Monday, October 13, 2014

Claude's Commentary No. 33r2

October 13, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 33
By Claude Hall

Don Whittemore: “Claude, more substantial inspirational writings in your Commentary than in the LA Times for today's date.  The legends live on as you wrote but the players functioned differently as it was Don Graham who lived at Bill Drake's mansion while Graham's divorce dragged on towards resolution.  Don Graham -- now there are some stories he could tell if he weren't so discreet.  I'm going to tell you a Chuck Berry tale featuring Don Graham.  Don broke a record called ‘My Ding a Ling’ for Chuck on the Don Imus show way back when ... Chuck rewards Don Graham with half of the gross from his SoCal ‘Ding a Ling’ appearance for breaking the song into a hit.  Fact or fiction?  Legend or lie?  Don Graham has some great stories but he is shy.  Also, we all wanted to be Don, but he was already before us.”

Don Graham:  Might be a fascinating tale of how you got into the music business?

Don Berns: “Kevin Metheny was PD at KNUS when I worked at KLIF and made it a point to get to know me, although he never had the opportunity to make me an offer, since I went off to San Diego, then Kansas City, and he ended up in Pittsburgh at 96KX.  After I lost my gig at WHB he called me (the first time we had spoken in 4 years) to tell me of a mystery job opening I would be right for in Pittsburgh and would I send him the tape and resume so he could forward it?  The next thing I knew, Ted Atkins was on the phone asking to meet to talk about afternoon drive and MD at WTAE, where I ended up for 6 years -- the longest continuous gig I ever had.  Kevin and I never had a personal relationship, but it's telling that he appreciated my approach to radio enough to recommend me for a job.”

Heard from Morris Diamond.  Alice is doing well.  Morris is playing housemaid.  Great on you, Alice.  Super great on you, Morris.

Jim Gabbert: “Claude, reading your Commentary today I was totally shocked hearing about Kevin. After I sold our TV station and radio stations in 1998 I went to work at KGO doing fill in for 14 years. I currently am in Puerto Vallarta and had a lunch appointment with Kevin for next week to discuss the future of KGO and how they tanked so fast. I just cannot believe it, he was a real broadcast icon!”

Tom Russell: “Dear, Claude:  I'm quite honored (floored) with your open letter!  Sometimes we wonder if anyone is listening out there.  I've always enjoyed reading your Commentary.  I'm almost finished with a two-record ‘folk opera’ on the West which is called: ‘The Rose of Roscrae’ -- about an Irish kid coming to America in the late 1880's and becoming a cowboy…the format is: he's looking back at his time in the West from age 90 … lots of songs and folks on this from Ramblin' Jack to Johnny Cash to Leadbelly … I should have copies by the end of the year … I'd also love to send you my songbook, which has lots of good stories in it … just shoot me your address again.  Once again I really thank you for your kind words and your deep thoughts. (PS, I'm sharing this with Mike Hurshman -- a man who manages my art -- but also has a great weekly radio show out of Grand Junction, Colorado. He'd enjoy your blogs. Mike: Claude is a radio legend!)”

My home:  2563 Paradise Village Way, Las Vegas, NV 89120.  And I would love a copy.

Scott St. James: “Hi, Claude!  Hi, Barbara!  Claude, while thinking of the breakfast slogan (Grrrr-ate!!!), that's how I feel about the way your Commentary No. 32 ended with the comments made by you and Joey Reynolds.   Great thoughts and good wishes to both of you guys.”

Theresa Montgomery sends a note pushing Celia Berk’s debut CD “You Can’t Rush Spring.”  Says Jonathan Schwartz has had it on the air at WNYC, New York, as well as Jill & Rich Switzer on Legends 1003.3FM and WHLI, Long Island.

Hello, Jonathan.

