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Alan Colmes


by Rollye James
Claude Hall

Rollye:  “I was stunned last Thursday’s news  that Alan Colmes died, not long after being
diagnosed with lymphoma. He was 66.  Most of America will recall him as the liberal half of 
the Fox TV show Hannity & Colmes, but his career was founded on a love of radio, growing
up on Long Island, listening late at night to Long John Nebel and Barry Gray.  It was easy
for conservatives to dislike his views, but almost impossible for those who knew him to dislike
Colmes personally.  The outpouring of love at this time, by all accounts, is well deserved.

“Colmes, a native of Lynbrook, graduated from Hofstra with a degree in communications and
experience at the college station WRHU, in 1971.  In New York City alone, the call letters on
his resume include WABC (where he was billed as “W-Alan-B-Colmes” [even though his
middle name was Samuel] on his morning drive show), WNBC (Colmes was the last voice to
be heard on the call letters in 1988), WHN, WMCA and WEVD.  Alan was more than another
liberal voice— he was often the dissenting voice who got his well-researched points across
politely but effectively.  I suspect if Alan chose his own obit, radio would have trumped
politics (pun not intended, well maybe).  The obits are everywhere and, indeed,  most include
his radio background. Here’s one from the New York Times:    

“One of the most unlikely record label heads of the 1960s died in Miami last Monday.  Ilene
Berns was 73.  The Peppermint Lounge Go Go Dancer, was catapulted to the presidency of
Bang Records at 24 years old, upon the death of her husband Bert Berns in 1967.  With
virtually no experience running anything, she held it together after the interest of the Erteguns
and Jerry Wexler waned.  Came out with some pretty good records too-  Derek’s ‘Cinnamon
among them.  Around 1970, she hired (and subsequently married) well known promo guy
Eddie Biscoe.  They moved to Atlanta and the label thrived— more so than their marriage. 
Ultimately Ilene, married for the third time, moved to Nashville.  One of the more colorful
stories was the diatribe Don Imus did on her— quintessential Imus, but when Ilene’s kids
suggested she take it to the Howard Stern show, she retired that she preferred to listen to
Imus.  The threatened lawsuit never happened, here’s the story,  and here’s the obit. 

Rollye:  “Also passing last week was Irwin Stambler.  The name might not sound familiar, but
his work will be.  In 1974, he wrote “The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul”,  arguably the
first compendium of rock and roll.  I say arguably, because Norm N. Nite’s “Rock On” also
was first published in ’74.  But Nite was a natural for the topic, having interviewed everyone
who was anyone in rock history on his WGAR, Cleveland  radio show, while Stambler on the
other hand, was an aeronautical engineer.  By far, Stambler’s work was the more scholarly— 
an approach that greatly impressed Michael Ochs who wrote a forward to it.  Today, there are
seemingly countless books on the subject, but back then this was a rarity— and a very
welcome one at that.  Stambler came to Los Angeles in 1954 as a correspondent for Space
Aeronautics Magazine.  The aviation industry was putting down its Southern California roots
back then, at the same time that rock and roll was doing likewise.   We can thank Stambler for
preserving the nuances of both.  He was 95.  Here’s the LA Times obit. 

Frank Boyle:  “Hi back at Pete McLaine  from the Fun Days of Radio.  His KIOA was
overqualified for Des Moines.  Having repped stations to get more national business for them
over my 27 years at Eastman (1958 to 1985), I lived thru 3 Hard Sell eras.   1st:  ‘FM’s Success
 is not a fluke’, which got Sis Kaplan of Big WAYS to lead the charge for hundreds of stations
to resign from the NAB to form the NAFMB (National Assn of FM Broadcasters, which
phased into the National Radio Broadcasters Assn and had our Radio Only Fall meeting).  2nd:
Top 40 and Rock n Roll has more adults than teenagers in our audience.’  3rd:  ‘Country
Music is not just Cowboy music for Bib Overall guys and Truck Drivers.

