CINCINNATI -- Sometimes a shirt is aloof a shirt. Added times, it's so abundant more.
There was a time aback WEBN T-shirts were allotment limited-edition, must-have apparel; allotment artistic clear ball that was awful advancing for months; and allotment cultural adumbration that said, "I get it. I'm in the club."
For several decades, FM base WEBN disqualified the bounded airwaves with its exciting mix of bedrock music, up-yours attitude, and amusing adroitness showcased in aggregate from on-air banter, crazy contests, button-pushing billboards and aweless promos, jingles and parodies.
That vibe continued to its berserk accepted shirts; for years, the base issued at atomic three new versions annually -- a bounce edition, a abatement one that actual the Riverfest fireworks bash, and a winter version. Each shirt was awash for alone six weeks, and aback they were gone, they were gone.
John Calhoun still has his WEBN shirt with a hot air airship on the back. That logo was retired about 1979. (Photo provided by John Calhoun)
In a acceptable year, WEBN would advertise 15,000 to 20,000 bounce shirts, 25,000 to 30,000 fireworks shirts, and added than 30,000 of the winter edition, said Dave Ritter of Walnut Hills. He was artefact business administrator for the base from 1980 to 2002 (when, he said, "Clear Channel and the government broke radio.").
Ritter oversaw aggregate for the T-shirts and added products, including artistic direction, architecture and alive with a retail administration network, purchasing anon from bolt mills, alive with printers, and more. So acutely was he complex in the WEBN apparel abnormality (which eventually included hats, jackets and more), anybody at the base artlessly alleged him by the appellation Garmento.
"I acclimated to go to a lot of barter shows, and bodies were consistently afraid that a radio guy would affliction so abundant about the capacity of awning press and bolt and so on," Ritter said. "But that's how we attacked everything; we capital aggregate at that akin of adroitness and achievement -- announcement products, acquirement products, garments. We were absolutely a altered affectionate of radio station."
It's adamantine to brainstorm any bounded radio base anywhere accepting the affectionate of ascendancy these canicule that WEBN had in Cincinnati in the 1970s, '80s and alike into the '90s. Afterwards all, stations are abundantly endemic by mega-corporations these canicule and run from far-away cities, their music programmed by metrics and formulas instead of the aptitude of disc jockeys with their beating on bounded tastes and tolerances.
Founded in 1967 by Frank Wood and programmed and run by the Wood ancestors for years, WEBN was a cultural phenomenon, from its boundary-pushing contests to contest like the April Fool's Parade or Kite Fly to the nationally accustomed fireworks appearance that jams both abandon of the Ohio River every Labor Day weekend.
For Jay Gilbert, who formed for the base for 38 years and was admired for his smart, smart-ass commentary, there was annihilation abroad like it.
"There's a accomplished arc, the acceleration of WEBN. From the mid-'80s to the backward '90s, we endemic this town," said Gilbert.
No one is abiding absolutely which T-shirt was the station's first, but Gilbert abstracts it was in the aboriginal '70s, and the shirts were handmade silkscreen versions fabricated in someone's house. The shirts didn't yet affection Frog, the confusing amphibian with no name but amaranthine smirks and attitude. He fabricated his way assimilate a shirt in the '70s to "sell" Tree Frog Beer (the station's fabulous beverage that "doesn't aftertaste like abundant but gets you there quicker") and eventually became WEBN's official mascot, Gilbert said.
In the summer of 2000, WEBN recorded the aloft advance for its latest T-shirt. Longtime base agent Jay Gilbert's daughter, Lisa, is singing.
Frog became so accepted that WEBN alike ran him for Cincinnati City Council in 1975, and he garnered abundant applicant votes to blend up the vote tally. He was featured on every shirt from '82 on, said Ritter, wreaking calamity with a devilish beam in his eyes.
"The 'action' was consistently either advancing or had aloof happened," he said. "He was boring a bout or about to bang dynamite."
A admired shirt for Ritter featured Frog in advanced of a mantel at Christmas captivation a musket, with Rudolph army on the wall.
For WEBN listeners, the shirts beatific a bulletin that the wearer was in on the music and the madness. Many admirers calm every shirt and had drawers abounding of them.
Deer Park built-in David Williams started alert to WEBN in 1971 or '72, afterwards accepting out of the Navy, and had his allotment of shirts over the years. He still owns a T-shirt and sweatshirt that he busts out occasionally area he lives in Glendale, Arizona. No one there takes agenda of the acceptation of the shirts, but he knows.
"The base was aloof so artistic aback then. Jay Gilbert had a ablaze faculty of humor," said Williams. "It was a huge allotment of the bounded culture, and the shirts were a autograph that you were allotment of it."
Unlike Williams, John Calhoun had never heard of the base while growing up.
"I was a atramentous kid in Walnut Hills alert mainly to R&B," he said.
John Calhoun's hot air airship shirt has a Cheshire cat on the front, abominably faded. The shirt is so brittle he doesn't abrasion it. (Photo provided by John Calhoun)
Neither bedrock 'n' cycle nor WEBN was on his radar, but afterwards aerial academy he fell in adulation with both. Today he counts Rush, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd as his admired bands, and he is the appreciative buyer of a appealing attenuate WEBN T-shirt, acceptable from the aboriginal '70s, featuring a hot air airship angel that was allotment of lots of aboriginal promos and visuals for the station. Calhoun no best wears the shirt, afraid that he'll rip it in its brittle state, but he won't anytime get rid of it.
"I like Cincinnati history," Calhoun said. "When I saw that hot air airship design, aback a acquaintance was giving the shirt away, I thought, 'I bigger get that.' "
Gilbert has cartons abounding of WEBN shirts in his basement, sometimes to his wife's consternation. The best attenuate one he's acquainted of is a ablaze chicken cicada-themed shirt from about 1987, which he wore years after to a fireworks ceremony back-bite and got lots of feedback.
Longtime WEBN anchorperson and artistic ability Jay Gilbert said this chicken Cicada T-shirt is one of the best rare. The base anticipation it wouldn't advertise able-bodied and fabricated alone a brace thousand. (Photo provided by Jay Gilbert)
Perhaps oddly, Garmento himself never wore and has never endemic a distinct WEBN shirt, acknowledgment to Ritter's abhorrence of messing up the allure (not clashing a baseball amateur abnegation to change his advantageous socks). Over the years, WEBN won affluence of awards for the adroitness of the shirts and the promos surrounding them, Ritter said, and the base alike won civic acceptance for its processes and quality.
"Impressions" magazine, for example, already accustomed the base for a press innovation. And there were some years that the station's acquirement from the shirts was added than some station's absolute revenue, he said.
WEBN's promotions for its shirts drew as abundant absorption as the shirts themselves. Click aloft to apprehend an ad from the summer of 1999, aback the apple feared "Y2K."
Still, that's not what it was about for Ritter, Gilbert and the others who admired the base and its aweless shirts.
"Frank Wood consistently said the best important allotment of accessories at a radio base was a typewriter -- it's what you did amid songs, the creativity, that keeps bodies there," Ritter said. " The T-shirts were allotment of that phenomenon."