Monday, July 27, 2015

Claude's Commentary No. 75r2

Today at 8:22 AM
July 27, 2015

Claude’s Commentary No. 75
By Claude Hall

The job at Billboard was a natural for me and – with Music Editor Paul Ackerman as my mentor – I was working hard, enjoying the work, and doing well.  I did the radio-TV section (three days) and worked on the music section (two-four days a week; I remembered doing music publishing stories, covering MGM Records for news, doing record and artist performance reviews, stories with Bob Crewe, Art Talmadge, Larry Uttal, some famous movie songwriter, etc., etc.).  Roger Littleford, one of the family that owned the publishing company, heard that Barbara and I wanted to buy a house and came, as he was wont to do, and sat on the corner of my desk and shot the bull with me one day and we talked about Barbara’s wishes for a white house with a white picket fence.  The first thing I knew, Bill Littleford, president of the publishing firm BPI, offered to loan me $7,500 for a down payment and give me a raise that would make the interest-free loan payments.  I don’t know about you, but I’d never heard of this kind of thing before.  Especially by any New York corporation.  What it did, for me, was cement the possibility of my being at Billboard for a long, long time.

Meanwhile, my stature in radio and music was growing fairly solid (the music publishing firm of Hill and Range had offered me a job).  I was talking with – and writing stories about – Gary Stevens, Dan Daniels, Harvey Glascock, Frank Ward, William B. Williams (Barbara and I were even invited to Willie B’s birthday party atop 30 Rock in the Rainbow Grill; Frank Sinatra Jr. played piano for the evening; I recall that one of his “gifts” was a foldup motor scooter and another was a bottle waste high of Mumms Champagne), George Wilson, George Williams (great guy who came out to the house here in Las Vegas with Burt Sherwood a few years ago), Ray Potter in El Paso, Murray the K, and an MOR program director in Kansas City who refused to play “Ode to Billy Joe” because Bobby Gentry “couldn’t sing.”

And I begun playing more attention to a column called Vox Jox launched by a former Billboard staffer named Joe Carlton (record producer Jerry Wexler also wrote the column for a while).  When I’d taken over the section just three months after joining Billboard, the format was a junk heap.  There was Vox Jox and Seque and two or three other columns.  I concentrated on news and features and dumped anything that didn’t warrant a news story or feature into the column Vox Jox.  The other crap became history.

What happened was that one week  (circa 1966-68) I spent several hours on the phone researching the Top 40 radio stations in towns outside Detroit that influenced airplay on CKLW and WKNR.  Quoted several good program/music directors and maybe a couple of good record promotion men; by now I’d learned that record promotion men could be a valuable source of radio information.  We started the story on page one and jumped it inside to the radio section.  I was pleased with the story.  A good reporter knows when he has done a pretty good job.

In those days, the magazine was printed in Cincinnati and drop-shipped into several major cities and mailed from there.  It usually reached radio stations on Tuesday.  And that Tuesday the phone calls rolled in!  All of them praised my Vox Jox that week.  So far as I can recall, no one mentioned my research story about airplay of music in medium markets around the city of Detroit.  I later discovered that disc jockeys and program directors and even a great many general managers read Vox Jox.  All of it.

A cutie:  So I’ve got some power in Vox Jox, huh?  Well, perhaps Billboard could influence some improvements in radio.  Why not?  If you can’t do a few things good in your life, what good are you?  I was always put out somewhat by the extreme mobility of disc jockeys and program directors (later, I figured out that it was part of the game).  However, it appeared to me that disc jockeys and program directors were often fired just as a whim.  Then a general manager did something that I thought wasn’t fair … perhaps fired a disc jockey for a reason that wasn’t what I considered reasonable.  I wrote about it and presented the general manager a Purple Toadstool Award.  No plaque.  Just a line or two in Vox Jox.  I figured everyone who read about it would get at least a giggle.  Funny?  Right?  But after the second “award,” I started getting letters from disc jockeys asking for an application form.  Whups!  End of award.

Ernie Hopseker:  “I enjoyed Ken Dowe's assessment of Tom Russell's show in his new home town of Santa Fe, and wish a few more people who really ‘get it’ knew about Tom.  Tom is a superlative writer, and is a communicator beyond comparison.  He got his chops 40 years ago doing four shows a night on East Hastings Street, a seedy skid row in Vancouver, B.C.  At a show at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle a couple of years ago, some cowboys who had been at the bar all day were requesting the wrong songs, and then loudly singing along with the wrong lyrics.  Tom put up with it for awhile, then stopped the show, and pointed out to ‘the guys just off
Brokeback Mountain over at the bar’ that they were singing the wrong stuff, and he would not put up with it.  I thought there might be trouble, but the miscreants were subdued by Tom's tongue, and Tom went over and bought them all drinks after the show.  I have been on several Roots on the Rails train trips with Tom, and have met many wonderful musicians and fans through him.  His guitar slinger, Thad Beckman, is a world-class blues and flat top picker, and Tom features him on a couple of his own songs nearly every show.  Before a recent show in Portland, I saw Thad outside the theater before the show.  I asked him if Tom was behaving himself, and he said, ‘No, but he never does’.  And if he is too busy selling stuff after the show, just hang around long enough and he will talk.  You just have to have something worthwhile to say, and Tom is gritty, insightful, and a great
conversationalist.  I personally think Tom should be doing arena shows to thousands of adoring fans, but that is not what he knows or wants.  He's pretty happy right now in his own skin, right where he is. His wife Nadine, pretty much books the shows across several continents and many countries, and they all take turns driving.  Tom is not afraid to set up his own gear, and he knows what he wants it to sound like. He has his game down really good.”

I, too, Ernie, am impressed with the guitar work of Thad Beckman and, in fact, have five of his own songs on this laptop, including “Outlaws in Texas” and “Virginia Blues.”  As for Nadine, I figure out that she has to be an angel.  Now and then a man gets lucky when it comes to a woman; Barbara and I will have been married 55 years come Sept. 1.  Me, a redneck of sorts, marrying a beautiful Park Avenue princess?  You’ve got to be kidding!

Below, in regards to a review Ken Dowe wrote of the Tom Russell show in Santa Fe and about last week’s diatribe from Bobby Ocean:

Ken Dowe:  “Thanks for the inclusion, Claude.  Maybe Tom will find some new friends and fans from your support.  You certainly outsourced one in me.

“P.S.  It is not my intention to express a different opinion that that of Bobby O, but perhaps to embellish his with my own, which is that Radio is sadly enduring two principal problems.  The first was that the profession was turned over to the well-funded, who dived into a business that was a culture, fully clothed as ‘Suits’.  The latter created quite a stumble, but nothing like the subsequent nuclear fallout in the business now mostly owned by a couple of opportunists whose corporations have been stretched just to stay alive.  Nothing wrong with being an opportunist, so long as someone remains, or is retained … who is a legitimate visionary with an attitude:  e.g., ‘You can fire me, but you can’t tell me what to do!’  That never happened.  Therefore, Radio is now (generally speaking) the walking dead when compared to their thriving music source competitors.

“Two is the stealthy issue no one heard, and most still do not see: The Millennials, who forge music into hits, must join forces and reproduce the image of radio that has been reduced to a product most do not want, and is now just sitting on the shelf.  Misguided management begot desperation during their hardest times, which resulted in carbon-copy entertainment (cheaper) without any edge or purpose, except for the white noise to buy some more time.  The purpose then was in the efforts to sift out enough money to pay (some of) the interest.  Good sounding (too ‘good’) announcers (not ‘personalities’) now serve myriad stations coast to coast.  Rubber Stamped music is vending machine-delivered and no one really believes such programming  is ‘personal’.  But, it’s … cheap. 

“Relatively. In time, it bankrupts.  The stockholders and the business.  Certainly the decline was assisted by the bean counters in green eye shades, but the terminal failure was the absence of any understanding of emerging national trends by the new techies, and never having connected nor engaged with them as the cultural transformations were taking place.  These were those who could have converted their new preferences to correspond in position, then intersect with radio.  Alas, no one invited them to the dance, and to be fair ... I doubt many knew the music that was stealing their dates was playing elsewhere.

“I ‘get’ what Bobby is saying, but I believe what is problematic for radio is something more abstract and beyond the range or limits of our known conceptual field.  How to capture a return to the ‘place where something happens’, while the audience refuses to prefer or maintain connections ... with Pandora, Spotify, Apple, etc. … that, is a tall order.  The fall from grace was never about Lowry and Lou screwing up the product.  There was no missing or unaffordable  analogous algebraic operation that caused a loss of balance and subsequent fall.  Lifestyles changed.  And, it wasn’t that the ‘Suits’ didn’t know what to do, but that they never noticed. 

“I listen to Tom Russell.”

Tom Russell:  “Wow. Thanks, Ken Dowe!  It was a fun show and maybe got our foot in the door here in Santa Fe.  I was honored to play in front of those knowledgeable folk … cowboy actors, DJs, artists and people who listen … thanks to Claude for introducing people to my music.  Right now we're trying to promote the show, ‘The Rose of Roscrae’, to Broadway producers … just starting … and also film folk.  Adios y gracias!”

