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One of Tommy LiPuma's last projects - producing Dominick Farinacci
(if you can't see it, click here.)
by Rollye James
Jerry F. Sharell: “It was the early 60’s and I had graduated from Kent State University ready
to kick ass in the radio business. So my first real job was doing news and a jock show at
WBVP in Beaver Falls, Pa @ $77 weekly. One day in early March of ’62, I got a call from
Tommy LiPuma, a guy I had done some dance/club gigs as the boy singer and Tommy played
tenor sax. He asked if I remembered him and, of course, I did! The phone call lasted maybe 6
minutes and he invited me to come to Cleveland and discuss with him a promotion man gig
because he was moving to LA for a publishing gig. I asked him, ‘Tommy, I'd love to. When
do you want to meet? Tommy replied, ‘NOW’! I explained to him that it was 2 PM and if I
left immediately it would take me 3 hours to get there on the Pennsylvania Turnpike with 9
inches of snow. Tommy said, ‘I’ll wait at the office of M.S. Distribs until you show up.’
“When I arrived at 6:30 PM he was there waiting for me and the interview lasted about 6
minutes. He offered me the job at $100 weekly + expenses and that he wanted me to start
ASAP. When I accepted the gig, he pushed a big box of albums to me at the table and I asked
what it was. He told me they were record albums by: The Platters, Patti Page, David
Carroll’s Orchestra, The Smothers Brothers, Buddy Morrow’s Big Band, Brook Benton and
my job was to get them played on radio stations in Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, Pittsburgh,
Columbus and Cincinnati. So I agreed and asked him, ‘Tommy, how do you get
albums/records on radio stations? Is there a “learning book/a how-to-list of instructions?’ He
stood up and in a very high-pitched-voice told me, ‘Hey, you went to school, you got you
diploma, you talk good and you know how to type and I like the suit you’re wearing! There is
no promotion primer! Get a phone book of each city and start to visit every radio station you
can see or find with a broadcast antenna, load up your car with singles and albums and get
them played on the f**kin’ radio! You’re gonna do great!’ That was my start as a radio
promotion man in Cleveland, March of ’62.
“To say I found a new life that was made for me, wouldn’t even come close to my feeling of
pride that I was working with a major record company and my first boss was Morris I.
Diamond. My 50 years in the record business, for me, is unforgettable! Honestly, if it were
not for Tommy LiPuma remembering me from our dance gigs, I have no idea what or where I
would be going/doing. I know I can safely say that ‘I was the first guy Tommy hired in the
record business’ and I thank God every day that Tommy put his support and belief in me. We
stayed good friends thru the years and I will always consider him my Brother and one of my
Top 4 Heroes. His career will be chronicled and admired for years to come as a supremely
talented producer/musician and his friendship with major stars is historical. His work with
these and many others is a treasure! Tommy was awarded 35 Gold/Platinum Album Awards
and 5 Grammy’s and his producing talent with these artists will be here forever: Natalie Cole,
Miles Davis, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall, Anita Baker, Joe Sample and
dozens more. His appreciation and love of modern arts is classic and understandable, and in
March of 2012 The Cuyahoga Community College named their new arts study center The
Tommy LiPuma Center of Creative Arts!
“Lastly to show how great minds work together: In 2001, I discovered this great young
trumpeter in Cleveland, Dominick Farinacci, and did a couple of gigs with him which were so
outstanding and memorable! One of Tommy’s last productions was an album by Dominick
Farinacci, “Short Stories” quite worthy of both their talents. If Tommy were here, I would ask
him to ‘riposare in pace’, save me a good seat and a back stage pass up there.”
Rollye: “Choosing a video to lead the column was hard. There are so many great ones with
, and deservedly so. If you’d like to see more, here
are a a few YouTube
suggestions. And here’s
the New York Times obit.
Chuck Berry early in his career Chuck Berry late in his career
Rollye: “The news that Chuck Berry was found dead in his home near St. Louis, Saturday,
was everywhere. At 90 years old, it shouldn’t be surprising, yet for many it was more than the
passing of one man— more like an era. Mick Jagger
, on his Facebook page, summed it aptly:
I am so sad to hear of Chuck Berry's passing. I want to thank him for all the inspirational
music he gave to us. He lit up our teenage years, and blew life into our dreams of being
musicians and performers. His lyrics shone above others and threw a strange light on the
American dream. Chuck, you were amazing, and your music is engraved inside us forever.
