Tuesday, September 23, 2008

590 MIGHTY MEMORY #581





























PHOTO INDEX: RON ALLEN BEING NAMED MEDIA MAN OF THE YEAR, RON ALLEN IN A MID 60s WARM SURVEY SHEET WHEN HE DID 3PM TO 6PM, A SKETCH OF RON ALLEN IN 1967 WHEN HIS AIR SHIFT WAS 1 PM TO 4PM, RON ALLEN SUITED UP FOR SOME SORT OF AN EVENT, A DRAWING USED IN THE EARLY 60s OF RON ALLEN AND RON ALLEN WITH HIS FOOTBALL HERO, JOHNNY UNITAS.

REMEMBERING RON

I first met Ron Allen was I was 17. He was doing the 1 PM to 6PM Countdown Show on WARM and I had a scoop. It turned out our high school, St. John the Evangelist in Pittston was bringing in "Digger" Phelps, the Notre Dame Basketball coach for a banquet. I walked into the main studio area and Ron was sitting on the sofa, perusing the Racing Form and eating a Snickers Candy Bar. I introduced myself, breathlessly told him my news and Ron Allen said, "I know". It was then that I realized that no one could ever scoop Ron Allen.
As a listener, he first came to me on the radio after school when he did the 3PM to 6PM shift on WARM. If you listened to the show, you were "palin' with Allen". On the weekends, he did the top 40 Countdown Show. Every kid in WARMland listened to that show, survey sheet in hand, looking to see where our favorite group landed. Allen had as his sidekick "Mother Fletcher", an irracible person of seasoning who escaped from "The Home For the Terminally Silly". His bits with her/him??? were hysterical.
Allen bridged the gap from entertainment to sports. He foresaw that AM radio and its role in pop music would not be dominant and he turned WARM, the place for Music and News as the place to turn for sports. With George Gilbert and Pete Erickson, Allen re-invented WARM into a sports leader. Starting on a Sunday night, the show was live and began in 1974. High school basketball, football, and the Ron Allen Sportsline became a "must listen" entity if you were a sports fan. But Allen, with his vast knowledge of all things sport, also had a way of getting those uninterested or uninvolved with the games to somehow understand it. He was well known on the banquet service and no visit by a sports head of state was not complete without an appearance by Ron Allen. He moved easily among the DiMaggios, Aarons, Mantles and superstars but was almost giddy when you mentioned the name Unitas. A diehard Baltimore fan, Allen rooted for his Birds and Colts but muted that passion to make room for his audience's favorite teams.
Ron Allen worked at the same place for nearly four decades. But don't mistake him for "the company man". Allen seemed to take all the curveballs Susquehanna Broadcasting could toss at him but always seemed to make the ideas work into a particular radio format mandated by the suits in York. Because of his creativity and savvy, thousands grew up with and then matured with WARM. One Susquehanna GM even gave him a "lifetime contract", the only one bestowed on a WARM employee.
Ron's death seems different to me from others because his presence was absent the last 15 years or so. After suffering a stroke, that gift of gab and exhibition of language was silenced. But his old friends kept in touch, getting the hugs and that patented Ronzie smile. Ron Allen might have died physically today, but those of us who loved music, sports and a good lively discussion will always hear forever, "hello everybody, Ron Allen here................". Like the sports heros he covered, Ron Allen gave us time away from the cares of the big bad world, whether it be school or work. Thanks Ron, you will remain "the best there ever was".

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dave, congrats on the website. It looks great, and is most overdue for a once-in-a-lifetime station.

Normally, I'm not one to post---but I'm feeling a little nostalgic today and sharing may help.

So...yes, it was hard to scoop Ron. His knowledge was so encyclopedic that you were intimidated by it---even in subjects you felt very comfortable talking about. I heard he had a photographic memory, and that would explain quite a bit.

My first in-person memory of Ron was in 1974. I was six years old. My dad knew Ron from Pocono Downs (both loved to play the ponies) and had a Racing Forum or handicapping book to return or lend. It was my first visit ever to a radio station. Maybe I was too short, but I couldn’t really see what was going on in the WARM Studio. I do remember Ron’s office though. It had dark wood and a big leather chair. There were hundreds of 45’s. He offered me one. I declined. Maybe I was nervous, but I wanted “The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace.

I didn’t see Ron again until Chris Norton hired me for WARM/Magic in the Spring of 1989. While Ron and my dad weren’t that close, I wanted to make sure that I earned my weekend shift rather than using any connections to get it. Once I “got in”, I couldn’t believe where I was working. Sure I wanted to be at KRZ, but this was in many ways so much more the big time. In my mind the professionalism at WARM was light years ahead of any other station, and very daunting.

I was just this "kid", but still Ron was always very kind to me. We had nice long conversations as he would "hold court" in the lobby and in the talk studio (aka Office #2). He gave me the "lowdown" on corporate, his plan to fix WARM and thoughts on everything under the sun. While occasionally over the top---he was most often on the money.

I'll forever be humbled by having worked with Ron, Terry, Jerry, and Harry. It was the end of an era and I was very lucky to have been there.

With the passing of Terry, Radio Heaven has become much funnier---with George, much steadier---and now with Ronzo, more educated and much, much louder!

Best,
Stan Phillips
Magic 93

Anonymous said...

A very nice tribute/ you have alot to be proud of with this blog.


once again great job!!

Anonymous said...

I called on Ron Allen as a promotion man out of Nashville. Did the state from Philly to Pittsburgh where I finished up at KDKA and dropped the rental car at the airport and went home. Called on Ron at WARM somebody at WSCR maybe WEJL and Tom Powell at WGBI. The record was by Jimmy Clanton. 1977. He was a tough nut as I recall. I got past his grumpy old man act at WARM with some sports savvy, and a famous b-ball star relative who Ron was a fan of from Springfield PA to All American Honors at Princeton to the NBA. He was a real broadcaster! And he could be a ball buster but I respected him as I did GG.I worked at Columbia Records/Dot Records and WARM! Three legends. Might include ROCK 107, too.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note on your WARM blog and YOU TUBE tribue. Wonderful stuff. You are truly the custodian of the WARM legacy. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

wanted to say looking at the warm tribute, and ron allen during his time at warm was touching, and inspiring. ive only been at warm since 1996,
but even though warm isnt as powerful as it once was, i still feel honored to be a part of it today.. just saying 590 warm knowing at one time it was number one in just about every home car, and business places makes me feel like im still
in that mode. im still doing a polka show on saturdays, and for themost part retired. hope to see you one day again. again, super job on WARM.. and i still say its the mighty 590.. Sam Liguori