“Buffalo Dick”

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CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE

BUFFALO DICK

WWCK programming was shaping up nicely. Program Director Tim Seigrist was handling responsibilities with new focus and clarity. Tim had stumbled a bit early on.

I had obtained one hundred tickets for Bob Seger’s sold-out Cobo Hall appearances in Detroit for a major station promotion. I had rented coaches for a Saturday night and most of our WWCK staff and sixty-eight lucky winners were planning to be on the exclusive “105 FM Seger Buses” to the concert. I had the tickets sent to Tim, which he reported were carefully counted and placed in his desk drawer for the big event. He called me in absolute panic early Saturday morning. The tickets had remained safe and secure. He had only then noticed they were all for the Friday night performance. I called Punch Andrews, Bob’s manager, and regretfully explained our plight. He told me not to panic. Two long rows of seats were added directly in front of the stage for our attendance. Only prior relationships had saved us from disaster. Tim and I spoke briefly about never “assuming”. It was a conversation never repeated.

All of our WWCK station tickets were very much in order with excellent seating arranged for another rare Detroit performance by Led Zeppelin in early October. The group was not to appear there or anywhere else again. Drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham died in bed September 25th, entering Valhalla via vodka. It was immediately announced that Led Zeppelin had accompanied him on his journey. The band was no more.

Jay “Jammer” Johnson had remained at WTAC and, in the face of WDZZ’s ascension with Black programming, had taken the facility into a “pure rock” direction. Before finalizing the “ninety day” agreement with all interested parties regarding WTAC employees, I had offered Jay the opportunity to make the move with me to WWCK. He had turned me down cold, observing that he would prefer remaining where he was as a real Program Director.
That meant he would be calling the final shots following my departure. I was disappointed with his decision, but fully understood.

When Frazier and I determined that WTAC would not provide advantage proportionate to investment, certain competitive instincts came to the forefront.

Although WTAC was operating with the same technical handicaps
which had frustrated me for so long a time, it had become a nuisance. Every effort was made to force a format change on the facility. Meanwhile, “Jammer” became famous in the most unfortunate of circumstances with the most undesirable of consequences.

It was horrid.

Jay had been handling a number of WTAC promotions personally. One of the more interesting tasks was selecting “Mud Wrestlers” for “WTAC Mud Wrestling Night” at an area lounge. They had to be over eighteen and interested in getting dirty.

He ran several ads in the Flint Journal soliciting “Mud Wrestlers”. They were to send him pictures of themselves and include some brief autobiographical information. Many entries came in. “Jammer” picked a dozen for private interviews in his office at the station. One young lady chosen turned-out to be particularly well-endowed and playful in manner. Jay asked her if she had any “personal photographs” which might be more “revealing”. She giggled and responded that she did not, but wouldn’t mind “modeling” if it might provide career enhancement. Jay generously and graciously offered to be of assistance.

She and a girlfriend accompanied Jay to his apartment. Out came the camera and off came her clothing.

Clickity-Click-Click. Zoomity-Zoom-Zoom.

Being a “trained photographer”, Jay never touched her. She wasn’t the only one posing. A few days later, He presented her with a full set of pictures, as promised. Now she had a real ” professional portfolio”. Goodie! She hid it in her bedroom closet. Her father found it there. He was enraged. He called the police. She was fourteen years-old.

The police watched “Jammer” for a month. They also told the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office what was up. Word was passed to the Flint Journal. Stand by for NEWS!

I was attending a meeting of the Flint Ad Club when a Flint Journal friend asked me if I knew about the big bust coming up. I did not. He whispered details. Returning to the station, I called Jay and shared the information. He thought I was kidding. We were competitors. I told him I wasn’t and that, regardless of separate station affiliation, I still considered him a friend and would help in any way I could. He thanked me, although expressing his opinion that my assistance wouldn’t be needed since he hadn’t really done anything. It was just “a few pictures”. Besides, she had signed a statement that she was eighteen-years of age. He still had it. It was written in pencil on the back of an Arby’s coupon.

Although wildly hoping they had a real “Chicken-Porno-King” on their hands and finding themselves bitterly disappointed that Jay had been so boring under surveillance, the police had to move. The Prosecutor was panting in hot anticipation of excellent electoral grease and the Journal had already been plugged-in for maximum spin. Does he still have really long-hair? Excellent! Is he still employed at that “Rock ‘n Roll” station? Super!

You can’t always get what you want, but you just might find you’ve got what you need.”

Jay was arrested at 5:30 in the morning and hauled downtown. The newspaper photographers and television camera crews were ready and waiting. “Let’s see those handcuffs, Jammer!”

Clickity-Click-Click. Zoomity-Zoom-Zoom.

The official charge was “Contributing to The Delinquency of a Minor”. It wasn’t as good as “Sodomous Bestiality” or even “Statutory Rape”, but the long-hair and “Rock ‘n Roll Disc-Jockey” angles more than compensated. What was lacking in content could be made up in form. It was more than two decades since God had punished Jimmy Adams in Syracuse. Hungry for titillation? Try the Deja Vu!

Jay was front-page in the Journal and the lead-story on all TV newscasts.

He was asked for his resignation at WTAC and immediately tendered same.

