August 11, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 24
By Claude Hall
Woody Roberts reflects upon San Antonio: “Lee, do you remember when you came to KONO? I'm thinking it was in the fall of '64? I recall it was a bright sunny day. Well, the date slipped away but the event holds in my memory. The daytime ratings were slightly in our favor but the nights were holding us back. I had to make a change and Ted Randal of the tipsheet from LA called George Wilson to see if he knew of anyone. So George phoned you. Your audition tape was fine and I heard a real good pace, a very friendly voice with a tat of Southern accent, a hip delivery, and you sounded like a youthful and likeable guy for connecting with those critical 7-midnight teens. Yet, I didn't hear YOU. You were not on that tape, but it was my top contender. I phoned George Wilson and he told me, ‘Lee doesn't telescope well ... you have to listen to his show a few times, but Lee will get you the numbers. I have to let you know he can be hard to manage’. I had to ask if that meant you were one of those moaning DJs who always found something to criticize and had one or two fellow DJs he couldn't stand. Talented prima donna? ‘Oh, no. But he might try to sneak around your format sometimes’. ‘But is he a good guy?’ ‘Yes, Lee's a good guy’.
“Flash forward and you walked into the office looking taller, larger than I'd imagined. I remember telling you I'd heard you were hard to manage and saw your eyes widen like I was going to issue some kind of we-don't-take-no-nonsense type warning. I told you I wasn't going to try. I was into doing bits and stunts and the format was there to keep the station moving, but if you had something better to offer to go ahead and break it, then come back on track. You relaxed and told me that you had a cowboy movie town image of San Antonio and then upon driving in on I-10 East you passed the brand new Wonderland shopping mall where on each side of the grass banked highway water sprinklers were tossing ropes of sparkling diamonds though the bright sunlight while up ahead you could see tall buildings on the horizon. It was then you knew -- you were going to own this town."
“And you did."
“I heard the real you on your first night's show. My show ended in front of yours, I ran out the door with Don Couser as Tom Ellis was starting his newscast and we drove out of the parking lot onto St. Mary's Street with the radio turned up loud to hear your first break. The news ended, we looked at each other and blinked. You had started your show before you played the first record and were going on about how you had just arrived in town and were about to: ‘...give out the Famous Lee Baby Call to all you San Antonio wheelers, you dealers and hubcap stealers, get ready’, a long pause of breath sucking in before a top of the lungs scream: ‘HAI Baybeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzz........’ until all your breath wheezed out. I swear Couser almost ran over the curb and onto the sidewalk we laughed so hard. KTSA would never know what hit 'em. PS - Don Couser is deceased, Tom Ellis retired last year from a major career anchoring TV news in Boston.”
Lee Baby Simms from his hilltop above the San Francisco Bay: “History, Claude. You love Radio History. Here is a little slice. It was mid-summer, Woody. Of 1965. I had driven in from Phoenix. I remember as I left The Valley Of The Sun, the man on the Radio told me that the temperature was 120 degrees. I said, ‘Whew! I`m so glad that I`m leaving this furnace’. This ... not me. I had been there for almost two years. My high school sweetheart, Martha, my wife, and Kim`s mother had cheated on me with some fancy boy she had found down at the pool. She told me that he was a better man than I and that I should just go away. (He was a Greek guy who later turned out to be stark raving crazy!) I was overjoyed with the news. Martha was a drag on my aspirations. She was a simple person, all she wanted was a man to provide her with a little house with a white picket fence around it and roses in the front yard. I knew that I was not that man. I wanted to be somebody! I was suddenly free to be me. Free to fulfill my destiny. I called my friend George Wilson, told him I wanted to leave Phoenix. He said, ‘OK, Lee, send a tape to Woody Roberts at KONO in San Antonio’. I don`t know how he knew you were looking for someone. George Wilson was something else again. You know about George and I, don`t you? He was one of a kind. I sent the tape and you heard something in it. We spoke on the phone. You said, ‘Come on over, Lee, you got the job’. Once again I was overjoyed! I was on a roll. Fifty years later I still am. In no small part because of you. Thank you, Woody. A Lot. Because of you, on a certain level and in many ways, I am me.
“PS. On my way to San Antoine I had stopped to spent the night in El Paso. I stepped over the border in to Old Mexico, into Ciudad Juarez. I was a young man, looking for adventure. I found it and as the Sun came up over the night. I found that my pockets were empty. They got every dime. Really. Hey, I was a young man and did not know then what I know now. I didn`t even have the nickel that it cost to get back across the border. Really. It cost a nickel to get back into the good ole` USA in those days. I didn`t have it! A nickel! So I pawned a diamond watch that I had just bought. It cost me one hundred and ten $. It was a small diamond. I probably got a penny on the dollar for it. But it was enough for gas to get me to San Antonio. I was dead broke when I showed up at KONO`s door. You and I finalized our deal with a handshake. I told you of my predicament and asked if you could front me a few dollars on my salary. You said, ‘How much?’ I said – ‘ You reached into your pocket and handed it to me. Then and there I knew that we were the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I was right ... I still am. And I`m still on a roll. Thanks for the loan, Woody.
