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Joe Donovan: Okay, it does it automatically. Now it should be recording.

Jack Fox: Okay, we're going again. We're going to try this one more time. It is a lovely Wednesday, June 13th of 2012, and I'm sitting in the kitchen, looking out on a beautiful deck on a sunny day, almost a summer day with legendary Joe Donovan of WHAS Radio. Legendary of the all-night oldies show and legend of knowledge of oldies, and everything else. Joe, I know that you were born in Illinois but you moved to Colorado at about five or six years old, and I know that you sat there or laid out in the evening under the stars of that bright Colorado sky and dreamed that one day you'd be on a 50,000 watt radio station, you'd be broadcasting oldies across the country, and have people calling you and seeking out your knowledge. Is that how it started?


JD: It never even entered my mind. No, never did.

JF: Is that right?

JD: I didn't even radio a second thought. As a matter of fact-

JF: Television was coming in then. It was the early '50s.

JD: I worked at my dad's gas station in Loveland, Colorado when I was pre-teen, and once my dad spent some money on the local radio station, KLOV. 250 watt daytime-only station with a little tower that wasn't tall enough to have lights on it, and one day he said, "I want to go out to the station and pay a bill." Now, why he was going out Sunday to do it, I have no idea, but he said, "You want to come along?" I shook my head no. I said, "Radio is not cool. TV is the in thing now. Who listens to radio?"

But anyway, he convinced me. I went along with him just for the heck of it. Got in the car, went out there, and I went inside the station. I was just taken by it, just taken by it looking at the studio, the microphones, the turntables, the 2:00transmitter, which was huge for a little 250 watter back then, and this tower outside. And it fascinated me, and I just kept wondering how in the world does this do it?

JF: And you were about 11 years old about this time?

JD: Yeah, I was about 10 or 11 years old.

JF: How long were you in there? Just for a few minutes that day?

JD: Yeah, I think just a few minutes that day, but I then started getting interested in it. From then on, it seems like every Sunday for the next two years I rode my bicycle out to that radio station, so on Sunday afternoons, so I could stand out there and just watch them. It just fascinated me.

JF: So, it got in your blood then, did it?

JD: It did. It did. Eventually they said, "Hey, you want to come in the studio?" I said, "Well, sure." So I went to the studio, and then from that point, I had a guy named Chuck Gerard. He was kind of my mentor and he was so nice and he understood my yearnings, and said, "Come on in. I'll teach you how to run the control board." It was a small one, so they taught me how to do that. Before 3:00long, he was doing the show sitting on the side over there, and I was running this controls for him, spinning records. Of course, back then you had tape recorders and you had records, and the first record I ever did I remember putting up for him on the turntable was Don Cherry's Ghost Town. That was in 1956. That means I was 12 years old then, and then there was some Johnny Mathis' Wonderful! Wonderful! I remember putting those on there, and some early Peggy Lee.

It's funny how you remember that stuff. And that's how it started, and from there, I continued to go out there, but after a while, they wouldn't hire me. And I thought, "Well, I want to..." Because I knew some teenage kids who were a little older than me, and they were working on weekends. I said, "Well, why can't I get a job here?" They wouldn't hire me, and they were always very nice, said, "Come on out and help. Be a volunteer if you want to. Run the equipment 4:00for us," and eventually I found out maybe a couple of years later that they were hesitant about hiring me because my voice was not changed. It wasn't real high, but it wasn't low enough yet. And I felt so much better then. I thought, "Well, it wasn't me then. It was just the voice." Eventually hired me and that's how it started.

JF: Wow. Wow. What were your first duties? Did you do everything? Did you have a specific show? What did you do there?

JD: First, it was just weekend. Yeah, it was weekend for several years because I'm still in high school, and yeah, it was weekend for a long time. And then they started giving me afterschool. I'd go out there and go to work after school, and they'd add more and more hours, and I'd take a lot of this because I was cheap. I was still high school. I didn't cost them anything to speak out. And then when I graduated, they said, "You want to do full-time?" I said, "Sure." And I couldn't wait for Saturday and Sunday to get there because 5:00Saturday and Sunday the whole day was me at KLOV. I signed it on and I signed it off. It wasn't an ego thing. I just loved radio. Playing tapes, it was religious tapes or whatever, I just loved doing it.

JF: It was fascinating to you.

JD: Yeah, that's how it started.

JF: And you realized by this time... You're graduating from high school. Have you realized that this is going to be your path to success and your career? Have you thought about it that much at that point, or just taking it week-to-week and month-to-month and year-to-year?

JD: Well, it's what I wanted to do. I wasn't sure-

JF: Where or how it was going to be yet, but you always wanted to be behind the microphone. You didn't want to be a manager, or a sales guy, or anything like that?

JD: No. Had no interest in that, but I did in engineering. I liked the technical end of it, but I just couldn't understand it. I'm better than most at understanding some of it.

JF: You got a recorder going here, so that's good.

JD: So far. So, I had some technical know-how, but I never could master the engineering part of it, but I enjoyed that, and along the year, it was something I really liked.

JF: So, you were WLOV in Loveland, Colorado.



JF: Started with a K, that's right. How's that? It's West of the Mississippi basically it's K, and to the east, it's W. So, KLOV. You were there for how long, and where did you go from there?

JD: Well, from KLOV, I was there for it seems like it was several years, but I look back now, it wasn't that long. Maybe a year or so. They needed somebody to work up at a sister station up in McCook, Nebraska. A little station. And I had no interest in going up there. I didn't want to go to McCook, Nebraska. Here I am, 18, 19 years old by then. But they said, "Well, you're single. You're available. We need somebody and you're going," so I went to McCook, Nebraska. I didn't like it. It was my first time really away from home. And I served up there. I say served up there for maybe eight, nine months. Then they were finished with me. I went back to KLOV, and then I went to KCOL in Fort Collins, and that was a big jump up from here-

JF: Bigger town. Bigger station.


