“Is That A Joint?”

11b

CHAPTER SIXTY-SIX

IS THAT A JOINT?

Susan Reams had rescued Frazier from outrageous bachelorhood just before his run for Governor in 1968. It was Frazier’s first marriage and Susan’s third. Her first had ended in divorce. Her second husband died in a tragic auto accident in which Susan and two sons had also sustained serious injury. She had three sons in all and came to Frazier with a ready-made family. Their union produced a daughter named Molly. Frazier adopted Ed, David and John and loved them as his own. They also took his name.

Susan was not a shy woman, nor one to tolerate mediocrity. She wore her wealth with class and dignity, yet with assertion and forceful fixation. Once dedicated to a task, nothing would hinder her progress. I became convinced she probably had been the Queen of France in a prior incarnation and I liked her immensely. She was extremely well-connected in Toledo Society and most anxious to further the interests of Reams Broadcasting with any contributions she might be able to offer. I took her at her word. Susan had the town wired socially and politically. It was time to use our riverfront location to distinct and unique advantage. WEBN in Cincinnati had inaugurated fireworks on the Ohio. There was no reason WIOT/WCWA shouldn’t do the same on the Maumee. Susan went to work.

Our first “WIOT/WCWA Sky Concert” was held on Labor Day in 1983 as a conclusion to the “Toledo Festival of the Arts”. It was pyrotechnics synchronized to music. In subsequent years, we would add the 4th of July to our schedule. Future productions would be executed on eight-track tape with sound effects, laser-guns and direct electronic-firing incorporated into our efforts. Giant speaker banks would line both sides of the Maumee. Estimated crowd size would increase to a half-million in attendance and even more watching live television coverage in the comfort of their homes. The “Sky Concert” fireworks became an ultimate corporate statement. Reams Broadcasting ruled the river as WIOT/WCWA took the town.

I attended an ABC Radio Network Affiliates Meeting in Palm Beach, Florida and was elected Chairman of the Rock Network Affiliates Board. WIOT and WWCK both carried the network. I was quite excited with the opportunity to offer direct input into national programming plans. Eileen and I had a wonderful time and made many new friends and acquaintances.

Westwood One had dropped their involvement with “Buffalo Dick’s Radio Ranch” due to content problems with some affiliates. I brought Jeff Lamb to Toledo where I would try to launch our own Reams Broadcasting efforts to syndicate the show. We were now carrying “Radio Ranch” in Toledo and Muskegon as well as Flint. We had recorded our first “WIOT/WCWA Fireworks Soundtrack” in Jeff’s apartment. To further justify Jeff’s salary, I tried him out as a disc-jockey on WIOT. It was awful. Without the character voices and conceptual opportunities afforded by “Radio Ranch”, Jeff didn’t know who Jeff was. He gave it a wonderful try, but it just wouldn’t work. We decided to concentrate on “Buffalo Dick”, but I was facing problems finding adequate time to properly pursue the project.

We needed someone who could both personally manage Jeff and sell the program coast-to-coast. An excellent candidate appeared on the scene and had expressed his interest and availability. Jeff and I waited at my house for his arrival on a sunny September afternoon. I received a call from my prospect. He had been stopped for speeding as he crossed into Ohio from Michigan and was stranded at the Sylvania Post of the Highway Patrol in lieu of $45.00 bond. He needed us to come bail him out. Terry Knight was stone broke.

When Terry Knight and Grand Funk Railroad parted company in 1973, Terry had come out of the deal personally with approximately ten million dollars in cash. He owned his own jet planes, hung-out with the stars and had raced cars with Paul Newman. He had managed English model “Twiggy” and had become involved with motion pictures, Broadway musicals and varied investments around the world. He was one of the smartest and fastest players on the circuit. It got too fast and not at all smart. He had lost everything. The drain was cocaine.

Terry and I had spoken many times since he surfaced back in Flint shortly before my move to Toledo. He was honest in stating his predicament. He thought he might like to return to his disc-jockey roots and try an airshift on WWCK. That seemed unusual. I had discussed “Radio Ranch” with Terry and how I felt it offered a natural opportunity with substantial potential. He was coming to Toledo to spend time with Jeff. We sprang him from the cooler in Sylvania.

Terry and Jeff worked together for two weeks. Jeff was waiting for lightning to strike. If Terry had brought Grand Funk from obscurity to global glory, “Buffalo Dick” could surely ascend with similar magnificence. Even part-way wouldn’t be all-bad. Jeff and I would have settled for just getting on twenty more radio stations with a thirteen week commitment. Terry seemed more interested in the creative side of things, exactly what we didn’t need. The “product” was already proven. We wanted networking, not circle-jerking. Terry decided he just wanted to “write”. We abandoned the exercise and wished Terry well. He asked me if he could borrow a thousand dollars. I politely declined.

Terry’s fall was as spectacular and awesome as his rise. A meteor burns brightest only seconds before impact. Had Jeff and I witnessed only residue from final flame-out? We were not to know. Terry left Toledo and disappeared. There were rumors of participation in a “Federal Witness Protection Program”. I did not discount the possibility, nor did I seek to learn more. There was no point.

