Taping an Arthur Smith Show.

First Person | Floor Crew-alty

By Clint Pressley

I started April 5, 1962, on the WBTV Crew. Virgil Torrence was Crew Chief along with Ken Furr, and Doug McDaniel. Others on the crew were Reggie Dunlap, John Burchett, Tom Wilder, Jim Hughs, Tom King, Dick Hess, Gil Caldwell, and a couple of others. Soon came John Reichard, Bob Wood, Jimmy Collins, Bob Chandler, Mitch Lockhart, our first Black crew member.

We had a lot of fun doing live TV like Betty Feezor Show, Pat Lee Show, Foot in the Door with Ty Boyd, Carolina Calling on the early shift. I was late for that show one morning, and got a refresher course on being punctual from Virgil. I was never late again, nor have I been late for anything since.

JP crew taping a laundry soap commercial. From left, actress, Virgil Torrence, Reg Dunlap, agency producer, Norm Prevatte, Ken Furr, Clint Pressley

Our Directors were Norman Prevatte, Ed Wade, Gene Birke, and Don McDaniel. Of course we had the 6pm Esso Reporter (with Doug Mayes), and the 11pm news with Bob Bean. Alan Newcomb was the Atlantic Weather man, and Clyde McLean did the 6pm weather. Alan Newcomb also did the Editorials, and the Land of the Free show, which we used to tape on some evenings between the news shows. On Wednesday evening we did the wrestling show for Jim Crockett for playback on Saturday. That was my first experience running camera. There was an extra TK-10 with the standard prime lenses on it, and Mr. Norm (Prevatte) let me run it on my own time just to learn. All this makes me remember how much fun we had, and how different it is today. We did work hard, and stayed very busy moving sets in and out, including the News sets. The only permanent set was Betty's Kitchen.

I don't remember the exact date, but Jefferson Production was formed and started out using the WBTV studios and crew doing country and gospel Shows. We used to do Bill Anderson's show, along with Gospel Caravan, The Rangers and others. Johnny Cash did a pilot show with us one time. Ken Helms probably has the 2-inch copy of that somewhere.

The gospel shows were the worst. That was the first time I saw men use hair spray and perfume. They also had their groupies that would come to see them. I would come to work and see a parking lot full of buses, and know that we were in for a couple of all nighters. We would do 13 one hour shows, real time, live to tape. There was no editing other that a microscope and razor blade. I learned to loathe gospel music, or I should say gospel singers. Now I work for Media Comm, and INSP, and still see them. They haven't changed a bit. I guess life is a circle.

When a new studio was built exclusively for JP, several of us went to JP as full time crew members. It was Ken Furr, Doug McDaniel, Bob Chandler, and myself to start. I'm not sure if it was because JP wanted us, or WBTV wanted to get rid of us. John Dillon, Jim Rogers, Reggie Dunlap, Barbara Ezell Wilson (now Conrad) and Norman Prevatte were already on JP Staff. We did a lot of commercials for agencies out of New York, Boston, and many other larger markets. These were brought here by the efforts of John Dillon, Jim Rogers, Reggie Dunlap, and Later Jim Babb. Many changes took place over the 22 years I was there. I left in '84 to form a Film Company with Bob Newcomb, and Mark deCastrique.

Of course I left out all of the Jefferson Film history which you [Reno Bailey] know all about since you were one of the originals in that Group. I can remember you telling Robert Rogers, "I don't hear film going through the camera" when he was deciding what to shoot. (Like any good executive producer should do.)

Editor's note: They were called the "floor" crew because they worked on the studio floor. Others on the crew worked up in the "booth" or studio control room. These included the director, the technical director, the audio person and others. Downstairs in video control and the tape room were, respectively, the video man (who adjusted the camera brightness and color levels) and the videotape machine operator. It took a village.