JD: Yeah. Oh, yeah. And they were an ABC affiliate, had a much better equipment and more power and all that. So, that's where I went from there and it went off from there, then eventually... I didn't move around much in radio.

JF: By this time, you were listening to radio more, weren't you? Were you listening to stations around Denver and around that area, around... Do you listen to the WLSs and the stations that you get at night across the country?

JD: Oh, sure. Sure. When I was working there, I didn't move around much. And I look back on my career, and I pretty much stayed at one station. I'd find a station I liked and I'd stay there. I know a lot of people when they're younger, they drift from station to station to station in no time. My whole career, I think I only worked at five or six stations because I'd found a place and I'd 8:00like to stay in there. Yeah, didn't drift much. But you're right, I would listen to a lot of distant stations at night.

JF: Of course, you had a station there in Denver that was really hot at that time, KIMN radio was a big station.

JD: Oh, I forgot to tell you. Also, biding my time when I was a kid, until I could get on KLOV, I built my own station. Remember I told you I'd hang around out there and they wouldn't hire me and wouldn't hire me. So, I thought, "Well, to heck with it. I'm going to build my own station." So I did. I put together this little through Heathkits and Knight-Kits. I ordered this equipment. I ordered a cheap little microphone. I ordered this old transmitter, one half watt, and I put it together. These were all kits that I built, and I put it together in the basement of my parents house in Loveland, and up on the roof, I puts an antenna up on the roof and a strung wire all around the roof, up around 9:00the chimney, and I put a car radio antenna off the chimney on top of the roof so I can look up there and say, "There's my tower."

And so I had that up there and I would broadcast. I had a couple of turntables and this and that, and I'd have some friends come over and they'd be guest disc jockeys, and here I am tucked under the basement steps in our house with this little radio studio I had. KLOV had given me some records, so that's what I used for records and we used the Yellow Pages for commercials, and they came over... And anyway, this was going along fine, and then I saw an article, my mother did, in Listen Magazine. It was a religious publication back then, and they said, "Here were some kids in California who were doing the same thing, but they were doing it legally. They had permission from the FCC to do it," and they had a picture of these kids in California. It was kind of a little setup just like I had, and I thought in my 16, 15 year old mind, whatever it was, "Well, if they 10:00can get that, I can too."

So I sat down, I composed this letter to the FCC. It was about five or six pages outlining exactly what I had in Loveland, Colorado. Half watt, this is how I built it, and if I follow these rules, can I stay on the air? In other words, I wanted a little license from them. We sent it off the FCC, and I remember it wasn't a day and a half later, I got this call on a Monday night, I think it was a Monday night, from the FCC at home. My parents got this call and they said, "Don't touch the thing. Leave it alone. We're going to be up there tomorrow." I said, "Okay." Mom said, "What have you done?" I said, "I don't know." She showed me this article about these kids.

Anyway. Sure enough, the FCC showed up in they're camouflaged '56 Ford with antennas. I don't know how camouflage it was, there was antennas. They showed up in a couple of... I guess it was the next day, a couple of days. And there were 11:00two guys, and they came in and they took everything apart and then put it back together again. They took schematic diagrams of all of it. Put it back together again, and they sat us down, sat me down with my parents and said politely, "You cannot do this anymore. It's a minimum of $10,000 fine or how many years in jail for illegally broadcasting," and we said, "Look at this! There's these kids in California, they were able to do it and they had permission." And I understand that about two weeks later, they shut them down to because the article apparently was misleading. Anyway, you asked how I started, that's how I started. I forgot to tell you-

JF: You've got a record here, for goodness' sakes. I never heard that story.

JD: Oh, I forgot about it. I was thinking about it.

JF: You almost didn't get started.

JD: No, you're right.

JF: That's a great story. Well, you're in Fort Collins and what's the next step?

JD: I was in Fort Collins, and then I had been there for six or eight years as program director, as news director, as about everything, and I had gotten an 12:00attitude that wasn't really good because after six or eight years in a smaller market, you start listening to Denver radio a lot and you want to be where the big boys are. We're not the money so much at that age, it's just more like good equipment, the good people, the networks, the bigger stations. So, my attitude was deteriorating in KCOL in Fort Collins, and they called me on one day and said, "We don't need you anymore." They said, "Your attitude's bad. We're going to cut you loose."

JF: Wow. Kind of like the FCC.

JD: Yeah. So, they did and they gave me two or three weeks severance, something like that, which is generous for a small town station back then.

JF: For a guy whose attitude is not good.

JD: Yes, and I thought, "Well, where am I going to go now? I wanted to go to Denver, but there's 38 radio stations," or whatever it was then. I got on the 13:00phone, of course, right away and I started calling every station in Denver I could, and I called every station I think with the exception of KOA because KOA was a big 50 kilowatts station, NBC, and they had television station, all that. I said, "They wouldn't have any use for me." So I called every other station, got rejected by all them, "You just don't have the experience. Send me a tape, so-so." Well finally out of desperation, I had nothing after a week and a half of calling, I thought I'd call KOA. So I did. Called KOA, talked to a program director named Dan Tucker. He had just started there and he said, "Send me a tape." So I sent him a tape. They all say send me a tape. So I sent him a tape.

JF: A tape is your demonstration of air checking?

JD: Right. I sent him the tape, and it was I don't know, three, four five days later he called me and he said, "Where have you been?" I said, "What?" And he said, "I need somebody like you." He said, "What are you doing in Fort Collins?" I said, "Well." He said, "I don't know have a full-time job for you, but I got a part time job doing several things, television, radio audio, weekend fill-in." 14:00And it turns out that the salary they wanted to pay me part-time was more than I was making full-time at Fort Collins, so I said, "Here I come." That was...

