Monday, February 23, 2015

Claude's Commentary No. 52r2

Today at 7:33 AM
February 23, 2015

Claude’s Commentary No. 52
By Claude Hall

One of the greatest radio promotions of all time is the “Amoeba” promotion featured by KFWB, Los Angeles.  It was created by KFWB program director Chuck Blore.  And one of the funniest stories in radio is when George Wilson, who was unabashed at copying everything Chuck Blore did, featured the same promotion on a radio station in Denver and was thrown in jail.  The original promotion was tied into a public service venture – raising funds so that high school students could visit the lawmakers in Sacramento to tell them about the drug problem in Los Angeles schools.  Blore became a hero.  George wore mud on his face for a while.  I had the honor to interview Chuck a few times.  Those interviews are featured in “This Business of Radio Programming” which is available via  He also honored me with an early copy of his book, which tells the story of his early career in radio and KFWB “Color Radio,” as well as his career in the advertising industry.  I will never forget one of his lines, heard live, about a car.  “Cheaper than feet.”

Chuck Blore is one of the most amazing geniuses of Top 40 radio.  Thus, I feel honored to feature the brief interview below that he did with George Wilson, a program director who rose to become head of Bartell.  If my memory is correct, George read the interview at some point before his death from cancer complications.

Dick Summer:  “Claude, your comment about helping your Lady Barbara out of the cab, ‘And her hand fit so nicely into mine’ is one of the most graceful uses of the language I've ever seen. The picture is of my Lady Barbara in studio 2B at WNBC.  I sometimes have trouble convincing other radio mis-fits that I was tugging the zipper UP, but I was.  Cuz Bruce took the picture (I followed him on the air at the time) and the Cuz was a gentleman ... but I never did learn to share anything personal when it comes to my Lady Barbara.  Congratulations for finding your Park Ave. lady.  I found mine at WBZ.  She was the ‘Continutity Girl’.  You and I are lucky guys for finding our Ladies Barbara, and even luckier that they have graced our lives for so long.”

I was just about to leave for Spain because I knew I was a better writer than Ernest and I figured I’d go over there a while, park under a cactus, google at a bullfight, then spend some time in Paris (sans pigeons) and wind up in Mexico.  Then I met Barbara.  After I left Cavalier magazine, I persuaded Mrs. Barbara to go with me to Mexico and we were en route until I decided we’d better not take baby John down there and we paused in Austin, TX.  When I realized I couldn’t make the grade on the Austin newspaper (a dull city editor, in my opinion), I was offered a job on the Abilene newspaper at much more money, but heard about a job on the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the three of us – me, Barbara, and baby John -- cranked up the VW and headed over to dine on po’boys and chicory coffee.  VoiIa!  I went from being a peon on the Austin paper to a respected reporter in New Orleans.  The Austin newspaper experience has always set badly in my gut.  Considering circumstances since, i.e., Billboard and SUNY/Brockport, I think I was lucky.  Just FYI, I wouldn’t have traded Barbara for Spain any day of the week.  Come Sept. 1, we will be married 55 years.

Jerry Sharell:  “Claude:  Just a bit of record biz history:  It was ’63 and I had been with Mercury Records for a few months (making $100 weekly) when my phone rang at Main Line Distributors in Cleveland.  It was Quincy Jones, A&R Head at Mercury, telling me he was sending me two test pressings of two new acts.  I was to listen to both and call him with my fav.  I called Q a few days later and told him I liked the girl singer, Lesley Gore and the killer big band arrangement that truly ‘made’ this a hit!  He told me that he wrote ‘the chart’ and offered me a nice bonus based on sales performance.  My boss at Main Line was Eddie Rosenblatt, a dynamo sales person with an appreciation of ‘promotion’.  To make this story shorter … we were Top 3 among all distributors in the U.S. and Quincy made good on his promise to me by sending a very generous bonus!  Morris Diamond was the promotion director at Mercury who helped me/us get that record played … everywhere!  I consider Morris one of the best promo-guys ever!  ("Sunday, Sinatra and Sharell, KJAZZ 88.1FM in LA, 10AM-Noon)”

Jerry, just hearing from you made my week!  Great on you!  And as for Morris Diamond, he has been a hero of mine since around 1964.  FYI, I wrote Jerry back and here’s his response:

Jerry Sharell:  “I am doing ‘well’ and thanks for your reply ‘cause you made-my-month!  I totally enjoy reading your Commentary and if I miss anything I’m sure Morris Diamond, my teacher/mentor/manager, will bring me up-to-date.  And I give my Sinatra Hat Tip to Don Graham, for keeping the word ‘promotion’ in the dictionary of broadcasting/records (remember those?)!   Be well and have a Ring-A-Ding-Ding day!

Jerry, I used to have everything Frank did at Capitol on a reel with the exception of “Where Do You Go,” which I had on an LP.  In all of the Hall moves, “Where…” got lost.  Can anyone out there email me a copy in stereo.  It was somewhat experimental … long before artists did that sort of thing.  I’ll trade a copy of “Touch of Evil” by Tom Russell.  A great song.

Bob Barry:  “Gary Owens could have cared less about a DJ from a smaller market ... but he did care.  From the two times he appeared on my show to the day he gave me a Billboard award in 1975, his personality came through like it did on radio and TV.  I'll miss his numerous talents.”

That’s one of the reasons I have always loved people such as Gary Owens, Chuck Blore, Jack G. Thayer and Harvey Glascock.  Burt Sherwood, too.  Jack Stapp.  Amazingly warm, wonderful people.  The story of Jack Stapp and Roger Miller could be a movie.  I’ve always had great respect for Roger since Jack told me the story.

Diane Kirkland:  “Was reading your commentary on Gary Owens and thought I’d send this photo along -- some party in the late 70s.  Left to right, Jeff Bates of Billboard, Gary, Pete Heine and me.   I still have a reel-to-reel tape of Gary from all the outtakes of trying to do some voiceovers.  Haven’t heard it for years because I don’t own a reel tape recorder, but I remember hearing many expletives all spliced together.  Always liked Gary very much.”

Wish I could print all of the pictures.  Sorry, Diane.  Great pix. Maybe I’ll bet to use it somewhen.  Don’t go anywhere.

Dave Anthony:  “1990 at KCBS-FM in LA.  Phone rings.  My assistant says it’s somebody named Gary Owens.  Hey, it’s Hollywood; just might be the guy.  Answered the phone.  Sure enough, it was him.  Wanted to meet.  Maybe he could be considered for an on-air position.  My staff included Don Steele, Charlie Tuna, and MG Kelly. Why not?  He invites me to his house to meet.  Cool!  I showed up and see a veritable ‘Laugh-In’ museum complete with the classic microphone, one of the window frames that were featured at the end of each show, and pictures everywhere.  We sat and talked.  No openings at the moment.  He and his wife convince me to stay for dinner.  Sure.  One of the biggest steaks I’ve ever seen lands on my plate.  Oops, I’m a vegetarian.  Somehow all that fit with his sense of humor.  A real gentleman.  Sorry to hear of his passing.  If you forward any of these sentiments along to his wife, please include mine.  She was an important part of my memories, too.”

Tom (T. Michael Jordan) Nefeldt to Mel Phillips:  “Why wouldn’t Shadoe want to work Chicago and leave Hollywood?  Sure, the Chicago Winters are cold, though in LA the weather is warm BUT the PEOPLE are cold and superficial, in Chi the weather may get cold but the PEOPLE are WARM and Down to Earth.  Plus radio here is MUCH better.”

Maybe we can persuade Joey Reynolds to sell tickets for this one.

Herb Oscar Anderson:  “Regards, Jim Slone ... you maybe interested to know that Jim Reeves still has two very active fan clubs in Holland.  We shared the live music shows on ABC with Jim Bachus ... Merv Griffen and, of course, the Breakfast Club ... because of this, the Reeves fan club found my podcast and are regular listeners ... asking me to comment on my appearance in Jim’s book, etc.  Ah, the internet ... have no idea how many listeners, but sure do hear from old listeners from all over the world ... Google ... WOSN FM.”

Dick Carr reports that “Big Bands Ballads and Blues” is streaming again on the Metromedia Radio Channel, Live 365.  Every day M-F 5-8 pm Eastern.  Here's the link.
The web site is active again at

Big Jay Sorensen sent Joey Reynolds who sent me a note about a coming
segment of “Modern Family” slated to be video’d almost entirely on iPhones.

Don Berns:  “Gary Owens was one of my radio heroes, even though I never had a chance to listen to him on a regular basis except for the short time I lived in LA.  But his influence was immeasurable on my style and my life.  His nonsensical town of Foonman, Ohio (location of the Foonman Home for the Terminally Perturbed on his brilliant album ‘Put Your Head On My Finger’) provided me and my roommates at the time with the name of our house in Williamsville, NY (see the attached photo with ‘Foonmate’ Rich Sargent and his infant son) and a name that has stayed with me for well over 40 years (my corporate entity is Foonman Home Productions).  Gary's work on that album, ‘Laugh In’, and The Superfun audio series (from which I stole liberally) was without a doubt the foundation upon which I built my Top 40 and AC career.  I had the opportunity to tell him at a radio convention in LA many years ago, and he seemed genuinely flattered.  A true talent and a gentleman.”

Never, ever, fail to tell your heroes how much they mean to you.  I had opportunity to tell Eddie Hill, WSM, Nashville, that I used to listen to him out on the western plains of Texas and considered him one of the reasons I was radio-TV editor of Billboard.  He was in a wheel chair at the Opry at the time.  Stroke.  But the man pushing the wheel chair said he could hear me and understand me.  I can still remember some of his clichés.  Eddie Hill was something else!  Sam Hale, an oldie like me, heard him on the air, I think.

Paul Cassidy:  “Classic commentary today!  A real tribute.  Thanks.  I lived near Gary Owens on Rancho St. in Encino.  Saw him weekly at the news stand on Ventura Blv'd, always friendly.  Saw those basketball games as I drove by, should have stopped as I played 2nd string center for my HS team in upstate NY.  Best to you.”

You’d have been welcome, Paul.  We were all ragnots, including “Connie,” who played center for UCLA in, I think, the 50s and used to jog occasionally with Coach Wooten.  He revered John Wooten.

Chancey (Loretta) Blackburn:  “Thanks for bringing back the wonderful memory, Claude.  We did have fun!  I’m going to a KZEW reunion in Dallas in April so I’ve been pawing through stacks of memorabilia and pictures of you and Barbara in St. Croix were among them.  J and I lived in the Caribbean for 3 years; beach bums for the first one, then working with Bob Bennett who was running a station in San Juan for Mid Ocean Broadcasting. That was Bob Hope’s station, being run by his oldest boy, Tony Hope. Then on to St. Croix for the 3rd year, putting The Reef on the air – lots of reggae and Beach Boys – a true ‘island’ format.  My love to Barbara, please.  She and I were both from New York and both found the loves of our lives in you two Texans.”

Frank Boyle: “Hi, Claude -- love your commentaries. Think I met Gary Owens when he was at WIL, St Louis.  We, Eastman, repped WIl.  I was there on a station-Rep trip.  Got invited to a big boat ride for Advertisers --Gary Owens and Gary Stevens entertained the crowd with great stuff.  Both were young and full of piss and vinegar with superb creative ad lib content.  Met George Wilson when he was PD at another Eastman client, WTMA in Charleston, SC.  We became long time friends.  He used to break me up telling me his war stories of how he and a DJ pal would put their magic in the trunk of his old Dodge and do their Magic for a few months at a time.  Make a couple of Grand -- take his: ‘Zoo’ to another AM turkey that needed to go rock.  When George got Bartell, New York, he and wife would come to my Apt on 48th St.  George was a genuine Treasure.  Always kept it simple -- was a winner wherever he worked -- only flaw was George never learned to kiss his bosses' asses.  Told me it was his job to speak up when his boss came up with a stupid idea -- so there.  WIL was one of the 3 Balaban markets – KBOX, Dallas, and WRIT, Milwaukee.  Young Stan Kaplan was there making his bones as a National Sales Mgr.  In that my only station experience was 7 yrs in Sales and Sales Mgt at WJR, Detroit --prior to Eastman Natl Sales Reps -- I need the Top 40 and Rock pros like George, Art Carlson, Kent Burkhart, Steve Labunski, & Bill Drake to explain to me how those formats worked.  Claude, your terrific Billboard Conferences were marvelous in getting the biggest and best guys -- in all formats -- to outline why their concepts made winners.  I got a PhD in Top 40 by just attending and listening.  You'll recall I had to wear a suit of armor to speak at your '64 affair to brashly predict that AMs would get out of music.  That there would be 3 of each major format in the Top 100 markets. Wish you were still running those priceless conventions.  Stay well.”

