“I’ve been personally blessed. I knew many artists and to know many of them well and became friends with some of them. I have traveled the world and I was taught to believe I could do anything I ever wanted to do if I wanted to do it badly enough. I never really thought about getting old. It just happened much too quickly. I’m a young man being held captive in an old body. I still think young, but with many years of experience. I am now comfortable with the fact that I now have a huge amount of yesterdays and a limited about of tomorrows. I look in the mirror and I see, to quote country singer Johnny Paycheck, I see an old violin soon to be put away and never played again. Thank you all for the great memories.”
With these words, Ron O’Quinn ended his 57-year career in radio this weekend. O’Quinn, whose main claim to fame is touring with the Beatles in the summer of 1966 during their last American tour, a rebellious pirate radio pioneer disc jockey on Swinging Radio England, and as one of the best of the best during the height of Rock and Roll’s Golden age, is perhaps more popular to the millions of modern day listeners who have listened to his rock and roll show since the late 1950s.
In his classic, witty style, O”Quinn played his last show, a theme show with such “gone” and “good bye“ titles as “So Far Away,” Love is Here and Now You are Gone,” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” and ending with “The End of the Line,” by the Traveling Wilburys, who included the late George Harrison, his own personal favorite Beatle, and followed by encores of “Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes,” and Bob Dylan’s nonsensical “Wigwam,”once described as “a wordless vocal tune.”
For the last three years, O’Quinn, his wife Sarah, their dog Jack, have lived in Cotacachi, Equador. Nearly every week, O’Quinn carefully picked out the best of the music of a generation and played the hits with his own personal commentary and insight into both the songs and the artists. In short, Ron O’Quinn is retiring at the top of his league.
When asked why he would quit when he is doing so well, Ron remarked, “ I don’t know when I will pass on and can’t control that, but I can control my radio days. Most old announcers keep going until they totally lose their audience, not me. I want to go out while I can still feel confident that I am doing a good job entertaining thousands and thousands of people all over the world each week.”
Out of the tens of thousands of hit records which have released in the last six decades, O’Quinn always seems to play that special song, the one you haven’t heard in years or the one that was playing on the radio when you fell in love.
“My 57 years of deejay experience has given me confidence to know the best music for the next song, based on the demographics I am shooting for. I have a great time doing the show. I like the music and I enjoy playing it and sometimes I have personal information about the artist because I met them and talked with them and even became friends with some of them, the South Georgia native of Moultrie and long time resident of Dublin and Wheeler County said.
Dismissing any kind of idolatry by his fans, both new and old, O’Quinn proclaims, “ I am just what you hear, just the man who lives next door and enjoys life. I am just talking with you and playing songs for you. You are my radio friends. I may be coming to you from hundreds and even thousands of miles way, but you know me. We’re friends. That’s it, nothing else. I always have been available to my listeners because you are the people who “brought me to the dance” and I surely want to dance with you.”
Ron O’Quinn, a 2012 inductee into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame, 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 left Moultrie in 1961 after graduation and entered the Army. 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, as “Jack Armstrong,” was hired to work at WFUN, one of Miami’s best Top 40 Radio Stations.
“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 ½ 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 station’s 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. “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. Ron spent a lot of time with all of the Beatles. He developed a close relationship with all of the Fab Four, but especially with John Lennon.
Ron with George Harrison
Ron with John Lennon
Ron with Paul McCartney
Ron in his Swinging Radio England days.
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, where O’Quinn was hired being National Program
Director of Urban Stations for the Rounsaville Organization.
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," ended in 2001.
O’Quinn is a man of tradition, old-fashioned - what your mama told you was right - tradition. A former U.S. Army ranger, O”Quinn never hesitates to tell what he believes is good and right as well what is simply wrong. “I am not politically correct. I like children, dogs, old folks, and a glass of wine. I love deeply and I will fight for what I consider to be right.”
All good things must come to an end, or so they say. Even if Ron never sits behind a live microphone again, the memories of his music, our music, the soundtrack of a generation, will still be playing in our minds. O’Quinn was once asked, “Do you listen to music on the radio?” He responded, “I don’t have to, all of the music is right there in my mind all the time.”
The line of life has been good for Ron O’Quinn. He says, “I have enjoyed my life, I have done what I wanted to do. I have had successes and I have had failures. I love my family, I love my friends, and I look for the opportunity to meet new friends.” 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.”
And now that he has reached the end of a wonderful and long line, O’Quinn looks forward to the future when the days are all sunshine, hanging around with Sarah, Jack and his family, looking for ancient treasures with his metal detector, enjoying a great meal with new friends, and exploring new worlds by taking his place in another, new line.
With Fats Domino
With James Brown
With Nancy Sinatra
With Carl Giammarese and Dennis Tufano
of the Buckinghams
With Andy Kim