The Beginning

PIN

Music has always been a part of my life. My parents had a Stromberg Carlson unit. The right side was the radio and the left was a record player.

I remember riding my tricycle across the wooden living room floor as the music played. Then it stopped and a man started talking. ” Where is the man?” Mom explained that the man was playing records from another place and that we could hear him and the music. It was called “radio.” The seed of curiosity was planted.

Later, when I was in grade school, I would be given a radio for Christmas. I kept it in the headboard of my bed. Nights were the best. I could dial in radio stations from far away. I especially remember listening to KOMA in Oklahoma City and WLS from Chicago in my room in Dallas.

Of course, I loved the local stations too. KLIF and KBOX played rock and roll and I hung on every word of the disc jockeys. As a grade school kid, I liked KBOX better. It seemed louder, more crisp, and the pace was faster than KLIF. When Dad would drive me to school, we would listen to KBOX and the morning DJ would announce his version of the Dallas public school lunch menu for the day. He was funny and made the food offering sound as bad as it probably was. That DJ was Dan Ingram.

My fascination with radio was growing. I decided I needed to see how these people made this magic. So, I called KBOX and asked if they gave tours. They did. So, Mom drove me over to 9900 McCree Road, near White Rock Lake, and as we rounded the corner, I looked up the hill. There it was. KBOX in “Radio Park.” Four towers just behind the building.

It was not a really big building. One studio, one production room. I didn’t get in to the control room. It was good enough to look through the window in the production studio and watch Chuck Benson (later at WIND, Chicago) rockin’ the hits. Four turntables and a control board. Benson was in non-stop motion. Yes, I got to see one of the magicians at work.

There was a tall man, wearing a suit and tie in the studio with me. I was introduced to…Dan Ingram.

Well, that was it. This was all I wanted to do from that day forward. Of course, my odds of making it on air were pretty slim. After all, I was in grade school, couldn’t drive a car, and my voice was still that of a little kid. It didn’t matter. In my mind, it was a done deal.

KBOX had a great line up. Al Lohman and Roger Barkley worked there, but not yet as a team. Johnny Borders (aka Johnny Dark) was on staff. By the time I was older, Jimmy Kaye (Jim MacKrell), Danny Preston (Jerry Goodwin) and Gary Mack passed through KBOX. At one point, Chuck Dunaway was Program Director and made me a K-BOX correspondent and I got to announce school news during one hour on a Sunday night.

So, while I waited for my age to catch up to my dreams, I decided to start my own “radio station.” I found a transmitter in the Allied Electronics catalog. You had to assemble it yourself. It would pump out 3 big watts of power. I saved my money and waited for the package to arrive. It was a beauty.

So, my bedroom became a studio. I had a microphone, a record player and a tape recorder and I was…”on the air.” I would call the neighbor kids when it was time to sign on. The blow torch signal covered a few blocks. I was learning to be a magician while still in grade school.

During this time, I began calling disc jockeys and visiting as many stations as I could. Every one of the DJs had great stories and I was getting a free education from the magicians themselves.

What happened next is when the dream began to have wings.

You May also Like

Comments (38)

  1. Bob Bronson WROR BOSTON

    February 11, 2020 at 11:25 am

    Charlie, this is great! I listened to you in the 70’s on WRKO and knew you were among the best. I can hear your voice in your writing and look forward to more!

  2. John

    February 11, 2020 at 11:32 am

    Can’t wait too hear you weave the magic Charlie!

  3. Bob Tomlinson

    February 11, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for the view of the beginning. Never knew you could get tours of the stations.

  4. Douglas C Brown

    February 11, 2020 at 11:41 am

    My very best time in radio was working with and for you at 93/KHJ. Wanna hear the rest of your story!

  5. Ernie Phillips

    February 11, 2020 at 11:42 am

    Charlie LeOtis…
    You got me…I’m so tuned in to the new website to follow you on this keyboard journey. Carry on!!!

  6. Howie

    February 11, 2020 at 11:44 am

    LOVE this!!! I want to hear more. Yes it all seemed like magic. Dunaway gave me my start too! Wish I could have been there Charlie , even though I wasn’t alive yet..somehow I feel like I was there. Thanks for sharing brother. Dreams do come true.

    • Dan Rarick (Dan the Electric Man)

      February 11, 2020 at 6:54 pm

      Worked with you Charlie at KLIF in 1978. Was the skinny geeky engineer with Don Everhart and Bill Walker and Bill Meeks was production director. One of the great times in life! Love your web site! Ready for more!

  7. Jeff Laurence

    February 11, 2020 at 11:46 am

    This will be an archival site Charlie. We will be hanging on for the next installments

  8. Hamilton Wallace

    February 11, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    Keep it coming, Charlie. Great stories, and in another 10 posts you’ll have the bones of a book.

  9. Dave Pennington

    February 11, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    Charlie, that was fun! We all have our stories of starting out and like you I was about 11! But I look forward to hearing more from your past. Keep up the good work!

  10. Jay Davis

    February 11, 2020 at 12:34 pm

    Excellent start for your website Charlie. I look forward to reading about your journey.

  11. Timothy Hall

    February 11, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    Loved hearing about the journey. Please continue and give up dates when more is up on Facebook.

  12. Mike Hagerty

    February 11, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    Charlie, these are great memories and you’ve written them wonderfully. Really looking forward to what I hope will be many years of stories on this site!

