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APRIL 2013 - This spring Lee sat down with freelance writer Rick Mullen to talk about his days at WLKN radio in Lincoln, Maine. The results of that interview were published in the Lincoln (ME) News in the May 2 issue. It's re-published here by permission of The Lincoln News.
Lincoln Radio WLKN had golden era
By Rick Mullen
The Beatles came to Lincoln. So did the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Chubby Checker, the Hollies, the Who, Connie Francis, Bill Haley and the Comets, and other pop icons of the 1960s era.
They came not in person, but by way of a radio station called WLKN.
Brought to you by Mr. Solid Gold.
From 1979 to 1987, Lee Rand owned a piece of air time in Lincoln – playing oldies that he knew the public loved, as he loved them himself. As Sunday afternoon disk jockey for the Lincoln radio station, he came up with a radio show that clicked so well with listeners so that “even now,” he said, people still recognize him by the sound of his voice.
Rand, who grew up in Old Town, got hooked on “oldies,” as they became, at an early age. He performed his first DJ role at a sock hop when he was thirteen – by that age already known as a big record buff. He would go on to play the drums in rock bands and work as a DJ at Bangor radio stations and at weddings and other special events.
A DJ from Old Town, who heard Rand’s show of ‘50s and ‘60s oldies, “wanted to know if I’d be interested in working in Lincoln.” Rand took the job.
The name of his radio show was Solid Gold – and when Brenda Lee addressed him as Mr. Solid Gold a few years later, the name stuck.
The show wasn’t originally supposed to happen. WLKN had hired Rand to be the local radio voice covering Boston Red Sox baseball games on Sunday afternoons. The station also played “album-oriented rock,” or selections from record albums (music came on records in those days) that weren’t necessarily hits.
Rand pointed out to the station manager that there was some free air time before the Sox started; and if there was a delay of game, there could be hours to fill. He proposed to fill that time with oldies: rock and pop classic numbers.
Rand had reason to think he’d get a good reception. “I knew that the music the people liked in greater Lincoln was oldies and country & western,” he said. “I knew that from doing wedding receptions.” Rand had performed his DJ role live, and he had seen what excited audiences.
It was the same kind of music that excited him.
Solid Gold was born.
Lee in the spring of 2013 in his back yard in Lincoln, Maine, USA.
On that first Sunday, Rand chose first to spin a song called “Bye Bye Love,” performed by the Everly Brothers. A highly popular 1960’s era rock-country duo, they had made their debut in 1957 with this song, which reached #2 on the US Billboard Pop charts.
Before the song was over, Rand says, “We started getting phone calls” from listeners who liked what they’d heard. The first Solid Gold show lasted just 45 minutes, and “That 45-minute time slot got eaten up quick,” he said.
“Then the Red Sox came on, and I kept getting calls during the game.”
Solid Gold was off and running.
“We had listeners all the way from Houlton to Bangor,” Rand said.
The show became so popular that it propelled WLKN into Bangor’s list of top-rated stations, Rand said. A survey of radio listeners, he said, showed that “WLKN Solid Gold was listened to by 46.8 percent of the people in the greater area who were listening to the radio on a Sunday afternoon.” Of all the stations from which to choose, his show was capturing about half of the total audience.
Solid Gold was about more than the music: it was also about the personalities behind the sound. “It was not just about playing one record after another,” said Rand. “I knew the music, and could talk about it. I would talk to the audiences like they were fans of the music, just like I was. And I knew celebrities in the music business.”
In the course of his career in the music biz, Rand had met big-name artists of the 1960s, such as folk/blues/rock singer-songwriter Johnny Rivers, and the rock legend Chuck Berry. Rand saw a young Wayne Newton arrive in Bangor on a bus, carrying his guitar, to do one of his early gigs.
“I could talk about some of the people who made that music,” Rand said. “Some stars would call the station.” Brenda Lee (a 1960s-era pop and country star who had 37 hits on the US charts) would call from Nashville, he said.
“It was just a fun time.”
Solid Gold was a winner, but the station’s other fare did not fare as well; WLKN went into economic decline. The station’s ownership changed several times, and despite some tinkering with the format, the run came to an end. In 1994 WLKN (now WHMX) filed for bankruptcy protection.
By this point, Lee Rand already had left to form Rand Advertising, which still operates in Lincoln to this day.
Rand thinks the closing of WLKN was a loss for the town.
WLKN gave people a sense of personal connection with each other that is not readily found in radio stations of today, Rand said.
But Mr. Solid Gold did have a chance to revive some memories – and make some.
“It was a fine afternoon,” he said of his Sunday show. “We had a ball.”
WLKN jacket donated to Lincoln Historical Society
June 19, 2012 - Lee Rand, former WLKN radio station manager and popular radio personality, presented the Lincoln Historlcal Society with a station jacket from 1985 today at the LHS museum on West Broadway. Rand was host of the #1 rated Sunday afternoon "Solid Gold" radio show during the late 1970's and early-to-mid 1980's at Lincoln's radio station started by Frank Delle in the 1960's. The station went off the air in 1995.
