Today at 8:43 AM
June 8, 2015
Claude’s Commentary No. 67
By Claude Hall
Ron Jacobs is always there. Everywhere. His pictures are on my desktop … there’s one of him and his wife, both young and excited with life, on an airplane going somewhere to do radio … there’s also a much older and hopefully wiser Ron Jacobs hooked up to tubes in a hospital bed. And there’s the Ron Jacobs, friend and radio guru, that’s always in my mind. I know him better than he knows and I’m always reminded of him when a Hawaiian tune comes up on my iTunes. The music is beautiful. Ron sent it to me some while ago. Years?
I have known Ron Jacobs for most of my life. I met him first at a radio conference in New York where he substituted as speaker and I was glad. Ron gave an amazing talk on a keynote panel that included the producer of the Beatles George Martin and one of the greatest radio men who ever lived Gordon McLendon. Art Linkletter was there, too. Jacobs was impressive! I became a huge fan that very second. And still am.
Ron was then programming KHJ in Los Angeles and he’d taken the station to No. 1 in the market. He was a king in radio. They taken a strange little record by the Monkees, “Last Train to Clarksville,” and turned it into a hit and I was aware that if a radio station could do something like that it had to be a phenomenal radio station and everyone connected with it phenomenal radio people. With apologies to the songwriters and the producer, that was not exactly my favorite record. But KHJ had the magic. Charlie Tuna and Robert W. Morgan … personalities; Betty Brennan … music director. I always debated in my mind whether most of the credit should be given to the program director Ron Jacobs or the consultant Bill Drake. And, to be frank, back yonder I could never make up my mind about it. In the 70s, I did several interviews for Billboard on cassette … first with one, than the other. Then again. At that point, they’d more or less come to odds with each other and one would refute this and the other would refute that. I enjoyed the fray. It was always iffy.
I remember interviewing Ron at his then home – baby crying upstairs, a young lady who later went to NYU in Manhattan -- in San Diego where he was programming KGB and I interviewed Bill Drake at his then home in the rich area of Beverly Hills. “People don’t like me,” Bill said just as a pretty blonde walked into the room and smiled and I thought: “Someone’s lying here, Bill!”
Years later when I was a college professor I heard that Bill was more or less homeless and that a lady I knew had just kicked him out. Ah, the stories that go untold.
And Ron, too, was having his woes. Sad. For Ron Jacobs and Bill Drake had been on top of it all. Wine, women, and song. I suppose that all of us have had our glories and have subsequently walked through the troubles of diminished fame and fortune. Life often paints a dim picture. I had returned to college with the pushing of Bill Randel and become a college professor. But radio stories yet reached me. I will never forget the story of Roger Scutt’s body being found in a trash dumpster in a Nashville alley. No! Not the Captain Midnight! And Lee Baby Simms, a radio personality I loved dearly walking out to smell the air on his back porch amidst his tomato plants and putting a gun to his gut and pulling the trigger. Why, Lee? Why? Many of us in radio have had our woes – Ted Atkins, Joe O’Brien, Dick Starr, Jack Thayer, Dusty Rhodes.
When I look back, I’m grateful for my personal journey. Life and radio! Grateful to know Ron Jacobs, though he, too, has experienced his downturns … grateful to know Bill Drake, Robert W. Morgan, Don Imus, Bobby Vee, George Wilson, Joey Reynolds, Jack G. Thayer, Lee Baby Simms, Gary Owens … and, to be honest, all of you. I’ve been fortunate.
A few years ago, I did a list. The top people in Top 40. My viewpoint. Men who’d made the greatest impact. I think I listed Ron about fifth or sixth. Behind Chuck Blore, Todd Storz, Gordon McLendon, and Bill Stewart, George Wilson. I thought that much of Ron Jacobs. And still do. Not because he created a major Top 40 radio station in a major market. But because of the positive influence he had on other radio men and women. And I believe his influence still lingers out there in the world of radio unto this very day.
