Oops!

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Have you ever had an “oops” on the air? The mic is open and something just came out of your mouth. I’ve had a few. One is especially memorable.

I was doing mornings on WLS in Chicago. It was just after 5AM, so the giant 50,000 watt signal was banging out to a huge portion of America.

There was a long desk running from where the jock and news person sat across the room toward the engineer’s control room.

Now, you should know that at that time, WLS was housed in The Stone Container Building…yes, right near the water of the Chicago River.

The Stone Container Building

As I recall, I was stumbling through the farm report…when I noticed some kind of movement at the base of the engineer’s window. What?

Suddenly, it came running at me across the desk…up over the mic boom, down to the ground and scampered to a steam pipe against the back wall!

Good morning!

Yes, it was a rat…about the size of a cat. Without any time to think, I simply exclaimed, “Hooolllyyy SHIT!” I cued the engineer to move on to whatever was next…but he couldn’t stop laughing long enough to hit the cart machine. (You could actually hear a “thud” when his fat little body hit the floor._

It seems that such a surprise visitor had made an entrance before. (The building was right at the water of the river so I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised.) I was told not to talk about it because the station had settled with the building owners not to mention details of this show stopper on the air. (Could hurt occupancy, I guess, if it was know that the building was rat infested.)

Ken Davis remembers one.

Ken Davis

“When I was on KUPD in Phoenix, I accidentally intro’d “Woman, Woman” with “Here’s Motherfucket’s son Gary” when I obviously meant to say, “Motherpuckett’s son Gary”.  Program Director Chuck Browning (who was known to push limits himself) was not pleased.” 

For Mark Jeffrey, it happened early in his career.

Mark Jeffrey

“First day on the air…KCKY-AM Coolidge AZ….during my first show i crack the mic and say “heres Mickey Gilley on 11-50 KCKY”…I started the record – it was Willie Nelson that began to play and I let out a very loud “SHIT!”    ..luckily the boss was understanding but I thought my career was over before it began!”

Joe Collins knows sports.

Joe Collins

” 1964, my first Summer in radio, reading the 10pm “News Final” on KVEC AM in San Luis Obispo, got to the Sports Report, …..”and tonite in Los Angeles, Sandy Kofax “pissed” a no hitter”. (not intentional)”

There’s a phone call for Bill Chamberlain.

Bill Chamberlain


“I was on my very first gig, very first night at a small radio station in Susanville, Ca. I was the new host of the 1240 Club where I played what was as close to rock and roll as this little station in the little town would allow.

At seven PM I opened up the mic and welcomed every one, told them who I was and that I was new. The record rolled and the phone light flashed. 

I had to leave the control rook to pick up the phone because the studio phone wasn’t working. I went to the lobby and answered the phone….

“Good evening, this is KSUE, can I help you?”

“When is the 1240 club come on?” A small voice asked.

I suggested she turn on her radio and said good bye.

In the little town at the little station that had not changed it’s format in at least 40 years, everyone knew when the 1240 clubs came on, except her. I walked back in the studio loudly complaining about the girl who was totally lost. And I used the “F” word to describe her. I know, I’m horrible. 

Suddenly it dawned on me that there was no sound coming from the studio speakers and that could only mean one thing. Microphone was on.

Holy crap, first day, first job and I’m going to be fired because the owner always listened. He never missed a day, a show, anything. So I sat down and waited to get the “The Call.”

I waited and waited but “The Call” never came.

In my thirty seven plus years on the air, this was the only pure foul language goof that I ever made.”

From giving the wrong call letters to bigger mouth mistakes, most of us have a few to remember. So, next time it happens, just remember…

If you have ideas or questions, my email is [email protected]

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