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Tulsa Radio Memories

KRMG's John Erling
Tulsa Mountains

John Erling signed off 7/28/2005 after a 29 year on-air career at KRMG. He is now executive vice president and managing director of the Tulsa office of advertising firm Ackerman McQueen.

6/2/2007: John Erling returned to the air today only on KRVT-AM, 1270.

John Erling

John Erling at KRMG

(from Guestbook 46) John Hillis said:

When I moved to Tulsa, KRMG was the radio station of choice--the best local news, (though there was at least some competition from KVOO and, sporadically, others), good weather coverage, and endless David Gates and Bread (If a face can launch a thousand ships, then why are you here?) records, proof that there are some things even less appealing than syndicated talk shows. John Erling was the 'new' guy in the morning and his "Tulsa Mountains" bit was tres zany, as they say in Cushing, and puzzled a few of the natives.

(from Guestbook 166) Bruce E. McFadden said:

I remember John Erling coming to Tulsa and starting the "Tulsa Mountains" craze...in fact, I still have a few of those bumper stickers. By the way, whatever became of his predecessor, Watson Jelks?

Erling was an occasional visitor to my Dairy Queen at 61st and Peoria.

Ski the Tulsa Mountains
Courtesy of Bruce McFadden

MP3 Tulsa Mountains

This truck driver was looking for the Tulsa Mountains. Erling was little help. (courtesy of Joe Riddle and Wayne McCombs) RealPlayer help

(from Guestbook 127 and today) The webmaster said:

Bobby Russell wrote the 1960s hit songs "Little Green Apples" for Roger Miller, and "Honey" for Bobby Goldsboro.

He was Vicki Lawrence's husband at the time he wrote "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" for her. His first wife was named Honey.

He also wrote and performed 1971's "Saturday Morning Confusion", a Miller-esque song John Erling has used for many years to open his KRMG "Saturday Morning Mess" program. Chuck Eddy of Rolling Stone described it as "a suburban nightmare where pregnant dogs and grill-swiping neighbors torment a hungover dad who just wants to watch the game of the week."

It seems to me that Erling uses a version sung by an exuberant fellow with a British accent. I don't remember the song from '71 myself. Here are the lyrics. The original version is on Super Hits of the '70s: Have a Nice Day, Vol. 6. (a sample can be heard at the link). As James Thurber once said  to a woman who praised his latest book, saying that she preferred the French version to the English: "Yes, it loses something in the original."

Erling's show opened with "Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning" from a children's album by the group Bullfrogs and Butterflies. You can hear a sample of the song at the Amazon.com link.

"Erling on the Mall" was one of the inaugural programs
at the launch of KGCT TV Channel 41 in 1981.

(from Guestbook 171) Melody Deocampo said:

With Halloween coming on, I remember in the not-so-distant past someone on Tulsa radio doing a Halloween broadcast of an old recording of something like "Frankenstein's Crypt"? Or something to that effect.

It was a reporter in a darkened crypt with spooky sound effects and he was to report on the opening of the crypt? At the end the reporter ended up fainting.

Does anyone remember this and is it still being broadcast or where can I get a recording of it? I've scoured the net for it with no luck.

MP3 1952 Frankenstein Castle hoax The webmaster replied: John Erling played it on his show every Halloween starting in the late 70s. I taped it around 1980. A bit of Erling commentary can be heard at the end (6:15 in length). RealPlayer help

(This item was featured on Boing Boing, 10/28/2005.)

Carl Nelson was a Armed Forces Network announcer who visited the Frankenstein castle near Darmstadt, Germany on Halloween night in 1952.

He was already apprehensive as he probed into the crypt under the dark castle, reporting all the while. He knocked something over, and the resulting crash rattled him. He was calming himself when he spotted a grotesque statue in the fading beam of his penlight. He thought he saw it move slightly. Fearful but still reporting, he forced himself to go up and touch it. He discovered that it wasn't made of solid material as he had supposed...and it moved again.

Nelson lost it. Pleading for help and pounding on the locked door, he fainted.

It was an elaborate prank that almost backfired; he could easily have had a heart attack. It is scary to hear this man freaking out for real while valiantly trying to do his job.

Here is another telling of the story (near the bottom of the linked page) by the son of one of the pranksters, more about the Frankenstein castle, and pictures of it today (in the daylight).

(from Guestbook 171) Lowell "Boris" Burch observed:

The producers of the Frankenstein prank had to pick the right reporter, a nervous fellow who was willing to do the job. And, remember the setup was that "every 100 years the monster appears". Every 100 years? That would place the original story at least as early as 1752, right? A more cynical reporter would have picked up on the prank early on.

Maybe Lowell "Sherlock" Burch would be more appropriate.

Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus, published by Mary Shelley in 1818, is widely considered to be the first true science fiction novel.

New! Joe Riddle said to John Erling via email on 12/25/2010:

To the ole Master,

While going through my many boxes of tapes and CDs looking for Christmas Radio Programs to play on my annual Old Time Radio Christmas, I ran a cross a tape labelled "6-8-78"


I played the reel to reel and what to my wondering ears should appear? John Erling and Don Cummins sing a new song written by Mr. Erling for his great state of North Dakota.

I'm sure I recorded this because I believe I too am on this fine recording of a new state song for North Dakota. If you listen closely, you can hear me off mike, probably standing behind Mr. Erling singing in harmony.

Now, before clicking and listening. Think back. John Erling, Don Cummins and Joe Riddle standing behind Mr. Erling. Can you hear the North Dakota Song in your head that Mr. Erling wrote "while under the pool table at Bertha's Bar and Grille?"

Wait, no clue, huh? Okay, please download and listen.

