Friday, October 15, 2010

Remembering Woody

On the air at KAAY, he was Mike McCormick--the second person after Jim Hankins to use the name. In real life, he was Barry Somers Wood from Union City, Tennessee. "Woody" when you got to know him, though Pat Walsh was prone to call him "Woodchuck." I just now learned that he died six years ago and I'm beating up on myself for being a pitifully neglectful friend. I left him alone and now he's gone.

I met Woody through my recent acquaintance with Phil North sometime in late 1970, and the first thing Woody did was TEACH me. He sat me down in front of an RCA 77DX ribbon microphone in the voice booth of the KAAY production room (seriously big deal!) and recorded me intro-ing a Michael Jackson song. Then, he had me do it again and told me to SMILE as I spoke. When he played the tracks back, I was astonished at the difference! Forty years later, I remember Woody's lesson every time I go on the air.

Barry was slight of stature; couldn't have been an inch over five-five, but he was ten feet tall on the air. (If you have not heard his voice, there are many samples of it here on the Blog. You ought to avail yourself of this richness of tone.) He might have been having the worst day of his life when he walked into the control room at 1425 West 7th, but you'd never know it when he opened the mic. Michael J. McCormick was always on top of the world--and he wanted you up there with him.

I wondered how such a relatively small head could contain so much knowledge and refined intelligence. You could ask Woody about ANYTHING and he'd know. He was a born leader and had been Program Director at KAAY (back when the title actually mattered) for a few years before I arrived.

Undoubtedly, his tour of duty with the Air Force broadened him, but his mind was hungry and thirsty at every moment--witnessed by his use of the Turkish phrase "Goo-lay, goo-lay" (rendered phonetically here) when he'd sign off, and the knowledge that the biggest insult you could hurl in Turkey was to show someone the sole of your foot.

It was the Air Force that cost him his sense of smell, the result of a chemical leak in a missile silo. Somehow, the thought of such a gentle soul being involved with huge things that could blow up the world wasn't that hard to accept. It was just another fascinating part of him--like the way he could cook such GREAT food without being able to smell a bit of it! (On the downside, not being able to discern a natural gas leak in his apartment nearly cost him his life--but he always had the best sort of friends. The kind who would come and check on him.)

His sense of humor was marvelous. He'd probably heard every short joke there was and he was okay with it. The record racks in the back of the KAAY control room stretched to the ceiling and I was with him one afternoon when he had to stand on a chair to get the 45 he wanted. As he stepped down, he looked up at me and said, "Now. Let's see YOU get SHORTER."

It was Woody who first told me that the studios were haunted. He said that Richard Weitan (Buddy Karr), who had died in a Jeep accident related to his National Guard duties, was among the spirits who chose to hang out at KAAY. He told me of a time when a record kept falling out of the rack. He'd climb up and put it back--and it would fall out again. Finally, he played it. Then when he put it back, it stayed. "Richard must have wanted to hear it on the air" was how he figured it.

So it's farewell, Woody, even though the stories could go on for weeks. On the one hand, I should have been a MUCH better friend to one so wise and patient, who taught me so much. On the other hand, you were such a private person that no one could even FIND you if you didn't want it (ask me how I know this).

"It doesn't matter if what you're doing is good or bad, as long as it's interesting. If it's interesting, the audience will stay with you. The worst thing you can do is be boring." Thanks for that, Woody, and a hundred other lessons besides.

I love you, I miss you, I owe you.

David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII

1 comment:

  1. As usual, Mr.Treadway,you have managed to share a wonderful insight into KAAY with those of us who were merely "listeners" back then. Thank you so much for a marvelous bit of writing!