Dan Neaverth:  “Hi, Claude.  A few thoughts about radio’s problems from my perspective.  After on-air stint that lasted 26 years at WKBW in Buffalo, I spent another 13 years at WHTT-FM.  The General Manager was Ron Rice.  Several of his friends told him it was a mistake to hire me for an FM morning show.  I did fine.  I could see the end coming as the staffs of the cluster were called into a large meeting by the new owner.  His actual words: "We are not in the entertainment business ... we are in the business business."  Another roadblock to radio’s rebirth ... another cluster has a 50-thousand-watt station that does nothing,  But they won't sell it for fear someone else will take it and make it work.  I always felt that another problem existed at our colleges.  Young people on their staffs were told to shut up and play 10 in a row.  College is where prospective talent should be free to make mistakes ... act like jerks ... hone their craft.  Oh well ... I had a great run, but it's sad to see what has happened in broadcasting.  Western N.Y just lost one of the greatest talents ever.  Van Miller was for years the voice of the Buffalo Bills.  But he was more than that.  He did it all.  Buffalo Braves basketball ... wrestling ... high school quiz shows ... radio DJ ... morning women's show from a department store ... he didn't just do these shows ... he made them entertaining.  In addition he was one of the funniest people I have ever known.  I would place him against any nationally known talent ... rest in peace Van.”

Thanks for the note, Dan.  Always respected you.  As a personality and as a person.  Even back in my early Billboard days.  To me, you were Buffalo.  More so than even Joey Reynolds.  Thus, I’m honored to hear from you.  Your thoughts on radio are valuable to me.  Make that:  Valuable to everyone.

Don Whittemore:  “THX!  Read Bobby's essay for flaws.  Radio needs to be the iTunes of the day.  Are there any independent-thinking media gamblers out there?  People who want to get a better life for themselves should stop digging their holes any deeper, climb up and out onto solid ground and go searching for like minded souls.  Signed, a veteran who never wore a uniform.”

Great Don Whittemore tale:  He’d just bought three houses in the area just east of Santa Monica.  I asked him why.  He said:  “So I can tell everyone to go to hell.”  But so far I’ve never heard him say it.  He’s God’s basic nice guy.  Used to run free peppermint ice cream up to Jack Roberts who, at the time, certainly couldn’t go get it and couldn’t have paid for it anyway.  Just FYI, Jack’s chauffeur back and forth to the medical clinic was record promotion guru Don Graham, another basic nice guy that God created.

Burt Sherwood: “Claude, I read with great interest all who wrote about how radio should be.  They were the reasons we all found it interesting … when I started there were brand new AM radio stations coming to each marketplace.  There was before this one  or two stations to small and medium markets prior to WW II.  The stations served the area and then the business started to grow … I believe it was 1953 when the three-ownership rule was dropped.  Before that owners had to keep their stations a minimum of three years before they could sell.  It was in the 50s a rich man’s business for the most part.  The people that owned them loved the business … from then on the owners became Wall Street oriented … the FCC put as many stations on the air as could be legally serving a market … there was no regard for economics … as there was originally when they had to prove they had enough funds to operate (as I recall) for a full year without any outside revenue.  Then came FM … followed by TV … and now followed by the Internet.  It is a serious business and those of us who started in the creative end had to learn where the money was … sales … to go on and on is foolish … it is still a big business … the word you bring to mind is CHANGE.  I am sure people who are more learned than I will chime in.”

Eliot Field:  “FYI, as follow to Last of the Seven Swingin' Gentlemen, Amazon ‘Purely Palm Springs’ Elliot Field, still at it and swimming most every day. Always a pleasure to maintain a two-way conversation. P.S. NEW SINCE we last touched base, proudly a nominee to the NAB Hall of Fame. Now all I gotta do is hope to live up to a during life enrollment. (I've had worse problems.)  Always good wishes, EF.”

Honored to hear from you, Eliot.  Say hello to Morris Diamond and Alice Harnell next time you guys visit the same swimming pool.  Sorta wish I could be there to work on my freckles.  When you get around 82, your freckles grow dull in the shade.

Dave Anthony:  “As with Vox Jox, I always enjoy reviewing your weekly cavalcade of radio names that I worked with, used to know, or heard about.  One colorful individual I haven’t seen mentioned – unless I simply missed it – but worth suggesting in any event was Domino Rippy.  During my years programming KDWB, he was my noon-to-3 personality.  (I never called them DJs, but that’s a separate story).  Not only did I hear classic stories from him often about his earlier days at KCBQ and other legendary radio stations, but he created more tales by just showing up for work every day.  Domino could easily dial up whatever level of energy I requested, from a midday warm-hearted female-targeted approach to his rapid-fire high energy Jack Armstrong style that is still sheer entertainment to me today.  Looking back on the radio personalities we’ve lost over the years, I suggest his name as one who carved a space in Top 40 radio history.”

Today, I lift a glass of skimmed milk in salute to Domino Rippy.  I don’t recall meeting him, but wish that I had.  Just FYI, Dave, it was Harvey Glascock, then general manager of WNEW in New York, who impressed upon me the words “radio personality.”  He always had enormous respect for the person on the air.  Of course these ranged from William B. Williams to Julius La Rosa and Alison Steele’s former husband.

More Ken Dowe:  “You mention Don Barrett from time to time.  Not sure you know he was a graduate of Gordon's ‘Magnificent Seven’.  We accepted applications from across the nation and chose the ‘Best and Brightest’ for months of extensive SEAL-like radio training at Gordon's Texas ranch for advancement into several McLendon stations.  Don was a most excellent graduate.  Just FYI.”

Don Barrett is a good man.  Years and years ago, a college buddy had a stroke.  I asked Don Barrett and Art Roberts to write him notes of encouragement.  They did.

Scott St. James: “Hi Claude!  Hi Barbara!  I just now finished reading Bobby Ocean's radio thoughts that you published in your Commentary No. 74, on (early) Sunday evening.  I'm a guy who has read some of Bobby's radio thoughts in the past.  And his thoughts have always made sense to me.  I've often told people that I'm grateful for having had the opportunity to play the radio game for many years WHEN I played.  Ah, yes ... I can't help but remember a hit song: ‘Those were the days, my friend.   We thought they'd never end’.  Meanwhile, I'm fortunate enough to occasionally do a once in a while Show Business something.  Retire?  I remember Frank Sinatra's response to that;   ‘Retire?   Retire to WHAT?’.  Another great column, Mr. Hall.”

Gary Allyn:  “Dear Claude of The Hall House:  I must respond to Bill Hatch’s comments in your current issue.  I apologize for not making it clear enough when I mentioned in one of your earlier commentaries about Lee Baby Simms being ‘fired’ from KCBQ.  I should have mentioned that Lee did, in fact, remain at The Q.  After all, Lee’s mentor was George Wilson, who at the time, was President of Programming with Bartell Broadcasting.  Dick Casper was just the GM.  So, Lee stayed on, but I did relieve him of his air shift for that day as I was instructed. Bill Hatch was one of the many stellar news people on staff then.  KCBQ News was at the top of its game during this time.  Thanks Bill, for letting me correct this minor gaff in MY reporting.  Lee lasted for two weeks after Buzz Bennett took over, then left for Los Angeles and KRLA. And oh yes, I loved reading Bobby Ocean’s thoughts on the demise of Radio as we knew it ... and it’s possible resurrection.  He indeed, is ‘The Old Master Thinker From the Far Away Hills’ of San Francisco.  I hope to add my ‘2 cents’ in due time, but right now I need it for gas for my Studebaker!  California gas prices are through the roof again. Went up 55 cents overnight here!

“NOTE TO WOODY ROBERTS: I have a photo of you in an old radio promotion that a friend of yours and mine sent me.  But I don’t know how (where) to send it to you.  Maybe a nearby space station?  Claude has my email -- I think.  Best to all, and keep it ‘Light, Tight, and Bright’.”

