Today at 7:38 AM
August 3, 2015
Claude’s Commentary No. 76
By Claude Hall
Bob Weisbuch: “You are right, Claude, Danny Neaverth means Buffalo to a lot of us. Growing up in Rochester in the 1950s and 1960s, I always listened to Buffalo radio instead. Rochester Top 40 was a monopoly for several years, and WBBF was comfortable and wildly successful but somehow not part of that sense of the new that stations like WKBW modeled. Danny was the best, and when I heard him on the late-lamented oldies revival of KBW four or five years ago, he sounded as witty and naturally engaging as he did forty-five years earlier. (One winter I would get up super early to hear him from my Jersey home before the signals switched after sunrise. What are you doing here so early, students would say at my university. I'm listening to one of the great DJs ever, I would reply, and, I'd add, I'll bet you haven't been to bed yet. They hadn't. Of course for many years I'd get up early or stay up late to hear Joey Reynolds reinvent talk radio on WOR. In any field, we should honor individualism. These talents, just like Lee Baby and Woody Roberts, are themselves and no one else.
“Danny Neaverth and fellow Western New York guy Dick Purtan shared a style that was low-key but high-brow. Danny worked at several Buffalo stations before he settled at KB -- I believe he was on WGR earlier and perhaps WWOL where everyone did a term as Guy King. Why can't we establish an internet radio station with some of the great talents who write in to you? Granted that some of the best age better than others but just about all of them have more to say than what we typically hear now. Speaking of which, I think the biggest disappointment these days, along with the effects of the huge conglomerates, is Sirius in its music stations. Is personality really that scary? I am a big admirer of Howard Stern, but he shouldn't be virtually alone on those 200 channels as a personality. Eat your unsalted chicken soup and feel better, Mesquiteer.”
Joey Reynolds: “How can Danny N. be more Buffalo than me? I ate more wings and weighed 300 lbs. And shoveled more snow -- in my nose. He was married with children … I was sleeping with every squaw in Cheektawoga and Tonawanda. We went to the same high school. I was dating Danny's sister-in-law. We started out at the Buffalo boys club radio station WBCB. Tommy Shannon and I owned a recording studio together in Buffalo. Danny became a landlord for low-rent houses, I invested in a tall men's shop in China. The point is that we didn't wind up at the steel plant in Lackawanna … they moved to Germany. I would be married to some old Deutsch bag. Get your history straight or you will never be on ‘Jeapordy’. Love to you and Barbara.”
No, no, no, Joey. Danny is Mr. Buffalo. You can be Mr. Hartford-Philadelphia-Buffalo, if you wish … I don’t care what Bertha Porter might think. Popsie would have wanted it that way.
Johnny Holliday: “Just finished reading your latest Commentary # 75 ... as always brightens up my day with so many familiar names from the past. Names like Dan Neaverth. If you don’t mind could you email me his contact info? Haven't spoke to Danny in years, he truly is one of the all-time greats.”
M.R. Shane Gibson: “I genuinely will try to be brief, dear old friend. However, your exchange with Danny Neavearth caused a flood tide of similar memories strong enough still to preclude even the possibility of brevity. Danny was, is one of my longest and dearest, most honest friends in broadcast. To write the occasions where activity occurred as he described would require a book. It happened at WKBW when my hero, the immortal Jefferson Kaye had brought me in explaining half their numbers were gone in the evening. Six months later, ‘Best numbers we've ever had in the slot!’, he said and, he was gone. The new PD came in and apparently needed to show the staff he was the boss and -- I was gone. A year later, he hired me back after little WYSL beat 'em in the slot with less power than the Yellow Cab company (186 watts effective radiating power in the evening).
“In Washington, same kind of thing. Dynamite numbers. GM admitted it and fired me anyway saying, ‘To be honest, I just can't stand the sound of your voice’. In Virginia Beach, we took Z-104 from a 7.4 to a 14.9 in a year. They fired Bob Canada as PD and let go of Mike Joseph as consultant on the Hot Hits’ station. Then, me. In Richmond, the GM was also the Morning Man half the time. You remember the Billboards that year. Don Imus was MC. I still laugh at the pic where he'd rushed over to side stage, handed me the plaque without allowing a word of thanks. He worked in Cleveland, owned by the same company. The WLEE GM was angry I was hurt they'd made me pay my own way to come to the forum! He stonewalled me on a new three-year contract with a raise of $15 per week; which is how I went to WKBW.
