Today at 8:51 AM
November 24, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 39
By Claude Hall
Don Imus: “I sent you an email requesting your phone number so I could put an end to this nonsense from Burt Sherwood ... whoever he is. You may inform Mr. Sherwood if he continues to malign me I will sue him and I don't make idle, empty threats. He doesn't know what the heck he's talking about. You would think you would take my word for what happened and not continue to print this idiocy from someone. I got fired from KJOY in Stockton for conducting an Eldridge Cleaver look a like contest and saying ‘hell’ on the air. Herb Caen the legendary columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle had been using material I sent him in his famous Sunday Column ... when I was fired he wrote an article about it. Jack Thayer had just become the general manager of KXOA in Sacramento ... he read Caen's column ... called me, interviewed me and hired me to do mornings at KXOA ... a few months later he was offered a job at WGAR in Cleveland. He asked me if I wanted to go along with pd John Lund ... who was brilliant. I did ... I was then offered a job at WNBC in New York (after winning the Billboard Major Market DJ of the year award) by Perry Bascom and the pd Pat Whitley ... I went to NBC in December of 1971. Thayer became the president of NBC radio in 1974 (Google might help you). So he hardly took me to New York. I was fired by Charlie Warner in 1977.... Thayer was not talking to me and had not for some time. I did meet with him shortly after I was fired in which we discussed my coming back as the Pittman experiment with his girlfriend was a disaster. It did not pan out and I returned to Cleveland. After less than a year I received a call from Bob Sherman. He wanted to know if I was interested in coming back to New York. I told him I had already been contacted by WABC (which was NOT true) and that if he was really interested they needed to make me an offer. He told me he was going to send Bob Pittman, who was still the pd, out to Cleveland to listen to me. Pittman did ... called me from the airport ... we met ... I watched him eat breakfast and Michael Lynne, the former head of New Line Cinema ... ‘Lord of the Rings’ and all those other great movies, represented me (I met him shortly after I arrived in New York when he was an entertainment lawyer before his movie career and he represents me to this day) anyway ... Mr. Lynne met with Bob Sherman and made the deal for me to return. He did not meet with Jack Thayer. I had no conversation with Thayer about any aspect of my coming back. Pittman remained the PD till he went to MTV and John Lund was named to replace Pittman. I had known Lund since Sacramento and thought and still think he was brilliant. Mel Phillips, by the way, is an honorable guy and knows what he's talking about. I clearly understand this is not a big deal, but I don't need a Burt Sherwood running his mouth about what he thinks I remember.
I wrote Don Imus and discussed some of the things he’d done on my behalf. I mentioned that the interview I did with Imus and Robert W. Morgan was more than likely one of the funniest things I’ve ever written.
“Thanks for your very nice note. You probably don't realize what you did for my career. When I won the medium market Billboard DJ award in Sacramento that was huge ‘cause I had just been fired at KJOY. And then I won the Major Market award at WGAR in Cleveland and everyone wondered who the hell was this guy in Cleveland. That's when the NBC offer came ... also KSFO in San Francisco. I picked New York cause that was the biggest market on the planet. Somebody asked me what made me think I could make it in New York. I said I didn't think there was any chance I wouldn't. You were there for me from day one. Morgan and I both loved the great times we had with you.”
Just FYI, I’d rather not print any more negative stuff. Answering for it creates a pain in my whatis. The truth is I love all of you. My personal apology to Don Imus for any distress. We go back a ton of years. But I suppose I must be getting old … I thought the Eldridge Cleaver promotion was when Don was on the air in Palmdale/Lancaster. Look at it this way, Don … you’ve got to be extremely huge in an industry to have your career analyzed all of the way back to Palmdale. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed Don’s life. Not as much as he has, but he put a great deal of fun in my years. Once, I asked him to write Vox Jox for me. I don’t think I’ve ever let anyone touch the column during the 14 years I was with Billboard. It was, needless to say, a very humorous column. Great! And the interview that I did with Don Imus and Robert W. Morgan was a comedy classic. Imus also mentioned me in his blog this week. And Don Whittemore made sure I got to see it. I wrote them both that if this kind of publicity kept up, I was bound to get rich and famous. I’ve also learned that Whittemore provided the ice cream for Don Graham’s 80th birthday party. You know those dons, they stick together.
Bob (Bobaloo) Craig: “Claude ... that harmonica/guitarist player you couldn't think of for Peggy Lee is Toots Thielemans. He also composed ‘Bluesette’ and recently retired ... at the age of 91! Thanks for the weekly commentaries and the resurfacing of names from my 51 years in ‘The Biz’. (WDRC, WPOP, WMGK) WRTI Philadelphia).”
