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 RadioDailyNews.com, 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 Amazon.com/Kindle 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.