Woody Roberts:  “Time has flown, Bob Dylan's first tour --half-century ago.  I get to say, I was backstage as a guest of Joe Mansfield at Columbia Records.  I was the first Top-40 radio PD to report ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ to the national trades as a hit.  I asked if there would be a press conference and Bob said he would only do it in a grease pit, Joe found one but the star backed out.  He stayed at the old Vila Capri.  Joe later told me that Bob said he was the first guy in a suit he trusted.  I am sure old-time UT frat boys and old-time Austin musicians will show up for this tribute.  Bob's show in the now gone Muni Auditorium was two sets, the first acoustic and second with the Hawks.  Of course everyone knew he was booed at the prestigious Newport Folk Festival for doing rock music and lambasted in Sing Out! so several local folk music lovers accommodated and booed and then quickly got caught up in it.  After visiting the motel it was a long drive home at 2 a.m. but I had the energy of not yet turning 25 and in those days there wasn't that much traffic on I-35.“
Hit version:
Accustic version w/ lyrics and Ginsberg:
Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015
Threadgill's World Headquarters Presents:
THE FIRST WALTZ - Austin Goes Electric
An All-Star Austin Salute to the 50th
Anniversary of Bob Dylan and the Band's First Concert
It has been called one of the most remarkable events in American music history.  On Sept. 24, 1965, Bob
Dylan played his first ever concert in Texas. It was also the very first time he shared the stage with the group of musicians who would come to be known as The
Band.  This explosive combination which changed music history forever was first ignited at the Austin Municipal Auditorium.  On Sunday, Sept 27, 2015 Threadgills will present a collaboration of local musical icons and lone star
legends paying tribute to this historic concert. Proceeds with benefit SIMS Foundation, celebrating 20 years of providing low-cost mental health services for Austin musicians.Artists are subject to change, as we know.  Here are the musicians hoping to perform at the event as of today:  Jon Dee Graham, Guy Forsyth, Carolyn Wonderland, Sabrina Ellis, Denny Freeman, Rosie Flores, Beaver, Nelson, Miles Zuniga, Jesse Dayton, John Evans, Mario Matteoli, Kelley, Mickwee, Ben Ballinger, Danny B Harvey, Annie Marie Lewis, Jonathan, Terrell Ramsay Midwood, Elsa Cross, Jimmy Smith, Mike Nicolai.

Sounds like a heck of an event!  Wish I could be there.  Nothing like live!  Just FYI:  Barbara and I were there at Forest Hill Tennis Club when Bob Dylan went public with electricity!

Larry Woodside:  “This was from Charlie Van Dyke on Facebook this morning.  So sorry to hear it.  A few years ago she came to visit with me for a week and we had a ball.  Many will miss her.  Have you heard what caused her passing?  RIP, Shana. When I was PD at KHJ, I brought her to LA from San Francisco.  She worked over nights.  Our shifts crossed every day at 6AM.  I loved driving in, listening to her skills on the air.  Her first language was German, so her English had a unique quality that you couldn't nail down.  KHJ's first lady dj.  A lady, indeed!”

Frank Boyle:  “Love your Commentary -- lotta very insightful programming stuff that salesguys like me never were privy to.  Hal Whitney -- Ron Ruth was GM of WOR- FM.  He tried to sell me 260,000 WOR- FM sweatshirts when station was sold.  Bill Musser (Susquehanna fame) was GM of Long Island stations then, I think.  Getting fired -- in retrospect -- was a learning experience.  I got fired 5 times.  My first job out of Michigan State in 1950 was as seller of Charities for the new experiment in Detroit called the United Foundation -- we represented 100 Charities -- got dropped when Fall Campaign was over.  Then to US Tobacco, maker of Copenhagen/ Skoal Snuff -- Model & Old Briar pipe tobacco -- I covered the Eastern half of Michigan.  I had to make 20 sales calls a day whether I drove 20 blocks or 20 Miles calling on Retail outlets of tobacco. After a year my Boss fired me because I 'd put on my daily report to him that I screwed a Model Pipe Tobacco sign on a Mom N Po supermarket front door in suburban Detroit.  I made him drive me to that store.  He pointed out to me that the front door had a Lucky Strike kick plate. I took him inside to show him that ‘our’ kickplate was on the inside of the door.  Next to General Electric Supply Company of S. Michigan where I got exposed to Radio & TV and Newspapers.  I was Asst Mgr of Sales Promotion and  of Advertising.  Fancy title helping our 114 Franchised GE & Hotpoint Appliance Dealers buy Ads partially with our Co-op Funds.  Now called NTR – Non-Traditional Radio.  I bought time & newspaper space … wrote ads … bought time … did Spec spots for radio & TV acting as an ad agency.  Had zero prior training or experience in print or Broadcast advertising.  Had been taken to fancy restaurants for lunch and drinks by local time Salesmen in new cars making about $25,000 yrly.  I had a 39 Chevy making $75 a wk -- I figured if I could sell spots half as good as those guys I could make $12,000 yrly and drive a new DeSoto.  Got fired after 18 months because guy whom I replaced had come back from Korean War and rule was he got his job back.  I was hired by WJR 50 KW, 1A Clear Channel, 760 CBS Affiliate, in 1953 as a Rookie.  I loved it.  Got promoted to Local Sales Mgr. in 2 yers.  We were the originating station for Detroit Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and University of Michigan football and baseball.  WJR had a staff of 80 -- 35 piece orchestra doing three live shows a day -- 12 announcers --  12 newsmen, etc., on 3 floors of Fisher Bg.

“I had three management problems.  Our VP/Station Mgr. had been a PD -- never had anything to do with sales -- we were paid salary and yearend mystery Mgt. Bonus.  I felt we should be on commission.  Our FM was automated Classical Music operating literally out of a closet in main engineering space.  After 7 yrs. supervising sales and traffic, I got fired for arguing above points plus fact I was not permitted to revise Rate Card sections to show 6-10 AM and 3-7PM drive times.  For past 20 yrs. WJR had three sections -- 7AM-7PM, 7PM to Midnight and Midnight to 7AM.  Jim Quello was in an nearby office as VP of Publicity and Sales promotion … later GM when Cap Cities bought it and later FCC Chairman.  In 1959 I was hired by a new National Radio Sales Rep Firm -- Robert E Eastman -- to be their first Detroit Mgr.  Loved it!  Difference between selling nationally, repping 70 stations in 60 markets and selling locally is the difference between Gin Rummy and Master point bridge.  Transferred to New York Office in 1961.  Spent next 25 yrs there going thru the chairs up to president/Chairman of the Board.  Got fired by the Board in 1985 because my goal was to buy or build 4 added Rep Firms so we could represent more than one Client per mkt.  Blair, Katz and Interep were already doing that.  They preferred to be a Singleton Boutique.  In 2 yrs went bankrupt, sold to Jacor and Katz.

“I knew down deep I was going to get fired at United Foundation, US Tobacco, GE and WJR.  But I had this stupid stubborn streak that made me refuse to quit. Actually getting fired made me improve my business status and income -- in every instance.  I had been told by the ‘Big Guys’ … ‘Keep your Options Open … remember, your management always does that as far their employees are concerned’.  I never learned that basic business lesson.  Loyalty came first.

“For past several years I have a counseling service at my Greenwich Church.  Greenwich, CT, is maybe the wealthiest town in the US.  My Pastor, Jesuit, asked me to do this.  Because our parish had over 20 executives who'd been fired yet still put on the 3-piece suit -- with briefcase -- and take commuter train to and from Manhattan -- couldn't admit to their families for six months that they'd been canned.  And I was a professional at getting fired.  My job and my counseling associates explained to the Fired Guys that their second greatest fear was the opening question by the prospective Interviewer looking up from their Resumes – ‘If you're such a Hot Shit, why you'd get fired from your last job?’  We explained that all Interviewers have been fired at least once.  They really want to see how you answered that question -- to compare how the Interviewers did. We train them how to positively answer that question and rewrite their resumes.  I apologize for rambling on you on the ‘getting fired’ subject.  You hit a resonant chord in my business life.  Getting fired and firing people are learning experiences.  Agreed?”

Frank, great on you!  Damned good article!  Especially the counseling part.  So apt!  My compliments.  Wish everyone could read this bit.

Doc Wendell:  “Hi, Claude.  Here is my latest record pick.  I plan on eventually turning these into a book no one will read.”

Joe Nick Patoski: “Hey, y’all, I’ve tried to avoid bombarding you with Kickstarter emails, but we are seven days away from our deadline, with $35,000 to go to reach our $75,000 goal at noon on July 30.  If you’re already backed the project, thanks for getting on board.  Please spread the word about what we’re up to.  If you haven’t backed the film, so we can pay for music licensing, screen the film in wide release, and get Doug into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, now’s the time.  I’ll be at the Doug Sahm tribute at the Viva Big Bend music fest in Alpine, Texas Thursday, July 23 (who knows? we might even sneak preview the film for fans in Far West Texas around 6:30 Thursday night … hint, hint).  Next Wednesday, July 29, is the big Sir Doug Kickstarter blow out at the Broken Spoke in Austin with Shawn Sahm, Augie Meyers, Alvin Crow, Speedy Sparks, Ernie Durawa, Ray Benson, Bruce Robison, Jack Ingram, Kimmie Rhodes, and a house band led by Tom Lewis and featuring John X Reed.  C’mon out and let’s party Doug to the finish line.  Remember, Kickstarter is an all or nothing deal.  If we don’t meet the $75K target, we get nada.  So, por favor, back us if you can.  We’ve made a great film that tells Doug’s story.  Now we’ve pushed all our chips to the table to get this film the wide exposure it deserves.  Red or black, double or nothing.  Groove with us.  Let the world know about Doug Sahm and Doug Sahm’s music.  Be real.”

