Tales from the Rody
What happens when elephants learn they can’t fly.

Remembering John LaBella

0204rel_zoo2I can’t spend too many days between times when someone asks me  if I’m that same John Rody from the hippie radio days.  He and I spent 13 years hosting a morning radio show together – shoved together by a program director, The Morning Zoo with LaBella & Rody was a morning institution for a generation. John and  I along with Mike Rhyner stole a living and had the most fun allowed by law. We grew up in the north east and shared the same radio favorites from New York City and Boston radio. We were courted by great stations nationwide but stayed in DFW for the full run. A great guy and a world-class broadcaster. I’ll get some old airchecks up sometime for you to hear or send you to one of the Zoo sites. KZEW was owned by Belo who also operated WFAA-TV and WFAA Radio and The Dallas Morning News.

LaBELLA JOHN CARL, 52, died March 4, 2002. A devoted husband and father, John also was a respected and admired radio personality. His deep passion for radio was evidenced by the energy, dedication and unshakable level of professionalism he brought to his craft. Born May 18, 1949, in New Britain, Conn., John graduated from the University of Hartford in 1972 where he also began his broadcasting career in 1968 at WWUH, the college radio station. After working at several stations in Connecticut including WHCN, John moved to Houston in 1977 where he worked for KLOL. In 1978 he moved to Dallas to work at KZEW (The Zoo) and became part of the legendary morning team of LaBella and Rody. Following working at KZEW, John fulfilled a life-long dream when he moved back to Connecticut to work at WTIC in Hartford. Drawn to Texas in 1992 by the opportunity to work at KZPS, John worked at The Arrow (KRRW), B-97.9 and spent the last several years doing the morning show on KMEO – Memories 96.7. John is survived by his beloved wife of eight years, Beth, and his adored 7-year-old daughter, Elise. He also is survived by his mother, Ruth LaBella of Middletown, Ct, his sister, Christine Sirigos of Portland, Ct., mother-and-father-in-Law, Bea and Frank Brundrett of Kemp. Texas, nephews Justin, David & Stephen Short and George Sirigos, as well as numerous other loving relatives. He was preceded in death by his father, Dr. Louis LaBella and his brother, Michael.

LaBella & Rody Makeover on PM Magazine

Some Television Show – 1982

KZEW / WFAA in Wiki

KZEW Tribute Site

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49 Responses to “Remembering John LaBella”

  1. What a great time we had listening to you two.Nothing these days comes close to the Zoo days.There’s Phil Hendrie,or was, is he still on?I think he left radio to do a tv show.Most of the original stuff has been rehashed with a a little shock thrown in for effect.Thanks John for putting up this blog so we can see what you’re up too these day.I see you still have your sense of humor.

  2. Phil Hendrie is great although I have no clue if he’s still on — last home was KLIF but no mas! When I heard him, it sounded to me like he was having major fun. Not a lot of that anymore, I guess.

    Thanks for the comments and for visiting the blog… its not the zoo but… in these times, we must all do what we can!

    thanks!

    rody

  3. Thank you, thank you , thank you!!! I have kept this in my favorites folder since LaBella died and decided to check on it after quite awhile…you have never let me down, Rody, keeping this up for all of us true blue fans!!! I watched the PM Magazine segment! What a hoot to remember that! I cannot think of one of you without thinking of the other! Have a few of the greatest memories of my life listening to ya’ll! My friends and I occasionally still throw out the “Helloooooooo, LaBella?” when answering our phones…lol! Again, thank you, thank you, thank you and please don’t ever stop!!! T

  4. awwwwwwwwwwww! (Bows Humble Like)
    jr

  5. Man, those were the day’s. Not only was KZEW a great radio station, the music was better back then too. You didn’t pay .99 a song just to listen to it alone on your ipod while surrounded by people. You shared the tunes on a blue portable 8 track player with one speaker, at the park with your friends a cooler and a frisbie.
    Those friends include Labella and Rody.
    Peace.

    • Thank you Randy for the kind words. As they say, “Those were the days. May happininess and freedom still ring in our hearts.”
      jr

  6. John,

    How nice of you to post this. I knew John and I chatted with you for a while online…whatever happened to you??

