Wednesday, July 16, 2014

All Hail The Mighty DJ

For decades, they were responsible for scratching our musical itch from AM drive-time to the midnight hour. Sadly, they're now relegated mostly to cut-ins allowed by the big network conglomerates.

They're the legendary disc jockeys of years and AM stations gone by.

Back-in-the-day, we'd tune our dials to pick up the zaniness of characters like Lloyd Thaxton (Leave It To Lloyd), Jack Gale (Failure Theater), "The Real" Don Steele, Wolfman Jack, Robert Murphy, Cousin Brucie, Casey Kasem and others.

Their shows not only gave us the fab music we wanted, but many were peppered generously with some of the funniest jokes, one-liners and skits -- and they were all designed to bring some welcome relief from the day's troubles. Kasem had a special style that he carried into his net feed: His voice actually smiled as he talked -- and, as one reader put it, "made me feel like it was just me and him sitting in the living room, with a record player between us."

And, while he became host of the best teen show on the planet, Uncle LL could still make you feel as if he were performing just for you! Using live talent, five fingers and an active imagination, he brought the zaniness of the radio DJ into the world of television ... and it became the most-watched 5 PM show in America!

In Charlotte, we awoke to Gale's "Failure Theater" (a comical 'soap-opera') or to Robert Murphy's "Murphy In The Morning" (often including David Sprinkley and the news - a parody of NBC newsman David Brinkley, done to perfection by WCNC reporter David Sprinkle). We also had the infamous Chuckie "Boo" Baron and his fantastic "beach music bombshells!" (PS  Check the vid at the bottom of this post, ye Tarheels, for some cool memories ...)

Over in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, there was the "Right Reverend William A. Tucker from the First Church of Himm, Ah-HI-uh (Phil Gardner), with his wonderful Sister Sapphire Grassmire" doing the song "Every Disc Jockey In The World Needs A Little Lovin'" (to the instrumental track of The Main Ingredient's Everybody Plays The Fool").

Then there was Wolfman Jack. Do I really need to say more about him??

When the monster networks started feeding their shows to ratings-hungry but often money-starved FMs, it seems that our favorite DJs began to fade away like morning fog. The AM stations tried to counter by changing format to all-news/talk/sports, but to no avail. The net megaliths were just too strong ... and had all the money ...

But these were the guys (and gals) who worked their butts off day after day to bring us the best that music had to offer. They're the ones who. in 1963, brought a glimmer of hope back to the eyes of Americans who had lost a President to an assassin's bullet. They're also the ones who were in the thick of the "rights" movements and "anti-war" protests, assuring us that there was still plenty to feel good about! No matter how bad things might've been in their own personal or even physical life, they put all that aside to bring us all music ... allllll the tiiiiime!

Today, there's a move to bring rock (and its jocks) back to AM stations! Some are already revving back up for the fans who miss the "local" touch (in some cases, with as many of the original crew as possible!). With Arbitron® ratings showing a steady rise in listeners who prefer the sounds of actual rock-n-roll, and those listeners preferring local stations over the impersonal network feeds -- maybe it'll finally happen.

Because (snif!) nothing's sadder than to see a poor, starving little DJ standing out in the rain of society (I'm [sob!] ... I'm havin' a hard time gettin' through this ...), scratching at our back door for a morsel of madness, 45s stuck under one arm, a tin cup in the other (no, no ... that's just a tear in my eye), hoping you have a few spare minutes he can have to brighten your day with some good times and great oldies (I ... I'm gonna break down here!).  Y'see ...
"Every disc jockey in the world needs a little lovin' ..."

Stay ... stay tuned (now, where's my Kleenex???)

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