An oral history of “Turkey Time,” Charleston’s favorite Thanksgiving song.
If you’ve ever driven through Charleston in November with your radio turned to 102.7 FM, there’s a good chance some unusual lyrics came blasting through your speakers:
Thanksgiving is upon us / It’s time to eat at momma’s
Let’s eat the bird / It’s what we heard
It’s turkey, turkey time / You Butterball, you blow my mind
It’s turkey, turkey, turkey
For nearly two decades, the oddball rap song “Turkey Time” has been a holiday classic in West Virginia’s capital city. And it all began when a brand-new morning show—The Coach Kidd and Libby Jo Show—hit the airwaves of Electric 102.7 FM in 1997.
I. The Song
Jeff “Coach” Kidd got his first work as a morning DJ at WWCK 105, a pop music station in Flint, Michigan. A friend told him about an open position at a station in Charleston, so he put together a demo tape and a resume and sent it in.
KIDD: July 7, 1997 was my first day. I was afternoons, 3 to 7 for about four months. Then the guy who was doing mornings went on vacation. My whole career was basically mornings, so I came in and did a morning show. They liked it and then, about two weeks after that, I got a call from my (general manager) to come to his office. That’s when they offered me the job.
Around the same time, Libby Jo Salyers was also summed to the general manager’s office. She worked in the station’s advertising department but had also been doing voiceover work for commercials.
KIDD: She thought she was going to get canned.
SALYERS: They said, “Hey, let’s put you two together and see what happens.”
KIDD: Truthfully, we didn’t get along at first. She didn’t like me. I didn’t like her. I remember saying things behind her back and vice versa.
SALYERS: It was oil and water. Gasoline and fire. It was fighting and screaming and trying to strangle one another on a daily basis for about a year. If he made me mad enough, it was my goal to make him cry. And I could usually do it.
KIDD: It was all ego. “This is how it needs to be done because I have experience.” Over time, (we decided), there’s no reason for this garbage. After a while we were just like, “I kind of dig you.” Then we started hanging out outside the radio station. I think as we developed more personally, we started to develop the show. I think our listeners connected with us because we cared about each other. That was the missing link. We just wanted to make it fun.
One way Coach kept things fun was playing radio skits and song parodies he made in the station’s production studio.
WADE HILL (Electric 102.7’s program director): “There was some kind of Britney Spears parody that he wrote. He did a bunch of CSI parodies back then—CSI: Forest, with all these woodland creatures. It was hilarious. You’d come in and look in your mailbox and have a couple of commercials you’d have to cut, and Coach needs you to do this line (of dialogue).
SALYERS: Lou Bega had a song called “Mambo No. 5” and Coach turned that into “Combo No. 5,” for a lunch special.
KIDD: Some of them went real well. Some of them were just awful.
SALYERS: We’d get off the air at 10, be done with production meetings at about 11, and I would give up by noon. But he would be there until 6, 7, 8 o’clock at night still doing stuff.
The Coach Kidd and Libby Jo Showhad been on the air for about a year when Kidd decided to make a special parody song for Thanksgiving 1999.
KIDD: it started off with Scott Shannon (Kidd’s morning show co-host in Michigan). He had the first couple lines. ”You put it in a pan, bake it ’til it’s tan, turn on the heat to bake the meat Thanksgiving is our plan.” I remember hearing that and saying, “That’s hilarious.” And he said, “It’s to the tune of ‘It’s Tricky’ from RUN-DMC.”
He always wanted to do it but he never put it together. It just hit me, maybe I could produce something like that. So I decided I’d give it a shot. I went to my GM, Mike Robinson, and said, “I want to do this parody song but I need the karaoke version.” He said, “What do you need?’ I said, “I need the cassette of ‘It’s Tricky’ from Run-DMC.”
I tried to make it exactly how “It’s Tricky,” how they rhymed everything. Believe it or not, it was a one-day thing. I went up to the production room, wrote it, produced it, and sang it. The next day I was like, “Let’s play it on the air and see what happens.”
song was slow to catch on, initially. But by the next year, the station was being inundated with requests for “Turkey Time.” One day, Kidd got a call from Hollywood, then the host of Electric 102.7’s Interactive 9@9. The show allows listeners to vote for their favorite songs, which are ranked on a countdown chart.