JF: And you're in Denver, yeah. What year was that? That was-

JD: '68.

JF: '68, okay.

JD: So, I went to Denver and went to work for KOA and started doing exactly what he said: little air work, little television, little radio, a little FM, weekends, part-time, then I went full-time after that and they put me on the all night for a while doing the oldies show.

JF: Were you specializing in oldies at that time, or was it just starting right then?

JD: No, I was in Fort Collins. When I was up there, I started playing oldies because at nighttime in a smaller station like that, you don't generate revenue usually. Now, I went to the managers in Fort Collins and I said, "What would you think about playing some old rock and roll at night, some old oldies?" They 15:00said, "We don't like rock and roll on our station."

JF: They weren't playing that?

JD: No. No, middle of the road and I liked it, but I said, "What if we play some rock and roll? Because Colorado State University is there, it's a college town. The kids will love this." Oh, all right. So, they gave in. I started playing oldies on KCOL in 1965, I think. This is before anybody was really doing oldies.

JF: They weren't that old at that point.

JD: Yeah. Well, you can still go back to '55, about 10 years behind you. I didn't know much what I was talking about, but I'd know that every time we... I was a single guy then, of course, and whenever I'd have party somewhere, the kids come out, they loved the old songs, the oldies, rock and roll stuff. So they said, "Fine." I put it on the air and it was a huge success. We got letters and letters and letters, letters like they've never gotten a KCOL before. They had never received that kind of mail, but then of course, like I said, my attitude was deteriorating and they said, "Oh to heck with it."


JF: Had you started your oldies collection back... Is that when that started?

JD: That's kind of when it began.

JF: What's the first record you ever bought? Do you remember that?

JD: Yeah. Oh, I sure do. First record I ever bought when I was.... Well, had to be when I was 12 years old. It was Blueberry Hill, Fats Domino.

JF: And you still have that?

JD: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

JF: How about that.

JD: Got that, and... Oh, yeah. I remember those early records, and I used to... When you're 12 years old, I used to go the little record store in Loveland and I used to think, "Well, what's going to happen when this record isn't popular anymore? There won't be any more rock and roll." Because there were a few hit songs then of course. I thought, "When these aren't popular anymore, what's going to happen?" I didn't even think of the concept that maybe there'd be Nan ongoing supply of hit records, but-

JF: But you started adding to your collection then.

JD: I was 12 years old, and then I started buying and buying more. For a 17:0012-year-old kid, my money was all spent on records, that's where I spent mine. I hear that teenage girls do that, well I did, but mostly for... I don't know. I just enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the old rock and roll.

JF: So, you did it over nights at KOA some? Did you get some decent response from that like you had at-

JD: Oh, yeah. We had really good responses.

JF: Because KOA was a voice of the Rocky Mountain West and got all across. Like WHS in the east and southeast, KOA got all over the west and the southwest.

JD: Oh, it sure did. I remember one night, the news Denver Post was doing an article and they said, "We want to do an article on you," and I said, "On your show because it's different." I was playing old rock-and-roll on KOA at night, and we called it... What did we call that? The Golden Beacon, I think, and I had... If you remember NBC, the monitor beacon on NBC. They had kind of a (singing) kind of a Morse code kind of sound effect. I had one made for me 18:00spelling out KOA, and we'd use that at night on this show. We called it The Golden Beacon, the old hits. And anyway, they were doing the show and they said, "Well, do people listen to this?" And I said, "Yeah." I said, "I'll prove it to you."

I said, "You name any city in the 40 states that we reach. Any city or town you want to," and the first thing he came up, he said, "Columbia, Missouri." I said, "Okay. Got two minutes to hear from Columbia, Missouri." We got three calls from Columbia, Missouri just like that at 2:00 in the morning. I mean, and this was the guy from The Post mentioned it. I didn't know anybody in Columbia, Missouri. But that showed how many people actually did apparently like that show back then. So, that went well. Then I was moved to mid-day. That was kind of the KOA situation. Eventually, they went all news, so I wasn't there anymore after that.

JF: Where did you go from here?

JD: I went to KIMN.

JF: Yeah, went to KIMN. That's right. KIMN, yeah. Were they still playing rock? They were still playing rock.

JD: They're playing all oldies now.


JF: Where they then?

JD: Oh, no. They were still a rock [crosstalk]. They were the equivalent of WAKY.

JF: They were strong.

JD: They were the rock station.

JF: Well now, we worked together at KOA. I came there in, I think, 1969 and we knew each other, and I remember you knew that I had some ties to Kentucky, and I remember you mentioning a movie that you had watched that was filmed in Kentucky and had a big impact on you.

JD: April Love with Pat Boone and Shirley Jones. I don't know how I happened to see it, but I did once, and I really enjoyed it. I don't know if the plot was that great, but I really had kind of a thing for Shirley Jones anyway, but I liked... And to this day I love nature, but I'd liked the photography. I like 20:00the outdoors, the green of Kentucky, all the lush green-

JF: It was filmed around Lexington, I think it was.

JD: Yeah. I'm not that much of a horse buff, but the green, the scenery. And I liked the soundtrack and the music and so on. I don't know, I just had a positive image of Kentucky from seeing that movie, and I only saw it once, but I remember that made me think twice about Kentucky, and then I heard that you were out here.

JF: Yeah, you left [inaudible] and came here to WHAS.

JD: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I remember calling you once, right? Yeah, I just said I'd call you, didn't I?

JF: You did.

JD: Because I was wondering if you had any because when KAO went news, I didn't have a job anymore and I remember calling you and seeing if you knew there was any interest out here in adding somebody to the staff because HAS was playing music, and you said, "Well, why don't you come on out and talk to the manager?" And I did, and you and Lou were so good to put me up and just support me all the way, and I'm sure that you put in some good words to management eventually.


