 7 just
before going to school. I always waited to meet the famous sports stars he would interview.
We used to call Howard "The Coach." More memories. Thank you Rollye & Claude for
running my WRKO Reunion updates each week…
Rollye: “The pleasure is ours. I love getting the pictures, surveys and other promo material.
Read more about it at the end of the column. It’s shaping up to be a great event. To that end,
Mel is looking for help…”
Mel Phillips: “HELP WANTED: With WRKO in the process of finalizing hotel room and
venue plans for our reunion one year from now, I need a Boston-based point person (maybe
two) to provide eyes and ears over the hotel and venue to make sure everything is in order and
to inform me of any problems. This is a tough job and it can be demanding when we get closer
to the event. It will also include keeping a tab on the guest list. The late Sandy Stahl and Jake
Karger did such a great job for our 25th reunion and they are sorely missed. Jake is now living
in San Francisco and has offered her help (thanks Jake) but this job requires a Boston
presence. If your interested in helping and have a love for WRKO, please reply to me by
email. Thank you.”
Rollye: “In an attempt to save Mel’s address from the uncountable spam messages which will
result from bots trolling for such things, I’ll withhold the address I have for him. Mel,
hopefully you’ve obtained a separate address for the event— please let us know what it is...
Meanwhile, if you’re in Boston and have the time, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
pass along your reply.
“Back to Muhammad Ali…. who made sure we had an endless supply of quotes to use
when lamenting his passing. The one with which I really resonated was mentioned by Jerry
Del Colliano in one of his Day Starters:”
Jerry Del Colliano: “Muhammad Ali was an inspiring and, at times in his life, a polarizing
larger than life figure. He was so much more than a boxer — and I say that with due respect
to his awesome skills in that arena. Here is one of my favorite quotes from a man who knew
how to turn a phrase:
impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world
they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact.
It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.
“The most re-quoted part of this saying are these three words: “Impossible is nothing”.
But the part that I like is “Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential.
Impossible is temporary”.
“What if we believed this to our core and managed people with these empowering words in
mind? What if we raised our children to be less self-absorbed and more certain that
impossible is just a place on the road to possible when they chase their dreams. What if …”
: “You can read it online here
. Jerry’s Day Starters
are always a welcome sight in my
inbox, and they’re absolutely free to receive. You can sign up to receive them here
“No surprise at the coverage of Muhammad Ali’s passing, but one fact that was a real
mind-bender came from an interview with George Foreman that I read on the finance page of
Yahoo. Apparently Ali didn’t attempt cash in on his name until he was 64 years old. For
someone who was the ultimate showman, I wasn’t expecting that. Ali only used his name
power for boxing and the greater good. Finally Foreman convinced him that his good was
important too, and Ali sold 80% of he branding rights of his name and likeness for $50 million
ten years ago. By comparison, Foreman who knew well how to capitalize on his fame, got
almost three times that for the eponymous grills alone. Read about it here
Dave Anthony: “So I have to chip in about the Quadraphonic discussion. In the mid-70s I was
the midday guy on Malrite's WZUU in Milwaukee. John Chaffee was the national PD for
Malrite at the time and he made quite the appearance whenever he showed up at the station --
tight leopard suit, longer hair than mine (which was below my shoulders), huge rings that
encased various types of spiders, a belt buckle with a scorpion enclosed in clear plastic. But
that's another story. We installed Quad in the processing line and promoted it incessantly.
Besides liners, the legal ID was "WZUU-FM Milwaukee, broadcasting in QUAD" (Cue the
hot hit and we were smokin' for another hour.) As air talent, however, our passion would've
been much better had we had more than two speakers in the control room. Yeah, we broadcast
some type of Quad, but we could never hear it.”
Dick Taylor: “Thank you for adding my blog site to your connections column on the left side
of your Vox Jox blog. Having read Claude’s column since I started in radio back in 1967, he's
a name that's been a part of my radio life since the beginning.
“I finally spent the time to learn how to add Vox Jox to my Links column on my website.
Sorry it took me so long, but when school's in session, time is of a premium. Love your
column and am so glad it is back. I recently had the chance to converse with Ron Jacobs
(online & via phone) and John Rook (online). What a thrill to have had the chance to talk
with these radio programming icons that so influenced my career. Was so sad to see them
Barry O’Neil: “In Claude's and your's last column you mentioned you didn't know why the
record industry Radio Music Report & Record World went under. fyi: The death of Disco in
1979 meant 10,000 to 15,000 people in the Record Industry lost their jobs. Vox Jox is always
thoroughly enjoyable to read.”
Rollye: “Of course! How could that not come to mind? I recognized that the death of disco
impacted the record industry significantly more than it did radio (the understatement of 1979),
but those numbers are staggering. That many layoffs only makes sense to me when I put it into
context of the unprecedented growth the record industry had seen since the transformation of
the teen market from 45s to albums in the 1960s. The death of disco was a game changer. At
least for a while. Fortunately better times returned (the 1980s with the growth of MTV, the
re-emergence of Top 40 as CHR with mega artists like Michael Jackson, and the advent of the
CD— a piece of technology that went far to singlehandedly bolster record industry profits).
But what about now, when technology is seemingly working against the industry? There’s no
precedent for handling the shifts we’re only starting to see. The old yarn, “I’m glad I’m not
young” runs through my mind.
“Not that radio is in much better shape. Over the last 25 years, the industry has lost 27% of
its jobs— from 118,700 in 1990 to 86,800 in March 2016 according to a Department of Labor
release quoted in Friday’s Tom Taylor Now newsletter. (It’s free to subscribe and there’s a
wealth of knowledge in it, delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here
.) Gone are the days
when the lure of a radio job was everywhere. Even on the back of comic books. This one
might make you smile:”
Rollye: “But you couldn’t do it on your own back then. The upside of the current times, is
anyone can create their dream radio station online. It’s not as simple as it sounds, but it’s
eminently possible for anyone with sufficient time and interest. Larry Irons is proving it.