“We were privileged to rep WBAP Ft. Worth / 50KW 1A Clear Channel, and the World— 
about a year after they changed to Country with Hal Chestnut and Ted Norman. They wanted
to change from their long term reps, Henry I. Christal.  It started when I got a call from Sol
Taishoff who headed the legendary ‘Broadcasting Magazine’, as Claude will really remember. 
[Me too, and I dearly miss his yearbooks— Rollye]  My boss, Bob Eastman and his Swedish
wife Anna Lea, were on a 2 week cruise around the Scandinavian Peninsula.  Sol said the
reason he was calling me was, ‘Would Eastman consider resigning KXOL and KBOX to
represent WBAP-AM/ KSCS-FM? That was like a question, would you rather have a Ford or a
Mercedes?  He knew our two current clients in Dallas-Ft Worth, Wendell Mays and John
Box.  I agreed to call my boss to get his reaction. which I predicted would be positive.  It was. 
I asked Sol why was he calling me, and not Mr. Carter — whose very wealthy family owned
WBAP-AM/ KSCS-FM (Silver Country Stereo), WBAP- TV/ NBC, the Ft Worth Star
Telegram Daily, and a  million acres of  Texas Ranchland.

“Sol said,  ‘Frank, if you were going to say NO— Mr Carter would prefer I got your NO.’  I
went to Ft Worth to meet the WBAP/ KSCS owners. They told me that when they changed
from an old fashioned full-service format to country-- they bought 40 pairs of Tony Lama $200 
fancy Cowboy boots for each Christal Salesman and Management team.in their ten national
Offices.   Results?  Christal people refused to wear Sh*t kickin’ Cowboy boots to make Ad
Agency calls.  It was beneath them. But the biggest nail in Christal's  self-inflicted demise is
when the Carter family  got a call from Helen Davis, head time buyer for Doyle Dane
Bernbach— a female Clint Eastwood type toughie.

“DDB was the Ad Agency for American Airlines. American's hub Airport was in Ft Worth.
American's biggest single Stockholder was The Carter Family.  Helen called the Carter and
WBAP  brass to tell them that Christal Reps calling on Helen and her 15 NYC Buyers said
 they were embarrassed to pitch  WBAP/ KSCS  for American Airline business for  a Cowboy
Music station and being told to wear Cowboys boots on Madison Avenue.  At my Ft. Worth
presentation on the biggest conference table I'd ever  seen, I asked their CFO how
much national  business did Christal write in the prior 12 months since WBAP/ KSCS went
Country. They said $190,000. They then asked me if I had any financial projections.  I said
‘Yes, I have our projections for WBAP/ KSCS for next 5 years, here on my chart.  Eastman
projects that we'll do $1,000,000 in our first year, and increase $1Million for each of next 5
years— doing  $5 million in our 5th year. They asked when could Eastman start repping them?
I asked,  ‘How do you feel about 10 AM tomorrow?’ We got the order.  It was a turkey shoot. 
In our 5th year, we did $7,000,000 in national for them. WBAP/KSCS sky rocketed to top 3 in
the Ratings.

“In that same year, Eastman repped all of the NBC owned and operated radio stations. Jack
Thayer was NBC radio president.  Every group owner will grudgingly admit they always have
one ‘sick puppy’ in their group.  WMAQ-AM --Chicago- another 50KW 1A Clear Channel
powerhouse, was Jack's Sick Puppy— rated about 8th. in Pulse.
“One day I got a call from Charlie Warner, the new General Manager of WMAQ-AM/
WKQX-FM. asking me to come to a special meeting in the Merchandise Mart. At their
Conference room,  Charlie introduced this skinny young guy in blue jeans,  teeshirt,  pony tail, 
and granny glasses— 21 yr old Bob Pittman. Charlie had found Pittman in Mississippi,
brought Bob to Pittsburgh where Charlie ran WWSW. They were a smash there.

“Pittman  said-- ‘We're gonna go Country!  It'll be a country format that will decimate our
competitor-- WJJD.   Our new country format will be like a Top40 station.. Most country
stations play up 700 records a week.  We 're gonna play a very tight list of only the
hits--probably 100 max.  We 're going to promote WMAQ with a $200,000 budget— give
away new cars,  new houses, wet tshirt contest— like McLendon and Storz.  We'll distribute
half a million badges at supermarket chains --imprinted with Answer your phone-- I listen to
WMAQ- WMAQ’s  gonna make me rich!’   

