WKRP Frequently Asked Questions

"WKRP In Cincinnati": Frequently Asked Questions

If you have other questions, email me.

After seeing this document, go on back to my WKRP Page

Here are the answers to some questions that frequently come up regarding "WKRP In Cincinnati."

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 opening theme? Who sings it?

A. The song "WKRP In Cincinnati" has music by Tom Wells and words by series creator Hugh Wilson. It is sung by Steve Carlisle.

Q. Who wrote the closing theme? Who sings it?

A. The closing theme was written and performed by Jim Ellis. The nonsense lyrics were improvised, and were just meant to be a fill-in until actual lyrics could be written, but Hugh Wilson liked the nonsense lyrics so much that he decided to use them.

Q. Why does Les wear a bandage in every episode?

A. Just before the pilot episode was due to start taping, Richard Sanders (Les) bumped into a light and badly cut his forehead. Though Sanders refused to get stitches until the taping was done, the gash could not be covered with makeup, for fear of infection. It was decided that Sanders would wear a large bandage in the first act and a smaller one in the second act (which was supposed to take three days later). A line was quickly written to explain the bandages, something to the effect that Les slipped on his skateboard on the way to work, but no one liked the line and it was cut from the finished pilot. Sanders later decided to make this into Les's trademark by wearing a bandage or band-aid on some part of his body in every episode.

Q.Who's responsible for changing the music in "WKRP?"

A. The music was changed by the distributor that owns the rights to the series and sends it to broadcasters. For a fuller explanation of what happened, go here.

Q. What are the "WKRP" actors doing now?

A. Gary Sandy is currently playing the male lead in a touring production of "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas" (also starring Ann-Margret). He has been working steadily in regional theatre for nearly two decades, and he's recently made appearances in TV shows like "Sabrina" and "Diagnosis Murder" as well as a very brief appearance in the film "The Insider." Gordon Jump replaced the late Jesse White as the Maytag Man, the advertising symbol of the Maytag appliance company. Loni Anderson's most recent appearance was in an amusing commercial with George Hamilton and Mr. T. Frank Bonner directs the NBC Saturday morning sitcom "City Guys." Richard Sanders writes and performs in theatre and makes occasional TV guest appearances. Tim Reid runs a Virginia-based production company. Jan Smithers retired from acting and lives in Nova Scotia. Howard Hesseman makes TV and movie appearances, including a part in Harry Shearer's upcoming movie "Call o' the Glen."

Q. What real-life station was WKRP based on?

A. The primary inspiration for WKRP was WQXI, a top-rated station in Atlanta. Creator Hugh Wilson frequently dealt with the station when he worked in advertising, as well as having friends there.

Q. Was "WKRP" based on the movie FM?

A. No. The movie FM came out in May 1978 and dealt with the personalities at a quirky rock radio station. Some people have detected similarities between the characters in the movie and the characters of WKRP, leading to speculation that WKRP was unofficially based on FM. However, early in May 1978, exactly at the same time FM was released, CBS issued a press release which mentioned that the pilot of WKRP In Cincinnati had been picked up for their fall schedule. Thus the pilot of WKRP had already been written, cast, taped, and shown to CBS executives before FM was released. Thus, WKRP is not based on FM, and any similarities between the two are simply due to the similar settings.

Q. Are any "WKRP" episodes based on things that really happened in the radio industry?

A. Some "WKRP" episodes, especially the early ones, are based on stories or "legends" that had become famous within the radio industry. The Turkey Drop, the announcement of a $5000 prize when it's supposed to be $50, and Mr. Carlson's phone call to the little girl during a tornado are all based on stories of this kind. Where or when these things happened is impossible to know for sure, since the stories circulate in many different versions. One "WKRP" bit is, however, based on something that happened at a specific station: Herb's "dancing ducks promotion," with ducks dancing on hot plates, was actually done by Gerry Blum at WQXI (and got the station in a lot of real-life trouble).

Q. How come WKRP only has two disc jockeys?

A. Though only two DJs are regular cast members, WKRP does have other DJs, most of whom we never see. The late-night "graveyard shift" is done by the suicidal Moss Steiger (sometimes called Moss Steiner). The DJ who comes on right after Johnny, for the late-morning and early-afternoon shift, is Rex Erheart, who is played by Sam Anderson in the episode "Rumors." In "Ask Jennifer," we are told that the afternoon DJ (between Rex and Venus, presumably) is "Dean the Dream," who quits radio to go to law school. In the episode "The Union," all of WKRP's on-air personalities gather together; in addition to DJs Johnny and Venus and newscasters Les and Bailey, there are at least four other DJs there (though we don't see their faces).

Q. Was Andy sleeping with Mama Carlson?

A. It's surprising how often this question gets asked. The answer is no, since the episode "Love, Exciting and New" makes it clear that Mama Carlson wants nothing from Andy except to be seen "with a personable young man on [her] arm."

Q. Is WKRP an AM or FM station? 50,000 or 5,000 watts?

A. WKRP is an AM station. In the pilot episode, it is a 50,000 watt station; it is 5,000 watts in all subsequent episodes.

Q. What on-air names has Johnny used?

A. In addition to his real name, Johnny Caravella, he has been Johnny Duke, Johnny Style, Johnny Midnight, Johnny Cool, Johnny Sunshine, Dr. Johnny Fever, Heavy Early, and Rip Tide.

Q. What was the first rock song Johnny played on "WKRP?"

A. "Queen of the Forest" by Ted Nugent. (Bailey: "Nugent? I think his music is loud and repetitive, and I think his stage manner is pretentious, rude and obnoxious.")

Q. Who picked the music that was played on the show?

A. For the most part, Howard Hesseman and Tim Reid themselves picked the records that they played.

Q. When did Bailey start wearing glasses?

A. Bailey wears normal-looking glasses in the pilot episode; she takes off the glasses when Andy invites her to the meeting (presumably to indicate that she's come out of her shell or something like that), and she doesn't wear glasses for the rest of the first season. In every second-season episode, however, she wears big, thick, oversized glasses. I would guess, not knowing for certain, that Jan Smithers adopted these outsize glasses as a visual hook to make her character more immediately identifiable to viewers. (Other examples of visual hooks for a character would be Herb's horrible suits and Johnny's sunglasses.) In the third and fourth season she mostly doesn't wear glasses but sometimes has them on if it's appropriate for the scene.

Q. Can you tell me about "The New WKRP In Cincinnati?"

A. This attempted revival of "WKRP" ran in first run syndication for two seasons (1991-93). Three original cast members returned as regulars: Gordon Jump, Richard Sanders, and Frank Bonner. Howard Hesseman made frequent guest appearances, and Loni Anderson and Tim Reid sometimes turned up. Gary Sandy and Jan Smithers never appeared, though they were asked to make guest appearances. There were a bunch of new characters, all very unmemorable and many of whom didn't last long; one of the few who lasted both seasons was Mona Loveland, a nighttime DJ played by designated sexpot Tawny Kitaen. Some of the behind-the-scenes crew came from the original series: The executive producer and creator of the new characters was Bill Dial (writer of the famous Thanksgiving episode), Max Tash (a line producer on the original series) was supervising producer, and episodes were directed by Buzz Sapien and Ginger Grigg, assistants from the original series. The show was reasonably successful for the two years it was on, but it was a disappointment compared to the original, and the "New WKRP" is never syndicated along with the original series. Sample plot from the "New WKRP": Mr. Carlson is hypnotized into thinking he's a chicken whenever he hears the word "Colonel," just as a Russian Colonel is touring the station to learn about broadcasting.

Back to my main WKRP page, The Flimm Building