Keith Richards. I couldn’t help but notice, though, Billboard’s misspelling of Berry’s big hit
Maybellene. The story surrounding that song makes the spelling unmistakable. Maybellene
is based on Ida Red, a Bob Wills western swing number done more uptempo by Berry who
named it Ida May. Leonard Chess, to Berry’s surprise, liked it— but not the name.
According to Berry’s long time pianist, Johnnie Johnson, Chess spotted a mascara box on the
floor and said, ‘Well, let’s call it Maybellene’— altering the makeup company’s spelling of
Maybelline to circumvent any possible litigation. Is it true? Who knows, but the tale has
circulated widely enough that there was no doubt on how to spell it.
“Berry knew he was destined for stardom. He’s been quoted as saying that from an early age
he knew he’d make it or die trying. He almost did both. Lesser known is his teenage
conviction for armed robbery, somewhat surprising as he was born into a middle-class
Baptist-Church-attending family in St. Louis Well documented was his early ’60s conviction
for violating the Mann Act, netting him two years for transporting an underage girl across state
lines for immoral purposes. ‘Thirty Days’ is obviously biographical about his disagreement
with the trial, but it wasn’t the only fruit to come from that imprisonment. Among others,
Berry wrote my favorite of his songs, ‘Nadine’ while incarcerated. But it wouldn’t be the last
time he saw the inside of a cell. He did 100 days in 1979 for tax evasion. A decade later
settled a couple suits— including the infamous one from a group of women who sued about
the camera he placed in the ladies bathroom of his Missouri restaurant, The Southern Air. But
every bit of that background pales compared to the jaw dropping music he left us. You’ll read
quotes from folks like John Lennon who suggested if there was another name for rock and
roll, it would be Chuck Berry, but as evidenced in this letter that Timmy Manocheo
unearthed, the ultimate tribute is out of this world, literally.
Chuck Buell: “I’m sure you remember that Chuck Berry's song "Johnny B. Goode" was
included on a 'golden record' that was launched in 1977 on both twin space probes, Voyager 1
and Voyager 2! Berry's song was part of 90 minutes of music, along with 115 photographs,
greetings in 55 languages, and a 12-minute montage of sounds on Earth all selected to portray
the diversity of life and culture on Earth and were intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial
life form, or for future humans, who may find them. Images of a 'Space Duck Walk' were not
Earth’s Greatest Hits - “The Sounds of Earth”
How to Play the Golden Record
Rollye: “The cover does double duty protecting the record from micrometeorite bombardment,
and giving the finder a key to how to play it. The graphic appears on the both the inside and
outside of the cover, in case the aforementioned bombardments made the outside illegible. Of
course that assumes the finder won’t consider it incomprehensible regardless of condition. At
last count, it both vessels were in deep space heading toward the edge of the galaxy.
“Chuck Buell, never one to pass up a marketing opportunity, takes a page out of the Columbia
“ATTN: Intelligent Extraterrestrial Life: Terms of Membership
You will automatically be sent one new Earthly Golden Record Release
each Millenium (1,000 years ).
You may choose to keep the record, or return it promptly within one century (100 years ).
No charge will then be made to your galactical Golden Record of the
Decamillenium Club membership.
You are under no further Earthly obligation to purchase additional Records.
GRDC. Striking blows for intergalactic harmony.
Chuck Buell, President and CEO
Chuck Buell: “It wasn’t long after the Twin Voyager's launch that Steve Martin reported on
Saturday Night Live’s “Next Week in Review” that a message was received from another world
that read Send More Chuck Berry. As support he held up a copy of Time Magazine:”
Ken Dowe: Thanks to you, I received a nice note from my friend of many moons. Brad
Messer. I love BRAD. He is hilarious and uncommonly cerebral. He and I could talk about
anything and wander off totally out of control. My morning program on KLIF/1190 would
not have been half as funny without Brad Messer. Sometimes we laughed at our own stuff
until the tears would not stop. (I know. Bad form!!) Late afternoons were classic. I don't know
what Brad was drinking, but I would have a couple glasses of a nice red while we prepped the
next morning's show. He is funny, funny, funny.
