U-Man Wing

U-Man’s Favorite Memories

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John “The U-Man” Ulett grew up in St. Louis dreaming of being on the radio in his hometown. Well, he made his dreams come true. May 25th, 2016, marked his 40th anniversary as a full-time on air personality at one of the very first radio stations in the world to play rock music on the FM dial … KSHE 95. That’s an accomplishment that has probably never been matched. It may never be matched. But, then, John won’t ever be matched. He’s a true pro and a heckuva good guy. I know. I’ve worked with him for decades and he’s a very, very good friend. KSHE Program Director – Rick Balis

Check it out: U-Man’s Favorite Memories (In No Particular Order)

1. Sitting on the front steps of the four- family flat I grew up in at 1436 A South 18th Street and dreaming of being a radio broadcaster in my home town.

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2. Laying on my bed in the back bedroom I shared with my brother Jim and listening to a radio commercial for The Broadcast Center on our stereo/turntable/8 track player.

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3. Walking into Broadcast Center on South Bemiston in Clayton at age 16. My Mom, Dad and I went to  meet with the school’s President, Bill Gebhardt. I’d never been to Clayton prior to that day. I remember feeling out of place and Mr. Gebhardt’s beard and deep voice intimidated me. He turned out to be the nicest guy and my first big supporter, outside of Mom and Dad, of course.

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4. Being offered my first job in radio by Dave Ralston. He was an instructor at Broadcast Center and he was also putting a new radio station on the air in the coming fall of 1974. That station was 102.5 KEZK. The format was Beautiful Music. First, he offered me weekend air shifts. Then, somehow, a couple months later the offer turned into going on the air evenings Monday-Saturday. I was still a senior in high school. Of course, I took the job even though it was a less than desirable format for a 17 year old. Heck, I was in the business much earlier than I thought I would be AND in my hometown. Major market radio!

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5. Working at Adult Top 40 station KIRL 1460 in Boschertown Missouri, which is just north of St. Charles. Talking over song intros, man!!! NOW, I was a real disc jockey!!!

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6. Leaving home to take a full time job for $400 a month in Jefferson City, Missouri at the AM-FM combo KLIK/KJFF. It was a gloomy fall day in late October. I remember thinking that the hometown portion of my dream might have been over. The radio business was and is famous for creating wandering nomads.

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7. Getting a call from the program director at KSHE 95, Ron Stevens, after he heard a demo tape of mine given to him by Broadcast Center’s Bill Gebhardt. I don’t recall this, but Ron says at first I turned the job down saying to him, “I don’t think my Mom would want me to work at that station.” If indeed I said that, it makes sense because my real goal at the time was to be a baseball play by play announcer. The station also had its “druggie” image of which I had no interest. Maybe I was just trying to be nice and used Mom as a way out of the situation. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. I started at KSHE in May of 1976, only to stay for 40 years. Thank you, Ronnie!

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8. Walking into that little building on Watson Road (the KSHE studios in a little Crestwood, Missouri cinder block building). I was on crutches after breaking my leg playing softball in Forest Park the day before I was expected to start my new job at KSHE. I called PD Ron Stevens and told him what happened. I told him I was in pain, was struggling to get around and that I was not able to make it into work THE VERY FIRST DAY I was expected to be there. Ron told me that GM Shelley Grafman told him, “If the guy can’t show up to work on his very first day, get someone else.” Ron saved me and told Mr. Grafman that he wanted me on staff. Ron told me to BE SURE to get there by the next day, which I did. May 25th, 1976 … CRAZY!

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9. Mark Klose trained me on the control board in the on air studio. Even though I’d been in other control rooms and worked other control boards, the board at KSHE looked and felt huge with these volume knobs that were gigantic. And they were playing albums. Up until then I was spinning 45’s.  Also, the music that was coming out of the speakers seemed bigger and more important than anything I had experienced. Mark was kind and patient. He cracked me up back then and still does today. I’m proud to work with him.

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10. Meeting a guy named Don Newbrough at the old Arrowhead Golf Course in South County. Also known as Don The Legend. Even though he is NOT a pro, I over heard him giving a golf lesson to a woman. He was very instructive but full of curse words. I then saw him in the clubhouse holding court among the customers and he was very entertaining. I decided to ask him to record a golf lesson for our listeners and he became one of KSHE’s most famous on air personalities of the late 80’s and 90’s. Playing golf with “your daddy” has always been one of my favorite memories. A laugh a minute.