JF: I did. I did. And you talked with who when you came talk with Hugh Barr. Hugh Barr, he was the manager and program director of our radio at that time, and was really forming WHAS into what it was becoming in the '70s, a personality and community and all that.

JD: Bringing it up to date, yeah.

JF: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Doing a good job.

JD: And they knew that I played a lot of oldies. I had a huge library I could bring with me, so they didn't-

JF: How huge was it then? How big was it then? Do you have any idea?

JD: Probably 20,000 records. 15, 20,000 then. I had 45s, not albums. 45s. And so I said, "Well, I can come out and do the show, but I also bring the records too, so you don't have to have the records." So, they moved me out here and I started doing the all-night show.

JF: Wow. Where do you store and how did you move that many records? Did you have 22:00them in boxes?

JD: Pause. Pause. We're paused.

JF: Oh, here we go.

JD: Let's try it. One, two.

JF: We're going. Okay.

JD: Let's get going where we were.

JF: All right. So, now you've WHAS, so you come and you've decided to do the oldies, or they want you to come. You started overnights? That's what you were hired for?

JD: Yeah, they brought me out to do the all-night show, and it started there and did the all-night show for I guess two, three years.

JF: This was new. What were they doing overnights when you came?

JD: They had just a hodgepodge of everything. They had a syndicated show of some kind for old people. It was really... Herb jumped out of Salt Lake City. Right. They were carrying that and they really wanted to update things from that. I'm sure he had a good show, but they wanted something more modern, more up-to-date, 23:00and so I took that place-

JF: You started getting the same kind of response you had at KAO? I mean, people from all over calling and writing letters?

JD: Eventually, yeah. With HAS, you didn't really have the built-in listenership there because they had carried this old-fashioned program for so long, so you had to kind of start over. HAS had a big listenership during the day, but overnight, the people just kind of wrote them off for a while.

JF: Did they promote you fairly well?

JD: Yeah, I think they did. At first, I think they really did. So, I did the all-night there for a while and then after that, for some reason they decided they wanted to put me on midday.

JF: By the way, what year did you do come to HAS? You came in what year?

JD: January 17th, '77.

JF: '77, yeah. And I'm going to give you a little personal story here again. I remember the weather in Colorado. People think it's snowy out there, but if it snows, it's gone by Wednesday and it's sunny, and you were kind of concerned 24:00about the climate here and I remember telling you know, "It never snows. We've had three inches most," and so this is January 1977, and I remember you calling me from the middle of Kansas or wherever because you're hearing weather reports.

JD: Oh, yeah. I remember that so well. Said, "What is all this snow stuff? You're telling me it never snows."

JF: I lost my credibility, I'm afraid.

JD: But came out, it was horrific the snow was out here.

JF: But anyway, you weathered that and you started a career there, and so you were overnights and how did that go?

JD: It went very well. For the first two, three years, it went real well, built up a good base of listeners and then they put me to middays for some reason. I'm not sure why. I guess they needed somebody midday, but they liked my work, so they put me on midday and-

JF: But you weren't playing your oldies. You were playing-

JD: Well, I was playing some, but it wasn't all oldies like the all-night had been. So, I was doing some midday and they had me do some television audio and all this and that. We were doing a little bit of everything.

JF: At that time, HAS radio and television were together. Did you do some in the FM booth? Oh, it was FM Country by that time.


JD: It was just going... Yeah, it was going country. I didn't do much FM.

JF: At one point, the guys had to go in and do the... We had to get an education on how to do all the classical names.

JD: Yeah, WHAS-FM was classical then. That was just before I came. When I came here, they were going country. So, I didn't know that, but I did do the television audio for a while and did middays for a while, and then they eventually put me back on the all-night.

JF: So, what was your studio like? You had turntables, what-

JD: Oh, HAS was wonderful.

JF: Really?

JD: Wonderful. Real nice equipment. It was up-to-date. They took care of things. Anything I needed for turntables. The needles were always replaced on time, the equipment was maintained, it was just a first class operation.


JF: Was everybody else playing records, were they still playing records or they'd gone to the carts at this time?

JD: HAS, when I first came they were playing records.

JF: Still playing records?

JD: And then they gradually went to-

JF: But they maintained the turntables for you even during that period because you continued to play your records all the time.

JD: Yeah. Now, some of the records during the day, there were a few records played, but most of it was on tape, except for my show. So, we covered the turntables during the day, and then at night I'd use them for my show. But totally, yeah. They maintained it real well.

JF: You had some great engineering staff there that helped you out? Who'd you have there?

JD: Larry Baysinger took care of the transmitter and Wayne Phillips was the engineer who took care of all my needs. Oh, they were great. The engineering staff was great. Working for HAS was wonderful back then. The Bingham owned it and they took care of things, treated people right, at least they did me.

JF: You mentioned your love for transmitters. What about the HAS transmitter? Did you go out to that building?

JD: Oh, yeah. I went out several times. I pestered Larry Baysinger into taking me out there, and saw it, and then they got a new transmitter I think after I'd 27:00been here for a while, and I had to go out and take a look at it. I don't know if you remember, but that the tornado took down our tower once. What year was that?

JF: That was 1985. I was on the air when it happened.

JD: You were on the air, and I was on the air when it came back on.

JF: That's right. That's right.

JD: It's a fun story, isn't it? Fun now we say, but-

JF: It happened in the afternoon and about 4:00, and we didn't know. A lady called us who lived across the road from the transmitter out on Flat Rock Road... Flat Rock Road, I think. And she said, "Did you know your tower's on the ground?" Said, "No, we didn't know that." What did they do? I can't remember. They jury-rigged something, didn't they?

JD: Yeah. Well first of all, it's a 600-foot stick out there. It was a huge tower, and when that thing went down, of course, I had to get out there and get pictures, so I got out there and got pictures of that too and-

JF: You got them to this day?

