|The Rambler interview
by Tony Kiss
In the 1970s, before
MTV, radio was still the major entertainment force. And long before
big chains like Clear Channel took
over the airwaves, local stations had a lot of freedom in deciding what
to play - and thus influencing what many us
purchased at the local record stores.
In and around the
Tri-Cities, no station was more important than WQUT, with a powerful
100,000 watt progressive rock signal that
swept across a number of states including North Carolina, Virginia,
Kentucky, Tennessee and elswhere. And of all the
personalities on WQUT (Worm, Bergeron, etc.) the Midnight Rambler was
the biggest and best.
I still well remember doing this interview, going out there to the WQUT
studio - a futuristic flying-saucer shaped building
in then very-rural Gray, Tenn, between Kingsport and Johnson City.
The Rambler was
willing to talk - but only on his terms, at midnight, on his ground.
And so I made my way out there, and he
buzzed me into the building, and there he was - the Rambler in person,
dressed in a wild costume, a fright wig, and makeup,
like a freaked out rock and roll superhero. He pranced around that studio,
jumping on tables and chairs like a crazed
animal. And he told me his story - or as much of it as he cared to share.
Meanwhile, headbanging rock poured from the
After several hours,
I figured I'd had enough and left. Outside, the parking lot was full
of cars - very strange in the
middle of the night - but here were all these fans sitting outside the
building listening to the show (there were speakers
all around the radio station). I walked up to one of the cars and asked
why they were here. "We're rock and rollers from
Big Stone Gap (Va)," the dude said. And that explained it all.
In 1979, I moved
away from the Tri-Cities down to Anderson, S.C. to start a new newspaper
job and lost track of the
Rambler. I don't know how long he was on the air, and on my visits back
home, I'd heard that he had become a Christian radio
personality, but don't know that for a fact.
Radio has changed
a lot since then. But the airwaves would be a lot better today if we
had more DJs like the Rambler and
less of this slicked-down, packaged-up corporate garbage that now passes
for entertainment. At least, they can't take our