Joe Nick, I would love to be there.  Exciting!  And I wish I had funds to contribute.  However, old former radio-TV editors seem to always live short of funds.  Blame it on Lee Zhito.  He wasn’t a very nice person.  Rollye James can tell you.  Or read “Xtreme” at Books and you might get a glimpse of what I mean.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Claude's Commentary No. 74r2

Today at 3:59 PM
July 20, 2015

Claude’s Commentary No. 74
By Claude Hall

Bobby Ocean:  “Hope this note finds you enthused and sailing on the vibes of inspiration.  Positive Energy like this takes all the work out of whatever it is we do.  After reading an article recently, I started writing to myself about the state of radio and how it is misunderstood by even those who have been in the biz for a few decades. Those personal notes {started, ‘Dear Bobby Ocean, There they go again, misunderstanding the bigger picture right out of the box...’} steamrolled into the observations I enclose below.  Hope you have nothing against cutting and pasting for posting, should you decide to use the following assembled thoughts on ‘fixing radio’.

“The question put to us recently by Fred Jacobs (on; ‘The Revenge of the DJ’) is, ‘Can broadcast radio go back to its archives, re-read its history, look in the mirror, and save itself by updating and modernizing its own programming model?’

“Let's clarify.  Who is WE in this inquiry?  Is it the DJs or the Management having them replaced?  Regardless, the answer to that question is ‘there is no such thing as a broadcast radio to revaluate or interpret itself anymore. Only the PEOPLE inside those establishments can do those things’.

“There ARE multiply operated stations, corporate-owned clusters of broadcast facilities, but there is no longer the community's very own individual radio station, the one entity that COULD look in the mirror and see something reflected back.  It has been sold to the highest bidder.  In its place, Management finds an empty building filled with recording and playback equipment, which returns all questions without response.  There's no one really there, just a bunch of machines, each with an input slot marked ‘content’.  Now, trying to pay off that enormous price tag, the corporation which now owns the station, along with several more high-cost broadcast properties in town, is strapped for dough, thus firing any paycheck cashing soul on board their sinking ship(s).  That done, the ‘content’ is no longer in house, and for remaining staff the climate is fear, which does not foster positive growth and advancement.  The opportunities for making things work effectively are crushed by the clusters' role model at the top, who usually knows nothing about the business and techniques of entertainment and certainly cannot be counted on to lift the station from it's sinking position and set it on an upright course.

“So how can something very real be saved by something unreal, a an abstract idea, an icon?  It cannot, of course.  An idea without a patron can do nothing, let alone go back to its archives, re-read its history, look in the mirror, and save itself by updating and modernizing its own programming, a red herring thrown in by the misguided guys at the top of the cluster.

“Programming isn't even close to the problem - or solution.  The Management who eliminated Those That Understand broadcasting and entertainment and know how to make it turn a buck, missed the chance at a solution as they watched her pack her belongings into a cardboard box and head for the elevator.  Not only did they miss their chance at turning the ratings and listenership around, they created a very real, accumulating problem by cutting costs in the division of the station dedicated to its product, that which goes on the air -- the money-making house.  Programming is the key organ in the body of any radio station.  It is the station's heart.  It is where the station 's identity lives.  Letting on-air people go, based on money amount they earned and not their talent or contribution to the team, has, at the least, the consequences of losing any forward momentum, the continued harboring of the existing chaos and firmly keeping major obstacles in place.

“That which is conceptual, cannot be saved by something that also isn't even here.  The best thing a boss in this situation CAN do is stop and accept the fact that he and his club know nothing about their number one product, the business of entertaining on radio, then realize this reality is killing their investment.  With this awareness, a person determined to succeed in broadcast radio will immediately begin a recruitment search for those who do know entertainment and can share their body of knowledge with the rest of the staff.  Again, there is no such thing any more as the ‘broadcast radio’ we once knew.  ‘It’ cannot do anything because there is no ‘it’ there.  ‘It’ consisted of PEOPLE coordinating their best efforts to create something much bigger than the inventory of its parts, but, in a colossal management misperception, the very employees that could actually have bolstered and saved the radio station were considered a liability.

“It has fallen much farther by now than those incipient days of new management.  Once upon a time, decades ago, we, the DJs, created IT; made radio stations fire out a sound that compelled listeners to remain glued to their speakers; made an art out of the many different personalities and delivery styles, formats, music flow.  All the sad stories of misguided motivation sound the same.  New owners arrived, understanding and focusing solely on the bottom line, appointed and put in charge their Lords Of Minions, who agreed to loyally say yes to this impoverished plan.  The new boss' Yes Man then guided the ship along its Bottom Line Course and drove it straight to the bottom.

“The DJs (including Programmers, Music Directors) had been systematically released, and are not inside the operation anymore, so someone else has to re-read our history.  Even more significant: A larger percentage of what made that kind of radio successful, never brought into today's discussions, was the complete ambience within which it occurred.  Those beginning days of our good ol' audiences and new born enthusiasm have passed, and with them, many of the relatable major ‘secret ingredients’ that made the life of the radio station seem so vibrant and personal.  Once, DJs were responding to the same environment as that of our listeners, in their language.  We were accepted as part of their everyday life.  It was 'groovy.'  That context isn't here any longer.  We've grown, evolved, passed the last century by along with its ‘far out’ characteristics.  Oh no, it's gone!  What to do?

“Well, assuming today's radio stations valued listeners enough to listen to them, those with an on-air Programming sense, a dissatisfied DJ probably, would turn her attention to Now -- what's happening Here and in this Present Moment -- and find words that are relevant to, and extrapolate from, the endless current associations and connections to THIS TIME we are passing through now.  Nowadays we watch as our supervisors, having handed us a pink slip, try in vain to understand and react to their audiences, and swerve around and into them.  They don't ‘hear’ the audience, do not understand them, do not know what they want and consider them ‘in the way’.  They're blocking profits.

“The question, ‘Can broadcast radio go back to its archives, re-read its history ... and save itself by updating and modernizing its own programming model?’ has a simple answer for both entities described as WE here.  ‘No’.  If the ‘we’ in this question is DJs, we can go back to our common radio archives, examine our history and gaze into the eyes looking back from the mirror til our heart's content, but we still cannot save a medium that is being hobbled from above our position and within our ranks.

“If the ‘we’ in this question is management, they must consider their DJs, their content presenters, as assets.  They must transform their way of seeing things into those of someone watching our back and be willing to move into a sense of support.  From management, DJs simply want to be recognized for what they do, and thus considered an asset of highest rank.  This means management must learn what it is DJs DO that raises the entire station, and then avidly support it.  If we are to go anywhere, we must do it all from scratch.  Then, starting from an empty format, ask the right questions, fill in the blanks.  Jump in with both feet and make mistakes; that's called ‘learning’.  And, while we have much to learn, we DJs have the background and interest to start fast and comprehend quickly, become aware of what works and what isn't correct and gain knowledge from our actions.  Scratch Radio -- that's the station I would have my money on.”

Bobby, my thanks.  It is an honor to partake of your wisdom.  Really be interesting to take a radio station in some medium market and let several “pros” see what they can do in that market in a year.  The late L. David Moorhead planned to do exactly this … first in Las Vegas.  He wanted to manage once again such as Mikel Hunter, Gary Allyn … you know the names.  Wild promotions (he had a notebook with more than 100).  Hard, quick news.  Ach!

Ken Dowe:  “We saw Tom Russell here in Santa Fe on Tuesday night.  It was a terrific show.  I mean one of the best I’ve ever seen.  Small venue, but filled. Tom is by equal measure:  A wonderful singer, incredible performer, and an extraordinary songwriter.  I very much enjoyed his scholarly and classical sources in a harmonic presentation of poetic stanzas in some stunning songs.  He’s written a Cowboy Opera.  I have it, and so should you.  Did you know he is also a artist?  A painter, not just of songs.  His works are available here in a Santa Fe gallery.  Most surprising to me was that Tom Russell is a superlative entertainer on stage.  Perfectly and amusingly engaging, to an audience that leaves believing he is their new best friend.  Maybe he will be...

“If I were a television executive, on Monday morning I would host a press conference proudly announcing that Tom Russell would be airing a new nighttime TV program on my network.  (On the order of Carson, or Letterman).  He’s that fine an entertainer.  Really … good.  I’ve seen some great shows during a long career and been backstage at many.  From the Beatles and Beach Boys, to the Grand Ole Opry.  I’ve enjoyed Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, and many more from Vegas and around the world.  But, Tuesday night in Santa Fe, Tom was as good as the best.  He had too many fans post-show for any long visit with Dottie, me, and our admiring 18-year-old, but his last comment to me was:  ‘That Claude Hall!  A GREAT man!!  Tell him!’

“Thanks for the introduction, Claude.  I very much appreciate.  Gotta get back now to his new opera and all his older songs I never tire of hearing.  Older, but still not deaf to great talent.”

