Monday, September 1, 2014
Claude Commentary No. 27r2
September 1, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 27
By Claude Hall
Joe Smith: “Hey, Scribe For Old People … Delighted to read your pieces. Remember, I was a DJ for 10 years after graduating from Yale so guys calling to mind how it was is a kick. I am the longest continuous Laker season ticket holder (others leave the field open by passing on) and obviously have a great relationship with the organization. They backed off on what I considered an overreach with timing on ticket renewals. Much time recently has been involved with 200 interviews I did for a book 24 years ago. The Library Of Congress now has the tapes and has put 65 of them on line under Joe Smith Collection. Some real heavy hitters from Artie Shaw to Jagger, Bono, etc., and the Library tells me they are amazed at the interest. Now I get more and more requests for interviews with me and camera crews coming to the house for tapings. Can record hops be on the schedule again? Mr. Diamond appears so often in your pieces that he must be 120 years old. Ask him about promoting for Mercury when I ruled Rock and Roll on Boston radio. Keep dancing, Claude.”
There are a few of us who’re basketball aficionados. Joe Smith, once head of Elektra Records, is probably tops on the list although Johnny Holliday might protest that claim. Johnny used to organize a team at the radio stations where he jocked. KYA, San Francisco, for example, where just sometimes Rick Barry would play on his team as a ringer. Gary Owens once loved to play basketball on Sundays mornings with a makeshift group in the valley. For a while, one of the players had played at UCLA and worshipped John Wooten. After I moved away, I understand that I was replaced by an owner of the Suns. Ragknot ball. The phrase “Oh, Gary!” came about when GO would shoot a hookshot from the corner and it would ricochet off the top corner of the backboard and go in the bucket, an absolutely impossible shot. Tony Richand (any of you guys remember Tony … one of the best indie promotion men in the business?) worshipped the Lakers and had a season ticket until priced out. But Joe? Top fan of the Lakers. Even made a highlight film for a year or two. Not even Jack Nickelson has achieved that lofty status. The ticket renewal incident made the local newspaper in LA. I’m sort of pleased that Joe will still be in the stands.
Danny Davis: “Hey-y dere', Authorman! Depression struck 'at the start of the 'Monday Music Meal and Breakfast Menu, about 9:30 a.m. today! I was deep into Shredded Wheat and blueberries, when the lauded and oft vaunted, Roger Carroll, causes a mis-directed swallow with the admission 'he didn't know any of the commentary folks' you write about', excepting Chuck Blore or Larry Cohen! Two for the length of Mr. Carroll's 'time in grade', got to me! I ain't truly conversant with Chuck Blore, but I know the esteem in which he's held, and I'm respectful! Don't know if I ever 'pushed' him on The Monkees or The Partridge Family or Phil Spector, but he does hold forth on the roll-a-disk! (I figure if, at this late date, the 'reach' is for Chuck Blore, I got Don Graham!) The other guy in 'the loop' causes concern. Hot and cold strikes two different mentions and, Claude, you ain't got the time! My depression WILL be dissuaded after I make the moves to address Roger Carroll as you recall him, usually weekly, and try to update that gentleman, and 'Lee Baby' in a two-for-one exchange! I'm grateful to Mr. Carroll for the impetus that puts me in league with the aforementioned Don 'Saint Gramcracker' Graham! (Now if only I could remember 'the other guy'!) Best to your 'houseHALL'!”
More Danny Davis: “Apology, before it's needed! Mr. Carroll: I took the liberty of seeking a comedy 'vent', while alluding to your Claude Hall piece, this weeks' Commentary regarding 'no mas' than two, in your memories of the genteel folks who sought your help, advice, and airplay while you manned that power-laden microphone for, I imagine, a pretty lengthy amount of time! I certainly am guilty! During my career, illustrious as my ego allows me to believe it was, I can't remember pressing your stature for the while you were at the 'king-man' stations! My reaction to what you wrote, was an indictment of a guy who thought he 'knew the turf'! ... and had it covered! The expense reports I've held on to are absent your notable name! That failing alone prompts two apologies. I'm sorry for missing a chance to cultivate a heavyweight, and to plead forgiveness for this 'try' at a 'stand-up' writ' wit' woids! Sincerely, honest, as if I was going after a hit record!”
Jack Gale: “Your column gets better and better. It's an encyclopedia of where the old-timers are … which ones are still here and which ones like you say ‘We come, we do, we go’. You mentioned Roger Carroll, who may not know who we are. Roger and I grew up together in Baltimore and sold papers at the Pimlico Race Track when we were 15 years old. He started in radio at WFMD in Frederick, Maryland, and I wound up at WBTM in Danville, VA. As I remember, that was back in 1944. We both lost our wives Beverly and Lovey this past year. Thanks for the great comments on Playback's new album, ‘Shelby County Line’. Best to Barbara.”
