Monday, October 27, 2014

Claude's Commentary No. 35r

8:01 AM
October 27, 2014
Commentary No. 35
By Claude Hall

This book – “120 Songs” – will make you humble.  It’s a quick scan of a man’s life because many of his songs tell a story or depict a “high definition” picture of someone you know or wish you knew or are very glad you never knew.  Feelings.  Tom Russell, singer, songwriter, painter, writer, teacher, friend paints you a picture of where he’s been, what he’s done, and even things he wish he’d done.  He’s a master of many crafts, visitor of many places, some dank and foul, some bright and hopeful.  I possess his autographed book now and hold it in my hands in awe.  I love most of these songs and listen to some of them on almost a daily basis.  Here are descriptions by Tom of how a song happened, the chords he used, and there’s an occasional painting of his to give the book and his life a little extra meaning.  About a dozen tunes by Tom are phenomenal.  Most of the rest, quite good.  “Burnt Oranges” is a song that will send chills up your spine; it’s in the book.

The book is published by Bangtail Press in Boseman, MT.  www.bangtailpress.com $19.95

Tom also sent me three CDs, so I’ll be able to pick up a few songs that I don’t have presently on laptop.  This laptop is heavy with Johnny Cash, Linda Ronstadt, and Tom Russell.  It was Ernie Hopsecker, radio engineer, disc jockey, owner, who introduced me to Tom Russell.  For which I’m indeed grateful.

BIRTHDAYS MATTER
I’ve just been invited for lunch to celebrate the birthday of “Don.”  The Don, I should explain.  Lunch is Nov. 15 at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City.  He’s 80.  Invite said to wear your best Hawaiian shirt or grass skirt.  I wish I could get there.  I really like this guy!  I’m am honored to receive this invite.

AIR MATTERS
Rollye James is back!  Started Oct. 24.  Time 10-midnight Eastern and I think will be on next Friday.  You can call at 610-640-640.  Blog is www.rollyestream.net, where the details are.  If you know Rollye, you know this is going to be a great, great time on the air!  She hopes to be on five nights a week by Christmas.  George Wilson said she’s the best talk personality he ever heard.

STARTING MATTERS
I asked a couple of people for the story of how they got into showbiz.  Just for kicks, somewhat, and because I’ve always found that fascinating.  And I think radio and music people do as well.  For example, I heard from Shana Livigni this week and she delved into that information; she says she was hired because they thought on the phone she was a black female.  For some reason, receiving her letter tickled the heck out of me.  Cute.  And I remember a great line from Bill Randle who was raised amidst the blacks in Detroit; he said he didn’t know he was white until he was 14.

John Barger, San Antonio:  “It was Spring 1958, and I was a junior in high school.  Every-other-afternoon I drove to the local station in Bryan/College Station and asked for a job on the air.  Art Holt was the manager and repeatedly told me to ‘get lost’.  On the 12th try, my visit coincided with a call to Art from an Texas Aggie part-timer, saying he couldn't work the coming weekend because he got a ‘Dear John’ letter from his girl in Dallas and had to go see her.  Art Holt told him not to worry about showing up anytime in the future, because a high school kid wanted the job more.  Thus began my 56-year association with radio, as the 4 pm-to-signoff host of WTAW's Sunday ‘Count-Down Show’.”

Ken Dowe: “May 19, 1959, Greenville, MS  (Behind the Cotton Curtain).  I signed and turned in my final High School Exam, took a path past scents of honeysuckle and magnolia, lighted up my '55 Rocket 88 Olds, and flew even further south.  My mentors in home town WGVM had gotten me an on-air job at WHSY, Hattiesburg.  My first paycheck for playing songs on the radio.  Wow!  Fun, but there was trouble brewing in River City.  (Petal River)  Salary disputes.  I got my first call to Mr. Holt's office.  He was waiting with the station's comptroller.
"I guess you know the other boys just quit. Guess you're leaving, too."
"No, Sir." I said.  "I did not know.  I just arrived and I have to work to go to school." 
He gave me long and scary look:  "Well, then. How much are we paying you?"
"Fifty-five dollars a week, Mr. Holt."
Charlie strongly favored Dracula.  Slicked back, black hair.
Pointing a talon-like finger, he stunned me: "Lightsey!  Give this boy a big raise.  Pay him ... SEVENTY dollars!  And, he's the new Program Director!  You meet me at the Country Club at 7 tomorrow morning.  Time for you to learn to play golf, son!"
Just after dawn, Mr. Holt appeared out of the morning fog near the first tee and me.
"Welcome to your new world, boy.  Now, grab my clubs. We got a long walk.  Hand me that driver. Want a cigar?"
“Show-biz, and I was already ... ‘management’.  Top of the world, Ma!
“Ha ha!”

Kent Burkhart:  “When I was 13, I approached the general manager of my home town station (Bay City, Texas) with a proposal to broadcast junior and senior high school news WEEKLY.  He thought it was a good idea; thus, every Saturday at 10 AM I had 15 minutes to broadcast the news of my classmates.  A few months later the GM asked is I would like to expand the broadcast to 45 minutes DAILY after school was dismissed from 4:15 to 5:00 mixing in current music with the school news of the day.  I invited my classmates to come by the studio to request songs ... and they did!  By the dozens daily!  It was then that I knew radio was in my blood forever!”

Morris Diamond:  “Claude ... many thanks for the good wishes from you and Barbara.  Alice is improving ... a little bit each day.  I like Don Graham’s mention that perhaps some of us should tell all our friends as to how we started in this funny business of Radio & Records.  I am taking the liberty of attaching chapter one of my book, ‘THE NAME DROPPER (people I schlepped with)’ … which describes my beginning in an industry I had always hoped for ... starting as band boy for the Tommy Dorsey orchestra in 1940.  WOW!  Good news is that I just got a small royalty check from Amazon telling me that someone out there just bought a copy.  Oh well ... I’m content in knowing that I got a lot off my chest and that I shared the best years of my life with my music industry friends coast to coast.”

From the book:  “In the late ’30s, while attending Theodore Roosevelt High School in The Bronx, I served as Entertainment Editor, and at times, Sports Editor.  It was during my term as Entertainment Editor that our teacher/advisor received an invitation from The Hotel New Yorker in Manhattan to have a student member of the high school newspaper attend a luncheon and show featuring Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra, to be followed by an interview session.  I was selected to attend along with reps from other high schools and colleges in and around the New York area.  I brought my friend, Ben Wertheimer. I liked him because his father was a cop … but Ben was good company and he lived near me in The Bronx, but didn’t go to Roosevelt High.  The luncheon was delightful as was the music of Tommy Dorsey.  I was always a huge fan of good music, listening to the remote broadcasts from the different hotels around the country every night before going into dreamland.  After lunch, all attendees were herded into a small ballroom where we had a chance to go one-on-one with Mr. Dorsey. I would guess there were about 50 or 60 of us from different high schools and colleges.  Tommy was his charming best and delightful and easy to chat with.  I had an idea!  I raised my hand to ask why he doesn’t start a fan club of high school reporters everywhere he plays around the country. At which point, he yelled out for Jack Egan, his PR rep, to get my name and contact info.  They both loved the idea.  In subsequent bookings in the New York area, I would be called by Jack Egan to be their guest.”

OTHER MATTERS
Don Graham just sent me an email about the success of the CD “Trouble in Paradise” by Isabel Rose.  I love to see this kind of excitement about a song or a CD.  That was what music was always all about.  Excitement.  I remember the day Shelby Singleton called me from Nashville to tell me he had three pressing plants turning out singles of “Harper Valley PTA” by Jeanie C. Riley.  I remember the first time I caught Elvis Presley on the “Louisiana Hayride” over KWKH out of Shreveport.  Good friends, we all need to be excited once again!

From a friend who would know:  Bob Pittman was still the program director at WNBC in New York and Bob Sherman was the general manager when Sherman brought Don Imus back from Cleveland.

Clark Weber:  “Your reminiscing about ‘Making it in New York’ gave me quite a chuckle. In the fall of 1971 WNBC flew me to New York for the day to talk about doing their morning show. My contract at WCFL in Chicago was about to run out and I was looking. The WNBC money was fine and they even offered me a hanger for my plane rent free for two years. Something told me to pass so I caught the next flight home and eventually did 13 years at Chicago's WIND.. WNBC then hired Don Imus to do mornings and eventually Bob Pittman became PD, fired Imus and placed a sweet but lackluster girl friend named Ellie Dylan on mornings. She lasted only a NY moment and by that time the station was folding like a cheap card table! Lordy Lordy I'm glad I said no to NY!”

Shana Livigni:  “Great article, Claude!  Many of these ppl you mention and have contributed to this blog are before my time, but it was entertaining nevertheless.  I started out in radio (by default) at WMU in Kalamazoo when I was 18, hired at KWBB Wichita at 20 cuz the FCC stated that radio needed to hire more minorities. They thought I was a black female. Well, the Detroit accent got me the job and I WAS a female. The rest is history after I got the gig at KFRC at age 21. The second and youngest female DJ at a major market Top 40 station!  The rest of my 38 years is just as crazy and never had more fun in my life!  I may write a book on some of the highlights of being a DJ, mother of 3 great kids (single mom for most of their lives, and just me, Shana, and stories along the way.  Well, if there a subscription, please send me the info.  I remember you starting with my first year at KFRC where I got a hold of a Billboard mag.  My best to you and thanks for the memories!  KFRC KHJ KEZY KROQ KLOS K-LITE KLSX (3 times!) KPCC ARROW 93.”

No sub, Shana.  Glad to have you as a reader!

Devon “Doc” Wendell: “It's been a while. I've really been enjoying your blog. I took some time off of writing to focus on my own music but I just reviewed the brand new autobiography of George Clinton. Check it out, there's so much music history in the book.
https://irom.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/book-review-brothas-be-yo-like-george-aint-that-funkin-kinda-hard-on-you-a-memoir-by-george-clinton-with-ben-greenman/
Thanks and many blessings.”

Don Berns:  “Thanks, Larry Cohen.  I called Gunther Hauer over the weekend and had a wonderful catch-up conversation.  He's 95 years young!”

Jeff March, Davis, CA, co-author, "Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone?" -- Volumes 1 & 2:  “When I obtained my own subscription to Billboard magazine while I was still a high school senior in the spring of 1965, I habitually turned the pages first to the Vox Jox column.  I enjoy reading your current day Claude's Commentary installments, and the historical perspectives you offer (e.g., the piece about KIOI and its predecessor, KPEN -- K-Peninsula).  I was thinking over the weekend about the unexplained November 1971 disappearance of KIEV's morning man Jim R. Woods -- which is intriguing because it appears linked to the famed D.B. Cooper plane hijacking escapade.  While I was a post-grad college student from 1969 to ’71, I already had my first-class FCC ticket and worked as a relief and fill-in engineer at KIEV (870 AM) Glendale, which at the time was a country music station.  It's now a talker with the call letters KRLA.  It was a union job under an IBEW contract, and I was an IBEW member, so the money was pretty damned good for a college kid.  Jim R. Woods (not the same guy as R&B-rock jock ‘Big’ Jim Wood of KBLA) was a likable, divorced, wiry middle-aged guy who lived on a boat that he kept anchored at Redondo Beach (he may also have had an apartment, but I know he spent a lot of nights on the boat).  I remember that he had stringy blond hair that flopped down in front; he habitually ran his fingers through it to pull it back up onto the top of his head.  He pretty much kept to himself.  When I engineered for him, we'd yak between records about cars, songs or country music performers, but that was about the extent of our conversational material.  One morning in mid-November 1971, Jim R. failed to show up for his morning shift (I was not working that day).  That was unusual because he was a punctual guy.  The station engineer was unable to reach him by phone, and received no word from him anytime that day.  A ‘missing person’ report was filed, and when police inspected the boat, they found signs indicating that Jim R. had apparently tumbled overboard while preparing breakfast.  They initially thought that Jim R. had drowned, but were unable to locate a body.  That's because Jim R. apparently had faked his own drowning, and probably was still alive and well.  A few days later, the guy called D.B. Cooper hijacked a passenger plane bound from Portland to Seattle, declared that he had a bomb on board, and parachuted out with $200 grand in ransom money. Investigators subsequently discovered that the day before the hijacking, after rigging his boat to look like he had been in an accident, Jim R. had flown to Washington state. An FBI agent suspicious about a possible link between Jim R.'s disappearance and the hijacking showed up at KIEV and interviewed the chief engineer (who normally engineered Jim R.'s shift) and the station's business manager. The chief engineer told me that although he didn't believe that Jim R. was ‘D.B. Cooper’, he said that one of Jim R.'s adopted sons fit the profile.  Hal said the FBI agent thought likewise, but was unable to uncover any solid proof. Hal said he and Judy met at a Glendale coffee shop with the FBI agent, who pulled out a thick file on Jim R. Woods from his briefcase.  Hal wondered what other activities prompted the FBI to build such a thick file on Jim R.  I guess if Jim R. Wood ever does materialize, he still has a closing paycheck coming to him.”