    Tracy

  7. …listened to you guys from 1979 until I left the area for awhile. Enjoyed “Ronald Ray-gun”, Eddie Chiles spoofs, the Stairs, and a lotta other stuff. Heard some pretty good morning shows but none matched Labella and Rody. Labella was classy guy, huh?

  8. I listened to LaBella & Rody during high school, driving in to Lewisville High from tiny Double Oak. Kept listening, during college years, at NTSU. I lived for the Walter phone calls. Kept listening during my early career drives on 114 into Las Colinas. Those were the days! Thanks for being that thread, holding together pieces of our lives, John! You guys made a huge, carrier signal impact on so many of us and you will never be forgotten! Thanks, again!

  9. Man were the vibes clicking with La Bella, Rody, and The Zoo or what???
    My favorite memory: The sports guy, Mike Rhyner, was out that day. So when it came time for sports, Rody said, “Cowboys won. Rangers lost.” Then played then next song in the lineup.
    That burned into memory and is still there even at age 45+.

  10. Rody- its hard to say anything that hasnt already been said, I sure do miss the zoo days. Hey- I was cleaning out a drawer and found my KZEW pin from Zoo world. Now how about THAT!
    a lOYAL ZEWKEENEE…kevin

  11. P.S. your blog here now has an honored place on my toolbar. Now how is that for being famous there buddie boy? Hope its as you used to say “I am amazed but not amused”……. Man- I wish I could turn back time but finding this blog and you on you tube has given me a new lease on life! I am easily entertained….. Really though, God bless you and ALL the old ZOO staff that gave us so many years of such talent and just pure entertainment not forsaking all you people did to HELP the Dallas area. That day I turned the car stereo on and CHRISTMAS music was playing instead of the ZOO……WTF? Talk about giving us all withdrawl….. and to this day there has never been a lineup OR a station that could hold a candle to you and all the others on the ZOO. I to this day (although I am running dangerously low) have an origional ZOO window sticker on the white tailgate of my truck…A few people know what it is and what it stands for, but those who dont and ask “what’s that”, have my sincere sympathy that they missed out on such a great time in life and a great station. Thanks man. Kevin

  12. Wow, what a blast from the past. I was looking thru some boxes the other day and found Texas Jam Tickets, at least 40 concert stubs…and the ultimate…an old Zoo shirt…Wow, I had it wrapped up in a box for safe-keeping…then I kept digging and found and old Zew-Keenie card…That was too funny. Anyway, I can’t even think of one without the other. I even had two brother dogs, I names LaBella & Rody…when people heard their names, they just laughed because they knew what you guys meant to the 70’s & early 80’s. Loved your show and was so stunned when I heard on the news about LaBella passing away. What a shock, but thank you for keeping up this site…it’s amazing.

  13. Moved to DFW after high school in 1981. Didnt know a soul there and didnt have a job but I heard there were some in Dallas. Me and a buddy from high school found work in construction while living in the Tower Motel off of Harry Hines. Place was a rathole. We found Kzew on the way in to town and left it on for 2 years. Your morning show was the highlight of our pathetic lives at the time. I moved back to Missouri 2 years later and my old friend ended up back here 10 years later. He died last year from falling off a ladder. I didnt even find out about til 6 months after it happened. I have some great memories of us driving into work together laughing out loud at your show.

  14. the early years here in San Angelo TX — so far from anywhere — we had KOMA in Oklahoma, and sometimes the X…but once we dialed up The Zoo, we didn’t really know how much fun radio could be. I still have my original sticker, and I have fond memories of waking up my apt neighbors for many years, blasting KZEW in the morning as I got ready for work. Any time I moved to a new apt, the first thing was re-program KZEW…fond memories of laying out at the pool and dashing over to turn up New Year’s Day by U2, back when it was new! I’d never have heard it if not for the Zoo. We loved you then and I was devastated by John Labella’s tragic death. In a way, it was then end of an era, not to take away from either one, but it oddly had a similar feeling to losing John Lennon. Labella and Rody kept this small city girl from drowing in top 40, disco nonsense. THANK YOU.

  15. Many thanks. John LaBella was my uncle. I was a small boy when most of this went on, and your sharing this gives me some insights into his experience that I would not have otherwise. Nice to know that along with you he touched many people. Even as a small child I would ask Uncle John to do his Walter bit when he phoned from Texas…Thank you.

