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JK:  Acting 101...And Beyond !
Rabbitt Tracks: JK With JR !
 Rabbitt's Pepsi Demo:Spring 1966
THE ALAN FREED TRIBUTE
THE DICK CLARK TRIBUTE
THE GARY OWENS TRIBUTE
THE GEORGE BARRIS TRIBUTE
THE GAYLE McCORMICK TRIBUTE
ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY TRIBUTE


Jonnie: KLID / Poplar Bluff, MO.
Jonnie King: KAAY/Little Rock
Jonnie King: KAAY/ L.R., Pt.2
Jonnie King At WDRQ/Detroit
Jonnie King: KSLQ/St. Louis,Pt.1
Jonnie King: KSLQ/St. Louis,Pt.2
JK: KADI AM/FM, St. Louis
JK: American Airchexx Interview
Jonnie King: 1380 KGLD/ST. LOUIS
JK & EG: KRJY/JOY-96 FM
Jonnie King: Juke Box 96 (1992)
Jonnie King: KHITS-96/St. Louis
JK: Real Oldies 1430 / St. Louis
JK: The 40th Anniversary Show !
SPECIAL:THE LIBRARY

JOHNNY CASH:
RICK NELSON, R & R PIONEER
THE RICK NELSON INTERVIEW,Pt.1
THE RICK NELSON INTERVIEW,Pt.2
Photo-Image Info


               RABBITT TRACKS, PART 1: "MEETING 'THE MAN' "

                                      

AS WE ALL KNOW, when telling a story of this nature, it's always best to begin at  the
beginning.    For me,  that would be when I returned to St. Louis in  October of 1964
after studying at the Pasadena Playhouse in California.  I had acted locally for many
years, but had traveled to California to really hone and polish my craft.

On my return,  I was lucky enough to be cast in an improvisational revue at  Gaslight Square's
world famous"Crystal Palace".   This was the true highlight of my career...to be on the same
stage as The Smothers Brothers,  Woody Allen,  Phyllis Diller ,  Lenny Bruce & Barbra Streisand !
This was a dream come true.   We were called "The Impulse Players".  And we were good.

                      

After our run at the Palace was over,  the  Director decided to form "The Actor's Workshop".
 For those of us with experience it was a chance to take our shows on the road occassionaly,
and for  some of the younger actors it was a chance to learn. It would also turn out to be a
pivotal time in my life,  because I was about to meet St. Louis'  hottest Radio Personality.

________________________________________________________________________________

I've always been into music.  My mother always told me that the only way she could get
me to sleep as a baby was to put a radio playing music next to my crib.    I knew all the
hit songs, bought records with spare money I saved up, did my own "DJ" shows in my
room at   home,  and  even played drums with a lot of local groups for years.  So,  it
came as no surprise that when I returned to St. Louis  I  definitely noticed a change at
some of the local stations.   In those  days it  was basically  KXOK & WIL.  KWK  &  KSD
were not really an issue then as they had been a few years earlier.

KXOK became the station I listened to most ,  especially at night.  The 7-Midnite Personality
was Johnny Rabbitt and I thought he really brought a SUPER presence to the show.  Plus,
as an actor,  I loved the sense of  "theatre of the mind" he brought to his audience with his
sidekick "Bruno J. Grunion".   (The name "Grunion" itself was a California  "in joke"...and,
if you lived there for any length of time,  you were well aware of the "grunion runs" in the
Pacific Ocean.  Taking your girl to the beach at nite  to watch for a grunion run was a great
way to make out !!  Like going to a drive-in with NO movie !!)

_________________________________________________________________________________

                                       

BY THE SPRING OF 1965 "The Actor's Workshop" was in gear,  but as with most theatre
groups in the area we didn't have much of a budget for publicity.  Well, one night as
I was driving home from one of   our shows and listening to "The Rabbitt" on the radio
I thought :  "Wow,  wouldn't it be neat if  HE could give us some PSA's on KXOK !"
The next day I called the Director and ran the idea by him.  He thought it was a great
idea and gave me the  go-ahead to make the contact.   So,  on the night of May 11th,
1965,  I drove down to Radio Park.

