Today at 3:25 PM
January 19, 2015
Claude’s Commentary No. 47
By Claude Hall
I’ve been trying to convince someone to take over this media “watering hole” for radio and music. The question came up: How much longer I can personally continue? And the answer is that I don’t know. A damned good friend of mine – George Wilson – left radio for good at about 84. I’m 82 now. I don’t feel like going anywhere special, though … not at the moment. However, a whole bunch of things that I used to do, I can’t do anymore. I just tried to lift a five-pound dumbbell with my right hand and couldn’t get it higher than my shoulder. My left hand is still kosher. My feet have gone south. Back hurts. Gut. Anyway, I’ve sent my mailing list to this person. They think maybe in April. Guess I can hang on that long. This person would be so great. Better than me, I assure you. Would you believe this: This person attended the infamous “Booze, Broads and Bribes” convention in Miami Beach! A kid running up and down the halls with the greatest people in music and in radio. My plan is for them to take over the blog, so to speak, and maybe I would help as much as I could … maybe a comment now and then.
Paul Harvey was a rare and wonderful gift to radio. How many of us, once tuned in, had to stay for “Page Two?” Don Sundeen and Ken Dowe provided this dialogue below.
Don Sundeen: “With all the anecdotes last week, I was responding to a long time friend and talking about meeting Paul Harvey, and creating for him an intro to Gordon. Paul's commentary is a brilliant non-partisan statement on the empirical evidence of history's states and the decline of most ....
Ken Dowe: “Ain't it so. I met Paul Harvey one night in Oklahoma at a cocktail party. He approached me ... by name ... and introduced himself. (Ha!ha!) I told him I certainly knew him. His question to me was, ‘You are Gordon McLendon's Executive VP, are you not?’ I confirmed, ‘Yes, sir’. He said to me: ‘You know, of course, that Mr. McLendon is a genius with regard to strategic metals. I've read his book. Nobody understands hard assets as well’. I gave my standard response, which was that Mr. McLendon was a genius about nearly everything. I said that having been in his office with him many times when he was in discussions with his sources in Switzerland, that he was well over my head on that subject. And, that he was indeed extremely well informed.
“Paul asked if I thought Gordon would speak with him about strategic metals. I assured him that that was a certainty: ‘I am going back to Dallas in the morning. Just give me 24 hours’. The next day I walked into Gordon's office, as one of only five people he allowed in without an appointment. His dad, the comptroller, his secretary/assistant, the corporate secretary, and I ... were pre-vetted for a 24/7 pass. Everyone else took a number. (Gordon had a bit of Howard Hughes about himself, as you will remember). I told him Paul Harvey wanted to speak with him, and why. He was his usual magnanimous self when interesting people wanted some time with him on interesting subjects. I walked across the office, opened the door, and spoke to his secretary: ‘Carolyn, Paul Harvey is going to telephone Gordon. Please put him through when he does. Gordon will take Mr. Harvey's call’. Nothing like a little more of the on-going melodrama in the Executive Offices of McLendon's radio, TV, oil, real estate, gold-silver, strategic metals, and movie empire. It was NEVER boring. And, naturally ... neither was Paul Harvey.”
Don Sundeen: “He was the real deal. One time I contacted his office to discuss him endorsing a product and spoke to his wife. The price was way high, over a million, but she and I had a lovely conversation. Always felt sorry for Junior, like the scions of many other families he just didn’t have his dad’s chops … few do.”
Ken Dowe: “This is the finest summation of America's possibilities for the future I have ever heard. It is a non-partisan opinion from the late Paul Harvey. My own life has been down this same road he suggests Americans must travel. It is a plan that WORKs. I was acquainted with Paul, and it was a great pleasure to know such a wonderful man.”
Don Sundeen: “Claude, quick story; I was in Ken Dowe’s office in the McLendon Theater building on the day in 1975 that the price of gold was allowed to fluctuate. Suddenly the door burst open, Gordon’s head popped in and he said, ‘Boys -- Buy Gold’, and he was gone. Ken looked at me and said, ‘When Gordon talks, we listen’."
Johnny Holliday: “Sal LiCata, who I'm sure you remember as heading up EMI America, Chrysllis, RCA, etc. … is in serious condition at a New Jersey Hospital after suffering a fall two weeks ago. I went to visit him yesterday and I am glad that I did. He suffered broken bones under his eyes, a head injury, nose injury and who knows when he will get out of the hospital. Perhaps some cards will cheer him up from those that knew Sal from his days in the business as well as worked with Sal. He and I go all he way back to High School in North Miami, Florida. He started out as a promotion man in Cleveland back in the early 60s … from there went on to Big Top in New York City, Chrysllis, RCA, EMI America, Sony Music Corp and was one of the most respected guys in the biz. He's had some health problems the past couple of years, but knowing Sal, he will bounce back. Drop him a note at The Valley Hospital, 223 North Van Dien Avenue, Ridgewood, New Jersey 07450. No phone calls at this time.”
Bob Sherwood: “Hi, Claude: In case you didn’t see the following … So, Claude, the Vox Jox-ious … my email item on the ‘so-called’ Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame’s idiotic exclusion of the recently departed Joe Cocker brought numerous responses from your many followers led by Les Garland and Paul Rappaport who also noted the exclusion of true rockers like Bad Company, Cheap Trick and Journey, amongst others. And Madonna’s in. OK, OK. She frequently captures the spirit of R ‘n R but not even in the same neighborhood as Bad Company. And when we think of Rock ‘n Roll we think of Elvis, Jerry Lee, Ray Charles, The Rolling Stones and … Abba! I don’t give a rat’s patootie about how many zillion records they sold worldwide … they’re in and Journey isn’t? What exactly was Neil Schoen playing that brought millions of R ‘n Rollers to their feet screaming approval over a couple of decades … a ukulele? And the ultimate idiocy and hypocrisy of the HoF selection committee is the exclusion of Chicago. Apparently because they’re a horn-driven, jazz-oriented band. Ever listened to Terry Kath play soul-searing, gut-wrenching guitar? Listened to the lyrics of their songs? If that’s not Rock ‘n Roll, I’m Brenda Lee. And if there’s ever been a harder-driving R ‘n R percussionist than Danny Seraphine, I must’ve missed it. Oh, and by the way, the purest, most innovative jazz artist of all time -- Miles Davis -- IS in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Chicago isn’t. Puh-leeze. They should tear the place down and replace it with something of value. Like an indoor parking garage.”
Mel Phillips, once a program director of note, has written a book titled “Mel Phillips Radio Views – The Book.” It’s actually, I believe, a printed collection of material from his website http://melphillipsradioviews.com and it’s full of facts, facts, facts from surveys and studies. In my opinion, this book belongs in every college library. There’s an enormous storehouse of communication material. Such as: “Pandora remains the king of internet music services but unless they lower their royalty rates they’ll bleed out and the party will be over.” I.e., Phillips provides insight with his facts. Social media and broadcast media are discussed. A very useful book for those in active media of any kind. My compliments. An intriguing, interesting book.
Michael C. Gwynne: “Damn ... Claude, this is a lotta fun reading about radio. The thrill of which changed my life back in 1961 when I was 18 spiraling out of control and voted by my high school pals as most likely NOT to see age 21! John R at WLAC changed all that when I caught his Nashville show from Detroit every night in 1959-60 and knew what I wanted to do with my life. Gotta thank Ron Jacobs who I would work with many times later in my life and who first sent me this missive some time ago, Claude. I read it all the time until it hit me today that I need to respond. So, my story. After repeating the ninth grade three times I at last had something to tell my worried counselor at school. When I said I was finally interested in something he asked what it was. I said Radio. He said that was good and handed me a book, ‘How to Fix Radios’. I said I didn't wanna fix them, I want to come out of the speakers as an announcer. He sent another worried note home to my parents. That was it for me. Three months later after hitchhiking to San Francisco I found myself working doing breaks and public service spots gratis at KPFA in Berkeley because it was a non-profit station! A wonderful woman named Jean Morgan who was PD there said she liked me and would pay me twenty dollars a day out of her own pocket and that I could sleep in studio B under the grand piano and shower at her house when necessary.
