September 22, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 30
By Claude Hall
Jim Slone: “I’ve just returned from my 60th high school class reunion in Portales, NM. While there I helped take a few of my classmates through the Norman Petty Studios in Clovis, NM (Clovis is 19 miles from Portales). My classmates were enthralled as we toured the studio for two hours ... Kenneth Broad is executor of Norman's estate and conducts several tours a year. Just prior to my appointment for the tour, a couple from Australia left. It's amazing how many people come from all over the world to see the studios where such great hits as Buddy Knox (‘Party Doll’) ... Buddy Holly and the Crickets (‘That'll Be the Day’) ... Buddy Holly and ‘Peggy Sue’ ... Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs (‘Sugar Shack’) and the String-a-Longs (‘Wheels’) ... along with many other hits were recorded. I knew the studio intimately as I recorded 12 songs there. The legendary Tommy Alsup (who lost the coin flip with Ritchie Valens), played guitar on my first record (recorded in May of 1958). This was just a few days before Buddy heard him and hired him immediately to join his band. Tommy is noted for his guitar at the beginning of ‘It's So Easy’ ... as you probably know, Tommy went on to make his mark in the music world.”
The late Jim (J. Paul Emerson) Coleman told me that he played drums for the Crickets at one point. Bobby Vee sometimes featured a shtick in his show about the studio and one of his records featuring drumsticks on a cardboard box. For those who might remember, Jim was a veteran journeyman in radio. Disc jockey, news, music, programming. One of the world’s nicest people. Gone now. I first met him on one of his “vacations” in Carlsbad, NM; he knew my father. As for Norm Petty, I interviewed him for a story on one of his trips to New York back around 1964-65.
Chuck Blore: “For the past few years ... no wait ... I could have said, should have said, for the past half-century I've enjoyed reading the writings of Claude Hall. Every now and again, and again, and again, and usually in a highly complementary manner, you have written about something I have said or done. Sometimes just a few lines, other times a couple of paragraphs, even entire columns have been about me, and one time I remember when it was almost a whole damn page. The thing I treasure the most is the 'ode' you wrote that ends with:
“When they speak of media
Quietly, over toast and tea
In the long, long hours we see
They may not mention George
That’s okay, he won't mind
He’ll say, talk instead of Blore
He walked the path
Opened the door
“I thank you Claude, with all my heart, for everything.”
I’ve been knighted! What better crown than praise from the king?
Chuck Buell: “For the thousands upon thousands of times that I exercised this one particular skillset over and over in my thousands of hours in Production Studios throughout my Radio Career, I love how Woody Roberts summed up the exact action steps so definitively and precisely just like an excellent piece of analog audio tape production when he wrote about, ‘a single-edged razor blade diagonally slicing a grease pen marked tape in a grooved aluminum block!’ Whew! Says it all so concisely!”
In the 70s, as I recall, Bobby Ocean was known as “the Blade.” I heard that time and time again. The Blade.
Chuck Buell to Chuck Blore: “I loved the story in Commentary for this week (#29) when Don Berns shared his studio voiceover recording experience with you regarding his reading of a piece of copy. He said after a cold read, (You) ‘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’. At the risk of using a perhaps overused word, it's the only one that truly fits: Brilliant!”
My personal opinion: The Heisman Trophy should represent more than a football player who beats his kid enough to bring blood and a punk kid who is charged with rape, steals from local stores, and stands up in public and yells obscenities. Heisman: Take back those statues! Help those crudheads get treatment.
Jay Lawrence: “I am not certain, I thought I sent you this information. I have been elected to the Arizona House of Representatives. There is no one running against me in the general so that's it. It's a whole new life, I'll be the interviewee … different.”
Jay, if I slipped up, please accept my sincere apology. I personally am not only pleased for you, but excited for you! Go get ‘em!
Joe Smith: “Larry … Sorry I missed responding to your notice of a visit to the Old Country was imminent. Anytime you will be here I would gladly lunch with someone from Long Beach. I've never met any of the natives from there. Phone # 310 21 0711.”
Just FYI, the above note was to Larry Cohen who lives in Long Beach.
Don Whittemore: “Another easy to read Commentary ... just technical enough for a promo man with a First Phone to comprehend.”
Heard from Sam Hale. Still fighting the good fight.
