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Photo of the Week, 2: Don Munson & LaJean, 1968

Don Munson and Chimp

I stumbled across this photograph while perusing a collection of recently donated photographs. I knew that the smartly dressed figure in the middle was Don Munson, the now-retired on-air WJBC AM 1230 morning radio personality. Without knowing the context of this curious find, I decided to email Don Munson, who still lives in Bloomington-Normal and hosts a delightful Thursday evening jazz program on WGLT FM 89.1, Illinois State University's Public Radio affiliate. See below for Don's comments about this photo.

For the record, I think the shot was taken in 1968. LaJean, the popular Miller Park Zoo chimp, flanks me on one side and Michael Iseberg, owner of a Wurlitzer retail store in the newly opened Eastland Mall [Bloomington], is the other guy. The pic was to promote a fundraiser for some charity at today's Center for the Performing Arts [formerly known as the Consistory or the Scottish Rite Temple] during which it would be determined whether LaJean or WJBC's morning man, Munson, was a quicker study with regard to playing a Wurlitzer organ. Iseberg had been giving us both lessons. I have erased from memory who learned better, likely because it wasn't me.

I had no musical background whatsoever, but managed to learn and play a couple of simple tunes before what I recall was a pretty big audience. I don't remember LaJean's performance, but I do believe Iseberg proved his point: "If Munson and a monkey can learn to pay a Wurlitzer, then you can, too." Iseberg handled the bulk of the entertainment that day, playing the mighty Wurlitzer. Everybody who had visited the new Eastland had heard his booming rendition of the William Tell Overture filling the Mall.

The guy [Iseberg] was a promotional genius. He and I had brainstormed The Great Piano Marathon in 1967 opening Eastland, and The Great Race between Joliet and Bloomington in 1968. I don't think the area has seen anything to top those events since.

Bill Kemp

Bill Kemp

Bill Kemp is the Librarian at the McLean County Museum of History