Monday, July 21, 2014
July 21, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 21
By Claude Hall
Ed Silvers: “Hi, Claude … I loved your description of Jerry Wexler -- I recall being thrown out of his office after playing a Van McCoy song for Barbara George. He loved the song, but when I said that I thought Atlantic was a great R&B label, he yelled at me that this was not an R&B label, and to get out of his office! I loved and respected him and years later, after I became part of the WB family, we were on the same wavelength with respect to all things MUSIC. Your commentaries are such fun to read for a guy who remembers 1650, and The Brill Bldg ... and the guys and girls who made them famous!!”
Morris Diamond: “Hello, Claude: I've got to get a copy of the book Sam Hale sent to you written by Jerry Wexler, ‘Rhythm and the Blues’. I'm particularly interested in what was written about Shelby Singleton getting a death threat while attending that Miami Convention. I never heard about that and I attended that DJ convention representing Carlton Records. I believe it was 1958 or '59. I didn't know Shelby then, but we became fast friends when in 1962 I joined Mercury Records as National Promotion Director and he was our head of A&R in Nashville. He never mentioned that to me. Going back to the convention, Joe Carlton gave me a budget of $1,000 to get word around that Carlton Records is alive and well. I brought Anita Bryant with me, whose record of 'Till There Was You’ was a block buster at about that time. For the thousand bucks I was able to buy the poolside bar from noon to 5 pm for free drinks for all - along with a huge banner that floated half-way over the pool area that said ‘Keep Cool With Carlton’. Yes, we made a lot of friends. One of the evenings, Columbia Records was hosting a cocktail reception in the pool area and wanted my banner taken down during the evening. I refused their request…more PR for Carlton. Todd Storz, whose radio empire included WQAM in Miami and who was an important host during the Miami DJ convention, felt the brunt of his competition when Miami's radio station-owned newspaper ran the headlines: ‘Booze and Broads at Disc Jockey convention’. A hotel employee told Joe Carlton and I that a previous pharmacy convention at that hotel was so raucous that one attendee was killed when he tried to jump into the pool from his balcony many stories up … and missed. And not a word in the newspapers.
‘While I'm in your space, I just want to say a big 'hello' to Johnny Long and his Georgia Radio Hall of Fame. Doing a great job with it. And a couple of memory stirrers that feel very good are Clark Weber and Gene Taylor. Great friends at WLS Chicago during my reign as head of promotion for Mercury Records. Claude, can't wait for our trip to Vegas mid-August and lunch with you and Barbara.”
The beating convention was a meeting of the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers, also in Miami. It was Shelby who told me about his beating during the second convention. On a phone call from Nashville. The book by Jerry Wexler mentions that the record producer Marshall Sehorn was beaten. Just FYI, Bill Stewart wasn’t beaten at the “Bribes” convention, but someone slung him up against the hallway wall, yelling about his band being slated to perform somewhere around 3 a.m. in the morning. Bill never told me this … didn’t even know I knew. It’s a great pity about the “Bribes” headline and subsequent payola fuss. Probably set radio back about five or six years. And, of course, my surmise is that it got Bill Stewart fired and kept Todd Storz from doing another convention.
At Don Elliot’s request, I connected him up with Bob Wolfson, who wrote: “Thanks for the email. I'm always glad to hear from one of the almost 100 jocks who entered the 'house of horrors' with me. Many did not stay long ... one, from New Orleans I never met ... came in on a Friday ... left before Monday morning! But then, he was arrested dancing up Omaha's main street on Saturday night wearing a pink leotard and somewhat befuddled by booze.”
Jay Lawrence: “Cliffie Stone was a good friend of mine when I was at KLAC. The only time he ever took issue with me was when I had the term Western voted out of the Academy of Country (and western) Music. Anyway, I introduced a young lady to him who had written some songs. Judy Lee was the drummer for Lynn Anderson. Judy and I had become good friends. Cliffie gave me half publishing on some of the songs Judy wrote for bringing him a new writer. Many years went by and after Cliffie's death, Judy called me from her home in California about the publishing on one of her songs. I had no idea and had not even registered with BMI. (I have now). I asked if she was ever in my area for any reason. Judy told me she was recording in Prescott within a month or so. I invited her to visit. Two years later we were married (last May). A little more about Judy. She took her band on a USO tour to Vietnam after the Tet Offensive. Later, she and her daughters were a lounge act in Las Vegas for a number of years, The Paxtons. I think it's interesting that it was Cliffie who brought us together all these years later.”