“I also caught the Art Wander mention. Art is a lovely man. He mentions trying to hire me
from Kent Burkhart when I was at WQXI in Atlanta. Art told me he wanted to meet me and
asked if I would mind dropping by his office that evening. I was delighted to stop in for a visit.
Art's a smart guy and a great salesman. He had some strong moves! Eventually, I convinced
him I was in Atlanta only because of Kent. He still would not give up. He took my wife and
me into the Plough ‘prize closet.’ When we left, Dottie and I looked as if we had won a
months's worth of station giveaways!! I escaped a pretty good headlock he had me in, too.
“The UNIQUE Art Wander. Good guy. Fine (!) programmer, and a real gentleman!”
Mel Phillips: “Great piece by Art Wander who was one of the most underrated programmer's
in radio. When I was just starting as a programmer in Boston at WRKO-FM, I learned a
lot from Art. He was unflappable and had a great sense of humor even when faced with
catastrophe, and there were many at WOR-FM...
“Rollye, I didn't know you were at Watermark. I did lots of 'Soundtrack of the Sixties' (and
special shows) interviews for Tom Rounds which were provided for the many hosts of the
show. I would take my prized SONY tape recorder and my son Rob along for those interviews.
The most embarrassing one I can remember (and there were plenty) was the time I took
10-year old Rob with me to interview Dizzy Gillespie for a Chuck Mangione special
interview. It was Memorial Day weekend in a building on Broadway. The building shut off its
AC because it was the weekend - no one working. We used a small office in the building. I set
up for it and Dizzy takes out a hash pipe and lights up. The temperature was about 90 in the
building, sweat is dripping off all of us and Dizzy is smoking his stash in front of me and poor
Rob. Dizzy proceeds to offer how he was Chuck's mentor and off we go. Interview over as we
stagger out of the room as Dizzy laughs himself silly.”
Don Sundeen on Ilene Berns: “When Bert died everyone including The guys at Atlantic
thought it should just be shut down, she didn't and built the label back through sheer force of
will. At a time when there were few women top executives, Ilene and Florence Greenberg
Joey Reynolds Wisdom: “Stop trying to save radio in a conventional way. You can't fix a
broken hammer with a broken hammer.”
Carolyn Pinto, Jerry Brown, Joey Reynolds and daughter Kristen.
Joey Reynolds: Jerry Brown and mywife Carolyn when she was a golfer on the LPGA tour.
This was when Kristen was just born. My family name is Pinto and Kristen was born in
Calabasas so Gary Owens said ‘Leave it to you to incorporate call letters. Kristen Michele
Pinto of California, KMPC.’ This pic is when he was the youngest gov in the country. Now
he is the oldest. We look like brothers, I still have my hair.
“My other daughter Mercedes was born in Philly, Rollye even visited us there at the time. The
oldest city in the country is St Augustine, FL. But the OLDIES city is Philly. Rollye is a
walking thesaurus, ask her about beach music, it ain't what you think. Mercedes is growing
marijuana in Humboldt county Cali. I recently told Jerry my grandchild was growing like a
weed, which he said is a bad word choice.”
Danielle Campbell, News 12 New York & Joey Reynolds
Joey Reynolds: “Was at NBC radio when the helicopter crashed during my show and Jane
Dornacker was tragically killed, Michelle was on assignment with Robin Williams and and
whopper Goldberg for the memorial service. Robin sent Jane Dornacker’s 12 year old to
school and college humbly.”
The Late Joey Reynolds Show staff (above and below)
Joey Reynolds: “A cross generational, cross cultural triplecast. One of the roads less traveled
to reach the street.”
Cary Pall: “Maybe some of your readers (or you) can shed some light on this: Why would a
heritage Top 40 AM radio station, with years and years of success and brand loyalty, abandon
its name and all of that equity when they moved the format to FM? Example: WAVZ in New
Haven and their FM sister station, WKCI, swapped formats in 1979. Why did they not swap
call letters as well? The AM was picking up Al Ham's ‘Music Of Your Life’ format...beautiful
music WKCI's brand would have been perfect. In Boston, the same thing happened at WRKO.
WROR-FM had been an automated Drake-Chenault format for years, and didn't have a lot of
traction in the market. With 680 going to all-talk, why not return to the WNAC call sign, long
associated with news and talk programming, and move WRKO to 98.5 FM? Did they think
their equity died when AM did? PS: Kidney's working great!”