Lyn Stanley, to whom I’d sent a Glenn Miller link provided by Don Sundeen: “Hi, there, Claude! So great to get a note from you. I am smiling! Will watch with great enthusiasm as soon as I can open the link you have sent me. Happy to tell you my next album is nearly ready to launch. We will begin a radio campaign the first of the year, but the physical product will be available in time for the holidays. I think you know my new album, ‘Potions [from the 50s]’, is a tribute to composers of the 1950s and I included jazz standards as well as POP tunes (set to jazz arrangements). Went for broke with recording on ANALOG tape, just like the 50s record producers would have done it. Al Schmitt is the recording and mixing engineer on this one, Bernie Grundman is the mastering engineer, Kenny Werner is the producer (he worked for years with Betty Buckley). I have already pre-sold 900 vinyl units around the world for this and have NO product (it is in production). The SACDs (playable on CD players and SACD players as well) is a stereo hybrid and had it pressed at Sony in Austria. It should be arriving in the US within the next week. The vinyl is still at the test pressing stage and will take a bit longer since there is a huge surge in vinyl pressing purchases globally. I will have an album release show on Nov. 8, 2014, at Upstairs at Vitello's in Studio City. IF you happen to be in town, what a thrill it would be to have you there. I am also having a private performance the next night, Nov. 9th, at my home in San Clemente with the same musicians -- Mike Lang on piano, Joe La Barbera on drums, RIckey Woodard on tenor sax and Mike Valerio on upright bass. May ask Thom Rotella to join us, too. Not sure yet. My website has some samples from the new album. But, the minute I have the SACD in hand, I will ask for your address and send it to you. Lovely to hear from you, Claude!”
Ken Levine, once known as Beaver Cleaver on KHJ in Los Angeles: “As many of you know, my new play ’A OR B?’ is being produced at the Falcon Theatre in Toluca Lake from Oct. 15 to Nov. 16. It’s a full Equity production in a beautiful theatre with a concession stand. Tickets go on sale today. Here’s where you go:
Or you could call the box-office at 1-818-955-8101.”
After radio, Ken became a very successful TV writer and director. My personal regards, Ken. And to the rest of you in driving distance, it would be nice to catch this play. Knowing Ken, a great humorist, it has to be good. If it isn’t, let me know and I’ll sic my wife’s Chihuahua on him.
Art Wander: “Don Berns’ deserved praise of Chuck Blore peaked my curiosity … especially when he mentioned his favorite artist Harry Nilsson and his research on him. Let me add my involvement with Nilsson. In early 1967 as program director of WOR-FM, I decided to add a song to the list that impressed me. In March of ’67, a person came to the station, introducing himself as Nat Weiss. I didn’t seem impressed until he told me he represented the American arm of the Beatles and that Brian Epstein was wondering who the artist was on a song we were playing. I went through record after record with him until he said, ‘I think that’s it’. The song was ‘Without Her’ by Nilsson on RCA. He thanked me on behalf of Brian Epstein and I said, I sure would love to meet The Man. He said that he would try to arrange it. Lo and behold on the following Saturday in March 1967, I was told that Brian Epstein would be visiting the station. I called Murray the K with the news and he definitely would also be there. Brian Epstein told me that when he heard ‘Without Her’ he was interested to find out if he had any record agreements (which he did.) We talked about Nilsson, all positive. I asked if he would consent to an interview. He agreed. Murray did the interview. Epstein then pulled out an acetate saying this was one of the cuts from the next Beatles album. When we heard it, I was overwhelmed. There was no title to the song or the album. A week or so later, I received the following letter from Epstein. Imagine, my friendship with Brian Epstein would never have happened if not for Nilsson.”
And Art included a copy of a letter from Brian Epstein, 1967, addressed to WOR-FM, New York.
Mel Phillips: “I thought it would be interesting for all your readers to learn something about the system they're reading this piece on. The World Wide Web (the www that precedes every URL) was actually invented by someone not named Al Gore, The person who invented the web was Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist. Berners-Lee sent the first email using a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http) in November of 1989 making the web 25 years old this year. For this achievement he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. If you're wondering how Berners-Lee feels about net neutrality -- he's for it and so should all of us who already have too many government regulations. Here's what Berners-Lee said about the subject, ‘Threats to the internet, such as companies or governments that interfere with or snoop on internet traffic, compromise basic human network rights’. BTW, the first website was http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.htmlParaphrasing the late and truly great communicator Paul Harvey, ‘And now you know the rest of the story’."
Ron Jacobs: “The URL you list for your latest book goes to generic Amazon home page … thus not specific at all. I made this ‘tiny URL’ that will take users directly to book you are plugging.”
“This is how I index/display my blogs:
Check it out. We were using computers at KGB, San Diego, for research, traffic, music control in 1972, btw. PS – ‘faunch’? Not in dictionary.”
