by Carl Watkins
I was raised in Lynwood, Los Angeles County, California graduating from Lynwood High School in 1962. After a year at BYU, I returned home to work.
I loved building amplifiers and working on other electronic equipment, and was a loyal listener to "Top-40" (pop) music radio. I also learned to play the guitar a little, and would sing and accompany popular songs on my guitar as a hobby.
I became very attracted to a girl named April whom I met at the Long Beach Stake Dance, but she wasn't very interested in me. As an expression of my infatuation, I wrote a song called "April," which was musically influenced by the current popular song "Walking in the Rain" by the Ronettes. When I later realized that my interest in April had ended, I changed the name of the song to "Angel." I later met Karen who helped me prepare to serve an LDS mission.
I was called to serve as a missionary to the West Central States Mission beginning March 14, 1966. En-route, I spent two weeks at the MTC in Salt Lake City, and was set-apart as a missionary by Thomas S. Monson. Just prior to departing to our missions, we missionaries were given the opportunity to perform before the entire company of missionaries. I was scheduled to perform "Angel." But since "Angel" was simply a love song, I quickly wrote two more verses making it a 'missionary love song,' and performed it.
My first area as a missionary was Fortine-Eureka, Montana near the Canadian border to be trained.
Two months later, I was transferred to Columbia Falls, Montana, near Glacier Park. While there, I and two of our investigators, Janet and Marge Thurston (sisters), performed "Angel" as a trio at the Columbia Falls "Progress Days" summer outdoor singing festival. On Sunday, August 28, 1966, I baptized Janet. The next day I was transferred to Livingston, Montana. That Christmas, I sent their family a large illustrated Book of Mormon. Their mother read it, and was converted. The following year Marge and 'Mom' were baptized after they were contacted by my cousin Sister Joyce Coulson who was serving as a missionary in nearby Kalispel. Their father was baptized 16 years later, and the entire Thurston family (4) was sealed in the Cardston, Alberta, Canada Temple.
While I was serving in Livingston, I bought a Sony 350C tape recorder. With my clothes closet doubling as a recording studio, I recorded "Angel." The many clothes filling the closet deadened the sound, and my cheap Calrad microphone was suspended by a wire clothes hanger. Using the "Sound-on-Sound" feature, I recorded the rhythm and lead guitar parts one night using a borrowed Silvertone acoustic guitar from local member, Sister Betty Knight. Early the next morning I recorded the two vocal parts. It turned out pretty well, given my limited equipment.
Meanwhile back in California, Karen met Fred and then sent me a "Dear John." So using another tape recorder, I dubbed a copy of "Angel" and sent it to her, but she married Fred anyway. But in a way I was relieved. When I began my mission in Fortine, my trainer Elder James Mortensen told me, "You either lose your hair or your girl." He was just finishing his mission and went home to marry his girl, but his hairline was definitely receding. I was very happy to keep all my hair.
Our mission president, Wallace E. Broberg, heard about my recording adventure and asked me to let him store my tape recorder for awhile so it wasn't a distraction to my missionary work. I complied and was transferred to Lewistown, Montana.
At my one year mark, March 14, 1967, I was transferred to Blackfoot, Idaho. On a Diversion-Day (Preparation-Day), I borrowed an electric bass guitar from our local music store and a couple of tape recorders from some fellow missionaries. I then added the bass part to "Angel." On a weekly visit to local KBLI, where I recorded Sunday morning religious programs, I left them a copy of "Angel." But I worried that the last two missionary verses might be scorned by some less-religious listeners, so I edited them out. The DJs liked the shortened version so much, they included it in their regular pop music programs.
I was later transferred to Mandan and Bismarck, North Dakota. En-route, I stopped by the mission home in Billings, Montana at the request of our new mission president Joseph J. Jenkins to take back my tape recorder. Thereafter, I used it responsibly for good missionary purposes.
I finished my mission on March 11, 1968 in Bozeman, Montana. I had some wonderful experiences serving the Lord, which I will always remember. I am still in contact with Janet. She has become a blessing to many people, including her husband Chris (married April 29, 1969), and their 12 children. Her conversion alone made my entire two years worthwhile. But I also think of her family and the other fine people I had the privilege to teach and to baptise. I thank God forever for the privilege to have been His servant at that time, in those places, and to these precious people!
After my mission, I attended Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, now BYU-I. I also worked part-time as a DJ for nearby KIGO in St. Anthony. I played the short version of "Angel" on the air a few times, and from responses on the request line, I quickly became convinced that "Angel" was more than just a novel missionary song. So I had 1000 45-RPM vinyl records of "Angel" manufactured with the short version on one side, and the full version on the other. I then visited radio stations and record stores from Rexburg to Provo, Utah.