When they confer – the academics, the sages, the gurus – in the future about radio, they will more than likely place an asterisk by his name. Just one station? Yes, KGB is already forgotten and Fresno a more distant memory. But KHJ, in my opinion, will never be forgotten as long as radio itself is remembered. Trash the asterisk!
One thing more about Ron Jacobs: I, too, have lamented his pitfalls … as much as I’ve lamented my own. But, lord, we’ve all had something to complain about. We were never gods. We were only human at best. It’s living above the bad and being thankful for the good and the great that defines us.
I, for one, am proud to know Ron Jacobs. One of the best ever in radio. And a man I consider a friend.
It’s absolutely beautiful! Macey Lipman, you’re a great artist. I pondered through this book of collected paintings – “Recent Paintings,” Macey Lipman – and, quite frankly, was awed by the magnificence of your work. The Italian paintings, ah! I used to spend hours in the art museums in Manhattan and elsewhere. Your work brings back many pleasant times. One day, I expect to find one or more of your paintings there.
Without question, a prized collector’s item, Macey. Enormous thanks!
There’s no price on the book, but Macey has an office at 511 N. La Cienega Blvd., Suite 210, Los Angeles, CA 90048, www.maceylipmanart.com.
Joey Reynolds: “Ken Draper has shifted to internet programming with CityWatch, along with Jim Hampton. Draper and Hampton are truly progressive in sight and sound platforms. Who could ever forget Chuck Blore? Draper/Blore has the inventiveness that gave us KFWB, WCFL, Chickenman, Dick & Bert. I was the first satellite host in history with ‘Satellite Live’ in 1977 from Dick Orkins studio in LA. Ken Draper brought life to KFWB all news and many other firsts, meanwhile Jim Hampton is responsible for loyalty purchasing on the retail level when he began tracking consumers at Eckhart drugs long before digital performance. Draper, Blore, Hampton, were streaming before the internet, they are also steeped in tradition with the late Stan Freeberg school of comedy commercials.”
Ken Dowe: “I love Allen Shaw. He’s always been a gentleman and a friend of so many years. Nice comments. I don’t have his email, so if you get a chance tell him I think of him often. Do you know if Sharon read any of the memories of her wonderful father? I was sitting here in Dallas, still hooked up to Tom Russell tunes when I was happily surprised to read today’s CH news: ‘Tom Russell has moved to Santa Fe!’ You probably don’t know, but Dottie and I live in Santa Fe when we’re not here in Dallas. Now, I will figure out a way to meet the man whose music you were kind enough to introduce for my on-going enjoyment. I am forever grateful. Thank you. :)
“Two of my favorite ‘poetic’ lines out of great writing:
1- From A MOVABLE FEAST, Hemingway: ‘The only thing that could ruin a good day, was people?’
2- From TONIGHT WE RIDE, Tom Russell: ‘Black Jack Pershing on a dancing horse…’ (beautiful!). Your golden olde fellow Texan friend.”
I’ve contacted Sharon. No response yet.
Tom Russell: “Re: Johnny Cash -- he recorded a song of mine: ‘Veteran's Day’. He called me out of the audience one time in Zug, Switzerland, and got me up on stage for the finale: ‘Peace in the Valley’. Ten thousand people.
I stood next to him … felt like I was standing below Mount Rushmore. It came to the last verse of the song, and he turned and said: ‘Take it Tom!’ I didn't KNOW the last verse. I was terrified. Something about a lion lying down with a lamb. He said, ‘I'll sing it in your ear, Tom’. Came out of my mouth like I was a Johnny Cash ventriloquist
dummy. The crowd went wild. After the show, in the parking lot, he was being ushered into a limo fifty yards away, and he turned and looked over the top of the car and yelled to me: ‘Keep writing 'em, Tom’. That was my Grammy. I think of him all the time.”