I'd never been to the Radio Park Studios,  and even the parking lot was interesting,,,to
say the least.   The building was old and big...an old mansion at one time.  Lots of rooms
and different levels.   It was about  8:00pm when I got there and,  naturally,  Rabbitt was
on the air.  There was a buzzer at the front door that you rang,  and a few minutes after
I   rang it  a young man came to the door to find out what I wanted.  I gave him one of
my business cards from "The Actor's Workshop"  and told him that I'd like to see Mr.
Rabbitt about a show we  were doing.

A few minutes later,  the young man  came back and said to come on in and that the
Rabbitt wanted to see me.   I was led down a hall,  past some  rooms and into what
actor's call a "green room"  or waiting area that had an "on the air" monitor playing
in it.    A few minutes more and "the man" himself came out to greet me.   He was short,
athletic looking,  had a firm handshake.  He had my card in his hand  and said:  "Your
an actor,  that's great !   I was an actor since I was a kid.   I'm from California...did some
movies before I got into Radio."    Then, I told him I'd just gotten back from LA a few
months ago myself.  And, that I'd studied at the Pasadena Playhouse.  After hearing that
he said:  "Come on into the Studio with me.  Let's talk !"

The conversation centered around music, acting,  California and radio.  And,  about a
half hour later,  he said :  "Let's do an interview for your "Actor's Workshop" project.

                                   

We did it,  and I said that I'd better leave so that he could get back to his show.
I thanked him for  his courtesy of seeing me and the interview.   He said:  "You have to
come back.!  We have to get together sometime soon 'cause you're one of the only
people that I've met since I've been in St. Louis  that really knows  about acting and
the places I'm used to in California.   I do my show like I was  doing a theatrical  production
and you happen to be one of the  only people who can relate to that."

I thanked him again,  and on my way home that night  that I felt that I had not only met one
of the best Radio Personalities I'd ever heard,   but  I felt the beginning of a bond and a
friendship with this person.    As it turned out,  due to that chance meeting, he would become
one of the most important persons in my life and my career.

 


RABBITT TRACKS, PT. 2:  "THE BRITISH INVASION" & "RIDIN' WITH THE RABBITT !'

                

1965 WAS A PIVOTAL YEAR FOR MUSIC and for  radio formats & personalities across the
country.  Todd Storz has always been considered to be the "Founding Father" of
Top 40 Radio...followed closely by Gordon McLendon and his chain of stations.  But, in
1965 at KHJ in Los Angeles, Bill Drake & Gene Chenault debuted "Boss Radio" and set
a whole new set of systems and personalites into play that shook the industry from top
to bottom.

For St. Louis  in 1965 though things had not gotten to that point yet.  KXOK and WIL
were still the stations that  the "Top 40" listeners tuned into for music...with KXOK
still in the driver's seat by a long shot.   And Bud  Connell and his crew  continued to
surge ahead on all fronts. Keeping their audience entertained with "adult" sounding
personalites that  related to the City and played the music they wanted to hear.  But,
with the addition of Don Pietromonaco as the 7 to Midnight Personality "Johnny Rabbitt"
things were about to get VERY INTERESTING !

RABBITT TRACKS, PART 2:

Don's ability to bring his acting background to his radio show was one of his main
assets.   If you listen to the other airchecks of some of those really great voices on the
KXOK Staff at the time,  you'll notice that Don's was different.   Ray Otis, Richard Ward
Fatherly, Peter Martin, Steven B. Stevens, Robert R. Lynn, Keith Morris, Willam A.
Hopkins...all had  wonderful  voices that resonated through that reverb-tinged
frequency with authority and pleasantness at the same time.  Not easy to do.  But, if you
listen closely, you'll also hear a "sameness of sound" that was featured with  all of these
great performers...evidently orchestrated as part of the master plan.  And, there was
nothing wrong with that at all.   These men were all TRUE professionals and that showed
every time they opened the mike.   But, Don's  voice was different from the rest.  And,
that was EXACTLY what was needed for the 7 to Midnight time period.

