Tony, Tony, Tony (and more Tony Oren)

From the email and comments I’ve received, it’s obvious that my two previous posts of  Tony Oren airchecks have struck a nerve with more than a few of you. One rooted in the brain’s pleasure center perhaps. The soft spot.

When the "middle of the road" and easy listening radio formats were ubiquitous it was easy to enough to ignore or laugh off this style of radio if you were a rock and roll kid. And nobody would have called these stations exciting. They were staid, mannered. And something else often not appealing to the younger set– informative. Even today, almost all the programming on KMOX (besides the omnipresent rightist moron Rush Limbaugh) is still local. It’s kind of a tradition.

The big regional MOR outlets like KMOX were known as "full-service" radio stations because they served an entire community in a very real way. Although the target audience for this format was mostly likely the middle-aged crowd, it was really way of creating radio for everybody. It was commerical broadcasting as a true public service that’s kind of hard to imagine today. A clear channel 50,000 watt radio station, KMOX served more than just the greater St. Louis area during the daylight hours. And then at nightfall when the AM radio waves bounce off the sky, KMOX was a giant regional station, providing news, information and entertainment to perhaps a third of the lower fourty-eight states.

What stands out today is how this radio fomat was mature and professional through and through. Broadcasting you’d be hard pressed to hear in the youth-fixated culture that has taken control of most media these days. And whether the announcers were chatting or playing music, the general vibe was comfort. And familiariity in a broader sense than just playing the hits or repeating cliches. When you turned on the radio you were immediately in the hands of a pro with excellent manners and perfect diction. Like Tony Oren.

KMOX – Music and Musings with Tony Oren – 03-16-86 pt 1
(download)

What I have for you here are three whole hours of Tony Oren’s "Music & Musings" from March of 1986. And these particular tapes were recorded locally in the St. Louis area, so you’ll hear none of the fading and Cuban interludes that were baked into the last Oren aircheck I posted (although I kinda liked those anomalies…) And it’s recorded with remarkable clarity. A big thanks to Cliff Saxton for sharing these airchecks with all of us.

KMOX – Music and Musings with Tony Oren – 03-16-86 pt 2
(download)

To be honest, I haven’t had time to listen to all three hours yet. As these airchecks are “unscoped,” all the news and ads are intact. Which has an appeal as time goes by. Funny to hear about Reagan haranguing congress for more “rebel aid” when we would soon find out that Oliver North was busy selling weaponry to Iran to fund the administration’s pet ragtag army in Nicaragua.

KMOX – Music and Musings with Tony Oren – 03-16-86 pt 3
(download)

As far as Tony himself, it’s fun to hear him talk about old Howard Cosell getting into trouble with the boxing bigwigs. And speaking of long gone colorful characters, after Oren plays some Sinatra he mentions that the crotchety old crooner was coming to sing in St. Louis soon. Nice.

And two other things I found kind of odd. Tony gets a good laugh about Ted Nugent’s offer at the time to buy the elevator music company Muzak so he could destroy it, without seeming to comprehend that the nasty Nuge would probably ask a guy like Tony to “suck on" his machine gun as well. And the other funny thing was Oren’s “summary of weather conditions” that starts out with temperatures and conditions around Missouri, and then he moves onto Atlanta and Boston, then the rest of America and almost all the major cities around the globe. Then, when you’re starting to imagine that this will never end, it does and you’re in the middle of a routine forecast for St. Louis. As much as I love Tony, I was kind of afraid he was going to jump back on the hamster wheel and lay out a slew of weather forecasts for half the planet. Instead, we get the mellow wisdom of Rod McKuen. Perfect. Certainly better than more weather.

KMOX – Music and Musings with Tony Oren – 03-16-86 pt 4
(download)

The fourth aircheck starts with the end of a hokey Joni James number and then Tony offers a brief commentary on the pre-dawn sky of St. Louis and then bows out to get another cup of coffee during the last newscast of his program. And then later he announces that the sun has risen– “a great big hot fiery ball.” Not the kind of thing you’d get with your traffic and weather together on the ones these days.