On November 1, 2004, Terry Knight was stabbed to death in Temple, Texas, by his 16 year-old daughter’s boyfriend, now serving life in prison.

Reams Broadcasting moved Jeff back to Flint in late November and put expanded “Radio Ranch” efforts on a back-burner. Jeff and I would remain friends and I promised him we’d work together again. I was to honor my pledge seven years later when Jeff would host one of the highest-rated morning shows in Toledo history on WIOT with a completely different approach. Sometimes it takes a while figuring things out.

1984 started with attendance in January at the annual “Burkhart/Abrams Programming Conference” with Bob Lafferty, Ron Shannon and Susan Reams. It was held in San Francisco at the Fairmont Hotel and featured many wild, unusual highlights.

There was a special record company party at the “Starship Mansion” where Jefferson Airship/Starship had lived for many years. With the strains of “White Rabbit” thumping away in the background, Susan Reams met lead-guitarist Paul Kantner and asked him what he did. He dryly told her he “worked in the house”. He proceeded to roll the largest joint in history of the world outside Kingston. He fired-up and thrust the monsterous mountain of marijuana at Mrs. Reams. Without hesitation, she courteously took a toke or two and passed it along. She excitedly whispered.

Peter. Peter! Is that a joint?”

Right.

“I’m not sure, Susan, but I think it’s expected that we go along with it.”

“Well, I think we should too! Let’s not tell Frazier!”

Right.

“Right!”

Ron Shannon, being a former-musician, got carried away with the ambiance of it all and wanted to drive our tour bus upon leaving the mansion. He sensed the hills of San Francisco offered exceptional promise for outstanding motoring sport and adventure. Popular sentiment delicately expressed persuaded him to the contrary.

We were treated to a trip north into Sonoma Wine Country as guests of the rock group “Journey”. Their private chef fixed lunch for us on a veranda overlooking the Pacific. Dessert was Hawaiian “Maui Wowie”. What a thoughtful touch. Lee Abrams and I rode and smoked our way down through Sausalito and across the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. Incredible!

We were at a meeting the next day when James Brown walked into the room. The “Godfather of Soul” was appearing at the Fairmont and had heard that some radio people were hanging about. He just stopped-in to say hello. Susan shook his hand and told him how much she loved his work. She later asked me who he was. She was under the impression she had been introduced to “James Bond”. He certainly looked different off-screen.

We all returned home with the satisfaction only hard work, sleepless nights and diligent application of effort at a radio convention can bring.

I appointed Bob Lafferty as Vice-President and General Manager of the Toledo stations.

Neil Kearney accepted the position of Vice-President and General Manager of WKBZ/WRNF in Muskegon. Frazier and Susan had just purchased an FM companion for the AM albatross.

Muskegon was the source of constant frustration. It was losing well over a quarter-million dollars a year, as was WCWA in Toledo. WIOT and WWCK were enormously profitable. It was imperative that losses be reduced as well as profits gained to assure continuing prosperity. Neil seemed ready for the challenge in Muskegon, even as Lafferty was formulating new plans for our Toledo AM.

Within two years, Neil would sharply curtail Muskegon deficits and gain enormous managerial experience for a greater task ahead. Under his guidance, WKBZ would become the highest-rated AM station in Western Michigan and WRNF-FM would triple its listenership and become Muskegon’s leading contemporary music outlet. Neil became active in the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce and staged 4th of July “Sky Concerts” on Lake Michigan simulcast on WKBZ/WRNF. Where’d he get that idea?

In Toledo, we had taken another giant step in dominating the downtown riverfront. Promenade Park was not only right next to Fort Industry Square and our radio stations, but looked to me like a great place for concerts. Rock ‘n Roll!

Starting in 1984 and continuing through the early’90’s, WIOT’s Toledo “River Rallies” “Rocked The Docks” with national talent and exceptional crowds. Six or seven major events were scheduled each season from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission was free-of-charge and beer was sold. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised for area charities and our thirty-five foot-tall “WIOT Coyote” proudly stood in exalted promotional slendor directly adjacent to the stage at each and every performance. Attractions presented included Mitch Ryder, Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon, The Hooters, Bo Diddley, The Outlaws, Rare Earth, Todd Rundgren, Bachman-Turner-Overdrive, Eddie Money, Jason Bonham, Martha and the Vandellas, :38 Special, The Guess Who, Peter Frampton and many more. WIOT’s identification with the “River Rallies” was superior image-marketing at its best and, naturally, a gracious time was had by all.

One Response to ““Is That A Joint?””

  1. A Vodka and a Cigarette » Blog Archive » Quick scan of the net - todd bachman Says:

    […] https://petercavanaugh.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/is-that-a-joint/Attractions presented included Mitch Ryder, Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon, The Hooters, Bo Diddley, The Outlaws, Rare Earth, Todd Rundgren, Bachman-Turner-Overdrive, Eddie Money, Jason Bonham, Martha and the Vandellas, :38 Special, … […]

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