Jim Gabbert: “Just to clarify Ken Dowe’s KPEN ... we went on the air October 27, 1957, with 1.5 KW off a mountain back of Stanford with the call letters KPEN. The station made a profit the first month (only $10 but it was positive)! We were so successful that we moved the transmitter to Mt. San Bruno.  We had over a 50 share of the FM audience for almost 10 years and then I was doing mornings.  Got tired of getting up at 3:30 every morning, bought a 75-ft boat (the one with all of the gold ... used to belong to Willet Brown from KGB) and was running around the Caribbean when the ‘book’ came out and we had dropped significantly.  I rushed back to SF and felt that it is almost impossible to resurrect a station without significant changes so we changed the call letters to KIOI, marketed as K-101.  (BTW the FCC went ballistic as they said they were not official call letters ... the rules said that you had to give the call letters plus or minus 2 minutes off the hour which we did). The other two partners had little faith and sold me the station!  By now we had 125 KW with a directional antenna where almost no power went out to sea. The Jan.-Feb. 1969 book was unbelievable, we were back on top!  Then a small Class A FM on the Peninsula took our old call letters KPEN which was Ken's station.”

Chuck Chellman, Direct Travel in Nashville, sent me a note saying “I really did love Luther Masingill.”  Included was a tale about Luther written by David Carroll.  Luther.  Masingill, 92, died Oct. 13.  He began on WDEF in Chattanooga in 1940 and worked there all of his life.  He also worked on WDEF-TV.  Sirius XM’s Phlash Phelps devoted a portion of his show earlier this year to Luther.

“Each year,” said David Carroll, “I attend a reunion of local radio deejays, past and present.  Sometimes we ask them to name the stations for which they’ve worked, which can be a lengthy chore for some.  Last year, I fed him a line.  ‘Luther’, I said, ‘you’ve done radio for more than seventy years.  How many stations have you worked for?’  With impeccable timing, he paused, started looking at his fingers as if to begin counting, looked up and said simply, ‘One’, to great laughter, of course.”

“His family was here, and he always appreciated WDEF for giving an unproven high school senior a job on the radio, which was beyond his wildest dreams.  When he applied, all he wanted to do was answer the phone and take requests for the older guys.  Owner Joe Engel asked him to try out for an announcer’s job, and gave him a commercial script to read.  Young Luther mispronounced one word (‘salon’ became ‘saloon’) but those golden pipes landed him the station’s prime position.  By the way, if the 73-year radio gig isn’t impressive enough, consider this: he was also on WDEF Channel 12 every day since it signed on, sixty years last April.  No one else did that, either.”

Great article, David Carroll.  David Carroll is a longtime Chattanooga radio and TV broadcaster, and has anchored the evening news on WRCB-TV since 1987.  He is the author of "Chattanooga Radio & Television" published by Arcadia.  My thanks, Chuck Chellman.

As for Mr. Masingill:  We come, we do, we go.  May I also add:  Wow!

Joey Reynolds, New York:  “Re: Robert Richer: Without sounding defensive and petty, although I am, Rick Buckley never heard my show, that's how I was allowed to stay on WOR for all those years.   David Bernstein hid me and Joan Rivers from Rick by distracting him and blocking the signal in Greenwhich, CT.  I think the success of the Jewish hour on Fridays, when Jews can' t listen, was not a favorite of the waspish Buckley family or the Italian Joe Bilotta? I am in Ft. Lauderdale this week after a wedding in Sarasota where a few listeners, including a young lady from Miami, got wind of the fact that my host was Joey Reynolds’ sister, created an autograph session at my table, this is not my idea of inside radio.  The role of the DJ is now that of replacing the wedding or bat mitzvah band, unless you are a rhyming fool complaining about how life has cheated you while you drive an Escalade, vacation in the islands, and live with ASCAP royalties in the hip hop culture.  Did I mention that I was also bitter?  I pray that Claude doesn't highlight this with that awful short attention span yellow magic marker.  Joey Reynolds rap on my Facebook every day.  My daughter is growing medical marijuana.  Go to you tube.”

For the record, I enjoyed Joey’s show.  Didn’t matter what he did, he had a gift; he kept you fascinated.   I’ve known several radio and television personalities with this gift.  Joey is one of the very best.  Myself and my family, including my children, also consider him a family friend and I feel honored to be so.  Many people I know/knew also considered him a great radio personality.  Just FYI, though I never mentioned it to Joey, more than one radio legend thought he was great, including George Wilson, who found and nurtured such as Lee Baby Simms, Jack McCoy, and Buzz Bennett.  George was hurt when Buzz double crossed him in Miami on a radio station deal (he wrote about this in ClaudeHallOnline.com or Hollywood Hills published by Jack Roberts several years ago), but he never short changed Buzz on talent.

Lyn Stanley, www.lynstanley.com:  “Thanks for all you do!  And thanks for remembering Jack Roberts.  I don't know how I will release my new album ‘Potions [from the 50s]’ without his help and guidance ... I miss him so.”

Jack Roberts loved you and your music, dear lady, and so do I.

Mel Phillips: “It had to happen – but before Halloween? WEZW (Easy 93.1) has already flipped to Christmas music (10/17/14).  We've been having biblical rain for the past two days but I'm still getting my walking in - 19 miles for the week. My goal is always 20+. Thank you for the tip on e-publishing my book, which I'm in the process of editing. I've been writing my brains out. I thought I'd clarify my WNBC comment for purposes of clarifying for John Lund. When I was hired as PD by GM Perry Bascom in the summer of '76, WNBC was rudderless - operating without a PD in the prior 6 months after John Lund had left.  Bill Rock was acting PD until my hire.  A year later, Perry was fired on a Thursday and on Friday morning Jack Thayer hugged me goodbye (breaking a couple of ribs in the process). It felt that way anyway. WNBC was generous in those days and provided me with what was referred to at 30 Rock as the "rubber room" indefinitely to make phone calls, type resumes, etc. The first day I used that office I ran into an WNBC salesman who had been there for several months looking for work.  I wondered what had happened to him.  In 1977 the immortal Bob Pittman and Charlie Warner replaced Perry and I.  I would consult a station in Trenton for a year and then wind up doing promotion for CBS Records International. John Lund would become a programming consultant and we all lived happily ever after.  Did I get that right, John?”

Ken Dowe:  “I recall playing a football game in New Orleans during which the radio and record guys all got together for some pretty spirited scrums.  It was about the time Bob Walker mentions Buzz Bennett getting the broken shoulder.  I do recall Buzz being on the other team and leaving after getting injured, but I didn't know it was that serious.  I do distinctly remember my friend Ben Scottie asking me to kindly take it easy when I was on defense.  ‘There are complaints that you are too aggressive’.  I still think that comment came just from Ben, who was not happy that I was embarrassing him and his professional football background.  Hahaha.  If I did it, sorry Buzz ... wherever you are.”

SICK MATTERS
How to solve the ISIS problem:  Parachute an Ebola victim into their midst.

OTHER MATTERS
Don Kennedy: “Thrilled to see Marlin Taylor's name in your commentaries.  He was kind to put a one-hour non-commercial version of my Big Band program on XM's '40s Channel twice each week.  I supplied the program free for the publicity; listener response was amazing, as well as helping me increase to 140 the number of terrestrial stations carrying the two-hour commercial version of the program.  Mail, phone and email reaction to the two weekly XM hours of the program yielded enthusiastic listener response for the three years it was on XM.  I'm indebted to Marlin for his faith in my Big Band Jump program.  It was cancelled a few months after the 'merger' of Sirius and XM despite listener emails, letters and, when they could get through to a human being, phone calls.  Not so incidentally last month I went back to visit WPIC in Sharon, PA (the Youngstown market), the station which gave me my first paying job sixty-seven years ago in 1947.  Current WPIC personality Eric Bombeck put me on the air, took a photo of us in front of the original 1938 model Western Electric thousand watt transmitter, still there even though it hasn't been used for years.  He was kind to arrange for shipping of a vintage 1930's Presto turntable found in the dusty basement.  It's now displayed in the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame museum in St. Mary's, GA, along with classic microphones, consoles and memorabilia.  St. Mary's is a few miles from Jacksonville and the museum would make a meaningful stop for anyone interested in the fascinating history of radio.  Former DJ, PD and manager John Long's inspiration made the museum possible, as well as organizing the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame.

Donald Sundeen, hadn’t received his Commentary Monday and let me know and I re-sent that whole batch.  “Came in loud and clear this time, Claude, I realized I'd missed it when I started receiving emails requesting the Elvis piece. Made contact with a couple of old friends, and others I knew by reputation.  So far no problem with having my email out there, probably because of the quality of your readership.  Anyone else interested in reading my occasional memories of rock and roll radio and records, feel free to contact me at: don@poppywriter.com

I’d suggested in the last issue that Ken Kotal, ForgottenHits@aol.com, give credit to some comments he wanted to use from Commentary readers.  “Sure did!  We've gotten several compliments on our Paul Revere coverage so hopefully some of your readers will check it out as well.”

Bob Wilson:  “I don’t talk about this much, but in the USAF I was trained as a radio intercept operator for the security service.  From the shores of the Tripoli neighborhoods, I copied Russian Morse Code from their submarines plowing under the beautiful Med.  We all had to sign our papers with code names and I was assigned the military version of the first and last letters of my last name … Whiskey Nan.  Years later, when AOL demanded a ‘private’ name, I used Whiskey Nan … my desk partner in the air force had to cringe when using his code name: Sugar-Peter!  When first using the amazing field of the Internet, I was often mistaken for a female who would drink a lot.  Diabetes made me give up the only drink I stayed with from my teen years (yes, rum and Coca-Cola).  In 1997, I was headed for a Mexican restaurant with a few of my daughters … and woke up fine days later from being in a diabetic coma.  With all of the naughty deserts I’ve had to give up … I miss the rum and …ice cream, doughnuts, cheese cake … wait, I think it’s time to hook up the host to the car’s tailpipe.”

Don’t you dare go tailpipe on me, Bob.  I used to have a rum and Coke (Cuba Libre) now and then.  I was introduced to the drink by Raul Cardenas, later a Ph.D. and professor at NYU but famous for being one of two best men at my wedding.  Only “drink” I knew when I worked on the El Paso Herald-Post.  Never liked them, though.  Now a bloody mary with Jose Cuevo Gold, extra dash of Tobasco sauce, is something else!  But, like you, I’ve got diabetes now.  No booze, period.  Cry, cry.

George Jay Wienbarg:  “Do you remember who the 1st GM of WDHF was in '74?  We had gone on the air with Ronnie Knight PDing.  Billboard followed me around.  After WDHF I went to Nashville, thanks to Kent and Lee. Billboard just bought WLAC.  Radio is My Mother!   Love you guys!  PS – Claude, I was hired to do morning news with Gary Brian at WDHF in 1974.  Definitely a pinnacle of my career.  I was 23 years old.”

Can’t help you, George.  One of my most embarrassing moments (I had a few) was when Lee Zhito, editor-in-chief of Billboard, forced me to talk to the staff of the station that Billboard bought in Nashville.  First, I thought the purchase of the station was a conflict of interest; we shouldn’t have bought it.  Second, I had no valid basis to tell a pro what to do.  Third, I wasn’t exactly a cheerleader.  I gave a horrible talk.  And there was one guy who knew it.  He stood to the side and flumed his way through the entire 10 or so minutes.  I’ve never seen a guy that angry.  Before or since.  (I refuse to talk about that time in Australia.)

Bob Sherwood:  “Hi, Kindly Ol’ Uncle Claude.  What a fabulous Commentary this week!  Somewhere Jack Roberts is looking down and saying ‘Bravo’.  Don’t know about those putzes at Billboard.  Three items to respond to:
-- first prayers for a full recovery and back to the total vitality that was always the hallmark of Bob Wilson. Friends when we were both in radio, occasionally fought like Ali/Frazier when I was doing promotion at Columbia and he was The King at R&R.  Love the guy.
-- thanks to Barry Salberg (‘Shane’) for the kind words. I hired him because he was a communicator.  He spoke to each listener.  There’s an art in that.
-- I’ll take a shot with Mel Phillips request.  I share his view of ‘security’ in both industries.  I truly relish my half-century as a jock and programmer and then various positions at record labels both here and internationally.  I have great memories of being a part of exposing label artist’s creative works and supporting them to the degree that their songs and performances were accepted and gave great pleasure to a large audience.  But at the end of my day, the fondest memories I retain are of those very good to occasional great shows on-air.   All of you who have done it know when you’re really ‘on’.  You feel it, it comes through your ear-phones, on the request line and throughout the radio station.  You’re cookin’ and you’re reaching people and you’re making them ‘feel’ the power and the emotion of the music and you’re adding a little something to their lives.  There is/was nothing better.”

Great stuff, Bob.  Let me add my prayers for Bob Wilson, the founder of Radio and Records.  I remember the days when he programmed KDAY in Los Angeles, a station renown for a huge water bill to help the grass grow around the antenna site.  Get better, Bob!  (Bob Sherwood:  Would you or someone be kind enough to forward this Commentary to Wilson?)

Later from Bob Sherwood, lastly a record man:  “My daughter Shannon, who’s always been a major music junkie and featured bands that eventually became major artists when she ran a club in Illinois during her post-grad years, was visiting with her Chicago fire-fighter fiancĂ© this week and we had some friends here and she insisted on programming the music.  She put on Deacon Blue and had the whole place dancing. For the 400th time she questioned me on how in heavens name we didn’t break this band.  I still don’t know.  Sorry!  It got worse when she put on Cock Robin.  One of ours.  I’ll never understand it.  I stopped her from playing Alison Moyet.  Under the ‘never totally embarrass your father’ statute.”

Look kindly on us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Claude's Commentary No. 34r2

Claude Hall
Today at 10:38 AM
October 20, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 34
By Claude Hall

It was a love/hate relationship, my appreciation of New York City.  But if you’re trying to make a go of it – find a career and grow in it – New York is the place for the creative soul.  This includes the writer.  It especially includes the radio person.  It’s like no other place in the world.  Everybody who is anybody is there and that’s where the very greatest are and as Marty Iger, the photographer, once told me “if you want to compete against the big boys, this is where you have to be.”  I was living in New Orleans at the time and Barbara and I had a 2-year-old, but we packed up and drove back to New York City in our little Volkswagen Beatle.  I joined Billboard magazine in March 1964.  I expected to stay on Billboard for a couple of years.  However, I was named radio-TV editor of the weekly trade publication by July and a year or so later, Bill Littleford, head of Billboard, loaned me interest free $7,500 (his idea) so that Barbara and I could buy a home in Hartsdale just north of Manhattan.  If you don’t think this is a big deal, you’re mistaken.  And Bill Littleford gave me a raise so that I could pay back the loan without any sweat; the raised equaled the payments.  And Hal Cook gave me and family a free admission to a neighborhood swimming pool for the summer.  Life was pretty good on Billboard for a while.  I cannot recall all of my mentors.  Paul Ackerman, music editor of Billboard, without question.  Mike Gross, Harvey Glascock, Don Graham, George Furness, and I remember great conversations with William B. Williams, Dan Daniels, Gary Stevens, Murray the K, and Shelby Singleton.

Next week:  A feature on how some legends got into show biz and a comment regarding Tom Russell’s book “120 Songs,” a great, great book.

John Lund:  “Claude:  Mel Phillips said: ‘Kevin followed me (WNBC) as PD in 1980.  I was replaced by Bob Pittman in 1977’.  Actually, I preceded Bob Pittman as WNBC Program Manager in the mid-1970s.  Mel was likely PD at WNBC before that time.  Legendary Jack G. Thayer, NBC Radio’s new president, hired me away from WNEW to program WNBC in 1974.  Don, Jack and I were previously in Cleveland and before that in Sacramento.  At 66WNBC we were fortunate to have a great on-air staff:  Don in the morning, Cousin Brucie midday (from WABC), Bob Vernon ‘with a V’ in the afternoon, Oogie Pringle early evening, and smooth-as-silk Dick Summer later at night.  What a team!  Bob Pittman was programming WNBC’s sister station, WMAQ in Chicago, at this time for Charles Warner.  When Charlie came to WNBC Radio he brought in Bob Pittman (and I went to Milwaukee for Hearst, then to Denver for Doubleday).  Several years later, when Bob left to start MTV, he recommended to the new GM, Bob Sherman, that I be hired (back).  Kevin was also interviewed.  I still have the small toilet that Bob Pittman gave me when I returned to WNBC in fall, 1979 (with the note, ‘don’t put WNBC in the toilet’).  First thing I did was bring Imus back for mornings. When I left nine months later (in 1980) to start my consulting company, I suggested Bob Sherman hire Kevin Metheny.  And he did.  Coincidentally, several years later, when consulting stations in Phoenix managed by Gary Fries, I worked with Kevin’s mother, Carolyn, who was Gary’s assistant.  And when Gary became president of the Radio Advertising Bureau, Carolyn Metheny also worked for the RAB in Dallas.”

I lost Bob Pittman’s email years ago.  Hope someone forwards Commentary to him this week.  I’ve also lost Mary Turner’s email and she’d wanted to get Commentary.  I think Norm Pattiz still receives Commentary.  Whether he reads it or not, quien sabe?  Just FYI, I wrote the first story even about Norm and his then partner.  I think they’d just produced a film about Motown for theater showing.

Bob Walker: “Wow, what a treat to hear from Lani Bennett.  I met her many times when I worked with Buzz here at WTIX in '67-'68.  Especially when Buzz broke his shoulder in a football game, and I had to jockey the board for Buzz for a few weeks, sitting side-by-side with him at our cramped U-shaped console.  During that time just about every day around 6 pm Buzz would ask me to go downstairs and let Lani in.  Nice memories of a special time at the Mighty 690.  Lani may enjoy my YouTube video ‘WTIX 20 Years Later -- a Visit Back’, on which a couple of Buzz clips are included, along with many others from our '67-'72 era DJs.”

I sent one personal email – and a note -- on to Lani Bennett and got this back:  “Thank you, Claude, for your email ... I sure got a laugh and a kick out of your fond memories of The Central Grocery ... it’s absolutely still there!  The Muffalata is still the number one sandwich that they sell … dropped R a little email ... happy to be back in touch!  God's Speed, Claude.”

That Muffalata is one of the best sandwiches on this planet.  When I was on the Times-Picayune, I went down there and asked a huge, huge guy right out of a Danny Davis email what kind of sandwiches they had and he growled, I swear, “Whatda ya mean, what kind of sandwiches we got?”  There was only one sandwich.  The more you paid, the taller it got.  Get the big one.  Last time I was in New Orleans, I bought a grocery sack of them home on the plane.  Just great!  It do pay to be Italian from time to time.

I’m going to try something different.  I stopped running email addresses because of hackers, etc.  But Don Sundeen has an item that’s a bit too long and if you’re interested in Elvis, you might wish to read.  So, tap into Don at don@poppywriter.com and ask him to email it to you.  Don, hope you don’t mind.  But this is history.  Ken Dowe had sent me a thing; it’s at the end of the feature by Don.

Robert E. Richer: “Claude:  You’re right; it was KPEN and not K101.  Actually, the original KPEN team was John Wickett, Gary Gielow and Jimmy Gabbert.  Mike Lincoln came along later.  In my judgment, Jim remains one of the most knowledgeable and able radio engineers on the planet.  As far as I know, Gary still operates a very successful winery in, I believe, Napa.  And K101 remains the most powerful FM west of the Mississippi, with 125 kW.  I used to love listening to Joey Reynolds’ show on WOR.  But it was so full of radio inside stuff, I could only assume that it stayed on the air as long as it did because ‘OR’s owner, Rick Buckley, was such a dedicated radio guy himself.  So great to see all of those wonderful call letters that get mentioned in your memorable ramblings.”

Ken Dowe:  I had somehow forgotten the KPEN call letters until you mentioned them, Claude.  The station was actually licensed to Los Altos.  In the mid-80s I bought the station (estate sale price) from Don Burden.  Don tried rock and pushing the signal into San Francisco and Oakland, but the powerless Class A never even dented the Arbitron.  I thought there was an opportunity to serve a large easy listening audience in the potentially booming Silicon Valley with good programming and some ‘rock'n roll engineering’.  I called Tom Churchill in Phoenix.  Best easy listening programmer I've ever known. Tom said he'd tried to work for KBAY with their San Francisco monster signal, but there was no interest.  I signed up Tom and signed on KLZY. Classy had friendly, easy to the ears jocks with a bit of the McLendon panache.  I brought in a couple of great engineers who aimed the signal down ... to cover more of San Jose, Mountain View, Palo Alto and the rest of the Valley.  The audio we equalized as if we were a big city rocker.  It was LOUD.  Perfectly legal, but our friends at KBAY didn't think so.  Of course, a handful of audiophiles didn't appreciate that the stereo dynamics were not as good as when you couldn't hear the signal. Ha!  Que lastima!  So, San Jose and the Silicon Valley had a new radio station.  In a year and a half KLZE was fourth 25-54 and third 35-64 (Arbitron) in San Jose.  Broadcasting from a tiny born again Class A, booming ‘classy’ music from a Los Altos mountain top. Dottie and I sold ‘KPEN’ for a nice profit, thank you.   It wasn't the dog the non-believers laughed about after all. The San Francisco peninsula was pretty darned good to a country boy from the far off Mississippi Delta.  Didn't radio used to be so much fun?  Jim had great promos for his TV station (KOFY) in San Francisco.  Viewers' dog photos...endlessly appealing.”

Dave Anthony, Dave Anthony Custom Voicing: “Okay, here we go. After so many newsletters filled with names I either know personally or have worked with, I felt the overpowering need to chime in.  (Might be the same overpowering need I instilled in my staffs to sweep quarter-hours back in the day.)  From Tom Shovan who used to call me often at KLUC and always began every conversation by clucking like a chicken – his version of how to pronounce KLUC; to Joey Reynolds who first entertained me on KB with Sarge and his trumpet; to Kevin Metheny who tried to hire me at WNBC (I wonder how that would’ve worked out), leading to a lifetime friendship; to Lee Simms who I had the pleasure to hire, work with, and learn from at KYA; to Bob Hamilton who I’ve known since his FRED days (along with his entertaining wife); to Chuck Knapp who programmed KS95 and held massive female numbers that I endlessly pursued over at KDWB; and to you who wrote the column I never missed.  And those names are just from this week’s missive.  Don’t stop writing these things.”

About “Hitbound”: Bob Weisbuch reports in from Portugal where he and his wife are celebrating their anniversary.  Says he’d received a note from Barbara Bodnar Linden, regarding the book and she loved it.  She was a partner with Woody Roberts on the air at WPOP in Hartfort, CT.  Woody thought she was great.

I finally got Chuck Dunaway on the email list: “Thanks, Claude. My computer and emails are a great company these days.  I turn 80 in two months.  Never thought I’d live this long but sure am happy I did.  I have the same breathing problem Bill Young had.  I’m seeing my doctor regularly as he tries to figure it out.  I’m keeping fit and full of medication. Take care old friend. Stay healthy.”

Bob Wilson: “Claude, it's great to be back at the computer after 8 full weeks of 'rehab'.  In late August a daughter stopped by and found me in the hallway bleeding from every orifice.  It took a dozen doctors to finally find that my eating white bread had caused a tendency to react to gluten overload.  After four transfusions they found that amonia had eaten my blood.  I'm now taking four servings a day of a liquid that dilutes it and might have to look forward to more of it forever.  The loss of my short term memory (stroke) is making it impossible to engage in much conversation about 'the old days' though if i worry over a name, it usually flashes in the next hour.  While in rehab I shared a room with a patient just this side of insane ... all night long, calling out for mother or god every 15 minutes.  After he was released I got a man who lost his touch with reality and tried to undress and walk the halls ... but he, too, had many occasions when I had to press the red nurses button for him because he was busy trying to contact 'god'.  I then had an idea: a tape machine containing a thousand first names ... and if a patient was not quite ready for freedom, the nurse would push a button and in the screaming man’s room ... an orchestral rif with heavenly tones would sound ... then I would come on in a slight echo chamber and say: ‘... Charles ... this is god. Go to sleep’ in that the patient was dreaming, I could say things like: ‘... Charles, your children love you’ or ‘Charles, heaven is waiting for you’.  I shared my idea with a few of the nurses ... they all thought it would work.  Can you imagine?  Every hospital, rehab clinic would want one.”

What a funny story, but a horror story, Bob.  I respect doctors, but I’ve never met a hospital that I didn’t instantly hate.  In the army in Germany, cast and all, I was going to sneak out to a Globetrotter’s game on crutches and a huge female nurse picked me up,198 pounds of pure GI muscle (me, she outweighed me), and carried me back and dropped me in my bed.  Here in Vegas, I once spent five days in a godawful building, tubes here and there, with cellulitis and when they gave me freedom, I couldn’t find the way out and I was on crutches and this door and that door wouldn’t open.  A nightmare!  Awake!  I now think I’ve found a good doctor in the medical system that Barbara and I have.  God doesn’t make good hospitals though.  There’s some kind of celestial law against it.

Sorry about the bread.  Glad you’re better.  Down with hospitals.  Up with Whiskey Nan, whomever she is.

Larry Cohen: “An update for Don Berns.  Gunther Hauer has been reported to be between 92-94 years young.  His telephone # is 215-673-6260.  Coincidently, today (Tuesday, 10/14/14) was a ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’ in Phily with over 65 former industry folks attending.  And Gunther Hauer was one of them.”

Mel Phillips: “I was one of the fortunate people who worked in both the radio & records (great name for a trade publication) business.  Although related, there was a decided difference between the two industries.  In radio, I always felt that I could be replaced at any minute.  There was a certain insecurity about being in radio. ‘You're only as good as your last ratings’ was something I took to heart. I never felt that when I worked in records.  I guess working for CBS Records will do that to you.  So, on the security issue, the edge goes to the record business.  Salary-wise, I made more money in the record business. Edge to records.  Creativity-wise, I never felt creative working in records but always did when I worked in radio.  Check -- radio.  And finally -- what industry do I most connect myself to?  Edge to radio.  My first job was in radio and I've been writing about my first love for the last several years.  It would be interesting to hear from other radio & records people about the differences they experienced.  Happy to contribute to another Commentary. Keep em coming.”

Vince Cosgrave always spoke highly of his radio experience, but I think the record business bubbled in his veins.  Kept a couple of rebuilt jukeboxes in his study, one for LPs, one for 45 rpms.  And one of his prized achievements was producing the last album of Bob Wills.

Barry Salberg:  “Rich Robbin forwarded me your commentary #33, and frankly I'd like to be able to receive all future such efforts directly ... please add me to your mailing list accordingly.  BTW: was nice to see the inclusion of comments from Bob Sherwood and his memories of Paul Revere at KROY, Sacramento ... Bob hired me at KROY, and was the best PD I ever had ... one further anecdotal memory ... quite understandable if you won't remember ... Steve ‘Smokin’ Weed and I met you in your Billboard office on Wilshire, circa 1969 ... we were attending UCLA, wannabe disc jockeys, etc, and he had somehow set up a meeting with you ... while we were at your desk, you also took a call from Terrell Metheny ... thanks for being nice to a couple of guys who really wanted to be in the biz.”

Marlin Taylor:  “You're right, Claude ... I couldn't think of the call letters at the time I wrote you, or Jim's partner's name.  Re Dick Summer, I listened to him on the air and talked with him personally, but it's been many years since any contact. The last I knew he lived in suburban Philadelphia.  Keep writin', Claude.  Never had personal contact with many of the ‘characters’ whose names appear, but those names are familiar to me.  After all, even with nearly 60 years having passed since my first paying job in radio, much of my activity was in a rather different genre of programming from where most worked.  It was so interesting, though, after I landed at XM Radio in 2000 for ‘my last grand gig in radio before I was too old to be physically and mentally able’ ... to talk with my fellow programmers and find that we had many call letters in common ... I had been there a generation or two before them -- KFOG, WBCN, WHFS to name just three.”

Kent Kotal: “Hi, Claude!  Going to run a couple of your Paul Revere comments as part of our next tribute ... probably tomorrow in ‘Forgotten Hits’.  This man touched SO many lives ... and we're still getting mail and tributes every day.  Check it out if you like ... and scroll back to last Sunday's and Tuesday's postings, too ... a much-loved entertainer to be sure.”
Click here: Forgotten Hits

Kent, I hope, as a matter of courtesy, you give credit to Bob Sherwood or whomever.  That would be nice.

Lest We Forget
Jack Roberts, Larry Shannon, Aaron Sternfield, Bill Drake, Bill Ward, Joe O’Brien, Bob Poole, Eddie Hill, Slim Willet, Jay Blackburn, Al Dexter (talked to him once on the phone), Paul Ackerman, Al Galico (a great, great character in the music business), Bill Gavin, Don Ovens, Bud Prager, Shelby Singleton, Mike Gross.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Claude's Commentary No. 33r2


October 13, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 33
By Claude Hall


Don Whittemore: “Claude, more substantial inspirational writings in your Commentary than in the LA Times for today's date.  The legends live on as you wrote but the players functioned differently as it was Don Graham who lived at Bill Drake's mansion while Graham's divorce dragged on towards resolution.  Don Graham -- now there are some stories he could tell if he weren't so discreet.  I'm going to tell you a Chuck Berry tale featuring Don Graham.  Don broke a record called ‘My Ding a Ling’ for Chuck on the Don Imus show way back when ... Chuck rewards Don Graham with half of the gross from his SoCal ‘Ding a Ling’ appearance for breaking the song into a hit.  Fact or fiction?  Legend or lie?  Don Graham has some great stories but he is shy.  Also, we all wanted to be Don, but he was already before us.”

Don Graham:  Might be a fascinating tale of how you got into the music business?

Don Berns: “Kevin Metheny was PD at KNUS when I worked at KLIF and made it a point to get to know me, although he never had the opportunity to make me an offer, since I went off to San Diego, then Kansas City, and he ended up in Pittsburgh at 96KX.  After I lost my gig at WHB he called me (the first time we had spoken in 4 years) to tell me of a mystery job opening I would be right for in Pittsburgh and would I send him the tape and resume so he could forward it?  The next thing I knew, Ted Atkins was on the phone asking to meet to talk about afternoon drive and MD at WTAE, where I ended up for 6 years -- the longest continuous gig I ever had.  Kevin and I never had a personal relationship, but it's telling that he appreciated my approach to radio enough to recommend me for a job.”

Heard from Morris Diamond.  Alice is doing well.  Morris is playing housemaid.  Great on you, Alice.  Super great on you, Morris.

Jim Gabbert: “Claude, reading your Commentary today I was totally shocked hearing about Kevin. After I sold our TV station and radio stations in 1998 I went to work at KGO doing fill in for 14 years. I currently am in Puerto Vallarta and had a lunch appointment with Kevin for next week to discuss the future of KGO and how they tanked so fast. I just cannot believe it, he was a real broadcast icon!”

Tom Russell: “Dear, Claude:  I'm quite honored (floored) with your open letter!  Sometimes we wonder if anyone is listening out there.  I've always enjoyed reading your Commentary.  I'm almost finished with a two-record ‘folk opera’ on the West which is called: ‘The Rose of Roscrae’ -- about an Irish kid coming to America in the late 1880's and becoming a cowboy…the format is: he's looking back at his time in the West from age 90 … lots of songs and folks on this from Ramblin' Jack to Johnny Cash to Leadbelly … I should have copies by the end of the year … I'd also love to send you my songbook, which has lots of good stories in it … just shoot me your address again.  Once again I really thank you for your kind words and your deep thoughts. (PS, I'm sharing this with Mike Hurshman -- a man who manages my art -- but also has a great weekly radio show out of Grand Junction, Colorado. He'd enjoy your blogs. Mike: Claude is a radio legend!)”

My home:  2563 Paradise Village Way, Las Vegas, NV 89120.  And I would love a copy.

Scott St. James: “Hi, Claude!  Hi, Barbara!  Claude, while thinking of the breakfast slogan (Grrrr-ate!!!), that's how I feel about the way your Commentary No. 32 ended with the comments made by you and Joey Reynolds.   Great thoughts and good wishes to both of you guys.”

Theresa Montgomery sends a note pushing Celia Berk’s debut CD “You Can’t Rush Spring.”  Says Jonathan Schwartz has had it on the air at WNYC, New York, as well as Jill & Rich Switzer on Legends 1003.3FM and WHLI, Long Island.

Hello, Jonathan.

Bob Sherwood: “Further to Paul Revere … when the Raiders were at their peak in ‘70/’71 he used to travel up to Tahoe and stop in Sacramento along the way and pull up to KROY where we had a window onto the street and two-way communication with people outside.  He’d connect with Gene Lane, my 6-10 jock, and get invited in and he’d always provide several breaks of intelligent, informative, articulate and entertaining dialogue.  We loved him and I’m sure it was mutual or he wouldn’t have kept coming back.
God bless him.  Your mention of the wonderful, professional and lovely Jan Basham triggered another memory.  The mid-70s Billboard Conference in New Orleans.  Gerry Peterson nee Cagle was sitting with me at the Columbia table.  At the time my fiancĂ© was leaving me and both Gerry’s wife and his girlfriend were leaving him.  We were five feet away from the Bee Gees as they performed for the attendees.  Do you have any recollection of how many Bee Gees hits refer to shattered romances?  ‘Lonely Days and Lonely Nights’, ‘To Love Somebody’, ‘How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?’ et al.  So, Gerry and I — having consumed a gallon or so of Jack Daniels (on-the-rocks, splash of water) — were blubbering on about ‘love gone bad’ and he noted that someone on the stage had called my name … having something to do with a promotion award.  He pointed me toward the stage and I headed straight toward Jan to give her a ceremonial kiss.  I missed and almost kissed you!   I’ve been told that my acceptance speech was memorable for the uncontrolled emotion I exhibited.  I did feel the genuine emotion for the artists that I was able to represent, the label management and our promotion staff, but I was actually drunker than Jerry Lee Lewis when he proposed to his cousin.  I apologize to Billboard because I truly treasure that award.  At some point, when we have more time, I’ll relate pt. II of that event.”

Don’t recall the “kiss,” Bob, but I remember the performance of the Bee Gees.  Phenomenal!  Seven standing ovations.  And they’d brought their mothers and wives in for the event; Barbara and I were sitting near a mother.  The night before, the Bee Gees had performed for a jammed Madison Square Garden … and then for us.  One of the greatest concerts I ever heard!

Jim Slone:  “Claude, I cry a lot, too … always have, always will and you're right, seems to get more frequent as I grow older ... am 78 ... my wife Norma has always said ‘Jim is too tender hearted and sensitive to walk on the face of this earth’ … music has been my life and certain instrumentals really get to me for no apparent reason, just something about the sound ... I have three that bring tears almost every time ... ‘Our Winter Love’ by Bull Pursell ... ‘Theme From a Summer Place’ by Percy Faith, and ‘Stranger on the Shore’ by Mr. Acker Bilk.”

Mel Phillips:  “WRKO launched on March 13, 1967 in a hotel building that was a block away from Fenway Park in Boston.  We hired a great on-air staff and played hit music in an attempt to get hot new releases on the air before WBZ and WMEX. The promotion people started giving us exclusives on acts like the Bee Gees, Beatles and Monkees.  We believed that we were better than personality-driven music station WBZ and the more-music-oriented WMEX.  We had a great promotion director in Harvey Mednick, who would eventually move to RKO corporate. While we had received good response to some early promotions like Chuck Knapp's ‘Sgt. Pepper’ art contest and our Candy Apple Red Mustang giveaway, we didn't know the full extent of our audience reach nor the domination of the market we were approaching.  On May 6, 1967 we would find out ... we ran an on-air promo with a tongue-in-cheek take off on James Bond.  It was a two-voicer featuring Harv and me. Since this was in the middle of a technicians strike that was honored by the jocks, both Harvey and I as part of management were not required to be in the union. In the promo, we asked listeners to ‘wear a trenchcoat and dark glasses at 4 am and see “Casino Royale” for free’. About 20,000 flooded the Sack Savoy Theater and downtown Boston. A riot broke out, cops on horseback arrived and we made front page news in the Boston Globe and New York Times. The 'Casino Royale' premiere was chronicled on the SONY Collector Edition DVD a few years back and both Harvey and I were interviewed on camera. The 'Casino Royale' premiere was WRKO's tipping point.  We knew we had become a major radio force in Boston.  In an August edition of Billboard Magazine, a guy by the name of Claude Hall reported that we had climbed to number one in the June-July Hooper Ratings -- the radio ratings standard at the time.”

