Today at 8:10 AM
March 2, 2015
Claude’s Commentary No. 53
By Claude Hall
Bruce Merrin, Las Vegas, in regards to the item about Chuck Blore in the previous issue: “Claude, our family moved to Sherman Oaks in '57 ... and I vividly recall COLOR RADIO. That was my favorite station.”
Don Graham to Dave Sholin and a few others: “Hi ya, Duke … we talked with Lori Forster last night around 10:30 pm … she had just returned from the hospital and got the message you had called … she asked that we contact you and some of Dick’s friends with an up-date on his conditions. He has been in ICU for the past five days … 24 hr. care, tests, and monitoring for neuropathy (can’t feel anything from his waist down) … he is on a ventilator with a tube down his throat … he is tied down, tries to remove the tube … diabetes and pneumonia making it all very difficult. She tells us he is totally sedated and really cant move … lots of IVs … doctors are planning a procedure, today, to insert a needle, through his rib cage, to try to extract the fluid around his lungs … we were planning to fly up to SF, however, she sez he is not allowed to see anyone & it would not help her if we were there. Lori thanks you for calling … and so it goes … it’s all very sad … much love.
Barry Salberg: “So sad to hear of the passing of Lesley Gore. I never met her, never got the chance to have her verify (or get her take) on this story from back in the day. In December of 1962, my folks rented a house (that they could ill afford) near Marin Country Club. The owner of the house was Hugh Heller, who had just been promoted from his post as PD of KSFO and was moving down to Los Angeles (I assume to KMPC, as this was before the advent of the Heller-Ferguson jingle company). KSFO was in its Golden West heyday at the time, dominating San Francisco — billing itself as the WORLD’S GREATEST RADIO STATION. And it very may well have been, with a lineup that included the legendary Don Sherwood, Al Jazzbeau Collins, Jack Carney, and Jim Lange. As program director, Heller was directly responsible for the famed “Sounds of the City” KSFO jingle masterpiece. Young, hip, and well-heeled, Marin Country Club was part of the KSFO playground — Heller lived just off the course, and Lange played a lot of golf there, some with my step-father (who could ill afford to live or play there).
“A year or so later, Lesley hits big with ‘It’s My Party’, ‘Judy’s Turn’, etc, and is heavily promoted as one of the lead acts on the giant Cow Palace rock‘n’roll show. These shows were big stuff, with seemingly a dozen or so featured acts all on the same bill, each doing their current hits. Well, my step-father was the NorCal sales ‘rep for the apparel company of which Lesley’s father was the president. So my parents invited her to have dinner with us one night, as she would be in town for the Cow Palace show. I was a little younger than Lesley, and was clearly beyond enthralled at the thought. I think she declined, as my memory is vague now whether she cancelled us first, or whatever, but she never made it to the Cow Palace show. The official announcement was that she took ill and wasn’t able to appear.
“Years later, Gene Nelson is on the air and he’s talking about the old Cow Palace shows, and he recounts the story of Lesley Gore. As he told it, the promoters would routinely quote a certain price to the performers and then when the artists got to town, ready to go on, the promoters would renege, offering half of the original quote in a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Most of the performers were kids, they were already in town, so they took it — but not Lesley. Remember, she was far from struggling financially, her family had money, so as a matter of principle, she told ‘em to take a hike, and wouldn’t go on, despite all their heavy pre-show promotion. Hence, the on-air announcement that I heard as a kid that she had gotten sick and couldn’t perform. Well, as I say, I never had the chance to get HER recollections of the story — whether she actually made it to town and then cancelled the show, or as I suspect, never even made the trip. I would imagine there are a few folks out there who could shed some light. I don’t know how to contact Gene Nelson, but I think he’s still here in San Francisco. Gotta be a few other souls who could share a bit on this one?”
They’re worried now that three kids were radicalized. See what reading comic books will do to you?
Jack Casey, Boston: “In a conversation with Beau Raines this morning, he said, ‘Somebody should write a book about Lee Baby’. Well, Sir … you are in fact a … writer (and a good one). And, with input from Lee’s lifelong friend Woody Roberts, I’m sure it would be widely read even outside of ‘the biz’. It would also keep both you and Woody out of trouble so I’m sure Barbara would like the idea. I hope you will consider it. Lee was such a larger than life character that someone should do it … and why not you?”
