RADIO IN THE '60s
By DAVE RODDY
I worked at WYDE for about ten months and WSGN for eleven
exciting years. Many oldies and goodies are stacked beside turntables
in my memory; to cue them up again is unbelievable. Most of the titled
songs are time specific; I hope you can hear them replay in your mind.
I'll try not to over-modulate nor offer a millisecond of dead air while
you "rock with Roddy" one more time.
a Thrill on the Hill) Let's Go-Let's Go-Let's Go"
I came to WYDE from Charlotte in 1960 still in my teens. Two of my
older high school buddies were departing WYDE for our hometown of Memphis
to take over a station. All three of us played in a rock band while
in school; I followed in their footsteps. Chuck Browning later
had on-air positions in Philadelphia, Detroit, New York, San Francisco,
San Diego and Los Angeles. Jay Cook, the PD responsible for
my coming to Birmingham, achieved a great on-air and managerial reputation
at WFIL in Philadelphia, KIIS in Los Angeles and became president of Gannett
Radio. Jay and Chuck tried to lure me away to larger markets many
times, but I didn't want to have a rolling-stone moniker. The Magic City
suited me just fine.
From a Summer Place"
WYDE's studios were on Hwy 31, atop Red Mountain beneath Vulcan.
I worked with the new program director, George Singer, who helped
me select my new air name, Rockin' Roddy. Dave is my real name (I
had been given the name Ken Keene in Charlotte and it didn't truly
fit). Other staff announcers were: Doug Layton, Harry Chapman,
Hale and Ken Tremelling who took my old NC name, "Ken Keene."
Overall, WYDE was making gains with the 12+ and 18-34 demographics.
The drive-through request window, where I could see and talk with the car's
occupants on intercom, played a major role in carving my niche.
While I was on the air, the general manager, Tom Whitley, happened
in from a client meeting at The Club. He expected potential
sponsors to join him for a tour of the station. His face turned red
when he saw a roll of toilet paper sitting on top of his announcer's control
board (due to a bad cold, I needed the tissue close by). He tapped
hard on the soundproof window from the lobby and pointed in the direction
of the toilet paper. Initially, I thought he had seen my friend,
Schiro, who had jumped behind a file cabinet; having visitors in the
on-air studio was frowned upon. Petrified, it took me a minute to figure
out why he was so agitated. If there had not been witnesses in the drive-through
request lane, my angry boss would have probably thrown me out of the building.
I would have left to join my friends in Memphis had I been embarrassed
any further. It's funny now, but a lousy roll of toilet tissue came
close to prematurely ending my Magic City career. Next day, Mr. Whitley
apologized and cooler heads prevailed.
Pete Schiro, of Phillips High School, brought me up to speed with musical
preferences of Birmingham's youth. Through a mix of rhythm
and blues, oldies and top-forty hits, Pete helped me create the Panama
City 'Beach-music' formula that established my nightly show with teens.
The mixture placed less emphasis on teeny-bopper or country-flavored numbers
that were played at other times of the day on WYDE and prevalent on WSGN
and WVOK. In 1960, WSGN accurately considered their main competition
from WVOK. While those two stations went head to head, I was mounting a
flanking attack and gaining strength with youth.
the Last Dance for Me"
In those days, teens had to be home by midnight, so the last thirty
minutes of my show featured love songs, ending with "Lover's Never Say
Goodbye." An abbreviated version of the Flamingos' song became
my signoff theme throughout my career as a deejay. The market was alerted
to the new audience trends when the summer ratings were published in October.
I created and organized the HALLOWYDE promotion, where all the
jocks appeared in Halloween costume while I broadcast in an open casket
borrowed from a funeral home. Ken Keen ran the control board while
I introduced all the mailed-in requests from the coffin on the front lawn
(FYI, casket padding is totally useless for comfort). I was disguised
as a mummy wrapped in 100 yards of gauze, Harry Chapman was a terrific
"Dracula," and George Singer was made up as his "Granny" character. Traffic
on Highway 31 was tied up all the way down to Five Points South and to
Homewood in the opposite direction. Since the HALLOWYDE promotion created
such a bottleneck, WYDE management had to promise the infamous "Bull"
Connor that we would never do that again; off-duty police officers
were hired to control traffic from then on.
