Chris Lane Memory Book
** Chris Lane Shoulda Been Hall of Famer
It was never one of those "whatever happened to" situations, because I'd forgotten him. And yet, no one in radio should ever forget Chris Lane. Especially me. And now, as memories flood back, I find it strange that he ended up on KNX as food editor, a job not even closely fitting for a man who'd done so much for radio in general and country music radio in specific. He was literally "modern" country music radio for years back in the days when people listening to country music in their cars pushed the button at stop lights so that no one would know.
But Chris came out of rock and brought many of those programming attributes to one of the first really country music stations in America, WJJD. Yes, I know Cliffie Stone's story of Los Angeles radio and there was a gentleman in Lubbock, TX, with an all-country radio station. But country music wasn't formatted, per se, as far as I can recall. And Chris Lane did that in the days when country music was always on the backseat signal [or even the rumble seat] of radio stations in any market. He bought the first semblance of dignity and stature to country radio and without apologies of any kind.
Radio men from everywhere in the nation and many from overseas flew into Chicago and holed up in hotel rooms to listen with Lane's station. The concept then flowed nationwide. Billboard and Cashbox and Bill Gavin wrote stories about the man and the station and presented him awards. All well deserved.
Thus, it's somewhat of a pity that we now have no really justified and lasting manner of giving credit to him for all that he did. There will be no Broadcasting Hall of Fame for him. But I suppose that many of us will soon be only memories and many of us not even that and eventually all of us literally nothing at all.
(Bulletin from laradio.com, 2/15/2000)
KNX Food Hour Host Dies
(February 15-16, 2000) Chris Lane, co-host of the "KNX Food Hour" with Melinda Lee, died February 14, of cancer. During the 1970s, Chris worked at KFOX, XPRS, KGBS and KHTZ. Beginning in 1980, he spent almost a decade at KLAC. Chris began his career in McMinnville, Tennessee, after recording star Eddie Arnold lined up an audition for him. His career took him to Des Moines, KISN-Portland, KJR-Seattle, KYA-San Francisco, WOKY-Milwaukee, WJJD-Chicago, WIL-St. Louis and KEGL-San Jose. When at XPRS, he voiced his show at the Bill Wade studios and it was shipped south of the border. At KGBS, he teamed with Bobby Morgan for morning drive.
"Chris was diagnosed with cancer in December 1999," wrote his wife, Lorna Alexander (pictured with Chris). "Last Monday he had a stroke and a heart attack on the very day that we were supposed to meet an oncologist at UCLA. We never did see that oncologist, and Chris joined heaven on St. Valentine's Day, quite fitting for my darling man. Chris and I met in October of 1991. We married in June of 1997. He was the love of my life and the light in my heart," said Lorna.
Gerry Fry, retired AFRTS Director of Programming worked with Chris from 1984-90. "Chris' versatility allowed him to be successful in many formats over the years. Like so many professionals in broadcasting, he always treasured his work on Armed Forces Radio, both in and out of uniform," emailed Gerry. "I know I speak for thousands of former service personnel and their families who enjoyed Chris wherever they were overseas in saying we're sorry to hear of his passing."
Chris television credits include creating and hosting ABC's American Swing Around and appearing on such network shows as Cheers, General Hospital, and the tv movie, Favorite Son. Chris was born Chris Lane Alexander in Kansas City on March 23, 1928. He was a pre-med student at the University of Kansas and for eight years was a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman attached to the Marine Corps. During his career he was named Program Director of the Year five times nationally. He was voted Radio Man of the Year and presented with the Bill Gavin Award by his peers and members of the record industry. He was 71.
Thanks so much.
February 20, 2000
I really enjoyed your memorial for your husband, I didn't realize he had passed away until I found his memorial on the web. I am so sorry Lorna. I also lost my husband thirteen years ago, so I know what you are going through, I remember Chris from the radio in Seattle. He was great, had a wonderful sense of humor and knew what to do with his expertise. I started liking Country Western because of him.Thanks for the memories and keeping his memory alive.
Chris (Lane) Alexander sure cut a wide path in country music broadcastng after leaving the service in the early fifties!
Oddly, he wasn't into C&W (and that's putting it mildly) when we both served at AFRS, WGBY Guantanamo Bay, Cuba during our stints there in '51-52.
I hosted a jazz/blues type program on Saturdays called "High Noon Swing Session" and Chris would often sit in, if he could get away from corpsman duty at the NavBase hospital.
Chris was heavy into progressive jazz & bop at that time (played a mean set of drums now & then with the Navy band at Fri & Sat night dances)
He passed up hosting C&W programs when other jocks were not available. He simply was not a fan of that menu. Something sure changed his mind!
