The Solie Chronicles: The Life and Times Of Gordon Solie
by Robert P Allyn Pamela Allyn, Scott teal
Official biography of the WWE, NWA and WCW Hall of Fame broadcaster, Gordon Solie.
"The Solie Chronicles: The Life and Times of Gordon Solie" is an in depth look at the life of professional wrestling's most acclaimed broadcaster.
At the microphone, Gordon Solie had no equal; he won awards for his radio editorials, he is considered as one of the pioneers of stock car racing on Florida's Suncoast and he set the benchmark for generations of television hosts to come.
Known as the "Walter Cronkite of professional wrestling announcers" and as the "dean" of professional wrestling, the late Gordon Solie is still revered by both fans and entertainers.
The manuscript is not a wrestling book from page one until the end, but a true biography devoted equally to Gordon's Solie's personal life (including an unhappy childhood, alcoholism and family turmoil), his enormous contributions to stock car racing and his incredible rise as the host of the number one rated program on the largest cable network in America.
Sixty-five interviews with those who knew Gordon Solie (such as Jim "JR" Ross, Mike Tenay, Harley Race, Dory Funk, Jr., Gene Kiniski, Ivan Koloff, Jimmy Snuka, Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart, Lance Russell, Joe Pedicino, Mike Graham, Rocky Johnson and members of the Reutimann racing family) are included along with over one-hundred photographs.
Excerpt from "The Solie Chronicles"
Copyright © Robert Allyn
One evening, he sat in the comfort of his family room — vodka in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and spoke to his son-in-law, Bob Allyn. Gordon said McMahon’s company offered him a fair wage to continue on, and there was even a mention of him co-hosting with Gene Okerlund. He didn’t have a problem with the money offer or with Gene Okerlund, but Gordon said they wanted him to wear a tuxedo, and "he wasn’t going to wear any go—amn tuxedo."
“Solie Chronicles’ a real ‘Pier Sixer’
Professional wrestling in Florida has a rich history. Forget the “real vs. fake” argument — during its heyday in 1970s, fans packed arenas around the state to watch stars like Jack Brisco, Dusty Rhodes, Eddie Graham, the Great Malenko and Buddy Colt.
And to a generation of pro wrestling fans, the weekly “Championship Wrestling From Florida” program was must-see TV.
Not because of the wrestlers. Because of the voice.
That voice belonged to Gordon Solie — “the Walter Cronkite of pro wrestling commentators.”
Always unpretentious, Solie had a deadpan delivery and anatomically correct commentary that gave him instant credibility. The voice was clear yet raspy, thanks to years of chain smoking and too many vodka and cranberry drinks.
But away from the microphone was a complicated man who experienced more jolts than a bumper car ride at an amusement park.
That life is vividly recounted in a thorough biography, “The Solie Chronicles: The Life and Times of Gordon Solie” by Robert Allyn with Pamela Allyn and Scott Teal (Crowbar Press. $19.95).
Pamela Allyn is Gordon’s daughter, but her husband does not sugarcoat Solie’s life. Solie, born Jonard Frank Labiak in 1929, suffered through a painful childhood, was abandoned by his natural father and was subjected to verbal and physical cruelty by his stepfather, who adopted him.
After legally changing his name to Gordon Solie as an adult, the Minnesota native moved to Tampa in 1950 and took a radio job at WEBK in Ybor City.
So began a career that put Solie on the cutting edge of stock car racing in Tampa at Golden Gate Speedway. That led to his meeting with Tampa promoter Clarence “Cowboy” Luttrall, and Solie found his niche as pro wrestling’s top commentator.
Always, the show was about the wrestlers, not about him. Even his critics had to admit Solie was far removed from the carnival barkers that had passed for announcer in the past.
What gives this book depth is the interviews with more than 60 of Solie’s contemporaries in stock car racing and wrestling. Not all of them are flattering. A session with former wrestler and booker Bob Roop is particularly scathing. The authors also extracted information and photographs from Solie’s personal files.
There are plenty of Tampa Tribune references in this book, with many of former sports editor Tom McEwen’s “Morning After” columns quoted. And to be balanced here, the St. Petersburg Times is also sourced extensively, particularly where former promoter Eddie Graham is concerned.
Away from the microphone, Solie’s life never seemed to be settled. His first marriage was rocky and ended in a bitter divorce, and contact with his children was generally sporadic. Several business ventures were started and failed, and Solie’s struggles with drinking always entered into play.
It’s not always pretty, but to their credit, the Allyns and wrestling historian Teal do not sidestep those facts.
Through it all, Solie was an announcing phenomenon. Matches that spun out of control were “Pier Six brawls.” Bloodied wrestlers wore “a crimson mask.” And my personal favorite: A wrestler was tough because “he could go three rounds with a buzz saw and give it the first two rounds.”
Many of Solie’s interviews stand out; here are the high and low marks, in my opinion.
The best TV segment, in my view (especially since I had the commentary on an old cassette tape), was a Feb. 5, 1972, broadcast that featured a confrontation between Jack Brisco and NWA world heavyweight champion Dory Funk Jr.
The exchange late in the show led to a brawl in the ring. Solie’s pulsating play-by-play call built to an excruciating climax.
Brisco had Funk in the figure four leglock and the champion looked like he was about to concede, when Solie shouted, “our time is almost completely gone, in fact it has gone, we’ll be back next week.”