In April 1969, "Angel" became the #1 song at KOVO-960 in Provo and at KBLW-1390 in Logan, Utah after they played the full version. You might remember it if you were alive at that time living in one of those areas. The records sold out, so I ordered another 1000 copies with the full version of "Angel" on one side and another song I wrote and recorded "Alone" on the other side. I recorded "Alone" with one voice and two tracks of a borrowed acoustic guitar in February 1968 in my clothes closet in Bozeman, Montana, while finishing my mission there.
I don't think "Angel" is appropriate to play on "Sounds of Sunday," but if you would like to hear it, feel free to listen to it while looking at my missionary pictures on this video produced by our daughter Deserie. Here is also a link to download "Angel" if you desire - http://soundsofsunday.net/Angel. It's kind of hokey sounding, definitely an amateur recording from the 60's, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. The video begins with an edited version of "Called to Serve" by Joel McCausland, and "Angel" starts at 1:38 into the video. My voice was a bit higher back in those days at the age of 22. - Carl Watkins
Here are some other favorite pictures from my mission, a smiling dog, my cousin Sister Joyce Coulson and Janet Thurston.
Sister Reed was our organist in the Bismarck branch where her husband was the branch president. This is Fritz, her little Pomeranian-mix of about 15 pounds. He was friendly, but shy, and didn't bark much. When we came to visit, he would hide behind the living room chair, and then stick his head out once in a while with his cute smile. And he was actually smiling, not growling - no sign of aggression. I think he was trying to imitate Sister Reed's beautiful smile - as if to say "Elders, it's so nice to see you!" What a great picture! I crack up every time I look at it!
My eternal "Angel" is my wife Linda. Our 45th Anniversary was on June 16, 2016.
We have 7 children born in this order - taken in 2001:
Deserie Lynn - green blouse, top far left - 5 May 72,
Carla Denise - blue blouse, top far right - 20 Jun 74,
David Ryan - Gray sweater, top middle - 4 Nov 75,
Tauna Marie - White sweater, arms - "W" - 29 Jan 78,
Cristy Suzanne - red blouse, blonde, top - 7 Sep 80,
Michael Adam - gray shirt, top, tallest - 25 Oct 82,
Shawn Carl - middle - 27 Nov 86.
We also have 19 grandchildren - Randy, Katelyn, Carter, Courtnee, Rachael, Taylor, Kirsten, Emmali, Shelby, Chelsey, Noah, Shannon, Riley, Zackary, Kaymbria, Mila, Zury, Anistyn, and Maverick. #20 (a boy) is due around my mother's 100th birthday in May 2017.
Linda's father and mother and my father are deceased, but my mother Verda is 99 now and listens to "Sounds of Sunday" every week over the internet with her "GRACE WI-FI INTERNET RADIO". Hi mom!!! :)
Tauna was recently married to her high school boyfriend Greg Stowell March 22, 2014. This is our family at their reception:
Shawn graduated from BYU in 2012 in "Exercise Science." As a junior he was also a BYU cheerleader.
And as a senior Shawn was "Cosmo." Turn down the speaker volume, the crowd is very loud!
Here's Shawn without his Cosmo uniform at a sales convention in San Francisco.
Tauna (8) holding 1 month-old Shawn - Jan 4, 1987 ----------- and Shawn in 2015.
We named Tauna after a cute little 6-year-old girl I knew on my mission in Livingston, Montana in 1966, Tauna Lochridge. Here is Tauna beginning her mission to Catania, Italy in December 1981 with our cute little 3-year-old Tauna. We love both of our Tauna's.
When do a brother and sister look like identical twins? Michael (5) and Cristy (7) at Michael's birthday party - October 25, 1987.
Cristy grew new teeth and she became a Debbie Gibson fan - at Debbie's concert in July 2015 with Cristy's husband Landon.
My mom turned 99 on May 14, 2016.
My mom at her 99th birthday party with my cousin Janice Howard Morris, and below my daughter Deserie Jensen with my mom.
MY LIFE’S ADVENTURES" - Have you ever wondered how people turned out to be what they were? This is my story.
