October 6, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 32
By Claude Hall
OPEN LETTER: TOM RUSSELL
You set me crying this morning and I’m still trying to get the tears to quit. I slipped on my earphones and clicked on a tune, hot pad on my back. I couldn’t see which song I selected because I had on my other glasses. It was “Muhammad Ali” from your CD “Modern Art.” Then “Goodnight Juarez” from “Aztec Jazz.” Then “Homeless Hearts” from “Museum Memories.” Only a great Mexican tune by Linda Ronstadt in between. It’s enough to blow your mind. No wonder I’m crying. This computer is nuts. Or perhaps these are merely the tears of an aged man. George Wilson told me that he sometimes cried. When you get in your 80s, all things are forgivable because more things get to you. Even tears because of a great song. Isn’t amazing that music has such great power in the lives of human kind? It can help make us happy. Or sad. Fill our days!
Then “Walk Right In,” sung but not written by Dave Alvin, who told me his writing all changed after listening to Tom Russell. This is a folk song. I first heard it just after I left my teens in a stickhouse out in the bayous near Corpus Christi. I had several aunts. One was crazy. She took me and my mother and father out there to listen to two old women playing guitars and an older man playing honky-tonk style piano and this was the tune I remember.
Then Vince Gill came on. What’s this computer up to? I’m not in a Vince Gill mood. Sorry, Vince. I quickly go back to Tom Russell. “The Eyes of Roberto Duran.” Did Tom ever look into the eyes of Duran? I don’t know. He makes me think he has.
My computer tries to go to Linda Ronstadt again. I love Linda Ronstadt. My computer knows this. I go back to “Criminology” in “Aztec Jazz.” It has heart. And, yeah, it’s real. But thank God I’ve quit crying.
Your soul catches fire with “Jai Alai” sung with the Norwegian Wind Ensemble. I love this tune, yet know that it would more than likely never fit on today’s radio stations. What a pity! A tribute to boxing: “The Pugilist at 59.” A tribute to history: “And God Created Border Towns.” A tribute to beauty: “A Little Wind Could Blow Me Away” written by Peter Case. A tribute to Nina Simone: “Nina Simone.” A tribute to chili: “Bowl of Red.” Tribute to Mickey Mantle: “Kid From Spavinaw.”
Last time I heard from Tom, he was in Europe. I love his music. “Touch of Evil” is a masterpiece. I remember crying the first time I heard “What Work Is,” but I’m staying away from that song this morning. Tom has a home in El Paso, so his work has a lot of Juarez in it. Listen to “When Sinatra Played Juarez.” You want a touch of history? Try “Haley’s Comet” and you’ll hear a plight, too often, of this music business.
Ah, Tom! Waiting for the next CD.
Scotty Brink about Bobby Vee: “I talked to Karen a week or two ago. Bobby was out having lunch and getting a haircut with a good local friend. He and Karen are both OK, considering the crosses they are bearing. I'm sorry to say that Bob's condition is progressing. He needs a lot more assistance these days, but is still as warm and wonderful as ever. As for Karen, she was back in the hospital not long ago due to some complications, but sounds great and is faring well. I'm hoping they'll be coming through here en route to Tucson, whenever that may be.”
Bobby is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Karen has a bad lung problem even though one of her lungs has already been replaced. As most of you know, Paul Revere died during this past week. 76. Cancer. Paul promoted the music cruise that Barbara and I took a few years ago, courtesy of my brother Buddy. Bobby Vee was a highlight performer on the cruise. Bob’s sons Tommy and Jeff performed in Bob’s band. And Tommy’s two boys got into the act. Cute! I think Tommy’s older son, a drummer, has subsequently gone pro. Great time with the Vees on that trip. About Paul: We come, we do, we go.
Jim Gabbert, San Francisco: “Claude, as I read Lee Baby's career I sat down and put mine together! One interesting thing was some of our radio stations (I forgot I also owned KDIA in SF) was when we got 1050 we went ‘oldies’ but we never used the word oldies. Nobody wants to be old, it is a turn off for young people so it was branded as the ‘incredible KOFY time machine’. That was when it was a KW day timer (see attached article) then when we got 50 KW full time it was an incredible hit in 1986 through about 199 something. I got bored with it and we flipped it Spanish and within three months we were the number one Bay Area Spanish radio station beating 2 other established good signal AMs and one FM. Our ratings equaled all of theirs combined. On the TV we did a 50s/60s dance party a la ‘American Bandstand’, in fact, Dick Clark liked it so much he co-hosted a few shows with me. Those were the days!”
Jim came up with the calls K101 for an FM in San Francisco, the first such “numbered” station in the U.S. For the highway. Definitely one ingenious radio man! Used to live on a yacht with gold-plated bathroom fixtures. Jim was highly instrumental in the development and growth of FM radio.
