December 22, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 43
By Claude Hall
In the mid-to-late 60s, Cash Box was the No. 1 music trade magazine. The owner/editor was George Albert, a friendly fellow with many years in the music business. He once told me of the days when he’d travel from town to town for RCA, rent a storefront, set up his phonograph and some benches, and play records and sell them on the spot before loading up the remaining records and heading on down the road. Billboard had just lost its staff shortly before I joined the magazine. I met a couple of them. Bob Austin, I remember. They’d started a magazine called Music Business. They seemed like pretty nice guys.
The first story I wrote for Billboard was about a gumball machine. But we soon moved all of that –and the traditional carney business -- into a new magazine located in Nashville called Amusement Business. Billboard began to concentrate on records and, naturally, radio. We experimented from time to time. I recall interviewing the man who coined the term “You Can Trust Your Car to the Man Who Wears the Star.” And, for a while, I hung out in the recording studios. All of this “in addition to” my radio section and covering several labels, including Bell, for news.
Once, Felix Pappalardi invited me to a studio to hear a group, can’t remember who now, and who was there but John Zacherle. He’s was between jobs at the time, I think, but more or less famous. He’d grown to notoriety with intercuts in late-night movies on TV. For instance, Tarzan would be swinging from tree to tree and suddenly it would be Zacherle swinging on that grape vine. Progressive rock radio was made for Zacherle in those days and he was soon on FM radio.
He asked me if I’d like a map of Transylvania. I said, “Sure.” I was a fantasy buff. I’d frame it and put it on my wall. He picked up a stenobook and quickly drew a blob in pencil and handed it to me.
I said, “Thanks,” of course. And, no, I did not frame it.
Spider Harrison: “Happy Holidays to you. Just wanted to share some good news that came my way this month. On my way to Nashville for the station Christmas Party. The ceremony is in May.”
Spider will be inducted into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame May 2, 2015, at the 4th annual banquet at the Murfreesboro Embassy Suites. Also inducted will be Bill Barry, Lowell Blanchard, Bobby Denton, Jill Green, John McDonald, and Nat D. Williams. Previously announced Career Inductees include Keith Bilbrey, Spider Harrison, Jack Parnell, Al Voecks, Johnny Dark/Dude Walker (John Dougherty), John Young, and Stacy Mott.
Don Berns: “I, too, suffer hearing loss as a result of cranked earphones. But one of the first things I learned (most likely at WKBW) was that you can't hear your voice properly unless it is LOUD in the cans. In fact after I started listening loudly, I realized that there were many things I could do with mic technique that I had never realized. Over time I truly believe this increased knowledge helped my presentation on air. Like Dan Neaverth, I, too, wear hearing aids these days. The only time I ever turn them off is when I'm talking to him.”
Don Sundeen: “When I was on the road and working the St. Louis market in the late 70s KSHE was one of my favorite radio stations to hang with. Like her sister WMMS in Cleveland, KSHE rocked hard (think REO Speedwagon), and was one of the hippest stations in the nation. I worked and partied some with the P.D., Teddy Habeck, who had a real handle on his audience and the music that would play well in the market. He went on several records for me quite early and the power of KSHE showed up in the sales of the product. Obviously, the station had changed quite a bit by 1984 when the incident J.C.Corcoran writes about in this piece occurred. But, I think a lot of the old radio programmers and music directors will identify with the problem he faced or worse, (We’re Going Disco). Thanks to the great Scooter B. Seagraves for passing this on to me. I imagine my old promo bud and concert promoter, Greg Hagglund, now retired in the St. Louis burbs, will remember our good times there as well … or at least partially.”
It appears as if Don did not receive his Commentary (he got a copy from a friend). I don’t know why. If you do not receive this email each Monday, please let me know. Don’t know if I can solve the problem, but I’ll try.
