Monday, September 15, 2014

Claude's Commentary No. 29r2

September 15, 2014

Claude’s Commentary No. 29
By Claude Hall

Rednecks will hate my new novel and burn crosses in my front yard.  I’m safe, though.  Only because it’s a well-known fact that rednecks can’t read.  And, otherwise, not comprehend anything above a second-grade book about Spot chasing Cat.  Thus, no cross out there.  Anyway, I have no front yard.  Just a patio.  And the gate stays locked except when a friend is dropping by.  Lord, but I miss George Wilson; he and wife Jackie were always coming by.  But Jews will think it’s a book attacking Judaism and Christians will really faunch, thinking I’m insulting God.  Heck, everyone is going to raise a ruckus.  Blacks, too.  If they read it.  The eBook is with Books now.  And Woody Roberts the first day bought a copy.  Says he likes the cover by Bill Pearson.

I intended to finish this book years ago.  A whole bunch of things, including radio, got in the way.  I wrote it with the intention of becoming rich and famous.  Bill Randle once told me he’d earned $2 million by going against the grain.  “Hellmakers” definitely goes against the grain.  Back in the 60s and 70s, an editor at Knopf promised to read the book.  He died long ago on me.  I think his name was Ashbel Green, but this was a long time ago.

It’s the last serious book that I shall write.

Bill Hatch:  “I don't know how I got included in the distribution list for your Commentary pieces, but I'm tremendously happy to receive them.  I was an avid consumer of your Billboard column from my earliest radio days in the 1960s.  Your statement about an affinity for knives reminded me of a local company here in Idaho (not Buck, although they are now in Post Falls) that does excellent work.  You can see their stuff here.  Feel free to share it with Lee Baby.  He and I worked together at KCBQ for a short while in the immediate pre-Buzz Bennett days. I'd send it to him directly but don't have his contact info.  I was interested to read that he now lives somewhere near (or in) San Francisco.  I left there in '73 to return to Idaho after having worked at KYA, KFRC and KSFX.  I have ceased to be amazed at how small the world really is.  Thanks again for your Commentary. I look forward to seeing it each week.”

Just FYI, Les Garland wrote that his girlfriend Meris is into knives and owns a Randall.  Sent me photo of the knife.  Well, at least we know who’s boss in that house!

Mel Phillips: Hi, Claude, with Joe Smith still fresh on my mind, thanks to my friend Bob Sherwood's great description of a few of his past hosting comments, I offer this open letter to Joe which contains an offer to Jose as he was once referenced when he started out in Boston radio. As anyone who has seen Joe in action will agree, Joe is simply the greatest roaster in show business. Joe hosted the 25th anniversary of WRKO in Boston and I'd like to get him back for our 50th:  Open Letter to Joe Smith: In 2017, WRKO will celebrate its 50th anniversary in Boston. You did such a sensational job in emceeing our 25th anniversary that I have put together several incentives to convince you to come back for #50. Here they are (in no particular order): A tour of Hoods Dairy in Lynnfield, A lobster dinner at Locke-Ober's, A year's supply of Parker Rolls from the Parker House (of course), a visit to John H. Garabedian's Open House Party studios, a 1-year subscription to the Boston Phoenix, a tour of Jon Landau's Bruce Springsteen Museum in Jon's basement. We promise to play all your radio jingles again and finally, your likeness will be sculpted in the New England Sand Sculpting Festival on Revere Beach, followed by a live performance starring Freddie Cannon. If this is not enough, I'll even introduce you first, before thanking all the former employees of WRKO.  And this time I won't introduce the hotel busboys before you come on, as you mentioned on the 25th anniversary.  Please consider...Mel Phillips.”

Just FYI, I enjoy Mel’s blog.  Here’s a sample of his blog on Friday:

“NAB president Gordon Smith has issued a challenge to the music business. Smith, speaking in Indianapolis said the National Association of Broadcasters is ready to go ‘head-to-head with the record labels...’
(For the rest of the story):”

I.e., an alert to a potential big mess!  Scary.

Chuck Buell was kind enough to send me the email address of Hal Moore.  Appears as if I had it wrong.  My thanks, Chuck.

Bob Crewe, famous for producing the Four Seasons, has died at his home in Scarborough, ME.  He was 83.  Interviewed him once in the 60s.

