Where Are They Now?


Al Waters

I remember Larry Vance somewhat, but don't know if he was Larry Kent. Larry was at WALT in 1964, when I was there doing the "Waters Splash, taking the high dive at five" until sign-off, right after Marv Ray (King of the Bay) who was really MJ Sklute. I had a diving board and splash sound effects package that emphasized my theme.

I also did weekends, sometimes splitting shifts with Gil Cabot, who married one of the Shangri-Las, as I recall. I was going to the University of Tampa and Gil was still at Hillsborough High.

WALT was heaven and rock and roll radio was, in my opinion at its very peak when I was hired by Dick Oppenheimer, the General Manager whom I got to meet taking a radio and TV class while at the University of Tampa and while being on WTUN, the school station. When I was hired in February 1964, the Beatles had just broken, phones rang off the wall constantly, and the rest of the British Invasion made for a very exciting time. Although we were a daytimer, we actually beat WLCY out for number 1 the spring of 64.

Marv Ray was the hottest guy at WALT at the time; you will probably remember that he did all the teen fashion shows live from Maas Bros on Saturday. He also had the most personal appearances booked of anyone there at the time. I think he was the top sales guy at WALT in addition to the top jock, and I also remember him for the 1964 hard top/convertible T-Bird he drove. He also wore a hard top/convertible (a rug) that got some kidding around the station on Tyler, in downtown. At the time, I know I was quite impressed with Marv, and I thought he was a really good guy (he was friendly to me, a 19 year old kid, relatively new to rock'n'roll radio). I seem to recall that Marv came to some tragic end, but I don't recall the details.

A huge talent at the time was Ron Hart (I think his real name was Jay Witter), who was fantastic on production and was also Program Director. I recall he had recorded a single for Columbia before he was at WALT; it didn't make the top 40, but I think it might be listed as a top 100 in Billboard. I recall he was somewhat of a mentor to me, and we did some drinking together on occasion, and we'd often bring in burgers from the Stadium Inn (was there such a place near Phillips Field?) and a few beers to down while spending some nights producing spots for advertisers. Other times we'd go the Goody, Goody for dinner, where Gil Cabot's mother was a waitress.

Lunch was also a fun time. Several of us would often drive to Ybor City to the Alvarez, and we often met Chuck Harder and some of the other local radio guys there. Usually there would be four to eight of us, and lots of talk about local radio.

One of the real characters I remember was Bill Bowers, a former CBS radio news guy who had a great voice and was a great intellect, except I seem to recall that his past had a few too many episodes with the bottle, so that's why such a talent ended up doing radio news in Tampa in 1964. He was great competition for Bill David, WLCY's news guy, who as you recall, had the most dramatic delivery in the market. Bill Bowers was outstanding but he had some "guiding principles" that wouldn't allow him to do some things. His downfall was being sent to the Tampa Airport to interview Senator Barry Goldwater, who was campaigning for President. Bill got there on time, and was in the right place, but he couldn't stand Goldwater, and simply refused to do the interview, so he was fired.

Other guys who were at WALT when I was there include Bob Peterson and Bob Stone. I worked with both of them later at WINQ where I was the "H2O show from Quality Radio, 1010 on your dial" where we played middle of the road stuff, like Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nancy Wilson, Barbara Striesand, etc. Bob Collins was also at WINQ at the same time. Also, Dean Drapin was there, and I think Bob Shory and Mike Moore might have been there also; I had learned radio at the University of Tampa with these guys, where Dick Crippen also got his start before doing his gig at WFLA TV.

Before and after WALT, I did country. First, in 1963 I was simply "Al Waters" at WHBO, way out on Florida Avenue and I did half of Saturday, all of Sunday and sometimes substitute work for weekday guys. The reason I got the job was my friend George Bollinger, who was at WTUN. George, a huge country music fan, was hired for it, but he got drafted and couldn't even start. He was kind enough to refer me. Although I didn't start out as a country music fan, I got to like it. After all, it was my first job in radio, and I couldn't be choosy. The guys at WHBO included some bona-fide characters, and traditional country was like a religion. I remember when Johnny Cash came out with Ring of Fire and we were prohibited from playing it. The Program Director wrote all over the white Columbia label in big letters JAZZ, DO NOT PLAY because there were horns on the record. Also, Duane Eddy had gotten country play, but when he left Jamie for RCA his records became unacceptable because some had black girl singers in the background choruses. The times sure changed quickly thereafter.

My last radio gig was at WYOU in 1968, which had been a major competitor of WTMP for a while, but switched to Town and Country, bringing on Ernie Lee mid-days. Back while WTMP was still soul, I recall becoming friendly with one of the jocks there (Gigi something or other, real name Brock Easter, who turned me on to jazz.) I only lived about a mile from the Cass street studio. When I did my thing at WYOU in 1968 I was "Cousin Al, whooping and hollering and walking sideways till six." The fun thing about WYOU was the big glass window at the front of the building, and the glass was one of the four walls of the control room. Fans of the station could drive by and wave or park and watch you work. WYOU did a lot of promotion, and partnered with a new venue in Pinellas County, Joyland and its revolving stage, to bring in Country stars on the weekends. One of my favorites was one Saturday when I was working a remote of my show at Superior Motors on Florida Avenue and the star of the weekend was Mel Tillis, who was a big risk for a lot of "dead air." Off the air, one of his funniest stories was about the weekend before when he was performing somewhere in the South and he met Charlie Pride for the first time. Obviously, Charlie Pride was quite a shocker to country music fans in the 60's, but he sure had the right formula for success.

This is certainly more than you asked for, but I thought you might be able to appreciate some of these stories. As you know, one of my favorites was of a teenage kid named Hank who auditioned at WALT in 1964 and was given some copy to read about making soufflés, but he read it as making "scuffles." You had to be there to appreciate the blunder, but this kid sure went a long way since that day in 1964 was only a radio dream of his!

Al Waters, The Waters Splash...

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