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11. Standing in front of the KSHE building on Watson Road in Crestwood  when a green Rambler pulls up and Billy Joel  gets out of the passenger side. He hitch-hiked to the station that day to do an interview! At least, that’s what he told me and that’s exactly how it looked. I escorted him into the station and Mark Klose interviewed him. This was just as Billy was releasing the album that made him a superstar … “The Stranger”.

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12. Selling concert tickets and KSHE t-shirts and caps out of the studio window in Crestwood, while trying to do a radio show. At times it was distracting and at times it was fun. I met many characters through that window and became friends with some of them. It’s also where I met my first wife.

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13. It never felt like work back in the Crestwood days. It was more like hanging out every day at the coolest place in town and getting a paycheck on top of it all. It felt like we were at the center of the rock world. It truly was a playground for us young, rock radio jocks. We were full of enthusiasm and mischief, but still all very serious about our jobs.

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14. Picking my own playlist for my very first solo show from midnight to 6am on a Saturday morning with the help of my high school buddy Jim Gudermuth. He had been listening to KSHE longer than me at the time and was a big help on my first few solo shows. He still texts me to this day when he feels he has something to offer. Thanks, Jimmy!

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15. Bra’s across the Water. It started when I read a news story about how the world renowned abstract artist Christo was planning an art project that involved stretching a string of bras across the Grand Canyon. We asked our lady listeners to donate their bras so we could do that across the Mississippi River. They did and the strand of under garments reached from one end of the Alton Bridge to the other. Christo heard about our success and contacted us and asked for our bras.

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16. Having to walk through and step around people sleeping out in front of the Crestwood station, so they could get concert tickets as soon as we made them available for sale. Sleeping bags and pup tents were all over the front entrance and up the long driveway. One cold night, listeners pulled down the wooden fence on the property of the apartment complex across the street and made a fire to keep warm. KSHE got in trouble from Crestwood for that move and it may have been the first straw in Crestwood‘s eventual dislike for one of its most famous local businesses.

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17. My very first interview happened late one evening when I was working the 7pm-12 midnight shift late in 1976. It was with Bill Lordan, former drummer of Gypsy and at the time was the drummer for Robin Trower. I remember struggling.

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18. Interviewing John Cougar (as he was known then) the first time he came to St. Louis to promote his debut album. Record promoter Joe Grossman and I were friends and he made sure I got to do the interview. He said this guy (Cougar) is going places. When talking about his future, off the air, I remember a cocky Cougar telling me: “I will be a big star.” He was confident and he and Joe were both right.

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19. Interviewing Bryan Adams the first time he played in St. Louis at a night club in North County on St. Charles Rock Road. He was touring to promote the “You Want It, You Got It” album and we were playing the song “Lonely Night” on the air at the time. He was so grateful and full of optimism about his future. He, too, was right. After the interview we went and had lunch with the A&M record representative, Steve Pachter, at the McDonalds down the street from KSHE on Watson Road.

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20. Going to the Superjam concerts at Busch Stadium. All the pre-show hype. The all day and evening concerts were a first for St. Louis and a big deal. The last time there was a rock show at Busch prior to that, the Beatles performed.

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21. Mr. Grafman (“Da Boss” in the early days). I remember him being intimidating to me in the beginning. I really respected his position and influence on the St. Louis and U.S. rock scene. It broke his heart when Century sold the station to Emmis Communications in 1983. As time went along, the kid he almost didn’t hire because of a broken leg (me) became a good friend. And one of the most touching moments of my life came when he passed away. His wife and children asked me to help carry him to his grave. He loved KSHE very much and HE laid the groundwork that made KSHE the institution it became.

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22. Broadcasting from Russia. Anheuser-Busch sponsored the Rolling Stones Tour in 1990. The Stones were supposed to play a show in Moscow and AB chose KSHE and me to be one of the many radio stations and on air people to go see the historic concert. There were several stops on the itinerary including Toronto and Copenhagen. We saw and met the band in Copenhagen. I remember specifically how light Mick Jagger’s hand shake was and the softness of his hand. But, the Moscow show got cancelled. We went there anyway and I did a broadcast from a dimly lit studio which was full of what had to be KGB personnel keeping an eye on us. When I went on about a revolution that was surely coming to the Soviet Union in the Gorbachev era, things got eerily quiet and eyes darted around the room. Not long after that we left. That’s exactly what happened without a shot being fired. Amazing. Adding to the memory, my wife Ruth was with me and she was pregnant with our first child, Olivia.

