Monday, June 30, 2014

Claude's Commentary.r2

June 30, 2014
Claude’s Commentary
By Claude Hall

Joey Reynolds, a personal family friend, is raising hell because he wasn’t mentioned in “Jersey Boys,” the new film directed by Clint Eastwood.  I don’t know Joey’s legal rights.  Moral rights?  Yeah, if history is to be served, Joey should have been mentioned.  He played “Sherry,” their record produced by Bob Crewe, for four hours in 1962 at WPOP in Hartford and it became a hit.  Would it have been a hit otherwise?  Good question.  But Joey was, without doubt, closely connected to the Four Seasons, the group on which the play and the movie was based.  One day when I was teaching at the State University of New York, Joey came by and Barbara and I drove him and a friend over to Buffalo.  We thus supped on one of his sister’s amazing salads and later caught Frankie Valli at a theater in Buffalo.  Joey emceed the show.  As I recall, we chatted with Frankie backstage.  You know the biz.  Joey wasn’t just close to the group.  They recorded a theme song for his radio show back in the day when Joey was Peck’s bad boy of radio.
Well, if I know the movie business – and I don’t – Clint Eastwood is not even going to sweat remaking the film to include Joey.  Tough luck, Joey.  Continue to yell … but to little avail.  I doubt that Clint will even bother to apologize.
Who did Clint have as his radio advisor?  Anyone?  Geez  … I could have recommended a couple of people!  One would have been Joey.
Ah, movies!  Great line from Ron Fraiser, who was in “Close Encounters of a Third Kind” and in “Gone in Sixty Seconds.”  When they remade “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” he complained to me that at least for the original film they’d given him a bicycle.
No apology, Joey.  Not even a bicycle.  But, just incidentally, word is spreading among Barbara’s friends that the movie isn’t very great.  On the other hand they all – including three members of my family -- liked the play, both in Manhattan and in Las Vegas.  That was your major problem, Joey: no mention in the play.  Ah, Clint … you wish to make a movie about music and/or radio, you’ve got to talk with Don Graham or Morris Diamond or Danny Davis.  Maybe all three.  And then ….

Bob Piava:  “This week's Commentary brought with it some memories of people who helped me.   First story:  Ruth Meyers.  I found myself at a party in New York, at Nate and Al’s with the owner of WPOP radio, Joe Amaturo.  Ruth Meyers came over, complimented me on the great job I was doing.  Joe Amaturo was impressed ... I was flabbergasted.  Later I found out that one of the promo men had set Ruth up to do it.  I don't know whether she knew me from Adam but she impressed my boss and helped me greatly.  Second:  Pete Bennett.  Pete came to me in Hartford and asked me for some help breaking a Bobby Vinton record.  I liked the record, I liked Pete and we got the record off the ground.  In return, Peter surprised me by helping me get ‘exclusives’ on Beatle records ahead of Bertha Porter at WDRC.  I never told anybody the ‘secret’ to getting Beatle records ... but it was Bobby Vinton and Pete Bennett.  Later on my brother John ran into Pete Bennett when John was a member of the Four Seasons.  The last name that struck a bell was Mickey Addy of Billboard Magazine.  Mickey took me to dinner several times at Vesuvio in New York City.  One of those times we had dinner with a very funny lady he introduced as ‘Mrs. Mills’.  Mrs. Mills turned out to be Edie Adams and dinner was delightful. Mickey also taught me a trick.  When eating heavy Italian or other dinners, drink carbonated mineral water (Pelligrini) and you won't feel stuffed.  It acts like an antacid.  I have followed that advice to this day.  Thanks for kicking off some good memories with the column.”

Another Mickey Addy tale:  Before going to bed after an evening of partying he would down a piece of apple pie with a glass of milk.  No hangover!  For those who never met Mickey, he was something else!  He made the record business fascinating.  For one country music bash in Nashville, he dressed as a “baron” with monocle, fancy costume, and all.  Fooled everyone!  Huge articles in the newspapers, photos.  Ah, Mickey.  You and I were born in different generations.  A pity.  I would, indeed, have liked to have known you better and longer.

Shadoe Stevens:  “Hey, Claude, did Ken Roberts die? I just got a note from Joey Reynolds through Timmy Manocheo that would leave me to believe it's true.”
Joey Reynolds wrote a week or so ago about the Ken Robertts memorial at the Friars in New York City:   “Ken was a quiet man, understated and an honest regular guy….”  I wrote Shadoe and copied Joey: “I didn't know Ken Roberts personally, so I don't know.  I printed Joey's note this week.  So maybe Joey will get back to us whether Ken Roberts was just honored ... or has passed on.”
Shadoe Stevens:  “I knew him from back in the KROQ beginnings and Gary Bookasta ... nice enough guy ... a little strange ... I remember him eating nothing but hamburgers, though.  We used to call him Whimpy.  Good business man, clearly, and had a lot of luck on his side, too.”
Yep.  We checked.  Ken had bought it.  Don Barrett printed up a nice story.  I sent it to Shadoe just in case he hadn’t seen it.
Shadoe Stevens:  “Thanks, Claude.  Yes, I did.  Sorry to hear it.  I appreciate your note.  Hope all is well in your world.  Did you see the picture of the legendary - and my personal favorite - the Obscene Steven Clean with Dr. Demento?  It's recent.  But no one knows how to contact him. Do you?”
Hacker got my files about two years ago.  Lost all but about 500 people.  Then the hacker taunted me from, he said, Spain.  As you can imagine, I don’t feel very good about hackers these days.  I have Dr. Demento on file, not Clean.  Anyone know how to reach Clean?  Also, Jay West.

Morris Diamond:  “Hello, Claude.   Thanks a million for keeping me in the loop.   I was devastated to read in your current mailing the writings of my dear friend, Joey Reynolds, when he wrote about the passing of Kenny Roberts.  I was shocked and very sad at the same time.  During the years between 1980 and 2001, I was retained by Tino Barzie, Pia Zadora's manager, and her husband, Mishulam Ricklis, to work with Tino on the music for Pia's LPs and films.  I was given office space and carried on my regular activities of music consulting (supervision) for films and TV.  Tino knew a ton of people, basically from his days of managing Sinatra Jr.   There wasn't a week that Tommy Lasorda would miss coming up to our office and having a lunch with Tino on his way to the ballpark.  Another of Tino's buddies was Kenny Roberts.  Kenny had a few buddies that he would have lunch and dinner with every day ... Tino was one of them, as was Frankie Valli who Kenny managed at one time along with Sly Stone.  This was after he sold his radio station in Pasadena.  Kenny at one point decided he'd like to have an office in Beverly Hills as opposed to his office that he had on his ex-Robert Taylor estate, which also contained a few cottages for guests.   Mr. Riklis had built penthouse offices on Wilshire and Camden and there was always an extra room for a guest.  Tino and Mr. Riklis invited Kenny to move into that office, which he did.  Kenny reciprocated and was very appreciative.  Whether it be lunch or dinner, if I happened to walk into a restaurant where he was dining with his buddies, he made it a point to invite me to join them.  For a number of years, Kenny threw the best Christmas party in town in his palatial estate on top of Mandeville Canyon.  He would tent his tennis court, big orchestra, and I felt very privileged to be invited to this gala affair, dining with Frankie Valli, Paul Anka, etc.  Thanks, Joey, for doing your piece on Kenny and giving me the incentive to remember a true gentleman ... R I P, Kenny.”

Last week, I remarked that at one point WMCA sounded better than WABC across the street in Manhattan (actually, they weren’t all that far apart in the Big Apple).  I should have also written “in my opinion.”

Ken Levine:  “Let me spark some controversy by saying although I, too, had enormous respect for Ruth Meyer (her accomplishments are especially phenomenal considering she’s a woman and it was the MAD MEN era) but I do not agree that WMCA was a better-sounding radio station than Rick Sklar’s WABC.  WABC had those spectacular jingles and maybe the greatest single disc jockey in the history of Top 40 radio — Dan Ingram.  And ultimately won out in the ratings.  Granted it’s a close race between two superb thoroughbreds, but I’d have to give it to WABC by a nose.  Now prepare yourself for all the emails defending WMCA and the counter arguments by the WABC faithful.  I feel like a hockey referee who just dropped the puck.  :)”

I wrote Ken Levine back, of course.  I think Ken Levine is one of the best things that ever happened to radio.  And probably TV, too.   “Thank you for the note.  About Dan, you're absolutely right.  He may have been the greatest Top 40 radio personality ever.  He certainly was for a while.  More in the next Commentary.  WABC, though, had other woes.  I knew Rick Sklar fairly well and was privy to some of these.  I think Rick trusted me.  Knew I would keep quiet about some of the things.  I've been in his home/apartment.  Can't remember why.  But I still kick myself about not interviewing Ruth.  Burt Sherwood knew her well, but doesn't want to talk about the things she told him.  I'll see if I can send you a picture.  From the 60s.  I don't remember if I took it.  But I was on the boat.  So was Howard Kester, one of the greatest characters in radio.”

Ken Levine:  “I’m sure Rick had to deal with ABC corporate, just a floor or two above him.  That could not have been fun.  I worked at KYA for Howard Kester and to say he was a character is putting it mildly.  Our relationship did not end well.   I think I’d have to go to Bill Watson to find a bigger asshole in radio than Howard Kester.”

I get the last word, for the moment, but not to disagree with Ken Levine … just to explain a few things.  WABC sounded great.  No question.  But the station had to carry such things as a speech by the president; Rick fought and got permission to chop it to 30 minutes, as I recall.  He couldn’t complain about station politics outside.  Just lump it.  And “The Breakfast Club” drove him batty.  When he was finally able to dump it, the station finally beat WMCA in ratings.  WABC had a much better signal and also a better dial position.  I loved WABC’s Dan Ingram.  I still have an aircheck of him the day that I did an interview on cassette.  Just incidentally, someone typed that interview up (it ran in Billboard) and now and then I run into it on the Internet.  Time and time again, before we moved the headquarters of Billboard to Los Angeles in May 1970, I was told by visiting radio personalities that they’d come to New York to listen to Dan Ingram.  No one, to my knowledge, was ever this popular with other radio personalities.  But WMCA had a better total sound throughout the day and Gary Stevens and Dan Daniels drew an audience, the Woolybooger to the contrary.  The music list was broader, longer, better.  I’m sorry, Ken, but this is true.  You walked into the studio at WABC and you wondered where the music went (on carts, of course, and the rack didn’t hold enough for a party).  Then, when WMCA effectively bit the dust or was on the way, along came Murray the K on WOR-FM with not only a gob of records, but musicians dropping by.  And radio got exciting again … for a while.

Art Wander:  “While I’m still able to go into Hollywood Hills, though there is nothing new since the passing of a great guy, I enjoy going through all your articles that are available on the site.  I sure miss Jack and HH.  It was a great endeavor and I’m humbled to have played a small part with my contributions.  In Buffalo, there was a reunion of some great WKBW jocks including Joey Reynolds; Dan Neaverth; Shane; and others.  It was great going back into the events of that great era from the mid-50s to the early 70s.  I received some fine emails from Rick Sklar’s children, Scott and Holly whom I knew quite well when Rick and I worked together at WMGM (later WHN).  I hope all is well with you and yours.”

Judith Burns-Allen: Claude, the report of my demise is premature.  I expect a retraction.

My apology to Judith and her husband John.  Kent Burkhart had mentioned to me some while back that George Burns and his new wife had dropped by.  I made the assumption that Judith had died.  My wife Barbara and I were fairly close to George and Judy back in our Los Angeles days.  Then I left the business to study for a master’s in Oklahoma and lost touch with a whole bunch of friends.  I wrote Judy that I hope the kids are doing well.  Of course, they’re all grown adults by now.

