radio and growing up in New Orleans in the 50's, 60's and 70's!
ROBERT "SKIP" DEARIE, Columbia, La.
Bob, thanks for the site ! It's the best walk down Memory Lane a native New Orleanian could have. I, like most who have posted here, have many memories of the "Golden Days of Radio" and the unique experiences of growing up in the Big Easy.
I'm from the Uptown/Garden District near Magazine & Jefferson Ave. Some of my earliest cherished memories are of the Saturday night monster fest at the Napoleon Show, riding bikes down Monkey Hill, the 2 story slide at the Audubon Park pool, and enjoying a Hansen's "snowblitz" on a hot summer day.
As a young boy I saw President Kennedy ride by me while standing at the corner of State & Laurel streets, where the "Sugar Bowl" confectionary used to be. I was an altar boy at St. Francis Of Assisi and remember hearing a band called "The Paper Steamboat" practicing in a house across the street from school. I was a Cub Scout, and for why I don't remember, but we did a skit on The Great McNutt's show where we dressed as Can-Can girls ! I watched Uncle Henry on Popeye & Pals, swam at the "Old Beach", rode the Zephyr & Wild Maus at Pontchartrain Beach, ate Royal Castle hamburgers near West End, and had a picture and autograph session with "The Cisco Kid" when he appeared at the local Winn Dixie.
Growing up I delivered groceries for the corner store, Broussard's, by bicycle throughout the neighborhood. My first 45, "Kind Of A Hush", was purchased from Dorian's Record Store on Magazine St. and my first album was "Are You Experienced" bought at the local Schwegmann's. I remember wrestling a greased watermelon in the pool at Camp Salmen, and riding the Swan boat past Duck Island in the Audubon Park lagoon. My friends and I used to catch turtles from that lagoon and sell them at Ott's Pet Shop. Together with the money we'd get from selling bottles, we'd make enough to buy our favorite new 45 or get a Po-Boy from Domilise's.
High School memories include the rivalries we had (De La Salle) with Jesuit at Tad Gormley Stadium, dances (and fights) on the President, playing air hockey at Dino's, and parking at the lakefront. It was at that age that I started playing in my first bands too. In the early 70's my band, Class Sass, played in the Superdome and recorded at Buzzy Beano's (Topcats) BB Studio on the Westbank. I was in The Dixie Tallboys when we recorded a CD at Hart Studios in Belle Chasse. One of our songs "Mighty Mississipp'" got lots of airplay on WWOZ.
Although the places are landmarks in my memory, New Orleans is most remembered by it's characters. Most of which were media celebrities who I still treasure and admire. Here are just a few:
Morgus The Magnificent (Sid Noel) - my uncle served in an Army Reserve unit with Mr. Noel ... John Pela - my aunt was a John Pela dancer ... Bob Walker - on the Mighty 690, listening on a small, AM only, transistor radio ... Hap Glaudi - not only a great sportscaster, but also a great person and a true New Orleanian ... Jim Metcalf - "Shades Of New Orleans" ... John Fred & the Playboys - they played at a DLS Junior-Senior Prom.
Thanks for taking me back and for hosting this great site. As you were then, you are still much appreciated.
I too met the Cisco Kid at that Winn-Dixie in the Carrollton Shopping Center (at the time) located at Carrollton and Washington Avenues. He was quite sweaty and fidgety wearing his gaudy Cisco Kid costume along with his sombrero in the New Orleans heat. Too bad we both missed Roy Rogers' appearance at Roy Rogers Roast Beef on Veterans near Cleary (now Arby's) in the early 70's. And Basil Rathbone's appearance in the late 60's at a housing subdivision promotion in Avondale (!). Or Jack Benny's appearance at Maison Blanche in the mid-70's. What great late-life pinnacles for show business icons whose stars have faded and they'll appear anywhere for a few bucks to pay their bills. Did you know that Bud Abbott was so destitute in the last few years before he died around 1975 that he asked his fans to each mail him $1 to help him pay his bills? Or that Stan Laurel, in the same financial condition when an old man, was financially "adopted" by Dick Van Dyke?
