Today at 9:48 AM
May 11, 2015
Claude’s Commentary No. 63
By Claude Hall
I remember that I would drop by the city library in Brady after school and usually checkout two books. I read all of the Oz series in the library and everything I could find by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Mark Twain, too. Samuel Clements’ third in the Tom Sawyer series was the funniest. I read a lot as a kid, starting at age 8 or 9. I read every copy of Reader’s Digest over more than a dozen years. You can learn a great deal from Reader’s Digest. That is, you could.
My wife Barbara has a master’s from Columbia. I didn’t receive my master’s until the early 80s, but I don’t want you to necessarily believe that she’s the smartest in the family (this is still a matter of conjecture). Years upon years later, Barbara and I visited Twain’s “paddlewheel” home in Hartford, CT, and his “study” in Elmira, NY. Yes, we’ve also visited Hemingway’s place in Key West. Barbara’s master’s thesis at Columbia University was an hour play about Twain’s childhood. I’m the one who typed the final draft for submission. But when I was around 12 years old I would read “Tom Sawyer” and other books while walking home from school … stepping on stones across the Brady Creek, named after the cartographer and once called Brady’s Mistake because he thought it was the Colorado, a river in Texas more than 30 miles north … walking along the stream on a trail that wandered through a grove of magnificent pecan trees and by a small lake. The trail went on further, a mile or so to a spring, but our house was near the pecan grove. And by the time I’d reached home, welcomed by a scattering of dogs, I’d probably read most of a book and would finish it after supper. I devoured countless books. And it’s amazing how many books were written by Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard and others I no longer recall.
Later, I got into Max Brand. I have more than 160 pocketbooks by Max Brand. A few have the same title, but a different cover with a different price … you know, 25 cents, 75 cents, $2.50. I also have a copy of the one science fiction novel that he wrote and a detective written in the “tough guy” style of Mickey Spillane. Brand was extremely prolific and I’m a huge Max Brand fan. He wrote about 4,000 or so words a day. And while I’ve been in the home of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour, I wish I could have visited with Frederick Faust, the real name of Max Brand. Doesn’t really matter, I guess. He never actually saw the West about which he wrote.
So, my beautiful wife Barbara brought me a Kindle for Easter, an unlikely gift for that particular holiday, but an apt one for me. My eyes are no longer what they used to be. I usually increase the size of the type on this laptop to 20 point Helvetica when I’m writing. You can increase the type on a Kindle and this is good, especially if you wish to read Tarzan novels.
The first thing I did was “buy” some of the free or almost free books by Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. Leigh Bracket, too, my favorite writer. I’m currently reading “Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar.” Lord! Was it really 70 years ago that I first read this book?
You could never say that my writing was influenced by Burroughs. He’s a bit archaic. Some of his words are big words. You need to keep the dictionary at hand if you really care about his meaning. None the less, I’m enjoying this story. I’ll probably read a Max Brand next even though I have five pocketbook Max Brand westerns on my shelf that I’ve never read … been waiting for the next cruise. Waiting five or six years now. No cruise in sight.
Meanwhile, I’ve finally installed “La Tigre” with Kindle Books. It’s a bit overpriced at $2.99. My apologies on that. But I think you can actually buy this eBook at $.99. If not, heck I’ll email a copy if you want to read it. And I’ve reduced the price of “Hellmakers” to $19.95. Warning: You wouldn’t like it if you read it. It’s a bit literary. Real life. Circa 1940-50 in West Texas. I.e., more or less a horror story.
I now have 18 eBooks with Kindle Books and three printed books with Amazon.com, including “This Business of Radio Programming” in a reprint version by Dan O’Day, who sent me a royalty check a few weeks back for $260. I think this is pretty good for a book first published in 1977. My thanks to Dan O’Day.
And I’m still writing along on “George.” A work of love. Heart. Lee Baby Simms is going to be sorry that he didn’t hang around long enough to read it. My next book will be titled “Popsie” about our family dog. Bobby Vee and his children and wife Karen knew Popsie. The dog was given to my kids by the legendary show business photographer in New York City, once a band boy. It’s nice to have something to write.
Diane Kirkland: “Funny story ... I was selling my 1973 Capitol Records belt (with all the current names stamped in leather around it -- Beatles, Grand Funk, Leon Russell, Pink Floyd) and I just heard from the winner of the eBay auction. He says ‘Had the same one in the 70s … Worked for KROQ radio … going to a good home ….’ His name’s Chris Petersen, don’t know if he was a radio personality or worked behind the scenes at KROQ. Lives in Oregon now.”
Diane, if you happen to stumble across his email address, send it to me and I’ll send him this issue of Commentary. Or perhaps you can do it for me.
I remember that belt. I wore it out. Still have it. I still have more than a dozen belt buckles, a fad of country music radio stations, somewhere around. And I still have fond memories of a Buddah short-sleeve sweat shirt. Gone now. I wore that thing out on the basketball courts of Los Angeles. Fond keepsakes are a coffee mug and a beer stein made by Bobby Vee and fired by his wife Karen. Each has a great image of my face!
I wrote Gail Scott to apologize for misspelling her husband’s name, Larry Scott, one of the great KLAC, Los Angeles, jocks.
Gail Scott: “Thanks … he thinks a lot of you also … old age hurts all of us. He is better, walking with half of his weight, able to get up from bed, moves around the house and is doing much better. Too much for an old fart. Hip replacement 3/23 sent him home on 3/30 and he fell and broke it on 3/31. But God is good and tends to our soul and our ailments.”