Don's creativity and his addition to the mix of "Bruno J. Grunion" was on the verge of
taking St. Louis by storm,  and 1965 was that formitive year for both of us that helped
bond us as friends.  Having recently returned from California I was re-learning St. Louis
and Don was getting his first real taste of the Mid-West.

The music industry was going through some real growing pains in 1965.  The British
Invasion of  1964 had filtered previously unknown groups into the forefront of USA
record sales.   The Beatles,  The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Dave Clark Five,
Gerry & The Pacemakers, Freddy & The Dreamers, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas,
Manfred Mann, Dusty Springfield, Peter & Gordon, Chad & Jeremy...well, you get the
picture.  It was "Hip To Be Brit" !   Many long established stars were just about out of
a gig or a record label because of this.

But, just about all of the labels in those days had record reps in all of the Major Markets
around the country.  And, whether they were trying to promote true "British Invasion"
artists or American "sound alikes",  or even some of their long-running artists ,St. Louis
had MANY record promoters that worked the stations.   I think at one time there were
over 30 Promo men based here.   Some of them would include:  Gene Denonovich
(One of the nicest people on the planet), Don Miller (He helped me prep for my "3rd
Class License),  Lester Neal,  Dave & Don Swengross,  & Dominic LaMetta.

Now, although Don had to work within the framework of the well-established KXOK
format, all of the Reps knew the importance of "connecting" with him on a one-to-one
basis as he began to do outside gigs, station appearances, when their artists were in
town for shows, etc.   And, there were two main "watering holes" that the "Crew"
established.   One was "The Rabbitt Hutch" at the Tack Room of the Chase and the
other was at "Luigi's West" in North West County on  Natural Bridge. (Yes,  there was
also a select-spot "Hutch" at the Playboy Club where Don's then-wife worked, but  that
was not frequented as much as the others.)

                          

I continued to  work with the Actor's Workshop, and since I also played drums in those
days, worked with a group in "The Red Pony " Lounge across from the Chrysler Plant
occasionally on weekends.   So, it was  a few months into our friendship when I had
a night off and Don invited me to join him for dinner at the Chase.   He had to  stop by
the station first for something and asked me to meet him there.  I did and he said to
just leave my car there and we'd go in his '64 Riviera.   Don and  I shared this great love of
automobiles,  but more on that later.

Since I had never driven with him before I  didn't know what to expect...but,  I soon
learned the meaning of what "Kamikaze Driving" is all about.   Behind the wheel, Don
was a madman !!   "Oh, come now !", you say...but it was true.   He was always one of
the nicest guys in the world,  but when he was behind the wheel...well,  I think even
St. Christopher, The Patron Saint of Travelers, prayed to a Higher Authority when Don
was on the streets !

That first night we had dinner at the Chase the food was great,  the atmosphere was
wonderful and the conversation never stopped.   Many of  "The Rabbitt's"  friends
stopped by as did "Hack"  who was the Major Domo at the Chase for about a Century I
think.   All of a sudden Don looked at his watch and said,  "Geez !   It's 10 minutes to
7 !   We've gotta split !!"   Which we did post-haste.   But,  if my ride down to the
restaurant was an eventful one,  the ride back was one where I had my eyes closed
most of the time !!  