Chuck Blore had a phenomenal article in Don Barrett’s about putting entertainment into radio once again.  I’m a huge Chuck Blore fan.   I wrote Chuck a note of praise.

Chuck Blore:  “Thank you, Claude ... coming from you it means a lot.   What Don left out was why I wrote to him in the first place.  I'd like you to see it ... so here it is ... I think you'll agree with most of what I said.

“Don … in your column of the last few days there are so many comments about talk radio, about music, about ratings, etc., etc., etc.   What is radio today and thoughts on how to fix it.   Well, what good is all this talk when basically nothing gets changed, you certainly can't fix it by complaining.  I've been thinking about it, too, and except for a few of the morning shows there's very little that would entice me to tune in again tomorrow.  With that in mind, I'd like to share with you a programming concept I've been working on for about three years.   Not talk, not music, not news, not easy listening, but it is entertaining  and to me that is the most captivating  of all.  Imagine, entertaining radio!  Wow, what a concept!  The attached is my idea of a fascinating radio station, I call it Entertainment Radio, see what you think.”

Chuck, of course, has been arguing for entertainment in radio for many whiles.  And, probably rightly so.  Too many of the younger crowd fail to realize that Top 40 had many elements.  It was never just music.  Shortly before his death, L. David Moorhead was planning to buy a radio station with backing out of Texas.  That station he discussed with me would have been highly entertaining.  Pipe dream?  Maybe.  We’ll never know.  But I used to shoot the bull with Bill Stewart and he always talked about the entertainment features of the radio stations on which he labored.  Top 40 was always a conglomerate of things.  You eliminate entertainment values and you have something else.

Don Eliot:  “Did you know Ken Griffis, a friend of Bill Ward and former manager of the diners club? He actually did write a book on the sons of the pioneers… I have a copy. Ken commissioned me to archive country music for the John Edwards Memorial foundation at UCLA … Wonder whatever happened to him?  Did you ever interview Al Schmitt? Besides being Sinatra's Engineer, he is behind many of the greats.  I met him in the 60s when I wanted to get hired by RCA as a recording engineer. They didn't hire me but did let me sit in on all of the Rolling Stones sessions with Co-engineer, Dave Hassinger.  Wow -- talk about learning how to do it right!  Through the years his other artists, to name just a few have been Barry Manilow, Natalie Cole, (coincidentally they did "Unforgettable" where she sang with her deceased dad, modeled after the fake duet that I put together as an edit for KIIS FM of Elvis and Linda Ronstadt singing "Love Me Tender", Diana Krall and now Barbra Streisand at Capitol.  Might be worth the interview, Claude!  PS/ How about Bob Dylan?  Did you ever interview him?  My real estate partner sold him three homes in Malibu last year.”

Too old to do an interview now with anything other than a dead turtle, Don.  Would have been fun, though.  As for Ken Griffis, I knew him well.  Take another gander at the book about “The Sons of the Pioneers.”  He migrated to Denver at some point.  In poor health.  This was years ago.  I imagine he has passed on by now.  Great guy.  Great music buff.  Would have loved listening to the Elvis/Ronstadt tune.  I’ll bet it was great!

Mel Phillips:  “Of all the radio interviews I've conducted over the years, the one that stands out for being the strangest was the one I did for a Watermark Special (R.I.P. Tom Rounds) on Chuck Mangione.  Chuck was on the road so they asked me to get Dizzy Gillespie, who was Chuck's mentor. Both Rob and Lynn Phillips had gone to many artist parties, concerts, etc., thanks to dad and I decided to take 12-year-old Rob with me on the interview. I wanted him to see his dad in action. The interview was held in a Broadway office that was the size of one of those old payphone booths.  And being on the Saturday of a holiday weekend, the building cut off the A/C to conserve energy.  I took Rob into the room where I introduced him to Dizzy, who was very cordial. He smiled a lot. I must have been into the interview for about 30 seconds when Dizzy takes out a hash pipe, loads it up and lights up.  Rob is in the room with me.  The room was stifling, and Dizzy is the only one in the room with a big smile on his face as he answers all my questions about Mangione.  I was a bit embarrassed to show Rob the seamier side of the entertainment business and vetted all the other interviews I took him on from that day on.  Dizzy (we all were) was properly named.  Next up and coming soon: my favorite and least-favorite interviews.”

Now and then, I touch bases with Sam Hale, who goes back to interesting radio times in Nashville and has been kind enough to provide me valuable radio information from time to time.  Just FYI, I have several books by and about radio and music people that I consider valuable.  I offered them to UNLV (I helped in the construction of the library on campus via the University Library Society) and they refused because they only collect books about gambling.  I have, however, asked my son John Alexander Hall, Esq., to place them with some decent university.  The book Sam mentions below will go in that collection as well as several others, including “Super Jock,” “From Rock to Jock,” and “This Business of Radio Programming.”

Sam Hale: “I'm always grateful to hear from you as it stirs my memories of your previous comments about fellow Nashvillians and the music icons we've known, and about whom you've written.  It's so sad that most of my Nashville music ties are now deceased, but they remain alive in my mind.  As I'm not ‘good company’ while suffering medically, I intentionally ‘lie low’ with no phone calls and few emails.  It's quite lonely.  Therefore, your commentaries are always a welcome sight. Likewise, I truly miss Jack Robert's commentaries and am thankful that he was able to re-open lines of communications among many old acquaintances before his time ran out.  You have an early birthday present en route as I have finally located an (advertised as new) first edition of Jerry Wexler's ‘Rhythm and the Blues’, priced well above the original publisher's price.  You will recall I offered to loan you my copy, which was personally inscribed by Jerry, and you WISELY declined my offer; fearful it would be damaged in shipment back and forth.  I'm so glad that I'm now able to reward your thoughtfulness.  I mentioned the cost in order that your sons know that it is a special book that should not be discarded upon your passing.”

Ed Salamon:  “I know you can't publish them in your weekly column, but I thought you might enjoy seeing a photo of Jack Gale and me taken Monday at the release party for the ‘The World's Out Dancin'’ CD by Jody Lynn on Jack's Playback Nashville label. Jack hosted a great party in the Country Music Association lobby.  The invite, which quotes your column, is below.”

I wrote both Ed and Jack a note of thanks.

Danny Davis:  “Real quiet this week, Authorman. But the Sainted Don Graham never fails to make the grade for me! And you know, Claude, when I was cooking with all the 'schtick' Screen Gems brought to the 'dial', I viewed me right along with Saint Gramcracker! And at 50, he still goes, he continually comes up with names like Eddy Fatootsie, or Dward Farquard, or Sammy Needlemon! God Bless The Saint! I ain't heard of these guys, yet, but it's a 'given' we will ... and soon! I ain't never heered of Wendy Moten, until Gramcracker spoke his 'pleas' for More Moten', or words like that, that made Moten move majestically! I told Neil Portnow, the Grammys should make available an award for DG that honors 'the Saint in our midst'! Remember who made Jack Roberts into the soul that sold the music business back to all of us! I, for one, acknowledge the Saint as having turned Promotion into a real art form! I'm personally delighted! My resume is rife with what I gleaned and thieved from DG. Believe me Don doesn't need any more kudos, but what got to me, this time, is what he's done with a 'no name' (as far as I was concerned) and how the 'name' garners similar expletives in every regard! Lawrence and Moten! Saint Gramcracker! Hear my plea ... Stand by me for about 20 minutes! 5-2 for 'the little Jew', at the crap table and we'll never have to worry about anything ever again! I got at least 14 numbers in the right hand alone! God knows what the left is good for!”

Don Sundeen: “I’ve been told by many successful songwriters that the music and lyrics in songs they wrote often just came to them, usually in the twilight between waking and sleep or when meditating or high on drugs.  I’ve also read and been told second-hand, that both McCartney and Dylan have described the same phenomena, not even to mention Mozart.  Could it be that everything, including art, already exists somewhere in the Cosmos, and certain humans have the antenna to receive and transcribe the various musical, visual, dances and stories that are out there?  I was also interested to see that High IQ doesn’t necessarily go along with the term ‘Genius’, which is thrown around quite freely these days, and many of those considered geniuses suffer from mental disorders including schizophrenia and bi-polar disease.  Am I the crazy one to ask these questions? I'll be interested in your comments, especially the artists.”

Don’t know, Don.  I’ve dreamed entire stories.  As well as written stories while cold and alone drinking only Diet Pepsi.  And there’s a scene in my Great American Novel that I wrote under the influence of my favor drug – Coors.  I’m afraid that readers … if anyone ever reads it … will need three or four Coors under their belts in order to grasp the full importance of this particular sensational passage.  Art – all art – is a funny game.  I’ve been rereading “The White Cliffs” by Alice Miller.  It’s on the Internet.  And it’s just as great as I thought it was some 55-plus years ago!  Yeah, on Diet Pepsi.

And I thank you, good readers, for cheering up my week.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Claude’s Commentary.17

June 23, 2014

Claude’s Commentary.17
By Claude Hall

Everyone makes mistakes and I’ve made quite a few in my life.  Thank God for luck.  Or just God.  Saved me from many a boo-boo.

One of my biggest mistakes in my Billboard days was in not interviewing Ruth Meyer.  My excuse?  I just didn’t know enough radio at the time.  She was program director of WMCA and I had already learned respect for her and the personalities on the Top 40 radio station which was a much better station than WABC at the time and Rick Sklar, program director of WABC, knew it.  I think I’d interviewed WMCA’s Dan Daniels … probably on the phone.  And WMCA’s evening jock Gary Stevens.  Like when he persuaded the cleaning maid to let him into the office of the general manager and read his memos so he knew when he was going to get fired and was able to resign instead and go cool off in France.  Good ol’ Gary.  He was a wildtracker on the air and the use of wild tracks was slowly disappearing.  Not with Jack Gale, of course, at WAYS.  Jack was king of wild tracks.  He used them and his audience ate them up long after most radio personalities coast-to-coast had sighed and said “No mas.”  George Wilson, bless ‘em, used some of Jack’s wild tracks to get his first job in radio.  He was never ashamed of it.  He named Jack Gale godfather of two of his children.

Ruth Meyer worked for Todd Storz in Kansas City.  She knew radio, thus, from the proverbial horse’s mouth and I should have taken advantage of all of that knowledge and I didn’t and I’ve regretted that mistake now for more than fifty years.  You see, almost everything I know is because of who I know.  Or, as is the case increasingly: Who I used to know.  Anyway, Burt Sherwood, bless ‘em, stayed in touch with Ruth long after she’d returned to Kansas City and developed short-term memory loss.

And I wish I’d interviewed Johnny Bond, the singer/songwriter/actor.  He worked with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and others and was fundamental in their escape from Oklahoma.  I hear “Sick, Sober and Sorry” and I think of Johnny Bond.  Same with the song “Cimarron.”  One of my kids played with one of Bond’s kids or his grandson.  I had opportunity.  I’d interviewed such as Gene Autry and Jimmy Wakely.  I interviewed Bob Nolan.  Tim Spencer, too.  And Burl Ives.  Tommy Thomas, who owned the Palomino in the valley, and told tales of when Lankersheim was a dirt road and cowboys taking a break rode up and tied their horses to the rail outside; once Lash LaRue rode his horse into the Palomino and performed his whip act without anyone asking.  Others.  Tennessee Ernie Ford was handy, as were several others.  And I knew Cliffie Stone, once a country disc jockey who became manager of Tennessee Ernie Ford until the day Ford walked in and told him he had enough money to go fishing the rest of his life.  I helped Cliffie a little bit when he produced the last LP by the Sons of the Pioneers.  Great fun!  The possibility of doing a book about the singing cowboys of the movies was always there and I didn’t take advantage of it.  I could have done it.  I should have done it.

