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!     

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