|Jackson Armstrong was at 13Q from 1973
- 1975. During his radio career, Jack was heard on more than 20 stations
in the US and Canada. (from 440 Satisfaction)
WCOG [Greensboro NC] 1964 - John Larsh
WAYS [Charlotte NC] 1965 - John Larsh
WIXY [Cleveland OH] 1966
WKYC [Cleveland OH] 1967 - Big Jack
WMEX [Boston] 1968
CHUM [Toronto Ontario] 1968
WPOP [Hartford CT] 1969
KTLK [Denver] 1969
WKBW [Buffalo] 1970
WKTQ [Pittsburgh] 1973
KDKA [Pittsburgh] 1975
WHYI [Miami] 1975
WIFE [Indianapolis IN] 1976
KTNQ/KHTZ [LA] 1978
KFI [LA] 1980
KFRC [San Francisco] 1982
KKHR [LA] 1984
KBOS [Tulare CA] 1988
WMQX [Winston-Salem NC] 1997
WWKB [Buffalo] 2002-2006
Born John Larsh, he died on March 22, 2008 as a result of a fall down stairs at his home in Greensboro, N.C. Jack was recognized as the "The World's Fastest Talking Human" by the Guinness Book of Records.
|The following article appeard
in the Observer-Reporter on March 31, 2008 following the death of Jack
Armstrong. It was written by Terry Hazlett. Thank you Terry for allowing
us to share this interview.
On the day before Easter, Jackson Armstrong died.
It wasn't mentioned in Pittsburgh newspapers or on Pittsburgh television, and it garnered only a brief mention on the medium in which he excelled: radio. Perhaps that's because unlike Myron Cope, Art Pallan and Bob Tracey, radio personalities whose deaths were noted with copious articles and features, Armstrong, whose birth name was John C. Larsh, wasn't here long enough to become a Pittsburgh icon.
Then again, Armstrong wasn't a fixture in any town. Rather, he jumped from city to city, staying just long enough to catapult a radio station's ratings into the stratosphere, then moved on to attract another legion of radio listeners with his rapid-fire delivery and prime-time entertainment.
He was undoubtedly a Top 40 superstar, though Jack would have most certainly arched his eyebrows and grinned if you dared call him that. He knew what he really was - a magic man hired to resurrect the dinosaur that was becoming AM radio. In Pittsburgh, he worked his voodoo well. From the moment he flipped on the microphone in 1973 and shouted, "It's your leeeeeader Jackson Armstrong, here in the 'Burgh, and you're listening to the new sound of 13Q," rival KQV disappeared ... like magic.
For two years, he was the top-rated disc jockey in Western Pennsylvania, then he, too, disappeared.
Veteran Pittsburgh radio personality Jim Quinn recalls first hearing Jackson in 1966 in Cleveland. "I remember thinking 'Man, I wish I could be that good!' followed quickly by 'I hope to God I never have to compete with this guy,'" he said. "As luck would have it, I left KQV in 1972, a few months before he came to town. I dodged the bullet."
Quinn regrets never meeting Armstrong personally. "He was the Tiger Woods of high- energy DJs. Nobody got close. The shame is that he was at so many stations in the twilight of their lives, staring down the headlights of FM. I played a clip of one of his shows on my program a couple of days ago. I was inundated with e-mails from XM-158 listeners from all over the country saying, 'Thanks for the memory.' I guess it didn't matter how long Jack was in town; once you heard him, you never forgot him."
Battman Johnson, who followed Armstrong in the original 13Q lineup, also e-mailed his condolences. "Of all the personalities, Armstrong stuck out. The night didn't know what hit it when Armstrong hit the air in Pittsburgh. He was yelling, screaming, laughing and rocking. I never heard anything like that. When I arrived at the station that first night, looking out from our glass fishbowl studios at the corner of Stanwix and Forbes, I saw a large group of people listening to portable radios and watching Jack. I thought, 'Gee, we are really killing.' They love us!'
"He went off the air at 10 p.m. and the crowd disappeared. I thought, 'Wait a minute. What about me? Aren't you going to wait to watch and listen to the Battman?' No. They were gone. That's when I knew he was hot - red hot."
The dedication of Armstrong to his trade also did not go unnoticed. Gary A. Weiss, regional vice president of Radio One Inc., recalls, "When we signed Jack, his contract called for 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. As he signed his contract and handed it back to us for counter-signature he said, 'Hey, I want to make sure we get every advantage against the competition. Do you mind if I just start my show at 5:30?' I recall several times getting up early and tuning in the station in the 4 a.m. hour and hearing Jack. He just came in and took the station off automation and went on. When I asked why he did that, he said, 'Boss, morning drive is war and I want to win!'"
My own recollection of Jack Armstrong is that of his mentoring a kid who had the passion, but not the pipes for radio. It didn't matter to Jack. Before or after his show, we'd talk for hours about music, listening to new 45s and debating their merits and chances of ever being heard on the radio. Those long nights breezed by as quickly as Armstrong's shotgun delivery.
Once, we were in the studio discussing the difficulty of "hitting lyrics" (talking over a record until the first vocal). He said, "Hey, if you listen to a song enough times, it's just instinct. Watch." He put on "Smoke on the Water," which has an interminable introduction, and starting telling an impromptu story in his usual fashion - with multiple voices, several plot deviations and that distinctive laugh that signaled he was enjoying himself even more than his audience.
And, of course, the punch line segued perfectly into the vocal. It was effortless for him, an impossibility for me. I knew then I needed to get on with my other career - newspapers - but I worked at the station another two years, anyway, and it wasn't for the paycheck. Even if I didn't know jack about deejaying, I knew Jack and what he could teach me.
