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Don Chapman
Born:  September 9, 1936
Died:  March 2, 2011
KAYO Seattle, WA
KING Seattle, WA
KLDY Lacey, WA
KMO Tacoma, WA
KOMO Seattle, WA
WJJD Chicago, IL

About the Disc Jockey / Emcee

Donald B. Woodland was his given name when he was born in Aberdeen, Washington to his parents, Earle C. Woodland and the former Marian A. Carter. But the radio listening audience would come to know him as Don Chapman.

He grew up in Aberdeen, graduating from Weatherwax High School. He later attended Lewis and Clark College and Grays Junior College. Don was also a talented saxophone player.

He began his 32 year career as a radio broadcaster after college. He appeared on sevearl of the local Seattle radio stations.

On February 15, 1965, Don was part of the original five Western Gentlemen that helped take WJJD to new heights in a country music format. The five included Chris Lane (Program Director), Roy Stingley, Don Chapman, John Trotter and Stan Scott. Let's read a bit of how WJJD became a trail blazer.

In late 1964 / early 1965, Chris Lane moved from radio station KAYO to WJJD in Chicago. He was replaced at KAYO as program director by Bashful Bobbie Wooten. Others on the announcing staff at that time at KAYO were Buck Ritchey, Duke Martin, Eddie Briggs, Paul Scott and Don Chapman.

WJJD was considered a break through at the time - but it was more than just a format change. An article in Billboard magazine in early 1967 spoke to the topic. George Dubinetz, then WJJD Station Manager and another country station manager, Don McKinson of KSON in San Diego indicated that they had to go to advertising agencies and educate and sell them on the value of putting their ads on country stations. They had to overcome the image agencies had at the time that the average country music listener was a 'hick'.

Another article in 1965 indicates that WJJD had done some research prior to the switch to country music. General Manger George Dubinetz indicated that they had found that 23 per cent of all country albums were sold in the five state area of Illinois, Wisconsin, MIchigan, Indiana, Ohio and even Kentucky. Those states were within the station's transmission coverage.

Mr. Dubinetz also noted that the average listener of country music then was found to be a blue collar worker and the Chicago work force was then 62.7 per cent 'blue collar'. The president of Plough, Incorporated (owner of WJJD and several other stations) Harold Krelstein found that Mr. Dubinetz had made a convincing argument and was given approval for the switch.

First, Chris Lane from KAYO in Seattle, Washington was brought in to be program director. He had been in the radio business for eight years and had made himself known in the country music field.

Then, the station built a new disc jockey team. Roy Stingley was brought in to do the 4:00am to 9:00am time slot. Roy had worked for 13 years as an on air personality in Ohio. Chris Lane took the 9am to noon time slot. Don Chapman who had experience with KAYO and KING in Seattle by that time, was brought in to do the noon to 3:00pm show. John Trotter, a veteran of KABC, KEWB and KFRC in San Francisco, California was to handle the 'drive time' slot of 3:00pm to 6:00pm. Stan Scott, another Ohio disc jockey veteran was brough in to do the 6:00pm to 10:00pm show, when the station signed off for the day. The station could not stay on 24 hours; a station in Salt Lake City had the rights to broadcast on the 1160am frequency 24 hours.

They had an advertising budget of $50,000 to promote the switch. They were going to blanket Chicago with billbaords, bus signs and newspaper ads. But they found that the format switch caught on so well, they didn't have to spend the whole budget. They may have gotten a boost when Jimmy Dean announced WJJD's switch on his national television show. Mr. Dubinetz noted that they got over 20,000 pieces of mail in their first three weeks.

They started a Top 50 Survey and was mailing over 40,000 copies to Chicago area record outlets. Columbia Records even issued a compilation album of country stars with a photo of the Western Gentlemen on the cover.

In March of 1965, the station put on its first "Shower of Stars" show at the 5,500 seat Arie Crown Teather at McCormick Place for two days. In two weeks, all 11,000 tickets were sold. A 1965 article indicated that Ed Lee, then general manager of McCormick Place wrote Mr. Dubinetz that "the mail order response to your advertising produced sales more effectively than any other experiences we have observed."

Don and the Western Gentlemn took WJJD on an unprecedented rise in the Hooper ratings. In February 1965, WJJD had a Hooper rating average of 1.1. By March 1965, it was up to 3.8; in April it was 6.3 and they were rated sixth in the Chicago market and climbing.

Columbia album WJJD Western Gentlemen

One of Chicago's evening newspapers, Chicago American, took a survey of its readers asking them which radio music format they preferred and a large majority of them indicated country music. Norm Zigler, a branch sales manager for Columbia Records indicated the label suffered some embarrassment when the station featured Ray Price's newly released 'Burning Memories' album one week and the label could not supply any inventory for the local record dealers.