Mel Phillips:  “I always look forward to contributing to your Commentary -- a masterpiece of memories made by radio and record people who contributed mightily to this business we've loved for a lifetime. You, my friend are the maestro conducting that symphony and no one does it better.  Today I'd like to touch on the subject that for years was taboo -- being fired.  For far too long our friends have carried around the stigma of rejection, failing to even admit they were ever fired.  I'm not one of those people.  Given the volatile nature of the radio and record business, it's not a disgrace to be fired.  In most cases the firing had nothing to do with performance. It's due more to new people coming in and bringing their friends with them.  Too bad if you stand in the way of that process.  I was fired five times but instead of treating those firings like a curse, I wear them as a badge of courage.  In each case I had the courage, confidence and persistence to keep going.  One of the Keys To Success I write about in my book ('From the Mailroom to the Majors') is 'Never, ever, give up': Persistence is more important than talent.  Everyone has some talent but not everyone refuses to give up.  Of the seven keys to success I've outlined, I would say the last one is the most important: Never, Ever Give Up.”

Mel, I was fired once.  From Cavalier magazine published by Fawcett.  They decided to take the magazine to a “girly” format from a “blood and thunder format.”  The new editor hired his own people.  I was given 15 minutes to clear my desk one Friday afternoon.  Whups, I was later “fired” when legendary magazine publisher George von Rosen closed down Casino magazine.  I was given four issues to make a go of the magazine … failed.  That’s when I went back to earn a master’s of education degree, largely via the encouragement of Bill Randle.

Doc Wendell:  “As you can see, it's been a busy summer so far. Here is my review of the new Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4. I've been waiting for this one for a long time.
Hope all is swingin'.  I'm still locked in one of my nerdy, obsessive compulsive jazz states right now but my audience seems to love my record recommendations. This one is on a great Sonny Rollins album.  I'm pretty sure Sonny Rollins is either god or tight with the head honcho.
I'm keeping busy in order to keep my sanity.  Here's my latest record pick.”

Doc, remember when you’re feeling blue that you’re a legacy.  Jack Roberts thought so … I think so.  Keep on keeping on!

Hal Whitney: “Claude:  “A couple of weeks ago someone mentioned Sebastian Stone as the PD of WOR-FM back in the late 60s.  Does anyone remember if Bill Musser was the GM around that time?  Thanks.”

Robert E. Richer: “For those who do not really comprehend why Facebook exists ... presently, I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles.  Every day, I go down the street and tell passersby what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before, what I will be doing and plan to do.  I freely spout my political and religious thoughts without regard to theirs.  I give them pictures of my family, my friends, my dog, my vacations, my gardening and spending time in my pool. I also listen to their conversations and I tell them I love them.  And it works.  I already have three persons following me: two police officers and a psychiatrist.”

Bill Hatch:  “Re: Sebastian Stone, real name Ed (Edward) Phillips. I enjoyed Gary Allyn's Lee Baby/Gary Allyn/Dick Casper story.  All three players were at KCBQ during my tenure there, but I don't recall the incident referred to.  If it happened before I arrived, they had re-hired Lee Baby by the time I got there.  Unless it was he who got replaced by China Smith, I have no memory of Lee being fired before the arrival of Buzz Bennett and crew.  That changing of the guard essentially flushed out the entire air staff with the exception of the news guys (whew) and the all-night jock.  Of course, it was the '70s and there are many things I have no memory of.  Please keep up the Commentary.  It provokes fond memories and reminds me of the good fortune I had of being in radio on the west coast during that magical era.”

We are daydreamers all.  Part of human nature.  And just one of the reasons I’m now reading about Tarzan again (more perhaps about this later) and was once whisked away on the fantasies and science fiction of Theodore Sturgeon, Leigh Brackett, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heinlein.  Woody Roberts has gone with me on those flights of fantasy and journeys.

Woody Roberts:  “Just to let you know ... I did get to the Moon and to Mars.  And on Mars I have the most distinguished set of colleagues, was uber proud to make that journey with them.  A boyhood dream indeed.  Ever since I can remember my dream was to go into space, walk on the Moon and Mars and travel to the stars.  Always been an escapist.  It's looking as if my destiny is to remain Earth bound this time around, but ... tomorrow (14th) my name is on a disc attached to the side of the New Horizons spacecraft that will fly by Pluto and into the deep beyond.  Although I've gotten pretty far out in my life this event sets the record ;-)  WR aka WU aka GWU.”

When vaudeville was replaced, I guess, by the movies, vaudeville wasn’t really killed, per se … it sort of morphed.  I recall when I was in high school we’d have these “acts” that came around.  The principal would let everyone out for assembly.  The entire student body of Winters High School in Winters, TX, maybe 400, would convene in the auditorium and watch a “dog and pony” show.  Usually a dog act.  One dog would do amazing stunts, another cute stunts and one cute little dog did humor; she would run around the hoop rather than leap through it.

I was introduced to Bill Randle early in my Billboard career by legendary promotion guru Don Graham.  I recall doing the interview over a sandwich poolside of a swimming pool atop a Manhattan hotel just before Bill sped away to do his hourly show on WCBS radio.  Little did I know at the time that Bill would one day ask me to go with him to do a “dog and pony” show, circa 1981, at some high school west of Enid, OK.

Ostensibly, we were attempting to promote student recruitment.  There were about 30 students in a classroom.  Bill had introduced Elvis Presley the first time he was on TV and predicted that he was going to be a star.  Earlier, Bill had promoted a concert at a high school in Cleveland that featured Elvis Presley.  His red suit days.  I still have a photo of the occasion on this laptop.  Tommy Edward, a disc jockey on WERE along with Bill, is shown with Bill and Elvis and Elvis’ bassman.  But the “dog and pony” show just showed the TV introduction clip and some other acts and and Bill Randle talked about music.  The 30-minute TV cassette was the pre-runner to what Bill hoped to sell for television, a show called “The Selling of Elvis.”

I doubt if we recruited many students that day for Phillips University.  But I still believe it was a good idea.  I think he did it once again.  I didn’t go.

A funny:  I was watching a basketball game a month or so ago (I sometimes tape a Clipper game – Barbara and I are huge Clipper fans -- to watch it again later) and, behold, there was a dog show during the half-time.  Cute little dog catching a frizzby while doing a flip.

Bill Desing: “Claude, You probably know about this Billboard history site, but just in case:
There is also the main page with other publications:
I look forward to reading your emailing every Monday as much as I looked forward to your column in Billboard.  Keep it up as I'm sure I'm not alone.”

You know, Bill, it’s sometimes difficult to believe that I was probably famous.  A funny:  I used to tell my students at the State University of New York at Brockport that I was more or less a tin god … and then remind them that tin rusts easily.

John Long: “The mention of my name as someone who introduced you to someone at an NAB convention had me going for a moment.  By strange coincidence, when I was in radio at one point I was ‘Dr. John Winston’.  Just another piece of radio trivia or should I say a trivial piece of radio history!  Loved your story about Mr. Ellis and Bob Van Camp.  Bob played organ at the Fox Theater and was music director.  When I worked with Morris Diamond when he was head of promotion for Mercury, I took ‘A Walk in the Black Forest’ by Horst Jankowski quickly over to Bob at WSB.  He put it right on the air.  I was so proud because i was a real ‘green pea’ promotion man.  The Georgia Radio Hall of Fame has a special award in honor of Mr. Ellis.  His daughter Janet Ellis Beerman is the one who presents the award in years when someone is selected.  This year the honoree is retired CBS White House correspondent Peter Maer.  Another interesting tidbit about Mr. Ellis: When Hank Aaron was about to hit his record 714th home run, Mr. Ellis recorded a song called ‘Hammerin Hank’.  It's attached for your listening pleasure.  Here are a couple of pictures you might enjoy.  Hello to Mrs. Hall!”

T’was a different Long.  Involved in jingles.  Very important man at the time.  Always been grateful to him for introducing me to Dr. Tom Turrichi.  Big news story.  Scoop!  Thanks for the pictures!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Claude's Commentary No. 73r2

Today at 9:48 AM
July 13, 2015

Claude’s Commentary No. 73
By Claude Hall

So, there weren’t as many emails as usual this week, I told Barbara.  “Guess I’ll have to write something.”

“Well, make it happy,” she said.  “I’ve had too many unhappy things hitting me this week.”

She’s right and you wouldn’t like to hear a list.  Then, of course, there was the church shooting in Charleston.  Nine people.  Church people at a Wednesday prayer meeting.  By a kook with a 45.  He was welcomed with open arms by some very nice people to a church prayer meeting, but he wasn’t very nice himself and he sat with them about an hour and then took out a gun and at close range – so he couldn’t miss – he pulled the trigger.

In the research about him, it turned out he had a confederate flag fetish.  There are pictures of this guy with the confederate flag.  He drove a nice car and he owned an expensive gun.  How?  Why?  His contributions to society: nil.  A flag craze developed.

