|by Dick Blackburn||
Okay kats and kittens get on your boppin' mittens! Here's some hip babble for you rabble. I'm gonna freak and squeak 'til I crack my beak! One...two...three...BLAST OFF!
Yeah, well, that was then. Today, excepting a few hipster freaks and some black rap jocks, the airwaves have about as much personality as a damp chicken. Clueless niceguys and constipated academics reign supreme in the Land of the Bland.
When Rock n' Roll first hit - with all the force of a screaming howitzer - people were stunned. At first nobody, including the few early black jocks who'd copped the mello-toned, yoghurt-smooth patter of their white confreres, knew how to sell it. Eventually though, platter pushers began getting real gone, tossing black jive, then teen slang and finally speed rap in between plays. But ah, who were these original napalm-lunged men of steel and How Did They Come To Be? Good question Sherman. To pinpoint their origin we step into the Way Back Machine and set the dial for '46 Nashville Tenn.
Businessman Randy Wood buys a home appliance repair shop in nearby Gallatin.
The back storeroom has a stash of about two thousand 78s of "race" artists - that
meant black in them days. He wants to dump 'em, doesn't know how. Somebody
intro's him to Gene Nobles, an ex-carny and local dee jay. Nobles recalls how old
time minstrel shows were always popular with white audiences. Maybe his listeners
might dig a shellac version of same. Hell, they might even buy 'em as a novelty
since with isolated exceptions down home blues, R&B - dirty stuff - isn't on the air.
Only recently a few black servicemen had paid a call to ask if the station might
play "their music." They had brought with them records similar to the ones Wood
Nobles is on WLAC, a 50,000 watt station beaming up to Montreal, over to El Paso and even down to Jamaica. He and Nobles buy a one-minute spot to peddle their shellac at six for a dollar. Nada. They ante up for fifteen minutes. Still zero response. They're about to pack it in when on the third or fourth Monday they get hit by a veritable tsumai of mail. Gallatin no longer has a 3rd Class post office.
Under the strains of Albert Ammons' "Swanee River Boogie" Nobles' sly double entendres ushered in a new sound. The word had spread. To bored white collegians always looking for a new kick and to the huge untapped black audience that dug tuning in their main kick. Right away WLAC's ofay jocks went the sepia route. Bill "Hoss" Allen was a Gallatin native - a town with more blacks than whites. His deep southern drawl plus hipness to black culture/slang made him sound like a brother. "I used to say it was 'get down time'. That's what pimps called the hour they put their girls out on the street. My opening was always 'The Hossman's down for Royal Cream (a hairdressing) and Randy's Record Mart. The world's largest mail order record store. In the business of sending out those phonograph records to you my friends, by mail C.O.D., guaranteed safe delivery no matter where you be. Just pay Uncle Sam and he'll lay it on you man!"
Unlike Allen, John Richbourg - "John R. way down in Dixie" - was a soap opera announcer from New York who had to learn the lingo from scratch. He did and began breaking new discs on his one to three in the A.M. spot. The "Randy's Record Mart Show" became so hot that indie promo men took to sending in an acetate along with a Franklin to insure some spins. If after ten days the major distribution centers in New Orleans and Charlotte hadn't placed any orders, the acetate would be tossed before ever being pressed.
Now the hip audience for all this, although dominant and able to turn others on, was still a minority. In '51, Alan Freed - a classical dj in Cleveland - noticed white kids in a local record shop grooving on greasy raucous r&b. Freed had a streak of volkspirit. Although sympathetic to the progressive jazz jocks' constant programming battles with squarepop radio management, he felt bop was too cerebral, too elitist, too - hell you just couldn't dance to it! But this honkin' noise was a stone groove. He talked the shop's owner into sponsoring him before hitting up WJW with a new concept, viz: the epochal "Moondog Show" on which he was to popularize the hallowed phrase "rock 'n' roll." His theme song, "Hand Clappin'" by Red Prysock - full of booting tenor and repetitive clapping - became a herald of the new music and a Teenage Call To Arms. A show just for them hosted by some wigged adult who dug as they did. Party down!