The oldies I played were called "Dave's Diamond Disks," until
I mispronounced "Disks" one night, and never lived it down. Sometimes,
just to mess with the button pushers in cars, Neal Miller on WSGN,
or Shelly the Playboy on WENN would play the same song precisely
as I did on WYDE, every beat synchronized.
In the spring of 1961, WYDE's owners announced they would begin broadcasting
Barons baseball during MY SHOW!!! I could not bear the thought
of being muzzled just to ride gain on a boring baseball game. The distant
owners failed to interpret the local 12+ and 18-24 audience trends. They
were interested only in revenue from baseball sponsorships. Additionally,
to save the expense of broadcasting from the baseball park or out of town
games, they planned for an announcer to call the game using ticker-tape
while an engineer inserted pre-recorded sound effects! Old-fashioned
ticker tape from the ballpark was transmitted to a machine in a hidden
studio that printed abbreviated copy on a one-inch band of paper. The play-by-play
announcer would read the ticker tape as it came through and then ad-lib
the details. The sound engineer was a half step behind because he
had to respond to the announcer. The audience-depleting plans were formulated
at WYDE just as Tommy Charles and Ben McKinnon were preparing
to leave WSGN for Houston.
the Road Jack"
While sharing an after-hours pizza at Pasquale's in Five Points South,
McIntyre told me that WSGN would need someone to take Tommy's place
on staff. He arranged a meeting with his boss, Ben McKinnon, Southern Broadcasting
Vice President and General Manager, at the WSGN studios on 7th Avenue South.
While seated behind a big desk smoking a cigar, Mr. McKinnon "made me an
offer I couldn't refuse", a calculating move that bode well for all concerned.
Even though WSGN's studio air-conditioning was inadequate and I had
lost my drive-through request window link to teens, I was elated to be
on the air and unencumbered. Program director Bill Bolen asked
me to take responsibility for the station's top-twenty survey and I began
learning how to do the research. By the time baseball season began, the
last laugh belonged to the young listeners who stood by me in the move
to 610. Although now in Texas, Ben Mckinnon won another ratings triumph
as WYDE ceased as an imminent threat for the younger audience ratings in
the spring of 1961!
Rockin' Roddy on WSGN,
1964. The last broadcast from the Southern Life Building on 7th Avenue
(Of note in this picture
are the two horns attached to the mic boom -- those were strictly for use
by JIM TABER!)
WSGN's owners in Winston-Salem sent in a new GM to shake up the market;
morning numbers had declined since Tommy and Ben went to Houston. Charlie
Brunt hired a new program director to replace Bill Bolen, who had taken
a position at WBMG-TV (He later went over to WBRC-TV). Jim Clark
went back to Tennessee. The new PD and morning man, "The Beard,"
told the deejays that he would be choosing our records from then on ...
a real bummer. I remember his real name, but I'll be nice. The Beard's
regionally challenged delivery didn't improve morning ratings, but the
rest of the day, Neal Miller, Doug Layton, Duke Rumore, Herb
Steadman and I picked up the slack.
Duke ignored the official station play list and played his own stash
from brother Joe's record store. While riding gain on Dick Clark's
syndicated production during two hours of my five-hour nightly show, generic
teeny-bopper songs were featured which ran contrary to my beach-music inclination.
That didn't last but one ratings period as management realized that cookie-cutter
radio didn't appeal to our sophisticated Birmingham listeners. Once
again I was asked to take over the record survey and expanded it to the
top-forty, still learning the ins and outs of professional record research.
The Beard came off morning drive after a while and hired Roger W. Morgan
to pull his zany telephone bits. Doug Layton went back to WYDE to do mornings.
Really Got a Hold on Me"
In 1962, Tommy Charles returned and joined Doug Layton on WYDE for
a year or so. They clicked as a team and later signed WAQY
on the air as junior partners with a car dealer. Tommy had a love affair
with fast cars. So did I, but Tommy could afford the Sophia Loren
and Grace Kelly models. At the time, mine were more like Minnie Pearl
and Mama Cass.
Local high schools permitted sororities and fraternities to operate
in those days. Each organization competed annually to present the best
formal dance. They hired me to be master-of-ceremonies for events
called "lead-outs", many of them held at country clubs or the Cloud
Room. Competing fraternities and sororities would attend rival affairs
and, during a particularly well-attended show, a Ramsey High School fraternity
asked my help putting their program together. I used my position to contact
the record companies for artist appearances. After all, we had been among
the first in the nation to play: "Lipstick Traces," "You Better Move On,"
"It's Too Soon To Know," and "Love Twist."