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23. Jogging down 18th Street while interviewing the Democratic candidates for President and Vice President of the United States, Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1992. Needless to say, security was a lot less intense back then. I remember asking Clinton if he really thought they could win and he said, “Yes, the polls are showing we’re ahead.”

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24. Playing charity softball and basketball games all over the St. Louis area in the late ’70s, thru the ’80’s and into the ’90’s. We raised a lot of money for charities and had a blast doing it. I remember the power hitting 3rd baseman Rick Balis in softball and passing basketballs to our 6ft. 4in. center Gordon Atkins for a lot of easy assists in basketball.

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25. The incredible success of the initial version of the KSHE Morning Zoo with J.C. Corcoran and Don Johnson. We had old KMOX rattled for sure.

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26. Broadcasting from the Admiral on the riverfront during the VP Fair in 1985, in front of a huge crowd. The live “Party Town” was attended by a couple thousand listeners singing along.  It was amazing. As was the raid of the broadcast KMOX was doing on the boat, hosted by our punching bag broadcaster Arnie Warren. Like it was yesterday, I remember how hard JC, DJ & I laughed when it was over.

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27. Making a call to the airport in Tehran, Iran to complain about the closing of the Kentucky Fried Chicken store on the airport grounds. I actually quoted, then President Ronald Reagan, to the person on the other end of the phone saying: “The bombing begins in 5 minutes.” In the fun of the moment and because like Reagan, I was kidding, it never occurred to me that I had technically made an international bomb threat. Thank goodness nothing came out of that.

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28. Fun with Eddie Money. Eddie headlined one of our birthday parties. The show was in the round at Westport Plaza Theatre. Scott Strong from our promotions department brought a huge, gorgeous cake out on to the stage. Joe “Mama” Mason dared me to lift and plow that cake into Scott’s face on stage, which of course I did. Cake went everywhere. Laughs all around, right? Fast forward maybe 10 years. I’m standing behind home plate at Busch Stadium getting ready for pre-game ceremonies and who do I see standing against the backstop, but Eddie Money! I was shocked. He was trying to get someone’s attention on the field, so I go over and he says: “Hey, I’m Eddie Money and if you don’t have anyone to sing the national anthem, I’ll do it.” I said: “I know you’re Eddie Money and I just might be able to get that done.” He was thrilled. I go over to talk to the guy who made those kinds of decisions at that time, Marty Hendin. Now, Marty was a little gun shy at first thinking this could be me trying to pull another radio stunt so he says: “Ok, but that better be the real Eddie Money or we’re gonna miss ya around here kid.” I get Eddie on the field and start reminiscing about him and KSHE. I tell him about the birthday party he did once and how funny it was that night during the intermission when I caked my friends face on stage. Instead of remembering that with a smile, he looked me dead in the eye and said: “So you’re the mother#%#% who did that. I almost broke my #%!#%!* neck that night trying to dance around on all that icing and #%@*! Lol. He remembered! I made it up to him that night at Busch and he did a memorable version of the anthem and all ended well for Eddie, me……and Marty.

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29. Playing golf with Alice Cooper twice. The first time at Quail Creek Golf Course in South County. The second time at St. Albans Country Club. After the round at Quail Creek was over, Alice had to get to an event at the Peaches Record Store on Hampton. I was driving him there and we were a bit late. It’s rush hour so I try a short cut. As I turned off Tesson Ferry on to a side road, an elderly gentleman pulls out of the Dierberg’s parking lot and slams into my car damaging the left front tire. We’re going nowhere. We get out of the car to check the damage. Alice just looks at me and shakes his head. This is pre-cell phones, so I tell him that we’ll  go into the nearby Walgreens and call one of the guys we just played golf with. That was Mark Imo. He lived nearby. We go in, make the call, I buy some Cheetos and a soda for us and we sat on the curb next to my car, ate our Cheetos, drank our soda and waited for Pizza Boy to pick up Alice. People were driving by looking at the accident having no idea Alice Cooper was sitting on the curb. We chatted awhile and what struck me is how often he talked about Alice the rock star as if another person. 15 years later, Cardinals pitcher Joe Magrane played golf with Alice in Arizona and asked him about that day. Alice told him the whole story.

