September 7, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 28
By Claude Hall
A few of you may know that Lee Baby Simms and I are into knives. What we can afford. Are you aware of the price of a Randall these days? (I’m just kidding; there’s even a six-month waiting list for these custom-made blades even if we could afford one). Lee recently sent me a switchblade. I recently sent him what I think was a deer knife (I’ve had it more than three dozen years; I think it is more for skinning than killing). Neither Lee nor I have a deer handy anyway.
For my anniversary, my beautiful wife Barbara bought me a KA-BAR army knife. An uncle carried one of these during World War II. This is a proud knife.
My treasure is a Bowie given to me by the late Larry Shannon of RadioDailyNews.com. He owned an identical Bowie. His knife stayed in his Chevy pickup. My knife stays on a bookcase at the foot of my bed. I was quite fond of a German throwing knife that was stolen when my Buick was raided; it was on many camping jaunts with Bobby Vee and his family and Joey Reynolds and his wife and two daughters. Opened many a can of beans. I bought that knife in the 60s. I now have a nice little Japanese throwing knife that I purchased in the 70s. And, of course, some knives that are more or less junk. Not my Buck pocketknife, of course, even though it was made in China and not by the legendary family. Some of these knives have graced my fiction. My wife Barbara thinks she will buy me another throwing knife for Christmas.
One of my birthday gifts was some sourdough bread from Lee Baby Simms. Boudin, San Francisco. You cannot imagine how much I appreciated this gift. I was like a kid at Christmas.
Bob Sherwood: “Dear Kindly Ol’ Uncle Claude. Whilst your piece on Joe Smith was typically accurate on all counts I must note a couple of omissions. Joe was, of course, head of Elektra but his pinnacle of record industry brilliance was as president of the Warner label where ‘the Mo & Joe Show’ -- including Fast Eddie Rosenblatt, Lenny Waronker and the fabulous A&R staff -- created and marketed some of the absolutely best music ever made in the 60s & early 70s. And I saw it from both sides. First as recipient of their output when I was programming radio stations and then later when I was doing promotion at Columbia and fighting against them for airplay. Also, Joe had no peer when it came to MCing industry events over the decades. There are certainly hundreds of memorable one-liners and intros that flowed from that most creative of minds but there are two that stand above all of them for me for excellence in delivery, time and place. The first in the early ‘80s when there were four tiers of industry guests of the highest stature at the annual Martell Dinner. Joe was working his way through in his usual entertaining fashion when, half way through the third tier, he suddenly paused upon noting the presence of his fellow Warner Group label head, Sire’s Seymour Stein. ‘And now we have Seymour Stein’. Pausing, he looked again at Seymour then back at the audience. ‘Seymour Stein … is to the record business what surfing is to Kansas’. At which point, virtually everyone in the room either went face first in their soup or out of their chair and onto the floor. The other classic of classics occurred at another Martell dinner. This in the early ‘90s when the business remained able to command a full-house in the biggest rooms in NYC. In this one Clive was being honored for the second time. Joe couldn’t be there so he sent a video. In it he first apologized for not being able to join his fellow industry associates in honoring Clive yet again. He then stated that he felt the need to send a video of his congratulations and also to address the rumors of Clive, his birth and the manger in Bethlehem. Pause. Room erupts. Those not convulsed were either deaf as a post or dead drunk. At some point, when Joe left the business, a glorious light went out.”
I agree. I was once in Australia for a media convention at which Joe Smith was the major speaker. The evening before, we’d toured the harbor on a boat with some of the key people, Joe gleaning information. The day of the talk, he tossed his quips on at least three people. No response. Then he went after me and the Aussies knew my name and they realized he was being funny and erupted and Joe owned the night and they’re probably still chuckling in Australia. Joe does, indeed, have a gift. A wonderful, wonderful man and we’re fortunate to have him around. He gave sense and survival to the record and radio businesses. A very, very special man.
