The lights go down and nothing is visible except clouds of smoke wafting gently throughout the auditorium. The crowd begins to stir. As I squint at the stage, about 20 yards from Jimmy Page’s colossal stack of amps which are humming and crackling, four shadowy figures make their way to their respective stations. The collective murmur broadens into an ascending roar.
And now John Bonham picks up his drumsticks and begins to rattle the cymbals. The blinding stage lights now burst forth like the dawn of creation. Robert Plant, with long flowing golden locks and bare midriff, stands like a golden god in the stage’s center and, collectively, Led Zeppelin drops the hammer on a song appropriately entitled… Rock ‘N Roll.
“It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled…”
Mobile, Alabama March of 1973. I can see it. I can feel it. And yes, I can smell it. To recall this moment never ceases to give me chill bumps and/or bring tears to my eyes.
January of 1973 saw me return to Auburn University and make another failed attempt to succeed academically at that great institution of higher learning. “Higher” learning it was but not in a scholarly fashion. But in Rock ‘N Roll 101 I was passing with flying colors and ready to push on to it’s grad school.
I found myself back in Monroeville, AL with a second strike against me. I had always hoped that one day I would have the opportunity to be a DJ. That wish had come true at WMFC AM, 1360 on your radio dial.
My mother was friends to the owner of the station as she had worked for him when he was the owner of the Wilcox Progressive Era in my hometown of Camden. She called him to see if there was an opening at WMFC and, lo and behold, there was one ! I went in to interview with the station manager and was hired. Later in the year that would prove much to his chagrin.
I had to be at the station at 5:15 AM to cut on the amps at 5:20. We went on the air at 6:00.
We came on with a “good morning” and went promptly into thirty minutes of gospel music. UGH !!! That was followed by a Church of Christ preacher. Whew ! At 7:00 we went to news, sports and weather and then into music at 7:10.
The Monday morning after the Sunday Led Zeppelin concert I thought it would be a GREAT idea to open up with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll.” Oops !!! The powers-that-be were not as enthused about my choice of music as I was. There would be no Led Zeppelin at 7:10 AM. I shrugged it off and opened with Wet Willie’s “Shout Bamalama” on Tuesday morning.
A meeting was called later in the week to come up with, in my opinion, a very narrow format of what to play and when to play it. That was all well and good for early morning radio, according to my reasoning but surely in the afternoon, when school was out and teenagers comprised a healthy portion of the audience, a dose of rock and roll would be a good thing.
Well it depends on how one looks at things, how one goes about it and how one arranges the hour beginning at 3:00 PM.
I would play ALL of the commercials for that hour, one after the other, until I was done with that annoyance. I would then proclaim, “This is Bird LeCroy with solid rock until four o’clock.” And after a few days of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull and the like, I was moved to MORNINGS ONLY with Tony Bennett, Dean Martin and Patti Page. Sigh…
This is the point where I need to re-inject my disclaimer from last week’s blog not advocating recreational drug use.
My thinking was one needs help getting up in the morning to be on a job before sunrise and one also needs assistance “coming down” in the afternoon and evening after such a “stimulating” day. Old Black Molly and her antithesis, Miss RORER 714, became all too prevalent in my daily activities.
But, as essential as I felt these “helpers” were to my routine, one always needs to add “a hint of color” (nod to Nathan Lane in “The Birdcage”) to the rigors of everyday life.
Without going into detail the Summer of ’73 was very much a psychedelic season. Insert “Purple Haze” or “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” firmly HERE !
We now take you to early fall of 1973 and the Monroe County Tigers are going against Evergreen over in Conecuh County. I had been relieved of my morning duties on this particular Friday and I was to play spots every time the football game went back to the studio.
Simple enough ! As there would be no one else at the station but me, I invited a handful of friends (where are you Sam Yarbrough ?) to join me at my lonely outpost. And, of course, the evening would not be complete without a few “tall boys” and other party favors.
So we’re just having a great time playing 45’s on the turntables through the station’s speakers as Sam sat at the board and punched in the spots. Hey ! He had previously been employed there ! He knew what to do !
At about this time, as I was draining a PBR and pumping my fist to Foghat’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, I heard a “rap tap tapping” on the window in the studio. It was Bill Sky, one of WMFC’s account managers.
Long story short… the station’s owner, it’s manager and Mr. Sky showed up shortly after I had convinced my running mates that they needed to depart the premises PROMPTLY.
This, of course, was before Donald Trump’s, The Apprentice. But, alas, the result of the festive evening gone sour would be the same….
“You’re fired !!!”