Woody Roberts in a letter to Lee Baby Simms:  “Harvest moon 2014 has come and gone.  Your fab black tomatoes have completed their season in the sun and passed through your digestive system.  And now it is time for Woody to claim his ripe tunas.  I'm sure you see the green tunas at the local markets next to the green prickly pear pads.  As Claude might remember the ripe ones turn purple/black and are delicious fruit.  Their seeds are about the size of kiwi fruit seeds.  One major difference between tunas and tomatoes is (I believe) they have more spines.  So it's best to soak them overnight before wiping and shaving them off the surface.  I don't eat the outside, but after refrigeration I cut in half and scoop out the nutrient-rich kinda sweet pulp.  Some people juice them but I am too lazy to have a juicer to clean everyday, tried it, whada a hassle.  Wish you were here to help me eat up the crop, hundreds within walking distance.”

Just FYI, I read a master’s extended paper back when I was in college that contained an avid description of Tejas Indians gathering to feast and party on those “fruits” of the prickly pear cactus.  The writer was under the impression those things were hallucinogenic.

Bob Walker: “Cosimo Matassa, the legendary recording engineer and studio owner who helped introduce and shape New Orleans' early rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll sound and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and recognized with a Grammy for his efforts, died Thursday. He was 88.”

Cosimo’s studio was famous in the early 60s when I worked on the Times-Picayune.  Musicians used to gather at his studio after midnight to jam.

Lee Baby Simms, speaking of Texas to Woody Roberts:  “There is just something about that part of the world.  I tease you about it, but it’s special!
I spent little more than a year there, yet it has informed my every day since.  VIVA San Antoino!  VIVA Austin!  VIVA Texas!”

“Your Friend, B-Doe ... ‘But the man has been there 11 years!  First gig.  Can you imagine’.  Sure, I can imagine it but I cannot relate to it.  My first 11 years in the businesses I had 15 (16, 17 -- I could them count them, but I won`t) jobs at a dozen (more? -- I could count them, but I won`t) stations.  Radio was often a very hard way to make a living, you either loved it and you stayed with it or you didn`t and you left it.  I loved it!  I wouldn't change a thing.  I have been blessed my whole life.  Really.  All is well today up here on The Hill.”

Don Berns: “Let me sing the praises of Chuck Blore -- but not as a programmer since I never had the pleasure of working for him on the radio.  Instead, when he and I were both hired to create some commercial other circa 1975-76 when I was at KLIF and he was flown in from LA, I was placed at the mic in a huge studio (TM?) and way across the room and slightly elevated sat Chuck in the producer's booth.  After cold reading the copy for him he then proceeded to tell me to turn it over and tell him what it said, which he then recorded for a more natural, less ‘radio announcer’ result.  As I moved more and more into the voiceover arena throughout the years (even doing some work for his partner, Don Richmond when I was out of the radio biz for a while in LA), I never forgot that lesson ... and when I speak to broadcast classes today, I often bring it up as one of the two most important lessons I learned whilst climbing the ladder to mediocrity. ;-)  So now, in public, let me thank the master for those words of wisdom all those years ago.  PS -- Thanks for the Nilsson story, Walt Pinto.  I'm currently reading his bio and finding out much more than the fine doc, ‘Who Is Harry Nilsson and Why Is Everybody Talking About Him’, even gave us.  Now I can add your info to what I am learning about my favorite artist from the 60s.  It helps make up for that prank you played on me at WDRC lol.”

Larry Cohen:  “Did you receive my E pertaining to Jack Gale? A great guy!!!  Somehow, please let him know that I have never forgotten my first road trip to WAYS.”

Woody Roberts in a note to Jim Ramsburg:  “In my collection of old media books I have a copy of ‘Radio Dramatics, Instruction Lectures’ by Ruth Carmen, 1937, John C. Yorston Publishing Company.  In my brief stint as a somewhat humorous and fun-loving drivetime personality her lecture ‘Approach to and From the Microphone, According to the Reading of the Script’ was quite helpful.  Of course, also Robert Orben's ‘How to Write Comedy’ (which I still have) and those hilarious KFWB airchecks of Gary Owens.  PS -- When I was hired as GM for KTSA Dec. 1967 (age 26) owner Bernie Waterman gave me a copy of ‘A Pictorial History of Radio’ by Irving Settel, 1960, Grosset & Dunlap, filled with marvelous photos.”