JD: Oh, yeah. I do. So, we were off the air for several hours, and then like you 28:00said, you were on when it went off and then that night... I don't know. Was it 10:00, 11:00? Something like that. They had gone out and tried jury-rigged the situation so it would come back on, and what they had done was... I remember so well because they had strung a wire, a little thin wire from this big 50-kilowatt transmitter. They had strung this old copper wire from the transmitter out the windows, just dangling out the window. I have a picture of it to prove it. And that wire's hanging out the window. And they said, "This is what we're going to use to broadcast right now." I said, "Are you kidding me?" But they said, "Okay."

So, we got back. They kicked the thing on, and it was only... We couldn't run 50-kilowatts. We could only run 1000 watts, maybe 2500 with that power would 29:00just burn up that wire. So, even at that low power, we went back on the air and because we're on 840, which is a clear channel frequency, we thought maybe people away could still pick us up.

JF: And that means nobody else is on that frequency at that time when you're there.

JD: So, they kicked it on and I remember getting on the air and we're kind of playing cute with it, and I said, "Can anybody hear us? Is anybody listening?" And I'll be doggone, some people in New Jersey or New York somewhere up there called, "I'm getting you. We're getting you." I said, "You can hear us with this little wire and 2500 watts?" They said, "You're very weak, but we're getting you." And I said, "Can you believe that?" But it's a clear channel, and I'll never forget seeing that little wire hanging out of the building, and...

JF: Well, let's talk about your records and your collection. First of all, what was your philosophy on your show? They called it Joe Donovan's Rock and Roll 30:00Revival. We would call it the Rock and Roll revival.

JD: Originally, it was called the Rock and Roll Revival, a play on the southern revival. Yeah, the idea was just, well, doing oldies and I would go back to 1955 up to the current time, and they gave me carte blanche. I mean, they were really, really good. They just gave me a free hand to play what I wanted, and that's so rare in this business for any program director or a radio station to give an air talent free hand to play all he wants to play, but when you say that, there's a lot of responsibility comes to that you. You're given a free hand play what you want within what you got to consider that you know what you're talking about, you know your product and what you can play and what you can't within reason and within decent boundaries, but they gave me a free hand to play whatever I wanted to, really.

JF: At the peak, how many oldies, how many 45 RPM records have you had in your library?

JD: At the peak, I probably had 40,000.


JF: Is that right? Is that all that you've collected over these, bar there were some station things or whatever?

JD: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Still got a lot of them in the basement here.

JF: Is that right? What was your criteria for putting something in your collection? Do you have any particular-

JD: If people ask for it because I-

JF: Would you anticipate they might want something and hold it back, or?

JD: Yeah, you go by the charts what was popular. You always have the top 10 or 20.

JF: Did you always make sure you had those? I mean, if you would go back to a certain time, say, "Okay, I want to make sure I've got these top 10 or these top 20 or something." Did you always make sure you have that? If you didn't, you'd go buy them somewhere?

JD: Oh, sure. And I'd trade for it because I knew a lot of dealers, and went to a lot of record shows and auctions and estate sales to get record.

JF: Around Louisville or everywhere?

JD: All over. Out in Denver, I knew places around Denver, around Fort Collins, up in Greeley, stores that would close down that had some old records. I'd go everywhere. Jukebox distributors used to have records and they'd get rid of them, or I'd be able to buy them. I could buy a whole jukebox collection.


JF: I'm sure you must have had some experiences where you saw record and you thought, "Oh, my goodness. I can't believe I found this one." Do you remember any particular ones like that?

JD: Oh, there's so many I don't know if I could really zero in on one. There's just things that you're always looking for, and-

JF: You think, "OH, I hope they don't know what I've got here."

JD: Oh, yeah. You get some rare ones that way, but I usually went by what people asked for, and if they called ask for something and I didn't have it, by golly, I'd find a way to get it. And after a while, it got to the point where there'd be some New Yorkers once in a while who'd call and say, "I know you don't have this. No station in Louisville, Kentucky is going to have this," and it just pleased me to know when to have it for them. And they said, "Well, how do you have that record? I can't even get anybody up here to play that."

JF: How did you research it? What were your sources?

JD: The Joel Whitburn books? That's all the charts stuff.

JF: Who's Joel Whitburn? Who is he?


JD: He's out of Wisconsin, and he probably has the biggest record collection in the country. The most thorough good record collection.

JF: This is 2012. Is he still around?

JD: Yeah, he's still there and has a huge, huge collection, all-encompassing good quality stuff. But he wrote the Bible, supposedly, on the old records, and he has most all of them too.

JF: Well, how did you prepare yourself because one of the things you were noted for was somebody could call, and most of the times you could tell him the color of the label, who the label was, how long the thing was. How did you do that? Was that just something you were interested in, or?

JD: Yeah. When you really know your product, it's like anybody that gets good at anything, if you really know your job, you try to know all that. I couldn't really give you the length of these records, but usually they quizzed me on the song and what was on the backside of it. The biggest thing was, "Do you have 34:00this record? Do you have it, or you can tell me who did it?" And that was always fun. It was challenging to me.

JF: Do you still get calls like that today or anything? Has anybody contacted-

JD: Occasionally. I get emails occasionally from people that'll ask, "Who did this or who did that?" But anymore, with email, with the internet, you can find out. You really don't need to ask anybody anymore, but having the record is something else.

JF: Yeah, that's it. Having it. How did you prepare for a program then? You're on for, what, five hours, midnight to five in the morning. When you're doing your overnight show, you're on midnight to five in the morning on a 50,000 watt radio station going out to 38 or 40 states. How did you prepare for that?