More about his broadcasting career can be seen on his website www.MrSolidGold.com. Lee and his wife Connie are currently owners of Rand Advertising LLC, which they started in 1988, and maintain the Lincoln community website at www.WelcomeToLincolnMaine.com.
Rand has had a long interest in the LHS and published a photobook about the Society's "LIttle Red School House" a few years ago. Rand hopes to donate more memorabilia to the LHS from Lincoln's former radio station "as I go through more of my stuff" he said today. "It's a shame for these historical items to just be thrown away and I urge people to help save our history by donating historical artifacts to our wonderful local historical society."
- Connie Rand
BOOK MAY BE IN THE WORKS
May 14, 2012- Today Lee made the following announcement: "Yes, I have been putting together ideas for a book partly about Lincoln's radio station WLKN and my experiences as musician, DJ, live entertainer and radio personality, as well as radio station manager. Tentatively titled "A Broken Record", it would be published as an e-book, probably in late 2013. That timetable depends on several things I can't divulge at this time. Lot of work to be done.
"This is something I've been asked to do many times, and actually something I, too, have felt should be done. There ARE stories to be told before they're lost to time and memory.
This project will dwell mainly with the years from 1963 through 1995. Although my experiences at WLKN AM/FM in Lincoln will be at the center of "my story", there will be a lot more included that has nothing to do with my involvement for several years in broadcasting.
"Anyone interested in the world of rock 'n roll in eastern and northern Maine from the point of view of someone who was in the middle of it may find this publication at the least mildly entertaining, and at the most quite insightful. I'll keep you all informed of any future developments."
"Mr. Lee" walking in the snow in Maine early in 2012.
"I do have to say, when I could get you on the radio playing music, yours was one of the better shows I have ever listened to. Your presentation and explanations were great! I think it was equal to or even better than the old WTOS." Jim,
"... you were the best DJ they (WLKN) had and the show was a good one, not just the music, but you shared facts about the groups and songs that were not always known!"- C.J., Lincoln, ME
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Over the years the name Lee Rand has become synonymous with Lincoln, Maine, radio and broadcasting. In the early and mid-1980s, Lee Rand was general manager of radio station WLKN AM/FM in Lincoln. During this time, he hosted his own radio show, "Solid Gold", featuring music of the 1950s and 60s. Solid Gold was the #1 rated weekend radio show in northern Maine during that time period, and the station showing up for the first time ever in the Bangor (ME) Spring Arbitron ratings in 1982. Lee was the subject of three major articles in the Bangor Daily News during his radio career. He also produced radio shows for MPBN featuring recording artists from the State of Maine. His in-depth, detailed six-hour "Dick Curless Story" set a new high for Maine broadcast standards. Lee surpassed that with another six-hour radio show, featuring Maine rock and roll bands from the 1960s highlighted by the original music and interviews with band members from such groups as the Mainiacs, Jester Holiday, Barracudas, Triumphs and others. Lee made radio fun to listen to again.
Lee circa the mid-1970s
Lee in the early 80's at Pilot's Grill in Bangor
Lee is considered a leading authority on Maine rock groups of the 60s and an avid collector of Beatles music and memorabilia.
Lee left a successful radio career in 1987 to work with his wife Connie. Lee briefly reprised his role as "Mr. Solid Gold" in 1995 on WHMX-FM. On May 7, 1995, Lee's first radio show in over 8 years began with the song "Welcome Back", by John Sebastian. Within a few weeks, the show was close to reaching its former popularity. Unfortunately, the radio station being in bankruptcy, the station and Solid Gold only remained on the air until July 23, 1995. No one knew at the time that would be Lee's last live radio show, and ironically, he ended his radio career with the monologue, "This Is Not Goodbye - Just Goodnight", followed by "The End", by the Beatles, off the Abbey Road album.
Although "Maine's Oldest Living Teenager" has had several good offers to do his "real" oldies show on various eastern Maine radio stations over the years since leaving broadcasting, he probably won't be doing it again. UPDATE: 1/22/11-" After giving the offer to revive my "Solid Gold Show" on radio station WSYY careful consideration, I have decided not to accept their offer to return to the airwaves. I have also decided to close the door, as it where, on any future endeavors to bring me and my show back. I will not entertain any future offers to broadcast again. I have enough great memories to last a lifetime - why would I want more? I have had the pleasure of having a number one rated radio show, and I have been lucky enough to be able to share the music I love so much with thousands of listeners in eastern and northern Maine on the radio and at my live shows. But the radio business, and live DJ business has changed as have the demographics. I've done it, and I've been there, so I will never 'do it again' over the radio waves. But let me tell you, it was great, and I want to thank each and every one of you who listened in and still write or call - you, along with the music, will always be a part of my life. I enjoyed every minute of it!"