Woody Roberts in a note that concerned Ken Dowe and John Barger and several others along the way:  “I’ve just got off the phone with Chuck Dunaway.  Ken, that email address is good, and John, the phone number you sent is current.  It was early March when Chuck emailed me saying he would be out of contact and going in for triple bypass.  After four months of not hearing and no response to my emails I got worried.  But with Bill Young and Ken Grant departing this year I have no 'old days of radio' contacts in the Bayou City.  Ken Grant was a mentor when I was in eleventh grade and filed records for him at KNUZ.  Chuck has been in the hospital four times this year and now sleeps with an oxygen tank, but he was in good spirits and we laughed a lot.  His wife Kendall has been a saint.  He said, toward the end, Bill Young didn't even recognize his family but when Chuck would visit once a week he'd recognize him.”

Woody Roberts to Dr. Bob: “One dream not realized: I fantasized doing ‘Under Milk Wood’ for NPR or other such quality network, using most talented of dramatic actors.  I would often myself read the part of Captain Cat aloud for the satisfaction of saying the words.  ‘Embers’ too was a dream to do.  The closest I ever got to a radio play for voices was creating and producing a 40 hour radio special for TM Productions in Dallas to nationally syndicate.  That was 1981 and I named the program ‘Platinum Meltdown’, 'twas about a bookkeeping computer who takes over a radio station and tells the listeners -- Vocoder multivoiced by Yours Truly -- it will play only Platinum certified albums A to Z.  The mix, as you might imagine, frightened a lot PDs --what?  Arrowsmith with Barbra Streisand and Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd and Elvis and Donna Summer and Waylon Jennings and Springsteen?  Dozens of artist comments edited from interviews were peppered throughout.  DJs from all over the USA flew in to help the station take back the music: Cousin Brucie, Allison Steele, Rick Dees, Gary Owens, Casey Kasem, Wolfman Jack ... with set breaks for local personality interaction as they also tried wresting back their control from the manacle computer.

“Productionwise, I used 16 tracks and mixed it on the first pre-set automatic mixing console in Texas; the show had so many elements having varied amplitude levels it would have been impossible to mix otherwise. To max the music I pushed it by recording two tracks for each stereo track and mixing the four back to two.  Like you might do with the bass when recording a band.  A major unforeseen problem was the poor quality of the recycled vinyl.  Even a brand new disc taken from the shrink-wrap would have pops and clicks.  Too short to get out punching an electronic edit at that time -- pre Mac and Pro Tools -- so it had to be done by razor blade, tedious, tedious.  Quickly I bought a gizmo that looked like a pre-amp but was really a de-popper.  Expensive for that day but saved more than its cost by cutting our studio time.  However, even it couldn't get them all, at the finis it got down to that ol' single edged razor blade diagonally slicing a grease pen marked tape in a grooved aluminum block.  Not too many guys got to create those long-forms during that era started in 1969 by Ron Jacobs and Bill Drake's ‘History of Rock & Roll’.  A strange radio cadre I belong to.
“’Finnegan's Wake’: Reading late one winter's night I got so frustrated anger overtook me -- I suddenly leapt from my chair and stomping my feet threw the book into a flaming fireplace, shortly I came to my senses and retrieved it and to this day the red cover has a black charred oval in its center.  Too much Irish whiskey and living alone can do that to you.  Kind of fit with the spirit of the novel.  That would be 1980 residing in a cedar log cabin on a hilltop west of San Antonio and my office was 15 miles away, downtown by The River.  I had worked on reading that book a decade or more.  Awake at 2 a.m., temp 79, full moon.”

Woody Roberts to Chuck Dunaway:  “Great to hear your voice and share a few laughs this afternoon.  Ken Dowe says ‘Hi’ and he sent me your email, John Barger sent your phone number.  Claude Hall contacted them when he knew I was trying to reach you.  You are loved.”

Chuck Dunaway in a note to Woody Roberts:  “Meant to tell you that pets adopt us ... Tuffy put his little paws out to reach for me when the nurse brought him out of the back of the animal clinic ... your dog found you and adopted you because he knew that you would make a nice caretaker of his delicate life. Our pets are so precious.  My Tuffy keeps me company and looks at me like no other pet we’ve ever had. The fact that I have to give him his medication every day at 4 makes him extra special.  If you see an email with a time stamp of 3 or 4 a.m., you’ll know I’m up feeding Tuffy.  Life is great.  Take care and keep in touch.”

If you’d like to wish Chuck Dunaway well, I’m more than willing to pass along your note.

I wish all of you well.  And prayers
are also in order for Alice Harnell, who goes
soon into the hospital for an operation.

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