Ron Brandon: “Hi, Claude ... always enjoy reading stories from the guys who lived them. I suspect that those of us still out there are collectively relieved to learn that we were not the only one that was a gypsy ... working many stations and markets, getting fired, etc. The thread about ‘free-form’ started me thinking. Having recently discovered and listened to an old cassette of air checks … reminded that in those days (for me 1962-1967 or so) although I was working in top-40 and there was a ‘format’ … in fact, it was free-form. WMOC, Chattanooga; WNOE, New Orleans, WAYS, Charlotte ... all Top 40s with a format but…. As Ken Elliott (aka Jack the Cat) PD at WNOE told me on arriving at that iconic facility, ‘These people have boring, often unhappy day-to-day lives. Your job is to entertain them ... make them happy. Before you open the mike ... smile … and you'll sound like it. If you've had a fight with your wife, forget it when you go on the air. Always have fun’. We were hired to entertain ... as he said, the format was designed to carry us if we had a bad day. At none of these three stations do I recall ever having jock meetings, critiques, etc. It was very loose and in fact it was … fun. By the late 60s when I joined WLEE, Richmond, FM was on the rise, alternative formats were in play, and ‘more music’ was the hype of the day. Free form was gone ... rigid formats had arrived. I, over the years, played on both sides of the street ... so not advocating right or wrong here ... just remembering when it was still Top 40 and to a great degree free-form. Listen to the airchecks of that era and the fun will jump out at you.”
Roger Carroll: “Claude, re Diamond's comment about Long Beach. Diamond could not afford to live where I live in Long Beach, CA. Awaiting Diamond’s smart-ass response.”
Now, now, children. Play nice.
Randy West: “Checking in. I just had to join the conversation after seeing the name of so many folks I know and the names of icons who were inspirations for me to enter the biz, on-air, in 1972. Vox Jox was my bible, and Dan Ingram was my idol. Joey Reynolds has been a friend forever, Capitol promo maven Merv Amols and ABC (later Atlantic) Records' Bill Beamash were the label promo all-stars, and New England legend Tom Shovan was my mentor. I wonder who remembers and has a story about Tom (WMEX, WPTR, etc., including a brief stay as ‘Tom Terrific’ at WINS). He was larger than life in showmanship as well as in girth. I was motivated to write as my jaw dropped reading that Dale (Dan) Tucker (WRKO) just passed away at the way-too-young age of 72. In the 1990s he sold ad space for Tom's short-lived weekly sheet The Pulse. Way too much for a first ‘hello’. Love the Commentary, Claude!”
Like you, Randy, I know some Tom Shovan stories. I recall once in Miami area Joey Reynolds is playing chauffeur when Tom yells for him to stop the car. It seems Tom had seen a tennis shoe on sale at a store. We stopped. He bought. And then there’s the time he received an envelope with tickets for a trip around the world. The promotion person (I never knew the person or label) had sent them by accident to Tom instead of…. Yeah, the PD is still out there. But without respect from me. Not on my list and won’t be. Same with two other radio creeps, one of whom is famous now. I’ve never understood why. Has absolutely no talent. However, we’ve had many very excellent people in radio and music. It has been an outstanding pair of industries that I’ve loved immensely and I’ve admired just about all of the people involved with the exception of a couple of men. Big deal! What Tom Clay did was just the doings of a kid. Same for Lee Baby Simms (see last issue or so). Matter of fact they were kids. The payola was more or less by accident; who’da thunk? Same goes for Dewey Phillips in Memphis on the first Elvis disc, although I think it was actually considered more or less part of his “salary” at the time. Most black radio announcers were on just about the same salary structure, i.e., “all the discs they could eat.”
I think everyone in this world liked Tom Shovan. And everyone worshipped Dan Ingram, for many years the major Top 40 radio personality in the world. You had to have an aircheck (or have listened personally) re Dan Ingram. A must for a radio man.
Don Whittemore: “Chuck Dunaway requests the address to your blog … do you have a blog address? I went to: ClaudeHallonline.com and it’s for sale. Please advise Chuck. Meanwhile, I am healthy and not too worried about cancer unless it attacks in a strange place or attacks a friend. The Commentary is well worth my time — In case you wonder about that sort of stuff. Everyone I talk to about your writings still appreciates them immensely. Most of all they’d rather be reading Vox Jox than wondering when it’s time for a nap. Yore friend from those days of your.”
I dropped a note that my email address is the only address. The ClaudeHallonline.com was put on my column when it was riding the shirttail of Larry Shannon more than a dozen years ago, but the emails bounced to firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t know what will happen if someone buys the old address now. Macht nicht, I suppose.
