feedback.pdxradio.com forums feedback.pdxradio.com forums History DICK NOVAK: PROCLAIMED PORTLAND'S "MR. ROCK & ROLL, DJ"

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    Today June 25, 1924 Richard Alton “Dick” Novak was born in Portland to Wilhelmina Leo “Willmina” (Long) & Zigmunt Simon “Zig” Novak. Willmina had just turned 18 when Dick was born. Dick had no brothers or sisters. His father “Zig” worked for the Neptune Meter Co., the makers of water meters. In early September 1935 Dick’s mother “Willmina”, 30, married 28 year old Glenn Leroy Prescott and Dick lived with them.

    On December 28, 1936 Dick’s father “Zig”, 47, married 29 year old Hazel Lenora Allinson. On January 5, 1937 while on their honeymoon, Hazel died in a head on collision in Dunsmuir, while on their way to San Francisco. By 1940 Dick and the Prescott family was living at 4925 N.E. 57th Ave., through at least August 1947. Although Dick was born in Portland, he announced on many occasions in the 1950’s & 60’s, he was born in Pistol Creek, Oregon. A mythical community in the Prineville area.

    Dick served in U.S. Army as a Ranger sharpshooter during WWII. He fought in the “Battle of The Bulge” and was awarded two Bronze Stars. Novak had stayed awake for a week to radio for help until his entire unit was saved. On December 29, 1945 (Corporal) Richard A. Novak arrived at Newport News, Virginia, aboard the transport “Norway Victory.” The war was over. By July 1947 Dick Novak was an operator at “Jim’s Associated Service” station (later aka Flying “A”) at 2189 West Burnside.

    On June 5, 1948 Richard Alton “Dick” Novak, 23, married 20 year old Jeanette Mae Glanz, a “Pacific Telephone & Telegraph” long distance operator. On May 22, 1950 it was announced Richard A. Novak would receive a Bachelor of Science degree from Pacific University. By June 1950 the Novak’s were living at: 4649 N.E. Alberta Court. On June 18, 1950 Dick & Jeanette welcomed their first daughter Michele Jean Novak.

    On July 10, 1950 it was announced in Broadcasting magazine, after a 24 week KXL disc jockey contest, Dick Novak was the winner and began on KXL as a fulltime announcer & DJ. It’s my assumption Dick was given the 10:00pm to 2:00am program on KXL called “Club 750” a theater of the mind, club where Dick was host. On May 16, 1952 KXL was forced by WSB Atlanta to discontinue night operation and Dick lost his job. On February 28, 1953 Dick & Jeanette welcomed their son Richard “Scott” Novak. By March 1953 the Novak’s were living at: 5701 S.W. Miles Court. This would be the Novak’s home for the rest of their lives.

    On June 1, 1953 Dick Novak began on KGON 1230kc. He was broadcasting a disc jockey show live from “Amato’s Supper Club” new ground floor location at 620 S.W. Salmon St., from 9:30pm to 2:00am, Monday through Saturday. Since KGON had a limited signal on Portland’s fringe, 250 watts from their Gladstone transmitter and broadcasting at night with crosstalk interference, something unique had to be offered to listeners. Rhythm & Blues music had been broadcast in Portland’s past but only for an hour or two. Dick’s R&B show was the first long form program that spanned six nights a week and became very popular to tune in. This was before the advent of Rock & Roll.

    On August 14, 1954 Dick Novak wrote this in Billboard magazine: “KGON, Oregon City, Ore. is celebrating the first anniversary of his R&B show. He reports “Man, have I got the tiger by the tail. The mail and telephone response was immediate and supersonic. And it shows no signs of dissipating. It has opened an entirely new field for me while evidently supplying satisfaction for a sizable segment of an overlooked and music hungry listenership. It’s been a real pleasure for me to meet and interview many of the artists whose meat and potatoes are directly tied to this medium of beat and blues Americana. Anyway, it’s been an enjoyable and lucrative year with R&B and let’s hope that other stations will get the call and heed the frantic word. They’ll dig this the most.”

    On April 11, 1955 Dick Novak jumped to KPOJ AM/FM beginning “Dick Novak’s Rhythm Room” where he continued his popular R&B show, 9:30 to 2:00am, Monday through Friday from KPOJ’s transmitter site studio on Mt. Scott at: 9700 S.E. Eastview Drive.