“I had the massive studio all to myself from midnight till dawn and decided then and there that I would make an audition tape of me doing Top 40 radio and send it all over the country until I got a job. I bought some albums and 45s on Market Street and knocked out a show. WNAT, Natchez, Mississippi, responded first and off I went. I lasted about three months because my tendency to play the then burgeoning Motown records got me in trouble with the Klan who ran me out of town. From Natchez to Mobile, just like the song says, I was hired by WKRG to do a CBS network afternoon music show which I loved until fate decreed that I be fired for something I didn't do but knew I needed to get back to California. Driving across the country in my new TR3 was an adventure in itself. Until I ran out of money. food and eventually gas for my car. I crash landed at KMAK in Fresno. After three or four major miracles, soon to be documented in my movie script, I could eat again. Dick Charles was manager at the time and Frank Terry was PD. He hired me on the spot for the All-Night Show after promising me an afternoon gig in the immediate future. That never happen. The then-unknown-to-the-larger-world Bill Drake who was at KMEN called to meet with me after hearing my show and wanted to hire me but he wanted less personality and more music. He even wanted me to use cue cards and brief blurbs but no ad-libs or personality because he wanted everybody to sound the same which is what happened to radio across the country as we know. He was convinced that this format was the wave of the future. Frank promised to keep me in the chain which consisted of KMAK, KMEN in San Bernardino and KPOI in Honolulu and he eventually made good on his promise but only after I was hired by KMBY in Monterey the next day.
“Sweet afternoon gig was interrupted less than a month later by a call from Tom Rounds of KPOI in Honolulu. He was assured by Frank Terry and someone named Ron Jacobs that they should fly me over and that I should work for them. But, it was another All-Night Show! Is this getting too long? I assure you there is a payoff coming. I made lots of radio firsts over on the Islands, including the Drumathon where I played drums with local bands and recorded music from the opening night of the marathon at eight PM on Tuesday until Saturday afternoon at three. Ninety-two hours. Breaking the standing Guinness record of 89 hours by three. Tiring of yet another All-Night House Party, I accepted an offer from legendary Sam Sanford, the PD at KHAI, a local MOR station housed in the magnificent basement of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach. I recall deadly MOR but also a flippant sweet young girl answering phones named Bette Midler. I lasted two years in Honolulu backed up by impersonating a big-voiced mainland DC newsman, whom I called Nathan P. Green at KUMU radio, owned and operated by an amazing soul named John Weiser. I was the voice of that station even after I left radio well into the '80s.
“It's 1966. Stints at KMBY once again. The All-Night gig was all they'd offer me as a sort of revenge for dumping them two years earlier. One night a call from Bill Doubleday from KDIA in Oakland/San Francisco with me accepting a gig that had me replacing the legendary ‘Jumpin' George Oxford on the morning show and finally returning full circle to my beloved Bay area where it all started. He renamed me Mike Sheppard. That lasted two years until my radio magic began to drain away and the haunt of wanting to be an actor led to me bartering with Bill to keep me in the Sonderling chain of KDIA, WDIA and getting me, yes another All-Night Show, at WWRL in New York where I could study acting with Stella Adler during the day. Very quickly I realized that wasn't working because once again I was in an academic setting. I knew I required the real world where I could learn and grow like I did in radio. So after a stint with Murray the K, to start up an FM station in Toronto, CHUM-FM in 1968, I decided to make the move. Hollywood, California, January 1969, visiting a friend, I eventually fell in with a group of movie people at The Farm and a kid named Spielberg with whom I did his first three TV shows and some voices for ‘Jaws’ tho I was supposed to play the Richard Dreyfuss part Steve assured me he would have loved it but alas, I was nobody and so was he. That would change as I began my second life as an actor which leads me to this statement. Isn't it time there was a movie about that magical era of radio as a medium for new music and unique radio personalities? I think it is the perfect time in this era of information overload and magic deprivation. That movie script has been written by me and at the moment has the working title of ‘Spin Drifter’. But they don't read anymore in Hollywood.
“I live in New York now and have lost all my Hollywood contacts but the new regime there just might be very interested in getting a green light on this thing. But I want to ask a favor of all my radio buddies out there. Would you read this screenplay if I sent it to you as a pdf file? If I send it flying out there it just may get to some powerful ears. Perhaps some young whipper-radio-snappers mulling and fretting in Studio vacuums could get enthused by those of us who want to share this era, now long gone, in radio entertainment with all these those have heard the stories but missed the journey? and perhaps even inspire those who have hands on the 'green light switch? It is registered with the WGA so I have no fear of plagiarizing or outright theft. Not my people! No, sir. I feel it needs to be read and seen and heard again not as mere echoes but as a faithfully reproduced era on the big screen. A time when invisible magicians created characters with their voices alone...heard thru tiny transistor units and inside cars filled who filled us with dreams of happiness, hope and a new groove to make us glad to be alive! Contact me thru Claude if you'd like to read my script and thanks for your time and thanks to Ron Jacobs and Tom Rounds (RIP) and all those who sailed with me over miles of dangerous water and managed to make it back on land only to miss the High Adventure.”
