Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search This Transcript

Jack Fox: Okay. This is the 23rd of April, 2012.

Ray Shelton: And a stormy day.

JF: We're sitting on the southwest side of Louisville on a lovely hilltop overlooking Dixie Highway and Dawn Drive. And I'm talking with Ray Shelton, a legend in global broadcasting and the first, I believe, the first television announcer at WHAS. Is announcer the right title or were you the do everything, or what were you?

RS: I was the do everything, Jack, but I was an announcer.

JF: Let's talk about you first of all. You're you're originally from Louisville.

RS: Louisville, yeah.

JF: And you grew up here. Where did you attend school?

RS: DuPont Manual. And then went on to U of L.

JF: What area of town did you grow up in?

RS: What area of town? Taylor and Barry Boulevard.


JF: Okay. Then you went on to the University of Louisville.

RS: Yeah and got an AB and then decided I wanted to do some work with the FBI.

JF: Really? I didn't know that.

RS: Big thoughts.

JF: You mean you wanted to be an Elliot Ness or you wanted be a lawyer with them or what?

RS: Well aspirations, at least, to work with detective activities.

JF: Really?

RS: And so I went to law school, but about halfway through law school, I found out that a good majority of FBI agents don't even get out to do anything. They look through books all day long.

JF: And that wasn't your original intention, huh?

RS: No. So I went ahead and finished the law school and went to Lexington, took the bar and I passed, interestingly enough. So then I had to practice or do something to make it worthwhile. So that's basically-

JF: So you did practice law for a while?

RS: Yeah. I took wills and estate work, drafting the will. Sometimes you would 2:00get it back and sometimes it was never produced by the deceased or the relatives, but it was good, interesting, clean work. There was no arguing in court. No Frank Haddad type activity.

JF: So that really prepared you for a long career in broadcasting, didn't it?

RS: Yeah, except I had started out in the wrong position.

JF: How did you get connected with broadcasting? Was that thought ever in your mind as you were preparing for a career with the FBI?

RS: Actually, if the older, nicer lady came up and asked me, "What do you want to be little boy when you grow up?" I would have shouted back, "On the radio, lady."

JF: Is that right? Really? What prompted that?

RS: I had no other interests really. I admired the network people that I had listened to as a kid.

JF: --who you listened to alot...

RS: Sure. Nothing but network radio then and so I thought, I can do that well. I 3:00can say, "This is the CBS radio network." I learned how to do that.

JF: During that young time, did anyone ever say to you, "You ought to be on the radio. You've got this great voice."

RS: Oh yeah. They'd tell you you had a great voice and I knew all the while it takes more than a great voice. You and I have learned that it takes phrasing for one thing and of course, the ability to come up with the right word at the right time. Today, I'm fighting a hoarse sensation on the throat, so we'll have to go ahead without it, with it.

JF: But you did have that. That was at least in your mind at one time--is that right?

RS: Yeah. There was no doubt what I wanted to do if I could make it.

JF: So that thing was sort of a you could do that and ...

RS: Yeah. It was a passing thing. So I got a couple of jobs while in school at 4:00Lexington. One was at a small radio station there and one was with a station that Happy Chandler owned, governor twice in Kentucky. It wasn't a well-run station. It didn't make money, but Happy sold it and it is now WVLK, the outstanding Lexington radio station.

JF: Really? Wow.

RS: So I got out well before it changed hands and thought, where do I go from here? I got on at WLOU, which I did not know about, but it was about to go Black.

JF: That's here in Louisville.

RS: Yes. Here in Louisville.

JF: Where were they on the dial, do you recall?

RS: 1350

JF: Still the same position.

RS: And they had studios and their tower out by Parkmoor Eastern Parkway.

JF: Oh yeah, 3rd and Eastern Parkway.

RS: Yeah. That tower has come down now, but they basically were out there and I 5:00worked there about six or eight months.

JF: What did you do there?

RS: Just general disc jockey work. That was the thing. Big band music was in then. I'm talking now about 1949. And one day, an announcer there by the name of Cliff Mercer, who went on to Chicago, said, "Ray, did you know HAS is going on with a television station?" And I said, "No, but thanks for the tip." And he said, "Well, I went in and talked to Paul Clark, but he didn't like me, so why don't you try out? I don't think you'll be well-liked, either." So it was on a challenge that I went to HAS.

JF: Is that right? Of course, HAS radio was big then.

RS: Oh yeah.

JF: Yeah, very big.

RS: But I was shooting for the TV job.

JF: Why were they not just bringing some of the radio people over to TV?

RS: Probably they wouldn't work for the money they were offered.


JF: This is a new venture, then.

RS: Yeah.

JF: Were there other television stations? Was WAVE on the air at that time, WAVE television.

RS: Yes, WAVE-

JF: They were a new venture, also.

RS: They had been on about a year and a half.

JF: Okay.

RS: But I was trying at HAS and he said, "Go on up and audition." He said, "Paul Clark's got a deep voice." He said, "I don't think you can match him." I said, "I don't think I need to." So I did call and I did walk into those studios.

JF: Where were the studios?

RS: 6th Street.

JF: 6th and Broadway where the Courier-Journal building is?

RS: Right. They were in the 6th floor there. So I went up and of course, to say nervous would be certainly an understatement, but Paul Clark walked out and said, "Well, we're glad you came in because we've listened to about 30 people and some are local people that we knew, but we still haven't found a person we like." So I said, "Well, that's good." And he said, "Go on into the studio."

JF: So this was a regular radio studio you went into.


RS: Yeah. One of, I think they've got about six or seven at HAS radio. And I thought my, I've come from a thousand-watt station at WLOU where there was no studio, except the control room, and now here I am looking at seven studios. And I was overwhelmed, Jack, to say the least.