One of the men I should have interviewed for the book “This Business of Radio Programming” was Bill Taylor.  He had moved to the Los Angeles area in the 70s to be near his children.  He was in my office many times.  It’s just that I didn’t know much about him in those days.  He was on the phone several times, mostly in regards to a game he developed and syndicated to country music radio stations.  Before he died, George Wilson and wife Jackie were by the house several times – I think George considered the Hall House a way station -- and several times when he was talking about him and Lee Baby Simms in New Orleans, Lee’s only programming job, he mentioned Bill Taylor.  These discussions led to a short story about their radio experiences that I wrote for the eBook “Radio Wars.”  The discussions were usually about Bill Taylor fixing the engineering at the radio station or Bill Taylor trading out something for the radio station.  Little things that George dropped in conversation, but which rang old proverbial bell.  After a while, I saw a pretty good picture of Bill – better than I’d ever seen before – and realized that Bill Taylor had been extremely instrumental in early Top 40 radio.  Truly an unsung hero.  Oh, George talked about Lee Baby Simms, too.  He was extremely proud of Lee.  This is probably one of the reasons that I, too, became pleased and proud to know Lee Baby Simms.  And proud to know Bill Taylor, too.

Songwriter Gerry Goffin, partner with Carole King of some of the world’s greatest hits of the 60s and 70s, died at his home in Los Angeles Thursday, June 19.  He was 75.  Among the hits he wrote or helped write were “Take Good Care of My Baby” by Bobby Vee, “Up on the Roof,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman.” He leaves a wife Michelle and five children.  We come, we write, we go.

Ed Salamon writes to let me know Nick Cenci has passed on.  Two of the biggest hitmakers of Pittsburgh in the 1960s were Lou Christie and the Vogues. The man behind both was Nick Cenci.  We come, we manage, we go.

Listening to “Spanish Key” by Miles Davis from his “Bitches Brew” CD.  Weirdly harmonic.  You can’t think when you’re listening to this 17:35-minute jazz masterpiece.  You have to pay attention.  It would be even better with a couple of Anchor Steams.  Unfortunately, I gave up drinking more then 34 years ago.  Maybe “fortunately,” because if I hadn’t, I certainly wouldn’t be around today to hear this.  What great music, Mr. Davis.  My compliments.  Wonderful horn.  Magnificent percussion.  And thank you, too, Jack G. Thayer and Ernie Farrell who convinced me that life was better sober.

Danny Davis:  “Whatta' select group of 'music mavens' are still out there, Authorman!  The Thursday lunch-bunch has a small case of 'the shorts', ya' know, Claudie, the resort season closes out by May 30, and the snow-birds  … (Washingtonians, Oregonians and their 'frail weather' cuzzins!) don't crowd the traffic lanes until next 'tishabuv'!  A member of the tribe will translate that for you!  Along with our area, I hear about lunches, gatherings and a whole mess of goodwill being circulated by way of I-friends!  (Can I get away with that useage, ol' friend?) Tom Kennedy in Philly says the 'soiree', recently held at the Sagebrush Cantina (usually the luncheon 'meet' for Hulk Hogan and his 'posse') featured Pat Pipolo AND Russ Regan and a whole lotta' guys, even Saint Gramcracker wouldn't recognize!  But, you should pay homage to Jack Roberts, Authorman.  Not only did he provide the resuscitation of a morgue-bound industry, but made it easier for your 'obvious well noted reputation' and 'English usage, to honor the 'legacy' Jack insisted on!  Many thanks to 'every Hall' in 'the grandest city of them all! DD A/K/A 'Gamblin' Man'!

“Answering Mel Phillips, also in the unopposed Top Ten 'Mench-um'!  First, Mel, ‘1/2 ifes on a baby’ was a Red Schwartz promo line, that took him straight from radio promotion, particularly when uttered to the likes of Gertie Katzman or Bertha Porter, to the best Chevy sales man in Philly!  My own intonations would havta' be ‘Make the little Jew, heppe'! … or lookin' for chart position ‘Twenty two for the little Jew’ … (also works well at the crap table!) … promised and didn't get to air … ’Son-of-a-bitch, turned left on me!’  Same SOB, same promise … ‘Made a wide turn on me’! …. promised goodness from the promo guy … ‘You're my horse, if you never win a race’! Best I can think of, Mel!  (Claude runs a clean sheet!)”

Later from Danny:  “If only I had the words I think I have, Mr. Hall … When I was privileged to be a 'mike man' at WHAT, my gospel show featured a tune (I recollect) 'Ain't no friend, like the friend I have in Jesus'! Your kind note, today, grabbed me in the same way, Authorman! And if I have been hesitant, or lazy, or procrastinating about 'my book', your 'note' kicked me right in the ass! Truth is absolutely abundant, when I write that Danny Dummy actually has a bulk of the book written, but has been impeded by the stupidest of mistakes!  While I was being mentored by the prof at Princeton, I failed to number the pages! Marie, the cleanest caretaker in the Coachella valley, and purveyor of the ever-ready vacuum cleaner, insisted I remove those 'piled-up-high-sheets-of-a-best-seller'! (Needless to write on from this point, Claude!) The move, the daily turn of positioning, and all other manner of 'what can happen to those completed 'pearls' of a dynamite career, now must be collated by a dummy, who until your written admonition, was just too frustrated to go through the ordeal!  Not so, from this date on!  I promise you, Marie and myself, to put the 'piled paper pearls' in proper order, and pursue, what has to be, that private room at B of A, where they count those pound$ of per$onal tale$! (Tough making that last 'type', Authorman!) I will continue this diatribe at another time!”

Just FYI, Danny has mentioned “a book” several times in notes.  Thinking back about Mickey Addy’s “missing” book, I suggested Danny give a copy on CD to his wife Marie … or send a copy to me.  For posterity.  Now?  Huge questionmark.  Best recommendation is to get the pages in order, Xerox a couple of copies for safety.  Get someone to scan them onto CD (there’s a program that will do this).  I will always wonder what Mickey Addy wrote.

Don Whittemore mentioned in a note that he almost made Mensa.  I pointed out to him that the old cliché “birds of a feather…” was precisely true and he hung around people such as Chuck Blore, Don Graham and some other intelligent people.  And I mentioned an experience I had when I went for my master’s.  He replied:  “Claude, your humour (English version) is right up and down my alley.  You showed those guys and only missed one test.  Plus you got your master's besides.  You're right about hanging around bright people.  I advise new hires at Dandy Don's only smart people can work here.  They either stick or slide away soon enough.  Mensa is okay, but I get more laffs and satisfaction knowing I'm smarter in my chosen areas and not so smart in algebra and higher math to be in the Mensa Society as Clive.  Our health must be fine or we'd
be with Gerry Goffin tonight.  I saw him on a TV special with his ex wife, by then, and he remarked after ‘Boardwalk’ was published he never had to work a day in his life again.  I still revel in our possibilities of living a good or better life if you catch the brass ring.  Now, there's an old timer for your reminiscing slogans.  Bye Barbara and Claude.”

Joey Reynolds wrote a week or so ago about the Ken Robertts memorial at the Friars in New York City:   “Ken was a quiet man, understated and an honest regular guy.
He sold KROQ to Mel Karmazin for $80 million and did not want to go to the closing cause he did not like Mel, but Mel pushed for him to be there.  Ken said what are you going to use for towers.  He said what do yo’nope’.  That cost Mel another 2 million.

“Ken, Gary Smith, producer of the Academy Awards, and Michael King (King World) raised the money for  the defense of President Bill Clinton's indiscretion with Santa Monica (Lewinsky).  Ken lived sumptuously in the Robert Taylor estate where many friends going through divorce wound up in one of the guest houses, they were sometimes more popular than the Beverly Hills Hotel bungalows,

“Ken managed the Jersey Boys from the beginning with his partner Pete Bennett who still handles Frankie Valli.  The radio and records roost are deep with Ken, he also managed Sly Stone until he made a financial killing combining 2 radio stations on the same frequency up the road from each other in Malibu at 103.5 FM.  The money was borrowed from the Bank of Finland … when the bank went under the loan never had to be satisfied.  He was lucky that way, but not always.  Ken had a partnership with Kirk Kerkorian and to '07 they marginalized 100 million on the market and lost.  Kerkorian built the MGM in Vegas and I believe Danny Davis underwrote the cost of it.  The West Coast guys and gals remember Ken from Matteo's, his long time childhood friend?  Matty was also from Hoboken, NJ.

“Ken and his mom were neighbors and friends with Frank Sinatra's mother who was a midwife and an abortionist, which is probably the reason Frank didn't know whether he was coming or going.  Our boy Ken was an East Coast guy who lived also in the Trump Towers on Fifth Avenue and was a regular at the Friars around the corner from his home.  Unfortunately his diet consisted of nothing but French fries and pizza, once In a while ravioli from Patsy's.  It was not uncommon for Ken to have dinner at a 5-star restaurant and order the fries.  Made the chefs crazy.

“We were great pals -- Ken, the late great Sid Bernstein , and myself.  Believe me when I tell you he was impressed by the fact that I was 40 years sober, my daughter is growing medical marijuana and I never went back to smoking weed.  I told him it just gave me the munchies and would get fat from the fries and pizza.  By the way, Don King was also a good friend, he was very generous and financed Sid' s book.  Here are some photos from the celebration, his friends were ordinary and big shots, it made no difference to Ken.”

My apology for not running this sooner, Joey.  Just one of those things.  I wish I could run the pictures, but right now they’re sort of a hassle to do.  I appreciate them, though, and will keep them on file.  Love you, Joey!  My best to your kids.

Jim Ramsburg publishes a blog about old radio.  “This past weekend, however, was a bit different - it was posted from Fairview Southdale Hospital in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina.  Patty and I came north for our grandson's high school graduation.   The weeklong getaway we had planned will turn out to be three weeks of heart surgery and recovery.   The prognosis is good and my surgeon is considered tops in his field in Minnesota.   If he's as good in the operating room as he is in his field in Minnesota, I've got nothing to worry about.  (Rimshot and thank you, Ed Wynn).  So, the beat goes on - pun intended.  I'll keep writing and inviting your comments.  As always, it you have any friends interested in broadcasting history, please tell them to check out “

Ed Salamon:  “My old country radio friend Don Nelson's comment about Dex Allen mentoring his son, reminded me how Dex was an early mentor of mine as well.  In the mid-60s, when Dex was a nighttime DJ at KQV, he would book my high school garage band to play live sets at his record hops (as did fellow KQV DJ Chuck Brinkman - who was Pittsburgh's king of the teens at that time). That was my first exposure to the behind the scenes of radio. Meanwhile subconsciously, I was absorbing KQV PD John Rook's formatics by listening to that station.  Dex always had time for me, Chuck and his other old friends even when he was the big deal CEO of Commonwealth Broadcasting.”

Jim Gabbert:  “Claude, as we have been moving our offices I keep running across these things.  It may be boring to you but somebody should write a book.  We broke so many rules in both radio and TV and obviously succeeded!  Even in 1986 when I bought KOFY a one-kilowatt daytimer at 1050 (when I sold it to Susquehanna it was 50 KW fulltime!).  Today it is KCTC . See the article dated in 1986 about the kilowatt AM that beat it's FM competitor KYA-FM.”