Bob Sherwood: “Further to Paul Revere … when the Raiders were at their peak in ‘70/’71 he used to travel up to Tahoe and stop in Sacramento along the way and pull up to KROY where we had a window onto the street and two-way communication with people outside.  He’d connect with Gene Lane, my 6-10 jock, and get invited in and he’d always provide several breaks of intelligent, informative, articulate and entertaining dialogue.  We loved him and I’m sure it was mutual or he wouldn’t have kept coming back.
God bless him.  Your mention of the wonderful, professional and lovely Jan Basham triggered another memory.  The mid-70s Billboard Conference in New Orleans.  Gerry Peterson nee Cagle was sitting with me at the Columbia table.  At the time my fiancé was leaving me and both Gerry’s wife and his girlfriend were leaving him.  We were five feet away from the Bee Gees as they performed for the attendees.  Do you have any recollection of how many Bee Gees hits refer to shattered romances?  ‘Lonely Days and Lonely Nights’, ‘To Love Somebody’, ‘How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?’ et al.  So, Gerry and I — having consumed a gallon or so of Jack Daniels (on-the-rocks, splash of water) — were blubbering on about ‘love gone bad’ and he noted that someone on the stage had called my name … having something to do with a promotion award.  He pointed me toward the stage and I headed straight toward Jan to give her a ceremonial kiss.  I missed and almost kissed you!   I’ve been told that my acceptance speech was memorable for the uncontrolled emotion I exhibited.  I did feel the genuine emotion for the artists that I was able to represent, the label management and our promotion staff, but I was actually drunker than Jerry Lee Lewis when he proposed to his cousin.  I apologize to Billboard because I truly treasure that award.  At some point, when we have more time, I’ll relate pt. II of that event.”

Don’t recall the “kiss,” Bob, but I remember the performance of the Bee Gees.  Phenomenal!  Seven standing ovations.  And they’d brought their mothers and wives in for the event; Barbara and I were sitting near a mother.  The night before, the Bee Gees had performed for a jammed Madison Square Garden … and then for us.  One of the greatest concerts I ever heard!

Jim Slone:  “Claude, I cry a lot, too … always have, always will and you're right, seems to get more frequent as I grow older ... am 78 ... my wife Norma has always said ‘Jim is too tender hearted and sensitive to walk on the face of this earth’ … music has been my life and certain instrumentals really get to me for no apparent reason, just something about the sound ... I have three that bring tears almost every time ... ‘Our Winter Love’ by Bull Pursell ... ‘Theme From a Summer Place’ by Percy Faith, and ‘Stranger on the Shore’ by Mr. Acker Bilk.”

Mel Phillips:  “WRKO launched on March 13, 1967 in a hotel building that was a block away from Fenway Park in Boston.  We hired a great on-air staff and played hit music in an attempt to get hot new releases on the air before WBZ and WMEX. The promotion people started giving us exclusives on acts like the Bee Gees, Beatles and Monkees.  We believed that we were better than personality-driven music station WBZ and the more-music-oriented WMEX.  We had a great promotion director in Harvey Mednick, who would eventually move to RKO corporate. While we had received good response to some early promotions like Chuck Knapp's ‘Sgt. Pepper’ art contest and our Candy Apple Red Mustang giveaway, we didn't know the full extent of our audience reach nor the domination of the market we were approaching.  On May 6, 1967 we would find out ... we ran an on-air promo with a tongue-in-cheek take off on James Bond.  It was a two-voicer featuring Harv and me. Since this was in the middle of a technicians strike that was honored by the jocks, both Harvey and I as part of management were not required to be in the union. In the promo, we asked listeners to ‘wear a trenchcoat and dark glasses at 4 am and see “Casino Royale” for free’. About 20,000 flooded the Sack Savoy Theater and downtown Boston. A riot broke out, cops on horseback arrived and we made front page news in the Boston Globe and New York Times. The 'Casino Royale' premiere was chronicled on the SONY Collector Edition DVD a few years back and both Harvey and I were interviewed on camera. The 'Casino Royale' premiere was WRKO's tipping point.  We knew we had become a major radio force in Boston.  In an August edition of Billboard Magazine, a guy by the name of Claude Hall reported that we had climbed to number one in the June-July Hooper Ratings -- the radio ratings standard at the time.”

Suddenly occurred to me that Jack Roberts, bless him, would have got a kick out of this story.

