A WHUS Memories Museum Exhibit
It was 1959 in Cleveland,"once upon a time, in the land of Oobladi". Frantically preparing for his 8 p.m. show, the young wizard of rock 'n' roll radio cued tape recorders, positioned microphones, and flipped sound effects records onto turntables like cards from a deck. Through the soundproof studio window,"Mad Daddy's" bat-out-of-hell paced pantomime looked like 'fast forward' video. The silent frenzy grew till the studio light blinked 'on air'.
Suddenly, radios throughout northeastern Ohio (dubbed 'Oobladi') resounded with echoing, mad laughter. After a countdown to ground zero, "Fiver, four, three, two, one", listeners heard an explosion, then Mad Daddy's theme song,"Night Train." Finally, with perspiration starting to bead on his brow and an old 'birdcage' microphone over his shoulder, Pete 'Mad Daddy' Myers, Cleveland's famed bard of the airwaves, went into his number: four hours of outrageous acrobatics, torrents of kooky jargon, and off-beat 'wavy gravy' record sounds, peaking with a manic live show. Everything was done in off-the-cuff rhyme.
"Night Train" sunk into the distance, as Myers 'flap-lipped' a greeting to his Mad Minions:"Welcome, little stinkers, to the land of winky blinkers! We've boiled up wavy gravy and it's ready to flow, so hang loose, Mother Goose, here comes the show!"
Huddled by mom and dad's castoff Motorola in the rec room in Parma, in Corvettes in Lakewood, on the beaches in Mentor and Geneva, listening to new Japanese transistors, the kids all tuned in to hear the rhyming, black caped, mad Mad Daddy, the man who best personified the originality, insane humor, pure genius, and sometimes dangerous ambition of Cleveland radio in its golden decade, the '50s.
Daddy understood and felt their alienation, so the emotional bond with his"Mad Minions" was strong. Nightly, a children's crusade of"Throttle Jammers" (drag race rockers),"Mello Muffins" (female fans),"Ghoul Rockers" ('B' horror film aficionados), adolescent rockabilly rebels, Stan Freberg types, and beatniks all descended on"Dracula Hall", WHK studios, waiting to be part of his live show. Unleashed on their black caped hero at midnight, flash bulbs went off, pens and autograph books were thrust in his greasepainted face, hands reached out to touch his cape. With a mad laugh, "the head shrinker's delight" savored sweet success.
He'd come a long way from the little transmitter between Akron and Cleveland where it all began. When Mad Daddy drove his pink Pontiac down Euclid Avenue, he was recognized. The talented, young Californian was top disc jockey in Cleveland, the town famous for unique, highly original, even obsessed, radio personalities, and like every Cleveland radio immortal before him, from Bill Randall and"Moondog" Alan Freed through Bill Gordon, Ernie Anderson, Don Imus, Casey Kasem,"Weird Beard" Norm N. Nite, and even Gary Dee Gilbert, he could name his own place and price.
Myers named his own place and price, but its promise of fame and fortune was never fulfilled. Though a major pioneer in radio and rock history and one of the great radio gurus of both the '50s and '60s rebellious youth cultures, Myers' name is no hip household word; you won't find it in Gene Sculati's Encyclopedia of Cool. Myers was a bonafide genius, a notably brilliant artist whose pure vision collided violently with his desire for material success - an irreconcilable conflict. In 1959, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts graduate, originator of a nationally broadcast style, used his immense talents to hew a lucrative radio market from local youth's alienation and boredom. He was Cleveland radio's prodigal son. Nine years later, dead in his Manhattan apartment from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he'd taken a long mad ride.
Mad Daddy In Oobladi