Sadness Mars Holiday Tradition, Waukesha Children Deprived Of Magical Feeling At Parade

It was a jarring end to a very nice day in Wisconsin.

Sunshine had allowed for people to get outdoors in the afternoon and feel the brisk winds while some people took the warm weather as a sign to–at last–put up outdoor decorations. I noticed others raking lawns and terraces in the afternoon and kids out biking again before winter snows finally arrive. Everyone seemed to be outside and smiling.

And it was, without doubt, that same sense of uplift from such weather that people were feeling as they gathered in Waukesha for the best type of parade there can be—especially if you are a kid. The Christmas parade!

As we sat down for dinner on the isthmus we heard the devastating news.

We turned on the television and saw terrified people, with debris left all about after an SUV drove through the ones participating in the parade, or watching from the sidewalks. As I write some details are emerging with reports of more than 20 people injured, and some killed. The vehicle was located and photos show the horror that played out with the damage to the front end. The driver is in custody.

Of all the images that have poured out on Twitter, there was one, above all, that punches the hardest.

The news of who died has not been released as of this posting. But I can not help but consider that a child–not necessarily the one in the above stroller–left for that Christmas parade with pure excitement on the face, but will never go home again.

The speeding vehicle was simply appalling, and whoever was driving, utterly reprehensible. There have been enough raw nerves, pain, suffering, and stresses for our society in this state over the past weeks. No one should now need to endure this horrific crime ramping up to the holiday season.

I feel for all of the victims, but especially the children. How can that not be the case?

I know the following will sound hokey, but it is how I feel.

When I worked at WDOR our station annually broadcast over the radio a Christmas parade. Ed Allen, Sr. would create the theater of the mind as the sights and sounds were placed into words for the listeners throughout the Door County peninsula. And of course, he would chat with all sorts of people who attended. The best conversations were with kids who might otherwise have been taken aback by a news camera, but there was nothing to be afraid of from a microphone!

So Ed would engage them in banter and it was always the highlight to hear the expressions of delight coming from youngsters who were at that age when Christmas was magical.

It should have been the same for the boys and girls tonight in Waukesha, too.

It was not.

What a dreadful way to start the holiday season.

And so it goes.

My New Doty Land Podcast: Tribute To Grant Turner, Classic Country Music Stars

Doty Land, my podcast, following a long hiatus due to truly swear-worthy technical issues and the pandemic which made it most difficult to have the equipment in our home worked on, is now back ‘on the air.’

Humbly written here, but I am mighty pleased with the 16-minute multi-track production which offers my sincere tribute to WSM radio announcer Grant Turner. I also offer my thoughts as to what essential quality the classic country singers had which then allowed for them to have such faithful fans many decades later.

You can hear Doty Land and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartradio, Spotify, Castro, and many other sites. Pandora and Amazon are the next sites I am working with that will be offering my podcast for your listening enjoyment.

You can also link here and head directly to my podcast page.

From memories of Loretta Lynn,  Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, WSM radio announcer Grant Turner and others this tribute looks at how classic country music still resonates across the land.  Heartfelt memories galore! Podcaster Gregory Humphrey takes listeners on a journey from his Hancock home to the stages of country music shows.  The fiddles are warming up, now.  

This project will not put me on the map, but it made me very happy if for no other reason than everything is working as the manufacturer of the studio equipment intended! Broadcasting and now its offshoots remains a great love of my life. Therefore, it was most rewarding to ramp up the production values for this episode. I admit to a few ‘bumps’ that perhaps my ear is more accustomed to discerning, but overall I am very content to offer this episode to the listening public.

Grandma Schwarz landed at this angle for the promo pic. As in radio days, I like to have photos of special people around as it makes for a more genuine type of conversation when recording. She seemed the one who would best connect with the topic of these recordings.

And so it goes.

“Naked Radio” Making Smiles Galore In Door County

A good friend came back from Door County and told James she had watched a play stating, “I laughed so hard and thought of Gregory at WDOR!”

I quipped back to James, upon learning the title of the show. “Well, radio announcers do it on the air!”

Our friend was talking about a getaway weekend where she thoroughly enjoyed Naked Radio.

