Monday, August 19, 2013

The Name Game (Part 1)


In “DJ DIARIES; RADIO’S REMARKABLE LISTENERS,” I mention that a lot of disk jockeys change their names.  They do so for a lot of reasons like; not enjoying your home phone ringing as you’re sleeping at three AM and it’s a drunk calling wanting to request a song.  Or maybe the DJ is trying to keep a fanatical fan from finding out
"The Duke" John Wayne
where you really live, (Yes that really happen, and wives really hate that!)  You can bet when I was in one of ‘Duke’ John Wayne’s movies I never called him Marion Mitchell Morrison, his given name.  No way, dude!  Did you know
talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who now uses his real name, was known under the radio name Jeff Christie in his days as a top-40 disk jockey?

By now you’ve guessed that Dave Donahue may not be my real name, right?  Tis’ true!  In the course of my career I’ve had many ‘air names’ as we called them in radio.  Yeah, sometimes maybe a little ego had something to do with it, but in my case it was simply because no one seemed to be able to pronounce my real name right.

“Loyal Mum-or Numb something?” or maybe “Lu-well Nutley”  “Lloyd,” uh… “Floyd” even “Lodi-e Fum-blee” or simply…”what did you say your name was again????”  Hell, even the radio people that hired me couldn’t remember it, or spell it right on my paycheck…sooooo, I HAD to chance it.

It was the fifties and a lot of DJ’s started using cutesy easy to remember names like…”Moon Dog” “Mad Daddy”  “The Big Bopper” or like I said, “DJ Daddy-O-Hotrod” who was the future singing teen idol, Tommy Sands.  Tommy and I
The Big Bopper
spent many hours laughing over crazy things teenagers would talk about as we hung out at a small Chinese restaurant near the radio station where he worked in Shreveport, Louisiana.

One day I was complaining about my name problem and Tommy said, “Hey, let’s come up with a cool cat name for you.”  We banged around a lot of names, most I don’t remember, but we both got to talking about the old radio shows and how some of the great detectives had great radio names like, “Philip Marlowe”  “Joe Friday” “Boston Blackie” “Hank Mitchell in Night Beat” or “Yours truly Johnny Dollar.”

“That’s it!” I said to Tommy, “how about Joe Marlowe, uh, Johnny Dallas, Bobby Backbeat?”

“Gad,” Tommy replied, rolling his eyes, then he smiled, “saaaay…how about…Johnny Night?  That sounds mysterious, yet way, way cools-ville, like wow, man!”


So my very first radio name became “Johnny Night” which I changed to, ‘Johnny Knight’ as I would hit the ‘radio waves’ working mainly night shifts as I moved into larger cities.

But it would not be my last radio name.  I used ‘Mark O Marks’ or as I used to say on the air sometimes…”this is your MOM on the radio, ha-ha!”    And I developed a whole cast of voice characters like, ‘Skid’ Marks-a famous race car driver, ‘Whip’ Marks-a famous Cowboy, and ‘Water’ Marks-a famous swimmer, who always talked with a mouth full of water!  (True!)

 Some radio stations owned their own DJ names and when one jock left the new one coming in HAD to use the same name of the departed.  I was also known on the radio as ‘Paul J Thomas’ ‘PJ Thomas’ and finally as, ‘Dave Donahue,’ the name I still use to this day.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dave Donahue's Radio Heros

Back in the 50’s, Tom Perryman, who was working for the Louisiana Hayride would get KWKH announcer Jim Reeves his first gigs as a professional singer.  Later, Perryman became Reeves manager and they would own a radio station in Texas.  Tom also worked with Bob Neal, a promoter who was a DJ like himself out of Memphis that booked Elvis.  I met them both for the first time backstage, as they were talking to a guy called, Colonel Tom Parker, and you sure know the rest of that story. Perryman, who is 87 years old, is also in the DJ Hall of Fame, still works on the radio AND manages Jim Reeves Enterprises!  He’s just received the “Texas Pioneer Broadcaster of 2013 award.

