Man From Mars Productions
pages are dedicated to the memory of Stephen Capen. In 1968-69
WDRC listeners knew him as Stephen Kane. For
most of his career, though, he used his real name, Stephen
lost a lengthy battle with lung cancer on September 12, 2005.
I am grateful for, but will greatly miss, the extensive correspondence
we had during the three months before his death. His humor
and spirit were obvious when he wrote: "basically
I'm circling the Radio Airport, wondering if I'll have a chance
to do it again whether by pod or stream or ether, knowing
I worked in the medium during a high water mark in its history
and can't settle for less, Jack be damned."
2005 he replied to a series of questions about Big D.
It's 1968 and the world is in turmoil. The intensifying cold war
makes an interesting counterpoint to a long, hot summer filled with
racial riots (including Hartford). Vietnam dominates the political
landscape and the country is reeling from the assassinations of
MLK/RFK. It's August and America has just watched Chicago police
beating young demonstrators senseless on live TV during the Democratic
convention. Where is Stephen Capen working (before Hartford) and
what leads you to relocate?
I was doing
the morning show at WAAB in Worcester, my very first stint in rock
& roll radio and in a metropolitan market. My first air name, in
fact, Stephen Kane. A lot of firsts. Best of all I was given
plenty of latitude. At this point I was so engrossed in my new work
I was completely oblivious to the upheaval going on across the country
and indeed in radio. A progressive music show -- Cream, The Doors,
The Mothers of Invention -- premiered at night hosted by Jeff Starr
while we continued our Ron
Landryesque comedy in the A.M.
It seems that
just like almost all of my gigs the good times weren't to last.
Atlantic Records bought the station, and you'd think that would
be a good thing, but in came the consultants from New York and Washington,
the air sound was tightened beyond belief, catchy new jingles added,
and it wasn't long before their newly-installed PD, Sebastian Tripp,
gave me my walking papers.
I admired that
glossy, clipped, clean sound of a WRKO, but I was raised on personality
radio such as WMEX with Woo Woo, Melvin X. Melvin and Mel Miller,
and WBZ with Dick Summer, Bruce Bradley and especially Jefferson
Kaye, who I interned with one summer. When I was even younger I
really was intrigued with Joe Smith and a hilarious funnyman on
WCOP whose name has slipped through the sizable cracks in my memory.
I'd become the
Music Director just before I left and I can't recall exactly, but
I'm sure it was a good relationship with the record promo guys like
Al Coury and Lenny Pietze who hooked me up with Charlie
Parker. It wasn't long before I auditioned and Charlie, being
a compulsive card, liked what he heard and to my delight hired me
for mid-days on Big D FM.
is also in some turmoil in 1968. Joey
Beach and Joe
Barbarette, all mainstays of the personality era have just departed.
The only remaining veterans are Dick
Robinson and Ken
Griffin (though Kent
Clark and Brad
Field have both been on board for a year). In what direction
was Charlie Parker steering the ship?
a master at riding the waves. There was fierce competition from
WPOP, who had adopted that RKO sort of format, there was a lot of
uneasiness within the station, and air personalities were coming
and going. Al Gates
was there for a New York minute then off he went to WINF. Larry
Justice popped in for a few weeks then back he went to Boston.
I'm sure Charlie was frustrated with this sort of action. On top
of it Jim Jeffrey
was shuffled around and Brad
Field was as well. Maybe something was in the wind. Joey and
Sandy went off to the majors, and I only knew them by reputation,
and they had big ones. Despite it all, Charlie wanted DRC
to retain its position as a strong personality rocker that broke
records nationally. A real rock & roll radio station with a formidable
news department, and that was much more than a jukebox.
is also a change in upper management as 1968 turned into 1969. Bill
Crawford and Mike Boudreau give way to GM Dick Korsen, a man many
people have commented negatively about.
The whole picture
changed when Korsen arrived. My recollection is he was a crony of
Buckley Jr. or some such and knew nothing about radio, had no love
for radio as an entertainment medium, and the resentment was immediate
and widespread. He proved it warranted by a pretty ruthless management
primary assignment was on WDRC FM. Yet Charlie was clearly
experimenting with odd shifts (you and Dick
McDonough both did first shows in an unusual 7-11PM weeknight
shift; for a while Kent
Clark did 6A-12N on FM; even newsman Bob
Walker did a Sunday night music shift). When you were hired was
there a clear game plan in evidence?
like I say, Big D was in heavy flux. There was friendly competition
for the slots, say, between McDonough and I, and not-so-friendly contests.
A lot was up for grabs.