Uncle Ernie's Go-Go Daze

Prolog page 1

If I'm lying, I'm dying! ... Wolfman Jack

College was becoming a drag, on my mind and my soul. As a Political Science major there was no escaping the truth. Of course, I had known the truth long before I entered those hallowed halls. It was after all the sixty's and politics was always at the forefront of practically everything that was going on. The country; in rare form, had just elected "The Trick" to the presidency. Lyndon Baines had just realized the truth, Duh, about what Ike had said about a Military-Industrial Complex. In fact, he had developed one of his own. It was beginning to look like no one was going to remember him as a creature of John Kennedy's social programs, but for starting and expanding a war. He had given up a land slide reelection in order to go cry in his beer about his loss of soul, and had given the reins of power, to a mad man.

So with all of this going down, the "Golden Rule" of politics had forced its way into the forefront of my mind, "He, who has the Gold, makes the Rules." The only thing that had gotten me this far was my love of music. It had dawned on me long ago that I was never going to be the Rock and Roll guitar legend that I had dreamed of being. Even though I had practiced day and night for fifteen years I was going nowhere. Music is something I take very seriously so if I couldn't produce the music myself what was left? Well if I couldn't actually play it, I could play it, on the radio.

With this in mind, I left the campus and started looking for another school. In the Detroit area there were several to chose from and I settled on a likely looking prospect. The school was called "The Institute of Broadcast Arts" and was located at a local station WEXL/WOMC. The course was three nights a week over seven months, taught by an experienced DJ who was currently working at the station. In addition we were regularly lectured by national announcers from both radio and TV. So in January 1969 I began my career as a DJ.

My class consists of about as broad a spectrum of people as is humanly possible. They are all ages, sex's, and political leanings. I begin by learning how to breathe correctly, so as to facilitate reading commercials and the news. We also practice the English language, to lose our street slang. Our instructor is about five years older than me and is trying very hard to seem much older, for most of our group are in their late thirties and early forties.

After a while we begin to do actual DJ work at the station. We rip and read the news off the wire service. We do the PSA spots and the occasional advertisement. As we are going to school at the number one country station north of Nashville, there is little they will let us do on the air. They do have another station in central Michigan, where we can work on the weekends, and we soon begin the long drives to get air-time experience.

By now we've broken into groups and my group is the serious group with the desire, ability, and style that will land all of us jobs in the industry. The group consists of Jim, a twenty-four year -old Detroit policeman who desperately wants to be anything but a policeman. Joyce, a twenty-six year-old ER nurse who has seen even more blood and guts than Jim and is equally driven to change jobs and Bill who was born to be a DJ and is about twenty-two. And myself, a frustrated guitarist age twenty. We make up the black sheep segment of the class and are treated as such. We start hanging out together after class and frequent a Police bar where I can be served without the proper ID. At the time I had no idea what Jim had been complaining about, but he offered to show us one night.

Prolog page 2

Jim is working the graveyard shift and Bill and I meet him at his precinct after class one night, to go for a ride. Jim had been on the Commissioners scooter patrol but had recently been promoted to a squad car. Jim brings the car around and Bill and I get into the back seat for our eye-opening ride.

Off we go into the Detroit night, one warm spring evening. Jim's area of patrol is in some of the meaner neighborhoods, places that Bill and I; being suburban white boys, have never seen by night. It's been barely a year since the King riots and less than two years since the major riots of 1967. Three white boys in a police cruiser aren't going to be very popular in this neighborhood. Be that as it may, off we go into the night.

The evening is quiet as we begin patrol but soon things begin to happen. Our first stop is at a house where a stolen car has been driven into someone's living room. By the time we arrive on the scene there is another squad car already there. The car thief is long since gone, having stolen what he came for. Jim says the guy probably was after the heroin that Jim assures us was in the house, as it's well known in the precinct as a dope house. We leave the other squad car to take care of business and head back off on patrol.

We don't have long to wait as we turn a corner and see a woman hanging on to a light pole. We assume that she's a drunken prostitute. However upon closer inspection we find that she's a drunken prostitute that's been shot in the head! She was hit in the forehead by a 22 but the bullet didn't penetrate her skull. Instead, it has traveled under her skin around the back of the skull and is almost protruding near where it went in. She's one lucky camper and Jim tells her so as he calls for an ambulance. I've seen worse and I know Jim has too but it's Bill first shooting and he is turning as green as the suit he's wearing. We begin a series of bad jokes for Bills amusement but he doesn't seem to appreciate them.

