Dr. Johnny Fever

From Academic Kids

DJ Dr. Johnny Fever was an off-the-wall character in the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. He was inspired by Skinny Bobby Harper.

Fever, whose real name was John Caravella, came to WKRP from a major station in the western United States after he said "booger" on the air, causing his immediate dismissal. He evidently had a nomadic life before coming to "the mighty KRP" as he was wont to say. The theme song of WKRP in Cincinnati mentions "got tired of the packing and unpacking. . . town to town, up and down the dial. . .". WKRP settled him down and established a relatively stable ensemble of associates for him, although the tradeoff was a cramped apartment and low pay. He never was married while on the show.

The "Dr." - not a real medical (or other) doctor: it was a self-described moniker for him - was a great talker to his radio audience when he was in a confident mood. He could jive with the best of the DJ's of his era. He once gave Bailey Quarters, nascent newswoman, this sage advice: "Talk into the microphone as if you were talking to your best friend." Later, in that same episode, he would have to gather the courage to take his own advice (the Trashing of City hall episode).

Never a lover of disco, the new music fad of the era, he was a lover of rock and roll. A great tune on the playlist would get Fever to be a smooth-talking introducer of the artist (and why he liked that artist) and the tune (and why he liked that tune). Tunes like "Hey Jude" were used for bathroom breaks or extended chats with friends or the program director, Andy Travis.

Herb Tarlek, the account executive, never could land the big accounts. As a result, Fever and the other DJs on WKRP had to give voice overs (done live in that era) for spots for funeral homes and worms (Red Wigglers, the Cadillac of worms). His voice inflection was impeccable on these spots and could be rather humorous (such as when he added the live tag line "available at finer worm stores everywhere!").

Later in his WKRP career, he was approached by a woman television producer to be a TV DJ for her program. "Rip Tide," his TV persona, was money-hungry, disco-loving, and a very different voice and personality than WKRP's Dr. Johnny Fever. In the two part episode, Fever becomes Rip Tide during WKRP on-air time (he loses control of who he acts like). He seems to be totally taken over by the Rip Tide character until sanity (in the persons of Andy Travis and Jennifer Marlowe) takes hold. He then defiantly turns down the big bucks from the TV producer, and Rip is R. I. P. for good.

Dr. Johnny Fever never did leave for good his rock and roll roots, and he never left the WKRP "family" of employees. He would admit this was a good situation for him, but did of course wonder from time to time about what he was missing by being "under wraps" and largely out of the national limelight by staying with WKRP in Cincinnati. As a WKRPer, his refreshing inanity and "Everyman" character status endeared him to the ensemble cast, and to his viewers.


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