“Claude and other broadcasting trade press told the world about this astonishing WMAQ
format change— playing like a Top40 Rocker. Most radio  programming  pundits,  country
station GMs, the Nashville know-it alls, laughing made fun of this little kid Pittman—  and
Charlie Warner should know better’ . About a year later--all the country smart asses who'd
laughed at Pittman and Warner--came to pay allegiance to the new country royalty.
“In the 3rd rating book that came out after WMAQ made the change, it was 3rd—  behind
WGN/ WLS.  They never had to spend more than half of their $200,000 Promotion Budget.
Now Charlie lives in Manhattan-- Teaches at 2 colleges here. His Book on Radio Sales is
reportedly most used by most colleges. Stops by on his way to Weekapaug Island, Rhode
Island where, of course, he's the Sailboat Squadron Commander.  

 “We at the happy Eastman ‘Ranch’ had  had the privilege of repping two 50kw 1A Clear
Channel stations playing Country. Plus, Don Nelson at WIRE in Indianapolis, Jim Phillips at
KHEY/El Paso, KRLA in LA, KMPS in Seattle, KRAK in Sacramento -- JQ Berkson and Al
Grosby--WWVA/ Wheeling-- Country  Music Hall- KWKH- Shreveport-- The Louisiana
Hayride…  We helped Country  go from Uncouth--to highly  rated , very profitable ‘Couth’. It
was a challenging but fun ride. Radio was more fun then.

“But nobody had more fun going Country than the inimitable John Risher in Detroit  when
he, the GM,  changed to Country with a 50KW also ran to new calls-- WDEE--stood for ‘We've
Done Everything Else!’  Finally--we all knew Country had made it when you saw 3 Country
stations in a Top 50 market. with different Country formats--Traditional -- Cross over and Top
50 Modern--just like Top 40 Rock did. What goes around --comes a round.

“Stay well-- Claude. Hell-- you predicted country's explosion with your cowboy hat and 
classy coots at your Billboard Conferences. You never got the credit you richly deserved for
being ahead of the times--so many times.   One of my fondest memories was at  your 1972 (I
think)  New York conference-- I wore half a white knights suit of armor so you and I could tell
the crowd from the stage that the old historic AM formats were obsolete but wouldn't admit
that FM had already killed them. We predicted AM's had to change to specialized formats --like
All News-- All Sports-- All Religion-- Foreign Language-- with Jack Thayer, Kent
Burkhart, Bill Drake, Gene Chenault, Rick Buckley, Burt Sherwood, Bill HennesSteve
Labunski, Bud Armstrong, Herb MendelsohnRuth Meyer, Stan Kaplan, Art Carlson,
Gary Stevens, Ken Greenwood, Dick Harris-- all laughing and hooting at us from their front
tables. Proof your Billboard conferences always attracted the top people in our business. It was
a place Howard Cosell would have loved— everybody said exactly what they thought there.. 
No holds barred..  Damn- it was a Ball!”

Rollye:  “Great stories Frank. Keep ‘em comin’!   The fight to ‘legitimize’ country wasn’t
finished in the ‘70s.  About a decade after WMAQ debuted,  Oakland’s KNEW adopted the
format. I went to their kick off ‘I’ve come out of the closet for country’ party.  Still have the
gold hanger pin to prove it.  I was sitting in those Nashville conventions when Bob Pittman
(then music director) and the late Lee Sherwood (WMAQ’s first country PD— the former
Storz programmer joined NBC at WRC, and then ran Monitor, after which NBC wasn’t sure
what to do with him, so they sent him to Chicago for WMAQ’s shift to country) showed up.  It
wasn’t so much other radio people that doubted their wisdom, but the artists— who were
positively apoplectic.  Trying to explain that an add on a 200+ record playlist had little impact
compared to what would be showcased on a top 40 approach didn’t work for them—  until it
did. Big time.

“Try as I might, the only time I recall KRLA being country was prior to it going Top 40 in ’59. 
It was KXLA then.  I remember well when KHJ tried the approach, though.  “We all grew up to
be cowboys,” the theme Neil Rockoff used when the switch was made, didn’t fully resonate (to
be very kind)— though the aforementioned Lee Sherwood did a great job with mornings.  If
anyone remembers KRLA being country (even, if only for weeks) after 1959, let me know. 
Their history after the license was yanked in ’62 is weird enough that I wouldn’t be surprised
at anything. I know it included Lee ‘Baby’ Simms briefly. For a minute there, all the jocks
were coupled— two man shows round the clock.  Simms was paired with Johnny Hayes.
After one day, management separated the two by several hours over genuine concern that they
were going to kill one another.”