Joey Reynolds: “We have lost a legend. CES founder and decorated U.S. veteran Jack Wayman, 92. I have tried to access the Consumer Electronics thoughts and prayers page for Jack but to no avail. Even in Heaven jack has a screener and a block on his calls. CES keynotes, conferences, lunches with big shots and talks with the little schnooks who will soon be the big shots have given me the gift of an extension course of life. Jack introduced me to the concept that I don't know that much ... so ‘confine your talk to the radio and TV where nobody knows that much!’ He was a media pioneer in an electronic 3-ring circus and mostly my mentor. When I lived with Jack we took many trips to his favorite geography spots, the Hudson Valley, Rosie O'Donnell's house in Nyack, the place where Washington crossed the river, and the ships left with the troops for WW2 instead of the NY harbor which would have been obvious, the Rockefeller estate, the barn where Obama’s chef got married the other day, the damn at Croton which supplies the water to NY city,(thank you Robert Moses), FDR's home and the place where Eleanor lived with her girlfriend, Helen Hayes hospital for seniors, and the bar in the hotel at West Point, the best place to watch the football games. We spent time at West Point with the new officers and with astronaut Scott Carpenter at the Presbyterian Church every Sunday in Tarrytown where Jack had mapped out his funeral, including hiring the choir, the minister, and wrote the liturgy, he made plans to be buried next to his mom and dad in that place on the Hudson. Jack was a one of a kind who in his 90s roughed it during Hurricane Sandy with no heat or power cause in WW2 he ate dirt to survive and this was no big deal. I lost a great friend who behind the scenes shaped the electronics industry, while in front of the curtain he was a great salesman. Jack was one of my heroes.”
Chuck Knapp: “One of the best behind the mic was taken by a sudden heart attack last Saturday night while sitting with his wife on the couch. Dan Donovan is gone at age 73. I first worked opposite him while in Boston when he was on WMEX and I on WRKO. I got to work with him at WFIL and then hired him twice at KS95. He was loved by so many people. He was inducted in the Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2006 and also featured at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum Radio exhibit. His obit is published today in StarTribune.com. "Call for Dan Donovan," perhaps the best show open for the "hardest working jock in show business" as Dan referred to himself. Gone but never forgotten.”
Jim Ramsburg; ‘Hey Claude: We lost another one. Word just reached Florida that Blaine Harvey died of a heart attack in the Twin Cities on August 31 at age 73. He was better known for over half a century as Dan Donovan beginning at WICE/Providence, WCBM/Baltimore, WMEX/Boston and WFIL/Philadelphia. He came to KSTP-FM/Minneapolis-St Paul in 1979 and moved to KOOL-FM in the Twin Cities in 1991. He was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasters' Hall of Fame in 1996. To the end his voice was strong and he was a great jock of the good time rock n roll school.”
Larry Cohen: “It's Labor Day eve & I'm just checking my emails. If you’re not aware of the following which I just opened, please feel free to use any of the info' in your column. Don Cannon was music director at one time at WIBG in Philly & worked under Dean Tyler who was PD. I believe that I first met Dan Donovan in Hartford, CT (I’m pretty sure), but I knew him so well when he was at WFIL in Philly. He was a terrific human being & an incredible talent. Don Cannon was so well liked & a great friend to the record people in Philly. He really cared. I have (somewhere) a photo of Don Cannon, Don McClean (‘American Pie’) & myself taken at WIBG a lot of years ago, keeping in mind that I've been living in California some 38 years. Shoot me an email if you would like to have it.”
I would dearly love to have any and all such pictures for my files. Can’t promise to print it, but such a photo would mean a great deal to me.
We come, we do, we go.
Joel O'Brien, Randolph, VT, send me a link to a Roger Carroll show for the Air Force. I listened. Smooth delivery, highly fascinating. Great on you, Roger. http://www.4shared.com/download/SO_SPSx_ce/USAF_Roger_Carroll_s11_c_July_.mp3?lgfp=3000
Danny Davis: “Claudie-ola! (Much like the 'gladiolas', good grooming for the 'garden-ers! I just heard from John Doumanian. Got to be a 'just happening'! He saw the noon, off Broadway production of a musical, just premiered of Bert Berns musical life! Has the same kind of treatment, obviously, that kicked off ‘Jersey Boys’! (Bert's 'label' was Bang Records, right?) Evidently the show pays tribute to some fifty-one hit compositions Bert's talent gets paid on! Whatta' business it was … and is! (And my Mom only spoke of 'doctors, lawyers, dentists, and (maybe?) chiropractors!) (Mom was from the old country!)”
