Tuesday, April 20, 2010

KNUS FM Almost Goes Up In Flames

My first year in radio at KNUS FM was a learning experience to say the least.
It was full of adventures and some misadventures too.

In the KNUS FM original broom closet size control room we had
turntables on counter tops with no supports on the sides under them. 
One was to the left, one to the right, and the DJ sat between them.
They were just fastened to the wall on the back. So, needing space, 
we kept the trash can under the right turntable. 

While I was doing the news on the all night shift,
I had a lit cigarette that I put on the the side of the ash tray that 
was next to the right side turntable while I did the 
news. While I changed out the news introduction 
cartridge for the cartridge with the commercial on it. 
I guess the vibration of that or some kind of 
motion caused the lit cigarette to fall into the trash can that was 
full of paper below.

The next thing was the dreaded smell of smoke in the studio 
coming from the trash can. And, then a full blown blaze was going in seconds. 
What the hell to do then?

I started a record. Arthur Brown's "Fire" which was big at the time 
would have been a good one.
Remember the lyrics? 
"I am the god of hell fire and I bring you:
Fire, I'll take you to burn.
Fire, I'll take you to learn.
I'll see you burn!
You fought hard and you saved and learned,
but all of it's going to burn.
Fire, to end all you've become.
I'll feel you burn!"
That just about said it all.

I pulled the can out as it blazed away under the turntable. 
I was afraid that I was burning the turntable motor or wiring. 
If I did that or burned anything, then I was dead meat. And, God forbid 
that I burn down the whole building. 
Gordon McLendon would not be pleased.

So, I stuck my foot into the blazing can and stomped. 
Thank God, I was wearing boots and not 
the usual thong sandals. Of course, burning ashes blew out of the
hard sided can and flew everywhere in the air, covering everything.
And, I do mean everything. I sheepishly opened the control room door 
and looked outside to see if anyone had seen my misdeed. No one there, 
and happily for me, no fire department either

This happened during the first newscast of the night, so I had all
night to clean up the mess and get rid of the smell. The Custodian 
had left his supply closet unlocked, so, there were a lot of cleaning
supplies and air freshener liquids and sprays.  The all night jock on KLIF 
smelled that something had happened and came over across the twenty or 
so feet that separated our studios, but didn't say a word to anyone.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mike" Murphy in the Morning" Erickson Remembers Some Rock Stars and Others Who Visited KNUS-FM

"You asked about any rock stars at the station – we had plenty, and other stars too, like John Wayne (in Dallas for the premiere of True Grit at one of Gordon’s theaters), Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (plugging Easy Rider), William Shatner (plugging his stupid Star Trek poetry album) and Andy Williams (don’t know why he was there – was a friend of Ken Dowe). 

As for music guys, we had Joe Walsh and the James Gang, who left little “James Gang  Rides Again” stickers all over the building. Donovan came by for a short interview one day, as did one of my favorites, Tiny Tim! He spent an hour in the small KNUS studio with me, talking about Miss Vicki and his album and he was just a fruity as his television persona on Laugh-In. 

Jose Feliciano did a LIVE concert from the talk show room and Elton John was going to do one for us, LIVE, but we couldn’t get a grand piano in the building (his requirement). He did a live concert from a New York radio station the next year and released it on an album. Three Dog Night were there twice, Neil Diamond came by and signed one of his albums for me (still have it) and Steve Miller. I’m sure there were others, but that was quite awhile ago and hard to remember them all. It was great fun."

Thanks Mike. I don't know how a grand piano could have come into the Triangle Square Studios without taking out a window in the KLIF studio and using a crane.  Did anyone ask Gordon? It was zany enough that Gordon McLendon might have gone for it. He could have invited Liberace
to play along. He probably knew him too. 


Gordon McLendon is considered the creator of format radio and one of the most innovative programmers in the medium’s history.
McLendon was born on June 8, 1921, in Paris, Texas and purchased station KNET/Palestine in 1946. The following year, McLendon moved to Dallas and launched KLIF. Unable to afford live baseball broadcasts, McLendon adopted an on-air personality known as “The Old Scotchman” and aired re-creations of games with the help of sound effects and wire service reports. These re-creations were later heard on over 400 stations via he short-lived Liberty Broadcasting System.
In the early 1950s, McLendon made KLIF one of America’s first “Top 40” stations. The polished format, along with fast-paced news and “personality” disc jockeys, quickly made KLIF Dallas’ top-rated station. McLendon maintained KLIF’s high profile by spending thousands of dollars every month on headline-grabbing stunts and contests.
KLIF’s success led McLendon to explore other radio formats. In 1959, he created the “beautiful music” format for KABL/San Francisco. In the early 1960s, he started the first “all-news” radio station at WNUS/Chicago. One of WNUS’ reporters was future CNN anchor Bernard Shaw.
Gordon McLendon died on September 14, 1986.
Gordon McLendon was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1994.
* From The Radio Hall Of Fame Biography Website

John Wayne was there about a month after I started. 

Steve Miller Band
Children of the FutureSteve Miller Band: CD Cover

Tiny Tim
    ...with Miss Vicki

The Shatner  " Transformed Man" album from 1968 was really bizarre. The original series was still on the air when this came out. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds was tortured; however, he did go where no man had gone before.

 I remember the James Gang Rides Again stickers... 

...and the Feliciano broadcast.

Feliciano, Jose - Light My Fire CD Cover Art CD music music CDs songs album

And, Peter Fonda with Dennis Hopper, here with a soon to be well known friend they met along the way.

If any other KNUS-FM staffers from the "Old Daze" have any other memories they would like to share, please leave a comment. 
Thanks to Tim Spencer for checking in.