LEAVING YOUR FIRST STATION FOR SOME IS A MIXED EXPERIENCE: Either you were treated badly and just wanted to get out as soon as you could or, as in my case, you had a terrific experience with an Owner, Staff, and friends that were behind you all the way and made it hard for you to leave.
My boss at KLID, Don Liddenton, was just a great guy who gave me 100% support and a chance to prove that I could do what I'd always wanted to do: work in Radio and use the talents, creativity, and voice, that I had been honing & polishing for so many years as an Actor & Musician, and with my History of actually being a Musicologist by studying all forms of music. A history that went all the way back to my childhood.
SO, when Barry Wood, and Pat Walsh hired me, my "target date" for getting set at KAAY was April 21, 1969. I started packing after I got back from the Little Rock Meeting & Interview on April 9th, and my last show on KLID was April 18th. Leaving Poplar Bluff on Sunday, the 20th, I drove straight through to Little Rock. The next day I checked in with Barry and we had a meeting in his office and he let me sit in the Control Room to check-out the board. Then it came to a problem that I was having with what Pat Walsh, the GM, had wanted me to agree to.
If you've read the "Rabbitt Tracks" portion on this site, you'll remember that Part 3 dealt with "The Name's The Same"...many stations at the time had "House Names" that they wanted you to use for your "Air Name". Well, it just so happens that when I created the name "Jonnie Cougar" that I used at KLID, I actually had the name legally registered & trademarked and had been using it for over a year-and-a-half. The record promoters, magazines, industry people, all had known me by that name and I really didn't want to take all of that time, energy, and investment that I'd built into it and drop it all together. Barry ran some of the KAAY House Names by me that were available, and I was not impressed. But as it happened two elements converged to make this whole situation work.
One of the names that was on the list was "Charlie King". Well, I've never really been a "Charlie-Type" person and I told Barry that would be out of the question. However, I came up with a compromise: I said that IF KAAY would let me keep the FIRST part of my name, "Jonnie" (I have always spelled it that way), I would agree to use "King" for a last name. Because, at least those I had dealt with in the Industry up to that point in time, would still be familiar with that part of my name and it would make the segway to a "new name" much smoother.
Well, Barry finally agreed to this because he wanted me for the job, knew that it would make both our lives easier, and that I had met him more than half way . Which, brings us to the other element that slid into place: He also knew that Pat Walsh was out of town the night I was scheduled to go on the air and wouldn't be back in town until the next day ! So, on the night of Monday, April 21st, 1969, the newly christened "Jonnie King" hit the airwaves of The Mighty 1090...KAAY, LITTLE ROCK.
When I came into the station the next day, Pat called me into his office. He knew what had happened, and said that since I'd already went on-air as Jonnie King he wouldn't change it. Later, he realized that it was one of the most positve moves that could have happened: When the Book was in for my first rating period, I had a 33% share of the audience, and by the Spring Book of 1971 I was pulling a 39 !
ABOVE: That's Kenny Rogers & myself during our on-site Interview at the Little Rock Airport. I had emceed a Concert for Kenny & The First Edition that was put together by the Little Rock Jaycees. The Concert was on Saturday, April 24, 1971, but the group was heading to Canada to film a syndicated TV Series called "Rollin' On The River" (The show would include guests such as my old friend, Mark Lindsay , Ike & Tina Turner, Gladys Knight, Bo Diddley, Jim Croce, and others).
DUE TO THE FACT THAT THEY NEEDED THE PROPER AIRLINE CONNECTIONS to get from Little Rock to Toronto, Kenny and the group had stayed over a few days. Kenny asked me to have breakfast with him on the morning they were scheduled to leave, and said it would be a great time to do an Interview. That's exactly what we did...and here are a couple of photos from that session on Wednesday, April 28, 1971. (Sadly, the tape from that Interview is lost. Kenny was just really super throughout the entire session, and even invited me to come visit him if I got to L.A.)
Many forget that Kenny was a Pop Music Star before he ever became a Country Legend. He was also with the New Christy Minstrels at one time, replacing Barry McGuire who had gone on to a solo career ("Eve Of Destruction").
SIDE NOTE: These pictures were taken by Mickey Jones. Mickey was the drummer for the First Edition, and we had met previously in L.A. when I was living there. He had worked with Trini Lopez, and Johnny Rivers, and also toured with Bob Dylan. Mickey, later on, went into a career as a character actor, being featured in "The Dukes Of Hazard", "Home Improvement", "Married With Children", and other TV shows. He also did many films, including "Total Recall", "Slingblade", and "Tin Cup". Mickey was a great muscian, and a really cool guy altogether. JK
ABOVE left: Jonnie King & Jim Peterik of the "Ides Of March" ("Vehicle"), backstage after an August 23, 1970 Concert; Above right: That's me in my Music Director's Office listening for some new hits in the Summer of 1970...when Radio was REALLY fun !
