Monday, April 13, 2015

Blast from Your Past - Book 1, Excerpt 5: DJ Ken Chase aka Mike Korgan

[LR note 04/29/15: With heavy heart we report the ascent of Jack Ely to Rock & Roll Heaven, Monday, April 27, 2015. He was lead singer of The Kingsmen, whose song, "Louie Louie" became a legendary party song. BFYP DJ Ken Chase produced the record in 1963. His 1950s story is below. Party on, Jack!]

Every April 11th is “International ‘Louie Louie’ Day”! There are no raucous parties (that I know of) happening (unless at your place, and you didn't call me!), or even a link on the Brownielocks site that lists it as a special commemoration day.

But at BFYP it deserves distinct recognition because Ken Chase (aka Mike Korgan), one of our pioneering Rock & Roll DJs, produced the iconic song by The Kingsmen in April 1963. “Louie Louie” rose to the top of the charts and by November, and for all time, became the “ultimate party song.”

Granted, 1963 is out of the purview of BFYP Book 1 (1954-1959), but Mike’s tenure at the mic began well before “Louie Louie’s” bouncy beat hit the airwaves.

Rock on in Excerpt #5 from Book 1, Blast from Your Past! Rock & Roll Radio DJs: the First Five Years 1954-1959. Enjoy the moments … again!(TM)
♫ From staid Midwest to kickin’ Coast | BFYP Excerpt #5, Ken Chase aka Mike Korgan: 

It’s Rockin’ Rochelle again, swingin’ with you at BFYP-FM, in sunny San Diego, Cal-i-forn-i-a! Miss Lizzie was dizzy and we still bopped to the Bunny Hop.
   We tried to hang on and go ‘round slow, laid it back with 'The Stroll'… Rock & Roll was heatin’ up … look out … a white-hot pot of water is a-brewin’!

I know just the dude to stir the pot. He went from Southern drawl to Yankee clip, on the spot.
Ken Chase (a.k.a. Mike Korgan)
Best known at KISN/Portland, Oregon

'I was supposed to be a concert pianist.' Say what?! Not the words you might expect to
hear from a lifelong radio deejay. But there it is … Mike Korgan, known to the public as Ken Chase, was a serious twelve-year-old taking piano lessons from Herbert Ricker, listed as one of the top ten (living) classical composers in 1951.
[Photo: Mike Korgan/a.k.a. Ken Chase, c. 1950s – great hands for piano – or spinning platters! Courtesy of Mike.]
'Yeah, my parents wasted a lot of money,' said Mike. (At $35 per half hour, it was no small change in those days!)
But in reality, those lessons also paid for his monthly on-air radio concert recital, where he fell in love with the whole business of radio in the 'little bitty peanut-whistle station' where the recital was held.
As a youthful ham operator in Oklahoma, Mike sprawled in his room at night with his crystal set, its super-long wire antenna reaching for 'W-LS … Chi-ca-go.' (Mike slipped easily into his mock-deep DJ voice, dramatically emphasizing the 'double-U.')
At that young age, he decided he would not talk like the Oklahoman he was; instead, he mimicked the tones and vocal techniques of the northern DJs, and suffered more than one scuffle in school over his affected Yankee clip.
As a fidgety teen, Mike filled some time after finishing ahead of a friend for their general class ham radio license, by taking the test for a second class upgrade. Well, why stop there? He tackled the test for the first class upgrade, and passed.
By the time Mike was old enough to work (in those days as today, usually about fifteen-sixteen years old), armed with a first class telephone/radio license – the highest class from the FCC without radar – he was even qualified for work as an engineer in the still-growing world of radio.
Fiddling with the knobs however, wasn’t where Mike’s heart was; just hand Mike the mic!
He stumbled on an early big break by following advice of the dude running the radio tests, who told him about Williams TV in Oklahoma City. He’d heard they were looking for an engineer.
Williams TV was breaking ground on one of the pioneer stereo FM radio stations. It would be the first in the US, west of the Mississippi. Wow! He’d be part of history in the making!
Mike arrived on a 100-degree day to find a tall, lanky guy in Bermuda shorts, sweatin’ his ass off with a shovel, digging a ditch. Though a little dubious, he told the guy he was looking for a job.
'Why should I hire you,' the guy growled.
'Well, I have a first class license.'
'You’re hired.' He handed Mike the shovel.
Throughout the summer of 1955 Mike helped build the FM radio station and now boasts, 'I can say I literally started in the business from the ground up!'
But that’s not quite all to the story. A perk to the job was meeting Bernie Wise, a broadcast pioneer credited with designing, developing, and launching the 'grounded grid' design for FM broadcasting.
'He built the transmitter for this little stereo FM station,' said Mike, 'and installed it himself, and I got to know him. In the annals of broadcasting, he’s a legend and I got to work with him.'

'71 Love transistor radio!
Love and Rock & Roll!
It didn’t take long for Mike to earn a rep in radio, and still wet-behind-the-ears, he lucked into the job of turning a small Lincoln, Nebraska, Polka station into a Rock & Roll powerhouse. For Mike, it was all about breaking the rules. We did a lot of that in those days. But first …
As was often custom Mike followed his dad and grandfather’s footsteps into the hallowed halls of a Lincoln Seventh-Day Adventist College.
Ohhhhh, they were not big on his job spinnin’ the platters of Rock & Roll at KLMS. But that wasn’t all he was in trouble for … 'I met this cute little lady, and I’d bring her to church, and they’d say, "No, you can’t do that." And I’d ask why not? "If you do," they warned, "you’re going to get kicked out of college." So I brought her to church … and they kicked me out of college.'
So much for family tradition. But what did they know about love? Mike and Carol have three much-adored children and celebrated their fiftieth anniversary in 2010.
For his big break, as Mike tells it, 'We put that station on the top of the charts. Dropped the "K" and it became just LMS – “Lots More Sound.” The guy who owned it, name of Sherman – he had eyebrows you could walk on, looked like a German general and talked like Henry Kissinger.' Mike feigned Kissinger’s gravelly voice as he spoke his name.
Though he grew up and kicked around in the Midwest, Mike soon considered a giant leap to Portland. WHERE??! new wife, Carol, exclaimed. Funny how money can alter your mind; and the Sixties would bend it a little …
In the next decadent decade Mike coaxes Carol from her comfy Nebraska prairies to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. A great move for Mike as he makes “Louie” a famous name. Don’t miss it in the 25-year edition!

In case you missed the first four excerpts from BFYP-Book 1, 1954-1959:

Blastfrom Your Past-Book 1 Excerpt #4      1955 News / Notes
Blastfrom Your Past-Book 1 Excerpt #3      Sandy Deane/Jay & the Americans
Blast from Your Past-Book 1 Excerpt #2     Dr. Don Rose
Blast from Your Past-Book 1 Excerpt #1     Ron Riley

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