Don Sundeen later: “Hi, Claude, once again for some reason, the Commentary didn’t show up in my email, luckily, good old Ken Dowe forwarded it on. Anyway, I wanted to comment on Morris Diamond’s message about the passing of Albeth Paris, and the remembrance of the great hit Phil cut with them, “I Love How You Love Me.” I was just a baby disc jockey then making minimum wage, but the saving grace was record hops. I could make as much in one night doing a hop for a buck a head as I took in a month after taxes. I remember one morning the old man looked into a paper bag on my dresser and found it full of dollar bills: ‘I hope you’re paying taxes on this’, he said, and I replied, ‘Taxes?’ Anyway back to the Paris sisters, although the kids loved to dance to the rock and roll, at a certain point you had to slow it down for romance. The magic words were: ‘This will be a ladies choice’, and as the strains of ‘I Love How You Love Me’ filled the room, the slow dancers would join together, limbs entwined and sometimes grinding together, especially if there were no chaparones. I think we’re really lucky to have Morris’ memories of the early days going back to the band boys and song pluggers, and hope he’ll continue to send them in. I also wanted to agree with Morris about the loss of Radio Jack Roberts this year. Very sick and bored at home, he was inspired by Don Graham to start a website for former radio and record folks that he called The Hollywood Hills. Starting with a handful of readers by the time of his passing the mail list approached 10,000.”
Bob Hamilton, Palm Springs: “May I take a moment to wish you and Barbara a very Happy Holiday! Thank you for always being the cool one who understands the value of talent! It is a real blessing! Again, my very best!”
Chuck Buell: “Here's something from Back in the Day I just wanted to share with you this Holiday Season just for fun! Hope you like it, and if you're inspired to post a favorable comment or send an email, that'd be cool, too!”
WLS Facebook Page - Buell Posting
Lee Baby Simms: “Good Day Claude Baby. et al. Dear Boy ... Dex Allen ("Once of radio") is a jerk! And once a jerk always a jerk. Pay no attention to him. First. He accuses you of mentioning the same few people every week in your Commentary. Why, this week alone I saw the names of at least 15 or 20 of our fellow Radio and Record people. Second. He takes it upon himself to tell you what you should and should not include in your weekly musings. The very nerve of that Son Of A Bitch! Who the hell does he think he is? I didn`t even know who he is until you told me. I`m almost sorry that you did, he just pisses me off. Third. He implies that You and your contributors are not worth reading. (We are boring and redundant.) And when you delete him (almost at his request) from your email list, he faults you again for doing so and for not sending him Commentary. I swear to God, Claude. Some people! You know? Enough already, about that asshole.
“I second Woody`s opinion about 'La Tigre'. He says, ‘From what I've read ‘La Tigre’ may be your best western novel yet’. I spent a few minutes with it the other day and was very intrigued. I look forward to its completion. Please send me a copy, if you will, as soon as the last i is dotted. One more thing, you most certainly have not fallen on low times. You have my highest admiration. And I`m not the only one by far. You are one of my few Heroes and you always will be! In closing, in the future, let us refer to (if we ever do again) Dex Allen as ... let us 'Mexicanize' his name. From this moment on he will be known as 'El Gilipollas' because that's what he is. It has been a wonderful December. Blessed Rain almost every day. I am beside myself with Joy. It`s getting late in the day ... lunch time. Let me go see about it. Please give my best to Ms. Barbara. I am and will remain, your devoted reader and your friend.”
Later, Lee Baby Simms: “Yesterday when I dropped you that little missive concerning ... The Cretin ... 'El Gilipollas'. I mentioned, off the top of my head, that I had seen the names of 15 or 20 of our fellows in Monday`s Commentary. I was way wrong! I just re-read it and stopped counting at 50. It seems that Everyone who was ever Anyone in our industry (in one way or another) takes part, at least part of the time, in our conversation. I was struck, once again, by the deep love and/or sincere affection that you are given by all. I feel the same way about you. 'Claude`s Commentary'. The Masthead upon which We Raise Our Flag. (Is that corny? It`s true.) You know, Claude, one day you will die, if you do so before I do, I will really, really be bummed out. A Bright White Sun
in the Sky today for the first time in some time. A chance to dry out a little bit before the next Rain. More Rain on the way. Hooray! There is a little Sushi restaurant a couple of miles away, down by the Bay. It`s quite good, I get tired of my own cooking so I think I`ll run over for lunch. Wish you were here, we would go together. We could talk about George … my other Hero. Wak.”
