Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bob Turley R.I.P

My O-RIG-I-NAL hero, mentor, what have you, was Charleston, West Virginia disc jockey Bob Turley who died yesterday. I learned of this the same day from a comment posted to this blog in response to an entry of a few months ago. The email read as follows:

"I was "googling" Bob Turley's name when I ran across this piece. I have listened to the old stories of his early days in radio. What a character! Bob Turley died today at 8:15 a.m. after a short illness. Until the end, he was his usual, wonderful self. He will be missed by all who knew him and by many who never saw his handsome face. I am a good friend of his daughter, Robin. I consider myself privileged to have been a small part of his life."

Here is the part of my original blog entry that pertained to Turley:

I was an on-air disc jockey at WKAZ, the Charleston station where Turley was employed, while I was attending a local college circa 1963. The things I tend to recall from my youth when I go back and double check on them turn out to have been remembered with a fair degree of accuracy And what I remember about Bob is that he was simply and inarguably GREAT! Case closed. The emphasis between records spun was definitely on comedy, and Bob---I recall---was up there with the best of 'em like Stan Freberg, and Bob and Ray. Again, I am pretty sure I am right about this.

Bob was so far out when he was at the peak of his powers in the late 1950s that he was, as they say, "too hip for the house," Not just Charleston, but pretty much anywhere else for that matter. And so, eventually, Bob moved more and more behind the scenes and became a program director at 'KAZ and was no longer on the air at all. I think that is the way it played out. I have not lived in Charleston for more than thirty years, but I remember it as being a great radio town.

I can still recall the theme song that Bob used at one time: "The Duke" from the Miles Davis/Gil Evans album, "Miles Ahead." For a morning drive time radio show, it simply does not get any further out than that.

Then there were all those dozens and dozens of cartridges that he manipulated with extraordinary dexterity to punch in all of these outrageous sound effects, and voices. Then Bob would jump back in with an ad-libbed response, then segueway into a commercial, or whatever. I do recall that he was very well-liked and pretty much ruled the place, but was forever getting called into the very nice Don Hays' office (he was the station manager) for a mild wrist slapping. Such is the lot of geniuses which Bob Turley was in my opinion.

Sometimes I was given the honor of doing a bit of impov on Bob's show after I was off-duty. It was all totally off the cuff. For a kid who practically grew up listening to this stuff---in fact, Bob was only eight years my senior--- it was quite an honor to actually have become a part of that wild and wacky daily radio production. What I wouldn't give to hear an air check of that nutty show today.

On a cheerier note, also yesterday, I made the acquaintance of film director-producer Ronald Neame. Ninety-five years-old and totally in possession of just about any faculty that you might care to discuss. What a guy! To my way of thinking he is our most important living cinema treasure. Too bad the internecine and troglodytic AMPAS don't see things my way. Otherwise, an honorary Oscar of one sort or another would have been presented years ago.

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