Best of My Town Mondays: WKRP Vs. The Real Cincinnati

The first thing people ask me when they learn I live in Cincinnati is, “Is it really like they show on WKRP in Cincinnati? This was my answer a few months back. – Jim


20th Television

Ever since I moved to the Queen City, people keep asking me if the city is like WKRP in Cincinnati. The answer?

Yes and no.

Is there a station in Cincinnati WKRP was based on?

Actually, no. WKRP was based on a couple of radio stations producer Hugh Wilson worked for. However…

Retired afternoon drive jock Gary Burbank once described AM powerhouse WLW as “the real WKRP.” Back when Burbank started in Cincinnati as the morning jock, WLW still played music. The station, however, remains colorful enough to be its own sitcom. In fact, current afternoon host Eddie Fingers was once the city’s equivalent of Johnny Fever.

The tower in the opening credits is no longer there. It was originally the television transmitter for WLWT, Channel 5, and torn down five years ago. I know. I watched them take it down from my office back then.

Les Nessman – Yes, the gentle, stuck-in-the-fifties, pinko-fearing nerd was odd, even by Cincinnati’s conservative standards. Still, for several years, Cincinnati was a one-helicopter town when it came to traffic. It now has none since the advent of ARTEMIS. Still, when I first moved to the city in 1991, WLW still ran farm reports during the morning broadcasts. I haven’t heard them since about 1994 or so, but everytime they ran them, I kept thinking of Les Nessman’s hog reports.

Where did most of Jennifer’s boyfriend’s live? Probably in tony Indian Hill (home of Peter Frampton, actually) or ritzy Amberly Village. Though it was never mentioned in the show, Jennifer’s apartment could easily have been in One Lytle Place, downtown’s first upscale condo building.

So what was the Flynn Building? The establishing shots for the station itself were actually of the old Cincinnati Enquirer Building on Vine Street. The building is still there, but the Enquirer moved to a shiny new building on Third Street. As far as I know, Abe Lincoln never set foot in the building as Mr. Carlson said in the episode where they attempted to keep the building from being condemned. In fact, I don’t think the building existed until the 1920’s.

Where did turkeys fly?

(Fox has since had the video of the Great Turkey Drop taken down, the filthy bastards.  Otherwise, you’d be seeing Les Nessman crying “Oh, the humanity!” was about a dozen turkeys fell to the pavement.)

As God as my witness, I thought they would fly over the Tri-County Mall, north of Cincinnati in Springdale. In the show, it was called the Tri-State Mall. Was it actually the Tri-County Mall? Given that the show was in its second or third season when this infamous episode aired, it’s quite likely the writers were trying to sprinkle in some local color.

And finally, what the hell were the lyrics to the end credits?

Um… Well…

I think these are the words.

More My Town Monday posts at the My Town Monday Blog here.

3 thoughts on “Best of My Town Mondays: WKRP Vs. The Real Cincinnati

  1. According to a post on a WKRP fan site:
    “Q. What are the lyrics to the closing theme?
    A. There are no lyrics. None. It’s all just gibberish and nonsense words.
    Here’s a fuller explanation, taken from Michael Kassel’s “America’s Favorite
    Radio Station” site:
    Ever wonder what the words are to the closing theme of WKRP? Before you get
    excited about finding those long lost lyrics, the actual answer is — there are
    none! Tom Chehak, a first season writer who was present at the Atlanta
    recording session of the theme, recalls how Tom Welles, theme writer, suggested
    to Chehak and Hugh Wilson a closing theme for the song. According to Chehak,
    the singer just started blarring out a bunch of nonsense words; if any of them
    were actual words, they’re lost to history. Indeed, Chehak recalls how great
    they all thought it would be to leave fans guessing forever — looks like they
    got their wish.
    Q. Who wrote the closing theme? Who sings it?
    A. The closing theme also has music by Tom Wells. The nonsense lyrics were
    probably mostly improvised by the singer. According to Steve Marshall at the
    Museum of Television and Radio’s WKRP seminar (March 4, 1994), the singer of
    the closing theme was named Jimmy Ellis.”

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