You Love Me?"
So I arranged for Benny Spellman, Arthur Alexander and
Thomas to come from New Orleans and used Johnny Jenkins and the
Pinetoppers from Macon to backup the singers. I am probably forgetting
an act or two because it was truly an R&B extravaganza! Halfway
through the show, Ronnie Noojin and other members of the Kappa Theta Phi
fraternity were proudly saying how no rival could ever top their show.
I was feeling pretty good too, since they made me an honorary KOBE at the
Roma Country Club that night. I still have the engraved plaque dated
June 6th, 1962.
the Night Away"
That's not all. Johnny Jenkins, the outstanding guitarist and leader
of the Pinetoppers, asked if his singer could do a few solos. I agreed,
but his singer would only be able to do a couple of short songs due to
time constraints. Not to take anything away from the amassed talent, but
Johnny Jenkins' singer stole the show. The delirious crowd refused to let
him off the stage. What an unforgettable night it was. The
fraternity earned bragging rights for presenting the best lead-out in history;
and everyone witnessed a musical legend in the making. The next day, I
called Jim Stewart, owner of Stax Records in Memphis, and told him about
Redding's performance! "These Arms of Mine" and
Been Loving You Too Long" were soon released!
The PD arranged for engineers Emmett Smith, Art Nesmith
and Jack Herring, to hook up WSGN to the Magic City's official Christmas
tree lights. With our high-tech gear in place, the red, green, blue and
gold lights literally "danced" to WSGN dynamics! These were no ordinary
blinking lights. Each color of the spectrum pulsed to our signal in varying
degrees of intensity and tempo: boom-ditty-BOOM! Seeing the
city's public Christmas tree rhythmically sparkle to 610 on the dial was
spectacular for listeners who drove by. Naturally, we stepped on
toes in the process. The only aspect of the promotion that we blew was
allowing "sinful rock and roll to desecrate a religious symbol."
Other radio stations and churches complained to authorities in such numbers
that an official decree was issued from city council: community seasonal
displays could not be affiliated with any broadcasting entity. Since the
new rule took effect on January 1st, we didn't have to unplug the lights
until seasons' end. While the exclusive audience connection infuriated
our competitors, religious organizations forgave us and chalked it up to
youthful exuberance. Ironically, the city council's resolution worked
in our favor by eliminating retribution.
it on Home to Me"
Ben McKinnon returned as General Manager of WSGN in 1963. He
cut The Beard and gave me the title of music director. I shared my
extensive oldies library with the other deejays and we protected that collection
like Fort Knox. After breaking several nationwide hits, I earned
my way into the Bill Gavin network of qualified sources sharing
advance information; important connections throughout the record business
were cultivated. I got word to distributors in the nicest tone possible:
if a new release was heard first on another station in our market, they
could forget about it making WSGN's play list; problem solved.
Day Will Come"
Mr. McKinnon, in one of the most exceptional moves ever made in Birmingham
radio, hired Jim Taber away from WABB in Mobile, where he had a
reputation as a programming mastermind. We lost Miss Midnight
when she decided to reset her inner clock and take her warm, sultry voice
to a day job. About the time Neal Miller left to do the Sgt. Jack
kids' television show, Duke Rumore departed for WYDE's new "countrypolitan"
format. Walt Williams, Jim Kell and Glen Powers
then hopped on the Taber train. Jim Taber implemented an "all new"
WSGN positioning strategy; deejays would now be called "Good Guys."
He had a unique smiley face logo designed for bumper stickers and tee-shirts
and created a jingle package of hip station ID's from PAMS in Dallas.
A distinctive echo was added to our signal and the on-air product became
even more polished 24/7. The "all new" WSGN really started cookin'
in the early part of 1963.
Way You Do the Things You Do"
I auditioned hundreds of records that came in every week as music director.
As a former saxophone-playing rock musician, the task was right up my alley.