Toots. That’s him! Good on you, Bob! Toots and Hal Blaine were like gods among sidemen in Los Angeles. It’s not too well known, but Glen Campbell started as a sideman. And I think Hal doubled in Bread. Last time I saw Hal, he was in a recording session with Neil Diamond. A sideman.
Frank Boyle, Shelton, CT: “Dick Rakovan sent me a copy of your Nov. 14 Commentary. Never saw it before. What a hoot to read -- so many old household names -- most are PDs and music guys whom I didn't know. I'm trying to write three books on Radio. One will be named ‘When Radio Was Fun!’ You'll be in it. I've got a few pages from your old publication with pix from some of your memorable NYC Conferences. You were ahead of your time -- we couldn't wait to read your weekly Walter Winchell dirt. You were kind enough to let me be a speaker to make bodacious predictions about formats of the future. You'll recall I had to wear a suit of Knight's Armor to protect myself from Bill Drake, George Wilson and Stan Kaplan's spears. Pls email me a a few pages from a few copies of your old weeklies. You were a Treasure -- Cowboy hat and boots -- and still are. Those were the Golden Years -- The Hall report, Sponsor, Broadcasting, TV Radio Age, Gallagher Report, Kissinger report -- 4, repeat 4 National Research companies. Nielsen, Pulse. Hooper and Conlan. Now just one. Frank Boyle -- once The Eastman Rep guy, now a Station Broker like Burt Sherwood and Gary Stevens. Stay well!”
Ah, Frank … I could never forget that suit of armor. Not only did you gain attention, I’ll bêt everyone remembers you! I’ve certainly had a place for you in my heart since that day! I was tickled to hear from you and Bob Aloo. Made my day! Always admired you, Frank.
Lyn Stanley: “Hi, Claude. I had surgery today, and it was so nice to wake up to your review of my new album. Many thanks, Claude. I am so glad you saw all the effort my team and I went into to create an audiophile/music lover’s dream album. I wish you had a turntable! It is so wonderful and rich coming out of vinyl. Bernie Grundman worked so hard to get it just right and match Al Schmitt's fine engineering. If you like it, that means Jack would have liked it!! Thank you again for your kindness and words. I am grateful for your help with my career. Even as a latecomer to the arena, I am ever amazed at the support I have received. God bless you, Claude. You're a hero to me.”
A speedy recovery, Lyn!
Russ Regan: “Love getting your Commentary every week, it’s like the old days on Billboard magazine. You’re still a great writer. You were very kind to me, and I will never forget that. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.”
Russ, I considered you one of the best record men in the business. For some reason, you and Bud Prager and Mike Maitland (and staff) and Joe Smith would talk to me and were open and honest. I always liked the head of Casablanca Records, too. Neil Bogart. He was a character, but fun. Hated it when he died. I can remember some of the things he did. Last time I saw him was when he invited me and my kids to see a KISS concert and who do I run into? The head of Casablanca and his kids, Neil Bogart!
Burt Sherwood: “Claude...thanks for the kind words and the comments on Thayer. Sure, I forgive anyone who reads this. I do not say this lightly.
I saw the Mel Phillips blog on this following my ‘rant’. All I can is what I did, I do not know Mel and visa versa ... only heard from Perry Ury that he
is one of the best. The top of the mountain is hard to get to ... the bottom is a hard fall. Jack Thayer went both ways ... I know no one personally who did not like him. I miss him, my family misses him ... and, Claude, you do as well. It was a lot of years ago ... let the man rest in peace ... and for us to have peace as well. Just so you don't think we are all a bunch of idiots ... the story of Imus and Thayer is a shame. Imus had no greater champion than Jack ... it will do no one any good to continue this ... as the old Bavarian saying goes ‘an Ox has a big tongue and cannot talk ... a human being has a small tongue and dasn't talk’. What a pity all this really is ... forgive and forget.”
I personally like Mel Phillips and consider him one of the best radio reporters currently on the scene.
Roger Carroll: “Don's (Don Graham) 80th birthday party outstanding. Robin did a great job making the party a big time success. Lots of old farts there including myself.”
David Carroll, Chattanooga: “Ok, I enjoy reading yours … so now you have to read mine, too.”
