Monday, October 31, 2016

Here's ace 101 reporter Steve Howard~

This morning, I randomly remembered a bit of WRJZ trivia which Curtis Parham and Walker Johnson might remember. I would give anything if Ernie Baker were here to chat about this ...
I joined 'RJZ in July of 1980. PD Fred Story hired me on a Tuesday for weekends, but before I could go on the air, overnights opened up. John Isley had left for Charlotte and Jeff Jarnigan had moved up to 7-midnight. Carrington Thompson, who was doing overnights on an interim basis, decided to leave for Charlotte as well (both to work for the late Bob Kaghan at WBCY), so, by my first scheduled weekend, I wound up on Z overnights, full-time.
I was there till August 1981, until I returned to WKIN in Kingsport, where I had been weekends, this time as PD/mornings.
I include all this here because my time at Z was my total time in Knoxville radio, and many on here don't remember me. 21 of my 22 years in radio were in Kingsport, up in the Tri-Cities.
CP and Walker had a listener named Diane who periodically brought them jokes she would collect, and would bake them muffins or bring them doughnuts. These jokes were a large part of the show, especially (although not exclusively) the "Clyde Clod" and "Coach Billy Joe Tom Bob Parker" bits.
Diane would pull up to the 1515 E. Magnolia studio building a little after 6 am, and drop off the goodies and jokes. It was the overnight jock's job to go down and get the stash, and bring it up. My first time doing it, I chatted with Diane when she pulled up in her car. She was a pleasant lady who worked in management for K-Mart, and I was astounded to learn that she had never been in, and had never met Curtis or Walker. I asked why, and she replied that she had never been invited.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was raised to correct oversights like that. I carried the stash and escorted Diane to Suite 401 where she met everybody involved with the morning show. Everybody seemed to really hit it off. I left that morning for my 7:50 class at UT feeling great.
About five years later (as I remember it), I had moved across Kingsport to WKPT Radio, which was an affiliate of the ABC Entertainment Network and the Tennessee Radio Network (TRN). Imagine my surprise when, at the end of a TRN bottom-of-hour newscast, I heard it end "Ernie Baker, Tennessee Radio Network news."
I immediately called TRN and chatted with Ernie. He and Diane had apparently been instantly attracted and were now Mr. and Mrs. Ernie Baker! Diane had been given a sizable promotion by K-Mart, so they had moved to Nashville and Ernie had gotten a job at TRN.
Working at WRJZ was a kick in the ass, but my favorite memory of all is that I unwittingly played Cupid for the guy who spent years helping listeners solve their problems and find THEIR loves-of-a-lifetime ... good old beloved Ernie The Bartender.
Rest in peace, Mister Baker.
True story. Honest.