As anyone who has worked the content end of radio knows, many interviewees are keenly focused on whatever book, movie or album they want to plug, and they try to mention it as often as possible. As a disc jockey at WOHO(AM), Toledo, Ohio in the early 1970s, I usually tried to subvert this tendency, often to the consternation of my guests.
There existed in our town a notorious topless restaurant known as The Jolly Trolley. The city council hated the place. The zoning department fought it constantly. But a certain desperate, mostly-male contingent of our town found The Jolly Trolly irresistible. Frankly, the thought of naked women grinding against a pole just above the diners was never appealing to me, but judging by the place’s parking lot, business was brisk.
I got a call from the manager of this adult establishment who thought that an on-air interview about his business might be mutually beneficial, and I agreed to it. We’ll call this character “Sid.”
He showed up looking exactly as I expected: middle-aged and overweight with a bad comb-over. Around his neck he sported gaudy jewelry which was visible through his partially-open shirt. But when we got on the air, he was all business, never taking his eye off the prize.
Ken: The city wants to close you down but your restaurant seems to be thriving. What do you think is the main appeal of The Jolly Trolley?
Sid: Ken, I’ll be honest with you. It’s the sandwiches.
Ken: What? People come for the “sandwiches”?
Sid: That’s right. We got a hot pastrami on rye that people just love.
Ken: You would think that all those girls running around with no tops on would have something to do with it.
Sid: Not really. That’s a side issue. Let me tell you about our grilled cheese. Delicious!
This continued for the allotted time and not once would he discuss the naked women. The city finally managed to shut down The Jolly Trolley as a nuisance after several drunken brawls on the premises; one teensy shooting; and numerous citations from city health inspectors, who I guess were not fans of the pastrami.
As I gained experience as an interviewer I got a little bolder and pushed my guests a little more out of their comfort zones, mind you, as politely as possible. While their agendas were centered on promoting a product, mine was compelling radio.
All the Best Parts
Jimmy Dean was a huge star, having recorded a number of hits including “Big Bad John,” “P.T. 109” and many others. In 1969 he turned his attention to his newest venture, Jimmy Dean Pure Pork Sausage. Even those who eschewed food products made of the embarrassing parts of pigs were still forced to see his folksy commercials on TV at all hours.
Someone from Mr. Dean’s office in Nashville had called and told my talk show producer that Jimmy and his entourage would be driving through Toledo on their way to Detroit to promote the sausage, and asked if we would like to interview him. Those were the circumstances that in November of 1972 brought me face to face with a tall man in a cowboy hat who took his place seated across the big desk from me in the WOHO talk studio. Fortunately, I had a piano at hand for just such occasions. Since I recorded our conversation it was an easy matter to transcribe it and obtain these excerpts.
Ken: So I guess you’re going around the country hawking your sausage.
Jimmy Dean (with thick Texas drawl): Hawkin’ my sausage? I don’t know why that sounds dirty but it does. Well I guess you could call it that. It’s in all the stores and that’s just what we want to tell people.
Ken: Well let’s talk about something different.
Jimmy Dean: Either we talk about the sausage or I come across the table and give you a little shot in the chops, you got it kid? (Laughter)
Ken: Let’s talk about the records you make.
Jimmy Dean: I don’t like those. And that’s along with about 90% of the public in the United States. But we just finished a session for Columbia, and the new single is out now.
Ken: What’s the name of it?
Jimmy Dean: It’s called “You Don’t Know What Lonesome Is Until You Start Kissin’ Cows.” It’s an old ballad. (Laughter). Naw, actually it’s called “Your Sweet Love Keeps Me Homeward Bound.”
Ken: Can you remember what your first record was?
Jimmy Dean: That was a police record in Arlington, Va.! (Laughter). The first song was called “Bummin’ Around” and Dean Martin had a hit with it. The second one I wrote was “Release Me,” and I gave that one away to Englebert Humperdinck who did all right with it. But now I have a little TV show from Nashville, and it’s broadcast in all the areas where we sell Jimmy Dean Pure Pork Sausage. That includes the stores in Toledo, Ken.
Ken: You did it again! You snuck in another plug! Well listen, you’re a big-time star, so I’m going to let you play the piano in a second.
Jimmy Dean: I don’t want to play the piano.
Ken: Well, if you play, I’ll let you give another commercial for your crummy sausage.
Jimmy Dean: Now you listen! I’ll tell you the dang truth! It’s the finest quality pork sausage. Most people who make sausage are full-line factories but all we sell is Jimmy Dean Pure Pork Sausage and we use all the best parts. So there! (Sticks tongue out)
Ken: And now you’re going around selling it out of the back of your limousine out there.
Jimmy Dean: Naw… (Laughter)
Ken: Listen, I’m going to audition my latest tune for you. It’s called “Sooner or Later,” a tender love song.
Jimmy Dean: Get over to the piano, kid. Here he is, Ken Deutsch, let ’er rip.
(Ken sings a few bars of a horrible country song)
Jimmy Dean: (after song ends) If you’re a singer, the woods is full of ’em!
Ken: OK, now you get over to the piano and play.
(Jimmy Dean plays a beautiful country ballad written by Merle Haggard called “Someday We’ll Look Back.”) Then he sits back on the piano bench and says “And that’s all now, son.”
Ken: Well listen, I could give you a couple of pointers.
Jimmy Dean: I wish you would, you got one on top of your head! (laughter)
Ken Deutsch looks back on his brief radio career fondly which is more than can be said for his listeners. Buy his books on Amazon!