Glad to hear you’re festering well, Don. I met with my heart specialist a few days ago and he said I’d made his day. About 18 years now since I had the big one … then that little one. I was taking half of an aspirin every other day. And walking a lot. We came home from the birthday party of a friend and whups! Guess I had more things God wanted me to do.
Todd Ramsburg: “Jimramsburg.com was hit with a couple bumps this week -- first, a brief hospitalization. Then the greatest number of events ever recorded for a single ‘This Week In The Golden Age’. And, today the page's font stability began jumping all over the place. My host, Weebly, is working to correct the problem so please give it a few hours.”
Dick Summer: “Another great note from Mel Phillips about Linda Ronstadt in your Commentary this time. Another Boston Linda Ronstadt story: I emceed at the Unicorn Coffee House in Boston while I was at WBZ. My then girlfriend now my wife Barbara often came to see the show. She was sitting in the front row one evening while Linda was performing with the Stone Ponies. Linda's feet were not quite anchored to the planet at the time, and she tripped over Barbara's foot. They had a couple of rather short words. By short, I mean no more than four letters long. Memories. Hey, Claude, William B. Williams (WNEW, New York) was the world's best disc jockey. EVER. How do you think he would fare in today's radio?”
Nancy Plum: “Re: To Lee Baby Sims! I will never forget how kind you and your wife were to me on my first trip to Hawaii in 1978. I flew there by myself on my 30th birthday. I was pretty messed up that day and very down about turning 30 all by myself. You graciously took me out for a lovely meal and then I remember you both drove me up to the top of a mountain to see a spectacular view of Waikiki. That was the turning point for my trip there. The next few days were a blast and I met other people (Bill Browning was at a station and he and his wife entertained me a few days later, so sweet). So all these years later I want to thank you for your Aloha hospitality, it made my short trip there a good one, Lee!”
Mel Phillips: “Hi, Claude … my friend Ron Jacobs asked if anyone knew the whereabouts of the legendary national promotion man Abe Glazer or ‘The Commish’ as I used to call him. Ron, Abe was in his 70s when we knew him which would make him about 110 now. I believe Abe has gone to wherever we all go -- give or take a few degrees. Abe, knowing that I had a press pass and attended every Pats game, would call me every Sunday morning to get the lowdown on the chances for the team that day. Abe bet on the NFL games every week and somehow thought I could help him win with the inside information I had on the Patriots. I'm sure he gave you a similar call every week, RJ, about the Rams. There was a reason I never kept track of how many times I helped Abe out. But he seemed to think I did. Abe Glazer was much like Moe Preskell. They were both sweet men or mensches, which is more fitting for Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. I can't imagine they had anything to atone for.”
Don Berns: “Mel Phillips' comments bring back an era that could never happen today -- when music and program directors could actually be friends with record promoters. Hell, I LIVED with Rich Sargent (Buffalo indie) for over a year and we're still good friends today (I'm his son's godfather). And there are several others with whom I am still in contact, like Jerry Meyers (Buffalo), Sam Karamanos (Bell/Arista) and Carolyn Broner (Kansas City/St Louis). Unfortunately I have lost contact with Gunther Hauer (Atlantic), but for many years we exchanged Christmas cards and even a few phone calls. I wouldn't trade these friendships for any corporate edict to stay away from promoters. These four in particular are as much a part of my life as any of my friends or family.”
There is a rumor that Bill Drake once lived at Don Graham’s abode for a while. I’ve always thought that perhaps Bill was hiding out from various girlfriends.
Several record promotion – and record executives – were among my closest friends and very helpful in my career. Don Graham, George Furness, Juggy Gales, Ernie Farrell, Don Whittemore, Jan Basham (miss her still!) … plenty of them! You want to know what was going on in radio? Talk to a promotion person.
Bruce Miller Earle phoned Saturday about the heart attack of Kevin Metheny, program director of KGO and KSFO in San Francisco since June. He was the son of veteran radio man Terrell Metheny, once known as Mitch Michaels in early Top 40 radio. As I recall, even Kevin’s mother was in radio. First time I heard Kevin, he was 17 and doing the evening show on Pat O’Day’s rocker KJR in Seattle. And Pat O’Day was proud of him. Bruce considered Kevin a good friend. Mel Phillips says: “Kevin followed me (WNBC) as PD in 1980. I was replaced by Bob Pittman in 1977. In all, there weren't that many PDs after WNBC broke away from the network to become a music station. Sad to hear about Kevin. I wish he would've taken better care of himself.” Me, too. He leaves two children. We come, we do, we go.
