Tuesday, April 13, 2021

New meaning to the expression "dead air"

There’s a recent article that says that Rush Limbaugh’s syndicator is going to keep his voice on his radio show even though he passed away (happily not until learning that Biden is now president).  That may sound a little ghoulish to keep his voice on the air, but at least they’re acknowledging he’s dead.

Back when XM and Sirius were two competing satellite radio providers (i.e.. the good old days), XM had Wolfman Jack shows they were playing nightly.  You’d think they were live because they included phone calls.  And I don’t recall any disclaimer explaining that Wolfman Jack had long since shuttled his mortal coil.  

But the weirdest one I can remember started in the ‘60s.  

There was literally a ma and pap radio station called KCHJ 1010 in Delano, California.  Carl & Jean Johns owned the station.  Carl had done a ton of voice tracks for the morning show including weather reports, intros to songs, good morning wishes for Monday and Thursday and Easter, whatever.  

He died in a car accident in 1968 and  they kept playing his voice tracks in the morning.  His loyal audience never knew he was dead.  This went on until 1991 when Jean sold the station.   It’s a good thing they didn’t bill themselves as “the new music station.”  But how weird is that? 

27 comments :

Anonymous said...

Sirius plays Top 40 by Casey Kasem every week.

Rick Lewis said...

It's even weirder than that. Charles H. Johnes (hence KCHJ) died on March 31, 1968, after doing some maintenance at the station, where he was also the engineer.
On many of his recorded programs, he urged people to pull over when they felt sleepy rather than continue driving. It was creepy to hear these injunctions later and realize that Johnes died because he didn't heed his own advice and wrapped his car around a tree.
Also, for the radio geeks reading your blog, what happened at the station after his death makes an interesting story.
For more than two months, KCHJ, whose broadcast day normally ended at 1 a.m., became a "daytimer", signing off at local sunset.
On the day of the crash, the station was off the air.
Normally Johnes' recorded shows had been heard several times throughout the day, but instead, for the two months after his death, the transmitter would be turned off at a show's scheduled time.
If you liked "Stardust Time" from 5 to 7 p.m., for example, no chance of hearing it because the station was off. It would magically return at 7.
Around June 1968, KCHJ resumed its normal schedule.
In later years the station became less dependent on the programming of its deceased owner, but Jeanne Johnes kept "Stardust Time" on the air as a memorial.
It wasn't a great memorial. The shows, taped in 1957, didn't age well, and outdated information was just spliced away, turning recorded programs into an audio hodgepodge.
There were only about seven shows each for his scheduled programs, and although most were replaced, Jeanne couldn't part with his on-air presence altogether.

Mike Barer said...

KZOK in Seattle continued to play "bumpers" after their production voice, my WSU classmate Beau Roberts passed away.

Sammy B said...

Sirius still plays Tom Petty's Buried Treasure show. I like it, but I appreciate it's different since there's no call-ins or whatever. Just re-airing it. Not that different than watching a movie/tv show with an actor who has passed away.

Kosmo13 said...

...and Tom Petty still hosts shows on Sirius XM.

Anonymous said...

Don’t be nervous

Don’t be rocky

You’re our teenage

Guest disc jockey now

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJ1Kb4fb_G4

Todd Everett said...

Sirius/XM played “Car Talk” reruns practically 24/7 on their second-line PBS station seemingly forever until they got other programming in place. And Tom had died in 2014.

Steve Bailey said...

This is not quite in the same vein, but a local radio station advertised itself as "The NEW 96.9" for about three years.

PugetSoundMedia said...

"WARM" 106.9 KRWM Seattle has billed themselves as "The NEW *WARM* 106.9" since going on the air in 1992. Talk about false advertising.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Since it has been almost two years since I've seen you in person how do I know that you're not dead and these aren't "Ghost" blogs? 👻😉

M.B.

DBenson said...

Keeping Limbaugh on the air is pretty sharp when you think about it. His name is still a huge brand, there's no serious danger of new personal scandals (If anything comes up, cue outrage at speaking ill of the dead), and powers behind the curtain can pick and choose to keep the show on the expedient side of any current issue. In fact, watch for Limbaugh's estate to sell endorsements on his behalf, political and/or commercial.

Dead heroes are a lot more exploitable than live ones. Right wingers and even racists like to pretend that Martin Luther King would have endorsed this or that snake oil. Sirhan Sirhan, arguing for release from prison, famously said Robert Kennedy would have released him. And the rationalizations that Jesus would have condoned or endorsed specific sins probably began with the first Easter.

The unreliable Trump would be infinitely more useful to the right if he were dead and professionals could craft What He Would Have Said, drawing on precisely edited quotes and convenient "recollections" by hangers-on. If I were Trump I'd be a lot more careful about throwing people under the bus just now.

Anonymous said...