Bob Sherwood:  “The following was triggered by some dialogue between me and former radio
associates over who partied heartiest---radio or record people?  I immediately thought of Dave
Williams and his constant amazement in learning of the occasional ‘extreme’ things that
happened in the music business in the ‘Good Old Days’ (I hired Dave at KROY when I was PD
and he eventually became PD at WHBQ and K-Earth then for several decades as a Morning
News Anchor at KNX, KABC and most recently KLIF.)  As I just heard the local Oldies
station play Roger Miller’s “Dang Me (they oughta’ take a rope and hang me)” it triggered the
following memory… 

“This one’s for you, Dave:
“Shortly after I was hired away from radio by Columbia Records I became the # 2 person in
the promotion department and hosted a promotion meeting during some music or broadcasting
event in Nashville.  Because I was the senior label exec present and was holding large
meetings and was host of nightly ‘meet, greet and drink’ events with staff, artists and some
radio people I was able to obtain the somewhat ‘over–the-top’ King Suite in Roger Miller’s
then famed King of the Road Hotel.  One of the things for which it was famed was a massive
swinging bed, suspended a couple of feet above the floor by heavy chains at each corner
attached to the rafters.  That will come into play later.

“One evening I hosted a pre-concert dinner with some staff, a couple of our artists and some
local radio people. It possibly included wine and alcoholic beverages. We then went to Ryman
Auditorium to see one of our Nashville artists.  Then backstage where there may have been
more stimulating spirits.  Following the usual backstage stuff, since it was still early (1:30, or
so) I invited a select group—who had not yet reached capacity in fun, food and spirits---back
to the hotel to discuss airplay and other important industry matters.  You’re possibly already
ahead of me but here’s where the ‘swinging bed’ becomes an issue.
“One of us—I don’t think it was me but I got the full responsibility for it— suggested we
should do some scientific research to discern the capacity of the bed, the circumference of its
swing-ability  and, as a public service, present the results to Vanderbilt University, to show the
seriousness of music industry and broadcasting people.  I lost count early-on but later
testimony indicated there were probably 15 people of varying genders, grasping anything (and
everything) for purchase and doing their absolute best to rotate that sucker until we got
airborne.  Unfortunately, we did.

“The chains tore loose from their mountings and the bed plus the research crew crashed
partially through the floor and was primarily stopped by steel beams from landing on guests in
the two rooms directly below.  Security arrived rather quickly, soon followed by Nashville
police. And ultimately Roger.  Because the damage was only structural (my group was well
beyond feeling pain) and since Columbia/Nashville  had recently signed Roger to a recording
deal he didn’t want to press charges--- particularly against the people who got his records on
the radio and some of those that played them---I wasn’t jailed.

“Roger refunded charges paid by the guests whose sleep was more than somewhat disturbed
and they didn’t sue.  Given also that Roger’s Hotel and its rather spectacular suite received
tremendous newspaper, radio and TV coverage he took it rather well.  The CBS Records
Accounting Department. did not.  I retained my position probably because top label
management were delighted to learn about the suite. After it was repaired it was frequently in
use by whatever CBS exec was in town—after a coin toss or a noting of seniority.  

Rollye:  “Loved the King of the Road Motor Inn, the bar on the roof, the bar in the lobby, the
room televisions in those circular tubes, and the view across the river.  I was ensconced for a
somewhat protracted period around the time of Bob’s bed incident. Never heard of that suite. 
But I do remember their beds were hard as concrete.  Now I know why they were fortified, god
knows the guests were.  During my stay, there was some event (maybe the same one featuring
the aforementioned bed episode) that caused every room to be booked. Or in my case,
overbooked.  I went out for the day, came back fairly late at night and my very large corner
room was now seemingly  a hospitality suite.  I checked my key.  I checked the number on the
open door. I checked the bathroom— yup, my toiletries were there along with a dozen happy
drunks.  Went down to the desk, and after some conversation to which I was not privy, was
assured that they’d take care of the situation.  They didn’t at least not for several hours.  (In
fairness, what could they have done at that point?— but I was not thinking about fairness, or
much of anything else except revenge.  And I had plenty of time to plan it.)  I’m sure the
statute of limitations is up, but let me skirt the details and ask if you have any idea how hard it
is to scoop a giant lime jello mold out of a hotel bathtub?  I’ll forever feel bad that it was the
maids who probably had to figure it out. Hopefully they got extra pay.)