Those two emails above set off a bevy of emails and I think Ken Dowe is now going to catch Tom Russell at one of his coming shows. (See his website above for his tour and dates.) One of Tom’s shows will be at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Los Angeles and Tom mentioned that he hopes Dave Alvin will show up. I’d just finished listening to Alvin’s “Johnny Ace Is Dead,” which I subsequently emailed to Jimmy Rabbitt. Man, these are damned good songwriters and singers. All three!
Ron Jacobs: “Mahalo for listing Kevin’s Morgan video. Hope you can watch it; many big radio names. In it, I pledge my allegiance to Chuck Blore. There’s much LA radio stuff from before you moved there. I am planning something special for RWM’s daughter for Father’s Day. Hope and pray your health is holding up, my not-so-old, old friend! Usual BEST to you and Miz Barbara.”
John Ryman: “Claude, really enjoyed your Commentary today ... a lot of my Texas Radio friends were mentioned. Did you see that I've been nominated to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame this year? Honored. I live in Gun Barrel City, on Cedar Creek Lake ... moved here from Dallas after retiring. Water has been bad here, but nothing like other areas. I have a creek that runs across my property, close to the house ... full and high and raging, but I never felt in danger of overflow ... but certainly kept a close eye. Had it gone over, I could not have gotten out, woulda' seen the helicopters lifting me from the roof. Prayers for those that were washed away.”
When I was around 4, I played in the lapwaters of a flood in Brady, TX. Remember seeing a house rolling in the flood.
Bill Vancil: “Jonathan Little has been forwarding me your last couple of commentaries. I'd love to be on your list. You may find this of interest. Several weeks ago I started an alumni website www.KSTTGoodGuys.com and it seems the former listeners are taking to it more even than past employees. I'm programming the site much like a radio station, with fresh content relative to the former KSTT crowd, now retirement age mostly. We even run contests on the site. Anyway, it's catching on as I would never have imagined. In the first two months the Facebook page we created to compliment and promote the website has received over 900 ‘Likes’. Tracking the ‘Likes’ I've found they are coming not only from the Quad Cities area (Davenport, Rock Island, Moline, E. Moline) but from other parts of the country where listeners have relocated. As with any website, as with a great radio station, the secret is CONTENT. Fresh, new, fun, different every day. Take a look, I'd love to hear your impression of www.KSTTGoodGuys.com.
Bill Vancil was program director of KSTT 1969, then GM of WISM until 2001. Hey, Bill, I remember you!
Woody Roberts: “Came across this on Wiki: On October 28, 1940, KTSA played host to the first and only meeting between noted science fiction author H.G. Wells and radio dramatist Orson Welles, which occurred nearly two years after the panic created by Welles' CBS radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds.”
Herb Oscar Anderson: “Claude, I'm so glad that you remember the contest ... I hardly ever mention it because people seem to feel I'm putting it on a little heavy ... but think about it ... 100,000 in 1953. What made it so scary was people thought the DJs knew where the check was hidden ... we didn't ... it was a policy purchased from an Insurance company ... they wrote the clues and they were the only one that knew where the check was hidden ... but the listeners didn't believe it ... how frightening were the calls ... everything from we know where you live and we know how many children you have ... to ... Herb, you seem like a nice guy ... maybe we can work out a deal and we can split it ... 50-50. Some one found it and threw it away ... it was hidden in an old lipstick container ... never were a group of jocks so happy to see a contest end. By the way, an insurance company man sat in a car that monitored the location 24 hours a day.”
HOA, great stuff! Radio history! Thank you.
Woody Roberts sent me a note from Liz Patranella, founder of the San Antonio Radio Broadcasters Association. She served as continuity director when he was general manager of KTS and KTFM in San Antonio.
Liz Patranella: “You may have already seen this, but I thought it was worth sharing. Talk about a trip down memory lane!” Click on speaker and it plays the entire song. You hear the music and see the original label and photo of artist, biography and discography.
Great on all of you!