    Robin Mitchell remembers: “Before the term “rock ‘n’ roll” was coined, the music was commonly referred to as “race records.” Novak told me he hated that, thus he came up with the moniker “Rhythm Room.” There is also no documentation that DJ Alan Freed coined the phrase “Rock & Roll.” Many in the radio industry believe Dick Novak uttered the famous term first when playing the hit “Rock Around The Clock” “…and kids were rolling in their cars” at Scotty’s Drive In.

    On June 20, 1955 Rhythm Room was replaced for the Summer with “Scotty’s Party Line” live from “Scotty’s” hamburgers at 1221 N.E. Sandy Blvd., from 10:00pm to 2:00am Monday through Saturday. “Scotty’s Party Line” originally began with other disc jockey’s June 21, 1954 on KVAN Monday through Saturday. 11:00pm to 2:00am, then moved to KGW & KGON in early 1955, before moving to KPOJ with Dick Novak.

    On June 27, 1955 Scotty’s celebrated one year in business at two locations. Scotty’s had sold over One Million hamburgers, thanks to radio remotes getting the word out to kids. However the teens just swarmed Scotty’s, after Dick Novak’s remote broadcasts from the Sandy Blvd. location. Summer was here and kids were out of school. Scotty’s was serving up 2,000 burgers nightly but things started getting out of hand as Summer wore on.

    On September 4, 1955 Scotty’s took out this ad: “NOTICE TO SCOTTY’S PATRONS. You will now be able to come to either one of our two locations N.E. 12th and Sandy — N.W. 19th and Lovejoy without TRIPPING over policemen who now will be out doing more important work. In order to comply with the Portland Police Department’s request for more police officers, Scotty is performing a Civic duty by discontinuing the popular Scotty’s Party Line on Radio station KPOJ, which was broadcast from Scotty’s. Scotty has released at least 16 patrolmen from heckling teen-age and adult customers with petty infractions of the law so they can devote their time to more important police duties. Yours for a more efficient police force and the best hamburgers in town. SCOTTY”

    On September 5, 1955 “Dick Novak’s Rhythm Room” returned 9:30pm to 1:00am Monday through Friday from KPOJ’s transmitter studio. Was it any wonder Dick had the “most talked about nighttime personality show in Portland.” Novak had a large fan club and conducted weekly record hops. Here’s another reason why Dick was a must listen:

    On September 20, 1955 Novak did a pre-creation the night before the heavyweight championship fight between Rocky Marciano & Archie Moore. Dick had been careful to mention this was a “pre-creation.” A lot of people believed it was the real thing. Novak had tried to make it sound authentic. All voices on the sportscast were his own. Of course he couldn’t bring things to an actual conclusion, so he announced “due to circumstances beyond our control, the fight has been interrupted by hurricane Ione.” Telephones went wild! Not only at KPOJ but at KEX where the fight would be heard the following night.

    On November 12, 1955 “Dick Novak’s Rhythm Room” expanded to Saturday nights 9:30pm to 1:00am. On December 10, 1955 Dick Novak was emcee for the 3,500 member Hi-Teen Club Dance at the Crystal Ballroom which was co-sponsored by the “Toy & Joy Makers.” Featured guest was Dinah Shore. She was flanked by the Marine Guard. Admission price was a toy for firemen to fix up. With Novak officiating & Dinah as guest, it was estimated 7,000 would attend.

    On January 11, 1956 it was announced Dick Novak had been given many honorary awards since joining KPOJ. including honorary “Pretzel Bender No. 1.” Honorary “Fire Chief of Pistol Creek” and now honorary “Daughter of Columbia.” Says Novak, “My duties are a little obscure, but with frills in the picture, I’ll dig the scene!” By March 1956 “Dick Novak’s Rhythm Room” came to you live from “Amato’s Supper Club.” On Friday night March 30, 1956 Novak took his Rhythm Room program to “Midtown Ballroom” on S.W. 4th & Taylor, featuring the music of The Mills Brothers. Dick also interviewed them.

    On June 17, 1956 it was reported: Dick Novak KPOJ disc jockey, who plays more R&R than any spinner in Portland, had to put a stop to mail requests when he began getting 3,000 to 4,000 letters a week for R&R. “It’s a very primitive form of music. It always has been with us and always will be,” he predicted. “It appeals to almost anybody, whether they’ll admit it or not,” he declared. Novak got interested in R&R after becoming a boogie-woogie addict and practically pioneered playing the two-beat music three years ago while at Oregon City deejaying. (KGON). “My boss said he hated R&R but I frequently caught him tapping his foot to the music,” Novak reported.