I had an especially good ear for spotting hits and a passion for beating
the competition with new releases. Several times, Billboard
Magazine named WSGN the nation's number one top-forty radio station for
midsize markets. Stations in major markets closely monitored our
play-lists. Our record survey was a weekly collector's item and the
supreme local authority. Sales at local record stores and called-in
requests provided only partial rationale for rankings; those numbers were
always behind the curve at WSGN. Our secret was to be far out front with
our record selections, which appealed to our savvy core demographic.
The "Pick Hits" were obvious winners. We went out on a limb with
the "Bomb of the Week", always novel or unique sounding songs.
"Blue Moon" and "Wooly-Bully" pop into mind.
Can't Help Myself"
Tommy and Doug hired Woody Windham, a popular beach-music deejay
from South Carolina, to help WAQY compete with us for Birmingham's youth.
After a couple of ratings books, Woody got homesick.
We buried "Digger O'Dell" six feet deep in a coffin with a hundred
deadly snakes and drew throngs to Midfield Shopping Center to view
the oddity through a glass porthole. While I was on the air during a remote,
Digger's attendant stuck a huge rattlesnake in my face and I was supposed
to act cool. I'd experienced ad-libbing through distractions when
scripts were either snatched mid-sentence or set on fire. The other
announcers and I pulled juvenile pranks like that occasionally; causing
others to totally lose it on the air was fun until we experienced pay back.
However, coming within inches of the venomous fangs of a rattlesnake really
Want to Hold Your Hand"
Station remotes gave the Good Guys opportunities to meet listeners
in person, especially during the Alabama State Fair when our broadcast
tents were surrounded by adoring fans.
A golfing buddy and deejay at WYDE got a new position at WAPE in Jacksonville.
Wayne (Hale) built his weekly record hop at the Norwood Armory into
a nice little extra income source and turned it over to me upon his departure.
Thanks again, Ron.
With help from Buddy Buie, songwriter/producer/road manager
and his connections with several recording stars, my enterprise grew rapidly.
He introduced me to the James Gang, Candymen and Classics
IV, whose members would later form Atlanta Rhythm Section, and
many single acts, including Bobby Goldsboro, Roy Orbison,
Davis, Tommy Roe and Billy Joe Royal. Buddy Buie was
inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and continues to turn out
big time material. Thanks again, Buddy.
the Funny Little Clown"
The first time Bobby Goldsboro ever pulled his "cricket" imitation
on me was on the air during a live interview, its origin impossible to
perceive. How he created the realistic sound in his mouth, even while talking,
remains a mystery. I would have sworn the studio had been inundated
by the noisy creatures. Speaking of mouthing sound effects, Roy Orbison
practiced his throaty growl while visiting on air with me prior to his
recording "I Gotta Woman" and "Pretty Woman." He appreciated
my "keep it s-c-r-r-r-r-roungy" intonation. Roy's guttural
inflection was later reproduced by David Lee Roth in Van Halen's
version of "Pretty Woman." Nobody could ever imitate Roy's vocal
in the Streets"
I enjoyed the benefits of my strong relationship with teens as a concert
promoter, thanks to the approval and cooperation of WSGN management. My
youth connection was a win-win situation. The little inherited "hop" became
the hottest place to go on a Birmingham Saturday night. When "Georgia
Pines" was popular, the James Gang drew a huge crowd. It was horrifying
when hundreds more people than we had room for pushed and shoved to get
in. Fortunately, the kids listened to Sgt. Bob Emerson and my pleas
and lined up. For Bob and me, it was a wake up call for much tighter crowd
control. The residents complained about the traffic and disruption, but
my hop had outgrown that location anyway, and we moved to a larger facility.
There was talk of a great new band from the Carolinas that performed
at the Old Hickory Beach Club in Panama City during AEA, 1964.
One after the other, in-the-know teens encouraged me to bring the Swingin'
Medallions to Birmingham. Several local fraternities and sororities
had failed to hire the group due to a contractual stipulation which permitted
the Medallions only one day off a week.
Undaunted, I trekked to Panama City to see what the buzz was all about.
My young talent scouts were right on the money! The Swingin' Medallions
big horn sound and high-energy choreography absolutely blew me away.
Their thunder and lightning would be unleashed in Birmingham if we could
find a way to overcome their contractual obligation. This was a pretty
tall order since the group's only day off was Monday...the worst day of
the week to promote a hop, right?
