Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Doctor and the Emperor

I know I bemoan this a lot, but I really miss the days when radio was fun. Recently I did a post on Bob Crane. Morning radio especially was the playground for wildly creative and funny entertainers. Some of my earliest comic influences were disc jockeys – Dick Whittington, Robert W. Morgan, Bob & Ray, Lohman & Barkley, Dan Ingram, Gary Burbank, Don McKinnon, Larry Lujack, Gary Owens, Dale Dorman, and the two gentlemen I’m highlighting today – Dr. Don Rose and Emperor Bob Hudson.

These two jocks could not have been more different in style, approach, delivery, and content.

Dr. Don ruled mornings for years in the ‘70s and ‘80s at KFRC, San Francisco and his show was organized chaos. Highly produced with sound effects, wild tracks, kazoos, and a constant barrage of the worst jokes EVER. And yet, by sheer volume, and his presence, which was so upbeat and infectious, you found yourself laughing. Ironically, he himself battled numerous serious health issues. In the video I’m showing you’ll notice crutches off to the side. But despite the darkness and pain he continually experienced, if anyone ever had the gift of lifting other peoples’ moods it was the good doctor.

In contrast, Emperor Bob Hudson was your strange uncle who always seemed hungover and couldn’t wait to bolt from Thanksgiving dinner. Emperor Hudson toiled (and that is the right word) in the morning at a variety of Los Angeles stations in the ‘60s – KRLA, KBLA, and KFWB. He was the W.C. Fields of Top Forty radio. 

Unlike, Dr. Don, Hudson’s show was completely off-the-cuff. Nothing was ever prepared. But that was the beauty of it. He could spin amazing imagery and nonsense right off the top of his head. Along the way would come hilarious sarcastic or outrageous remarks. You never knew what he was going to say or do next because he didn’t. In many ways, it was word jazz. (Bob later teamed with fellow D.J. Rob Landry to become the comedy team of Hudson & Landry that enjoyed some success on TV, clubs, and records.)

The one thing the Dr. and the Emperor had in common however, was their ability to really create a world of imagination on the air. Sadly, that appears to be a lost art.

I’m going to show you samples of their brilliance along with behind-the-scenes profiles. Both were made as student films. Both were extremely well done. Oh, the one about Emperor Hudson – that was George Lucas’ student film at USC. Yes, that George Lucas.

Enjoy a couple of true comic artists.



24 comments:

Bill Avena said...

Hudson's voice is excerpted a couple times on the UK Rainbow Ffolly lp from 1968. Que Vida!

Peter said...

I wonder when George Lucas will bring out a special edition of his Hudson film with new scenes, CGI backgrounds and a shot of Jabba the Hut digitally inserted into the radio studio.

Anyone know who the hot blonde was that appears at the start of The Emperor film?

Mike Barer said...

I got to meet the Emperor Hudson. He worked briefly at a Seattle station called KKMI in the mid-80s. I had a gig as a board op on Saturday nights. KKMI was an MOR station that was formerly Pat O'Day's KYYX. O'Day had the morning shift and Hudson was PM drive. My friend Garry O'Day, was Hudson's producer.

Stoney said...

Never got to hear either on live air but I know Dr. Don from aircheck tapes; certainly a great talent. Emperor Hudson I know from the Hudson & Landry records. (Before I left the first station I worked at, I snatched up the 45 of "Ajax Liquor Store / Hippie and the Redneck" that they played years earlier.) But my favorite is "I'm Normal", a variation he did on the classic "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Ha"

https://youtu.be/B1bnJXuwDT8

Mark Fearing said...

Great short films on the subject mater but also because of the only slightly filtered window they open on that era. Unintentional time capsules.

Andrew said...

The TuneIn radio app has KFRC as one of its channels. Anytime it rebroadcasts one of the Dr Don shows, I know I'm in for a good show. Well worth checking out that app or the website if you're into Oldies or just old DJs.

Mister Charlie said...

I do recall the first morning my alarm clock went off and Dr Don was doing his first show. WTF WAS THIS???? As corny and lame and punny as he was he wa a force of nature and easy to listen to in the morning, and in spite of all his accidents and health issues he never let up. Crazy show. Seems like a calmer dude in real life. Thanks for the film!

blinky said...

I shot a commercial with Don Rose for a Ford dealership in San Jose in the 90's. He had a bad limp but was a totally cool guy. Very professional and cooperative.
I don't do TV spots anymore. My days in purgatory are over! Praise Farnsworth!

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Magic happened on Saturday mornings in L.A. when the Emperor reluctantly worked his 6th day of the week on the air...and spent some of the time just reading aloud the newspaper funnies. Wonderful radio entertainer...

tim said...

When Dr. Don showed up at WFIL in Philadelphia, I wondered how such a cornball was going to work on tight, highly-produced, "forward momentum" Famous 56. His record there speaks for itself and for the genius he employed to meld his schtick with that format. You couldn't help but like him even when your were clearly too hip to listen to him.