ABOVE: Part of the Big K Crew at the Razorback Pep Rally on September 12, 1970. Left-to-Right: Mike McCormick (Barry Wood), Phil North, Jonnie King, Larry Montgomery (driver, helper & assistant), and, Clyde Clifford (Dale S.) . BTW: That's a MOTORIZED Razorback Hogmobile we're standing in front of...someone actually won the darn thing !
ABOVE: Same day, September 12, 1970, same Pep Rally. To say we "attracted a crowd" would be putting it mildly !! Thousands of people showed up, and that's me in the doorway of the KAAY Funmobile being mobbed by the crowd and handing out Posters. You can see the Big K Ford Van in front of the Funmobile...that's what Larry Montgomery drove to deliver it.
ABOVE L-R: Sonny Martin (Matt White), Mark Lindsay (Paul Revere & The Raiders), Jonnie King, and , Mitch Michaels (Nick Markel). This was taken at the KAAY Studios after we had all had breakfast at Sonny's house. I Interviewed Mark at the time and he was lots of fun and very nice. He'd begun a solo career at that time. This all happened on October 23, 1969.
ABOVE left: Me Interviewing Mark Lindsay: Above right: Mark Lindsay pretending to Interview me. Again, this was 10-23-1969, and these pictures were taken at Sonny Martin's house.
THE PAIGE YOUNG TRIBUTE...
I GOT A CALL EARLY IN THE LAST WEEK OF MAY IN 1969 telling me that Playboy Playmate Paige Young (Miss Novermber 1968) was coming into Little Rock to do an appearance, and asking if I'd like to do an Interview with her. Well, you're probably already way ahead of me by now: Interview PAIGE YOUNG ? One of the coolest Playmates of '68 ? That would be a qualified Y-E-S !
We set-up the Interview to do it live on my show on May 30th between 8:30pm - 10:00pm, depending on when Paige's flight got in. And, that night, as the hours passed I still hadn't heard anything from Paige or the promotion people with her. I kept stalling with the audience, because I had promoted this quite heavily and had gotten many calls on it during the week. Finally about 10:30 Paige called to say that her plane had landed at the WRONG airport ! Instead of landing at the Little Rock Airport, the plane had landed in Hot Springs, Arkansas !! Paige was very, very apologetic, and promised that no matter what time she got to Little Rock she would come to the station so that we could do the Interview.
I WENT OFF THE AIR AT 11:00 and, close to Midnight, I saw her car pull into the back parking lot. Paige, and the person traveling with her on the trip, came to the back door, I let them in, was glad to finally see them, gave them a tour of the station, and then Paige & I went into a Production Room to tape the Interview. She was just perfect in every way.
Many people through the years have had really different impressions of the real "Playmate Of The Month" Playmates. During that time period, Playboy Magazine published more than pictures of women: they had forums, social commentary, stories by some of the greatest writers of the time, and dynamic Interviews with both Hollywood/Broadway Stars, as well as Political Figures. There was also a syndicated TV show: "Playboy After Dark" that was shown all around the country. At the time of our meeting and Interview in 1969, as I state below, Paige Young, was natural, beautiful, and, truly professional .
PAIGE YOUNG was articulate, pleasant, had a great sense of humour. She was from California and, in addition to modeling, was also an artist living in Venice and was familiar with some of my old haunts from my time spent on the Coast. We hit it off well, in fact, we talked about how we were doing the Interview in spite of the lateness of the hour, and she kidded me about working her overtime, to which I stated : "Paige ! I would never work you overtime !" . She had a great laugh at that...realizing that there was more than one way that statement could be taken.
When we ended the Interview I promised to be at the appearance she was making the next day at Crawford Limited. I was there that Saturday as promised and Paige was so glad that I showed up that we spent some time talking before & after the appearance. Later, I rode with her to the airport, we hugged, said some fond goodbyes, and she boarded the plane on her way back to California.
SADLY, PAIGE YOUNG, died on April 7, 1974. We never saw each other again, but I've always remembered her warmth, politeness, professionalism, and, the shared sense-of-humour that made the time we shared together so very special.
I'VE ALWAYS CHERISHED THE PHOTO that you see at the beginning of this Tribute. Paige wanted me to have it before she left the station after our Interview, and this is a shot of her back in our Main Studio at KAAY as she inscribed it with the "in joke": "To Dear Jonnie, my friend - who would never work me overtime."
Rest In Peace, dear Paige. You were truly special in everyway. You were brought into my life for such a brief period of time, but always remain in my mind with warm, beautiful memories.
SPECIAL NOTE: All photos/images on this page are owned by me, are from my Personal Collection, and may not be used, or, copied without permission.
ENJOY THIS AIRCHECK FROM OCTOBER OF 1971, BUT REMEMBER THE AUDIO QUALITY IN 1971 WAS NOT WHAT IT IS TODAY....more pix & info are on the way for you VERY SOON ! JK
NEXT: KAAY, L.R. AIRCHECKS, Pt. 2