This year, WOGL’s Rockin’ Ron Cade is celebrating 37 years of his “Elvis & Friends” radio show. The specialty show, which highlights the career of Elvis Presley, is the longest-running weekly Elvis radio show in America.
Cade, who joined WOGL in November 1988, has presided over the show every week since its inital broadcast in 1978. He recently spoke with WOGL.com about his special milestone, his love for The King, the lasting impact he’s had on music, and the upcoming details for his “Elvis and Friends Dinner Show.”
Joe Vallee: What inspired your love for Elvis Presley’s music?
Rockin’ Ron Cade: I have always been a life-long Elvis fan. I was an Elvis fan before I got into the so-called business side of things here in radio. I had an older brother who got me hooked on his music. The first thing I ever heard by Elvis was “Hound Dog.” My older brother brought home a copy of that record, and I thought ‘Wow. That is neat. I like that.’ That sort of hooked me on it. I began collecting his records.
JV: I know it’s probably tough, but can you pick your favorite Elvis song?
RRC: I’ve been asked that a lot of times over the years and I just can’t name one song. I have a top five list that changes all the time. There’s just so many. I love them all. The complete package. Every era, right on through the years. He went from “That’s All Right” to performing in Vegas to singing “America the Beautiful.” He continued to evolve as a vocalist and performer.
JV: How did you come up with the idea for an Elvis show on the radio?
RRC: In October 1974, I got into the radio business, and came up with this idea to do a weekly tribute show to Elvis on the radio. Keep in mind this was a couple of years before he left us. Only thing was, I was met with resistance and couldn’t get any radio stations to be as enthusiastic as I was about it. I always believed that it would work. They had all-Sinatra shows and all-Beatles shows, and Elvis is an icon just like they are. It wasn’t until right after Elvis died on August 16, 1977, that I was given a weekly opportunity to do an “Elvis and Friends” show. The actual launch date of the show was February 3, 1978. I’ve been doing it every week on the radio since then.
JV: Wow. The fact that you’ve been able to do the show for that long is a real testament to your success and longevity.
RRC: Thank you. People will share stories with me about how they used to listen to the show with their parents, who have since passed away. They tell me that I’m practically a member of their family, or the show brings back a memory of someone near and dear to their heart. It really is a cool thing. I like it. It makes me feel good.
JV: Where were you when you heard the news that Elvis died?
RRC: I was on the air. The news bulletin came over the AP machine from Memphis saying Elvis died that afternoon at the age of 42. I couldn’t believe it. Like everybody else, we were all shocked. At first, we thought maybe it was a mistake or the news got mixed up somehow, or maybe it was his dad or an older relative. You start thinking of all kinds of possibilities of how it could be wrong. But of course, it was not wrong.
JV: That must have been very hard for you for several reasons. As a radio professional, you obviously needed to report this news to the audience. At the same time, however, you’re only human. Elvis meant so much to you.
RRC: Exactly. It was very difficult, because I felt a closeness to Elvis through his music, just being a lifelong fan. On the other hand, there we were, on the air, and I had to keep it together. At the same time, I was really sad and upset. I just couldn’t wait until I finished my on-air shift, so I could go find more information and get my thoughts together. It was very emotional. After all these years that he’s been gone, it’s still hard for fans and myself. Especially on his birthday, January 8, as well as his death on August 16. There’s lots of emotional ties and connections there.
JV: Had you heard any rumors in the news during that time that Elvis was not well?
RRC: The last year or so of his life, there were reports of Elvis having different health issues. Looking back, it might have been better to step away from show business for a while to regroup. Only thing was, Elvis loved doing what he did, and he wasn’t the type of guy who was going to just step down and retire.
JV: Did you ever get the chance to see Elvis in concert?
RRC: I did, when he came to the Spectrum. He performed in Philadelphia five times. The first time was in 1957, and he didn’t come back again until 1971. In the 70’s, he played four shows at the Spectrum; ’71, ’74, ’76 and ’77. Men and women loved Elvis. He really connected with his audience. I guess a lot of people related to his rags to riches story. He had very humble beginnings. He wasn’t born into a rich family who gave him a bundle of money. He had a vision. Just like he sang in one of his songs, ‘Follow That Dream,’ that’s what he did. He made his dreams a reality. There’s something about Elvis for everybody.
JV: Tell us all about your “Elvis and Friends Dinner Show.”
RRC: I started doing these shows about six months to a year and half after the radio show began in 1978. Listeners would tell me all the time how nice it would be to have an opportunity for fans like themselves to get together and appreciate Elvis and his music. So I now do these dinner shows . I always try to have one put together for the fans around the anniversary of my radio show in February. Everybody comes out to reflect on Elvis as well as my show.
I have a professional entertainer named Sammy J, who does a very good portrayal of Elvis. He’s been working with me for about five or six years and the fans love him. He makes the rounds and goes table to table interacting with the audience and giving out scarves. For that momemnt in time, Elvis is in the building. People are singing, they’re happy. Everyone has a great time and it’s a lot of fun. The tickets for the show are $40. That includes the show and a nice buffet style dinner. It’s well worth the money. This year, the show is on Saturday, February 28, at Brookside Manor in Feasterville, Pennsylvania.
JV: Where can people get these tickets?
RRC: They can get all the complete details as well as tickets at www.memphismemoriesproductions.com. Be sure to come out and remember 37 years of the Elvis and Friends Show” with us!
Be sure to join Rockin’ Ron Cade Wednesday through Saturday from midnight–5:30 am and Sunday mornings 7:00 am–10:00 am for “Elvis & Friends at 98.1 WOGL. You can also listen online here.
By Joe Vallee