When a small radio station gets swallowed up by a corporate parent, the local DJs are relegated to obscurity. But when a snowstorm knocks out the county and the station loses its tie to the pre-programmed feed, the guys have to punt, and a rejuvenated station brings back spontaneity and joy to the community it serves.

From the writers who brought you Cheeseheads, the MusicalMuskie Love, and No Bones About It. Dave Hudson and Paul Libman have created magic once again.

Libman’s prolific career composing for advertisers has left him with an exceptional skill for writing jingles, which fill the score with catchy, memorable, and often hilarious songs.

The name (Naked Radio), according to Hudson, has a double meaning. The first is the radio station itself is laid bare in the storm without the insulation of the corporate broadcasts. The other meaning suggests things get a bit unhinged in the station, though Hudson reassures us the play will be fit for Northern Sky’s usual audience. “Well hey, we’re on the radio, you can’t see us.”

I would absolutely love to see this comedy.

My years in radio were written about in my book Walking Up The Ramp (which is a phrase for the time/temp and add-ons over the musical intro to the song with my ending any talking as soon as the singer hits the first syllable.) One of the fond memories I had–though clothed–was with wild weather when on air.

My first night alone at the station a massive thunderstorm knocked WDOR AM/FM off the air. I had no knowledge of how to turn the station ‘back on’.

Back home when the power went off due to a storm, we logically called the electric company, and alerted them to the problem. Who would have guessed that listeners would call a radio station to alert announcers they were off the air? Did people really think broadcasters at a studio would not know when they were no longer transmitting something over the airwaves? Grateful for the help, did I really need the extra stress of answering the phone? The five telephone lines lit up before me. Five little orange buttons on the face of the telephone blinked frenetically, and I was suddenly fielding calls from very well-intentioned people. “Yes, thank you for your call. We are indeed experiencing a bit of technical difficulty. Things should be back to normal soon.

Yes. I appreciate your call. Do have a good evening.

Hello. WDOR. Yes, thank you for your call…”

At the same time, I was of course trying to figure what was to be done to set things back on course. I felt a nervous sweat trickle down my back.

I have fond memories, however, of winter snowstorms.

Were snowstorms to have occurred while I was on the air, there would have been a flurry of contact with listeners. First, there would have been the usual report from the local police about the road conditions, urging caution with the slick streets. I would have listened, and yawned as I had heard if many times before, but thought to myself that the well-intentioned law enforcement official did not provide the type of information I wanted.

Rather, I would wait for the man who called himself ‘the Egg Harbor Reporter’ to dial me up and give some gripping account of how a car nearly wiped out at the curve where he lived, or how many inches had stacked up on his mailbox. (The Egg Harbor Reporter performed his job earnestly. I can still hear his slow deadpan delivery of the information he called to share.)

Egg Harbor Reporter: “Hey Trevor, it is coming down mighty heavy right now.”

Me: “It is snowing huge flakes here, too.”

Egg Harbor Reporter: “The dog wanted to go outside but once I opened the door he only was interested in being outside for a minute. I can’t blame him. I cannot even see the bird feeder up in the tree; it is blowing so hard. Have the scanner on and there are lots of slide-offs. Today is when you want to have a wrecker service.” With that he would give a hearty chuckle. “Say, what happens if you cannot make it home and have to stay at the station?”

Me: “I call in the military for an airdrop of food!”

Egg Harbor Reporter: “You have any Kenny Rogers handy to play for me?”

Me: “With or without Dolly?”

Egg Harbor Reporter: “Well, everything is better with Dolly.”

Me: “Will do. Let me know if things get really interesting up your way.”

The Egg Harbor Reporter was a clear favorite of mine, and often had a song request. I am not sure the man ever slept, as he had a reason to call and chat about the weather every chance he got, and I must say he was highly entertaining. He wasn’t the only one, though. I also loved to hear from the folks on Sunday when snow piled up who had made it over the ‘Brussels’ Hill’ in Southern Door County as they came back from church but wanted me to alert others to take another route.

Perhaps the best account of the local streets in Sturgeon Bay came from the lady who from time to time delivered a baked good from her oven to me at the station as she went to church. She would pop into the back door of the studio, thank me for the Southern gospel music I played starting at six o’clock in the morning, update me on the streets in winter, and drop off some wonderful sweet. Some people are nice to the person who delivers their morning paper, but she appreciated her local neighborhood radio announcer.

