Final Sign Off
We are sad to have to report that Member Jerry Rohnert passed away on Friday February 2, 2018 after a short battle with Leukemia. Jerry attended the Foundation’s KFXD 1970’s Reunion on September 26, 2017
Jerry’s funeral is this Friday, February 9th at 2:00 pm, at Meridian United Methodist Church, 240 E Idaho Avenue, Meridian. A reception will follow in Our Family Life Center. Interment will be at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery at a later date.
Jerry Rohnert’s Early Radio History
Jerry Rohnert was born in October of 1942 and grew up in the Nampa area. After graduating from High School, he spent four years in United Stated Navy. When he returned to Nampa he got a job at the Idaho First National Bank (now US Bank) in Nampa and worked his way up the ladder to “vault teller.” One of the merchants Jerry met was the owner of Lloyd’s Country Store of Nampa, who upon hearing Jerry’s “low” voice, asked him if he’d ever considered getting into radio. Later that day, Duane Wolf of KCID called and asked him to come down to their Caldwell studios and cut an audition tape. Jerry did, and Duane gave him some great tips and told him that with a little more training, he’d hire him at KCID. Encouraged by that, Jerry then called Wayne Cornils, at KFXD in Nampa who suggested Jerry get some training. Jerry enrolled at the Don Martin School of Broadcasting in 1967 where he received his First Class Radio Telephone License, which was required to sign the transmitter log at any radio station using a directional antenna. Upon graduation in the fall of 1969, Wayne Cornils gave Jerry his first job in radio. Jerry took over Program Director Jay Eubank’s morning board shift and was also the board operator for Wayne’s “Voice of the Valley” call-in talk show, which aired every weekday morning from 8:30-10:00.
The Tom Scott/Fred Novak Era Begins
In late 1969 Member Tom Scott arrived back in Boise after one semester of college in Arizona and was soon appointed KFXD’s Music Director. In January of 1970, Fred Lillge Jr. (Fred Novak) became the station’s Program Director and convinced Manager Wayne Cornils to let him change the station’s format to fulltime rock and roll. After just one rating book as a fulltime rock station, KFXD was the #1 rated radio station in Boise! The staff had been trying to persuade Wayne to expand KFXD’s broadcast day to 24 hours. So, after “many” beers and lots of popcorn and beer-steamed sausages at the Time for Two” Tavern they talked Wayne into it! Since Jerry had his First Class License, he volunteered to take the Midnight-6:00 A.M. shift. One memorable thing that Jerry recalled was the night he got a call from John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who later stopped at the station and did a live interview to promote their new song “Mr. Bojangles.” In January of 1971, Jerry decided to leave KFXD and pursue a radio job in California. He felt he’d gone as far as he could go at KFXD, and he needed a change. But before he left for California, something happened that would change his life forever.
Bottom of photo, laying down, is a handsome young Jerry Rohnert
Standing: Fred Novak. Then left-right: Tom Scott; Don Campbell; Dave Sherman; Terry Walker
Jerry’s Life Changes – But He Adjusts.
Jerry had already given Wayne Cornils his notice, but to pick up a little extra money for the trip, Jerry took a one-week job at the Bowmont Beet Dump for the Amalgamated Sugar Company in Nampa. On January 17th Jerry was operating a small tractor helping to push sugar beets into a pile so a large scoop-mobile with a bucket could load them into a railroad car. At the end of his shift, the scoop-mobile was smoothing out the ground while Jerry and his work partner watched, sitting on their tractor. He had his legs draped over the tractor’s blade when the scoop-mobile driver swung around, not seeing him, and hit Jerry’s leg three times. Sadly, his left leg was injured so badly, it could not be saved; so two weeks later, it was amputated. Jerry spent the next couple of months recovering and was fitted with an artificial leg. He returned to work at KFXD in the summer of 1971 doing the 6:00-9:00 P.M. Just like many of us, Jerry remembers listening to Wolfman Jack “back in Junior High” on 1090 XERB and admits that he borrowed something from “the Wolfman” - and that was his laugh. It seems whenever Jerry would tell a joke on the air, he’d lean back and do a sort of “telling laugh” on the air. Jerry was the master of the double-meaning joke and often had weather warnings for listeners when it got cold, like “don’t freeze the stem off your pumpkin,” or (around the holidays), “don’t freeze the ‘tom’ off your turkey.” He often ended his evening show with “have a good night…it’s going to be a good night to have.” Then he’d laugh, in his own unique way! In fact that “laugh” was so unique, and so spontaneous, Jerry could not duplicate it for listeners who would ask him to do it when he was not on the air!
