June 2, 2014
A cottage blog if there ever was one!
By Claude Hall
There’s a guy – a bit of a horse’s ass really -- who has set himself up as sort of the guru of the music industry. He listed his favorite records a while back. George Wilson had those tunes and emailed them to me. We agreed. The guy hadn’t the foggiest idea of what music was all about. Neither George nor me ever read that “guru” again. He didn’t matter to us. I assure you that the “guru” more than likely didn’t care. He continues to pontificate. Just as if he knew what it was all about.
He actually has the musical taste of a can of turtle soup. And forget commerciality; he had no idea about that either when it comes to a record. The concept that others might like the record and wish to own it. And need to hear it. Just as Dickie Ware kept pushing “Flowers on the Wall” by the Statler Bros. until it became a hit. He had faith in that song.
Most of the people I know seem to be passionate about music.
But this is partially because music is so personal. It often reaches into the heart of us all in an unique and special way … reminding us of an incident in our lives or a special person. Maybe a special place. Or maybe it merely creates a feeling we need from time to time.
Most of us, though, can mention our favorite songs. And we all have them. I know personally a great many of the people who receive Claude’s Commentary and I swear that any of them have a better grasp of what really matters when it comes to a tune than that “guru.” And this is especially so when it comes to Bob Sherwood, who’s professional experience ranges from KROY in Sacramento to music executive with CBS Records.
Bob Sherwood: “Uncle Claude, I share your passion for Roy Orbison. But for me the song that remains at the top of the greasy pole is ‘Cryin’. In my decidedly biased view it’s also slightly above the standards of the other best of the ‘loved and lost’ group -- Teddy Pendergrass’s ‘Love I Lost’; Ronstadt’s ‘Long, Long Time’; Gladys’s ‘Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)’; Sinatra’s ‘Quarter to 3’ and ‘Somewhere Along the Way’; Boz Scagg’s ‘Loan Me a Dime’; Eydie Gorme’s ‘What’s New’; Harry Nilsson’s ‘Without Her’; David Ruffin’s ‘Walk Away From Love’ and … lest we forget, the marvelous and classic reading of Jimmy Webb’s ‘Didn’t We’ by the late Richard Harris.
“And while you’re going back to pick up LPs/CDs that may have slipped by, find Linda Ronstadt’s ‘Feels Like Home’ from the mid-90s on Elektra. Start with ‘The Blue Train’ and then listen to the entire CD. She was obviously beyond her R ’n R peak and was therefore relatively ignored by programmers at the time. But there are great mass-appeal songs and exquisite production by Ronstadt and the gifted George Massenburg. The loss was to listeners and music fans. Let me know if you agree.”
I don’t have “Feels Like Home” by Linda Ronstadt. Would love to hear it. I do have Linda’s boxed set. But don’t remember this tune. One thing for sure, Bob … I would trust your judgment … then argue like the devil over “Crying” as compared to “Pretty Woman.” George Wilson had great judgment when it came to a hit record for a particular market. And I used to also appreciate the musical taste of Pete Taylor, I think that was his name, when he programmed KFOG-FM in San Francisco. Producer Brad Miller always gave him credit for “One Stormy Night,” an album that probably still holds sales records.
Sam Hale: “THANK YOU for thinking of me. I'm less frequently at the computer any more, but it's ALWAYS great when I find I've been remembered by you. I'm continuing to struggle medically and have just been given an experimental drug which is quite toxic and requires lab tests every five days to make sure it isn't causing yet more problems. With all the other problems, this involves my immune system's not combating infections and other drugs have not helped. I thank you for including my address in your regular ‘blog’ mailing. It's very special for many reasons and I always look forward to reading it. Warmest personal regards to you and Mrs. Hall.”
Whew! Toxic? But then I notice that a couple of the pills I take are deadly. When I get ready to go beyond the stars, all I need to do is crawl in a corner and stop taking my pills.
Don Elliot: “Guys ... read Sonia Cochette's TRUST YOUR VIBES, and Anthony de Mello's: ‘Awareness’. Right on the path of Ocean's and LeeBaby's topics!”