Bob Sherwood:  “Purely in the interest of historical accuracy Rollye, it was the item from Don
Graham in your 'don't miss it' weekly report that triggered my somewhat long-winded
diatribe. Not the other way 'round.  Ever fact-checkingly yours.”

Rollye:  “Darn!  Here I was impressed as all get out that Bob could come up with “Livery
Stable Blues.”  Don Graham knowing it, on the other hand, doesn’t surprise me at all.  Not to
insinuate he was there at the time, of course.  Morris Diamond wasn’t there either… but, like
Don, he was almost everywhere else….”

Morris I. Diamond:  “A few weeks before the Grammy' aired, I got a call from the local CBS
TV  station here in Palm Springs.  They were told that I knew about the Grammy’s and wanted
to interview me for a show that followed the Grammy show the following evening.   I was on
the Board of Governors of the Recording Academy for over 50 years and was given a lifetime
membership about 8 years ago.   For your info and pleasure, I'm attachinga video of the
interview.  Here is the link for the TV interview.”  

Rollye:  “I wanted to use a great still of Morris from the video with the afore-linked story, but
copyright issues stopped me cold.  You can check see it for yourself though in the linked story. 
It’ll just take a few minutes to watch and you’ll be glad you did.    

Frank Jolley: “I’ve found that there's someone in Germany on Rockhouse.gr thats listening all
the time to my rockhouse.mobi and kkdj.net. Maybe that's who you were referring to. He's in
Guzzenhausen and the stream seems to be coming from dasboothaus.”

Rollye:  “Different guy, same idea.  I toyed with geo-fencing and decided instead to script
some code that allows me to block IPs. Using this approach is tedious because these folks have
a large supply of them.  But on the other hand, it’s a wonderful aggression release.  Germany is
gone for me— but there’s an Amazon server in Ashburn, VA driving my batty.  I’ve dumped 13
addresses since starting to compile the column and whoever is using it, keeps coming back
with another one.  I will prevail :)”

Rollye:  “A triplecast, Joey calls it, though after his most recent email, I’m wondering if he’s
rethinking that....” 


Can't see it? Click here.

Joey Reynolds:  “I was asked if I am wearing makeup? And my coat is too big.  Too many
guests for one hour, its like a circus car of clowns  On radio they don't criticize the host.  The
callers take the heat.”

Rollye:  “A few more passings in recent days.  Names you might not recognize, but their work
will never be forgotten.  First is  Clyde Stubblefield (great drummer, probably best known for
his tenure with James Brown in the 70s,which is endlessly sampled, though that was just some
of his background).  Second is Leon Ware  (producer and writer for everyone from Minnie
Riperton and Marvin Gaye, to Michael Jackson and Maxwell).  And finally guitar great
Larry Coryell.   RIP all.  And a big thanks for the music you left behind.”

Warren Cosford:  “I’ve been meaning to write that BX-93 Story but more current things tend to
distract me.  Vox Jox is inspiring.  BTW....good for you on coming up with that ancient Tuxedo
Esso Service Station Poster!    One of the kids that used to step on the wire to ring the bell for
me was Jeff Vidler.  After my shift he said..."You're OK but my brother is better than you".  I
asked him who his brother was...."Merv Clark at CKY"!  I said "Oh yeh....Merv Clark works
all nights.  I work during the day".  But I knew Mev was better than me. He was at CKY!  

“Merv eventually became Chuck McCoy.  Five years later we worked together at CHUM
when I was Production Manager.    The Vidler Brothers Merv, Jeff and Gary have all had great
careers in Radio.  For your readers who may be interested in Canadian Radio there are two
Internet Sites I would recommend.  Rock Radio Scrapbook has mostly Top 40 Airchecks
galore with lots of History   Then there's www.broadcasting-history.ca/

“People tell me they think I should write a book but it doesn't make sense to me without being
able to include Audio and even Video.  Could an Ebook be the answer?   Any suggestion from
your readers would be appreciated.”