BERNIE LUCAS, Washington DC:
Hey Bob - great site. I've visited several times and decided to write tonight. Although I left New Orleans in 1977, the Crescent City never left me. I do know what it means to miss New Orleans.
Some N.O. memories: "Jingle jangle jingle, here comes Mr. Bingle" ... Mayor Vic Sciro ... St. Dominic, Jesuit, UNO when it was LSUNO ... Bud's Broiler (do they still exist?) ... that '45 Bobby Reno put out in the late 60s ... Jax Beer ... Nash Roberts (the Weather Channel Storm Desk "experts" reporting on all the hurricanes hitting Florida this year have nothing on Mr. Roberts), streetcars on the neutral ground on Canal Street ... the Morgus movie (filmed in part at Christian Brothers school in CIty Park) ... Jim's Fried Chicken on Carrolton Ave. ... proms at the Rivergate.
Through these and many of my other childhood memories growing up in N.O. there is a radio playing, especially in the 60s and 70s. The airwaves were full of entertaining DJs like You, Robert Mitchell, Skinny Tom Cheney and other Krewe of TIX DJs; CC Courtney, Lou Kirby, Gary Burbank, Marty Baloo and Max Beauzeaux on WNOE; Captain Humble on WRNO; Nut & Jeff, Keith Rush, Ken Addison, Bob Middleton on WSMB.
Listening to this eclectic collection of radio personalities and the music and events of that era led me to chase my own dream of a radio career. I began in the early morning hours at WRNO, and now 30 years and 5 cities later, I'm still working in radio, mostly behind the scenes at the Country music station in Washington DC. I doubt I'm in the league of those I mentioned, but I'm forever grateful for their (and your) influence.
And I've been fortunate to meet or be in touch with some of my DJ heroes, including CC Courtney, Tom Cheney, Max Beauzeaux (Gary Guthrie, now into computers), Marty Balou (Marty Bass, who does morning TV in Baltimore) and even you once (email a few years ago). Any idea whatever became of Ken Addison, Bob Middleton or Lou Kirby?
Thanks again for the great web site!
Nice to connect again with another prominent name from the Golden Era of New Orleans Radio (the days before the corporate a-holts and their slimebag consultants). Yes, Bud's Broiler does still exist and their BBQ burgers and sauce taste as delicious as you remember them. Ken Addison passed away in the late 70's. Bob Middleton is still around New Orleans but retired from the microphone. Lou Kirby owns a construction company in Cancun, and he and CC Courtney still communicate and stay friends between Cancun and New York.
STEVE CALLENDER, Gulfport, MS:
Bob, well, I didn't think it was possible. I've been out of the radio business for nearly 15 years. Then I stumble across your website, start reading the emails, and all the memories come flooding back like an overflowing commode at Pat O's. I remember beginning in 1980 at a place where a lot of New Orleans broadcasters got their start: WLDC 640 AM at Loyola, the "carrier current" radio station. We only broadcast to three places: the boys dorm, the girls dorm, and the Wolf Pub campus watering hole. Of course, we were usually only on at the Pub if your roommate was the student manager that night, and managed to put up with bad "slip-cues" and "dead rolls", caused in part by the turntable arms weighted down with pennies. By dumb luck that year, I got my commercial start at WBYU FM 95.7, "Easy Listening", under the watchful eye of Al Braud. More than a few of us owed our start to Al, who not only hired us, but honestly critiqued us, encouraged us, and nurtured that "bug" we developed to get on the air. We also found that great was the wrath of the 70 year old church ladies who would call the station on Sunday morning if the St. Jude Novena broadcast was more than 30 seconds late.
Remember "The Great Experiment" in the early 1980s, WRNO Worldwide? It was, I think, one of only three commercial shortwave radio stations in the United States, and broadcast all around the globe. Somehow, I failed to understand how owner Joe Costello could make money by running 15 minute programs to in Lithuanian at 2:00am. Then, getting a chance to work alongside the FM station, where you got to talk to people like Brother Dave, Weerd Wayne, and Warren (I can't remember his last name) the "Album Hour" DJ at 12:00 midnight, provided more than a few great memories.