Morris Diamond: “I'm sure that you and Dave Diamond (no relation) have legitimate gripes against Steve Allen … also very surprised. In 1960, great jazz A & R producer Bob Thiele started a record label, Hanover-Signature Records with Steve Allen as his partner. Bob hired me initially as National Promotion Director … after a few months I took over sales as well. We had a huge success with Jose Jiminez (Bill Dana), Don Adams and the rest of the cast of Steve Allen's tonight show. I left the job when Mercury Records offered me the National Promotion post in Chicago. I did that for four years and moved to LA. I got involved in music supervision for films and TV. One of my first projects was a film titled ‘A Man Called Dagger’. I contacted Steve Allen to do the score … the producer was reluctant to even think about Steve because of the possibility of paying a high price. I talked to Steve and he agreed to do the score for scale -- $985 – instead of the going price in the 5 figure range. He did a great job and pleased everyone. In appreciation, he gave me all rights to the music publishing and records. A year or two later I started Beverly Hills Records and got a call from Steve. It seems that Chet Baker was short of cash and offered to do an album of Steve's compositions if Steve would pay him for his services. That was fine with Steve…..and Steve, in turn, gave me the album for my label. I had great success with it particularly in international licensing. Steve proved his friendship with me many times over as not only being a generous human being, but a very caring person. Saying all that, Claude, I want to forward my best wishes to Jack Gale, who I remember fondly. See you and Barbara in Vegas in August.”
Roger Lifeset: “Claude ... I’m working a project in tandem with Don Graham ... Jumaane Smith’s ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’. Don, gadabout that he is, loves sharing you & your Top 40 crew’s comments about everything under the moon. By the way, let me re-introduce myself...a former Billboard employee (Summer 66’ working under Ms. Gerry Platt’s editing MUSIC ON CAMPUS). Claude, you were my hero. I really never wanted to be a scribe to the industry, but opportunity knocked. I was future talent...a boss jock wanted to get out! Souvenirs of that Summer include some rare Beatles pix, Rheingold Central Park Music Festival Program, attending with you a private James Brown concert at a Black Radio convention (he only played instrumentals on B-3...”One Mint Julep” killed me), and so many more. You were kind to me when I was just a greenhorn college sophomore from Emerson College – Boston (my hometown) in the Big City for the 1st time living @ The Hotel Dixie (no joke). I did graduate and moved on to WTXL, WAAB (Frank Ward), WKBR, WMEX, Warner Bros, ABC, Island, United Artists and am happy to say I’m celebrating my 36th yr. as an Indie and proud of it all! Matter of fact back in 1987 when KTWV signed on I thought they had finally built a format just for me. Now, I guess you’d call me that ol’ Smoothie @ 69 yrs. young. I just wanted to let you know how much you inspired me and obviously so many others to jump right into that alphabet soup of call letters now & forever. I’m very glad to see you still plying your trade!”
Marlin Taylor to Don Graham: “I'll be happy to give you my mailing address ... although I'm not sure that I would be very helpful to you as these days I only program an Easy Listening/Beautiful Music/Elevator Music format ... which, of course, is my heritage in the radio industry. And these two guys: Claude Hall, a name I haven't heard in years ... obviously 'cause I don't travel in the right circles. I knew Claude from Billboard and then, later, he wrote about me in his own publication ... or did I write something for you, Claude? Whichever it is, I have a copy of it down in my files. And Bob and I go back 50+ years -- how can that be, neither of us are that old. See attached, which is a portion of a WDVR Philadelphia (today Jerry Lee's WBEB) ad from 1964. A few years later, Bob got me a job when I really, really needed one - did I ever say ‘thank you’, Bob?”
Ron Brandon: “Hi … just wondering if the Bill Taylor you refer to (WNOE) is the one that was there when I was there in 63/64… if so please say hello.”
I sent Ron’s message to Bill, one of Top 40’s unsung heroes.
Danny Davis: “Hey-y to the Vegan, not attuned, in any way, to the melodies rising from a green felt baseline! (How I envy you, Claude!) Marie cites you, whenever she feels the need to augment her futility citing my need for those 'melodies'! You just don't know what you're missing! (Wait a minute and my wallet will make an appeal!) Authorman, the opening paragraphs of Claude's Commentary, this day, was/is a case for the very best verbiage I've known! Bobby Ocean, Lee Baby, and the likes of you'se, surely could qualify for professorships at any one of a handful of high, lofty vistas of learnin'! The prof at Princeton, mentoring me on my long overdue tome, sez I remind her of Damon Runyon! No way! I'd much rather speak in the manner of last weeks paragraphs! Whatta' gift you guys got and give! Many thanks! And just idling by, with Billy Sherrill’s mention, brought reminiscences of he and Al Gallico at the tables you forego. Both of them taught me a system at roulette that I taught Scott Burton, who played everything I 'pushed', after his use of that education. Oh, yeah! And how many times Dave Diamond and I, managing the few groups we had, scored enuf to score even more, with the Sherill/Gallico pleasure play! Call me, Claude, when you're ready! I'll make time! With every good was$.”
I’m still trying to translate the word “was$,” Danny.
Don Sundeen passed along word that Bill Young, once program director of KILT in Houston, has died. We come, we do, we go.
Bill Pearson: “Yes, I read the entire commentary, which dealt with your world of radio. Saw my mention, and agree that old friends are very valuable to me, too. It's interesting that you remember going to sketch class with Dan and me (my world) whereas I remember you taking me to those little Greek clubs in lower Manhattan to see the talented belly dancers (your world at the time). I just got another request, to color a six page comic story for Michael Ambrose for his Charlton Spotlight magazine. I wrote the story many years ago, and it's been sitting in my closet until I showed it to Michael a few months ago. To tell you the truth, I volunteered to color it, because I want it done right. (what a big ego this guy has) Will get to your cover as soon as I've read the whole book. Shouldn't take more than a few days.”
Bill Pearson is doing the cover of my “great American novel.” He also did the covers of a dozen-plus books I have with Amazon.com/Kindle Books.
Jay Lawrence: “I really look forward to your newsletter. Every time one of us says ‘whatever happened to______’. We know we need only go as far as your newsletter and there they are. As you know I am running for the state legislature here in Arizona. This past week I turned in my petition signatures and qualified for the ballot. A major candidate was disqualified, he didn't live in the district so there are now just four candidates in the Republican primary. I am looking forward to the campaign. Great Name recognition after 26 years on KTAR. Someone just wrote, ‘hey Jay, you can always go back to Country’. Hope you are in great health, keep it up.”
Bob Walker: “I know the Bob Robin issue is behind us but I thought you might enjoy reading this newspaper story of our 2010 N.O. DJ reunion, which features a pic of Bob Robin and a little about his years at WTIX, among other stuff. Enjoy. And thanks for the newsletters. Fun to share those golden days.”
The following article is by Sharon Edwards, Tammany Talk columnist, Times-Picayune, Dec. 27 and 29, 2010 – pictures not included; it’s featured here because of the radio history involved. I’d corresponded a few times with Rob Robin and thus I’m quite positive he knew who Sharon was. Just FYI, I’ve also corresponded with Sharon. Once, she brought her then young son and daughter by to visit Barbara and me in Las Vegas. She was then married to a black-powder buff named Sharpe. Sharon is the daughter of one of the legends of radio – Bill Stewart (see “This Business of Radio Programming”).
There’s a certain camaraderie among radio people that was displayed at an appreciation dinner held recently in Slidell. Gathered were disc jockeys whose voices dominated the airwaves during Top 40 radio’s heyday, and those still “on the air” today. People called each other by their radio names, and recalled what shifts they worked and who was on before and after them. They were there to honor a man known as the “the Bird,” Bob Robin. He was one of WTIX’s personality DJs from late 1959 to the fall of 1963. In the Bayou Liberty area near Slidell, where he raised his family and later served on the police jury and school board, he was Bob Echols.
Todd Storz, who then owned WTIX and the Storz radio chain, “changed my name to Robin. I had previously worked around the states of Mississippi and Louisiana with the name Bobby Lane,” Robin said. Robin’s children still live in Slidell, but he and his wife, Jan, have since retired in Picayune, Miss.
Robin was also well known as one of the celebrity jocks that hosted WTIX Nights at Pontchartrain Beach in the ’60s. He left radio to go on to produce for record labels Stax, Tower, Bell, Warner Brother, Capitol and ABC Paramount. Most notably, he formed a partnership with legendary recording engineer Cosimo Matassa, and the hits “Bare Footin’” and “Tell It Like It Is” were recorded at their studio on Camp Street in New Orleans.