End of show. And the perfect hype for the Brisco-Funk matches that week around the state of Florida.
The edgiest interview?
After Eddie Graham committed suicide in January 1985, Solie did a television spot with Mike Graham two months later that was interrupted by the Fabulous Freebirds.
The kicker came when Buddy Roberts cornered Graham at the announcer’s table and barked: “It’s like father, like son. You’re both losers.”
The inevitable Pier Sixer occurred and Solie played his role perfectly. Still, it made the viewer cringe — even if Mike Graham allegedly cooked up the angle himself.
Because Solie was based in the Tampa Bay area for nearly a half-century, there are plenty of references to people, places and events that longtime area residents will recognize.
Solie also became well known in other parts of the South as the announcer of “Georgia Championship Wrestling.” His death in 2000 was mourned by many in and out of the business.
“The Solie Chronicles” is more than history. It is a peek into the life and times of one of the top announcers in broadcasting history. Critics might sneer that Solie made his mark in pro wrestling, but there is no denying that his even-handed, straight-faced delivery fit was a perfect companion to the mayhem he was describing.
The Solie Chronicles tells the life of greatest wrestling play-by-play announcer of all time
A man who Jim Ross calls the greatest wrestling play-by-play man ever, Gordon Solie, left behind a legacy that can finally be told nine years after his death. The Solie Chronicles, a biography put together by Gordon's daughter and son-in-law, Pamela and Robert Allyn, tells the tale of a wrestling play-by-play who found success both inside and outside the wrestling world.
The book is a collection of articles and stories from Solie's estate. Solie began to work on the book but as health issues arose leading to his death in July 2000, he was never able to complete the book.
"He left all of his writings to Pam in hopes that the two proposed books would be written posthumously," Robert Allyn told SLAM! Wrestling. "After Gordon's estate was settled, Pam and I began to organize Gordon's writing files into a catalogue and subject format."
When all the information was gathered, the two decided to put together two books. The first book, Gordon Solie ... Something Left Behind, was released in early 2005. It was a collection of short stories and poetry from Solie. (A kayfabe autobiography of Solie's,Master of the Ring, was put out in 1984 with writer Dee Forbes.)
Robert and Pamela split their efforts on the second book. Pamela concentrated on his early life and career, interviewing family members, classmates and colleagues. Robert covered Solie's wrestling and stock car racing careers.
They took the initial manuscript to Scott Teal about two years ago. Teal, along with wrestling historian J Michael Kenyon, made some editing suggestions. Robert and Pamela put another year into the book before its final form.
"Overall, it took almost eight years and literally thousands of hours to complete," Allyn said.
The nearly 300-page book, containing small font and spacing, truly covers the life and career of Solie. It covers every aspect of Solie's wrestling career, but also covers Solie's lesser known passion, stock car racing.
Solie announced stock car races in the 1950s and 1960s in Florida. He would later become involved in ownership of tracks and racing tours. The book initially had a large section dedicated to Solie's life in stock car racing, but was later edited for space.
The book could have been larger, according to Allyn. "By 2004 we had over 1,900 files in a catalogue index and a subject index that was 140 pages long for the ‘Gordon Solie Collection.' That was our base to work from and it continued to grow as we went along."
Solie was the voice of Championship Wrestling From Florida, a large regional promotion of the NWA from the 1980s through the early 1980s, when he became the voice of World Championship Wrestling in the early 1980s when the show was on Superstation WTBS out of Atlanta, where the show was the number one rated show on cable. He would later retire in 1995 after working for World Championship Wrestling.
The book chronicles Solie's life off-camera. A man who was devoted to his wife, Eileen, for 37 years, he was a well-known drinker and smoker. The two would later assist in taking his life, after liver problems and cancer took over his body in the years following his wife's death in 1997. Solie would have his cancerous vocal cords removed, making the greatest wrestling play-by-play announcer voiceless.
His marriage to Eileen was his second, with co-author Pamela Allyn coming from his first. She is able to bring a first account of Solie's estrangement from her after the divorse, something that carried through until his final years.
Solie was a man who called wrestling as a sport, but as the sport evolved into entertainment, Solie became disenchanted with the sport. He helped build the careers of Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Kevin Sullivan and others, but had trouble doing the same for Oz, Shockmaster and P.N. News.
The book ends with a closing letter by Solie, written shortly before his death. The letter closes with his famous words, spoken at the end of each broadcast of Championship Wrestling from Florida, saying "So long ... from the Sunshine State."
The book is maybe the most detailed wrestling biography ever written. The authors pieced together stories with interviews from dozens of people who crossed Solie's path. Allyn, though, wishes he could have included a few more.
"Yes, it would have been nice to interview Hulk Hogan. During the time that we were trying to complete interviews with people on our list, Hogan was going through the heat of his divorce so we opted not to bother him."
Allyn also notes that he wish for comments from Flair and journalist David Skolnick. But Allyn believes the book a complete biography of Solie.
"Overall, we are thrilled with the interviews in the book and appreciate that so many people who knew Gordon were willing to share their memories."
The book is a must-read for any serious fan of wrestling. The book is built in such a way that it can be read in small sections or even out of order. An index gives the reader a good reference to read particular stories about specific topics, wrestlers or events. Also many rare photos and notes are within the body of the book, bringing a little something extra to the words written.
Want to review or comment on this
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!