Hey: Here's a station no more than seven people remember, WQUE-13 AM Stereo. It used to be WGSO 1280, but was remade into Top 40 AM with the added bonus of "stereo sound", if you had the right equipment to hear it that way. It was great working there in 1985-86, although the only one I remember being there with me was Bob Delgiorno, Jr, AKA "Beaver Stevens". In addition, I got a chance to hang with the guys at WQUE FM, to include "Skinny" Tommy Chaney, "Blair on the Air", and Walton & Johnson (before they moved to Houston). It was great working at that place..right up to the time that I was literally fired while on the air. Being the radio man you are, you've know the story: new owners, corporate decision from New York, everybody gets canned. I have the rather sordid distinction of being the last on-air employee at that station. To make it even worse, I got yanked during the 7:05 epic "We Are The World", and was replaced by taped "Motown Memories". Oh Death, where is thy sting?
After kicking around for a few years in New Iberia at KDEA-FM and KNIR-AM as News Director (a separate story in itself), I was rehired as a radio reporter in New Orleans in 1988. That was the good news. The bad news: it was at the all-new WSMB, "Info Radio". This was not the fabled WSMB of Nutt & Jeff and Larry Regan fame. No, no: this was working for the sharks that fired Nutt & Jeff and Larry Regan, and everybody else there. Some of my good friends, to include Al Cazanave and Andre Laborde, got the axe just before I came there.
In truth, the new folks hired with me (Cathy Jacob, Terry Westerfield, Peter Brown, Ron Small, Doug Rye, etc) worked themselves to death to put a good product on the air. Some of Ron Small's morning show skits were, to this day, the funniest I've ever heard on radio. And in listening to Peter Brown, you knew he was going to go places. (And he did: he's now a nationally syndicated sports talk show host). We also had a solid news crew that put on "The Information Hour" each day from 12:00 p-1:00 p, as well as news from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm daily. I covered every story it was possible to cover while riding in a 1988 Ford Tempo. (By the way, if ever there was a car that attracted the ladies the Ford Tempo wasn't it.) In any event, it was all for naught, as the cancer that was upper management eroded at us daily until we either left of our own accord, or were suddenly axed out of existence.
Although I've left that life behind for awhile, part of me to this day gets "the itch" on occasion to grab a microphone and start talking again. Thanks for letting me ramble, and for putting this website together.
Yet another testimonial by a good radio man about the well-known idiocy, greed and incompetance of the Radio Corporation eunuchs. These people are indeed gutter vermin. When you get "the itch," get some Cruex and forget about it. Then dive into the New Orleans Radio Shrine again to enjoy how personal, good and fun radio used to be. WTIX DJ Ted Green used to say: "If a band is good you don't have to tell people about them." Yet today's radio stations keep telling everyone over and over and over how much "fun" it is to listen to them. Get an IPod or listen to internet radio. Kill Corporate Radio by not listening and not reporting to the ratings services!
I was 23 years old in February of 1966. I was News Director of The Star Stations, a group of AM rock stations owned by Don W. Burden, out of Omaha, Nebraska. Don wanted to show that his stations had more international clout than his buddy Gordon McClendon. Don had sent me, representing KOIL, Omaha, and the News Directors of his other stations, WIFE, Indianapolis and KISN, Portland, Oregon to Viet Nam in 1965. I told him I wanted to go back to Viet Nam to keep reporting on the war. If he didn't want me to go, I would go for Mutual News, which then covered the war with reports from Joe Fried, a reporter for the New York Daily News. Don countered by making me his National News Director (whatever that meant). As 1966 started, the biggest and most interesting story outside of Viet Nam developed in New Orleans, as District Attorney Jim Garrison claimed to have uncovered a plot that led to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy three years earlier. Burden agreed that I should head to New Orleans and cover the story for as long as it took.
