Monday, November 10, 2014

Claude's Commentary No. 37r2

Today at 2:33 PM
November 10, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 37
By Claude Hall

Herb Oscar Anderson:  “So great to read your Commentary.  So many of the old names ... such good memories ... would it be wrong to ask you to mention I'm still pumping out a song or two and would love to hear from the old gang?  The show is ‘Conversation’ and we talk about the way it was and still sing a song ... Google on the web ... WOSN FM.  We're trying a new experience combining the web, Facebook, and podcast.  The results after two years is rather gratifying ... we try to make it like old-time radio.”

If you’d like to touch bases with HOA, drop me an email and I’ll forward it to him.  I told HOA that I considered him a legend.  But, come to think about it, we’ve got a lot of really good people contributing to Commentary now and then, including Dan Neaverth later.  And all of them are fun.

Lyn Stanley:  “Super newsletter -- as always!  I have a show coming up this weekend on Saturday night at Vitellos in Studio City.  A great band -- and I will reveal a very special story about ‘Cry Me a River’ that I just received from Arthur Hamilton.  My new album is out.  Radio promo next quarter.  Could I send you an advanced copy?  Where?”

So I sent her my address.

Lyn Stanley:  “I will send it, Claude.  I entered my first singing contest.  It went on for months and had over 500 entrants from around the world.  It is called 2014 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition.  I came in as a Top 40 Finalist.  Over 4,000 songs were submitted.  Ann Callaway Hampton was one of the judges.  Winners were from all over the world.”

Good on you and God Bless Sarah Vaughan.

John Barger:  “Please slip me Red Jones' email.  I want to reconnect with him.  By the way, in addition to doing mornings and PDing in Houston at KILT during the late '50s, did he do an overnight ‘trucker show’ later on WWL in New Orleans, say in the 70s or early 80s, and in between, mornings at KTSA in San Antonio?  Also, was the guy in Detroit mentioned by Bill Hennes, Mickey Schorr, any relation to Arnie Schorr, PD at KHJ in the very early 60s (pre-Drake) who had Lucky Pierre Gonneau starring late mornings (9-12N)?  Thanks in advance.  Keep the great columns coming.”

I forwarded John’s note to Jones and Hennes and also Larry White, who, I think, knew Lucky Pierre.  Ah, the trucker show.  Does it exist anymore?  Larry Shaw, KLAC, Los Angeles, may have not been the biggest, but he was good.  He even learned how to drive a rig and would go on the road.  Last I knew, he was driving a mail truck out in the Texas panhandle.  This was quite a few years ago.

Bill Hennes said the Schoors were not related.

Jim Ramsburg: “The smell of molten lead in an open tank next to a linotype machine.  I still remember that smell from going to the printer to file late sports stories for the Minnesota Daily back in the fifties, handing my copy to the operator with a cigarette hanging from his mouth who set the machine in motion with a loud clanging sound.  (With all those fumes I wonder what his life expectancy was?)   What newspapers are missing today (among other things) is sound - the sound of typewriters in the newsroom and linotype machines in the composing room and people yelling over them to be heard.  The last time I was in a newspaper office I remarked to my escort, ‘It's as quiet as a mortuary in here!’  He replied, ‘That's appropriate’, he replied.

“Did you happen to notice an item from November 7, 1949, on This Week In The Golden Age at  Where would Bill Drake have been without that?  (How's that for a cheap way to earn another page hit?)  Speaking of hits, my web site got 6,400 in October, a new month's record.  I returned home this afternoon from a fast four days at Health Park Hospital in Ft Myers -- a beautiful facility where a surgery team performed a transcatheter aortic valve transplant procedure on my heart on Thursday and then popped two stents into my heart's arteries on Friday.  They didn't even give me time or reason to complain about the food!”

Jim, anyone with two stents can make Commentary.

