Saturday, October 24, 2009

KXOK



I mentioned in an earlier post that the universe changed as I was listening to the radio one day in 1964. I was listening to my favorite song, Lena Horne’s Stormy Weather and it was followed by the Beatles version of Twist and Shout. It really felt like we were entering a whole new world.

There were 2 stations in St. Louis in those days, KATZ and KXOK. St. Louis was as racially divided over the air as it was on the ground. KXOK was my connection to God.

I had an old tube radio by my bed and a small transistor with a tinny little earpiece. I don’t know why ear buds sound so much better today.

Childhood was like a movie and KXOK played a sound track of Beatles, Monkees, and Good Vibrations. When I hear Len Barry’s 123 I still slip into a nostalgia delirium.

I was a big Johnny Rabbit fan. He had a sidekick named Bruno J. Grunion.

If you are familiar with The Paul Winchell/Jerry Mahoney show or even the later Pee Wee Herman show you’ll understand the effect Bruno J. had on kids in St. Louis.

Johnny Rabbit had been stationed with Elvis in Germany and everything about that era in radio was totally magic to me.

From what I can remember Bruno was the manager of a band called The Aardvarks. I loved these guys. They even opened for The Beatles at Busch Stadium.

We were living in Laclede Town at the time just a few blocks from there. My mother later told me she wouldn’t even consider going because ticket scalpers wanted $20.00.

The event is famous in St. Louis history because a hundred bands played before The Beatles arrived. It rained the whole time. When The Beatles finally got on stage their set lasted 18 minutes. No one could hear anything of course.

Later, as a young man, I would get to know Ron Elz (Johnny Rabbit), Chuck Connors (Bruno J. Grunion) and Mike Newman (Guitarist for The Aardvarks). I thought I knew all the really important personalities in St. Louis. Eventually I learned none of these guys were the people I idolized as a child. One step removed from greatness.

All three of these guys are great in their own ways. Chuck is a saint and I’ll definitely do blog about him and his restaurant The Other Mother.

The Johnny Rabbit and Bruno J. Grunion of my childhood were both Don Pietromonaco and Mike was too young to have been in Aardvarks yet. I have had a few adventures with Mike and his ex, Gail.

I remember driving around with my mother in 1970. We were listening to the top 100 count down from the sixties on KXOK. When it got to number one it was Hey Jude. We sang along. We always sang along to the radio.

My mother’s favorite pastime was driving us around as she dreamed of living in one of the pretty little houses in one of the nice little neighborhoods we’d visit.

By the end of the sixties culturally conscious kids outgrew the commercialism of the AM stations and moved on to KSHE and WESL or MAJIC 108.

Even by then St. Louis was segregated on the air waves (still is). Some of the white kids were lucky enough to know what was going on in the other camp.

I’ll never forget listening to WESL (East St. Louis) in my first apartment with my brother and Tony Patti.

WESL’s DJ “Dr. Jockenstein” ranted over every record he played. It made great radio. Most of it was Funkadelic.

We learned George Clinton himself gave Jockenstein his name and the title cut from Mothership Connection was based on his show.

Years later I was tending bar at the Broadway Oyster Bar. Jockenstein came in, jumped up on the stage, got the band to jam on a riff and did a spectacular Old School Hip Hop routine. He was pure Hollywood, sleazy lounge and sunglasses. What a show!

The Frank O. Pinion show has been talking about KXOK all week. I’m not really much of a fan of the show but Frank seems to have the same nostalgia for the station that I do. I had forgotten what Bruno J. Grunion really sounded like. I think kids are too sophisticated for that kind of radio today. I think the whole world grew up the same time The Beatles did.

Check out this link.

http://www.myspace.com/johnnyrabbitt

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

i remember looking in the window at the d.j. at the old building they had on West Pine(right around the corner from an apartment you had at one time). aren't they on the air anymore? What do you rmember about KDNA? i know they were the forerunner to the commercial rock stations in St. Louis and the were on Olive, but i dont remember much more about them, i'm sure you do... Geo

Doggie said...

KXOK has been gone for years. KDNA (note DNA) finally came back as KDHX. DHX stands for double helix as in the gene strand. Or the infinity sign if you like.

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Anonymous said...

Just to correct some things....The Aardvarks did not open for The Beatles, that was my band, The Aerovons (www.aerovons.com). Chuck Conners managed the Aardvarks, and though he did do a great imitation of "Bruno," the voice of Bruno was actually done by Johnny Rabbit himself, when you heard them speak at the same time on the radio Bruno was on tape. This is why Bruno never appeared live with Johnny...he always had a "last minute emergency" even when he was scheduled to show. Chuck passed away last night (Feb 2011).

He was a great guy, funny guy, and I learned a lot from him when I was putting my own band together as a kid.

thanks
Tom Hartman

DT said...

The Aerovons did not open for the Beatles. That was the DelRays and Mike Newman was in the Aardvarks.

Unknown said...

Yes absolutely right, it was late and I was remembering The Aerovons playing at Busch Stadium which we did in 67;) Aerovons did not open for The Beatles...Aerovons were just being formed when The Beatles played there. Thanks for straightening that out;)

Unknown said...

Yes absolutely right, it was late and I was remembering The Aerovons playing at Busch Stadium which we did in 67;) Aerovons did not open for The Beatles...Aerovons were just being formed when The Beatles played there. Thanks for straightening that out;)

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Anonymous said...

Chuck C was NOT Bruno J Grunion....just to be accurate.

oceantracks said...

Ha correct....conners was many things but not Bruno