  13. Jim MacKrell

    February 11, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    If you read this excellent essay you will find out that I’ve known Charlie since he was in knee pants. Not really he was much older in his grammar school days in Dallas. I have watched him grow from a “want to be” into one of the Brightest Stars of Radio in the land. He truly is one of the top people in that wonderful time of Radio. Radio that reached it’s the audience on a personal level that exceeded anything that had gone on before.
    Charlie is not only a great broadcaster, music man and all-around talent he is a gifted writer who will entertain and inform in a most memorable way. I can’t wait for the next edition of Charlie’s story. It’s a fast ride through one of the most important times of our lives.

  14. Doug Thompson

    February 11, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    Charlie, wonderful story. My parents had a Stromberg-Carlson radio/record player as well only ours had the 78 only record player on the top of the radio.

  15. Jim Lee

    February 11, 2020 at 2:24 pm

    Great start to an unbelievable career. You were a staple while was in high school, and a few years later I met you personally in Marketing class at SMU. Looking forward to continuing this journey with you.

  16. Jim Carson

    February 11, 2020 at 2:33 pm

    Good stuff Charlie, great reading.

  17. Shaun Holly

    February 11, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    Charlie, as you may remember from our KKFR days, I listened to you on KLIF growing up in Dallas when I was pursuing radio. Always been a big fan. Will you be sharing some audio as you go along as well?

  18. Ralph Carroll

    February 11, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Charles Of The West! I can hardly wait for you to continue. This is a fabulous idea!

  19. John Moore

    February 11, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    Have you done any work for Audible? Your stories would sell there. Thank you for this.

  20. Don Maher

    February 11, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    This is just wonderful !! Such great and detailed memories. This is fun! Thanks ! Don Maher

  21. Justin Clark

    February 11, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Charlie, working with you as your APD at WRKO in Boston was a thrill beyond belief! This was the most meaningful period in my life. I am so proud to be able to say that you hired me and that I worked for you.
    I can’t wait to read the rest of the story! God Bless.

  22. Jim Van Sickle

    February 11, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    I love this story and looking forward to more!
    Jim Van Sickle ad sales and sales manager KFJZ 1968 to 1980!

  23. James Baker

    February 11, 2020 at 6:26 pm

    I only know you in real time from your many voice overs through the years with call letters like KIOI San Francisco and KQMQ Honolulu that come to mind right now. I’ve heard tapes from various stations especially KHJ. What a fantastic career you have had! I’m looking forward to hearing your stories as I’m sure countless others are too. Thanks for sharing Charlie!

  24. Smokey Rivers

    February 11, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    Charlie, it’s good to see you assembling the story a chapter at a time. Less pressure for you and more enriching for us readers that are hungry for your story. Keep being fabulous.

  25. Ron Harper

    February 11, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    And then YOU became an inspiration to hundreds more like me who listened and studied and tried but failed to emulate you. But in the meantime discovered our own voices and styles and climbed the ladders thru small markets to our own dreams. Can’t wait to hear more from you. Thanks, Charlie.

  26. Michael Reagan

    February 11, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    An awesome read…..can hardly wait to see more and hopefully, hear a mix of audio along the way!

  27. Cathy Pedego

    February 11, 2020 at 11:35 pm

    Fantastic read Charlie; looking to more, more, more!

  28. David

    February 12, 2020 at 4:50 am

    I cannot wait for the next installment. It brings back memories of my own infatuation with radio.

  29. Steve(Scott) Christiaens

    February 12, 2020 at 7:03 am

    Charlie kept me from abandoning radio altogether, when he called me one night while I was on the air at KOMA. Moving to Dallas and KLIF, even though it was during AM radio’s last gasp, paved the way for me to become, in quick succession, the music director, the program director, and, eventually, land a job in L.A. Even more importantly, I met my wife of 40+ years, who was also working at KLIF then. For that alone, I am eternally grateful to Charlie.

    Keep the story coming! You’re the best!

  30. Pat O'Briant

    February 12, 2020 at 9:25 am

    Charlie, you’ve been one of my favorites from the first time I heard you. Hope all is well and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  31. Kevin Fodor

    February 12, 2020 at 11:29 am

    Charlie:

    Have always followed your career. You did my “hour opener” on WING in Dayton in the 80’s…and I always looked forward to the top of the hour.

    Heard you first on KHJ in Los Angeles on my first “vacation from radio” in 1975. Been in it ever since.

  32. Gary McDowell

    February 12, 2020 at 11:50 am

    Hey Charlie — I have a 45 recording of KBOX’s “Having a Ball in Big D” by Clair Stewart. Instrumental version on flip side. Since we’re both still alive, I’d love to send it to you. Also have CDs with tons of KBOX promos. Love & kisses.
    GM

  33. Nick Alexander

    February 12, 2020 at 1:05 pm

    Love this web site!!! Keep the stories coming!
    Nick Alexander
    KLIF 76-77
    KVIL Operations Mgr 84-87

  34. Chip Taylor

    February 12, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    Charlie, not only are you a great radio/audio talent but an excellent writer as well. I am looking forward to reading your personal point of view from the beginning of your career through today.

  35. mike mangan

    February 12, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    Charlie, This is the Beginning of a rare treat!

  36. Les Garland

    February 13, 2020 at 5:22 pm

    Super Fan for life!!! 🙂

  37. Mike Haile

    February 16, 2020 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I look forward to your journey narrative as it continues to unfold.

Leave Your Comments