May 5, 2014
By Claude Hall
When you’re hungry for music, like I was in the 60s, New York was a great mecca. Not as exciting as Sixth Street in Austin -- not as funky, not as dangerous – in but alive and you had a wide choice of musical menus. Jazz at the Jazz Gallery at No. 8 St. Marks Place, all kinds of Greek over on Eighth Avenue around 32 Street, folk and the beginnings of progressive rock in Greenwich Village. Before I joined Billboard in 1964, I mostly enjoyed jazz and Greek. It was a friend I first met while working on American Druggist magazine – Jim Houtrides -- that introduced me to “the belly clubs.” I fell in love with Greek music immediately, as well as, of course, those curvaceous ladies with their swirling veils. After a while, one of the girls would dance on my table while I wrote short stories, dropping her veils on me because she knew that I would give them back. I heard “Never on Sunday” long before it reached the American market. The bazouki player in the Kaphesia was called Bebi and he was phenomenal. He could set your soul on fire. Which contributed, I suspect, to the fact that I was able to sell those stories to the cheap girlies such as Escapade and Gentlemen.
One player that I heard in those days was Paul Butterfield and His Blues Band. I’m reminded of him now as I listen to a CD fetched over by my son John … “The Original Lost Elektra Sessions,” from 1995. I believe I first heard Butterfield at Town Hall, a mecca for music fans in central New York. When we were just dating, Barbara and I went there a few times. The tickets were low in price. I was working on Cavalier magazine at Fawcett which didn’t pay well … none of the magazines, even the glamourous ones, paid much. She wanted me to hear the Weavers. But one evening, I believe we caught Paul Butterfield when his band featured a guitar player named Mike Bloomfield.
I do love funky blues. What do I mean by the word “funky”? A performance when the music is telling your something and the main artist is willing to sell his or her soul to make sure you understand. As a rule, this music is live. Often, it doesn’t happen but one night when, as the cliché goes, the act is “in the groove” and something magical happens. In retrospect, this is a participatory emotion. The act has to feel it … so does his or her audience. One gives feedback to the other. The result is sometimes explosive, but can also lead to tears or just a soulful experience. I’ve caught many live performances when I literally felt like shouting and jumping up and down. One night at Ambassador’s West in Los Angeles – I can’t recall the name of the club (the Coconut Grove?) – I caught a show by Chico Hamilton, just beautiful! And I had to rush backstage and tell him. Happened once with Segovia. And Cream’s first performance in the Café au Go Go in Greenwich Village hit me hard. By then, I was working on Billboard and I had Barbara with me and she felt nothing. So, this “excitement” is perhaps an individual thing. Long before my Billboard years, I and Bill Pearson drove all of one night in order to catch Jim Reeves do “Danny Boy” on stage at the Grand Old Opry and it was worth it. Just FYI, Reeves broke the ban against drums at the Opry … just a small snare drum for “Danny Boy,” which was, of course, a huge hit at the Opry and on record.
I’ve also caught Paul Butterfield at the Café au Go Go in Greenwich Village, perhaps my favorite music place outside of the Palomino in Los Angeles where I’ve heard acts ranging from Hoyt Axton to Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, and Marty Robbins. Others, too, of course. Here, you might find a Bob Dylan in the audience. The night Linda was there, so was John Sebastian and when we chatted backstage he mentioned he’d recently written a tune for a TV sitcom called “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
This CD has some good music. A bit raw sometimes. But Butterfield on harmonica is great at selling a song. You can feel the music. Best: “Help Me,” “Spoonful,” “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” “And Love Her With a Feeling.” Shortcomings: Another performer or two to fill the songs out, modern recording techniques, better mixes. But for the day and the time, this is a CD I’ll be able to hear time and again. A treasure to have in my collection.
Lyn Stanley: “Thanks for your Commentary.8 today. You gave me an idea … and I have already acted on it! So, thanks! As you suspected, my album, ‘Lost in Romance’, has been a pretty big success. I have already sold over 5,000 albums worldwide. I have been ‘adopted’ by the audiophile community and I am just beginning to enter the European market with the album. So far, it just keeps on selling ... and I now have distribution channels in Europe, Asia and the USA. The album has received several awards including Album of Choice May 2014 issue of HiFi News (UK's largest hi fi audio publication) and Audio Art- August 2014 issue ... the largest audio pub catering to Hong Kong, China and Taiwan markets. I have been selling quite a bit to this group. I am beginning a new project, calling it ‘Potions’, and it will be a tribute to 1950s-composed music. I have 18 musician tracks recorded at Capitol with Al Schmitt as the recording engineer and beginning my vocals soon. It will have jazz standards and POP tunes from the decade. I think it is going to be a good one! I have my NYC debut on May 7th at Metropolitan Room and then off to Munich, Germany, for an audiophile show. Just before that, I have been asked to present my music in Salzburg, Austria, at a dealer conference with over 40 countries represented. Think I am on my way. Thanks for all you do. I am so glad happy to get your commentaries and grateful for your continued involvement in our musical family!”
Lyn, I’m so pleased for you!
Don Graham, Los Angeles: “Thanks for the tip on Dick Robinson … we have known Dick for some time and used to send him our new release CDs at the Conn. School of Broadcasting, Hartford. At that time he was broadcasting from sea aboard his yacht, which he sailed from Boston to Palm Beach! We sent the Jurmaane CD to him in Palm Beach Gardens and it hasn’t come back yet. Miss talking him. A terrific guy and a great music lover! Don’t know John Barger, however, I would like to service him and his station. Also, you’re absolutely right. Lyn Stanley is truly ‘a nice person’. Her genuine dedication to excellence is remarkable … with any knowledge of the recording biz, she, on her own, recorded her first album, contracted the musicians, secured the arranger, booked the studio, and obtained the award-winning studio mixing-engineer talents of Al Schmitt! Then, upon completion of her CD “Lost in Romance,” researched and obtained the finest manufacturing, to create audiophile vinyl pressings! (Which have become an international sales success!) Her persistence and talent is a winning combination. Thank for all do, Claude. Be well.”
I complimented Jon Scott on his recent get-together of people in Los Angeles and got this back:
Jon Scott: “The event I organized is open to ANY one in the music industry, not just for my friends. I have used Facebook and word-of-mouth to spread the word. At the first event last October about 75 friends showed up. Due to popular demand, last December, I gave the world notice. I picked last week, April 23rd as the next one. About 150 people showed up. It was a fantastic turnout. This is not about my friends, it's about seeing people that you may not have seen in 20 years or so. When I organize the next one, you will be the first to know. It's not a BYOB, it's a no-host bar.”
Whups, the Kentucky Derby is history by now! Again. Wicked Strong, at one point 8-1, came in fourth. Thought, albeit briefly, of racing down to Sam’s Town and “investing” five bucks. Didn’t. I’m so chicken anyway that I probably would have bet to show. In 1946, when Paul Cassidy was a kid, he got his first taste of horse racing by sneaking into Saratoga Race Course. This past Saturday, the 79-year-old Cassidy, radio general manager extraordinaire, bought a ticket into historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY, to watch Wicked Strong. He owns a piece of the 3-year-old colt. Probably the left hind hoof. Great on you, Paul! Remember, it’s not whether you won or lost, but how many parties you got to attend.
Bob Wilson: “Just to add info about Bobby Dale. Sadly, Bobby loved Cutty Sark to the point that it assisted in his having a broken ankle in Omaha. Bobby had been living in a second-floor 'walk-up' and our employer was not about to let an injury like that keep Bobby from doing his morning shift. So i was elected to help Bobby down the stairs each morning at 4:30 a.m. ... into my car and drive him to the station. Needless to say sober, Bobby was even funnier. I remember laughing for the full six weeks it took for his bones to heal. After he left Omaha and had become a 'celebrity' in LA, he stopped by to see me at KOIL. Being more interested in creating commercials, I asked Bobby what it was like out west. His reply was something like ‘I don't know, I do look into the studio every once in a while and there were people in there doing something’. Bobby fell asleep at a party in my home and my (now ex) wife asked all the females to put on a heavy coat of lipstick and leave 'kisses' on Bobby’s bald head. After he woke up and saw the result he told me that he must have had a great time, but he didn't remember it. The situation of his passing was heartbreaking.”
I’ve just been honored. Jack Gale sent me a copy (third printing) of his book “Same Time, Same Station.” I’m sure I reviewed this book at some point along the way. It’s great! Real radio. I recommend it most heartily. Don’t know the price. Write Jack at Playback Records, 7317 Sparta Rd., Sebring, FL 33875 and promise him a new Cadillac if he has a copy left he’ll part with. If he gives you a price cheaper than a white Cadillac, snap it up. This is what radio used to be about. It’s funny, it’s fantastic, it’s about a great many of the radio people you and I knew. I just noticed the name of Fred Robbins, one of the people I met in my early days on Billboard (Jack worked with him at one station). Good lord! There are so many names, both radio performers and record artists, mentioned here – tales and tales – that this book has to be considered an important part of our history, yours and mine, the music industry and radio. I love Jack Gale. Known him for a lot of years. He is one of the great voice-trackers, he was a great radio personality and program director including at WAYS in Charlotte during its history with general manager Stan Kaplan and wife Sis, and he produced records. Including with Johnny Cymbal, a youngster who later wrote some of the music for the movie “Tender Mercies.” Sad tale. But a great book!
Danny Davis: “Once again, Writer Extraordinaire, to live in Las Vegas and be overwhelmed with every gambling techno advancement available, yet saddled to the last standing 'pony express' stable, must present some criticism! I'm STILL indebted to Don Whittemore every Monday! ( ... and his email, your Commentary!) All of that to note, again, the ponies ain't runnin' to Palm Desert! Could ya, Please! Or must I seek out the shift-bosses that useta' tender me those long-ago 'comps'! (Ah, Claudie! Thems were the days!) Has anybody related the appearance of Michael Nesmith at 'Stagecoach Festival' here, over the weekend! Headline was 'Monkee to Country'! Today's paper wasn't to Mike's liking I'm sure! Claimed Asleep at the Wheel was 'more exciting' than 'the Woollhat'!”
Heard from Scotty Brink. He’d talked with Bobby Vee, suffering from Alzheimer’s, and said Bobby sounded good.
Robert E. Richer: “I’ve sent your essay on Jumaane Smith to my old pal Dick Robinson, who recently put a new station on the air in Palm Beach. Should fit his format perfectly.”
Michael Cleary: “I was delighted to receive your latest commentary and thrilled when I read about my recent email exchange with Don Graham. When Ben Fong-Torres wrote about him, so many memories came rushing back, all of them vivid. San Francisco in the mid-to-late sixties and early seventies was huge fun. I hope I stay on your mailing list. Many thanks.”
As long as I’m here, you’re here, Michael. Great to have you aboard.
Woody Roberts, Austin, TX: “Thank you, another fine edition of Commentary. I have a format suggestion: consider putting your replies to correspondence in blue so it's easier to distinguish them up front, or perhaps bold. Sterling? I'm not a spectator sports watcher but it seems to me Blacks should stop going to the LA games and Blacks should leave the team. Wife should file for divorce and take the big settlement instead of waiting for him to die. Morbid topic on this absolutely perfect Central Texas Day.”
Came close! I believe a great many teams were about to walk.
Bob Walker: “Claude, I do recall that our Bob Robin here on WTIX in N.O. told me that he did work briefly in PA back in the early 60s. He passed away a couple of years ago, a dear friend of mine from my 40-year career mostly at WTIX. Bob Robin is included here (pink shirt) from 2010 at one of our reunions: THE WTIX ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
Kenny Petrie, Bob Walker, Robert Mitchell, Bob Robin, Todd Bauer, Ray Fisher, Bobby Reno, Ya Pal Al, (seated) Otto Goessl (see photo below)
John Barger, San Antonio: “You are correct about Bob Robin. His real last name was Echols, and he was Bob Mitchell's brother-in-law. They were together at WTIX. Later he was an indie record promoter out of suburban New Orleans (Eunice).”
I corresponded a few times with Bob Robin. Wasn’t aware of his passing. We come, we do, we go.
Jim Clements, Atlanta: “Claude … a big AMEN to your thoughts and words about Donald Sterling.”
Kal and Lucile Rudman, Philadelphia (Cherry Hill), have donated $1 million to Temple University’s TV station TUTV. Previously, the Rudman’s gave $1 million to the TV station. Rudman worked on local radio, earned a master’s from Temple, published and edited the Friday Morning Quarterback, a music tipsheet.
Red Jones, Atlanta: “I know there are a number of internet stations and sites such as Pandora; but, Carl Peeples in Douglasville, GA, has, I think, one of the better
oldies stations on line. Carls Gold Radio. A mix of absolute hits from the 40s through the 80s, plus history of songs and other bits that are interesting. If you've been involved with music of the past 40 years, see what you think. And ‘the hook’ is the presentation of station jingles from the great stations all over the country and an occasional commercial for Lucky Strike, Pall
Mall, and other bygone classics. It is different. And coming soon Carls Country Gold. I'll be voice-tracking it. Even in retirement, there's a little ham left in all of us.”
Bob Skurzewski: “Let John Barger know that Lucky Pierre (WBNY AM in Buffalo) left here around 1960 to go west. LA, in fact. He did radio work there trying to break into movies. He is covered as best as it was in our book, ‘No Stoppin This Boppin - Let the Good Times Roll’. Arnie and Pierre (Pete) go way back and Arnie hung his hat at WBNY as PD. It gets involved but last time I talked to Pierre he was doing well. I suppose I should give him a call. You know how radio people are, they don't have money to make long distant calls.”
This, from Bob Sherwood, was sent to a few of his buddies and I thought you’d find it interesting. Bob Sherwood: Great Horny Toads! It recently occurred to me that I received my first A&M 45 stamped ‘Thanks!’ Don Graham’ (plus, 'promotional use only') when I was a runny-nosed kid just out of USC at my first radio station--KMYC in Marysville, CA in 1964. I just checked with a friend (who went to Stanford) and he confirmed that was 50 years ago. And it appears that you're starting to be pretty good at it. Just kidding! But seriously folks ... the fact that you and CDs stamped ‘Thanks’ etc. are still around is by itself amazing. The fact that you're obviously still at the top of your game -- in a business that certainly isn't -- is all the more amazing. Jumaane Smith is a wonderful talent but he's also damn lucky he found you to represent him. Sincerest congratulations and warm personal regards. Ps -- in honor of your 50th I'm re-adding the Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 record. Or have they moved into the '70s? And as soon as I get back downstairs, I'm facing westward and raising a flagon of Jack (on the rocks) to you. Maybe two. I presume Mr. moss is taking you to Le Dome for lunch. And maybe a ride on one of his ponies?”
POLITICAL MATTERSAbout the only “potential” GOP presidential candidate with an IQ above 70 is Jeb Bush. So, wonder of wonders, the GOP is making attempts to revive Benghazi. Chris Christie sunk himself with a bridge. The GOP believes, mistakenly, that they can stick a few ancient, rusty pins in Hilary Clinton and thus improve the outlook for old Jeb. Not.