JF: Did you know any of the people there? You knew of them, but did you know any of them?

RS: No. I didn't have any help, didn't have anybody to look to.

JF: Interesting.

RS: He said that Paul was a very nice person as our chief announcer. As Milton Metz often says, "There are no chief announcers anymore" and he's right. But Paul said, "We've got it set up. I'm going to listen to you first if I can." And I've forgotten the nature of the copy because it was one of those things where you're trembling to some degree.

JF: Was it a commercial or was it news material?

RS: It was a little news, a couple of articles and a couple of commercials. And 8:00he said, "Now, we don't have the cameras set up yet, but I've got that music stand across the studio. Why don't you look up and pretend that's the camera."

JF: Oh, that's right. This was for television, but they had no camera at that point.

RS: No. They weren't ready, couldn't take me into the actual studio. So I thought to myself, sure, I can read to a music stand, which I did.

JF: Actually, so this was not just voice. This had to do with your demeanor, your looks and how you carried yourself and everything else.

RS: Right. I had no idea how I would dress, but I probably wasn't ready for TV. But I did that bit and he said, "You know, I like the way you sound and you've got a good face, Ray. Hold on a minute. I've got to call in Ralph Hanson." He was our program director. And I said, "Okay." So I sat there and nervously did the audition for the second time. Don't know whether it was better or not, but 9:00the two of those got on the telephone and called another party who happened to be an Easterner, who came down and was the general manager of the new TV venture and he listened.

RS: And then he came out and he said, "Ray, we like the way you sound. We think you're a good possibility, but my wife is on a parking meter down on 6th Street and I'm going to call you Monday." You've had that anticipation yourself, I'm sure, doing an audition. Did I win or didn't I win? So they called Monday and said, "Can you be here in 10 days?" So that was the beginning of my career at HAS, March 27, 1950.

JF: March 27, 1950.

RS: The middle of the century, Jack.


JF: Yeah. How about that?

RS: I said, "Yes, I can be here, but-"

JF: What did you have to arrange to get there, just give notice at your radio job?

RS: Sure. They weren't expecting much because they weren't much to begin with. So I said, "I'll be there." And I said, "I've got to remind you. I was doing only radio out at WLOU, never done any TV." They said, "Well, if you've got some nice clothes, we've got a staff. None of them have worked television, either.

JF: So you're pioneering here, aren't you? How prevalent was television in the market? WAVE was on. Did you have a television set?

RS: No.

JF: Had you seen television?

RS: No.

JF: I that right?

RS: Yeah. It was not very prevalent. I imagine there were a few thousand sets across Louisville, but I had no idea what to do or what to expect. And the biggest problem is, I'm not a fast read. As a result, I knew that I would have to write out the copy and do a good bit of memorizing in order to do it. But we 11:00went on the air March 27, 1950.

JF: So that's when you went on the air.

RS: Yep.

JF: So they had the cameras ready by that time obviously.

RS: Had the cameras ready and we had a few engineers.

JF: Do you remember the first day, what it was like?

RS: Yeah because it was pretty well-rehearsed. We'd had a week to get ready. Copy was in the books and it was a short day. We invited up the Kosair group to put on a little parade to celebrate our opening on the air and then we previewed six or eight of the top local shows we would be doing for the audience, those who might have had a set and be listening. It truly was a nerve-wracking day.

JF: What time of day was this that you signed on or you had your first 12:00broadcast? What time of day?

RS: Four o'clock in the afternoon. We did nothing until then.

JF: Had they publicized it before? Had they ...

RS: Yeah. Courier, of course, owning the station gave pretty good publicity. But the next day was what we called black Tuesday, having signed on, on a Monday because all of our getting ready and rehearsal for the first day on the air reflected on Tuesday because nothing was ready. And as they said, we had more dark screen than programming going out on the air. That was the truth.

JF: What were the hours of programming supposed to be? From four o'clock to-

RS: Four o'clock until 10:00.

JF: During that time, you obviously had network --.

RS: No. There was no network. No. So we had to film shows.

JF: Do you remember some of the names of the programs?

RS: There was Strietmann Playhouse, sponsored by the Strietmann Biscuit Company, I Led Three Lives and then there was Badge 714 with ... What was his name?


JF: Jack Webb? Was that ...

RS: Jack Webb was on one. But everything had to be either brought in or originated.

JF: Was it a film? Is that what it was?

RS: No. It was called a kinescope.

JF: Kinescope.

RS: Very bad black-and-white reproduction. And the delay was such that if Ed Sullivan performed Sunday nights in New York, which he did, we'd get it from a Greyhound Bus on Wednesday.

JF: Eagerly anticipated, I'm sure.

RS: Yes, but it was very primitive, Jack. And then when you got to news and sports, they were just read with a few still pictures.

JF: That was you doing [crosstalk] doing the news.

RS: Yes. I did the news. I didn't do sports. We had a sports man.

JF: Oh you did. I was going to ask were you the only on-air personality?

RS: Only on air. They said, "We like your work, Ray. We're going to let you do 14:00everything." And I thought, "Well, what's this all about?" But I got to sign it on, do all of the announcing in between, do all of the commercials and then sign it off at 10:05, after five minutes of late news, which I simply sat there and read the copy.

JF: Did you have to prepare the news?

RS: No.

JF: Somebody else [crosstalk].

RS: The newsroom did [crosstalk].

JF: [crosstalk] radio newsroom or something like that?

RS: Yeah. They brought up news, handed it to you and you read it as best you could, looking up, of course, looking at that music stand all the while, but now we were on the air.

JF: You're holding copy and you're looking at the copy, having to look at the camera.

