Spokane: Mike “Mitchell” Forney, KNEW (1965)

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Mike Forney, 1960s

There have been many posts of late related to Spokane Radio. I thought I would add my own. A few weeks ago, I was researching Pacific Northwest bands and came across “The Emergency Exit,” which was popular in Seattle in the mid-sixties. At the website www.pnwbands.com they had a :30 second radio spot for “The Emergency Exit” that was from an unidentified source. As I listened to the cut, I recognized the voice as Mike Forney, who had been at KPUG in Bellingham in the early ’60s.

Previously I’d published a story about Mike so, having his contact information handy, I sent the audio clip on for verification. He confirmed it was his voice on the ad and said it was from KNEW in Spokane, probably dating back to 1965. (Shortly thereafter, the KNEW call letters were changed to KJRB. KNEW/KJRB and KJR-Seattle were sister stations owned, in part, by Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye).

The Emergency Exit. UW archives photo

“The Emergency Exit” was a garage band from Seattle that was active from 1965 – ’67. They were a regionally popular group that often performed at dances, Battles of the Bands, and concerts promoted by Pat O’Day and Dick Curtis. (Click here to listen to KJR’s Dick Curtis plug “The Emergency Exit” in an ad for the 1967 “Trips Festival.” They were, also, the opening act for the “Young Rascals” at a Seattle concert. “The Emergency Exit” had two singles, both on the Dunhill label, that charted in the KJR top 20. Personally, I think they sound much like a cross between “The Byrds” and “The Turtles.”

Mike Forney, the guy known as Mike Mitchell at KNEW, actually landed his job in Spokane as a result of his infamous “Telstar stunt” at KPUG in Bellingham (read that story here).  The bit at KPUG, and the national publicity it received, attracted the attention of KNEW management and they imported Mike to Spokane.

He worked in Spokane until June, 1965. In Bellingham, Mike had attended Western Washington State College. He completed his education while living in Spokane, earning a Bachelor’s degree from Eastern Washington State College. Forney enjoyed radio, but he told Puget Sound Media that he really needed to think about his economic future: 

“After eight years in the business, and at the age of 24 (and married), I wanted to move into a career with a better future. My Mike Mitchell fan club was filled with 13-year-olds, who constantly tracked me down at home or through my unlisted number. The older I got the more unappealing that became. That was a factor in my decision to leave Top 40 radio. While in Spokane, I interviewed with a team from Pacific Northwest Bell. In the fall of 1965, they offered me a position in their PR department in Seattle as a staff writer for their regional magazine. I took that job and had an outstanding 18-year career with AT&T, moving on to public relations management jobs in several major cities. I took an early retirement in 1984 to start a commercial mortgage banking company with two partners. We ran that for 14 years and eventually sold it to a national company (Paine Webber Mortgage DBA PW Funding).”

Now that you know the background story on Mike, let’s listen to an audio clip. It begins with his previously “unidentified” spot, then it leads into a vintage KNEW jingle, and that’s followed by “The Emergency Exit’s,” biggest hit: “It’s Too Late, Baby.” In spring of ’67, the record ascended to #15 on the KJR chart.

Mike “Mitchell” Forney spot – KNEW jingle – “It’s Too Late, Baby” by “The Emergency Exit”

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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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