In the years since, I've listened to music from 13Q's halcyon days of 1973 to 1975 countless times. They don't sound nearly as entertaining anymore. I thought it was because I matured and my music tastes changed. That wasn't it at all. They're missing Jack. And today, so am I.
To hear clips of Armstrong's
broadcasts on 13Q, go online and search "Jeff Roteman" or "13Q."
The following is an interview with Jackson Armstrong originally published in the Observer-Reporter on August 13, 2007. It was written by Terry Hazlett. Thank you Terry for allowing us to share this interview.
"When he arrived in Pittsburgh in the spring of 1973, Jackson Armstrong had just been confirmed as "The World's Fastest-Talking Human" by the Guinness Book of World's Records. And when he helped inaugurate 13Q as its nighttime disc jockey, he was just as quick in becoming an instant Pittsburgh legend. In part due to Armstrong's popularity, the station obliterated everything in its path within weeks and became Pittsburgh's top radio station. But within four years, Armstrong and most of the other original staff were gone, and 13Q's ratings vanished with them. Three decades and 46 years after his first DJ gig, we caught up with the 61-year-old Armstrong in High Point , N.C.
Q. You were a "star" disc jockey in many markets. Was there anything unique about your time in Pittsburgh?
A. 13Q was like no other radio experience I have ever had at 25 plus stations. My first daughter was born in Pittsburgh and that was a great moment. The radio "stunts" were very challenging, especially breaking the rollercoaster-riding record at Kennywood. Being in the snake pit in Horne's front window was a big deal, as was the victory parade after the Steelers' first Super Bowl win with Franco Harris on 13Q's flatbed truck float. I also remember the radio show I did in the nude from the station's showcase windows as I "streaked" Pittsburgh. I also arranged for a new band I had heard in Buffalo to play one of our free concerts and that was Pittsburgh's introduction to Aerosmith. There are just a lot of things that spell Pittsburgh to me.
Q. You've often been referred to as one of the last high-energy personalities in radio. What happened to that concept?
A. There has been a general "dehumanization" of radio because it is much cheaper to hire a few jocks to read liner cards and put the entire budget into the morning show. I migrated to mornings because that is the last place radio is still paying people to work. All the other shifts are pre-recorded and put into a computer that comprises the rest of the programming. Now jocks never pick their own music; a computer program does that. Corporate radio is a failure - listenership is down more than 17 percent in the last 10 years alone because it is boring and predictable. In short, high-energy isn't around much anymore because radio executives don't think they need it and don't want to pay for it. Radio is just about dead ... too bad.
Q.Did you quit radio or did radio quit you?
A. Radio quit me. I'm a pretty good morning man and kept my last job for 71/2 years through the change of three program directors and three different owners. Ultimately, the third program director thought he could get better ratings with a different team. He was wrong. The station was forced to change formats a year and half after my demise. I saw an article the other day that said there are over 35,000 on-the-air talents out of work now. You can add my name to the list ... but I don't think I have ever sounded better than I did at my last job.
Q. The jury seems to be divided on whether a 13Q-type format with free-wheeling disc jockeys would work in the 21st century. What do you think?
A. Good radio is good radio. Absolutely you can do it again! The reason it isn't being done is it is expensive and that, unfortunately, is the end of the argument.
Q. Today's Top 40 music is a whole different animal than the music you played here in the '70s. Would the 13Q format work with the current music?
A. Yes, but I think the "hip-hop," "rap" and other ethnic music would probably be excluded and the lean would be more towards the "progressive" crossover pop hits blended with the current "mainstream" pop hits like Kelly Clarkson, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Rianna, Fergie, etc.
Q. From the day 13Q went on the air, the station was a phenomenon, and buried rival KQV by the first ratings book. How'd that happen?
A. It is a very unusual circumstance and because of the cumulative effect of great air talent, great promotions and great music all in a coordinated attack on the market. Remember, 13Q started on both AM and FM in the beginning. The AM had a better signal than KQV and the station was running very few commercials while KQV was sold out. By the way, as soon as 13Q left WSHH-FM and they put beautiful music on the signal, (top 40 rival) WPEZ came into existence.
Q. 13Q had a very short shelf life - about four years. What happened?
A. 13Q started making a lot of mistakes and killed itself. First, the winning air-staff began to leave one by one and then the station management decided the best policy was to play 20 records to death. The forced listenership from the phenomenal promotions caused the audience to begin to look elsewhere for more variety. It became boring and predictable, and that is always the beginning of the end.
Q. And today ...
A. I wrote a book called
"Rock Jox," and am currently searching for a publisher."
|This message, written by
his daughter appeared on Jack's My Space page.
Extremely saddening news... I hoped I never had to write... Our extremely amazing Dad and your friend Jack Armstrong aka John C. Larsh passed away yesterday March 22, 2008 at his home in North Carolina. I wish there was a better way to get the word out but this seems to be the fastest means of communication that he favored. If you knew him at all, you would know that he wouldn't want you to be sad for a moment. He would want you to remember all the good times, what he gave to radio and to the world. He would also want you to help fight to bring back the personality in radio if at all possible. He loved being a DJ almost as much as he loved being a father and that says A LOT. He put his blood, sweat and tears into both and never gave up what he believed in. He was honest, brave and could tell a joke like no other!! He was the best at everything he did and I know that he touched each and every one of us. I dont know how he would sign off this letter, maybe it would be "Yoooooouuuuurrr LLLlleeeadaaa!" or just straight up "Jack it up" either which way he would have done it better than anyone. Please remember him in all that you do, pass on kindness, be true to yourself and to those you love. If you have any questions, please email me at JackArmstrong08@gmail.com Very sad, devon larsh fischer ....Jack's middle daughter who loves him greatly - he was an exceptional person"
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