KIDD: He said, “Dude you’re number one.” It’s like I was on a Casey Kasem or Ryan Seacrest countdown show. I thought, we’ve got something here.
HILL: You’re getting calls for Britney Spears and N’Sync and, “Yeah man, can you play the ‘Turkey Time’ song?”
SALYERS: It took on a life of its own. The day after Halloween, whenever we were at work, the phones would ring. One time a mother and a couple of her daughters called. They were going to Tennessee to do shopping. We played (“Turkey Time”) on the radio, they recorded it on their phone, and they played it all over Tennessee. They sang it while they were shopping in Gatlinburg and people were just looking at them.
JAY LOPEZ (Coach Kidd’s friend and self-professed biggest fan of “Turkey Time”): I can’t remember the first time I heard it. It was always something that was there—that’s a part of living in Charleston.
SALYERS: Once you know the chorus, it’s really catchy. It’s an earworm. It gets stuck in your head.
II. The Video
Nine years after making “Turkey Time,” Kidd and Salyers were looking for a way to breathe new life into their hit song.
SALYERS: It needed revamped. It needed something new. We came up with the idea, let’s do a video. I’ll claim that one because Coach won’t remember.
They recruited local videography company Someday Video Productions to make the video, got permission to shoot at the Charleston Town Center Mall, and announced their plans on the air.
HILL: We told people, come on over, we’re going to shoot the official video for “Turkey Time.” By golly, they showed up.
LOPEZ: I’m pretty sure it was just an evening during the week sometime. That was a concern for them, that nobody’s going to show up for this. They walked out and there were all these people just surrounding the whole area.
SALYERS: Some were youth groups from churches. Some were Boy Scout troops. Some were tumbling groups. The University of Charleston dance team choreographed a dance for us.
LOPEZ: Before the music started playing, people were excited. You could feel the buzz.
SALYERS: We had the production company, we had permission from the mall, we had Charleston police there to help with security. There were all these plans. And, the day before, I came down with the stomach flu. Like, the kind where you feel like you’re going to die and wish you would die. We were shooting there by Macy’s. I kept thinking, “Thank Jesus, the Macy’s bathroom is on the first floor.”
HILL: We were all just going around acting out—miming, lip syncing portions of the video. I remember looking upstairs, they were all singing and dancing, too.
LOPEZ: I don’t think it was until then they realized people really like this song. I think they thought it was the same five or six people calling in all the time requesting it.
SALYERS: It turned into this great, fun community thing. And behind the scenes, Libby is coming off of the stomach flu.
III. An Ongoing Legacy
KIDD: This year I was like, I’m not going to mention it. I’m not going to say anything about it and I’m going to see if anybody asked for it. And sure enough, they did. They texted it in. I think it was 6:30 that morning—”Where’s ‘Turkey Time?’”
LOPEZ: I make it a point every year, right after Halloween, he goes on the air at 5 but I give him ’til 6:30 and call him and go “Alright man, it’s time.”
HILL: Even after all these years, it still gets a ton of requests.
KIDD: I think it’s more popular now than it’s ever been. People just really love the song. I’ve done many parody songs before that and after that and not even one has come close to touching “Turkey Time.”
I never get tired of it. I mean, obviously, when I get out of the station I don’t listen to it when I head home. But it really comes down to how excited people get when they hear it. These kids that were two years old singing it are in college now. They grew up on “Turkey Time.”
In 2011, The Coach Kidd and Libby Jo Show ended when Salyers left radio to pursue a career in education. Coach still hosts Coach Kidd in the Morning at the station but Salyers now teaches English at Bluefield Middle School.
SALYERS: I actually showed my kids at school last week. They wanted to do Christmas songs, and I said, “You can’t skip Thanksgiving.” “Well, there’s no Thanksgiving songs.” “Ahh, here’s where you’re wrong, children. Let me teach you.”
There are a ton of Valentine’s love songs. There are a ton of Fourth of July, celebrate-type songs. There’s Christmas songs like crazy. But really, how many Thanksgiving songs are there? It’s a holiday we joke about getting forgotten. But for those who are traditionalists, who like Thanksgiving, it gives them something fun. And it’s pretty cheesy. And cheese is fun.
Playing it for the kids they were like, what? No, I’ve not always been a stuffy boring English teacher. That was some of the most fun, some of the hardest work, but some of the best times I’ve ever had.