Lani Bennett: “Hi, Claude, it’s Lani Bennett from New Orleans ... just wanted to share how much I enjoy reading your Commentary!  So many greats ... so many memories!  I have been fortunate to have made contact with a long ago employer, none other than Gil Bateman who was with Electra/WEA in NYC records at that time.  He is alive and well and living happily in Taos, NM, and I'm so glad that I found him on Facebook. Another long time friend of mine, James Heathfield, who was with RCA Victor back in the day, found me online via LinkedIn.  Sometimes when I'm reading about all the wonderful people back in the late 60s and early 70s, I do feel badly that Buzz Bennett, my ex-husband, is not somehow still among us.  I realize and accept that he has been MIA for quite some time, and in a recent conversation with Bob Hamilton, another longtime friend of ours who I am in touch with again, think he may have passed on?  Anyway only God and His goodness knows where he really is, but I think along with all the madness, all the addictions and everything else he did give a lot to our world of radio.  I have been very honored to have been part of that wild ride of a life that only the radio industry and the music industry can give when I was a very young woman.  I shall never forget it.  In the meantime one day at a time ... by the grace of God my life is good and full.  Best to you always, Claude, lots of love.”

Lani, Buzz Bennett was indeed a bright light in radio and any honest history of radio will never be written without him.

Joey phoned.  Understand this:  Joey and several others are “members” of my family.  They often phone Barbara.  Barbara handed me her cell.  But after the conversation, I felt it necessary to email Joey.  “I'm sorry.  I apologize for me on the phone.  I really couldn't understand half of what you were talking about.  Just me.  No problem with you.  Call it ‘slow’.  Call it 82.  I just didn't hear/understand half of what you said.  I'd seen a version of your video program.  A short version.  But, sure, I'm willing to watch the rest ... if it will play on this laptop.  My DVD doesn't work.  New, too!  We get a black box on the screen.  Don't know how it got there.  Couldn't get rid of it.  So, I had Andy get me a new Samsung DVD to replace the Sony.  Still doesn't work!  I was able to unstop Barbara's toilet this morning.  But I can’t fix the TV.  Now I'm tired.  Ready to go back to bed.  But I'm watching a pre-season basketball game on the Big Mit.  And I've got bills to pay this morning.  And I'd like to get some more words done on my western ‘La Tigre’.  And....  Love you, Joey.  Thanks for the emails for Commentary.  Nice to have one of the greatest disc jockeys in the world in my column.”

Can anyone advise me regarding my DVD?  So far as I know we didn’t input a security number.

Joey Reynolds: “Oh, clued … come on.  You never have to apologize.  There is no better friend than you.  I think of you often cause we are a few of the tin soldiers still standing cause of sobriety and the strong message we carry to others.  I went to the Salvation Army on 46st in Manhattan today to drop off some clothing I was finally willing to let go, and asked for Major Schaeffer, the old manager who sold me my beautiful furniture years ago … but he is gone. The guys hearing how long I have been sober (a day at a time) came over to shake my hand.  I had what they want, and it wasn't clothing.  I called you right after that cause I had a gratitude attack.  Yesterday at Church I realized that AA is my church, and I thought of all you guys and the Hole in the Sky, Dennis' house, Denver, Filly, Florida, NY meetings, etc.  It is a wonderful life and I would never have chosen this road although the one I was on is filled with pot holes, if you know what I mean?  Greetings to Darryl, I hope Barbara cures and can make left turns when she drives, going in circles is a bitch.  All there is is love.”

Here’s a cutie for you guys:  The first thing I ever wrote about Joey was for a 1967 one-shot magazine called SoundMakers that Billboard distributed around the world (I received at least 200 fan letters about the magazine).  I was nervous about meeting him the first time, because I had the feeling he might sue me or slug me.  Instead, Joey thanked me!  We’ve been friends since.

Don Sundeen: “Spent an evening with Paul Revere and a 6 pack of Bud one night after a show during the ‘Where the Action Is’ period. While Mark Lindsey, wrapped only in a sheet and groupy-hopping, cavorted up and down the floor, Paul and I sat and sipped beers talking business, because he was primarily a business man and the most down-to-earth guy in the rock star business.  He was no more a ‘mad man,’ than Alice Cooper, and both men understood the importance of putting on a show.  He'd made-up the whole Revere and the Raiders deal, playing off his name and wearing Revolutionary War attire, and at that point he'd just started making good money. Paul was happily married, had just bought a place in the Valley, and a new Mustang, he was looking forward to putting in a pool.  I was privileged to spend time with a lot of well-known performers, but Paul was one of the nicest and most real. It is sad to see him pass just when he and his beloved wife of 35 years. Sydney, who also has health problems, finally were able to settle down at their beautiful home in the Idaho countryside.”

