Johnny Rabbitt (Ron Elz) is the longest running broadcaster in St. Louis, having been on the air since 1954.You’ll hear him hosting his classic oldies show Rte. 66 on KMOX Saturday night as well as on special assignment talk programs. Rabbitt has developed a legion of fans and almost countless loyal advertisers such as the St. Louis Public Library, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, the Argosy Casino, Ernie Patti Auto Sales, Holiday Vacations, Allison’s Shoes, Jerseyville and Maryville Manor, Tom Bess Automotive, Neovitin Vitamins, Lindenwood Drug, Josephine’s in Godfrey, etc.
Since 1992 he’s been conducting a Monday entertainment show at the Argosy Casino Alton that runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s the Belles & Beaus Lunch and bingo party and it holds the record for being the longest running program of any casino in America.
Rabbitt is one of the original inductees in the International Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (you’ll find him there in a section called “The Radio). He’s written two books on St. Louis Trivia, has also penned introductions, forwards or content to another 25+ plus local books, was the daily columnist for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and writes a column for the monthly nostalgia version of that paper. He was Professor of Communications in the ’90 at St. Louis University, and is the history editor of the new website: onstl.com. In addition he’s a member of the board of both the St. Louis Mercantile Library and the Mercantile Art Museum, is an advisor for stl250 an organization created to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis. Rabbitt co-created the Media Archive of the Missouri Historical Society where he remains an advisor, is a former board member of the St. Louis Library Foundation, is a former 2 time president of AFTRA (The American Federation of Television & Radio Artists), now known as SAG-AFTRA since AFTRA’s merger with Screen Actors Guild. He’s currently serving his second term as SAG-AFTRA treasurer. He hosts several tours a year for the Missouri History Museum and other organizations, he created The Legacy Room at the Chase Park Plaza, which is the largest memorabilia room of any hotel in the U.S., he’s conducted trivia nights since 1982, longer than anyone else. He makes countless speaking and program presentations for organizations of all types. He’ll be publishing a book on the History of the Chase Plaza, a children’s book about a classic car and other books are in the works.
Among his achievements in broadcasting, Elz created his name Johnny Rabbitt in 1961, was general manager and programmer of KSHE which he changed to a rock station in 1967, in ‘71 as VP of Programming for a radio chain he was the first person anywhere to program a radio station (KADI) by computer. He managed other radio stations including KXOK, WABX Detroit and WRTH. In radio he worked in Boston, San Antonio, Houston, Cincinnati, Kansas City and San Francisco. He was also with Capitol Records, Columbia Records and RSO (The Robert Stigwood Organization). He was a regular host for 10 years on Channel 5’s “Show Me St. Louis,” and is regularly seen on various TV shows with the next being “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in St. Louis” which will air on HEC-TV. His company Concert Productions was the first to bring rock concerts such as Cream, Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, etc. to St. Louis. He was president of the National Broadcasting Institute, Concept Consulting and Serge Advertising. He’s in the St. Louis Media hall of Fame, the St. Louis Radio Hall of Fame and has won many organization awards such as Lifetime Achievement in Radio by Ford Motor Co. and AFTRA’s Nellie Booth Award.
Rabbitt and his wife Gwen have lived in St. Louis Hills for 40 years. They have two children; Amy who is a producer with Creative Producers Group and Eric who is a show designer for International Technologies Corporation.
CONNECT WITH JOHNNY RABBITT:
FOUR QUESTIONS WITH JOHNNY RABBITT:
What is your favorite St. Louis activity?
My favorite activity is writing and you can see some of the things I write on the website antiquewhs.com under Inside St. Louis.
At this time my favorite attractions are the St. Louis and St. Louis World’s Fair exhibitions at the Missouri History Museum, but you’d best see ‘em fast as they’re going to be put into long-term storage by the end of 2012.
What would you do if you weren’t in radio?
My dream job would be to direct the largest chain of radio stations in America and help them to all become the type of station we have in KMOX.
Share one random fact.
When people ask that tried and true St. Louis question: “Where’d you go to high school?” My answer leaves 99.9% of ‘em perplexed as I graduated from The Dodson School which was in a 19th century stone mansion on Lindell Blvd. across from the Cathedral. It operated from 1903 to 1967 and was so small we only had 12 students in the high school.
If you could live anywhere else in the country, where would it be?
Well I grew up here on Flora Place but lived in cities such as Boston, Houston, San Antonio, Cincinnati, Kansas City and San Francisco and I turned down jobs in Cleveland, Los Angeles and New York City to come back home. For better or worse, that’s what St. Louis is to me…home. But if I HAD to for some reason live elsewhere it’d be Kansas City.
Johnny Rabbit has the unique disctinction of having several Johnny Rabbitt Specials at area dining establishments. He created them all, an they’re all best sellers:
The Johnny Rabbitt Monkey Malt at The Fountain on Locust. It’s a dark chocolate/banana creation with whipped cream. Very healthy!
There’s the Johnny Rabbitt chicken breast dinner in a lemony cream sauce with a side dish, salad and dessert at Al’s Restaurant at 2nd and Biddle north of Laclede’s Landing. Al’s has been there since 1925.
One of the big sellers for decades at Crown Candy Kitchen on N. 14th St. and St. Louis Ave. is the Johnny Rabbitt Special malt. This is a fresh banana malt with nut and nutmeg blened in and topped with whipped cream. Better be thirsty!
Bacon or sausage, eggs and pancakes make up the Johnny Rabbitt Special Breakfast at Chris’s Pancake & Dining on Watson and Southwest. it’s reported to be the best selling breakfast dish in St. Louis!
When you go to Ted Drewes, and everybody seems to, just ask for a Johnny Rabbitt. What you’ll get in the size you select is the Johnny Rabbitt Chocolate Covered Cherry Concrete and it’s really good guys…and gals.
The principal at Keeven Elementary School sent a letter to parents and guardians about the incident.