JD: Well, I'd get my sheets together. I put together one hour on each sheet, every single record that I was going to play for the night. You don't just sit down and just pull them at random say, "Oh, this sounds like fun. This sounds like fun." You got to plan it ahead if you're going to balance it and get a good 35:00balance of the years and the type of music [crosstalk].

JF: You try to balance it too. It's not just playing things. One would kind of relate to another one, or have a theme or something?

JD: Well, yeah. If you had a theme, and I bought some old TV themes. I bought some. I got some. And I'd often put a TV theme with something from 1958, a theme that was popular then. I'd get some old commercials. I would go down the basement of KAO and HAS, and find the old ETs where they had the old L&M cigarette commercials on the old records, those big huge records, and I'd dub them off. I spent many hours in the archives down in the basement going through their old huge records and tapes of old commercials from the '50s and '60s, and I dub them off so I could play them with a song from a certain year.

Yeah, and then I'd go to the library occasionally and research what was in the news for a particular year and I'd log each one. Each day, I'd take in five sheets, one for each hour, five hours every night, each record I'm going to play and any notes on the side I'd put in red, "Use a [inaudible] theme with this 36:00song, and don't forget to mention this biosketch on this artist, or that." Like a lot of things, Jack, it's a lot more work to it than people think.

JF: For every five hours you were on the air, you spent a lot of preparation time then before you went on the air.

JD: It was made more difficult, of course, by the fact that you're upside down because everybody else is awake and running, and this is your... I'm sleeping, and then you get the darn cold follow-up calls. You get the calls. Can I interest you in this or that? This is 3:00 in the morning to me right now. And finally after a few years, people realized that this guy sleeps during the day, and anybody that works the all-night show, or the all-night show... Anybody who works all nights knows this very well because you'd get... But I'd go home and pull out the request... We took requests, and I'd go home, pull out the request for the next day and then-

JF: So, they'd call one night, you'd play the next?

JD: Yeah, I really wished I could have played them right away, but I just 37:00couldn't. You couldn't take 40,000 records to the radio station and have them right there. These days with the equipment, you probably could do that.

JF: It's all on the computer, yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

JD: But I'd go home and dig them out, take a little nap, and then get up, put the next night's show together, eat a little lunch and sleep the bulk of the afternoon 2:00 until 8:00, and then get up at 8:00, eat something and be in the station by 9:30.

JF: To go on the air at midnight. What would you do from 9:30 to midnight?

JD: I'd just go and get set up, and do some research, and dub off some tapes for the TV themes and this kind or that.

JF: When somebody would ask for something, did you pretty much know that you had it already or would you have to... Is that right?

JD: Yeah, I know what I got. I knew what I had.

JF: Even the B-side things and all that?

JD: But yeah, for the most part. 90% of it I'd always know. Once in a while I'd find something that I didn't know I had, but I worked too hard to find those.

JF: So, you knew where they were.

JD: I knew what I had and what I didn't have.

JF: You also had a popular series called Cruising. Tell me about that.


JD: Cruising, it's a record series put together by increased records at one time, and they'd go back and feature disc jockeys out of the past in major cities and markets in New York or Dallas, wherever. And they'd hire these disc jockeys to come in and recreate their shows from out of the past. Well in my case, I would get air checks from people. I'd find disc jockeys, even people I worked with at HAS. Do you have any old recordings of your radio broadcasts from stations you used to work at? And most often they didn't, but sometimes they did, and when they did, I'd say, "Can I have them? Can I make a copy of it?" So, I'd get a copy of their old air checks from a show they did back in the '50s or '60s or '70s, and I'd go back and put the music in. Now, here's such and such. Because they usually cut the records out.

JF: Oh, you would insert the music itself?


JD: Yeah, and I'd bring it home, edit it, put the music back in it and then I'd play this tape Cruising. Through the years, I'd say, "Tonight we're going to go back to 1959 with Dicky Braun at such and such a station," and it usually ran about a half hour and it was fun.

JF: I remember you had some of Wayne Perkey, I believe.

JD: Yeah, I did. In WNOX in Knoxville. Yes, but he was rock and rolling down there. Yeah, it was fun.

JF: You also did interviews with some of the artists. How did you manage that, and who did you have?

JD: Oh, man. I couldn't begin... Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Fats Domino, Pat Boone, Johnny Crawford, Rick Nelson. If I go on and on, I'm going to have about 35 of them.

JF: Were those phone calls, or would you meet them somewhere at a show, or how did that happen?

JD: Both. A lot of times I called ahead. I'd get ahold of their agents somewhere and I'd call and say, "Would you have them call me?" In Denver, I got a lot of these. Remember, I interviewed Rydell and Fabian, and who else out there? 40:00Frankie Avalon. Some of these people in Denver when they'd come through. Fats Domino. When they'd come to the city, I tried to get to the place where they were performing. Sometimes they'd come to the radio station. Often, I would call their homes. I remember with Pat Boone, I couldn't call us home, but they had him call me and he was very nice. He gave me a two-hour interview on the phone one time. So, I still got that somewhere.

And then after a while, I started saying, "Okay. Well, you tell me about this song," and Fats Domino would tell me about Blueberry Hill, and then I'd play it. And I'd say to Johnny Crawford, "Tell me about The Rifleman show." He had a hit called Cindy's Birthday. "Well, tell me about Cindy's Birthday," how it came to 41:00be," and he'd explain how it came to be and what the inspiration was, and then I'd play it of course, and so that's how I put those together about that.

JF: How about that. Did you ever have any of those artists call you...I mean, they're listening or something. Did you ever have any artists like that who would-

JD: Very rarely. Very rarely did that because-

JF: Five in the morning.

JD: Yeah, because those hours weren't conducive to that kind of thing.

JF: Let's talk physical, Joe. The studios at that time at WHAS were where?

JD: Where the television is now. 520 West Chestnut.

