Part 29: WKRP, Langley

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 29: WKRP, Langley

Postby Brian Lord » Tue Jul 27, 2010 7:20 am

Brian Lord's Radio Stories #29
WKRP, Langley

Down the quiet, ghostly halls of CJJC a door led to my office. It was a rather dull office with a desk, three old fashioned wooden chairs, a file cabinet and a window. There was a telephone on my desk and I was sitting there wondering what I could do to increase ratings and make the place come alive. My only cohort was Dave Chesney who was down the hall in the music library messing around with new Country releases of which I think we received about ten a week; Vancouver was not a country music mecca. Our signal stretched into Vancouver but it was weak and Joe Chesney, the owner had recently applied for an increase from five to ten-thousand watts.and we were pretty sure we'd get it. Then the telephone rang.

A voice said "Is that the good Lord?" Jacques. Roy Jacques, one of my all-time favorite people. He had been back east working in television, acting as a judge on some Canadian TV program and the part fit him well but for whatever reason, the show had gone dark after a three or four year stint and Jacques was back in his beloved British Columbia looking for employment. He had once been a newsman on CKWX and his real forte in trade as a news anchor. He had a voice that seemed to emanate from his socks and had a mind that was pistol-quick.

He and I had become friends years before during a PR assignment aboard the cruise vessel Himalaya. It was shortly after the P&O line had re-initiated the Pacific Ocean crossing taking over from the Aorangi which after many years service was deemed unworthy to ensure passengers a safe journey. As for our PR job, each radio and TV station assigned a newsman to fly to Victoria at the break of dawn, get bus transported to some nearby pier and boarded a small service vessel that took us to the Himalaya which was anchored off Victoria; spend the day cruising at slow speed while the news-people aboard stuck microphones in peoples faces and asked them about their cruise. P&O apparently figured we played these ditties on the radio and I believe two or three actually made it.

I had teamed up with Jimmy MacDonald from 'WX and somewhere a long the way, Jacques joined us and we became a threesome which would have resulted in no more than three guys talking while on an assignment. However, the P&O folks had opened the bar as soon as be were on board and all the liquor we could drink was made available. I have mentioned before my drifting into a state of alcoholism and it turned out that both Jim and Roy enjoyed free booze as much as I did, (although neither became alcoholics). By 10:30 AM, when the Himalaya pulled up anchor for Vancouver we were all pretty blazed. We had a great old time spent in the ships tipping room and then ventured out on deck to watch Rolf Harris, who was coming to North America for the first time, play "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" and other wobble-board favorites. We then set about doing insane interviews with Aussies each interview sillier than the last. Jacques asked several passengers "In Australia, what was the difference between left turns and right turns in traffic... did one turn right on a left signal and vice-versa due to driving on the wrong side of the road?" Jimmy wanted to know if people kept penguins as pets and I asked if you walked up hill were you actually walking downhill due to your "underneath" position on the globe? This went on between drinks.

When we arrived at Vancouver, we each stole a bottle of booze, got in my decrpid old Chevy and drunkenly cruised around town ending up at the Arctic Club where we were eventually asked by management to leave, please. I don't know what happened then but we all survived and would occasionally run across each other at news gatherings. This period was when Jimmy was a reporter and Roy was in Montreal playing a TV judge. Oh yeah, I had managed to get fired again... and re-hired after a year or so.

So I was back at CJJC sitting as I mentioned above when Jacques phoned. I said to Roy I'd love to hire you but I don't think I can afford you. I offered him the same salary I was pulling down (not much) and a car. He said 'WX was after him and he'd let me know. In the meantime I talked to Joe Chesney on the phone -- he was out of town - and I mentioned Jacques, to which Joe replied.."Naw, he's to rich for our blood". So when Roy called back the next day and said he'd rather work out in Langley instead of Vancouver I just said "Great" Can you start Monday?". A little later Joe dropped by my office I said "By the way, I hired Roy Jacques". All I got was a long, uncomfortable stare.

Roy had a very far-right wing approach to politics and carved a 15 minute niche for himself twice a day for editorial raps and he left no doubt about his political leanings. Joe Chesney was just west of being an extreme Socialist and the two of them battled between each other over everything possible as time rolled on. Joe never said anything to me but I am sure he was eventually glad Jacques was with us. As Dave has said, Jacques and the old man had respect for each other." I had made Roy Director in charge of News and by attrition he built a pretty fair group in our newsroom. I had hired Gary Raible for Sports, so that end was handled: News and Sports.

