And so our story begins

“It’s cold out here. I’ve knocked on this door a couple of times.
I sure hope they remember today is the day.”

That’s what I remember thinking early on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 18, 1975 — the day I did the first real interview of my journalism career.

I’d pitched a story for my school paper — then called the D.C. Jet — on seeing what it was like to be the morning DJ at our local FM rock station in Wausau, Wisconsin, the one almost everyone listened to.

When I called Bruce Charles to ask whether I could do so, he said sure — but I had to be there at 5:30 a.m. So there I was, knocking on the back door of the studios WIFC shared with WSAU-TV and WSAU-AM.

wifc275aI spent the 6-to-10-a.m. shift with Bruce. He joked on-air that we had wine and were kicking back. He took calls and played 45s. We chatted during songs. I got a little air time.

The photographer from my school paper came by. That’s Bruce showing me David Bowie’s live album for no apparent reason. Both of us are making fashion statements of some kind, but we’ll leave that for cultural historians to deconstruct.

I wrote the story. I still have it. But it’s hardly the end of the story.

I always wondered what became of Bruce Charles. Until last August.

That’s when a certain quarterback unretired and was traded to New York. Big news in Green Bay, of course, so we asked our readers to share their thoughts. It was my job to sort through the hundreds of e-mails and choose some to be published.

As I went through them, I came across one from a gent whose name I immediately recognized. So I e-mailed back: “I knew a Bruce Heikkinen who worked at WIFC radio in Wausau in the mid-70s. Is that you?”

The next day, I heard back: “Rock n roll! … yes!!!”

It was Bruce Charles. We exchanged some more e-mails and we eventually chatted on the phone. A follow-up interview, 33 years later. That it was with the subject of my first real, out-in-the-world interview made it all the more special.

Way back when, I wrote in the D.C. Jet that we played stuff from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Ringo Starr, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and the Four Tops on Tuesday morning, Feb. 18, 1975.

We might have played the following tunes that morning. They were on the charts at the time. You wouldn’t hear them together today, though. Rock stations wouldn’t play one. Urban stations wouldn’t play the other. What a blessing it was to grow up in a time when the radio exposed you to all kinds of music.

ohioplayersfirelp

“Fire,” Ohio Players from “Fire,” 1975.

btobestofsofarlp

“Roll On Down The Highway,” Bachman-Turner Overdrive, from “Best of B.T.O. (So Far),” 1976. It’s out of print. This tune first appeared on “Not Fragile,” 1974. It’s also available on “20th Century Masters: The Best of Bachman-Turner Overdrive,” a 2000 CD compilation.

Our story continues later this week. (Sorry, this is Wisconsin. I have to go out and shovel instead of blogging.)

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6 Comments

Filed under February 2009, Sounds

6 responses to “And so our story begins

  1. bamabob

    Fiiiire! Awesome tune…had not thought about the Ohio Players in a long time. Thanks for reminding me of them.

    I think that is the best part of your blog for me, reminding me of some of the great bands that I have not heard for decades!!! Thanks!

  2. Great story Jeff, and may I say that was some haircut!

  3. Shark

    At the time, you must’ve thought that Bruce Charles was the coolest guy in Wausau.

    It looks like he was about 25, single, and living the good life for about $18o a week.

    That’s what was so great about radio in the mid-70s…it was the journey that was its own great reward.

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  6. dean lester

    if charles told you he was making 180 dollars in 1975…he lied…i didn’t make that much…and i worked at the same place

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