Rollye: “Cary’s health news is the best of all! His question goes to the heart of radio’s health.
For a business with an income 100% derived from advertising, how is it over the years, that
radio station management proves repeatedly that they don’t understand marketing? I’m sure
that everyone reading these words can think of half a dozen examples of fatal branding. Some
Ron Brandon amplifying the picture of Norfolk radio folks we ran two weeks ago: Gentleman
on left with back to camera is John Shomby [Sciambi]. Knew him well in the 70s when he
was rockin' in Birmingham— now country in Nashville. Knew Gene Loving in the late 60s
when I was at WLEE Richmond and promoting concerts on the side, and Gene was in Norfolk
and promoting concerts on the side, and we shared a few experiences. Remember well being
jealous of Gene as the first person I ever knew with a car phone, many, many years before
cellular. Gentleman on right facing camera is Dave Paulus, now GM in Norfolk. He was
Sales Mgr at WGRD Grand Rapids in late 80s when I was there working for GM Big Jim
Davis. And the world turns.”
Big WAYS Charlotte Christmas Parade Float 1965. L-R JJ Jeffrey, Long John Silver,
Ron Brandon, Melvin (John Foley), and Jack Gale. Float was designed by Sis Kaplan
and consisted of all fresh flowers just like in the Rose parade.
Rollye: “Thanks to Ron Brandon, and his wonderful tip sheet of days gone by, RMR, for hte
“Sorry to report a few more deaths. Meant to mention last week that Ritchie Adams, the
original lead singer of The Fireflies, passed away March 6th after a long illness. He was 78.
In addition to singing lead on You Were Mine and I Can’t Say Goodbye, Ritchie was also a
notable writer— from Tossin’ & Turnin’ for Bobby Lewis to After The Lovin’ for Engelbert
“Don Warden is gone. He was 87. You may not recognize him, though he was a legendary
steel guitarist, but back in the days of The Porter Wagoner Show on which he regularly
appeared, he was a household name. Providing your household bought a lot of Porter & Dolly
(Parton) records. Warden was their manager. He left when Dolly did, and remained by her
side for over 40 years. She called him “Mr. Everything
”. Here’s his obit
died. As in Sister Sledge
. The Guardian
had a nice obit with some good
background on her.
“And one of the world’s greatest harmonica players is now silent. Here’s James Cotton
“But I’m pleased to say Deborah Silver is alive and well. Hopefully her sister is hanging in
there. (All proceeds from her latest album, The Gold Standards, go towards finding a cure for
ALS, which Deborah’s sister Marjie Block has been battling since 2009.) Got the news from
Don Graham that Deborah will be performing next week in Hollywood. If you can make it,
let Don know.”
Mel Phillips: “Invitations to the WRKO 50th Anniversary dinner are out. I hope you'll make
plans to attend by sending your invitation back soon. We're less than 3 months away from what
promises to be the radio event of the year in Boston.
“May 18, 2017: Checks & forms must be received...
Jordan Rich Art Vuolo
“Friday, June 2, 2017: WRKO 50th Anniversary dinner with cash bar at 6pm and dinner served
promptly at 7 at the Crowne Plaza in Newton. Dinner goes till 11pm. Since the cash bar won't
close until 10pm, don't rush to get there at 6. Self-park after 6pm in order to not incur a
parking fee. You'll also want to be sure that you get your parking ticket validated at the front
desk before you leave. Jordan Rich will be emceeing and a video tape recording of the event
will be made by Art Vuolo for inclusion in the Radio Hall Of Fame.
“Saturday, June 3, 2017: A 4-hour (7pm-11pm) tribute to WRKO with 5 of the original NOW
CROWD playing all the hits from 1967 using the original WRKO jingles. Live broadcast
carried on WRKO-AM/Streaming & Backbone Networks Streaming produce by George
L-R: Al Gates, Joel Cash, J.J. Jeffrey, Arnie Ginsburg, Chuck Knapp, George Capalbo Jr.
Rollye: “I didn't want to close without this: Please keep Claude Hall in your prayers and
thoughts. He's had a rough few weeks physically, and nothing is worse than being in pain.
Here's hoping it's a minor glitch and he's back to writing again soon."