Finally known as "Moondog's Rock 'N' Roll Party", the late night show rocketed to success, making Freed one of the nation's biggest dance promoters and sending him off first to WINS in New York (he eventually gained enough power to be allowed to broadcast out of his own house!) and thence to Hollywood where he appeared as himself in a few exploito flix before things started to go very wrong.
First he was denied national TV exposure when black teen idol Frankie Lymon danced with a white gal on his "Dance Party" on WNEW. Soon after he was accused of not only starting a riot but inciting anarchy during a Beantown R'n'R concert. Getting the charges dropped nearly broke him. He quit WINS whom he felt hadn't given enough support and switched to WABC. In '59, the payola scandals broke. He became their major casualty.
He surfaced briefly in Miami, and again in L.A., as an oldies show host - tiny stopgaps on a downward slide. To the last he claimed with characteristic egotism - and no truth - to have coined the term "rock and roll". When he died, a penniless dipso in January, '65, nobody gave a damn. The squalling baby he'd helped midwife was, in large part, becoming too sophisticated to be reminded of it's back o' town beginnings.
Today, the 50s have been so thoroughly deballed by dat ol' debil Mass Media it's hard for younguns to grok just what all the ancient hubub was about. Yet for a while Freed seemed to be opening doors to a veritable Host of Demonic Furies. Early R'n'R was scary stuff to the Eisenhower greysuits - hell some of it still is! And A.F. wasn't just some lone nut. He soon had lotsa company.
Over at WAOK in Atlanta, Zenas Sears was promoting Piano Red, Chuck Willis, and - gulp! - Little Richard.
Out on the West Coast - arguably the true birthplace of R&B- 'Jumpin' George Oxford broadcast over KSAN in San Francisco and Oakland. In between plugs for E-Z credit furniture stores, his juicy ham actor tones sounded as if he was about to do a dirty old man on the young chicks whose squeals punctuated his spiels ("Ole jumpin' daddy you make me want to shout!").
In L.A. - on "Harlem Matinee" and "Huntin' with Hunter" - infalliable hit picker Hunter Hancock chuckled like some maniacally square Babbitt, his high-pitched voice cracking countless cornball jokes.
New Orleans boasted white slurred-voice maestros Poppa Stoppa and Jack the Cat - both fiercely loyal to their local artists. However, Vernon Winslow, the guy who originated and wrote The Poppa Stoppa Show, was black. When he finally got on the air himself - as the suave Doctor Daddy-O - he had to broadcast out of Cosimo's Recording Studio because the hotel which housed the radio station wasn't integrated. Years later they relented - only to make him ride up in the freight elevator.
Soon the trickle of black dee jays became a flood. As Bugs Scrugs from Memphis, Sugar Daddy Birmingham from Winston-Salem, Jockey Jack Gibson in Atlanta, and Professor Bop in Shreveport played sounds as funky as their soubriquets. They became real powers in the biz and were diligently courted by artists and prexies alike. When Bobby Robinson, owner of N.Y.'s Fury label, sent Chicago's Big Bill Hill a copy of "Kansas City" by Wilbert Harrison he included a case of the WOPA's jock fave scotch. Big Bill rode the disc until it broke out all over the Midwest like an epidemic of German Measles.
Over in Memphis Town, WDIA became the first black-owned radio station. There
young Elvis P. heard blues 78s by Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin' Wolf played by
tyro dee jay B.B. King. Elv was to have his first waxing aired on WHBQ in July of
'54 by the burg's most happening dee jay. That the man was white is really
incidental - he could've been purple with green polka dots.
Dewey Phillips was the craziest hick to ever hit King Cotton. About his sponsor Falstaff Beer: "If you can't drink it, freeze it and eat it. Open up a rib and pour it in." A fractured pill head, he held manic four-way conversations with himself, mangled words, shouted over his records, even ripped 'em off the turntable if he didn't dig 'em and he had such power that a phrase leaping from his Sizzlean brain to his motormouth and into the mike was often established street lingo next day. On a local TV show he created even more mayhem with the help of art director Harry Fritzious whose zany Ernie Kovacs-like genius complemented Daddio D to a T. The man's aural crazy quilt is available on CD from Memphis Archives. Buy it, dig it, and pick-up on Robert Gordon's It Came From Memphis (Faber & Faber) which has a whole chapter on Messrs. Dewey and Fritzious.
