Duff Roman/Charlie Tuna:“Moments to Remember” Part Two! by Chuck McCoy…
(a Puget Sound Radio Exclusive)
by Chuck McCoy
May the 3rd, 2021
I think you’ll agree those are two giant broadcasting names you don’t often see tied together. But through my two stories I will explain how each of these gentlemen bears responsibility for some special moments in my career and how each of these moments or events became so very memorable for me. For more than 55 years I have been accurately described as a true “radio rat” and in truth I guess I’ve had many memorable moments. Some have stuck with me, while others are lost forever somewhere in the ionosphere with all the other electrons and assorted reflected radio waves. These two special broadcasters gifted me with some moments that are not forgotten and instead are firmly fixed and deeply imbedded in my rather scrambled mind. Last week I gave you Part One on “Moments to remember”.
This week Part Two- Charlie Tuna
The year was 1966. I was working all nights at CKY, Winnipeg and my shift began at midnight. Advantages of growing up on the cold flat Canadian Prairie included the ability to tune in some best clear channel, out of market, Top 40 stations. Some of the great US stations we could pick up in Winnipeg after sunset included: KAAY, Little Rock, WLS, Chicago and at the far right end of the dial at 1520 you would find KOMA, Oklahoma City. Making the evening drive into work I’d check out these stations every night, listening intently to some really hot jocks. That was my first encounter with Charlie Tuna who was doing the evening shift at KOMA. I knew from the first time I heard those dynamic dulcet tones, his silky smooth delivery, high energy and clever one liners that this was the guy who might serve as a great example for a rookie like myself. That was 1965 and by 1967 I had moved east to 1050CHUM and Charlie apparently had also moved east to WMEX in Boston. No longer able to listen to Charlie as I did in Winnipeg, I had a couple of years of “Tuna Interruptus.” Then one day in the middle of one of my CHUM air check sessions with CHUM PD J.Robert Wood I asked, “Do you happen to know where Charlie Tuna’s working these days?” Always on top of it, Bob replied, “He’s been doing mid-days at KHJ Los Angeles for a couple of years.” I wasn’t surprised. Charlie was the very best and KHJ was the very, very top CHR station in North America. Bob asked me, “Do you want me to order you some tape of Tuna” I took no time to respond, “Yeah man, all you can get.”
In short order there were fresh Tuna, reel to reel tapes delivered every week to the CHUM “Jock Lounge”. From that day on, I never went on the air without catching a bit of Tuna. I tried not to copy his style and delivery but I sure stole all his one-liners. I satisfied myself that it wasn’t really “stealing”. It was just creative “show prep.”
After KHJ, Charlie toiled at several LA/San Diego radio stations and some years later was making a big splash at Oldies Radio K-Earth 101. Charlie’s last station in 2006/2007 was K-BIG in Los Angeles. Over the years Charlie had been the recipient of several TOP 10 LA radio personality awards and in 2008 Charlie was inducted by his close friend Larry Lujack into the National Radio Hall of Fame. In 1990 Charlie Tuna was honored by having his star placed on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sadly, Charlie passed away early in 2016.
My Charlie Tuna moment to remember
My relationship with Charlie Tuna wasn’t a relationship in reality. I had listened to him live plus hundreds of hours of taped shows and in that way he had become a part of my “Radio Life” but we had never been introduced. In fact I don’t think we were ever likely in the same city at the same time. I knew so much about him yet certainly he would have had no idea whatsoever who I was. But over the years I had listened and learned a great deal from my exposure to his talent. I even shared tape of some of his greatest on-air bits with other DJs. For example, the 35 year veteran of the CHUM –FM morning show, Roger Ashby was a big fan as was Toronto’s Bob Magee. In fact Bob Magee does one of the best Charlie Tuna impersonations you’ll ever hear.
I was off the air and into Management by 1973 but my subscription to California AirCheck stayed in force well into the 2000s along with my bi-weekly shipment of “Tuna Tapes.” I often forwarded his tapes and material to other jocks. As a PD I played them for my guys at jock meetings. By 2006, I was well ensconced as VP/GM of Rogers four Toronto stations; CHFI, KiSS-92.5, THE FAN and 680News. Our Toronto stations as well as the other 60 Rogers stations had embarked on very ambitious Listener Loyalty program. This promotion allowed listeners to earn points for listening and become eligible for some great prizes. On the back side, the stations were building massive data bases of their audience; their listening habits, postal codes, likes, dislikes and these Loyalty members were even rewarded for rating the music we played.
