1968 was a tumultuous year. MLK and Bobby Kennedy assassinated, Riots at the Chicago convention, Nixon elected 37th President. But for me, the only thing I was focused on was advancing my career quickly.
I cut my teeth in the late summer, fall, and Winter of 68 at WERT in Van Wert, Ohio. The days went by fast because I absolutely loved what I was doing. And I learned a lot. There was a DJ at WERT by the name of Larry Rich. He was a clown – literally. I didn’t know his alter ego was (forgot the clowns name) but you can imagine my shock to walk in the studio to see a clown doing a show. Larry Rich was a showman and not a bad air talent. I always wondered what his story was and why he wasn’t in a bigger market.
One day Rich asked if he could borrow my car. His was in a repair shop. Being the nice guy that I am I said sure. Rich, being the kind of guy he was, used my car and took a local girl I had started dating to the VanDel drive in..and had his way with her. He was a scoundrel but I kind of liked him.
In the late winter of 1969 I got a job at WCIT in Lima. When I was offered the job I damn near wet my pants. I was going to be one of the WCIT “Good Guys”! Jim Burnside was the program director. Burnside was one of the successors to Adrian Kronauer, The DJ portrayed by Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam. He’d play me tapes of him signing on in the morning with the signature “Goooooooooooooood Morning Vietnam!!!”
Burnside brought me on board and was subsequently fired about a week later because he got into a management dispute with the owner, Richard H Riggs. With Burnside out, I thought I’d be next. But Riggs and his partner Paul Bussard liked me. The new program director was one of the DJs – Tom Sidwell. When Burnside exited, Sidwell came to me and said ” don’t be nervous – they like you”. Whew!! Dodged that one.
WCIT was a top 40 station. We played the kind of music the kids liked. The air staff during my 2 years at WCIT consisted of Tom Sidwell – world most bashful disc jockey, Larry Mox, Jim Wood, Mick Hodges, Tommy Judge (Carl David Hamilton) and myself. Don Sherwood was our news director. Sherwood was a newsman’s newsman. He was the stereotypical news hound. If he wore a fadora, it would have had a “press” card in the rim. There were many days Don would fly into the studios and bang in the window shouting “bulletin”! My God!!!! You would think the world was ending. But it was normally a city hall beat story. Don relished getting a scoop – especially beating out his news buddies at the Lima News.
There was one local news story though that was pretty serious. Riots in Lima triggered by an officer involved shooting of an African American female. It got tense. The National guard was called in. I offered to cover a press conference at the King Kennedy center in Lima’s mostly black south end. And, I took some brass knuckles to the jaw. I was taken to St. Rita’s Hospital in Lima and treated for a concussion and hairline fracture to the jaw. Sherwood said I took one for the team.
Sidwell was perhaps the most memorable WCIT character. Tom was “a cool cat”. He was stuck somewhere between Maynard G Crebs and Bob Dylan. He did the morning show on WCIT and used to make wise cracks right at sign on..before playing the national anthem. His pride and joy was a 60 Corvette. White with red trim. He also had an orange VW bug that he modified with a big engine in the rear compartment. I often think of Tom and wonder whatever happened to him. He did a lot for me in my early years and, unfortunately, I turned out to be a not so loyal friend to him.
I remember Larry Mox. We became good friends and I was saddened when he passed away of a heart condition when he was only in his 20s. But I have a funny story about Larry. We did a contest on the station called The Good Guys Grand Prix. I don’t recall the details of the contest but I do remember the program director had put a hand written sign right below the studio clock that said “Good Guys Grand Prix Time”. So, when gave a time check, it was “ Good Guys Grand Prix Time” except Larry read it phonetically and said “It’s Good Guys Grand Pricks Time on the Larry Mox Show”.
To this day, each time we pass the cemetery in Delphos where Larry is buried, Sharon and I always give a shout-out to Lawrence of Delphia.
This is Skip Essick, signing off for now.