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Being on the air when John Lennon was killed!

In December 1980, I was the evening DJ at former Portland, Me Rock station WYNZ-FM. It was a great gig at the time too.  That particular night, December 8,  was a Monday night which meant that I had a psychedelic super session scheduled for 10:50 PM. A super session was a block of music by a particular band or artist. That night…I had the Byrds scheduled. Being a band that I always really liked…I was pretty psyched to play a block of their music, which I had completely free reign to program. Of course, since this was 1980,  all of the music was on vinyl… In any case, at about 11:10 PM, it was almost time to wrap this Byrds block up and I cued up “He Was a Friend of Mine”…a Byrds song about the killing of John Kennedy.  Just as the song started up…the phones suddenly went ballistic…so I knew that something was up! I grabbed the phones to multiple inquiries as to whether or not it was true that John lennon had been shot. I ran across the hall to check the UPI news machine…which was printing out that John Lennon had indeed been shot and was on board an ambulance. As I turned to head back to the air studio, the UPI machine started ringing…which meant a bulletin…which was of course that John Lennon had died. Stunned…I headed back to the air studio…and went on the air telling the audience that I had the worst news that I had ever told them…that John Lennnon had just been shot dead in New York City. The irony that I announced this right out of a song about JFK’s assassination has never been lost on me. At that point I immediately ditched the format, and went straight in to non-stop John Lennon and Beatles music…a policy that the station kept in place for the next couple of days. It was mayhem…the station owner called me…the Program Director called me…and all the completely freaked out listeners kept calling. To this day,  I would consider this to be Rock Radio’s 911….

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