I remarked that I would love to have those old files because the radio business has changed and Jim replied:  “Not like it used to. After we sold the company in 1998 I went to work at KGO as a talk show host for 14 years. Then Cumulus ruined one of the top-rated talk stations in the country. For 35 years the station was number one in all 4 books per year in almost all demos which is why Mickey Lukoff, the GM, was inducted into the National Hall of Fame. Cumulus's bankers thought the overhead was too high ... $ 15 million a year, but the gross was $30. Go figure. Than I quit and went over to Clear Channel Newstalk 910.  They decided that they did not want phone calls and we had to talk for 3 hours. They failed to understand the psychology of people listening to people. It tanked real fast as have KFI, KFBK, and most of their talk stations.  Most stations today are run by investment bankers and do not have a clue. The original Golden Years may have been before TV but far and away the most exciting years were the late 50s, 60s and 70s. The 95 Comm act killed competitive radio!”

We lament together, good buddy!

I made contact with Doc Devon through the late Jack Roberts.  For which I’ve been ever grateful.  I consider Doc, a professional musician, one of the very best writers on jazz and blues.

Doc Devon writes that he “loves the blog and I cannot thank you enough for including my work. I just got done covering the Playboy ‘Jazz’ Festival at The Bowl.  Here are my highlights.”

And later:  “The great pianist Horace Silver passed away today. I thought I'd write an appreciation since he was such a big influence on my music.”

When I was young, I knew everything.  Now that I am old, I know less.  And, sadly, realize that I didn’t know everything when I was younger, I only thought that I did.  Well, I’m not really old, I guess.  I think I passed “old” some while back.

I had great sport this past week from random messages between the Three Mesquiteers, to wit Bob Weisbuch, Woody Roberts, and Lee Baby Simms.  Bob’s remark about a Roman saying gave me a good chuckle.  Still laughing, Bob!  You’ve been taking humor lessons from Gary Owens, I presume.

Still working on the final edit of the Great American Novel.  Up around page 292 at the moment.  Huge book.  A bit filthy here and there.  I’m going to put a price tag of $49.95 on it.  People probably won’t understand the purpose of this book and hate me.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Claude’s Commentary.16

June 16, 2014

Claude’s Commentary.16
By Claude Hall

Back in the 70s, we were having a meeting of the advisory committee at 9000 Sunset for the annual International Radio Programming Forum and I noticed Chuck Blore, one of the advisors that year, sketching in a notebook (it was not the table cloth).  Behold, it was a sketch of me.  I stole it and have used it frequently since.  George Wilson used to say it made me “look good.”  There are probably more, but among those in radio who can and do draw are Chuck Blore, Gary Owens, and Bobby Ocean.  Men with multiple talents.  Just FYI, Gary Owens in Facebook just a couple of days ago mentioned he wasn’t well and I suppose he had 30 well-wishers.  Me, too, Gary.

Chuck Blore:  “Claude … I always enjoy reading your commentaries but rarely so much as this one.   To be ranked as a 'genius' in anyone's book is a significant compliment but when it's written by someone you've respected and admired for many years it is extraordinary.  Years ago, at one of his seminars, Todd Storz, introduced me as ‘a programming genius’ and I smiled in response, probably nodding in my head in agreement, and thought no more about it.  Today, as I read your comments I was sincerely touched and I want you to know how much it meant to me.  I will be happy to draw another picture of you but you’ll have to supply the table cloth. Your fan and long time admirer.”

Casey Kasen passed on Sunday in a California hospital, according to CNN.  Sad to some extent, but all of the questions that needed to be answered have suddenly been answered.  My compliments to God.  And the only question left – which has been answered as well – is did we do well in the sight of God.   We come, we do, we go.

Jim LaBarbara:  “If I may add another name to that list of intelligent people in our business.  Bill Randle should be at the top -- several PhDs, a practicing lawyer, author of a number of books, university professor and on and on.  He was the head of the broadcasting department at the University of Cincinnati. Thank you for Claude's Commentary -- it keeps us all in touch.  I do a radio show every Thursday night 6-10 from the center bar stage at Miami Valley Gaming Racino outside of Cincinnati. My show is broadcast just in the racino -- 50s & 60s R&R.  They even built me a little set.  I also work 8 hours a day as the Brand Manager of Matlock Electric Company.  The owner hired me after reading my book.  I said I don't know anything about branding.  He said you are a brand and you've reinvented yourself many times during your career. At 72 I'm busier than ever.  I wish I lived in Arizona so I could vote for my old WKYC buddy Jay Lawrence.  Keep up the good work and thank you again.”

Thank you, Jim.  Bill Randle was, indeed, the brightest man I ever met.  He had a doctorate in American Studies from Case Western, two master’s from the New School and two from Columbia University, and a law degree from Oklahoma City University.  I was one of the persons asked to write a letter of reference when he went for his bar in Ohio (he got it).  William M. Randle Jr., Esq.  I was also one of the people he persuaded to go for a master’s.  So was Jim.  And there was a lady who I understand is now teaching at Oklahoma State.  Others?  Probably.  Cute bit:  Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, and Mary was one of his girlfriends for a time.  It was Bill who mentioned that to me.  This is the first time I’ve mentioned it.  Yeah, kiss and tell.

Mel Phillps:  “The promotion people of the late-50s - 60s era were part Con, part Corn.  With that in mind I've compiled my Top 10 Promotion Clichés of All-Time list and invite others to supply their own: 10) ‘Your lips to God's Ears’, 9) ‘It sold 20,000 in Buffalo’, 8) ‘Drake (Rick, Drew, etc.) Likes It’, 7) ‘Emis’ (Yiddish for the truth), 6) ‘It's Got A Bullet’, 5) ‘Let's go shopping for furniture’, 4) ‘It's a Gavin Sleeper’, 3) ‘My hand to God’, 2) ‘It's going into the (W)ABC music meeting’ and my favorite, #1 Promotion Cliche of All-Time: ‘Let's Go Halfies on a baby’. For openers, I'd love to see Danny Davis's list. Now, back to the future.”

Both Don Graham and Don Whittemore sent me the brochure for Tom Rounds’ funeral.  I appreciate.

Don Whittemore:  “Enclosed is TR’s memorial guide.  Speakers included George Burns and Shotgun Tom Kelly.  Didn’t know the other people.  Was disappointed that only two promo people were there – me and Don Graham.  TR changed the music world.”

I will miss Tom Rounds.  Great person!  His word was a good word.  His friendship was valid, honest, and there, no matter the years or the miles.

I’m pleased that George Burns was at the funeral; I have missed being out of touch.  Barbara and I were fond of George and his family.  I understand his first wife is gone; heard that from someone.  To support himself in those early days of radio, George told me that he wrote for True Confession.  I asked him where he got the information.  “My own life,” he told me.  I always liked him and his.  Good radio man.

Don N. Nelson:  “I’ve been lurking in the shadows and looking forward to your e-mails. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been out of the business for more than 20 years.  It occurs to me there is a common theme among the successful broadcasters you mention in your commentaries.  Almost without exception, they each had the benefit of a mentor who helped them achieve their success.  Today’s commentary included a note from Dex Allen.  Dex was my co-sales manager (with Mike Stafford) when I was GM at KSON in San Diego. I will always be grateful to Dex for paying it forward by mentoring my son Mike at KGGI in Riverside. I’m certain that Dex’s ‘tough love’ mentoring contributed to Mike’s later success at Yahoo.  I was blessed at the age of 18 to be hired by the then owner of WQUA-Quad Cities, G. LaVerne Flambo.  He offered me $75 a week to work a triple split air shift 2-4 pm, 6:15-8 pm and 10:30-1 am. More importantly, he always had my back. Verne stuck by me thru thick & thin … moving me from that first split shift to morning drive, to sales to sales manager and finally WQUA’s station manager. 13 years after we first met, he handed me the keys to WIRE, Indianapolis ... appointed me VP/GM and gave me a two-word mandate ‘FIX IT’.  Verne & I worked together until he passed away and in the 30+ years since then, hardly a day goes by that something he instilled in me is not a part of my day.

“Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of paying it forward with some exceptionally talented broadcaster … talent, sales, engineering and management … even a couple of group owners.  Many of the people I worked with over the years, not only in radio, but exceptional people who worked for the labels, syndicators, the trade press, ratings services and trade associations like the Country Music Association, RAB, the Arbitron Advisory Council, etc., are folks that I remain in contact with. Some in person, some by phone, some by e-mail & social media.  I am in the process of winding down my 2nd career as a Real Estate Broker and heading into full retirement this summer.  My best to you, Barbara and to all who were fortunate enough to have been a part of a great industry … (or industries).”

Don, retire if you wish.  But leave us not!  We couldn’t do without you and Burt Sherwood.  You guys are part of my history.

My mentor at Billboard?  Paul Ackerman, music editor, a gentle and kind man who was respected by music executives and the entire music publishing world, including the old Tin Pan Alley crowd.  It was an honor to be invited to his house on Rockaway to see his homemade greenhouse, home of his prizewinning camellias.

Burt Sherwood:  “Claude ... tell Morris Diamond that Andre Baruch and Bea Wain were not there when I came to NYC in 1953 ... they had just shuffled the ‘deck’ then and we had Gallagher and O'Brien as the morning team … in ‘53 the station was still on Broadway above Nola's recording studio and a stone's throw away from Lindy's and the Stage Deli.  When I got there (and it took me a long time to really get there) I was the first ‘outsider’ to show up ... the entire staff came from NYC and the East Coast. I was the hick from Illinois ... Bob White was our then music director and he survived the move  by WMCA to 415 Madison Avenue ... and was replaced a few years later by Alan Lorber (we are in touch to this day) ... but I am doing my favorite thing ... digressing ... a couple  of WMCA classic stories.

“As you may recall WMCA was owned by the Straus family ... Nathan Straus (Peter's father)was always there in those days ... they were related to the people that owned the NY Times, etc., etc. ... he was a kind-hearted man, and had a few hangups ... all of us were there with jackets orsuits and ties on daily, ALL shifts ... when we were on Broadway ... Barry Gray would do some taping or work on his during the day and interview the stars ... one day the three Andrew Sisters were sitting on the couch in the reception area dressed in slacks and babushkas (sp?) on their heads (they were appearing at a nearby theater) ... Nathan saw them and asked who they were ... ‘Andrew Sisters’ was the reply ... he said ‘I don't care who's sisters they are, get them out of the reception area’ ... I understand that we had a janitor by the name of Andrew at the time ... this one predated my arrival.  There were many similar stories; I did the news around Barry's Show, when Victor Reisel (the columnist and Union organizer) subbed for Barry, he left the studio, said goodbye to me and was attacked by a gang on the street and they blinded him with sulfuric acid … the waiters in Lindy's poured water into his eyes and they were told to stop ... they listened, had they continued Victor would have probably had some sight saved ... a real tragedy.  My personal absolute favorite is the story that when we did our shifts we did news ... 5 minutes twice an hour ... Barry Gray's was show was no exception ... and I did news starting at 10 pm through 6 am as well as the show ... the 11 o'clcock news was preceding Barry Gray's talk show ... he was on remote that season ... and I did the news in the show as well.  Nathan Straus used the news to showcase his editorials (they were placed just ahead of a newscast) and he did some dandies (I am told he was the first in the nation to do them) and this one was critical of Citgo (as I recall the company, it might have been another privately owned company ... makes no difference today).  The company was owned by a billionaire family then.  Citgo sponsored the newscast ... I heard the editorial critical of the Citgo and the company's owner ... did the news, put the commercial spot in for the company ... left the studio for the news room and the phone in the news room rang ... it was the USA president of Citgo screaming to me on the phone to get Mr. Straus immediately or he would personally cancel his contract with the station.  I said it is after 11 pm and I did not ever make calls like that ... he yelled and carried on … so I said I would try ... engineering had Straus's home number ... and I called.  Mr. Straus was furious (I thought I was going to get fired) and told me in language that I thought I would never hear from him ... to tell that sob to go to hell and hung up the phone.  I took the other line off hold and cleaned the conversation with Mr. Straus up a lot ... and the guy blew his top and said we were cancelled and he was not going to pay for the newscast ... we got talent fees for commercial newscasts and I lost my fee (I think) ... worth telling: I was told that when Mr. Straus passed he had my show on ... and that haunted me for years.  As you may recall, his son Peter took over and later became Director of the Voice of America.  Ted Steele was jock as well as a bandleader and it was Christmas ... and we each got a Christmas cash bonus from the station ... I was in the jock lounge when Ted opened up his locker and saw the envelope with the check in it ($18.75 after taxes) ... he screamed the decimal point must be in the wrong place ... I was talking on the phone to a friend of his years later when Ted was in his room ... and reminded him of the story ... Ted could not stop laughing ... you see we were all Union and that was what we got ... hell, that was a week’s food shopping for me,  and a great laugh for us ... all the non-Union people got much more I was told … it was an era and time I will never forget ... I could go on with a bunch more and a couple of record company stories, but I will leave it there as I value my eyesight!”