Mel Phillips: “Loved your last Commentary. In it, the whereabouts of Perry Bacom were asked about. Sadly, Perry, my GM at WNBC passed away several years ago. After retiring he and his wife moved near Atlanta where Cathy opened an antique shop. Perry lived a retired life. We stayed in touch up until the end. While talking about Perry, I'm reminded about how supportive he was of me as PD of WNNNNNBC (more on that coming up).  He had so much pressure on him from Jack Thayer. We were expected to challenge WABC without a budget.  It was a David and Goliath story but it was won by Goliath.  Art Wander mentioned in your last Commentary how badly Thayer wanted Imus back, but there's more of a story to that, so follow along with my first-person account of the way things transpired regarding Thayer and Imus.  Perry would receive a morning call from Jack after Imus left the air each morning.  While Thayer played Don's best friend in phone conversations with him, Jack wanted Perry to fire him.  This was a daily occurrence in the parts of the two years I was there.  I know this is true because Perry would confide in me about it.  Neither Perry nor I wanted Imus fired.  He was one of the most famous brands in New York radio. As much of a problem as he could be from time to time, he was the biggest thing we had and worth saving.  Imus was fired after Bob Pittman replaced me as PD with the approval of his GM Charlie Warner and NBC Radio President Jack Thayer.  Pittman also got the budget Perry and I would've killed for. He spent most of it on TV ads. In the ads, Bob sat on a desk and introduced himself and then went into ‘this is your radio station and we want to know what you want to hear’ dialogue.  In the end, Pittman couldn't beat WABC either.  Now to the WNNNNNNBC story:  Sometime after I took over as PD, I made a trip to Beltsville, MD, to inspect the diaries and discovered that most of the Arbitron respondents still thought Bruce Morrow was at WABC.  Cousin Brucie was doing midday at WNBC until I put him back on nights -- one of my first moves.  I was convinced that unless we made it clear that listeners were listening to WNBC and not WABC, we were in trouble.  I decided to hammer away with the dial position and call letters (dropping the ‘W’): ‘66 NBC’ (with the emphasis on the ‘N’) is what we started using on-air to distinguish the difference in call letters between the two stations. Imus emphasized the ‘N’ better than any of the air talent. After I left, the ’66’ was dropped and just the call letters were used with the emphasis on the ‘N’. And now you know the rest of the story, to use a line from the great communicator Paul Harvey. See ya next week.”

I’m not sure that Jack Thayer is being painted correctly.  He was a good friend.  My wife Barbara and I were at his hospital bedside after he had his stroke.  Later, he learned to walk so he could come up to talk to my students at the State University of New York at Brockport.  He stayed up all night with them.  They loved him!  By the way, at other times Don Imus and Joey Reynolds and others came up to SUNY events, including Gary Theroux, then doing music for Reader’s Digest.  Fun times.

Don Imus:  “I just saw the Perry Bascom note.  It was Perry who initially hired me for WNBC.  I was at WGAR in Cleveland.  Thayer came to NBC two years later.  Pat Whitely was the PD.  Charlie Warner fired me and Bob Sherman brought me back.  Period.“

Dan Neaverth, ex of WKBW and WHTT, Buffalo:  “Hi, Claude ... the tear jerker song you referenced is ‘Baggage Coach Ahead’. It's about a grieving person traveling by train with the loved one in a casket in the baggage coach.  Also upset that Art Wander mentioned that Moron Don Berns instead of me.  Just kidding.  Berns is a good friend.  Wander never mentions his Real glory days, running the local VA hospital in-house radio station.  And did he mention he married an ex-nun?  Ask him.”

Bobby Ocean:  “Reading you, Claudie, reminds me of how much, in our younger versions, we used to love sharing radio stories about one another WITH one another.  It was part of the ride, hearing about this cool name from this mysterious metropolis, listening to airchecks, sharing your impressions with someone else.  This was a pre-internet Social Media Network made up of flesh and blood -- made up of us -- excitedly sharing the new music, fresh personalities and curious call letters with one another.  I have a Chuck Blore/Bobby Ocean story for ya, a true account, but one-sided - -from my POV, and dated like the 13-year-old embedded cartoon.  Chuck's would make this a whole new tale.  This radio story goes back a few decades.  It is from once in time, along my All-California chosen career path, when I was happily disc-jocking at KFRC, San Francisco, yet was curious, thus snooping out the LA market.  My curiosity had me flying to LA for an interview with RKO People In High Positions at KHJ, but not stopping there.  I had also added a Personal Must to my agenda, an interview with the legendary Chuck Blore.

“That's the way I would go after radio gigs back in those times.  Early on, I figured out that, when you enjoy doing it, you can't call it ‘work’.  So, I'd find the station that sounded the best, or had people on staff I admired, then go knock on their door. While KHJ was in my crosshairs, I had nothing but admiration for Blore. Who knows?  Maybe something would click.  He was enjoying tons of success in LA, but, before that, I had become familiar with his programming ingenuity at KFWB, Oakland, Color Radio, the station he orchestrated prior to his move south.  His ability to express the hues and tones of his imagination with audio impressed me to no end.  Meanwhile, I was younger, immortal, way over confident and wearing a killer, new, tailored black suit for the trip.