If you have the opportunity to see the Naked Radio play please do so. As one of the reviews noted….“It’s part warm remembrance and part regret about the vast disconnect that technology and simplification and instant gratification have brought – but mostly a clever, if soft-paced, offering of entertainment.”

And so it goes.

1940’s Music Makes Impact, Dan Thomson Pens Perfectly-Toned Letter

Among the letters to the editors in the Sunday newspapers, the following one hit a note on the Madison isthmus. It allowed for a nice memory to be recalled.

Dan Thomson wrote a letter to the Wisconsin State Journal about how the SiriusXM 40’s station has produced a calm reassurance for the world in which we live.

James and I often listen to 40s Junction in our car as we tool about the city. We have a convertible and so at times, we get a look from a fellow driver who might smile and lift fingers for a snapping action as In The Mood or Pennsylvania 6-5000 fills the air.

I do think Thomson hit the mark when writing of that era “So when they played music, it was to celebrate.”

At night, when in my radio broadcasting days, I aired the Big Band Show on WDOR which featured the likes of Eddie Condon, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and Cliff Edwards.  The music was spiced and filled with the verve that demands never be stopped from playing out over the airwaves.  I was delighted, therefore, when first encountering SiriusXM about 12 years ago.

I can assure my readers the studio speakers at the radio station were ramped up and the ‘local neighborhood disc jockey’ was bopping about the station as the Dorsey Brothers were spinning on the turntable.  By that time of night, I was working the station solo, and so the music went louder in proportion to the fewer people in the building. A special friend might come to the station about that time and wait until ‘the broadcast day’ was over with the playing of the National Anthem, and we would head out for breakfast at a local diner.  Good memories.

So with that intro…here are the thoughts of Madison’s Dan Thomson.

I got tired of news and contemporary music on the car radio, so on a whim I changed channels to music from the 1940s. It worked for me. That swing beat and those horns make me feel good.

People from the ’40s were super-positive. I caught this in a three-piece sequence the other day. First was, “My Melancholy Baby” — a total misnomer and not melancholy. Second was, “Zippity-do-da, Zippity-day.” The last was “Route 66.” 

But those folks in the 1940s ignored some other social issues. The playlist includes Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole along with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. But you would likely search in vain for Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” about lynchings in the South. 

After surviving the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and coming together to fight and win World War II, Americans had the “We’re all in this together” attitude. So when they played music, it was to celebrate. We don’t feel anything to celebrate now because we clearly are not in this together.

From COVID to wildfires, to stomping out a return to poverty, we are not all in this together. That’s why I listen to music which is 70 to 80 years old.

Dan Thomson, Madison

Thanks, Dan!

I Hear Ed Allen Sr. Calling…..

While watching the CBS Evening News about the horrific tornadoes that struck large portions of the South an odd memory came to mind. During the report video footage from the RV service and repair business in Moundville, Alabama was shown. It was most dramatic to see the large vehicles tossed about like match-box cars.

But it was when the name of business owner Tommy Muckenfuss was carefully pronounced on the air that I smiled. And thought of the owner of WDOR, the Sturgeon Bay radio station where I had my first job in the 1980s. I had come across a name much like that Alabama man while on-air in a newscast and learned the hard way why always pre-reading the copy is a good idea.

When I slipped up shortly after starting my radio job and added a hard ‘k’ sound to the-then-City Attorney Staufaucher’s name it created a phone call from the owner. At least on-air I always had the ability at times like that to never look back and just keep talking. It was soon apparent to the owner that I knew my slip-up was not professional and I was determined that type of error would not be repeated.  

Ed Allen, Sr. knew I had an old-school reverence for radio broadcasting and took my on-air time seriously. So he just reminded me to pre-read the names of local people I had not before encountered.

I had to smile broadly tonight as the CBS reporter, David Begnaud, eased up and over what Trevor James (my on-air radio moniker) would have plowed through with the hard K echoing over the country.

My New Doty Land Podcast: Larry King Tribute

My latest podcast is ‘on the air’. From my in-home studio on the Madison isthmus comes this episode about Larry King. I hope you enjoy it.

