Tulsa Radio Memories


"America's greatest voice":
John Doremus of Sapulpa

"Grandmothers" from "The Best of John Doremus", courtesy of
Mike Bruchas and Tom H. Jones (see below for ordering info.)

John Doremus(from Guestbook 22) Frank Morrow said:

...Next, it was KAKC during my freshman year at TU. I took over the announcing duties from Raymond King and hosted the night disk jockey program, "Music for Listening." ($185 a month for a 48 hour week) After signing off (KAKC), I would go over to KRMG to meet John Doremus (at left), then go to Bishops for a meal of dollar pancakes...

My last stop was with KRMG, a great place to work. At first I did the night music show "Music ‘til Midnight," taking over from Johnny Chick who had followed Doremus.

(from Guestbook 22) Mike Bruchas said:

Seeing the comments on John Doremus - he indirectly was a reason for my attending TU.

In Chicago in the 50's/60's he had "Patterns in Music" on WMAQ radio then for a while a TV show with the NBC studio orchestra (before it was phased out). My folks and I loved his shows. He would weave stories around music - mostly classical or show tunes and his always good "ear" picked some of the most listenful, fascinating non-elevator music.

Somewhere in a paper I read he was a TU alumn from Sapulpa and it may have helped me make my decision to go out of state to school.

For years he was 7pm to 10pm on "the Q". Later he went to WAIT then the overnight shift on WGN replacing Chi-town legend (and legendary drunk) Franklin McCormick. He later was off the air doing his canned music programming full time for American and other airlines in the early days of music on flights at John Doremus & Associates.

One of my biggest thrills was to talk to him on the phone one day when home on break from TU. He invited me down to WGN any time. The next year TU roommate Wayne McCombs came to Chicago with me to go to a Cubs game, see the city and as we lucked out went to visit at WLS (then a powerhouse rocker) then a few nights later we spent the overnight shift with John Doremus and got about :90 of airtime on WGN. John had his engineer tape the broadcast and I think I said the dumbest, most insipid stuff in my life in front of one of my Chicago media idols. I still have that tape.

It was neat because WGN was being heard in about 20 states - John put us on "national". WGN was a tight union shop but John had great rapport with his crew.

When I was working up here 20 years later at the NAB - National Association of Broadcasters - I called his office in Chicago to see about him doing voice-over work and got hold of a very saddened receptionist who told me he was not in any shape to do that kind of work any more and was hospitalized. Never knew what with. John Doremus died about 3-4 years....I think his scholarship for TU students may still be helping kids out. The late Bob Lauer and later KTUL's Dick Van Dera (after doing is Nam stint as a corpsman) were 2 Chicago natives that I went to school with that John Doremus helped put through school on his scholarship program.

He went a long ways from Sapulpa.

(from Guestbook 39) Frank Morrow said:

When I was at TU in the early to mid-'50s, I used to listen to the strong, night time signal of WBBM in Chicago which featured the beautiful, dulcet voice of Jay Andres playing classical music. I assume that this program was the precursor of Doremus' efforts, for it also was sponsored by American Airlines and was called "Music 'til Dawn."

Fate is strange: John and I used to talk about how great Andres' voice was, never suspecting that John would take over that program in a few years.

(from Guestbook 22) Bill Hyden said:

John Doremus won a scholarship to The University of Tulsa by winning the competition on a Going To College program. Ben Henneke was emceeing that show then...later Rod Jones and, perhaps, others hosted it. I worked, as a student, with Ben on some of those trips but do not remember whether I might have been on the one Doremus won.

I joined KRMG as an announcer in August 1951. Joe Knight (Neidig), of the "Spinning Round Table" had taken leave of absence from KRMG to engage in his 'tour of military service' and Doremus was hired to fill that void.

Eggs at Eight

When Frank Simms (front left) left KVOO radio in November of 1952, I spake with the other co-host of the morning "Eggs At Eight" program, Walt Teas, and he led me to program director Joe O'Neill and I was offered a job on the KVOO announce staff.