Wolfman Jack’s Surprise Show on KFXD
The Thursday night before Memorial Day in 1971, Jerry was doing his 6:00-9:00 P.M. shift when Don Campbell and Tom Scott came into the control room and told him he was going to have a “guest” on his show that night, WOLFMAN JACK, who was coming to KFXD to promote the upcoming Wood River Valley Rock Festival in Bellevue, Idaho! Wolfman arrived at arrived at the station about 7:45 with two other people. KFXD salesman Don Campbell had picked them up earlier at the Boise airport, and Jerry said that right from the start, Wolfman Jack was one of the nicest people he had ever met, but when the microphone went on “it was like spotlights came on from all over – and the room was just brilliant! Knowing something very special was happening, Jerry put a tape on the recorder in the newsroom “and just let the Wolfman go!” Jerry says he did not introduce him, so the audience was probably totally unprepared for what they were about to hear.
Who is that on the Wolfman Telephone?
After a couple of records, curious listeners started to call in and ask what was going on. Most of them were put on the air – live - on “the Wolfman telephone!” A total of 18 records were played in the one hour and 15 minutes Wolfman Jack was live on the air on KFXD. There were three “current tunes” from July and August of 1971 and two others from a few months earlier in the year. There were a lot of songs from 1969 and 1970, and several classics from 1962-1965 by the Beatles, the Stones, and the even “the King of Soul – James Brown.” It was an absolutely great “mix” of music that included a lot of mass-appeal “soul” music, and some good old rock and roll including Led Zeppelin and Creedence Clearwater Revival! Wolfman sang along - on the air – with many of them! Of course there was also that famous “laugh,” which was sprinkled-in liberally throughout most the songs he played- but no wolf-howls…he must have left the tape cartridge back in Los Angeles. Aside from some minor technical issues with spots and jingles probably caused by running a “new” board that he was unfamiliar with, Wolfman Jack put on a great show! You can hear the telescoped air-check by clicking here,
You can also read about the Foundation Meeting we had 8 years ago on February 12, 2010 to thank and honor Jerry for having the foresight to record this historic show!
Denver, Omaha, and even Seattle!
While Jerry was back at KFXD the second time (from mid 1971 to March 1973), he became good friends with the station’s News Director, Frank Lindsey. Frank was an older guy with a BIG voice who had worked at some big radio stations. In early 1973, Frank left KFXD and moved to Denver to work for KERE, a country station at 710 on the dial. He soon called Jerry and got him hired there too doing Midnight to 6:00. Jerry drove down to Denver in a huge snow storm which took days, and when he finally arrived, he looked so rustic the Program Director named him “Joshua,” after the popular Dolly Parton song. Well that lasted a month or so until Frank moved on the KOIL-AM in Omaha and then did the same thing; he called Jerry for a Midnight-6:00 job there. So Jerry quit KERE and moved to KOIL-AM where he was known as “the Chase is on…(Jerry Chase).” Meantime the lawsuit for his accident required that he return to Boise, and KOIL would not let him have any time off, so Jerry quit KOI and returned to Boise going to work for KBOI doing middays. In 1977 Jerry was then given the chance to go into sales at KBOI, so he tried that for a while until he got another call from Frank Lindsey, this time asking him to move to Portland to work 6:00 P.M-Midnight at KISN-AM. So in 1978, not liking sales, and having a real fondness for Frank and wife, Jerry jumped at the chance and moved to Portland. He then came back to Boise for a short time before moving to Seattle for a year working for KIXI AM & FM, along with KVI-FM. Working in radio was a great life if you were single, but Jerry vowed when he finally found the lady of his life, he’d quit radio, at least as a full time career. Well, that happened when Jerry met his future wife in 1982 and married her in 1983. They returned to Boise and had twin daughters in 1985. Jerry did do some part time radio work for K-106 in 1985 but never returned to radio as fulltime job. He worked for the Bureau of Land Management for many years, and even after he retired, helped out during the summer months as a Fire Information Officer or an Expanded Dispatcher. Jerry worked the fire season this past summer (2017) and lived in Meridian, which was where he passed away at his on Friday February 2, 2018.
Jerry Rohnert may be gone…but he will NEVER be forgotten. Our Foundation is here to make sure of that. We hope to do a feature store on Jerry for an upcoming issue of our magazine, and to perhaps hold a tribute lunch, where we can play air-checks, show photos, and tell our own “Jerry” stories. Stay tuned to this site, we’ll advise you of anything we schedule to honor Jerry and further celebrate his life. Our hearts go out to Jerry’s wife Sharon and his daughter Ashlee who have been in touch with us regarding the services. God Bless you, and please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.