I wrote Jack that Robert Weisbuch, a fan and buddy of Lee Baby Simms, had already written a book called “Hitbound” about Lee Baby Simms, focusing on WPOP in Hartford, CT. Bob put some hellacious work on the book. Interviewed Lee, Woody Roberts, and Joey Reynolds. Damned good book! I couldn’t and wouldn’t step on the literary toes of Bob. However, I’m piddling around on a book about George Wilson Crowell. Whether I’ll get it done or not, quien sabe? The funny thing is that a publisher paid a writer once to write a book about George. The guy faded away after the fourth or fifth bar.
Danny Davis: “Claude, old man of those ‘yellowing manuscripts’! (What notes your shredder must be privy to!) Chris Christ did indeed apprise me of the new surroundings and uniform for Phil Spector! I’m glad ‘Mr. Perfection’ directed them to Marie! They’re a little tough to take, if you have the memories I have, working for a super hyped and hip genius, as long as I do, with Philip! The toll on creativity appears to have taken much of whatever ‘did ‘im in’, all too complete!! I’ve completed that phase of my book, Claude, but how can I look away from the stuff that makes stories like Spector so mandatory, for the readers? He surely was a catalyst for all I traveled with in the musical clime! Even The Monkees and The Partridge Family couldn’t stop Spector ‘speculating’! Tell you what triggers bickering at our house!! He’s in on a bum rap! Marie doesn’t believe! I do, and it comes from the guys who would know! Lana was a ‘half a hooker’ (their conversation, only repeating!) had a pistol fetish! Sucked on the end, thereof, at various sessions! (Only Repeating! Never Seen!) Knowing Phil as I do, that’s enough to intrigue him! Waiting for the limo, the ‘producer’ asks for a lasting observation! Lana, supposedly, obliges! The gun goes off! That’s the ‘tale’! My wile disbelieves! He was found guilty. I wasn’t there. I know the ‘gents’ who say it’s ‘da troot’! Try arguing with some of those guys! Same fellas’ who named the product, ‘the cleans’! (You can edit any or all of this, you old Billboarder!)”
Danny, I sincerely appreciate this kind of information. History!
Art Wander: “Claude, the great exchange between ‘Chuck and George’ was an outstanding piece of reading in your magnificent Commentary 52. Radio today is nothing compared to those great days. There’s no competition today since corporations own most of the stations in markets. When there was competition, Chuck Blore, Wilson, Jacobs, Sklar, Dowe, McLendon, Storz, etc., etc., etc. were creative geniuses. There’s so little creativity today. Great commentary with great recollections. By the way in 1959, Hooper was reluctant to publish the numbers for WAKY after McLendon took over the station with his Top 40 genius since the numbers were so high. It was great working at the station.”
Mel Phillips: “Much like George Wilson did late in his career, my friend John Gorman (WMMS-FM fame) has started an internet radio station: oWOW (owownow.com). oWOW is described as ‘an eclectic playlist of rock, progressive pop, singer songwriters, reggae and more’. The station is Cleveland owned, operated and programmed but you don't have to live in Cleveland to hear and enjoy it. I've been sampling it and find it both familiar and listenable. Good luck to John and his associates.”
Doc Wendell: “Thanks again so much for posting my Dylan piece. Since the great Clark Terry passed away, I just had to write an appreciation on the master. Hope all is swingin'.”
Just FYI, Steve Tyrell has one of his works with Clark Terry on Youtube. Maybe you can track down the link through stevetyrell.com. He sent me a link, but it was one of those “hidden” things. Tyrell: “I was honored to have recorded 14 songs with Clark over five of my albums. Clark Terry was one of the finest and most-talented men I’ve ever known.”
I sent the first 5,000 words to a novel called “George” to three or four people, including Woody Roberts. I mentioned that my greatest competition was Bill Gavin. Also that I thought highly of Gavin and respected him and always honored him. We invited Bill and Janet once to a conference at the Century-Plaza in Los Angeles and gave them a standing ovation. Woody: “Thinking about it, in my mind Billboard was the radio people's magazine and Cashbox was more tuned for record stores and distributors. I would usually look at Cashbox to see if they had any bullets that Billboard or Gavin missed. And for my purposes I checked Billboard against the Gavin chart not vice versa. I trusted Gavin more for getting ratings and being ahead on a hit. Billboard for sales. Billboard and Cashbox, I read from day one in a radio station because they were always in the jock lounge. I first saw a Gavin Report in at KJR January '62 and became a subscriber, in '64 at KONO I became a reporter. Bill had a rule, one reporter per market. That reporter had to be from a top station. He broke that rule for me in Hartford and thus WPOP brought Bertha's dominance over record company influence in middle/southern New England to an end. No more exclusives. In just a few years she was fired from WDRC and out of radio, possibly she felt about me as George did Buzzy. Bill's condition was that I had to be the correspondent and not the music director, that way he could justify it as I had already been a good reporter. So it was that Paiva did the music and set up the playlist but I filed the Gavin Report.