Roger Carroll: “What is this Danny Davis talking about? He doesn't make sense. I was a network ABC staff announcer (I was 18 years old) in Los Angeles on ABC radio network for three hours daily replacing Paul Whiteman, playing records after noon traffic 3-6p on KABC. Twenty-two years playing records on one of the most successful radio stations in the country -- KMPC. AFRTS 26 years, syndicated 15 years. Jack Gale and I go back a very long time. Jack is very talented and has an outstanding career. Jack lost his wife Lovey, I also lost my wife Beverly … we were married almost 60 years. Mr. Davis I also announced many TV Shows Smother Bros Comedy Hour, Pearl Baily specials, Perry Como specials, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Bing Crosby specials, Herb Alpert TV specials, Bobby Darin just to name a few TV shows. Also some great promotion guys I know -- Jerry Moss, Don Graham, George Russell. Claude, normally I would not respond to this Davis guy but what the hell.”
No worry, Roger. Danny means no harm. I enjoy having him around. And, just FYI, Barbara and I spent an evening with George and Tess at their home on the beach. He was an amazing guitarist! I probably still have that cassette he gave me somewhere. And I consider Tess one really special person to this day! Her and Gertie Katzman. Amazing people!
Walt Pinto: “Two quick comments: Don Kennedy ... you really nailed it with your post. Nobody does anything today but stare at the screen on their phone. Claude ... certainly do remember Tony Richland. Is everyone aware that Harry Nilsson paid tribute to Tony with the song ‘Mr. Richland's Favorite Song’? It's on the ‘Aerial Ballet’ CD.”
Don Berns: “If you have a minute, would you mind NOT sending Walt Pinto my email address? ;-) He pulled one of the all-time greatest pranks on me when I'd been in the business for all of 5 minutes and I'm still waiting for my revenge."
Jim Ramsburg: “Thanks for the plug today - I'm always looking for new readers at www.jimramsburg.com. So far in 2014, ‘GOld Time Radio’ has accounted for more than 30,000 visitors and 36,000 page hits. A recent question in your comments asked if Herb Oscar Anderson ever worked at WOKY in Milwaukee. I first met Herb in 1956 when he was The Morning Mayor of The Twin Cities and I was the new kid on the block at Todd Storz' WDGY/Minneapolis. (HOA from 6-9 and Jack Thayer from 9-12 - how's that for a weekday morning lineup?). The WOKY question got me curious so I contacted Herbie and he gave me his cross-country itinerary that led to WABC: WCLO/Janesville WI; WROK/Rockford IL; WDBO/Orlando FL: KICM/Mason City, IA; KWCR/Cedar Rapids IA: KSTP/Minneapolis-St Paul, WDGY/Minneapolis-St Paul, WBBM/Chicago, ABC Radio Network/New York, WMCA/New York and WABC. Doncha just love them overnight success stories?”
T. Michael (Tom Nefeldt) Jordan: “Hope you are having a wonderful birthday, and have many more. Thank you for the pleasure you’ve given radio folks over the years, and helped many (like me) find employment, when times got rough. All it took was a mention in Vox Jox. I’ve been out of business for many years, but it is still my first love. I left it because I saw the writing on the wall (mic), the business was changing, and I didn’t like where it was going. But I had a fun-filled career at stations like KKDJ, KDWB, KEZY, KROY, WLOF, KIRL, KYSN, KFIF (became KIKX), K/MEN and many more. Another thank you for getting us all together again on a weekly basis with your newsletter.”
Great to hear from you, Tom. Just FYI, my youngest son Andy kept suggesting/demanding that I look in Facebook. Finally. And I had birthday wishes from 134 people! Wow! My thanks to you all!
