Few and far between are the experiences I consider enjoyable as a radio station owner in my move to the northwest, but one will always standout to me. The country music stations in the Spokane market was a combo KGA-am & KDRK-fm, at that time recently purchased by Citadel Communications. In challenging them my “Real Country K-103” was considered the underdog supplying many of the country music standards never programmed on our competitors. Just as the ratings began to demonstrate our format had defeated 50,000 watt KGA-am, one day I heard on those stations that the hottest new country music sensation, Garth Brooks was coming to town with both of our competitors claiming sponsorship of his concert appearance in Spokane.
Many years had passed since my buddy Eddie Cochran in the 50’s had first introduced me to Jimmy Bowen, a one hit recording artist with his “I’m sticking with you.” Later in his attempt to become a disc jockey in Colorado Springs, he would drive up to Denver to pick up a few pointers from me, a DJ at KTLN. But his real claim to fame came as the producer of both Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin chart toppers in from the 1960’s. Now in the 1990’s Jimmy had taken his talents to Nashville producing several country music stars including Garth Brooks. Unfortunately In leaving a message for him, I didn’t receive a return call.
My only other hope was another good friend then and now, a recording industry legend, Joe Smith A Harvard graduate and former Boston DJ, I always liked Joe and responded to his need for airplay as he gave birth to many of the top recording artists over the years. At a time when most thought they were in the twilight of their careers, Joe’s classy, charismatic and hip charm resurrected the recording careers of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and even Jimmy Durante, giving them the biggest hits of their careers. I learned to give Joe more credence as all three soon were being heard mixed with Chubby Checker and Elvis Presley on Top 40 radio all across the nation
Everybody from Petula Clark to Linda Ronstadt; The Eagles and The Grateful Dead, Joe was the man. As a featured speaker at many music & radio industry gatherings he had no equal. I often wished I had his gift of communicating, Joe was a headliner that always wowed the audience with his wisdom & humor.
The last time we had talked Joe had invited me to lunch at a Hollywood hangout for celebrities, the place where all the movers and shakers of tinsel town met. Most didn’t know I had been plagued by a back deformity since birth and up until the 1990’s when it was corrected by laser surgery, I required morphine to ease the constant pain. Stopping by my doctor’s office for a shot before meeting Joe I proceeded to our luncheon, but soon didn’t remember where I was heading. Finally I remembered but don’t recall a thing Joe and I talked about, the meeting was a blur for me except departing the luncheon I do recall Joe asking about my Mercedes.
Ten years would pass with Joe Smith then heading up Capitol Records, the home of Garth Brooks. I placed a telephone call, leaving my name and number. Within 30 minutes Joe returned my call as I began to explain my situation and Joe saying he’d see what he could do. I don’t think the conversation lasted more than a minute. Before the week was over I received a Fed-Ex shipment containing 25 tickets to give-a-way to the sold out Garth Brooks concert and a call from Garth’s road manager offering any help he could provide. Following his suggestion I parked our Real Country K-103 van at the entrance to the concert, blocking any attempt for our competitors to do so and provided the road manager with our station banner as requested, I could only hope it would be displayed somewhere in the arena. Before the concert the road manager asked if I’d like to meet Garth, a real treat for both me and my grandson Matthew Rook. There was no doubt in my mind Garth Brooks would become a superstar, just like Elvis and the Beatles and upon my telling him so, he blushed and said, “Thank you very much sir, but I really can’t imagine that” as I thought even Garth’s unaffected country charm, calling me “Sir” was pure Elvis. As I attempted to explain, Matthew didn’t realize he had just met a guy that would become legendary, instead my grandson wanted to go home claiming the loudness of the concert was too much for his tender young ears. So, that’s what we did to my disappointment. I never again would see Garth Brooks on stage as I had so many others including Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. But Garth Brooks would indeed rival them in popularity.
However, I did get to see Garth Brooks come on stage wearing a Real Country K-103 shirt with our station banner hanging above the stage. You could just imagine how stunned our competitors were sitting in the audience and my pride as I silently thanked Joe Smith for being my friend.