Paul Cannon (born Paul Carnegie) was one of the early Key Men, working for Keener’s predecessor WKMH.
Originally a Detroit police officer, Paul began a part time radio career at WBRB in Mount Clemens, working for future radio ownership legends Milton Maltz and Bob Wright.
KEENER13.COM: How did you break in to the business?
PAUL CANNON: WBRB was located in the basement of the Colonial Hotel. I read a few things for Milt and Bob and then they told me, ‘we have a newscast coming up, “why don’t you read the news for us on the air.” That was my baptism.
KEENER13.COM: You sustained an injury while collaring a murder suspect and decided to devote full time to radio.
PAUL CANNON: I enjoyed the work at WBRB, but heard about an opportunity in Dearborn. I sent a tape to Frank Maruca and was hired to work as a utility guy. Salary was as I remember it about $600…. a month.
KEENER13.COM: WKMH was a full service station back then.
PAUL CANNON: I did everything from on air work to production and board op duties. The sales guys sold a lot of baseball recreations and remote broadcasts back then. I provided the crowd noise via 12 inch transcription discs to add ambiance to the psudo-play-by-play created off of AP wire copy. I also spent a lot of time on remote at Gene Merolis Chevrolet.
KEENER13.COM: WKMH also benefited from the Knorr family’s ownership position in the Detroit Tigers.
PAUL CANNON: The station was the flagship for the Tiger Radio Network. I became friends with Howard Stitzel, who was the Tiger broadcast engineer for years and years. He used to get us tickets and my son and I often watched games from Ernie Harwell’s catbird seat above the first baseline at Tiger Stadium.
KEENER13.COM: Your career spans Keener’s golden age, but its a little known fact that you were not with WKMH for the Keener launch.
PAUL CANNON: I worked briefly at WERB, AM 1090 in Garden City. Maltz and Wright had launched the station to serve the Westside.
KEENER13.COM: But you were soon back as a Key Man.
PAUL CANNON: I worked overnights. Frank Maruca set up the air shifts in a way that kept us all fresh. He split the evening shifts, putting Bob Green on 7 – 10 and Bill Phillips 10-1. I did 1 to 5 AM six nights a week. I taped an hour of each show for the engineers to run on Sunday overnight. The listeners thought I was on seven days a week.
KEENER13.COM: The station ID’s used to say “offices in the Sheraton Cadillac, Detroit.” Where were the downtown offices?
PAUL CANNON: We had a sales office on an upper floor of the hotel. There was also a studio there. In fact, Jim Rockwell did a Jazz Show from that studio during the WKMH days. I subbed for him on an occasion and met Aretha Franklin. It was during her days at Columbia. They didn’t know what to do with her back then.
BOB Green: With Paul’s incredible voice and style, many people wondered why he wasn’t on the air more than weekends. He was busy. Busy doing things that were the “mortar between the bricks”, as music director and in other areas behind the scenes that were an essential part of Keener’s Success.
KEENER13.COM: How did you pick up your administrative duties?
PAUL CANNON: When Swingin Sweeney made his ignominious exit from the morning show, Frank Maruca made me Music Director. I was instantly one of the most popular men in town and was inundated with record promoters wanting to pitch their latest sure-fire hits. There were 20 to 25 promoters who always had new records to hype.
KEENER13.COM: How did you keep things organized?
PAUL CANNON: I set aside one day a week to see them and gave them each a strict time allotment to make their pitch. They were always trying to squeeze in a few additional minutes and I finally had to come up with a creative solution to help keep them focused. I had my secretary contact Greenfield Village, and they created a custom designed egg timer that I put on my desk at the start of each appointment. When the sand ran through the glass, the guy knew his time was up.
KEENER13.COM: What was the process you used to create the WKNR Music Guide?
PAUL CANNON: It was a combination of objective research and gut instinct. I had two assistants who contacted record stores to get sales data every week. But I never forgot that we were programming a radio station. If I heard a record that I thought was going somewhere, I would add it to the list.
KEENER13.COM: Were there songs that you knew instantly were hits?
PAUL CANNON: I remember one in particular. There was this memorable character named Saul Starr who always had a dozen or so records he was hyping. I really liked one and added it to the list and sure enough it became a hit. He called me up sounding real disappointed. “I have all these great records and you have to go an add the one about the dog.” The record was Snoopy Versus the Red Barron.
KEENER13.COM: Did you ever have content issues with the music?
PAUL CANNON: More than once I had to take the razor blade to a song. Walter Patterson would not let us play Aretha’s Sock It To Me because of the sexual connotation. He had me cut out the “Christ you know it ain’t easy” bit from the Ballad of John and Yoko. More often, it was a question of length. We had all of these popular records we wanted to play that were too long for or format clock.
KEENER13.COM: I heard that Atlantic Records liked your edit of In-a-gadda-da-vida so much that they released it as a single.
PAUL CANNON: I loved that song and wanted to find a way to play it on the AM. I worked with it and found that I could connect the beginning and ending sections together and it came out to a nice three minutes thirty seconds.
KEENER13.COM: After Keener, you played in Peoria.
PAUL CANNON: I the last few years I was with Keener I was working on a application for an FM in Peoria. When the end came for me in January 1970 I went to work as a record promoter until the construction permit came through to build the station. In January 1971 I began the work of building the station and putting it on the air, that happened in May 1971. The call letters at that time were WWTO and were later changed them to WWCT 106. I ran the station until 1975 when major problems with partners caused me to call it quits as a day to day manager.
KEENER13.COM: Any radio work these days?
PAUL CANNON: Other than ownership, the opportunities in Peoria for making serious money in radio are limited to none. At that time I left the business and have only played at at by doing voice overs and narrations and such.