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Remembering WKRP in Cincinnati: A KSO Musical Tribute

Baby, if you’ve ever wondered…

Kentucky Symphony’s Boogie Band and area vocalists time-travel back to 1978 on Saturday, Sept. 2 for its final free concert of the summer season in Devou Park.

1978, you ask? Why 1978? You’re kidding, right? That’s when Dr. Johnny Fever was living on the air in Cincinnati – Cincinnati WKRP.

If you’re humming along, you’ve gotta grab a lawn chair or a blanket and catch Remembering WKRP in Cincinnati. Along with the laughs, for four seasons the beloved sitcom about the quirky staff at a (we only wish it was real) Queen City rock ‘n’ roll radio station featured hits and about-to-be-hits by the solo artists and bands topping the charts:

Michael Jackson. The Village People. Marvin Gaye. Queen. The O’Jays. Bob Seger. Herb Alpert. Kool & The Gang. The hits just keep on coming on Sept. 2.

Thank John Kiesewetter, retired, longtime Enquirer television/radio journalist (now at WVXU) and authority on all broadcast news local and national for the concert concept. “WKRP provided great laughs every week – and really great music. Lots of future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers.

“Most people don't know that the actors who played DJs Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap (Howard Hesseman, Tim Reid) often picked their albums to play on the show. Many times the 'KRP jocks broke new music, just like real radio DJs. The Kentucky Symphony Orchestra's summer concert series was the perfect venue to celebrate 'WKRP's' eclectic mix of rock, pop, R&B and jazz.”

KSO maestro and music director James Cassidy was all in. “The opening shots of Cincinnati - the skyline, downtown streetscapes, the river, Fountain Square – and given the KSO’s predilection for authentically covering nostalgic pop music with its studio orchestra,” Cassidy judged. “With Labor Day weekend family traditions, I thought the WKRP idea sounded kinda fun.”

Cassidy reminisced, “WKRP occasionally dabbled in serious issues and drama, like the Who concert tragedy.” He noted that while over-50s still love the show, it will be an introduction for the thirtysomethings.

“We had a board meeting in March announcing that the KSO’s summer finale will be a WKRP in Cincinnati show. The over-50 group nodded their approval, while the 30-ish members asked, What is WKRP? Ouch! Thank goodness much of the music heard on the show is timeless.”

Video from episodes and character reminiscences will provide fond memories for longtime fans and an introduction for rock lovers born post-1980. Cassidy throws out another lure: “A possible cameo awaits the Labor Day weekend audience.”

Cassidy suggests concertgoers can “dress like your favorite WKRP character and maybe give the theme song a little Car Pool Karaoke treatment on the way to the park.” Those vintage ‘70s duds must be in the back of the closet somewhere.

You know the concert finale is a sing-along. Find the full-length version here:

If you agree broadcast news just isn’t the same in Cincinnati without Kiese, he’s TV/media reporter for Cincinnati Public Radio’s WVXU-FM. Follow his Media Beat blog at wvxu.org/tvkiese (in Cincinnati).

Remembering WKRP in Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 2, Devou Park, Covington. Free. ($5 donation suggested.) Free parking. The TANK Park & Ride Shuttle running from Covington Catholic to the band shell from 6:00 -7:30 p.m., and after the concert for $1 each way. For more information and directions, visit the KSO at www.kyso.org or call (859) 431-6216.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts