Today at 9:01 AM
December 29, 2014
Claude’s Commentary No. 44
By Claude Hall
Profound as a Thousand Nights.......
Who among We Mesquiteers will be the first to fall?
I do not wish to know.
I do know this ... Unus pro omnibus. Omnes pro uno.
That's enough to know right now.
This bit of tongue-in-cheek prose by Lee Baby Simms is apt. Especially after viewing “Julius Caesar” featuring Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud (1953). Good film. “Hamlet,” too, was viewed over the weekend here by Barbara Hall and Darryl Hall. Again. Not me; I had a basketball game to watch. The somewhat cynical John A. Hall, Esq., remarked Friday: “Isn’t it a pity Shakespeare didn’t write more-original stuff?”
The Mesquiteers refers to a Saturday afternoon western serial featuring a very young John Wayne, and, I believe, Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune. Yes, there were also movies made in the series with different actors here and there. But the reference here to the Three Mesquiteers regards Lee Baby Simms, Woody Roberts, Bob Weisbuch, and myself. Sorta fits. Translation of “wak”: with a kiss.
While we’re into poetry, here’s a video of Andy Hall, adjunct professor at UNLV, performing one of his poems. He won $50 in competition in Las Vegas this past week or so (and donated it back).
Robert E. Richer: “Hi, Claude … Lee Baby Simms has it right. Yours is a column of history, reminiscences and the passion of radio. I cannot understand how anyone who has a history in this business can say anything derogatory about your musings. What’s that old line: ‘If you remember the ‘60s, you weren’t there?’ I came up on the management side and focused on the Beautiful Music part of the business, with Jim Schulke as my partner. But that didn’t stop me from reading Vox Jox regularly. Many of the stations that keep popping up in Claude’s Commentary were repped by me when I was a salesman. And speaking of deaf, am I wrong, or isn’t Don Imus also hearing impaired? All good wishes for a Merry Christmas, and may 2015 be the best year ever.”
Nancy (Nancy Plum) Kirkwood: “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the bluegrass state! I enjoy reading your commentaries! I never dreamed my little radio career that began in January 1970 at WSDM, Chicago, would ever last this long! I do a live show 3-6p on Passport Radio 1490 in Frankfort KY – yes, we have a smart phone app & we stream 24/7 online at Passportradio1490.com I am also ‘Sunny Hurst’ on Star 103.7 7-9p -- it's really fun being a deejay again after all those years of news and traffic reports! It's always been all about the music with me. I visited the National Museum of Broadcasting in Chicago recently and they have a radio floor and a TV floor. Only three ladies pictures up on the wall among all the deejays which I found a bit disappointing. I thought for sure there should be more than that but hey I am not in charge there. Hope you have a great holiday season!”
Dan Neaverth: “Hi, Claude. Hope you and yours had a Merry Christmas ... Don Berns mentioned that he, too, wears hearing aids because he cranked the earphones way up. The late great Jack Armstrong used to have his soooo loud that when he took them off and set them on the console they would actually vibrate across the surface. For those of you who have hearing problems, have a hearing test and get a pair of the new digital ones. Don't, however, be like Berns and use those antique trumpet types. I thought he was just being Canadian when he kept saying eh? eh?”
Danny Davis: “When you gotta' guy thinx he's all shades of literary 'gold', and it fails to 'hit the Commentary classics', that's cause for massive 'pondering'! And pauses to question the vaunted Editor making such 'question marks'! I gotta' have another look at the MLK tale, and the Powerball statistic, that turned a Monday breakfast read into a Monday broken rant! … OR is we stuck in some kinda' po-litical co-reckness! I gotta' look again befoah I raise a ruckus!”