Picture this:  Don was zipping in and out of traffic,  honking the horn,  cutting in
front of slow-driving St. Louis Senior Citizens,  whizzing through Amber Traffic Lights
like they were Green,  barely slowing down for Red Lights  and if there was little or
no oncoming traffic at Red Light Intersections  barreling through them like he really
had the right-of-way !    At the time I  do remember remarking that he would have made
a great Ambulance Driver if he ever thought about another Profession,  but that I didn't
want to be in the back on a gurney if he was at the wheel.   But,  right on cue as we
pulled into the Radio Park driveway,  the station ID and the "Johnny Rabbitt"  Show
Intro came on the air and before the first record was over we were in the Studio, he was
at the mike and took over as if he'd been there for hours.  

The above scenario, with variations-on-the-theme,  was repeated many times during
our on-the-street excursions.  Ever so often  I'd bring up that first "Ride With The Rabbitt"
story and we'd always laugh about it...but,  Don's driving NEVER improved.  At one time,
because of  the Porsche he owned ,  I thought he was reliving the "road traits" of his
idol James Dean.   But,  later,  I figured it was just  Don "being Don".   And,  you know,
in all the times I rode with him we NEVER  had an accident.   I guess St. Christopher
did get through to that "Higher Authority" !

 


 RABBITT TRACKS, PT. 3:  "THE NAMES THE SAME" & "THOSE CUTE KAY GIRLS !"

                                 

Putting these thoughts and stories down on paper after  so long a time,  brings  them
back to me with crystal clarity.   And,  in  doing  so,  I relive all of those moments with
both joy and sadness.   The fun we had at that time was beyond anything you could
imagine.   Don, and the "Crew" that he had assembled at that place and time, were
truly some of the best you could ever hope to run with.   To be associated with  KXOK
and "The Rabbitt" put you in a very special class indeed.

The sad part was that,  like the Glory Seasons of the St. Louis Rams from 1999 - 2001,
OUR "team" was also, eventually, dismantled.  But it was a great ride while it lasted!
And those are the memories that will stay with me forever.   Because  Don Pietromonaco
was my friend,  and  to have shared those moments with him are what made them so
special.

RABBITT TRACKS, PART 3:

What made Don so great was not just his "Rabbitt" on-air persona and the ability to
execute it perfectly,  but the fact that he was like a bolt of lightning...just waiting  to
strike.   It's sometimes difficult to express how someone's "aura" affects those around
them.   Don's  was exceptionally powerful.  Like working in a show with a really great
actor who can bring the entire cast up by his presence and talent in every scene that
anyone would have with him, being around Don had that same effect.  He made you
a better person. Made you think.  Made you happy you were alive and that he was your
friend.

Now, let me explain one thing.   For those of you reading this  site who are not in "the
biz",  I'll try to enlighten you to some info that today may seem common knowledge,  but
40 years ago was not generally  known.   Many of the "company" owned stations around
the country like Storz Broadcasting,  LIN Broadcasting, etc.,  used  "house names" for their
Radio Personalities.    The reasoning was simple:  with consistent names for your "on-the-air
" personalities,  no matter if there were personnel changes,  the names remained the same.
So,  especially during rating periods, the listeners were sure to hear their favorite "dj's"...at
least that's who they THOUGHT they were hearing.

Here's an example of how it worked:   When I was at KAAY/Little Rock working for LIN
Broadcasting,  one of our "house" names was "Mike McCormick".   Let's say that the
personality using "Mike Mc Cormick" stayed at the station for a year or so then got an
opportunity to move to another market.  When he left that "house name" went to the
bottom of the list.  Then, maybe a year or two later when someone new came to work
for us, the GM and the PD would say "Let's make him "Mike McCormick"...we haven't
used that name for awhile."  Subsequently, when the new  "Mike" hit the airwaves, the
listeners would say:  "Hey, old Mike's back !  I haven't heard him in a long time, but
it's sure good to hear him again"...or,  something to  that effect.   It was all about name
retention and re-enforcement.   And, at that time it worked for the "good will" of the
station and  for ratings.  (  As usual though, if the personality involved was moving to
another station in the same market,  he could not take the "house name" with him.
It was owned by the company and  they had complete rights to it in that city.)