Don Sundeen:  “First, Claude, I’d like to thank you for the kind words about my writing in Commentary #51, it really meant a lot coming from a writer of your stature.  But what I’d really like to comment on is the great Jay Blackburn and his contributions to radio, especially FM.  He was one of those surprising guys in radio who turned out to be exceptionally bright, in Jay’s case Mensa level.  Talking to him was an amazing experience that could swiftly curve from radio to his experiences in Vietnam or his plan to sell everything, buy a sailboat, and cruise the islands of the Caribbean for as long as he wished.  (I believe it was about a year before returning to radio.)  Like everything he did, his marriage to Chancey, a noted AOR disc Jockey herself (Loretta), was planned and executed with perfection and lasted for 31 years until his early death.  One of his most interesting traits was a talent for branding; The Loop (WLUP FM) could not have been a more perfect name for a hot Chicago radio station, and Jay made the AOR format more female friendly expanding the demos. The Loop was an instant iconic name in radio history and a hit out of the blocks.  Later in his life he wrote stories about he and his friend and partner, Bruce Miller Earle’s, radio adventures in a thinly disguised novel form.  Chancey was kind enough to send me a copy of his book, ‘The Radio Gypsies’, after he passed away, and his distinctive voice and sly wit still shine through his words.  Jay Blackburn is remembered fondly by all of those who were fortunate enough to be in his company.”

I’d mentioned in a note about the weather and Buzz Bennett to the Three Mesquiteers and this is a comment by Woody Roberts: “Claude is right about fear of ice storms, I'm all-electric and have a DSL phone line thus if ice takes down the lines I'm in Big trouble.  Fortunately, knock on wood, it has not happened since late 1980s.  But I recall the experience vividly.  Saw This: ‘Mount Washington Observatory staffers Monday recorded one of the world's coldest temperatures and the highest gusts since 2008: 141 mph, higher than the 140 recorded during Hurricane Sandy in 2008.  Early Monday, Mount Washington Observatory Summit observer Ryan Knapp received information from that, at -35 degrees F., the summit was the second-coldest reporting location on Earth, behind only the South Pole at -51 degrees’.  In 1972 when I hitched around the nation looking for America, and myself, it was early fall when I climbed Mt. Washington to the weather station.  Snow had not yet closed the small mountaintop lodge serving tourists.  Saw all kinds of warnings posted about dressing warmly and high winds.  The crazy story is I took a hit of pure LSD before starting the climb and I felt wonderfully solitary and away from civilization with all its trappings when a guy coming down the mountain shouted, ‘Woody!  Woody Roberts is that you!’  It was a reporter from the WPOP newsroom whom I hadn't seen in years -- Chuck Crouse or Randy Brock.  I was so taken aback and stunned that it all went by in a flash ... I never was sure who called out.  What a trip, literally.  Beautiful.

‘I, too, have my Buzzy theory.  Never knew about the fight between he and George.  When I hear about those old fights I consider myself fortunate to have gone through several radio station rating wars and only met one person who to this day I still intensely dislike, a jealous sales manager at KTSA (his unpleasantness was instrumental in my decision to leave radio).  On the other hand if I had to directly battle Buzz Bennett or Ron Jacobs perhaps I, too, would have ill will.  Luckily I came out of radio with just admiration for their programming instincts.  Lee Baby.  My dear friend is gone but The New Yorker continues to show up in my mailbox.   He'd sent me a gift subscription.  I have a few things I want to share with y'all about Lee and me with but not yet ready to write.  And I have a piece I wrote about Drake and Top-40 several months ago but never sent it because I knew the three of you, especially Lee, would rag me out.  It, too, will come your way in time.

“Texas weather.  It's been jumping around some, 37F yesterday and back to 70F by Friday.  Young elms are getting tiny leaves as wild plum blossoms release their delightful scent into the air.  Sunday, the hermit went into town to visit Eddie Wilson (my life is full of Wilsons, another story) and restock depleted groceries at H-E-B and Fiesta supermarkets. Near Threadgill's on North Lamar I saw the first little fig testing the weather.  Love fresh picked figs.  Always best and even more best to y'all forever.”

Scott St. James:  “Another fun to read Monday treat.  And I'm sure your wife enjoyed the wonderful things you wrote about her.  Ahhh, Gary Owens.  I arrived at KMPC the day after Thanksgiving in 1979.  Besides the radio executives (including Gene Autry) welcoming me, Gary Owens was the first non-executive who welcomed me.  And that was just the beginning.”

About the record sales info (other info, too) sent out by Barry O’Neil:  “Claude, I don’t charge anything.  I just send the info out.  You certainly take people back to good times.”  Barry’s email was in last week’s Commentary.  I recommend asking to be on his list.

Marie Davis received a link to a Phil Spector item from Chris Crist.  With photos:  “Danny, thought you might like to see Phil in his new surroundings, also Charles Manson is there also, along with Juan Corona who killed 25 Mexican laborers.  p/s:  for any reason that the link doesn’t open, just type in on Google  ‘Phil Spector-in-new-prison-photos’"

David Gleason:  “I’m David Gleason, who receives your wonderful weekly newsletters.  I was particularly engaged with the edition I got this morning because of the mentions of Jay and Chancy as well as Tom Rounds.  I have known Jay and Chancy back to when I was running WQII and WZNT in Puerto Rico and Jay was ‘across the street’ at WBMJ; Jay Blackburn sold me a bunch of equipment through his firm Hope-Bennett-Blackburn and we stayed in touch up to the time of his passing.  And I had worked for Tom Rounds for 20 years at his Radio Express venture up to the time of his passing, and thought of him as the mentor I never had.  I also have a website that attempts to preserve and make easily accessible the story of radio from its beginnings to the present.  Most of the material consists of magazines, newsletters and journals ranging from R&R and Broadcasting to the Gavin Report as well as technology related titles.  An important subset is a nearly complete collection of Jim Duncan’s American Radio ratings compilations and quite a few older ratings books.  In that context, I am trying to find early Arbitrons, Pulse and Hooper books and related material.  One of the site contributors thought that Mike Joseph could have things that should be preserved.  But I can’t find a mail or email address for Mike (with whom I competed for about 25 years in Puerto Rico).  Do you have a contact, and do you know how he is doing?  If you have a moment, please consider who else might have older ratings books that they would consider loaning me for scanning for the website.”

David, I don’t know how good your collection is, but keep it handy!  Someone is always asking for this kind of information.  That’s why I’m listing your addresses … so I won’t have to be the ‘middleman’.  As for Mike, a good man, he has gone on.

Chuck Blore:  “Claude, you ask me, ever now and then, to write you a little about radio today and/or yesteryear.  Here's something you might like, it's an interview I did with another oldtimer whom we both thought highly of.

Chuck: George Wilson is a programmer who believes that programming
should rule the radio station.  As that is a philosophy we both share, and
even though we both had great success with it, I wonder if maybe we're
living in the past.  So what do you think, George?

George: Without programming and the program director guiding the
direction of the station, you have nothing, no product, no advertisers.
Sales-oriented people for the most part, could sell refrigerators as well
as radio, so the programmer must be dominant.

Chuck:  You say, 'Strengths in your beliefs is the key to being a good
Programmer’.  What were some of your most heartfelt beliefs when you
were rocking and rolling?

George: I believe that the radio station should take on the personality of the
programmer.  If the PD has learned his or her craft, your station becomes
part of your family and you treat it as one of your kids, helping it when it is
sick, praising it when it does well and at all times keeping your eye on the
star that you are chasing.

Chuck: That's beautiful. As one of radio's outstanding programmers, what
do you think of radio that you hear today?

George: As an outsider travelling the country, listening to various signals, it
sounds like the programmers are robots. No one seems to care about day
parting, who is available to listen at a particular time of day. There is no local feel for the most part and God knows there is very little entertainment.

Chuck: Boy, you are singing my song.  I used to bark at DJs who prepared
their shows the same way for a Monday that they did for Friday.  Two different days two different audience attitudes.  You feel that kind of stuff is pretty much gone?

George: Right -- I always thought it took the good jocks as much preparation time as air time, there were some wingers that could handle it without too much preparation, but even the best guys had to prepare.  The best word picture painter was Lee Baby  Simms, he worked for me three places and was nutty as a fruit cake, but boy could he paint those pictures. The most prepared jocks I had were Bob Barry on WOKY, a legend in Milwaukee, and Bob Collins, who went on to be a giant on WGN in Chicago.
Preparation and inquisitive attitude certainly helped them.

Chuck: The only great "winger" I've ever known was Don McKinnon. He worked for me at KEWB and for a while at KF.  You ever hear him?

George: Yes, I did and he was great.

Chuck: McKinnon was the only guy who ever worked for me that was not required to spend an hour preparing for every hour on, his prepared stuff sounded out of place on his show, he was better than all of them just letting it happen.

George: You know, I used to fly to San Diego, rent a car and drive around, never tell anyone I was in town and listen to Lee Baby Simms followed by Jimmy Rabbitt -- whoa!

Chuck: That was when as you say, the programmer had control.  Who are the some the leaders you admire?

George: Bill Stewart really started it all when he combined Storz and McLendon.  I learned a lot from Bill Stewart and Don Burden. I thought Rick Sklar was good, although I didn't particularly care for his type of radio, but there is more than one way to skin a cat.  And, of course, I always paid close attention to you, you know that,

Chuck: I asked this before but we got off the subject ... you say we all wanted a 12+, not demographically, but meaning an audience share.  Of the stations you programmed, what was your best number?

George: I was in the 40s a few times, I had a day part on the Hooper once in the 50s.  How about you?

Chuck: When I was programming KFWB we floated along with a 42 average.  42!  Today, a 4.2 makes you a success.

George: Do you remember the swimming pool sound-effect gimmick?

Chuck: Yeah, Elliot Field used to do it every Summer.  Roy Orbison came in to visit the station once, wet from the knees down.  He said he had just been wading in Elliot’s pool.  So, despite our no interviews rule, Roy spent about an hour with Elliot, "poolside."

George: What a fabulous communicator that little sound effect was.  We had parents coming to the radio station dropping their kids off in their swim suits.

Chuck: Isn't it great how much people believed in what we did?  On the other hand ... I had a little promotion once where one of the jocks tried to give people on the street a twenty dollar bill, in exchange for two fives.  No takers at all.

George: That's what’s missing today.  None of that just for fun stuff.  And none of that wonderful rapport with audience -- they don't know what they are missing.

Chuck: Boy, is that ever true, neither the audience or the on the air people know what they're missing. What was your greatest promotion ... ratings wise and fun-wise?

George: WZOO, Spartanburg, we were on the banks of the mighty Chinkopin River, which was a dried-up creek, we broadcast from a sternwheeler.  All the jocks had a name, they were led by Capt. Shag Hellion.  On the 4th of July Capt Shag was going to dive off the top of the tower into the mighty Chinkopin.  Of course there was no river and it was a small town so everyone knew it, but on the 4th July at 1:00 when he was going to dive, they had the biggest traffic jam they'd ever
had in the city, trying to see him.

Chuck: Your "Believe In Yourself" philosophy in pretty much in conflict with what you call "The idiots in striped ties laying down broadcasting rules to a computer."  Any advice in that regard?

George: I believe the pendulum swings back and forth -- I don't know where the young programmers go to learn today, but when the pendulum swings back they'd better be prepared.

Chuck: One last question referring to your 'Radiopinion' you say ... "Everyone will get a chance in life."  Do you really believe that?

