Les wears a bandage on some part of his body in almost every episode. Eventually, he reveals that he has a very large dog at home. In real life, Richard Sanders was injured before taping the pilot episode, and had to wear a bandage on the air. He decided to make it Les' trademark.
The show was famous for playing music of up-and-coming bands. Many artists have said that their music being on the show helped their popularity, including Blondie, U2, The Cars, TOTO, The Knack, and Devo. Blondie was so grateful for the show making their song, "Heart of Glass," a hit that they gave their Gold Record to the producers. It's hanging in the WKRP bullpen in seasons 2 to 4.
The character of Herb Tarlek was known for wearing very tacky suits. In one episode, when Herb wears a particularly outrageous suit, Venus Flytrap remarks, "Somewhere out there there's a Volkswagen with no seats." One of Herb's suits was actually made from the seat covers of an old Volkswagen.
The ending theme song was done by a group of studio musicians in Atlanta, GA. The lyrics are unintelligible because it was recorded solely to help the musicians and the show's producers get a feel for the song and the lyric melody. The producers liked it, so it was never changed.
Hugh Wilson did the warm-up during show tapings. During one warm-up, Wilson said he chose the call letters WKRP because they weren't being used by an actual station. He wanted to use WSOS or WHLP, but they were taken. During the show's run, a small AM radio station in Georgia applied to the FCC for the call letters WKRP. The show's producers considered legal action, but the FCC said that their trademark rights did not prevent a legitimate radio station from using the call letters, which were granted to the applicant. In March 2014, a non-profit organization was granted the call sign WKRP for a new FM radio station in Raleigh, North Carolina. The station is expected to go on the air in 2015 at 101.9 FM.
While the series prided itself in both writing and acting with hit songs, keeping the rights to play the songs would've cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In the 1990s reissues for syndication, nearly all of the music played by the DJs was replaced with generic studio music. Original generic music was replaced to avoid any possibility of later lawsuits. Because the actors often spoke over the music, voice impersonators were hired to emulate the actors in those scenes. In some cases, lines had to be revised so jokes about the song that just played were removed, and changed to often-meaningless new titles. In 2014, an agreement was reached for the rights to restore most of the real-life songs from the original broadcasts for forthcoming DVD releases.
In close-ups, the names Johnny Fever used on air are all on the side of his coffee cup: Johnny Duke, Johnny Style, Johnny Cool, Johnny Sunshine, and Johnny Fever. In the pilot, the understaffed station had Johnny doing the morning and afternoon shows. Johnny had to look at his coffee mug to see which name he was supposed to use on-air.
The full name of the building where WKRP is located is the Osgood R. Flimm Building. It's mentioned in WKRP in Cincinnati: Les on a Ledge (1978) because authorities need to know where to go to save Les.
Dr. Johnny Fever is based on Atlanta DJ "Skinny" Bobby Harper, who was the morning drive DJ on WQXI ("Quixie in Dixie"), AM 790. Harper was famous for such morning stunts as the "morning moo cow report," i.e., "there are seven moo cows on the streets of Atlanta this morning." Hugh Wilson, the show's creator, once worked at WQXI with Harper.
Sylvia Sidney played "Mama" Carlson in the pilot. Carol Bruce took over the role for the rest of the series. Executive producer/creator Hugh Wilson said Sidney was not pleasant to work with, didn't get along with the cast or producers, and thought the show was ridiculous.
Lyrics for the opening theme: "Baby, if you've ever wondered, wondered whatever became of me, I'm living on the air in Cincinnati. Cincinnati, WKRP. Got kind of tired of packin' and unpackin', town to town up and down the dial. Maybe you and me were never meant to be, just maybe think of me once in a while. I'm at WKRP in Cincinnati."
The series featured numerous references to Cincinnati's real-life pro sports teams. The satin WKRP staff jackets, usually worn by Andy and Venus, were modified Cincinnati Reds warm-up jackets. A placard with the logo for the Cincinnati Stingers, of the defunct World Hockey Association, often appeared in the background.
Johnny Fever was fired from a previous job because he said the word "booger" on the air. When Andy changed the station's format in the middle of Johnny's show, he showed his joy by uttering the previously banned word.
Howard Hessman was happy on this show and did well with his Johnny Fever character. He followed up WKRP with another hit, One Day at a Time, which he was on for two seasons. He followed this up with another hit, the 80s show about a teacher and a precocious class of students Head of Class. Hessman played Mr Moore, an unconventional high school teacher. The class was basically an inversion of the cut-ups on Welcome Back, Kotter. At this point Howard Hessman's tendency to criticize Hollywood and the production sunk him. He started complaining about Head of the Class to a Chicago Tribune reporter in 1989, and the following article appeared: "Hesseman has been playing the plucky substitute teacher Charlie Moore for three years now, and it's not what he thought it would be. ''We're not doing the show that I was led to believe I'd do, and it's difficult for me to get off that,'' he says. ''I don't want to air dirty laundry in public, but I do feel that the educational arena is one that offers a variety of story ideas as a means of investigating our lives-what we mean to one another and what's important.''' Hessman went on in the article to criticize the production, shortly after this article appeared he was let go from Head of The Class, and that was pretty much the end of his career. Standup comedian Billy Connelly took Hessman's place on the hit show, and Hessman largely disappeared from the Hollywood landscape, although he did reprise his Johnny Fever role on the sequel series, The New WKRP in Cincinatti, from 1991 to 1993.
WKRP creator Hugh Wilson would go on to be very successful in Hollwood in the 80s and 90s. He created the hugely profitable Police Academy franchise and directed box office hits like 1996's First Wives Club.
Sylvia Sidney starred in season one as the unpleasant Mama Carlson. She was also starring this year, 1978, as the unpleasant Aunt Harriet in Damien: Omen 2. Ironically, in a case of life imitating art, she was let go in season of 2 of WKRP by show creator Hugh Wilson who said she was "unpleasant to work with"; and she was replaced by Carol Bruce who played the role for the duration of the series.
Gordon Jump and Sam Anderson had made many appearance on the TV series Growing Pains (1985 - 1992) and Loni Anderson who plays Jennifer on the show has appeared on a poster in the episode Thank you Willie Nelson. Frank Bonner starred in the Growing Pains spin-off TV series Just the 10 of us (1988 - 1990)
Here are the lyrics to Harry Chapin's WOLD; the song which inspired the theme song to WKRP: Hello honey, it's me What did you think when you heard me back on the radio? What did the kids say when they knew It was their long lost daddy-o?
Remember how we listened to the radio And I said "That's the place to be" And how I got the job as an FM jock The day you married me.
Even though Carol Bruce and Gordon Jump played mother and son respectively, Bruce was only 13 years older than Jump in real life. Sylvia Sidney originally played Mrs. Carlson in the first season, and she was more age appropriate; she was 22 years Jump's senior. But Sidney was essentially fired after the first season because Hugh Wilson and the rest of the cast found her "unpleasant."