Ah, a touch of Lyn Stanley as I write. That sexy musky quality in her voice on “Change Partners.” Nice background while I try to write something on Joey. Just a short story. Coming along pretty well. More than three thousand words. But it’s so difficult to capture that lightning-quick, offbeat wit. Now listening to Lyn’s “Fever.” Don’t believe even Don Eliot’s magic razor could blend Lyn’s version with that of Peggy Lee. Arrangements may be too difficult to match together. Lovely listening, though. Especially Lyn’s spicy “That Old Black Magic.” Lyn Stanley, Tom Russell, Greg Brown, Johnny Cash … what a morning! But I’m glad I’m still able to write.
Hal (Judge Harrigan) Whitney: “Hi, Claude ... here's a copy of an email I sent out to a bunch of WPOP, Hartford alumni. We're trying to reach as many people as possible. If you could publicize this in your newsletter/blog it would be very appreciated. Please ask folks to respond to my email address: email@example.com
“This coming June 29, 2015, marks 40 years since the music died on WPOP. Lee Gordon and I have been thinking about a ‘reunion’ to celebrate that anniversary. If you were a WPOP jock, newsperson, engineer, salesperson, administrator, or you are a good friend of one of those folks, or if you were a friendly competitor back in the day (WDRC, WCCC, WHCN, WTIC, WRCH, etc.), we'd like you to attend. The event would actually be held on Saturday, June 27. No plan yet on where the event would take place. We'd like to get an idea first of how many would be attending. But definitely somewhere in the greater Hartford area. Please let us know ASAP if you think you'd be able to attend. Thanks!”
I’ve written a short story about Joey Reynolds. Not entirely accurate regarding facts, but the heart is there, I think. If you’d like to read it, I’m willing to send you a Microsoft Word copy. My compliments.
“Delilah Sings Sarah+1” is a very nice, pleasant CD that pays tribute to Sarah Vaughn. Four tunes. All lovely, big band and lush, pleasant for any evening. Great vocals. Beautiful entertainment. Best of the songs? Difficult to say because they’re all good, familiar … such as “Whatever Lola Wants” and “Smile.” Delilah is big with jazz and Big Band fans and promotion king Don Graham with put her right back on the major music charts.
I can’t show you the interworkings of music promotion, but this is a fascinating and quite astute note from Brad Martini, brad@MartiniInTheMorning.com, to Don Graham, who is currently promoting a four-tune CD titled “Delilah.”
“Once again, you've delivered another new artist who's applying her own style and personality to classic tunes. Thank you for introducing us to Delilah! The charts and her vocals underscore Delilah's commitment to taking timeless tunes like Charlie Chaplin's music, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons' lyrics and making her ‘Smile’ a totally new creation. She's fresh, she's contemporary, she respects the heritage of these ‘Great American Songbook’ titles and thanks to you, Don, we get to introduce her music to the ‘Martini in the Morning’ audience across the USA and around the world. With your permission Don, we'd like to bring Delilah to our audience via our weekly ‘Thursday Thing’ promotion, giving away a copy of the CD every hour, 7 am - 7 pm PST. We'll be spotlighting the 4 cuts from the EP and giving our listeners a reason to wait with baited breath for the full CD later this year. Thanks, Don, again, for bringing great talent to the ‘Martini in the Morning’ audience. I can't wait to introduce them to Delilah!”
Ah, but Brad writes good. Like your style, Brad!
More Ken Dowe: “Enjoyed the picture of Joey Reynolds ... still going strong in the 21st century. My great friend, the late Rod Roddy, often spoke fondly of Joey. Dottie and I surely miss our dinners with Rod at MORTON's in LA during my regular trips to look in on KOST. The whole restaurant would salute Rod the moment the door opened. ‘Come on down!’ And, Claude, I had no idea Barbara was a much younger woman. Good on you!”
First time I was able to take Barbara home to see the folks, we had to fly a DC-3 from Odessa to Hobbs, NM, and my parents drove over from Carlsbad, NM, to pick us up. We’d been married for several months. After we got down on the tarmac, my father, a real Texican, said, “Man, you sure know how to pick ‘em.”
Have a Great Week!