I found Jay the best street smart”attorney in town. Jim Zimmer knew the moves. Additionally, his right foot was in a cast from a Rugby injury. Jim found limping about proved beneficial in evoking jury sympathy. Everything helped, especially when you had to introduce a pencil-marked, hot-sauce-stained Arby’s coupon as crucial defendant evidence with a straight face.

The judge was a part-time Nazarene minister. The six member jury panel were all of advanced age and several napped through much of the trial. Only a key witness turned the tide.

She bounced to the witness stand wearing most secure jeans and and an even tighter T-Shirt. It proudly proclaimed “Hi!” over a gigantic, smiley “Happy Face”. She looked about twenty-eight. She told the jury that she had told Jay that she was eighteen and he had never laid a finger on her. She said that her girlfriend had watched the whole thing and thought Jay was “weird”. The Prosecuting Attorney made the dumb mistake of asking dramatically just what she meant by “weird”.

“Why, because he didn’t seem interested in fucking us!”

There was an audible gasp from judge and jurors. She was excused. She waltzed toward the courtroom door, then suddenly spun around and faced the jury. She had their undivided attention. She smiled. She spoke.

Have a nice day, everyone!”

She liked being liked.

The jury deliberated less than a minute. Jay was found “Not Guilty”.

I brought “Jammer” to WWCK and introduced him on the air. He read the news of his acquittal. He thanked everyone for their understanding and support. He then said “goodbye” to Flint.

WTAC went “Country” in less than two weeks. So did WWCK, but only at brief intervals and by most bizzare means.

Jeff Lamb was the son of a famous Flint radio announcer named Bill Lamb. Bill was then working directly for Buick Motor Division, hosting a morning and afternoon show called the “Factory Whistle” on country station WKMF. It was a good job. Jeff was thus a second generation broadcast talent, although he had never yet been officially employed by any station. At eighteen, Jeff started playing records at disco establishments. He was quite the entertainer. He did magic tricks, jumped all over the place in animated frenzy and told crazy jokes. He was an “act”. He started making tons of money, all of which he immediately spent on frivolous notions and passing fancies. You either loved him or hated him. I found myself in the former category, indeed seeing myself two decades before. We became friends.

Jeff also did “voices” and would hang around the station and spend substantial time bothering our secretaries and anyone else who might wander by. For Jeff, any audience was a good one. He would be ostensibly “visiting Peter C.”. Jeff would often be in the building for hours before finally reaching my office. He would perform for anyone in sight. Our cleaning lady thought he was another Johnny Carson. I couldn’t figure out what to do with him. Then, I had a brainstorm.

My idea was to initiate “WWCK Saturday Morning Cartoons” on FM 105 with our normal music format in place, but with Jeff doing cartoon voices instead of having a regular disc-jockey on-the-air. I thought it was ingenious. I spoke with Jeff and asked him to prepare a demonstration tape of possible voices for the exercise. He agreed and returned several days later, cassette in hand. He had spent considerable time in reflection. He told me that my “Saturday Morning Cartoons” idea was “stupid”. I listened patiently. Gifted talent usually lacks tact. He had come up with something “much better” and guaranteed that I would “laugh my ass off”.

The concept was delicately presented as “Buffalo Dick’s Radio Ranch”. It was a parody on the old “Howdy Doody” TV show for kids. Instead of “Buffalo Bob”, you had “Buffalo Dick”. In place of “Howdy”, there was “Buffalo Chip” as primary sidekick. There was an audience of kids. There was an engineer named “Buffalo Peter”, a homosexual policeman named “Officer Skip” and a spaced-out phone caller named “Raymond”. Any number of “guests” would be passing through the show. The possibilities were endless. The content was double-entendre from start to finish, but in a remarkably clever way.

Instead of Saturday morning, “Buffalo Dick’s Radio Ranch” was scheduled as a one-hour program Saturday nights at 10 p.m. There was an “Open”, a “Close” and five “Inserts”. Everything else was straight Rock ‘n Roll music. Each “Insert” was a four or five minute comedy segment. All of “Buffalo Dick” was painstakingly produced by Jeff at home on his Dad’s equipment. He did all the voices and used sound-effects, musical staging and creative enhancement with unbelievable skill.

Jeff understood “theater of the mind” as only the son of a radio veteran could. He had grown-up listening to his Dad, watching him work and studying the art. Jeff blended innate brilliance with experience far beyond his years. It was an unbeatable combination.

An opening instrumental track of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” would eminate across our airwaves as Jeff started each broadcast with the same disclaimer.

“It’s time for Mom and Dad to leave the room, ’cause your old pal Buffalo Dick is on the air!!”

“Buffalo Dick’s Radio Ranch” started in early October on WWCK. Listener response was beyond our wildest expectations. Ratings were to go sky-high. Billboard Magazine would judge “Buffalo Dick’s Radio Ranch” an award winner as “Best Local Programming/All Markets” the following year in national radio competition. Westwood One would syndicate the program on nearly a hundred stations by 1982. Conventional wisdom would have said the concept was too far out to ever work, which is exactly why it did. If it’s really different, it always works. You simply have to go about it with complete abandon and perfect dedication.

And where, oh where did our Buffalo Dick go?

Click this Dick!

http://buffalodick.tv/

One Response to ““Buffalo Dick””

  1. unitary Says:

    I love this blog!

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