Geo’s Media Blog (What Ever Happened To My Old Friend Riley?) 4/29/19

417559_253646634716847_134010383347140_608468_290450172_n11159507_10152655985286330_6509167115517266898_n10404877_10153003351204307_8665266998486747413_n1(Three very scarce pictures of radio legend, the late great Chuck Riley at CKY, KOMA, and WIBC.)

It’s hard for me to believe that my old friend Chuck Riley has been gone for almost twelve years. I first met Chuck when I was just a kid and was working as a part-time board-op at CKY in Winnipeg where he was teaching me the tricks of production. At the time, I didn’t know it but I had the good fortune of learning from one of the best. However, being a board-op also meant I had many other tasks (can you spell gopher) and one of those was picking Chuck up at his apartment for the weekly jock meetings. Chuck was Chuck Dann back then and when I would arrive at his place, he’d say with a smirk on his face, “George, tell Jimmy that I’ve heard all his stuff before so I won’t be needing to attend his little motivational seminar. However, probably so I wouldn’t get in trouble, he’d reluctantly end up coming come with me, but first, he’d make wait.
It was at one of these wait sessions that I remember him answering the phone but staying silent until he finally said, “Hey pal, this is how it works, every couple of weeks, I put all my bills in a hat and then draw one out and pay it. If you don’t stop bugging me, your name is not even going in the fucking hat.

No matter what Chuck did or said, it was all worth it to me because I learned so tricks that production became my first love and I became addicted to great promos. Hell, I only left the production room and became a PD because I noticed that program directors always drove nice convertibles and had pretty wives. Even today I can’t imagine doing decent radio without having some super voices around like Riley, his brother Buster Bodine, Roger Klein, Earl Mann, Gary Housley, John Polk, Eric Chase, TJ Byers, Billy Moore, Tony Maddox, Bruce Buchanan, Eric Edwards, Jason Williams, Jack Mccoy, and Bobby Ocean to only mention a few of those that I’ve had the honor of working with.

Luckily, very early on, I’d learned that creating promos was very similar to writing a song, producing a movie, staging a play, authoring a book, or creating your next great break on the radio. You need an attention-getting opening, a little drama in the middle, and then you wrap it all up with a killer close.

Chuck, who was an American, eventually moved back to the US where some ten years later we worked together again at WIBC in Indianapolis. This time though our roles were reversed, I was his boss (like anybody could be Chuck’s boss) and I’ll never forget the time I was called into a meeting with him and Jim Hilliard. Jim was pissed and said to me, “George you’re only here as a witness because if Chuck ever forgets what I’m about to tell him, you will be able to remind him.” He then turned to Chuck and said, “Riley you’ve been acting like an ass! Every day you either have the switchboard or traffic girl crying and have pissed off most of the staff that works here with your nasty attitude. In fact, they are so pissed with you that they are calling for your head. Until you clean up your act Chuck, this is how it works, if your ratings even slip a tad, I’ll be forced to give the staff what they’ve been begging me for. Do you have anything that you would like to say in response?” Yeh, Chuck replied, “Tell ’em not to hold their fucking breath!”

However, my being reunited with my old production mentor was terrific and I couldn’t wait to drag him back into the studio and do a few award-winning promos. Chuck later claimed that he got his mean voice delivery from the way I wrote which he said he needed to round out his demo tape.
The thing about Chuck was that he had the rare ability to sound much different on the air than he did in the production room. This meant that I not only got to use him for promos on WIBC but at a lot of our other stations too.
It was at one of these promo sessions that we, along with Cris Conner and Buster Bodine, produced a top-hour ID for Wnap that became a classic. You can hear that 1973 session by clicking on the Buzzard at the bottom of this page. Below that is the demo tape that got Riley his shot in Hollywood, and after that, I’ve included a taste of his on-air warmth from a Saturday morning fill-in show on WIBC (great acting on his part). Enjoy!

PS. Some years later when Chuck was a big deal in Hollywood, he surprised me with a phone call claiming that he wanted to apologize for mistreating me over the years. I told him that I couldn’t recall him ever treating me poorly, but he demanded that I hear him out anyway. However, before he could get started, I interrupted him with, “Chuck I only have good memories about you, why would I want to replace them with whatever it is that you want to tell me” and hung up. I had no idea he was going through a 12 step thing. Miss you old friend.