RS: Yeah. Nothing else you could do, but because they would bring up the last page or two while you were on the air, slipping it in on the desk.

JF: So you sat at a desk.

RS: I thought, boy, this is really a test.

JF: How about that?

RS: I'm in TV, but I'm not sure. But as long as they didn't complain, I was 15:00ready to go.

JF: So what your hours were, you would come in, you went on the air at 4:00. You obviously came in earlier.

RS: Came in about 3:00.

JF: Okay. And what kind of preparation did you do?

RS: To get ready for the shows, you'd look over your commercials, but there was nothing much to do, except to be ready to be called to the booth if they had problems and there were a lot of interruptions. A film would break.

JF: What happened then?

RS: They shouted announcer and the announcer is out having a Coke or whatever. He got in as quickly as he could because I thought, boy, what an operation.

JF: With these commercials, were you on camera doing those or were you in a booth or did they vary?

RS: There were both kinds. You would read voice-over as we call it.

JF: And they would show slides or pictures or something.

RS: Yeah.

JF: Were they actually slides or were they a camera just taking a picture of a-

RS: It was a camera actually taking a picture off a-

JF: Off a tripod or something.

RS: Off a tripod, yeah. Pretty basic.


JF: Yeah.

RS: But people who wanted to be on TV paid a little bit of money to be on television. We had a jewelry store, Will Sales Incorporated, and they sponsored a full half-hour show with Jim Walton called Walton Calling. It was a carry-over from his radio show.

JF: Jim was on radio, that's right.

RS: Yeah. So it was a carry-over on that, but it was a pretty popular show, lasted a couple years. Had an audience in.

JF: What did he do on that program?

RS: Interviewed them and had them do little tricks to see who would win the prize. It, too, was basically-

JF: So they were in the studio [inaudible].

RS: Yeah. The only studio show that we did with an audience that I remember.

JF: What was the studio like? How big was it? [crosstalk]

RS: It was a huge, one big box which was a mistake most of us thought because if you were doing a show over in one part of the studio, you couldn't be rehearsing or performing at the other end. You'd be heard. It should have been divided up, 17:00but it wasn't. Our engineer, Orin Towner, thought the one big box was the best way to do it always, so that's what we-

JF: One camera?

RS: Yeah. Sometimes you'd get two, in which case the floorman, of course, would direct you right or left camera. But I was often too nervous even well into the first couple of months to know what was happening, except that somebody was waving his-

JF: Follow the finger.

RS: His finger back and forth, yeah. But there were lots of live commercials. The problem came in when somebody like Stewart Dry Goods or Kaufman-Straus, our two biggest retailers for women's clothes, if they had models to come in and brought clothes up by the rack full, the studio was pretty well busy and pretty 18:00well-filled. So basically, we did the best we could at the time.

JF: But all of that even was live or did they have -- you put that on kinescope [inaudible] it's all live.

RS: No. It was all live.

JF: So while a program's going on, they're changing clothes or something.

RS: Back there behind the screen. It's all we had for them. But basically, we couldn't record on tape until mid '60s. We got color tape out of the west coast. Bing Crosby backed that up, had part of the money on it was told.

JF: Let's go back to some of the early days. We talked about radio and some of those guys, they didn't particularly want to come over and be part of this venture. Do you remember who some of the radio staff were at that point?

RS: Sure. The big guy was Jim Walton. Jim had come in from Florida and he pretty well had command of the radio shows. And the staff announcers were people like 19:00Bud Abbott, not the comedian, but one who had come down from the East. We had five or six, all out-of-towners, all older than I and far more experienced, but they didn't want to come up to TV from the sixth floor.

JF: [inaudible]

RS: Yeah. It was a matter of not wanting to put on the makeup. Should you get the phone or we let it ring?

JF: I'll wait until later... If you need to get it, we'll ...

RS: No.

JF: Okay.

RS: I don't think we'll worry about it.

JF: It's live ....

RS: But we had five or six who finally did share a little bit of the time up there.

JF: You say up there, on which floor were you on?

RS: Seventh.

JF: You were on the seventh floor, okay.

RS: Sixth floor was radio.


JF: What was the seventh floor before? It was just an open space or was it offices up there?

RS: Yeah. Storage area.

JF: Is that right?

RS: They just cleaned it out.

JF: The whole floor or a corner of it?

RS: Yeah, pretty much.

JF: Was there a sales staff or anything at that point?

RS: Yeah.

JF: The radio people selling [crosstalk].

RS: Yeah. Some of the radio people switched over to TV, but I don't know how much. I don't think they got very much for a TV commercial because you couldn't boast there was much of a leadership to anybody watching it.

JF: When did you first start feeling comfortable doing what you were doing there?

RS: Oh, I would say a year or so in because there was always something new and they gave me a chance to create and produce a half-hour show for Sundays. You remember there was no cable and there was no way of getting programming at all, so we had to do it and Sunday was the day when CBS network of which we were the affiliate, of course, there was no programming coming down. So we created the shows on Sunday.


RS: Ken Meeker, one of our announcers and myself had a show, each. I did one called According To The Law because I'd been to law school and basically, I invited attorneys in the local area to come in please and answer questions that the public might phone in. So they did that and that was a good half-hour filled.

JF: When they phoned in, were they put on the air or somebody wrote it down and gave you the question? Did they have the ability to put it on the air then, the phone calls?

RS: We put it on the air, but we had somebody read them first because you had to avoid answering a personal question, a wife who had been left by her husband or something of that kind. And you also had to avoid giving legal advice. You were there simply to inform the public about what the law was without giving advice. So According To The Law got a silver gavel in New York and our main man in the 22:00main office, Mr. Victor A. Sholis, went to New York to get the gavel. I thought I might like to go, but I wasn't invited.