Most really mind-boggling dee jays, however, were black. Dr. Hepcat (nČe Lavada Durst) blew a few minds around Austin, Texas with the bop chatter he'd developed announcing black baseball games. His version of the Lord's prayer is still a classic: "I stash me down to cop a nod. If I am lame I'm not to blame - the stem is hard. If I am skull orchard bound don't clip my wings no matter how I sound. If I should cop a drear before the early bright - when Gabe makes his toot - I'll chill my chat, fall out like mad with everything allroot."
The "stem" is the street. Now let me carve your knob further. For instance, the Doc might say that if he had a pony to ride, he could domino the nabbers, cop some presidents, gas his moss, and get togged with some beastly ground smashers. Translation: If he had a job, he could avoid the police, make some money, get his hair conked, and buy some new shoes. Then he'd be mellow to puff down the stroll where he'd motivate his piechopper to latch on to a fly delosis. Or, in layman's parlance, he'd be in the right mental state to ride down the street where he'd affect an introduction to a goodlooking girl. (N.B. copies of Durst's righteous booklet The Jives Of Dr. Hepcat can be purchased from Antone's Records, 2928 Guadalupe, Austin, Texas 78705 Tel: 512-322-0660).
Still, all this mind-twisting argot had a fairly rational delivery . To really get down in the surreal alley we flip to Louisiana and a very esoteric jockey indeed. Like all great rap artists his contributions lose something when transformed into cold print but what the hey. It's the mid 50s. A gospel record has just ended.
"A-men an' don' forget to write me a cahd or lettuh to Groover Boy KWK Shreveport 2, Loose Bananas. Well- we'll sanomorebaybeh. Gonna get right on ahead wif' de music 'cause we know we got one right chere dat everyone want to heah. I got about fifty ree-quests for dis an' don't has tahm to read 'em all but ANYHOW HERE'S DE REKKID BY JOE LIGGINS AND HIS ORCHISTRA titled oooOOOOOHHHHWHUUUUU! HOW I MISS YA!"
In those days when White Citizens Councils were worrying about their children being mongrelized by "screaming moronic nigger music," ol' Groover Boy must've wiped 'em out big time. 'Specially when he'd throw an orgasmic fit in the middle of a farting sax solo. His approach to sponsors was nonetheless, uh, ... idiosyncratic.
Dis is de KWK tahm on amerigofutenam (?). Feeuuuuuum! A man full - of mud - in Shreveport. Ya know - I like to get serious for just a minute chere baybeh. By de thousands people are turnin' to da rich foamy mellocutions of Palmer's Skin Success Soap. Ya whips up ya soothin' foamy mellocution an' allows it to remain on an' luxurize three minutes. Now...here's what dis gentle foamy mellocutions do: ONE: it relieves de irritations of upset...skin, blackheads, rashes, and pimples. TWO: it act as a deodarant removin' de skin back-teh-rye-uh chief cause of ah-ffensive puhspuhration odor an' THREE: it hygenically cleanses luv-ly complexions an' soothes with its lano-lin! Toooo-day! Only twenny five cents at drug and toiletrie counters! An' now Big Joe Turner! "Cherry Red"! (plays record) "Rock me mama in your big Hollywood bed 'til my face turns cherry red!
Yes kids, it was leer-ics like these that riled far less extreme groups than the KKK.
Chief Offender here was Cincinnati's King Records who issued the infamous "Annie" songs by Hank Ballard and The Midnighters. In "Work With Me Annie," Hank encourages the title character to give him "all my meat". Subsequently, Annie has a baby and "can't work no more". This was temporary for in later release they're doin' it "in the halls, on the wall". To further increase the demand for these records, it would seem entire convents were warned not to buy them. Ha!
Other bawdy sagas followed: Bullmoose Jackson had his "Big 10 Inch." The Swallows replied, "It Ain't The Meat But The Motion," and Todd Rhodes offered the gals a ride on his "Rocket 69" while Wynonie Harris had to say "Good Mornin' Judge" after dating a white cop's 16 year-old daughter!