Having said that,  while those in our group might have occasionally called Don by his real
name in private,  that would NEVER be done in  public.   Protecting his identity was
always of prime importance so  he was generally referred to as "Johnny"  or "The Rabbitt".
His legal name was never uttered at the station or at an appearance.

__________________________________________________________________________________

                     

(Above left:  Kathy Gillen swamped with work !  Rabbitt preparing for his next break;  Above right:  I told Don that I bet he could fit into cute little "Kay Girl" Sharon Lowe's jacket.  He took me up on that, and that's Sharon - back to the camera - zipping up her jacket on Don...proving he was small enough to wear it, but I don't think it was ever the same after that !  Kathy Gillen, taking care of biz on the right. These photos are from my personal archives.  I took them Saturday, October 23, 1965.)

One of the really neat things about "The Johnny Rabbitt Show" was the fact that "The
Rabbitt" got  so many phone calls during his 7 to Midnight air shift that it required a
group of "Kay" girls to answer the phones, check on giveaways and prizes, etc.
And, a great bunch of girls they were !   Everyone of  them was a winner !   They worked
hard, did a good job and they were cute!  The list of "Kay" girls that were there during
my years with Don were:   Sharon Lowe, Kathy Gillen, Joanne DeVoogt, Linda With, Sharon
Singer,  and a very cute little blonde  named  Joanie.   And,  yes, if you must know I DID
date some of them!  But, just WHO they were is between them and myself.
(If I have inadvertantly left anyone out,  believe me it was not intentional.)

* As a sidebar to the above, Kathy Gillen and I had actually gone to school together a few
years earlier.  She was a  Freshman or Sophmore when I was a Senior.  The first night that
I went to the station when she was working there was a super-surprise for both of us!
I didn't know that she worked there, and she didn't know that Don and I were friends. 
It was a REAL shock for both of us !  And it was  also a shock for Don who had no idea that
we knew each other.  

So after much hugging,  squeezing,  and chatter between the two of
us,  we let him in on the story.   He thought that was really cool, and even had someone
else sit in on the phones for a few minutes so that Kathy and I could go have a few private
moments to ourselves.   That's just the kind of guy he was.

He was always happy seeing his friends attain happiness.   And, in so doing, the bonds
between he and his friends were strengthend and grew.  And, to this very day I sincerely
miss my friend Don.


RABBITT TRACKS, PART 4: "THE WORLDS FAIR, THE AUTORAMA, AND, THE POWER OF MUSIC"

                                               

RABBITT TRACKS, PART 4:

Music is one of the most important connections we have to our emotions and our lives.
It is our 'time machine' that transports us back to various events that we experienced:
some good, some bad.   But always, on a personal level, just hearing a particular song
can sometimes take us back to a very special time in our life and bring to life the people
we were with when we heard it.  And if we close our eyes and concentrate we are almost
able to 're-live' that time-period all over again.  The sounds, the smells, the weather, the
laughter, the car we owned, the places we went, the girl we were with, our family, our
friends...it can ALL come back to us in a song.

As I write these memories of my friend Don, the music of  that first year we became
friends - 1965 - comes back to me SO vividly !   "Satisfaction", "Turn, Turn, Turn",
"Count Me In", "Lover's Concerto", "The Cheater", "We Can Work It Out", "Flowers On
The Wall", "Rescue Me", "The Sounds Of Silence"...the list goes on and on.  And so
do the memories.

In the Summer of  1965 I had made plans to visit the World's Fair in New York.  Don
and I were both excited about this because I was set to see some Broadway show's
and bring back some Programs and Playbill's to share with him.   No matter how long
you've been an Actor, seeing the Pro's do it on Broadway is a very special experience
and I was privileged to see  Streisand in her original run of "Funny Girl" and Anthony
Newley and the great Cyril Ritchard in "The Roar of the Greasepaint".   Don was floored
when I brought him back  some souvenirs and showed him my program autographed by
both Newley and Ritchard !