At that time, Joe Knight was returning from his military obligation and Doremus was given notice, since Joe would get his old job back. After my work at KRMG on a Friday in November 1952, I talked with manager Bob Jones, telling of my KVOO offer and that it would permit Doremus staying on the KRMG staff. Jones agreed. Quickest move I ever made...finalized after Friday work on one station and went to work at KVOO on Monday.

Of course, Doremus did extremely well in Chicago... and was billed as America's Greatest Voice...with, probably, no dissenters. In 1985, when Sam Stewart and I were endeavoring to produce a feature length documentary re: OPERATION VARSITY, the airborne Rhine crossing of 24 March 1945, I called Doremus to see if he might be interested in investing in this. It was like old home week on the phone and he insisted that I come to Chicago to talk it over. I did.

I got the earliest flight I could obtain and when I arrived at his office/studios, John was not there. I sat in his office for 4 hours before he showed up. He said he must have put the wrong day on his calendar.

I had brought him a videocassette of a promotional tape we had produced to try and interest investors. At one point, John said "I've got a Cronkite tape here we can use to dub over". I explained that we did not need to dub anything...the tape I brought was his.

John left his office...and I noticed his office walls were adorned with autographed pictures of presidents. He had for some time provided the music that was available on Air Force One.

After considerable length of time, I left his office to see why he hadn't returned. He was standing in front of a 3/4" player trying to make the 1/2" VHS cassette work in it. I knew something was wrong then. We terminated our visit shortly after and I didn't have an opportunity to visit with anyone there as to John's condition. A few years ago, he died of Alzheimer's disease.

Prior to his death, I had talked with two of his sons... and was told by one that he was in a nursing home in Naperville, Illinois and that he did not even recognize members of his own family. A tragic end to the life of one so relatively young and so talented.

During John's days at TU he was active in the radio chorus of Arthur Hestwood...his singing voice was as good as his speaking voice.

When Ben Henneke heard that the Alzheimer's Foundation in Chicago was honoring John at an annual function there, he (Ben) wrote a tribute to John that was printed in the Tulsa Tribune.

One thing about TTM...it surfaces memories, both good and sad, of these wonderful people of our past.

John Doremus

by Ben G. Henneke in The Tulsa Tribune, 4/19/1990
(reprinted by permission of Scott Nelson, Tulsa World Web Editor, 2/9/2004)

They're having a tribute party for John Doremus next Tuesday night. It is to be at Ditka's City Lights in Chicago; there will be dining, dancing and a raffle.

Of course, you know John Doremus. If you have been a listener to the University of Tulsa radio station, KWGS fm89.5, you know that he was an announcer from 1948 to 1953. He was identified with the nightly classic music program, "Music of the Masters." If you listened to KWGS in 1973 and again in 1975, you heard Doremus responding to his nomination as an outstanding alumnus of the University of Tulsa and dedicating the studios of KWGS when the latest Kendall Hall was completed.

You're still shaking your head. You still don't know who he is? Let me try again. If you're from the Chicago area, you could have heard him on "Patterns in Music" from WMAQ. In 1959, he was named "Best Chicago Radio Personality." If you have ever used the headsets on an airline and in flight listened to the airline's programmed music, you've listened to John Doremus. He invented such in-flight entertainment in 1964. His company still provides 14 channels of varied music to some 30 airlines. Even U.S. submarines are programmed by Doremus sound.

In some of the sound you have heard Doremus himself, particularly on the classic music channel. In Chicago he was called "the nation's foremost beautiful-music host."

We old-timers of KWGS remember John as a member of Arthur Hestwood's Radio Chorus. I remember him narrating "God's Trombones" against the background music of the chorus. I remember him as a junior at Sapulpa High School where his English teacher introduced him to me. I remember his winning the "Going to College Quiz" in Sapulpa, the prize from which gave him a start on TU tuition.

