Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mike "Murphy"Erickson Remembers When The KNUS Staff Got The "Word" From McLendon

"I recently caught up with my long time friend and former roommate Mike Erickson, AKA "Murphy" from the early daze of KNUS FM. And what daze they were. We reminisced about lots of KNUS lore and urban legends from there and KLIF, The Mighty Eleven Ninety. Mike promised to send me some guest blogs about his memories of KNUS, KLIF, and The Man" Gordon McLendon. So, here goes. 

See if you remember this.

After a couple of years on the air, many of the staff (all of us actually) were getting a little disgruntled about shifts and pay, etc. Rumors of mass walkouts were being whispered about. When KNUS was still at Triangle Point, downtown, the building was shared with McLendon’s National Production. This was a company, co-owned by Pierre Salinger and Gordon McLendon. They mass-produced educational audio tapes. We all walked by the big glass window looking into this business everyday as we walked into the KLIF/KNUS studios. When Gordon got wind of this, he came up with the kind of a plan that only HE could come up with. For 2-3 weeks, equipment started showing up in the window of National Production. Each day it got bigger and bigger, with patch panels, reel-to-reel rack mounted tape decks and cables everywhere. Each day brought more of the design into focus. Most of us had never seen an automated radio station setup, but we knew what it looked like, and it looked just like THIS. Was Gordon planning to fully automate KNUS and fire us all?? First we all shook it off – then we panicked – then we shut the hell up. Magically, after a few weeks, the equipment “disappeared.” I didn’t find out until years later that this was the plan all along, just to put us in our place. It did and once again, the genius of Gordon McLendon reared it’s brilliant head.

Erickson – A.K.A. Mike Murphy" 

Thanks, Mike. 

And, I remember Gordon's edict that everyone had to wear coats and ties while on the air. Most of us didn't even own so much as a tie. So, we all came up with sport coats and ties from a Goodwill store or similar thrift shop, and wore them over our cutoffs and blue jeans. That policy went away. I believe Gordon got a kick out of our response. 

Yes, MIke. And I remember how Gordon had a telephone number that he could use to call to listen to every one of his AM and FM radio stations. This was back in the Dark Ages days before there was an Internet for radio stations to stream on. He could monitor everything going out on the air from anywhere in the world. The McLendon radio lore was that he would sometimes call a radio station hotline at one of the stations he owned out of the blue, without even listening to what was being broadcast and ask the unsuspecting DJ, "Why did you do what you did just a minute ago?" 

The hapless McLendon DJ answering the question sometimes wouldn't have a clue what he was talking about, and didn't dare ask what he meant, but would sometimes confess to something that Gordon had no clue about. What fun!

You and I both had our first radio jobs in Dallas, then about the 10th or so  largest radio market in the country, thanks to McLendon. No one ever told us that we were supposed to start at some podunk small market radio station in the middle of a cow pasture somewhere and work our way up to the big time.

I can't ever complain about the way I was  treated by the McLendon family while I worked for them. They were fine people. And, it was the best boot camp for anyone who was just getting into radio. 

If you are a former KNUS or KLIF staffer who would like to do a guest blog too, please contact me by leaving a comment. I'll get right back to you. 


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jgh said...

MISS said, "Terrific place where I must often come."

Tim said...

Glad I ran across this blog. My name is Tim Spencer and I was a mere 14-years-old when KLIF's Hal Martin (Michael Spears) hired me to do Sunday mornings on the old progressive KNUS. My first stint there only lasted a few months thanks to my inadvertent airing of a caller (who I later learned was Rod Roddy) cussing me out on the phone with a variety of f-bombs. My second time there ended when Bart McLendon took the station Top 40. Bart asked me to work one more weekend. Uh, oh. On Sunday evening I pulled all the little yellow and red stickers off the prohibited songs and had a grand old time playing them. Hearing Arlo Guthrie calling the FBI bastards was kinda unusual for radio in 1971. Also made a few choice comments about the impending change. Well, it seems that Bart McLendon was having a dinner party and had the station on! Exactly one hour and thirty-seven minutes into my shift, Bart and the P.D. (whom I only recall as, "Mother," walked in. Bart's only words were, "Get your boots on and get out."

I wonder what happened to much of the progressive staff at KNUS. But it's hard to track people that I only knew by names like Mother, Lear, Weaver, Stryder and Coburn (okay, we know where he is - KLOS).


B. Price Wooldridge said...

Hi Tim. I do remember you and Mike Murphy Erickson. My name is Price Wooldridge and was Augustus on KNUS with this early group. I have many memories of this time and enjoyed reading this blog. The comment was wondering about our whereabouts. I am currently living in Fort Worth near DFW. I ran into Mike Erickson in OKC quite some years ago when I worked in TV there. I also just found an obit for Weaver Morrow from November, 2011. Sorry to hear that news.

jgh said...

Burl Price Wooldridge? You left just as I arrived. Mike is working in IT at a TV station in the Midwest. He was a roommate along with Paxton Mills, who has also passed, and Lee "Coyote" Poole, and KLIF newsman Robert A Knowlton joined Mike and me a little later.

Bob used to drive his Triumph motorcycle to work down Central at 100+ MPH. I was on the back once and remember how the overpasses zipped over us. My God, its lucky we survived.

We started out in a high rise apartment on Maple Avenue where lost of strippers from Jack Ruby's old Carousel Club lived. They must have had a "group rate," so to speak. The afternoons at the pool were "delightful."

6 of us lived in an expensive for its time ($350.00 a month) apartment south of Northwest highway and east of Central. It was an animal house.

KNUS was one one the best times in my life. But, time there was too short before the changes came. It was a great boot camp for later radio work. Thank you, Gordon McLendon.

Any more of the old KNUS field hippies still out there? Please check in.

Jim Hilty (Mother)