This guy was my "radio hero" in the 60s. He burst onto the scene on KRLA in 1968 and for two years had the hippest show outside of KPPC. Incredible segues, great music sets. Then when KRLA shifted gears a little he moved to KMET, joining the likes of B. Mitchel Reed, Mary Turner, and Jeff Gonzer.
He lasted there I think for a year or year and a half, then, as you note in your database, he went to KHJ for a very short stint. He always made fun of top 40 bubble-gum radio, of which KHJ was king, and I remember him sounding very constrained and unhappy on KHJ. Unless I am mistaken, he did not last long there. Then he got into his country music thing and did country music FM for awhile in LA while playing with his band at the Palomino Club.
In 1977-78 he returned to the airwaves on the revitalized and still free- form KROQ, 106.7 FM in LA (prior to KROQ going new wave/punk /alternative in 1979-80). He was a real shock jock by then, but still had great taste in music. Then he left LA, by all accounts.
I heard he ran a station in Aspen, Colorado, and then I heard he had returned to his hometown of Tyler, Texas. (Unconfirmed hearsay.)
But Jimmy Rabbbitt should be remembered for ruling the LA free-form radio airwaves in the late sixties. I have an article from the LA Free Press somewhere hailing his show. He was great, and I wonder where he is now.
Dan Robins (Miracle on 440 Street)
I'd been in radio since I was 16 years old back in the early 70's. With an intense interest in the business, association with some former major market personalities who took the time to teach with me the ropes, and born with a decent radio voice (and the fact I learned not to 'puke' early on), I made it into major market radio by the time I was 22.
Joe Benson (of 440 fame) and I became aquainted when I was Operations Manager of WVOT/WXYY in Wilson, North Carolina. (WXYY became WRDU/Raleigh with the FCC's 80/90 rule.) I thought Tanner's automation programming was great, but had some ideas that we implemented at the station. It was through these communications with Joe that we came real good friends. In 1980 I got my lucky break and headed to St. Louis, Mo. to do mornings at then county KIRL. One of my fondest memories was going to Busch Stadium and watching a St. Louis/Philadelphia doubleheader with Joe and his wife Barbara. (Joe's from the Philly area.)
After leaving St. Louis, and a short stint in WNYN in Canton, I headed off to work in Cleveland at WWWE and later at WHK.
WWWE is a 50,000 watt AM blowtorch in Cleveland heard almost everywhere on the east coast, and doing the all night show I tried to cover events that might be most anywhere. Elvis had died and this one particular evening was an anniversary. I thought that a report from the 'land where Elvis came from' was in line. Joe and the Tanner Corp. were in Memphis, sooooooo..... I elected to have Joe on the air and talk about what was going on in town.
So, I called his home and his wife mentioned that he was out of town, but the folks at Tanner would know how to reach him. I had that number, called it, and they said he was out of town but that they could patch the phone lines together and they would call him.
What I didn't know was how trashed Joe was on those "Hurricanes" (read his story here on 440 and find out more about it), but I have to agree with Joe, it was one of the funniest bits I've ever been involved with. From Joe's Elvis imitations to 'hold on....gotta grab a handful of downers....uh huh huh', it was more than I bargained for. I ended it by saying that this is what it would sound like "if Elvis returned from Heaven".
Joe and I remainded in touch for years to come, but due to certain circumstances somewhere near 1989 the line of communications went awry and for years to come Joe and I lost communication somehow. I'd been a Sysop on CompuServe so after a while I did some searching for Joe but came up empty everytime.
My airname in Cleveland was Lanny Wheeler. The Lanny, I must admit, I stole from Lanny West. The Wheeler was Joe's idea when I told him I needed a different airname when I started at WWWE. Later, WHK's Gary Dee would nickname me "Lanny 18-Wheeler" and refer to me on the air that way.
I've been internetting ever since I knew about it and the gateway onto it from North Carolina State University's VAX system. Don't ask me why, but it wasn't until March 1998 that I went onto the "MetaCrawler" search engine and typed the keyword: "Lanny Wheeler".
What I received was a 100% match, and it pointed to Joe's story right here on 440!
I had been on 440 a couple of times before, searched a few stations I had worked at, and a couple of names of people I'd been in the business with, but it never occured to me that Joe's story, name, or some of his work was located on the server.
On March 10, 1998, with Joe's Email address, I wrote. He responded. Since then, we've talked on the phone for a couple of hours and have reestablished a friendship that one might have thought was gone forever.
I must thank 440 for this wonderful place where us radio folk can get together, and I hope others have the same experience in the future!
Dr. Don Rose
I was only a listener to KFRC when Dr. Don Rose came to town, in college at the University of San Francisco and trying to figure out how to take the work I’d done and the things I’d learned at KUSF and leverage them into a radio career.
KUSF had a tradition, dating back to the early ‘60s, that each year, it would award the “Radio Fellow” award to a prominent radio broadcaster. There would be a brief award ceremony and about a half hour Q & A session that was all broadcast live.
I remember, in previous years, awarding the “RF” to Tom Campbell and James Gabbert. In 1974 we chose DDR. I’m so glad we did. He came to San Francisco a few years earlier, replete with bells and horns and cow noises, and a positive energy that made you smile when you listened to him, even if you sometimes groaned at his jokes.
The award plans were set. He was to meet us at the station at the appointed hour, then we were to escort him to the room where the ceremony was to take place. We were all very excited. A legend in Philadelphia, and now building his following in San Francisco, Dr. Don Rose was coming.... here!
There was a knock at the door, and I opened it. Standing in front of me was this slight man leaning on a cane. All by himself. I froze for a second. Who was this guy. So I said, “Yes?” And he said in an immediately identifiable voice, “I’m Don Rose.” Once I connected the voice to the body, I invited him in and introduced him around to Steve Runyon, the General Manager, Steve Gustafson, the Program Director, and the others awaiting his arrival.
For me, the rest of the award ceremony was kind of a blur. What I do remember is his enthusiasm, his warmth, his smile, and his laugh. He seemed genuinely glad to be there. And we were very lucky to have him.
I had the pleasure of seeing him a few more times at KFRC and in social settings through my friend John Mack Flanagan. I shot a video tour of KFRC in 1975 for Michael Spears to take to the NAB. The headphone cord from the camera was all tangled up, and DDR was picking it apart, strand by strand. I remember saying that he didn’t have to do that. He just sent a smile up to me from his chair and said, “No problem.”, then went back to extricating the wires.
In the following years, through Flanagan, I kept up with “The Doctor”. Through all the physical adversity he faced, nothing could take away his positive energy, and his infectious laugh. I remember his second day on the air at KFRC. Two of my favorite lines from him I heard that day: “Smile even though it kills you, and you’ll die with a silly grin on your face.” and “If you’re feeling all right... Why not notify your face.”
Dr. Don Rose has always spread smiles and positive energy to those he met, and to all who heard him. I was glad for that chance.