George: I certainly do and I feel very strongly everyone will get a chance. The people who are not smart enough to admit when they are wrong and learn from the experience will not get very far.  But when their opportunity comes to people that have the ability to store up real knowledge, not knowledge as they would like it to be but the real stuff, will be ready when
their chance comes.  The best thing I know, the thing that helped me more than anything else, is not being afraid to say you don't know something --help me ... ask questions.  Why do you do this or that?  And of course have enough self esteem, if that's the right word, to surround yourself with people who are better than you are and then ... ask questions.

Chuck: Amen.  And, thank you, George.  You're a damned fine human being, in spite of it all.

Morris Diamond: “It's been over fifty years since my boss, Irving Green, president of Mercury Records, walked into my office with Leo Gore, Lesley's father.   Quincy Jones had just signed Lesley to the label.  I was National Promotion Director then and Mr. Green wanted Mr. Gore to meet the person that would be contacting him to get the Oks for traveling which would be essential to the promotion of her new recording.   That was the beginning of a huge love affair with Leo and Ronnie Gore, her parents, and with Lesley.  I recall that at one point, I had a request for Lesley to appear at a hop in Cleveland which was arranged by my Cleveland promotion man, Jerry Sharell.  I ordered flight tickets for me, Lesley and her Mother.  I got a call before the flight from Leo Gore to advise me that they haven't flown coach and he didn't think they should start now.  I quickly arranged for first class and it remained that way for the rest of our promotion trips.  I found no fault in his request.  Incidentally, Sharell led my promotion team of 31 distributor's promotion men around the country in bringing in the first indication that we had a potential hit with ‘It’s  My Party’.  I feel very humble and honored at the amount of calls and emails that I've received from friends and co-workers around the country.  Those that were aware of the close association I've had with Lesley through the years offering their sympathy to me.  I'm sure that Quincy Jones has rightfully been deluged from those who recognize the fact that Lesley was his discovery and production.   I've taken the liberty of attaching a photo taken in our early days of promoting at Palisades Park with DJ Hal Jackson interviewing Lesley, Quincy Jones, myself and a friend.”

Jack Gale:  “So sorry about losing Leslie Gore.  Thought you might enjoy the photo I just sent of her, Long John, and me at the Big Ways Birthday in 1966.  Leslie, Lee Baby Simms and Bill Taylor all in just a week or so.  Really gets us thinking about our mortality.  Just talked to Chuck Chellman, and he mentioned how much he enjoys your commentary.  I do hear from Bill Hennes quite often.  As a matter of fact, he introduced me to Claire Petrie, who is the finest singer I've heard in years.  I just recorded her album in Nashville and did a video which I'm sending you in a separate email.  Every once in a while, as you know, an indie breaks through.  I think this is one of those times.  We did the old Chuck Berry song from 1962, ‘C'est la Vie) You Never Can Tell)’, however I produced it Cajun-Country, with accordion and fiddle.  It's playing in England, France, and Spain, and TOP COUNTRY HITS, the Spanish network, is featuring it on all
their country outlets (Mexico, Uruguay, Peru, Brazil, etc.  It ships to U.S. radio Friday.  You should be getting a CD early next week.  Let me know what you think when you view the video.  Stay well and keep the columns coming.  We cherish them.  Best to Barbara.”

What better way to pay tribute to the late Lesley Gore than this photo of the lady with Jack Gale, program director of WAYS, Charlotte, and personality Long John Silver.  I understand that Long John was a heck of a radio disc jockey.  Left the business.  Owns a couple of steakhouses in the South.

May the Good Lord
Bless You!





Monday, February 16, 2015

Claude's Commentary No. 51r2

Today at 8:08 AM
February 16, 2015
Claude’s Commentary No. 51
By Claude Hall

My desktop opened just now on a photo of a beautiful woman smiling at me.  Barbara.  Years ago.  We are on a sailboat.  I took the photo of a St. Croix sailor guiding the sailboat up and down towering swells en route to Buck Island.  Jay and Chancey Blackburn are in the photo.  They treated us to a week in the islands; courtesy of an island radio station construction deal for Blackburn and his buddies.  I am still astonished when I see a photo of Barbara from our younger days.  She was so pretty!  Lived on Park Avenue in Manhattan with her mother and brother before we were married.  And she married a redneck from Texas like me?  Improbable if not impossible.  Even though I fancied myself a somewhat liberated redneck.  And above the norm of the usual Texican.  Lie her mother told me:  “Barbara doesn’t eat much and has plenty of clothes.”  But that was not my reason to marry her.  When I opened the taxi door to help her out at our first date – a 1960 Kentucky Derby party in Manhattan – her hand fit comfortably in mine.  From that moment until this very second, I guess I’ve been in tow.  We were married by a JP the following Sept. 1, 1960.

I really enjoyed knowing Jay Blackburn and knowing Bruce Miller Earle.  I met them at an NAB convention in Washington in the 60s.  Would you believe that we flew in an ancient Gruman Goose from Puerto Rico to St. Croix; the airline was owned and operated by Maureen O’Hara and her husband.  The St. Croix trip from Jay for me and Barbara was just a way of Jay saying thank you.  We stayed in a hotel on St. Croix managed by the woman who had managed the group Brooklyn Bridge.  I think Jay traded or horsewrangled the hotel out.  And eggs benedict and champagne was reasonable in a nearby outdoor restaurant.  Barbara and I ate most of our meals in that restaurant just a short walk away.  I rented a car one day and we toured the island.   Great!  I was close to Jay, the creator of WLUP-FM in Chicago, until he died. And like to believe that Barbara and I are still friends with his widow Chauncey.  Still enjoy, too, the friendship of Bruce Miller Earle, a real and true cancer survivor.

Though I’d talked with L. David Moorhead on the phone, I never met him until he sat down on the barstool next to me in a basement bar at the Century-Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles and offered to help me run the International Radio Programming Forum.  We were close until the day he died.  As for George Wilson, I’d met him in 1964 when he wanted me to write a story about him so he could win a Gavin award.  I wrote the story.  He didn’t win.  But we became friends anyway.  After the death of David Moorhead, George became my closest friend until he died.  Through George I got to know Lee Baby Simms.  You cannot imagine how close I became to Lee until the day he died.  We were brothers all.  I’ve had other brothers in radio and music … and still do.  Thank God!

Gary Owens (Altman) died Thursday in Los Angeles.  He suffered from diabetes since childhood; had to use insulin twice a day.  He was 80.  Constantly the voice for commercials and TV cartoon characters, he was a radio personality for years on KMPC, Los Angeles; he also worked at KOIL in Omaha.  He was the “announcer” who held his hand to his ear to tell the audience that the “Laugh In” television show was coming to you from “beautiful downtown Burbank.”  He is survived by wife Arletta and two sons.  He was a superb cartoonist as well as a writer (one of his books was on uses of the telephone).  He collected books about humor and once mentioned to me that he had more than 10,000 volumes.  For several years, we belonged to a basketball group (along with a TV producer, a lawyer, a hotdog manufacturer, a former UCLA star, a writer that later became well-known columnist on a Pennsylvania newspaper) that played once a week in the San Fernando Valley.  He would drop one-liners up and down the court.  When he made a ridiculous shot against the backboard from the corner of the court, typical, he would classically remark, “Oh, Gary.”  He was a good friend; I’m proud to say that and realize how lucky I was to be so.  Once, Barbara had a birthday party for me at 2800 Moraga and who showed up but Gary.  Seems that my son John, about 11, had invited him.  That was Gary.  He was always willing to “give back” to help radio.  Emcee work, etc.  Especially for charities.  Once, a policeman stopped him on the highway and asked for his driver’s license which had his real name, but he recognized Gary, who’d recently done a benefit for the police.  Waved him on down the road.  I’d like to write about the time Gary and I played one-on-one in his Encino backyard in the rain, but I just don’t feel in a humorous mood at the moment.  However, all of my memories of Gary are warm.  The tribute by Ken Levine is a beautiful piece of writing.  I wish I could write like that.  I hope you get to read it.  We come, we do, we go.

Morris Diamond:  “Just got word about the passing of Gary Owens.  He was 80 and he died peacefully in his home in Encino with his family present.  I started promoting records with Gary when he was on the air in St. Louis.  It was a joy for me personally when he moved to LA and KMPC – among a few other stations.  He always gave me a big smile when he'd finish playing jazz pianist George Shearing … and he would announce – ‘It's Shearing you’re hearing, by George’.  But he had hundreds of great lines on the air.  I'm so sorry to hear of his passing.  RIP, Gar.”

Ron Jacobs heard the news from Kevin Gershan of “Entertainment Tonight.”  John Hall, my son, sent me a link to a story about Gary.  Don Barrett sent me and the world a quick note.  Word was spreading fast on Friday.  Gary was very close to Joe Smith, but that’s Joe’s story to tell.

Don Sundeen:  “Gary Owens, was as nice a guy as anyone who ever came from Mitchell, SD, and became a star in the radio and TV worlds.  Many of the folks reading this worked with Gary or were his good friends, so I’d like to share one brief remembrance.  It was in the early 70s and I was sitting in the lobby of KMPC, a large room resembling an up-scale hotel lobby complete with nice furniture and potted plants, and waiting my turn to pitch my wares.  Suddenly Gary Owens exploded through the front door carrying some magazines, and plopped down beside me on the sofa.  He excitedly said, ‘Look at these’, showing me a number of copies of  Life magazine from the 40s and 50s that he’d just picked up at the newsstand up the street.  For 15 minutes or so we looked at the stories, laughed at the prices in the ads and generally yucked it up.  When the receptionist told me it was time to go on back, he stood up and said, ‘Don’t forget to put all your albums, no matter what format in my dropbox’. and he was gone.  Gary had incredibly eclectic and sophisticated taste and he wanted to know what was happening in all musical genres as well as the general zeitgeist.  I visualize him tonight cupping his right ear, and taking his place at the Table of Legends in the radio/TV section of Rock and Roll Heaven.  ‘Anyone seen Rowan and Martin?’

Woody Roberts to Don Sundeen: “Never met the man.  But when I first started being a Top 40 DJ it was Gary Owen's KFWB morning show that blew me away, all those voices, sound effects, planned out routines and his distinctive I-might-be-putting-you-on delivery had me scoring airchecks often as possible.  It was as Chuck Blore used to say ‘theater of the mind’ and had elements of Bob and Ray with Ernie Kovacs.  Early on I did a couple of all night shows and they gave me the opportunity to try and follow his lead, no commercials and management not listening.  Of course not being as talented as Gary, when I went into afternoon drive I dropped most of my pre-produced bits with voices and streamlined.  When I went on morning drive I stretched out more and was then glad I had that all night time to practice.  Talent like Gary Owens, The Real Don Steele and Lee Baby Simms demonstrate the wide diversity found within that category designated as one-of-a-kind DJ personalities.”

Walt Pinto:  “Just saw an All Access bulletin that Gary died yesterday.  A very sad moment.  Although I had only met him twice, I had the highest respect for what he achieved and admired him greatly.  I'm glad you both got to listen to the audio of him with Dick Robinson.”

Don Graham had received a CD from Walt Pinto of an NAB interview with Gary Owens by Dick Robinson.  “Hi, Walt.  Yes, I did get the Dick Robinson/Gary Owens San Diego/NAB interview CD and thank you!  Listened to it and sent it on to Claude Hall for his enjoyment.”

‪Just FYI, I haven’t received the CD yet, so far as I know.  But I’m hoping it will show up.

Scott Paton:  “Attached is the story of Tom Rounds' sleepless marathon at KPOI in 1959 as referenced by Ron Jacobs in your newsletter two weeks ago.  The link he provided to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser requires a subscription to the newspaper to read the article, so I signed up and copied and reformatted the piece here so others could read it.  As discussed in an exchange we had in your Hollywood Hills days, TR was my boss and first professional mentor when I was a writer/researcher on ‘American Top 40’ in the mid-'70s, and he became a dearer friend over the ensuing four decades.  His passing last spring was an enormous loss for me and countless others.  But whether one knew TR or not, I'm certain that most of your followers will get a huge kick out of this Jacobs-Rounds promotional stunt as it reminds us of just how much radio, at its best, could be.  Thanks, Claude, and please let me add my voice to chorus of all those begging you not to hang up this newsletter.  Even if your appointed successor is indeed brilliant, at least chime in every week, or do a split shift.  They've proven time and time again that retirement -- if not rife with activity -- typically hastens one's decline.  So please at least remain an active Dean Emeritus.  This is one opinion with which I suspect your total readership would concur.”