Bob Sherwood: “Hope you and the Lovely Barbara had a wonderful Holiday. I’ve been outraged for several days but not wanting to appear to be The Grinch I’ve been tamping it all down. Now that we’re past Christmas … here goes. I guess you and I and your close associates got out of direct involvement in the business just in time as it’s only when I learned of the passing of Joe Cocker that I discovered that he’s not been elected into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame! The Voice of Woodstock … the Voice of a Generation. A performer who put more gut-wrenching, flesh-tearing, soul-searing emotion into a song than more than 95% of the artists who ever set foot in front of a mike. He took total ownership of a Beatle’s song, fer hevuns sake! And he’s not in the R ‘n R Hall of Fame? OK. Let’s see who’s in there and who’s more Rock ‘n Roll. Bobby Womack, DJ Fontana, Spooner Oldham, Percy Sledge, Buddy Guy, Randy Newman. Worthy fellows all. But more R ‘n R than Joe Cocker?
I don’t think so! And then there’s Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys. I have no further comment so I’ll just wish you and yours a Happy New Years.”
Long ago, I felt that the Hall of Fame was too Atlantic Records oriented. Maybe I’m wrong. But I became turned off on the Hall at some point. It’s there. Big deal! But it’s not my rock museum. It’s not my Rock Hall of Fame. It’s just there. Something else. Merely a part of the whole. An apt view, Bob. Thank you.
Jay Lawrence: “Just a holiday wish to all, Marry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a wonderful, healthy new year. I look forward to your column each week. I read The names of those who have served, entertained communities all over his great country. Many I know personally, many I know by reputation. Please never let anyone discourage you. One naysayer in The thousands who look forward to hearing about US should never be discouraging. I remember managers reading me the complaints about my show. (PLENTY) They never seemed to mention the GOOD reviews. Let this be one of many mentions of the GOOD you do.”
Paul Cassidy: “Best moments with George Wilson were at Santa Anita. Gave him a wire to wire winner some 40 + years ago. It paid over $20 bucks and he bet it heavily. Kept calling me to thank me. Nice person to be around. Happiness to you and all your readers.”
Denny Foster: “Please add my home email address to you weekly commentary mailings. Next year I will be retiring after 38 years in the biz. Thanks, and have a good holiday season.”
Jack Gale: “First of all, in your column a few days back, you listed some of the greatest deejays. I noticed my name was in there. As Bobby Vee once said after you reviewed my book with a positive response, ‘Claude Hall must have bad eyes’. Thanks so much for including me. I guess my age warrants it. I just celebrated my 90th birthday. It's tough going on without Lovey after 67 years, but we keep keepin' on. Bill Hennes called me about two months ago to tell me about a sensational female singer he heard. I heard her and signed her. I just finished her album in Nashville for Playback Records. It will be released world-wide in February. Now all I need is a promotion staff like: Morris Diamond, Tony Richland, Augie Blume, Danny Davis, Juggy Gayles, etc., and I'll be on my way. Happy Holidays to you and Barbara. Keep the column going. We all love it. Like you always say … ‘Good on you, Claude’. Your friend.”
Scott St. James: “While we're all getting ready for Christmas and the New Year, I want to thank you for your Monday treats (your column) and I'm very much looking forward to reading a lot more of these in 2015. At this end? Like most actors who aren't stars, it's been slow on-camera wise, but I've been busy doing occasional voice work. Mostly documentary voice stuff. Just finished a 90-page narration that'll (eventually) show up somewhere. Radio? I thank my lucky stars that I had the opportunity for many years to do what I did when I did it. Meanwhile, I hope that you (both) and your family have the best Merry Christmas EVER and that 2015 will be a great year for all of us. ONWARD!”
Gary Smith: “Claude, I enjoyed your last commentary (actually I enjoy them all), particularly the mention of Frank Ward and his ability to blend music. I agree! I started listening to Frank when he was doing ‘Spotlight Serenade’ on WKBW in the early 50s. Then I worked with Frank at WWOL in Buffalo in '57 thru early '58. Frank was Guy King & I was Tab Smith. What a great time to be in radio! Back to Rochester in 1958 for most of the rest of my 50-year career. I have also enjoyed the mentions of the great promotion men like George Furness, Lucky Carle, Mickey Addy, Bob Kruger, Al Clark, et al. Wonderful gentlemen! Thanks for the great read each week, Claude, and best wishes for the holiday season.”