Congrats…good friend.  Nice to talk to you, see you soon. Another great DJ Hall of Famer, Terry Buford just got back in touch with me.  How ironic Terry and I work together at the ‘Radio Ranch,’ KFDI in Wichita, Kansas in the 90’s.  He played a part in the history of famous singer I never knew about until recently. 

On my trips to KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana in the fifties, a small rhythm and blues radio station caught my ear.  KCIJ or K-JOE radio as it was called.  There I met a young DJ who blew me away.  He called himself, ‘Daddy-O-Hot Rod,’ whose real name was Tommy Sands.  

Only a couple of years older than me Tommy was another kind of radio DJ hero, a white guy doing a mish-mash of Rock-A-Billy, Country and R and B on the radio. 

Tommy Sands
Back then sitting in the control room listening to ’Daddy-O’ do his bopping-n-popping’ gig on the microphone was so different than the KWKH DJ’s.  Many times after his shift, we’d hang-out at a small Chinese restaurant and talk about the future.  Neither Tommy nor I knew it at the time, but he was about ready to hitch a rocket ride to stardom. 

He’d played the Louisiana Hayride; though I’d never heard or saw him sing there.  Still, at one performance his singing abilities and good looks would catch the eye of Colonel Tom Parker.  He would sign him and in short time Tommy’s appearance as an ‘Elvis-type’ singer on the Kraft Television Theater’s production of “The Singin’ Idol” would bring him national fame.  On that TV show he would introduce a song called, “Teen-age Crush.”  Capitol records would later record it and it would climb to the top of the charts.  Tommy Sands would be one of the first real teen idols that many others like, Fabian, Paul Anka, Dion and others would follow.

Later, in 1962 I’d reconnect with Tommy when I was working LA radio.  He’d become a Hollywood actor and been in a couple of movies.  He even offered me a chance to get a bit part in a movie he was working on called, “The Longest Day.”  (Boy, did I miss the boat on that one!)  At the time, Tommy was married to Frank Sinatra’s little girl, Nancy.  I recall we all went to the Whiskey-A-Go-Go one night together, and
Nancy Sinatra
Tommy was invited to sing on stage with Johnny Rivers. Today, Tommy lives in Hawaii where he owned his own night club and a clothing store.  

By the way, I haven’t forgotten DJ Terry Burford.  It was he that would replace Tommy Sands on KCIJ radio!  Amazing Terry never told me that story!  You know, it is truly ‘remarkable’ that Terry, Tom Perryman and I continue to be DJ’s on the air TODAY!

Oddly enough, K-JOE radio was owned at the time by promoter I mentioned in an earlier blog, Bob Neal. He was the first country DJ from in Memphis and it came back like thunder when I realized it was Bob I met at KCIJ radio in the days of Tommy Sands!  He even looked like the ‘Big Bopper.’  (All these years I thought Neal was ‘The Big Bopper’!)  His connection to Elvis came while he was a DJ at KMPS.  It was Sam Philips, owner of Sun Records who first recorded Elvis that asked Bob to book Elvis on some tours.  That led to the Louisiana Hayride.  Later, Bob became Elvis’ first manager.   Bob Neal was inducted into the Country DJ and Radio Hall of Fame in 1984, years before me.  Later, he would move to Nashville and have one of the largest talent booking agencies in Country Music.

Wolfman Jack even worked at KCIJ and WSM radio at one time, but…I’ll spin his story on the turntable trail at a later point.