From Claude:  It isn’t me who makes this newsletter, Scott … it’s you.  It was never me.  That’s one reason I’ve always considered myself very lucky.  I’ve had the great luck to have known and know some of the greatest and brightest people in the world.  Thus, I appreciate hearing from you – all of you -- on occasion.  We are radio.

The 1959 Star-Advertiser story by Bob Sigall featured KPOI disc jockey Tom Rounds doing a Wake-a-Thon.  Part of the Sigall story from Scott Paton:  “How do you welcome a new radio personality who's moved from New York to Hawaii? Today it might be an ad campaign on radio and TV. But in 1959 the United States' youngest program director had a different idea: Keep him awake for eight days in a department store window.  The new radio personality was 23-year-old Tom Rounds. The program director was Ron Jacobs. And the station was KPOI.  KPOI (AM 1380) was Hawaii's first all-rock 'n' roll radio station when it switched to that format in May 1959, a few months before statehood.  Jacobs was a prankster.  I wrote (on May 30, 2014) about two of his and Tom Moffatt's stunts with roller derby at the Civic Auditorium and Elvis Pres­ley.  Rounds had been a newsman at radio station WINS in New York. He was hired to do the same at KPOI, but Jacobs thought he should be one of the Poi Boys — the zany disc jockeys who played Top 40 around the clock. ‘I'll come up with a promotion to introduce you’, Jacobs promised him.  Jacobs' idea was to try to set a world record for staying awake for a little over eight days. The previous record was 201 hours, 10 minutes.  ‘No one had heard of the Guinness Book of World Records back then’, Jacobs said. ‘My idea was to put Tom Rounds in a department store window for eight days. We called it a ‘Wake-a-thon.'  The store he chose was Wigwam on Dillingham Boulevard across from the Oahu Community Correctional Center.  I'm sure many of my readers remember Wigwam, which had eight stores in the islands at one time and 35 in Washington, Cali­for­nia and Arizona.”  Later:  “When the eighth day came -- Tuesday, Dec. 8, 1959 -- a crowd of 200 greeted Rounds and cheered as he left the store after 203 hours, 44 minutes and 40 seconds.”

Ah, those great days of Top 40 promotions.  Tom Rounds and Ron Jacobs, I salute you!  And thanks, Scott.  Great story.  Wish I could print it all.  If only….

Ron Jacobs: Answering an earlier question about KPOI call letter origins:  “In 1959, the new owner of KHON-Honolulu was H. G. ‘Jock’ Fearnhead.  In 1958 he was ensconced as GM of WINS-New York, a pre-rock ratings monster.  The program director was Mel Leeds.  Jock, a Brit and a world traveller, loved Hawaii.  And sailing.  By late '58, Jock —never an on-air jock — was stressed out by the radio wars in the #1 US market.  Doctor advised him to get out of town ASAP.  KHON, Honolulu’s third oldest station (1946), was bankrupt and up for sale cheap.  Young Tom Rounds had managed the Amherst campus radio station.  His father knew Jock.  TR was hired as a WINS temp staff announcer for the duration of the big AFTRA strike.  Of course, he was gone the moment the Big Guys came back. They were not thrilled by their replacements.  I’ve heard they have a name for strike busters.  So Jock invited TR and his wife Rusty to come to Honolulu to work as PD on his about-to-be-licensed station in Paradise.  By 1958, I was the 18-year-old PD at KPOA-Honolulu.  The station was managed by Canadian Finlay T. ‘Fin’ Hollinger.  He bought 50% of the KHON/KPOI stock and moved into 1701 Ala Wai Boulevard as GM.  But ... ‘Fin’ had promised to name me as PD at the new place.  Fin was unaware of Jock's commitment to TR.  The day TR and I met he and I knew that he knew major market news operations and I knew the territory . (We were a Territory before the newly created Poi Boys signed-on in early 1959.)  TR and I quickly agreed that he would be News Director and I would be PD and morning drive jock.  I knew of WINS 1010 NY. Jock asked his PD Leeds to consult with me for the KPOI launch.  He was the one who used ‘wins’ as a word, not a station ID.  Aha!  Our new place was legally KPOI. Knowing four words in Hawaiian, Mel christened the station K-poi.  During the WINS-KPOI conferences, Stan Z. Burns and I met on the Trans-Pacific phone lines.  I invited him to visit K-poi’s office/studios, (conveniently two miles from the Waikiki Yacht Club!).  Stan and I were bachelors. Those days were both cool, simple and romantic, compared to today’s Oahu, with its traffic, crime, homeless, drugs, University of Hawaii a mess, and so on.  Stan arrived and we partied 50s style.  Oh, the sunsets, surf, skies of blue and lovely hula hands, plus our sweet, sweet local wahine. But now we are the cliché, ‘Paradise Lost’.”

I’ve finished the rewrite of “La Tigre” and hope to publish it as an eBook with Books in the next week or so.  Probably at $2.49.  I have appreciated the help of Bill Pearson, cover, and advice from Bruce Miller Earle and Woody Roberts.

Ed Lee:  “Ron Jacobs gave me your email address so I could ask to be put on your Commentary list.  I've followed Ron's career since 1977.  About the same time I started reading you column in Billboard.  We've been in contact by email and phone since 2007.  Finally meet in person, last year, when I had to be in Hawaii for one day.  That's my story with Ron.”

Mel Phillips:  “One of my former WRKO air personalities, Shadoe Stevens, has had an on-air tryout at classic Chicago rocker WLUP.  Why Shadoe would give up life in Hollywood is a mystery to me but I wish him all the luck he deserves, if he really wants to work and live in Chicago.  I mean it's of course a top 5 market but winters in Chicago can't be fun.  When Shadoe was at WRKO he was great on the air but I only had him for a couple of years before KHJ called.  For over 40 years, Shadoe has made Hollywood his home.  He went from KHJ to replacing Casey Kasem as host of ‘American Top 40’ and had a brief encounter with a TV sitcom, among his many show business ventures.  I doubt that anyone else trying out for WLUP has better credentials.  I wish Shadoe nothing but the best if this is really what he wants.”

Woody Roberts, Austin, TX, to the Three Mesquiteers: “This is a powerful ‘thank you’ speech packed with nostalgic memories.  I only wish Lee Baby Simms could be here to read it, he'd much appreciate Bob Dylan's comments.”                                                                             
Bob Sherwood:  “Dear Kindly Ol’ Uncle Claude:  I just finished your latest missive and if any of your readers didn’t have a lump in their throat or a tear in the eye after finishing Rob Moorhead’s wonderfully personal piece on George Wilson’s passing and Lee Baby’s tribute, they clearly never knew George, never heard Lee and must’ve been on the Planet Zoran w/o radios during the 1960s & 70s.  And they needn’t bother to check for a pulse. There is none.  Kudos to Gary Allyn for his wonderful and typically brilliant description and distillation of ‘Lee the talent’ and ‘Lee the man’.  In conclusion, if you ever attempt to follow-thru on your threat to discontinue your treasured weekly observations I’ll be in the forefront of those with pitchforks and torches descending on your manse to assure that you continue to deliver the information that you’re Constitutionally required to provide to your constituents.”

Roger Lifeset:  “Call it what you will it’s still The Evil Empire to me. Talk about iconic ... imagine if Murray the K was still with us. That’s how deep his legacy goes. You got to have Art’s ‘Old But Goodies’ volumes in your library or your R&R history is incomplete.  Art loved dedications from jail and East LA. He will return to the airwaves ... bet on it.”

Carl B. Peeples sent me a note that ‘Carl's Country Classics Radio’ is now on the air! And since Red Jones is the host, I’ve got to plug it.  Probably a great, great show.  Red and I go back a long ways … all of the way to KVET’s “Country Cavalcade,” Austin, TX, although we different a little on when.

Doc Wendell is a jazz/blues guitarist that Jack Roberts tipped me on.  “Check out my critique of Bob Dylan's new album which features nothing but Frank Sinatra covers.  You can't make this stuff up.”  Doc is a fine writer.  I’m pleased to have him around.

Barry O’Neil has recent sent me some lists.  Singles and albums.  Plus other written features.  I don’t know the deal on what he does, but if you’re interested, I’ll be more than willing to send you his email address.  His material seems interesting.  He may charge.  But we may have a budding treasure here.  Thank you, Barry.  You want me to describe more, send me an email.

Johnny Holliday:  “Claude. I will send you another update on Sal LiCata shortly… no improvement at all.  Can you forward me Larry Cohen's contact info … email or phone?”

The Hartford radio meeting has been called off, according to Hal Whitney.

Don Graham, later:  “Hi, Claude … we hope this note finds you well … I fully agree with Roger Lifeset … currently, more than 8,000 have signed an on-line petition to return Art Laboe to LA radio! … we can remember that 40 years ago we went to Art’s shows and dances at El Monte Legion Stadium here in LA … he will be back on the l air s-o-o-n!”

Jim Slone, once Mr. Country of Tucson:  “One of my favorite memories is the time I spent (two weeks) in Elko, NV, with The Shy Guys playing nightly at the Redwood Room of the Stockmen's Motor Inn … Jim Reeves and his band The Blue Boys were playing across the street at the Commercial Hotel.  I got to know Jim and he asked me occasionally at the end of the evening to sing a tune with his band.  I specifically remember singing ‘Send Me the Pillow You Dream on’, ‘Have I Told You Lately (That I Love You)’ and ‘Blue Blue Day’ (a hit at the time by Don Gibson).  After his show was over Jim and I would go into the coffee shop (for cherry pie alamode).  It was so much fun being with Jim and hearing some of his stories.  He has always been my favorite country singer.  He died in a private plane crash on July 31, 1964.  I was on the air at K-HOS Radio that Saturday morning when his plane went down.  I saw the news on the Associated Press news ticker at the radio station.  For years thereafter, I always played several of his songs on July 31 in his memory.  PS: one of the memorable things about Elko was eating the Basque food buffet style ... so delicious.”

I really like the stuff that Don Sundeen is turning out.  If I had a regular magazine/blog, I’d try to persuade him to be a regular contributor.  This is a piece he sent out in regards to an article by Neil McCormick about Gary Glitter, who, according to McCormick, “was a novelty pop star who was able to carry out his abuse amongst a Seventies rock culture of hedonism and groupies that no band rose above.”  Well, I know nothing about Gary Glitter.  I was more into the major rock and country acts, who often had their own hangups and woes.  I point out Roger Scutt, whose body was found in a trash dumpster in a Nashville alleyway (I have an album with him on the cover; he was known as Captain Midnight on the air).  But read what Don has to say.  Good stuff, Don!