“Chuck Blore, when I first met him face to face, put me so at ease!  Nothing stuffy at all in his office stuffed with awards and trophies.  He sat relaxed behind his desk during the entire hour we leisurely spent in conversation.  I sat across from Chuck as I had rehearsed, in a ‘rugged, kicked-back guy’ pose, legs crossed but open as if I was relaxed in the saddle. I was delivering a rather polished, easy-going, way cool Bobby Ocean DJ, I thought. ‘This is going well....’  Blore's manner had me completely relaxed throughout our time together.  He was interesting and interested, I found him fascinating and I knew I could have spent the day without looking twice at my watch.  But my hour was up, and when I started collecting myself from his comfy office furniture and began assembling sentences of departure – ‘gotta go, time for my next appointment, please accept my thanks, etcetra...’ -- Chuck, smiled.

Then, he casually, quietly pointing, added, ‘Of course, you'll want to take at look at THAT and make your repairs before you go’.  I followed the bearing of his pointed finger. I looked to the spot he was indicating and it was exactly where I was sitting. Oh no!  The tailored seam in my cool new suit's pants had completely come unstrung and there, like an explosion in a linen factory, my billowing white boxers flowed from the unintended opening in an attention-grabbing picture of contrasting bleached white cotton against the new suit's sharkskin black.  How long had I sat there swathed in glossed-over, practiced Boss DJ relaxation ... with my pants ripped wide open and my chonies flapping in the air?  How much time had the great one, Chuck Blore himself, been exposed to this foolhardy scene?  Any pretensions of being the ‘Cool One from San Francisco’ evaporated in a flash. I was deeply embarrassed.  But it only lasted a split second. In a sudden swoop, our senses of humor collectively overtook us.  Unexpectedly, an enormous belly laugh burst forth from the direction of that glaring rip in my suit and its energy absolutely swamped all feelings of shamefaced pretension. Chuck also immediately erupted in giggles and, for a few seconds we were out of control.  Not taking it personally, it was funny as hell.

‘In that split-second of hilarity, I lost track of all notions of being the Bobby Ocean character and was simply myself, whatever that is, in high enjoyment. Chuck was laughing WITH me.  What began nervously as an interview with someone I highly respected but knew little about personally, had flopped, then flipped. All tension was gone. As I left his office, things were different. I was saying goodbye to that rare individual who, in his own reality, breezes past stories of his legend. I had made a quality friend with whom I had shared a personal vulnerability and laughed it away. We were tighter now as I was leaving and seemed to have known each other for a much longer time. It was more focused and evident than when I had entered the room earlier: we hailed from the same enormous, hugely diverse family.  The family of broadcasters.  Because this is one of my favorite stories, to this day, Claude, I still feel those laugh wrinkles forming on my face whenever I hear Chuck Blore's name or see it in print.  And as I'm guessing, Chuck's recollection of this story is probably much more entertaining.  I'd love to hear his version.  Stay well!”

Bobby Ocean … wonderful tale!  And thanks for the cartoon, which I should have run with the tale, but ….

Robert Richer received this from John Myers in the UK, to wit his blog about the “commercial suicide of commercial radio” over there.
Scott St. James: “Yep, we're all going to have a good time while we celebrate Mr. Graham's birthday on November 15.   What's amazing is his age.   I had no idea he was born that many more years ago.   First of all, he looks younger than I do and now my mission is to eat better and sleep better so that someday I'm (hopefully) able to reach the ‘number’ he's about to have.   Amazing.  Annnd ... I agree with Don Graham's very good friend, Don Sundeen regarding Annie Lennox's new CD.   Mr. Graham sent me a copy of Annie's CD the day before I was booked to act in a student film.   I needed to be on the set for three (split) days and I listened to that CD (a lot) when I was driving to and fro.  Loved, LOVE it!  Ahhh, #36!   Keep those Monday treats a-comin' Mr. Hall.”

Shadoe Stevens sent out a note regarding his recent art exhibit in Los Angeles:  “Thank you for coming out in support of my art show.  There were hundreds at Galerie Michael.  To be shown nestled among Picasso and Dali was one of the great moments of my life.  Craig Fergson made it with his son Milo, Joe Mantegna, and Paul Feig … people I hadn’t seen in years.”

Ken Dowe:  “I think you've started something, Claude.”

Ron Brandon: “Hi, Ken ... although I recall our meeting (you, me, Ernie) at WGVM I had forgotten, or did not know, that you had also worked there until reading Claude Hall today.  Thought you might enjoy seeing these old pics.”

Ken Dowe:  “Thank you, Ron.  I never really got to ‘work’ there.  During my JR. and SR years I ran the board for the preachers on Sunday morning. And, Saturdays on air with rock 'n roll. All for the ‘experience’.  FREE.  Mr. Seagal did give me a $25 check for Christmas in the SR year.  And, Eddie Gus and Jack Stull got me a job at WHSY.  Didn't think you'd ever hear those names again did you?”