JF: It was your program, you created it.

RS: But you know that story, Jack.

JF: Did you ever get the gavel itself?

RS: Yes, we did.

JF: Oh, that's good.

RS: I got the gavel when they changed studios. I guess it's about 1961 we moved to Chestnut Street.

JF: Oh really?

RS: Yeah. And we also ought to go back a little bit and pick up the fact that in 1953, the channel changed. We came on the air as channel 9.

JF: I didn't know that.

RS: WAVE was on channel 5. So WAVE was allocated by the FCC to go to 3 and we were told to move up to 11. I don't know technically what that meant, if anything.

JF: Did it affect your operation at all?

RS: No, I don't think so.

JF: From your standpoint, no effect.


RS: Yeah. All of the literature and your sales things had to be revised, of course, but basically, that was one of the big moves to change channel and then we increased power. In the mid or late '50s, we became the most powerful TV station in the country. I don't know again technically what that meant, but we were able to enlarge our coverage circle, that is the area we could be seen in with an ordinary rooftop antenna or something larger. We were able to go out another 20-30 miles.

RS: I'll never forget a card I got and you get a lot of mail when you're on TV, a card that I got from a lady probably from a rural area who had just gotten her TV set. I'm sure it was black-and-white and probably a 12-inch screen. But she 24:00said, "Ray, we like your programs. I listen to you all the time and I wondered. I've been sitting in front of the TV set. Can you see the new dress I have? I thought this is both a shame and also, a little humorous.

JF: It's humorous, but she had a relationship. They were tuning in to it...

RS: Sure she did and that's exactly what you wanted, except there was no way you could look through the screen and reverse the process.

JF: Did you answer that at all?

RS: I can't remember, Jack, whether I did or not. But that's the lady who wanted me to see her dress.

JF: I'm sure with your legal background, you would have been perfect ... That's something. When did you start feeling like the television station was making an 25:00impact? For example, radio, people had no idea what you look like and you would meet people and they would say, "Oh, that's what you look like." But on television, they saw you. Did you start having people recognize you in the community?

RS: Yes. And you were proud of that, at least-

JF: Are you that guy on television or yeah, sure.

RS: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Because you're up there every night and some nights doing the late news at five minutes after 10:00, you wonder, is there anybody watching this thing on the other end? So when someone would come up or in a restaurant, come over and say, "I believe I see you on TV," you were proud.

JF: Sure. Do you remember the first time it happened?

RS: No. I don't remember that, but I remember I used to go to the Blue Boar Cafeteria and quite a few people would come in there.

JF: [inaudible]

RS: Yeah, sitting having dinner. I didn't mind being interrupted. We hear the stories now of the Hollywood crew who, of course, don't want to be followed or touched or anything else. But I was very happy to get that response.

JF: Sure. That was recognition. That was proof that something was happening.

RS: One of the other things that might be interesting would be the crusade for 26:00children, which of course channel 11 did from the first year or two on the air, as I remember. And always brought in, in the early stages of the crusade, '50s, '60s and '70s, a person of national repute. You would know him from network television or he had a part on a syndicated show.

RS: And I remember the first shows that went on were scripted by, again, Mr. Victor A. Sholis the fellow, our main main, and he would script the first hour of the show only. But we paraded in front of the cameras. We paraded the stars who were going to be seen for the next 18 or 24 hours. And one of those stars 27:00happened to be the now famous and now deceased actually, Merv Griffin, who was there. Merv had been a big band singer with one of the dance bands and he was sort of in between assignments.

RS: He was no longer singing, but he was acquiring some real estate and that sort of thing. So after he's getting a few good bits of applause for his jokes, he kept going on and Jim Walton walked over to me, he was the main MC, and said, "Ray, we've got to get him off. We're over time and Sholis is giving me the old cut signal at the throat." He said, "I want you to read cards of the people who have pledged and I'm just going to walk out there and take Merv Griffin by the arm and take his microphone. We'll share and I'll walk him off the stage." And 28:00he did it.

RS: And I've often thought of that because now, before his death of course, a billionaire who used to compete with Donald Trump to see who could be richer, I think. But those two really did the real estate bit for a while. So we had to get rid of-

JF: He was escorted off the air.

RS: We just walked him right off the air.

JF: He, of course, went on to have a fabulous television career of his own, really, the show and everything else.

RS: I know. Sure he did. There was one other incident. Do you remember the name of the fellow on the MASH series who played the colonel before the present colonel who ended the series?

JF: Yes.

RS: Was it McLean Stevenson?

JF: Yes.

RS: Okay. It's about 3 o'clock in the morning and McLean is our guest of honor. 29:00But there's not much to do on stage because the little trio that hung on and kept playing over and over to keep the thing going had pretty well worn out. But McLean Stevenson came to me at Memorial Auditorium and he said, "You know, I'll bet you didn't know, Ray, that I was a pole vaulter when I was in high school." I said, "Really?" He said, "No." He said, "If you could find me a cane pole about 12 feet long, he says I'll show you how to pole vault over the orchestra pit." And I said, "Okay. I think that would be interesting."

RS: And Bob Pilkington was our technician, not technician, but director and I alerted him that, "McLean Stevenson is going to pole vault over the orchestra pit and onto the stage. You better clear out a few of the music stands." And so 30:00he said, "Okay. We'll be ready for him." We went to the basement, Memorial. We found a cane pole inside a rug. They often come that way to a twelve-foot rug. Sure. The rug was wrapped around it.

RS: So I gave it to McLean. He said, "Clear out and get your cameras ready for a cover shot." He said, "I'm going to run down the aisle here at Memorial Auditorium, hit the pole vault and go over and land on stage." Well the pole vault that I gave him, the cane pole, broke.