Don Elliot: “Really enjoy the names that come up in many of your stories… I go back to the Green & Stone and Pat Pippolo days as well, Russ Regan, and the Capitol days with Carol Musa.”
I lament what’s being done to Casey Kasem. What the devil is Jean trying to do? Something fishy here.
Just FYI, now and then I check up on an old friend. Art Holt says: “Thanks for touching base! I’m OK, still doing station appraisals and brokerage to keep my hand in the game. Me ... 83 and halfway around the track toward 84. Amazing to me, as you say, to make it so far.”
Art goes back to Gordon McLendon days. Been involved in more radio than this world knows. A great, great radio man. He went to The University of Texas.
Clark Weber: “Burt Sherwood's reminiscing concerning Sam Holman was spot on. A huge talent who could bring out the best in his air staff. Sam also loved both beautiful women and the sauce and eventually they both did him in. His last act as the PD at WLS was stunning. I was doing the overnight ‘East of Midnight’ show. Sam had married I believe his 4th wife (I may have lost count!) and before leaving town and heading for New York and WABC he and his new bride stopped in at the studio that night to say goodbye to me. While I was on the air Sam turned off the lights in the studio, had the engineer play Buddy Morrow's ‘Night Train’ while his nubile new bride danced and stripped right down to her high heels. With the last note of the song, she bowed, mooned me and they left. Thanks, Sam!”
Mel Phillips: “Not all interviews go well. Some click and some die a quick death. These are two of the latter. I made an appointment to interview Clive Davis at his Arista office on 57th Street. It was for a Barry Manilow special, one of the many pieces I did for Tom Rounds at Watermark. Clive comes down the spiral staircase of his triplex office looking like he just walked off the cover of GQ. Designer suit, tie and he even had a vest pocket square. He wasn't amused when I mentioned it wasn't necessary to get that dressed up for a radio interview. It went downhill from there. It's not like we hadn't met before. We had met in Boston shortly after he was named head of Columbia Records. He was entirely different back then. Maybe because I was programming a major market station (WRKO) he wanted to make friends with -- not to mention -- get airplay on...
“I kept all my notes on large index cards like James Lipton does. Clive answered my questions about Barry's signing, his success, etc., by getting to the point quickly and showing no humor. He didn't offer much as most people being interviewed do when they feel comfortable with your line of questioning. Then he got rude. When I did a follow-up to a two-part question he said, ‘I just answered that schmuck!’ I immediately tried to explain that it wasn't the same question but a follow up. With a straight face he says ‘go ahead’. That was the end of the interview for me but since it was only about half of what I wanted. I don't know how, but I kept going...
“Although he wasn't rude, Yogi Berra was the toughest interview I ever got. I did the interview in the Yankee dugout at the Stadium before a night game. Yogi is a sweetheart but he didn't offer anything. Most of my questions were answered with a grunt or by his repeating each question and agreeing with me. The interview was for a ‘Soundtrack of the Sixties’ Watermark Special. Since Yogi managed both the Yankees and Mets I thought I had a goldmine of an interview but it didn't turn out that way. I thought I had a door-opener when I got into all of the funny Yogi statements he was credited with making throughout his life. He replied that "They say I made all those sayings but I don't remember if I did or not." Interview over. Although he was polite I didn't get much more. Here's an example. ‘Yogi, you were called too soft when you managed players but at other times too tough. Which were you?’ Yogi: ‘Sometimes they said I was too soft, sometimes they said I was too tough. I don't know. You can't win’. At least I met and talked to Willie Randolph, Reggie Jackson and the rest of the Yankees during batting practice. If I think of any more memorable (for one reason or another) interviews, I will share them with you and everyone. I do have a first-person story about the early days of WABC which I'll prepare for next week.”
David Martin: “Your email made my day -- as ever. Thought you would enjoy a piece written 10 years ago by Bob Henabery. It's about Bill Drake, Rick Sklar and the history of Top 40 Radio. Bob's keen intellect, storytelling and writing skills shine through. FYI -- folks can reach Bob via email. His email addy and a link to his writing follows. All the best.”
Personal friends wishing to reach Bob Henabery can email me for his address. Just FYI: I read Bob’s article. Good work, Bob! And my sincere appreciation to Mel Phillips for his interesting contributions. Furthermore, I’m still ticked off about what they’re doing to Ricky Irwin’s ReelRadio. Someone ought to be ashamed of themselves!
Larry Cohen, Los Angeles: “Hey, Claude: I was a very late addition to Hollywood Hills. I was introduced to it by Don Graham. I was a recipient of H/H for only the last 6 weeks before Jack Roberts passed. He passed the evening of the day I spent some time with him. It was a hard day’s night when Don Graham informed us that Jack had died. When I was informed that you would be doing a weekly, I took it for granted that with my name being on the email blast, I would receive your column. But so far I have not received your weekly. I would greatly appreciate being added to your email blast.
“I don't know if you remember me but I basically ran Harold Lipsius's (formely Phil Spector's national distributor of Philles Records & business associate) Jamie/Guyden Records. (I was recruited by Harold and joined his company in 1968.) You may or may not recall that I designed along with George Wilson the Phil-L.A. of Soul label logo (with the fishbone) which I created & it was Jamie/Guyden's first R&B label that J/G owned outright. I don't recall if you were at Billboard at the time but ‘The Horse’ instrumental on Phil-L.A. of Soul crossed over to pop & MOR and reached #2 on Billboard's Top 100 Pop chart, but failed to unseat the #1 record at the top of your chart, Herb Alpert's, ‘This Guy's in Love With You’. (Hey, When You’re Only #2 You Try Harder.) In this time period, I also had another R&B crossover on Phil-L.A. that went TOP 10 on your Billboard TOP 100 POP chart, ‘Boogaloo Down Broudway’. We sold close to 3 million records just between these 2 releases. I had free reign to pick and chose any of the masters that were submitted to the company and I happened to get lucky with these two records, not withstanding the fact that I had to promote them first R&B and pray for some retail sales indication that would show crossover demographics in the markets where the record(s) were breaking with big r&b sales. I handled all of this singlehanded but had great help from several key distributor promotion people. I recall Howard Bedno in Chicago, Jack Millman in Detroit, Abe Guard in Baltimore-Washington, Jerry Brenner in Boston, Joe Stanzione in Miami, Ray Anderson and Jack Hakim in Pittsburgh, Denny Zeitler in S.F., Tom Kennedy in Philly, the Love Brothers in NYC and Larry King in Atlanta always ‘being there’. Several of the team later garnered big positions in the industry. In the early 70's, Bob Skaff, VP of United Artists Records asked me to rejoin UA where I had originally started in Philly (1960) as their Local Promo rep'. Bob was an old industry friend.
“Finally made the move west permanently in November 1976. My first merchandising project was the ‘Rocky’ soundtrack which sold more than a million! The ‘Rocky’ project garnered me a V.P. title, a company car, a trip to MIDEM in Cannes and London with a first class round-trip ticket and all expenses paid.
“By the way, Dick Clark once told me that he was disappointed in the two seconds he was shown in the film. Insisted on a remake with Seacrest portraying him or HE would never play a Four Season's record again!
“About the late Jack Roberts: One day I drove in from Long Beach (where I now live), stopped at Greenblatt's and got Jack Roberts 2 quarts of chicken noodle soup. Went to his gate and he let me in. Claude, he looked terrible. That evening he died in the hospital. I probably was the last industry person to see him before he expired other then Don Graham who was his long time friend, Priest, Rabbi and Savior.
“Although I have not seen her in years, Julie Lipsius (I do not know her marriage name) from what I understand has had her own music publishing company in NYC for years and has done quite well financially. Frank now runs Jamie/Guyden. Doesn't release new product but works the catalogue and does one major package a year. He contacted me in 2011 to write what he called ‘liner notes’ for a Phil-L.A. of Soul package. The L/Notes turned out to be 10-page history of which I am the only one in the world who is most informed (I started the label).”
Just FYI, Julie and Frank are the children of Harold Lipsius, who I considered a good friend. Frank was a closet writer. Later, after last week’s Commentary, Larry Cohen emailed: “Re. Jerry Wexler. Back then in Philly we distributed Atlantic. Wexler was a big help in my development before I joined Harold Lipsius. He was even a bigger help when I worked for and with Mr, ‘L’ as Harold was the distributor of Atco. I attended that convention where several renown record people were beaten badly. It was a scary scene.”