Your loving producer,
Joe Riddle

(from Guestbook 122) The webmaster said:

The word, "drugry", as in "T. Roy Barnes Drugry", is not in the dictionary. This word, known only in Tulsa, was posed as a possible solution to the infamous and contrived "GRY" puzzle by listeners to John Erling's show awhile back.

T. Roy Barnes drugstore near 46th St N and Cincinnati around the early 60s, courtesy of Chris King
T. Roy Barnes drugry near 46th St N & Cincinnati around the early 60s, courtesy of Chris King. More at LostTulsa.

(from Guestbook 148) Chris Starr said:

Modell Phipps.......was that the character featured in the old radio spots for Townsend Top Shop, which was located near the old Annex 3 theater?

Yes, and Lee Gideon appeared regularly on Erling's show as Modell Phipps (with his unheard wife, Lurlene). He also did "Old Ned" and "Elmo Gupp", among others, on radio commercials.

(from Guestbook 150) Sam Loveall said:

I've still got, on an old, scratchy, fadey cassette tape, a recording of Modell on Rick Couri's show from the mid-80's, doing a "Stump Modell" program. Listeners called in and tried to ask a sports question that Modell couldn't answer. Of course, he got all of them right. (It was during this show that we learned that Modell's sister, Modess, had both dated Babe Ruth and invented the napkin.)

Lee Gideon From the Tulsa World, October 2003: Lee Gideon was best known to fellow Tulsans for his alter ego of Modell Phipps who was a popular radio and special appearance personality. He appeared in "America's Most Wanted," several episodes of "Walker, Texas Ranger," and was cast in a number of roles on the popular "Dallas" television series. He also hosted 13 episodes of "Video Tonight" for England's Lorimar Productions.

Here are his credits on the IMDb.

KRMG's Controversial Air Personality Mellows

Erling Celebrates 15 Years on the Dial

By John Wooley

(Reprinted courtesy of Scott Nelson,
Tulsa World Web Editor, 2/15/2005)

"I never, ever thought I'd survive this long," said John Erling recently. "It's been heated at times. It hasn't always been pleasant, and I've been in trouble. But when you look back, it's the good things that you remember."

This week, Erling is celebrating 15 years as a Tulsa broadcaster, which wouldn't be all that remarkable if not for a couple of things. First, he's spent every one of those years as the morning-drive air personality on radio station KRMG (740 AM). Second, he's been at or near the top of the ratings from the beginning, no mean feat in the most highly competitive time slot in broadcasting.

Erling has been celebrating his 15-year anniversary all week over the air. The festivities conclude on Friday, when he's set to broadcast live from the downtown Tulsa landmark, Nelson's Buffeteria. Tulsa mayor Rodger Randle has proclaimed the day John Erling Day in Tulsa, with listeners invited to drop by Nelson's between 5 and 9 a.m.

"I'm not sure of the exact date," he said of his KRMG anniversary. "All I remember was that Jimmy Carter as elected president on a Tuesday, I probably came in on the Friday morning after that, looked things over, and got put on the air Saturday.

"I was fortunate," he added. "When I walked in, that show was already No. 1. Watson Jelks was the host before me, and he left for Las Vegas. There was a six-month period between him and me, and that was when Don Cummins came in. He later won a state senate race and died in office."

Of course, the radio scene in Tulsa was a lot different in 1976, when Erling left his job in Omaha to come here. Perhaps the biggest difference is that FM radio stations didn't come along until years later. But there's another, more subtle, difference, too. It has to do with the pace of life, which has accelerated in an ever-tightening spiral in the intervening 15 years.

The increasing freneticism of life in Tulsa is reflected in Erling's show, he believes.

"It was more free-flowing when I started," he said. "I had gobs and gobs of time in there to do my thing. Now, the programming is tighter, and the listeners seem to sense it. Now, when they call in, it's almost like they're doing a sound bite. They get it said very quickly. Probably the longest I'll ever talk to anybody is two or three minutes, and that's a long time now."

Erling is proudest of "being able to help people" over the past decade and a half.

"That sounds exactly like what you'd expect someone to say, I know, but it's true," he said. "We've helped many individuals in unusual situations, getting maybe a wheelchair or a van for someone, and we've raised thousands of dollars for charities. That is most rewarding."

Perhaps Erling's been best-known, though, for the controversies he's been embroiled in over the years. He seems to take special delight delight in needling well-known Tulsa people and institutions, going head to head with the likes of Terry Young (during his days as Tulsa mayor), Oral Roberts' ministry (paralleling Roberts' "City of Faith" hospital plans with an imaginary "Kennel of Care"...webmaster), and, on occasion, the Tulsa World.

"I'm probably not as controversial today as I was when I came to town," he said. "We fought about some of the dumbest things when I first came here - my brashness, I think, put people off and made them want to fight. When I first came in, I just sprayed everybody. I was mad at the world. I don't think I'm as feisty as I was when I started. I don't know if that's wisdom with age, or what.

"I think I'm more careful about the fights I pick now. If controversy's there, I'll take it on, but it'll be a controversy that already exists, rather than something I've started."

Erling joked that he's "halfway there" at this juncture, indicating he'd like to log another 15 years at KRMG.

"I don't like to admit that I'm 50, but I am, and I'd like to do it until I'm at least 65," he said. "You know, Paul Harvey is 72. Mike Wallace is 72 or 73. As long as you have a voice and stay contemporary, you can do it.

"Right now, though, we'll get through this week. And then, maybe, we'll go for another ... five more (years)," he added with a chuckle. "How about that?"

Copyright © 1991, World Publishing Co. All rights reserved
(From the Tulsa World, not an endorsement)

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