WKTM, North Charleston
Ken Harlan (Cocker) Remembers

WKTM Memories by Ken Cocker (Ken Harlan back then)

It is hard to believe that it is nearly 29 years (December 1975) that I got a call from J.J. Scott offering me the 7-12 gig at WKTM. I was just 19 years old and loved radio. This was my first top 100 market gig.

I remember I thought the facility was very cool -- even though the back of it was a trailer. I liked the station because you could play the "album" versions of popular singles of the day like Dream On, Love Is The Drug, and Dream Weaver. It was very hip.

Bill Dudley was the GM and kind of intimidating to such a young guy like me, but it was obvious he knew the business -- and what the heck -- he was paying me $165 a week (and you can't beat that).

J.J. Scott was the PD and maybe the most talented production guy I have ever met. He was really amazing, and treated me so kindly. He taught me something about production, even though I just wanted to be on the air -- but he would say it would stand me in good stead in the end. Also, he said he felt I had the talent to maybe make it to Chicago (which is where I wanted to go) and whether he meant it or not, it meant a lot to me.

Edd Salen and Steve Russell split the middays and they were great. Edd was equal to J.J. in the production department, and he did voices…I thought he was incredible. I recall that his wife also worked at the station as a salesperson, but she also would contribute to the spots.

Steve Russell was the neatest, most organized guy I ever saw. Even though I am not organized at all, I tried to learn something from that.

Booby Nash did mornings...and was, of course, a legend in Charleston. Since I did nights and later afternoons, I didn't see a lot of him. But I thought he was a fine personality.

The overnight guy was Bob O'Brian. I called him "Obin", because that is the way he would sign the albums after he played a track (to let others know when and who played it). He was the most laidback guy I ever met -- and he had a lot of pretty girlfriends I remember (ha-ha). I was pretty high energy back then and listening to him I realized it didn't have to all be a boss jock delivery.

Even the weekend staff there was good…including Terry Allen. I really soaked up the knowledge there…just hanging out and watching and listening to these guys.

John Patterson and I worked together when I moved to afternoons (in mid '76) and I thought he was so cool and professional and really dedicated, even though we all tried to get him to crackup during newscasts. In his description of me he calls me a "young hothead" (I take no offense) and in fact I probably was. I can remember him grimacing a few times at what I said on the air.

We had a station basketball team called the "'KTM bouncers" that played in the area, and since I am tall I liked that. Edd and J.J. came up with a fab jingle: "The 'KTM bouncers are bound to win, win, win." I still remember it.

Also during my time at 'KTM, I hung out with a guy my age named Kirk Varner, who I just thought was brilliant. Very mature, intelligent and drove a cool Monte Carlo; he was great guy who worked at WTMA. We were forever arguing the merits of the two stations.

I did listen to 'TMA quite a bit and remember thinking Gery London was the best jock I ever heard. I thought how am I ever gonna be that good, but realized I had to develop my own style and could not copy him.

Toward the end of '76, I became aware that I needed to move on in my pursuit of a trip to Chicago…and so I took a job with WSGA in Savannah where the great Jerry Rogers honed what I learned at 'KTM. By mid '77 I was at WNDE in Indianapolis and in early '78 moved on to WMET in Chicago and I have been in this market ever since.

1976 is a fondly remembered calendar year for me because of the time I spent in a great city -- Charleston -- and a great station --- WKTM. Without that year and those people, I never would have had the small modicum of success I have enjoyed in the radio biz.

Ken Cocker
October 2004

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