The best pair in Atlanta.
I’m talking about two of Atlanta’s best radio stations ever, WQXI AM 790 and WQXI FM 94.1. The two — known as “Quixie” and “94Q” — broke the molds, wrote the playbooks … add your favorite cliché here. If you ever watched the TV show “WKRP in Cincinnati,” that fictional radio station was patterned after WQXI.
I could write five columns on Quixie and 94Q, but for this piece I’ll share an adventure that wasn’t typical of radio stations then, and completely out of the universe in today’s world of radio.
In those days, to motivate us for big ratings periods, The Big Guy, Gerald S. Blum, known as Jerry, always did something to motivate the staff to do their absolute best on the air, and any time we represented the stations. Quite often, this would entail having a prominent speaker join us at a fancy restaurant. For example, we once were wined and dined at The Coach and Six restaurant, with U.S. Sen. Max Cleland as our “guest motivator” for the evening.
In September 1983, the on-air staff for both stations got a memo to mark our calendars for a special day when Blum would gather a group of motivational speakers at a hotel in the airport area. Jerry would provide transportation. This meant limousines of course. Radio was show business in those days and limos were a treat, but not uncommon.
On “motivation day” three limos carried us south. As we got closer to the airport, we noticed we’d passed the last hotel of any size with a conference room. Is Jerry flying us somewhere?
The “new” airport had plenty of room for three fine rides to pull up and unload. Jerry hustled us inside like a school busload of excited students and shouts, “Let’s go…follow me!” In a few moments we’re in the Delta Crown Room giddy for this unknown adventure.
After he calmed us down and we were seated, Jerry handed each of us an envelope with our name handwritten on the outside. Once he told us to open them, we were in complete shock and over the top excited about what we were about to do. There was a photocopy of a personal note, handwritten by Jerry.
“I just wanted to say thank you for busting your butts to make these the best radio stations in the country,” the note said. “To show my appreciation, we’re spending the day in New York!” Attached to the note were airline tickets and three $100 bills. Three hundred bucks!!
After quieting us down again, he said we’d end our day with dinner at Peter Luger Steak House, his favorite steak house, before returning home.
Who in their right mind would take two airstaffs to New York, give them cash, and “turn them loose?” I recently spoke with J.J. Jackson, Jim Morrison, Fleetwood Gruver, Neil Williamson and Craig Ashwood to compare memories of our wild day. There were maybe 15 of us there that day.
Of course, we had limos in New York. We hadn’t been riding long when we saw the actor Jack Klugman dressed in camo pants. Someone shouted, “we love you!” He smiled and waved.
We all as a group went to the top of the Empire State Building. Once we arrived, Neil “Hondo” Williamson yelled, “Go Dawgs” for all New York to hear. We’d tried to go to lunch at the famed restaurant the Windows of the World, but someone was wearing jeans…back then, a no-no.
We split into groups, determined a designated location and time to meet later that day, and took off to play in the city. In those days, shopping at Bloomingdale’s was a big thing to do. Most of us got goodies for our significant others, then off to Central Park, more funky shopping, and as much NYC as we could squeeze into three hours.
No one got arrested, but Russ Davis did get lost amongst the many for a few moments. He was the tallest on the staff, and from Alabama. Once again Hondo to the rescue by finding a perch and yelling, “Roll Tide!” Magically from all those bodies a long arm was waiving. Russ was safe.
Time to eat. Peter Luger Steak House was legendary, and we were all stuffed and spoiled. There may have been champagne. We had a very happy limo ride to LaGuardia, and a party flight home to our smaller town, Atlanta. Our day was magical, special, and we were motivated for sure.
We continued the “Best Pair in Atlanta” status for long time. Of course, every other station in town hated us with envy. Most people in radio never have experiences like this group did. Not only the people on the air, but throughout the building.
The Big Guy was our team leader. Jerry also made us feel like family. Those of us still alive are so thankful for our time there. We’ll always be the Quixie/94Q family.