A proud moment for him, his English teacher and me was his return to Sapulpa High School as the announcer of the "Going to College Quiz" the next year.

He returned each year until he graduated in 1953.

Why are they having a tribute to Doremus in Chicago next week? It will be the 10th anniversary event of the Alzheimer's Association of Chicago.

Yes. That bright young man, with a voice that sounds so rich you want to pour it over waffles, is now, like so many of us oldsters, an Alzheimer patient.

(Ben G. Henneke is president emeritus of the University of Tulsa.)

(from Guestbook 22) Frank Morrow said:

I was very close with Doremus, at least as close as one could get with him. He was my pledge father in Kappa Sigma; he was our intramural quarterback, and I was his favorite receiver; we shared a lot of evenings together after we both signed off; we played tennis together near his home in Sapulpa; I went with him on shopping trips to buy a used car. Finally, he married the girl with whom I had my first date back in junior high school at Horace Mann. (Does anyone know where she is now? Joellen “Jody” Casler. She went to Central for two years, finishing at Broken Arrow.) John was almost overrun with women who were attracted to his voice on his late evening program on KRMG. I had a similar show on KAKC, but didn’t attract the number of females John did. And he wouldn’t share! He frequently would come dragging into the frat house at breakfast after a night of frolic, trying to get the energy to go to class. I envied him, and wished I had the confidence with women that he had.

John was one of those rare people who never had a negative thing to say about someone else, and no one had anything negative to say about him. I loved the guy. I was so saddened when I learned of his death with Alzheimer’s, particularly the long time he was afflicted with it.

(from Guestbook 39) Mike Bruchas said:

...Also got a great note with some John Doremus news. Tom H. Jones wrote:

John Doremus, courtesy of Mike Bruchas I happened to come upon your 10/02/99 comments about John Doremus this weekend.

I am president & general mgr. of KNXR (FM) in Rochester, Minnesota.

I first made contact with John in 1962 and we met in 1966 when we began to produce a syndicated version of "Patterns In Music" using the music in the KNXR library.

"Patterns In Music" with John Doremus airs each evening from 7-10 on KNXR and is one of our most popular shows. It is now in its 34th year! We received many comments from folks visiting the Mayo Clinic from around the country who have heard John elsewhere. The program is actually assembled as you hear the show on KNXR. All of the music is from our library.

We bought all of John's material (voice tracks, scripts, etc.) about a year before he died. We have enough voice-tracks for about 8 years of shows.

I still keep in contact with John's secretary, Dorothy Miller, and his three boys, David, Fred and Paul.

We all know plenty of info about Sapulpa which John dispensed regularly on the program. Sometime I want to go to Sapulpa and see if the lady who gave young John the crank-up phonograph for mowing her lawn is still around. She is/was credited with getting John started in radio as a grade-schooler.

All the best and many thanks for the kind words about John.

Tom's staff has also assembled a 3 cassette "Best of John Doremus" anthology collection with 60 of his most asked-for bits. If anyone is interested in obtaining this, call him. Sorry I don't know the price. I think this is neat that John's work lives on - today.

You can reach Tom at:

Tom H. Jones
1620 Greenview Drive S.W.
Rochester, MN 55902-1034
(507) 288-7700

(From DX Listening Digest, 5/20/2001, Tom H. Jones of KNXR, Rochester said:)

John and I got together in 1966 and began producing a syndicated version of "Patterns In Music" which was originally aired on WMAQ-Chicago in the early 1960s. John recorded the voice tracks in Chicago and we added the music and produced the program here at KNXR.

John's program is, and has been, aired nightly (Mon-Fri) from 7-10 p.m. CST on KNXR since February 1966. It still enjoys a very large and loyal audience. Each morning at 8:45, we also air John's version of "The Passing Parade" (John's re-do of the John Nesbitt feature of the 1940s).

