29 October 2009 — Seattle, WA
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.