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Ray Gilbert (left) and Marty Sidman (right)

Fragmented Memories of WKBR by Marty Sidman (on right, with engineer Ray Gilbert)


October 3, 1999

Ray Gilbert (left) and Marty Sidman (right)

Taking over the night shift from Bob Shultz when he left in October of 1954. I actually started at WTSL in Hanover in August and lasted 3 months there before boredom drove me to insist on a transfer to Manchester.

Madeline O'Neil. She was the copywriter with the great legs. She drove in the yard one day with a brand new , light green Ford Thunderbird convertible with a hard top and opera windows and had us all drooling over it. She later married Dick Piper.

Bob Gordon. This young red-head started out as a groupie I taught to run the board and do an occasional newscast. He worked out well enough to get a job at the station. His father was Capt. Norman Leavitt of the Manchester Police Department, so he used the name Gordon to avoid embarassing his father.

Doing remotes at all kinds of locations. Often I would bring a groupie I had taught to do production with me to run the board while I played celebrity. The pictures are of me & Ray Gilbert on location at some store.

Club 96. A survey showed that only 4% of teen-agers were getting into trouble, so 'KBR started Club 96 for the majority of good kids. We ran a live remote record hop for them every Friday night from the American Legion Hall downtown. We often had recording stars join us for part of the evening. I recall having the Everly Brothers, Roger Miller, John D. Loudermilk and others. Several hundred teen-agers would show up every week. Bill Varney & I would dance with the kids, clown around and generally have a good time while emceeing the hop. After Bill left, Chuck Bessettte did them with me.

August 5, 1956

I had the late evening shift, 4 to midnight. I did news every hour on the hour in the afternoon, then did my own show from 10:00 to 12:00 or 1:00am - romantic, easy-listening stuff done with a sexy voice. They said I was responsible for half the illegitimate births in Manchester! Joe Maltais did the Franco-American Hour from 7 to 8:30 every night. I remember Joe had to go into the Veteran's Hospital for several days to have some dental work done and he left me in charge of his show. I played his French records, his pre-recorded spots, etc., and even had to read a few of them myself…in French!

Crazy stunts Bill Varney & I pulled. We got a lot of attention from the audience, so Ralph Gottlieb tolerated it. We'd get one of the groupies (Ralph Weigler, Bob Leavitt, Ray Gilbert, Tom Boisvert or Bob Molloy) to man the board and we'd take the mobile unit out and do interviews with the kids at Elmer's A&R Root Beer stand down the road from us. Elmer's parking lot would be packed and he'd give us free food & root beer all night long. Or we'd go out to the local lover's lanes and check out the action. Or we'd just cruise Elm Street and talk to people. One night we set up the remote board, etc., on the sidewalk in front of the station and did his show (8:30 to 10) from there. We caused such a traffic jam, the cops had to break it up.

Bill decided to do a marathon broadcast. We got Freddy Asher from Modern Appliance on upper Elm St. to let us use his store and we set Bill up with a remote studio. He only got a thirty minute break every four hours so he could wash & shave, change clothes and so on (I think that was the deal). He lasted over a hundred hours before he started hallucinating and we had to call it off. We had crowds there almost around the clock! Freddy got a ton of publicity and sold a lot of appliances that week!

The idea to broadcast the lighting of the New Hampshire-donated Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center was actually mine and Bill Varney's, but Gottlieb decided to send Bill Morrissey instead.

November 15, 1961   GMEB. As a publicity stunt, the station bought a talking mynah bird and taught it to say "Good Morning Every Body", among other things. Bill Morrissey had the honor of sharing the microphone with him every morning. His cage was kept in Ralph's office, and he learned to imitate the sound of Ralph's squeaky office chair and the way Ralph cleared his throat. At night, when the place was quiet and I was all alone (as I usually was) I could swear Ralph had come in and was sitting in his office.

Request Night. For a while, we took requests on Saturday nights. My ex-wife would come down and pull records for me while a couple of groupies answered the phones and took the requests. We even had a sponsor…Tillson's Plumbing & Heating.

We experimented with different types of music. I recall doing a folk music show, a jazz show and even a classical music show! But mostly we stuck with Top 30 and of course published our survey sheets every week based on sales at local record stores (mostly Manchester Music). We distributed the sheets widely and they were avidly snatched up by all the teens.

January 27, 1963

I did the first stereo broadcast in Manchester. We rigged up a turntable with a stereo cartridge and tone arm in the big studio and set up two microphones. They 'split the board,' feeding one microphone and the left channel of music to the AM transmitter, and the other side to the FM transmitter. We told the audience to put their AM receiver on the left side of the room and the FM receiver on the right and adjust the volumes until I seemed to be talking from somewhere in the middle. We had a limited supply of stereo records, so the show only lasted about an hour.

I recorded a jingle for Jerry Carmen's Car-Go Auto stores using a little echo-chamber effect. "Car-Go keeps your car on the go, on the go, on the go. Car-Go keeps your car on the go, for less dough", or in the winter: "in the snow". Last I heard, they were still using it. I never got a nickel in talent fees for it.

Bill Morrissey recorded "September Song" over a Percy Faith or Paul Weston instrumental background and played it on the air every chance he got.

When they officially opened the Frederick B. Everett Turnpike, Bill Rust took me up in his four-passenger Beechcraft Bonanza private plane and I broadcast the festivities from a bird's-eye view. I had never flown before in my life and I was petrified, but somehow I got through it.

May 17, 1959

Some of the people I worked with at WKBR: Norm Bailey, Bill Morrissey, Dick Piper, Donn Parker, Eddie B. Baker, Bill Varney, Chuck Bessette, Lad Carlton, Bill Jones (Program Director), Ernie Crowley & Gary LaPierre (newsmen), Bill Clark, Bob Anderson, Joe Maltais, Ed Lawrence (office manager), Roy Phillips (chief engineer), Roland Hale & Zara Chicaderis ( comptroller's office), Maddy O'Neil (copywriter), Art Cooper & Al something (Beaulieu I think…salesmen), Jackie Kelly (traffic), Tom Hussey (sportscaster), Warren Journay (station manager who hired me) and, of course, Ralph Gottlieb (station owner).

Marty Sidman
Marietta, Georgia

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