Radio used to be entertaining. Decades ago it was local and staffed with real humans. The playlist was broader than the same 50 songs you have heard for the last 30 years. There was room for surprise. Today most of the stuff that sprays over the airwaves is the sonic equivalent of Cheese Whiz.
That’s OK. We no longer have to call the station to hear a favorite tune; our phones hold music libraries that put the automated-airwave zombies to shame.
Back when KSLY was an AM station, it had a morning DJ who worked under the moniker Captain Buffoon. Most syndicated morning drive shows have a zoo full of personalities and guests to carry the show, but Harry May was pretty much on his own.
I lived in several radio markets growing up, and when we would go to San Luis Obispo on a family visit, I would check it out. You could count on Buffoon to take a risk and poke fun at what was going on in the region. Tours of Gumball Alley, mock shower interviews, the latest song parody from then-Cal Poly student “Weird Al” Yankovic. If it got a laugh, or groan, it was on the air.
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A couple of postings from former employees reveal a strong sense of nostalgia for that time. One story by Richard Wayman (also known as Ric Stratton) about the station mascot Sly remembers the cat sleeping atop the warm cart (tape) player.
One day it jammed and the DJ had to keep album cuts spinning until the technician fixed it, removing handfuls of orange hair from the machine.
The zaniness spilled over to the pages of the then-Telegram-Tribune arts section on April 2, 1977, then called Focus.
“Captain Buffoon tells all … but his name”:
“First the bad news:
“This article will not reveal the true identity of Captain Buffoon, the raucous-voiced star disc jockey at KSLY Radio in San Luis Obispo.
“The Telegram-Tribune was permitted to interview Buffoon — a.k.a. ‘CB,’ the ‘Fearless Bionic Nose’ and ‘Funny Crummy Dummy’ — only on condition that his real name remain confidential.
“A breach of faith, Buffoon warned last week in his famous shower stall at KSLY Studios on South Higuera Street, would result in this reporter being cursed by Mary McGregor’s ‘Torn Between Two Lovers’ replaying endlessly in his dreams.
“The public, however, should be assured that the T-T does know who Buffoon is. We just aren’t telling. Appropriate documentation has been stored in a ground-squirrel hole at Fort Hunter Liggett, available only for a Grand Jury subpoena.
“Now the good news:
“This ace of the airwaves has graciously consented to reveal biographical data hitherto unavailable to the print media.
“ ‘I come from the planet Buffoonia, where the people live on jokes,’ says the curly-haired 30-year-old behind the microphone. ‘But I was born just a nose. I had no mouth to laugh with.
“ ‘So they sent me to Earth in a rocket ship, and every morning I took a secret potion — coffee — and turned into … CAPTAIN BUFFOON!’ ”
Visit David Middlecamp’s blog at http://sloblogs.thetribunenews.com/slovault.