Ah, Lee! With you and Don Whittemore to defend me, what need have I of fear? This, I will tell you true: When George Wilson died, I asked of all the gods: How dare he? How could George do this to me? Sadly, his death was more about me than about him. There are some people it is difficult to do without.
Erie Hopseker: “Please let me wish you and Barbara the best of the Holiday Season. I was in sort of a holiday funk, until I saw your tome from the One And Only Original Shane. Along with some of his old cronies, I have been searching to make contact with him for some time. He has old friends who love him, and would like to connect. He hired me under the name Ernie Roberts at KUDI where my old college buddy Joe Fiala was working. Joe and I both went to see Uncle Sam, and after all that, he had resurfaced at KGA, where Joe went to work for him. I went out to the hinterlands to wait for an opening, and the whole thing blew up before it opened. A few years ago, at the urging of Joe, Derek Shannon, and Randy Pugsley, I attempted to make contact. The guy who runs the blog in Buffalo knew where he was, but refused much cooperation. I was too late for the 'KBW reunion a few years ago, and the Entercom people called him Ron Shane, so obviously they didn't have a clue. I will say, the Shane character was fabulous, and he knew how to work it. He was a terribly intense guy, who was absolutely tireless and innately knew how to seize the moment. He danced the line as well as anybody I ever knew. That can make or break you, and he won a lot of the time. So, if you can get me in touch with him, I would appreciate it. The three of us left coasters are getting old, and The One And Original is on our bucket list.”
I sent Ernie’s note to Shane and got this back. Shane Gibson: “It's amazing who reads Commentary.”
Woody Roberts to the Three Mesquiteers: “Lee, finally:
Seems like yesterday ... in the beginning ... still clean shaven, inspired and hungry, still a trio ...
Here's the entire first album Epic Records ... thanks to legendary producer John Hammond (he's the reason I signed on to the project in '82, a year before the album release) A&R Gregg Geller, record promotion man Bill Bennett, and particularly Epic's promotion chief Al DeMarino where ever he may be. His first is my favorite because it's lean and mean and unaffected, then he started adding instruments and thickening his band's sound letting him lay back, not have play rhythm and fills.”
Larry Irons: “Dear Claude, I am loving all the stories about when radio/record promotion was so much fun. The ‘pig in the Porsche’ story … I am still laughing! I wanted to also say that after you mentioned my new book and your son Andy wrote those really nice things about it, something happened. The hits to my website increased DRAMATICALLY, and I passed the 100 books sold threshold! Now it could’ve just been a coincidence, but I don’t believe in coincidences. So may I say a HUGE thank you for the mention! Also, as a collector of hard-to-find songs, I’ve been looking for a copy (vinyl, mp3 or any other format) of a Wolfman Jack song, I think the title is ‘There’s an Old Man in Our Town’. If anyone knows where a copy of this could be purchased I’d be very grateful. Merry Christmas to all and a happy, healthy and joyous new year!”
Dr. Demento will have a copy. Maybe more than one. But I don’t know if he ever sells any.
Mel Phillips: “Chanukah and Christmas are a special time of the year for just about all of us. Whichever holiday you celebrate, enjoy it with family and friends. Even if you don't celebrate anything save the end of another hectic year of living and look forward to another page in your life, I hope you can celebrate that. I watched what I thought was a very pleasant, well-done Christmas special - The Michael Buble Christmas Special which featured the quirky Canadian singer who was enjoyable. Buble had some great guests, including a rising star (Ariana Grande) and a classic one (Barbra Streisand.) The Rockettes added an appropriate measure of good cheer, especially since the show was taped at Radio City Music Hall. Oh, and there was another less appropriate guest - Miss Piggy. who was part of the Jim Henson cast of Muppet characters.