Chuck Chellman: “Can you believe his body was buried six months after his death in Oslo, Norway? I remember Casey Kasem well at WJW, Cleveland. Good, loveable guy. He bought a stereo set from me at Decca in Cleveland … cash money. This guy, in his later life, lived hell on earth, and hell after death. Frank, you were pumping out the hits at KYW, Johnny Holliday and jocks were pumping out the hits at WHK and Casey was doing well at WJW. We all need to pray for the spirit of Casey Kasem.”
Several others remarked about Casey Kasem. I think I’ll try to remember him as he once was. I liked his laughter.
Morris Diamond: “Good morning, Claude: Hope you and Barbara are having a Happy & Healthy Christmas holiday and extend it for a year so we can do this again next December 2015. I cherish Don Sundeen's mentioning the passing of Albeth Paris Grass and the playing of The Paris Sisters' big hit ‘I Love How You Love Me’ at his hops. I forwarded this week's Claude Hall letter to Albeth's husband, Clancy Grass, who, way back when, was a professional Canadian hockey player when he first met Albeth and got himself locked into our music biz. Among his many tasks was producing a series of Tom Jones and Paul Anka musicals for Canadian TV, producing films and TV, working with BJ Thomas on projects, and many more. My 50 years of friendship with both of them included a lot of tennis, European travel and so much more to have as cherished memories. Woody Roberts' mentioning of Epic Records and the staff from 1982 brought back some names from even many years before, such as John Hammond and Bill Bennett. I feel it is worth mentioning the first president of Epic is a gent from Rochester, NY, who was Columbia Records' sales manager that was upped to running Epic Records.
Len is retired and lives not too far from me in Rancho Mirage. His wife, Flo Levy, was WINS – New York City – assistant to program director, Mel Leeds, and had strong influence in the selection of their DJ's play list. I'm happy to see that our friendship is still a priority and Alice and I see them quite often. Charlie Barrett … the pictures you took of Danny and I at the Lunch Bunch Xmas party were OK. Sorry about the sun glasses. I left my regular glasses in the car and had no idea that I was wearing sun glasses when you snapped the foto. You would have been better off coming back to my table where we had, among others, actors Hal Linden and Jed Allan and Clancy Grass and my lady, Alice Harnell. But I love you anyway and thanks for the effort. The entertainers, all from our lunch bunch, were the top attractions in the Palm Springs area. Our weekly lunches, likewise, are a show unto themselves.”
Gary Allyn: “Claudius, Well, it's the end of another year. Time for reflection. As I look back over the recent months at the loss of many of our contemporaries, I think how special they were. How special those times from which they all emanated were. When one compares it today's World, it becomes clear how truly wonderful the World of our youth was. Perhaps all generations feel this way, but the World of Radio and Records has certainly changed by comparison. Radio is supposed to reflect the community it serves. This observer sees an overall ‘homogination’ of our society in general. Those in my generation grew up in an era of individualistic difference. You could immediately tell the difference between a Ford and a Chevrolet, a Cadillac from a Lincoln. Today, from just a short distance, it's hard to discern a Toyota or Hyundai from a Buick or a Lincoln. There was a time when ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ workmanship was #1 and goods made in Japan were regarded as ‘cheap’ and found mostly in ‘Five and Dime’ stores. Few even knew where Korea was. When I grew up, I knew what my house looked like, it was different from all the rest. Our streets all had custom-individual looking houses. The suburbs of today all have that ‘cookie cutout’ sameness. In our World of entertainment, you knew right away the voice differential of Frank Sinatra and Mel Torme, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn, Doris Day and Patti Page, Billy Eckstine and Louis Armstrong. Rock era's Elvis and Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry and Little Richard -- all were instantaneously recognizable. Today, my ears have difficulty distinguishing between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, Christina