Don Sundeen:  “One of the reasons that drugs, sex and rock and roll flourished was because of the invisible curtain of silence, you kept your mouth shut if you wanted to stay.  Backstage at a major rock concert was a rare privilege, something we could do that even those with a lot of money or power seldom got to experience.  The full-access backstage pass was the magic ticket to the Circus; groupies were of indeterminate ages, many had distinctive costumes, usually featuring corsets and stockings and stiletto heels, and would turn up at the Stage Door wearing a raincoat over their outfit until inside.  My favorite groupie story took place at a Jethro Tull concert: three chicks came in, looked around, and one of them said, “OK, which one’s Jethro?’  Just because you were cute and promiscuous didn’t mean you were a rocket scientist. Drugs of one kind or another were everywhere, some people indulged and some didn’t, but behind the barrier anything would go and the hired officers spent their time keeping the civilians out.  I used to return to the dressing room after escorting the band to the stage entrance, and while they were performing go back to the dressing room and enjoy their buffet and selection of beers, wine and liquor while listening to the music.  The bigger the artists name, the better the feast, and there was total security to keep the riffraff out.  But the real party would take place later at the hotel; sometimes we were invited and sometimes we weren’t, it depended on the band and whether they thought you were cool.  Yes, sometimes televisions were thrown out of upper story windows, most but not all into the pool, and rooms were definitely trashed. On one occasion a very famous drummer/singer dipped his shoes into paint and made a path up the wall and across the ceiling of a Holiday Inn; it cost quite a few dollars to fix that little prank, and was the cause of a big brouhaha between the artist’s management and the record company as to who would pay the substantial bill.  As father of a daughter I was sometimes bothered to see the young girls passed around like naked frisbees.  But not all parents were disapproving. One night the father of a very famous groupie (she was mentioned by name in a hit song), came backstage looking for his daughter and the doorman referred him to me, because she was ‘busy’ servicing my act at the moment.  I was very nervous that there was about to be an incident that could somehow come back to bite me in the butt, so I made some excuse and he said that he knew exactly what she was doing. Shocked I asked if he wasn’t really upset by her behavior and he said not really, ‘Her mother and I figure she’d never get to meet all these famous people, ride in limousines and travel around on jets otherwise’. I couldn’t argue with that logic. The fellow who sent me this piece and provides a lot of my content commented:
(Who among us, if shielded from the consequences of outrageous {or should I say outrageously amusing} behavior, can honestly say he would not indulge?)  If given the opportunity, would you have indulged?  We gave Seventies rock stars a license to behave badly.”

Never indulged.  My excuse was that I was a beer drinker.  Great item, Don.  But I remember walking into one hotel room in New York City (and quickly walking out) where there was a punchbowl full of cocaine).  The suite was being operated by, as I recall, Gary Davis, head of promotion for ABC Records.  The label didn’t last long.  Davis didn’t even last that long.

Bob Skurzewski, Elma, NY:  “Sometime back I sent Jack Roberts two copies of this CD by Tom Clay.  Because of his passing, it was never confirmed that he sent one copy on to you.  Don’t know if you care for Tom or not, but I found this to be an interesting piece of audio that was called a self bio.  Tom put together a series of airchecks together to make this CD.  In it he explains about his time in Buffalo and how he discovered Buddy Holly.  Gary Busse (sp) starred as Buddy in the movie.  There was a scene in which a Buffalo DJ locked himself in a studio, police banging on the door while the DJ, acting crazy, plays a song over and over again and calls Holly on the phone to tell him he’s a star.  While they used some fake name for the DJ in the movie, that was Tom Clay.  When some young person asks me about a career in radio, I first give them a funny look and ask why they would want to go in radio today.  If they seem sincere, I give them a copy of this self-bio and tell them to listen to it and try to accomplish some of the on-air things that Tom did.  Tom also mentions in the self-bio that he wishes he had an aircheck of some of the things in did on the air in Buffalo.  Through a friend, I sent him an aircheck of the on-air stunt he did as described in our book ‘No Stopping This Boppin’.  Tom passed away not long after he got the aircheck.”

Thank you for the Tom Clay CD.  I heard him on WCBS-FM and considered him something special.  When he came to Los Angeles, he brought me a copy of his book in mss. form.  Later, he rewrote it as fiction while earning a living tending bar at Martoni’s.  Never was able to get it published.  But somewhere in this house is the copy he gave me and I’m proud of it.  I liked Tom Clay.  Great radio personality.

Rick Frio:  “By now you must have heard the sad news of the passing of Sharon Nelson, a truly lovely person.  You probably have dozens of pictures of her, but I think this is one of the sweetest of her and captures her best.  This was taken around 1969 at the UNI Records office awarding Neil Diamond a gold record.  The young lady next to Neil is Jan Walner, who also worked for Bill Drake at KHJ.  We are losing too many of our old friends.”  From left in photo:  Rick Frio, MCA Records; Sharon Nelson of KHJ, Neil Diamond, Jan Wainer of KHJ, Los Angeles.

A note from Ron Jacobs pointed out that Sharon was assistant music director to the legendary Betty Brenneman.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Claude's Commentary No. 50r2

Today at 8:57 AM
February 9, 2015

Claude’s Commentary No. 50
By Claude Hall

Rob Moorhead, Los Angeles:  “Apologies for being a spectator.  I read your page religiously.  I don't write.  I will change that.  Sobering and heartbreaking news.  A few words to share:  It's been nearly two years since George Wilson died.  Death is always hard to accept.  But with George, it was something we had expected and we stood vigil for weeks.  Still, it was a very hard and trying time.  Lee Baby's death came wholly unexpected to me.  He was there with us, and then suddenly he wasn't.  That is even harder to reconcile.  The shock of sudden loss.  I owe much to Lee.  Here's one heart wrenching story I would like to share that speaks of his very soul, the man inside.  It involves the very special way in which he helped George pass on.  Lee was a very selfless man, and here is just one such instance in which he made a profound difference to others.  George was rarely cogent in his last days, drifting in and out of consciousness, but there was one very bright moment to be had the day before he died.  A moment of heartwarming clarity, and even -- believe it or not -- levity.  And it came from Lee Baby, who else?

“During those final days, George was surrounded by his large family, each taking turns holding his hands and speaking kind words to him, keeping him as comfortable as possible.  Bittersweet solace, I suppose.  There's a contentment of having loved ones close by to see you out.  George wasn't finished living, but it was his time to go.  He knew that.  He was waiting to meet God.  He didn't want to talk on the phone.  Of this he was adamant.  He was content with his family, the quiet days that passed slowly as he lingered, and that was enough for him.  But for the one exception.  Lee.

“Lee Baby Simms called me.  We had been it touch often and he knew it was only a matter of hours before George passed.  He wanted to speak with George one last time.  Initially, I tried to politely defer to George's wishes -- something especially difficult to do as Lee Baby was one of George's oldest and dearest friends -- but then again, Lee is Lee, and he won't be denied anything.  Can't be done.  He said to me (in that deeply resonant voice that I always imagined God envied and wanted back) ‘George doesn't have to talk to me, he doesn't even have to say a word, just hold the phone up to his ear, I have only one short thing to tell him.  I'll whisper it.  It will just be a whisper’.  Can do, I said, except for one little thing; George doesn't wear his hearing aids in bed.  Whispering wasn't going to work.  Still, we tried it nevertheless.  I told George it was Lee on the phone ,.. could Lee Baby say a few words to him?  George nodded in agreement.

‘So, I held the phone to his ear and,... well,...nothing happened.  George couldn't hear a damned thing.  Dead air.  I got back on the line with Lee Baby.  Wasn't working, I said.  The only way this could possibly work was for me to repeat his words to George myself.  Loudly.  Fine.  Lee was good with that.  ‘But’, he said, adding his cleaver caveat, ‘make sure he knows this was actually said in a whisper.  That's very important.  Tell him I am whispering this to him’.  ‘Okay’, I said, ‘promise’.

“Lee whispered his short message to me.  My eyes welled up.  It took a moment before I could manage to repeat them.  I put the receiver down, leaned over George, cupped his ear, and said in a booming outdoor voice (that's all that George could manage to hear without his hearing aids), ‘Lee Baby wants me whisper something in your ear.  He's whispering it to you ... remember, this is just a whisper, right?  Lee Baby's whisper.  Okay?’ George nodded in agreement.  Then, in the loudest stage whisper I could manage (more of a hoarse shout, actually) I repeated Lee's words verbatim.

"’I love you’.

“George heard it clearly.  Crisp as daylight it was.  In fact, the whole house heard it, too.  But to George, it wasn't a shout, it was still spoken in Lee's gentle whisper.  You see, he loved Lee's aural tapestries, and this was an especially resonant one.  No matter how loud I had shouted it, the words had remained a whisper, just as Lee had painted them.  He smiled, ear to ear, probably his last truly big smile ever, and on the last lucid day of his life.  He then said to me, ‘Tell him I love him too, Rob ... say, I love you, man’.  And I did.   We all cried.  Lee, too.

“I imagine Lee knew exactly how his scenario would play out.  He knew full-well George was nearly deaf and would never be able to hear a whisper.  Of course he expected it to be shouted -- and though we didn't realize it at the time -- George did, and he truly appreciated the fun.  He got it before we did. George soon faded into a coma.  He died the next morning.  His last thoughts were gloriously happy ones. He was grateful to Lee.  He felt so loved by everyone, near and far.  That call carried a lot of weight.  To him, those words were from the entire world, from everyone he had ever loved, not just Lee.  That's how important the moment felt.

“Me? I loved Lee Baby, too.  In fact, I knew Lee -- off and on -- almost my entire life.  He worked for my dad in Jacksonville when I was what? ... three? ... five?  It was the early '60s.  And after that, he appeared repeatedly, town to town, to frequency to format to call sign ... he just kept popping up.  The stories, the history, the adventures he could tell.  Good God!  I've seen both the chaos and the brilliance that co-existed in the man, they fed off each other.  Amazing, just an amazing guy.  Those three words were the greatest gift imaginable.  George was gloriously happy after that call.  And you know what, that act was just pure Lee, his heart and soul.  A real man.  What a lovely guy.  He knew what was needed at that moment more than we all did, and he went and did it.  Damn the torpedoes.

“My regret now is not having said ‘I love you’ to Lee Baby himself at the time he needed it most.  I think we all share that feeling now.  I didn't know he was hurting.  I did say things in passing sometimes, and I certainly wasn't shy of sharing my feelings.  But not enough.  I didn't say it when he needed it most.  I must live with that now and forever.  I love you, Lee.  A brilliant man, a supernova if there ever was, a blazing bright light streaking across the sky, enormously generous and caring, and so full of talent I don't know how he could to even walk a straight line.  I was in awe of the man.  Crazy, yes, but in the very best of ways, the radio way.  Always pushing the limits, stretching the rules of imagination; and sometimes, perhaps, going too far for the mores of myopic employers.  His clock ran slightly ahead of the rest of ours, always a few minutes ahead of the times.  He brightened our lives with his wit, charm, and skill.  His heart.  HIs genius.  A savant.  Above all, an extremely kind soul.  Loyalty and friendship was his lodestar.  May we all learn from him.  I am so deeply saddened.  There's a hole in my life today.  I miss him dearly.  Forever.”

Note:  Rob Moorhead was George Wilson’s son-in-law.  His father was L. David Moorhead, the founder of the icon KMET-FM, Los Angeles.

Kim Simms, daughter of Lee Baby, to the Three Mesquiteers:  “Salutations Gentleman, I have much to say to all of y'all, and I will in due time, but I am a little overwhelmed at the moment.  Just let me say Thank You to all of you for your kind words and support.  You can certainly tell a lot about a man by the friends he keeps, and you gentleman are absolutely the Cream of the Crop!  He was a stellar individual, as are all of you, and he loved each and everyone of you!  He sent me some of y'alls emails, and told me stories about all of you.  I am truly blessed to be an honorary member of ‘The Mesquiteers’!  As my Dad often wrote, after he had written something and found a mistake or had a better way of wording it.  ‘Please see Edit’ and he would change it; so I have an edit myself, see below.  I was reading a few things on line and people were doing the math about his age, so I thought I would clear things up and set the record straight.  My Dad was born on August 24, 1943, at the time of his death he was 71 years old, he would have been 72 this August.  Please, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.  With much Love.”

Dave Duke Sholin:  “What a wonderful tribute to Lee. I spoke w/him on the phone several times but didn't really know him so reading your words and those of others gives us all insight into his incredible life and career.  Some years ago while at Gavin I did a cover story on the late Steve Rivers.  I asked Steve to name his favorite jocks and without hesitation he exclaimed, ‘well number one for me is definitely Lee Baby Simms … hands down the best!’  High praise indeed from someone who worked and mentored some of the best in our business. Condolences to you, his family and his many pals.”

Robert E. Richer:  “Hi, Claude … FYI, I sent the Lee Baby Simms obit to my pal Dick Robinson:  ‘Thanks you for sharing  ...  Amazing talent!  RIP.   Dick R.’  I met Bob Crane a couple of times when he was on Ken Cooper’s WICC in Bridgeport.  An amazing, dynamic talent when he was on the air.  But off-air, one of the most introverted men I’d ever met.  Shy, withdrawn.  Sitting in front of an open mic was his way of letting all of the pressure out.”