Suddenly occurred to me that Jack Roberts, bless him, would have got a kick out of this story.

Lani Bennett: “Hi, Claude, it’s Lani Bennett from New Orleans ... just wanted to share how much I enjoy reading your Commentary!  So many greats ... so many memories!  I have been fortunate to have made contact with a long ago employer, none other than Gil Bateman who was with Electra/WEA in NYC records at that time.  He is alive and well and living happily in Taos, NM, and I'm so glad that I found him on Facebook. Another long time friend of mine, James Heathfield, who was with RCA Victor back in the day, found me online via LinkedIn.  Sometimes when I'm reading about all the wonderful people back in the late 60s and early 70s, I do feel badly that Buzz Bennett, my ex-husband, is not somehow still among us.  I realize and accept that he has been MIA for quite some time, and in a recent conversation with Bob Hamilton, another longtime friend of ours who I am in touch with again, think he may have passed on?  Anyway only God and His goodness knows where he really is, but I think along with all the madness, all the addictions and everything else he did give a lot to our world of radio.  I have been very honored to have been part of that wild ride of a life that only the radio industry and the music industry can give when I was a very young woman.  I shall never forget it.  In the meantime one day at a time ... by the grace of God my life is good and full.  Best to you always, Claude, lots of love.”

Lani, Buzz Bennett was indeed a bright light in radio and any honest history of radio will never be written without him.

Joey phoned.  Understand this:  Joey and several others are “members” of my family.  They often phone Barbara.  Barbara handed me her cell.  But after the conversation, I felt it necessary to email Joey.  “I'm sorry.  I apologize for me on the phone.  I really couldn't understand half of what you were talking about.  Just me.  No problem with you.  Call it ‘slow’.  Call it 82.  I just didn't hear/understand half of what you said.  I'd seen a version of your video program.  A short version.  But, sure, I'm willing to watch the rest ... if it will play on this laptop.  My DVD doesn't work.  New, too!  We get a black box on the screen.  Don't know how it got there.  Couldn't get rid of it.  So, I had Andy get me a new Samsung DVD to replace the Sony.  Still doesn't work!  I was able to unstop Barbara's toilet this morning.  But I can’t fix the TV.  Now I'm tired.  Ready to go back to bed.  But I'm watching a pre-season basketball game on the Big Mit.  And I've got bills to pay this morning.  And I'd like to get some more words done on my western ‘La Tigre’.  And....  Love you, Joey.  Thanks for the emails for Commentary.  Nice to have one of the greatest disc jockeys in the world in my column.”

Can anyone advise me regarding my DVD?  So far as I know we didn’t input a security number.

Joey Reynolds: “Oh, clued … come on.  You never have to apologize.  There is no better friend than you.  I think of you often cause we are a few of the tin soldiers still standing cause of sobriety and the strong message we carry to others.  I went to the Salvation Army on 46st in Manhattan today to drop off some clothing I was finally willing to let go, and asked for Major Schaeffer, the old manager who sold me my beautiful furniture years ago … but he is gone. The guys hearing how long I have been sober (a day at a time) came over to shake my hand.  I had what they want, and it wasn't clothing.  I called you right after that cause I had a gratitude attack.  Yesterday at Church I realized that AA is my church, and I thought of all you guys and the Hole in the Sky, Dennis' house, Denver, Filly, Florida, NY meetings, etc.  It is a wonderful life and I would never have chosen this road although the one I was on is filled with pot holes, if you know what I mean?  Greetings to Darryl, I hope Barbara cures and can make left turns when she drives, going in circles is a bitch.  All there is is love.”

Here’s a cutie for you guys:  The first thing I ever wrote about Joey was for a 1967 one-shot magazine called SoundMakers that Billboard distributed around the world (I received at least 200 fan letters about the magazine).  I was nervous about meeting him the first time, because I had the feeling he might sue me or slug me.  Instead, Joey thanked me!  We’ve been friends since.

Don Sundeen: “Spent an evening with Paul Revere and a 6 pack of Bud one night after a show during the ‘Where the Action Is’ period. While Mark Lindsey, wrapped only in a sheet and groupy-hopping, cavorted up and down the floor, Paul and I sat and sipped beers talking business, because he was primarily a business man and the most down-to-earth guy in the rock star business.  He was no more a ‘mad man,’ than Alice Cooper, and both men understood the importance of putting on a show.  He'd made-up the whole Revere and the Raiders deal, playing off his name and wearing Revolutionary War attire, and at that point he'd just started making good money. Paul was happily married, had just bought a place in the Valley, and a new Mustang, he was looking forward to putting in a pool.  I was privileged to spend time with a lot of well-known performers, but Paul was one of the nicest and most real. It is sad to see him pass just when he and his beloved wife of 35 years. Sydney, who also has health problems, finally were able to settle down at their beautiful home in the Idaho countryside.”

Rich Brother Robbins, www.richbroradio.com:  “When I put my streaming 50s/60s website on line in '07 I wrote Bobby Vee to tell him about the site and that 13 of his songs would be playing.  He sent back a very kind, thoughtful and grateful note ... every bit the gentleman we've all known he was since way back ... God bless him big time!  Stay well, old friend!”

Gary D. Pall, Cincinnati: “I don’t think I am on your mailing list, but Neil Young has been kind enough to forward your emails to me.  I always enjoyed the visits we had when you were teaching at SUNY/Brockport and I was working in Rochester.  It’s been raining most of the weekend here in Cincinnati, reflective of my mood since hearing of Kevin Metheny’s passing.  In 1976, we were both hired to work at WNOE, New Orleans.  When I heard that they were hiring Kevin, I was excited, having known of his dad’s history as a great PD in Albany at WABY and at my favorite station as a kid, WMCA.  But things didn’t start out so well between us.  I remember a day when I was reading a car magazine in the jock lounge/PD office (automobiles, along with radio, are my passion). Kevin stuck his head in and said something to the effect of ‘if you were doing something instead of reading a car magazine, maybe this place wouldn’t be so _____ed up!’ Ouch.

“This pretty much summed up the next 10 years of our relationship.  In retrospect, I understand his frustration; after all, this was New Orleans, the ‘city that care forgot’. The studios were a shambles, mainly because the engineers were busy trying to keep two of the seven towers in WNOE’s array from falling into the swamp out on the bayou in Chalmette.  We were all under a lot of pressure to make the station work under less than perfect circumstances.  But, at the time, all I could think was WTF?  Fast forward to 1987.  I’m at home in Rochester, and got a phone call out of the blue from Kevin. I was not even sure how he got my phone number.  A two-hour phone call followed, most of which was what I’d describe as free association, that led to Kevin apologizing for his previous actions, and asking if we could be friends.  I told him that was all I ever wanted from him.  I’m not ashamed to tell you, at the end of that phone call, I was so moved that I wept a bit.

“We were good friends after this for many years, working together in Greenville and again at Jacor/Clear Channel (I’m pretty sure Kevin was responsible for my being hired by Jacor).  One experience we shared at different times: we both worked as PD of WXKX under ‘Captain Showbiz’, Ted Atkins (‘he's a bear ... but he's OUR bear’).  In recent years, we did not speak often, and I regret that now.  Don Jefferson, in a Facebook post about Kevin recently, said ‘So give your friends a call sometime.  Or, better still, go see them IN PERSON’.  Amen, Don.  And, in my Facebook post about Kevin, I said the same thing you did, Claude …’Kevin was one of us’.  I have to say I am more prepared for my own end than I was about Kevin. But I tell you this. Before I get back to work, when I am able to travel again (I am on disability due to renal failure and awaiting transplant), I am hitting the road to visit as many of my scattered friends as I can.  I have always said that, if only all of the friends I’ve made thanks to radio all lived in the same city, I’d be a lucky as Jimmy Stewart in Bedford Falls.  Stay well, my friend.”

Gary, you’re now on my list.  Thank you.  And thank you, Neil.

Dan McCurdy:  “Claude ... never met you, but I know you. 'You are us,' to ripoff a phrase.  Needless to say, I count myself as one in a legion of Claude Hall fans.  I was with KLIF from '63-'65.  Did midnight as Dan Patrick, replaced Jack Wood as Charlie Brown with Ron Chapman on the 'Charlie & Harrigan Show.'  Foolishly left for a Boston morning drive gig on WMEX in mid-'65.  Got back to Texas as soon as I could and landed the morning show on KBOX as Dan Patrick in '66. Beat KLIF purty good in morning Pulse/Hooper, then got zapped with new family rationality and left KBOX for the ad game with the 7-Eleven in-house ad group, The Stanford Agency.  'Oh Thank Heaven,' 'Slurpee,' 'The Big Gulp' and all that fun stuff. There I stayed from '67-'87.  So, yes, my DJ bones were made during McLendon's halcyon daze.  All that to say, I recently completed an essay that may tickle or aggravate ex-DJs to one extreme or the other. I now offer said musing for your seasoned broadcast consideration, to wit:”

“DJs Anonymous” by Dan McCurdy
Below a note I sent to a friend who innocently remarked that she had known a number of DJs who had expressed, as I did, how much fun I had experienced while a DJ in varied areas of Texas, in Dallas and Boston.  I believe what I originally told her was, ‘I've never had so much fun with my pants on in my life’.

Yep, Melissa ... that agreement among DJs is due to several things.  First, and most important, it's TRUE!  I often was amazed that anybody could be paid real money in order to have so much fun!  Second, 99% of the existing DJs are literally unrepentant hobos, not worth the cost of the rope it would take to hang 'em.  And third, they are insufferable narcissists who see the world 'organization chart' as a 'sunburst' with each of their sorry asses in the middle.  Thankfully, some of us who got out if this sideways, but immensely fun circle-jerk are 'recovering sociopaths' and have become participants in a sane, but still somewhat twisted world of productive free enterprise, no longer a certifiable, adrenalin-driven wacko. It may or may not be a permanent path to normalcy, but, like the recovering alcoholic, we, the temporarily sane ex-DJs, must avoid EVER returning to a DJ-like stupor.  We avoid microphones assiduously, unless it's for a PTA meeting announcement or a charity pulled-pork extravaganza.  But walking into a radio station and auditioning is a catastrophic NO-NO of the highest order.  Our sleeping (dormant) maniac has been doing push-ups since last we were on the air, and letting that all-consuming Tasmanian Devil out of its lockbox will surely summon the internal 'DJ Demon' forth and loose him (it) on an unsuspecting listening audience and worse, totally victimize and decimate ANY poor, hapless recovering ex-DJ who is foolhardy enough to cross that demonic threshold.  So there you are.  A brief but truthful tale from the dark side of DJs in general and this 'recovering air personality' in particular.  Dang!  I sure feel better telling you all this.  It's been a refreshing bit of 'face my demon' therapy.  And I want to thank you for the opportunity to get all that psychotic potential off my chest.  WHEW!  © 2014 MCS Company

Dan, I believe I know a great many who currently hangout at the WHEW call letters.

Shadoe Stevens, www.shadoe.com: “Thank you my friend.  But I look at it this way ... there are people younger than me who will be older than me no matter how old I ever get.  Have a great week.”

Somewhere in there, Shadoe, I think I’ve got you topped already.

Ted Cramer: “Shocked to hear of Kevin Metheny's passing.  I was at WMAQ when Kevin was PD at WNBC and we talked almost every day.  We became good friends.  He gave me the play-by-play on the hiring of Stern who was working at DC-101.  Bob Sherman put him to work in PM drive at NBC.  It was total culture shock at the network ... an incredible story that is not truthfully told in Stern's book or movie.  Kevin was always sensitive about that.  RIP, Kevin.”

Jim Ramsburg discusses Hadacol in his current blog.  You don’t want to miss this one!  www.jimramsburg.com.  I met one of the promotion men on one of the trains at a party in New York back in the 60s.  Hell of a tale!

Marlin Taylor:  “In the last issue, you mentioned three names I can relate to very well.  Jim Gabbert – glad to read that he, too, is still around.  For years I had an article published in some magazine telling about how the guys hauled their K101 transmitter up to the top of a hill in Atherton, becoming FM ‘pioneers’.  I like his idea never to utter the world ‘oldies’.  When I created the ‘total music hours’ at WRFM in NYC, we never said anything about ‘no commercials’ … a mistake many of our copycats made.  Tom Shovan – I just came across an interview that Tom did with me and published in the June 19, 1985 issue of Hitmakers magazine.  Dick Summer – It’s not been more than two weeks since someone emailed me suggesting that I should get Dick to be the imaging voice for our ‘Escape’ channel on Sirius XM.”