Maybe not ... that branding light-bulb went off again! We'd call it
Monday" and do it every Monday, all summer long! Based on WSGN's
popularity and the group's following, the Medallions agreed to come to
Birmingham on a joint-venture. We all took a chance on that day of the
week; but the odds were pretty good. We started out at the Hollywood
Country Club in Homewood for an afternoon pool party ... you know,
throw a little sand around and try to create the beach atmosphere.
Once again, residents complained about loud music and crowds, so we
had to move to another venue. I tried to rent the Cloud Room in the
Woodlawn/East Lake area, but they wanted too much money. As it turned out,
we really didn't need their swimming pool; so we moved where the neighbors
wouldn't complain: the Airport National Guard Armory. Nighttime
was the right time for Medallion Monday! My hops were primarily stand-up
concerts; a few couples danced, but most people just crowded around the
stage, swaying to the beat, hands in the air, singing along: "Hey-hey-aye-baby
... I wanna know-oh-oh ... if you'll be my girl"
(That's What I Want)"
When they came to Birmingham, the young, talented, hard-working guys
from South Carolina earned more in one day than they made all week in Panama
City. They loved the Magic City and it loved them. Weekly turnouts
grew such that we moved to the new Oporto Armory, doubling our capacity
and parking. Sgt. Bob Emerson remained as my dependable manager.
There were many times that we maxed out Oporto's crowd limits. By law,
when limits were met, people in line entered only when someone exited,
causing future lines to form several hours before shows began. In addition
to crowd control, we learned that crowds are magnetic. As a whole, crowd
behavior was commendable. If you were a member of our audience, I
applaud you. I'm sure you'd agree the exemplary behavior would not be duplicated
Someone at a television station had the bright idea to play a football
game between radio and television staffs to raise interest in the High
School Football Jamboree at Legion Field. I met with Coach Bobby
Bowden at Samford to request help with equipment.
The future hall of fame coach loaned us clean uniforms and pads for the
vs. TV football challenge." The helmets were a little rank, but
effective. When the radio guys held practice, we learned that none of us
had ever played on a team, other than sandlots; but we were young and cocky
enough to proceed. We thought we'd defeat those pusillanimous TV guys with
one hand tied behind our back. Little did we know...
Really Got Me"
On game night, each team traded a couple of series without success
probably looking "sandlot" from the stands. I was on the receiving end
of a high-spiraling, fourth-down kick and didn't signal fair catch, though
I saw three defenders raging toward me. Time was running out and I wanted
to score and beat these guys. At 150 lbs, soaking wet, how many chances
would I ever have to be a football hero? It was now or never.
As the ball came down in my hands, three simultaneous hits echoed through
the stands! A sympathetic oooohhh from the crowd reached my ringing
ears as I was being drilled into the ground! That was the most exciting
play of the game...me getting creamed...but at least I held on to the ball
and consciousness. TV finally scored to edge Radio...they'd brought ringers,
really they had.
Lost That Lovin' Feeling"
After getting a few pointers from the Allison Brothers in Hueytown,
I won the Birmingham Raceway "Demolition Derby" against all the
other good-guys and WSGN sales and news departments. It was a lot
more fun to be the "cream-er" instead of the "cream-ee." Mr. McKinnon
was the first one to have his car demolished; we'd instinctively ganged
up on the big boss.
a Rolling Stone"
Jim Taber brought in Dick Kent to do the morning show when Roger
W. Morgan abruptly left. Dick wasn't there long when an opportunity opened
for him in Nashville. Taber hired Steve Norris to do morning drive.
Steve's quick-wit made an immediate audience connection and ratings skyrocketed.
Tall and slim Steve Norris grew his hair long at the start of the British
invasion and was labeled, "The Mop."
on a Roof"
Soon after the Beatles hit America, we moved our studios to the top
two floors of the tallest building in town. As we signed off the
air in the Southern Life & Health building on 7th Avenue South,
we drove in procession with flags waving, headlights flashing and horns
sounding. Two police motorcycle sirens blared, front and rear. Our
newsmen, Elvin Stanton and Pete Taylor, reported the ceremony
"Chet" and "David" style on the short trek downtown and up twenty-seven
floors. Jim Taber broke in the mike in our fabulous new state-of-the-art
studios. The "all new" WSGN was movin' on up to the penthouse
of the City Federal Building.