“There are many stories of the same ilk which could be empathized with by many good pros in our business but brevity was promised. Suffice it to say that learning the politic outweighed performance in so many instances. When the ‘New WLEE’ was brought back in 95, there I was again. In less than one year on the morning shift, with a signal from Williamsburg, we went from #16 to #9, station was sold and I was let go so the new board could air John Boy and Billy for barter. The reason I am able to smile in retrospect is simple. I was so fed up, I played 18 to 54 holes a day for 20 months and became the oldest fella on record to pass the Playing Ability and Rules tests and be admitted to the Professional Golfers Association of America. Now the sun has destroyed my Nordic skin and I write my music. ‘Isn't Life Strange?’ Please don't print this if it seems to be yammering; just wanted you to know how enjoyable it was reading the exchanges between two of the nicest, most honorable professionals I was ever able to know in the business and politic of radio. Your friend and fan always.”
Shane, so you wanted to be a disc jockey, huh? Just FYI, you’re welcome to “yammer” any time you wish, but that goes for everyone in this column.
Herb Oscar Anderson: “Think of all the great personalities that had their schooling in radio … the WHOLE show business world was alive … they went into TV … stage … comedy … singers … that made the Klieg lights blue … those many hours alone… with you and a mic … forced the mind to develop so as not to bore and loose audience. Now, every time we go to entertainment news … headlines always read. Ratings at new low … well … it takes talent to be good … it takes guts to learn your craft. When I was released (fired) from ABC back in the 50s, I told a young Leonard Goldenson, ‘I’m coming back and don’t you forget it. After WMCA, I got a call from him, ‘I would like to have you back … and I haven’t forgotten’. The rest is history. As the saying goes, ‘If you made it to the top, you came through the back door a couple of times’. But today is another story. We must put the ‘show’ back in business … instead of the Rolodex mentality of the industry today. What do they teach in radio school today? How to spin the wheel?”
Pert, HOA. Pert.
Chuck Buell: “Hi, Claude, I know you like writing more about guys with East Coast affiliations and backgrounds these days, but back in the day, you did honor many of us in the Great Midwest with your fine comments in Vox Jox. Here're Seven of those Guys! Chuck Buell, J.J. Jeffries, Larry Lujack, John Landecker, Bill Bailey, Gary Gears and Fred Winston. The Early 1970s daily on-air staff of WLS, The Big 89, in Chicago! All these WLS Chicago on-air guys made a rare group appearance together one day as they were being interviewed in this old TV Video Clip from 1972. Check the guy at the far left! (Yep! That's me, Buell!). Was I rockin' the 70s Image or what? And be sure to listen to my astute comments later in the interview about why there are no ‘Girl’ Disk Jockeys!
1972 WLS On Air Guys 9 minutes. Wishing you Good Health!”
Ah, Bill Bailey. A Commentary to him bounced back a week ago. Hope he hasn’t bought that proverbial rusty transmitter in the south pasture. And I still treasure my copy of “Superjock.” Every jock from here to Miami was jealous because Larry Lujack thought of that title first.
Doc Wendell: “I'm plugging away at these album picks. It's great to dig into my vaults to find a record like this one.”
Charlie Barrett, bless him, included me in the loop of a note to Don Graham. I am honored. The “looping” is not due to my hipness, but merely a tribute to my elderly status. However, I am grateful. Charlie Barrett to Don Graham: “Hi, Don. Such a promo genius you are ... Matt Forbes is privileged to have you! Watch for the weekly ‘Joey Canyon Show’ from country music star and personality Joey Canyon in Colorado to preem on national cable and satelite TV in 1st quarter of 2016. We will be announcing deal for show (think ‘Hee-Haw’ meets ‘The Dean Martin Show’) in a week or so. I cannot believe we are still at it ‘after all these years’ ... as the song plays.”
This originated with a note from: David Hendrickson, operations manager, WJUB: “Uncle Don, at the Breeze we’re eagerly anticipating the new Matt Forbes album. Any idea when that will be headed our way? PS – I will be back in the City of Angels in February. I look forward to seeing you then.”
Speaking of elderly status, the Billboard special issue about Nashville. Whew! As they say: “PHENOMENAL.” A keeper. My son Andy read it. And John Alexander Hall, Esq. will read it when he comes for his birthday in a few days. Just great!
Joey Reynolds: “This is the life of Morton Downey Jr. … a documentary featuring yours truly and Bob Pittman as the good guys (who knew?). And a few other rascals whom you know. It is prime time on CNN 9pm Aug 20. Plenty of time to get the popcorn and a diet Pepsi.”
Missed it, Joey! Shucks. But things were a bit messy around here for a few days. This is as good a place and time to spill the proverbial “beans” as anywhere else … and, hey, I love pinto beans! July 8, I had a congestive heart attack. No big deal. I’m a Hall, you know. But I wasn’t feeling all that well. Barbara talked me into going to Urgent Care near the house on July 20. They whisked me into a hospital bed and hooked me up to some wires and this and this. An hour or so later, they transferred me by ambulance to Desert Springs Hospital. More tests. Then they ambulanced me to the new (four days old) Mountain Edge Hospital on the west side of Las Vegas. Great food, but not much of it and I wasn’t very hungry; great doctors and nurses. That hospital bed was something Hitler invented, though; I’m thinking about suing. I was on oxygen. Grabbing for air. Going to the bathroom a lot as they tried to flush liquids from my lungs. Well, they were somewhat successful on that and released me from the hospital, which did not make me mad, on July 23. My beautiful wife Barbara and son Andy brought me home. And here I am. I’ve got nurses coming by once a day and I’ve seen my primary care provider Dr. Kaplov, a youngish fellow who must have studied under Joey Reynolds, but failed to graduate. This was okay because what he was talking about was me and it wasn’t exactly a whole bunch of fun anyway. I see my heart specialist on Aug. 5.