Chris Alexander was one of the warmest, likeable people I ever met, in or out of the broadcasting business. Our friendship endured almost 50 years.
Even tho he's no longer with us..... I'm still planning on a remembrance party in July 2001 to celebrate our friendship. He was REALLY one of the best people to know, be around, and to work with.
Lorna....make sure the backyard & pool are in a "go" mode next summer!
(received 6/8/2000 in Guestbook #40)
Hello, I danced on Party Line with Chris. Every Sat. afternoon my Mother & Grandmother would take my sister & I with some of our friends. When it went off the air they had a dance at Cain's Ballroom. They called a teen rock & roll singer every week. I got to talk to Tommy Sands. I am so sorry to hear that Chris has passed away.
Jeannie Moore Crabtree
This email forwarded by Bill Hyden:
It was most thoughtful of you to go the the trouble of sending out the notice of Chris' passing. I was in Sales at KOTV when he joined the staff in the mid to late 50's. One of the highlights of Chris' hosting of DANCE PARTY, was when Anita Bryant and her family moved to Tulsa from Oklahoma City. I had the joy of contacting her and getting her together with Chris. She joined the program...and sometime not long after that was runner up in the Miss America Contest.
By Dean Alexander, brother of Chris Lane Alexander:
MY BROTHER MY MENTOR MY HERO
When Dawn asked me if I would like to share my remembrances of her Father, my brother, at this service, I gratefully accepted. As I am physically unable to be there, I appreciate this opportunity. Chris was born the year the Depression started. I came along 3 1/2 years later. As my Father was usually working two jobs, Chris became my father figure, mentor, confidant and teacher. He even taught me the facts of life that I tearfully confirmed with my mother! We had no money but no one else did either so it never seemed that bad. Chris always seemed strong and confident, extremely loyal and affectionate. It was he and I against the world and in our neighborhood that was not just a concept.
We had the usual brotherly misunderstandings but he always taught me something. For instance I learned never to shoot him in the chest with a BB gun again. I tried to copy everything he did but eventually learned I didn't have the Talent. I remember how proud I was when he took time on his leave from the Navy before going to sea, to go hundreds of miles out of his way to visit me at the Military Academy I was attending in Hays, Kansas. Later I caught a lot of flack from my fellow cadets when I couldn't hold back the tears when reading a letter from him telling me he was on a destroyer heading for Tsingtow, China. I knew it was dangerous there and I was very worried. As usual, he came through no problem!
The greatest gift Chris gave to me was the awareness that a person should be judged by what he does, not the color of his skin, his religion or anything else. I was not learning this in a home where my mother and her friends used the "N" word often in their conversations. That word never became part of my vocabulary because of this gift from my Big Brother. During the Korean War which found Chris and I in the Navy, I found it a great experience in a desegregated Armed Forces learning that we are all alike and many African Americans I was stationed with had writing and musical talents which equaled opera stars and published authors. My brother was a hospital corpsman in the Marines so I became a hospital corpsman. He became a member of Armed Forces radio and went into show business but I got hooked on medicine.
He had been stationed at Philadelphia Naval Hospital. I requested and was stationed at Philadelphia Naval Hospital. I met Cherie' for the first time on a surgicalward in Philadelphia. They had just come back from Cuba and were on their way to a Marine base in Virginia. My last attempt to copy Chris was getting a weekend job as a disk jockey at KTWO Casper, Wyoming. It lasted until I played Louis Armstrong's " Why Am I so Black... and Blue" and dedicated it to Governor Faubus who was defying the Federal law to desegregate the schools. I was fired. Chris loved it and was most pleased with me. It was something he would do.
As the years passed, Chris and I became less agreeable on our favorite football teams and/or our favorite politicians and political parties. Lorna will attest to some, shall I say, debates we had. Again Chris met me in Santa Maria where I met Lorna for the first time. Chris was blessed by God to have loved and been loved by two beautiful lovely ladies. Few men are that blessed. Chris led a fantastic life for which I am grateful and left this world peacefully and gently for which I am also very grateful. He left two beautiful loving daughters, three wonderful grandchildren and many, many people who are glad he touched their lives and who will miss him so very much. I will be one of them.
I wanted to write to you and tell you how sorry I am that your husband has died, and to tell you that the KNX Food News Hour was one of my favorite radio programs. Your husband touched many people's lives in a way that may not seem so important on the surface, but he was one of the "good guys" - that was easy to tell, and those are the people who really make a difference in the world.