Earlier in the week, I got an interesting email about a new online station. But nowhere in it did
it tell me who was behind it. So I hit reply and asked, “Who are you?” Got a great answer:”
Larry Irons: “I’m Larry Irons, I was in radio 30+ years both as an on-air personality and
program director. In fact, on my first job in ’67 after only 4 months of experience I was
promoted to PD. After that I worked for and with, Gary Allyn and Neil Ross, regular
contributors to your column, at KSEA San Diego in ’73 & ‘74.
“I wrote and published “Number One Songs – The First Twenty Years” in 2014. It is about all
the number one songs in Billboard from 1956 – 1975 and is one long (209pages) POEM. I
sent a copy to Claude whose son Andy (the adjunct English professor/poet at UNLV, who
endorsed it, as well as many others: Dave Sholin, Steve Resnik, “Shotgun” Tom Kelly, Jon
Zellner, Guy Zapoleon and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee among them.
“I’ve worked in Reno, San Diego, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Lansing/East Lansing and
Brownsville, TX. I was program director and/or music director in all of these markets. I read
Vox Jox regularly each week and enjoy the history and stories about the greats: George
Wilson, Ron Jacobs, Lee “Baby” Simms and many others.
“I started Best Oldies Channel because people my age (69) still like the oldies, which now
includes the 70’s & 80’s, but can’t find an outlet in many areas of the country. “Best Oldies
Channel plays the best of the 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s…with a taste of the 50’s”, which is
prominently displayed on the website.
“I’ve received emails that radio programmers like, Dave Sholin, Jonathan Little, Bob
Harlow, Guy Zapoleon & Bob Hamilton all like the station. Bob Harlow (former KFRC
PD) wrote to Dave Sholin ‘I think it sounds great! I was skeptical of the wide era spread but It
has a good flow and the mix is good. The fees are costly, hope it works out because it is well
“Steve Rood, former studio engineer for Dr. Don Rose (KFRC) wrote: ‘Sounds good to me
too. Heard “Smoke on the Water” and “Jailhouse Rock” earlier along with “Stood Up” Ricky’.
Dave Sholin also sent along this: Bob Hamilton (ex-KRTH/KFRC/KSFO/KYA, etc) who
also is impressed and thinks station sounds great.
“We (my wife and I) launched the station on Monday, June 6, 2016. I used mainly FB and
email contacts, and the reception has been 100% positive. An interesting side note is that we
live in our RV, and are currently spending the summer in my home town of Carson City, NV.
The station lives in our RV and that’s where it was launched from! We are compliant with
ASCAP, BMI & SESAC and we stream 24/7/365 at 129kbps. Though the codec we use is
mp3, it sounds as good as CD quality.
“There are approximately 3,000 cuts in the library. We are using Studio Pro and Creator Pro
for music scheduling. Though not as good as Selector, it works quite well and is far less costly.
The voice of the station is Sam Anderson, who works for Creative Radio Jingles in St. Cloud,
MN and does voice over on the side. We have listeners, after only 1 week, in the U.S. as well
as Panama, UK, Japan, Ghana and Mexico, thanks to people on FB sharing with friends. The
numbers are quite small right now, but grow a little every day.
“One thing I’m doing that everyone seems to like is programming classic commercials (2
minutes per hour max) like Coke, Schiltz, Budweiser, Pepsodent, Oscar Mayer etc. We are
residents of South Dakota, but live mostly in Las Vegas. Our top of the hour ID’s say from
Vegas, because with 36 million visitors annually, we feel if we can get enough listeners the
hotels might consider time buys. That could be a tough sell if the station was in Madison, SD
“That’s about it Rollye. I’ve been out of radio for 19 years now, and actually told my wife,
Andrea, to either shoot me or have me committed if I ever wanted to get back in. I’m pretty
sure she won’t do the former, but still unclear about the latter. I’m working 14 hours a day at
this for now, and LOVING EVERY MINUTE!!! If there is anything else you’d like to know,
please let me know. Thanks for anything you can do to help us promote our station!”
: “Hear it for yourself here
. And talk about it on Facebook here
. Worlds of luck to you,
Mel Phillips: Many thanks to Phil Zachary and Dan Bolton of WRKO who continue to work
on both a reunion hotel room plan and a venue for our party, now less than one year away.
They want to ensure that we get the best kind of deal for both. Special thanks to Joan
Greenberg for her professional advice and support. Our photo gallery contains the original
on-air staff (Al Gates & Feathers with Palmer Payne, Curt Gowdy, John Rode, Joel Cash,
J.J. Jeffrey, Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg, Chuck "Chuckles" Knapp & Dick Burch
(who never came back after our technician strike. He was replaced by Jon Powers) in order of
appearance on the air the day we launched WRKO, Monday, March 13, 1967.
Al Gates & Feathers
John Rode Joel Cash
Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg
Chuck Knapp Dick Burch Jon Powers
Jim Coopersmith, Ted Kennedy
& GM Jack Hobbs
WRKO 50th Anniversary Reunion: When: Weekend of June 2, 2017 (Save the date)
Where: Allston-Brighton, MA: A Friday Night (June 2) Party for all WRKO employees past
and present (the hotel room plan and party venue are in their final stages & will be announced
soon)... On Air: WRKO-AM and Backbone Streaming (produced by George Capalbo
Jr.) (Saturday Night June 3, 2017, 7-11 pm)... The reunion is now less than a year away.