Penthouse...." Birmingham's landmark
City Federal Building - home to WSGN for many years - has recently been
given a second wind as it now houses loft apartments.
Taber called his afternoon drive show "Bumper to Bumper" and
alternately beeped two horns permanently attached to the arm of the studio
microphone when he said it. Under the threat of being fired, Taber's mnemonic
horns were off limits to everyone else. Jim always chuckled good-naturedly
when he stated the hands-off rule, but nobody ever dared to challenge him.
WAQY and other stations were publicly banning the Beatles, we played two
or three of their songs every hour. The good guys were on top of the world
and having a ball, which gave us an idea.
the Midnight Hour"
We brainstormed during announcer's meetings. It was in one of
these meetings that I named the WSG-N-tenna ball promotion!
Creating branding or positioning strategies became my professional forte,
and I'll never forget that one. Soon, there was a sea of bright orange
balls topping antennas on every thoroughfare. Several times a day, we'd
announce the license tag number of a car spotted with a WSG-N-tenna ball;
and if that listener called in right away, they won a prize. Stations
all over the country copied us. Local stations were demoralized.
It was grand to witness all the cars proclaiming the drivers' favorite
In 1965, Ben McKinnon sold Coca-Cola the "Win Something Wild"
statewide contest. This was the largest radio promotion Coca-Cola had ever
done in Alabama. WSGN was the flagship station. The month-long
prize contest offered winners a new Ford Mustang and ten Honda motorcycles
and was promoted on fifty radio stations. A red silk jacket and white trousers
were custom tailored for Mr. Coca-Cola's statewide excursion in the red
Mustang. A professional motorcycle racer, "Red Ryder," rode the
red Honda decked out in a white leather jumpsuit, red boots and helmet.
To win the car or bike, you had to listen to my daily live updates and
calculate the number of miles we had covered; then enter your total estimate
on an entry form on the product package. As guest deejay, I did local radio
shows along the way and got to meet legendary coaches Bear Bryant
and Shug Jordan, Governor Wallace and hundreds of listeners
while traveling over 3,200 miles in America's coolest car. I wish
I had one of those '65 classics today, don't you?
I made three appearances on Dick Clark's American Bandstand
as local favorite deejay; co-promoted Clark's "Where the Action Is"
with WSGN starring Paul Revere and the Raiders, Neil Diamond,
Valli & The Four Seasons, Davey Jones and The Monkees
and a whole host of one-hit-wonders.
As a disc jockey, I had the opportunity to talk with scores of recording
artists, including Elvis and The Beatles. I particularly enjoyed being
friends with the Swingin' Medallions, The Candymen, The Tams,
Roy Orbison, Bobby Goldsboro and several local artists, including: The
Ramblers, Bob Cain and Dale Serrano. I was proud
to be first in the nation to play a new record for which WSGN received
national recognition. Three that stand out are: "Ode to Billy
Joe," "Spooky," and, of course, "Double Shot."
Kind of Fool"
One of the keys to WSGN's long-term programming success was balancing
a heavy dose of oldies in rotation with new hits. Although the classic
records played were always less than ten years old, the majority were less
than five. Some programming analysts would credit WSGN as the nation's
first oldies station. My daily Classic Hour, from 6:00 to 7:00 PM,
was exclusively oldies and always achieved exceptional ratings.
Drive carefully, be good, carry a big stick, feed
the birds, best of all, have a ball, goodnight you all!
At far right is the late Jim Taber
-- "Bumper to Bumper with Taber Time at the Turntables" -- who came to
WSGN in 1963 and helped make it one of the best top-40 stations in the
Taber moved me to 3-7 PM afternoon drive in 1965 which turned out to
be a natural fit. The move freed time for Jim's programming responsibilities
and "Skylane" traffic reports from his new airplane, the Cessna
610. When Jim bought a radio station and moved to El Paso, Walt Williams
succeeded him as program director and built audience ratings to even greater
Under legendary general manager, Ben Mckinnon, and brilliant programming
expertise of Jim Taber and Walt Williams, audience surveys certified that
over half of the 18-49 demographics listened to WSGN. Virtually everyone
between the ages of 12 and 24 tuned in as well. This was validated by the
High School Spirit Contest where top contenders collected and turned
in hundreds of thousands of bottle caps. I had a reporter at every high
school do live call-ins relating their weekly activities. Elvin Stanton
left to become Governor Wallace's press secretary and Dave Perry
took over as news director. Our news department had no equal when
it came to going after a story and scooping the competition.