Robert Weisbuch: “I just wanted to make contact again as I know it has been awhile. Two matters have kept me uncharacteristically quiet. One is that I have been occupied with starting a deliberately low-profit academic consultancy, Robert Weisbuch and Associates -- sixteen former and current presidents and provosts and deans and specialists of universities and colleges are joining me to try to help liberal arts colleges in a difficult era by focusing on what really matters -- which is to say, students, curriculum, campus life. Check out the website designed by my 18-year-old son Gabe at weisbuchconsulting.com or Robert Weisbuch and Associates.
“Then too, as I expect is true for you, I spent some weeks just mourning Lee Baby's death. It was difficult to think about much else, but talking to Woody and to Lee's long-ago love Brynda Powers helped. So, too, oddly enough, did reading Hunter Thompson's note written before his self-inflicted death. As Barbara Bodnar, an integral part of the gang as a terrific copywriter at WPOP in the Woody and Lee era said, Lee always knew when it was time to move on. I would just add that he often moved on before listeners and colleagues wanted him to do so, and that is especially true in this final case.
“I am back to work on the manuscript now, hoping to finish by end of this month, as Woody has given me a due date. I do hope you will pass on to Joey Reynolds this from Lee, that when I wrote to Lee Baby that I had had a very enjoyable lunch conversation with his onetime rival, Lee wrote, ‘I would have given anything to have been there. I never listened to the competition but with Joey I made an exception’.
“Finally, Claude, could you put me in touch with Ken Levine, who wrote so strikingly about Lee upon his passing? ‘Word jazz’ is a phrase for the ages. Even when I don't write, Claude, I think of you with gratitude and pleasure. Your admirer, Doctor Bob.”
I looked at your website, Bob, and it’s fantastic. Class, yet informative. My compliments to your son Gabe. I do believe, as well, the services you offer are needed. Great on you!
Doctor Bob, FYI, is one of the Three Mesquiteers. His pending book about Lee Baby Simms does us all grace.
Johnny Holliday: “Claude … May 3rd was the memorial service for Sal LiCata in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. It was wonderful but very emotional. There were more than 150 who turned out to remember my long-time friend from high school. Representing those in the music business, Carl Maduri who was a neighbor of Sal for many years and one of his closest friends … Louie Newman who flew down from Atlanta to pay his respects. I was honored to read tributes to Sal from Clive Davis, Ken Antonelli, and Tommy LiPuma. Each of those 3 gentlemen wrote of their long-time working relationship with Sal and the impact he had on the music business. Licata was president of EMI and Chrysalis during his 40-year career in the music industry. Sal was executive vp and gm for Clive Davis' Arista records. As Ken Antonelli wrote, ‘Sal had success wherever he went’. He had such a wonderful connection with people. Tommy LiPuma's final words in his tribute to Sal … ‘I will miss his presence on this earth, and the world is a little less without him being here. Rest in Peace my friend’. Sal LiCata was 77 and died March 19 from injuries sustained in a fall.”
Jimmy Rabbitt: “Uncle Claude, This is the LP that Jerry Wexler produced on Texas/Renegade and me in 1973. Lee Baby helped pick the new re-mixes and album track order, so he really was first to hear the finished product. We talked about this album during that interview you did with me in Billboard back in the day. It was never released, and was found in the Rhino/Atlantic vaults while they were looking for music by James Booker III for the new movie about his life, ‘Bayou Maharajah’: http://www.bayoumaharajah.com/index.html
I'm very proud of the work we did for Atlantic Records with Jerry, Tom Dowd, James Booker, Keith Olson and the best pickers from Texas that would play with me at the time. Lol Let me know what you think? BTW, none of this would be possible without you, but don't tell anybody. I'll tell it in a new song about you, called ‘Billboard Ain't No Porno’ coming soon. Thanks, El conejo.”
Gary Allen: “Hi again, Claudius, one of my best Radio pals of nearly 50 years and I communicate with one another quite frequently, and we always find ourselves talking about Lee ‘Baby’ Simms at some point. I’m sure you think of him as well. Once you ever came in contact with Lee you were struck with his ‘magic’ both on and off the air. Just the other day my friend sent me a poem he wrote entitled ‘Bye Baby’. I thought it sad but good, and I wanted to share it with you. Only those who knew Lee well will get the subtlety of the verses. Hope all is well with you and Barbara. All is good from here.”
Bloody red tomatoes
Clinging to the vine
Snaking like blue highways
You traveled in your prime
Another town was waiting
for the stories that you'd tell
As you smoked another doobie
In a mom and pop motel
Gave no thought to destination
'Cause you wouldn't be there long
It'd be somethin' that you said
And in a heartbeat you'd be gone
Lovers friends companions
You never had the need
And in the end your only friends
Were whiskey pills and weed
Bloody red tomatoes
In the morning sun
Mute and lonely witnesses
to the hour of the gun
More Gary Allyn: “As an addendum to your note, you’re right. Lee and I worked together a few times. I was PD at KCBQ when Lee Baby was there. But before that, while an on-air PD at KONO in San Antonio, Jack Roth (KONO owner) wanted to hire Lee back after Lee and Woody had left to go back East due to Jack Roth winning the work injunction hearing in court. So we did. It was an amazing time to be sure. Lee was at his most incredible I believe. Then again in 1974 when George Wilson asked me to go to WMYQ and PD this FCC-troubled station. George already had Lee en route to Miami when I got there. Lee and I crossed paths many times and each encounter was an experience like no other. We emailed each other a few times over recent years, and he was always very complimentary to me. I saved a couple just for remembrance sake. I worked with some great ones in my time in Radio, but Lee is in the Top 3 or 4 I ever had the pleasure to know, hear and work with. So Claude, enjoy those ‘Red Beans and Rice’. The ‘Baby’ would be all smiles I’m sure.”
I had sent Dr. Bob Weisbuch Gary’s note above and copied Gary.