Today at 7:31 AM
January 26, 2015
Claude’s Commentary No. 48
By Claude Hall
Ladies and gentlemen, I was a touch late getting Commentary out this past Monday. I apologize. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Memories came flooding back of the evening I heard a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King in Atlanta at a convention of the National Association of Radio Announcers. I was the only honky in the room. It was a black power speech, but I didn’t mind. I am now and have always been on his side. He was an enormously powerful speaker! An historic moment! I still have my notes somewhere.
I almost didn’t hear that speech. I’d flown down from New York to write a story about the convention. But when I stopped by the registration desk, I faced a wall. It was invisible, but it was there. They were not going to let me attend the convention. Who cared if I was from Billboard magazine! Then, a very dark man standing in the shadows of the room, said to Del Shields, “Talk to him.” That’s all. I was suddenly one of them. I later learned the name was Clarence Avant and he was an executive with MGM Records. As most of you know, MGM Records was not exactly renown in the r&b record business. However, because of Clarence Avant I was able to write a story about that convention. And, no, I did not mention anything about King’s black power theme. I did write about his speech, though. And, for some reason I cannot fathom, I got to talk to a great number of the kingpins of the black movement over the next couple of years. I had breakfast one morning with an outstanding black that I thought had presidential potential. Bright! And then one day he walked into some river and forgot to swim. A lot of things like that, I didn’t understand. A bright young man in Philadelphia named Spider was shot in the parking lot of his radio station and killed. And one black thought drugs was the answer; he survived, but his good years were gone. And King was killed. I didn’t appreciate the world much there for a while.
Johnny Holliday: “If you have the space … Sal LiCata has been moved to Kessler Rehabilitation Institute, 300 Market Street, Saddlebrook, New Jersey, 07663 … phone # 201 368-6000. Cards and letters would be most welcome as Sal continues to recover from a fall suffered a month ago. They expect him to remain at Kessler for at least a month. Thanks so much for letting the Music guys know.”
I’ll be sending my card. One of those “recycled” cards that Barbara and her friends restructure at the United University Methodist Church across from UNLV here in Las Vegas. The girls over there make caps for the homeless and refurbish used Christmas Cards and such. Then sell them with funds going to the church. For one reason or another, these cards mean more to Barbara and me.
Sam Riddle: “Hi, Claude ... just read your Paul Harvey Matters commentary and the responses ... so thought I would add my thoughts. He did not know it, but Paul taught me the art of timing on radio. My first real radio job at 17 was at KRBC in Abilene, Texas. I was the morning jock and rip and read newsman from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., which included running down the hall for the KRBC-TV station breaks and back to radio control for Paul Harvey at 12 Noon. I will always remember talking right up to noon so when I stopped suddenly, with a flick of the switch, Paul would start talking ... and 15 minutes later he would say Paul Harvey ... GOOD DAY! and I had the switch on live for at least 60 seconds prior to say ... Sam Riddle ... HELLO MUSIC LOVERS ... AND THIS IS THE MUSIC FROM K R B C ... ABILENE. And the rest was rock and roll to LA. Thanks for a few memories, Claude.”
Sam, circa 1947-51, KRBC was one of the few radio stations you could listen to in Winters, 40 miles south of Abilene. I suppose you’re aware that Slim Willett was big in that area. When he wasn’t on the radio, he was singing his songs in the honky tonks. Songs such as “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” and “Toolpusher.” Used to have a CD of Willett stuff out of Norway.
Don Williams, Orlando: “Opening up the last hour of the TV portion of his program, Imus talked about you, your blog, Vox Jox and how influential you were to helping his career along in the late 60s and early 70s, particularly his winning medium and large market disc jockey of the year in those years. He talked about your wondering how much longer you can do the blog and is disheartened to learn you plan to discontinue it. I thought you would appreciate knowing that Imus is grateful and acknowledges the importance of you and your column in his and other jocks careers. I, too, benefited from having my name in Vox Jox a few times when I was still on the air. Unlike Mr. Imus, I was better suited moving into sales, which I did after fooling around on the air for about 8-9 years. I didn't know about your blog until Imus mentioned it, so I am want to start following it for as long as it continues and I'd like to read what you have been writing in the past. Please let me know how I can start getting it. And, on behalf of myself, thank you for your contribution to our industry. You were part of the glue that helped make us a family.”
I always appreciated Don Imus. Back to Palmdale. Certain people had the gift. Don, for sure. My gift was knowing Don and Robert W. Morgan and Gary Owens and Chuck Blore and, to be honest, all of you guys and ladies. Without you, no me, as Don Whittemore might say.
Mel Phillips: “Oh my, Claude. I never expected that glowing review of my book. I am humbled. If you permit, I'd love to use your quote to help promote my book. Hey, I'm up to $12 in royalties already? This was also one of your best 'Commentaries'. You are a true treasure. Stay well and although your writing will be missed, I'm sure you can use the break. I'm 8 years younger than you and have gone to a weekly instead of a daily and I'm wondering how long I'll continue to do that. It was mentioned in your last Commentary that Sal Licata is ailing. I always enjoyed Sal's visits east and I hope he's doing better since your mention. Sal came out of the Cleveland gang of radio & promotion people who used to play baseball together. The late Neil McIntyre always mentioned that Sal was a terrific baseball player. Get better soon Sal ... Claude you are to be commended for remembering our friends when they need it the most. I wish I did more of that myself ... I liked the piece about Paul Harvey who I consider the best communicator I ever heard on the radio. I list Paul No. 1, followed by Arthur Godfrey at No. 2 and third on my list is Ronald Reagan. All 3 were totally believable and no one sold product as well.”