I remember renting a car at the airport-- the first time I had ever done so-- and heading for the French Quarter. I had previously shared information and audio with WNOE, so I found their studios. On Bienville, I think. And I met the man I had only known as a voice in the past, F. Michael Franklin. Great radio name. Very nice man. He offered me desk space and use of a phone, and I went to work. I'm afraid that my reporting was a little sketchy, but my writing and volume seemed to make up for it. I had the most wonderful time digging out little tidbits of the story and blowing them into major scoops. I found that the Kennedy family had engaged a local attorney and had send a family friend from Boston to track the story and report back. This wonderful, previously unknown material was unearthed by happending to sit next to the Boston attorney at a bar one night. Great scoop.
F. Michael Franklin invited me to his home and we bought a bushel of oysters and a couple of oyster prawls, along with a case of Dixie Beer. We spent an evening learnig to open oysters and drink beer, and awoke to find a lot of little cuts on our hands and a couple of bad heads.
I ate most evenings at the Pearl Restaurant just accross Canal from Bourbon. They always had a giant joint of ham or beef ready to slice onto gigantic sandwiches. If I left the station earlier in the evening, I might dine at Felix's or one of the spaghetti joints in the quarter. Why didn't I do dinner at Gallatoire's or Antoine's? At 23 years of age, I didn't feel quite ready to join the real adults.
Many years later, I talked again with F. Michael Franklin. He was working at the all-news station, and told me that he had gone through some very rough times, including a car accident in which he nearly died. Every time I return to New Orleans, I think about him. Can anyone tell me where he might be now?
FMF was indeed a great guy. I lost track of him years ago, but I did sit a few seats down from him and his lady friend in the free media tickets section of Tulane Stadium on many fall afternoons as we watched the Saints play. I'll let you know what I hear.
I remember going with my brothers to JC's in the begining of Vets and the Rockery Inn. Then watching on Sunday from the soda fountain at the KB on Harrison Avenue the two old ladies from the haunted house on Milne. They would go up and down collecting newspapers.
I hear those two old ladies still roam Milne Blvd. when the moon is full ...
Bob: Is that Ed Ripley on the Pontchartrain Beach promo...I knew Ed and his bro-in-law, "Bob Robin" back then...(ran away from home...or should I say stole the family car and drove away from home). After a stint working (illegally) on the "Banks of the Deep, Dark and Dirty" - a 250 watt pipsqueak - WRHC in Jacksonville, finally found myself in "The City That CARE Forgot." I introduced myself to Ed at the station and thus began a 20 year friendship. I was caught stupidly drivin' around N.O. in my Ontario licensed '59 Meteor and given a "Voluntary Departure Order" to get outta town and be at the Detroit/Windsor US Immigration office within 5 days...I did.
Ed really got me interested in production, and loved the way he searched out "sounds" to cut through all the noise for news openings. Got pretty proficient on an Editall block. I had suggested a couple of promo ideas for him and wonder if either of them made to air: "From the WTIX newsroom...that's all the news, 'TIL SOMETHING ELSE HAPPENS!" And since I was a listener of WLS - clear-channel 50K watt giant-that boomed into Toronto when the "skip" was right, suggested changing one of their promos to suit TIX the Tiger. (89...That's Easy to Remember!). I doubt that ever made it....I have days and days of listening at my desk ahead of me. Bless this internet thing! ( I'm in my 60's now and am currently editing my autobiography...if it even makes it to galleys, I'll send you a copy. TIX, Todd Storz, Bob Robin and a N.O. Parish Jail figure prominently in it).
Yep, that's Ed Ripley on the TIX Night at the Beach promos that you can hear on this site. He was also the voice on "The Ballad Of The TIX Tigers" there as well. I'll tell Bob Robin you said hi.
HARRY NELSON, Ft. Myers, FL:
Hi Bob. My name is Harry Nelson, originally from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, now living in Ft. Myers, Florida. I grew up in the late 50's and 60's listening to WNOE mostly because it's 50,000 watt signal reached South Mississippi in the daytime with no problem. I also listened to WTIX quite frequently on trips to New Orleans. It became my favorite of the two stations when it increased power to 10,000 watts daytime in the late 60's and then, it too came into Hattiesburg....gangbusters. There were so many great New Orleans DJ's that got me hooked on top 40 radio. I developed my own style, out of listening to the great Bob Walker, Bobby Reno, Skip Broussard, C.C. Courtney, Greg Mason, Don McGregor, Ken Elliot, Dan Diamond, Frank Jolley, and my favorite , the incredible Jim Stewart. I noticed that you were looking for him. Sure hope you find...one of the great air talents of all time.