- Dave Donahue

Dave Donahue is a Hall of Fame DJ and Author of the book "DJ Diaries: Radio's Remarkable Listeners". Dave currently writes from his offices in East Texas, just miles from his childhood home. Often referred to as "The Real Life Forrest Gump", there's few places Dave hasn't been, and few known people he hasn't interacted with. See pictures at

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The First Famous Person In My Life

Who was the first entertainer I ever saw?  I always thought it was in the early-fifties when I snuck under the back end of a juke joint by a muddy creek somewhere on the outskirts near Texarkana.  I’d heard a song some local blacks had played and I could not get the beat out of my head…” Boom, Chaka, Boom Chaka, boom, boom, boom”-- “Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley, Where You Been?” I learned that the man who did this song would be at the Tigers Den, Jaguar Lounge or some other exotic wild animal named place, I think.   Yes, I’d heard the “Great Bo” himself was coming and I just had to see him, but it was the fifties and you just didn’t walk into a club full of black people, especially down south if you were white.  So, I had cruised by the club a couple of times and discovered the rear was propped up on stilts and if I crawled under there….

That night in 1954 was hot and humid, but squeezed up under the back of the joint I could see shadowy flashes of him through the cracks of the floor and a sloping wall bouncing around, and singing from above.  It was noisy, with people stomping on the planked flooring, yetl with the sweat running in my eyes, the mosquitos buzzing, and biting, I got caught up swatting and scratching to this wild music with a beat.  That night I just knew I heard the door to my musical future and history open.  A little later on I’d play that very song on the radio myself.

As I grew older, I’d somehow cemented the Diddley incident as the first singing artist I ever heard or saw in person.  (Hey, sort of seeing movement through the cracks counts doesn’t it?)

Then one day years later in about 1998…my Dad was propped back in his easy chair listening to me tell stories of the Rock and Roll fifties.  In the middle of the Diddley story he interrupted me with, “Nope, son…you’re wrong.  You saw your first famous singing star in the forties.”

 My Daddy had been a traveling oil exploration worker; known in the 40’s and 50’s as a, “Doodle bugger.”  He’d live in as many as ten or twelve towns a year, going where ever the oil company thought there might be oil.  Sometimes, he’d pick me up from the fishing camp in the swamps where I was staying with my great-grand parents and take me with him.

His home was a small twenty-one foot plywood box on wheels; he’d pull behind his 1946 Chevy.  It had one tiny bed, in the back separated by a curtain.  In front, a small cot doubled as a place to sit and sleep and
Gorgeous George
the kitchen had a bucket for a sink, a kerosene burner and a wooden tin-lined box that held a block of ice, to keep stuff cold...uh, make that cool.  He said he’d bought it from, “Gorgeous” George.  He was a famous wrestler at the time, who would swagger around the ring throwing out gold bobby-pins from his peroxided platinum-blonde hair to ringside fans.  Daddy even had one of the bobby-pins he’d flash around as proof.
“It was in Opelousas, Louisiana”, Daddy started the story.  “We were parked behind a service station and next door to an empty lot.  One day, workers set up a couple of tents and a stage.  At first I thought it was a small carnival, but it turned out to be the Louisiana Hadacol Caravan.”

Now, if you lived down south in the forties you more than likely had a couple of bottles of this ‘cure-all’ elixir in your home.  Recommend by a doctor, (later uncovered as an ex-convict, who served time for, ‘practicing medicine without a license,’) Hadacol made bizarre claims like, “Two months ago I couldn't read nor write. I took four bottles of Hadacol, and now I'm teaching school."  Really!   Amazing as it sounds, at one time, it was the second most advertised product in America behind Coca Cola.  Stars like Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Mickey Rooney even Judy Garland and other big names starred in the Hadacol shows.

So, here was this grand medicine show, the last of its kind in the quant town of Opelousas, with its moss-draped Oaks and board-covered sidewalks.  With much anticipation I watched all the banners, flags and flash spread out over the parking lot and that night Daddy took me to the show.

