Oh, That Voice: Solving a KJR Radio Mystery

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When you write blog posts about media, some people think you know everything….or others may think you know nothing. Over the years, some dedicated listeners of Channel 95, from back in the day, have asked if I knew the identity of the voice on the station’s indelibly memorable mid-sixties image liners. If you grew up in the northwest in the sixties you know that one voice I am talking about — “This is KJR, serving the sound from Seattle.”

Oh, that voice! Samples

That question arose again recently when I posted KJR: Those Golden Years 1965 – ’66. It included jingles, image liners and airchecks from the mid-sixties: Lan Roberts, Dick Curtis, Tom Larson, Pat O’Day, Larry Lujack, Tom Murphy, Jerry Kaye, and newsmen Charles C. Bolland and Les Parsons.

Pat O’Day

I knew the identity of all of the voices, except not the voices on the image liners.  Pat O’Day, legendary KJR program director, saw my post and commented favorably on it. So I sent an Email to Pat, asking if I could send audio and if he would help me identify the voice or voices.  Pat said sure. And when we were done, his answer was a segue into one of the most shattering events of the 20th Century.

Below are applicable portions of our Email exchange.

To Pat……Can you help me identify the voice or voices in the mid-sixties image liners attached to this Email?  I don’t know if they are all the same announcer or not. I understand that Don Courtnay did voice work. (But these cuts didn’t sound like him to me).  I am wondering if you recall the specifics.  I would like to credit the voices on the image liners in my KJR Golden Years aircheck. If you can help that would be great. If not, well at least I know that I tried.  Steve Smith

To Steve……Your work is appreciated by this guy and may it continue. We created an historic radio station and you’re helping keep it alive. May it stand as an example of what radio should be to current radio people who have lost their way. Now as to the voices: The primary voice you asked about on those liners is Joe Long, News Director of KLIF Dallas. He was my buddy and the lead newsman during the JFK assassination coverage. He voiced many things for us at KJR and, as you’ve heard, his voice was powerful, pleasing, and understood. Pat O’Day

Joe Long, ’60s photo

So, Joe Long was the man with that voice. I was curious about Joe and wanted to know more about him. In addition to being the news director at KLIF, a 50kw McClendon family owned station, he was the director of news operations for all of the McClendon owned stations. KLIF was top-40 format, but it was considered by many to be the best radio news operation in Texas.

As O’Day had said, Joe was a key player in coverage of the JFK assassination.  He was the “pool” reporter for ALL of the Dallas and Fort Worth radio stations at the time of Kennedy’s visit on that Friday morning, November 22, 1963. Long was among the notables who greeted the President and the First Lady upon their landing at Love Field. That morning, Long was driving the KLIF mobile unit and he provided commentary and various reports. His role changed in the noon hour. The station received a listener tip that shots had been fired at the President. KLIF news followed up with a call to the Dallas Police. Newscaster Gary DeLaune interrupted regular programming at 12:38 p.m. CST to state there had been reports of gunfire at the Presidential motorcade. The KLIF news bulletin was the first announcement to the world that something had gone tragically wrong in Dallas.

With a crisis in the making, Long drove back to the KLIF studio to serve as the news anchor. Reporter, Roy Nichols, took the mobile unit and spent much of his time waiting for news at Parkland Hospital. The story unfolded quickly, frantically and Dallas was in a state of pandemonium. KLIF news broadcasts became full time and continuous. Their feed was distributed to all McClendon owned stations, and to a total of 350 radio stations around the country.  At 1:38 p.m. Gordon McClendon himself was on-air when Joe Long interrupted him mid-sentence to announce that the President was dead. KLIF stayed on the developing story non-stop for 27 hours. Two days later, Gary DeLaune (the newsman who broke in with the first news bulletin of the shooting) was standing near Lee Harvey Oswald when Oswald was gunned down by Jack Ruby. That KLIF on-the-scene report, including the sound of gunfire and panic, was rebroadcast by radio and TV stations around the world. Recordings of the minute by minute KLIF broadcasts are stored at the National Archives and compilation record albums were sold to the public. A simple search will locate much of that material online.

The audio compilation below consists of three cuts from KLIF broadcasts on November 22, 1963. The first track is Gary DeLaunes’ news bulletin from 12:38 p.m. The second cut, after the shooting  but prior to official confirmation of Kennedy’s death, is Joe Long summarizing the facts up until that time. The third cut is Joe Long interrupting Gordon McClendon at 1:38 p.m. to report the President was dead. If you were around back then, it was agonizing waiting to hear an update on the condition of the President. It seemed to take forever! But, in reality, the time span between the initial news bulletin of the shooting and Kennedy’s reported death was just about an hour.

Cut 1: Gary DeLaune first bulletin; 2: Joe Long summary, 3: Gordon McClendon interrupted on-air by Joe Long’s announcement

KLIF newsmen. R-Joe Long. L- Roy Nichols (he reported from the mobile unit and Parkland Hospital)

So there you have it, the answer to a lingering question of identity: Joe Long of KLIF-Dallas was the voice on the classic KJR “voice of the sound” liners. In listening to Joe on the KLIF tracks, it is readily apparent that he was the voice on the popular 1960s KJR image liners. As an epilogue, Joe Long passed away in 1971.

There is another detail I will mention now. I had sent Pat recordings of liners with what I thought were two different voices. One of the liners did not sound like the primary voice — now known to be Joe Long. Pat said I was correct, it was another announcer on that liner. But when he told me who it was, I was surprised. We will call this our KJR mystery man. Do you recognize this voice? You probably heard it a lot if you listened to KJR back in those Golden Years!

Another mysterious voice? Guesses from anyone out there?

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Author: Steven Smith

Presently editor and historical writer with Puget Sound Media in Seattle. Former radio broadcaster and radio station owner, 1970-1999. Journalism and speech communications degrees. I enjoy researching articles and online reporting that allows me to meld together words, audio and video. P.S. I appreciate and encourage reader comments and opinions.

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