I spent six years of my fifty years in radio at WRON, my home town
station. I guess the highlight of my years there occurred during the 1960
Democratic primary when I met Jack Kennedy. The Venables were ardent
democrats and owning a radio station was opportunity for an inside track
to the candidates. Jim offered the his services to Kennedy in his primary
battle with Hubert Humphrey. He arranged to have JFK be interviewed on
WRON. A coup for a small-town radio station and free publicity for
Kennedy. When the Kennedy limousine pulled up in front of the studios in
Fairlea a crowd of citizens had gathered. When JFK emerged, looking
boyishly handsome, tousled hair and all, the crowd cheered. He smiled and
waved at them.
Then Kennedy and his entourage came inside. A curtain seemed to have
dropped over Kennedy's face. He looked grim and unsmiling. Teddy was with
him, a rumpled-looking teenager. The big city media encircled him, as if
protecting him from the yokels. They were the usual cosmopolitan lot, oily
with toupees slipping over foreheads. Jim Venable was a democrat and
obviously supportive of Kennedy. But he was a fair-minded person. He
selected one of his Republican friends to interview Kennedy. Ed White was
a cool and intelligent retiree who wrote an excellent column for the
Charleston Gazette. I was the announcer who introduced Kennedy and Ed. I
quickly got a dose of political medicine. Kennedy became flustered when Ed
wouldn't let him stick to his rehearsed formula. He grew more and more
annoyed and abruptly canceled the interview, storming out of the studio
saying he had another appointment.
I never met Franklin Roosevelt Jr. who was Kennedy's hatchet man for the
campaign. While JFK stayed on the "high road," Roosevelt played gutter
politics. For instance, he inferred that H. H. was a draft-dodger because he
was never in the service, while extolling JFK's military experience (which
largely consisted of allowing his boat to be overrun by a Japanese
carrier). I understand that after the campaign Eleanor Roosevelt made her
son apologize to Humphrey.
The 1960 West Virginia Democratic Primary figured hugely in Theodore
White's excellent series of books THE MAKING OF THE PRESIDENT.
Another thing that happened to me while at WRON was false hope that I
might make it as a songwriter. I wrote lyrics for a song that was set to
music by Lee Erwin, who was the music arranger for Arthur Godfrey's
television show. Do you remember Godfrey? At the time he had more TV
exposure than any other entertainment. One of his musical discoveries was
an 18-year old named Johnny Nash. Nash sounded a lot like Johnny Mathis,
but his voice had more clarity. He sang my song on Godfrey's TV show at
least three times. Godfrey had sheet music of it published by his Camelot
imprint. But despite the publicity gained by such exposure, the song was
never picked up commercially. Steve Allen had warned me that songwriting
was a lost cause for beginners.
So when I left WRON in 1962, hoping to find greener pastures, I left some
good memories behind despite the disappointments.