Dec 1 at 8:06 AM
December 1, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 40
By Claude Hall
I loved the parties. The music industry was replete with parties, many also involving entertainment. Elton John threw a party and a half at Universal Studios back in the 70s and for a later party hired a circus. I was at the party at Universal Studios. Took my wife Barbara with me. It was on the western street. There was a wagonload of iced down Coors at the beginning of the street. The storefronts and the bars wore names such as Rick Frio’s Saloon. At the end of the street, which was lined with places to drink and places to eat and all named for executives at MCA Records ranging from Mike Maitland to Pat Pipolo and Vince Cosgrave, Elton performed on the platform at the “railroad station.” Dusty Springfield was one of the background singers. The street was a wonderland for adults. Someone said that Elton had invited 3,000 of his closest friends.
I met my wife Barbara at a private party in New York thrown by Claudia Mahola-Nagy. Claudia’s parents owned an art gallery or two. The first date with Barbara, I took her to a Kentucky Derby party tossed by Pat Harrington, who was with Patton in World War II. At some party, I shot the bull with a guy who did publicity for the Hadacol trains, which were coast-to-coast parties with entertainment.
So I knew a little bit about the “trains” that went coast-to-coast. One was country, another was MOR and I suppose there was one devoted to rock music. And they featured stars. Eddy Arnold, etc. I found some more information about the trains from Jim Ramsburg’s blog. According to Jim, the 1950’s trains were the brainchild of Louisiana State Senator Dudley LeBlanc to promote Hadacol (had a cold; it contained 12% alcohol). Radio stations in 31 states were bombarded with copy. Trains featured entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante, Burns & Allen and Lucile Ball. Supposedly, LeBlanc sold the company and left hot checks around the nation. Check out Jim’s blog for more details. His book “Network Radio Ratings” is a great research tool as well as interesting reading. Invaluable! Checkout Amazon.com.
Just FYI, Slim Willet, better known for “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,” also wrote and sung a song called “Hadacol Boogie.” There’s probably a book potential in Hadacol.
The guy I met at a New York party detailed how after performing for an audience, the troupe would pour Hadacol in a tub and party all night and dip their cups. Sidebit: Chuck Blore hired the LeBlanc guy to do spots promoting his Formula 63 (discussed in detail in “This Business of Radio Programming” by Claude & Barbara Hall; Amazon.com).
Don Whittemore, the ice cream king of Los Angeles: “Claude, we do appreciate your work. Can you feel the love? Thanks for mentioning me in such November company. Keeping history relevant is work and this student of yours occasionally marvels at your weekly input/output. Just for the record and my own joke … you wrote a Commentary and didn’t mention George Wilson. You surprised some people who couldn’t get George to play their push record. Irony is everywhere. Even after all these decades.”
And I’m also writing a few hundred words a day on my western novel “La Tigre.” This particular La Tigre is young and beautiful and, yes, a bandit. The villain in my western “Huecos” was also a beautiful Mexican bandit, but not too young. Just FYI, there actually was a Mexican bandit named La Tigre roaming around El Paso in the early 1900s. Vicious lady! Nailed the hides of former boyfriends on the door of a barn down near the Rio Grande. Woody Roberts says that my “La Tigre” is off to a real good start. I feel good about it. I already have 26,000 words written. About George Wilson: Lee Baby Simms told George that he loved him. And George told him, “So does Claude Hall.” And that’s true. I was very close to Bill Stewart and George Wilson. Another FYI: Don used to deliver free ice cream to the late Jack Roberts. What a very noble thing to do. My opinion of Don Whittemore was always high. Great on you, Don! I go back a mile and a half with Don Whittemore. Always loved him and he and Jan Basham were among my favorite people in the old days. He has one problem: He makes phenomenal ice cream. But I’ve gotten old and now have a diabetes problem. None of that stuff! But Jack Roberts loved it!
Rich Robbin, referring to my wishes for everyone to have a good Thanksgiving: “We're ALL blessed to still be on this side of the ground, amigo! You can quote me: ‘retirement is the greatest thing on earth that doesn't involve actual physical contact with another human being’. Still doin' the website, www.richbroradio.com ... (50s/60s and an occasional tasty 70s tune w/a bunch of old jingles and other stuff thrown in) … but the site's a hobby; finally having radio in the rearview is a huge relief, especially considering what the business has become ... only good thing left from the old days is all the great radio pros still with us! Bless ya, my friend … have a great Thanksgiving week!”
I hope the ladies Alice Harnell and Lyn Stanley are up and doing the Twist again by now. Go get ‘em, ladies! By the way, I remember when there was this storefront not far from the Billboard office … and then there was a neon sign and a doorman who stuck out his hand for a $20 just because of this fellow named Cubby.