After the ambulance leaves we head over to a local Coney island for lunch but Bill seems to have lost his appetite. Oh well, Jim and I dig in and after Bill excuses himself to go throw up in the bathroom, we decide to drop Bill off back at the precinct, as he looks ashen and weak. As we near the precinct and pass under a railroad bridge a large chunk of cement bounces off the roof of the cruiser missing the windshield by inches. Jim slams on the brakes and leaps out of the cruiser drawing his revolver. However he soon gets back in, saying it was a couple of kids that were running away. If he'd shot them he explains, he'd have to fill out paper work for hours on in. As he has a pile awaiting him now from the shooting and the car crash, he's decided to let it slide.

I decide that I've seen enough as well, so when he drops Bill off I leave with him. We tell him thanks for the ride and we'll see him later. As Jim goes in I give Bill a ride back to his car and then head on home.

Joyce upon hearing of our adventures invites us into the ER but we decline her offer. She however takes Jim up on a ride in his squad car and we wish her well.

Our graduation is fast approaching and it's Bills and my turn to go run the little station in Michigan's thumb area. We have two weekends at this station, WMIC, before getting our diplomas and we set off one sunny Saturday morning to fulfill this obligation. The station is located in a little town but they're no longer broadcasting from the studio. In order to save money they're broadcasting from the transmitter point. This is inside the little shack sitting next to the antenna in a field full of cows and one very angry bull!

Prolog page 3

Our first problem is getting inside the building, past the bull. We pull as close to the building as the fence will allow and after hoping the fence, make a mad dash for the door. Joyce is currently on the air doing her shift and we check out the building, while we wait our turn. Not much to see really. On the outside of the booth are the transmitters and we check these out. As were doing so someone else enters and introduces himself as the station manager.

He gives us our assignments and after wishing us luck, he leaves. I get the first two hours in two different shows. My first hour is the oldies hour, Oh boy. At least that's what I think until I find out that their idea of oldies is from 1924-1947. I can hardly wait. My second hour is the polka party. Bill is laughing out loud until he sees his programs. He gets the second hour of the polka party and an hour playing forties country and western.

As we've seen half the building we go inside the studio to check out the equipment and bug Joyce. The first thing I notice is the sound insulation on the walls is made from real egg cartons. Hardly what we're are used to. Oh well, whatever works.

Joyce's shift soon ends and I get my first shot on the air doing the "Oldies Hour." I'm surprised at how much I didn't know I knew about the music. In fact I'm amazed by how easy it is and the hour just flies by. However I know next to nothing about polkas. I'm even more amazed, while as I'm playing the music, I ask my listeners to explain some things to me and I get swamped by phone calls. People are actually listening to this stuff.

As my shift begins to end Jim enters having drawn the shift after Bill and I make my only mistake. We welcome him into the both with several choice dirty words and I notice as soon as they spring from my lips that the microphone switch has been left on. Duh. I haven't even gotten my FCC license yet and if any one has heard our conversation it looks like I won't be receiving it. This is long before Howard Stern hits the airwaves and the FCC has a reputation of being a bit insane over improper language. Fortunately no one caught our little mistake and Bill soon takes his turn. When he is finished we head back to Detroit feeling that nothing can stop us now.

We've just one thing to do before graduation. That's taking the FCC test for a third class license with special endorsement and we spend our remaining time studying for the test. We all go down together including our instructor, and take the test. Everyone passes and gets their licenses. I spend the final weeks of class making PSA announcements, doing early morning news and weather and making tapes for the automated FM station.

We all graduate and start sending out our resumes to the stations supplied to us by the school. The first thing I notice is that the pay is unbelievably bad. We've been lectured by people making a hundred grand and more from their stations. Most of what is available isn't enough to live on. However I will continue to send out tapes and resumes for the next few months getting a few offers but still not paying enough to live on.

I don't remember who told me to check out Go-Go bars but someone did and I do. Topless dancing in a bar is something that is new. They've had burlesque in Detroit forever but this 'California Au-Go-Go' is brand new. I make the rounds and notice you pretty much have to have your own equipment to work, so off I go and buy some and put it together. All I need now is a job.

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