Memory becomes unreliable under the heel of time, but a few jewels retain their gleam forever. So it is with two giants in my life.
I was parked at Norwood’s Freez-King in Friendship with the windows of my mother’s 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 rolled down and the radio blasting KAAY, sitting on the fenders with a couple of friends. We didn’t have coins for the jukebox, but that Ford radio pumped pretty good.
The Earth tilted when a new song came on. The drums and the horns got my attention right away, but I was not prepared for the singer. “I’m gonna wait til the midnight hour…” It was the howl of some caveman between bites of raw mammoth meat. “That’s when my love comes tumblin’ down…” It was the glory shout of a gospel singer in the grip of the Holy Ghost. “Gonna take you, girl, and hold you…” John Lennon’s feral “Twist And Shout” was suddenly tamed. Wilson Pickett had brought Soul Music to Friendship—and all I wanted was more!
Over the next couple of years, KAAY played everything Pickett released. (I remember Sonny Martin yelling “Pick it, Wilson!” over an intro.) “Mustang Sally” literally made me jump up and down. “634-5789” put a groove on me that I’ve still got. I don’t think I’d have survived my sixteenth summer without “Funky Broadway.”
It was during this time that Pat Walsh became General Manager of KAAY. I reckon it as the Second Stage of the Golden Age. In my own teenage wasteland, The Mighty 1090 was always playing the latest Soul hits, be they Motown, Stax, Atlantic and/or Muscle Shoals. I wouldn’t learn about Pat for a few more years—but the big station in Little Rock that he commanded was part of my life just as sure as breathing.
Pat was generally hands-off when it came to what records were played on KAAY. He hired the right people and let them do their thing. However, he always said that a hit song was a hit song; didn’t matter if it was Soul or Country or Rock and Roll. If it was a hit, he wanted it on the air. I guess it was Pat who kept the Pickett hits coming. I knew there was something I liked about him!
Fast forward to December of 2005. My wife, Pat (!), and I were driving to the airport for a Christmastime visit to our son in California when I got to thinking about Pickett. My fantasy involved him somehow being on the same flight and I would be the only person on the plane who recognized him. Well, that didn’t happen—but I believe I know why I was thinking of him that day. Less than a month later, he was dead.
And less than a week after that, Pat Walsh was dead. Funny how life works out, huh? No, wait. There ain’t a thing funny about losing two men who were so important to me, so close together! I owe them both more than I can ever repay. I hope they get a good chuckle when they read this Up There.
I hate January.
David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII