1080WKLO.com Paul Cowley Tribute Page

On this page you find items from and about WKLO's
popular DJ of the late '50s and early '60s

Paul Cowley Remembers WKLO
Received April 20, 2005 

In the mid '50s, I joined the WKLO staff after a stint at WLW in Cincinnati and WLEX in Lexington. At that time WKLO was basically country with DJs Jimmy Osborn, Jimmie Logsdon and Tommy Downs. The only pop music was Beecher Frank in the evening who built a huge teenage audience. I was hired as a backup to him as rumors were flying that he might be moving to another station. "Beech" did move later to WGRC (now known as WAKY) and I took over his nighttime slot.

Beecher and I were friendly competitors as we both were doing our shows from different Ranch House drive-in restaurants. Bob Colglazier owned several drive-ins in the greater Louisville area and they were great hangouts for kids growing up in those innocent '50s. (Example: Arnold's Drive In on "Happy Days.") Kids would park their cars for hours with their radios on, listening and drinking malts and scarfing down Ranchburgers and fries. They would send in "curb notes" via the carhops asking to hear a particular record dedicated to their boyfriend or girlfriend. WKLO even built me a private studio on the roof of the Ranch House on Shelbyville Road with their call letters and my name in neon lights on the roof of the studio.

 Introducing Ricky Nelson at the Kentucky State Fair

Introducing Elvis Presley

Paul Cowley at a Coca-Cola Hi-Fi Club dance at DeSales High School

In the late '50s I was the voice of Coca-Cola doing live record hops broadcast from different high school gyms on Friday nights. In those days we called them "sock hops" because to dance on the gym floors you had to take your shoes off to avoid damaging the gym floor. That was when kids danced holding each other rather than wild gyrations. What a difference a generation makes. (Too bad today's generation has taken the melody out of music...so much for rap!) The Coca-Cola Hi-Fi Club became so popular that later it went to two nights of broadcast and Allen Bryan was added. I continued to do Friday night's broadcast and Allen did Saturday night. I think we both broadcast from every high school in the area at that time.

Paul Cowley's first publicity photo

Around that time, Gordon McClendon in Dallas bought the old WGRC, and changed the call letters to WAKY. It was clever the way he did it. The deejays over there played the same record over and over for 24 hours. I remember it well: It was Sheb Wooley's "The Purple People Eater" and they had the whole town talking about them. That's when the radio station wars began.

Both stations tried to outdo each other with zany promotions. One of WAKY's best was The WAKY Mystery Walker who would award you with cash if you could identify him on the street. You couldn't walk down 4th Street without several kids stopping you and asking if you were the mystery walker. Business people who made advertising decisions were convinced that everybody in town was listening to WAKY.

WKLO became the "Home of the Good Guys," a promotion that backfired when the Courier-Journal printed a story and picture of a guy in trouble with the police for some misdeed and wouldn't you know it, he was wearing a t-shirt that read "I'm one of WKLO's Good Guys."

Later, I had the chance to get into management and joined the Polaris Broadcasting Company out of Chicago, who owned several stations in the west and moved to Santa Rosa, California at KPLS, then to KGNU in San Jose, on to KEDO/KLYK in Longview, Washington and ending my radio days at KTRC in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I still live.

I later got into tourism doing tours throughout Santa Fe and the state. I'm now with the Department of Tourism as a tourist counselor.

I still recall fond memories of a bygone time and if anybody reading this remember those days (God, you gotta be old) I would love to hear from you at paulhellou3@aol.com.

Paul Cowley
Santa Fe, New Mexico
April 20, 2005

Note: Paul Cowley passed away in September 2011.

Tube Talk
Louisville Times Column
January 31, 1984

What ever happened to…

Paul Cowley, famous disc jockey of the '50s at WKLO in Louisville?

Cowley agreed to fill us in on his fortunes in a recent interview.

How did you get started?

My first job in radio was in 1947 as a disc jockey in Charleston, West Virginia for $24 a week. That's not I intended to be. I started out to be an undertaker.

I came to WKLO in 1955 as a kind of backup to Beecher Frank, but within a few months Beecher left to go WGRC, now WAKY. When he left, I stepped into his time slot and we were on opposite each other. We would both do location shows from the Ranch Houses, he at one location and me at the other. Everyone though we were enemies, but we were very, very friendly. In fact, I just talked to him. He is living in Somerset, which is where he was from originally. He left Louisville in 1961 and went back into the oil business, but is now retired.

I stayed at WKLO, and in late 1965 I left Louisville to join a company called Polaris Broadcasting, which owned several stations all across the country, and one of them was KPLS in Santa Rosa, California. That is about 50 miles north of San Francisco.

I was there for twp years when I was hired to run a station in San Jose. I was there for two years when they sold their company and the new owners wanted their own people.

In 1970, I joined Community Club Awards, which is what I do now. CCA is a radio- and TV-promotion company. I am the Western director, and I handle all the clients from Fairbanks, Alaska to the Mexico border and from Salt Lake City to Honolulu. It is an international company, and our clients are from many countries.

Had you ever worked in market larger than Louisville?

In 1960 I had an offer to go to New York, WABC, and at the time it was the big disc-jockey station.

The offer made to me was a 13-week contract and the basis was that I would be paid on the basis of a $35,000 salary, which in the '60s was a fantastic salary. The stipulation was that at the end of 13 weeks, the time slot I would be in was noon to 3. The deal was that if the ratings went up or held in that slot, then I would have gotten a year's contract. But if the ratings dropped, I was out.

Maybe I didn't have the confidence I needed, but I couldn't see gambling everything for 13 weeks. I've often wondered what would have happened if I had done that.

I headquarter now in the Bay area, Foster City, just off San Francisco Bay. I can live anywhere, because all of my business is out of town, but I enjoy this area. I used to headquarter in Los Angeles and was one of the few people who liked to live there. Simply because I didn't work there, I lived there. Whenever I was in L.A., it was party time. If I had to work there and drive the freeway, than I wouldn't have enjoyed it.

What about radio in this area?

The radio business in Louisville, like in any city in America, is totally changed. The only people active on the air that were here when I was are Ken Rowland and Ryan Halleran.

Has anything unbelievable ever happened to you?

There were two things that happened in my time as a disc jockey that if I had chosen to do it any different could have meant that my whole life would be turned around.

In the mid-50s I had become familiar with many disc jockeys around the country. One of them was Billy Phillips who was a disc jockey in Nashville, Tennessee.

He called me one day and said he had found a young chap who he though had a potential for the music business. He had the idea the he was going to get five or six key disc jockeys around the nation, form a corporation and sign this kid. And with our influence in the record business, would get him a contract and make a mint. I said, 'Send me a tape so I hear him.'

He sent me a tape, and I can even remember the two songs on the tape. Of them was something called "Blue Moon of Kentucky." You know what's coming don't you? The other was "Milk Cow Boogie Blues." I listened to it one time and wrote a note back and told him I had decided to pass. You, of course, know who that was - Elvis Presley.

I can also remember being in New York one time and a guy by the name of Archie Bryer said, "Hey, I've got a couple of kids from Kentucky that I think have potential. Let me get a tape and let you listen to it." Archie played this record for me, and after he played it he asked me what I thought of it. I said, "Gee Archie, save your money. These kids don't have a chance." The song was "Bye Bye Love" by the Everly Brothers.

That's the crazy thing about the music business, you never know.

What do you do to relax?

My hobby is that I collect obits of famous people. I have so many that they are cross-indexed. People call me in the middle of the night to get information that they can't fin in any other place.

Do you ever thing about reentering the market now that is changing back to the old format?

No, I'll never go back. Yesterday is just a fond memory.

Paul Cowley Feature
Top Hit Club News

Date Unknown

(Editor's Note: When we asked Paul Cowley of WKLO, Louisville, for some material on himself we hardly expected the highly amusing letter he wrote. We're reprinting it just as he wrote it!)

You asked for my story for publication. You know on most biographies in this business you read how this guy was born between the matinee and evening performance backstage at the old Lyceum Theatre in Billings, Montana and his first professional appearance was when he toddled on stage at the age of three, interrupting his parent's act! Nothing like that ever happened to me. In fact, when I stop and think about it, I had a rather dull childhood.

I'll never forget the day I started in radio. It was in 1947 in Charleston, West Virginia as an announcer and then as a deejay. I wish I could dream up some fabulous success story about that job, but the only thing that comes near, is the fact that I held on to it for a year! In 1948 I moved back to my home town, Cincinnati, where I went to work at WNOP, a small indie across the river in Newport, Kentucky.

Now here's where the riches-to-rags portion starts. An executive from WLW in Cincinnati heard me and offered me a job as a television emcee. Well, I went to work and laid what was probably the biggest bomb in local TV history. In fact I ended up owing Hooper a couple of points! So this jazz went on for another two years, with WLW giving me numerous announcing chores on radio and TV. My claim to fame there was the fact that I am the only announcer in the history of that station that was never allowed to do "Moon River." (Kinda chokes you up, doesn't it?)