Aguilara and Gwen Stefani, or any male rapper for that matter. The same can be said of the top radio personalities of the past. Right away you knew who Dick Biondi, ‘Wolfman’ Jack, The Real Don Steele, Casey Kasem, Murray The K and Lee Babi Simms were. Today, it's the banality of voice trackers. We've gone from Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Paul Harvey and Top 40 newsmen Lee Marshall, J. Paul Huddleston, and Richard Mock, to the shrill ‘Talking Heads’ of today. It was all individually communicated without the need of dozens of cell phone companies. The need was filled with only monopolistic Ma Bell and a typewriter. I miss those ‘signature’ record labels, too. A DJ knew quickly the look of a Capitol, Columbia, Motown or RCA record label. Currently there's no distinction on a ‘Download’. Somehow creative individualism has faded into a vast sea of mediocrity. Now, before you accuse me of living in the past, or being a bit old fashioned, let me say that today's ‘Brave New World’ has it's good points ... just a bit misguided in it's usage, or by the people who avail themselves of it. In conclusion, Claude, I thank God that you give us a platform to hang our collective memories on. The irony is that we need today's technology of the internet to remember and reconnect with our simpler past, thanks to you. So I wish you, Barbara and all the Halls be decked with good health and a very Happy New Year. May 2015 be filled with the innovative individualism which helped make Radio's 2nd Golden Era great, including all of those=past and present-who made it an era to remember. I lift my cup o' kindness to you one and all.”
Scotty Brink: “Hey, Claude, I wanted to wish you and Ms. Barbara a joyful Yuletide and a fabulous 2015. I hope we'll have an opportunity to see you in the coming year. In case you didn't already know ... Bobby and Karen have made the trip to Tucson for the winter. They chose to fly this time rather than do the motorcade, as in past years. I'm grateful that they are both up for it and can be where they want to be, and out of the frozen north. You also should know how much I enjoy your commentary. You always were, and still are, the best writer in the radio/music biz. It's great reading tidbits from old friends and acquaintances.”
Dave Anthony: “Note to Larry Irons: I saw your blurb about the Wolfman Jack song, ‘There’s an Old Man in Our Town’. I actually have a copy in mint condition on my Amazon page (which I’m NOT plugging). After raiding the 45 rpm libraries of each of the stations I worked at in the 70s and 80s when they moved to tape (then CD and digital), I find myself with over 20,000 singles that I’ve barely started to go through. Both Wolfman Jack singles – the other was ‘I Ain’t Never Seen a White Man’ – appeared when I dug through the box starting with ‘W’. CLAUDE: You can post the link only if you want to, or you could pass along my e-mail address below to Larry. Again, please forgive. Your newsletter is blissfully noncommercial and I’m not trying to change that. Just let Larry know I have a copy of the 45 he’s looking for.”
Mel Phillips: “Happy New Year. I've gone to a weekly Mel Phillips Radio Views but hope you will continue to read it day-by-day. While I've had some technical glitches, the first 3 days of my weekly post are complete with video links. I hope to have the rest of the week completed by tomorrow. In the meantime, thank you for reading my posts. I will continue to post daily updates on Twitter and Facebook. My URL remains: http://melphillipsradioviews.com
'Mel Phillips Radio Views - The Book' continues to be on sale at Amazon with a sample of the book available for an advance taste. You can access the book at”
Also heard from Chuck Blore, Timmy Manocheo, and Ron Jacobs and a few others. My thanks. Also received a Christmas Card featuring a nice painting by Bobby Vee. Going to scan it in a day or two. And Karen Velline invited Barbara and I down to Tucson … but I don’t think I can do the trip. Sad on me. Don Whittemore and Don Graham, you’re awesome! And Chuck Buell sent me an ecard that was cuter than old billy heck. I love you guys!
Don Barrett had an item out of the NY Times that six stations in Chicago featured Christmas music over the holidays. Jingle, jingle.
Lest We Forget: WIXY, Cleveland, appreciation day with Buffy St. Marie and Chuck Dunaway in teeshirt at right. Unknown DJ at left.