Monday, July 26, 2021

From a Basement Radio Station to the Grand Ole Opry - Englewood's Own Dick McMahon

Photo of Dick McMahon (arrow) at the announcer's mic stand at the Grand Ole Opry. Ernest Tubb shown on bottom right, in the yellow suit.

In the 1950s, a teenage Dick McMahon entertained his immediate Englewood neighborhood, from his basement radio station studio.

"The reach from the basement was only a couple of houses. I kept changing the call letters, to always something that sounded cool," he said. "I was playing what was popular, at the time. Lots of big bands, Bing Crosby type stuff."

McMahon had been enamored with radio, from when he first heard the local Denver-area stations.

"I listened to a lot of the old KTLN, when it was in the Park Lane Hotel, at Washington Park. I remember listening to Joe "Upsy Daisy" Flood, in the mornings."

After he graduated Englewood High, in 1956, his love of radio took a back seat. He instead majored in psychology, at Arizona State. The diversion didn't last long.

"My first radio job was at KGMC, in Englewood, working in their record library. I would file the phonograph records, and catalog them for the disc jockeys. Later I worked for many years at KLZ radio. That's when Star Yelland, Warren Chandler, Carl Akers, and others were the big names there. 

 Listen to this 1959 Dick McMahon KLZ broadcast

His time in Denver radio was brief, as he was offered a job at a radio station, in Nashville. The gig was short lived, as the station soon went out of business.

"I then applied for an announcer position with WSM radio, which is the station that owns and operates the Grand Ole Opry. Part of my assignment there, along with my 7-11pm radio shift, was working on the Opry shows. At that time the Opry originated from the old Ryman Auditorium. The announcer’s job was to introduce the various portions of the show, and do the live commercials. So I would say things like 'This next portion of the Grand ‘Ole Opry is brought to you by _______, and here’s the star of this segment – MARTY ROBBINS!'"

The list of notable performers he encountered, while at the Opry, is a list of country royalty - Roy Acuff, Tex Ritter, Faron Young, Archie Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl, and Margie Bowes (who made a surprise appearance at his bachelor party).  

"Loretta Lynn was a genuine country girl. She’d drive up in her pickup truck and park behind the Ryman Auditorium, come in, sing a few songs, then drive back home."

McMahon served as Opry announcer for about three of his six years at WSM (he was replaced on WSM by a then-unknown Pat Sajak). He then teamed up with (later) Colorado U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong, who recruited him to start a TV operation in Idaho Falls, Idaho (KKVI / KPVI). He then moved to Oregon, to manage another television station. He current resides in Oregon, where he stays busy as an actor.

Check out this hysterical Amazon ad, featuring Dick McMahon

While he hasn't been back to the Denver area in several years, his time here left an impression.

"Denver will always be my home. In fact I named my son Denver, and my daughter's name is Molly - after the Unsinkable Molly Brown."

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