WEBN Fool's Day Parade Started 40 Years Ago

Apr 1, 2016

Promotional buttons for the 1993 parade
Credit John K

Is the Our Lady of Perpetual Motion Marching Band  still marching? Forty years ago today the band led the First Annual WEBN-FM Fool's Day Parade, on what the station called March 32nd, 1976.

The annual Fool's Day Parade was my favorite day of the year for radio listening. WEBN's parody songs, fake floats, spoof commercials and real and/or fictional celebrity appearances were filled with cutting edge satire, social commentary and OMG moments.

The pictures were wonderful, because they were all in our imaginations. Truly radio at its finest.

A few of examples:

--The 1976 presidential primary float, with dark horses falling off the bandwagon into oblivion. Was that Birch Bayh or Sargent Shriver?

--The Greater Cincinnati Chili Float, covered with 300 lbs of grated cheese and propelled by its own gas.

--The Cincinnati Inquisitor newspaper float which only made right turns because Publisher Carl Lindner said that "going to the left goes against the grain of my newspaper."

Those were from the first year audio posted here by former WEBN-FM staffer Tom Sandman.

Soon the ruse became very elaborate, like the 1985 spoof of "We Are The World," the celebrity-filled hit single written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. Jay Gilbert turned it into "We Are The Fools," about the Home State Savings Bank scandal and Cris Collinsworth nearly lured to the short-lived WFL.

WEBN staffers worked on some bits year round, banking material for the parade through "Hyde's Meadow," what they called Hyde Park Square outside their windows.  

Credit John Kiesewetter

The late comedian Sam Kinison recorded a Fools Benediction, giving his blessing before the parade. Joel Moss's Al Vitale did celebrity interviews from the WEBN Skybox after the station moved to Mount Adams.

Commercials for the Tiiiim Timberman ("a genuine automotive concern") auto dealership became Tiiiiim Froggerman, a genuine amphibian concern. Advertisements aired for Martin Luther King Kwik, Hamster on a Stick, the Lark Rock Cafe, and Jerry Springer endorsing the American Expense Card ("Don’t cross state lines without it").

The station's Frog mascot ran for president.  WEBN's Brute Force Cybernetics house brand invented Negative Calorie Cookies and Tree Frog Beer. Donald Trump did promos for the station. No foolin'! I just found a blog I wrote in 2007 saying: "The head-banging metal music isn't my favorite, but I still punch up WEBN to hear what they're up to... like getting Donald Trump(!) to do promos for the station contest."

What was that all about? Does anyone remember?

Eventually the Fool's Parade consumed so much time and effort that it was cut back to a few hours, then  canceled.

Ironically, the parade ending 40 years ago still rings true. After a fictional angry crowd rioted because of the hoax –The parade wasn't real?!?! -- and rushed into the station, General Manager Frank "Bo" Wood rescued the airwaves.

“We wanted to make it (the Fool's Parade) sound real. The rest was up to your imagination,” said Wood, who two years ago was named Cincinnati "Commissioner of Fun" by Mayor John Cranley.

"April Fool's Day is the most special day of the year. We think there's a severe humor shortage."

Yep, nailed it.

Imagine what the "Fools Day" folks would do today with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton's emails, the Bengals' playoff self-destruction, the Reds fire sale, ISIS, Flint's drinking water and Mad Tree Frog craft beer.

Don't you miss the old days, when radio was fun?