If you’ve been wondering how the book “Hitbound” by Robert Weisbuch has been progressing, here’s an update: “Guys, these two emails give me the details that make this episode far more compelling. This revision has taken forever or, to lose the hyperbole, a full year. But it has been for the good, as I hope you will agree. I will be sending you and an agent the new version by end of this month. So there is still time -- keep on remembering and writing and I will continue to plagiarize, um, incorporate the material. For an interesting trip, google Tom Waits Lee Simms.”
Lee Baby, there’s a fascinating Juarez folk tale about a woman bandit called La Tigre. Just wonder if you happened to meet her during your jaunt to Juarez. Whups, she was a little bit before your time, I think. Used to tack the hides of former boyfriends to a barn door over on that side of the Rio Grande. So I heard.
Herb Oscar Anderson: “Claude ... enjoy your comments. Sam Holman stoked the boiler pretty good before Mike Joseph arrived ... Mike was into best selling albums ... tried to work that into top forty programming ... didn't do too well. WABC had the most dedicated jocks in the world and whatever they threw at you ... it would succeed ... they knew how to incorporate the listener into their show and they certainly did.”
Bill Hennes: “Claude, Dick Summer is correct. Hal Neal had been GM at WXYZ/Detroit and he was very familiar with Mike Joseph's successful Top 40 program consulting history in Michigan at WTAC/Flint in 1956 and WMAX/Grand Rapids (a day timer) in 1958. He made both number one almost overnight, plus his many other success. As a teenager, I was working at WXYZ when they moved into a Top 40 direction and I found many of Mike's technique sheets and his music playlists at WXYZ.
“When Hal was promoted to NY as GM at WABC and to head up ABC O&O's, he could not get corporate budget approval for a program director. However, he was able to hire an outside consultant, and that man was Mike Joseph, who did the original WABC full switch to Top 40. Mike hired Sam Holman as a jox and music director. Then when Hal got the budget approval Sam was named the first WABC/NY PD.”
Don Sundeen: “Ken Dowe just forwarded me your latest column, once again I didn’t receive it directly. Had lunch today with the Oldies King, Bud Buschardt, who has virtually thousands of phonograph records on shelves throughout his home, including the bathroom. He also has a nicely tricked out recording studio in another room. Bud’s last gig was PD of the ABC Networks' Oldies format, which he ran for many years, and worked at KVIL with Ron Chapman before that. He’s currently teaching radio at the University of North Texas. I told him about your blog, he knows a lot of the players, and forwarded him #23, suggesting he sign up.”
Good on you, Ken Dowe. Don’t know what the problem is, Don. I have separated radio into different lists so I can keep track. Must be something wrong with list No. 4. I’ll switch you to another list. See what happens.
Just FYI, I conferred with the person this past week that I hoped would take over my list and do you guys a really nice blog. The person is not ready yet. And they want to. So, I’ve got to do my dogpaddling a while longer, it appears. Not that I mind. I get an enormous kick out of some of your letters. It’s just that Sept. 4 I will be 82 years old. Only the Good Lord knows how much time I’ve got left. A few days ago, I didn’t even have the energy to talk with an old friend on the phone. Barbara ended up talking with him to get the news about his career, his kids, his grandkids. Just FYI, I’m much better at handling emails than I am the telephone. And you can almost forget Facebook, etc. I think that on Sept. 4 I will toss my lady love, Barbara, into the old Buick and go out for some eggs benedict. At the moment, that certainly sounds like a winner!
Then, from Sundeen: “Claude, although today's blog didn't come up on the computer email, it's here on my iPad ... go figure. We appreciate what you do, Claude, it’s a connection for many of us that we had achieved with Radio Jack and then lost, and you picked up the cudgel.”
Don Whittemore: “Another excellent Commentary. True magazine ... loved reading it before I became a teenager. Still remember Cavalier, too. Back to you. Your people curiosity keeps you invigorated and we, your fans, reap the benefits of your reportage. You have a great week. Physician, heal thyself. Beware too many doctors.”
The Hotel.com commercial on NFLTV before the Cleveland Browns v. Detroit Lions football game Aug. 9, 2014, was disgusting, sickening. The possibility of me ever using Hotel.com is not only remote, but I’d probably have to get sick first … I doubt that I’ll ever get that sick.