Aircheck of Charlie Tuna supplied (Courtesy of the Charlie Ritenburg aircheck collection)
The enterprise was developed and delivered to radio by Mass 2 One Communications based in San Diego. The Company founder and President was Reg Johns. I knew Reg from his broadcasting triumphs in Winnipeg, Montreal and Toronto. Reg moved down to the US several decades back and had been involved with American radio and had built various radio promotion companies. Around 2005/2006 I was at my vacation home in Phoenix and Reg called, “Hey you wanna go to LA and join me while I visit a couple of stations there and you can help me update them on all the new Loyalty Club features?” It was a short trip and I love to visit radio stations, especially those in major markets like Los Angeles and I agreed to fly over and join him.
Reg picked me up at LAX the next morning and we headed to CBS and in particular a CBS FM station who were also Loyalty Club customers of Mass 2 One. We arrived at K-BIG around 10am and were ushered upstairs to the office of the K-BIG Program Director, Chachi Denes. We retired to the CBS boardroom and Chachi asked Reg, “Say I’d like to have my morning team in on this, since they do most of the Loyalty Club promotions. “ Reg had no problem with that and we awaited the arrival of the K-BIG morning crew. First in the door was the show producer, Reg and I were introduced and then the morning talent came in and Chachi politely did the introductions again, “Chuck McCoy I’d like you to meet Charlie Tuna!” I was stunned and speechless. I was unaware that Charlie was working at K-BIG and this meeting was completely unplanned and unexpected. Reg started to call the meeting to order, but I was not going to let this moment pass by. I unashamedly interrupted shouting, “Whoa, Whoa, this is Charlie Tuna, a man I have followed, listened to and studied for the past 50 years, and I’m going to ask you guys to take a time out while I get some face time with him.”
I had so many things to ask him and I was literally caught up in the moment as I recalled to the group my obsessive history with Charlie and his talent. I explained how important he was to my career, especially my DJ years. I told him how I started listening in 1965 when he was in Oklahoma City and admitted that I had listened to hundreds of hours on tape of his show and what an integral part of my show prep these recordings were. Before I let them begin the meeting and me being a student of personality name changes, I just had to ask him, “How did you ever come up with the name Charlie Tuna?” He then spent the next few minutes providing all the details. He told us how as a young kid from Kearney Nebraska he had arrived in Oklahoma City to do the evening show as “Ed Ferguson”, his name at birth. The KOMA brass wanted a change. Charlie asked them, “What do you want me to use?” They then told him a story from a few weeks previous. They related “One of our newsmen, Charles D. Hanks (Chuck Dann) was called to do a weekend DJ show on KOMA. He agreed to do it but he said wouldn’t sully his news ethics by using his journalistic news name on some Rock’n’Roll teen show” So out of the blue he chose the name Charlie Tuna to use on the air for that one weekend show. The station management said to the young Ed Ferguson, “Why don’t you take it and become “Charlie Tuna”? And a star was born.
The next morning on the way to the airport I told Reg just how great it was actually meeting Charlie Tuna and I added, “Reg, I listened this morning to his show on K-BIG and he gave me a shout out, yeah he actually mentioned my name on the air”
Reg paused, smiled and looked back at me saying, “Well Chuck…you were gushing.” Touché.
“Moments to Remember” with Chuck McCoy is a weekly presentation of Puget Sound Radio.
Chuck will be taking the next week off, heading out to the beautiful Oregon coast and the seaside city of Cannon Beach, with his lovely wife Kim and Sydney. He shall return to PSR on Monday May the 17th…
in the meantime, and in-between time, if you missed any of Chuck’s other 8 articles, here are the links below.
last week’s ‘Duff Roman/Charlie Tuna Part One HERE
Chuck’s first thread was, The Legendary Chuck McCoy’s first broadcast from CKY-AM’s Master Control HERE
The Real McCoy! by Chuck McCoy HERE
Love it when a plan comes together HERE
My Toy Story by Chuck McCoy HERE
It’s sooo cold by Chuck McCoy HERE
Some Early History by Chuck McCoy HERE
Big Time Radio in a small market by Chuck McCoy HERE