Again, a big thanks to Cliff Saxon for this contribution. He also says he has at least one tape of John McCormick ("The man who walks and talks at midnight"), a more famous KMOX overnight personality a few of you have expressed an interest in, which I might be able to post here some time in the future.

Meanwhile, I’m off for a week or so. Into the countryside. And as usual, I’ll be recording some radio. Actually I just got my hands on one of C Crane’s CC Witness devices and I’m looking forward to spending some time with that as well. So far, it’s pretty impressive– an MP3 recording radio with AM & FM. And not only can you program radio recordings in a VCR/TiVo fashion, but it also has a line-in/microphone record function. While cassette tape recording has proved to be a reliable way to capture radio over the years, I’m interested in finding out if something like this will save a lot time in turning these recordings digital.

And I do appreciate some of the positive feedback I’ve been getting in my inbox. And not only that, but a few of you actually ponied up to the PayPal box for me after I asked nice for a little spare change a couple weeks ago. I really appreciate that. It wasn’t a lot, but it made me happy. If you can and you’re in the mood, the tip jar is open all night.

I do hope you enjoy this big piece of the wee hours from 1986. I know I will. Perhaps from the MP3 clock radio on the bed table…

If you found this post without seeing my first two articles about Tony, you can find them here and here. Both have airchecks attached as well.

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3 Responses to “Tony, Tony, Tony (and more Tony Oren)”

  1. George Says:

    I can’t get enough. Thanks!

  2. Ron Wilson Says:

    This is from “The Mighty Mox,” written in 2000 by Rob Rains to commemorate KMOX’s 75th anniversary on the air:

    Tony Oren was the host of an overnight talk show on KMOX. He had an interesting life, living in Australia as a young man where he appeared as an actor in motion pictures. He traveled in Europe and moved to St. Louis in 1957.

    “Tony would bring a suitcase in with him,” said Rene Sevier, one of his producers. “He had his stuff in his suitcase. Tony had a miniature paper cutter and would slice up the wire copy and put it in a binder. He’d write in the columns what is was. ‘Man bites dog story’ or ‘wedding’ or whatever. Say he played a song called “Eternal Love,” he would real quick turn to the section on weddings and read an article about something that pertained to the song.”

    “Tony would come in and empty this little coin purse on the desk,” said newswriter John Amann. “We would use that money all night for snacks. I’d go to the second floor – the TV station snack room – because it was better than KMOX’s. Tony would give me his key and I’d keep making trips; we lived on coffee and Oreos all night.”

    “For years, Tony hosted the overnight on the weekends while I was with the station in the 1970s,” said Barb Felt. “Program Director Bob Osborne told me this story and I have no reason to question it. There was a middle-aged woman living on the east side (Illinois) who became addicted to Tony Oren’s voice on the weekends, but it was a love/hate relationship on her part. She would call him on the off-air line during the breaks and accuse him of reading her mind. She claimed she would be thinking a thought and then Tony would instantly bring that subject matter up in the on-air dialogue.”

    According to Osborne, Oren begane to question her sanity and also his safety as she called him so often at the station.

    “One night after his show, Tony went to his car, (which was parked on the street in front of the station) and while he was unlocking the car door, a frenzied woman jumped from behind the car and sprayed Tony with mace,” Felt said. “She screamed obscenities while threatening him that if he ever ‘read her mind’ again, she would take more drastic actions. She then disappeared into the shadows.”

    Oren worked in St. Louis radio for 22 years before retiring in 1994. He died in 1998 at the age of 75.

  3. Stormy Says:

    Thank you so VERY MUCH for this fabulous series.  I remember this kind of radio with great fondness, and I'm very grateful for yet a few more hours of it for my aircheck collection.  Keep 'em coming!

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