“In 1961 I was a freshman at Lewis & Clark, stumbling to coffee in beatnik rags and the black horned rimmed glasses so many disk jockeys wore. This other college guy, a sophomore, I think, stopped me: “You look like you should be a DJ.” I told him as a stutterer, no way.
“Nevertheless, he persuaded me to follow him to a little shack in lower campus: KLC, a 50 watt station carried to campus buildings and dorms through the AC power lines (although you could hear it leaking nearby into radios set at 680 AM).
“This student DJ I was tagging along with did a radio show that was pure Top 40. He showed me how the magic is done, and sat me down to do it myself. Viola! Speaking into a mike with earphones on, I didn’t stutter!! I was elated and wanted more.
“The guy who believed I could do it was the late Tom Michaels (Gerlitz). He could do the DJ shtick like the big guys at KISN in Portland. Tom went on to become a KISN jock and then the program director. His expertise at production was such that he became a much sought after voice-over talent and the radio and TV spokesperson for Fred Meyer, a big retail chain in Portland.”
Despite Wilde’s initial reluctance to speak on the radio, he got into it and spent more than a decade in the biz. Kirk’s style was Top 40 and modeled after KISN’s high energy presentation. He jocked in Klamath Falls and Corvallis OR, in Washington at KPUG-Bellingham, KRKO-Everett, and at Seattle stations KOL, KSND (as Kirk Allison), and KING. His notable colleagues, at KPUG alone, included Danny Holiday, Gary Shannon, Charlie “Harvey” Brown and Norm Gregory.
In the early ’70s, Wilde transitioned out of Top 40 radio when he took a job at soul station KDKO in Denver (Littleton) CO. He was pleased to discover that KDKO’s predominantly African-American listening audience fully accepted him as the morning drive personality. Those of us who were listeners when Wilde was the music director at KPUG in the mid-60s, aren’t surprised he had a good ear for soul and R&B. In Bellingham he played and charted a number of records by black artists who were largely ignored by other Top 40 radio stations.
Kirk described his on-air style: “sometimes talking to myself, sometimes insulting the artists I had to play (Herman’s Turkeys, “Diana Ross can’t rock”), sometimes teaching grammar or correct pronunciation (the noun is PROtest; the verb is proTEST). Claiming to have been first with the faux-outrage “WHATTT?” and to have used whispering on station promos. I employed my Magic Twanger (jew’s harp) sparingly because it took both hands off a board I wanted tight. So Bam to a hit, rapid-fire to the post (talking over an instrumental lead up to the vocal. That was an admired skill in those days.) When I arrived to a second tour of KPUG, I asked the boss why I was rehired. The general manager, Mr. Jim Tincker, surprised me with a petition of 1300 listener signatures asking for my return. Tincker said he had never seen that kind of demand.”
Last year Mike Schone, a KPUG fan from the ’60s, discovered in his memorabilia collection a recording of Wilde’s on-air sidekick Julius Funkley (read about that 50 year-old recording here). That audio track brought back memories and intrigued this writer, so I focused on learning more about Julius Funkley’s history. For anyone not in the know, Julius was the guy who’d occasionally belt out the line “That’s RIGHT!!” One time Wilde and Julius created a splash in Bellingham. As a stunt, Kirk promoted Funkley as a write-in candidate for associated student body president at Bellingham High School. It must have been a compelling campaign platform, because Funkley was victorious. A funny thing happened though, the imaginary winner never showed up to serve even one day in office.
In spring 2019, when the old Funkley recording was unearthed, I asked Kirk Wilde to describe his relationship with his imaginary and enigmatic associate Julius Funkley. Wilde said:
“I used Julius as a king uses a ‘yes’ man. I’d give an opinion and he would chime in with ‘That’s RIGHT!!’ Occasionally, he would chime in in the midst of a song that was expressing an opinion. Sometimes, I’d let him sing a little nonsense piano ditty. I didn’t try to run that up the KPUG hit chart. Some radio guys have wondered where I got Julius’ voice. It was off a Stan Freberg comedy record. Most of what I used was from his single ‘The Great Pretender,’ a brilliant spoof of The Platters’ original. His lines were, as we said in radio production back then, ‘carted up’ on a tape cartridge.”
That’s the whole story, so it’s time to listen to some Julius Funkley. The accompanying composite recording is very “KPUG in the sixties.” First, there’s the end of “The Pepsi Generation” spot as performed by Martha & The Vandellas. It was a donut jingle. After his favored rapid-fire delivery of the local copy in the middle, but before the vocal started up again, Wilde had time to holler “Martha, HallRIGHT!” The boss didn’t like that kind of hyper style production. On the other hand, the kids listening back then loved it. Unfortunately we don’t have a tape recording. However, we do have Julius exclaiming “That’s RIGHT!!,” followed by a KPUG jingle from the sixties. Lastly you’ll hear Julius, accompanied by a piano, briefly chortling away.
Kirk Wilde left radio in 1975. By then he was looking for a career that provided job security and benefits (health care, retirement, etc.) that were seldom offered by radio stations of the era. After his departure from broadcasting, Wilde drove a school bus for 27 years. Today he is retired and lives in Denver. Kirk keeps his friends up to date with news and critiques of current hits, reminiscences of past hits, and trends and innovations in popular music.
Click on the names below to read about these former KPUG-Bellingham DJs and nearby Canadian legend Red Robinson: