April 12, 2014
By Claude Hall
About a ton of emails circulating regarding the 50th anniversary of Don Graham in the music business. Nothing left for me to say except “Great on You, Don!” I would hate to think of a world without Don Graham. Especially my world.
Bob Walker: “Claude, your mention of Stan and Sis Kaplan fired up a few memories… but I don’t remember if it was George Wilson or David Moorhead that brought me to Charlotte and ‘Big WAYS’. In any event, when I arrived at the airport there was a jock there to greet me and give me the keys to Stan’s new sports car. Well, I didn’t know Charlotte, so I refused the keys and gave them back to the jock on the condition that he pick me up at the hotel, take me to the station and, following our recording session, return me to the airport. Here’s where the stroke of two years ago comes in … I cannot remember his name, but he went on to become a star of radio, played Carla’s husband on ‘Cheers’ and frequently visited with Letterman. I guess nothing was spared in giving me a driver that weekend. It just came back, George and I shared a breakfast orange juice in Miami, so it must have been David that sent me to Big Ways. I emailed Warren Brown that you had included his attendance at David’s funeral while David’s ashes had been shipped to Chicago for internment – which was the service I attended.”
Anyone not know the name of the WAYS jock mentioned? If not, send me a three-dollar bill and I’ll email his name to you.
Morris Diamond: “Thanks for your Commentary.9. You help stirrup the memory parts of my brain when you take me on the Jazz trip to Greenwich Village and come up with such great talent as Paul Butterfield. W O W. Speaking of the Kentucky Derby, in the early 70s I hung out quite a bit with Telly Savalas ... since the-mid 50s when he was a young producer of a late night DJ show on WJZ in NYC. He and film producer, Howard Koch, each shelled up $3,000 to purchase a horse that they renamed Telly's Pop. Of course, in those days, Telly was hot with his ‘KOJAK’ TV show. The horse was winning races all over the place. After winning the California Triple Crown for 2-year-olds, there was no question that Telly's Pop will be the west coast entry for the Kentucky Derby. Except that 3 months before the derby, Telly's Pop came down with a chipped hoof ... ran a few races that way ... came in 6th & 7th ... and there went his chance for the Derby. However, Telly was still invited to the Derby to be the grand marshal and asked me to join him. This is like going to the Grammy's, The Emmy's, The City of Hope Gala and every notable affair in our industry. I was in 7th heaven. We were treated like royalty. All the mint juleps at parties ... in our box at the Derby was the Governor of Kentucky. I cherish those days. At that point, Telly's Pop was sent out to pasture ... no more races. It is estimated that the horse, excuse the expression, in his hay days, earned close to a half million dollars. It was fun while it lasted ... most of the fun being in the fotos that were taken in the winner's circle.”
Normally, I’ll touchup a word here and there, but, Morris, I do love your use of the word “stirrup” while talking about Telly’s Pop. Touch of a genius! Great on you!
Lyn Stanley: “Thank you, Claude! So kind of you.
Love the stories today! You have had such an interesting career ... and your political commentary is so right ON!! :))
Have a great week.”
Lyn, you’re absolutely correct. I’ve had a great, wonderful life. I suppose I was in the right place at the right time and got very, very lucky! Guys like Don Graham and Frank Mancini and George Furness and Juggy Gales helped me immensely. George Wilson and Harvey Glascock and Frank Ward, too. The legendary radio man George Wilson used to take a thermos of coffee and go to Disneyland and sit on a bench. Watch people. His methodology of keeping grounded. I used to take Barbara and the kids and go camping in the Sequoias. You stare awhile at a tree 2,000 years old and it sorta puts you back in perspective. Once, Bobby and Karen Vee and kids went with us. We camped at Lodgepole along the stream. Karen made some great s’mores. As you grow increasingly famous, Lyn, I recommend those Sequoias. Big time! Can’t help you on the s’mores, though.
Joe Collins: “Claude, you mentioned Don Graham in today's column. In the Summer of 1964, I went to San Francisco for a visit, while working at KVEC AM in San Luis Obispo. I visited Jack Carney, who was doing noon to 4 p.m. on KSFO. While in the booth with Jack, he introduced me on the air as a ‘young man, starting out in radio down in San Luis Obispo’, then proceeded to hand me a sheet of ‘live’ copy for one of KSFO's clients, and asked me to read it cold, right then, so I somewhat nervously read it thru, and made no mistakes, on the air in San Francisco at 18, WOW ... I could have passed out. Then, while visiting Jack, a local record promoter came into the booth, and started hyping Jack on some single he was promoting. The ‘local’ promoter was Don Graham, who called on me years later when I was programming Album Rock KBOS-FM in Fresno. I would often remind Don of that first time we met at KSFO some 18 years earlier. Also enjoyed you mentioning Chico Hamilton. When I was doing my jazz program, I used to play ‘Conquistador’ with Chico and Gabor Szabo on Impulse a lot. Bobby Dale used to play Chico late at night on KSFO, and once in awhile, he'd play it on KSAN during the times he helped Tom Donahue out on Saturday nights. Thanks for your column.”
Joe Collins later: “ I didn't mention this, but when Harve got out of Chino, for 2 weeks, right after his release, David Morehead gave him a job as a board operator on the KMET side of Metromedia, when we were on Wilshire Blvd. across from the tar pits. Harve was my board engineer for my show for about 2 weeks, then he shows up at KKDJ, working for Rick Carroll. Harve used to laugh at all the Bobby Dale stories I told him, (never told him the KSFO story about the night the police were out looking for him, and Bobby's remark), but many other Bobby stories. Bobby Dale was probably one of the 3 or 4 greatest air talents I'd ever heard in my life. I delivered one of the eulogies at his memorial service in San Rafael in 2001. p.s. You mentioned that Bobby had an affection for Cutty Sark, and lots of cigarettes. He used to light one off the end of the last one he was smoking. The only other person I knew who smoked that much was Steven Clean at KMET. But, Bobby didn't have one drink or cigarette over the last 10 years of his life, due to health issues and his doctor's advice. One night, shortly before he passed, we spoke over the phone, and I asked if he missed cigarettes, and his answer was, ‘every day’.”
I’m going to talk of Steve Lawrence and his new CD “When You Come Back to Me Again” on Curb Records. Lawrence’s voice hasn’t aged a bit and I recall my years in New York City when Steve Lawrence and his late wife Eydie Gorme were the darlings of WNEW, one of the greatest show business radio stations in the world. Beautiful music on this new CD. Dream music. Something to relax by. Love by. Loved everything, especially “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “I Was a Fool to Let You Go,” and my favorite “Our Day Will Come.” Ron Dante has accomplished an outstanding producing job.
I’m positive that I caught a Steve and Eydie live performance together at some point. Probably reviewed them for Billboard. Too many years have passed for me to remember if it was at a WNEW private taping of an hour special at the Blue Room or some other venue. And, of course, this act was always on television or in some movie. They were literally an important part of the American life.
Thus I’m so pleased at the staying power Steve Lawrence expresses. And not just staying power, but a certain magic. This guy has done it all and yet on this CD presents a damned good show. What a delight. What great entertainment! If I might display a disappointment, it’s that Steve stayed within his musical realm and my wish is that he explored more … a different kind of song, different arrangements, a couple of exciting young musicians to back his excellent vocals. But, more than likely this particular CD was the one aimed for … sort of a tribute to his late wife. But this, good people, is THE Steve Lawrence. Thus, I expected more. Something which would set my hands clapping, my feet stomping and my soul soaring. Yes, I realize that you’ve been feted by kings and queens, Steve. What a magnificent career! My compliments.
I’m “stealing” an email or two that’s been circulated, which was written to Don Graham. Just to show what someone currently in show business might think of the Lawrence CD. There were many such emails, by the way, written to Don, all praising Steve as if he were some kind of god. Which, I guess he actually is.
Barb Bailey to Don: “Thank you for sending along Steve Lawrence's new album. I am old school. So is Steve Lawrence & this record proves that old school is very much alive & well! Great song choices & arrangements & he is still singing great! I'll be listening to it in my car today while in gridlock on my way to a meeting!”
Charlie Barrett to Don: “A half century of 5 years before I 1st met you sweetheart ... congrats to U ... is it 45 years ago since we were working BLUE THUMB RECS. w/Bob K at Capitol circa 1969? ... yes ... tempus fugit. All my best to you and so glad we both met our pal Jack R ... and all the goodness he spread and left us all with.”
I tried to send Barrett a note that I’d added them to my mailing list so they could read this Commentary, but got a questionnaire and I’m too old to mess with filling out questionnaires just so someone can read this column.
Joey Reynolds: “Don is one of the brightest men I have ever known, he is a star behind the spotlight, an entertaining hit show when the event fails, a smart ass before there was Howard Stern, and a compassionate person in real life, you gotta love the guy. The only time I ever had an issue with Don was at Martonis where they guarded the grated cheese like the Holy Grail. When Sal took over from Mario and Tony he kept the cheese in a vault. One day I reached for Don's cheese at another table and he flipped out. I had an easier time dealing with cocaine than the Pecorino Romano stinky feet cheese. You know how it is when you can't have something you really want? I am clean and sober 40 years from cocaine but have a cheese addiction thanks to Don Graham.”
Brad "Martini" Chambers, who does the Internet show “Martini in the Morning”: “To my good friend, Don Graham -- I wanted to add one more voice to the chorus of praise for Steve Lawrence and this fabulous new album. Back in mid-February, I received the attached email from Ron Dante. That the lead singer of the Archies, the Cufflinks and producer of Barry Manilow hits like ‘Mandy’, ‘Copacabana’ and ‘Could It Be Magic’ thought he had to explain who he is speaks volumes about the guy who produced this great comeback album for Steve Lawrence.
“We started playing Steve's incredible rendition of Barry Manilow penned ‘I Was a Fool to Let You Go’, from the MP3 Ron attached to the email. I couldn't wait for the CD! I remember playing the song from Barry Manilow's ‘Even Now’ album, but hearing Steve's very contemporary delivery is pure Steve Lawrence, and perfect for ‘Martini in the Morning’. Reaction to this song and several others we're featuring for our worldwide audience has been nothing short of amazing. Thanks, Don, for your efforts to make this great album a must-buy for every music fan. Thanks also to Ron Dante, and thanks most of all to Steve Lawrence for coming back to us again.”
Lord, but I remember the Archies! My youngest son, Andy was a mere babe and he was into “Sugar Sugar” and wore out an 8-track featuring the Archies in that little MG that I drove at the time. You know, I sorta liked the 8-track.
Frank Jolley at Liberty Pictures, Hollywood: “Hi and thank you for your column. Congratulations for keeping us alive. I'd like to extend greetings (through your column) to names from my past who have both inspired me, encouraged me and competed with me in various markets namely: Red Jones, Woody Roberts, Bob Wilson, Danny Davis, Bob Walker and Johnny Barger, just to mention a few. I'm still alive and kicking, too. At this time we are in the process of reviving both ‘John R's Radio Show’ and Bill Drake’s ‘History’ via ROCKHOUSE.mobi. Soon the net will be airing both Rockhouse and other fine oldies shows for worldwide consumption. Hope I don't let anyone down with my brand of Rock and Roll.”
Frank, play a Connie Francis for me, will you? Just FYI, that photo you gave me of you and other KBOX staffers with the McLendon banner still crops up on my desktop. Gets a good chuckle every time! And, just FYI, I guess we ought to mention the name of Ron Jacobs in connection to “The History of Rock and Roll.” More than Drake, I think.
Ted Cramer: “Bob Robin was ‘Bobbin' With Robin’ on WHB in Kansas City for several years. His real name (if this is the same one and I think it is because he worked for Storz) is Bob Sticht and when I was at WSM in the early 90s, Bob was at WAMB in Nashville playing ‘Music of Your Life’ type stuff. He remained there for several years. Hope all is well with you.”
And then Ted sent an email: “Cancel what I said. This was obviously not the same Bob Robin!”
Ted, you can’t imagine how many times I’ve had guys tell me, “I was such and such back on so and so.” The funniest time was when a guy in a nice suit and tie and wearing gold-frame spectacles passed by at a meeting – in Texas, I think -- and said “Hi” and I said “Hi” and he walked on and then he stopped, turned, and came back and said “I’m Woody Roberts” and I almost fell out of my chair. Recognize him? Not a chance! Last time I’d seen him was in Hartford, CT, and he was wearing something like blue jeans, a sweat shirt, and sandals. He was programming WPOP at the time. And that’s the great tale Bob Weisbuch has written about in his book “Hitbound,” as yet unpublished. When Woody and Lee Baby Simms went up against WDRC and Charlie Parker and Joey Reynolds and Bertha Porter. May the good lord bless and keep Bertha Porter.
Read in LARP.com of the passing of Dave Diamond … later had emails from Timmy Manocheo and Ken Levine. This, I hated to see. Just about the time he finished his KHJ stint in Los Angeles, Dave was hanging around the West Coast Writer’s Conspiracy, an avant garde literary magazine that Barbara and I published out of our living room in Bel Air. He had a short story published in the quarterly. And, about the same time, had a book of short stories published. That book, autographed, is probably still around the house somewhere. This is a recent email I had from Dave that I thought you’d like to see.