Lee is currently sales manager for Rand Advertising LLC which among other things maintains www.lincolnmaine.us, and, as a professional photographer, has seen several of his photographs published worldwide and has won a number of awards. He makes his home in Lincoln with his wife Connie, their cat Jingle Bells, and thousands of 45s, albums, cassettes, CDs, mp3s . . . .
In the fall of 1962, Lee attended his first rock 'n roll show at the old Bangor City Hall with David Sleeper from Brewer. That Saturday afternoon, he also attended the "teen tv show" hosted by Bangor tv & radio personality, Jim Winters. The featured artist for both events was Bobby "Boris" Pickett. The three things Lee remembers are that Bobby Pickett was a heck of a nice guy, he lip-synced the song on TV, and he sang Boney Maronie at his live show. Bobby was backed up by the Triumphs, and Lee thinks he remembers Bobby doing Monster Mash two or three times during the show. Although it's long lost, he did get Bobby's autograph that day, but more importantly Lee decided that there had to be a place for him somewhere in the world of rock 'n roll.
At the urging of Winters (who Lee always cites as a major influence and inspiration), Lee did his first live DJ show during the school year 1962-63 at Fifth Street Junior High School in Bangor. He shared the stage with the Jesters. In 1964, having moved to Old Town, Lee formed and recorded with several rock bands, including Lee and the Levitations, the Roadrunners, and the Good and the Bad, to name a few. Lee played drums, and actually wrote one song (which everybody seems to have forgotten). Lee continued to perform in rock 'n roll bands with his last being in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1969. The last time Lee performed in public in a band was at the K of C Hall in Old Town in the spring of 1970. In the mid-1970s, while becoming increasingly known for his popular "live" record hops, Lee programmed the music for WABI's (Bangor, Maine) oldies format at the request of then program director George Hale. Informed at the time (not by George btw) that he would never be a successful radio DJ because his voice sounded too much like he was from Maine (!), Lee nevertheless proved that to be on par with telling the Beatles in 1962 that four-man rock groups were on the way out! At this time, Lee had also been working for the past few years as a DJ at WMEB-FM in Orono. He was soon recruited by WLKN-FM in Lincoln and Solid Gold debuted on August 7, 1979. As mentioned earlier, Lee went on to numerous achievements in his radio career, as radio personality, sales manager and station general manager. Few in eastern and northern Maine enjoyed the popularity that Lee did, with his oldies show and with those who listened to it faithfully every Sunday. It probably can be said quite sincerely that "Mr. Lee" is truly a broadcasting legend. Whether it was Brenda Lee, Ronnie Dove, Johnny Rivers or Freddy Fender . . . when they came to town, Lee was their MC - at their request.
As far as Lee's record hops were concerned, he did them all over eastern and northern Maine, from the Oyster Bar in Ellsworth, the Anchorage in Old Town to the Chalet in Lincoln. Fashioned after shows by the late Bangor DJ Jim Winters, Lee's show was an exciting time! Many shows were broadcast live over the radio, such as those from the Heritage in Millinocket. Lee could always be counted on to draw a crowd - he was the first entertainer to ever sell out the K of C Hall in Lincoln, and he did that several times! Lee has truly earned the title of Lincoln, Maine's only living legend!
Lee with superstar Brenda Lee in 1983
In 1984 Lee broadcast his "Solid Gold" show for several months at WMLI (WGUY) in Bangor, Maine. In August of that year, Lee was asked to MC for Johnny Rivers at The Bangor Maine State Fair during Johnny's "Secret Agent Man" US Tour. Johnny did two shows, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. After 21 years(!) Lee has found a brief video clip of Johnny Rivers performing during his evening show. The segment was shot by one of the local television stations. Enjoy!!
Above, Lee backstage with 60s legend Johnny Rivers. Insert: Lee MC-ing Johnny's Bangor Fair Concert in 1984. Below is Lee introducing Johnny Rivers at the evening show.
Here's a copy of a recent postcard Lee received from one of his many friends in the music business!!
ONLY KNOWN PICTURE OF LEE & HIS BAND ON STAGE FOUND!!
Circa 1967, American Legion Hall, Orono, Maine (Lee on drums)
l-r: Bob Boutin, Jim Robichaud, Lee, & Ron Cunningham
Just one of Lee's many fans!
"Lee, took a look at your Web page - GREAT job!" Roger McGuinn of the Byrds
"Most people think the defining musical and/or sociological moment of the 60s was Woodstock (1969). It wasn't. It was the Monterey International Pop Festival (June 1967). We all thought it would last forever! It didn't . . . and maybe that's a good thing."
This page is dedicated to the late Jim Winters. Jim befriended Lee and his bands all those years ago and was the inspiration for the style of record hops that Lee would emulate many years later.
Jim passed away on January 3, 1992 at the age of 61. He will always be remembered for his kindness to a 13-year-old kid who loved rock 'n roll. "Thanks Jim."
You can write to Lee at P.O. Box 505, Lincoln, ME 04457-0505.
COPYRIGHT 2011 - SOLID GOLD PRODUCTIONS
Jim Winters caricature by Mae Martel.
Used with Permission.