Speaker 3:

Well the cane pole was not a vaulting pole.

RS: He landed in the orchestra pit and I don't think he was hurt or he would have hollered a little more. But I thought, I should not take up anybody's offer of that kind.

JF: I've never heard that story before. That's a great story. And live television.

RS: Yeah.

JF: Live television. Oh goodness. Well let me ask you about you started bare 31:00bones. You were the one. You had a camera person, I guess, and a director. How long did it take to evolve to enlarge the staff and start getting ... It happened fairly quickly, didn't it?

RS: Yeah. We became, I think at WHAS TV, I think we had the largest television staff in the state.

JF: How many people would that be?

RS: I don't know, Jack. Probably 50 or 60.

JF: Really?

RS: On staff, yeah. And as you know, a small radio station can operate now with six or eight people. And so it was a very, very full staff. They were good, talented people.

JF: Were more of the radio people at this time wanting to get in on the act?

RS: Yes. They were coming up and doing some TV, got used to wearing that Max Factor makeup that I had to wear.

JF: When did you start doing that, from the start or ... The putting makeup on.


RS: Yeah.

JF: That was from the start.

RS: In the black-and-white days, makeup is required more than color TV.

JF: Because of shadows and things.

RS: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You wore Max Factor #5 pancake, put it on with a sponge.

JF: Put it on yourself?

RS: Yeah. Didn't have any makeup people. But the staff, I would say, enlarged pretty quickly and we produced some good shows.

JF: Can you remember some of the shows that were locally done before you started? Do you remember when you first started or when you realized that the networks came along and they were taking over more and more? Was CBS the network or ...

RS: Yeah CBS. And of course by that time ...

JF: I remember a Dupont network, but that was prior to that.

RS: That was an early one. That's where Jackie Gleason started on Dupont and then moved to CBS.

JF: So it was CBS from the start.

RS: That's right. But basically, CBS would feed more shows and of course, we 33:00were getting shows from the West Coast at that time. We weren't able to get it over the mountains. They didn't have the system of towers established.

JF: [crosstalk].

RS: So mainly, we were getting shows from New York early and then later from the West Coast.

JF: How were they coming? How were they delivered?

RS: They were online, fiber-optic line from the East Coast, but I think from tower-to-tower over the Rocky Mountains.

JF: It seems like I remember, did you get a lot of films and things like that at one point? Were a lot of programs on film? I remember big canisters up in the video room or something. Were those shipped in? Do you recall that at all?

RS: Yeah. That would have been syndicated shows, such as I Led Three Lives and Badge 714 and that sort of thing and you played them on a certain night and the public-

JF: The others were live. They weren't coming in.

RS: Yeah. But basically it was delay early and then live feeds across the Rocky 34:00Mountains, you're area of Denver. We were able to jump the hump there and get shows from the West Coast.

JF: When did you start to expand into local news coverage and do the network, the news, local newscast again to beef up and do sports and weather and things like that?

RS: We didn't have the capacity nor the equipment early on, but I would say within five years or so, we were able to have newsreel cameras that shot film and then we had a crew that would develop the film.

JF: Oh, it had to be developed. That's right.

RS: Yes. Develop it on site and then show it, of course, on the news.

JF: Edit it and...

RS: Yeah. Edit it and show it on the news, both early at 6:00 and then again at 10:00 or 11:00, I've forgotten which it was at that time.


JF: As it grew and more staff came on, what were your duties? What was your continuing ... Did that expand or did you take up more duties or ...

RS: No. That-

JF: I remember you did the weather for a long, long time.

RS: Did the weather, but Milton Metz was the main weatherman.

JF: Really?

RS: Milton came up with his concept, the weather board and then, of course, he had the icebox and the oven on the weather map. It seemed the oven was always someplace in Southern California, Needles, I think, got the oven all the time. And then he came up with, "That's the way the weather vane points tonight." That's his phrase. And he did weather principally, but I stepped in and did it sometimes on the early when he would do it late show.

RS: But he was our weather crew and basically, the announcer, I guess his duty 36:00actually had shrunken, if that's the phrase, with the other shows developing. I think basically he was still needed and you could create and you could be ready for booth work, whatever was required there, voice over or that sort of thing.

JF: Did you do some of the booth work? Did you do some of that?

RS: Yeah. You would have to do a few. It was early for drop-ins. It was early to have a pre-recorded station break. Generally, we had a live booth long after others because of finances had given it up and gone to pre-recording all of the station breaks and other announcements for the day. A man would sit down for a couple of hours in the booth and just turn pages and do one after another.

JF: Sure ...

RS: Sure.

JF: That's a little ... Have a little digression here or a little detour, you're talking about some of that was because of finances, but the Binghams didn't do 37:00that, did they? The Binghams always ... I don't know if money was not a problem with them or what, but they held onto things like that for a long, long time.

RS: They liked production. They liked a live announcer and as a result, we stayed with what might be considered by some as old-fashioned long after the others.

JF: The Binghams, of course, were the people who owned the Courier-Journal, radio and television station. You had a long association with them.

RS: I don't think they worried about finances and they were excellent people to work for.

JF: Did you see them often?

RS: Barry Jr. often would come to the studios because that was one of his loves was television and radio. Barry Sr. you would see at Crusade for Children time and he would always come by and shake the hands of those who opened the crusade Saturday night at 10 o'clock. That was the opening hour. He was a gentleman, 38:00great speaker and certainly one to be admired, Barry Sr. Barry Jr. would come around and comment and maybe offer some suggestions from time-to-time.

