“Remember; wherever you go; there you are!”- In Loving Memory and Tribute to Louisville Radio Icon Johnny Randolph
One lesson I learned many years ago about writing something that is to be published is never to submit a piece you wrote while too emotional. If I do write a piece under emotional duress I always try to reread and rewrite it the next day minus the emotion before publishing something I probably will regret. Upon occasion after such a column my editor has saved me by letting me know too much emotion came through.
I am writing this column feeling more than a bit of emotion. A friend of mine I had known since around 1967 died today .
When I was a kid there were two radio stations that initiated my generation to rock ‘n’ roll music. WKLO and WAKY. For me, WAKY was always Number One. They both played essentially the same music. For me, it was always the radio personalities that made all the difference. WAKY was my first choice.
For 10 years WAKY radio had an on-air personality whom I liked and who was the Program Director extraordinaire. His name was Johnny Randolph. Just to name drop he was the reason that WAKY had Billy Bailey and Gary Burbank. If these names mean nothing to you it is probably just as well you stop reading this column at this point.
Johnny Randolph was as much a part of my young kid and teenage years as acne, Brylcreem, and girls I was in love with who wouldn’t give me the time of day. WAKY was ours back then. Our parents didn’t get it. My dad always told me until his final days, “There are two kinds of music; country and western.” WAKY didn’t play them. Ever!
Johnny Randolph was around when AM radio was made to appeal to my generation. There were no rules so people like Johnny Randolph made them up as they went. Radio was magic then.
I was so influenced by WAKY and the people on air that I went to broadcasting school and spent a year working on the air in radio. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be famous. I was, kind of. In Corydon, Indiana.
I worked at a little AM daytime station called WPDF. The station owner’s daughter was a few years younger than my 19 years of age. She was always around, and I knew she was a bit enamored. Hey, a groupie is a groupie!
One afternoon she told me that I was kind of a celebrity among her crowd. She even told me that my name was carved into the women’s locker room wall at the bowling alley in Corydon. Few people ever achieve that level of fame! Being on top of radio in Corydon is a fleeting kind of thing. They have probably painted over my name sometime between 1974 and now.
One of my favorite stories from that time was when I worked a 6-8-hour shift on Sundays. The station had to sign off at sundown according to its licensing restrictions, so my days were longer in summer than in winter. One Sunday as I was on the air, I found out my grandpa, his girlfriend, along with my mom and dad drove around the Corydon countryside to listen to me on the air.
I hope they still make parents like they used to!
My radio career fizzled just after Johnny Randolph left WAKY as AM radio was starting to slip a bit, thanks to a newfangled thing called FM radio. My career in radio ended at the end of one year. I have often joked about my radio career saying that I had a voice for television and a face for newspapers.
However, after a long-time lapse WAKY radio returned to the air a few years ago and Johnny Randolph returned to the air with it. I know you can’t really relive the best days of your life but WAKY radio came close with Johnny Randolph. It was an old familiar voice of a friend that I loved to listen to in the afternoons. If I had occasion to go somewhere in the late afternoon, I timed it perfectly. The Johnny Randolph Top Five at Five was my favorite WAKY programming. Johnny counted down the Top 5 radio chart songs from a certain week from a given year.
He also peppered it with stories about the artists and rock trivia. A friendly voice from the past and the present.
One of the reasons I was so melancholy today when I heard of his passing is that upon occasion while listening, I had decided that I would contact him to do a column about him and the golden days of AM radio. I also wanted him to know how big a role he had played in my life. Not many “friends” can connect your present with your past for more than 50 years.
I never met him. Johnny Randolph was my friend at 5 o’clock any afternoon when I was in my car.
Happy Anniversary To Me
A milestone in my own life kind of went without mention as it never really seemed appropriate for me to write about it. Sometime during the second week of May I celebrated my 25th year of writing a newspaper column for the News and Tribune.
I suspect, much like me, if you examine your life and find more than one or two things or people that been a consistent part of your life for a quarter of a century the list is not very long. Most of us have reached a period in life where it is certain to get to be a shorter list.