By the Fall,  my schedule was in full-swing:  I had been cast in a show at Fontbonne,
was still playing drums occasionally, had registered at SLU to take some night classes,
and, of course,  continued dinners, visits & get-togethers with "The Rabbitt".  Our mutual
love of cars also manifested itself in the "1965 KXOK Autorama" at Keil Auditorium.

Outside of Marlon Brando & Rod Steiger, Don's acting "idol" was James Dean.  He loved
everything that Dean did...even named his sweet daughter "Dena".   So, a few years earlier
after he had saved up some money, he had purchased a car like James Dean had at onetime:
a 356 Porsche Speedster.   It was white with a black top and was a rare car even then.   So,
it was only fitting that it be displayed in a special section at the Autorama so that all of
Rabbitt's fans and listeners could see it in person.  I still have pictures of  that event showing
Don, Nick Charles and others.  And there is a special picture of the Porsche with my friend
"Kay-Girl"  Kathy Gillen perched on the hood.

                                          

Ironically, that was one of the last 'good times' I had for awhile.  A couple of weeks later,
I came down with a very severe Viral Infection.  I was in the ICU for about 10 days and
ended up being in the hospital for a total of 32 days.   All the while I was there Don
never forgot me.  He sent telegrams ( remember those), cards,  called me every few
days and mentioned me on the air  with "get well" messages a few times a week. 
As sick as I was, those things always cheered me up...but that was the kind of friend Don was.

I got out of the hospital a couple of weeks before Christmas and started my recuperation.
By the 29th of December I was feeling somewhat better and Don had invited me down to
visit him on the air.   We had a great time, he was glad to see me back "among the living"
and the evening was just great !   Kathy Gillen was working there that night and asked me
 if I felt good enough to spend New Year's Eve with her.  Her roommate was going out for
New Year's and Kathy didn't have any plans.  Neither did I, so we spent a nice, relaxing
evening at her apartment and brought the New Year of 1966 in together.

And, when I hear the music we shared together that night, the memories come back
all-over again and I am transported back to that very special, very personal time:
the New Year's Eve of 1965.

And that, my friends,  is what the " Power of Music " is all about.


RABBITT TRACKS:, PART 5: "1966: THE YEAR OF THE RABBITT" & "THE BATCAVE !"

                   

RABBITT TRACKS, PART 5:

To fully understand the impact of the Johnny  Rabbitt / KXOK phenomenon
in 1966 we have to travel back in time to the 3 previous years:

1963:  The year started out rather peacefully, but on November 22nd
          when those rifle shots rang out in Dallas killing President John F.
          Kennedy, our world was tragically shaken and the country went
          into a period of mourning.

1964:  By late 1963 a group of four young musicians from Liverpool, England
           had started a musical revolution of sorts.  They were known as The
           Beatles, and when they journeyed to America to appear on the Ed
           Sullivan TV Show on February 9, 1964, "Beatlemania" was born.
           It helped bring us back to normal, lift us out of the doldrums and
           changed Musical History forever.
          
           In the Fall of 1964,  The British Invasion continued with the release
           of  "Goldfinger"... the newest installment in the James Bond film
           series.   The cash registers at theatres all over the country rang
            up daily / nightly over the Holidays of  1964 with one of the biggest
            Box Office smashes of the year,  making 1964 The Year of
            Beatlmania & Bond !

1965:   1965 saw a year marked with mixed emotions.  The first US combat
             troops arrived in Vietnam in a situation that was to become a political
             quagmire for years to come.

           "The British Invasion" continued, as did the musical evolution of
              the group that had started it all:  The Beatles.   From their raucus
              'cover' sounds like Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven",  they
               had sequed into the beautiful harmonic structures of "Yesterday".
               American artists like the Beach Boys, the Four Seasons, and
               Roy Orbison were trying to catch up.   But, one group in particular
               that helped turn the tide in favor of  the USA, was Gary Lewis & The
               Playboys.  They had 5 "Top 5" Hits in a row ! 
     