JF: As the television grew, Bob I guess. Of course you brought more television people in. You still involved a lot of the radio people. And at that point, you were still all in the Courier Journal building at 6th and Chestnut. Was there good camaraderie between radio and television?

RS: Pretty good. People we didn't get acquainted with were the press people from down on the first and second floors.

JF: The newspaper people.

RS: Yes. They were there in the lunchroom along with us, but we didn't seem to mix much. But the radio and TV people all used the restaurant facilities there.

JF: They had a cafeteria, right?

RS: Yeah.

JF: Let's go back a minute to some of the people who were not necessarily there 39:00first, but as it began to grow. You mentioned Bob Pilkington. Do you remember some of the other people who were directors or who were camera people or producers or anything like that or program directors over the years?

RS: Program director was Ralph Hanson all of the time I was there.

JF: Was he hired specifically for television at that point?

RS: Yeah. He came in from St. Louis and was the program director and basically, during most of the years I was there, it was Hanson in charge. I'm trying to think of other producers, whose names escape me.

JF: [inaudible]

RS: Pilkington. Pilkington was the main-

JF: He still comes back and does the crusade, I think, for years later.

RS: I know. Yeah. He's a great producer.

JF: Were you involved in some of the early programs? I remember Hayloft Hoedown and at some point they began to produce live music and had orchestras and things like that.

RS: Yeah. They did. In the early days when I went there, they'd have a full live orchestra-


JF: Did some of them splash into television then? Did they do some of that locally?

RS: Yes. We had one night on Friday nights in which we did a show with talent coming over from the Brown Hotel. And it was a full half-hour show and the orchestra was there and we had a vocalist by the name of Roz Marquis who at one time in her earlier years had been the vocalist with the Louisville trumpeter, Sugar Blues.

JF: Clyde McCoy?

RS: Clyde McCoy. Thank you. That's his name. She had sung with him and she was very good. That was sponsored by one of the beer commercials. I guess it went on five or six years. It was strictly a local show and a high-class show.

JF: Let me ask you, you just mentioned commercials. In live days of live 41:00television, did you ever have some moments you remember of doing live commercials and things not going exactly as they were [crosstalk]?

RS: Oh yeah.

JF: Do you remember any of those?

RS: We had our share of that. First of all, having come from a Baptist background, my family had fits when they told them that the Fehr's Beer Company, Louisville, wanted me to have a tall pilsner, is that the name of the glass, of Fehr's on the table and come up and take a sip. Nowadays that's done all the time. I hear the talent endorsing products. But then, the Binghams said, "No. We don't want the announcer endorsing the product." Don't say, "I drive a Ford because it's a good car."

RS: And so there was some opposition to my drinking the beer. Furthermore, my family did not approve of it. So they went to black when I raised the glass and 42:00stopped there.

JF: So they would see you starting the motion, but they didn't actually see you drink the beer.

RS: But we had a lot of commercials that were not what they should have been.

JF: Do you remember having to ad lib or something or going wrong and you having to ad lib?

RS: Yeah. One involved my friend, Milton Metz. He had just gotten the commercial for the weather show three days a week. Pepsi-Cola was sponsoring it and he was proud to have them in from New York in the sponsor's booth, watching from on high. And so when it comes time to talk about Pepsi-Cola, the floor director had it put in the refrigerator so that it would be easily accessible. He uncorked it as he ran across the stage floor, handed it to Milton.


RS: And as Milton said, "I am proud to present my new sponsor, Pepsi-Cola," there it was, a bottle of Coca-Cola with undeniable shaped bottle. I do not know what he said, but I know it was embarrassing and needless to say, Pepsi didn't come back for a while.

JF: And that engineer or floor producer probably had some explaining to do, too.

RS: That's right.

JF: Wow.

RS: There's lots of opportunities in live days of television to mess up. It was always wise to, for instance, uncap a soft drink bottle ahead of time because otherwise, you might be there fumbling with it for a good, long while.

JF: Foaming over or ... Yeah.

RS: So I always uncapped it and covered it with my thumb so that you couldn't tell that it was loose and that sort of thing.


JF: I'm going to jump ahead just a little bit here, but the idea of talent not endorsing something, I remember for years, you were the spokesperson for greater Louisville. You did those commercials live on the--

RS: Yep. That was the big one, Jack, and I'm forever thankful to Gustav Flexner and Greater Louisville First Federal Savings and Loan. I did those commercials live for 40 years.

JF: Is that right? Do you still have some of the copy going through your head at night?

RS: Yeah. Sure. Still can say the phrases.

JF: Any phrase come to your mind right off?

RS: Tonight's news brought to you by Great Financial Federal. And at that time, we were a $10 million insured organization. Now we've surpassed that and gone on to be US Bank, the fifth largest bank in the country. They were bought out by several, Star Bank and some other banks. But I did those live.


JF: For 40 years. Wow.

RS: I went in on a Saturday night. Even if I was out having dinner or a party, I had to break loose and do the 11 o'clock commercial because I promised I would do it to Flexner and it paid off because he liked me, he was the owner of Great Financial, Greater Louisville, then Great Financial. So basically, he was faithful to me and I was faithful to him.

JF: Well even when you left the station, you were a spokesperson for them for years.

RS: Yeah. I kept on doing them until 19 ... I don't know the year. But I was 25 years at the station and another 15 doing public relations work, but not on staff.

JF: Let's talk some more about you were there in the studios in the Courier Journal building at 6th and Broadway. Then they built this new palace just up 46:00the street at 6th and Chestnut. What was the move like going from there?

RS: We had several people helping, back to Bob Pilkington. He was in charge of the parrot that we used on the show.

JF: I don't think I [inaudible] parrot.

RS: Lolita the parrot.

JF: Tell me about the parrot.