    • Your Uncle John and his buddy John brought many laughs to so many. Their morning show was the greatest start to many of my days back then. I was driving when I heard of his passing on that day & had to pull over & cry & pray. I sure miss him like family.

  16. Hello John,
    I worked with John for almost 6 years at WTIC 1080 and thought he was a great guy. I was a board tech and assistant Production Mgr., and spent many an hour in the recording studio either working with or watching John be John, always trying to be perfect ( and in no way is that meant to be a bad comment. ) John did not act in any way like he had a big ego, which made working with him that much easier, but, actually, to think about it, neither did Bob Steele act that way, or just about anyone else. I loved working there, and I miss working there a lot. And, I miss John, and couldn’t believe when I did a google search on him about 2 years after his death and came upon his story. I actually thought it was another John Labella, I couldn’t accept that it was him. I made me then, and it still does now, sick to my stomach to think that he could have left 5 secs earlier from the studio and missed the whole thing.
    I have a very nice photo I took of John with Disney characters Snow White and Dopey in the WTIC air studio, and I would like to e-mail it to you. Send me a note on how to do it.

    Mark Bresson

  17. Mark Bresson,

    Please email me a copy of the photo of my uncle with the Disney characters.

    justinlshort@yahoo.com

  18. wow…came across this site in one of my surfing sessions, and it brings back some solid memories of my dallas days! listening to the morning zoo over a cup of hot zabbo (sp?) was how i coped with the madness of the times. curiously, i now find myself in JL’s home turf of central CT.

    a belated thanks for the great work you guys did in providing us with the proper perspective.

  19. Greatness! A friend posted one of your old TV spots on Facebook and it prompted me to search out this blog (I am sure Facebook’s extensive behavioral algorithms predicted this EXACT behavior and they are currently targeting my profile with Gas Pipe advertisements). Like many of the commenters on here, I grew up listening to you guys. Definitely some of my best memories and an integral part of my high-school years and beyond. I still have a VERY thin zoo world t-shirt (hidden away from my wife) along with a zoo world pin. Glad to see you’re doing well. Love to hear you back on the radio again. I certainly hear enough from that blow-hard Rhyner.

  20. The Ticket morning show hosts (radio station in Dallas) were talking about Labella and Rody recently. What a blast from the past. Back in the 80’s, the stations to listen to were the Zoo and Q102. I listened to the Zoo more because of the DJ’s. Labella and Rody were awesome. Hasn’t been a duo like them in Dallas since. I miss KZEW!

  21. I found some Zoo bumper stickers the other day, going thru some stuff. It was pretty cool, I got to tell them some funny stories! lol Good times!

  22. Hello,we have lived in mesquite,tx all our life and listened to kzew and you guys from start to finish..tons of great memories,a whole lot of laughs,& walter from waco/hunt james…thanx for them all…peace

  23. nullity void…

    […]Remembering John LaBella « Tales from the Rody[…]…

  24. Hi there, You’ve done a fantastic job. I will definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m confident they’ll be benefited from this website.

  25. Awesome blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any tips? Thank you!

  26. Is the Hunt James commentary available on any format or anywhere?

  27. Is the Hunt James commentary available anywhere or on any format?

  28. When LaBella and Rody were doing the Morning Zoo at KZEW, they were unbeatable!
    They had the best production, the best comedy (without having to get dirty!), the best talent AND the Best Music.
    I have always believed that God, in His wisdom, takes the very best first and I guess that is why he wanted John LaBella to be with Him.
    I never saw LaBella with a frown. He had a smile that was genuine and he cared about people.
    In the very short time that I knew him, these are what I remember about him.

    You can leave tributes for him at http://bit.ly/JohnLaBella

    Rest in peace, John.

  29. John LaBella used to make me laugh so hard when he did the “Walter from Waco” skits on the Morning Zew with John Rody too. I was in my late teens and early twenties. I am grateful for that moment in time when I used to love listening to the Morning Zew on KZEW. Those were great times for me. I am from Waco, Texas and missed the announcement of John LaBella’s passing. I had no idea. May he and his loved ones rest in peace. David Ruetten. Waco, Texas. Feb. 2012.