                        

[Jonnie King & Friends: L to R, Billy Joe Royal, ("Down In The Boondocks") Jim Brown WIL Radio, Bob Kuban, ("The Cheater"), JK, Gary Lewis ("This Diamond Ring"). At the Club Imperial/St. Louis, for the Ike & Tina Turner Review.  Monday, April 18, 1966]

WHICH BRINGS US TO: 1966:  

                       

1966 was truly a triumphant year for Don Pietromonaco.  "The Johnny Rabbitt
Show" on KXOK was cruising in High Gear !   He had entrenched himself
firmly in the St. Louis market and was just about to be launched into Warp Speed !!

Why ?  What helped push this superb performer into the Stratosphere
of Legendary St. Louis Radio Personalities ?  Well,  this part of his story
begins in January of  1966:  The ABC Television Network had some ratings
problems with their Fall Schedule, so they decided to start what they called
"The Second Season".   And on January 12, 1966, they debuted a new TV
Show based on one of the most revered Comic Characters of all-time:
BATMAN.  (Note:  the 'Second Season' was a NEW programming tool at
that time.  What was an 'original concept' over 40 years ago has now
become a common occurence on current TV Schedules.   But remember:
the early TV Schedules had copied their Golden Age Radio predecessor's
and almost every shows' 'Season' ran for 39 WEEKS.  NOT the current
22 - 24...OR LESS, Week Schedule.)

The show was done tongue-in-cheek.   Cartoon-like words of "Zap", "Ka-Pow"
and "Crunch" were emblazoned over the screen in fight scenes;  expressions
like "Holy Smoke Bombs, Batman" were uttered by 'Robin the Boy Wonder', and
the high-revving "Batmobile" exited and re-entered the "Batcave" weekly.  SO,
if 1964 was The Year of  Beatlemania & James Bond, 1966 was The Year of
Batmania & The Batcave.   And, Don Pietromonaco LOVED it !

Don's always-youthful outlook, which kept he and his audience 'bonded',
included not only his on on-air personna, but also that of the mythical "Bruno
J. Grunion"...his ever-faithful, always- in-trouble sidekick.   To correlate with
that, Don had put together an agreement with the local owner (George Edick)
of a music club called "The Club Imperial".  The Club Imperial through the years
had hosted many Record Hops & DJ Parties (Yours truly had attended a lot of
those himself !).  So, Don and George had agreed on doing Sunday Nite Dances/
"Rabbitt Hops",  which turned out to be fairly lucrative for both parties.
Sunday Nite was an off-nite for the Imperial and this brought in a great crowd
which kept the Club going and reinforced the 'Power of The Rabbitt'.  Plus,
it was good P.R. for KXOK.  (Note: at  times the Sunday Nite dances were
called "Bunny Hops".)

                                     

AND, when 'Batmania' hit, the wheels in Don's brain started spinning frantically !
He tried all kinds of tie-in's to pairup with the "Bat Syndrome".  I even created
an idea and script for an on-going Serial for his show that Don used: "BatRab
& Goono"...the adventures of  the Crime Fighting BatRab and his sidekick
Goono.   It premiered on KXOK the night of Tuesday, April 12, 1966.

 (Don, showing his true loyalty, saw to it that I got credit for my
contribution on the KXOK Weekly Surveys that promoed the Serial.)

But Don kept thinking BIGGER, and to that end, he and George Edick, along
with another old friend Jim Brown (who had been a DJ at WIL before the
format had been changed to All-News) came up with a plan to convert what
had been part of an old bowling alley in the basement  of the Club Imperial
into an atmospheric, music-driven club for teens called "Bruno's Batcave" !