Scott St James: “Hi, Claude! Hi, Barbara! Wow! You covered a LOT of ground in today's column. Great stuff! FYI ... those of us who have had the pleasure of getting to know to him, I'm happy to tell you something you probably weren't aware of. The last couple of Fridays, Don Barrett has been on a coast-to-coast station telling us some great radio and film stories. He might be on the air with us this coming Friday for a third time if he's available.”
Love to hear more about it, Scott.
Art Wander: “Claudius the Great. So delighted to hear of your early adventures at Billboard. I know there are more stories you could share with your loyal list of contributors. Naturally, I certainly appreciate Ken Dowe's contributions that make your Commentaries so great. Keep up the great work.”
Mel Phillips: “I just loved your story on the start of your career at Billboard. First person pieces are invaluable, educational and entertaining. Yours was all three. Loved it a lot. Describing the first time you heard someone use the word personality in reference to a disc jockey reminds me of being a 17-year-old kid who had just started attending radio school at night. During the day I was a mailboy at the ABC Radio & TV Network on West 66th Street in Manhattan. Herb Oscar Anderson was the morning man at WABC Radio and would drop downstairs to the mailroom to say hi after finishing his show each morning. Knowing I had just started at The School of Radio & Television Technique (owned by Pat Weaver - dean of NBC TV and father of Sigourney), HOA said, "Mel, I want you to remember one thing as you get into Radio. Always remember to be an individualist"). Individualist? I just wanted to finish Radio school and become a disc jockey. In later years I understood what HOA meant by that and I guess I did wind up to be an individualist with a pretty good career. Regarding the use of the word ‘personality’, I always considered myself a jock and referred to other on-air staff members as jocks. Of course I do understand that when you run up against a Rush Limbaugh, Cousin Brucie or Don Imus, you're no longer referring to ‘jocks’. Give us more insight into your career, Claude, please.”
Trust me, Mel, you do not wish to know about my “barefoot” days.
John Long: “Enjoyed Dave Anthony's comments about Domino Rippy. I first met Trippy Rippy when I hired him to do nights at WAPE. Christopher Haze recommended him to me after Bill (his real name-last name Matthews) worked for Haze at KNUS in Dallas. Nothing will give you an insight into someone like driving in a U-haul truck from Phoenix to Jacksonville, FL. That's what happened when Domino accepted my offer to join me at the Big Ape to do nights. He volunteered to help me move. By the time we reached El Paso, I needed a break so I bought him a plane ticket to Dallas (we were to pick up his belongings and motorcycle there). When I got to Dallas, we loaded a few boxes and his bike and off we went. We stopped somewhere in Alabama at a truck stop to get fuel and something to eat. The stop might have been the inspiration for ‘Uneasy Rider’ by Charlie Daniels. Domino looked a bit like a motorcycle club member and the truck stop clientele couldn't take their eyes off him. I quickly suggested we get our food to go; we did and I was happy to see Alabama in my rear view mirror. We finally got to Jacksonville and started our Big Ape adventure. There are many more hilarious examples of Domino adventures including our reconnect during my ill-fated tenure at WCCO-FM in the early 90s. Yes, Dave, I'm the one to blame for bringing him to the twin cities. Domino died a few years ago of cancer. I think I still have emails we exchanged during the last few months of his life. He was a unique guy and one of the best jocks with whom I had the pleasure of working. Hi, Miss Barbara.”
John, I read the above to Ms. Barbara. She got a kick out of your email. Funnie!
Tom Russell: “Thanks so much to Ernie and Ken and Claude for being keepers of the flame. I've always figured that to survive within this cultural climate (a digital wasteland where a great song is a precious gem) you have to, as Keith Richards declared, ‘survive by sheer luck and brute force’. Or to put it more eloquently: ‘you have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you’. (Flannery O'Conner) Onward! … thanks to all.”
Bob Sherwood: “So here’s a ‘what if?’, Claudius … suppose one of the major money groups that swept in to acquire broadcast properties following the moronic and possibly corrupt decisions that led to de-regulation actually hired Ken Dowe and gave him full authority and responsibility for on-air content for their various acquisitions. All the listeners in those markets would have been exposed to local news (rather a basic obligation and service of licensees), information, music and on-air talent that related to each market. What a concept.”
Is it that you jest, Good Sir?