I submitted this September 29, 2012 for my 50-year Lynwood High School Class Reunion. Lynwood is in southeast Los Angeles County bordering Compton, South Gate, Downey, and Watts. (FYI: Lynwood High School is the same high school "Weird Al Yankovic" attended, but he was 14 years younger than me, so I didn't know him). - Carl Watkins
I attended Washington Elementary. One day in third grade during recess, Billy Baugh showed me how he could light up a flashlight bulb with a “D” cell (battery) and a short wire. I was amazed!!! When I got home that night I asked my dad to go to Thrifty’s and buy me a flashlight bulb so I could do the same. And he did. That’s where it started.
When I was in fourth grade, Mr. Orwall brought a Webcor tape recorder into his bungalow classroom to gave each student the opportunity to speak into the microphone and to hear it played back. Again, I was amazed! It was another epiphany for me!
I earned $13 per month from my Herald American paper route, and over the next few months I saved up $93 to buy a tape recorder. My mom realized that I was serious since I rarely saved anything. So on December 22, 1955, she drove me to White Front discount store, and she added the rest of the money to buy a “Voice of Music” tape recorder for the wholesale price of $134.75. It was three days before Christmas, and I learned how to record my favorite songs off of the radio. I soon had my dad building me small wooden boxes to house extra speakers that I mounted under the eaves of our house. Connecting them with long wires leading back through my bedroom window to my tape recorder, I could play my music in several places outside.
Electronics and pop music soon defined me. I made friends with Dennis Haarsager and Bruce Mueller who were also interested in electronics. When I was attending Hosler Jr. High, Bruce, Dennis, and my next door neighbor, Clyde Clayton, a ham operator, taught me how to build a small high voltage power supply where I could charge up capacitors and short them out making sparks that sounded like exploding firecrackers - definitely fun for boys!
Here is another life directing event that could only have been inspired by God. In 1948 my parents bought their new house in Lynwood of all places. They couldn’t have known what would happen later. At Lynwood High School, I had the rare privilege of being a student in Mr. Kuklish’s Electronics Shop classes. To our knowledge, no other high school in the Los Angeles area offered such classes. In those four years I learned nearly enough to have received an electronics technical degree at a junior college. I owed the success of my future to Mr. Kuklish. It defined me once again.
However, unlike Bruce and Dennis who went on to become licensed ham operators, my attention was given to radio stations. I loved listening to KPOP, KRLA, KFWB, KDAY, and KHJ. When I was a junior, I came to realize that I wanted to be one of those DJs. As a self-perceived nerd in high school, I thought being a DJ might help me gain social acceptance. My parents encouraged me to become an electrical engineer, which certainly was my desire too, but my greater longing was to become a DJ.
After graduation, I attended BYU, but I just couldn't get my heart around basic college classes. So I came home and worked some odd jobs still thinking about becoming a DJ. But in the large Los Angeles market there was little opportunity to begin as a DJ. That was done in a small isolated town at minimum wage.
However, with my interest in electronics, when I was 20 I decided to build my own radio station - in my bedroom. Using some familiar tubes and other parts, I built a transmitter of my own design that put out about 7 watts on the AM broadcast band. The antenna was a fine long wire that ran from my bedroom window to the eave and overhead to the tree in our front yard, doubling back to a couple of power poles in back of our house. Alan Coalson (Class of ’64), helped me play 45 RPM records and talk on the air from my bedroom. We called it KLOD - ‘Clod Radio’ - how funny!
We turned it on each afternoon after we got home from work. First we were at 1610, just below the police calls. But some radios couldn't tune up that high, so I finally adjusted it down to 1210, the perfect frequency! We even got requests from some Lynwood kids I knew. What a blast!
However, the signal was a little too strong toward Pales Verdes - where the FCC monitoring station was located. It only took a couple of weeks at 1210 before a man from the FCC on Monday night showed up on my street with a special direction-finder radio inquiring of my neighbors about an illegal radio station. The neighbors were cool, but just before I signed off he discovered the thread-like antenna wire running to our front yard tree from which the signal was coming. So he knew exactly where we were. Since it was late, he decided to come again during the daytime. So on Wednesday afternoon while I was at work, he knocked on our front door. My mom invited him in, and at his request she brought him back to my bedroom.
There it was - the boot-leg KLOD-rig, along with my framed 2nd Class FCC license hanging on the wall, which gave me absolutely no authority to operate this transmitter. When I got home from work, my mom informed me that I had a visitor - from the FCC. Ah-Oh! Well, he asked me to explain to him the design of my transmitter. And he informed me of the potential fine of $10,000 per day of illegal operation. But since I was not advertising anything, he would not recommend a fine. He was actually pretty nice, but he told me not to operate it again, or he would confiscate my transmitter and impose a fine. So the KLOD chapter ended. It was fun while it lasted!