Many, many years ago when I had less horsesense than I have now, I bought a Levi jacket and had a confederate flag sewed on the back, along with the emblem Chicago and a Bud Beer emblem.  I thought it was cute.  I don’t think I wore that jacket more than once or twice before one of my children – perhaps even my wife – “requisitioned” it and took off the flag.  It’s still somewhere in the house.  The jacket, not the flag.  Doesn’t matter because I don’t think the flag is so cute anymore. It was never a symbol with me.  I agree it’s place is, perhaps, in a museum.  Just FYI, so far as I know, I had relatives on both sides in the Civil War.  They probably shot each other.  Probably they didn’t know they were going to become relatives of mine at the time.  From what I know now, it was a rather senseless, stupid war.  As any war is.  If the war was to preserve slavery, it was without question a dumb cause.  Insensitive and callow and dumb.

What does radio have to do with slavery?  Nothing.  I hope nothing.

But in the mid-60s, I was invited to visit WSB in Atlanta.  The station was managed by Elmo Ellis, a fine gentleman of the Old South.  He truly was.  I loved the radio station.  Loved Elmo.  Dark wood.  Charm.  Elegance.  Class.  History.  I hope it’s still just the same as when I was there.  The station.

Bob Van Camp, the morning personality, had listeners who grew up and had children who listened as did their parents and, later, as did their parents.  He was engrained in the city and radio.  He also played organ at the major theater in town.  For years I had a photo of me and Van Camp and Elmo Ellis in the studio of the radio station.

That evening, we dined in a restaurant high in a skyscraper in Atlanta.  Elmo was there.  And, I think, the manager of the sister station in Charlotte.  About three men and their wives.  One of the wives told me about the restaurant.  The floor and much of the furnishings had come from an old plantation in the area.  Prestige plus!  Then I realized that all of the diners in the restaurant were white.  And the waiters were all black.  I wonder if the restaurant is still there.  I sort of hope so.  But I hope the dining arrangements are a bit more modern, shall we say, than in those days.

Funny that I feel this way because I’ll likely never go back there anyway.  I’ll certainly never wear that jacket again.  It’s more than 50 years old now.  And that was Atlanta more than 50 years ago.

Joey Reynolds:  “About my asking Shadoe Stevens if he was at the 'clean' roast for Shotgun Tom which I referred to on City Watch-LA going soft!”

Shadoe Stevens to Joey:  “I wasn't there.  I've been working for months on the pilot for a television series for TV One. Just finished the hour pilot today and the president of the network loved it, then asked for a half-hour version ... it's been non-stop and it's all I've had time for ... and now we're going back in the studio for who knows how many more days?  Love your site. You're really good at a lot of things and bring a vibrant personality to every interview or discussion ... your buoyant personality is even present in every still picture.  One of a kind.  Let's keep in touch more often.”

Mel Phillips:  “The only on-air shift I never worked was the all-night show.  I'm not complaining because your whole life is turned around when you do that shift.  When do you sleep?  Or wake up?  Eating habits?  Throw them out the door.  And I haven't even approached what kind of social life you can possibly have.  I have heard you mention Roger Schutt (Captain Midnight) who was our overnight man when I was pulling a 32 share (true) doing morning drive at WKDA, Nashville.  I started my show at 5:30 a.m. and had to do a major cleanup before I could even touch the board.  It consisted of all the garbage the good Captain left behind.  An empty six-pack of beer accompanied the half-eaten fast food and wrappers.  Roger's wife would come in every morning when he finished his show and without fail he would ask her 'what the hell are you doing here?'  This would be followed by a shouting match when he chased her out of the station.  For those who never heard Roger, he had beyond a doubt the worst voice of any one who ever faced a mic.  Roger (Captain Midnight) Schutt was the strangest person I ever met or worked with during my on-air radio career.  Oh and BTW, Sebastian Stone's real name was Gerald Phillips (no relation).”

Ah, but the tales of Hank Williams Sr. that Roger spun!  I understand there may be another movie on Hank’s life.  Will this one tell the truth?

Jerry Sherrell: “Claude:  As always, I enjoy reading your Commentary.  I would love to read your pdf version of ‘George And Me’.  I knew George … from a distance most of the time … when I was doing promotion for Buddah and Elektra-Asylum Records.  I had immense respect for him as one of the Giants Of Radio and his ear-for-a hit was pretty good, as well!  I consider myself lucky to have started in radio in ‘61 and then the record business in ‘62 for decades making dozens of music artists quite rich and famous!  Now I can be heard on KJAZZ 88.1FM in LA … Sundays 10AM-Noon (thanks to Saul Levine and Mike Johnson).  I cherish knowing and dealing with these Hall of Fame radio people:  Chuck Dunaway, Chuck Brinkman, Johnny Holiday, Dick Biondi, Clark Race, John Rook, Jim Stagg, Johnny Andrews, Joey Reynolds, Betty Brenamen, Steve Joos, John Wellman, Chick Watkins, Ed Wright, Boots Bell and hundreds of others!”

Tom Russell: “Claude: I just finished a 5000 word piece on Ian Tyson for a great magazine on the West: "Ranch and Reata."   It's a bi-monthly and available by subscription (almost as big as Vanity Fair! But but better!) and by far the best Western magazine. I do an essay every issue … last issue Emmylou Harris was on the front.  Ian Tyson and I co-wrote a song on his new record (it's on my record as well)  ‘When the Wolves No Longer Sing’.  That's the title of the essay.  Ian's latest record just out is ‘Carnero Vaquero’, he's going strong at 82.  By the way Ian and Sylvia were a different duo than Mickey and Sylvia -- who had the hit with ‘Love Is Strange’, but Ian and Sylvia (different folks) did sing the song as well.  Ian's first song was ‘Four Strong Winds’, which has been voted the most popular song ever written by a
Canadian.  Not to be outdone -- Sylvia's first song (circa 1963) was ‘You Were on My Mind’, a big hit for the group We Five, whose lead singer was John Stewart's brother (John being a member of the Kingston Trio.  Ian wrote ‘Four Strong Winds’, right after Bob Dylan sang him ‘Blowin' in the Wind’, in a bar in Greenwich Village.  That so many great songs were being written by these folks early in their career is unimaginable now … we don't have young spirits and characters of such deep artistic demention these days.  I struggle onward!’

Just FYI, in the mid-60s in Manhattan, Barbara and I used to catch acts such as Ian and Sylvia and Gordon Lightfoot and Paul Butterfield and his Blues Band (with Mike Bloomfield on guitar, as I recall) at the Town Hall in mid-town are.  I recall catching the Weavers there, too.  It was a great, great venue in those days.

Ken Dowe:  “I’m in, Claude….  Sorry you can’t be here, too!!  Thanks for the heads up.  Wife Dottie, and 18-year-old Grand-SON are now fans, too.  We’ll be in the cheering section.”

Ken refers to the pending concert by Tom Russell in Santa Fe.

Woody Roberts: “I'm wondering about Augie Blume.  Do you know anything?  I am thinking of him because I came across some of his old newsletters from when he went independent.  Augie was a highly respected RCA national record promotion man in the 1960s and was put in charge of promotion for launching the Jefferson's Airplane's sub-label Grunt.  The night I won General Manager of the Year at the Bill Gavin Conference I walked in just as the ceremonies were starting and found an empty chair at a table of folks I didn't recognize and it turned out two of them were Augie and his gracious wife Nancy.  We became very good friends and I stayed overnight at their Susalito home a couple of times.  When I was trying to launch Armadillo Records as a sub-label for WB my company brought in Augie to consult.  We represented one of the first pure Americana bands and Mary Martin was interested, plus we had a Freddy King single for Bill Oaks at RSO that Dr. Tom Terrici in Dallas had focus tested as Top 10.  I lost track of Augie in the late '70s about the time Terrici closed his office and moved to a residency at Eslaen Institute in Big Sur.  Many programmers like Bennett, Connell, Starr, etc., hired Dr. Terrici to test new music.  He was a visionary using galvanic skin response along with intellectual voting and a uniquely crafted psychographic focus group.  I used his services very effectively.

“About Tom Russell.  I've listened to his songs for years and was surprised when in your Commentary he described his works not as country but frontier music.  Forty-five years ago when the progressive country, cosmic cowboy, outlaw country era was starting to boom in Austin there was frontier music in the mix.  On the pop side of things was Michael Murphey with ‘Geronimo's Cadillac’ on A&M; then for Epic Records came his Gold selling ‘Blue Sky -- Night Thunder’ with its top-three hit ‘Wildfire’.  Murphey has from his first recordings been in fascinated by old west music and has a fine album called ‘Cowboy Songs’.  Another of that period was Steve Fromholz with his classic ABC-Probe release ‘Here to There’.  Even more authentic to the form is Bobby Bridger.  Back then he was on RCA and published a local tabloid Hoka Hey.  He not only is a songwriter but has lived the life of a modern old time pioneer and become noted as an expert on the lifestyles of Indians. He has three albums and four books at Amazon.  Here's one of his songs, ‘Red Cloud’ --

“Just some evening thoughts rambling through my mind.  Just got a 40-inch 4k desktop monitor and perhaps getting too immersed.”