We offer a 3-cassette album of "The Best of John Doremus" which includes 66 of his most-requested readings. We are working on a John Doremus website http://www.johndoremus.com where there will be much info, photos and audio clips. You are, no doubt, aware that John was born and raised in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. He died in 1995 from the results of Alzheimer's at age 63. I keep contact with his sons and other associates. Thank you for mentioning John and all good wishes.

(from Guestbook 40) Mike Bruchas said:

Received set 1 of 2 cassette sets from KNXR radio of John Doremus bits from "Patterns in Music" - they even sent hard copies of the scripts!

Needless to say on days when radio reception is bad - DC has areas like this in the city under bridges and by certain military reservations (hmmm)- have been enjoying stories and bits from the collection KNXR has compiled. A lot of it is timeless and a lot seems a picture of a quieter, gentler America of 30-40 years ago.

I can see why it plays well in MN and I can see why pre-teen me and my folks loved John's shows 30 years ago. Even heard a Sapulpa story about a mechanic who sent him a now dated story about the last traffic jam in America (set in 1987 in the copy - then the far off future).

If I knew how much space an audio file took up - might forward webmeister Ransom a shorter clip to hang on this webpage!

(from Guestbook 39) John Hillis said:

The John Doremus note reminded me of how different the all-night radio airwaves were 35 or 40 years ago. As memory serves (though the service seems to get worse as the years go by!), Doremus was the voice of American Airlines Astrovision"Music Till Dawn," syndicated around the country and sponsored by American Airlines. Very calm and sedate. I imagine it was syndicated around on vinyl disc, though I couldn't be sure. Five or six hours five or six nights a week would mean either a lot of LP platters or a whole lotta tape reels to ship around the country.

Announcement, week of July 27, 1964:

Now in American Airlines first class - Astrovision. Watch movies and TV shows and live takes-offs. You can listen to stereophonic music too! The black & white TV’s are available in first class only.

Holiday Inns also had a similar low-key all-night music program, with the records spun by "Dolly Holiday." Holiday Inns founder Kemmons Wilson had a bit of a thing for radio. He was a friend of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips in Memphis and Phillips's radio station operated out of one of Wilson's motels. In my travels around very small towns in the late 60's and early 70's, I found several Holiday Inns that converted a couple of rooms into little AM radio stations.

Given that the era of CNN began only five or six years later, it's remarkable to note that even network radio newscast service mostly ended around 1 am until the early 70's. The age of satellite distribution and changing tastes in music pretty much put an end to easy listening formats not long after the time KVOO made the move to all-country. Perhaps some expert will remember the exact date, '70 or '69 maybe?

(KVOO-AM carried a syndicated, all-night, non-political talk show, Herb Jepko and the Nitecappers Club from October 1969 through September 1971. Billy Parker took over the midnight slot with his Big Rigger country music show in 1972.)

(from Guestbook 39) Mike Bruchas said:

The late great pickled Franklin McCormack held court on WGN radio all night for years on Meister Brau Showcase (hey it's a beer AND a breakfast food!) sounding like he had his own "case night" many times - he was Jay Andres' competition on "Music till Dawn". John Doremus replaced McCormack when he went to that great saloon, er, studio in the sky. Before John went to WGN and had been shagged away from NBC-owned WMAQ (most likely when they dumped MOR to go country) - he was on 5000 watt AM MOR WAIT ("the WAIT station") as the midday guy and when I sold cameras after school and on weekends in high school - NO STATION but WAIT could be played in-store. Twas no supermarket/elevator music but wasn't the same venue as "Patterns in Music". Much more gentle formatted, but still VERY formatted. John was probably the only really recognizable voice on there - the rest were the unknown voices of FM quality. I think John had a sojourn on an FM too at some time -- all the while cranking up his airline music business.

I can remember my Mom pointing out an article on "his new career" for in-flight entertainment in the now departed Chicago Sun-Times because my folks LOVED his TV show. Back when John was the "dinner music" early evening shift guy on WMAQ, if waiting to get my Dad at a later train from Chicago - we would listen to "Patterns in Music" in the car on the bassy AM Delco radio. This was when "dinner music" was still a standard on AM and early FM in the 50's/60's. His "Patterns in Music" TV show was often on as a "special" in the 6:30-7pm period Tuesdays or Thursday on then on NBC-owned WNBQ-TV before getting exiled to weekends.