Rich Brother Robbins,  “When I put my streaming 50s/60s website on line in '07 I wrote Bobby Vee to tell him about the site and that 13 of his songs would be playing.  He sent back a very kind, thoughtful and grateful note ... every bit the gentleman we've all known he was since way back ... God bless him big time!  Stay well, old friend!”

Gary D. Pall, Cincinnati: “I don’t think I am on your mailing list, but Neil Young has been kind enough to forward your emails to me.  I always enjoyed the visits we had when you were teaching at SUNY/Brockport and I was working in Rochester.  It’s been raining most of the weekend here in Cincinnati, reflective of my mood since hearing of Kevin Metheny’s passing.  In 1976, we were both hired to work at WNOE, New Orleans.  When I heard that they were hiring Kevin, I was excited, having known of his dad’s history as a great PD in Albany at WABY and at my favorite station as a kid, WMCA.  But things didn’t start out so well between us.  I remember a day when I was reading a car magazine in the jock lounge/PD office (automobiles, along with radio, are my passion). Kevin stuck his head in and said something to the effect of ‘if you were doing something instead of reading a car magazine, maybe this place wouldn’t be so _____ed up!’ Ouch.

“This pretty much summed up the next 10 years of our relationship.  In retrospect, I understand his frustration; after all, this was New Orleans, the ‘city that care forgot’. The studios were a shambles, mainly because the engineers were busy trying to keep two of the seven towers in WNOE’s array from falling into the swamp out on the bayou in Chalmette.  We were all under a lot of pressure to make the station work under less than perfect circumstances.  But, at the time, all I could think was WTF?  Fast forward to 1987.  I’m at home in Rochester, and got a phone call out of the blue from Kevin. I was not even sure how he got my phone number.  A two-hour phone call followed, most of which was what I’d describe as free association, that led to Kevin apologizing for his previous actions, and asking if we could be friends.  I told him that was all I ever wanted from him.  I’m not ashamed to tell you, at the end of that phone call, I was so moved that I wept a bit.

“We were good friends after this for many years, working together in Greenville and again at Jacor/Clear Channel (I’m pretty sure Kevin was responsible for my being hired by Jacor).  One experience we shared at different times: we both worked as PD of WXKX under ‘Captain Showbiz’, Ted Atkins (‘he's a bear ... but he's OUR bear’).  In recent years, we did not speak often, and I regret that now.  Don Jefferson, in a Facebook post about Kevin recently, said ‘So give your friends a call sometime.  Or, better still, go see them IN PERSON’.  Amen, Don.  And, in my Facebook post about Kevin, I said the same thing you did, Claude …’Kevin was one of us’.  I have to say I am more prepared for my own end than I was about Kevin. But I tell you this. Before I get back to work, when I am able to travel again (I am on disability due to renal failure and awaiting transplant), I am hitting the road to visit as many of my scattered friends as I can.  I have always said that, if only all of the friends I’ve made thanks to radio all lived in the same city, I’d be a lucky as Jimmy Stewart in Bedford Falls.  Stay well, my friend.”

Gary, you’re now on my list.  Thank you.  And thank you, Neil.

Dan McCurdy:  “Claude ... never met you, but I know you. 'You are us,' to ripoff a phrase.  Needless to say, I count myself as one in a legion of Claude Hall fans.  I was with KLIF from '63-'65.  Did midnight as Dan Patrick, replaced Jack Wood as Charlie Brown with Ron Chapman on the 'Charlie & Harrigan Show.'  Foolishly left for a Boston morning drive gig on WMEX in mid-'65.  Got back to Texas as soon as I could and landed the morning show on KBOX as Dan Patrick in '66. Beat KLIF purty good in morning Pulse/Hooper, then got zapped with new family rationality and left KBOX for the ad game with the 7-Eleven in-house ad group, The Stanford Agency.  'Oh Thank Heaven,' 'Slurpee,' 'The Big Gulp' and all that fun stuff. There I stayed from '67-'87.  So, yes, my DJ bones were made during McLendon's halcyon daze.  All that to say, I recently completed an essay that may tickle or aggravate ex-DJs to one extreme or the other. I now offer said musing for your seasoned broadcast consideration, to wit:”

“DJs Anonymous” by Dan McCurdy
Below a note I sent to a friend who innocently remarked that she had known a number of DJs who had expressed, as I did, how much fun I had experienced while a DJ in varied areas of Texas, in Dallas and Boston.  I believe what I originally told her was, ‘I've never had so much fun with my pants on in my life’.

