Ladue News Feature Stories

A Walk Down Memory Lane with Ron Elz

Music can be a history lesson: A journey back in time, as well as the voice of a generation. No one knows this more than Ron Elz, who has been in radio since the 1950s and has spent most of his life in St. Louis.

Ron Elz? A few may not know that name. However, a name they’re more likely to recognize is Johnny Rabbitt, the radio moniker he’s been using since 1962.

Currently, Elz is the host of the classic oldies show, Route 66, which airs every Saturday night on KMOX. This year marks Elz’s 61st year in radio, though these days, he has his toes in a little bit of everything.

Elz is a member of the board of directors of the St. Louis Mercantile Library and Mercantile Art Museum, is co-founder of the Media Archive at the Missouri History Museum, and serves on the board of trustees for the Eugene Field House and Toy Museum. He’s also been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland’s DJ section, and is in the St. Louis Radio Hall of Fame and St. Louis Media Hall of Fame. He’s a director of Mound City Publishing Consultants, which has several titles out currently, and has penned several books on St. Louis trivia.

“I’m doing two more memories and nostalgia books this year,” he says. “There’s also one coming out on a big St. Louis landmark that I can’t talk about yet.”

Bringing back music and memories of years past are important to Elz’s KMOX show, which he’s been hosting since 2008.

He does ‘themed’ shows and always is looking for new avenues to make it most interesting to the listener.

“For the Fourth of July, I did a combination of songs about summer, summer hits from the ‘60s, in addition to songs about America,” he says. “I played everything from Bruce Springsteen to the Steve Miller Band to Lee Greenwood.”

Elz is full of stories from his many years in the radio and music business, recalling memories of talking with magician Harry Blackstone, Jr., musician Gene Autry, actor Gregory Peck, singer Billy Joel and many more.

“Some of my personal favorites include interviewing Raymond Burr, star of Perry Mason. I let (my interviewees) talk about whatever they want, for the most part, and he told me about how he was raising black sheep in New Zealand,” Elz says, with a laugh.

The music he plays regularly on Route 66 is mostly from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.

“Oldies connect with people,” Elz explains. “Even if they don’t know what the song is called, they’ll hear the first few words or chords and have a memory tied to it.”

In between songs, he talks about things that used to be, like something from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat years ago or a nightclub that’s long gone.

“People are so interested in St. Louis’ history, even people who have moved here,” he notes.

Elz has a message for the younger generations – generations who may not know and love the oldies like those born during that time period.

“There are so many messages to be heard in this music. It can tell you what happened in the past… sort of a history lesson,” he notes. “The oldies are a portal to the past, a pleasant history lesson.”

This story was originally published at laduenews.com. Read it on LN’s website here.

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