SOME ABSTRACT THOUGHTS…

Doubt, without a doubt, will kill an otherwise great relationship.

I heard a thought-provoking line on a TV series the other night, “When I lived in Russia, I was poor, not American poor, poor!”

Speaking of the not so poor, the wealthy don’t like to show their wealth, but the rich are always ready to flaunt theirs.

A wedding ring is the smallest set of handcuffs in the world so choose your cellmate wisely my friend.

Socrates claimed if you marry a good woman you’ll be very pleased, but if you marry a bad one, all is not lost because you can still become a great philosopher.

I was told that Asians used to bind the feet of female babies for aesthetic purposes. Now I hear that their undeveloped feet caused them to walk in a fashion which strengthened their vaginal muscles. I think Paul Simon had it right when he sang “All The Crap I Learned In High School.”

Just because you agree with something doesn’t make it less controversial.

Success won’t necessarily make you happy, but doing what makes you happy usually makes you successful.
 
Every situation has six points of view.
 

Does anybody but the government think that tax evasion is a horrendous crime?

I wonder what our ancestors would think of today’s modern man?
 
As long as the sex is good a lot of men will hang in there, but I rather doubt that women will.
 
If you are passionate and have a great imagination, not only can you become a great lover but after the lovin’, you can also become a great air talent. 
 
Women created modern Man in more ways than one.
 
Some women will love you enough to kill for you, but none will ever die for you.
 
The good news is that there are two ways to argue with women. However, the bad news is neither of them works.
 
How many careers do you suppose would have been lost had we told our bosses what our wives told us to say?
 
Radio only needs to move @ the speed of life.
 
Isn’t it strange how upon winning, winners begin to take on the appearance and style of losers?
 
If you don’t feel grateful, you’re a long way from being happy.
 
I’ve been influenced by a lot of great women but unlike some of my friends and family members; I’m proud to say that I’ve never been pussy whipped.
 
Democracy works best if you have a large middle class; otherwise, some form of Communism probably would be a better way to go.
 
Speaking of not having a middle class, isn’t it amazing how the President of Mexico always seems pissed at us for not letting his citizens flee his country?
 
The only justice in the world is the justice we as individuals hand out.
 
The ability to see what yet doesn’t exist is a fantastic gift.
 
Over the years radio sales people have tried to upgrade their image by calling themselves Senior Account Executives and Media Marketing Managers. On the other hand, on-air actors downgraded theirs by becoming Jocks.
 
You are the person you are at your worst.
 
Have you ever noticed that your failures are a hell of a lot better known than your successes? 
 
The thing that is so neat about being successful is that you can get up, and go to bed whenever and do whatever you want when you’re not sleeping.
 
Absolutely everything begins with imagination.
 

The hardest part of any project is getting started.

The only people I know who like selling older demos are old folks, and I’m not so sure about them?

 


Geo’s Media Blog is an inside look at Radio, Music, Movies, and Life. For a sneak peek at some upcoming Blogs, or some that you may have missed, go to GeorgeJohns.com. On Twitter @GeoOfTheRadio. Sharing and commenting is appreciated.

 
 
 
 
 
 

12 thoughts on “Geo’s Media Blog (What Ever Happened To My Old Friend Riley?) 4/29/19

  1. In the fifteen years, I spent working alongside Chuck Blore and Don Richman, some of the most talented people in the world graced our studio. Among them, Chuck Riley. He had a voice kinda like Ernie Anderson, kinda like Danny Dark – and that’s where Chuck found his niche – right in the middle of two of the best in the business. He was some kind of special. Extra special. Talent and a friend. I remember, after his first session with us, he and I went out for a drink to celebrate the Hollywood “arrival” of Chuck Riley. I ordered a shot of Suntori, a Japanese whiskey. “Best whiskey in the world,” I told Chuck. Two days later, a case of Suntori was delivered to me compliments of Chuck Riley. Like I said, Chuck Riley … extra special. (Whatever Happened To My Old Friend Riley?)