Deniese Barnette:  “This is Niese, Lee Simm's sister.  I found out through an email from his daughter this past Monday, that he killed himself.  We are estranged from Kim and I was wondering if you have any information you can share with me.  I can't find an obituary.  I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and I spoke with my brother about two months ago.  I have been trying to get in touch with him and he did not respond. I am very upset.  Don Roberts told me to contact you because he is in London and will return to the states next Sunday.”  I wrote her.  “Thank you so much for responding to my email so quickly.  I would love to see all the blogs, so please do send them to me.  I like to think I was my brother’s favorite sister, so he told me ... but there are two others and he probably told them the same thing. I am in shock over his death and my two sisters are on a cruise and they do not know about this. They return on Saturday and that will be a difficult day when I have to call them and tell them. They live in Philadelphia so we live very far apart. When Lee was in Spartenburg, SC, many years ago, he would dedicate songs to his sisters and we were so thrilled, because we were little girls, he was 10 years old when we were born.  We visited him in many stations and use to be able to listen to him when he was in Hartford.  I just can't believe he is really gone.”

Scooter Seagraves: “Wish someone could share Lee Baby's KRLA stuff.  Heard him when they were doing their AOR-on-AM thing, then few years later in Miami.  KTSA a/c was the first time I'd heard his incredible Top 40 chops.  GF and I would do some of that proverbial 'friendly help' and LOAO at some of his KRLA stuff in summer '72.”

Gary Allyn:  “My memory bank took out quite a large ‘withdrawal’ Sunday last. I wasn't ready for it either.  Lee Baby Simms left us this past week. In so doing, he left an unfillable hole in Rock Radio history.  Not to mention, many hearts.  Lee was uncharacterizable -- if there is such a word.  One could use up a Thesaurus, and still not have enough adjectives or nouns to adequately describe the Lee Simms style’ on the air. All you had to know was, that he was a communicator of the first degree.  However you choose to define Lee's unique air talent is subjective.  We people tend to put labels on other people and things, it's as though we have to quantify them somehow, rather than to just enjoy them.  Every now and then, we run across some body like a Lee Baby Simms ... and we can't seem to find a category that fits what we have come to accept as normal or regular.  Some defy description, and Lee Simms was one of THOSE.  Me?  Well I've
worked with and for some pretty extraordinary Radio people in my days, but few exhibited the most high tribute I would give ... that would be, to be called a true Artist.  There aren't many out there with that mantle of excellence.  Lee is one original who I never heard copied.  You couldn't.  How many can you say that about?  Having been a fellow DJ with Lee, and his Program Director a few times, I still can't tell you I really knew what was so damned special about him.  All I understood was, Lee was special.  You felt it, you knew it when you were with Lee, or just simply heard him.  I was a fan like everyone else who ever heard him perform his artistry on the air. There are those like Jackie Robinson, a Bo Jackson, an Elvis Presley, an Ella Fitzgerald, a Muhammed Ali, a Michael Jackson, a LeBron James, a Mozart, a Pavarotti, a Ted Williams ... you get the idea ... special people in their field of expertise.  These gifted ones ARE special.  Everyone feels or senses it almost immediately, but we are hard pressed to explain their greatness or level of specialness.  That, thank God, can be left to us mere mortals to try and figure out and to enjoy. Much has been made of the Lee Simms air talent. But Gilmore Lamar Simms, the person from South Carolina, was just as exemplary as his Lee Baby alter ego on the air was.  He was perfect for the ‘Peace, Flowers & Love’ generation he was at his zenith in.  A free spirit who always did it his way ... even to the end.  No, Lee always made you feel that YOU needed him ... he didn't need you.  As a high school drop out, Lee somehow knew how words communicated.  His flowery descriptions and delightful stories sprung forth from some source, some word well, that belied his shortened education.  A fan once wrote Lee, telling him of his brilliance when the fan heard one of his incredible air checks. Lee responded: ‘What a surprise on this rainy Sunday morning, when upon awakening from my slumber, my sleep ('To sleep, perchance to dream' -- the dead air dream.  If I live to be a thousand years old, I will dream the dead air dream’).  Lee went on to thank the person for his email, then ended with this: ‘Look now lads, the Sun burns through the rain, the clouds. The Sun, the source of all Life asserts itself. It will not be denied’.  Not bad for a high school drop out.  Lee Simms did not live to be a thousand years old.  Me?  I'll ‘re-deposit’ those LBS memories and smile.  God Bless you my good friend, I trust you are now living your ‘Dead Air Dream’.

Claude Hall:  I’d like to point out that Lee Baby Simms was extremely well read … i.e., he was self-educated.  Beyond this, he also enjoyed all kinds of music, including classical and it was Lee Baby Simms that tuned me onto Greg Brown.  I have a master’s and that have about half of the coursework toward a Ph.D. in communication.  Believe me, Lee Baby Simms was adept.  Mostly because of his love of everything and eagerness to learn.

Barbara Bodnar to Robert Weisbuch:  “I know you must be distressed.  Lee's death was such a shock and a big loss.  It took me some time to pull my own thoughts together and be able to share them.  I knew Lee briefly when he was at WPOP.  I was promotion director and copywriter, and as such, we had a chance to work together on production.  He was kind, helpful, talented and always mysterious.  Those qualities made him remarkable and unforgettable.  There is only one way of making sense of his death and that is to remember he always moved on when he was ready.  Those who loved him are pained.  Those who knew him slightly are shocked.  Those who only heard of him, or simply heard him on the radio are saddened.  It is only right that a man of his stature should turn our emotions upside down.  We will all honor him in our own way as the memories of a good man play on and on in our minds.”

Don Sundeen, the great radio/music sage, sent me something about an auction at Graceland, with these comments:  “There was so much weird stuff like this surrounding Elvis, including a full-fledged church, that it’s almost beyond belief.  Few other celebrities, including the Beatles and Stones, have brought out the crazies like Elvis did, both alive and after he died.  I had a personal tour of the real Graceland when doing research for a radio special in the early 80s, and it was strange to almost creepy.  I bumped into his 80-something Aunt Nash, who lived in a room under the main staircase, as we entered the house.  Elvis had included her in his will, directing that she could live at Graceland until her death, and she was there alone in the big house coming out of the kitchen.  We were introduced and I said to her, ‘Aunt Nash, I imagine you miss Elvis very much’, and she replied, ‘Oh no, I hear him singing upstairs in the shower every night’.  At that point my handler said it was time to move along, it wasn’t the kind of story they wanted in a radio show.  At some point I asked to use the bathroom and was allowed to use a private privy off the kitchen where the walls were covered with signatures of famous performers; directly above the toilet was written, ‘Bob Dylan’ and the date of his visit.  Of course I also signed the wall.  Btw, our program was never produced; after the tour I had a meeting with Jack Soden, the man in charge of the estate, and he told me we’d be bidding against Dick Clark Productions and they were offering $1,000,000.  I thanked him for the hospitality and told him that was about $750,000 over our budget; then we shook hands, said goodbye and he gave me a T-Shirt.  Your comments are welcome.”

Larry Cohen, Long Beach:  “TO JOHNNY HOLLIDAY:  FYI, although the information in Claude's No. 48m2 re. Sal Licata is correct, there are no calls allowed to be directly forwarded to him, per instructions of Mrs. Licata.  Passing myself off as Dr. Cohen, a specialist in the field of neck & back rehabilitation did me no good.  The male evening nurse (Noel) wouldn't even give me a hint of his condition.  Everything seemed to be hush-hush. With your long & personal relationship with Sal, if permissible, you may want to inform us old-time friends & peers if 'all is well' & let him know that he is in our thoughts.  I met Sal almost 53 years ago when we were both local UA rep's.  (I think he was from Cleveland at that time & we may have shared a room together at a UA national sales meeting.)  Many years later Sal was hired by UA as head of marketing at the home office at 6920 Sunset Blvd. in LA.  I was running promotion back east when I got a phone call from a very serious S. Licata requesting me to ‘cut back on my expenses’.  Unfortunately for the both of us, Sal (AS MANY OTHERS) had a very short tenure at UA under the guise of a very difficult CEO, Mike Stewart & I never got that expense report approved & signed by Sal nor reimbursed.  So when (Noel) the night nurse at Kessler Rehab' asked if there was a message he could deliver to Mr. Licata, I said tell him ‘Dr. Larry Cohen is awaiting for his ong overdue expense report to be approved & signed by the patient’.  Hopefully, this will put a smile on his face.  And to you, Johnny Holliday, I still remember quite vividly that night you took me to the Cow Palace (??) to the Warriors game, watch Clifford Ray control the boards & listen to your great stories about your buddy, Hall-of-famer Rick Barry.  And I still have never forgotten.  Both that night and you.”

Ed Silvers, who bills himself as a music man turned Caribbean sailor, to Sam Riddle:  “Hi, Sam and Adrienne, what a wonderful surprise to hear of you in Claude's writings!  I have been completely out of touch with the ‘industry’ since sailing away from Hollywood and WB Music in 1981.  Some time ago I stumbled upon the report of those in radio and promotion, and have enjoyed reading about the gang from the 60's. Some of my happiest memories are those of Liberty Records and being a record hyper to some of the best radio people in the business.  I live on a tiny island -- Virgin Gorda -- about 3000 of us, and I know everyone of my neighbors.  No crime or violence here!  I have sailed to every island in the Caribbean, mostly single handing.  In my 60s, I married a childhood sweetheart -- I'm a very lucky guy -- I thought I would never make a husband!  Great to hear that you are still active and enjoying life. I have such good memories of times we spent together -- let's stay in touch.  Warmest personal regards.”

Sam Riddle to Ed Silvers:  “Wow!   What a great surprise.  HI, Ed!  Adrienne says to say hello to you.  For sure we should catch up.  Claude, in answer to what I am doing these days ... for sure I am keeping active.  Currently developing a new teen/tween drama-music TV series for Sea World Entertainment to be produced in both English and Spanish ... sort of a Glee by the Sea!”

Ron Jacobs, Hawaii: “Aloha from Pearl City.  I live about a half-mile from the harbor, as in ‘Day of Infamy’.  I was seven-years-old.  We could see the smoke from Waikiki, seven miles away; no tall buildings.  The usual aloha to you and your co-author lady!”

J.J. Johnson promotes his book “Aircheck: Life in Music Radio” on the link below.  Always liked J.J.  Great voice!  “I just saw your name online and, for some reason, the mental picture of the two of us sitting in a booth at Martoni's flashed in my head.  Anyhow, glad you're still around.  It's a long way from 1580 KDAY and further still from KFRC, but I still exist.  I don't know if you're aware of the following, but it'll take 90 seconds to get it. I wanted you to be aware.”

Hey, J.J., I always thought you owned that booth at Martoni’s!  Good luck with the book.

And Timmy Manocheo writes that Shadoe Stevens will be on the air live, again, all next week, from 6:AM to 10:AM (CST) on WLUP/FM in Chicago.
That's Monday 2/9/15 through Friday 2/13/15.

Robby Vee continues to build.  He and his rockabilly band performs Feb. 13 at the Community Center in Bloomington, MN, and the next day at the Zumbrota State Theater, MN.  For those who don’t know, this is one of Bobby Vee’s sons.  His other two sons work as backup to various acts and operate a recording studio in St. Cloud, MN.

I confess that the past week or so have been hectic.  Someone sent me a photo of a blazing sun in a blue sky.  Possibly part of a cover.  If there was anything else, I didn’t get it.  Sorry.

Gary Gielow, San Francisco:  “Jim Gabbert has sent me your Commentary 49r which includes your kind comments about the book about KPEN.  Thank you kindly.  It was a labor of love and we hope a way to keep the memory of KPEN alive. The way to order the book, and the price, is $23.95 via the CHRS (California Historical Radio Society) website  If you could correct the address in a future issue it would be appreciated.”