Marlin, I think that was probably “their KPEN transmitter.”  But, yeah, Jim Gabbert and Mike Lincoln did FM radio from scratch.  And Dick would be sensational!  But then most of the people who read Commentary are veteran professionals.

My thanks to all those who’ve contributed material
the past few weeks to this column.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Claude's Commentary No. 32r2

October 6, 2014

Claude’s Commentary No. 32
By Claude Hall

OPEN LETTER: TOM RUSSELL
You set me crying this morning and I’m still trying to get the tears to quit.  I slipped on my earphones and clicked on a tune, hot pad on my back.  I couldn’t see which song I selected because I had on my other glasses.  It was “Muhammad Ali” from your CD “Modern Art.”   Then “Goodnight Juarez” from “Aztec Jazz.”  Then “Homeless Hearts” from “Museum Memories.”  Only a great Mexican tune by Linda Ronstadt in between.  It’s enough to blow your mind.  No wonder I’m crying.  This computer is nuts.  Or perhaps these are merely the tears of an aged man.  George Wilson told me that he sometimes cried.  When you get in your 80s, all things are forgivable because more things get to you.  Even tears because of a great song.  Isn’t amazing that music has such great power in the lives of human kind?  It can help make us happy.  Or sad.  Fill our days!

Then “Walk Right In,” sung but not written by Dave Alvin, who told me his writing all changed after listening to Tom Russell.  This is a folk song.  I first heard it just after I left my teens in a stickhouse out in the bayous near Corpus Christi.  I had several aunts.  One was crazy.  She took me and my mother and father out there to listen to two old women playing guitars and an older man playing honky-tonk style piano and this was the tune I remember.

Then Vince Gill came on.  What’s this computer up to?  I’m not in a Vince Gill mood.  Sorry, Vince.  I quickly go back to Tom Russell.  “The Eyes of Roberto Duran.”  Did Tom ever look into the eyes of Duran?  I don’t know.  He makes me think he has.

My computer tries to go to Linda Ronstadt again.  I love Linda Ronstadt.  My computer knows this.  I go back to “Criminology” in “Aztec Jazz.”  It has heart.  And, yeah, it’s real.  But thank God I’ve quit crying.

Your soul catches fire with “Jai Alai” sung with the Norwegian Wind Ensemble.  I love this tune, yet know that it would more than likely never fit on today’s radio stations.  What a pity!  A tribute to boxing:  “The Pugilist at 59.”  A tribute to history:  “And God Created Border Towns.”  A tribute to beauty:  “A Little Wind Could Blow Me Away” written by Peter Case.  A tribute to Nina Simone: “Nina Simone.”  A tribute to chili: “Bowl of Red.”  Tribute to Mickey Mantle:  “Kid From Spavinaw.”

Last time I heard from Tom, he was in Europe.  I love his music.  “Touch of Evil” is a masterpiece.  I remember crying the first time I heard “What Work Is,” but I’m staying away from that song this morning.  Tom has a home in El Paso, so his work has a lot of Juarez in it.  Listen to “When Sinatra Played Juarez.”  You want a touch of history?  Try “Haley’s Comet” and you’ll hear a plight, too often, of this music business.

Ah, Tom!  Waiting for the next CD.

OTHER MATTERS
Scotty Brink about Bobby Vee: “I talked to Karen a week or two ago.  Bobby was out having lunch and getting a haircut with a good local friend.  He and Karen are both OK, considering the crosses they are bearing.  I'm sorry to say that Bob's condition is progressing.  He needs a lot more assistance these days, but is still as warm and wonderful as ever.  As for Karen, she was back in the hospital not long ago due to some complications, but sounds great and is faring well.  I'm hoping they'll be coming through here en route to Tucson, whenever that may be.”

Bobby is suffering from Alzheimer’s.  Karen has a bad lung problem even though one of her lungs has already been replaced.  As most of you know, Paul Revere died during this past week.  76.  Cancer.  Paul promoted the music cruise that Barbara and I took a few years ago, courtesy of my brother Buddy.  Bobby Vee was a highlight performer on the cruise.  Bob’s sons Tommy and Jeff performed in Bob’s band.  And Tommy’s two boys got into the act.  Cute!  I think Tommy’s older son, a drummer, has subsequently gone pro.  Great time with the Vees on that trip.  About Paul: We come, we do, we go.

Jim Gabbert, San Francisco:  “Claude, as I read Lee Baby's career I sat down and put mine together! One interesting thing was some of our radio stations (I forgot I also owned KDIA in SF) was when we got 1050 we went ‘oldies’ but we never used the word oldies. Nobody wants to be old, it is a turn off for young people so it was branded as the ‘incredible KOFY time machine’.  That was when it was a KW day timer (see attached article) then when we got 50 KW full time it was an incredible hit in 1986 through about 199 something. I got bored with it and we flipped it Spanish and within three months we were the number one Bay Area Spanish radio station beating 2 other established good signal AMs and one FM. Our ratings equaled all of theirs combined.  On the TV we did a 50s/60s dance party a la ‘American Bandstand’, in fact, Dick Clark liked it so much he co-hosted a few shows with me.  Those were the days!”

Jim came up with the calls K101 for an FM in San Francisco, the first such “numbered” station in the U.S.  For the highway.  Definitely one ingenious radio man!  Used to live on a yacht with gold-plated bathroom fixtures.  Jim was highly instrumental in the development and growth of FM radio.

Ron Brandon: “Hi, Claude ... always enjoy reading stories from the guys who lived them.  I suspect that those of us still out there are collectively relieved to learn that we were not the only one that was a gypsy ... working many stations and markets, getting fired, etc.  The thread about ‘free-form’ started me thinking.  Having recently discovered and listened to an old cassette of air checks … reminded that in those days (for me 1962-1967 or so) although I was working in top-40 and there was a ‘format’ … in fact, it was free-form.  WMOC, Chattanooga; WNOE, New Orleans, WAYS, Charlotte ... all Top 40s with a format but….  As Ken Elliott (aka Jack the Cat) PD at WNOE told me on arriving at that iconic facility, ‘These people have boring, often unhappy day-to-day lives.  Your job is to entertain them ... make them happy.  Before you open the mike ... smile … and you'll sound like it.  If you've had a fight with your wife, forget it when you go on the air.  Always have fun’.  We were hired to entertain ... as he said, the format was designed to carry us if we had a bad day.  At none of these three stations do I recall ever having jock meetings, critiques, etc.  It was very loose and in fact it was … fun.  By the late 60s when I joined WLEE, Richmond, FM was on the rise, alternative formats were in play, and ‘more music’ was the hype of the day.  Free form was gone ... rigid formats had arrived.  I, over the years, played on both sides of the street ... so not advocating right or wrong here ... just remembering when it was still Top 40 and to a great degree free-form.  Listen to the airchecks of that era and the fun will jump out at you.”

Roger Carroll:  “Claude, re  Diamond's comment about Long Beach.  Diamond could not afford to live where I live in Long Beach, CA.  Awaiting Diamond’s smart-ass response.”

Now, now, children.  Play nice.

Randy West:  “Checking in.  I just had to join the conversation after seeing the name of so many folks I know and the names of icons who were inspirations for me to enter the biz, on-air, in 1972.  Vox Jox was my bible, and Dan Ingram was my idol.  Joey Reynolds has been a friend forever, Capitol promo maven Merv Amols and ABC (later Atlantic) Records' Bill Beamash were the label promo all-stars, and New England legend Tom Shovan was my mentor.  I wonder who remembers and has a story about Tom (WMEX, WPTR, etc., including a brief stay as ‘Tom Terrific’ at WINS).  He was larger than life in showmanship as well as in girth.  I was motivated to write as my jaw dropped reading that Dale (Dan) Tucker (WRKO) just passed away at the way-too-young age of 72. In the 1990s he sold ad space for Tom's short-lived weekly sheet The Pulse.  Way too much for a first ‘hello’.  Love the Commentary, Claude!”

Like you, Randy, I know some Tom Shovan stories.  I recall once in Miami area Joey Reynolds is playing chauffeur when Tom yells for him to stop the car.  It seems Tom had seen a tennis shoe on sale at a store.  We stopped.  He bought.  And then there’s the time he received an envelope with tickets for a trip around the world.  The promotion person (I never knew the person or label) had sent them by accident to Tom instead of….  Yeah, the PD is still out there.  But without respect from me.  Not on my list and won’t be.  Same with two other radio creeps, one of whom is famous now.  I’ve never understood why.  Has absolutely no talent.  However, we’ve had many very excellent people in radio and music.  It has been an outstanding pair of industries that I’ve loved immensely and I’ve admired just about all of the people involved with the exception of a couple of men.  Big deal!  What Tom Clay did was just the doings of a kid.  Same for Lee Baby Simms (see last issue or so).  Matter of fact they were kids.  The payola was more or less by accident; who’da thunk?  Same goes for Dewey Phillips in Memphis on the first Elvis disc, although I think it was actually considered more or less part of his “salary” at the time.  Most black radio announcers were on just about the same salary structure, i.e., “all the discs they could eat.”

I think everyone in this world liked Tom Shovan.  And everyone worshipped Dan Ingram, for many years the major Top 40 radio personality in the world.  You had to have an aircheck (or have listened personally) re Dan Ingram.  A must for a radio man.

Don Whittemore:  “Chuck Dunaway requests the address to your blog … do you have a blog address?  I went to: ClaudeHallonline.com and it’s for sale.  Please advise Chuck.  Meanwhile, I am healthy and not too worried about cancer unless it attacks in a strange place or attacks a friend.  The Commentary is well worth my time — In case you wonder about that sort of stuff.  Everyone I talk to about your writings still appreciates them immensely.  Most of all they’d rather be reading Vox Jox than wondering when it’s time for a nap.  Yore friend from those days of your.”

I dropped a note that my email address is the only address.  The ClaudeHallonline.com was put on my column when it was riding the shirttail of Larry Shannon more than a dozen years ago, but the emails bounced to claudehall@yahoo.com.  I don’t know what will happen if someone buys the old address now.  Macht nicht, I suppose.

Glad to hear you’re festering well, Don.  I met with my heart specialist a few days ago and he said I’d made his day.  About 18 years now since I had the big one … then that little one.  I was taking half of an aspirin every other day.  And walking a lot.  We came home from the birthday party of a friend and whups!  Guess I had more things God wanted me to do.

Todd Ramsburg:  “Jimramsburg.com was hit with a couple bumps this week -- first, a brief hospitalization.  Then the greatest number of events ever recorded for a single ‘This Week In The Golden Age’.  And, today the page's font stability began jumping all over the place.  My host, Weebly, is working to correct the problem so please give it a few hours.”

Dick Summer:  “Another great note from Mel Phillips about Linda Ronstadt in your Commentary this time.  Another Boston Linda Ronstadt story: I emceed at the Unicorn Coffee House in Boston while I was at WBZ.  My then girlfriend now my wife Barbara often came to see the show.  She was sitting in the front row one evening while Linda was performing with the Stone Ponies.  Linda's feet were not quite anchored to the planet at the time, and she tripped over Barbara's foot.  They had a couple of rather short words.  By short, I mean no more than four letters long.  Memories.  Hey, Claude, William B. Williams (WNEW, New York) was the world's best disc jockey.  EVER.  How do you think he would fare in today's radio?”

Nancy Plum:  “Re: To Lee Baby Sims!  I will never forget how kind you and your wife were to me on my first trip to Hawaii in 1978.  I flew there by myself on my 30th birthday.  I was pretty messed up that day and very down about turning 30 all by myself.  You graciously took me out for a lovely meal and then I remember you both drove me up to the top of a mountain to see a spectacular view of Waikiki.  That was the turning point for my trip there.  The next few days were a blast and I met other people (Bill Browning was at a station and he and his wife entertained me a few days later, so sweet).  So all these years later I want to thank you for your Aloha hospitality, it made my short trip there a good one, Lee!”

Mel Phillips:  “Hi, Claude … my friend Ron Jacobs asked if anyone knew the whereabouts of the legendary national promotion man Abe Glazer or ‘The Commish’ as I used to call him.  Ron, Abe was in his 70s when we knew him which would make him about 110 now.  I believe Abe has gone to wherever we all go -- give or take a few degrees.  Abe, knowing that I had a press pass and attended every Pats game, would call me every Sunday morning to get the lowdown on the chances for the team that day.  Abe bet on the NFL games every week and somehow thought I could help him win with the inside information I had on the Patriots.  I'm sure he gave you a similar call every week, RJ, about the Rams.  There was a reason I never kept track of how many times I helped Abe out.  But he seemed to think I did.  Abe Glazer was much like Moe Preskell.  They were both sweet men or mensches, which is more fitting for Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.  I can't imagine they had anything to atone for.”