    On July 28, 1956 Dick was a guest on “Wheel of Chance” at 8:30pm over the Mutual Broadcasting System. On August 9, 1956 “Behind The Mike” column, a writer commented “There isn’t such a thing as R&R in Oregon—not compared to California standards. Oh, sure, Oregon has music (classical, this is). Dick Novak seems to be the only hep deejay in town, and why? Because at least he plays what you like to hear, which I can’t say for the squares on KXL, KEX, etc.”

    By November 1956 Dick Novak was on KPOJ an additional hour, afternoons from 5:00 to 6:00pm for his “Traffic Jamboree” program. On February 1, 1957 in recognition of Dick Novak’s outstanding influence with Teen-Agers, Paramount Theater presented Novak an award signifying him as “Mr. Rock & Roll, D.J.” The 9:00pm ceremony was held on the Paramount stage. On May 24, 1957 Gogi Grant was guest interview on “Dick Novak’s Rhythm Room” at 9:30pm.

    On June 19, 1957 it was announced Dick Novak would join the “KGW Musicteers” DJ’s. On July 15 1957 “Dick Novak’s Route 620” began on KGW 2:00pm to 5:45pm & 7:00pm to 9:30pm Monday through Saturday. “Rhythm Room” continued on KPOJ beginning at 8:00 pm with Mark Allen. In newspaper radio grids, Dick was now competing with his old radio show, he created. On November 25, 1957 Dick Novak began morning drive, as well as afternoon drive on KGW Monday through Saturday, 6:00 to 9:00am & 3:00 to 5:45pm.

    On September 28, 1958 it was announced KGW-TV would debut a new local television show aimed at teen-agers, called “Portland Bandstand” hosted by Dick Novak. Inspired by ABC’s “American Bandstand” with Dick Clark and sister station KING-TV’s “Seattle Bandstand.” Bandstand would begin Saturday October 4, 1958 at 2:00pm, featuring local teens dancing to the top recorded tunes of the day. A board of local teen-agers selected the top 10 recorded hits of the week.

    “Portland Bandstand” also spotlighted teen-age fashions, guest artists and panel discussions featuring teen-agers’ opinions on popular music, the latest fads and activities of high school students. The program was videotaped Wednesday nights at KGW-TV studios. When the show began however it was co-hosted by Glenna Page (local live TV commercial presenter, radio voice talent & stage actress). On November 30, 1958 Dick & Jeanette welcomed their second daughter Kimberly Kaye “Kim” Novak. No doubt named after the actress.

    On January 10, 1959 KGW took Novak off morning drive. Dick’s afternoon show began an hour earlier 2:00pm to 6:00pm. On January 17, 1959 Dick hosted his last “Portland Bandstand” show on KGW-TV. Then on January 20, 1959 Novak finished his last KGW shift. Red Robinson (Vancouver DJ from CKWX) would take over Dick’s KGW Radio & TV shows. On January 21st it was announced Dick Novak was returning to KPOJ AM/FM 8:00pm to 1:00am on January 22nd, Monday through Saturdays, continuing “Dick Novak’s Rhythm Room.”

    On April 20, 1959 Rhythm Room expanded 7:00pm to 1:00am. On May 1, 1959 ad: “Here’s ‘Dick’ (pictured) “Mr. Music” the GIANT of Night Time Radio. MAN he DIGS the MOST! GO with NOVAK! For Modern…Exciting Radio Always Tune KPOJ 1330, ACTION RADIO.” On April 22, 1960 “Dick Novak’s Rhythm Room” was broadcast for the last time. Dick would continue in the same time slot. On April 25, 1960 KPOJ changed its format to “Music of Yesterday” “Songs Made of Gold.” Slogan: “The Million Dollar Sound.”

    On March 5, 1962 Dick Novak moved to middays 10:00am to 1:00pm, replacing Chuck Bernard, who was moving to KATU as staff announcer. Novak also became KPOJ Production Manager. Taking over Novak’s evening shift was KPOJ’s newest “Singin’ Gentlemen” Fenwicke, who would do a talk show. On October 8, 1962 Dick Novak moved back to “Traffic Jamboree” afternoons, now 2:00 to 6:30pm.