New Orleans was my first taste of big city radio, and till this day, I never worked in one of my favorite cities. I did however get a good start in Hattiesburg at WXXX-Triple X 1310, and went on to WRBC, Jackson Mississippi and in 1973 was hired at WRKO Boston ..direct from Jackson. I was scared ****less the first time I opened that mike at The Big 68!! Ended up working there for 8 years, afternoon drive and then Program Director. After that, it was KFRC, San Francisco, and WAPP, New York. My career has included Programming and consulting so many great stations, but New Orleans radio ...is still my dream...just the way it was at TIX and NOE. Both stations reflected their city so well. It was such a very special space and time. You have a wonderful site Bob. Keep it going strong. Thanks so much for enriching to my life and career.
JERRY LENFANT, Waveland:
Hi Bob, My name is Jerry Lenfant. I really enjoyed your stories, especially how many times Lenfants was mentioned. My grandfather and his 3 brothers owned it and my father managed it for many years. I definitely have many memories there. As for bands, the Basement Wall from Baton Rouge was one of my favorites. F&M patio was a great place for frat dances as well as Laborers Union Hall on Tchoupitoulas. I lived on Warrington drive as a kid and remember the poor man's amusement ride, sliding down the levee on a cardboard box. Walking to the PITT theater on Saturday. Back then the movies played non-stop. You might come in in the middle of the movie and have to stay until it played again to see the beginning. My girlfriend loved in Gentilly woods and we had moved to Constance. I could ride the bus from her house to mine for 25 cents. How about a plain nectar soda at K&B's on Canal Blvd. I live in Waveland now and remember the trips over here every weekend. How we made it alive is a wonder. Thanks for the memories.
Thank you and your family, Jerry, for bringing us Lenfant's. If that parking lot could only talk... Now please go have a boiled shrimp platter for me at Lil' Ray's on Hwy. 90.
BEAVER STEVENS, New Orleans
Hey Bob. I'm Bob DelGiorno Jr., a.k.a."Beaver Stevens." I was at 13Q (WQUE-AM) in the early 80's (83-85 to be exact). Walton and Johnson were simulcasted in the morning, Chris Bryan was midays, Ted Kelly was on in the afternoon, Bumper Morgan was on in the early evening, TK Terry Knight was on late night and I was on overnights. Later I moved up to Terry Knights spot and eventually afternoons. I look back on those days now and know that those were the greatest radio days in my life. They will never be the same. By the way, Ted Kelly is in Baton Rouge, Bumper Morgan is in Cape Cod, Chris Bryan is in New Orleans and so are Terry Knight and myself. Long live 13 Q.
13 Q was definitely a fun AM music station and is fondly remembered today. Those indeed were the greatest days in radio, and lifelong friendships were made with dedicated radio co-workers...we were all blessed to have been a part of them.
I was raised in a small town in East Texas called Tatum and it is so far from any big cities that the only R&R station we could get on the car radio was WNOE AM. I dont remember how much power (wattage) they ran but for us to receive them in Tatum it must have been considerable. we would drive all over the country late at nite listening to the latest rock and roll tunes and doing what teens did back when there wasnt a lot to do really. :)
To us it was a really great station and it helped relieve the boredom and kept us entertained thru the high school years. We tried listening to a few other stations that would come in on the late nite but none would or could compare to WNOE NEW ORLEANS!
Thanks to all the dj's and station personnel for being there during the "fabulous fifties."
I'm sure they appreciate that you shared the good times with them. I believe WNOE was a 50,000 watt'er and they always were a "fun" station. Don Henley of the Eagles used to listen to WNOE in East Texas as well as a teen. Who would believe that 1060 AM is now a ... religious station.