Rollye: “Warren’s story-telling ability is such that A/V would be an added plus, not a necessary
ingredient, but that said, the idea of an eBook including audio and video is a terrific one.  It
would be relatively easy to do, and I can’t think of anyone who has done it.  But let me qualify
that but admitting  I wouldn’t know.  I don’t even own a smart phone, don’t want to learn how
to text.  I reference Facebook a lot, but I’m not on it.  And the minute video pops up on any
page on which I land, I disable it.  So Warren needs input from someone living in this century,
and clearly that’s not me. How about you?  info@voxjox.org

“If you’ve been keeping up with the WRKO reunion updates, one name (and face) you’ll often
see is that of John Rode.  You might know that he wound up in Toronto.  But where is he
now?  Warren Cosford supplied the answer in a link to the HarwoodEstateVineyard website. 
Harwood is a completely solar powered winery and John Rode is the head winemaker!   If
radio has led you to drink, now you’ve got the perfect place to do it.   In Hillier, Ontario, the
family business (John plus Don and Judy Harwood, and Kerry Wicks) opened in 2009. 

“The WRKO reunion updates all mention that streaming will be done by George Capalbo, Jr.
and Backbone.  Great name for a streaming company.  And a wonderful history too.  Talkers
did a nice feature on it recently.  Read it here.   Now, speaking of those WRKO reunion

Mel Phillips:  “The countdown to Boston's biggest radio weekend in decades
continues. Invitations to the WRKO 50th Anniversary dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on
June 2, 2017 will soon be going out. This week we'll continue to pay tribute to many of the
WRKO on-air staffers who followed the original NOW CROWD in 1967.   (Pictured left to
right: Dennis Jon Bailey, Ed Walsh, Frank Kingston Smith aka Bobby Mitchell, and Gary
Martin) and a few of the 1967 cars we drove (or wanted to drive):

WRKO 50th Anniversary Dates:
Friday, June 2, 2017

We'll soon be just 3 months away. Dinner invitations will be emailed in mid-March for the
Anniversary which will be celebrated at the Crowne Plaza (Charles Ballroom) in Newton.
Cash bar at 6 will be followed by dinner. Jordan Rich (seen above) will emcee. Parking fees
for those driving to the event will be waived with front desk validation...

Saturday, June 3, 2017
(L-R: Al Gates, Joel Cash, J.J.Jeffrey, Chuck Knapp, Arnie Ginsburg, George Capalbo Jr. & Art Vuolo)

On air live (7pm-11pm) on WRKO/Streaming & Backbone Networks (Streaming) (produced
by George Capalbo Jr.) All music, jingles & 20/20 news headlines from 1967. Art Vuolo will
video tape the festivities, a copy of which will go into the National Radio Hall Of Fame in

Reservations: Rooms are still available at the Crowne Plaza (Newton). Check-in: Friday (June
2). Check-out: Sunday (June 4). Call 617-969-3010 and ask for special "WRKO Reunion" rate
of $159 a night (tax not included). You'll pay about $175 after taxes but more if you park at the
hotel. We suggest using a cab from Logan (Gordon Brown is offering special rates, his email
address is available by request). Local transportation while staying at the hotel is advised...
Dinner invitations will be emailed in Mid-March. Party time is less than 4 months away.”

Gordy Brown, RKO Techie 1967-1975:  “I know many of you RKOlers who will be flying for
the reunion and look forward to seeing you all again and meeting those I did not get to work
with.  I would be happy to pick any of you up at Logan and bring you to the hotel.  I’ve
checked cab fairs/flat rates, etc. and know I can do better. = $30 for 1 /$10 each for 3 people. 
So far, only Joel Cash has taken me up on this offer. I've found there is a Cell Lot  where I can
wait for you to call when you are ready. Be nice if two or three came in about the same time to
share the expense and the friendship. I'm not looking to make money, but just to cover my gas
and tolls.”

Rollye: “And since there is no February 29th this year, a happy almost-birthday to Chuck Buell
this week.”