Even when the Wolfman was alive, before we saw him in AMERICAN GRAFFITTI and on THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, when he was booming out of Mexico and heading for everything between San Diego and Point Barrow, I was never sure if he was live or it was some ancient tape. There was no news, no weather, no time, no reference to the real world to date the program. Add the his unholy voice on AM radio and there was an unreal quality to his shows.

And PugetSoundMedia: I misread your comment at first. I thought you were criticizing a Seattle station for calling itself WARM. It's sort of like KOOL in Phoenix and KOLD in Tucson.

-30-

Cap'n Bob said...

I thought mortal coils were shuffled off.

Roger Owen Green said...

The thing that weirds me out is that series of Jimmy Dean sausage commercials, with Jimmy Dean's voice. He died in 2010. And apparently, it's NOT a voice actor impersonating him.
https://www.kare11.com/article/news/nation-world/verify-is-jimmy-deans-real-voice-used-in-new-commercials/507-619038867

Justin said...

Ken, what do you think of LeVar Burton for Jeopardy?
https://www.slashfilm.com/levar-burton-wants-to-host-jeopardy/

Liggie said...

The Mariners still use the late Dave Niehaus' "My Oh My!" on the intros and outros for their radio broadcasts.

YEKIMI said...

And as an added bonus for Premiere Networks is that they no longer have to pay him. What radio execs everywhere would really like to do to all their employees, living or dead. {But I'm sure they're probably having to cough up a slight amount of money to his estate.]

Anonymous said...


Cap'n Bob4/13/2021 1:21 PM
“I thought mortal coils were shuffled off”

1. They are, and combined with the
lake effect snow, they’ve made
Buffalo unlivable
2. More unlivable
3. Speaking of ghost hosts, KFC should’ve
switched to a permanent non-celeb
anonymous impersonator before the
real Colonel kicked their bucket

Barry Traylor said...

I never listened to Limburger alive so I doubt I will listen to him dead. Other than the fact I am very happy he is dead. :-)

Brian said...

"Good ol' Carl. He plays the hits, but he doesn't know SQUAT about the weather!"

Brian said...

Yul Brynner used his death to make this rather effective commercial:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNjunlWUJJI

Also, while I cannot find it on YouTube, the drummer Gene Krupa did a TV Commercial for a Big Band record compilation in 1972 or 1973. He died in 1973 (on my 10th birthday!) but the ad kept running, in a slightly altered version. They put up a graphic under saying "April 5, 1973", or some date like that to show the filming of the ad.

Fortunately, there was no voice-over afterwards saying, "Order "The Great Big Bands" today. Gene would have liked that."

71dude said...

Larry King is still hawking prostate pills on some cable channel every morning.

Kosmo13 said...

"Jack Horkheimer-- Star Hustler" was still using Big Wilson's spoken intro long after Big Wilson had gone to that great planetarium in the sky.

Mike Doran said...

What follows is a True Story - and it happened on a daytime soap:

A few years back, NBC had a soap called Passions, which is fondly remembered (sort of) as the weirdest daily show of its kind (weirder even than Dark Shadows - and that's saying something ...).

Anyway, one character was Alistair Crane, the main villain, who was played by an actor named David Bailey, who was a late addition to the cast, and had become popular with the viewers for the sheer ferocity of his playing.

So at the end of a calendar year, the Passions producers decided to do marathon tapings in order to give cast and crew an extended Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year's vacation.

When Passions shut down for the holidays, they had about seven or eight weeks worth of daily episodes in the bank (the usual lead time on a daily hour-long soap is about two to three weeks).

On Thanksgiving Day, David Bailey died of a sudden heart attack - with appoximately 40+ shows yet to be aired, in which his character figured quite prominently.

Actually, it's even stranger than that: Alistair Crane (Bailey's character) was the target of a murder attempt early on - which he survived, and spent the latter part of the banked episodes threatening the other characters: "You'll never kill ME!!!", or words to that effect.

NBC had several ways that they could have gone, but ultimately they went with the path of least resistance: they ran the Bailey episodes as taped, in order - which meant that David Bailey, who died on Thanksgiving Day, continued to appear on new Passions episodes well into the following year.

When production resumed in January, the role of Alistair was recast, and Life Went On (so to speak).

OK, maybe it's not quite the same thing, but the principle is the same ... I think ...

ninja3000 said...

Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard died in 2010, but he continued to "announce" every Derek Jeter at-bat for years afterward.

charlie said...

I agree with your analysis 100 percent. I'm the only one of my friends who wasn't enamored with Seinfeld. I only watched a few times and didn't like it precisely because all the characters were so mean and mean to each other. Why would I want to watch that?

Janet said...

Casey and Scott Shannon's respective Top 40 shows also play on various terrestrial stations, as well.

However, I'm pretty sure that they include a tag that any given broadcast reflects the top 40 of such-and-such week of so-and-so year.

It's definitely nostalgia; they aren't trying to fool anyone into thinking those are the current hits.

Sometimes I just wish they were....