Don Graham sent me some photos from the luncheon honoring Rick Dees in Los Angeles.  “It was a terrific event,” according to Graham.  “Great fun seeing Rick Dees, Jhani Kaye, Shotgun Tom Kelly, Chuck Street, Mike Horn, Fritz Coleman, Harold Green, Wally Clark, Scott St. James, David Sheean, Wink and Sandy Martindale.”  Okay, so I had to go back to my old Power Mac, which is hooked to my scanner.  Try to relearn old programs.  Gah!  How do you turn the computer on?  It’s Monday, for God’s Sake!  Then I tried to reestablish just who I am:  A rational, sane, intelligent human being.  I finally figured out Photoshop from days of Fibber McGhee and Molly.  Transferred over to this MacBook Pro via a Zip.  One photo features Rick Dees and Shotgun Tom Kelly.  The other Rick Dees with Sandy and Wink Martindale.  May the Good Lord bless and keep Don Graham!  But he has been removed from my A list to my B list for the rest of the day!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Claude's Commentary No. 49r2

Today at 7:39 AM
February 2, 2015

Claude’s Commentary No. 49
By Claude Hall

Lee Baby Simms died Jan. 28, 2015, on his back porch with his “maters” at his home overlooking the San Francisco Bay.  He was 72.  We come, we do, we go.  He leaves a daughter, Kim Simms, and a grand daughter Marina Jasmine Simms.  He was extremely proud of them.  Close friends program director Woody Roberts; Robert Weisbuch, former president of Drew University and author of a book about Lee Baby, and myself can’t understand why he had to go.  I think all three of us have cried.  I heard Jimmy Rabbitt cried.  Lee was a vital part of our lives.  He will be missed.  I don’t think the tears are over yet.

I sent out a quick notice this past week and received perhaps a hundred responses, many from people who knew him.  I will forward these to his daughter Kim.

Lee Simms began his career on WTMA, Charleston, SC, an early Top 40 radio station programmed by George Wilson.  Lee Simms and George Wilson remained close friends the rest of their lives.  When Lee began work for program director Woody Roberts in San Antonio, he got a middle name of “Baby” and also worked for Woody at WPOP, Hartford.  They had renewed their friendship just recently during research by Dr. Robert Weisbuch for a book called “Hitbound.”  Lee worked at about 30 stations and, while sometimes fired, took pride that he could always get a job.  He also worked on the air at KCBQ, San Diego, and KRLA, Los Angeles.

I never heard him on the air, but have heard several airchecks.  His airchecks abound at swapmeets.  Lee Baby Simms had a gift.  He knew the heart of the listener and could talk to them one on one.  And he was an amazing storyteller.  There are tales of him talking up a record and taking an hour to do so.  He was proud of being a Top 40 disc jockey.  I’d written some radio tales for an ebook called “Radio Wars” ( and Jimmy Rabbitt mentioned that no matter how outrageous the tales where, they could never really be close to the truth.  Rabbitt worked with Lee Baby at KCBQ, San Diego.

The first meeting with Lee was the day he walked into my office with an entourage (remember those days when disc jockeys were like bullfighters?) and wanted to know if I’d give him another beer mug from the convention in San Francisco, 1975).  I had a few left in a cardboard box beneath my desk.  I said, “Sure,” and handed him one.  He reached in his pocket and handed me a tire gage in exchange.  I had to laugh?  What was he really telling me?

Someone I didn’t know -- I surmise he was a fan of the Baby -- submitted an interview he’d done with Lee.  I was keeping those things close because I later intended to use them in books about radio.  But I had to buy that one and feature it in Billboard.  It seemed to capture very aptly the character that was Lee Baby Simms.  And I figured, quite correctly, that I might never catch up with him again.

He invited me and Woody several times recently to come have lunch or dinner with him.  Robert Weisbuch made the trip from New Jersey a couple of times and had another trip with wife Candy planned.  They were like brothers, this man with a Ph.D. and Baby, who never finished high school.

But now the Baby is gone.  And Woody, Robert, and me are left with just tears and memories until we all gather upstairs in Don Sundeen’s Rock and Roll Heaven.  Others, too, will miss him until then.  I couldn’t print all of the responses to the 500 notices that I sent out, but here are a passing few.

Don Sundeen:  “One of the great rock jocks has left the studio, Lee ‘Baby’ Sims.  This aircheck is what Top 40 radio sounded like before Bill Drake when it was still fun; it made me tired just listening to him with all that energy in afternoon drive.  This is before he started doing the ‘Lee Baby’ schtick, and I found it interesting how many live reads there were on some of the spots and PSA’s.  Interesting to hear his distinctive cadence and accent again, and he never stumbled over a word.  God bless his soul, hope he loves Rock and Roll Heaven, that’s where all the good jockeys go.”

Aircheck:    Lee “Baby” Simms, KTSA, San Antonio, TX, was included.

Woody Roberts: “Thank you.  I didn't know a Lee Baby Simms aircheck from those days existed, rare.  Actually, the Lee Baby had already developed his one of a kind ‘schtick’ doing 7-mid in San Antonio and Hartford.  KTSA for him was shelter in a storm.  He was 26 years old and I was 28.  I can't recall why Lee called me or where from what city; said he was starting to look for a gig and I said afternoon drive was open but we were doing a ‘version’ of Drake and he said it'd be fun to do it.  But only for a while.  He lived with me, we had great times and in eight months he says Woody, I've enjoyed it but time to move on.  His ratings were #1.  In hindsight, I should have moved 6-10 deejay Tim Kelly to afternoons and turned nights over to Lee but Tim had strong ratings and a good fan base.  And, I wasn't the KTSA PD (but certainly had input).  The night format was a bit looser tho still tight with music sweeps, we both knew it was not the format he enjoyed.  It was a waste of Lee's talent; a kind of regression back to his pre-KONO-WPOP days and more like the tape he first sent to me from KRIZ in spring 1965.  There may be a major 21st century radio DJ personality that I have not heard, it's possible ... but I have never heard anyone who could better engross a listener in his world or better handle an on-air interaction with a live caller; you had to hear it live and in context of that moment to understand his power.”

Woody later:  “I just listened to the KTSA aircheck and was surprised it was telescoped, must have been made by PD Kahn Hamon.  He indeed was driving the format at a ferocious pace but I think the tape [you remember tape?] is running a tad fast thus raising the pitch on voices.  Notice The Baby decided to again call himself Lee Simms at that streamlined pace.  I thought it a bit excessive, but he and The Mighty Kahn felt it best for quickly boosting ratings.  It did raise the numbers impressively and when Lee departed Kahn took the helm of that express train.  Thanks again for sharing.  PS -- Likely Claude Hall remembers Kahn Hamon.”

Don Sundeen:  “I remember Kahn L. Hamon very well, a great jock and PD.  In fact he introduced me to Lee at KTSA and we all pumped some beers one night.  Sometimes there were great memorable nights, and that was one of them. The stories, the connections (‘did you know ... just got blown out in Fresno, you won't believe what he said’), the laughter, and Lee's love for the business and his pure humanity made beautiful memories.  Btw, the aircheck was passed on by the great Scooter B. Segraves, who also lived the journeyman disc jockey life.”

Jack Casey, Emerson College, Boston: “What sad news.  The world is a little less funny with Lee gone.  Sincere condolences on the loss of your friend.  Please extend my sympathies to Lee’s daughter.  I only met Lee Baby once, during a visit to WPOP with my Emerson classmate and friend Eric Marenghi.  Lee was appropriately distant yet charming to a couple of newbies in the business.  During my sophomore year I spent every evening trying to pull in WPOP’s 5 kw. signal at my student apartment on Beacon Street in Boston.  The signal would fade in and out and my roommate Dave Thomson (now mornings at 98.9 FM in Fresno) thought I was nuts because he was a big Joey Reynolds fan (Lee’s competition at WDRC) and couldn’t understand why I was expending all this effort to listen to The Lee Baby.” But Dave was eventually won over by Lee’s quirky talent.  For those who never heard him, Lee was like a cross between Jean Shepherd and Jerry Blavat with a little bit of Howard Stern thrown in for good measure.  Forgive the lame comparisons because LaMar ‘Lee’ Simms was a truly unique talent and one of the most creative story-tellers to ever grace the airwaves.  Dave Thomson, Russ Oasis, Beau Raines and I spent time reminiscing about Lee yesterday.  When he did mornings for Beau at LUV94 in Miami Lee told his listeners about the time previously when he had interviewed a famous WWII flying ace.  The pilot supposedly told Lee ‘there were Fokkers at 11 o’clock, Fokkers at 2 o’clock and Fokkers all around’.  Lee said he asked, ‘Fokker is a kind of German plane, right?’  And the pilot replied, ‘Yeah … but these Fokkers were Messerschmitts’.  Classic Lee Baby.  RIP, Lee.  You will be missed.”

Marcia Fox Winters: “Art Wander gave me your email address ... of course, all my old radio friends had messaged me to tell me of Lee's passing.  I met Lee when I went to work at WPOP in Hartford, in 1966.  Lee had recently joined the WPOP airstaff, with Woody Roberts as PD.  I was on the morning show with Woody, as Miss Fox, his secretary.  Lee was our evening guy on from 7 pm.  He used to come into the station later in the afternoon, so I used to see him only briefly.  At that time, he was kind of shy, always a gentleman, though he was a wild man on the air!  Not much to say, except RIP, Lee ... let's hear the Mighty Stones once again!”

Larry Woodside: “Hi, Claude ... I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.  Lee helped me get into radio.  Although we have been out of touch for many years I've never forgot him.  I wish I would have reached out to him sooner since I'm a 5 x cancer survivor.  He and China Smith were my two favorite people.  I will miss him very much and pray for his family.  If there is a service I'd like to pay my respects … please let me know.”

Bob Sherwood:  “Claude, I’m so very sorry to learn that Lee ‘Baby’ is gone.  I never knew him but certainly knew of him.  I heard him a lot in San Diego and when he was ‘on’ he was one of the most creative people I’ve ever heard.  I spend time in neighboring Ridgefield (Connecticut) and his name still comes up occasionally from people who heard him in Hartford.  And that was 30 or 35 years ago!  My late close friend and fellow jock Rob’t. L. Collins used to relate anecdotes from their time together at KBCQ that just proved that Lee was one of the few who absolutely deserved the title ‘a Legend’.  He seemed so vital when he was writing to you that to be told that he took his own life is shocking beyond measure.  One has to feel very bad speculating on what would drive him to do such a thing.  I certainly don’t want to be ‘flip’ about this tragedy but as a believer in the ‘here-after’ I’m going to surmise that there’s already a Helluva radio station someplace -- perhaps that should be heckuva -- that features Rob’t. W. Morgan, Scott Muni, Don Sherwood, Don McKinnon, Alan Freed, Rob’t. L. Collins, Rosko, Jack Carney, Hal Jackson and other notables and they’re going to have to give up some mike time for Lee ‘Baby’.  My sincerest sympathies to you for the loss of your good friend and please pass along condolences to any of his family with whom you might speak.
And there’ll be a lot of candles lighting up St. Mary’s Church tomorrow morning.”

Shadoe Stevens: “Wow.  I am so sorry to hear this.  It doesn't seem possible.  I haven't been in touch with Lee Baby since we worked together in the 70s but always admired his extraordinarily creative mind and cherish the memory of his work and friendship.  We were pretty close during the KRLA days.  And who could forget ‘Old Doc Frail?’  Who does something like that?  No one.  He was fearless and funny as hell.  Thank you for the note.  And thanks for your ongoing notes and updates on all the radio greats.  My heart goes out to his family and friends.”

Allan Shaw: “My condolences to you, Lee's family and all of his friends.  I know how close you were to Lee and how difficult this must be for you.  To me, Lee Baby Simms was every American disc jockey.  His life typified the lives of so many of his fellow DJs.  So many of us could identify with him.  Old age and diseases like cancer can kill our spirit and, in some cases, our will to even go on living.  I'm sorry Lee was overwhelmed by his circumstances.  He is not alone and may he rest in peace.”

Also heard from Robert Davi, Lyn Stanley, Ted Scott, Jeff Velline, Ken Levine, Bob Levinson, Scott St. James, Rich Robbins, Mel Phillips, Russ Regan, and many others.