Johnny Holliday: “It's always great to get your weekly updates and see so many familiar names that I knew from the good ole days I spent at WHK in Cleveland; 1010 WINS, New York’ KYA, San Francisco, and finally here in Washington for the past 45 years with WWDC and WMAL, as well as ABC Sports. If only the business had the great music and programming minds that we had during that time, Radio would be much different today. Sadly that is not the case. I guess I might be one of the fortunate ones who was able to make the transition from music to sports at the right time. I am about to begin my 36th season as the play-by-play voice of the University of Maryland, and currently in my 8th season with the Washington Nationals, as host of their pre- and post games shows on MASN Television. Toss in some voice over work for TJ Lubinsky on his Music Specials for PBS, The Chubby Checker special and Hullaballoo special, things are well to say the least. 29 years with ABC sports is a nice run as well. Folks can read all about it in my book ‘From Rock to Jock’. I will never forget how kind you were to me during your Billboard days and I know there are hundreds of others who read your weekly commentary that feel the same way. Thanks again for the memories.”
Marie Davis: “Claude-ie (known as 'Authorman' or 'the Gentleman Billboard, who truly is'): That new technology, life made quick, knowing and 'googly' is right in front of me! Recallin' last Thursday ain't that hard! The lunch-bunch is history for another fun-frolic weekly repast (I wouldn't trade Thursday lunches for two Tuesdays!), and me and the Mustang is home, facing 'the missus' screaming like a NASCAR crew chief, ‘Joe's in jail!!’ Joe who, I lip synch? Obviously, Google blew it this once! One of the multitude that spews, no 'thrives' on matters that don't, called Marie to shout about Isgro's new travail! I worked for Joe Isgro! Joe opened his wallet for me, and the missus, when the wonderful wonder of 'notes and chords' had forsaken the musical ears I thought I knew! Not only did one of the so-called 'network' pay me, but together we opened Blackjack Limousine and 'very nicely'! I'm no choir boy. I know and have heard all the tales about Joe. I tried, very hard, to plead a case for what 'indie promo' was being charged with. Every CEO 'got written'! Not one 'heavyweight', that was 'used to' easy pickin's responded. Yes, I heard all the clamor! I honestly can't tell any tale about any of it … and looked the 'commissioners in the face, when I when I said so'! I can tell ya, Claude, about Joe returning the fee to Eddie DeJoy, when Rick Springfield denied all the 'original, early effort! I was in the room, at the Century Plaza, when General Westmoreland was handed $10.000 by Vietnam Vet Isgro, at a crucial particular time for returning vets! Joe certainly is the recipient of 'plenty bad mouth! This is not a plea for Isgro and 'current time'! My recollections are of a different time and hue! The mail will probably hoist the 'pirate flag'! I stand by what I've written!”
Thanks, Danny. There’s never just one side to any story. I’ve always tried to tell both sides. Appreciate your help.
More from Danny Davis: “Claudiola: Time was when I was plying the road trips, with 'thems' that wuz reel important, I didn't miss a tower, no matter how little they 'mattered'! During the time of paychecks mattering, wife-at-home, puppies expanding to nine (from a dangerous, but good hearted volunteer), my offspring searching for the money pit he knew as The Monkees, and playing hookey to act like one of their 'entourage', and Mom explaining her son's father, and how showbiz had impacted our life, to the school's Principal ... somehow I missed what has now become a 'Lost Horizon' on my vaunted resume! I NEVER got to 'schmooze' with Lee Baby Simms! Obviously, with the accord Mr. Simms is credited with, by you and other of the instantaneous Mike Magicians and Messiahs! Too many for me to recall! All revered, sincerely! But absence does NOT make this heart grow fonder! Matter of fact, without some recognition of a Lee Baby, my work history is as bare as if there was a baseball-card collection without a Honus Wagner! Authourman? Can you do the HON-ers?”
Chuck Buell: “Hey, Claude! I just finished a book that I think you might enjoy. It's called the ‘The Hour of the Innocents’. With the grittier times and events of the mid-1960s serving as the background, it's about four guys putting together a band and the trials and tribulations they, and those around them – wives, girlfriends, other musicians, each other and the like – live and experience as they strive to develop their band's sound and play in whatever venues they can while hoping and dreaming of a break. As much as I enjoyed the overall story, I think what you may also find very interesting is the descriptions of how they constructed the individual sound of each instrument -- guitars, drums, and vocals -- and how they built their song sets based on a foundation of cover songs and when to incorporate original songs are woven into the story line. You might also relate to the reactions and those great feelings they get after a highly successful and energized club performance.”