Bill Hatch: “Just got to this week's Commentary and haven't yet read it all but wanted to respond to Lani's inquiry about ‘Aircheck: The Story of Top 40 Radio in San Diego’. It can be purchased from Dave Leonard at the following URL. I obtained my copy only last summer (2013) from -- and signed by -- the singularly magnificent Bobby Ocean. I didn't have the pleasure of meeting Lani (that I can recall) but I was at KCBQ when the Gary Allyn era ended and the tidal wave that was the season of Buzz Bennett began. For a young radio guy less than three years out of Idaho, it was a wonder to behold.
Forgot....here's the link:” http://home.earthlink.net/~leonarddla/
Timmy Manocheo: “Claude, Lani Bennett wanted to know where to get a copy of the book ‘Aircheck’. Here's a link for it on Amazon:”
Morris Diamond: “Hi, Claude – I envy those who were able to get to Don Graham's birthday party last Saturday. Because of Alice's recent knee surgery, it would have been difficult to make the schlep from Palm Desert to LA. Charlie Barrett, who lives here in Palm Springs, did tell us he would drive us to the party, but unfortunately, business took him to Tucson for the weekend and we were left with our thoughts of Don and Robin all day Saturday. To Don Sundeen -- My significant other, Alice Harnell's late husband, Joe, was Peggy Lee's pianist/Music Director for a couple of years – and during my years as an indy record promoter, Peggy was my client for three of those years. As Don Graham would attest, when you're promoting a record you're off the payroll once the record peters out … Peggy had me on the payroll throughout the three years I represented her. I recall pitching Peggy's ‘Fever’ to Bill Randle and he sort of liked it – that day was Peggy's birthday and I told him so – he asked me to get her on the phone – I did and all he said to her was ‘Happy Birthday, Peggy, I will start playing ‘Fever’ tomorrow’. You talk about her great recording of 'Is That All There Is’ written by Lieber & Stoller – I'm working with the Palm Springs City of Hope Music & Entertainment Chapter and we're having a gala next March and our honoree is MIKE STOLLER. Jim Gavin is the author of ‘Is That All There Is’ and has volunteered to speak at our Gala in March if schedule permits. Jim, a good friend of Alice's, always calls us for lunch when he's in the desert. To Freddy Cannon – Freddy, glad to see you as a participant of Claude's letter … been quite a while since we and our wives attended the private music screenings at the Universal Studios. I pray for a speedy recovery from your heart surgery and COPD. C'mon out to Palm Desert and stretch out on our patio for lunch. Get well and stay well.”
Bob Walker, WTIX, New Orleans: “Hey, Claude, any idea of ‘whatever happened to’ former Philadelphia Eagle and MGM promo enforcer Ben Scotti and his brother Tony Scotti? Any idea if they still with us?
What I heard, Bob, is that the three Scotti brothers owned the entertainment firm that had “Baywatch.” They sold it for $300 million and each took a third and didn’t have to do much of anything afterwards.
Bob Sherwood: “Don Graham, because you’re a National Treasure I’m advised that the regional damage caused by your birthday party allows for Federal Gov’t. Disaster Aid for the immediate area. However, the fact that the 80 candles on your cake led to leveling of half the nearby neighborhood will almost certainly negatively affect your insurance policy. Please add my congratulations to Macey for his exhibition and ask him if the large painting at the bottom of those you’ve shown is in fact a walkway in Positano overlooking the Terranean Sea? Also, is the Marcy Lipman Toronto, whose print I saw in a doctor’s office last week, a relative? Anxious to hear the Manilow CD.”
Kent Kotal, “Forgotten Hits”: “We ran a world exclusive on Freddy Cannon recently ... and have also been monitoring his recovery after his heart surgery. (In fact, we may have been the one to break that story to the world as well!) Some of the deejays on your list who know and/or helped market Freddy's music in its heyday might enjoy the following features that ran exclusively in Forgotten Hits:”
Bob Wilson: “Claude … Paul Oscar Anderson, a name given to Paul Brown when he worked at KOIL in Omaha where I was learning Top 40 radio. He also worked at WIFE and KISN, two other Don Burden Star Stations. Paul at one time taught radio at a commercial school in Iowa and told me his first class was failed ... all of them! When the owner of the school complained to Paul, Brown replied, ‘Boss, none of them will ever make it in radio’ ... whereupon the boss informed Paul, ‘maybe, but they all paid their tuition and none of them will get failing grades’. Paul worked at most of the Don Burden Star Stations (I don't think KICN in Denver). He was in Omaha working with George Crowell Wilson during one of my periods of imitating a PD. And I think David hired him in Milwaukee or Indy. David used me twice in Milwaukee to do the stagers ... at two different stations! So until David's competition realized they were using my old recordings and WOKY had a brand new set (written by David) announced by the same guy ... much fun. I think Dick Casper was a honcho at WOKY also. Oops, 7:30 a.m., time for breakfast ... my best to you.”