LEO "YAYA" O'NEIL, Crosby, TX:
Papa Jac Assunto was my band director at Redemptorist High in the Irish Channel. He left in 1956 to go play with his sons in Las Vegas. He taught me a lot about the trombone. Enough for me to have earned a good living as a pro for the last 47 years. I even played in Dr. John's band for a while.
Can you ask for some pictures or recordings of Paul Gayton. When I saw the picture of Gordon Natal's Lounge it reminded me of him. I think he had the best band that ever played there. I went to Natal's after my senior prom. 1957. OH. Earl Palmer was his drummer!!
Those games are classics! Don't forget "Kick The Can." Imagine one suggesting to his young son today that they go outside together and have some fun playing Wire Ball!
BEN LATIMER, Geneva, AL:
Hi, Bob - Great web site. I'll be glad when you post some old air checks. I grew up listening to 'TIX in the early 60's here in south Alabama and on the beach at Panama City. I started in radio when I was 16 and stayed with it until the mid 80's, mostly part-time on several stations in my area. WTIX was a big influence on all us young DJ's then, we all wanted to sound like the "Mighty 690." The DJ's, reverb and fabulous PAMS jingles really made 'TIX the best station on the air. The DJ's that I remember listening to then were Ed Ripley, Dan Diamond, Gene Phillips,Ted Green and Skip Wilkerson. Then a few years later, I listened to you, Robert Mitchell, Judge John Reid, Don McGregor and of course, Charlie Ray ("WTIX..first in New Orleans with 20-20 News")! I visited the old Paris Road site in early 1966 and the "new" site on Corondelet St. in '69, both times receiving a very warm Crescent City welcome, I was impressed to say the least! WTIX was certainly an inspiration to a lot of radio folks back when radio was fun to listen to (thanks to the guys listed above) and even more fun to be a part of. Unfortunately, as you pointed out, those days are long gone. Long live 'TIX !
WTIX was apparently such an influential part of the lives of those whe grew up in New Orleans back then. Those days on our side of the mike were surely the best ever! I still dream about the fun days at 332 Carondelet St. almost nightly.
Hi Bob! I just came across your site and although I have been away from home for a long time, I am very nostalgic about New Orleans. My mother is Sally Odair, of the Odair Sisters of WWL radio's "Dawnbusters" program long ago. She is still alive, and only a few years ago sang a song for me, one beautiful voice. As you know Marge Odair is still kickin'. Dottie passed away many years ago. I grew up in Mid-City, and if I were a writer, could put Tennessee Williams to shame with my own real life characters, who still fill my memories up both hilariously and tragically. Quite another world to grow up in that mystic, sexy city. No other place like it in the world.
How true...makes one appreciate the song "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans." Still a wonderful city, in which the Odair Sisters have a prominent place in its history!
Saw some very kind and thoughtful comments about my father, Dick Martin a.k.a. Moonglow with Martin on WWL radio in the 50's and early 60's. My father left WWL in 1962 for CBS affiliate, KMBC radio in Kansas City, but returned to Baton Rouge in 1965. He re-created his radio show, Moonglow with Martin, on public radio before retiring in 1988. He passed away in 1990. Thanks to all of his fans for keeping his memory alive.
Thanks to you for writing, and thanks to your dad for entertaining and influencing numerous people, and leaving us with even more warm memories of New Orleans radio!
You can add "Seafood City, Very Pretty....1926 North Broad!!" to your web page!
Of course...how could we ever overlook a unique New Orleans character like Al Scramuzza...purveyor of delicious seafood and creator of the short-lived dance craze "The Crawfish" that Al demonstrated on his TV commercials!
You need to put something about the night C.C. Courtney came to the window for us!
That was a New Orleans tradition from 1964-1966...to go in front of the WNOE Building at 529 Bienville Street in the Quarter, and throw a rock or something to tap on the second floor studio window to get the attention of C.C. Courtney, Lou Kirby, or anyone else who was on the air at the time. Then they would open the window and talk with you from up above between record intros.
I remember when C.C. made it known he was leaving WNOE in, I think, 1966, I passed on Bienville Street with a friend that evening, and there was a woman just hypnotically looking up at the (closed) famous WNOE studio window and crying her eyes out during his last broadcast.