Thursday, September 1, 2011

To Toledo And Beyond!!!

Johnny And The Hurricanes Circa 1959 

Quitting WKNX on such a definitive, shall we say... note?... most assuredly negated my chances of making nice with my former employers, and regaining my old job.  When I left a station I REALLY left a station, with only a couple of exceptions they'd never have me back.  This tendency toward grand parting gestures has come back to haunt me more than once in my career, I can be an arrogant S.O.B.  On the other hand, I've never regretted it even once.

But the fact remained, I was now unemployed and would have to get crackin' to find another job.  I had other, serious business to deal with first however, by now I'd been served with divorce papers and did not challenge the action.  Judy had been dating someone for some time and as soon as the divorce was finalized she'd remarried, now it was my turn.   

Do you get the impression that I was impulsive in any way?  

Deb and I were best friends, so to me it was a no brainer.   We left Saginaw, and drove to N.D. to get married.  We had a nice visit with her family at their farm in Reynolds, and stopped by Fargo's legendary KQWB on the way back just to see if there were any openings there.   I swear if I'd been able to hook up with that station, I'd have never left.   It was brilliantly programmed by Deano Day, and boasted some of the greatest air talent in the country.  Unfortunately there were no openings, or maybe I just wasn't good enough to crack the lineup, so back to Saginaw it was.

I'd sent out a tape to the station in Detroit that had expressed an interest, but by this time they'd hired someone else.  A quick look through Billboard magazine brought up an ad for an afternoon gig at WTTO, Toledo.   I'd been through Toledo a couple of times and liked it, so I jumped in the car.  It was July 20, 1969, and as I was passing through Detroit I heard on the radio that Apollo 11 had just touched down on the surface of the moon.  This turned out to be a good omen for me because, after a short interview, I got the job.

WTTO was the first station I ever worked at that was completely controlled by a consultant.  Radio consultants had been around for years, but few exercised such total domination of the format as Mike Joseph.  Mike had streamlined several enormously successful stations including Flint's WTAC and New York's WABC.  Using a combination of extremely succinct DJ patter, and an extremely short playlist he turned those stations into regional giants.  Every song was weighted according to it's popularity, and played accordingly.  Any patter that we as air personalities might bring to the show would be short, to the point and generally over the intro of the songs we played.  It was mostly non-stop music and, when we did stop down, our comments had to be under 60 seconds including weather mentions or other station biz.  He carefully researched the station's reach to see which areas could deliver the most listeners in our demographic target...18-24 year olds... and made sure that we mentioned those locations in requests, weather etc.   In other words, this was a no nonsense, bare bones, more music monster!

 Upon arriving in Toledo I immediately set out to learn as much about the town as I could.  That meant cruising the streets with a map to get the lay of the land, familiarizing myself with the routes drivers would use on their way home so I could address their commute on the air, and stopping by the various restaurants, malls, parks and, of course, watering holes.  It was in a club called The Carousal that I ran into an old acquaintance.  Toledo's favorite sons Johnny and the Hurricanes were playing there that week, they had hit the charts many times in the 50's with instrumental rock songs such as “Red River Rock”, “Reville Rock”, “Beatnik Fly” and more.   I knew their former drummer, “Bo” Savich quite well in my musician days back in Detroit.  Johnny Paris (Pocisk) was the sax player, and the leader of the group.  After some catch-up style small talk he said to me,  “I've got something in my sax case you've gotta see.”

Star Club Ad Circa 1962
He opened up the case and pulled out a photo of the marquee of the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany.   On the marquee, in huge letters, were the words “Tonight Johnny And The Hurricanes” and below, in little tiny letters “Also The Beatles”

It's nice to know that at least SOME of us early Michigan/Ohio rockers made an impact after all!


  1. I think my late mother knew one of the members of Johnny & The Hurricanes too. Too bad all I have left is her memories, tons of records and recordings she made off the radio or of her voice when she use to perform in clubs like the Rustic Lodge up in Michigan.

  2. I am looking for something very obscure. Maybe you can help, if you still monitor or respond to this blog. When I was a child, I remember listening to a Toledo radio station that would sign off with some people singing: "Goodnight! Cha-cha-cha!" then static. Was that WTTO? Was that sign-off part of a song? Thanks!