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Mike Tussey: 60 years ago ‘Coffee Grounds Show’ was talk of the town, captivating audiences every day

February, 1964 I was working the mid day shift (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) at tiny 250 watt – WIRO AM 1230 in Ironton, Ohio. I was still using my pseudonym of MIKE TODD that I created in 1961.

Indeed, it was a historic afternoon when GM/Owner Ken Auble came into the control room with a huge smile. In just moments, he made a very important announcement to our listeners that we would increase our power to 1,000 Red Hot Watts.

Mike and Hal promoting the WIRO ‘Coffee Grounds’ show. (Photo provided)

The ensuing weeks routinely passed and opportunity came knocking during the winter of ’64. Mr. Auble called me into his office and seriously asked a dynamite question. With another huge smile, asked if I would like to work the morning show and afternoon drive time shift while becoming HAL MURPHY’s producer and partner on his two daily shows.

Hal and I had never formally met and for us both, there would be a time of getting acquainted with each other’s personalities. Before coming to WIRO in 1962, Hal was with WHTN Channel 13 in Huntington, West Virginia where he hosted the “Channel 13 Dance Party”. The show’s format was very similar to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand even to having local students dancing.

WIRO’s current morning and afternoon drive was hosted by Hal and his partner – Program Director, Johnny Dollar. However, after some time, Johnny had made career plans to move another station and Hal would indeed need a new partner.

Even today, looking back at radio 60 years ago, Hal’s two daily shows were the epitome of local radio. The bare reality to this new opportunity would create a responsibility for me that would be very tough. I would have to work a “split shift”- signing on at 6 a.m., leave at 10 a.m. and then return to the station from 3-6 p.m. Even though my new hours brought about double travel per day, I accepted because it was great opportunity to enhance my career plus a small raise in pay. My daily mid-day shift would now be covered by veteran broadcaster – Ken Jones from WCMI.

Hal broadcasting at the Ashland Bowling Alley. (Photo provided)

The dual shows meant that I would be broadcasting from WIRO’s studios in Ironton and Hal would be working remotely from a street level window in the Ventura Hotel in downtown Ashland – 4 miles away. Arrangements like that were very common in radio, but not when the two hosting announcers for a daily show were far apart in different cities.

I met with Hal prior to our first show and he explained the format and how we would mesh together for humor and fun, all while dropping local names, events and contests. Our audience, of course, would assume we were sitting side by side because of how it sounded on the air. The early unknown factor would be if I could mesh with Hal and follow his leads.

Our main objective was to excel with these 4 key elements:
• Personality
• Local Daily Guests – Community Involvement
• Games and Prizes
• Hits of the Day


It turned out we were a natural team and seemingly we improved show by show as the listeners let us know it. We even used an instrumental theme song that Hal found to open our shows with an Irish flavor complimenting the name of Murphy. Hal would introduce himself on every show with something like: “Good Morning/Afternoon! Mrs Murphy’s Little Boy Hal here with my partner Mike Todd…”

Hal was working in plain view in the window of the hotel and listeners passing by in their cars would stop, honk their horns and even wave. I have often thought what we could have done with all the photo opportunities that slipped by. Some listeners even stopped in traffic, others parked and joined Hal in his small little studio in the hotel. It wasn’t long that he began having his guests sign his daily log book.

WIRO control room where Mike produced the show. (Photo provided)

Hal was an actor from Boston and as such, had a tremendous personality that just resonated while on the air. Indeed, he knew how to cater to an audience. In fact, in a very short time, Hal Murphy and Mike Todd had become a solid team that was percolating every day. Our popular “Who Am I?” contest and local guests kept the audience growing. We soon found that we had huge fan group from Armco Steel that would call in from time to time and we put them on the air. When they did, the fun machine was on.

In a few months, Hal moved his broadcast location from Ashland’s Ventura Hotel to a larger window in the bowling alley at Blue Ribbon Lanes. Now, he was much more visible and had tons of room for guests.

By broadcasting twice a day within the morning and afternoon drive times, our shows soared into recognition. March 17, 1965 brought St. Patrick’s Day and with it, the Irish flavor of Mrs. Murphy’s Little Boy Hal. It was inevitable we would indeed celebrate with the Irish, by way of a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ashland. We were even named the “Grand Marshals” and donned the greenest blazers we could find.

Through those wonderful years together on the air, Hal and I became very good friends even to the point of he and his wife Carol becoming our two boys’ God Parents.

Opportunities can happen at any time, you just never know when.

In 1967, I accepted a career opportunity to become Program Director at 5,000 watt WTCR thus ending our nearly 4 years together. Over the coming years, our lives were on different paths and naturally we went our separate ways. I left radio full time in 1970 to become a Police Officer with the Ashland Police Department. Hal, fulfilling his lifetime dream, bought WCAK FM radio in Catlettsburg.

In the mid 1980’s, a wonderful tribute for Hal was planned to celebrate his long and successful career with a program entitled: “Hal Murphy, This is Your Life!” The format would be exactly as the popular television show used and invitations to the public to attend were made. I received a call from the producers of the tribute inviting me to participate. I jumped at the opportunity.

Ironically, it would be the 20th anniversary of our shows back in the mid-60’s.

Hal was sitting center stage in a large comfortable chair as the tribute moved along. I was off stage and was told it was my time to enter the stage as emcee Johnny Dollar stated: “Hal, here’s a voice from your wonderful past-remember?” On cue, I said: “On our shows, Hal and I had one goal and that was to keep our listeners laughing and have fun and.. did we ever!”

Hal instantly shouted – “That’s Mike Todd!” I came on stage and after a firm handshake and a hug, Hal stated, “I love ya, Mike.Thanks for all of our great memories and everything we did together over our years.”

At that point, tears were on the way for both of us.

Forty years have passed since that day of tribute to Hal and I remember it all like yesterday.

Looking back, I was so honored to have shared the microphone with “Mrs. Murphy’s Little Boy Hal” at a very special time in broadcasting history.

Thanks a million Murph.

I miss ya.

Mike Tussey has “retired” from a 60-plus-year career as a legendary play-by-play announcer for over 2000 football, baseball, and basketball games, including most recently for ESPN+. His career also includes a stint in law enforcement, teaching and coaching, and writing books, including the “Touchdown Saints.” He grew up in Eastern Kentucky and now lives in Florence with his wife, Jo. He has opened another “Door of Opportunity” and is now a regular columnist for the NKyTribune.

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  1. Ric Robinson says:

    Those early days in radio were some of the best for us both. In the summer of 1967 at the age of 15 I started running Sunday morning tapes and doing one of my first weekend shifts at WOMP in the Wheeling radio market. Talk about, “Mrs. Murphy’s little boy, Hal”, I worked with some legends, too. There was Tom Foolery, Jim Dandy, and The Mojo Man just to name a few!!! LOL!!!!

  2. Mike Tussey says:

    Thanks for sharing…THOSE WERE INDEED THE DAYS…!

  3. Charlene Cooper says:

    Remember that radio show very well. You both were great to listen to…full of stories antidotes, news, and general chit chat. Those were the days of good radio.

  4. Mike Tussey says:

    Charlene…Thanks very much for sharing…! We made it fun to listen…and just as important..tune in everyday!!

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