Burt, I loved the stories!  These are absolute gems!

Bob Sherwood:  “Dear I, Claudius:  So … for our next luncheon we focus on ‘Desert Island Discs’.  I was recently discussing the topic with some former radio and music people and found it easy to quickly identify the 10 I had to have:
--“Your Song” by Elton
--“I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” Sinatra
--“The Love I Lost,” Teddy Pendergrass (Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes) (the full version)
--“Go Your Own Way,” Fleetwood Mac
--“Baby I Need Your Lovin’,” Four Tops
--“Hotel California,” the Eagles
-- “Long, Long Time,” Linda Ronstadt
--“Light My Fire,” the Doors (the full version)
--“Loan Me a Dime” (plus “Lowdown”), Boz Scaggs
--“Pigs,” Pink Floyd

“Then I started thinking about Roy Orbison, Billy Joel, Jackie Wilson, Chicago, Gladys Knight, the Stones, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Four Seasons, Dire Straits, Ray Charles, Nilsson, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Nat King Cole w/George Shearing, George Michael and one-off artists like Ed Townsend and Gregory Abbott and I needed a couple of days to pare down my list.  After intense evaluation I was able to settle on the list above … plus 122 titles tied with Pink Floyd at #10.  I look forward to your list.  And abalone at Scoma’s.”

Later from Bob Sherwood:  “Here’s another Ronstadt to add to your ‘discs worth acquiring’ list … it’s ‘Winter Light’. I believe it’s the follow-up to the last one I noted.  She does ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ and ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself’ and instantly owns both of them.  And there’s at least another half-dozen hits or semi-hits of the twelve total … had ‘music people’ been programming AC radio in the mid-90s.  OK. OK. So I’m hyping again!   I can’t help myself.  But you listen and tell me I’m wrong.  I’d burn a CD for you but I’m in New England 55 miles No. East of NYC and Staples and their ilk won’t duplicate music discs and when good friend, the wonderful and legendary Phil Ramone went on to create great music for a Higher Power I lost my only studio source.  Hell, I still owe a copy of Boz Scaggs original CD (with ‘Loan Me a Dime’) to Dick Asher and I promised him two years ago.  And then there’s my 20+ years in the record business that makes me congenitally unable to make dupes of commercial recordings.  If you can’t find one, I’ll loan you mine.  PS — my Top Ten Desert Island Discs list went up to 123 tied for tenth place as I just heard ‘Any Day Now’ by Chuck Jackson on the PBS Burt Bacharach Special.”

Get yourself a MacBook Pro, Bob.  Most of the tunes I’ve saved on here were from CDs purchased by my son John, Esq.  But some of the tunes are courtesy of the artists.  For example, Bobby Vee and Tom Russell.  And I would sincerely doubt Tom would object if I sent you a copy of “Touch of Evil.”  If you’d like to have a copy.  A Desert Island List?  I’d have to do some serious pondering.  But “Vin Hacia Mi” and “(Call Me) When You Get to Heaven” by Raul Malo, “La Cigarra” by Linda Ronstadt, Bobby Vee’s second “Take Good Care of My Baby’; “Touch of Evil,” “A Little Wind Could Blow Me,” and “When Sinatra Played Juarez” would be right there and probably two or three more by Tom Russell.  His “Aztec Jazz” CD was extremely good.  I’d have to point out that I’ve been a huge Linda Ronstadt fan since “Up to My Neck in High Muddy Water” with the Stone Ponies and that Bobby Vee is a good friend.  Then, of course, there’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” with Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias and lately I’ve discovered Eliza Gilkyson.  She’s great on “Not Lonely,” “He’ll Miss This Train,” “Unless You Want Me,” and “Bellarose.”  I also love “Going Back to Harlan” by Emmylou Harris and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Judy Collins.  I could go on.  Like Guy Clark with “Wrong Side of the Tracks.”  Guess I’d better stop.
George J. Wienbarg:  “Having so much fun reading Claude's Commentary!  And they're important, too, if just to have documentation of some of our careers by you, the former radio television editor at Billboard. I mention you tautologically the previous sentence because of our discussion on the subject of Wikipedia a couple of months ago.  It was my friend Lee Klein who had seen to it then that your entry was made in Wikipedia.  It was not actually me that got J. Paul Emerson placed in Wikipedia, it was him. My entry by him was taken down by Wikipedia – even though I sold and trademarked the famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles in a 1980 promotion because they said it was self-aggrandizing.  (You need to look at yours in view of what you said about the invention of the concept of Easy Listening in CHC #15.)

“I think for the most part Wikipedia does not like radio people.  Because radio competed against newspapers, newspapers were disinclined to write about radio people because of this competition for advertising dollars. This prevented many radio people from being talked about in the general press over the years which affects their ‘notability’. Witness the outrageous radio promotions radio people have had to do over the years, from Pogo Poge on….

“I had to address your commentary today (CHC #15) about brilliance:  I lived with, knew, and worked with Lee Abrams for three years during the 70s and was his ‘national news director’. I didn't know a lot of the other guys that you had mentioned, but of course know who they are—and actually got to know Kent Burkhart at KIMN when I was J. Paul's assistant and then at WLAC in Nashville, which was owned by Billboard at the time.  Kent got me the job at WLAC. John R. handed the station off to me on his last show in 1977 and I used to run that big 50 KW transmitter as it was the job of the morning news man to do so.  I felt like I was driving an Indy car as we bombed into Cuba, a good bit of Texas and Canada with the signal.  I was the news guy for Pat Reilly and Dick Kent.  Anyway, besides J. Paul Emerson, Lee Abrams was the smartest guy I ever met in radio. He was 18 when he hired me to be his news director, at 20, at WICV in Chicago.  We didn't go on the air there, but we did at WGCL in Cleveland.  We were number one in one month!  Lee had just come from WXYZ FM in Detroit where he had been the program director at 16 years old! Lee is a genius.  If you don't believe me just ask him :-) compared with Lee's own Wiki page

Donald Sundeen;  “Hey, Claude, didn't receive today's blog until Kenny Dowe was kind enough to forward it.  Like Lee Baby, Ken and I were both involved with black radio at one time or another, as was the great Ted Atkins and many others. Anyway, I'd appreciate it if you'd check the list and make sure I didn't fall through the cracks.  Don't you hate dealing with the internet?  Love what you're doing bud, the ranks are shrinking every day.  Cheers.”

I had three or four people say they didn’t receive Commentary this week.  No idea why.  Three got copies from buddies; the fourth from me.  Hope this doesn’t happen too often.  Just FYI, I’m trying to remember to place Commentary in Facebook each week.

Lee Baby Simms:  “Claude, who is Dex Allen?  Does he have any street cred?  I don`t remember him.”

Jay Lawrence:  “What ever happened to Russ Knight, The Weird Beard?  He was on the board and ‘accidently’ hit the button that sent the space ship I had been bui lding on air off into space. That was the way I left KLIF, Dallas I have not heard of Russ forever.  Love the reading.”  Then, later:  “I found the answer to my Russ Knight question.  Sadly, Russ passed in 2012.”

Always wanted to talk with Russ Knight.  In person or on the phone.  Never happened.  So far as I’m aware.

Danny Davis:  “Authorman, ya' know how hard it becomes to pay you all the regard and respect you've amassed over the years?  Very Tough, ya ol' cob-web!  The plaudits ain't really 'conversant' (if Moishe will allow that usage!).  And the thought I never entered the 'earshots' now pouring into the Commentary, heralds this note, Claudie!  You've been on my horizon ever since you embraced me, from Decca, to Phil Spector, and the coverage you allowed me!  Once, for me, and all the guys you motivated, MANY THANKS, before I 'throw the seven' and you need Marie to forward the three pages you stoked, for me, at Billboard! (I got 'em, wrapped, just in case!)  Here's to you and every Hall in the house!  Great on you, my ol' friend!”

Danny Davis later:  “Bye, Bye, but too tough to lessen the 'mind warp'! Authorman! The lady what puts up wit' me, is biting down on a 'discount' Mexican fiesta, having a grand 'ole' belch-of-a time, when a gent invades our station and identifies hisself as a former contract player I booked for several Spector sessions!  A one-time 'name' player! We talked, exchanged phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and he says, as he turns to walk away, ‘Do ya' miss it, Danny? The music business?’ And therein, Moishe (Marie, to those not of the tribe!) retrace the lost passages of a business, once key to every 'readier Commentarian'! I don't wanna' minimize the fajitas we're rapidly knocking off, but the player leaned on a key question most everybody asks me! ‘Whaddya' hear about Phil?’ Almost nothing! The three letters I've sent 'Philzee' ain't ever come back, but I do have a fine relationship with the warden's office! They let me know he's OK! He's in the #2 of Corcoran State. The one that houses 'substance abuse'! On suicide watch, last talk I had with the warden's office! There is little humor to be advanced from my past with Phil Spector … or my family! We remember what he was, what he did for family, where he is and how he influenced an entire industry! And so, we pay for a sad repast, take the remaining fajitas home for refrigeration, and hope we don't run into any other loose Spector contract players!”

Last from Danny Davis:  “Just sent ya' one, Claudie! A trifle emotional I know! But my daze (that's a correct spelling, I assure you) with Spector conjures a whole mess of stuff that hinders my book, cause memory gets in the way when it's inconvenient to how it all went down! He was a kick! (This ain't really meant for the other Commentary B4 dis one!! Best to ya' ol' fella'!”
Love ya, Danny!

Your shoulders began to move first.  Then a foot.  Your right foot.  Patting time to the music.  Because Wendy Moten is going to move you.  Great  music!  Great voice.  Perfect phrasing.  Great songs, some from old movies.  Great old movies.  That piano, the bass, the guitar.  This “’Wendy Moten Sings Richard Whiting” CD is gonna get you!  Beautiful work by Ms. Moten, especially “It’s a Long Time Between Kisses,” “Miss Brown to You,” “Too Marvelous for Words,” my favorite which was written for the movie “Ready, Willing and Able,” and “True Blue Lou,” which has a sassy beat.  I believe that adult contemporary stations will find this CD very programmable.  Miss Moten is a superb lounge-style singer.

Feeling pretty good for this late in the afternoon of a Saturday.  I hated to hear that Gary Owens wasn’t well.  Back in the 70s, Gary and I played basketball on Sunday mornings in the San Fernando Valley with a bunch of guys.  There was a lawyer, a television producer, a hotdog manufacturer, and a guy who’d played center for UCLA under John Wooten.  Others.  We were all, at that point in our lives, “ragnots.”  But we loved to play and played about as well as we could.  Great fun!     

Monday, June 9, 2014

Claude’s Commentary.15

June 9, 2014
Claude’s Commentary.15
All the best to me and yours and may the kindly harbor in your front yard.
By Claude Hall

Jerry Wexler was a genius. We had/have many in the record and radio industries.  Clive Davis used to brag about being Mensa, the group that allows only high-IQ people to be “members.”  Yet, I knew several people that I thought were just as bright or brighter.  None, however, needed any membership card to prove it.  Some of us, indeed, have always been very audacious; we knew we were fairly bright and didn’t need to brag about it.  That would have been a bit too ostentatious.  Jerry Wexler, who worked at Billboard before his Atlantic Record days, could be very erudite … or he could speak in the gutter.  However, he read books that only the intellectual reads.  As long as I knew him, he seemed to be consumed with knowing.  Everything!  He was the only person to mention “North Towards Home” by Willie Morris to me.  Willie mentioned the old Scotsman in the book.  It wasn’t much of a book and probably that was it’s only claim to glory and a poor glory at that.  But the time Paul Ackerman and I were driven over to Jerry’s house in Miami by Joe Galkin, Jerry was reading a heavy tome.  Great story:  Jerry once mentioned that if Neil Bogart would pay him the $200 he owed, he’d tell him how to spell Buddah.  For those who might not be privy to the knowledge, Neil’s record label was Buddah Records.

I heard time and time again that John Hammond was also a genius and it’s well known that he was deep when it came to talent … when it came to producing that talent.  I was told this more than once by Paul Ackerman, then music editor of Billboard.  George Martin, the producer, always impressed me as being of exceptional brilliance when it came to talent.  His work with the Beatles will likely be remembered for many years to come.  By me and by you and by the world.  Martin was without question a musical genius.  The difference between “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Yesterday” is a musical world.  You probably know of several others in music who were brilliant.

In radio, though I never met Todd Storz, I talked about him with many people that knew him personally and I knew Gordon McLendon personally and Bill Stewart personally.  These were the Great Three when it comes to the Top 40 format.  I believe that all three were extremely bright, but at this point I have trouble granting them exceptional intelligence.  To some extent, they appear to have followed their gut.  And the greenback was without question their carrot on a pole.  Geniuses?  Close, but no banana.

Right after this trio, however, I believe that radio had/has several geniuses.  First, Chuck Blore.  I don’t know his actual IQ.  Not necessary from my viewpoint.  Just to be around Chuck is to bask in a special light and I have been and still am extremely grateful to know him.  And then George Wilson, who constantly denied that he was exceptionally intelligent, but time and time again, from my observation, was a caring, knowing human being who had his heroes, i.e., Chuck Blore and Don Burdon, and always thought things through and was one of radio’s greatest winners in the Top 40 era.  Ron Jacobs is a genius.  Sometime troublesome, but in his heyday there were few peers; his work with KHJ in Los Angeles, “American Top 40,” and “The History of Rock and Roll” merits him a pedestal.  L. David Moorhead was bright, but not bright enough.  I have to judge him harshly even though he was my closest friend.  Jack McCoy?  Maybe.  Though “The Last Contest” was mind-blowing and audience-booming, he wasn’t around long enough for full judgment.  Buzz Bennett?  Victim of a pill.  What could have been, we will never know.

Now, radio was/is replete with exceptionally talented people. Gary Owens, Lee Baby Simms, the Magnificent Montague, William B. Williams, Joey Reynolds, Reggie Lavon, Jimmy Rabbitt, Johnny Holliday, Tom Clay, Sandy Beach, Murray the K, B. Mitch Reed, Bob Fass (who once played church bells all night long; I only listened three hours).  Many more, of course, were talented.  Geniuses?  Hard to say.  And we had many great program directors who were very good and often very bright.  I especially liked George Burns and Scott Muni.  Unsung, but good, were men such as Hal Smith and Bill Hennes.

Why did radio attract such very talented people?  Luck?  Perhaps.  But radio and music seemed to draw the talented if not, sometimes, the also zany.  This includes the musicians and singers, too.  And many of these at least bordered on the genius level.  I love the work now of Raul Malo, Linda Ronstadt, Tom Russell, Guy Clark, Eliza Gilkyson, Little Feat, and Emmylou Harris.  And I will always love Johnny Cash.  When Columbia Records let him go I thought: “What dummies!”

We have been lucky, you and I, to have participated at whatever level.  What a great, glorious business – music and radio.

An amazing man, Jack Gale.  Veteran award-winning radio personality, veteran record producer and music executive of Playback Records.  And his latest project – a CD featuring Jody Lynn – is a pleasant, charming, and downright entertaining country music CD.  Miss Lynn harks back to the day when songs mattered.  When they spoke about love and heartache.  When the tears were there.  And the heart.  Lord, but they’re going to be dancing in the honky tonks to “Gone for Good.”  And women will love “I Want a Love Like That” on the radio in the mornings.  You’ll enjoy “Love Don’t Even Know My Name.”  I especially liked the title tune “The World’s Out Dancin’.”  My compliments, Miss Lynn.  And great on you, Jack!

Don Whittemore:  “Thanks for the extra midweek edition.  Except for the reality of people passing ... very warm emotional flow from so many we do and don't know.  And after their tales are told I can feel the kindred ties that we all share.  A lotta really different beings loving and living their lives just like me -- you are the spark, our friend Claude.”

Bob Fead:  “Thank you everyday … memories.”

Russ Regan:  “Hi, Claude.  You are the best.  I have great memories of our many get togethers.  You haven’t lost a step.  The music business needs a
hero to tell our story and I nominate you.  Thank you for being you.  Stay well.  Much love.”

Bob Sherwood:  Kindly Ol’ Uncle Claude … a tardy thank you for your kind words in Claude’s Commentary 13.  I’m hoping for a return trip home (San Francisco) in the near future and will try and reach you for a 3-hour lunch (with preferred quality beverages) and an intense discussion of Roy Orbison.  I predict a stand-off. We’ll agree that ‘Pretty Woman’ is one of the great R ‘n R records of the 60s (God knows I played it enough when I was on-air !) but we may fall short in support of my contention that Roy’s gorgeous voice and his palpable emotion made ‘Cryin’ not a major hit but an absolute classic of the genre.  If one truly focuses on ‘Cryin’ and doesn’t feel some mist in the eyes or a momentary gulp in the gullet, one has never seriously loved and lost.  Or, that someone needs to immediately call EMS as there’s no longer a heartbeat.  We can finish lunch with a spirited discussion on ‘Desert Island Discs’.  More on that to follow.  In our follow-up lunch (or dinner) we can discuss your point about the truly legendary George Wilson and his spot-on view that songs were hits for particular markets.  When I was doing music at KROY, before my weekly meeting with PD Johnny Hyde on what we’d add, drop, increase or decrease in rotation, I’d make damn sure I found out what certain programmers in markets with strikingly similar demographics and/or taste in music were doing with records.  Either from the individual, a close associate or Bill Gavin.  They were first and foremost George Wilson at WOKY, Gary Taylor at KJR, Bryan McIntyre at WCOL and (apologies for my mind-block) whomsoever was programming KRIZ in Phoenix at the time.  I don’t think it was CVD.  We trusted our ears first, our on-air needs, then what was happening in those markets similar to ours and only then did we start to absorb third-party information.”

My memory, too, is somewhat out in leftfield, but the name I most associate with KRIZ, Phoenix, is Pat McMahon and one of the Johnny Rabbits (Don Pietromonico, who was also a former Little Beaver for, I think, Red Ryder in the movies).  I always liked Pat.  He programmed the station during its greatest day, as I recall.  Good man.

Timmy Manocheo, California: “Claude, I will always remember your thoughtful introduction of me to Bill Young. He was very anxious to get his book out and needed a proofreader/pre-editor.  And your referencing me, an ‘out of the blue’ occurrence, seemed to help finalize Bill's book ‘Dead Air - The rise & demise of music radio’.  A great, historical piece of well-written lit, if'n ever I do say so myself.  Thanx again, Claude, Your California Compadre.”

Bill Taylor;  “The reference to Capt. Humble in New Orleans brought to mind this story.  Hugh Dillard Capt. Humble was the only one of the WNOE jocks to meet the Beatles.  The story is: The plane the Beatles came in on was to land at New Orleans Lake Front Airport.  However the pilot did not show the updates in his charts and decided on Moisant in Kenner.  The word got out that they were going to land there and the teeny bops went nuts.  It was a Sunday night and Hugh got to the airport and got trapped with the Beatles and wound up riding in the limo with them to the motel.  When they arrived at the motel they got into the building only to be met with screaming girls charging down the hall.  The only available open door was a janitor’s closet and that's where Capt. Humble and the Beatles waited for security to save them. The rest if us only saw the Beatles when they came down the hall to accept the key to the city.  Paul had an earache
and Ann Elliot, the PD's wife, looked after him.  She was the only one to really talk to them. So Capt. Humble had an exclusive.”

Great tale, Bill!

Mike Borchetta sent me a song called “California Chrome – Pre Race” by Tommy Roe.  Cute tune, Tommy!  There was, of course, a sequel, but the horse California Chrome didn’t win the Belmont.  Oh, well … “Sweet Pea” was a much cuter tune, Tommy.  Basically, though, it does this old heart good to see you’re still around, Tommy, and evidently productive.

Marlin Taylor:  “Happy to have been added to your mailing list after all these years.  As I noted elsewhere, I hadn't heard your name in so long ... obviously I don't travel in the right circles!  Were you involved in the Hitmakers or Pulse of Broadcasting publications of the mid-80s? I have a copy of Hitmakers interview with me ... which I have no recollection of doing + the article about WJIB Boston printed in Pulse in late 1987/early 88.  After being mostly out of the business for the 1990s, I joined Lee Abrams and XM Radio in late 2000 to create the 1940s/Big Band channel and have been programming my heritage Easy Listening format since 2002, when the subscribers demanded the format be added. Am still with Sirius XM on a part-time basis handling this one format/channel, having dropped all other duties over the past couple of years. Even with age 79 just ahead, I can't just walk away from the industry that I've loved and been involved in for nearly 60 years.  Hope all is well with you. So nice to see that you are still connected and writing.  I presume you live in Southern Cal, right?”

In the 80s, Marlin, I was working on a master’s degree and studying with the legendary Bill Randle, an amazing, amazing man.  I’ve written about those experiences in this column … will have to reprise them one of these days.  Then, for the next six — plus years, I was a college professor.  I spoke of geniuses above.  Bill Randle was, without question, a genius … probably the most brilliant person I’ve ever met.  I rather suspect that Jim LaBarbara would say the same.

Bit of history:  The term “Easy Listening” was conceived in a staff meeting at Billboard magazine.  I came up with the term “Progressive Rock” as an alternative to the term “Underground” and probably helped set up the first time buys that weren’t from the record industry … in this particular case, for blue jeans.

Morris Diamond:  “Burt Sherwood sure knows how to make a guy feel good ... listing me as a ‘mentor’ among super promo domos like Don Graham and Frank Mancini.  Burt, I don’t know if this happened when you were at WMCA – us record pluggers would pop in to contact super announcer Andre Baruch and his wife, vocalist Bea Wain, who were riding herd in the morning and we’d pitch our wares.  One morning, there was a new kid plugging a record.  He asked Andre if he had a chance to hear the record he brought up a few days prior and if so, did he like it.  Andre replied that he had in fact listened to it and didn’t feel it was for their show.  The kid: ‘Mr. Baruch, if I gave you $10, would that be ok?’.  Andre put his hand on the kid’s shoulder & replied ‘Son, I don’t clear my throat for $10’.  Them were the days.

"To Roger Carroll: the first of the LA  DJs to play my Jose Jiminez album ... actually, the first one I nailed to play the LP was Dan Sorkin in Chicago.  When I moved to Chicago a year or so later, Dan and I became good friends ... as a matter of fact, when I remarried in Chicago, Dan was able to get me an apartment in the same lake-front high rise that he was living in.   But getting back to Bill Dana ... he did very well before and after his success with MY NAME JOSE JIMINEZ not only as a performer, but also as a comedy writer for many of those that had their own TV shows like Don Adams, Don Knotts and Louis Nye aside from his own personal appearances.  I speak to Bill fairly often ... he now lives in Nashville and seems very content with life.”

Danny Davis, regarding his spelling in a previous Commentary:  “$o long as it's read!  I've been livin' with the knowledge I was communicating with some semblance of what inspires that book by Funk and Wagnalls!  Obviously I've been misled!  The ol' 'band boy', Moishe Diamond, newly of the literary world's purveyor of gifted lingo, advises me of utilizing 'strange language'!  I wasn't aware, honestly, but you can betcha' I will convey, with some haste, to the Professor at Princeton, now mentoring me and my 'slow-to-finish-tome!’  It'll be hard to change direction from the stylings of Damon Runyon, to the captivating nuances of one creative schlepper!  But I will give-it-a-go!  Hey, at the Thursday lunch, Mr. Master of the Metaphors, usually is first up with the $pecial! Moi$he mu$t know $omethin!”

Doc Devon has a new article out that I think you’d like.

Great old film:  “Fiesta.”  It was on television a few days ago and I taped it.  I hadn’t seen this film in something like 50 years.  But the music is sensational, including a “live” version of one of my favorite songs, “La Bamba.”  Ricardo Montalban on guitar and then dancing on “La Bamba.”  1947 film.  The theme song, a classical piece, is magnificent, but I don’t know the name of it.  I just love “La Bamba.”  I once had more then 30 different versions on reel-to-reel.  All gone now, including my TEAC tape deck.  One night, I caught Johnny Rivers at the Copa in Manhattan.  He was filling in for the just-late Sam Cooke.  Rivers did about 45 minutes of “La Bamba.”  Easy to do.  The song has countless verses.  And these have been the subject of academic study, by the way.  “La Bamba.”  Just FYI, Rivers invited Barbara and me to dinner at his home one night after Billboard moved its headquarters to Los Angeles.  I don’t remember the dinner, but I do remember he had a magnificent front door to his home.  Great on you, Johnny Rivers!  Great door!

Dex Allen:  Claude ... I read your blogs on occasion and I have a question.  Why is there such constant reference to Lee Baby Simms?  I worked a year or so with Lee at KCBQ San Diego in 1968 ... and have never heard of any later career growth for him ... I can only assume he is a favorite of yours or?? ... no intent to be critical but aren't there other people you could recognize occasionally?  I remember Lee as a good jock ... but am not aware of his further success after 1968 ... just once in awhile lets hear about other people ... not pushing for any personal recognition, Claude ... my career speaks for itself ... no agenda here ... I hope you accept this in the objective light that is intended.”

To be frank, Dex, Lee Baby Simms doesn’t write for print.  He has in the past turned down requests for articles about himself.  I cull an occasional item written by him intended just for the Three Mesquiteers (Lee Baby Simms, Woody Roberts, Bob Weisbuch, and, hopefully, me).  Lee so far hasn’t objected to my filching of his creative efforts.  He sits up there on his hilltop above the San Francisco Bay, grows tomatoes, drinks Anchor Steam Beer, and listens to music.  And takes his daughter and grand daughter out to dinner when they come to visit.  Just FYI, I print most of what is sent to me – by anyone -- unless it’s too self-serving or vicious.  Claude’s Commentary exists only because guys help me out with material; I doubt that I have anything to gain personally nor prove and I’m too old to seek stories anyway these days.  My “reporting” days have faded away.  This is just a hobby that I hope someone else will take over one of these days (and I already have that person in mind … if and when they wish).  Just FYI, I enjoy featuring stuff in Claude’s Commentary written by others.  Especially tales of music and radio that I feel belong somewhat “in the history books.”  One more thing.  I like the stuff I print by Lee Baby Simms.  He is truly a favorite of mine.  I’m for more Lee Baby Simms!  He’s what makes me keep on ticking.  Woody, too!  Morris and Don, too!  And Danny Davis.  All of you!

Woody Roberts, amidst the quails outside Austin, TX:  “Claude, I must have missed a Commentary.  Last one I can find is 11 and Bobby Ocean is just plugging his site.  Politics?  For me ... I like Gerald Celente's phrase ‘political atheist’.  As I've told Dr. Bob Weisbuch, I am a just freedom loving libertarian-communist at heart.  I did notice you mention Castro for VP.  He is definitely a promotable product for the DNC as is his twin brother.  They would for fun substitute at Council meetings and no one would notice.  I recall their firebrand mama early '70 and I editorially supported many of her causes in SA politics.  She never married and even today she detests what the Alamo stands for.  The boys know not to say anything negative about the shrine of Texas liberty but I notice the Mayor never showed up for Alamo ceremonies.

“My enthusiasm was high when he took office and he talked about education and a future plan.  All said and done, just another pro-politician like Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc.  To complete his goals he found enough money to fund a major bond vote, taking the city further into debt -- ‘we can afford it’ -- and raising city sales tax.  Not a very imaginative way to fund his projects.  His deal with HemisFair Park was to make it into a mixed-use real estate development instead of a grand central city park on the 50 open acres.  He, of course, promised the SA voters this year if reelected he would finish his term as mayor and not head off to national.  I have spoken personally to him three times since he became mayor and with his two top aids, very smooth and efficient organization for a local politician.  Will I vote for him for pres?  Sure.  He's from Texas and I've learned having a pres from your state is good for the local media business.

“Otherwise, I've decided the Republicans and Democrats and their appointed DC department heads are a big cause of our problems in USA today so likely I won't vote for pres, just the locals.  I went all out for Obama in 2008 and that was the last straw.  What a let down from all those wonderful populist campaign promises.  Oh well, I shouldn't have been surprised that he was just a horse of a different color.

“I try not to get upset that our paid representatives are spending so much time and money on Syria and the Ukraine and Egypt and the Sudan but not on Detroit, East St. Louis, the California/Texas drought and the rebuilding our nation's infrastructure. So please, Claude: send me more stories to take my mind of the state of the union, I enjoy your writing.”

Woody Roberts sent The Three Mesquiteers” a link to a story whereby some people were objecting to gringos eating their tacos.  This upset me.  I was raised on Mexican food and wasn’t comfortable in Manhattan until I found the Mexican Gardens at 137 Waverly Place.  But I wasn’t as offend as much as Lee Baby Simms.  And this is too good not to print.

Lee Baby Simms, overlooking the bay in San Francisco from his hilltop:  “Woody, you sent me the link to an article to alert me to the fact that the Latinos are offended.  Indeed?  One thinks that they would be so proud of the great strides that their ethnic group has made in the last few decades to be so concerned about some Coed eating a Taco.  I remember not too long ago, they were referred to as 'Greasy Mexicans' … especially by you boys in Texas.  These days they are not called  'Greasy Latinos'.  (Or are they?  By you boys in Texas?)  Some people don`t know when they are well off.  And getting better.

“Each Man and Woman has my blessing when they celebrate their uniqueness but when they tell me that I am 'appropriating their culture' when I eat a taco ... I DRAW THE LINE!

“What's next?  A wonderful lunch of beans and rice and enchiladas, a margarita or two down by the River Walk on a pretty day ... forbidden?  To Texans and ... ‘The White Devils!  They are eating our recipes’.  So silly.

“I know a little bit about prejudice.  When I was at KISQ (an R&B station) here in The City, I was the only white man on the staff.  Just by being my own soulful self, and without trying at all, I out-blacked most of the blacks.  And most of the blacks didn`t like it.  I was accused more than once of being 'a wanna be’.  It was said that I was trying to 'appropriate their culture’.  Trying to be black!  I did not understand why they thought that I wanted to be what they themselves didn`t really want to be.  A BLACK PERSON.  The most maligned people on Earth!

“Of course they didn`t really mean that.  They may not have known it but what they really meant was that I was eating their 'Tacos' and that was not allowed.  What they really wanted was for a black man to have my position.  No collard greens and cornbread for you White Boy!  That's just The Way of the World and the people who live on it.  It will never change.  Never!

“I`m going to have a little Dim Sum for lunch today.  I hope that the Chinese folks don`t call me to complain.  It would not do them any good anyway, cause, you see, I don`t have a complaint department.  Withakiss … for every one.”

Bill Gavin, Paul Ackerman, Bill Gallagher, Sam Phillips,
Eddie Hill, Bill Mouzis, Jay Blackburn, Tess Russell,
Robert W. Morgan, Don Sherwood, Gertie Katzman,
Scott Muni, Reggie Lavon, Fat Daddy

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Claude’s Commentary.14 – Special Edition

June 4, 2014
Claude’s Commentary.14 – Special Edition

Dedicated this issue to those we’ve known and loved, specifically Larry Shannon, late publisher of, and the late Jack Roberts, publisher of the Hollywood Hills.  They brought us together.
We come, we do, we go.

By Claude Hall

Burt Sherwood:  “When I left jocking ... and went into management... I would never voluntarily tell anyone while I managed a station that I was a former DJ... as it was not a popular thing for we jocks to go to management in those days.  While jocking, WMCA (New York) kept us all pretty shielded from personal contacts with the music people and when I got to managing in major markets I had the best PD I have ever known with a great musical ear.  Bill Hennes.  He is still the best I have ever known ... and we spent countless hours discussing music as well as our operation of the stations.  Many of the record people you write of today were not personally known to me ... a few are.  I find it all fascinating to back track and wonder ... really wonder.”

I, of course, knew of and/or about a great many record men and women than I knew personally.  But I sincerely treasured – and appreciated immensely – the ones that I knew personally.  My early mentors included Don Graham, Juggy Gales, George Furness, Morris Diamond, Frank Mancini.  Others, of course.  Men like Ron Alexenburg.  I considered Bud Prager a good friend.  A while back, Ed Salamon sent me a photo of himself and Olivia Newton-John when he was programming WHN in New York.  I broke the story when the station when country music.  Beat even the New York Times.  And I got that information from a record promotion man.  An MOR station needs country records to go country.
We’re going back to the middle 60s here and my mind gets rocky from time to time.  After we moved the headquarters of Billboard magazine to Los Angeles I got to knew a great many more and treasure memories of Jan Basham.  Edna Collison always got me to laugh … even unto this day and I haven’t seen her since the 70s.  And there was Don Whittemore and Tony Richland and Harold Childs and Rick Frio and Russ Regan and the list goes on.  I always thought Mike Maitland treated me well when I covered MCA Records for news.  A gentleman.  And Vince Cosgrave used to drop by the house here in Las Vegas long after he had any records to promote; when he died I lost a good friend.
I’ve oft lamented that we’ve never had a Who’s Who in Music as well as a Who’s Who in Radio.

