Past Times

Morning men woke up the Triangle

Pat Patterson was one of the voices waking up the Triangle in the 1980s.
Pat Patterson was one of the voices waking up the Triangle in the 1980s. N&O File Photo

In the 1980s, if you “woke up with Ron Stutts,” you weren’t the only one. You might even have the T-shirt. But the long-time Chapel Hill radio announcer wasn’t the only voice waking up the Triangle. In 1984, Raleigh Times writer Connie Ballard profiled some local radio “Morning Men.”

Who rolls you out of bed in the morning? Who cracks jokes while you brush your teeth? Who tells you that it’s cold out, so wear your coat?

Chances are it’s the same guy who tells you which road to take to work and whether the world blew up while you were asleep. C’mon, the secret’s out – you’ve been keeping time with the morning disc jockey.

The morning slot is the prime position for disc jockeys. Here they have more exposure than at any other time of the day, because more people listen to the radio in the mornings. What makes the slot even more important is the fact that if the station gets the listeners in the mornings, it’s likely to keep them. Consequently, the radio folks say, morning jocks make more money.

Of course there are drawbacks, too. Morning DJs have to get up before the dawn even thinks about cracking and be at their wittiest at precisely 6 a.m.

So … who do you wake up with? That probably depends more on your taste in men than your taste in music. And indeed, Raleigh’s radio DJs are probably more distinct than the music they play….

Maury O’Dell, WPTF: O’Dell, who’s been WPTF’s morning man for about six years, has developed a loyal following….

The show’s successful, he said, because it’s consistent. Folks like to know what to expect. “They seem to want different things early in the morning,” he said. “They tend to want to know if anything happened over night. They want to know how to dress. They’re very dependent that time of morning.”

That’s OK, because WPTF is one of the most informative stations on the air. Baseball scores, school lunch menus, job listings — you name it, O’Dell’s got it.…

O’Dell has a few gripes with the job. He’s a night owl, so turning in at 9 p.m. is contrary to his nature. So is sitting still. In between records, O’Dell likes to wander around the office, grab a cup of coffee, look out the window – and a good thing, too. “A lot of times when I come in, it’s a beautiful morning. Twenty minutes later, it’s raining and no one bothers to tell me.”

Joe Wade Formicola, WKIX-AM: A little further up on the dial, there’s KIX, the country station. Formicola is more of the high-energy, laugh-a-minute kinda guy you might see at the local bar after work. Never a dull moment with Joe Wade.

The listeners, Formicola says, are the stars of his show. He depends heavily upon call-ins. Of course, calling in to the Formicola show is like volunteering to be the straight man for a comedian.…

Bob Inskeep, WRAL-FM: Famous Bob Inskeep (FBI) has been WRAL’s morning man since 1975. He sees the show as a group effort. He’s just part of a team that includes the newsmen, the weathermen, and Rowell Gormon, who does Zoot, the little gravel-voiced puppet who finds melodies hidden in the school lunch menus and recently has recorded a take-off on Boy George. Other regulars include Mr. Snailspace, the mailman and Mr. H.R. Blockhead, the tax consultant.

Inskeep starts his broadcast at 5:30 a.m. instead of 6 to catch the early risers. He’s already gotten the produce reports from the Farmer’s Market before the other morning DJs ever come on.…

Inskeep calls himself a news junkie. He scans several newspapers each day and saves interesting tidbits for his listeners. He promotes benefits, worthwhile causes and local places of interest. The one-man welcome wagon.…

Pat Patterson, WYYD-FM: Patterson used to be the guy all the other morning DJs were gunning for. During his heyday as morning man for WKIX in the early ‘70s, he was easily the most popular guy in town. But after switching from WKIX to a Boston station to WQDR to WKIX and finally to WYYD six weeks ago, Patterson lost a little momentum. So now he’s gunning for Inskeep.

WYYD’s adult contemporary format, Patterson thinks, is more suitable for his hard-hitting cynical humor. And at WYYD, he said, his humor can be more sophisticated….

Patterson doesn’t go overboard on the information in the morning like some stations do.…

John Van Pelt, WDCG: John Van Pelt has been morning man at G-105 since the station switched formats to Top Forty back in 1981.…

G-105 is more popular with the teenagers because of the Top Forty format. And that format distinguishes it from the other stations. Like the music, he said, the morning show is more up tempo.…

And every morning at 6:50 a.m. and 7:20 a.m., Van Pelt does birthday announcements.…

Now Van Pelt also starts work at 5:30 a.m. so Inskeep doesn’t get lonesome.

Bob Walton, WQDR: “It sounds like a cliche, but the way I look at it, they’re waking up with me. The humor is light, and there are no rude awakenings as far as the music goes. It’s like we’re sitting down in the living room having a cup of coffee….” The Raleigh Times April 28, 1984

Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/past-times.

Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com

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