Art Wander: “The mention of Joe Galkin in your latest commentary stirred the memory bank of my association – or lack thereof when I became program director of WPLO after I left WMGM New York. Naturally, when in the Big Apple at that time, the Peter Tripp situation had every PD being very sensitive to the people in the record industry. I certainly was very careful in my relationship the rest of my career. In any event, when at WPLO (battling WQXI) this record promotion man simply came in, didn’t wait for any announcement, and came directly into my office. I told him that the policy was that he was to sit in the lobby until I was ready for him. He told me, ‘Change the policy’. I hastened his exit. Galkin came in every day and we had some good exchanges on protocol. Then came the biggie. Joe came into the station … went past the reception person … came into my office and threw a 45 on my desk saying, ‘Wander … you’re going to play this or your ratings will go down the toilet’. I was furious and again led him to the exit. As it turned out it was Otis Redding’s ‘Sittin on the Dock of the Bay’. I was more angry that Galkin was right about the record than his antics in visiting the station. We resolved our approaches and (without every telling him) considered him to be a great promotion man. What made him stand out from the rest of the promo people was that he always came in with 1 or 2 45s, rather than a stack of 10-20. And those 1 or 2 records usually became hits. My then biggest surprise came when I was leaving Atlanta to return to New York and Joe Galkin attended my going away party. I wonder if that was his way of making sure I was leaving.”
Bill Helmer, once an editor of Playboy and now writer of crime books: “You bein' into radio and phonograph records and god knows what, I have the tapes that Neal Spelce gave me from his on-the-spot coverage the Whitman shooting, plus a couple of his interviews with others, and two mariachi (or is it ranchero) tunes celebrating Martinez and produced there in Austin. Had an Austin friend put 'em on disc, in case they'd be of interest to you. Back when I was collecting 78s, before many got lost, and I now can't find an old wind-up player that doesn't pick up every scratch, and blah, blah, blah, Vernon Dalhart was one of my all-time favorites -- must of done a song on everything from Floyd Collins to various gangsters to the Monkey Trial and ... I forget. Had some old-dance dandies from the Twenties, and a couple that went back to pre-Prohibition, like ‘The Brewers Big Horses Can't Run Over Me’. The good ol' days. (First 78 I ever actually bought was Roy Acuff's ‘Wreck on the Highway’, as the rest were worn-outs from the jukebox at my dad's Hub Cafe truckstop. He must have gone thru 20 of ‘Lovesick Blues’. I still have a lot of that stuff on audio tapes if you'd want to put 'em on disc. Also the teen-ager death songs like Leader of the Pack’, and the nifty black-dude stuff like ‘Work With Me Annie’ and ‘Sexy Ways’.)”
Bill, I probably have more than 2,000 LPs in the house, including the last LP of Bob Wills produced by Vince Cosgrave, but I’m not a collector. I just checked and, yes, I have “Toolpusher” by Slim Willet on this laptop. And “The Prisoner’s Song” by Vernon Dalhart, otherwise known as Guy Massey, among probably four or five dozen other names. Just FYI, Bill Helmer and Neal Spelce and I were in college together at The University of Texas.
Mel Phillips: “Great commentary, Claude. This has to be the most insightful (especially the Jerry Wexler & Shelby Singleton stories). Great, great stuff. And thanks for using my items, too.”
Robert E. Richer: “This could be a story about how underpaid radio morning hosts really are or one man's inability to let go of something he loves. WNDD-FM (Ocala) morning show co-host Barry Michaels was featured in the Ocala Star Banner not because of his high ratings, but because of his high motoring mileage. Michaels has 40 years in the radio business, he's switched radio jobs 17 times, cris-crossing the country five times and he's owned one car, a light blue Volkswagen Sport Model Beetle, which he purchased in 1973 for $3,000. It has over 540,000 miles on it.”
Man, but Barbara and I loved the two Beetles we owned over a little more than 11 years. I doubt there has ever been a better-made car.
I sent Kent Kotal the last Commentary: “Some interesting stuff in here ... may quote from this from time to time in our online newsletter, Forgotten Hits. (You might enjoy what we do as well ... quite a bit of deejay participation ... but we're ALWAYS looking for more!) Check out the links below and let me know what you think ... would be happy to add you to the list and offer you another forum to share some of your great memories."
Go To This Link: http://forgottenhits60s.blogspot.com/
Go To This Link: http://www.forgottenhits.com/
Here's wishing you well!