Although these were just updates of party records blacks had enjoyed since the 20s it was their exposure over America's airwaves that fried the bluenose's bacon. Who cared if drugged-crazed, sexed-up coons listened to such filth in their livingrooms?
Now all of white womanhood with the flick of a knob could hear how Dinah Washington's dentist "Long John" filled her "cavity" with his "drill" and then felt her "whole inside!" The hounds of decency began to froth and snap.
BMI, the publishers of most race ditties, came under hornet-like attack as did the dee jays themselves. Of course, the majors tried squashing the indies by covering black raunch with white, lust-drained versions. Answering Hank B., Etta James asked Richard Berry to "Roll With Me Henry" engendering the coy "Dance With Me Henry" by Her Nibs Miss Georgia Gibbs.
In "Shake Rattle & Roll," Big Joe Turner gazes upon voluptuous semi-nudity in disbelief - "You wear those dresses the sun comes shining through/Can't believe my eyes all that mess that belongs to you" and then gives out with the poetic genital confrontation, "I'm just like a one-eyed cat peepin' in a seafood store." Later, achieving greater intimacy, he groans, "You make me roll my eyes and then you make me grit my teeth." When Bill Haley sang about the same hoyden on Decca, home of Der Bingle, the poor guy didn't even get a buss on the cheek.
'Course even the indies couldn't get too far out on the rim. Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" on Specialty was an obscene song he'd performed in black drag bars like New Orleans' Club Tijuana and The Dew Drop Inn. Dorothy La Bostrie was called in at the last minute to de-X-rate the words at a failing recording session and - bingo- a star was born.
White rockers were as swiftly gagged as black ones. Gene Vincent, already on shit lists for pronouncin' "huggin'" in "Woman Love" on Capitol with more of a "f" than an "h", couldn't garner much airplay with the indefatigable "Rollin' Danny" who "lined six chicks up against the wall and pulled 'em all." He was told to clean up his act. He did, much to his artistic misfortune.
Not all dj's and their music became defanged overnight. As a Detroit teen, I tolerated "Bobbin' With Robin" with Robin Seymour on WKMH. He played black and white R'n'R but his rapport with the stuff was minimal. The rawest it got was Brenda Lee's "Dum Dum." But late at night, under the blankets, clutching my trusty japanese pocket transistor, I'd really groove to WJLB's rhymin' Frantic Ernie Durham: "Only one lean green to make the scene down at the Greystone Ballroom. An when ya go tell 'em that ERNIE HIPPED YA SO! Let's can the chatter an' get to a platter. We're gonnascratchsome coolwax! Gonnagiveya thatrealgoodfeelin'! Gonnabe climbin'alloverthe ceiling. Little Richard "Ain'twhatchadoit'stheway thatchadoit (Ain'twhatchaeatit'sthewaythatchachewit)!"
I only saw The Frantic One once. My date and I were predictably, just about the only whites at a huge P.M. jazz and R&B concert in the late 50s. All of Black Society was there, togged out, coiffed to the max, when the Prophet Jones entered, prancing gay and flanked by two bodyguards. As always, he was clad only in green - the color of money. Black women shivered. The proph was heavy business. Ebony had reported how he'd foretold the coming of the Atom Bomb after seeing a puff of white smoke escape from a fried chicken leg on his plate during a church social. He swept into his seat, the lights went down, the spot came up and the MC walked out. Lo! - It was Frantic Ernie. Years later, I called him on the phone for an interview. He was into his rhymin' spiel before I'd even got my name out.
Ernie was an exception. As the 50s wound down, the majority of jocks came on like second-rate hucksters snaring teens with every tired con known. A few were genuinely clever. WIL in St Louis became famous due to Jack Carney who came on like a games director at Camp Neverwazza. He personally drove the winners of his contests to school for a week in rented stretch-limos.