In 1952, with this rich radio background, I moved to WLEX in Lexington, Kentucky. It was there that I really began to meet with success. Comparative ratings proved that I had the top rated morning show. Drunk with success, WKLO beckoned in 1955 offering much better money. Well, the money wasn't really so much better, but the station had better trade-out deals with its clients. I've been here ever since.

Like I said, what can you do with a story like that? Let's see how creative and good a liar you can be.

Thanks again.


How Do You Get To Be A Disc Jockey?
Teen Magazine - "Mike Side" Column

By Paul Cowley
WKLO, Louisville, KY
October 1958

WKLO's Paul Cowley is "sitting pretty" on top of a Louisville, Kentucky restaurant! In a specially built studio close to his listeners and fans, Paul does a nightly four-hour R&R stanza that's tops.

It's a pleasure to be asked by the editors of this magazine to have a chance to visit with you. I have a rather unique type of setup as far as broadcasting goes. Nightly I broadcast from a specially built studio atop a restaurant here in the Louisville area, spinning four hours worth of pop and rock 'n' roll records. This gives me an added advantage by being close to my audience with personal contact at all times.

I don't suppose a night goes by without someone asking me "How do you get to be a disc jockey?" This is a hard question to answer because there is no set pattern. It seems like each disc jockey gets started in a different way. The only advice I can give you is start to develop a "style" as soon as possible. Concentrate on ads in newspapers and magazines and try to "ad lib" about the product. Get to know the product well, its salable qualities, its advantages, etc.

Don't worry about the records and knowing about the record business. That will come with time and experience. I don't care how good your voice will sound or how smooth your introductions to the records are. If you are not selling merchandise for your sponsor, you are not worth your salary.

Just remember, when you are auditioning for a job, your prospective "boss" is listening for your "sell-ability." If you've developed that, you stand a good chance.

If you are serious about wanting to become a "deejay," just remember, it's not as easy as you may think. It takes a lot hard work. There is a demand for good jockeys constantly, so stick with it, and good luck!

Paul Cowley Broadcasts Hi-Fi Club From Cafeteria With Records, Prizes
Pioneer Post: Our Lady Of Providence High School Newspaper
January 29, 1960

"...Be listening for...be watching for...the Hi-Fi Club of the Air."

On February 19, WKLO's Hi-Fi Club of the Air will be broadcast from our Lady of Providence. The scene will be a Coca-Cola dance from 8:00-11:00 p.m. in the cafeteria. Mr. Paul Cowley, WKLO disc jockey, will be on hand to play records and give away valuable prizes.

The Coca-Cola company is sponsoring 413 Hi-Fi clubs in cities throughout the United States. The local Hi-Fi club is the second oldest in the country, according to the emcee.

He has estimated that approximately  $1,500 in prizes was given away in '59. Mr. Cowley visits a different school every Friday night and recently, Saturday nights have been added to his schedule.

A Hi-Fi set is given away at each dance, along with a Coca-Cola cooler and 100 cartons of Coke.

Louisville disc jockey, Paul Cowley from WKLO, sits in his "on the air booth" when he broadcasts his nightly show from the station. He will be at OLP for his program on February 19.

Would-Be Embalmer Discards Profession For Radio Work
By Lana Habermel

"Actually, I started to become an embalmer," WKLO's Paul Coley revealed. "I was studying at Cincinnati College of Embalming when...a friend asked me to a show." He indicated at a small town in West Virginia was the place where he began his radio career.

His interest in teens, Mr. Cowley related, started when he was a teen himself. "I tried to appeal to my own age group." Now he is still entertaining the tuners with the High-Fi Club of the Air.

The club will hold one of its weekly dances at Providence on February 19.

The soft-spoken disc jockey shared that he went to Philadelphia to audition for the American Bandstand show. "They narrowed it down to five and then to three." He and Dick Clark were among the three. Dick Clark got the job but Mr. Cowley assured him that there were no hard feelings.

The record spinner plans to continue with the Hi-Fi club which in its two year history, has never had a demonstration of juvenile delinquency.

Paul Cowley at a Hi-Fi Club Dance

Paul Cowley uses Kirby Stone's Cadence recording of "SSS'Wonderful" to sooth the rattlesnake around his neck. The situation arose when Paul tried interviewing a man at a new drive-in who was buried alive for a week with twelve rattlers.

Paul Cowley and wife Jeanette

Paul's favorite photo of Jeanette

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