Woody, I remember Augie Blume well.  Very likeable person!  And I think he did well for RCA.  I know the rumor about his leaving the label.  RCA made a mistake, in my opinion.  After he left the label, he sort of vanished from media.

Just FYI, I was the first to write about Dr. Tom Turrichi.  I was introduced to him in an elevator in, I think, Chicago at an NAB by John Long.  Long had attended a three-week school on Transcendental Meditation in California and about this time had people refer to him as Dr. John Long.

Turrichi fell from favor when Neil Bogart at Casablanca hired him on five singles and proved correct.  Bogart claimed it was too difficult to promote on a record when you already knew it wasn’t a hit.  Great line from Jerry Wexler, Atlantic, “If Neil will pay me the $200 he owes me, I’ll tell him how to spell Buddah.”

Monday, July 6, 2015

Claude's Commentary No. 71r2

Today at 8:58 AM
July 6, 2015

Claude’s Commentary No. 72
By Claude Hall

Gary Allyn:  “Hello again my good friend Claudius ... I read with great pleasure Woody Robert’s account of his early meeting Lee Baby Simms.  Shortly thereafter, I, too, had my first encounter with the redoubtable Lee Baby.  It was the early Fall of 1966.  I was rehired by KONO’s owner Jack Roth to become Program Director.  Shortly after arriving back in the Alamo City from San Diego, Jack called me into his office to say he wanted to rehire Lee. So, we embarked on a teaser campaign on both KONO and KONO-TV to say: (Baby crying SFX) ‘The Baby returns ... soon’.  Then it came: ‘The Baby returns to KONO on (date)’.  As Woody said about Lee, he seemed really full of confidence … almost arrogant.  He went on the air saying they wanted to bring ‘The old gunslinger back to shoot down the competition (KTSA)’.  But, it was gonna cost ‘em this time, he (Lee) was gonna get big time money this time ... etc, etc.  Lee was phenomenal on the air, in fact, I don’t think over the 3-4 times he worked for me, that he ever sounded better than he did at KONO.
Everything was going fine until one night after leaving his air shift, Lee and afternoon DJ Nick St. John went driving in Nick’s Corvette, and both had some intoxicant in them, and while driving through an upscale area of San Antonio (I believe Olmos Park) the Corvette left the winding road and through a fence onto the lawn of a large estate.  It was after 3:00 a.m., and the owner of the estate came charging out of his house with a gun (or so I
was told) and held the two (Lee and Nick) until the police arrived.  Jack Roth was notified by the police, and I was called at home by Jack to tell me to have both me and Lee in his office at 9:00 a.m. that morning.  Jack Roth was one of the few who Lee was a little intimidated by.  Lee always called him ‘King Jack’.  Lee walked in to Jack's office.  He had dark sunglasses on.  Jack asked Lee if he could see without the sunglasses on as he wanted Lee to look at him when he talked to him about the driving incident earlier.  As it turned out, the estate Lee and Nick drove into was that of the CEO of Pearl Brewery.  Pearl Beer spent many thousands of dollars in advertising on KONO annually, and the sales contract was in jeopardy of being cancelled! Jack, of course, said he wanted Lee and Nick to pay for the damage they caused, and that the CEO of Pearl would not press charges if nothing more was said about it.  And that was about it until Lee went on the air that evening.  Lee, as was his habit, always talked to his ‘fans’ about what happened in his life each day, and this incident was discussed in great detail on the air.  The kids and listeners loved it, they regarded Lee as one of them.  A rebel of sorts against authority.  Jack Roth, as you might imagine, was not happy at all.  I feared this was the end of Lee's employment at KONO.  After all, between Lee and KTSA, the two stations had 100% of the teen audience at night, and I didn't want Lee's majority ratings -- or him -- to leave!  Jack had to prove that insubordination would not be tolerated ... suspension was handed down.  As Woody said, Lee was young, in his early 20s.  Lee saw nothing wrong in what he said.  He was being honest with his listeners.  A few years hence, Lee's ‘honesty’ got him trouble at KCBQ while I was the P.D.  After playing a finance commercial on the air, Lee said that all loan companies were crooks, charging way too much interest, hounding people for payment etc.  He told of his borrowing money from a loan company while working in Cleveland, and they were ‘bandits’ of the worst kind.  Unfortunately, a manager of one of the finance companies whose commercial had just played on the air was driving around. He heard Lee's diatribe against his company.  Irate, he called to cancel the account with the ‘Q’ sales manager. The Sales Manager called Dick Casper, the KCBQ GM.  Casper was in New York on a buying trip.  It seemed only seconds after Lee's air attack, I got a call from New York and Dick Casper who was screaming: ‘Get that sonofabitch off the air now!  Immediately!  You go in that control room and get him out and you finish the show.  I want him GONE!  Call me back after he is out of the building!’  Casper hung up in my ear.  Once again, Lee's ‘honesty’ got him fired.  He was truly ‘The Peck's Bad Boy’ of radio, but the listeners loved it.  All these years later, these Lee Simms episodes bring a smile to my face.  We all knew we were witness to original and brilliant talent.  I always felt that you had to give this kind of talent more leeway.  It would be like giving Picasso a paint-by-the-numbers kit, then tell him to paint something brilliant and original.  I never had much trouble with Lee following the basic parts of the hourly format.  He did the PSA's, the news, etc., on time.  But I had to give him the freedom for Lee to be Lee.  More than ‘Coke’, Lee was The Real Thing.  A real storyteller.  And Lee could ‘sell the music better that anyone.  He made the listener feel like he loved the songs he played better than they did, while the opposite was true for most DJs.  I once had a jock meeting to remind them that they were ignoring the playing of songs that they diidn't like -- usually bubblegum songs.  I told them to play all the hits the way they came up in rotation. Lee said: ‘They're all like nails to me ... I just grab one and pound it in … one after another’.  I loved Lee Simms.  The Disc Jockey and the person. I think it was his ‘Honesty’.

Someone out there is going to mention that I’m featuring too much about Lee Baby Simms.  My response right now is:  Nope.  Just FYI, Lee’s daughter Kim is on my mailing list.

Doc Wendell: “Here is my second installment of my record recommendations or ‘Doc's Prescriptions’.  It's on a cooking Jimmy Heath album from 1960.”
Also:  “This album by Gene "Jug" Ammons makes life better.”

I hate to see Don Barrett closing up shop.  The man is a giant and has done giant things.  Los Angeles and the surrounding media terrain will miss his labors – and heart -- terribly.  Just FYI, Don Barrett was a damned good radio man himself back in the day and for years now edited an outstanding media blog.  May the good Lord bless you, Don, with four aces (three hidden and one on the river).  I consider it an honor to know you and Cherie.

Joe Nick Patoski about me mentioning his movie kickstart: “It’s never too late or too soon.  Thanks for the mention.  This isn’t the first time anyone’s pushed for Doug Sahm’s induction.  But this film is the best tool to carry the message, and it includes the saga of the Sir Douglas Quintet -- how Huey P. Meaux (aided by good people like Chuck Dunaway) sold a band of Texans and Mexicans to the world as British, only to be outed on television’s ‘Hullabaloo’ by host Trini Lopez.  If that isn’t rock and roll, I don’t know what is.  Here’s a snippet about that from the film,
which is playing in Missoula as part of the Big Sky Film Fest summer series July 19 and at Cinefamily in LA July 30 -- Santa Fe Independent Film Festival and In-Edit Music Documentary Film Festival in October, with more to come.”

Andy Hall, my poet son who teaches at UNLV, is on a poetry team that just won a slam competition in Salt Lake City this past week.  He asked me to publish this and, why not?  “If you would forward this to friends and family, I'd sure appreciate it.  We are trying to raise enough money to pay for expenses and transportation to this conference and tournament known as National Poetry Slam.  Poetry slam combines art and entertainment in a fun and moving way.  Think of it as poetry meets professional wrestling meets bowling meets ‘The Gong Show’.”

Sounds as if it’s something for which Joey Reynolds would be a perfect emcee.

Roger Carroll:  “Everyone loves Joey Reynolds except me.”

Now, now, Roger.  Play nice.

Tom Russell: “Thanks, Claude … don't know if I sent you this promo film we did for the new record:
Really enjoy the blog.  TR in Vancouver.”

Man, Tom … you do get around!

Chuck Dunaway: “Hope I’ve told you already, but in case I haven’t ... please keep sending your informative emails ... it is hard for some of us to keep in touch with a business we loved and your emails bring us back into the fold ... if for only a short time.  Thanks, Claude.”

For the “new radio format” projected by Ken Dowe, now a Tom Russell fan, the “fountainhead” for the format, I emailed him a fairly recent tune by Ian Tysonl  (Russell and Tyson are buddies).  The song was about the American horse, “La Primera.”  I guess.  And, no, it’ll never be a Top 40 hit.  But it’s a good and quite interesting tune.  One that someone interested in music ought to hear at least once.  And I’m glad to see that Ian Tyson is still around.