We met Chris and his family in 1967 when I was serving as a Marine at Glenview Air Station, Illinois, and he was hosting his own TV show and was in charge of a local radio station in Chicago. Our townhouses backed each other and our families soon became acquainted and became fast friends. Chris and I played ping pong for hours at a time in our basement game room, trying to beat each other's brains out. We were well matched so it was always interesting. We watched sports together on TV and invariably would choose opposing teams just to have the fun of competing.
Chris loved the Marine Corps and was proud of having served with them as a Navy corpsman. His love of the Corps led me to invite him to the Marine Corps birthday celebration at the Officers Club at Glenview Air Station as an honored guest. Chris was an almost teetotaler; however, for this celebration he got with the spirit of the occasion and, with the rest of us, got totally obliterated.
When I was ordered to Viet Nam we kept in touch until I returned to be stationed in California. It wasn't long before Chris and his family came to Los Angeles from San Jose, California. We welcomed them with open arms and had them stay in our home for about a month while they searched for a home of their own. They found and purchased a home in Van Nuys and thereafter we spent many weekends alternating visits to each other's homes. Our families got along splendidly and these were some of the happiest days of our lives.
Chris was always ready for an adventure, he had a fine sense of humor, was a great entertainer, and was extremely competitive. We played tennis, went deep sea fishing, shot trap, went to football and baseball games and we argued about anything or everything. We celebrated each others successes and commiserated with our disappointments. He was a steadfast and loyal friend. He had many successes and he lived his life well.
It is with a deep sense of loneliness that I say, "sayonara," Chris.
Lt. Colonel USMC, Retired
I'm happy to include this story for Chris' Memory Book:
1973. One night I was slingin' hash at the Jolly Rogers Restaurant in Hollywood, California. Over the loudspeaker I heard a page for Chris Lane. The name rang a bell, because I'm a big fan of traditional country music and I had listened to Chris on WJJD in Chicago, my home town. I looked up and saw a man walk to the phone. I waited until he finished his call and I walked over to ask him, "Are you Chris Lane?" "Yes, I am." "Are the THE Chris Lane, the DJ from Chicago?" Turns out he was one and the same. We struck up a conversation about Chicago and country music, and I told him I was starting to write country songs, and asked if he would lend an ear. We made arrangements to meet in his office where he listened to one of my songs, and he thought it would be a good one for Sonny James. Then he picked up the phone and called Sonny. "Sonny," he said, "I've got a fellow in my office who has a song I'd like you to hear." The windup is that Sonny James recorded that song for his next album on Columbia. I've told this story a hunded times in conversations with people in the music biz, when talking about the many and various ways writers get their songs recorded.
One of the main things I remember about Chris is the statement he made in every conversation: "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help."
Happy Birthday, my friend.
Over the years your friendship has meant a lot to me - and I'm glad it's grown during that time. I'm glad we were both in a business that friendships could be formed in addition to our occupations.
Careerwise, I always looked to you as a major factor in so many of my hits - you started more than I can remember - and because of your influence with radio folks across the country, they in turn would follow your lead which meant almost immediate airplay when one of my songs came out.
Thank you so much for the memories.
Doris and I send our love and wish you the happiest of birthdays!
These are from the singer Cristy Lane. Cristy was named after Chris Lane because her manager/husband liked it so much!!! - Lorna
We often talk about the times and memories we have shared from our first visit to WJJD and meeting the program director, Chris Lane. I've always felt you have the greatest voice in radio. I thank you for all the voice overs on my commercials and the reading of my Biography. We've always treasured your friendship throughout the years. We're looking to take a trip to the West Coast, so hurry up and get well, Chris. Perhaps we can go back to that restaurant on La Cienega Blvd that didn't have any prices on the menu for the ladies.
Always your friends, Cristy Lane and Lee
Lorna and Family,
We send our love, condolences and memories. Chris has touched, enriched and entertained lives by the millions throughout the world, with his God-blessed talent, the national treasure, "His Voice." He was the Master of his craft in Radio. We thank Chris for making a difference in our lives and for the loving memories. I thank God that Chris was a believer, for he has achieved the ultimate, "Safe in the arms of Jesus." Until we meet again we shall cherish those loving memories and you are in our heart and prayers. In times like this we must be strong and keep the faith.
Love, Cristy Lane & Lee Stoller
My first recollection of Chris Lane was in either 1958 or 1959 when Don Burden's Star Broadcasting (or was it Starr?) out of Omaha bought the Vancouver, Washington, AM station that became KISN. It was my first introduction to "Top 40" radio and it was very impressive. There was a tremendous buzz when Chris came to Portland with his team, which as I recall included Steve Brown, Dick Drury, Jim Tate, and a few others I cannot remember. As memory serves me when they flipped the call letters and started the new format, they played one song, one 45, repeatedly for 24 hours or more! It was titled something like "There's Gonna Be A Revolution" or something similar. My memory is that KISN became the $#1 station in the market almost immediately! And it retained that status for many years following Chris's departure. I doubt that anyone ever again achieved the numbers KISN enjoyed in Portland.