The well-known Dixie Blue Boys opened the show singing the ‘Hadacol Boogie’ (a song which Jerry Lee Lewis would record later), and the tent full of cheering, clapping local folks went wild.  The show had a magic act, followed by a pitch for Hadacol, then another act…a banjo player, and another Hadacol pitch.  On and on it went, a band or a singer, a juggler or another singer or magic act and Hadacol pitches between each act, selling hundreds of bottles of this strange brew.  I’d really been impressed by the clowns and by the Indian Chief with his huge feathered headdress, his tom tom drum dance and his strange chants.  But most of the other acts got a little boring for me.  After all, I was about seven years old and as the night wore on my little dust-filled eyes got heaver.  I rubbed them until gritty tears flowed forming a muddy trail down my face.  The smell of popcorn, cotton candy mixed with the noises of loud music and shouting voices and everything seemed to jumble in my head and—

“That’s when I finally woke you up son.  You missed the biggest act of all that closed the show; The Drifting
Hank Williams
Cowboy himself, one of the biggest legends ever in music, Hank Williams!”

My, my…did I hear that, “Whippoorwill singing”?  Did I hear that, “Lonesome Whistle blow?”  Yeah, somewhat, I reckon.  Did I see that tall, skinny man in the light grey suit and white cowboy hat?  Yes, though it was all fuzzy.   Yes, I also remember the hooting, whistling voices and the thunder of the applause, and then things went black again.  I was in dreamland surrounded by clowns and Indians.
Daddy carried me back to the trailer draped over his shoulder.

Hank Williams, imagine that!

Dave Donahue is a Hall of Fame DJ and Author. He currently writes from his offices in East Texas, just miles from his childhood home. You can contact Dave via his website (new site coming soon) at, and be sure to follow him at

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Who Is That Cool Cat?

After finishing my book “DJ Diaries; Radio’s Remarkable Listeners,” we looked back and realized I’d told a lot of stories about other DJ’s and their relationships with their listeners, and very, very little was about me.

So what about myself?  That is how this blog or…the ‘sort-of-unauthorized-unconfirmed-autobiographical-behind-the-scenes-stories’ of my nearly sixty years as a ‘happy-go-lucky-babble-in-a-box’ came about.

So, as I used to say on the radio: “Believe it or don’t!”   I’ll climb into the piles and piles of dusty memories in my cob-web-covered mind and try and sort out what I can remember. Like….

In person, Elvis Presley passed through my life more than once.

Remembering hanging out backstage at the Louisiana Hayride in 1955 at age 15 was the first time.  Elvis had just been introduced and brought onto the stage by KWKH radio announcer Frank Page.   Frank didn’t have to urge the audience at the live radio show to cheer and applaud as Elvis came on stage.  At the word, “Elvis,” a huge explosion of sound assaulted my ears.  That night the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium was packed to the ceiling with an audience of nearly 2,000 people.  I peeped
around the curtain and was shocked to see for the first time some of the wildest, wide-eyed, rowdy, foot stomping, clapping, and screaming teenage girls I’d ever seen.  Some standing on their seats were waving their arms so enthusiastically that they were nearly toppling over on more pubescent girls hysterically screaming and jumping up and down in front of them.

Then my ears were assaulted with the loudest sounds I’d ever heard.  Shocked, I watched Page coming off the stage in our direction watching the audience’s reaction in stunned disbelief.  He had an odd grin on his face as he got to the side stage where announcer friends Nat Stuckey, Jim Reeves and I were standing.  He cupped his hands to the sides of his mouth and shouted something.  No one could hear him.  I glanced at the sound engineers and they were shaking their heads from side to side, sort of dumb struck as what to do next.  On stage, Elvis said something, we couldn’t understand what, but the audience volume screeched up another few notches.  Then Elvis began to sing.  At least we thought so.  Standing side stage we still couldn’t hear anything.  I wondered what the radio listeners were hearing.  It was the first time the hair stood up on the back of my neck, but not the last. 

I think Elvis did two songs, I can’t be sure.  I heard a word or two come out of his mouth every so often--then the screaming would start all over again.

