Dave Coopman adjusts his glasses and slides his hand across a spot where hair once occupied space on his head.
His laugh is deep, infectious, and easily triggered. The words "G. Laverne Flambo" bring a belly laugh and a large grin.
"Laverne Flambo was a genius," says Mr. Coopman, a 57-year-old semi-retired sales rep/author/historian, as he discusses his yet-to-be-titled book about former Quad-Cities radio station WQUA -- today's WFXN.
Mr. Flambo, a legendary Q-C impresario, owned WQUA, Moline's first radio station, from May 1955 until January 1960. He brought to the Quad-Cities such acts as Jack Benny, the McGuire Sisters and Chuck Berry.
"Laverne wanted to be an opera singer and never really had the talent to reach such heights," Mr. Coopman says. "But he could sing and had an ear -- as well as an eye -- for details. I was told that Laverne would have been better at running a circus instead of a radio station, because of his flair for promotion."
The book, Mr. Coopman's second radio venture, began in 2003. That's when he caught wind of a group of former WQUA staffers throwing a station reunion. He had entertained thoughts of a book prior to that, but the positive reunion response assured Mr. Coopman that he was on the right path.
"Things intensified for me when I went to the reunion and got to meet and be around so many wonderful people," says Mr. Coopman, who expects the book to be finished in the next few months. "This is a real labor of love."
Mr. Coopman wrote a book about radio station KSTT a few years back. He says reliving a special part of the area's past motivates him to write.
"The research, going over old advertisements and meeting people who made the station what it was, is special," he says. "It never fails -- when I go to check a fact that I'm expecting to take 15 minutes, it always takes me three or four hours. It's been that much fun researching this book."
WQUA first hit the airwaves Sept. 23, 1946, offering news and music of the day at 1230 on the radio dial. The station has been through six owners -- including a 24-year run by the Small family, which owns The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus -- and three name changes. Its last day as WQUA was in September 1983.
"WQUA always maintained a strong news focus, thanks to Bill Mason (news director in the 1950s), and was the springboard for many on-air personalities," Mr. Coopman says. He cites WOC talk-radio host Jim Albracht, NFL films great Harry Kalas and country singer/songwriter Jack Barlow, who cut their radio teeth at WQUA.
"I grew up with the station," Mr. Coopman says. "It was on at our house all the time except for 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., when WHBF radio read obits."
That WQUA could have a national presence -- being a CBS affiliate in the 1950s, and getting such radio shows as Jack Benny's and Arthur Godfrey's -- enhanced its local appeal.
"It was also big because it did Moline High School sports," Mr. Coopman says. "Guys like Harry Kalas, Bill Mason, Bob Miller and Ken Buel doing games, and Mason and Bud Dawson guiding news. And then you add Barlow, who would do his radio thing and then entertain somewhere in the area. It was as well-rounded a station as you could have."
Though WQUA played "contemporary" music, it never jumped into the rock'n'roll scene. It did, however, offer a wildly popular rock show daily called the Crocodile Club in the late 1950s. It was hosted by Moline's Don Nelson.
"Don Nelson did a great job with that," Mr. Coopman says. "And when a Crocodile Club event happened, guys had to wear sport jackets, and the girls, dresses. They had 4,000 kids for one event in which the Diamonds played; that's how big the Crocodile Club was."
WQUA played pop music through the 1970s and went country in the 1980s. By then, Mr. Coopman says, AM radio everywhere was struggling with news/music formats. Still, WQUA remained a proud presence.
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"It had a great signal, it had great talent, and it had a great following," he says. "It was a great station, and it had a tremendous impact on the Quad-Cities. I don't think it got its due in the end, but it was appreciated."
As with his KSTT book, Mr. Coopman is not in it to make money. His efforts are basically for historical purposes, he says.
"And I got to talk with Bill Mason and (continuity writer) Elaine Vinzant and so many others. That's what's special. Plus, I get to chronicle the life of a great radio station."
They worked at WQUA
Jack Carey, Jim Albracht, Paula Sands, Ernie Mimms, Ralph Stephenson, Mark Minnick, Bill Mason, Bob Castle, Elaine Vinzant, Spike O'Dell, Don Nelson, Betty Stevens, Bob Allen, Harry Kalas (NFL films), Milo Hamilton (Hall of Fame baseball announcer), Jim McShane, Doris Matson, Harry DeLeon, Joe Anderson, Dawn Sonneville, Dorothy Wyatt, Dave Fleming, Jack Barlow, Phil Rosene, Louise Murphy, Adam Jones, Ken Buel, Bud Dawson, Bob Miller (voice of the Los Angeles Kings hockey team).
--|Bruff Olin, September 1946 to February 1950.
--|Dalton LeMasurier, February 1950 to May 1955.
--|G. LaVerne Flambo, May 1955 to January 1960.
--|Small family: January 1960 to August 1984.
--|Sconnix Broadcasting: 1984-2000.
--|ClearChannel Worldwide: 2000-present.
AM-1230 call letters
--|WQUA, 1946 to 1983.
--|WMRZ, 1983 to 1990.
--|WLLR-AM, 1990 to 2003.
--|WFXN-AM, 2003 to present.