Dave Diamond: “So glad hear from you and to know you are well and happy. When I left KFI and LA I had a teaching gig in Iowa for 16 years and I have been here at Black Hills State University, in the mountains here in Western South Dakota, I live a couple miles from the Wyoming line. I was born and raised in South Dakota. I have been at BHSU 17 years. I am semi-retired, prof. emeritus. I had a novel come out a couple years ago – ‘COOL HAND IN A HOT FIRE’, published by Daniels and Daniels in California. It is still available in Amazon. My best to you and Barbara.”
We come, we do, we go.
Then: “I'm Dave Diamond's assistant, Amanda Goetz. Some of you may not have heard that our Diamond has passed on earlier this week. I'm so sorry to break the news like this to some of you, but felt a need to write this after hearing the word of mouth rumors that some have come forward to me with. Know that Dave passed peacefully in his home, and is now just ‘at a higher frequency’ as Steve Babbitt would say and wrote in the recent printings for Diamond in the BHPioneer. Once again, I'm so sorry for each of your losses. We all have a special place in our hearts for Diamond. If you have any further questions, you may contact me at email@example.com. I believe a memorial will be planned to happen in Spearfish in about a month or so. He would so love you all to come, drink, be merry, and share your favorite Diamond tale. Keep spreading the good karma for Diamond, and lots of love from me.”
It was a hectic week. Still haven’t gotten to “Forgotten Hits,” a link sent to me by Ed Salamon. My thanks, Ed. Soon, I promise. Your review, too, Doc. If you jazz buffs haven’t discovered the writings yet of Doc Wendell, let me know and I’ll put you in touch. I discovered Doc through the late Jack Roberts, for which I’ve been ever grateful.
Alvin Herskovitz: “Claude, you write about great musical moments. I recall one that occurred in your house! Bobby Vee and Johnny Tillotson sitting together on your living room floor singing and playing dueling guitars!”
Bobby Vee is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Last time he and wife Karen were by the house, he gave my son Andy a private guitar lesson. Of course, he’s known Professor Andrew C. Hall, poet, since Andy was in diapers.
Just saw a picture of Bobby and Karen Vee on their daughter Jenny’s Facebook page. Karen was just out of ICU, smiling. New lung, according to my son Andy. Bobby in a hospital mask and baseball cap. Hospital in Phoenix. In two weeks, they expect to transfer her back to a hospital in Tucson, a “winter place” for the Vees who actually live on a lake in Minnesota. Karen was not a smoker. Just got handed some weak lungs. Go get ‘em, girl!
Danny Davis: “Hey-dere, The Ol' Hall of Memory! Just got off a 55-minute phone-marathon with Buzz Curtis! (As funny as he always was!) Remember Post Records ... did all dem' Gold Albums, for all dem' Top Forty 'giants'! Buzz hears from Al Hershkovitz in Bradon(?), Florida. I've got the number, Claude, in case you ain't! Lemme know. I'll get it to ya'! If ever a life lift is called for, Buzz 'doctors' that scenario real well … and amplifies the 87 hospital days, and 5 (that's 5) operations he just went thru!! No, good humored as I think I am, I can't duplicate a 'Buzz delivery'! Best to you and every 'hall' in the house!”
Our best to you, Buzz. Get better!
More Danny Davis: “Claude-ie: Fund of Knowledge dat' you is: Has any reader told you that 'legendary' Butterball /WDAS, Philly, Now broadcasts from the right arm of The BIG GUYS couch! Died a couple days ago! A good friend and a lovable 'eating machine'! Useta' plan trips to many more than one restaurant/deli/bakery, at any time the stomach growled and he could set up an entourage to go along to all of 'em!! (Me and my bloat is gonna miss 'im!)”
Later, Danny wrote about the weekly show business luncheon out around Palm Springs: “Sad, but true! Shecky was absent, but Buzz Curtis let us know about a Vegas stunt Buddy Hackett pulled on the Scheck when he ordered Vanity Auto License plates, and had 'em attached to a Vegas trash truck ... goin' all over town, the plates reading 'Shecky'! (Only a thing from a funny mind like Hackett, equal to Mr. Greene.) And plenty kudos for Jimmy Rogers (yeah, Jimmy Rogers!) at the Dolly Sinatra Lodge Wednesday night! (Nah-h, Jimmy doesn't really sing much, anymore!) but his performance 'talk-singin', sez everybody, was 'dynamite'! Moishe Diamond termed it as "sensational'! (Thursday, as I've written before, Claude, is a 'kick'! I wouldn't trade Thursday for two Tuesdays!) John Doumanian brought me up-to-date on Steve Tyrell's 'alliance' with Janine Sharell! It's for real! And their happiness together is boundless! John Doumanian was a promo rep, for Capitol, out of Chicago! Long time friend of Steve Tyrell and Woody Allen! John once traded the entire (almost!) Capitol catalogue for a brand new Volkswagen (the 'beetlle')! (I gotta' finish MY book, Authorman!)”
Dick Summer: “Hi, Claude, Great bit about the Butterfield Band. He was huge in Boston too while I was at WBZ. I didn't know you were into Greek music. You never even gave us a veiled hint you were a patron of the dancing ladies ... all in the pursuit of your thorough understanding of the music of the world, of course. I thought you might get a kick out of this story about a lady from my book, ‘Staying Happy Healthy And Hot’.”
“I got to know a cigar-smoking, truck-driving, witchy woman at WNBC. Man, what a woman. Her real name is Lisa, but her friends call her Olga. Olga the Witch has long black hair, a voice like a purr with fur, and a long slow-motion smile. I didn’t see Olga walk into the studio. I just looked up, and she was suddenly standing there in studio 2b at WNBC Radio a lot of years ago. The idea that she just ‘appeared’ was probably just my imagination. Maybe. The 10 p.m.-to-midnight portion of my show was music, and midnight-to-2 a.m. was talk. I always liked to have ordinary people who did extraordinary things as guests on the talk portion. So just before Halloween, I asked for mail from folks who figured they qualified, and Olga’s note said, ‘I’m a witch’. It was a slam dunk. The lights at the WNBC studios were New York neon, and Olga purred something about how comfortable we’d be if I turned off the overheads and did our interview by the light of a candle she’d brought. Olga worked well in the dark with just a candle. She liked candlelight; it was enough light so you could just see a person’s face and especially a person’s eyes. If it weren’t for the Federal Disc Jockey Act’s regulations, plus the fact that my crack NBC tech/accomplice Vic Lombardo was only one heavy-breath away — and, of course, the certain knowledge that my Lady Wonder Wench was listening — things could have gotten a little out of hand right there. Olga was fascinating. I mean in other ways, too. She was a follower of the ancient pagan religion called Wicca. It’s about love of nature, gentleness toward humans and animals, and very ancient legends about tall trees, shadow creatures, and the moon. No devil worship, no broomsticks, and no haggle-tooth hags. Olga was beautiful, smart, sensitive, and loyal. I invited her back for several shows and eventually got to know her pretty well. As a matter of fact, she became a real friend to my Lady Wonder Wench, our son Mark, and me. Mark was fourteen when Olga came into our lives. He often came to the station with my Lady Wonder Wench and me on Friday nights. Friday nights were ‘Mouth vs. Ear’ nights on my show. ‘Mouth vs. Ear’ was a quiz show. We always won, because we cheated. It was a lot of fun. On Olga’s first night as a member of the Mouth quiz-show team, she was lively, happy, and braless. And that’s how she threw her armsaround Mark and gave him a loud, juicy, bouncy kiss smack dab on the mouth. Mark was big with the girls at fourteen. But Olga was all woman. Mark’s ears wiggled, his hands stuck out from his arms at a strange angle, and I think he didn’t start breathing again until sometime late Saturday afternoon. That was lots of years ago, but when I asked Mark yesterday if he remembered, he said something like ‘Oooooh yessss’. And his eyes turned a little purple. Olga fell in love and moved away with her guy a few years ago. I wonder if you might know her. I don’t want to give you her last name, for obvious reasons. But that wouldn’t be necessary anyway because there’s only one Olga like this warm and wonderful witchy woman. If you know her, I’d appreciate it if you’d ask herto drop an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Lady Wonder Wench, Mark, and I really miss that cigar-smoking, truck-driving, fur-purring, witchy woman.”
Bob Levinson: “Lovin' your weekly column and how it gets me up to date with so many old friends and industry acquaintances. Cheers! A photo you and other reader regulars (like me) might enjoy, taken earlier this year at the launch party for my eleventh crime novel FINDERS, KEEPERS, LOSERS, WEEPERS at Skylight Books in LA. From left: the one and only wonderful ice cream king Dandy Don Whittemore; Joe Sutton, ex-MCA Records exec, talent manager, PR guru, host of his long-running ‘Heart of Hollywood’ radio show; Jay Lowy, ex-Jobete Music honcho and past Record Academy two-term prez; Me; Macey Lipman, best of the best indie music marketing and promotion guys, who's now doing (and selling) his marvelous oil paintings and limited-edition lithos.”
Thanks for the picture, Bob