It was a remarkable, cross-over event !   Truly one of the GREATEST in the
Annals of St. Louis Radio History.  This type of concept wasn't 'new' to Radio
or to DJ's.   Lot's of Air Personalities throughout the History of Rock & Roll
had put together clubs of one sort or another.   But this wasn't just a 'Club'.
This was a direct spin-off of the HOTTEST new TV Show in America !

"BRUNO'S BATCAVE" became a world unto itself !   Jim Brown was the first Manager,
and I signed on as Assistant Manager.   Since Don's shift was 7 to
Midnight, he needed friends he could count on to keep things running smoothly,
to solve any problems that could come up...and to watch out for his interests in
the process.  We opened in the Spring of 1966.  (Ernie Cummings, who managed
The Klassmen, became Manager when Jim Brown left on October 21, 1966.)

"Bruno's" was turned into a dark, caverness place.  With a "Bat Tunnel" for
the entrance and black walls with 'Bat Murals' all around it was the ULTIMATE
Club for teens to 'see and be seen in'.  We had some of the greatest local bands
that you could want:  Steve Cummings & The Klassmen, with Gayle McCormick,
was pretty much our House Band.  To the mix were added:  Walter Scott & The
Guise, The Aardvarks, Barry Ebeling & The Invaders,  Hoss & The Lords, etc.
PLUS, with the help of some local Record Promo guys we had some National
groups that would come through occasionally like The Cryan Shames, The
Blues Magoos, et al.  AND, Don sometimes pulled some old friends out of
his 'Rabbitt Hat' !    When Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs (Friends of Don's
from his stay in Phoenix) came to town in August of 1966 they had the hottest
record in the country:  "Little Red Riding Hood".  Guess what ?  We had them
for a one-night-only show on August 18th.   "Bruno's" was literally packed to
the walls for a sell-out show.  They tore the house down and I have the pix
to prove it !

      

( Pix from my personal archives...Above left: Sam The Sham doin' the "Wooly Bully" in the Batcave with Gayle McCormick & The Klassmen; Above right: Beautiful Gayle McCormick poses for me in the Bat Tunnel.  Both fromThursday, August 18, 1966. )

Other featured Stars that we had at the "Batcave" included B.J. Thomas, and,
the talented Billy Preston who would later work with those guys who
created "Beatlemania":  John, Paul, George & Ringo.

"Bruno's Batcave"( and it's aura) was THE stuff of Legendary proportions.
Add to that the Sunday Nite "Rabbitt Hops", PLUS, Monday Nite "Pool Parties"
at the JCCA, the Wednesday Nite "Splash Parties" at the Chain of Rocks Pool,
and you will understand why Don's 'Star' shone so brightly on both the St. Louis
and the National Scene.

YES,  1966 was truly the Year of "Batmania" AND "Bruno's Batcave".
More than that, it was the "Year of The Rabbitt":  The year that Don
Pietromonaco, Bruno J. Grunion and "The Johnny Rabbit Show" on KXOK
'rode the rocket' into the Annals of Radio History.  I thank my friend
Don from the bottom of my heart for asking me to go along for the ride.
He was THE BEST.  Period.

       

Above left: In The Batcave...Jonnie King & singer Vince Perry; Above right: In The Batcave entrance...Jonnie King & friend (Yes, working in The Batcave did have its perks !)

 

SPECIAL NOTE: My friend Don Pietromonaco died in California on April 18th,1997, at the age of 61 from complications of emphysema.  These "Rabbitt Tracks" Pages of the WebSite are dedicated to him as he was my friend, my mentor, and one of the kindest, most generous persons I've ever known...and one of the most important of all those who've entered into my life.

Don's son Doug is an attorney in California and his two daughters, my friend Dena, as well as Andrea, live in St. Louis.

(To hear the RARE 1966 "Rabbitt /KXOK Pepsi Demo" just click-on this link ! )

 

NEXT:  KLID RADIO / POPLAR BLUFF, MO.