Once Jack announced that a mystery phone number was hidden somewhere in the city. Whoever found it and called in would get five grand. For days he teased his eager listeners, withholding the Big Clue until they were about ready to blow. Then at rush hour he confessed: the digits were in a pill box taped inside a car's radiator cap. Carney set up a ticking metronome. If the number wasn't found in three minutes the dough would be forfeited. After the last agonizing second had passed, an engineer happened into the studio and casualy asked what it was he was "supposed to have done with that pill box". End of bit. Fine. But outside the whole city had gone into monstro-gridlock. Every motorist had jammed on his breaks, hoisted his hood and unscrewed his cap.
Another audience grabber was the stay-awake-marathon. Peter Tripp, N.Y.'s "Curly-Haired Boy in the Third Row" staged one in an empty recruiting office in Times Square. For five whole days and nights he stared back sleepless at the freaks who made faces at him through the plate glass. Finally, his rap began to disintegrate. His face turned white. His lips went blue. Forgetting to put out his cigarette, he set his sportjacket on fire.
Up in Buffalo on WRBW, Dick Biondi "the old spaghetti slurper" typified the MOR teen slanted jock with his wiseguy slickness, forced laugh and obviously manufactured excitement. But then it was becoming difficult for anyone with a brain to become turned on by the formulaic "Philadelphia Sound" Dick Clark had hatched in '57 with Danny & the Juniors' "At The Hop" - perhaps the best of the genre.
My vote for greatest teen jock goes to another Philly resident - Joe Niagra of WBIG - "Wibbageland". An early rhymer, "hear the word from this rockin' bird" - Niagra earned listeners by never letting his speech become predictable drone or babble. He had a knack for the odd pause or unexpected, but perfect emphasis that gave the impression he was not only gassed about a single's success but actually proud to serve his listnership. "I predicted this would make it big and you proved me right!"
Besides being a super salesperson, Niagra may have also invented payola. Philly was then the largest center for indies who, having less clout than the majors, incessantly had to grease the wheels.
One day in the early 50s, when Joe was still a faceless pop dee jay, he dined with Harry Finffer, an indie record producer. Harry asked Joe to spin a new single. Joe agreed. Harry picked up the lunch tab - somewhere around three bucks. Outside the beanery, Joe, who was making maybe sixty a week, sees a hundred dollar suit in a store window and flips over it. Next day the suit arrives at the studio addressed to Niagra from Harry with a note requesting more plays of his records. Joe was like a kid at Xmas. He rides the hell out of anything Harry sends him from then on. Glockenspeil medleys, singing canaries, whatever. Payola is born.
"The indies tried to get the dee jays boozed, fed, and laid," says Oaky Miller, a former Philly jock of the late 50s. He maintains, as so many others do, that he accepted gifts but only played the records if he thought they were good. Miller, now a comedian and actor, follows in the tradition of Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Ernie Kovacs, Garry Moore, Bob & Ray, Jonathan Winters, and Soupy Heinz (later Sales), all platter pushers before they were funnymen. Miller, typically, got his start through sheer chutzpah.
In the summer of '57, he was on the Atlantic City boardwalk looking for a slave before the fall semester. A young dee jay in the window of a dance emporium was broadcasting over loudspeakers to rope in a tip - of which there were, so far, only six. Oaky strode in and buttonholed Frankie, the owner. When he heard the kid's pay was twenty-five beans a week he was shook. "Hey," he said, "I can pull in more people than this lame you got. Walk me down the boardwalk. If a hundred kids don't stop me to say hello, forget I asked."
It was a calculated move. Oaky had been a bigtime athlete at a humungous Philly high school. Atlantic City was where all the city's teens came for summer fun (cf. one of the Royal Teens to Dick Clark on American Banstand "Well we wuh at the beach, y'know? An I sawr this gurl wearin' shawt shawts, etc.")
Without knowing an A from a B side, he scored the gig at fifty bills a week. Soon he was running his goodnatured jive over at WEEZ in nearby Chester where he started to really involve the audience. He thanked a high school toughie for protecting him at a dance. When Elvis hit town, he leaked out the Big E's private phone number, only - wotta kidder! - it actually belonged to local police HQ. To cool the authorities, he then started "Homework Corner," a twenty minute segment where the kids could exchange questions and answers on the air.
