Johnny Forrest, Radio Broadcaster, Playwright and Songwriter

Johnny Forrest, Radio Broadcaster, Playwright and Songwriter

John Forrest, A Forgotten Seattle Voice

  • Seattle, WA
John Forrest's obituary

John R. Forrest, known as Johnny (born in 1908, died in 1971), was a multi-talented Northwest celebrity. He was anchorman, newscaster, sportscaster, announcer and program director for Seattle's KOL radio, producer of a free-lance newscast on KIRO and newscaster at KFKF radio in Seattle, Washington. Upon graduating from the University of Southern California, John played repertory stock for two years and attended the Pasadena Playhouse. He broke into radio in 1930 as a writer-performer on the old Gilmore Fun Circus radio show. Former professional radio experience include KNX and KFI-Hollywood, radio plays for Lux Radio Theater, Creeps by Night and Suspense.

His achievements include two plays written for old time radio Suspense Theater; "Mission Completed," aired in 1949, starring James Stewart and "The Daisy Chain," aired (circa) 1960.  A songwriter, he composed "Blue Tears" (sung by Lola Sugia) and "Weathervane" (Lola Sugia), recorded and engineered at Joe Boles Recording Studio in Seattle and released on the Golden Crest Record Label. Together, Johnny Forrest and Lola Sugia composed songs and radio jingles. (Johnny wrote various musicals and songs that were never published /copyright.) One of his radio jingles was a long airing, catchy tune (sung by Lola Sugia) for "G.O. Guy Drugs," and a musical, produced by the Glenn Hughes Seattle Repertory Playhouse (circa 1949), called, "Johnny Appleseed." His musical review, "It's in the Air," was produced in Hollywood during the war.  Johnny was also a member of the American Society of Composers and was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He wa known to many Seattle-ites for his "Rhyming Times" (news broadcasts in rhyme).  For more than 25 years he accompanied himself on the piano while announcing the day's news in rhyme. You might recall hearing John Forrest's broadcasts of the Seattle Seafair Hydroplane Races from 1959 to 1960 in the KOL boat, the "KOLroy," owned by Bob Gilliam.

John moved to Seattle from Wyoming in (circa) 1935 and was hired by the Seattle Broadcasting Company (KOL) in 1936. Sometime during the late 30's or early 40's John also worked at Lux Radio Theater in Hollywood. (During its years on CBS in Hollywood, Lux Radio Theater was broadcast from the Lux Radio Playhouse located at 1615 North Vine Street in Hollywood, one block south of the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.)

Throughout the 40's, 50's and early 60's John Forrrest remained at Seattle's KOL radio, and from (circa) 1968 through 1970 his voice was heard as the morning anchor, broadcasting on KFKF radio in Bellevue (owned by Kemper Freeman Sr.).  Some of his fellow broadcasters at KFKF were Chuck Mahaffay, Larry Nelson, Terry McManus, Bill O'Mara, Don Riggs and Jack Hemingway.

