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Man From Mars Productions

Growing Up Parker
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March 26, 1971 - WDRC staff with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
March 26, 1971 - Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons played the Bushnell. (L-r:) WDRC's Bob Craig & Dick McDonough; (center) Charlie's longtime secretary Karen (Putinas) Fritz, and (far right) WDRC program director Charlie Parker

Kathy and Steve Parker grew up considering the WDRC on-air personalities as their big brothers.

Steve: "I don't remember anyone who was higher up the list as far as who he liked. I really don't. He liked them all. You don't direct a Joey Reynolds the same way you're going to direct a Sandy Beach. He could bring out the devilish side of Joey Reynolds better than Joey could."

Kathy: "The other thing that I loved was when he tried to name the guys. The Sandy Beach thing had me hysterical - I was like, YES! And Sandy didn't like it. But I loved Sandy. He took us up to ride his horses. We had a lot of fun with Sandy."

It's worth noting that Charlie put the Diamond in Jim Nettleton's name, originally dubbed Long John, Big D Wade, and transformed Kenneth Sasso into Bradley Field.

And when Jack Tupper came down from Maine to host WDRC's wakeup show in 1975, Charlie renamed him Jack Morgan as a inside tribute to his son-in-law (Kathy's husband). Charlie's son, Steve, had an opportunity for an on-air gig at KISS FM in the mid 1980s.

Steve: "I couldn't wait to tell my Dad and I said to him, 'what should I use for a radio name?' He looked at me and said, 'I gave it to you when you were born!'"

Steve: "When Dad had to fire somebody it was always wrenching for him. They were all like extended family. Except the night Joe Hager decided to just play King Crimson. All night. That was bad. He didn't answer the Hotline...that was really bad."

The Parkers lived in Newington, not far from the Cedar Street studios and transmitter of fierce rival, WPOP.

Kathy: "It was a big enough rivalry that friends who knew where our Dad worked would sometimes say things like, 'POP did something really cool last night.' And I'd be like, 'no they didn't!' It was a fierce competition."

March 1970 - WDRC's Joe Hager and Charlie Parker with singer Bobby Sherman
WDRC's Joe Hager & Charlie Parker
with singer Bobby Sherman

March 25, 1970 - ad for WDRC Mystery Phone contest
March 25, 1970 - WDRC's Mystery Phone contest

As both of the Parker children grew older they had the chance to work at WDRC. Steve spent time answering the Request Line during Mike Holland's night show.

Charlie recruited them both for the Mystery Phone contest, which involved identifying the number from a public phone booth.

Kathy: "It was near the old Newington Theater. Dad said, 'every time I'm going to run this contest I'm going to call you and you're going to have to get to that phone'."

If the phone rang, Kathy had to calmly read a pre-prepared script and get the caller's phone number so a return verification call could be made.

Steve: "I had to do one over at Wittonbury Mall in Bloomfield and I was there when it hit."

Kathy: "He involved us in everything. Whatever he had going on, it was Charlie and the kids. It was really fun."

And now it can be told what happened to Little Dee, the Big D Dune Buggy. Steve Parker pretty much destroyed in it the family driveway while Dad was inside the house. He tried to adjust the driver's seat and accidentally crushed some wires which shorted out, setting the dune buggy on fire.

Steve: "He had a lot of opportunities, especially after he became PD of the year in '75 from Billboard Magazine. He was constantly getting...you know, everybody wanted him to go to work everywhere else. He really never wanted to shake up our world."

Kathy: "He didn't want to move us. And he always kept our Mom alive in our minds."

Kathy recalls her father even had an opportunity to go to work for the Beach Boys at one point. But instead, he spent 39 years working at WDRC in the state where he was born and had lived all his life.

August 1981 - WDRC's Joey Orlando, Charlie Parker and Susannah Young
August 1981 - WDRC's Joey Orlando,
Charlie Parker, Susannah Young

The Hartford Courant - August 2, 1983
The Hartford Courant
August 2, 1983

Steve: "He had his first double bypass in '76. Then he ran into health problems in April 1983. I think the powers that be were frustrated. My Dad was in the hospital, five weeks in the Intensive Care Unit on a breathing machine. He was alert but couldn't speak. We didn't know day-to-day if he was going to be alive. He went in for another double bypass, but he started hemorrhaging within 24 hours so, they had to open him up a third time."

Only family members were allowed to visit Charlie in the hospital, so WDRC owner Rick Buckley, and general manager Dick Korsen, had increasing concerns about when - or if - their program director would be back.

Kathy: "We couldn't give them any long range answers about his health. He couldn't. The doctors couldn't. Even when it appeared he was going to be able to come home, there were still a lot of unknowns and there was no way to give a concrete answer as to his availability."

Steve: "It was just basically determined that he was going to be retiring."

At the time, Steve Parker was working in the WDRC sales department. It fell to him to clean out his father's desk. Shortly after Charlie's departure was announced, Steve submitted his resignation and moved to a sales position at WPOP.

Both of Charlie's children say he had never expressed any thoughts on retirment.

Forced separation from the job he loved was very difficult for Charlie Parker. His children say he was a company man and knew the chain of command, so he understood the decision made by his employers. Dick Korsen stayed in touch with Charlie, consulting him from time to time. Charlie spent a lot of time on the phone talking with dozens of air personalities whose careers he had helped nurture and perfect.

On Friday, November 20, 1992, WDRC FM staged its 10th annual Legends of Rock and Roll concert at the Hartford Civic Center, preceded by an invitation-only reception in the atrium of the Goodwin Hotel. Charlie Parker and his family were greeted as VIP guests. During the concert, Frankie Valli interrupted the Four Seasons performance to bring Charlie onto the stage to thank him for all WDRC had done to support the group during the previous three decades.

November 20, 1992 - Jack Morgan and his wife Kathy (Parker) Morgan, Charlie Parker, Steve Parker
November 20, 1992 - Jack Morgan and his wife Kathy (Parker) Morgan, Charlie Parker, Steve Parker

Charlie Parker was 68 when he passed away on March 14, 1993.

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