(from Guestbook 40) Mike Bruchas said:

"Patterns in Music" was pretty low key, pre-beautiful music on WMAQ. On WAIT he was a name but no "readings" but some patter - it really wasn't "Patterns in Music". Doremus' show on WGN was talk with music interspersed but tied in (Patterns in Music LITE?).

For his WMAQ TV show he might be seated at a small cocktail table and wax elegant on something and the then live NBC Chicago orchestra would take over with a number tied in some way. Maybe little tableau things in the TV studio.

On WGN radio all night, he would weave into the program messages about the unheard union techs with him - part of his radio family in the studio. At WGN a lot of personally intoned spots by him were the trademark of the all-night man. As I recall he did have a newsman and another WGN booth (working both TV and radio then) announcer - usually Carl Grayson part night to intro newscasts and read other spots. Funny thing was WGN had this gigantic IGM automation cart machine in an adjacent room full of nothing but PSA's. Spots were for the most part read live with a few pre-produced spots on his shift for people like Culligan water treatment as I recall after visiting him one night.

(from Guestbook 40) Mike Bruchas said:

Speaking of John Doremus' ties - I think Dick Van Dera was also a John Doremus TU scholarship winner, after he came back from Nam as a Navy medical corpsman. Need Dick to fill us in on this, he was yet another fellow former Chicagoan who landed in Tulsa.

Dick Van Dera as Uncle Zip
Dick Van Dera/Uncle Zip

(from Guestbook 62)

Date: 18-Nov-00 07:53 AM (on Tulsa Time)
Name: Simon Owens  
Geographical location: Melbourne, Australia
How did you find TTM? Internet Search on John Doremus

Hi from Australia.

I produce a radio nostalgia program in Melbourne, Australia and we are replaying a series called "The Passing Parade" that was recorded by a "John Doremus".

From what I can gather about the series "The Passing Parade", it was recorded in the USA and the Australian broadcast rights were purchased by a company called "Grace Gibson Productions".

The series was 3-4 minute "strange but true" type stories, narrated by John with no accompaniment (not that he needed any with that voice).

I believe the series didn't take off in the USA and was cancelled not long after its inception. However, it became very popular in Australia and Grace Gibson's then contracted the writers and John to keep producing the series for Australian audiences only.

The result is that Grace Gibson Pty Ltd (operating out of Sydney Australia) have over 1000 episodes of the Passing Parade in their possession and so John's voice continues to boom out on many radio stations across the country.

(from Guestbook 101) John Lyons of Jenkintown, PA said:

In 1963, I was attending the University of Scranton and working on the student radio station (WUSV-FM - 89.9). Several of us began listening to late night broadcasts and came upon John Doremus' "Patterns in Music" at WMAQ Chicago. Wanting badly to be a big city announcer, I sent a letter to John and asked him if I could visit him. (At the time I had a cousin in Evanston Il.) Amazingly, I received a response the following week inviting me to spend a shift with him in the studio.

I hopped on a Greyhound bus and rode for 16 hours to Chicago and spent that shift with him. I was awestruck. I will never forget the old-timers (v/o) announcers doing live commercials in the studio. Such impeccable timing. They even wore ties. John was gracious and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.

Since then I have been doing v/o for educational programs, both audio and video and looking forward to having my own morning show..perhaps "Coffee at 8" at some small station in the North Carolina mountains... dreams die hard. John DoremusRest well, John, and thank you for your inspiration and your music. We will always remember you.

(from Guestbook 159) Helen Doremus said:

I stumbled across this site a few months ago, and I hadn't yet had the chance to just give a passing thanks to all the kind words and fond remembrances on your John Doremus page. It is comforting to see that he is so fondly remembered. Thank you again.

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