Mel Phillips: “I love how what comes from within is being transformed into just the most enjoyable read, each and every week. I think I speak for many when I say how much I look forward to your Commentaries. The most famous person I've worked for is an easy choice -- Dick Clark. I was hired as the first affiliate relations person when USRN rebooted its syndication in the mid-90s. While I program directed a virtual Who's Who of radio talent it is a lot harder to pick an all-star list of air personalities. When it comes to the most famous, I do have a 1(a) and 1(b) that top that list. One of those people I had been forewarned about, the other wouldn't become famous for several years. When I became program director at WNBC in 1976, I inherited morning man Don Imus, who was in his 5th year on air in NYC. I became familiar with Don when I was program director of WOR-FM in 1972 and knew how brilliant he could be. But I was warned that he was a powder keg ready to go off at any time. He worried me more than taking on Rick Sklar (WABC) as a competitor.
“Imus was a pleasant surprise. Although he would later admit that he had a serious drug problem at the time, I just thought he was a difficult guy because he had to live up to his reputation. Most days he was willing to let me critique him when he got off the air and he was all for a change toward more of a music oriented format. He was still allowed to be Imus as long as he was funny, didn't seriously offend anyone enough to create headlines and didn't threaten an FCC fine. He didn't always follow that course but he was given plenty of leeway. While Don didn't realize it at the time, Jack Thayer wanted GM Perry Bascom to get rid of him, something that Charlie Warner and Bob Pittman did when they replaced Perry and I. And we know what a mistake that was.
“My 1(a or b) was a disc jockey who was already on-air when I went to KQV Pittsburgh as program director. Jeff Christie worked the 6pm-10pm shift and was a tall, nervously-energetic air personality who always came in to talk to me before he went on the air. Jeff loved to talk about growing up in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and his love of the Republican Party, a legacy that dated back to his grandfather. Some people like to talk sports, others like various subjects but Jeff loved to talk politics. He wouldn't decide to become a talk-radio host for several years. I once cautioned him about using his real name when he signed the program log. His answer? ‘But Rush Limbaugh III is my real name’.
“Putting this piece together has given me a new idea which I intend to commit to. I would like to list every person that worked for me on-air. It will be my personal thank you to the people who made my success possible. One other thought. I sent a personal email to Dick Summer about his mention of Mike Joseph being responsible for coming up with the original Top 40 format for WABC. As I explained to Dick, Mike Hauptman predated the hiring of Joseph as a programming consultant in 1960. In mentioning Hauptman, I was referring to the post-1957 Top 40 transition, which ended for me after I left the WABC mailroom for my first radio job in the fall of 1958.”
Great stuff, Mel! Just FYI, I’ve always considered Don Imus a good friend, then and now. Haven’t heard from him in years … don’t even know how to reach him … but a friend is a friend. I’ve still got my copy of the album “12,000 Hamburgers to Go.”
The CD is “Trouble in Paradise” by Isabel Rose and Sony is behind it. That’s important. And this is an important CD featuring excellent music. My favorite, and I’m still listening, over again and perhaps again, to a couple of the tunes, is “Never Satisfied.” Good beat. Good lyrics. And Ms. Rose performs with deft power and emphasis. “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl” has a soft, bluesy feeling with a big band touch. I understand that Paul Richards, program director at WHLI at Farmingdale, NY, has added seven tracks from this CD.
Big surprise – and very cute – is “Peter Gunn.” Now this is a tune that may throw you. And, no, I do not remember the TV series well enough to tell you whether or not this is related. However, Isabel Rose is outstanding on the lyrics and the music is upbeat and a phenomenal and pleasing switch from the typical. Meaning: If I were programming a radio station targeted at adults, I’d slate this occasionally just to give the radio station an attention-getter and one of those things the heart remembers even when the mind does not. A superb tune, regardless.
Essentially, no loser on this CD. You’ll enjoy “That’s All” — the favorite of a good friend of mine -- as well as the title tune. “That’s All” is great on a soft summer evening. A real bourbon tune. Music sage Don Graham has come up with another winner. No wonder he’s so famous: He has phenomenal taste in music. And talent.
“Reflections” and “Reflections Remix” are interesting. The first is like a Motown cover and the second is from somewhere else in this world. Loved both! Way to go, Isabel!
Can’t think of enough good things to say about this CD. But it’s damned good listening. You’ll love it. Don Graham has brought my attention of late to three outstanding women singers – Lyn Stanley, Deana Martin, and Isabel Rose. I am grateful.
Below: Some music friends at Delmonico’s in Encino, CA, to honor Macey Lipman who is headed to Italy to paint and photograph for his La Cienega galley in Los Angeles.
Back, from left: Ed DeJoy, Jerry Sharell, Russ Brumbach, Macey Lipman. In front: Vic Faraci, Don Graham and Ed Rosenblatt. (Photo courtesy of Don Graham.)
May this be a great week for us all. Remember, we all have a very important
person who’s on our side.