Don Kennedy: “Gotta' admit to being out of it when I read much of your material, for my radio time-line stops in the mid-50s and doesn't pick up again until my syndicated program from '86 through '13 ... and it was devoted mostly to Big Band and the stories behind the music. The unfortunate part is our audience died. Rude of them, of course, but we didn't seem to be able to generate enough interest among younger generations to make such a program continue to be feasible. My views as expressed here, then, are those of a mind limited by lack of practical radio experience between the mid '50s and the present. Given those limitations I regret the lack of personality and individuality in music radio today. Plenty of room for personality to shine through on talk programming and that's the kind of programming often garnering the big numbers, but for the most part music programming is limited to top-tune playlists and oft-repeated liners devoid of human warmth. That kind of programming doesn't allow an announcer to select his own music which would give his program a distinction over others, nor does it encourage announcers to inject personal comments. Even when such comments are a part of this robotic programming they're often lost in a flurry of mechanically delivered words. Satellite radio recently put at liberty some of their 'live' music program hosts, relegating many of their channels to the status of a poorly-programmed juke-box. A younger friend of mine showed me how easy it is to find a specific track by a particular artist, using some internet service which, in this instance, played on the tin-foil speaker in his tricky little phone. It's all reflective of the increasing impersonality of America and the world. How can we expect a personality on the radio when we often cannot expect to find a 'real' personality in life? They're too busy looking at pictures or jokes on their coveted phones to speak to others. How's THAT for barely restrained anger over the current condition of radio...maybe the current condition of the world?”
Ken Dowe: “I was happy to see your edit and to learn that ole George (Wilson) in later years chose to use words more befitting the gentleman I knew. I confess that in moments of stupid temper losses, I also have erupted with one syllable four-letter words. Not often, thankfully, and I do not think it was cute or admirable. In quoting conversations including vulgarities, or representing accuracy in a particular situation, I certainly can appreciate the necessity of authenticity. However, I never fail to be impressed by an erudite response, or to admire the ability of the well informed to communicate within the rules of known etiquette. That is always a stunning moment. Why is it necessary to suffer a weatherboarding of F-words in what might otherwise be a good movie? There are 569 of them in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. I didn't choose to buy a ticket. Immoderate decadence is neither common, necessary, or entertaining. I am impressed with your respect for George, and your discernment.”
Ron Brandon: “Hi Claude … like many of us, I've read quite a number of books by various industry folks over the years. Recently finished Jerry Wexler's ‘Rhythm and the Blues’ … which was excellent. Having grown up in the early 50s as a high school kid in Memphis, I can attest to the fact that it is true … we did listen religiously nightly to Dewey Phillip's ‘Red Hot and Blue’ on WHBQ. He was our introduction to Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and a legion of black artists that we would not have known otherwise. And, of course, in time he wrote himself into the history books with the introduction of Elvis to the world. (attachment) I was so taken with one page in particular that I shared it with Facebook (and a number of old radio names that you know well). I think and suggested that for the younger folks who came later to the world of rock and roll, this few paragraphs described perfectly the time and the biz, as it was … just as it was beginning to ‘bubble under’ the mass-appeal world that it soon dominated. And like you, only in these latter days and years am I having the time and opportunity to really learn about the biz that we devoted all those years to. We thought it would last forever, but in the big book it will soon be just a paragraph. I enjoy your ramblings, and knowing that there are still quite a few of us around.”
Ron, I sincerely appreciate you sending me that page or so. Odd, but I’d recently finished reading Jerry’s book myself, courtesy of Sam Hale out of Atlanta. Just FYI, I had dinner one evening with Sam Phillips in Nashville and he told me and Billboard music editor Paul Ackerman that he’d paid Dewey $5 to play that first record. The only question I still have is whether the record was “Blue Moon of Kentucky” or “That’s Alright.”
Jim Ramsburg is one of us and he occasionally sends out a tease for either his book or his radio blog and the copy is always well-written. Here’s the latest: “Here's a question for you and anyone else who shares our interest in broadcasting history: What was the most memorable gag ever performed on Network Radio? Altogether now.... Okay, now that we've got that out of the way -- do you know the real story behind the gag and how an Academy Award statuette stretched it into a seven week storyline? It's all contained in the new text and audio post at www.jimramsburg.com and it's funny stuff.”
Great on you, Jim!