Ron Brandon:  “I don’t think I stayed there longer than 6 months or so.  And yep, I worked that Sunday morning shift with its assorted characters.  Wally Hoy was the PD while I was there ... think that was his name.  One of the other announcers … was it Jack Stull ... had been a professional pianist in NYC.  Another memory: while there the FCC conducted a nationwide test of Conelrad ... when all stations either switched to 640 or 1240 or signed off air ... weird with nothing else on the band.  Remember driving out to the levee to try to hear WNOE on skip at sunset before they changed patterns.  Remember driving over into Arkansas with Ernie one night in pursuit of some young ladies and sliding my '57 Plymounth off gravel road into ditch and farmer pulling us out with his tractor ... never did find the girls.”

Ken Dowe: “Correct on Wally Hoy.  He bought and managed a small AM station in Tallahassee for a number of years.  Jack was the Sales Manager at WGVN.  He did have the persona of a professional pianist.  Must have been Jack.  I used to pray the preachers wouldn't have enough money to be on the air.  That's when I could play records and intro Sam Cooke & the Soul Stirrers, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, The Dixie Hummingbirds, The Five Blind Boys, and the other great gospel singers.  My closest radio friend in town worked at WDDT.  I would sit with him and learn.  He taught me to say jew-el-er, instead of ju-ler, and to move my lips when I talked. So much he taught.  He was a great jock already.  We used to drive his old ‘Chevy to the levee’, which was just downtown, holding back the raging waters of the Mississippi which had annexed a block or more of Greenville during the 1927 flood.  Many evenings he and his wife would share their meals with a growing teen-ager, then he and I would get an elevated perch on the levee and turn the old Chevy until it was aimed at Memphis. That's how we could hear WHBQ, home of Wink Martindale:  Hey, Winkie ... hey, Winkie!  Cool stuff!  And, so began my life long friendship with Jay Cook.  Stay tuned.  Different times.  Different stations!”

Ron Brandon:  “Well I grew up in New Albany and Memphis so heard Wink when he was doing mornings at HBQ and of course he had a teen TV show as well.  We did, in fact, while I was a high school kid in Memphis listen religiously to Dewey Phillips on HBQ.  He introduced us to Chuck Berry, Little Richard, etc., plus his outrageous behavior on the air.  Yep, I remember collecting cash from the Sunday morning crew ... no cash and I would get to spin some tunes.  The Pentacostals were the wildest bunch … they would pack the small studio ... talk in tongues, roll on the floor ... quite a show.  I bumped into one of the preachers in the hall who stopped me to relate that he had bumped into one of our announcers (can't remember name) incarcerated in the local jail and was all aglow that he had ‘saved’ said announcer.  He also mentioned he had loaned him some money.  Don’t think we ever saw that guy again.  The guy who was a pianist was a white haired and bit older guy … guess he might have been 50 or so ... at the time thought he was kinda old to be playing rock and roll … but he was quite talented.  I was in Greenville after my tour in the Air Force and when an opening came along at WELO in Tupelo I returned there, where I had worked for a year or so before the military.  Stayed there a year or so before snagging the job at WMOC, Chattanooga, where I once again crossed paths with you.  It's interesting to me that I've found out more about guys I've known for many years in the past couple of years with Facebook and the net than I ever knew about them in person.  Kinda fun.”

Ken Dowe:  “I well remember the Pentecostals on Sunday mornings at WGVM. Talking in tongues, rolling across the floor, and going into rigors. The black pastors would often show up with only a portion of their money, but promise to pay it next week.  I would hold out, hold on to the money (cigar) box, and suggest preacher man collect the difference from the visitors.  Sometimes they would, and sometimes ... I would play me some Sam Cooke ... and the Soul Stirrers.  I remember listening to WMPS, Memphis, as a young kid.  In the mid-fifties I was folding my newspapers as I did daily, between the ages of 10-15, while listening to rhythm and blues, hillbilly, and the rest of the stale block programming I could pick up on my Bakelite Philco radio.  Listening one afternoon I heard the jock on WMPS say he was about to play a new song from a Memphis boy that was a new sound. ‘His name is Elvis Presley, and I think you'll be hearing a lot more from him’. He queued it up, and played ‘Milk Cow Blues Boogie’.  The year must have been 1955.  It was electric. Elvis, and then came ‘Blackboard Jungle’ with ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and Bill Haley.  There was a whole new format hitting the nation.  And, Rock 'n Roll was here to stay.”

Gentlemen, I appreciated the tale!

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