In 1960 Johnny married vocalist Lola Sugia, sister of well-known Northwest musician, jazz accordionist, club owner and bandleader, Frank Sugia. Lola sang with the popular dance bands and orchestras throughout the 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's, including bands led by Wyatt Howard (at downtown Seattle's Town and Country Club), Max Pillar, Clyde Jensen, Don Anderson, Gordon Greene (at the Spanish Castle), Ken Cloud, Pep Perry, Jackie Souders, Frank Sugia, Curt Sykes and Norm Hoagy. Some of the musicians that Lola performed with are Dave Tuttle (father of Seattle drummer, Marty Tuttle), Marv Thomas (father of well known Seattle trumpeter, Jay Thomas), Terry King, Ralph St. John, Kenny Nelson, Ken Cloud, Dusty Kneely, Tiny Martin, Earl Taylor, Dave Stetler, Don Anderson (father of Don Anderson, Jr), Sal Carraba, Pete Carraba, Stan Keene, Red Kelly, Wayne Saxe, Bob Winn, Ronnie Pierce, John Wittwer, Mike Hobi, Dave Coleman (father of Seattle musicians Tim Coleman and Dave Coleman, Jr.), Gene Sargent (father of Molly Sargent), Joe Venuti, Hayden Shaner, Dick Krafft (father of Ed Krafft, Roni Krafft and Debbie Krafft), Joe Adams, Phil Odle, Frank Sugia (uncle of Maia Santell), Benny Witte, Al Turay, Carle Rising, Gordy Challstedt, Rollie Morehouse (father of Robin Morehouse), Floyd Standifer, Jack Hyde, to name a few. (It is worth mentioning that Wyatt Howard employed many musicians who otherwise would not have had steady work in those days.  His band was a commercial, ("sweet") dance band, as opposed to the "hotter / hipper" swing style of the more jazz oriented bands led by Vern Mallory, Curt Sykes, Don Anderson, Norm Hoagy and Gaye Jones, to name a few.  Some of the many players that worked with the Wyatt Howard band are Ken Johnson (sax), Phil Odle, Dave Larson (sax and clarinet), Tiny Martin, Gordy Challstedt, Hayden Shaner and Floyd "Tebby" Tebelman, among many others.  Bandleaders Sykes, Mallory and Jones often drew side-men straight out of high school. According to Frank Sugia, the after-hours clubs were the places that musicians hung out to hear "real music" and jam with other players, strictly for the love of jazz, as opposed to their nightly gigs where musicians performed commercial music, primarily for their audience.  Players couldn't wait to finish their regular gigs to listen to the best jazz, blues and swing musicians that were playing at after-hours joints like the Black and Tan, The Congo, The 908 Club, The 605 Club and the Cabbie Club, located in Seattle's International District and in Seattle's Central District.  In 1969 Sugia opened his own restaurant, called "Sugia's After Five," located on Aurora Avenue North in Seattle, and he performed at some of the best known clubs around, including The Casa Villa, The Town and Country Club (the dinner set, preceding Wyatt Howard's Orchestra), Rosellini's 410, The Olympic Bowl, The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, The Red Carpet, The Italian Village, The Sirloin Inn, The Casa Villa, The 908 Club, The Carriage Inn, The Elks, The Thunderbird (hotel chain), the Washington Athletic Club and the Trianon Ballroom, to name a few.

Some of John's notable friends and associates were Ted Bell (radio), Ken Stuart (radio), Bob Ackerley (radio), Don McCune (Seattle's "Captain Puget"), Earl H. Robinson (composer), George Peckham (musician, pianist and well-known vocal coach), Howard Hall (KING host of talk show called "Telescope"), Bill Munson (KOL), Ivar Haglund ("Ivar's"), Ron Bailie (Ron Bailie's School of Broadcasting, Seattle), Pat O'day (KJR), Chuck Mahaffay, Jerry Holzinger (KFKF), Bill O'Mara (KFKF), Frank Roberts (KOL and KIRO), Martin Tobin (KOL), Dick Stokke (KFKF), Kearney Barton (recording engineer) Joe Boles (recording engineer), Archie Taft, Sparky Taft, Jimmy Linden (audio engineer at KOL's Northern Life Tower and son of Adolph Frederik Linden), Dalton Trumbo (Novelist and Hollywood screenwriter), Larry Nelson (KOMO), Robert O. Smith (Bob Liddle, KIXI), Dick Keplinger, Bill Taylor and Dan Niles (KOL), to name a few.  ** Johnny worked with many well known names in early radio**---guys like Ken Niles, Don Isham, Reg Miller, Homer Pope, Art Gilmore, Owen Sweeten, Steve Barrett, Harold and Mabel Strong, Bob Priebe, Willard W. Warren, Will Conner, Ted Husing, Len Beardsley, Hal Wolfe, Jack Little, Archie Taft, George Yount, Ralph Jones and a realtor named Albert Balch, who was an early-day announcer and organized the first news bureau for KOMO-KJR. Others were Max Dolin, Jerry Morris, Al and Bill Botzer, Tommy Thomas, Birt Fisher, Maurie Ryder, Sam Hayes (the Richfield Reporter), Jules Buffano, Caroll Foster and Art Gerbel.

    Thank you for your comments about Johnny! Yes, he was on KOL for many years; up to the mid 60's. Then he moved to KFKF in the late 60's. He also worked on KIRO. In his "spare time" he was composing songs, radio jingles and writing plays. I sure hope his descendants stumble across this web site someday!

      Special thanks to the following radio celebrities, historians, journalists, broadcasters and media persons for their contributions to my research on Johnny Forrest: Danny Holiday, Gord Lansdell, Pat O'Day, Bill Taylor, Jim French, Alex Cosper, Terry Salomonson, Feliks Banel, Peter Blecha, Howard Giske, Bill Kossen, Carolyn Marr and John Broven of CFG Publishing Co / Golden Crest Records.