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30. Meeting Journey and helping to host their appearance at Peaches on Hampton. Steve Perry and Ross Valory were there and the place was a zoo. It was just as the “Infinity” album was exploding up the charts. They were so grateful that KSHE was playing the album heavy. They knew Shelly Grafman was instrumental in their success. Not only did he have KSHE playing that album out of the box, but our sister stations in Detroit, Los Angeles and their hometown of San Francisco played it in heavy rotation and went very deep into it.

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31. When Joel Meyers stopped doing the News & Sports in the mornings with Mark Klose I volunteered to do it. My selfish motive was so I would be eligible for press passes for sporting events. It worked! Soon, I was going to Cardinals Baseball, Cardinals Football and Blues Hockey games for free. The door opened for so much more.

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32. That same Joel Meyers was no longer going to be the Cardinals PA announcer. I got to know numerous people in the Cardinals organization while using my press pass to follow the team on its run to a World Series title in 1982. Cardinals PR man, Marty Hendin, informed me that they were going to be hiring a new stadium announcer and asked me to audition.

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33. At a Football Cardinals game, I met a cute and sweet blonde haired girl while using my KSHE press pass. I eventually married Ruth Marty and 3 children later I love her and my daughters more than anything in the world.

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34. Standing on stage in front of a sold out Checkerdome for KSHE Birthday parties featuring the Moody Blues in 1981 and Bruce Springsteen in 1984. Exhilarating.

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35. Hosting the KSHE Lunch Show for 30 years. Going deep into the catalog of all of the greatest musicians who were creating an ever evolving art form was a thrill to do every day. And I could tell it was a special feature. Our daily listeners liked it a lot.

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36. Hosting Cardinal opening day ceremonies which, of course, Jack Buck did for many years. Even though my career in no way approaches his, it does have that one parallel of which I’m proud. He’s one of the reasons radio was of interest to me as a kid. His stature and skills made radio a big deal in St. Louis.

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37. Introducing the St. Louis Cardinals on national television for the opening games of the World Series 6 times. Always extremely exciting.

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38. Interviewing Ozzy Osborne backstage at the Fox Theater. My friend Mark Imo was with me that night. I’m sitting on a couch next to Ozzy. Mark is holding the tape machine. I have my note pad and the microphone and Ozzy is holding a cigarette in one hand. Manager/wife Sharon hands him a cup of scalding hot tea for the other, which he was gulping down like it was iced tea. To be that close to a man holding 2 hot things, who shakes, is dangerous. Sure enough, a few minutes into the interview I feel this burning sensation on the inside of my foot. While talking, the ash from his cig fell off into my Sperry Topsider shoe which caused me to yell “OUCH, &%$!, WHAT THE HELL?!” into the microphone. I wish I still had that interview.

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39. We took some listeners to Chicago for a Cardinals game at Wrigley Field on board an old fashioned caboose that was connected to the very back of an Amtrak train. I was sitting on the back steps outside the caboose as we were chugging along in the middle of nowhere Illinois when I noticed this old, painted over button on the railing of the steps that lead to the tracks.  Not thinking it could possibly be for anything important on this old run down caboose, for the hell of it I pushed on the button and to my surprise the thickly painted over button depressed. Just so happens the train came to a stop in the middle of a soybean field and we sat there for a while. After about 5 minutes I thought to myself I wonder if that button I pushed could have in some crazy way been the reason we’re not moving? “Nah, no way.  Whatever.” More time passed before the train’s conductor came out of the back door and asked me how long I’d been sitting out there. I said for quite a while. He asked if by any chance was I out there when the train stopped and I said yes. He then finally asked if I pushed that button on the railing and I said yes. He said: “You just stopped the entire train.” There was no sign that stated the purpose of the button, so I really was shocked. Nothing bad came of the incident, but a great memory for sure. After all, how many of us other than Superman can actually say: “I’VE STOPPED A TRAIN!!!”

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40. The Police came to KSHE in advance of their concert scheduled for the Illinois night club called Stages. I interviewed the band that day and we hit it off. Sting invited me to the show that night. There was no back stage area at Stages so after the show they had to walk thru the crowd to get to their dressing rooms. I waited near the back to thank Sting for coming to KSHE. As he approached I did just that and he replied: “Hey, that hot chick behind you is checking you out!” I reluctantly turned to look back because I wanted to speak with HIM. To appease him, I glanced back and in the brief moment it took for me to look back, see no hot woman, then look back toward him, he was gone. Even though I was the victim of a great blow off move, I couldn’t help but be impressed with its success and because it was done by a guy who became a legendary figure in music.