“From the showroom window”
Bob Burnham

Last year I had the chance to help out WGPR’s John Mason and his crew when they did their morning show live from Motor City Casino’s Radio Bar.  These are good people on a great station!   John is also the announcer for the Detroit Pistons basketball team.  The chant “DEEEEEEEE-troit… basketball” was started by John.

He spent 18 years as WJLB’s “Mason in the Morning” with a few other stops before arriving at Detroit’s WGPR-FM 107.5.

"The Radio Bar" was one of my independently produced techie projects outside of the Specs Howard School.

WGPR is one of the very few remaining independently-owned stations in Detroit.  I don’t know if it’s true, but my experience has been these type of stations are staffed by some of the most passionate people in radio who love what they do, and while their may not be in the top five ratings-wise, they have a fiercely loyal audience. 

The fact is I’ve been a fan of WGPR for a long time.  At one time, they also had a TV station – channel 62 – which was later sold to CBS and became Detroit’s CBS affiliate when channel 2 switched to Fox.

My favorite show on WGPR-TV was the afternoon dance show, “The Scene,” hosted by WGPR Radio’s (then) afternoon drive man, Nat Morris.  The stations decidedly had a limited budget, but the broadcast talent were the best!

They each had a catch phrase.   On the TV show, Morris would ask the dancers “Are you ready to throw down!?”   And they would reply “YES WE ARE!”    

Morris:  What can I say?  Enough has been said… let’s take it away to our opening spread.”

One of the first times I saw “The Super Scene” (“on the television screen”) was while enjoying frozen fish sticks at a friends house.

On radio, the Nat Morris’ commercials were legendary.  One of my favorites was for Manhattan Coney Island…. 

With KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight” in the background, you would think Morris was actually enjoying a coney island when he cut that spot.  It made you hungry just listening:

“Manhattan has come to Detroit!  It’s the best coney island in town with 100% pure ground beef, chili, mustard, onions.  It’s soooooo goooooood I can almost taste it now <sounds of smacking lips! <quick pot up of music>…”

After Nat Morris, Foodey Rome started his show.  One night I rolled some tape airchecking Foodey’s WGPR show completely random and caught the biggest radio party I had ever heard.  That’s the way it was.

Station ID….”…from the best radio sounds in town…doesn’t have to be, but it is…  Double-Hue-GPR Detroit!”

Sponsored time check: <gong>  At the tone the correct eastern daylight time will be <Foodey: let’s make it 7:22 on WGPR>  <gong>  …the time has been brought to you by Old Pro Clothes.  If you want to save your dough, see the Old Pro, Robert Taylor, Old Pro Clothes.  THAT is the sale place!”

The rest of the show would be Foodey, dancing and singing along with the tunes.  His favorites would be followed by catch phrases like “Like that sound, like that sound, like that sound!” or “Aw, mercy!  I just can’t GET enough!”

They were obviously playing actual records at a live remote “from the showroom window of Quality Discount Furniture.”

They would commit what would be a broadcast sin at any other station.   Foodey would pick up the needle and start the record over live on the air, singing and dancing the whole time.  

Eddie Kendricks, one of the original Temptations (who passed away in 1992) had a solo album out at that time called “He’s a Friend.”  I would later visit Kendrick’s record shop (operated by his brother) in the city and buy my own copy.

The title track, “He’s a Friend” was featured repeatly by Foodey during one of his legendary broadcasts.

“The soul continues to roll, doubling up on the action…heh-haa!  This is steady Eddie, Eddie Kendricks…and he’s a Friend of Mine!”

Foodey would proceed to half recite, half sing all the lyrics to the record over the music.

Then finally when the record DID end and he decided he’d played it enough…

“When one ends, another very quickly begins, doubling up on the music, Yours Truly, Foodey, live and direct from the showroom window of Quality Discount Furniture.  It’s the home and king of easy credit that’s right EEEEEEEEEEEEEE-ZZZZZZZZZ…  credit. If you can’t get credit at Quality Discount Furniture, then you can’t get credit – heh-ha! – it’s a simple as that…..”

Next is a laid back commercial for the Chi-Lites appearing live at “Henry’s Lounge, 7645 Fenkell” (which is still in business today as Henry’s Palace).

It was apparently a live read or at least a live ad lib by Foodey with a mellow Chi-Lites tune in the background:

“…aww, it’s a show you don’t want to miss, with Eugene, Squirrel, Marshall, Doc…the Chi-Lites… 18 year olds are always welcome and there’s always plenty of free fully attended, lighted park-KING.”

It was delivered by Foodey’s incredible and expressive Voice of God, both literally and figuratively, that few African Americans on the air could touch to this day.  

The Chi-Lites were not a Motown act, but were from Chicago, but had major mellow hits like “Oh Girl,”  “Have You Seen Her” and later “Toby.”  

WGPR’s programming and especially Foody Rome in the early days were major influences to me along with all the great top 40 rock jocks on at the time on CKLW, and the original WDRQ. 

Often without thinking, I would actually borrow one of their catch-phrases on the air myself ("Foodeyisms"?)

At least once, I managed to slip that Eddie Kendrick’s tune on the air myself long after it had dropped off anyones charts.  I soon knew all the lyrics and could imitate Foodey’s memorable performance on the radio.

We were such big fans of Foodey that a skit was used on the air featuring “Brother Clarence” answering a series of nonsensical questions in a manner we thought Foodey himself might.  Some of us would even slip in the “Foodey scream”

Radio is SUPPOSED to be fun.  That’s why I got into it, and never really left.

Such antics, however, would hardly be tolerated on radio today, as there are few broadcasters and programmers remaining who have roots in the early days.  But at WGPR, the spirit is still there today.

Thanks, WGPR for entertaining us the way you have. 
And especially thanks to Foodey, Nat Morris and Mason.  
website: 
www.wgprdetroit.com
Jim Nuznoff
8/12/2009 11:28:50

Regarding WGPR (FM). In the late '60's their station ID was as follows:

"This is WGPR, Detroit....owned and operated by 150,000 black American. No other station can make this claim"

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Jim Nuznoff
8/12/2009 11:31:05

...oops. Make that "black Americans."

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Smoothsmitty
6/16/2011 14:33:10

Man, that was some sure nuff memories, I use to be a Scene dancer back in the first 4 years when it was on air. I also got my first job at Manhattan Coney Island, if memories serves me right. The owner's name was Harvey Fink. He was not only the owner of Manhattan Coney Island he also was the owner of Quality Discount Furniture.

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