        Don Riggs, formerly of KMPS-FM writes in one of his blogs: ".......John Dubuque, the Chief Engineer at KFKF, and former Chief at KXA, called me and said that their morning anchor Johnny Forrest had had a heart attack, and could I come over and learn what buttons to push and start tomorrow? The format was drive-time news blocks, with music in between. Manager Kemper Freeman, Jr., liked to call his air staff "news jockeys". It was a nice fit. Bil O'Mara was there, back to doing what he should, sports. After a couple of years, the station was sold, the format changed to personality dj's, with new call letters, KBES."

          Johnny Forrest and Lola Sugia's 1959 recording of Blue Tears is now available on "The Best of Golden Crest"!

   (This is the link to John's play, "Daisy Chain." You have to click on #70 in order to hear it.)

     (This is the link to order "The Best of Golden Crest!")

                Special thanks to the following for helping me "revive" Johnny Forrest: (I could not have accomplished this with you!!) Terry G. G. Salomonson (Audio Classics/ Old Time Radio), Feliks Banel, Gord Lansdell, Alex Kosper, Bill Taylor, Jason Remington, Danny Holiday, Pat O'Day, Bill Kossen, Peter Blecha, Howard Giske, John Broven, The Seattle Public Library, MOHA.....and the list is growing!

                  WOW...check out! Thank you, Jason Remington! Now we have actual news articles about Johnny and an audio of his KOL newscast!

                    Pat O'Day emailed me, confirming that, yes, he knew Johnny! Pat said Johnny's newscasts were state of the art!

                      John R. Forrest was a librettist. He composed lyrics for musicals and operettas. John R. Forrest was a lyricist; he composed words for popular songs.

                        My friend, another "radio great," Robert L. Scott (1953 to 1998). Robert L. Scott was born on October 25, 1953, in Seattle, Washington. Working in radio was Robert's childhood dream and while attending Washington Junior High School, he fulfilled that dream and landed his first radio job at the University of Washington's KUOW. At age 14 he could be heard hosting a jazz show on that station. Later that same year Robert secured a weekend position with Black-owned KYAC AM & FM and by the time he was 17 and graduating from Rainier Beach High School, he was firmly seated as the station's morning host. Robert's 30-year radio career spanned across numerous formats and positions. He was a newsman for KOMO radio, the first Black dj hired by Top-40 formatted KJR radio, and general sales manager at KKFX (K-FOX). He also logged time at KWJZ, KEZX, KIRO, KZAM, & KRIZ. Robert was most recently employed by Entercom Seattle handling sales for Classic KING FM and KNWX. At KYAC radio Robert was program, music and news director at one tome and could often be heard filling in an air-shift, or doing the news. Mentored by his life-long friend Frank Barrow, Robert became responsible for giving many aspiring announcers their first radio exposure. His frank manner and experienced leadership helped to launch and direct the careers of many local and now national personalities. Robert always pushed his staff to be their absolute best and routinely listened to each announcer's program. He would often call on the "hot line" to point out various ways they could have improved their last music set or news story.

                          Johnny was a friend of Dalton Trumbo! James Dalton Trumbo (December 9, 1905 – September 10, 1976) was an American screenwriter and novelist, and one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of film professionals who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947 during the committee's investigation of Communist influences in the motion picture industry. Trumbo won two Academy Awards while blacklisted; one originally given to a front writer, and one awarded to Robert Rich, Trumbo's pseudonym. Early life and career: Trumbo was born in Montrose, Colorado, the son of Maud (née Tillery) and Orus Bonham Trumbo. His surname originated from a Franco-Swiss immigrant ancestor who settled in Virginia in 1736. Trumbo graduated from Grand Junction High School in nearby Grand Junction, Colorado. While still in high school, he worked as a cub reporter for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, covering courts, the high school, the mortuary and civic organizations. He attended the University of Colorado at Boulder for two years, working as a reporter for the Boulder Daily Camera and contributing to the campus humor magazine, the yearbook and the campus newspaper. He got his professional start working for Vogue magazine.

                            Johnny was intellectually, philosophically, politically and religiously very LIBERAL and PROGRESSIVE....a truly amazing man!