Roger Carroll:  “I will never understand how the music business allowed pressure groups to kill ‘JOSE JIMENEZ’ and break my friend Bill Dana's heart.”
I, too, enjoyed ‘Jose,’ as probably did quite a few.  It has always been a mystery to me why some make it and some don’t.  Success and/or failure has less to do with pressure, it seems to me, than hustle and kismet.  Life is one strange son of a gun!

Bob Barry: “Nobody knew how to pick records in Milwaukee like George Wilson. Although the jocks at WOKY, at times, disagreed. I mean really? ‘God didn't make Little Green Apples, and it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime’.  Or breaking ‘For the Good Times’ on a rock and roll radio station?  The phones went crazy.  If you listened to his ‘Memory Station’ you know he had a great ear for good music.”
Just FYI, Lee Baby Simms was operations manager of “Memorytunes” and I was resident nerd.

Don Whittemore:  “Claudius, another blog?  Your cottage is an ever-growing village and large enough to be a bourgeoning community.  Gotta go -- could say more but I'm with my daughter's colleagues in Brooklyn.  Hello, Barbara!  G'Bye.”

Morris Diamond:  “Hey, Claude -- You’re still trying to translate the word ‘was$’ from Danny Davis’ letter.  I’m still trying to translate the entire letter.  He means well and has much to say ... but he does it in a language that’s very strange to me.  I should be used to it by now because we lunch every Thursday with the ‘entertainment’ crowd of Palm Springs and when he has something to say ... same strange language.”
Yeah, but Danny’s such a lovable guy.  We need him.  I hereby give him the right to write “wish” anyway he wishes.  See his note of explanation below.

Danny Davis:  “Rereading June 2nd Claude's Commentary, AFTER I pressed 'send', was an embarrassment I wished to just 'go away'!  No such luck! That 'no word' ‘was$’ ... which was the invention of an elder HP computer … originated in 'tecno travel', and should have expressed my every 'wi$h' for you and the Hall$, at all time$! (Clarity when we $tand at the crap$ table, for $ure!) Have a great week, Authorman! (I $tand with everyone. We love your Commentarie$!).”

Tom Rounds, head of a very successful worldwide radio syndication firm, died of what has been termed a “minor surgical procedure” a couple of days ago.  I knew Tom well (my Barbara and I dined one evening with him and his Barbara at their home … we had a lovely time, according to my Barbara, who still remembers the quacamole) from the days he and Ron Jacobs launched “American Top 40,” a weekly record countdown show hosted by Casey Kasem.  For years the show was based on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart.  Ron Jacobs had approached me early in the 70s to seek permission to use the chart for a fee, the foundation of the show.  Though I hadn’t seen Tom in years (we exchanged notes from time to time), I considered him and wife Barbara to be friends.  We come, we do, we go.

Woody Roberts, in a note to Lee Baby Simms, Bob Weisbuch, and myself:  “Lee Baby, I'm totally stunned.  Lost three friends in one day.  I met Bill Young in 1966 during those months the judge barred us from the San Antonio airwaves, he had just come to KILT.  By the close of that year we found ourselves exiled to Hartford, it was there I met Tom Rounds on the phone and later at programming conferences. He was the start-up PD for Drake at KFRC ... Tom and Ron Jacobs were ultra sharp programmers and good friends and for awhile KHJ/KFRC ruled the Coast.  I recall T.R. was enthusiastically insistent I check out these books he was reading called Lord of the Rings.  He was totally intrigued by the intricacies of detail used by the author in creation his fantasy world.
“Upon getting your email I went to the KFRC Big 610 website to find they are still using the powerful sculpted rock logo T.R. signed on with.  After we left Connecticut and had returned to Texas I made sure in 1969 that KTSA was among the first to run Ron's ground breaking production for Drake: ‘The History of Rock 'n' Roll’.  It was only natural a year later to be an initial station for Ron and Tom's ‘American Top 40’ featuring Casey Kasem.  To promote that launch Tom was giving appropriate people packs of American flag rolling papers.  For a short while, before it became Watermark, his new company was called Chameleon.
“In 1972 Bill Young was still PD in Houston and he came up with an idea that became the last promotion of my radio career.  In fact it was the closeout swan song and I hit the road with my backpack afterword. The Great Texas Bicycle Race would have KLIF, KTSA, KILT cyclists racing from the Alamo to Austin to Waco to Dallas and south to Herman Park in Houston.  I was the only person at KTSA fit enough to do the race.  That race is a great memory to have, it was a rolling party with people cheering us on.  The final leg was coming up and I was in the lead.  KILT won.  Since then I have replayed that last stretch in dismay and it was only while Bill was writing ‘Dead Air’ I learned he had bated me, the winning DJ was into bicycle racing and had practiced by riding parking garage ramps after midnight when he left the station.  But I now also suspect I may have been Armstrongized by a hit of speed.  OK, I'm a sore looser.  In 1978 I got a call from Bill, did I want to help set up a network and broadcast the three day 1st annual Texxas World Music Festival--aka Texxas Jam--over July 4th holidays from the Cotton Bowl.  He'd recalled my work saving Willie's 1st Picnic from ticket disaster.  Sanyo Electronics would underwrite.  So we lined up 36 stations that would take 5-minute news feeds and bulletins and extended finale coverage.  No music, just us two guys on a mic with a mixing board.  I was grabbing backstage interviews on cassette and Bill was pulling the good parts and we did a play by play of the concert trying to sound more like Howard Cosell and Jimmy the Greek than Bob and Ray.  Have you ever tried making an extended fireworks display exciting to a radio listener who can't even hear the explosions?
“Bill lived on a very nice ranch and he told me that when Lynn Broadcasting bought KILT they gave him stock instead of a raise and he never sold it and when he was ready to retire he looked and it was worth over a million dollars.  Aside from his talent he was a rare man in the entertainment business, Bill told me he had never done an illegal drug and had never taken a drink of alcoholic beverage, nor smoked a cigarette.  So I learned about the passing of Bill Young and Tom Rounds on the same day my photographer friend Burton Wilson departed this reality, age 93.  Yes, another Wilson.  He studied under master photographer Ansil Adams at The University of Texas in the early '60s and throughout his life worked in b&w using available light, lot of shadows.  I thought you would enjoy seeing these old photos from I first met Burton.  I mean these guys are... dead, Lee Baby.  Makes one pause to think...”

Later, Woody wrote Lee Baby Simms:  “A memory of Tom Rounds this morning was my visit to his office after his departing KFRC circa 1968 where he showed me a large metal cabinet about the height of a refrigerator but wider, it was standing in the corner.  ‘Just bought this, brand new’.  He was proud.  ‘What is it?’  ‘It’s a word processor’.  ‘What’s a word processer?’  I think he said it cost about $15,000.  ‘With this we can turn out a perfect letter, no overtypes’.  He and partners intended to use it for client presentations.  I really didn’t get it, why not hire a typing service?  But he could see the future and value in having a machine that could turn turning out the perfect letter day or night.  Tom also showed me a white light hologram of King Kong on the Empire State Building.  Crude, but you could walk around it and see all sides.  Cutting edge technology for that era.  Speaking of word processors, I see in my previous email that a misspelled Charlatan was corrected to read Chameleon.  No.  It was Charlatan Productions before Watermark.  Ron and Tom were ex-KPOI.”
The Burton photos – all superb – ranged from a younger Willie Nelson with Coach Darryl Royal to Linda Ronstadt.

Roger Lifeset:  “laudeClaude... even in that Billboard Vox Era I remember your Coke bottle glasses ... they were especial!  On to Frank Ward and one of my classic radio adventures.  Hired, fired, and hired back with a raise in 24 hours!  Top 40 WAAB/WAAF Worcester, MA, was bought in the early 70s by the famed Atlantic Records brothers Ahmet & Neshui Ertegun. Not sure how kosher that was... it sure was not advertised. The Ertegun’s brought in famed WWRL programmer Frank Ward to get things moving at their acquisition under Dave McNamee’s guidance as on-site consultant.  I was hired by GM Gordon Hastings to do evenings at 11 AM that morning starting that night.  At the time I was living with my parents in Quincy and did not have to be there until my 7 PM air shift... I drove home and returned for my debut.  I walked in the open station front door... got the ol’ Gates board primer and away we go! We carried the featured “live” harness race from Rockingham, NH, nightly.  In the middle of the remote who comes walking in the open front door... Frank Ward and he’s plastered.  At this point I have no idea who he is other that a loaded gent in a sharkskin suit who fires me on the spot for not having the door locked. He tells me to get out... I tell him I’m in the middle of the horserace... he says play the signoff! At that point he asks where the engineer is... I saw him when he walked me through the board and away he went with some trashy mags.  We had those fishbowl studios and in one I heard Mr. Ward lambasting the engineer and saw him about to lay him out.  After that he strolled back into the studio and asked why we’re off the air?  I told him he told me to.  Put it back on air!!  How?  Go right back into the race... finish the shift!  Although the open door was not your fault... you’re still fired!  I drove home dejected and wondered if Radio was my calling.  I was awoken by my Mom at 9 AM... Gordon Hastings calling. I was still half asleep.  Gordon says I heard what happened last nigh ... would you like to come back?  Being asleep I hesitated... he said would a raise help?  See you @ 7!  In the Old West Frank would have been a cowboy with a black hat. Not that he was a bad guy... more like a secondary market as Worcester was just too small a town to coral his mega uptown personality.  I really liked him and thank him for being the protagonist in my wildest Radio chapter.”
Billboard bought a radio station in Nashville and I often wondered just how kosher that was.  Too much like inside trading, I would think.

Jack Casey, general manager, WERS Radio Emerson College, Boston: “Hi, Claude – I am a faithful reader from many years ago.  Nice to finally connect with you. I was hired in 1968 at WAAB (shortly after Roger) and eventually ended up as the morning guy there while completing my senior year at Emerson.  I was given the name Sean Michael Devlin because 1.)  Devlin was Frank Ward’s mother’s maiden name and 2.) They already had a jingle with that name.  Frank was always on me for being too subtle.  I remember playing ‘Magic Bus’ by the Who and saying, ‘the Worcester buses are magical … follow one long enough and your lungs disappear’.  He thought that was way over the listeners’ heads.  Maybe he was right.  Roger, Dave Thomson, and I shared an apartment for several months.  Dave and I had been roommates at Emerson and, at the time, he was working nights at WORC.  When McNamee realized that my roommate worked at the competition, he had me obtain an aircheck of Dave which he sent to a talent scout and it led to Dave being hired at KIMN in Denver.  When the ratings (I think it was Pulse) came out in the spring of 1969, we got crushed by WORC.  McNamee was morbidly depressed and next we knew he married Lynn, the receptionist, and took off for Hawaii on his honeymoon.  Ward sent a telegram (remember telegrams?) to every hotel in Waikiki saying ‘David McNamee, If you get this message, you’re fired!’  So, Mac went to work for his pal Dave Lyman at CKXL in Calgary where they hired me to do afternoons.  I later did mornings for David at WMOD in Washington but I never saw Frank Ward again.  My mentor for many years was Bob Henabery.  He reminded me in many ways of Frank Ward (minus the drinking).  Thanks for the memories.”

Woody Goulart writes to let us know that the “Last of the Seven Swingin’ Gentlemen” is available now at Books.  The author is Elliot Field, who worked with both Gordon McLendon and Chuck Blore.  Elliot wrote this memoir with Anita Garner.
I hope you’re having a good week, good people.  Time to cry… and move on.