After it was all over, Frank Page simply said, “I don’t know what the kid has, but he’s got it.”

Nat Stuckey turned to Jim Reeves and I and said, “Now there’s the next cool cat, even if he dresses a little strange and wiggles a little too much.”

We all laughed.

Odd as it may sound now at this moment, I would not even remember meeting Jim Reeves until I got to know his widow in the 70’s.  But that’s another story down the line someday.  There are lots of names floating in the murky depths of my mind right now and as I pull them up I’ll try attaching stories to them.  That’s what this is all about!

NEXT: The Name Game.

Dave Donahue is a Hall of Fame Disc Jockey and Author. He currently writes from his offices in East  Texas, just miles from the swamps where he spent his early childhood. Follow Dave at or at (new site coming very soon).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


There was an old song years ago called “Standing In The Shadows.”  I know about that, for I’ve been in those shadows for nearly sixty years now.  Countless times I have come out from the darkness of stage right or stage left into the center stage spotlight myself; briefly enjoying the flash of knowing every eye is on me.  I am blinded by that spotlight to the audience before me, yet I hear them, I feel them…and it is my job to raise their excitement volume of noise to ear-splitting levels as I have brought many rock-and-roll and country music legends out of the darkness into their spotlight of stardom.  After all, the spotlight truly does belong to them.  I am just the concert announcer.  But you know what?  For every single soul that has come out to entertain those audiences there is a few split-seconds that legend, that star looks at you, smiles, pumps your hand or slaps you on the back or kisses you on the cheek and you know, in that moment in time the time spent in the shadows has been worth it.  Yes, especially when a stage show was broadcast on the radio.

My first inside track to show business backstage was Nat Stuckey.  He had been my program director when I was 15 years old, working part-time at KALT radio in Atlanta,
Nat Stuckey
Texas.  Nat Stuckey had grown up in Cass Country and after KALT, he moved up the ladder to KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana.  KWKH radio was famous for the Louisiana Hayride!  Even I’d grow up hearing those famous broadcasts on my fishing camp-boat guide great-grandfather’s old battery radio long before I was even a teenager.

I started visiting Nat at KWKH where I met another young announcer who would later become the great ‘Gentleman Jim’ Reeves.  On Friday and Saturday nights, Nat, Jim and their boss Frank Page were the announcers that would bring out the stars to perform their musical magic on the live radio show stage.

Later, Nat would go on to write some pretty good country songs including “Waiting in Your Welfare Line,” for Buck Owens, and “Pop-a-Top” for Jim Ed Brown and Alan Jackson.  He also co-wrote “Digging up Bones” for Randy Travis.  I would eventually even introduce Nat on the concert stage myself in later years.  Sadly, we lost him in 1988.  Jim Reeves had died even earlier in 1964 in a tragic airplane crash just a year after the airplane crash of singer Patsy Cline.

Yeah, I had a lot of fun standing in the shadows watching those guys introduce the stars when they were disk jockeys first, and concert show announcers on the side.  I knew even then I wanted to bring out the stars.  Fact is, even today it is hard for me to sit out front and watch a music concert or any kind of stage show for that matter.  I keep looking into the darkness of the shadows just off stage.

Then sadly, I got the call this January with news that we’d lost announcer Frank Page, who -like me- was in the DJ Hall of Fame.  We’d had the chance a couple of times in later years to talk about the radio days of the 50’s.  I never tired of hearing the story of how Frank would be the first to introduce to the world a skinny, dark-eyed kid named Elvis!

Coming Next:  “Who Is That Cool Cat?”

 Dave Donahue backstage with Johnny Cash
Dave Donahue is a Hall of Fame Disc Jockey and Author. He currently writes from his offices in East Texas, just miles from the Louisiana swamps where he grew up. Visit for more, and connect with him on facebook at djdavedonahue. For booking information, please contact Dave's Publicist, Kirk Downing of 1D3R PR, via the contact form on the website.