“Back to the magazine. Aside from the Charts, you were Billboard. I did not know any of the other names on the masthead and considered the conferences Claude Hall conferences. They were your readers conjoined with the publication's advertisers. In fact, when they started is when I first thought somebody at BB must consider Gavin a competitor. Billboard conference? The only reason to attend a conference was to learn about programming solutions and techniques. That was Gavin, it was the essence of his sheet from predicting hits to programming tips from people like Blore, O'Day, Burkhart, Starr, and Buzzy. Whereas, Billboard was about charts -- and your column. Vox Jox served as an early model of an internet by weekly keeping everyone in radio in touch with each other through a lifetime of constant station jumping. No one else did this. Sometimes you would write about a unique contest but that is not why we tuned in, you were the glue. When I attended your first conference I, of course, saw many fellow Gavin correspondents and all of the same record folks, plus ... there were bunches of radio people I'd never heard of and even a few musicians who showed up just to hang out with the DJs. Far more small market participation. It was a great addition to the annual radio conference scene and for me it was not directly competitive to Gavin's meetup. Let me say, NAB's event was a real dull drag, seemed to be more for engineers than talent. I had a 1st. phone but sitting through NAB presentations was grueling. And their management seminars could put you to sleep. Not many record people there, for sure. I'm really curious about what Buzzy did to George and how George helped get him started, was he PD at WTIX? I, too, have my theories about Buzz Bennett, but that's for another time. PS -- one of the most admirable qualities of Bill Gavin was he was an independent entrepreneur and would not accept advertising money to support his work. Pretty unique. I'm sure many record executives treated him well but he would not sell them ads. Everyone programmer I knew considered Gavin Report to be of the highest integrity and free of record company influence.”
Robert E. Richer: “Hi, Claude … for what it’s worth, I still miss chicory coffee and beignets at Café du Monde. Love to be there right now.”
My beautiful wife and I daydream about those sandwiches at the Central Grocery Store across from the Café du Monde. I returned to New Orleans once for a convention and brought home a grocery bag of those sandwiches.
I love Jack Gale, so this review is prejudiced. He is radio and the great lore and history of early Top 40 is wrapped up in him. So, like many radio men in that era, is still producing records. Great on him. His latest project is a CD by Claire Petrie. The title is “The One.” A pretty blonde who takes a Chuck Berry classic – “(C’est La Vie) You Never Can Tell” -- and belts it out as if she was some blues babe in a honky tonk. Yet, this blonde is as country as they make them these days in spite of tunes such as “You Show Me Yours, I’ll Show You Mine,” a very risqué tune, and “Build a Bridge (And Get Over It)”. My compliments, Jack. And to you, too, pretty blonde. Good work.
I musta got in a music place, because I had to listen to some Tom Russell and Johnny Cash. Dave Alvin and Elize Gilkason and Emmylou Harris. Bill Monroe, too. And a dab of Rosanne Cash. Then I went to the TV and played again a Chuck Berry special. Lord, what an entertainer! What a genius!
Red Jones, GA Hall of Fame: “I had emailed earlier re/the new traditional country on line radio station I am doing voice over work for. Some had a problem getting it. Here is the easy way to get to both stations Carl Peeples has developed. Go to Carls Gold Home. Click and it takes you to the listed link. Click for the home page of both stations. Scan down past his ‘welcome letter’ and the logos for each station appear. Click the logo for the station you want. and you'll get the stream. Let me know what you think. Both stations offer a format not seen elsewhere.”
The “giants” (pictured beneath) include Sandy Beach, Shane Gibson, Joey Reynolds, Danny Neaverth, and Stan Roberts. These Buffalo Hall of Fame legends gathered at the Buffalo History Museum, March 15, 2013, at a special event produced in conjunction with the Buffalo Broadcasters Association. The only person I can identify is Joey, second from left. Help?