Mel, you have my permission regarding your book. Just FYI, my wife Barbara always thought Reagan was a great speaker. And I heard it said many, many times that Johnny Carson was more than likely the best radio/TV personality around. Guess we all had favorites.
Bob Sherwood: “Your contribution approaches the level of Vin Scully-ius. There aren’t other comparable individuals. If you’ve someone that you believe is prepared to carry on your legacy, I vote a resounding and welcoming ‘aye’.”
Bob, guarantee you that you will love my choice. This person is right there with others who’ve written Vox Jox, including the founder Joe Carlton, Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler, and myself. You’ll notice that I’m in no way modest about this. To tell the truth, I’ve never read Joe, but I did real some of the columns that Jerry wrote and he was good! I think you could do a magnificent column, Bob. There was something about you USC grads.
Dick Summer: “Hey Claude...re: ‘Hangin' 'em up’. My buddy Big Louie always says, "As long as you have any moving parts left, move 'em. Good advice, my friend.”
I intend to hang around for some while yet. Lets see what April brings.
Robert E. Richer: “Claude … you have to stop this talk about your pending demise. My father-in-law made it to 104, and read the New York Times every day from cover to cover. Lived a very good life in Walnut Creek. You haven’t even come up onto the curve yet!”
Richer also reports: “Joe Franklin has just died at 88. He influenced generations of talk hosts who grew up around New York – and many more who saw him parodied on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and the Simpsons. He was in early TV on WJZ-TV, now WABC-TV. He had years of behind-the-scenes and on-mic experience in radio. He chose the records for Martin Block’s seminal ‘Make Believe Ballroom’ music show on WNEW (1130), then hosted his own show called ‘Vaudeville Isn’t Dead’. His eventual radio home was WOR (710), he interviewed the famous and the might-be-famous for over 40 years. At one point the young Bette Midler and Barry Manilow were musical regulars for his show, and he interviewed up-and-comers like Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli. He kept his dialogue in his head, ad-libbing his way through the show without cue-cards. Joe Franklin died Saturday of prostate cancer, at a hospice in Manhattan.”
I don’t hear from people, I sometimes checkup on them. Chuck Blore is fine. Writing movies. Keep busy, folks!
Ron Jacobs: “This morning’s Honolulu Star-Advertiser features a story about the infamous KPOI Wake-A-Thon. TR went from this craziness to become a broadcast industry leader. Perhaps you can share this link with your Monday devotees. Aloha. http://tinyurl.com/nwvtbx8
Thank you, Ron. I thought a great deal of Tom Rounds. A fine man. He was a personal tribute to all in the radio business. I couldn’t open the link, of course. One of those subscriber deals. But I did appreciate Tom. FYI: Ron sent me something late asking not to print the above. Above what, he didn’t tell me.
Jim Gabbert: “Claude, guess who has and flies a DC-3 ... This was the first military DC-3 (Hap Arnold's Command Plane in WWII). I fly it to airshows and use it for charities.”
Great bird. You don’t, by any chance, accept AX frequent flier miles?
Don Sundeen: “Absolutely amazing, Marvin was one of the best there ever was, and died way too young. Unlike many of his peers, he didn’t need echo or any other electronic assistance to enhance his natural vocal ability and pitch. He was a man of high principles and deep beliefs murdered by his father … that’s almost Shakespearean?”
Big Jay Sorensen, CBS-FM, New York: “Claude...as you know, I've been associated with Mr. Pinto for over 40 years now ... and I just got off the phone with him as he makes yet another excursion to the left coast (to see his lovely daughter and grandson) ... he always speaks highly of you, and I know you were visited by Joey only days ago. I would LOVE to read your comments on someone who I feel is the older brother I never had. Thanks.”
Don Graham: “Hi, Claude … as Joey Reynolds’ #1 fan, i would dearly love to read your story! Thanks for the offer! … can’t wait! … best to you.”
Don Goldberg: “I'd love to read your short story about Joey Reynolds. I suppose I have some stories about him, too, from Detroit, Philly, and Los Angeles. They're not ready for publication yet. I'd love to see Michael Gwinne's screenplay PDF. I have a Paul Harvey story as well. As production director at WLS-FM in Chicago ABC had no production studio for us hippie types but Paul was kind enough to let us use his studio for production. This was 1970. I ran into him in the elevator going up to the studio and he was dressed as if he just came off the golf course. I said to him ‘Gee, Mr. Harvey, I hope someday I will be successful enough just to learn how to play golf’. His response was, ‘You ought to take up LSD son. It's less enslaving’. When I meet up with radio folk I like to shorten the story and just tell them Paul Harvey told me to take acid. The REST of the story makes it less interesting.”