He also spotted the potential of another dee jay - Jerry Blavat - and gave him a one- year contract to host his overflow of sock hops.
"The Geater With The Heater." as Jer called himself, got very big over at WCAM and WHAT, perfecting a near mindless crooning style, the forerunner of late 60s Thorazine delivery. In his "Hiptionary" ladies were amazons or foxes and guys were studs or coyotes. Over a lush string backing, he would breathe "The coyote needs someone...and that someone...that's the fox...like the bee need the honey...like the flower need the rain...like the farmer need the crop...like the ocean need the salt...that's how the amazon needs the stud...and teenage love...wow!...it had no beginning...had no end...it will never end as long as there are teenagers."
His intro to an uptempo jam was no less goofy. "...Unh! ...Unh!...Unh! Up into the sky for thee. Yuh! Teenpopulationofthishere - fabulousnation. Once again hello and a hi! and a huh! Big boss with e big hot sauce. YourstrulyJerryBlavat. The geator with the heater. So - without furtherado. Let's try and appease huh?, your musical appetite huh? Let's try and appease you - the yon teen population. I along with you will rock the big tick tock, etc."
By the mid 50s, lotsa white dee jays were whipping themselves into a snapping fever. Cleveland had Mad Daddy, whose airchecks on cassette still circulate amongst the faithful. Pittsburgh's WAMO boasted the legendary Porky Chadwick - "the daddio of the raddio, a head snapper and dapper rapper, a porkulatin' platter pushin' poppa." He wasn't "Cary Grant but can do what he can't" and got his "Phd in insanity at the University of Spinner Sanctum" where he always had a grape in his ear "to make my head ferment." If listeners dug the sounds he played, he urged 'em to lean on their car horns. They did - creating godawful cacophanies all over P-burgh.
Talking of horns, yet another gimmick was coming out of the ether. Weird sound fx! Traces of this go back to the early 50s at WNEW, NY when the pope of jocks, Al "Jazzbo" Collins had his "Purple Grotto". The flipped noises, coupled with Al's inimitable free-associative musings "I'm talkin' about that real oleaginous egg drop soup..." probably bagged more fans than the solid sounds he spun.
Sometime later at WICC in Bridgeport, CT, Bob "Hogan's Heroes" Crane helped pioneer the super-production format with fx and way out vocal trax. NY's WKNF lured him away with a state-of-the-art console on which he could've staged the entire Battle of Little Big Horn.
Such new audience nabbers weren't lost on rock jocks. Boston's WMEX star Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsberg - ""Woo woo to you you" - backed up his gee whizz delivery with assorted pops, squawks, whistles, clangs, beeps, and arroogahs. His "Night Train" show became a New England institution. Arn even had a hamburger named after him. The Ginsburger, natch.
Fx's most baroque exponent was at KLIF in Dallas, Tx. During the early 60s, Russ "Weird Beard" Knight's rhyming patter was reverbed through countless echoplexes and overlaid with so many flying saucer and rocket noises it sounded like a Joe Meek wetdream. Pick hits - the Knight Bullseyes - were intro'd by a flying arrow - WHHIIRRR! - that hit a target - THOCK! The show, "beamed from a space capsule," was so all-fired busy that the records began sounding like just more electronic novelties. And this was mild compared to the mad folly that followed.
As radio moved into the mid-60s it aped Bill Drake's super sock it to 'em JB top 40 programming shtick. Drake came up with his "totally commercial radio" over at KYAN, San Francisco, and it set the lead through the decade's end. Overlap sound, no dead air time ever, stinger jingles of 2 seconds tops, constant harping on the station's call letters and PUSH! PUSH! PUSH!
In this hysterical straitjacket, only the hardiest could survive. Only the most hyper could squeeze in a fragment of personality. One of these was B. Mitchell Reed "The Fastest Tongue in the West" who blew in from LA to NY's WMCA as "The Boy on the Psychiatrist's Couch", "The Mad Monk in the Monastery" or just simply "BMR". He'd prep himself for the verbal spill chute with a joint, a few amphs and a fifth of Jack Daniels. "After that I felt loose and ready." Below is a rap the like of which beat out both Murray the K and Cousin Brucie in popularity. It lasted but 17 seconds. Wanna try your luck?