  30. John, just found this while I was posting “Just Say Ho” on my youtube channel… John is in the video… It was a great honor to work with him and you in the old days…

    Gray

  31. Oh man, those were the days. Get up in the morning for work, turn on KZEW and get a cup of coffee and listen to the BEST morning show ever heard. Hilarious, it got me in a good mood, laughing out loud while getting ready for work. These guys kept me entertained for years, and the music back then was just too cool for words. Those were good times, man I miss it so much.
    RandyC

  32. I moved to Dallas in 1981 or thereabouts and moved to Austin in 1994 so I basicaly caught the entire run… I vividly remember the “morning, morning” and just LaBella’s sincereity pouring out through the radio. I miss those days (who wouldn’t, I was in my 20’s). Dallas had a great night life back before the West End down on Greenville Avenue (Packards! Greenville Bar & Grill! Froggy Bottoms!) and the morning Zoo made us all feel part of something special, which of course it was. Thanks always and forever!

  33. […] by some of the station’s most iconic voices, among them, of course, the late John LaBella (has it already been 10 years?) and his partner John Rody, Charley Jones, Jon Dillon and Sally Francis, amongst other […]

  34. LaBella & Rody. That’s all you need to say. Just saying the two names brings back sweet memories of a morning show and a radio station that will live for ever like the great music they played. It was greatness in a package deal. We love you guys. Thanks for they web site Rody. I want to say I am sorry for your and all the fans loss.

  35. Sorry, I clicked Post Comment too soon.

  36. Driving to work this morning, looking at the beautiful sunrise reminded me of a time way back in ’81 or ’82 when my wife called to tell me what she heard of the LaBella and Rody Show: “Looking at that spectacular sunrise this morning makes me wonder if maybe God is gay”. Which one of you guys said that? And then there was the “accoutrements of pumpery”. Thanks!

  37. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this fantastic blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding
    your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to
    brand new updates and will share this site with my Facebook group.

    Chat soon!

  38. I seldom create comments, however i did a few searching and wound
    up here Remembering John LaBella | Tales from the Rody.
    And I actually do have a couple of questions for you if you do not mind.
    Is it just me or does it give the impression like a few of
    the remarks come across like they are coming from brain dead individuals?
    😛 And, if you are posting on other sites, I would
    like to keep up with everything fresh you have to post. Could
    you make a list of all of all your public sites like your
    linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  39. Do you remember that LaBella was one of the best pianists around?

    • I had no idea. I know that LaBella and Rody were lot’s of fun to listen to on the Morning Zoo when I was young in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. I miss those days.

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  41. I worked at KZEW and WFAA radio for a year in 84-85 and had the best time of my life. It was one of those jobs where you just loved to come to work, all because of the people and working in major market radio when Classic Rock (as we know it now) was just coming out. Hanging out in the studio with LaBella and Rody, along with John Dillon, Charlie Jones, Paula Street and the others was incredible. Then I’d put on my serious hat and walk across the hallway to the AM side and do afternoon news/traffic for WFAA. What a contrast. Somewhere I’ve got some old reel to reel tapes of the morning show. I’m going to dig them up. God rest, Mr. LaBella…your were a great guy. Rody….rock on.
    PS: I was just talking to a friend in ohio today. Cleveland, are ya nuts!
    Curt Drumm

  42. I miss Walter from Waco, Hunt James. Those were the best days in radio

  43. Just reading some of the comments above, I can see I’m not alone in my absolute gratefulness to all who made The ZOO what it was!
    Indeed, when I heard “easy-listening” coming from my favorite place on the dial, I too was …de-spirited, shaken, I felt really empty like I’d lost my best friends . You know, it may sound silly but it’s such a true loss. A loss of something that gave SO much positivity and feeling of warmth and belonging- familiarity- taken coldly away. Rody, you were so right to say “we all gotta do what we can” , (sic) . I wish I knew what could bring back around again that essence of what the ZOO was to so many people, into this day and age. Folks nowadays, They don’t know what they’ve missed. Now, as back then, I’ve the feeling of astonishment, almost like if I’d lost vision and feeling around in the dark. However, I’m so glad to have this forum to finally be able to express my feelings from back then that carry on thru today about the loss of such magnitude. And not to mention my heartfelt gratitude! You guys were truly The Best! You lifted us up on many a weary morning!
    A million Thanks ,
    Roger, in Fort Worth


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