JF: 520 West Chestnut. Radio and television were together, but radio had their own separate studio, television had theirs. We mingled back and forth some. You kind of went back and forth. You did some of the television, some of the television people came in and did some things there.

JD: I really appreciated the facilities, and like I said, the Binghams were... I can't speak for how they were before I got here because I wasn't that close to them, but all I know is that if we needed something, or I needed something, I always got it. They were very nice.


JF: Do you have any contact with them, with any of the Binghams? Did you ever have meet them, or have any contact with them?

JD: No, I met them a couple of times, but not really. But I just know when you work for good people, and I thought we did. And they took care of us. They were wonderful people, and if you needed some, you'd get it.

JF: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, very community-oriented.

JD: Oh, yeah. And I appreciate that. And the equipment was good. I mean, it was updated. It was never, "We can't afford that." Well, of course you get some of that with anybody, but I was just really happy with the facilities and the people.

JF: Very pleasant atmosphere.

JD: Yeah, it really was.

JF: Hugh Barr hired you. He was the program manager and manager of the station. Any other program directors you worked with while you were there?

JD: Well, Jerry David Melloy of course. He was the PD most of the time when I was there, and there were several others.

JF: Was Denny Nugent or Gary Bruce-

JD: Denny Nugent, yeah. Denny Nugent came in. Yeah, Gary Bruce was there for a while.

JF: Any of them try to change anything that you had originally started, or?

JD: Yeah, one of them. I know Denny Nugent came in, and he's the one that put me 43:00back on all nights because I was working middays for a while, and he put me back on the all-night show again. He said, "We got to get you on all nights." He said, "You're not earning your money during the day," but he said, "You're worth it at night." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, you make too much money for during the day." He said, "You earn that money if you work all night." What'd he say? You can earn your money if you work all night. He said, "You're worth what you're getting paid if you work nights." Anyway.

JF: It didn't bother you though to go on all night again, did it? You liked that.

JD: No because he called in, and the first thing he says, "You're making too much money." Feel like saying, "Well, thank you, Denny." I mean, I had known the guy for two days, and his first thing he did, "Come on in. You're making too much money." I said, "What?" He said, "We'll put you back on nights and you'll be worth it." I'll never forget that. He'll get right to the point, Denny, no problem.


JF: I've known Denny over the... I think he's mellowed a little since then.

JD: I mean, two days in to knowing you. But he put me back on nights. I'm glad he did because it was a long run after that and I was there for... I did that all-night show for I think 18 years.

JF: Is that right? Wow. Some great memories then.

JD: Oh, yeah. I loved it. To this day, I don't mind being on radio so much. I love retirement, but at the same time, radio today there just isn't the challenge it used to be. You can't be as creative as you used to be, and they gave me a free hand to be creative. All of us were given a free hand to be creative and do that kind of thing. And today, you don't have that. So, I'm really happy, and I'm sure you did that we were a part of a radio back then when you could be creative and do something different than usual instead of cookie cutter and the consultant hasn't approved that, and this kind of thing.

JF: Well, a lot of it went on the, it just wasn't there, not at WHAS, but a lot of radio stations were like that then. They had a formula and the jocks had to 45:00do this, and liners they had to read and everything, but we didn't have that then. You're right, that was a very good era. Very community-orientated. Speaking of community-orientated, let's get away from your show for just a second, but you did some Crusade for Children stuff. Did you do some Crusade for Children?

JD: I did a little bit of if it. Again, with my hours being so strange, I really didn't do much. I mean, I did radio.

JF: Yeah, you did radio. Didn't you do Sunday morning or something?

JD: Oh, I did radio sort of all the time. I did that all the time. Didn't do much-

JF: Describing what was going on on television and everything.

JD: Yeah, my hours again just wouldn't let me do a whole lot of that.

JF: What about the Kentucky Derby? Did you have some involvement with that?

JD: Oh, yeah. Every year for... Oh, gee. I don't know how many years. 6, 5, 6, 7 years out there every single Derby Day, we spent the day out there.

JF: What was your assignment? Did you have a different assignment each time?

JD: Everything from Millionaires Row to the infield to the grandstands. We were 46:00out there, or I was out there with them in the balloon race.

JF: Yeah, did you go up in a balloon?

JD: Oh, yeah. I went up in a balloon over many years, and great experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

JF: This is Kentucky Derby festival time.

JD: Yeah, and the steamboat race. Doing that too. It was a lot of fun. Yeah, that was great. I'm not in any hurry to go back out there on Derby Day though because I spent so many years doing it, but I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. It was a wonderful.

JF: It was. Very good. Let's talk about just briefly about some of the people you work with. Of course, Milton Metz was on just before. Was Milton on from 9:00 to midnight much of the time there? What was your relationship with Milton?

JD: He was the guy before me. Good guy. I love Milton, like everybody. Loved Milton. He was wonderful. I would just see him coming in and he'd see me going out. He was good, worked with him.

JF: That phrase kind of sticks in my mind when I talk about on the other end. Sometimes you didn't see Wayne Perkey coming in at the right time. Wayne won't 47:00mind, he'll laugh about this. Tell us a little bit about that.

JD: There were many mornings that Wayne wasn't there when he was supposed to be at 5:00 AM.

JF: Did you play more oldies?

JD: Oh, no. I had to go to the other format, but I remember the latest that ever got was one morning at 7:30. Wayne ambled in, I think it was at 7:31 morning. He was supposed to be there at 5:00. Oh, and most mornings, most mornings, he wasn't there at 5:00. Usually, 5:10, 5:15, 5:20. And they tried everything. They tried everything. I mean, they docked the man's pay. They did everything they could trying to get him there on time.

JF: We used to have a little fun with that. That's good.

JD: Yeah, but...

JF: What are you doing these days? You're retired. Doing anything?