Hey scooters, it's your leader BMR, WMCA jumpin' with my hat in my hand with the nuttiest show in the entire New York turf. Read me back with the smashbacks or the Good Guy's survey or headed that way. This hour: the name of the winner of the Musical Love Letters Contest. First portion to be presented from the lobby of the Nile Hilton Hotel. Hey! Nameclaimstyle will go to Connecticus (?) second call city of Lalassitude (?). Five thousand and like that there schmeer callrightnow!
Not bad, eh? But for pure batwing madness nobody topped the Real Don Steele. In '66, the pyromaniacal Real fired this mini-brushfire out over KHJ, Los Angeles, a city so used to glittery-eyed freaks it didn't even roll over. 16 seconds was all it took.
"Three o'clock in Boss Angeles! AndgeHEY! that's me, The Real Don Steele. A billion dollar weekend there and you're looking out of sidewalk call. I got nothing but those groovy golds. We're gonna fit Chuck out here on a fractious Friday, boy. Got to get a set outside that (indecipherable word like blowing in water) jumbo city. Take a trip. When you chase 'em daylight."
Perhaps these electronic mutants blew too many synapses for thereafter descended an endless yawn. Blavat, as has been noted, was the precursor of late 60s FM jocks like WOR N.Y.'s Rosko quoting Kahil Gilbran drool in slo-mo between psychedelic fuzz baths - sending you off on a nod before the music began. Against such soporific tapestry the mighty Wolfman Jack on XERB border station Tijuana: "CA-CA - CAREE! Dis de Woofman baybeh!" stood out like a giant amongst pygmies.
Yep, by this point if you wanted true originality, you had to search it out. For instance, in the early 70s a chappie calling himself The Black Pope hired himself out to diverse Texas/Louisiana radio stations. Like a fearsome gunslinger, the Pope would blow into Beaumont or New Orleans with contests like "Wear Out Your Favorite Dee Jay's Head," always warning people not to call him a dee jay.
"I been up and down the dial an' I ain't heard nothin' but a bunch of rootypoots! If you call them dee jays I ain't no dee jay. Unh unh. I'M A HUMAN RADIO STATION! The turntable, the transmitting tower, the tone arm - EVERYTHING!!" Soon The Black Pope had everyone tuning him in. But the man was so egomaniacal that after a month, his ravings began to fry brains. He'd be shitcanned, forced to holster his rap, wander off to another town and save another station. Thus are legends born.
By the mid 70s things had become more rigid than an Excedrin Headache Number 2. One exception: the infamous Houston record producer Huey Meaux. His Crazy Cajun show was, like the man himself, intensely personal. If he didn't get enough callers, he simply lifted the needle until the board lit up. If people didn't like what he was playing, Huey, who claims never ever to have tucked in his shirt, advised them to "go in the kitchen and roll somethin' up".
A caller once asked if he had any Led Zepplin. "Naw brudder I didn't bring any dis time but ya know Led and me are real tight. I'll get some from him tomorrow." When a father dedicated "Please Release Me" by Jivin' Gene Bourgeois to his daughter Maria Orlando - incarcerated with the other "boys and girls in white" at the Correctional Institute - Huey let the dad complain that Maria had been railroaded: "She just didn't know there was marijuana in that bag." Now, Mr Meaux himself is in the hoosegow - perhaps entertaining his fellow inmates on prison airwaves. Quien sabe?
And today? You don't need me to tell you that, for the most part, rebels, nutters, and eccentrics aren't attracted to radio anymore. If you're listening to a local show helmed by a genuine personality, color yourself lucky.
Yeah! If some Motormouth Revolution could only bust through the omnipresent
tight playlists and braindead formats with new crazoid wax and stratospheric
blather, wouldn't we all, including Groover Boy (wherever he may be), dig that
Dick Blackburn wrote the screenplay for Eating Raoul, universally hailed as one of the most tasteless films ever released. His vocal stylings graced the Planet of the Apes cartoon show of the 70s. He swings in Hollywood
|© 1998 WFMU.
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of WFMU is prohibited.