Good to hear from you, Bob!
Adam White: “This column tipped me to the passing of Jimmy Schwartz, and I got in touch with a former colleague at Billboard to suggest an obit. With luck, that will be happening soon. Jimmy deserves it. I know Schwartz Bros. was a major contributor to the success of Motown (among many others) over the years.”
Good move, Adam. If we don’t honor our own, who will?
Neal Barton, Tyler, TX: “Friend of the late Larry Shannon here.
Feels weird to say that. Imus gave you a nice shout this morning.”
Larry Irons: “I was in radio for 30 years and worked San Diego, Reno, Sacramento, Las Vegas, Lansing, MI; and Brownsville, TX. I left radio in 1997, got married, and moved to Las Vegas. My book took me about two years to write. Thanks to Steve Resnick at RAMP, Dave ‘the Duke’ Sholin, Guy Zapoleon, Jon Zellner from IHeartMedia, Sean Ross, and Jonathan Little. I even got an endorsement from former Governor Mike Huckabee!”
Andy Hall: “In ‘Number One Songs: The First Twenty Years: 1956-1975’, Larry Irons, a venerable disc jockey, program director, and all around veteran of radio gives us a poem that delights in pop music lore. Here is a poem that points to the follies, whimsies and tragedies surrounding pop music and their personalities. More to the point, the poem and the poet reflects our lives. One could misread this as nostalgia, but the words give an autobiographical account of the horrific truths and splendiferous vistas of this era. Irons provides us a history of the turbulent Sixties and catalogs the tumultuous yet mostly beneficial changes we have gone through in American culture. Each of the 20 years accounts for a whole section or chapter, and at the beginning he lists the number one songs as compiled by Billboard Magazine for that year. This book would serve as a great companion to any history or rock and roll course, as younger generations could learn a tome of wisdom from the historical triumphs and pitfalls of our pop pioneers. In the 1972 chapter, Irons reflects on Billy Paul’s 1972 hit about adultery, ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’ and he considers regrets of his own life. Lest anyone shy away from the serious content, Irons’ poem is full of humor. Take this excerpt from the 1974 chapter for instance:
About Barbra Streisand, now let me be clear,
She’s one of those singers, that so many revere.
She has perfect pitch, her voice has no flaws,
At her concerts between songs, all you hear is applause.
“The Way We Were” topped the charts three weeks in a row,
From her same titled movie, which helped it I know.
The movie did well, it was a box office smash,
To say I didn’t see it, would I get lots of backlash?
“Larry’s book proves a gem that any historian, musicologist, fan, or student should take great pleasure in. And dare I say it: somebody should put these fine words to music!”
Just FYI, Andy is a poet and honored with his name on a park “bridge” in downtown Las Vegas. He currently teaches English at UNLV.
Ah, Don Graham … undoubtedly a sneaky genius. He’s now promoting for radio a CD by Isabel Rose for Christmas. The trick is that the CD only has two songs – “Hanukkah! Oh, Hanukkah” for radio to play for the holidays and the single that Rose is really promoting “Never Satisfied.” And both tunes are bright and catchy and you’ll love them and listeners will love them. Good job, Isabel! I loved “Never Satisfied.” Should do well for you.
Mel Phillips: “Good Saturday Morning, Claude. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Barbara and to everyone in your vast web of worshipers. I was 18 when I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home (Brooklyn, NY). This was my first job in radio and it was as far away from home as I'd ever been. WJBB Haleyville, AL, was in the northwest part of the state about 90 miles from Birmingham -- 40 from Muscle Shoals. Population was barely over 3,000. But -- a big but -- I was on the radio for the first time in my life. I was working that Thanksgiving and, of course, I just had to tell everyone that I was. An hour later Bert Nichols and his girlfriend Davene knocked on the station door loud enough to hear despite the station monitor blaring Jerry Lee Lewis ('You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain'). My Thanksgiving dinner was still hot and had all the trimmings -- just delicious. Bert's dad, Red Nichols, ran the only funeral home/ambulance service in town. I lived upstairs in a tiny make-shift bedroom for free. State law made it mandatory for someone to be on the premises but I didn't have to do anything -- just be there. Happy Thanksgiving.”
And a Happy Thanksgiving to you, Mel, and everyone else. Personally, I feel blessed.