Clark Weber: “Remember the game of ‘Break?’ See if you could reduce a guy to giggles or guffaws while on the air? A Paul Harvey story for the ages. WLS radio was on the 5th floor of the Stone Container Bldg. in Chicago and the 4th floor contained the ABC Network studio and Paul’s office. Paul’s staff announcer was Chuck Bill who Paul could break on the network air without mercy. The problem was that ABC didn’t think it was one bit funny and threatened Chuck with job loss! Paul’s ABC Network ‘Rest of the Story’ that day was about a woman who walked in to Marshall Fields before Xmas with a Toy Poodle under her arm, went to the pet department, placed the dog on the counter and told the clerk she wanted to buy a sweater for her dog. The clerk asked what size and the customer confessed she didn’t know. The clerk said that wasn’t a problem she would just slip one on the dog and find out. The customer said no she couldn’t do that, the clerk asked why not and the woman said because then the dog would know what she was getting for Xmas! Page Two and pointed to Chuck Bill for the spot only Bill was laughing and crying so hard he couldn’t read it. ABC tore a strip off Chuck Bill’s hide who later came to me to get revenge against Paul. We did and at some other time I’ll tell you the rest of the story!”
Timmy Manocheo: “Claude, dear man, could you perhaps post this in your next blog? It is for s friend who is writing a book about KROQ/AM & FM. Brad (Sandy Beach) Soble's dissolution with KROQ, during the mid-'70s, is vague ... do you know how, why or when? Any info is welcome to flesh this out. When Jerry Kaye was working nights and Sandy Beach worked mornings, and they never saw one another, once the station moved to the Pasadena Hilton ... he was gone. What happened to this man? ANY INFO IS APPRECIATED.”
Several readers still around probably knew Sandy Beach well. This is an assumption, of course. We’ll see.
Chuck Buell: Hello, Claude, your ‘HARVEY MATTERS’ stories last week brought this to mind. I used to enjoy telling people that Paul Harvey and I had lunch together every weekday during my early radio years! I was in High School then in Rapid City, South Dakota, working my second radio job. I was on the air from 11 to 3 which would, of course, include over the Noon Hour. Each day, I would bring (OK, so Mom would make!) my lunch to work. Then while on-air at 12 Noon, I would introduce ‘The Paul Harvey Report’, turn things over to the ABC Radio Network for fifteen minutes, sit back, eat lunch and just be enthralled with what he had to say all the way through to ‘Page Four!’ So, there we were; having lunch together! One of my Radio Regrets is that later on in my career, while working at WLS in Chicago, I never met the Man. See, our ‘Big 89’ On-Air Studio was on the Fifth Floor of the Stone Container Building at Michigan Avenue and Wacker. The ABC Radio Network Studio, from which Harvey's broadcasts originated at that time, was on the Fourth Floor. I have no idea to this day why I never took the opportunity to take the elevator down one floor and go meet him. I could have least taken him Lunch!”
John Barger: “I'll contribute the first $100.00 toward getting you a device (hardware and software) into which you can dictate and have it converted immediately to text, which can easily be edited and sent out by email. That way Number 48 and subsequents can be effortlessly spun from your mind to us without much pain or heavy lifting. Unrelated, two different Bobby Harpers starred on staffs which I supervised ... one in Buffalo in the 60's, the other in Dallas in the 70's. Where are they now ... if at all? Convince Ken Dowe to share the story of Gordon McLendon, the ‘old dimes’, and the safe that plummeted down five stories.”
Kind offer, John, and you have my sincere appreciation. But typing isn’t my problem. I’ve put so many words through everything starting with a Smith-Corona to a Correcting IBM Selectric and various others along the way that I’ve fallen in love with this Apple MacBook Pro. And let’s not forget the Apple IIe. I wrote a handbook for writing on the Apple IIe that was used in four computer labs at the State University of New York, Brockport.
Larry White: “I would love to read your ‘Joey’ story. Please send me.”
ENDER: Well, I finished the Joey tale and I’m now back working on a story I started a couple of years ago titled “George.” At the time, I hadn’t placed enough distance between me and his death. The death of a good friend can really suck it out of your guts. And, yet, I wanted to do what I could to preserve his memory. The memories of us all. George told me that I wouldn’t be able to do it. He thought that in years to come no one would remember us. Nor care. Heck with that, George. I’ll do what I can to keep radio cooking! And the people in radio, too! That’s one reason I’ve written a fiction book called “I Love Radio” that mentions perhaps a hundred radio men or more and their personal tales. “Radio Wars” is a collection of short stories about such men as Jimmy Rabbitt and Chuck Blore and Lee Baby Simms … maybe four dozen more. I may yet assemble another book of short stories involving radio. The book “George” will be fiction, of course. It begins with the convention L. David Moorhead and I organized for the Plaza Hotel in New York City. There, Clive Davis announced his “comeback” with the founding of Arista Records.
All this, of course, after I do a final edit on “La Tigre.” Yes, I realize that no one is buying the books with Amazon.com/Kindle, but that’s okay … I’m trying.
May the Good Lord bless and keep us all!