    On April 23, 1964 “Traffic Jamboree” time was tweaked 2:30pm to 7:00pm. On June 3, 1964 Dick began airing “Traffic Jamboree” Wednesday, Thursday & Fridays live from an airplane. Novak had a student pilots license with about 50 hours of logged time. From 4:30 to 6:30pm Dick cruised over Portland in a “Skyways Cessna 172”, playing records by remote control (board operator at KPOJ). A second pilot was along to help with flying chores. On February 26, 1966 Dick’s father “Zig” Novak died at age 77 in Denver, Colo.

    On July 26, 1967 Dick Novak was moved to the 10:00pm to 1:00am time slot weeknights. On March 18, 1968 Novak was back in morning drive on KPOJ 5:30 to 10:00am. On April 8, 1968 KPOJ ad said Dick Novak was also a song writer, painter, inventor, musician, speaker & great D.J. One of Novak’s songs (music & lyrics) was “I’ll See You In Montreal” dedicated to “Expo 67” and recorded by Frank Chacksfield on the London record label. Dick had written 8 to 10 published songs.

    On June 16, 1969 Dick Novak & Ron Peters began a talk show on KPOJ 6:00pm to 8:30pm. On September 20, 1969 Dick was back to playing music afternoons 2:00 to 6:00pm, Monday through Saturday. On June 9, 1970 KPOJ became KPOK and Dick Novak was back to morning drive but no longer Production Manager. On August 10, 1970 Dick returned to afternoons 2:00 to 6:00pm.

    By March 1972 Dick Novak was on KPOK afternoons 1:30 to 6:00pm. Dick also mentioned he had a huge collection of radio bloopers he’d saved since 1950. Bloopers included Bob Blackburn, Richard Nixon in McMinnville, Rod Anders, Ken Lomax, Jack Moys & Fenwicke’s famed Shell Oil commercial, pleading with listeners to purchase “Hell Sheeting Oil.”

    On May 29, 1973 it was announced KPOK would be changing its format to “Cross Country” June 18th and Dick Novak would be leaving the station after 14 years, for a new gig on KYXI playing “Beautiful music.” On September 1, 1975 KYXI changed its format to a more Contemporary sound. Dick was heard 7:00 to midnight.

    On July 12, 1976 KYXI switched to an “All News” format and Dick Novak moved back to the original station he started with 26 years ago, KXL, hosting weekend mornings. Ironic KXL would be Dick’s last radio station, as well. On October 9, 1978 Dick Novak joined KATU as a staff announcer, as well as being seen every morning announcing the beginning of “AM Northwest.” On July 13, 1982 Dick’s mother “Willmina” died at age 77 in Portland. In December 1992 Dick retired as staff announcer at KATU after 14 years.

    On July 12, 2002 Dick Novak passed away from cancer at age 78 in Portland. On July 27, 2002 a memorial service was held at 2:00pm at Vermont Hills United Methodist Church at S.W. 55th Dr. & Iowa St.

    “We Portland-area teen-agers listened nightly to Dick Novak, our favorite local radio DJ on the old 1330, KPOJ, in the late 1950s. We sent in requests and song dedications on slips from one of his sponsors, Stacey’s Cleaners. Novak entertained us with comments about his brown-bag lunch of “mashed potato sandwiches” and his tongue-in-cheek mispronunciation of Grants Pass as “grass pants.” It saddens me, for he was the teen-agers’ friend, favorite DJ and a good man, and it all seems like only yesterday. We’ll miss him.”

    Special Thanks to Joel Miller who helped make this biography more complete.

    References: Billboard magazine, Broadcasting magazine, Robin Mitchell, The Oregon Journal, The Oregonian.


    I liked the story about Gillette sponsoring the program and asking listeners to mail in their used razor blades!

    Andy Brown

    At KATU, after Dick retired, MCR (master control room) just wasn’t the same. The audio booth corner became so quiet it was eerie. I used to go in the audio booth to escape detection since even with the door open, you couldn’t be seen from the big opening into MCR. I heard all of Dick’s stories firsthand. He was a good guy. He loved radio. Unlike many in the T.V. business at that time, he respected radio emigrants that landed in the business. I didn’t know at the time that the classic T.V. model was going to be destroyed about ten years later by the suits, which makes those memories all the more precious.

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