More Jim Ramsburg: “Claude: I heard this week from David Gleason who runs www.americanradiohistory.com. David has put a link to www.jimramsburg.com on his excellent site of archived periodicals but he has problems, too - trying to fill out his 7-year collection of Radio Daily with issues from 1938 through 1944. I'm confident that I'd find info from the 1930's in the Variety Internet archives. But they want $600 a year for unlimited access -- marked down from $900 last year. Maybe I can wait them out for a lower price. Or maybe I can win Powerball tonight -- the chances are better.”
Jim Gabbert, San Francisco: “Claude, I have been in contact with the Kalil people looking at buying a San Francisco radio station. I forwarded your commentary to Frank.”
My thanks, Jim.
Frank Kalil: “Please tell Jay Lawrence that he is still one of my favorite people in this world but, no, he can’t have my joke file. I may need to say something funny someday.”
Mel Phillips: “Looking forward to reading your new Commentary. I've been getting a lot of feedback on my weekly mentions, so thanks for making me a star. It helps with my own website as well. I think so highly of Bruce Lundvall that I wanted to add my thoughts on Bruce without it being a eulogy because this man is alive and more than well living in the moment with his greatest love -- music. I add Bruce to my own personal list of heroes who have found the secret of extending life and that's enjoying every moment working on what you choose (and love) to do. For Bruce, it's music. One of the greatest memories of knowing Dick Clark was his passion for today's music. Dick would mention the names of the Philadelphia promotion people who hocked (a Danny Davis term) him when he hosted American Bandstand but he also knew where or what they were doing today. Dick loved today's music and entertainment and had knowledge of the hot contemporary artists. Bruce is much the same although his love of jazz trumps all other genres of music. That big smile on his face in the photo spoke volumes. When I saw that story I sent a Tweet (or Facebook message, don't remember which) to Bruce congratulating him on not living 50 years back but living today. The past is just that -- a great place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. What I forgot to mention to Bruce was this (I'm sure he'll read this): Bruce, I still won't play your version of ‘Winchester Cathedral’. Thanks for the space, Claude.”
Will one of you make sure that Bruce gets this copy of Commentary? I used to have a great email list … then I got hacked.
Chuck Chellman: “Loved reading this again this morning, Claude … loved seeing the mentions of legendary radio personality Eddie Hill. Eddie was great at WSM, but his popularity really blossomed at WLAC-TV where Eddie and his crew were the top-rated TV entertainment show in the region. Wonderful man, wonderful family. As the founder of the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame, I was proud and happy to induct Eddie into the first class, 1975. Also inducted in 1975 were WSM's Grant Turner and Cincinatti's Nelson King. The 1976 class inducted Los Angeles' Joe Allison and Chicago's Randy Blake. This annual event is the only sold-out gathering at the annual Country Radio Seminar. Thanks for your friendship over the years, Claude.”
The only time I got to meet Eddie Hill was at a convention in Nashville and by then he’d suffered a stroke and someone wheeled him into the room in a wheelchair. I ran over and kneeled down and told him that he was more than likely the reason I was working at Billboard … that I’d listened to him back in Texas and he might not be able to understand me, but I just wanted him to know how much I enjoyed listening to him over WSM. The friend behind the wheelchair said: “He can not only hear you, Claude, but understand.”
Just FYI, my three nieces and nephew, courtesy of my brother Buddy, still remember Chuck Chellman treating them to ice cream at his suite at the Shamrock in Houston. When Barbara and I had lunch with Morris Diamond and Alice Harnell the other day, neither of us could remember what the convention was that was going on. But I do remember that Morris Diamond was there. The man is a living legend of being there. To wit: Joe Smith remembering him being in Boston.
Walt Pinto: “If you have a minute, would you send Bob Paiva my email? He lives close to me. We used to work together, and I saw him several years ago at an event, but I think his email is in my old computer.”
Bob Walker: “Speaking of tales, we had a guy promoting Motown product who came to WTIX in the early 70s. He shook hands and introduced himself. Then he opened his briefcase and revealed copies of the record he was pushing, stacks of money, and a big pistol. Message received. LOL”
I’ve always loved a statement Jerry Wexler made to Paul Ackerman. Jerry told Paul, then music editor of Billboard, that Atlantic Records had turned payola into an artform. So far as I know, I’m the only person Paul told that.
Bill Hennes: “So sorry to hear the news about Mike Joseph, but thanks for passing on the confirmation to me. He consulted many stations from Top 40, News, and AC, from small, medium and largest markets. His ‘Hot Hits’ legacy is a great testament to his inventiveness.”
Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles,
it takes away today’s peace.
– courtesy of Mrs. Russ Bach