Stories of some of the ordinary and extraordinary people of Laurens County and East Central Georgia. They are people like us.
"Each of us were put here for a purpose, and that purpose is to build and not to destroy."
Sunday, January 18, 2015
An Oldie But a Goodie Who Still Rocks
If it’s a Saturday night and you are listening to the your favorite oldies music, chances are good that you will hear the voice of Dublin’s own, Ron O’Quinn. Ron has been spinning records, pushing buttons and wise cracking jokes on the radio for all or parts of the last seven decades. He has met many of the most successful singers and rock and roll groups of the 1960s. And, many will tell you that his lively style, witty humor and musical knowledge make him one of the greatest disc jockeys in Rock and Roll music history.
Ron O’Quinn was born on March 4, 1943 in McRae, Georgia. There was a time when Ron joined the Air Explorer Scouts and dreamed of being a pilot like his father, Joe O’Quinn, who was a fighter pilot in World War II and an instructor at Spence Field in Moultrie, Georgia. Ron can’t think of a more caring mother than his own mother, Nita Adams.
As activities at the base in Moultrie began to slow down, jobs were getting scarce. One day, Ron’s life changed forever. At the age of 16, Ron took a job at a $1.50 an hour hosting a teen radio show at WMGA in Moultrie. Ron loved listening at night to the sounds of the early days of rock and roll and country music coming from radio stations in distant parts of the Southeast. The voice of one disc jockey, the legendary “John R.” Richbourg, still endures in his head.
“I don’t listen to the radio much these days. I don’t have to, because all of the songs are always up there in my head,” Ron proclaims.
During his life in the music, Ron has met many celebrities. Some of the first, were during his tenure at WMGA. They were Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Hall of Fame songwriters who wrote many of the hits of the Everly Brothers, “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” Bye-Bye Love,” and “Wake Up Little Susie.” Boudleaux Bryant, who hailed from nearby Shellman, Georgia, teamed with his wife to write the Tennessee State Anthem, “Rocky Top.”
Ron left Moultrie in 1961 after graduation and entered the Army. During his two-year hitch in the Army, Ron, a marksman and machine gunnner, earned the esteemed title of an Army Ranger.
Ron returned to radio in 1963 when he took a job at WVLD in Valdosta. O’Quinn kept climbing the ladder by moving south in search of better paying jobs, first at WROD in Daytona and WLCY in Tampa/St, Petersburg, where he was known to his listeners as “Jack E. Rabbitt.”
O’Quinn’s first big break in radio came in August 1965. With his recording setting 60% share of the radio audience in Tampa, he was hired to work at WFUN, one of Miami’s best Top 40 Radio Stations.
While at WFUN, Ron was again at the top of this game with high ratings and emceing concerts. Once he met the Rolling Stones while introducing them at a concert. When the Stones failed to kept their promise to go on his radio show, Ron gave out their hotel room numbers to his listeners. When the police enjoined him from giving out the number, Ron exacted revenge by borrowing a waiter’s clothes, taking the rock and rollers’ drink order and leaving them stranded, but not before getting his picture made with the iconic rockers.
Once again, his success at a highly rate Top 40 radio station, led to yet another career making opportunity.
“I continued my lucky rating streak and was hired to set up the 'most powerful pirate radio stations in the world', Swinging Radio England,” Ron recalled.
These “pirate” stations broadcasted from a ship in international waters, 4 1/2 miles off the shore of Great Britain. In those days, the British Broadcasting Corporation severely limited air play of rock and roll music. With the stations beyond the limits of control of the British government, the stations blasted powerful signals throughout most of the United Kingdom to eager listeners seeking to hear their favorite tunes.
As the station’s first program director, O'Quinn altered the theretofore automated format into live radio in May 1966. Borrowing every snappy jingle, funny gimmick and every successful radio format he had ever seen and heard, Ron and his fellow DJ’s became an instant success.
“Because of the notoriety our radio stations received in Europe, I was invited to meet The Beatles at the London offices of Nems Enterprise. The meeting went well and a few days later I was asked if I wanted to attend a recording session at Abbey Road. I did, of course, and while there cleared my throat, coughed actually, on the Tax Man song,” Ron recalled.
“In August of 1966, I was asked to become a member of the Official Beatles Touring Party and accompany the Beatles from England on their American tour. This tour would be their last ever,” Ron remembered.
The tour got off to in inauspicious start when the plane took off in a terrific thunderstorm. Ron was there, along with Kenny Everett and Jerry Leighton of the other pirate stations, to give their prospective of the tour to their listeners back in England. .
Ron spent a lot of time with all of the Beatles. He developed a close relationship with all of the Fab For, but especially with John Lennon, with whom he traded rings for a while.
“John was deeply disturbed about the remark attributed to him that the Beatles were more popular than God or Jesus,” Ron remembered about Lennon, who desperately sought out to learn more about Jesus and the wonders of His love to rid himself of his demons.
“He was asked by a reporter that if the Beatles and Billy Graham were appearing at the same time, who would draw more fans, to which John instinctively replied, ‘The Beatles,’” recalled Ron, who was once used as a double for Paul McCartney to avoid an army of adoring fans.
When the tour was over, Ron had problems getting permission to return to England. The station, banned by the British government from broadcasting ads of British businesses on the pirate stations, failed and was no more in November 1966.
Ron & The Buckinghams
Ron returned to America, right back to his old job in WFUN. In the fall of 1969, he moved across the country to KYA in San Francisco, for a brief while. During his career, Ron had stints on WUBE Cincinnati and WYLD in New Orleans, O’Quinn was hired being National Program Director of Urban Stations for Rounsaville Organization, an Atlanta-based company.
In early 1971, O'Quinn became the manager of WSIZ in Ocilla, Georgia where he stayed until 1976. In 1987, after being out of the radio business for nearly a decade, Ron moved to Dublin, where he produced a weekly oldies show, “Rock and Roll Reunion,” syndicated to nearly ninety markets and heard locally over WKKZ and WQZY. His show, “Memories Unlimited ened in 2001.
In 2012, Ron, a member of the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame, was named as a Legacy Inductee into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame.
In summing up his career in radio, this humble man merely says, “I can't believe I've been paid all these years for doing what I love.”
Ron lives just outside of Laurens County in his ancestral home of Wheeler County. From a spare bedroom, which he transformed into a studio, Ron produces another weekly show, “Rock and Roll Rewind,” which is heard all over Europe by a million or more listeners each week as well as listeners to several dozen stations in the U.S.
Ron will tell you quickly, “I have no set playlist, I just play whatever strikes me at the time,.
So on this Saturday night, get in your car, turn your radio on, ride around and listen to the music, the music of our lives.