“Fond memories of Larry King, including podcaster Gregory Humphrey’s audio recording of a call to the late-night radio host, are included in this episode. In addition, the one interview broadcasters wished King had given about his decades behind the microphone. A most respectful tribute to a radio legend.”

Larry King Takes Gregory Humphrey’s Phone Call On Mutual Broadcasting System

Broadcast legend Larry King died today at the age of 87. He was known as the suspenders-sporting everyman whose broadcast interviews with world leaders, movie stars, and ordinary Americans helped define American conversation for nearly 50 years. He was a constant part of late-nights for me on the radio, and I was so pleased to land on his program when his guest was David Gergen during the years President Reagan was dominating our politics.

The voice and tone of King had long amused me with his varied topics and guests. But it was his professional skills behind a microphone that drew me in my late teens and early adult years as a student trying better to learn more about effective broadcasting. I fell asleep to King so often and took notes in the dim light of the radio dial about ways I could become better in the studio. When I moved from an apartment in Wausau I left a rather cocky note that ‘the next Larry King had lived here’.

Needless to say, there is only one Larry King, and my ambitions in radio far outpaced my skills. But what he meant to me in my younger years, and how he inspired me to dream, and number of hours of listening can not be taken away.

I was a caller into King’s Mutual Radio talk show one evening in the mid-80’s–while I was also on the air doing a separate broadcast from the WDOR radio studio in Sturgeon Bay.  While spinning the discs and give ‘time and temp’ I was also monitoring King’s program. Multi-tasking in broadcasting is something that becomes second nature after a while. (There were times when I was listening to two separate baseball games our station was broadcasting with one carried on our AM station, the other game over the FM station. I dropped in the commercials for each and at times even provided an update on the FM game for the AM audience!) So clearly monitoring King while doing my job on-air was not difficult at all.

Finally, King’s producer on the phone said I would be the next caller.  I was feeding the Mutual Radio program through one of the studio’s reel-to-reel tape machines so my national moment with King could be recorded.  (When was the last you were reading about reel-to-reel tapes?)

The world of technology from the tape machines in that radio studio to my current home studio never fails to alert me how far the broadcasting world has changed. I created this 41-second audio/video of the King phone call this morning. (Pictured below Larry King is that youthful broadcaster!)

It is a long way from my listening to Larry King with cheap headphones as a teenager in Hancock, Wisconsin.  King walked a long road of changes in radio broadcasting and I have often wondered what a truly delightful interview it would have been for King to wing his way over the decades with stories about how broadcasting techniques evolved in his lifetime. Obviously, the need for lively and stimulating conversation remains the same since the airwaves were harnessed.  It is just the methods used to get the broadcasts from a broadcaster to a receiver that has changed so remarkably.

And King, with a radio audience coast-to-coast, could make it seem he was talking to one individual on a personal basis. Readers have no idea how hard that is to truly achieve. That is what made him so meaningful to me. What I could relate to was his curiosity about people and how he had actual conversations as opposed to the work that reporters do to get down to the main point lickety-split.

“I don’t pretend to know it all,” he said in a 1995 Associated Press interview. “Not, `What about Geneva or Cuba?′ I ask, `Mr. President, what don’t you like about this job?′ Or `What’s the biggest mistake you made?′ That’s fascinating.”

It was that style that caught my attention as a teenager and what made Larry King a radio legend.

Godspeed.

WDOR Radio At Christmas Time

Among the best times at WDOR radio (Sturgeon Bay) was the Christmas season when it seemed cookies and sweets were always on the desk area in the middle part of the building. Late afternoons we aired Letters To Santa, and my first ever beef cooked medium rare—at a holiday party thrown by the GM–alerted me how mom needed to stop making meat gray! (She never did.)

The record collection of seasonal music over the previous 40 years made for a spirited sound for weeks on-air. And Keta Steebs from the local newspaper (Door County Advocate) calling and asking to have a seasonal drink for the holidays which meant as much talking local politics as anything else.

When I saw this pic (below) my mind flew back and smiles abounded. Life has been good. And radio continues to have a special place in my heart. As does the Allen family who thought I had what they wanted at their station.