RS: The parrot was part of T Bar V, which was a daily show at four o'clock in which-

JF: This was a kid's show?

RS: That's right, in which they invited the kids on. But Lolita would talk constantly, as parrots do, and either Cactus, Tom Brooks or Randy Atcher would holler back and the parrot would parrot it back. So she was a part of T Bar V for many years. But Bob was in charge of taking care of Lolita in her cage in that procession that we had from 6th and Broadway to 6th and Chestnut.


JF: [inaudible] procession.

RS: Had a group, yeah, because they were moving stuff that could be moved. But it was a good move because we had good studios, separate studios, modern equipment.

JF: A lot of room.

RS: Parking out back. It was a good move.

JF: What were you doing during this time? This was in the early '60s, middle '60s?

RS: '61 and '62 we were making the move. I was still doing Great Financial commercials, of course, and then the others that came along.

JF: You were doing some radio at this time, too, weren't you?

RS: Sure.

JF: Yeah. Because people were going back. What radio were you doing then?

RS: I took the TV show and made it into a radio show and used the Louisville Bar Association attorneys and did the same thing on radio.

JF: This was your legal program.

RS: Yeah. Did a half-hour for radio, same idea. So you can always keep busy and ironically, Jack, the fees paid were small unless you created the show. So I 48:00made a $19 fee for doing a half-hour once a week and I made a $3.50 fee for doing Great Financial Federal every night of the week. It's interesting looking back, isn't it?

JF: It is, yeah. But at that time, that was also, that was pretty good for back then.

RS: Milton and I competed in some commercials, I'm sure. He might have mentioned that in his part.

JF: [inaudible] you all have been friends for a long time, haven't you?

RS: Yeah, we have been. We had a little business together called Kentucky Fried Chicken.

JF: Oh really?

RS: Yeah. Opened a shop up here in Shively. That went for about six months. But anyway, Milton and I were involved in the only commercial I know of where neither of us had to smile or say anything. It was the Palm Beach Clothing Company, makers of men's suits came to town and said we want to know who you've 49:00got that would look pretty good in a 40 regular suit. And they put the memo up. Milton answered and I answered. And all we had to do was walk in front of the camera and parade wearing one of their Palm Beach sport coats. Who looks best in a Palm Beach coat?

RS: No words were uttered. I won the audition. I got Brown to say, "A fee all the way from Palm Beach, Florida, to St. Louis, each city of any size would pay a small fee." Because the unions had control of some of those cities. So it was interesting. No words uttered.

JF: No. You did the commercials. You just walked through and that's all you had to do [inaudible].


RS: Yeah. Always ... I have a picture here. Here's the set.

JF: Oh my goodness.

RS: Can you see they allow it because they liked Gus Flexner's commercials and they liked the fee he was paying. I sat in front of that sign every night of the week.

JF: This is Ray sitting at a desk and the backdrop, which looks like you're looking out a window, but it's a backdrop. And it's Greater Louisville First Federal Savings. Their building in the background.

RS: They wouldn't let you do that now.

JF: Where was that? Was that on 4th Street or where was that?

RS: His office was 417 West Market.

JF: West Market, okay.

RS: That's what that ... That was the backdrop.

JF: Yeah. How about that?

RS: They said, "Move over a little bit. You're hiding the sign."

JF: So you sat at this desk and that's where you did your news and everything? How about that. That is great. Handsome devil. Handsome. You were right for television, weren't you?

RS: Well I took them a pretty good face. I guess that's the reason they offered 51:00to pay me $60 a week.

JF: All right.

RS: We're going back to 1950.

JF: That was a good salary for then wasn't it?

RS: Yeah.

JF: Yeah. That's very good. You had a long career. Let's go back to telling just a little bit about what you did on the radio. You did your program. Did you do other things? Of course you did the Crusade. Were there other things? Did they have booth announcing in a radio back then at that time?

RS: Yeah. We did. But most of those shows were well-established people. Phil Sutterfield was our sports man and then you had the newsman who would come over. So it was a matter there of simply introducing. The five o'clock news brought to you by Yellow Cab.

JF: From a booth.

RS: Yeah. That was about it. And again, this could have been done with a drop-in, a pre-recorded announcement. But the Binghams preferred it being done live. They were behind times according to many people in the industry, but they 52:00wanted to do it right.

JF: Got the quality they wanted.

RS: Yeah.

JF: Had the control [crosstalk].

RS: I did do one that I'm proud of and I've got to comment on that. Could I?

JF: Sure. This is your show.

RS: They put a memo up on the bulletin board, "Ed Sullivan is coming to Louisville for the very first time, March ..." I think 6th ... "1953. They are looking for an open and close announcer for the network. And all eight of you who are staff can compete." And of course, the word got out pretty quickly.

JF: Sure.

RS: And how many do you think competed? Six out of the eight. We went over and read the copy. He was to come to town and do the Holiday On Ice show. You've seen that one advertised. It was to be done at the rink downtown, which is now 53:00Louisville Gardens, I think it's called. And so we all got our best voices together and stood up, you've been through the routine, one after another, read the open and the close for the network Sullivan Show. Thought this would be pretty good if you could win this one. I'm not going anywhere, but I may as well audition and try.

RS: And so they listened to all of us and it was a good moment and I'm still remembering it in my mind when the producer of the Ed Sullivan Show called out and said, "I want to hear Shelton again." That's always a good sign. So he said, "Read the copy again a little more forcefully, a little brighter than you read it." I tried to do that and they said, "You will be the announcer for the Ed 54:00Sullivan Show."

RS: It was interesting, Jack, because the guest that Sunday, and they filmed both an afternoon and evening show, the guest that Sunday, along with others, was Ed Ames of the famous Ames Brothers Trio. During his skating with a pretty girl on each side, he fell down right flat of his behind on the ice. And I thought standing off to the side, am I supposed to say anything? What do we do now?