“Henson gave us Miss Piggy in 1974 which would make the character 40 years old. Someone who was 5 years old when the pig with lipstick debuted - using 5 as an age when kids start remembering, would be 45 and those older than 5 could be 50 and older or too old to matter demographically. So what is Miss Piggy doing on a Michael Buble special? Buble, 39, didn't become known outside Canada until sometime after 2000. His popularity has grown over the last decade. My guess is that not too many viewers watched the Buble special just to see Miss Piggy... Happy Holidays.”
Great on you, Mel… and Very Great on You, Nancy and Robert Richer!
Jim Ramsburg: “Friends, the holiday season is the time for traditions. It was true during Network Radio's Golden Age when favorite Christmas broadcasts were repeated year after year. And we're continuing the tradition at www.jimramsburg.com by repeating a few classic Christmas shows this week only at our post Christmas Stars. We've also added a two new treats for your yuletide listening. We hope you enjoy these shows and the stories behind them. Merry Christmas!”
Robert S. Levinson sent me his new book “The Evil Deeds We Do.” Autographed. Which means it’s a collector’s item. A special treasure for me. I’m thankful. Bob, just FYI, wrote the speech that George Wilson presented at a Bill Gavin conference. George always thought it was the best speech he’d ever heard, read, or presented. Pity that no copy presently exists. Thank you for the book, Bob. Best speech I ever heard George deliver was quickly written by Mardi Neirbass or Rochelle Staab. On a scrap of paper. George was one of five radio presidents delivering talks at a Chicago NAB convention. More than 1,300 men and women in the audience. The introducer mentioned that George rose from the programming ranks and would usually be found wearing blue jeans and sandals and it was unusual to find him today wearing a suit and tie. George leaned on the podium and casually announced, “Yeah, but I’m not wearing any shorts” and the house erupted. From there on, he had everyone in the audience in his palm.
Danny Davis: “The Sage of Claudius! Thursday came and went with the 'lunch bunch' and 'a grand time' had by all! A PARTY in all the entertainment senses! A select 'many' of the 'song-men' doing their thing for the crowd! Last notes rang out with ‘Lovin' Feelin’! A classic, y'all agree! Tops the copyrights for performance, play and sales receipts every year! (If only Phil Spector gets those figures from the warden!) Brings up my first impression, about what Phil immediately gave me to carry it, where to take it, how he utilized 'the wall of sound', how much of himself, and his dream of perfection was in that 'piece of wax! The 'bossman' (genius that he was/probably still is) points me to Hartford, wants Bertha Porter, at WDRC, to hear it! I go! I do! Hand it to Ms. Porter with a 'jewelers grin'! Can't wait for her verdict! And traveled back to retell a tale that, quite probably, impacted this 'promo guy' and the legendary loopyness of Phil, for evermore! Bertha, who was also legendary, says to me and all around, ‘Why'd You bring me this? It's nothing but a bunch of noise!’ Please remember: ‘YOU'VE LOST THAT LOVIN' ‘EELIN’! (I wonder if the warden has the 'gidarum' to bring that title up when Visitors Day comes 'round? (One from the up-comin' book, Claude!)”
Great story, Danny!
Charlie Barrett: “Hope you are well. I took these fotos today at ‘the biz lunch bunch’ holiday party near Palm Springs (actually held at Palm Desert's Desert Falls Country Club) ... here is renowned music man Mr. Danny Davis and his lovely wife Marie Davis. Also, see another foto attached of Danny with our friend, Mo Diamond enjoying the event, also attended by actors Hal Liden and Jed Allen, etc. Feel free to place in your column if you would like. Have a wonderful HOLIDAY.”