Bob Levinson, once Bill Gavin’s PR expert: “Hi, Claude … wishing you and yours a Happy, Happy Thanksgiving … Just received and can't resist sharing this lift from an advance review by BOOKLIST of my thirteenth crime novel, ‘The Evil Deeds We Do’, which has a January 21, 2015 pub date. Most of it is set in the music business and filled with characters easily recognizable by others who were around when it was more music than business: ‘The writing is crisp and hard-boiled, reminiscent of the golden age of Chandler and Hammett but with a modern twist. Levinson’s first career was in the music business, lending much credence to the story. Elmore Leonard and Lawrence Block fans will find plenty to like in Levinson’s latest’. Words to smile about ... best.”
Great on you, Bob! You do have a deft touch when it comes to writing. I still remember one phenomenal scene from one of your novels. Really happy for you!
Frank Boyle: “Hey, Claude: You still are a treasure with words. Here's my first exposure to another treasure -- Don Imus. Bob Eastman sent me to KXOA, Sacramento, to persuade the GM, Jack Thayer, to fire Blair and hire the Eastman Tigers. Jack let me buy dinner. At the end of Dinner and my impassioned sales pitch -- Jack said confidentially that KXOA was being sold. That the new owner should make that National Rep decision. Jack said, ‘Please tell your boss you couldn't get the order. Station sale preempted you. But so this trip shouldn't be a total loss -- tomorrow AM when you leave your motel and drive that boring ride to San Francisco -- turn on KXOA. You'll hear my new morning man -- Don Imus. I got him from a Modesto station. I think he'll become one of America's most popular DJ's. You travel the country, Frank, call me after Bob beats you up in NYC -- tell me what you think’. Next morning I turned on KXOA -- this gravelly voice Morning Man said, ‘I married a girl who had the map of the United States painted all over her body, by the time I got to Phoenix -- I had to marry her!’ and segued into ‘The Wichita Lineman’. Don made me laugh all the way to San Francisco. I later called Jack to tell him I agreed with his prediction. When Jack brought Don to Cleveland, we, Eastman repped WIXY --the Mighty 1260 -- owned by Norm Wain, Bob Weiss and Joe Zingale. In Cleveland. WIXY was a big Top 40 Rating Winner. The three of them came to New York in the 3rd month after Don got to Cleveland. They demanded we play tapes of Imus to New York, Detroit, Chicago key timebuyers to prove that Imus was Potty Mouth -- early Shock Jock -- would turn off Advertisers. After hearing the Imus tapes and laughing our asses off. We said, ‘No, that's a bad idea ... all we'd be doing would be to giving this Don Imus identity and competitive recognition’. We couldn't admit this exposure would actually sell Imus -- not be a negative. But The Client is always right. In next three days we played Imus tapes to 45 of NYC biggest Time Buyers. Result: Buyers loved him -- Imus was a ‘Made Man’ -- we helped expose Imus' humor to the biggest Buyers in the business. We confirmed his strength by our playing Defense. Jack Thayer called me to thank us for the free Imus advertising. Agreed he'd have probably done same thing -- if situations were reversed. Later Eastman was privileged to rep WNBC when Don Imus was its Morning Man. Proving The Good Lord works in strange and wondrous ways.”
Bob Sherwood: “Dear Kindly Ol’ Uncle Claude: You should advise your friend/associate Burt Sherwood (no relation) that anyone who trifles with Don Imus does so at his (or her) own peril. Besides being an interviewer in the same league as Tim Russert and among the brightest and funniest people ever to crack a mike, Don is reportedly right up there in the ‘Never Forget, Never Forgive’ stratosphere with David Geffen. A hazardous place, indeed. On a happier note … besides his ‘radio reporting’, Mel Phillips was also among the great contemporary radio Program Directors. The WRKO he and associates put on the air that dominated Boston was certainly not his only one but it’s the one that sits comfortably with a small number of the All-Time, All-Timers.”