JD: Well, I don't do a whole lot today. My wife retired not too long ago, and so we like to travel some. I read a lot and occasionally do some freelance stuff. 48:00Occasionally. And that's about it. We just enjoy retirement.

JF: You get back into HAS once in a while because you're involved at your church with a radio program, aren't you?

JD: Yeah, I produce our church's radio program, but that doesn't really take me to HAS.

JF: Oh, it doesn't?

JD: No, but I produce that here at home.

JF: Oh, I see. I see.

JD: Other than that, it's just we just both like retirement. Just slow and easy.

JF: Let's see, we talked about Perkey and Metz. Did you work some with Terry Meiners when Gary Burbank... Were you around those guys some when you were there? And you mentioned Jerry David Melloy, and...

JD: Burbank, and Bill Cody when he was here. I still have a recording of Bill Cody's very last radio show on HAS. Of course, he's the morning guy in Nashville at WSM, and has been for some years now. Very successful.

JF: Doing well, yeah.

JD: Burbank, he was great. I read his autobiography recently. It was very good. I don't know if it's his autobiography, but his book, it was good.


JF: Yeah, good. Very good. Well, sounds like you've had a good run, Joe. You still get some calls and emails from people from time to time who call you to stay in touch with you?

JD: Yeah, I do. Yeah, I do. Once in a while, the station will call me and say, "Somebody called and asked about your show." I guess I get that occasionally out there. People still call and ask about the show and whatever happened to, and whatever happened to Joe Donovan, which is really flattering. Makes me feel good. And I get emails from people that I... Somebody found out my email address not too long ago and they'd spread from there, and so I still get some occasional emails from people that used to listen to the show.

JF: I'm not trying to be... People aren't seeing this, but I'm scrolling on my Blackberry because I was going to save... I printed it out at home. I was going to bring it with me today. There's a thread on there of four or five people who talked about the Joe Donovan. They're on Facebook, and they regularly get on 50:00there and talk about, "Do you have this? Oh, I remember this," and, "This is here." I've got some printed out from a few days ago that I will bring to you.

JD: It's funny. The night we did the last show, the last radio show and all-night show. The night we did that show, I had set things up to record it, so I'd have a recording of my last all-night show on WHAS after, what, 18 years, whatever. Because didn't announce it ahead of time. It just happened. And I failed to record it. I set it to record. it didn't record. So, it really upset me-

JF: So, that's happened to you before.

JD: Yeah. I didn't have a copy of it, and for about a year, year and a half, two years, I had thought, "Oh, I'd like to have a copy of that last show," because so many people called in, testimonials. They loved the show, and this and that. It was just real nice. And somehow it got put on the air that I was missing that, and a couple of listeners responded. One guy up in New Jersey somewhere had recorded my last show. In fact, he said he ran a tape on every single night. He ran a recording on every night. Oh, I heard this a lot of people who listened 51:00to the show at night. They liked a thing called The Odd & Obscure Hour in the middle of the morning.

JF: We didn't talk about that at all, did we?

JD: They liked that, and they'd record that and play it back during the day. Well, this guy had recorded every hour that night. The skyway was beautiful, and he sent me a copy on five discs of that last show, and I'm just to this day, so thankful that he did because now I got a copy of it.

JF: Yeah. Well, we may as well talk about The Odd & Obscure Hour while we're here because that was a very popular part of your program, wasn't it?

JD: Yeah, it was one of the most talked about. I'd do five hours of oldies every night, and 3:00 to 4:00 in the morning was usually the quietest, so I thought, "Well, let's just do something different." So I thought, "Let's play some of the other hits." You get so tired of the same top 10, top 20 consultant-approved oldies that you hear on every station every day, and you think, "Why don't you play some of the others that you don't hear over and over and over again?" So, 52:003:00 to 4:00 in the morning, that's what we did. I'd dig out the dusty ones. I mean, the ones that you don't hear all the time that we're still hits, and play those and people loved it.

JF: And then they would call and request things, and try to stump you, wouldn't they? Who did this record, or whatever.

JD: They did that too, yeah.

JF: They didn't stump you very often I don't think, did they? Because I can remember listening. We were like, "How did you know that?"

JD: The more people listened, the more they stumped me because they realized that there might be a song or two I didn't know. There were a lot of songs I didn't know. And then they'd remember those and mark them down and tell somebody, and somebody else would call and give me those same titles again, so I'd miss them then. That was fun. The Odd & Obscure Hour was great. People would call and we started sending out little diplomas to people that you stumped Joe Donovan on such and such a night, and they used to... I can't even remember. Hit or Miss. I guess we call that Hits or Miss, and they'd love to get those little 53:00diplomas we'd send out, so they were fun.

JF: Did they have a list or something? They have a list of people? They'd go down with several songs or something, and you'd name them, or? I seemed like I remember something about that.

JD: Oh, they'd usually call or they say... Well, I'd go, "How many songs do you have?" They'd have two or three, and they'd give me those and I'd have to tell them who did it.

JF: Maybe my memory is not as clear as it was, but I remember at least once or twice hearing you say, "Oh, yes. That's on this. It's a color label. It's two minutes and 14 seconds." They were amazed.

JD: Usually, I'd get it. Not all the time. Oh, I'd miss a lot of them though.

JF: Very good. Well, anything else you want to put in the archives here, Joe, about your career overall or at HAS?

JD: No, it was a wonderful time. It really was. I'm so happy to this day that you and Lou were so supportive and got me out here, and said such kind of things for me to the bosses, and were so nice and having me come out. I stayed with you at first for a couple of weeks, and that really got the ball rolling out.

JF: That was all your doing, bud. You had to take it from there, and you did. You did.


JD: Well, it's a great station. You were right. It is a good station. It was a great time. Good run.

JF: Thanks, Joe. Good to talk with you, man.

JD: Thank you, Jack.

JF: Bye.