| The Southern Ontario/WNY Radio-TV Forum

You are not logged in. Would you like to login or register?

December 8, 2020 9:51 am  #1

Where Were You The Night John Lennon Died?

Forty years. It seems unbelievable that much time has passed since John Lennon’s career was Just Like Starting Over. To have it cut short with that song climbing the charts is almost unbearably ironic.
I was working in radio at that time, but I wasn’t listening to it that night. In fact, I’m not sure what I was doing. But I didn’t hear about Lennon’s murder until my father called me that evening and told me what happened. I can’t recall my first reaction but I do know what I did right afterwards.
I turned on WCBS-AM in New York (no Internet back then, it was over the air) and listened to it until about 3 AM, when I finally fell asleep. Three hours later, my phone rang. It was my news director, who also did the morning run on the station. “Do you know what happened?” he growled when I blearily answered the phone.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Then get in here now!”
I was downtown by 7 AM, producing endless stories and sidebars on what turned out to be arguably the biggest story of the year. And I frankly don’t remember the rest. When I looked up, it was about 11 at night. And we’d been going all day. I don’t even think I ate much that whole shift.
The one thing that does stick out, though, was the competition for Beatle albums within the station. One studio was working on a special and had taken most of them. The rest were being played on air. And I needed them for news production – how do you do a story on John Lennon without playing John Lennon or the Beatles? It was a very strange day, and though I don’t remember a lot of it, I’ll never forget it, either.
What we were robbed of that night in New York is incalculable. We can only wonder about the music we never heard. And what John Lennon would have been like at age 80.


December 8, 2020 10:33 am  #2

Re: Where Were You The Night John Lennon Died?

Eliott Mintz was an L.A. disc jockey when he met and befriended John Lennon and Yoko Ono. He became a valued confidant of the pair, someone who didn't want anything from them except friendship. And in a perhaps unintentionally funny story, he relates in Variety how that wound up costing him his job. 

It started when Lennon slipped Mintz an unreleased acetate of his new album called "Some Time In New York City" and invited him to air it as an exclusive. It was a huge deal and Mintz wasn't about to lose the opportunity.

"So I went straight back to the station — there was no time to listen to it before I aired it — and handed it to the engineer. I told [the radio audience] that I’d just had my first actual visit with John and Yoko, and “We’re about to hear their new album, straight through.” Now, if you know that album, it’s very political, the songs are very controversial [the single was called “Woman Is the N—er of the World”], and I just sat there and watched the engineer, who holds the station’s FCC license, as his face turned red.

However the audience felt, I knew that management would definitely hear about it, and the next day I was invited to the front room of the station and was told they were rethinking the format of the radio station and contemplating some changes. I understood where the conversation was going.

I called John that day and said, “Well, I’ve got some good news and bad news.” He said, “What’s the good news?” I replied, “I played the entire album on the air.” He yelled, “He played the entire record!,” and I could hear them both whooping.

Then he said, “So what’s the bad news?” I said, “I think I’m going to be looking for a new job,” which he thought was enormously funny and yelled, “And they fired him!”

Now that's both a terrific Lennon tale and a classic radio story. 

Elliot Mintz on Handling the Media After John Lennon’s Death: ‘Nothing Could Have Prepared Me for Dec. 8’

     Thread Starter

December 8, 2020 11:09 am  #3

Re: Where Were You The Night John Lennon Died?

I was dozing on the couch in my parent's basement, watching a rather dull MNF game between the Dolphins and Patriots. Then came the Howard Cosell announcement. Boy! Did that wake me up.


December 8, 2020 12:02 pm  #4

Re: Where Were You The Night John Lennon Died?

It turns out the now famous Cosell announcement almost didn't happen. He was reluctant to break the news during the game, and according to the article below, it was Frank Gifford who convinced him he had to say something. 

Forty years ago, 'Monday Night Football' broke the news of John Lennon's murder

     Thread Starter

December 8, 2020 1:56 pm  #5

Re: Where Were You The Night John Lennon Died?

I had a late squash match on Monday Dec 8 1980 and was driving home.  I had lived in Owen Sound for about six months and was afternoon drive at CFOS.  At that time, Owen Sound had only 2 local statons (CFOS and Wingham's FM 102) and I had flipped to WLS to see what they were playing and heard the announcer (Landecker?) say something about having more information on "that John Lennon shooting tonight in New York."

WLS went to a voice report from one of the radio networks (ABC, NBC etc) and the female reporter said that Lennon had been shot about 45 minutes earlier in a bar in NYC.  Like often happens with breaking news the first reports are sometimes incorrect.

I remember she made it sound like other people maybe had been shot and there was no word on Yoko.  She said something really odd at the end of her report with "but I think he is going to be ok.."  Which at the time I thought was very strange since she wouldn't know what his condition was. She had said in the report that Lennon had been rushed to hospital.

I did a U turn and went to the station.  Asked the on air announcer if he had heard anything on John Lennon being shot.  He said that he had cleared the teletype right before his 11pm news and there was nothing there.  I went to the newsroom and the teletype by this time did have some sketchy details about the shooting but not much else.  Our on duty newsman was just getting back from covering Meaford town council.   Don't really recall the time but it likely was getting close to midnight.

I was going to give the announcer what was on the teletype... when it happened....ding, ding, ding, ding.ding...  rang the BN teletype machine in the newsroom...OBIT..JOHN LENNON...was the heading on the bulletin...oh no...shit...he's gone...

Our newsman broke in with the bulletin a few minutes later, and we had a short voice report.  I ran up to the library to get some John Lennon/Beatles music and that was it...everything changed on air after that..

Last edited by paterson1 (December 8, 2020 5:17 pm)


December 8, 2020 9:47 pm  #6

Re: Where Were You The Night John Lennon Died?

Great story paterson1. The days when radio was live. Sure do miss those.


December 31, 2020 5:36 pm  #7

Re: Where Were You The Night John Lennon Died?

This is a case of better late than never, but here goes. I recently found several copies of the Toronto Star I'd kept from Dec. 8th, 1980 onwards, detailing the murder of John Lennon. What especially drew my eye, though, were the two stories below about how local radio stations handled it - including CFRB, which was not exactly a rock station at the time. Not to mention that CFTR was willing to forego the music and do a talk show, but they couldn't get it to work.

An interesting snapshot from a truly terrible time.

     Thread Starter