And then this note from Bob Sherwood to David Krebs and Rupert Perry, with copy to me: “David -- and Hi, Rupert! -- I'm convinced that the last two or three decades of compressed, portable music have dramatically 'lowered the bar' for consumer expectation of quality audio. At the same time, while the film/TV/video industry and the consumer electronics companies were combining to extol the obvious value of enhanced visual reproduction and therefore increasing viewer expectation, the record companies and CE companies and their industry groups were engaged in a relentless series of losing format battles and pissing contests over copy-protection and recordability that genuinely confused and irritated two generations of music buyers who were already used to free exchange of 'information'. Add the fact that the industry did nothing to alter the inevitable conclusion that the consumer reached when the enormous success of iPod included selling tracks at $ .99, conclusively establishing that music had been over-priced and it became a severely de-valued commodity. Finally, there's the overwhelming fact that two generations of the most passionate music buyers happily, albeit unknowingly, made a trade-off of the wonder of quality audio for portability, convenience and hipness/coolness. Not to mention only having to purchase a single song that they liked rather than the total artist work. And Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine's ‘Beats’ earphones are only going to capture the 'street' crowd and those who posture and treasure Rap and hip-hop-dominated overwhelmingly Bass driven audio. The high-def, high-end audio market is worth chasing but only if one understands that it will never be more than a tightly-focused, economically-centric niche market. That's my view.”
Chuck Chellman, once a record promotion person, “The night before Thanksgiving … listening to WSM. I heard Ernest Tubb’s ‘Thanks a Lot’ ... It brought a wonderful memory. I took my dad backstage to the Opry and introduced him to Ernest Tubb. Ernest gave my dad a big handshake and told him, ‘Mr. Chellman, you’ve got a good boy here. Don’t worry about him because we’ll take good care of him. Mr. Chellman, you’re welcome here at any time. You’re among friends’. What a wonderful man was Ernest. We all have Thanksgiving memories. This is just one of mine.”
Dick Summer: “And happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Claude. Your blog is, if possible, even better than your Billboard column. I was interested to see the note from Don Imus. I was overnights when he was at WNBC the first time. He was late lots of mornings, and some mornings didn't make it in at all. We were not on friendly terms. He of course was fighting demons at the time, and I was just tired. When we were all fired in the ‘Pittman Purge’ Don got a syndicated TV show. He invited me to guest on it to promo my Hypnotherapy practice. (I was a hypnotherapist for about 18 years.) I think it was Don's way of making up for the stuff at WNBC. I salute anybody who can defeat the demons, and Don not only did that, but he came back to be the biggest force in AM radio. Don's a MAN.”
Danny Davis: “Phone rings Sunday PM! Late! My friend, The Gramcracker, on the unit to wish me well, seeking answers for Monday’s meet wit' da' Neuro-surgeon! In the terms of a 'longtime' gamblin' hoss player, the 'field' races some pretty fair 'runners'! I always thought I was equal to any one in the 'musical promotion field', until you evaluate length, passion, work ethic, and general success of one 'still goin' promo gent! Don Graham!! The CLASS of The Field! Birthdays be damned, Grammer, 'You've always been my 'hoss', even IF you never win a race!' (. . .and if Neil, over at the Grammy Awards, had any 'real smarts', you'd be staring, at least, at an 'honorarium'!) Thanx for all the years of friendship, DG ... and the lessons I 'stole' from you!”
Be nice, in my opinion, if they gave a Grammy for promotion. It’s skill as well as a body of knowledge. And Don Graham has always been at the very top. Great on you, Don Graham!
Donald Sundeen: “To Morris Diamond -- Thanks for your comments on Peggy Lee, in my opinion ‘Fever’ was one of the sexiest tunes ever played on the radio. I, too, regret missing Don Graham's birthday party, especially since I've learned that Dandy Don's incredible ice cream was served.”
Frank Jolley: “Claude, Happy Thanksgiving to you and the whole family. Thanks for your commentary it unblocks my MIND, if I ever had one in the first place. I took note of what was written about Danny Neavereth recently and as for one who worked with him at WKBW I can attest to the fact he is a Prince of a Gentleman. He personally talked me back toward sanity when I was fired at WKBW in January 68. PS: I just read the next day’s column regarding Jimmy Rabbitt’s comment and his advice was sound, he said, ‘It'll all come out in the wash’. I've asked Jimmy to join www.rockhouse.mobi on Friday nights, and here it is nearly fifty years later. We'll more than likely sound like a Dallas radio station of the sixties.”
You get you and Jimmy on a CD in a show like that, I would love to have a copy. CD or email. Just FYI, Jimmy and Frank competed against each other back in Dallas at one point. A long, long time ago!
Mel Phillips: “Just a note for you to pass along (if you would, Sir). My new URL is my original one, http://melphillipsradioviews.com and Monday's story about Pandora will surprise many of the millions of Pandora junkies. The piece is titled 'Is Pandora Playing Favorites?' Thanks.”
Lest We Forget: Frank Mancini, Bill Gavin, William B. Williams, George Martin (who became an outstanding sports personality after his music director/DJ days), Dean Tyler, Bob Van Camp, Eddie Hill, Slim Willet, Al Dexter, Larry Shaw, Dan Daniels, Ruth Meyer, Don Burden.