I asked BME (Bruce Miller Earle) to drop me an email (he also sent it to Art Holt, Greg Ogonowski, and Robert E. Richer) and this is it: “It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of the passing of Kevin Metheny at 60 years of age. He had been entrusted by the Dickey family to head operations of WJR Detroit. In June he was rewarded with being named OM at their Cumulus cluster including KGO and KSFO in San Francisco. Just three years my junior, he and I went back to our days in Oklahoma City when a life-long bond of friendship was initiated and remained constant until the end. Although we were in touch by phone at least one a month the last time I actually saw was in 2008 at the funeral of Ed Buterbaugh, legendary CE at CKLW and later WJR. At that same event were mutual friends Greg Ogonowski and Harvey Reese. It was Greg who called last evening to pass on the news of Kevin's death from a sudden heart attack. First light here in Texas Hill Country this morning had me receiving emails and reading about the passing of my friend. This is not the place or time to defend Kevin over the feud we all know too well that has existed between him and Howard Stern. Upon reading the many internet postings this morning dragging Kevin through the mud, I was further devastated reading comments that were to say the least very mean spirited toward Kevin, and a few to the point of being gleeful about his demise. After my fury passed -- my sadness remains -- I called Greg. I informed him about the people who were piling on our departed friend and poised the question to him as what has happen to decorum and civility toward our fellow man in the world of today? His answer was ‘The Internet’. I know that you loath the telephone and conversely I feel the same toward the Internet to the point of not being a card carrying member or supporter of social networking. The only reason I am minimally on in your Face Book is to read and see what family members are doing. Well, I now have a news flash for the family that I will be canceling and exiting FB this coming week. The straw that broke the camel's back for me and FB was seeing two post showing acts of animal cruelty and the poster asking if anyone knew who the perps were? Upon seeing this I managed to get a snail mail to the poster. I expressed while maybe sincere someone would finger the perps that the images posted just fed and motivated the sick bastards who get off abusing children and animals. I also said in lieu of posting this garbage it should be reported at once to FB or the likes. Then this week came the news on social media of some low life scumbag having chained a mother dog and her puppies together and attached a bowling ball to the chain before throwing it in a lake. It was reported that one commenter said what a damn shame for throwing away what was probably a good bowling ball. As for Kevin he and I both were on the same page of being grateful for having your support and friendship over the years when a positive word from Claude Hall could and did open many doors for us. My condolences are to his father Terrell and his two wonderful daughters that meant the world to him. Para mi quierdo amigo, Kevin Metheny, PRESENTE! (QEPD)-Que En Paz Descanse.”
Stern is not now nor will ever be on my email list. The other creep is no longer in radio. Radio washed him out in the 70s.
Pat O’Day, Seattle: “Yes, Kevin was a true treasure. I was only saddened that he abandoned the microphone for management. He would have been recalled as one of the 10 best jocks ever. And I just loved him!”
Burt Sherwood: “Claude: This is difficult to even think about. It is an OMG!!! Yes, we do … we come and we go … some too soon ... others not soon enough! I have known Kevin through his father Terrell most of our lives. Kevin was a talent and a human being that can never be replaced ... he was the shining moment. We worked at different times mostly for some of the same and best broadcasters in the USA … and shared our opinions and notes about the good, bad and the ugly. My family is devastated. It is a huge heartfelt hole in our lives!! We will miss him!”
Shadoe Stevens has invited all of us to his opening reception 3-7 p.m. Nov. 1 at Galerie Michael in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. The exhibit is “The Trans-Dimensional Symbolism of Rocky Waters.” And Shadoe says, “Please come. I hope to see you there.” His website for the exhibit is www.shadoeart.com.
Ah, Shadoe! Great on you!
Joey Reynolds: “Lest we forget. I have lived through the entire history of rock’n’roll and so have you. The difference is that you were in the catbird seat of the marriage between radio and records as the high priest of the church of EdgeGodOut (EGO). You made me a star and a tin soldier, but the most important thing in my life has been sobriety, the life I live soberly is because of you and the fellowship. P.S. You wrote the book on humility, and how to gracefully leave a job and a profession with dignity, character, and grace. Not a bad job of paving the way for conventions and seminars for industry growth also, not to mention (but I will) how rich you made a lot of people. I will never forget the Billboard convention at the Plaza with the introduction of Geraldo Rivera and an author named Wayne Dyer. You cannot imagine how many people you have helped directly or influenced by doing God’s work as a trusted servant. Your 13 years don’t mean diddly. It was only a training film for all the good you have done. And it ain’t over til it’s over. Love … your trusted friend.”
I have indeed been blessed. Now, if only God would bless
my children. Yours, too, Joey. We’ve lived a fairly good life. Done
as well as we could. Now it comes down to asking God, who
did well by us
to care for our children and grand children.
God, please bless Kevin Metheny and Paul Revere.
They were us.