Don Berns:  “Mel Phillips' comments bring back an era that could never happen today -- when music and program directors could actually be friends with record promoters.  Hell, I LIVED with Rich Sargent (Buffalo indie) for over a year and we're still good friends today (I'm his son's godfather).  And there are several others with whom I am still in contact, like Jerry Meyers (Buffalo), Sam Karamanos (Bell/Arista) and Carolyn Broner (Kansas City/St Louis).  Unfortunately I have lost contact with Gunther Hauer (Atlantic), but for many years we exchanged Christmas cards and even a few phone calls.  I wouldn't trade these friendships for any corporate edict to stay away from promoters.  These four in particular are as much a part of my life as any of my friends or family.”

There is a rumor that Bill Drake once lived at Don Graham’s abode for a while.  I’ve always thought that perhaps Bill was hiding out from various girlfriends.

Several record promotion – and record executives – were among my closest friends and very helpful in my career.  Don Graham, George Furness, Juggy Gales, Ernie Farrell, Don Whittemore, Jan Basham (miss her still!) … plenty of them!  You want to know what was going on in radio?  Talk to a promotion person.

METHENY MATTERS
Bruce Miller Earle phoned Saturday about the heart attack of Kevin Metheny, program director of KGO and KSFO in San Francisco since June.  He was the son of veteran radio man Terrell Metheny, once known as Mitch Michaels in early Top 40 radio.  As I recall, even Kevin’s mother was in radio.  First time I heard Kevin, he was 17 and doing the evening show on Pat O’Day’s rocker KJR in Seattle.  And Pat O’Day was proud of him.  Bruce considered Kevin a good friend.  Mel Phillips says: “Kevin followed me (WNBC) as PD in 1980.  I was replaced by Bob Pittman in 1977.  In all, there weren't that many PDs after WNBC broke away from the network to become a music station.  Sad to hear about Kevin.  I wish he would've taken better care of himself.”  Me, too.  He leaves two children.  We come, we do, we go.

I asked BME (Bruce Miller Earle) to drop me an email (he also sent it to Art Holt, Greg Ogonowski, and Robert E. Richer) and this is it:  “It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of the passing of Kevin Metheny at 60 years of age.  He had been entrusted by the Dickey family to head operations of WJR Detroit.  In June he was rewarded with being named OM at their Cumulus cluster including KGO and KSFO in San Francisco.  Just three years my junior, he and I went back to our days in Oklahoma City when a life-long bond of friendship was initiated and remained constant until the end.  Although we were in touch by phone at least one a month the last time I actually saw was in 2008 at the funeral of Ed Buterbaugh, legendary CE at CKLW and later WJR. At that same event were mutual friends Greg Ogonowski and Harvey Reese.  It was Greg who called last evening to pass on the news of Kevin's death from a sudden heart attack.  First light here in Texas Hill Country this morning had me receiving emails and reading about the passing of my friend.  This is not the place or time to defend Kevin over the feud we all know too well that has existed between him and Howard Stern.  Upon reading the many internet postings this morning dragging Kevin through the mud, I was further devastated reading comments that were to say the least very mean spirited toward Kevin, and a few to the point of being gleeful about his demise.  After my fury passed -- my sadness remains -- I called Greg.  I informed him about the people who were piling on our departed friend and poised the question to him as what has happen to decorum and civility toward our fellow man in the world of today?  His answer was ‘The Internet’.  I know that you loath the telephone and conversely I feel the same toward the Internet to the point of not being a card carrying member or supporter of social networking.  The only reason I am minimally on in your Face Book is to read and see what family members are doing.  Well, I now have a news flash for the family that I will be canceling and exiting FB this coming week.  The straw that broke the camel's back for me and FB was seeing two post showing acts of animal cruelty and the poster asking if anyone knew who the perps were?  Upon seeing this I managed to get a snail mail to the poster.  I expressed while maybe sincere someone would finger the perps that the images posted just fed and motivated the sick bastards who get off abusing children and animals.  I also said in lieu of posting this garbage it should be reported at once to FB or the likes.  Then this week came the news on social media of some low life scumbag having chained a mother dog and her puppies together and attached a bowling ball to the chain before throwing it in a lake.  It was reported that one commenter said what a damn shame for throwing away what was probably a good bowling ball.  As for Kevin he and I both were on the same page of being grateful for having your support and friendship over the years when a positive word from Claude Hall could and did open many doors for us.  My condolences are to his father Terrell and his two wonderful daughters that meant the world to him.  Para mi quierdo amigo, Kevin Metheny,  PRESENTE!  (QEPD)-Que En Paz Descanse.”

Stern is not now nor will ever be on my email list.  The other creep is no longer in radio.  Radio washed him out in the 70s.

Pat O’Day, Seattle:  “Yes, Kevin was a true treasure.  I was only saddened that he abandoned the microphone for management.  He would have been recalled as one of the 10 best jocks ever.  And I just loved him!”

Burt Sherwood:  “Claude:  This is difficult to even think about.  It is an OMG!!!  Yes, we do  … we come and we go … some too soon ... others not soon enough!  I have known Kevin through his father Terrell most of our lives.  Kevin was a talent and a human being that can never be replaced ... he was the shining moment.  We worked at different times mostly for some of the same and best broadcasters in the USA … and shared our opinions and notes about the good, bad and the ugly.  My family is devastated.  It is a huge heartfelt hole in our lives!!  We will miss him!”

ART MATTERS
Shadoe Stevens has invited all of us to his opening reception 3-7 p.m. Nov. 1 at Galerie Michael in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.  The exhibit is “The Trans-Dimensional Symbolism of Rocky Waters.”  And Shadoe says, “Please come.  I hope to see you there.”  His website for the exhibit is www.shadoeart.com.

Ah, Shadoe!  Great on you!

JOEY MATTERS
Joey Reynolds:  “Lest we forget.  I have lived through the entire history of rock’n’roll and so have you.  The difference is that you were in the catbird seat of the marriage between radio and records as the high priest of the church of EdgeGodOut (EGO).  You made me a star and a tin soldier, but the most important thing in my life has been sobriety, the life I live soberly is because of you and the fellowship.  P.S.  You wrote the book on humility, and how to gracefully leave a job and a profession with dignity, character, and grace.  Not a bad job of paving the way for conventions and seminars for industry growth also, not to mention (but I will) how rich you made a lot of people.  I will never forget the Billboard convention at the Plaza with the introduction of Geraldo Rivera and an author named Wayne Dyer.  You cannot imagine how many people you have helped directly or influenced by doing God’s work as a trusted servant.  Your 13 years don’t mean diddly.  It was only a training film for all the good you have done.  And it ain’t over til it’s over.  Love … your trusted friend.”

I have indeed been blessed.  Now, if only God would bless
 my children.  Yours, too, Joey.  We’ve lived a fairly good life.  Done
 as well as we could.  Now it comes down to asking God, who
did well by us
 to care for our children and grand children.

Also
God, please bless Kevin Metheny and Paul Revere.
They were us.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Claude's Commentary No. 31r2

September 29, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 31
By Claude Hall

I wrote Vox Jox, a column, for almost 13 years and 11 months at Billboard magazine.  Even though I once broke my left hand playing basketball and wore a cast for a while, I never missed a deadline.  Since then, I’ve written Commentary for at least 466 weeks (I missed just two weeks under RadioDailyNews.com by Larry Shannon because of Internet troubles).  Some of these were written for the Hollywood Hills published by the late Jack Roberts.  Since the death of Jack Roberts, I’ve written 31 weekly columns under the title Claude’s Commentary.  These days, other people write more of the column than I do and I’m very grateful for their help.  However, perhaps that’s always been the case.

Gary Bridges of Bala Cynwyd, PA, was one of at least three readers this past week who did not receive their Commentary at first.  I wrote him that I’d obviously been hacked again and Gary replied:  “Just so you’re not hacked WITH ME!  I did receive the full Commentary #30 moments later, thanks for the playful mention of my daring comparison (you vs. The Bard).  Looking at it further, I realize that $49.95 is a BARGAIN price, especially when I consider that it comes with a cheery weekly newsletter of names and places otherwise mostly forgotten.  Which, by the way, brings up a distinction I think George Wilson would appreciate: How much better it is to be, like him, ‘Gone but not forgotten’, rather than ‘Forgotten but not yet gone’.  I can just hear him in the deadpan he’d adopt when offering a critique of my radio station.  George rarely doled out programming specifics -- it was up to you to find the humor or the implied threat in his comment and act on it accordingly … and, of course, how you reacted said a great deal about how your relationship proceeded from there.  What a guy.”

Gary, I just received (Monday) a royalty check from Kindle Books for $66.  That represents my total earnings on more than a dozen books over three years!  Most priced at only $2.99.  Obviously, I’m not selling books regardless of the price and, thus, my chance of becoming wealthy is fairly slight.  Cry, cry.  I wrote and rewrote “Hellmakers” over 40 years.  It was one of the passions that kept me functioning while I worked at Billboard.  People saw one thing in the magazine; once we reached California, the reality was another.  Ask Rollye James, who became radio-TV editor after a fellow named Don Hall (Lee Zhito, publisher and editor-in-chief tried to persuade everyone that he was my son.  Not!).  Rollye, may the Good Lord bless her, wrote me two long emails about her Billboard experiences.  Just wish I could locate those emails for she has given me permission to print them.  Or you can read “Xtreme” with Amazon.com/Kindle Books.  That novel doesn’t have anything to do with Rollye, but it has a lot to do with me.

Mel Phillips:  “Just thinking about the good times I had in radio.  Like the time I made one of the national promotion guys so nervous, he knocked over the fresh flowers I had on my desk.  We had just met and he must have had some preconceived idea that I was a hardass or something. We later became friends (kind of) but when I found out he dressed differently for each station he visited, it changed my opinion of him.  He turned out to be an okay kind of guy.  Then there was the time an oldie started playing and the promotion guy (a friend) asked me why I was playing it since it was never a hit in the market we were located in. I told him I would take it off and I did. It probably didn’t hurt the sales of the record because it wasn’t a current song. But one of my all-time favorite stories involved my dear friend (as long as I was playing one of his records), the late Al Coury. Al had brought Linda Ronstadt up to the station. Linda was on her first tour and she had just scored her first major hit with the Stone Poneys (“Different Drum”). I told her we were playing a new single of hers (can’t remember the title). When she asked me why I was playing it, I told her she was hot and I liked the song. “Why are you playing that - it’s a piece of s—t.” I said okay, we’ll take it off. Al Coury had a fit and screamed at her all the way to the elevator. Al used to get beet red when he got mad but I never saw him that mad.  On a sad note, the WRKO Alumni Association just lost one of our former alums when Dale (Dan) Tucker passed away on September 18th at 73. In August he was diagnosed with a rapidly spreading cancer. One month later he was gone. Dan ran WRKO-FM after I had moved over to the AM as PD. He would later relocate to California (the Sacramento area) to continue his career in radio He will be missed by all his friends and former employees at WRKO.  Keep those much-anticipated Commentaries coming.”  We come, we do, we go.

Morris Diamond:  Attention: Joe Smiith … that was a lovely note to Larry Cohen in Claude's  weekly.  Offering Larry a lunch when he gets to LA and giving your phone number.   But you left out one digit of your phone number.  Larry, the digit is a 7.  You have my number, so call me and I'll tell you where the 7 goes … as I told you, I don't get down to Long Beach that much … I was stationed there in WWII serving as a flight radio operator and delivering B-17s from the Boeing factory to their crews.  But if you get to Palm Desert, let me know …  I'll buy you lunch.  This goes to Joe Smith as well.   Long Beach … hmmm … I spent a week there one Sunday.  Claude, love to you and Barbara.”

I hope Alice has fared well from her operation, Morris.  You and Alice … heck of a team!  A nice team.

Larry Cohen:  “Cohen to Joe Smith:  It has been said that you that you have walked on water. So with these powers of divine status, shouldn't one be able to contact you, even with a phone number containing only 9 digits as shown in the previous Commentary?  In your reference that you never have known a Long Beach native, please remember that I have known you for 35 years, long before you recently ‘recognized’ me as a local native.  FYI, the natives here have the same daily hygienic practices as those of the Beverly Hills natives, the only difference being that here in Long Beach one-ply toilet paper is more economical then two-ply preferred by the wealthier persona of Beverly Hills.”