Ron, when you faunch as much as I do, you’re sorta glad it’s not in any dictionary.
Gary Bridges: “Aye, Claudius! As a reader and fan of more than 40 years, I jumped at the chance to purchase your new eBook, and went directly to Amazon. But perhaps I should have taken it more seriously when you said, in your Commentary, ‘I wrote it with the intention of becoming rich and famous’. I’ll merely offer the comparison below and leave it to you to decide if there’s any adjustment to be made.”
I don’t think so, Gary. They’re charging $24.99 for even bad books. I’ve said a great deal in “Hellmakers.” The book could get panned … I’ll admit that. But it’s certainly worth $49.95 to the general public. Tell you what I’ll do. Anyone who reads Commentary buys “Hellmakers” and lets me know and I’ll send them the eBook “Radio Wars.” My compliments. Chuck Blore loved these radio tales.
My son John says: “’Hellmakers’ is definitely one of your best, if not the best. Literature. Not lite reading that is fun to read.”
Don Berns: “Here's something that may be of interest to your readers. The filmmaker is actually my former voice agent. If the trailer is any indication, the film will look very good indeed. Roger is looking for distribution for this, so anybody who has any suggestions, I'll be happy to pass them along. I know Harvey Weinstein from the voice work I did for him when he was starting out in Buffalo, but actually getting a hold of him is about as difficult as getting a radio job for a company that gives a crap about the art of the business.”
George Hamilton IV has passed on. 77. Heart attack. I met him once in his Nashville days. Loved “Abilene.” A very nice guy. We come, we do, we go.
Chuck Dunaway: “My brain goes on vacation periodically. My breathing is not good and I may have to go back into the hospital for the fifth time in the past four months for more tests. I’m not complaining, but I’m ready to feel a whole lot better. My bypass surgery went fine, but the complications afterward have been a mess. Not complaining though. I’m so happy to hear you’ve hit a good number and are doing OK ... can’t expect better than being on the right side of the ground. Take care my old friend.”
About the Chuck Blore ode mentioned far above. There were five verses. The George mentioned was George Wilson, a devoted disciple of Chuck Blore. Ron was mentioned, too. I wrote four poems about this time. One for the late Larry Shannon regarding the historic cabin, a monument at 19 Pines where he lived; he framed it and placed it on the wall; if God wills, it will be there as long as the cabin exists. I wrote one dedicated to George Wilson, one of my greatest friends. He asked me to write something for his Jackie (they later married and Rob Moorhead, son of the late L. David Moorhead and son-in-law to George) tossed a wedding reception for them here at the house. And I wrote a poem/ode dedicated to Chuck Blore. Took weeks upon weeks! How do you get his formula promotion and his enormous amoeba promotion into a poem?
Bobby Ocean: “All this TALK about knives and no pictures! Still, Claude, your words DID move me to send you the following. I have been a knife collector through several marriages, many more radio stations, my entire Claude-hood, for sure. My favored brand is Pro Tech automatic cutlery. I started out with one of their $400 ‘coffins’, so called by fans because of the similar shaped handle; real name Pro Tech Godfather. They can be costly but I occasionally would hit a particularly good rating or land a nice client and treat myself. Once I had about three, all designs I chose. Prices and designs can fly up into the thousands mark in a blink. Writing this note to you, I just saw one online for $8,000. That knife design lasted YEARS before one of the founders, S. Brand, designed another. As soon as I heard, I leaped online and grabbed one; it was one of the first 200 Pro Tech made. Mine is #197. (I wasn't the only one interested.) The ‘auto’ demonstrated with the push of a button. Pro Tech simply called the new one ‘Brand Auto’ and, yes, it sounds like a car you compare the good one to. But it's named after its designer, Brand, and the Auto stands for ‘automatic’. When you push the button, hold on to that knife, Claude: it pops out of the sleeve with a nice loud metallic ‘clack’. I LOVE the phrase automatic cutlery. Pass that one on to Lee Baby. Just a gentleman's refined manner of saying ... switchblade. Been loving the Commentaries.”
Bobby, as a collector, you put me – and I suspect, Lee Baby Simms – to shame. My congratulations to you! Just FYI, I found my little Japanese throwing blade in a drawer and it’s now beside the switchblade Lee Baby Simms gave me on a bookcase in the living room.
I study the stars almost every day. Beautiful pictures
on this laptop sent to me by my son John. If there’s
not a God, what a pity. However, I believe
that a power greater than anything I can conceive actually exists
and guides the stars and all that exists, including
me. I also believe this power loves me and you and all. And
I believe in prayer.
May God bless us.