From my childhood, in spite of my radio escapades outside of the law, I was a religious boy who attended the LDS Church. Since my adventure with KLOD and the FCC didn't make a felon out of me, I was asked by the church to serve for 2 years as a missionary in Montana, eastern Idaho and North Dakota. I had some wonderful experiences working with people there, and also had a few opportunities to record religious programs at local radio stations.
After my mission, I decided it was time to make my move to radio broadcasting in little St. Anthony, Idaho while attending nearby Ricks College. I recorded some of my early shows, which are painful for me to listen to today. But it was my starting place, and I later worked at Top-40 stations in Provo, Salt Lake City, Santa Maria, San Bernardino, Denver, Phoenix, Fresno, and San Diego. While in Provo in 1971, I married my sweet wife Linda and began a family.
I have worked at a lot of stations in different towns climbing the radio-ladder over the years. I got fired at some and quit at others for a better job. It reminds me of a funny line attributed to "Charlie Tuna": “Do you know how you can tell how long a disc jockey has been in the business? - by the size of his U-Haul.” How true!!! We could see that our family life wasn't a stable one like the one I had growing up in Lynwood. We longed to find a good station in a good town that believed in long term goals, even if it wasn't the highest paying job - so our kids could all grow up in the same town and graduate from the same high school. Well, that finally happened.
In 1988, seventeen years after we were married and after our 7th child was born, we moved to Blackfoot, Idaho where I worked both as a DJ and the engineer for a good man at a great group of radio stations. I was also happy to be back in Blackfoot as I had served there as a missionary in 1967.
When the stations were sold for the 3rd time in December 2003, my employment there ended. We still live in Blackfoot, but all our kids are gone now, and we have 18 grandchildren. I have converted our downstairs den into a recording studio and spend most of my time producing a radio show called the “Sounds of Sunday.” There’s no illegal transmitter here, but the show is carried over 17 radio stations each Sunday from Idaho to Arizona to Alabama and growing - paid for by Social Security. I eventually hope to have some good sponsors to compensate me for my time and to defray expenses.
I am doing something I have always wanted - to use my broadcasting experience to inspire listeners everywhere to have faith in Jesus Christ through some of the most wonderful music and messages to be heard. I get some great emails from a few listeners that encourage me. It’s impossible to know all the good that results from the show, but I hope to continue serving God in this way to make the world a better place. What better thing could I hope to do in my retirement? Retirement? - what’s that?
My friend Casey Kasem died on Father's Day, June 15, 2014 at 82 years. In 1964 when I was turning 20, Casey was a DJ for KRLA-1110, Pasadena, near Los Angeles 12N - 3PM weekdays. KRLA was my favorite station and Casey was a star to me! Even in those days he ended his show each day with "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars!"
My friend Alan Coalson and I went to a dance Casey was hosting in my hometown of Lynwood in Los Angeles County. We were so excited to meet him! I noticed he was having trouble using the auditorium sound system for his band singers to sing through. So I told him that I had a sound system with an Altec 604C speaker in a cabinet at home I thought would work better for him. He asked me to go home and get it. When I returned and hooked it up for them to use, they loved it! So Casey hired me to bring my sound system to his dances for $5 per night plus free admission to the dances - about 3 more times in Lynwood.
He was 34 and single back then, and drove an old Cadillac. He reminded me of an aspiring Hollywood star. His $5 checks were printed with the name "Kemel Casey Kasem." He gave me his home phone number too - HO (Hollywood) 90028. I called him a couple of times. I felt pretty important back then!
He later moved his dances to A Thousand Oaks, about 45 minutes north of Lynwood. So he raised my pay to $9 per night to make the trip, plus free admission of course to meet the girls. That lasted another two or three times until he bought his own sound system.
I was just a kid then who wanted to be a DJ too. I finally became one about 3 years later after I finished my LDS mission. I have kept in touch with Casey over the years. He has always taken the time to return my calls. One time in 1981, my wife Linda answered the phone. She was thrilled that she got to talk to him!
I pray that God will remember the kindness Casey has shown to me, a kid who wanted to follow him into the business. I will always remember Casey as an American legend and as my mentor. His greatest advise was, "Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars!" To me that's a metaphor to stay grounded in your principles, and through hard work you will grow into all that God intends for you to become - great words to live by!
And I pray that God's peace will be with his family.
I invite all to listen any time to "Sounds of Sunday 24/7" from the link on www.soundsofsunday.com or on a smartphone or tablet using the APP "TuneIn Radio." Search for "Sounds of Sunday."
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"“When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.” - Robert D. Hales (David A. Bednar 151004)