  2. George, thank you for the aircheck clips of Chuck. Although we were never close and although he gave me a great deal of grief, I realize now he was training me, as were you, Jim, Gary and Bake, to adhere and never budge from demanding high standards, which stuck with me in my professional radio, TV, web and print career. I was fired a couple of times for not budging, but at least I could look at myself in the mirror the next morning and go forward. Listening to these clips bring tears to my eyes and re-opens the small hole in my heart. You and others have a bigger gap in the soul because you worked with Chuck longer. He was a talented person that no one could ever forget.

    • Deep down Jed I truly believe Chuck was a great guy but unfortunately very few like me got to see it. I’m glad I did because I only have pleasant memories of him.

  3. After you left Indy for fame and fortune, I had the pleasure of being the guy in between Chuck and JCH. Chuck and Jim were in non-speaking mode and there I was in Jim’s office, Chuck and I sitting across the desk from Jim. The conversation went like this:

    JCH: “Bob, tell Chuck that the equipment he is demanding for the show isn’t going to fly”

    Me: Repeat Jim’s statement

    Chuck: (in a super low movie trailer voice) “Robert please inform Mr. Hilliard that without the proper equipment the fucking show isn’t going to work and without the proper studio equipment, I will not, I repeat, will not do the show!”

    Me: Repeat Chuck’s statement

    JCH: “Bob tell Chuck, that he doesn’t need 6 Neumann microphones to do a three person show.”

    Me: Repeat

    Chuck: (in his slightly out breath Orson Welles voice, with all the proper moments of silence used as punctuation) “Tell Mr. Hilliard, that we will have guests from time to time and we need to accommodate them with the proper fucking equipment. Or maybe he no longer cares how the god damn station sounds to the listeners or possibly he has forgotten what got him his lofty position in the first place.”

    This went on for an hour, when it was over, Chuck put on his smiley face and went on the air, leaving JCH muttering and me sitting there going, “WTF did I just experience!”

    I loved the guy, but he could be…

  4. When I was a young boy (16) considering a career as a disc jockey, I had the pleasure of visiting Chuck one night in the control room at WIBC (same as the above pic). I don’t remember whether he encouraged me or not, but it was a wonderful experience to meet my VO hero. Later I did become a disc jockey, and later an advertising producer and used Check many times for spots after I moved to Florida. He was my secret weapon. My spots were fantastic. He was the greatest personality and voice actor I’ve ever encountered or ever will.

  5. Fabulous tribute George. Thank you for telling me he wasn’t doing well. I immediately called him and we had a long conversation, our last. He was a big voice from the small town of Duncan, Oklahoma. Chuck & I were room mates and had so many fun times together. He was “big Chuck” and he called me “little Chuck”, a truism in body size and voice ability. While some will remember him for his “worst of times” attitude I’m with you. Chuck’s “best of times” are beyond description and so damn entertaining. Rest in peace Charles Daniel Hanks Jr. I can only imagine. lol.

  6. Jim J: I am SO glad I found this! I have been a HUGE Chuck Riley fan from the first time his voice leaped out of the TV towards me on CBS. I feel Chuck never got the respect he deserved as one of the great voice talents. Ernie was solidifying immortality with The Love Boat liners and Don was….well Don but you search today and there is very VERY little info on Chuck Riley.
    Talk about a double bonus to read that you actually sat on the other side of the booth from him!! Okay I have to ask you. Did you ever record Chuck in the 1990s? Listen to this flipping promo from 1995.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGQW_sS41YY

    I just have to know what kind of a mic he was using? Most likely a 416 but I just had to ask if he had his own mics he liked to use. Also, do you remember how close he worked the mic?

    Thanks again Geo for giving the man some props on your site!

    Jim (Whatever Happened To My Friend Riley)

    • Geo: Thanks for the read, Jim. No, I didn’t work with Chuck in the ’90s, by then I was living in Boston. However, when I did work with him, he preferred the Neumanns and he worked them rather far away because he liked how they opened up and sucked up all his low tones. I think that the main reason that Chuck isn’t as famous as his contemporaries is probably because he didn’t want to be.

Leave a Reply to geo Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *