Saturday, August 23, 2003

Dick Pike jazzed up radio's small, but legendary, WNOP

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mr. Pike

MASON - Dick Pike,the disc jockey and general manager who turned WNOP-AM (740) into an eccentric and quirky station loved by local jazz devotees and artists, died Aug. 16 at Woodcrest Manor Care Center in Elsmere.

A resident of Mason for the past 10 years, he was 78.

WNOP, a tiny, 1,000-watt, all-jazz station, never had many listeners but the station was legendary, thanks to Mr. Pike.

The first thing he did after taking over as general manager in 1961 was to sell the station's record library and replace it with his own collection of bebop and classic jazz.

He also hired a lineup of bohemian and independent disc jockeys, including Oscar Treadwell, Leo Underhill and Ray Scott. Together they delivered programs of wild humor, goofy one-liners and unpredictable hijinks, in addition to the hippest jazz.

For several years they broadcast from a structure made of oil drums on the Ohio River. They called it the "Jazz Ark."

Word of their show got around and well-known jazz artists, including Count Basie, John Coltrane and Stan Kenton, dropped by when they were in town;

As a disc jockey, Mr. Pike didn't please all of his listeners all of the time. He once landed in hot water with his bosses when he read names that he considered humorous out of the phone book. The people whose names he made fun of didn't think it was so funny.

Richard Leonard Pike was born in 1924 in Chicago but moved to Corryville with his parents when he was a boy. He graduated from Woodward High School and studied at the College-Conservatory of Music.

The Army drafted him during World War II and he was among the second wave of soldiers to land in Normandy on D-Day.

"Later he was awarded a Purple Heart," said his daughter, Laurie Pike of Los Angeles. He joked to his kids that "I was hiding under a truck and a piece of shrapnel hit my foot."

Mr. Pike began working for WNOP in the 1950s. He took a job as a radio and television personality in Cleveland in 1960, but returned to WNOP the following year as general manager.

He added offbeat humor to the jazz format. The DJs pulled stunts like announcing bar closings instead of school closings and giving weather forecasts by looking out the window.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include six sons, Rick Pikeof Reno, Nev., Lance Pike of Sarasota, Fla., Matt Pike of Indianapolis, Andy Pikeof Honolulu, and Jason and Tony Pike, both of Chicago; another daughter, Mandy Cobble of Florence; a step-daughter, Julie Hermes of North Avondale; two former wives, Marlene Lee of Florence and Barbara Rubel of Germany; and eight grandchildren.

A memorial service is 1-4 p.m. Sept. 7 at Julie Hermes' residence, 728 Avon Fields Lane, North Avondale. The remains were cremated.

Memorials: Jazz Musicians Emergency Fund, c/o Jazz Foundation of America, 3rd Floor, 322 W. 48th St., New York, N.Y., 10036.


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