Saturday, November 18, 2017

Man Behind the Mike: Danny Williams (Oklahoma)

Man Behind the Mike: Meet Danny Williams
Wrestling Revue August 1966

Unquenchable energy and creativity are the elements that go to make up the dynamic personality of Danny Williams. Known to Oklahoma oldsters and youngsters alike, Danny has been on the WKY-TV staff for sixteen years. Currently in the position of program manager for WKY Radio, Danny also conducts an early morning radio program called Time and Tune Parade" which enjoys the largest audience by far of any radio program in the Oklahoma City area.

At one time Danny led youngsters into outer space on his Monday-through-Friday "3-D Danny" show and for the past six years has played a number of character parts on the "Foreman Scotty Show," the top-ranked children's program in Oklahoma City.

In addition to all of these duties, Danny has for years been the ringside announcer for WKY-TV's Saturday Night Wrestling Show originating in the studios of WKY-TV.

Danny announced his first wrestling show in 1950 in which were featured LeRoy McGurk and Danny McShane. The Saturday night show, telecast in color, always plays to a packed house in the studios and Danny has become as famous as a wrestling announcer as have the wrestlers who have appeared in the ring.

During World War II, Danny served a hitch as a Fireman First Class in the Navy. Out of the Navy in 1946, he enrolled at the University of Texas where he acquired (I) a wife, and (2) a degree in fine arts. His first radio job was with KTSA in San Antonio.

Danny's hobbies include fishing, golf, water skiing and skeet shooting. Danny is a top-flight golfer and has won many tournaments in Oklahoma. He is a member of the famed Hole-In-One Club, a member of the Masonic Lodge, the Commandery and the Shriners.

Danny and his wife Marilyn have four girls, with twins making up half of the family.

Friday, November 17, 2017

"Carolina Wrestling" - New information on Jim Crockett's earliest TV Wrestling

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway
Originally published on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway 10/22/17

Carroll Hall, who publishes the "All-Star Championship Wrestling" website, has unearthed information on what most surely was Jim Crockett's earliest foray into televised wrestling.

In May of 1956, WFBC Channel 4 in Greenville, SC announced they would begin airing live wrestling matches in the studios of WFBC beginning on June 2, 1956. The show was called, appropriately enough, "Carolina Wrestling."

Here is the text of the announcement that appeared in the Greenville Times.

Channel 4 Will Have Wrestling Ring in Studio

Wrestling in the studios of WFBC-TV on Rutherford Street will be presented "live" by Channel 4 each Saturday afternoon from 4:30 to 5:30, the television station announced yesterday.

A 20 x 20 regulation ring will be set up in the spacious studios and name wrestlers will appear regularly. First performance will be next Saturday afternoon.

The wrestlers who have been scheduled to appear at various times include Mr. Moto, Kinji Shiduya, Gene Becker, Jack Whitzig, Don Arnold, Don Eagle, and Cheif War Eagle, Lea, Chick and Leo Garabaldi, Carl Von Hess, Dick Steinborn, and Angelo Martinelli. There will also be girl and midget wrestlers.

Commentator for the events will be Claude Freeman.
According to Hall's research of newspaper archival TV listings from that time period, the show ran for just over three months, with it's last appearance on the TV schedule being Saturday, September 8, 1956.

Demand for the free tickets to the studio show grew so quickly that on at least one occasion, WFBC moved the show to the famous Textile Hall in Greenville, site of many Jim Crockett wrestling events in the 1950s and 1960s. The move was reported in the Greenville Times to accommodate the huge demand for tickets to the live broadcasts.

To put this show in historical perspective of the times, WFBC Channel 4 had only been on the air for two and a half years at this point, first broadcasting on December 31, 1953. Jim Crockett would not put wrestling on WBTV in his home city of Charlotte until January of 1958. So the June 1956 "Carolina Wrestling" show was bound to be the first ever affiliated with Jim Crockett Promotions.

The show proved to be quite popular, both in ratings and in interest for tickets, which begs the question why it was relatively short-lived. As reported on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway, wrestling would return to the studios of WFBC in Greenville in 1960 with hosts including Bob Poole, Bill Krieger and Billy Powell.

We will be updating the WFBC page on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway archive site to reflect this information soon.

For Carroll Hall's first post on this information visit:
"Carolina Wrestling" on WFBC 4 in Greenville, SC"

Thursday, November 16, 2017

No Antenna? You're Missing A Lot. Especially Wrestling.

Ray Reeve Hosts Professional Wrestling in the Early 1960s
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Mark Eastridge Collection
This vintage newspaper ad is a real sign-of-the-times from January 1960 when it appeared in the Rocky Mount, NC newspaper.

Rocky Mount is about 70 miles from Raleigh and this ad is suggesting to Rocky Mount residents that if you don't have an aerial antenna on your roof (as opposed to just "rabbit ears" attached to the TV set in your house), you're missing out on some great television shows from WRAL channel 5 in Raleigh.

Keep in mind, this is in 1960. Television is still in its infancy. WRAL TV has only been on the air for a little over three years. Many homes didn't even have television set yet. It is estimated that only 85% of households in the U.S. had TV in 1960.*

There clearly was an education effort going on by WRAL in an effort to increase its viewership and therefore its advertising base, letting folks in rural areas know that if you didn't have a roof-top antenna, you were really missing out. It's a sure bet the television antenna manufactures trade group supported the effort as well.

The ad touts three programs that cross all age demographics and viewing periods on Saturday: "Howdy Doody" for the kids (and Mom, too, apparently) at 10 AM, live professional wrestling at 5:30 PM, and a horror movie late at night.

"Top professional athletes in exciting contests.
Grunt-by-groan description by Ray Reeve."
Championship Wrestling 5:30 PM

Ray Reeve, the "Dean of Sportscasters" was a legendary voice in broadcasting, the very first sports director and sports anchor for WRAL channel 5, as well as a popular voice on WRAL AM and FM radio. He was the play-by-play voice of ACC basketball on the Tobacco Sports Network on radio in the late 1940s and 1950s, and more notably the voice for NC State Wolfpack basketball.

Carroll Hall Collection
A role not often listed on his resume or in his many biographies was that he was the first voice of professional wrestling on WRAL when live pro wrestling first launched and became hugely popular on the station in late 1959.

Reeve later turned over his wrestling duties to WRAL sports and news personalities Nick Pond and Bob Caudle. Pond became the voice of wrestling in Raleigh, and Caudle the voice of wrestling for the rest of the Carolinas and Virginia that would later be known as the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling area. By 1973, all of the various television wrestling tapings for Jim Crockett Promotions (which included WBTV-3 in Charlotte and WGHP-8 in High Point) were consolidated to WRAL in Raleigh, and Bob Caudle became the singular host for the flagship program until the late 1980s when the Crockett family business was sold to the Ted Turner broadcasting empire in Atlanta.

Ray Reeve was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1967.

For more wrestling history of the Mid-Atlantic area, visit the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.