It was Art Wander who connected me with Marcia Fox Winters, above, and I had this note from Art: “Marcia was so much a part of WPOP as anyone of the great personalities that trooped through the doors of Amaturo.  I also was pleased to have hired Bill Winters as PD of WCAO in Baltimore when I was national PD for Plough.  I imagine that Marcia probably knows as much of the history of WPOP in its Top 40 days as anyone.  Glad to see her daughter doing so well in radio in Hartford.  Stay well … and keep the commentaries coming, they are so welcome every Monday.”

Morris I. Diamond: “Back in the mid 50s & 60s when I was on the road constantly getting airplay for my variety of clients, I made friends with a gent from Detroit, Frank Sims at WKMH in Dearborn.  Same station as Robin Seymour.  Frank was a DJ, but also very involved in sports.  He also had an afternoon sports show from a local restaurant where he commented on the various sports events in the area.  On a number of visits, he would organize a card game with Spikes Briggs, who's family owned the Detroit Tigers, and, as well as Briggs Stadium and the game would be at Spike's apartment.  After a few years, Frank quit being a disc jockey and found a new career as sports play-by-play announcer for the Detroit Tigers – then on to the Philadelphia Phillies – and San Diego Padres for a few years.  Then, for the following 16 years, he was hired by the California Angels as their travelling secretary.  That was a good payoff for me, personally.  We had never lost touch with each other and now he was working in my neck of the woods.  He had full control of tickets for each game … basically for the players and their friends and families … and for 16 years I had access to as many games as I wanted to attend as well as the amount of guests I cared to bring.  For the past 6 or 7 years, Frank retired … and sadly,  he passed away yesterday.  He was living in Orange County and just a couple of months ago, his son, Scott, drove him to my home in Palm Desert for a visit.   R I P, Franklin J. Sims.”

Earlier from Morris: “Hey, Claude … if there's anyway I can make your passion to write to us weekly easier, you can count on me for $100.  I thank Robert Richer for coming in first with the story of Joe Franklin's passing.  Basically, Joe was a New York City personality and I am so pleased at the TV coverage he's receiving from cities far and wide about his passing.  I knew him well and felt that we lost a favorite relative.  I've attached a picture taken a little over a year ago in Joe's office with my lady, Alice Harnell and Joey Reynolds … and Joe insisted on holding my book for the picture.  I sold quite a few copies in New York City, thanks to Joe's pitching.  In the meantime, Joey showed his affection by schlepping Alice and I around New York City.  We had great times together when he and Morton Downey Jr. were young up and coming prominent DJs … as a matter of fact, Joey and I attended Downey's wedding where I was best man … and years later, we spoke at Downey's funeral.  I can't wait to read your Joey Reynolds stories.  Love to you and your guiding light, Barbara.”

Ron Jacobs: “Sometime before we are both vaporized, it would be good to be in synch with this modern email and Internet stuff.  Both of us, raised on Rolodex, are now in an altogether different world than the one into which we were plunked.  And between us more than 150-years-old. Praise Jesus!  After two failed attempts to land this in your Monday Hall of Fame, let’s see if we can get this URL link thing right, OK?  Here is a tribute to you that I posted in July 2008.  So kindly amplify out mutual adoration society by including this:
As ever, warmest aloha, Tex, to you and Barbara.  I figure we are like the cliche about fine wine: We become more textured, our taste refined, reputations solidified.  I didn’t have no where the challenges you had growing up, in one sense, but being a Caucasian Jew in Hawaii during the 1940s had its challenges.  That’s why I dropped out of high school and began in radio.  I want to make this oldish column available to those who read da Commentary, since many of them are from the Least Coast and/or are too young to know how it was during the truly Good old days.  Just want to let your amigo readers know that you and I ain’t strangers … and that I’m not a total asshole, an image of me held by others I ain’t met or even heard of.  Please outlast me so you can do my obit, OK?  :)  Hang in there my friend, and the usual aloha.”

Ron, I appreciate.  I will never forget the day I interviewed you in a bungalow near the ocean.  Baby crying.  Wonder how much that house would go for today?  It certainly seemed like a good place to be at the time … just a two-minute stroll on the sidewalk down to the ocean.  I think you were programming KGB in San Diego in those days.

Barry O’Neil: “Diane Kirkland just sent me your email newsletter.  Is there any chance you could put me on your list?  After Billboard, I worked for Casablanca Records for a couple of years with Cecil Holmes, Renny Roker and Jheryl Busby.  Then went over to Motown for 17 years, working with Miller London, Skip Miller and James Cochran, making the transition from Berry Gordy's Motown to when he sold it and Jheryl Busby took over. Then transitioned with Jheryl to Dreamworks Records.  Finally in 2007 I had to get a real job in the real world, but had so much fun before that.  Hopefully this will greet you with a Healthy Happy New Year.”

Ed Silvers: “Thanks for forwarding my request to contact Sam Riddle.  When he drops a note to me, I will fill you in on a music guy turned Caribbean sailor. Life is good with reggae!  Kindest regards.”

Just received a book “The Story of KPEN” by Gary M. Geilow, courtesy of James Gabbert.  Great book.  If interested, you might contact Chris at P.O. Box 94131, San Francisco, CA 94131.  I do not know what the price might be.  I go back with KPEN to its early days.  It was first with this and first with that.  This book details those early days up until about the time it became K101.  Photos, newspaper stories.  Thank you, Jim.

Woody Roberts: “I think Dr. Bob has spoken with Sandy Beach recently.  Perhaps Sandy will be in Hartford for their Day the Music Died event.  He was on WDRC during the Battle for Connecticut.  And, Claude, I read the Commentary because it's YOU … perhaps the answer is biweekly or a monthly roundup.”

Ynah!  You will love the new blog when it arrives.  I’m looking forward to it myself, come April or thereabouts.  And I’ll be around as long as the new editor will let me.

Joey Reynolds sent me an item about the industry building non-tipable TV sets: “See, Claude … You didn't know after all of this high tech crap that you have a state of the art secured TV that won't tip over and break the bowl with your beer nuts in it.”

Joey also sent an item about Barry Farber … “Fine memories of a man in the league of Bill Randle.”

I didn’t know Barry.  Wish I’d known Joe Franklin; my fault.  I did know Bill Randle and Bill Stewart and Gordon McLendon and I’m grateful for that.

Dick Summer: “I do a weekly podcast, Claude. It's my way of staying in touch with some people who used to listen.  Only people who have been on the air will understand why this email that came in about the podcast today is so special to me.  My childhood radio Idol was William B. Williams at WNEW.  When this came in, I swear I could hear him saying "Sounding good kid" just like he did my first day on the air at WNEW-FM a lot of years ago ... when I was still a kid.”  Dick included a note from Carole to Dick:  “Dick – Lo those several decades ago when you were on WNEW – I seriously don’t know what I would have done without you. You helped me keep my sanity (although there are those who might take issue with that statement).  I would lie on the rug in my living room with not much light on, and listen to you. Yes, I did feel as though you were speaking just to me – and it got me through some really tough nights.  So thanks, again, for those times (and these)!”

Barbara and I attended a birthday party for Willie at the Rainbow Grill.  Frank Sinatra Jr. played piano for the evening.  Gifts?  I recall a magnum of champagne and a foldup motor scooter.  William B. Williams was indeed a radio god.

Freddy Snakeskin: “Hi, Claude, I’d like to read your Joey Reynolds story, too!”

I may have messed up on one or two requests regarding the story about Joey.  Hope not.

Ken Dowe: “Love all the Paul Harvey anecdotes.  He was such a great news interpreter and writer.  Once, I sent him an opinion to which he replied:  ‘You have hit the nail with your head, Ken’.  Wonderful!  (I stole it.)  I believe Johnny Carson was TV's all-time best host, too.  A renaissance man.  With regard to all the great jocks, let me submit the name of my personal favorite.  Bob Crane. I was a 20-year-old (barely adequate) morning personality in San Diego who could not wait to get off the air at 9 AM so I could listen to Bob Crane's show from LA.  He doesn't get much play anymore because by all accounts he was totally screwed up.  But, as a radio entertainer, I thought he was the best I ever heard.  Still do.  Witty.  Sardonic. Incredible timing.  Terrific interviewer.  Check him out as a jock on YouTube.  Your opinion about Reagan as a marvelous speaker is spot on, too.  Clear and convincing.  He was an actor.  I love actors on air.   For all the (deserved) hoopla given radio guys with booming voices I was always a super fan of ... actors.  Gordon (McLendon) was heavily invested in the film and theater business.  At one time he owned most of the shares of Columbia Pictures as well as a huge number of movie theaters.  His dad (Mr. Mac) once told me quite sternly (vociferously?) that I was never to forget that the film business was our (his) principal interest, inferring that all the radio stations were merely ancillary holdings.  I, of course, congratulated him on his typically astute judgment ... and agreed wholeheartedly.  (‘Love your bow tie, too ... Mr. Mac!’)

“As a result, Gordon's movie pals regularly frequented us at the McLendon Executive offices. Clint Eastwood.  Chill Wills.  John Wayne.  Etc.  On lower floors we had multiple screens and on another the birthing rooms of DFW's first #1 FM station ... the vaunted cult classic ... KNUS.  While wandering through the station one day with Glenn Corbett (are you old enough to remember ROUTE 66?), I saw one of the jocks was having a terrible time voicing a commercial.  I offered a suggestion:  ‘Hey, Glenn.  Would you mind trying this?’  One read.  Silky smooth. Perfect interpretation.  Selling the sizzle. Outstanding.  Actors!  Best recent example: Liev Schreiber. His HBO reads are textbook!  One of my favorite compliments from my wife was not intentional.  She said one of her friends had met me.  Dottie thought that was great.  ‘How'd y'all get along?’  The friend stammered that I was nothing like she expected.  ‘He was nice.  Didn't say much.  A gentleman.  Nice suit. More like a business executive ... or, a lawyer’. ‘That's him.  That's Ken!’  ‘But, on the air ... he's wild!  Kinda crazy!  Nothing like in person!’  ‘Oh ... that.  He's not like THAT!  He's an actor!’  What a nice compliment.  Radio.  It WAS a wonderful life.  Every day ... sprinkling stardust.”

Chuck Dunaway: “The extra powerful zaps of steroids in the rehab hospital over a month had really clouded my brain … please ignore any emails I’ve sent in the last few days ... I’m just now coming out of the fog ... Thank you. I hope you and Barbara are doing great.  Among the people who I consider a ‘best friend’ is the man who is loved by all ... Don Whittemore.  He is a real friend forever. Also, I hope you know how much you helped enhance my legacy with the three-issue interview we had in the 70s.  Claude, I do appreciate you. Thank you.”

Agree with you, Chuck, about Don Whittemore.  An amazingly nice person.

Michael C. Gwynne (Mike Sheppard at KDIA and WWRL):  “Oops. Guess I missed it.  Thanks for running it as it was mentioned by one of your readers.  Naming me as Michael Gwinne I was surprised and delighted but I must have missed your citing my screenplay.  Is it possible you could resend it to me? I know you're busy and appreciate your time and am thrilled you considered running it amid such legendary radio names.”

Don Whittemore: “Claude, You are the epoxy -- it is the 21st centurythat keeps us together.  My plan is to write longer and stronger after a wily mind rests from the rush of memories Hall has brought forth again.  The Billboard Forum at the Plaza was so monumental just for the fact that John Lennon was there sitting on a panel next to Rick Sklar.  Where did they go?  The dreams and schemes that created the smoke and mirrors that are still achingly real in our hearts and memories. Time for another glass of Sunshine prune juice.  Godfrey!  Can you imagine the number of one time boozers that are now non-drinkers?  Strange, but true.  So many formerly lovers of  the wild life are now lamenting, ‘If I knew I was gonna live this long -- I'da taken better care of my self’.   Too late smart I think he said.”

Ken Levine sent me an item about Lee Baby Simms, which I will forward to Lee’s daughter Kim.  Then Woody Roberts sent me the link to Ken Levine’s website.  This is beautiful material, a fine tribute to Lee, and you owe it to yourself to read itl

Death is just a passing fancy.