Ken Dowe:  “Love is Strange.”  Mickey and Sylvia.  I remember well.  I’ll jump in the car tomorrow morning and blue-tooth Ian Tyson through some fine automobile speakers.  Sorry you’ve not been well.  Speaking of, I haven’t seen Chuck in quite awhile and usually hear from him if he’s not doing well.  Hope all’s well. You know Chuck brought me to Dallas from San Diego when I was 20 years old.  To KBOX.  Remember?  A really fine station in 1961.  Chuck  was the PD.  Later, he and I worked together at KLIF.  Been great friends for about 55 years. LONG time!  We arrived in Santa Fe a couple days ago.  Tom, as you told me, is appearing here on the 14th.  I am going to call the box office in the morning and see if I can grab some good seats.  Have a couple friends I might take along with Dottie and our 18 year old.  (Grandson, but Dottie and I reared him as a son.)  He’s a Tom Russell fan now.  I drove this trip, switching the radio from my audio-books … to Tom Russell.  Made it a really entertaining ride!”

Joey Reynolds: “Check out this video on uTube:  Thank you. Claude, for the votes of confidence all during the dark days, it makes a guy feel good to be in fellowship with you.  ‘More will be revealed’… Big Book, Bill Wilson.  John Antoon is in hospital in Kennedy, CA, after a stroke, I have been trying to reach him.  John and Gary Bailey were also fellow travelers who provided a map for the road less traveled.  How are you, besides busy looking for the perfect chili recipe and wondering about Lebron James, was his mom dyslectic?  Why Cleveland?  I am ready to move to Athens cause it is the cradle of democracy, everybody in Greece is a philosopher and it is paradise for talkers; at the Acropolis everybody speaks freely, but no one pays attention, It's like AM Radio.”

Mel Phillips:  “Afternoon Claude, I love to run into old (experienced?) Radio friends when least expecting to as I did the other day on 3rd Avenue (Manhattan).  Jim Kerr and I go way back and Jim is always a pleasant surprise to see.  Jim always provides an interesting conversation.  He mentioned how reading my new book (blatant promotion for 'From the Mailroom to the Majors') made him reminisce about similar radio experiences and he brought up the name of Sebastian Stone, my late friend and program director of WOR-FM in the late 60s.  Sebastian had a big box of airchecks in his office of all the airchecks he received.  He had a system of grading each tape with an alphabet letter.  When the sender of each aircheck would follow up with a call, the conversation would go something like this:  'Hey man I really liked your aircheck but I gave it a 'B'.  Sorry man but you'll have to bring it up to an 'A' for me to consider you.  Keep working on it and submit another one in about 6 months.'  I don't know if they believed that or not but I thought it was an interesting way to recognize the person who took the time to send an aircheck....”

And then there was the general manager who asked for airchecks regarding a disc jockey opening … and then used the tapes for commercials.  Just FYI, Sebastian Stone (I can’t recall his real name at the moment) was a close friend to Sam Hale.  Sam has been under the weather.  Spending so much time in the hospital of late his mailbox is jammed.  I sincerely miss Sam.  Anyone who knows him personally, please say hi from me.

Spider Harrison sent me a note that one of the great legends in radio, Chicago’s Lucky Cordell, and his daughter are in intensive care after a Sunday fire in his southside home, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.  Firemen rescued Lucky and his daughter through a hole in the roof.  Cordell, 86, and daughter Pat, 60, are being treated at the University of Chicago Medical Center.  Moses Linberg Cordell Jr. began in 1952 on WGES.  He also had a long run at WGRY in Gary, IN.  In 1963, he became one of the initial Good Guys at the launch of WVON. In addition to being a DJ on the air, Cordell moved up the ranks at the station off the air, becoming music director, program director, assistant general manager, and by 1970, general manager. Under his leadership, WVON became one of the biggest radio stations in Chicago and one of the most influential R&B stations in the country.  He exited full-time radio in the early 1980s to do some work with Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's office, Operation PUSH, and the Chicago Urban League (which he joined in the 1960s).

Dave Laird, Smithville, TN: “I'd love to receive your commentaries.  I was emailing with my old boss and friend Art Wander, and he suggested that I request to be added to your list.  I worked with Art in Syracuse, Memphis, and Boston. A great experience as I grew in the business.  I retired after nearly 45 years back in 2008, and, frankly, don't miss the business the way it is today.  Thanks for considering my request for your emails, and I hope you have an enjoyable 4th of July weekend.”

Thank you, Art, and welcome aboard, Dave!

I’m writing a “novel” about George Wilson, a man who as program director programmed more No. 1 radio stations than anyone in the world … but I guess the title of the book will end up “George and Me.”  Anyway, I may never finish it.  Like “I Love Radio” and “Radio Wars,” both eBooks available from Book, it will mention a lot of people in both radio and music … and feature even a few comments … as did “I Love Radio.”  The reason I may never finish this book is because he lived a big life and it’s one hell of a job to get all of that into just a book … and, yes, I even wrote his “official” bio a few years ago so I know quite a bit about him.  He was one of my closest friends, especially the last few years of his life.  Rob and Terry, the son of L. David Moorhead and one of George’s daughters, held the wedding reception of Jackie and George Wilson here at the Hall House.  They catered in food from Sister’s in Los Angeles.  As I write this, I’m looking at a photo I took at Chapel of the Bells when he and Jackie were married.  Whups, here comes a photo of Lee Baby Simms during his KCBQ, San Diego days.

“George and Me,” actually a quasi mystery, had lain fallow for perhaps a month.  I went back to work on it right after Don Barrett and Cherie visited.  Thanks Don.  Thanks Cherie.  And I worked on it some today.  It revolves around the murder of Nate McCalla, a man I only met once in the mid-60s.  And, naturally, I’ve made a heap of suppositions.

Anyway, I have about 12,000 words written thus far on “George and Me.”  If anyone would like to read it, I’m willing to send it to you in a pdf version for computer.  Free.  Just to the first dozen who respond.  You can comment or not, tell me something about George or not.  I feel the urge to send it out just in case I tire and never finish it.  So you will know that, at least I tried to write about him.  George, if any of us, certainly deserved a book.  Just FYI, I’m still working on the book.  And I do hope/plan to finish it one day.

I sent Woody Roberts an early version:  “I learned quite a bit about early Top 40 by reading this piece.  It reads like a memoir rather than one of your stories and will be an important addition to 20th century radio history.  I hope you will eventually send it to your list and too Kindle it for a free download.  It needs to go on a website somewhere so it will show up on Google searches, I hope some radio people will post it to their blogs.  A keeper for posterity.  George is an enigma with me, I got my first radio job in Galveston K-ILE '59 and basically was never intrigued by the programmers in the north.  None of their stations interested me.  Being a lad in Texas I was a McLendon student and aware of Chuck's honing of that format in LA. Which reminds me that Don Keys is a name often left out of radio history, he followed Bill's tenure with Gordon as Grahame had with Todd.  The first time I became aware of George's name was in '65 as one of the references listed by Lee Simms.  When I called, I think he was PDing in Baltimore.  Lee spoke of him but I never heard anything from others about his stations and never heard an aircheck of one.  I did spot his name in the Gavin Report.  Wish I had known George.  To me Billboard was a general department store and The Gavin Report was an exclusive boutique.  The other publications and tipsheets were also-rans.  Never considered one in competition with the other.  I saw Billboard as butting heads with Cash Box and the more important of the two.  Billboard did sales, Gavin depended a lot on ears and it wasn't just his exclusive cadre of reporters (anyone could subscribe, but I didn't know any DJs that bothered, only PDs and music directors), but it should be noted that Bill Gavin had the really BIG ears and the man could hear those hits before many of us, he told me his pop music strength was catchy melodies and harmonies.  I really could not have won in Hartford without Gavin and Lee Baby.  I could not believe it the first time I was nominated for GM of the year at the Gavin programming conference and then again, and then in 1971 I won!  I was the guy who suggested and contacted Buckminster Fuller for keynoting the Gavin Programming Conference in San Francisco.  I thought Bill's show was for Lucky Lager Beer not Lucky Strike cigarettes.  It was while programming the music for Lucky Lager Dance Time that Bill decided to use his research methods to pick hits for Top 40 style music stations around the country.  May not be exact but like the famous Storz coffee shop/bar lore that's the gist of it.”

Don Sundeen: “Hi, Claude, I recently came into contact with Bobby Poe Jr. and told him I was a great fan of his dad.  I asked him to write something about The PoeK for
my blog, and sent me this page with a thumbnail of an incredible life.  I wonder if you could print the URL so that others who fondly remember Bobby Poe can read words from the man who published the Pop Music Survey, and had legendary ’Seminars’ for radio and record folks for 30 years.  It’s full of familiar names from back in the day like: Shelby Singleton, Lelan Rogers, Harv Moore and many others.  It also turns out that Bobby Poe was a Direct Descendent of William the Conqueror … which explains a lot.
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