The success of the station made headlines in the country music world. By 1967, the station was consistently being rated in 3rd or 4th in the Chicago market. Prior to their switch in February 1965, the station was not even appearing on the listening audience surveys. In 1967, in what was termed 'housewife time', the station was given No. 1 rating by ARB while Pulse listed it as No. 2.

By October 1965, Ray Brack was writing in Billboard magazine that because of the huge success of WJJD's switch to country music and the popularity of its disc jockeys, the station was a big influence on the sales of country music records. In fact, the station caused an 'unprecedented country product demand'. A year earlier, Billboard's survey of the country music market 'influencers' in the Chicago area was radio station WWCA in Gary, Indiana.

A Billboard Radio Response Rating lsiting indicates that Chris Lane, buoyed by also hosting a show on WBBM-TV called "American Swingaround" was the number one country music disc jockey influencing country music record sales. Don Chapman was no. 2 with the other Western Gentlemen not to far behind.

Other markets took notice and were influenced enough by WJJD's switch to also switch to the country music format. The markets included Charlotte, North Carolina; Miami, Florida, Newark, New Jersey; Rochester and Buffalo, New Yorki.

In fact, an organization known as "Sammy 'C'" was offering custom programming service to help stations with their country music programming. Don Chapman and Roy Stingley of WJJD were listed as consultants who could help design a "complete format for successful Country-Western music programming".

Before joining the Western Gentlemen in Chicago, Don was a popular disc jockey in the Seattle, Washington area. For a time, he had the midnight to 6:00am time slot over radio station KAYO. At 6:00am, his friend, Buck Ritchey took the reins. Buck helped influence country music in the northwest from 1943 until he passed away.

During Don's time at WJJD, it rose to the number two most listened to station in Chicago and was the number one rated country music station in the area.

Don was known as an amiable person. When Rich Osborn came to WJJD, Don befriended him and made him feel welcome. That led to a life long friendship. It was Rich that replaced Don at KAYO when Don moved to Chicago and WJJD.

In 1967, Don and his Western Gentlemen partners that now included John Trotter, Roy Stingley, Stan Scott and Rich Osborn, were given a plaque from Monument Records giving them credit for breaking a song called "LIttle Old Wine Drinker Me" by famous actor in Hollywood who probably was not known as a country singer - Robert Mitchum.

Ray Pillow noted in one column that Don was one of three people that brought Duane Dee to the attention of the Joe Taylor Talent Agency and getting is career going. The others were BIll Erickson of WFOX in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Bobby Lord. Both Mr. Lord and Mr. Pillow were managed by Joe Taylor at the time.

During the Chicago years, Don produced sessions for artists such as Marvin Rainwater. Don also wrote a country song or two and had one recorded by the legendary Rose Maddox. The story goes he did get a royalty check for all of three cents, but decided not to cash the check.

On May 18, 1970, Don married Wilma Swigart. They had a daughter, Shannon.

Another talent that Don discovered and helped get started was the group then known as TW4 (Trade Winds Four); the band later became known as Styx. The band initially signed to record with RCA Victor under Don's assistance.

Don and his wife, Wilma, but affectionately known as Willie, felt the urge to try their luck in Nashville. There he would find work as a record producer and produced albums for many of Nashville's stars during his time there. But the memories of the Northwest beckoned the couple and they moved back to the Seattle / Tacoma area.

During this time, he began his own video and audio production company. Two years later, he became Production Manager at Lacey's Videoland Productions in Lacey, Washington. Don and the crews at Videoland produced award winning documentaries, industrial films and special projects throughout the Northwest.

Don passed away from a heart attack on March 2, 2011 during surgery to treat cancer at St. Peter's Hospital in Olympia, Washington

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Dennis Flannigan for providing us with some details about Don's career and his passing in 2011.
  • Country Music Review; June 1965; Cal-Western Publications; P. O. Box 3278; Anaheim, CA
  • Country Song Roundup; No. 97; December 1966; Charlton Publishing Corp.; Charlton Building; Derby, CT
  • Billboard; March 27, 1965; Billboard Magazine; Cincinnati, OH
  • Billboard; June 12, 1965; Billboard Magazine; Cincinnati, OH
  • Billboard; August 21, 1965; Billboard Magazine; Cincinnati, OH
  • Billboard; October 16, 1965; Billboard Magazine; Cincinnati, OH
  • Billboard; March 18, 1967; Billboard Magazine; Cincinnati, OH
  • Billboard; August 18, 1967; Billboard Magazine; Cincinnati, OH

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