Bob Barry:  “How is Bobby Vee doing?  He was one of the nicest guys in the recording biz.  When he came to Milwaukee he would always call.  Last time I talked with him, he was at George Wilson's house while appearing in Albuquerque.”

I drop Bobby a note now and then and my last note I also sent to Scotty Brink, who sometimes phones him.  We’ll see.  A Bobby Vee tale:  We were taking our various kids up to a Grey Ys weekend camp near Big Bear.  It started snowing.  White out.  I stopped the stationwagon and handed the keys to Bobby and went around and got in the other side.  “You were raised in this stuff (Minnesota region).  You drive.”  He did and we got there just fine and dandy.

Danny Davis:  “Can't offer much to #31 this week, Authorman! Unless we lean on the Civil War sword that's hung in the 'great room', behind glass, along with two rifles from wars in Italy and Guadalcanal!  Of course, if you saw the notice about Jesse Rand, throwing 'the seven', and you knew his management history (Sammy, The Lettermen, Jeff Chandler, etc,), I got a story!  Jess Rand put me into showbiz! Service-time in the Air Force!  I'm lucky.  Got the 'rocker' to fit under 'buck sergeant', makes me Staff Sgt!  Major White orders SSgt 'me' to escort five civilians, new enlistees to Hollywood.  (Had to do with some kinda' recruiting contest, I think!)  We have an invite to visit a motion picture studio.  Jeff Chandler's on the set of ‘Foxfire’ with Mara Corday! A knock-out!  The SSgt is knocked out, and shows it! Jess Rand whispers to Jeff Chandler, and 'the star' immediately takes 'a cue', whispers to Mara Corday and says in tones reserved for heady dialogue, ‘Mara,why don't you let the sergeant pat your ass a little bit!’  A small insight into what creates the kind of life that makes following the elephant, with the broom, a euphemism for ‘Yes, sir, I'm in show business!’  Rest in Peace, Jesse!  I owe ya!  And the tip of the week, Claude, from Arnie Captainelli, ‘It Ain't What You Don't Know That Gets You Into Trouble, It's What You Know For Sure That Just Ain't So’. “

Robert Richer reports that broadcast veteran Bill Hughes passed away last week in Sulphur Springs, TX, at age of 62.  “Hughes’ career included on-air, management, and his true calling of broadcast engineering.  His career began in 1974 at KBOX in Dallas.  He began his engineering career in 1985 in the East Texas where he continued most of his career up until his death.  He took a brief hiatus from Texas in 1992 when he moved to Hawaii to build radio stations for French media giant Hachette in China.  He returned to Texas in 1998 where he continued his broadcast engineering career primarily with the East Texas Radio group.   Hughes was a very active and proud member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.  Hughes is survived by a sister Judy Williamson of McKinney Texas and several nieces and nephews.”  We come, we do, we go.

Ron Jacobs:  “Hey, Tex.  The URL I sent for your book, below, seems to work fine direct from this email.  But not as it appears in your Commentary.  ?  Can you fix it so all know I am not played a joke?  A joke is U. of Hawaii football.  5w – 20 l in 2012 thru now.  Aloha from Pearl City.”
http://tinyurl.com/ps5uvu5

Ron also asks if anyone knows whatever happened to Abe Glaser.  “He was the ultimate promo man.”

Frank Jolley:  “Claude, thanks for sending me your Commentaries.  Rockhouse is growing.  Listeners in 9 countries and we peaked at 1,585 listeners at one time a week ago.  No promotion on the site yet at all.I don't know how anyone is finding it, we're only listed on Facebook but with no promotion yet.  We're in what we call the shakedown, attempting to tweak it for 2015.  iPhone and Android apps are being built now.  Thanks for listing rockhouse.mobi on you commentary page.”

BABY MATTERS
It is with great pride that I announce Lee Baby Simms’ baby has joined the Three Mesquiteers.  Lee has been asked to do an interview by someone interested, it appears, mostly in free-form radio personalities.  Lee maintains that he has always been a Top 40 radio personality … it’s just that he didn’t always follow the format.

Kim:  “Hi, Dad, & Gentlemen.  Thought since everybody was chiming in I would, too. Of course, I wouldn't want anyone to tell me what to do, but I don't see any harm in it, it might actually be fun. So, I say ‘Yes, why not?’  I hope all of you are having a wonderful evening!”   

From Kim’s father, slightly edited:  “I have always thought that free-form radio was something of a joke.  Something one did when one didn`t have 'The Makins' to be a real disc jockey.  I never liked those holier-than-thou assholes. They pretended to look down their noses at the format guys when what they really wanted was to be one of us.  And couldn`t.  I don`t know that I want to be on screen with the likes of those lightweights.  I thought I`d ask y`all, do you think I should give this man an hour of my time, tell him what its like to be a real DJ and not some wanna be loser?”

In response to Lee Baby, though I believe he has every right to his opinion, I’ve known some very excellent free-form radio personalities over the years and, yes, they were adept at format radio.  I’ll just mention here the names of Murray the K and Bill “Rosko” Mercer.  Whups!  I’d also better mention B. Mitch Reed and Raechel Donahue’s husband Tom.  Dick Summers, too, I believe.  Was Mary Turner ever format?  Getting old; can’t remember.  But Jimmy Rabbitt was pretty good at both.  I loved him during his KMET-FM days.  Jimmy and I had a good time for a couple of hours one evening at a Mexican cantina on the Strip in Hollywood.

Then Woody Roberts asked: “Memories.  I have wondered about your stations.”

Lee Baby Simms:  “I began in October 1961.
The Sixties:  WTMA, Charleston, SC; WTHE, Spartanburg, SC; W???  (I believe the calls were WMRB), Greenville, SC; WZOO, Spartanburg, SC; WMBR, Jacksonville, FL; WLOF, Orlando, FL; WMBR, Jacksonville, FL; WSHO, New Orleans; WIST, Charlotte, NC; KRIZ.. Phoenix; KONO, San Antonio; KTSA, San Antonio; WPOP, Hartford, CT; KONO, San Antonio; WPOP, Hartford, CT; WKYC, Cleveland; KCBQ, San Diego; KTSA, San Antonio; WJBL, Detroit; KCBQ, San Diego.

The Seventies
KRLA, Los Angeles; KROQ, Los Angeles; WMYQ, Miami; KRLA, Los Angeles, CA; WGCL, Cleveland; KKUA, Honolulu; KORL, Honolulu; KPOI, Honolulu; KDUK, Honolulu; KPOI, Honolulu.

The Eighties
KFOG, San Francisco; WLVE, Miami; KKIS, Concord, CA; KCAF, San Rafael, CA; KRPQ, Rohnert Park, CA.

The Nineties
KYA, San Francisco; KOOL-FM, Phoenix; KOOL-AM,  Phoenix; KOOL-FM, Phoenix; KRPQ, Rohnert Park, CA;
KISQ, San Francisco.

The 2000s
KISQ, San Francisco; and done, retired December 2001. 

“I wasn`t very good at keeping a job but I was very, very good at getting them.  Forty years on the air -- 41 jobs, 32 stations, 19 markets.  Fired 25 times.  Whew!  I must have liked being a Disc Jockey.  

Woody Roberts:  “Lee, very cool you worked with Chuck.”

Lee Baby Simms:  “I told Woody that I had worked with Chuck Dunaway in Cleveland in 1968.”
 
Woody Roberts:  “Memories?  I arrived at KTSA in front of the Christmas holidays 1967 and was GM through March of '72.  Bernie and I met and cut our deal at the Boston Airport bar (MASS law: women could not sit within 10 feet of the bar) on Thanksgiving Day 1967.  You had already left WPOP.  Joe was a bit upset that I only gave him three weeks notice.  Don't blame him.  Said he would make Bill Bland PD and I said no, Danny.  Which he did.  We had never broken WDRC in morning drive on Pulse -- only on Hooper and the newly launched ARB.   Before I left, Pulse fall book arrived, Joe said, ‘You lucked out.  Pulse is in, you beat 'em in the morning’.  I never looked to see the numbers.  I knew he was right, I'd lucked out.  But now, flashing back for Dr. Bob's book I can see I ran through a lot of material with Miss Fox and newsroomer Ed Clancy.  It's exhausting to think about.  Where did I get the energy?  We came from so far behind.  Miss Fox was my hook into all those folks trapped at their desks in the insurance companies.  All those women filling out forms, rechecking, filing, retrieving.  Secretaries were luckier than the switchboard operators.  All those females in the ratings waking up to their clock radios and their kitchen radios, driving to work with radio on.  Hundreds of thousands of three-inch speakers reproducing less than a dozen AM broadcasts.  I played the dictatorial bumbling boss and she was my obedient worker bee.  Hartford was a totally paranoid city and first place I'd heard of someone filing an insurance claim on a homeowner for tripping on the public sidewalk in front of the home.  I couldn't believe it.  Gads.  I remember back in San Antonio you looking at me in disbelief and saying, ‘Hartford?  Hartford, Woody?’”

Lee Baby Simms:  “Ooooops!  Stop the presses!  I forgot one.  After KYA please insert KFRC, San Francisco.  I was only there for a few weeks, but I did receive a paycheck for work preformed.  So, 42 jobs, 33 stations.  A million tears.  A hundred million laughs.  Thank you.”

Woody Roberts: “Hats off to you, Lee.  That is the most impressive list of its kind I've ever seen.  Most admirable.  You have traveled the nation and lived in some of its finest cities, Marco Polo, you bring back tales.  Because: ‘Wherever you go, there you are’.  A-ha!  Now I remember!  TWICE you ran off and left me stranded all alone in a freezing blizzard to defend myself against the hard-core Connecticut Yankees and DJ zombies at the Big Dreck.  Twice!”

Lee Baby Simms:  “Poor Woody.  Upon this realization, his feelings are hurt ... Lee Baby ran off and left him behind.”

When I questioned Lee about the calls in Greenville, SC, because George Wilson had worked there, Lee came back with:

Lee Baby Simms:  “Claude, I’ll be damned if I know.  Wanting to get the list right, even Googled radio stations in Greenville, SC.  None of the calls rang a bell.  Could have been, though.  Back in the day George was always helping me get another job.  I don`t remember the call letters of that station, but I do remember that station.  It was singular to my career in as much as it was the first and ONLY time that I ever took ... Payola ... of any kind.
 
“One night I was sitting there rockin` away (this is 1963).  The doorbell rang.  In those days the doorbell ring was a blinking light in the studio.  I jumped up and ran out. There at the front door was this 'good ol` boy'.  I knew he was one cause I saw his pickup trunk in the parking lot and because he looked like one.  Good ol` boys were easy to identify in Greenville, SC, in 1963.  He had his son with him, a young man of 15 or so.  The young man was a picker and a singer.  With dreams of, well, you know, the dreams that young men dream.  He had cut a record.  There at the front door, his dad handed the record to me and said, ‘I`ll give you five dollars if you`ll play this on the radio’.  I said,  ‘OK’.  I took the record back into the control room, said something nice about it and played it.  I lied.  I had not even listened to it!

“The man and his son were sitting in the pickup, in the parking lot, listening to the radio.  I played it.  I walked back to the front door as they drove away.  I like to think that they were pleased ... I was not.  I had lied.  I had compromised my integrity for five dollars.  I never did that again.  Lie.  About anything.  I never lie, to lie is to want something from someone that you would not get if you had told the truth.  That's not my way.  It’s getting late.   What's that over there on the counter?  Lunch?  Yes!  Lemme go see.  Lunch time.  No lie.  Wak.”

Just FYI, Lee, Sam Phillips told me that he paid Dewey Phillips in Memphis to play the first Elvis single.  $5.  And when Jim Gabbert, founder of K101-FM in San Francisco, first started in California radio he worked on a Mexican station.  They charged $1 per song request.

RECORD MATTERS
I asked Charlie Barrett to identify some folk in an historic photo and this came back.  Standing, Don Graham of Blue Thumb Records; sitting Sal Ianucci, president of Capitol Records; standing is Tommy LiPuma and next is Bob Kraznow, head of Blue Thumb Records.  “Had lunch with Morris Diamond last week at the Lunch Bunch in Palm Desert.  Said he’d spent some time with you recently.  We should both look so good as Morris … if we make it to 90!”

Gang, Morris Diamond is 94.  One of these days I’m going to ask him how he got into the music business.