Yep, Melissa ... that agreement among DJs is due to several things.  First, and most important, it's TRUE!  I often was amazed that anybody could be paid real money in order to have so much fun!  Second, 99% of the existing DJs are literally unrepentant hobos, not worth the cost of the rope it would take to hang 'em.  And third, they are insufferable narcissists who see the world 'organization chart' as a 'sunburst' with each of their sorry asses in the middle.  Thankfully, some of us who got out if this sideways, but immensely fun circle-jerk are 'recovering sociopaths' and have become participants in a sane, but still somewhat twisted world of productive free enterprise, no longer a certifiable, adrenalin-driven wacko. It may or may not be a permanent path to normalcy, but, like the recovering alcoholic, we, the temporarily sane ex-DJs, must avoid EVER returning to a DJ-like stupor.  We avoid microphones assiduously, unless it's for a PTA meeting announcement or a charity pulled-pork extravaganza.  But walking into a radio station and auditioning is a catastrophic NO-NO of the highest order.  Our sleeping (dormant) maniac has been doing push-ups since last we were on the air, and letting that all-consuming Tasmanian Devil out of its lockbox will surely summon the internal 'DJ Demon' forth and loose him (it) on an unsuspecting listening audience and worse, totally victimize and decimate ANY poor, hapless recovering ex-DJ who is foolhardy enough to cross that demonic threshold.  So there you are.  A brief but truthful tale from the dark side of DJs in general and this 'recovering air personality' in particular.  Dang!  I sure feel better telling you all this.  It's been a refreshing bit of 'face my demon' therapy.  And I want to thank you for the opportunity to get all that psychotic potential off my chest.  WHEW!  © 2014 MCS Company

Dan, I believe I know a great many who currently hangout at the WHEW call letters.

Shadoe Stevens, “Thank you my friend.  But I look at it this way ... there are people younger than me who will be older than me no matter how old I ever get.  Have a great week.”

Somewhere in there, Shadoe, I think I’ve got you topped already.

Ted Cramer: “Shocked to hear of Kevin Metheny's passing.  I was at WMAQ when Kevin was PD at WNBC and we talked almost every day.  We became good friends.  He gave me the play-by-play on the hiring of Stern who was working at DC-101.  Bob Sherman put him to work in PM drive at NBC.  It was total culture shock at the network ... an incredible story that is not truthfully told in Stern's book or movie.  Kevin was always sensitive about that.  RIP, Kevin.”

Jim Ramsburg discusses Hadacol in his current blog.  You don’t want to miss this one!  I met one of the promotion men on one of the trains at a party in New York back in the 60s.  Hell of a tale!

Marlin Taylor:  “In the last issue, you mentioned three names I can relate to very well.  Jim Gabbert – glad to read that he, too, is still around.  For years I had an article published in some magazine telling about how the guys hauled their K101 transmitter up to the top of a hill in Atherton, becoming FM ‘pioneers’.  I like his idea never to utter the world ‘oldies’.  When I created the ‘total music hours’ at WRFM in NYC, we never said anything about ‘no commercials’ … a mistake many of our copycats made.  Tom Shovan – I just came across an interview that Tom did with me and published in the June 19, 1985 issue of Hitmakers magazine.  Dick Summer – It’s not been more than two weeks since someone emailed me suggesting that I should get Dick to be the imaging voice for our ‘Escape’ channel on Sirius XM.”

Marlin, I think that was probably “their KPEN transmitter.”  But, yeah, Jim Gabbert and Mike Lincoln did FM radio from scratch.  And Dick would be sensational!  But then most of the people who read Commentary are veteran professionals.

My thanks to all those who’ve contributed material
the past few weeks to this column.

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