Steve Tyrell (with photo of him and Joan Rivers I hope to save on file): “I had the pleasure to play three concerts this past year with Joan. My girlfriend Janine Sharell is a producer for her show, ‘The Fashion Police’, and my manager in NY, Amy Rosenbloom is one of her very best friends, they both consider her a mom and their mentor... we've all had many unforgettable and hilarious moments with Joan. I played for Prince Charles in June at Buckingham Palace, and when he realized that Janine worked for Joan, he and Camilla went on and on about how fond they were of her, and told us they even invited her to their wedding. I was nervous to sing for the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, but as soon as his Highness told me how much he appreciated her naughtiness, it put me completely at ease ... she was our uncommon bond. Everyone who had the good fortune to know Joan absolutely adored her and she left all of us a piece of herself that we will carry with us all our lives. There will never be another Joan Rivers.”
Would one of you guys make sure Steve gets a copy of this issue of Commentary? He was on my list, I think, but bounced. Hal “Baby” Moore also just bounced.
More Joey Reynolds: “Love this story below … but maybe not after so many segues to heaven a la Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, Sid Bernstein, Casey Kasem, Ken Roberts, etc. I followed Joan on the air on WOR in New York and came to work at 1440 Broadway one night when she had a couple of writers and producer Marilyn, everybody on her staff had bandages on their faces, I asked to see the dog? Joan did a commercial for my cheesecake and didn't wait for it to thaw out, she ate it frozen. I asked her how she stayed so slim and she said she doesn't eat a grape after 6 p.m. I thought it was the magic of the frozen cheesecake. I used to go through the wastebasket next to the console in hopes that she left some of those expensive jokes behind. I had to fill 5 hours and she caught me using her stuff listening on the way home. We have the same personality issues of not wanting to be old in this business of youth worship, I am following in the footsteps of Dick Clark and Joan, always look young and you can cross demographics, forget temperamental cause there is a difference between childlike and childish.”
Mel Phillips: “Good afternoon, Claude, from steamy NYC where this dreck weather should finally end on Sunday. I don't like any season that lingers like summer is doing. There's an old radio phrase that no one can seem to trace. The author remains unknown. The saying is ‘Never trust a man with two first names’. I recently discovered that the phrase may not always hold up. Roy Leonard of WGN recently passed away. Roy was part of a morning team at the old WNAC in Boston in the 60s. When the format changed to Top 40 with a new set of call letters (WRKO), Roy was part of the old Yankee Network flagship station which featured 15-minute newscasts and a middle of the road format, whose services were no longer required. Roy and his wife had several kids and he really didn't know where he would go next. Our GM Perry Ury, who to this day is the best general manager I ever worked for, placed a call to his counterpart at the legendary WGN in Chicago. Perry had a great reputation which included the trust and admiration of other GMs. Perry made a good call which led to an interview for Roy and his hiring. The year was 1967. Roy Leonard never looked back. He spent that entire time in Chicago at WGN, retiring because of ill health and advancing age. Roy passed away at the age of 83 on September 4, 2014.”
We come, we do, we go. May the Good Lord bless Roy Leonard and care for his family.
KFWB in Los Angeles has changed formats and here’s some “conversations” about that supposed tragedy among those who remember the old days when it was programmed by Chuck Blore.
Don Sundeen: “Incredible how things are changing. More than KFWB going sports, what surprises me is KHJ being Spanish language ... somewhere Bill Drake is probably enjoying the Cosmic Giggle. ‘93KHJ, Much More Novellas’!”
Ken Dowe: “When I was a 20-year-old morning show kid in San Diego, I loved KFWB ..."Channel 98, Channel 98." I listened only to the LA stations. My all-time favorite jock was on KNX. Bob Crane. He may have been a perve, but he was terrific on air!”
In regards to KFWB in Los Angeles flipping to sports, Don Sundeen wrote Ken Dowe: “There were some great ones on the air, and they could do their thing without format restrictions. Chuck Blore is really a genius, but somehow continued to be a good guy.”
Ken Dowe: “In my opinion ... Chuck Blore sits at the right hand of Gordon McLendon as the greatest radio programmer of the 20th century. There's a guy who could do it all. Chuck was quirky. Dottie tells me she loves my ‘quirky’ personality. A great compliment ... I think if one must have a ‘flawed’ personality, that's the one to have! It's just another reason Chuck is so talented.”