Tracks of My Tears"
I guess this chronicle would not be complete if I didn't mention my
1968 record. While auditioning new releases, I heard a hokey country
narration. Even though I thought the guy made a poor presentation, I heard
promise in the lyrics and called both Steve Norris, and recording studio
owner-engineer, Ed Boutwell, for advice. Steve had experience arranging
and producing for local artists in his spare time. I asked Steve and Ed
what they thought about me covering this particular narrative in the top-forty
vein. Even though Steve had to be on the air the next morning, we spent
the night in the studio recording my narrative with acoustic guitar, electric
bass and drums. Over the next few days, Ed and Steve multi-tracked the
strings, trumpet and vocals and mixed the master. One week later, "The
Last Goodbye" was released nationally on Warner Brothers.
"We'd just finished dinner and I walked into the den, turned on the
TV when she walked in and kissed me on the cheek, like a million times
before ... She said, 'I know it's late, but my shopping is a little behind
and I am going down to the grocery store.' She looked just like an
angel standing there..." Okay, it was hokey, too, but it made
number one in Birmingham. The record possibly could have done better
nationally if Bobby Goldsboro hadn't come out with "Honey" shortly after
my record's release. Bobby didn't need to apologize, but offered
to find me something else to record.
I had the pleasure of working with a number of WSGN on-air professionals:
Miss Midnight (June West-Wetzel), Tommy Charles, Ward McIntyre, Bill Bolen,
Doug Layton, Duke Rumore, Neal Miller, Jim Clark, Herb Steadman,
Jim Taber, Walt Williams, Glen Powers, Jim Kell, Dick Kent, Steve Norris,
Dean, Don Martin, Joey Roberts, Mike Edwards,
Knight, Elvin Stanton, Pete Taylor, Dave Perry, Larry Adcock,
Cunningham and Joe Alloia. During the sixties, we kicked radio
butt and had a great time. Many former co-workers are deceased, yet they
live on in treasured memories.
Out, I'll Be There"
When "Double Shot" and "What Kind of Fool" were at their number one
positions on the record charts, we had to do two separate shows a night
in order to accommodate the fans that came for "Medallion Mondays" and
Tuesdays" ... Summertime at the Oporto Armory was a magical time.
Sadly, on Tams Tuesday, August 13th, 1968, the Oporto Armory would
be the scene for a personal tragedy. While helping a young man free his
car from the mud in an adjacent lot, I fell into a deep storm drain and
broke my back. By the time I returned to work, the psychedelic rock days
had taken over. Don Martin took my place on the air and Steve Norris became
music director. During my eighteen-month convalescence, my great
boss and mentor, Ben McKinnon, made corporate appeals on my behalf which
were approved by John G. Johnson, president, and Bob Jones, radio division
supervisor. Thankfully, Southern Broadcasting covered my disability
insurance deficits and retirement contributions. Although the Jaguar and
house on the hill didn't survive the aftermath, in a few years this "Humpty-Dumpty"
was back together again, thanks to a caring wife, family, friends and orthopedic
surgeon, Dr. Richard Cord.
Bobby Goldsboro called to tell me about a new song he had written for
which he had high expectations. He had not heard about my incapacity.
Pen in Hand" was individually recorded by Vicki Carr and Brook
Benton. Lucky for Bobby, I couldn't have done his song justice; my
only vocal experience had been singing bass in the First Methodist Chancel
Got a Brand New Bag"
Although I considered going with the flow, the new style of music had
lost appeal. Bob Dylan's lyrics, "times they are a-changing"
defined the era with a defiant twang. In 1970, Mr. McKinnon offered
me a grown-up job as a WSGN account executive. I joined Bill Floyd,
Ashworth and Norm Zauchin in the sales department under sales
manager, Warren Merrin. This new position made it possible to return
to work while continuing physical rehabilitation. When Don Martin (Moseley)
and I produced a jingle for a client, the passion was renewed. Now,
I could happily move from my glory days as a WSGN Good Guy to an equally
fascinating and satisfying career in advertising. I'll never forget
that first production: "Let Shaia's of Homewood Bring Out the Man
Dave Roddy shaking hands
with Warren Merrin, WSGN's Sales Manager. Dave was named Radio
Salesman of the Year for 1970-71 by the Birmingham Advertising Club.