Dave took his job as librarian seriously so I made him Music Director who replaced the lackadaisical Dave Cash. To say our music improved is a much understated fact. Dave Chesney knew music. All kinds. As a matter of fact he went on to excel in the business of dealing with musicians, producing, booking, I don't know what all, we kind of lost touch but compared to the hell-bent-for-leather party-man he was as a young 20 year old he is now a respected individual in the industry and the town he lives in. We had a lot of fun. I can remember one night there was a party somewhere and Dave and I got all messed up with some purple micro-dot and a couple of squares of window-pane and were driving in some other part of space when we ran across one of those big trucks they have out in the valley that lifts mud and junk out of the gutter -- both sides of the road at one time by means of long steel extensions hinged in the middle with a couple of huge scoop shovels on each extension. It was: The Truck With Arms. Dave and I had never seen one of these huge monstrosities before. Scared the living shit out of me. Dave kept his head, turned around and drove away.

Dave also determined that in order to do the Music Director job right, he needed a helper. An Assistant. I didn't object and neither did his father so he went ahead and hired two girls, one after the other. Both were knock-outs. Both were dumb as wheelbarrows and both were beautiful. During their separate times at the station, they caused havoc because almost every guy was after them like male wolverines. At a staff party one of the salesmen got completely pissed and was running around the room chasing the girl with his pants down at his knees. The third assistant Dave hired was an ugly male, short and stumpy. But he knew music.

By this time we were accumulating some pretty talented announcers. The News sounded professional and we were able to pick up Ched Miller from one of the Vancouver stations who dressed up the sound of the station. He and I became on-again-off-again golf partners and used to got to the course at around 5 o'clock AM and play a round just as the big machine was soaking up the dew on the greens. We'd get through in time to go to work. It wasn't long before golf became the national sport of CJJC. Several of us would team up and have a golf game at the dinky little 18 hole course out in Langley. Long after golf faded, a DJ we'd hired named Rob Carlyle joined the staff and we played a lot. A good score was 115.

Dave and I were slowly easing the Wilf Carter and Kitty Wells records out of the playlist and pumping in some hot country which was just coming into fashion. Buck Owens was big but so was Merle Haggard, Connie Smith, George Jones, Willy Nelson and the best of all, Waylon Jennings. Waylon had got the boot from Canada awhile back for possession of several pounds of illegal dope. When the ban was finally lifted Waylon did a telephone interview with me from the lounge at YVR. On a break in the interview because the phone rang (against my instructions to put calls through) I had to put it down to reset the tape. Waylon asked who was on the phone and I told him Louise Higginbotham, a personal friend. I thought Waylon was going to expire he laughed so hard at her name -- yet on one of the cuts of his next CD "Honky Tonk Heroes" the track, Ain't No God in Mexico, he mentions her name. It was an ad-lib because Waylon didn't even write the song.

Dave and I figured we were about half way there. We needed some more good staff and about that time I got loaded, did or said something stupid and Joe sent me back to the non-working class where I was forced to build a little business of my own. However, as always I came back to Langley again and by this time things really got wild. Comin' up McMann and Eggs, the Queen Elizabeth Theater, and bye-bye for good.
Brian Lord
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Re: Part 29: WKRP, Langley

Postby Neumann Sennheiser » Tue Jul 27, 2010 6:00 pm

Interesting how some of the wildest drinking stories have to do with the twin factors of "radio guys" and "open-bar".
That "nautical" element often seems to come into play too.
On one occasion, while a Japanese navy "tall ship" was in port, I recall being invited aboard for the captain's saki reception; that's the real stuff from Japan direct from the skipper's private stock. Japanese sailors do like to partake and insist that that the most honorable guest should keep up drink for drink.
There was also one legendary tab run up by the CFUN jocks on a celebratory night at The Hart House in Burnaby.
"Mr CFUN" ate upwards of a grand to cover that one but we did actually pay for it in a very real way as it was a loooong time before we were ever treated by management again.
"You don't know man! I was in radio man! I've seen things you wouldn't believe!"
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Re: Part 29: WKRP, Langley

Postby Anotherwpgguy » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:43 am

Purple micro-dot and window pane ... now there is a piece of history.

Lucky for me, it has been about 35 or 40 years since those experiences, and I survived them intact .... well, more or less.

I don't know whether to consider those times as "lost years" when I should have been doing something more productive than playing soul hits and Top 40 for the masses with the help of 50 Kw transmitters, or was I having a great deal of fun.

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