Chuck Blore: “Hey, Ken, thanks for sharing and for the very nice words. As far as 'quirky' goes, I think anyone whose thoughts are out of the main-stream could be called 'quirky'. But heck, you know that ... you're one of us. I have to say this about Don's comment ... 'There were some great ones on the air, and they could do their thing without format restrictions.' The great one's did it with many format restrictions, restrictions that were there to make them sound 'great'. Oh boy, I had a whole book of restrictions and 'Must-Do' rules that made Color Radio so colorful and made the jox the stars ... made the great ones great ... made the sound like they had no restrictions. Like I said, you know all that.”
Ken Dowe: “I recognized ‘quirky’ the first time I listened to your formats. And, to KLIF, WNOE, and nut jobs like Lohman & Barkley, Dick Whittinghill, and Bob Crane. Those were great air talents. I didn't know until I heard all this that those I wanted to be like were not universally institutionalized. I'm not certain any of these guys had a real ‘format’. It seemed to be quietly understood that the suits could fire them if they pleased, but they couldn't tell them what to do. That is ... quirky. And, it's always been my read on Chuck Blore. I did the best I could to follow suit. But, YOU win the Congressional Medal of Quirk. As always, I remain ... your #1 fan....”
Don Sundeen: “When you’d walk up the stairs to Chuck’s second-floor headquarters, the walls were literally covered with CLIO certificates for his radio spots. He wasn’t always successful in what he did, but he gave it a shot. The first KISS station was in L.A. and he brought my friend and former competitor Sunny Melendrez out to be PD. The first day I went up there Sunny explained the format, a combination of poetry and short stories, etc., interspersed with appropriate music. I had my doubts, but didn’t comment, because Who Knows? It didn’t work, but it was a good move for Sunny, establishing him in the market, and getting a foothold in the V/O market. Never forget the second week he was in L.A. we had lunch and he’d just done a parrot voice for some new TV show, got $30K for two days work, a lot of money in ’72. I was a bit envious, but he never flaunted it.”
You gentlemen are definitely on target when it comes to Chuck Blore. I’ve felt honored that he would even talk to me. Joke: I always intended to have a plaque made paying tribute to myself and sneak in one day and place it on that wall because there was no way anyone could read them all and Chuck would never see it!
Woody Roberts: “I wonder if you know someone who can tell me if Chuck Dunaway is OK? I don't know if I am just off his mailing list or what, have emailed him but no reply. Sadly, very sadly, my other two Houston friends are gone. Bill Young and Ken Grant both left the arena this year. Ken was my first radio mentor, 11th grade, he let me file oldies at KNUZ, then number #1 with the great personality DJ Paul Berlin in afternoon drive. Back in those pre-McLendon KILT days Paul would mix Elvis and Little Richard with album tracks by Frank Sinatra (‘Music for Swinging Lovers’) and the Four Freshmen (‘Voices in Latin’). Ken took me aside and told me how the radio business worked. Start with lowest of pay, work part-time shifts or work small towns and move up, each larger town equals more money and eventually, if good enough, into a major market. It would be a hard life with little financial reward for years and lots of moving at first. Don't get married. Later when I was PD at KONO in San Antonio, Ken was still PD at KNUZ and we'd have lunch in a dim Italian red-themed restaurant, name forgotten, where all the radio guys hung out, exceptional bar. Below is the last email I received from Chuck and so I am praying that all turned out well for him but am concerned because I haven't heard and have no one to ask. PS -- When I first heard Chuck on the radio in Houston he was The Round Mound of Sound. Left radio for a brief while in the '60 and hooked up with Texas label Abnak Records -- Five Americans + Jon & Robin & The In Crowd -- came to visit me in Hartford. Label owner had written a tune with hit potential and released by one of Larry Uttal's sub-labels, it was the The Box Tops' two-minute smash ‘The Letter’. Bob Paiva was already on it. What a great melody, I can still hear it.”
The note from Chuck Dunaway was about his heading to a triple bypass heart operation. No word since.
Photo Attached: 2006 when Chuck Knapp presented Dan Donovan with Hall of Fame plaque.