All of Chris's people moved on in time to big markets and big jobs. I presume some of them are still "out there"!
Chris later moved to Seattle. I was Promotion Manager for BG Record Service in Portland when we first met. I later, in 1959, moved to Seattle to join C&C Distributors as the regional N.W. promotion manager (plus doing national promotion for Dolton Records, then based in Seattle). Enjoyable years working with Dan Niles & Company.
I do not know when Chris first came to Seattle but I do remember I was delighted he made the move. I always felt we had a good relationship and I enjoyed his company, although now looking back it was a brief encounter.
That's the best I can do at the moment. Nice wonderful memories of a very super guy.
All the best...
Art has more respect for CHRIS LANE than almost anyone else in broadcasting. He was a fan for many years before meeting Chris. Getting to sit in for Chris on his nationally syndicated show was one of Art's career highlights. He still calls clouds "high white puffies" as any Chris Lane fan would know! We love you Chris. We wish you many more happy years ahead!
Art and Candy Sanders
Hey Chris -- I know the damn sun is shining there and not here in snowy and cold central Oregon. So look out the damn window. I have thought of you often and really got a boost out of your gig at KNX and you showin' up the likes of some of those AFRTS dull types.
I want to give back to you all the positive vibes you always gave me, George (who really needed them), the troops around the world who were so happy you weren't the Wolfman or Roger Carroll!
After my bypass last October -- I got a little vulnerable -- but there's a bit of sunshine waiting as you slide through this adventure. Be brave -- love the ones that luv ya! Keep on truckin' guy.
Bill and Uschi Houck -- Bend,Oregon
I never thought I would see the day when Chris Lane had grey hair. I always considered him the ultimate and perpetual Dick Clark clone.
I first met Chris at Sea-Tac Airport when he arrived as our new KAYO Program Director. He was dressed in an Italian silk suit, greenish gold, I think, and spewing forth ideas on what to do with the station.
Within six months Chris and I were good friends and remained so the rest of our broadcast lives.
He left after a few years of good, solid service to take over WJJD in Chicago. Country KAYO was never the same and my job as General Manager was never as interesting or as much fun.
God bless you and yours Chris. You are a helluva guy.
Your friend forever,
Sr. President Pac/Nor Broadcasting
To: Chris Lane
Veterans for Good Government is dedicated to support of the military, veterans and working for making American life better and safer for the reasons we live in this country.
Few people have done more to inspire the men and woman in service thorough his work with the Armed Forces Network. His voice and spirit came across with his work.
He will always be appreciated for what he has done and be loved by veterans and those in the military, especially myself who always remember him with tender regards.
Veterans for Good Government
As longtime listeners to the Food news Hour, we first knew Chris Lane through his work on the program. We met him in person at remote broadcasts at Farmer's Market and Ports of Call. When Chris saw us in the audience, he immediately came up to us to regale us with stories of his elementary education under the direction of our Sisters in the Middle West. He assured us that he had been a model student, and, of course, lacking any ready means of verification, we believed him.
On our first visit to Gower Gulch, bringing Christmas gifts for Chris, Melinda, and the crew, we found Chris in his office counting paper clips --- his original therapy for overcoming the nicotine habit. How successful this therapy was we do not know. Certainly, it has not had a world-wide impact -- at least, not yet.
As time passed, we learned more about Chris as a person --- his great kindness which led him to assist our Sisters in the Valley in taking care of the needy --- his care for children which brought him to read forprimary classes at various schools. [Note from Lorna: Cohasset Elementary was one of those schools.]
We think that Chris is a very special person. His old teachers must be looking down on him and congratulating themselves on a job well done.
We are grateful for the circumstances which brought him into the circle ofour friends.
Happy birthday Chris! God bless!
Sister Pauline Therese
Sister St. George
Dear Mr. Lane:
Pete Chaney, Executive Director of the Veterans for Good Government here in Tennessee, has told me of your illness and also about your great work and dedication to our men and women in the military. Your spirit of service to those who serve our country in the military has been remarkable and inspiring, and is the best example of the kind of commitment that is needed for the future of our country.
May God strengthen and comfort you and your wife, Lorna, during this difficult time. Please know that you have the deepest respect of your fellow Americans.
United States Senator