RS: So they stopped and picked him up and went on as if he had never fallen. And he did a song in the show and things were fine. And of course, what they did was to take the afternoon performance and clip out that particular segment where he did not fall.


JF: [inaudible]

RS: Yeah. So I was proud to be the opening announcer.

JF: Where did you do that? Were you at the arena? Were you at at booth? [crosstalk]

RS: Yeah. We were at the arena.

JF: At the arena. So you're standing by mic and ...

RS: Standing by there and you were fairly close. Ed was probably within a couple of years of passing on because he sat on the edge of the rink and his announcer kept saying to the floor man, "Please get Ed up. I want to get a wide shot." And the floor man said, "Well, he'll be mad you know. He's tired." They got him up. So it was interesting to watch-

JF: I wanted to ask if you had any interaction with him? What was he like?

RS: No. Never got to say hello. Said hello to his producer whose name I've forgotten. It's his son-in-law. But it was interesting. They had the kids in the afternoon and when you told those kids to make all the noise they could, to stomp their feet, they did.


JF: That's your responsibility [crosstalk]?

RS: Yeah. You were warm up afternoon, evening.

JF: And so your announcement was actually on the network [crosstalk].

RS: I got three talent fees.

JF: Wow.

RS: Don't often get that.

JF: Yeah. Very nice. Were you involved in the Derby at all? The station had a long tradition of Derby. Did you do any of that stuff?

RS: No. Jim Walton always went out to cover the Derby for us. So I covered staff for him while he went out one day that he was called on. Went to the Flower Garden is it? Where they can look down on the track.

JF: Yeah. Interesting. You've had some good memories. You've had some good times there.

RS: Yes.

JF: How long was your career. You say you were there for ...

RS: 25 years.

JF: 25 years, from 1950-1975. When you did the [inaudible] financials, did you go back and tape those when you did the commercials? You didn't have to back and 57:00do those live even after you left...

RS: No. They allowed me to tape them at the HAS studios and then, of course, they played because it was said at the time that he is our local, most productive sponsor that we have. He was buying the news seven days a week. So as a result, was spending a good bit of money.

JF: You were getting a lot of exposure that way, too.

RS: Oh yeah. Well, it's been good chatting with you.

JF: Let me ask you, you have a family, was your family involved? They gave your stamp of approval and everything as you went through all this?

RS: Oh yeah. I would have to say wholeheartedly. As you know, you miss a lot of time with the family.

JF: Evenings especially.

RS: Yeah because I worked the afternoon shift. When we finally went full shift, 58:00it would be 3:00 to about one o'clock after the movie was over. But they endorsed all of that and helped out and got to go to some of the shows, including the Ed Sullivan Show.

JF: Oh, so there was perks there, too.

RS: Yeah.

JF: Did your Baptist parents ever check to make sure you didn't drink that pilsner? We saw it go black, but we want to find out.

RS: That one faded after a while.

JF: That's good. Well Ray, it's been a joy to talk to you. Anything else you'd like to add? Anything in your notes that you didn't cover? This is our program so ...

RS: I know. I would just say that as a staff announcer, although they are looked down on by some people, I enjoyed it, my 25 years, enjoyed the shows they gave me, enjoyed working for a great family, the Binghams, and enjoyed, in fact, to the point where I was eager to go to work in the afternoons. Not everybody can 59:00say that, Jack.

JF: When you walked into that audition that day and Mr. Hanson said, "My wife's on a meter downstairs, I'll call you on Monday," that had to be a long weekend, wasn't it?

RS: It couldn't be longer.

JF: When you accepted the position on that Monday, you couldn't have known what stretched out ahead, where television was going. Did you have doubts at that time or anything about television at all?

RS: No. I was always an eager kid. In fact, the way I got some of my radio jobs early on in Lexington and Louisville was to watch them putting up a radio tower. And I thought, well, it's got to be a radio station. So I would go over and talk to the engineer putting the tower up and say, "When are they going on the air? I want to apply for a job." So that's eager if there ever was.

JF: That was in your blood and it had to be a very satisfying career to you because you had a long placement. Did you ever have thoughts of going someplace else?

RS: I had a chance to go to New York, 1954. I auditioned up there.


JF: Wow. That would have been a big time [crosstalk].

RS: Yeah. That was on a dare of one of our announcers named Lee Jordan, who said, "Well, you know, I'm from Hawkinsville, Georgia, and I did the audition for CBS in New York and they could hear Georgia accent. And he said, "They told me, if you're going to be on network, you can't have any accent because on the West Coast, Florida, New York, anywhere, you've got to be neutral." Which I got to thinking about is true. So he said, "Why don't you go?" And I took up the dare and I went and I won the audition.

JF: Wow.

RS: There were three of us picked. It was a summer job. They were hiring. I did the audition live, got in the car and came back here with my wife and there was 61:00a telegram in the mailbox out there that said, "Can you be available the dates of so-and-so to so-and-so? You placed number two in our competitive audition out of three." Number one-

JF: That's when you came across the country, though, too.

RS: Yeah. Number one won. Number two, Bill Gillion was his name, number two, from Memphis. He went in my place. My daughter had some health problems at the time. I got to comparing what you could make in New York and how much you'd have to spend and I decided just to stay in good old Louisville, Kentucky.

JF: Sounds like it was a good choice.

RS: Yeah.

JF: Good. Well thanks, Ray. Thanks for sharing with us and appreciate the time, appreciate your service to the community and WHAS over the years.

RS: My pleasure, Jack. Thank you.

JF: Thank you.