Doing a call-back to Bob Crane, his ill-fated replacement - Rege Cordic - did the best morning radio show I got to follow over a long time period. Cordic and Company was a Pittsburgh institution on KDKA. Highly produced skits mixed with Rege's spontaneous humor dominated morning radio. My Dad talked about laughing at Cordic on the car radio and looking around the intersection to see every other driver laughing as well.

The standard take on his short initial stint in LA was that idiosynchratic Pittsburgh humor could not translate. There may be some truth to that. However, Westinghouse Broadcasting would not release Cordic from his contract, which led to a long delay between Bob Crane's departure and Rege Cordic's arrival. I don't know if his ratings performance made any difference in the station's decision to change format. In any case, Rege did just fine, thank you, with voice-overs, TV & film acting and some additional radio work. As Louie the Garbageman might have said, "You dog-goned right, Mr. Cordingcompany!"

H Johnson said...

Thanks for this post. I enjoy your your focus on 60s, 70s radio. Gone forever but certainly not forgotten. I try to convey how great radio used to be to my kids, but I suppose you had to be there. Lucky us for sure.

Lucas has always had a soft spot for radio. His resurrection of Wolfman Jack for American Graffiti was testimony to that as well.

Aloha

Anonymous said...

Best jock ever for creating an alternative universe - The Greaseman.
Absolute brilliance. So many great characters.
Problem is he'd go off and say something politically incorrect and get suspended.
Happened once too often.

Only in America said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Victor Velasco said...

Dr. Don was great! "...I was driving down 101, saw an absolutely gorgeous gal, so, I gave her the eye, she gave me the eye, I hit my horn, she honked hers and that's how it was all down the road: an eye for an eye and a toot for a toot!" (That's RIIIIIGHT!!)

Rands said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Long before Don Rose, Emperor Hudson, Robert W. Morgan, et al, there was Jim Hawthorne on KXLA, the station that became KRLA. At the time, KXLA was a country and western music station (in those days it C&W) and "Hawthorne" did a late night (I think 11pm to 1am) show that was a "zany as anything that followed - multiple voices, a "Hogan Twanger", Egbert played records, and the wildest contests that would rival kHJ's "Big Cahuna". This was in 1947-48 when I lived here. Went back to S.F. in '48, so don't know how long the show lasted. But I do know Hawthorne had a late night show in KNXT at one time. I know he was not on when Jack Kent Cooke bought (stole it from then owner, Loyal King) KXLA and turned it into KRLA.

D. McEwan said...

I had the pleasure of working twice at radio stations where the Emperor worked, so I knew him a bit, not well, but well enough to talk to on a first name basis, and to sit in a few times on his broadcasts. He was brilliant and hilarious, and in person, a bit scary. His was "Dangerous Comedy." I've still got the Hudson & Landry album in vinyl on a shelf, even if I no longer have a way of playing it.

Mitch said...

Hawthorne was the original wild, wacky radio (and later TV) host. Also, he had a long career in L.A. and a few other markets, including Hawaii. Some of his early L.A. radio material can be heard on the web. Steve Allen called him a "West Coast Kovacs," but really, there was no one like him.

Oliver said...

A Friday question: What do you think about comedies being ordered straight-to-series, skipping the pilot process?

Jay Walker said...

Back in the 60's and 70's when radio was good, it was great. There was real magic in the air at some of those stations and it showed in every time slot. Those of us who live that era are very fortunate, as I don't think we'll ever see that "magic" again. Part of the magic about these talents, they were able to setup the bit and deliver the punchline in 20 seconds or less. As I always told new talent, "my kids can be funny in three minutes but only "The Gods" can do it over a record intro"...

SBell in San Mateo said...

A pioneer of this DJ style in the '50's was Al "Jazzbeaux" Collins, who verbally created the "Purple Grotto," a make-believe purple-colored cave, on the late-nite airwaves of WNEW in New York City (later KSFO, KCSM in San Francisco). He would describe stalagmites, purple-calibrated candles, Harrison the Long-Tailed Purple Tasmanian Owl, while spinning jazz records. He started every show with Count Basie's "Blues in Hoss Flat," the number that Jerry Lewis turned into a pantomime routine. Jazzbeaux was a classic radio personality, and he continued to broadcast in character until his death in 1997.

Jake Mabe said...

Ken: I know you didn't get this in L.A., but did you ever take the time to look into airchecks from Jean's Shepherd's truly one-of-a-kind WOR-AM (and FM for the 5 people who had it) nightly show from the late '50s to 1977? Many of them exist at Archive.org and on the fantastic fan site Flick Lives. It's not the crazy AM jock or Wolfman Jack thing with wild stuff and then some music, but the way he spends stories is hypnotic and funny as hell. He plays kazoos and the jews harp, comments on the commercials as they play, and riffs on stuff like a monologist. He inspired Garrison Keillor and Harry Shearer and some others. He wrote a funny book called "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash." Sadly, he's best remembered as the co-writer/narrator of "A Christmas Story" (the 24-hour TNT marathon movie at the holidays) now.

Jake Mabe said...

That should be Jean Shepherd...

Blair Ivey said...

Dr. Don video:I was more interested in the shots of the engineer working than the DJ. That dude had it going ON!