(At the time this picture
was taken, he was still in a back brace!)
Since leaving Birmingham in 1972, I've remained in the advertising,
music and syndication businesses based in Columbia, SC. I
stay in contact with Don Martin (Moseley). He and his lovely wife, Betty,
own and successfully operate the Sound of Birmingham recording studios
on 5th Avenue South. Don is a gifted vocalist and A&R man. He and I
have created many advertising jingles that have helped businesses become
household names in local, regional and national markets and we've had tons
of fun in the process. My family and I have been blessed from the
training and experience gained in the Magic City. Thanks again, Mr.
McKinnon and Southern Broadcasting, Jim, Walt, Warren, Don, and all the
to Be Wild"
A client and I participated in a golf outing sponsored by Time Warner
Cable TV. My all-time sports hero, Joe Willie Namath, was
here in South Carolina to promote ESPN Classics. I was blown away when
Joe recognized me and said that he used to "rock with Roddy" on headphones
in the locker room prior to Alabama football games at Legion Field.
My client enjoys repeating the story.
2004: Dave with girlfriend
Mickey and his all-time sports hero, Joe Willie Namath!
Heard it Through the Grapevine"
In early 2006, I was guest on the XM broadcast of 1960's era WSGN
where the XM deejay recreated the station's sound with original PAMS jingles,
and an actual Good Guy air check (Dick Kent) with sponsor commercials.
It was really quite remarkable how good WSGN sounded in comparison with
today's cookie-cutter radio. It must have been the same great audition
tape that landed Dick the job in Nashville. Dick's air check included many
station promos by Jim Taber and Walt Williams and a commercial for a joint
Irma Thomas and Tams' appearance I was promoting using the "Good
Guys on the Go-Go" jingle. It also featured a Pete Taylor newscast
with his impeccable diction and authority. I helped the XM deejay
feature songs that were popular in Birmingham and it was surprising how
many I recalled. I heard from Dick Kent, Glen Powers, Joey Roberts, Don
Martin, Dave Perry and many other people as a result of the nostalgic broadcast.
Whenever I see the still fabulous Swingin' Medallions, I tease original
band members about not having to work at a real job for forty years ...
all because of a crazy hit record! What I really mean is, way
to go guys!
I say to the timeless Tams, let's continue to "Be Young, Be Foolish
and Be Happy!"
Read about the Swingin' Medallions and The Tams and many other popular
southern bands of the sixties in Greg Haynes' historical book: "The
Hey-Baby Days of Beach Music." Here is the link: http://www.heybabydays.com/book.htm
Best of My Love"
I hope this has been as enjoyable to read as it was to recall.
Now that I think about it ... I never had the chance to offer you a proper
farewell. I say it with heartfelt thanks for the memories: "Keep
it [smooch, pop] sc-r-r-r-r-r-roungy,
rascal" ...'cause 'Lovers Never Say Goodbye'"
HEAVEN ... in '67"
BIRMINGHAM REWOUND has a recording of Dave Roddy on a
Saturday afternoon in March 1967, 40 years ago this month! This captures
both Dave and WSGN at their finest. Real personality radio, the latest
and best PAMS jingles (remember Swiszle?), promotions left and right
... oh, and a news department which put the "adult establishment" stations
WAPI 1070 and WBRC 960 to shame.
All the great promos are here - "The Good Guys on the
Go", complete with sonovox ZAP!, WEEE! and GLAM! sound effects - and the
build-up for a Birmingham visit by Dick Clark's afternoon TV show Where
the Action Is.
The quality isn't exactly high fidelity, even for AM standards
of the day (it was recorded from the earphone jack of a transistor radio
into a small Webcor machine, so I'm told). But ... who cares??
Roddy on WSGN 610 - Saturday, March 18, 1967 -- 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.
(MP3 format, 32 kbps mono - approx. 5 MB)
Of special note is part of a commercial advertising the
dinosaurs at Roebuck Shopping City, pictures
of which may be found here.....
BIRMINGHAM REWOUND thanks Dave Roddy
for sharing these!
This page updated 03/14/2007
-- 310 PM EDT
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