Monday, June 30, 2014
June 30, 2014
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 LARP.com. 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.