The appreciation event, organized by Bob Walker, drew a cross section of radio people and record industry representatives. There were many photos taken and memories shared at the reunion held at Todd Schaeffer’s Restaurant in Slidell. Honored with Robin was Otto Goessl, manager of WTIX from 59-67. Special guests were Dan Diamond, who did one year on ’TIX before moving to a career at WNOE; and C.C. Courtney, ’TIX’s night time DJ who was something of a “teen idol.”
“People don’t realize how much Top 40 influenced the culture,” Walker said. Fans would be outside the studio when DJs like Courtney got off the air, hoping to get a glimpse of him, he said. “They lit up the night time, they were like rock stars,” he said.
Goessl said the longevity of the careers of many of those gathered is due to the audiences. “They were loyal listeners. People listened to them when they grew up,” and still do. This is one of several tributes to New Orleans broadcasting legends hosted by Walker. A DJ at WTIX since the late ’60s. Walker still keeps on the air with a live broadcast from a Gulf Coast casino.
Walker said in its early days, WTIX was one of the five most influential stations in the country. It was in 1967, that “Reno was right after me,” he said. When the ratings came out, they had 50 percent of the audience. Those are numbers that are unheard of and somewhat impossible in radio today.
Walker first helped bring the New Orleans area radio community together when he discovered that popular DJ, Captain Humble, had a poboy shop in Slidell.
“I was supposed to meet Blair there, and seven people showed up. So we opened the next one up to the gang, to see who was out there.”
The reunions started in 2007 and information on all five is maintained at what he calls the “New Orleans Radio Shrine” at www.walkerpub.com.
Among the who’s who of disc jockeys and others in attendance were Bobby Reno, Jay “JD the DJ” Douglas, Walter Morehead, Ya Pal Al, Kenny Petrie, Robert Mitchell, Todd Bauer, Robert Mitchell, Bernie Cyrus, Frank Davis, Weerd Wayne, Bonnie Poirier, Tom Courtney, Bo “Boots” Walker, Don Banks, Theresa Macaluso, Rudy Dixon, Kim Diamond, Johnny Kern, Doug Christian and Ray Fisher.
I’ve a couple of great items by Woody Roberts on hand. This one, for now. It was addressed to Lee Baby Simms, Bob Weisbuch, and me. Woody Roberts emailed a couple of old Armadillo World Headquarters posters. Jerry Jeff Walker signed both. And he attached several music links.
Woody: “Jeff Walker was the spirit, perhaps the transforming spirit, of the Austin progressive, cosmic cowboy, outlaw, country music scene. A couple of years pre-Willie's arrival. Jerry Jeff was a running buddy of the Mad Dogs and they dubbed him Jacky Jack, so if you hear a reference to Jack in the linked tunes you'll have insight. I think the Mad Dogs were especially enamored by the quality of his song writing, and with a calling card like ‘Mr. Bojangles’ who can blame them. Jacky Jack Walker was an immigrant from the northeast and somehow either his Austin gigs transformed him or he was always in the lifestyle and fit right in when he moved here. In the mid-'60s, pre Bojangles, he often played a small folk club here where Carolyn Hester performed and later Jimmy Buffett wrote ‘Margaritaville’. The club was owned by the man who started the Kerrville Folk Festival early 1970s. Likely Claude and Lee Baby recall the Palomino era in LA. This off-air recording is a good sample of how the word about Austin's country music was spreading circa '74. Lyrics by Austin songwriter Guy Clark, not a full time running buddy but highly respected by the Mad Dogs.
“Claude, this vid, taped in Austin, is a perfect example of the kind of country song that could never be recorded in Nashville. My company was a founder of Austin City Limits PBS show and the melody of the round in this tune was used for the show's theme-song and you can still hear it worked in there today.
Next two are Jerry Jeff Walker written songs capturing the lifestyle of youthful dreamers in '70s Austin
and Lee Baby, were we together this summer, I'd mix us up a big ole pitcher full and plop a few ice cubes into tall frosted glasses ... we'd kick back and tell a few of those lifetime tales we can't tell others....
Frank Jolley, Liberty Pictures: “C'Mon, Claude, change the name to VOX JOX.”
And that’s it for this week. I hope kismet has treated you kindly. Next week, Jack Casey and Roger Lifeset comment about Frank Ward, plus stuff from Woody Roberts and others.