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 THE DISC JOCKEYS


Del Roberts
 

'As a kid I recall the EXACT day I got into the rock and roll music. I went to see the movie "Blackboard Jungle". It opened with Bill Haley doing "Rock Around The Clock". It hit me like a sledge hammer. I was 12 and couldn't get it out of my mind. At the end they played it again. I stayed to see the movie start over again for the song. When I got home I found a radio and tuned it until I heard more rock and roll music. I was hooked big time'. Thus the beginning of Del Roberts' introduction to radio. Listeners in Minneapolis and surrounding areas well remember 'Ugly' Del on the air. Let's get back to Del's narrative. 'I found some of the early DJ's fascinating. Herb Oscar Anderson, Dick Driscoll, Bill Diehl, James Francis, Patrick O'Neill and Hal Murray to name a few. My parents didn't understand my appreciation of radio, but I managed to hide a radio in my room to listen at night to far away stations like KOMA, KOIL, and WHO. I also watched every act on Ed Sullivan. By 9th grade I was starting to write for my junior high newspaper. I called and got an interview with Randy Cook at KDWB in Minneapolis. Randy came to the school for the interview and asked some of us to record public safety spots. I was not only more hooked, but driven when I heard my voice on KDWB. I started hanging out at the WDGY studios in downtown Minneapolis, and WCCO too. There I was able to actually go into the office of local legend Cedric Adams. I recall the office had of all things, a palm tree. Cedric was probably the most powerful man in our nation. He could have run for public office and probably won. He was also a powerful newspaper person. What a talent he was. I also started working for the Flame Cafe near downtown Minneapolis. I was tall for a 14 year old and behaved myself. I helped the acts set up and tear down their equipment. I got to know Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Bob Luman, Wanda Jackson and others. I left high school in 1963 and started the process to attend Brown Institute, which was the icon of radio training. I was from a very poor family and the $1800.00 tuition seemed out of the question...until I had a car accident in mid-1964 and was injured. The accident took place in front of the Brown Institute and the driver who rear-ended me was also a student at Brown. Because of my injury, I got enough money to attend Brown. So I can say I got into radio by accident. I walked into Brown and they told me I had to be a high school graduate. I had not graduated and was one credit short. The interviewer said he was so sorry. I sighed and said "What a shame, I have the full tuition with me". He looked over the desk and said, "Your audition was pretty good, I think in your case we can make an exception". I handed him the cash and I was a student'. While attending Brown, Del hung around KDWB and any place touring rock stars showed up. At that time, the Twin Cities had a couple of local acts with national success, including Steve Wahrer and the Trashmen, and the Castaways ('Liar, Liar'). Roberts became friends with Preacher Paul Anthony, the all-night guy at KDWB. Del learned a lot from the old Preacher, who also introduced him to an old friend of Anthony's. Wolfman Jack. Del graduated from Brown in August of '65. That day he went over to KDWB and heard about an opening in the News Department. That same day, Del Roberts got a job driving the news car. This was quite a feat for a broadcast school grad to land at a Major Market station from the get-go. Roberts continues, 'My real name is Darrell E. Mulroy and the news staff said it had to go. I decided to change from Darrell to Del. A last name was difficult but a nearby tape recorder displayed the brand name of Roberts. I became Del Roberts and glad the recorder wasn't a Sony or Panasonic. On that same day, the Beatles were appearing at Met Stadium. I got my radio credentials and headed to the Leamington Hotel in downtown Minneapolis where they were holding a press conference. I then went over to the Leamington Motor Inn and hung around their room which I still recall was room 528. Having KDWB credentials got me past all the security and I was courted by the folks from Capitol Records who had no clue what my job was. Reggie Callahan was the promoter and had brought the Rolling Stones to his famous Danceland in Excelsior, Minnesota a year and a half before. He lost his shirt on the Rolling Stones as they drew only 300 people. The Beatles interestingly enough would not sell out the Met and it was the only concert they didn't sell out. Reggie is probably the only promoter to lose money on both acts. At the Met, Reggie asked me to run some tickets up to the booth. When I got there with 1,000 tickets, the gal said they weren't needed. "Chuck 'em", she said. I did. I tossed them into the trash can. Today, they (would) bring $100.00 or more each. I got to meet the Beatles and wasn't that impressed. Reggie needed an announcement made and I told him of my hiring that day at KDWB. He wasn't surprised and asked me to make the announcement (to the waiting crowd). It was something simple, but I can say I did indeed open the Beatles concert as such. Not a bad day for a kid hired from a poor part of town. I got hired at KDWB, met the Beatles, and did some announcing in front of 35,000 screaming girls. Meanwhile, my Brown classmate Gary Gears went on to Chicago and other great markets and became a legend as he should have. The man was GREAT. Maybe I should do a book, because after August 21, 1965 it only got better.' By 1966, Del Roberts took the traditional step of getting consistent on-air seasoning when he was hired at WCMP in Pine City, Minnesota. In '67, it was on to KCCR in Pierre, South Dakota. The following year ('68), he settled in at WEBC-Duluth, Minnesota. He would stay there for the better part of a decade. In '76, it was back to the big town of Minneapolis at WWTC. For 13 years, Del personified the 'Ugly' handle while spinning the hits in the Twin Cities. By '89, Roberts moved out to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a time at KFUN. Later that year, he was back home at KLBB in St. Paul. Then, 25 years later...Del took a sentimental journey. In 1990, he returned to the thrill of his youth...the place where it all began...KDWB. Roberts was there for awhile. In 1993, he landed at KJJO. Then...as happens sooner or later, 'The Ugly One' hung up the cans. Del Roberts still lives in Minneapolis, and says he misses radio. What a 'Horatio Alger' beginning to a fine career for 'Ugly' Del Roberts! He'd appreciate hearing from you. E-mail him at darrell@plusp.com

  

 
     

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