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by Rollye James
: “I wanted to share that ReelRadio.com
is now free. You still need to register
but once you do you have full access to all air checks. The user will need to confirm
registration every 6 months. Donations are still needed and highly encouraged. Hopefully this
change will attract more listeners to join.”
: “The only downside to visiting ReelRadio.com
is you will spend entirely too much
time there, once you realize what a treasure trove of radio history it is. It’s one thing to talk or
write about radio's past— it’s another to hear it. Uncle Ricky put the site up 21 years ago, and
he’s continually updated it with air checks, both scoped and not. And he’s not just digitizing
old reel to reel tapes someone found in a garage— he’s restored them to quality as good as, or
sometimes better than, they were originally. With the unscoped air checks (which is most of
the collection), you can get the same listening experience as you would have had when it first
aired— except of course, back then, you wouldn’t have known how precious it is.
“The first person that came to mind for me (after seeing Claude’s contribution this week,
which you’ll read in moments) was Lee ‘Baby’ Simms. I put “Lee Simms” in the search and
immediately came up with 14 air checks— several from San Diego and LA, also Phoenix, San
Francisco, Detroit and Miami, spanning 1964 through 1974. Can you find someone whose
work isn’t there? Sure— but if you’re betting, the odds are much better that whomever you
want to hear is waiting for you at ReelRadio.com
. And yes it’s free, but Uncle Ricky
independently wealthy. So if you can donate— even better. Whatever it takes, let’s keep this
site alive. Now speaking of Lee ‘Baby’ Simms— I was so pleased to hear from Claude Hall
Claude Hall: “The house atop the hill over looking the bay and San Francisco was filled with
Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” And a confused aroma of weed and Anchor Steam Beer. The
sun was bright in the house. He didn’t bother to shave this morning. He didn’t bother to make
coffee. Instead, he found his heavy .375 Magnum revolver and stepped out on the back porch
amidst his homegrown tomato vines, most of the tomatoes ripe, and shot himself in the deep
gut where the cancer gnawed at him.
“Dammit! Why did he do that? That bullet robbed the world of one of its most charming,
brightest lights. He was, without question or doubt, one of America’s greatest radio
personalities. One of its most superb, most witty entertainers. Audience ratings in city after
city gave proof that he was loved by radio listeners. Billboard magazine featured an interview
with him that ran several issues of the weekly trade publication.
“Okay. So he had cancer. Big deal. Lots of people have “the big C” and manage to survive
quite well for years. My father survived more than two dozen years after cancer in the bladder
and even then it was complications from the flu that knocked him out. Who knows, they might
come up with the right pill or a new pill any day now to whip that horrible sucker. It’s a plague
that especially haunted – and still haunts -- radio personalities because of the almost desperate
need to smoke while on the air in those tight studio confines. Some of us continue with worse.
“Lee Baby Simms had some big reasons to live. A very nice daughter named Kim had just
walked out of the woodwork and she had a cute little daughter. Hey, he was a grandpa!
Wasn’t that something! She was very beautiful, this baby. He’d never known Kim. Hadn’t
even been aware much for all too many years that he had a daughter. That marriage in Phoenix
had been so brief. So nebulous! The job opened up in San Antonio and she’d refused to leave
town. What had she expected of him? Sell real estate? Didn’t she understand about radio?
You land a job in another city, you move on. From small market to medium market to major
market. From Phoenix to San Antonio and eventually Los Angeles or New York. And big
“Lee Baby Simms was tall and nothing exceptional when it comes to looks. That is, women
would have noticed him, but probably not looked twice except that for some reason disc
jockeys attract women like bullfighters. Friendly? Yes. Without question. Witty? Very witty
and he enjoyed talking and could keep a conversation going without stammering for ideas or
something to discuss. He was a high school dropout, but not because of lack of intellect or
interest … it’s just that he’d had about as much formal education as he could take. And there
was something vastly appealing about being a disc jockey … it was so easy! And he was
suddenly a star.
“His first radio job was at WTMA in Charleston, SC, as the overnight disc jockey. The radio
station used to sign off the air at midnight until program director George Wilson hired this
“street thug,” as Simms described himself, and put him on the air. George was renown for
discovering talent. This included recording artists and radio personnel. Especially Jack
McCoy, program director and creator of “The Last Contest” radio promotion, and Buzz
Bennett, program director and inventor of more than one unique programming concept. Two
legends in radio. George also nurtured the genius of L. David Moorhead who created the
progressive rock icon KMET-FM in Los Angeles during the 70s and Mardi Neirbass, the first
female national program director.
“Wilson’s reason for hiring Lee Baby Simms? ‘I needed someone to do my morning show in
case I stayed out too late partying’. Regardless, Lee Baby Simms was a natural for radio. He
had a certain whimsy in his voice and he was a born storyteller. He was well read and
interested in just about everything. He liked almost everyone and doing radio beat the heck
out of stealing cars for a living.
“However, radio hasn’t always been kind to those who love it. Jim Coleman, whose mother
and father owned a bicycle shop in Carlsbad, NM, was better known as J. Paul Emerson and
he was a damned good journeyman when it comes to radio. For a while, he was a member of
the Crickets, the group behind Buddy Holly. But his wife didn’t care for his career. Coleman
never saw his son. Nor knew the boy’s name. His ex-wife let him talk to his son when the boy
was 7 years old. On the phone. He tried tracking them down. Spent horrible amounts of
money on detectives. George Wilson’s two oldest daughters by his first wife refused to even
talk to him on the phone. They thought it was his fault. Maybe it was. For one reason and
another, radio and family are not a good mixture. Jack G. Thayer kept close to his children
even after the divorce. When his daughter was married, he invited me and my wife Barbara to
the ceremony held in his ex-wife’s home in the San Fernando Valley. His ex-wife and her new
husband were there.
“Family, for a radio man, has always required a huge effort. Jack G. Thayer always tried.
When he was invited to speak at a major media conference in Sydney, Australia, Jack took one
of the two sons with him. Timm later died in a glider crash outside of Los Angeles, a tragic
incident for radio friends. A great many radio people turned out for the event. The boy was
buried in his jogging shorts with a huge bottle of champagne … a joke since he was a diabetic.
For Murray the K (Kaufman), one of the legendary disc jockeys, radio people tossed a benefit
to help pay his medical expenses incurred from cancer. His son by his first wife had crossed
him off his list long, long ago. Sad, but true, a great many radio people have ended up a dollar
short when it comes to retirement. The body of the almost legendary Captain Midnight of
Nashville was found in a trash dumpster.
“David Moorhead talked with me about committing suicide. He drove upon Frenchman
Mountain in Las Vegas one evening to think about it. He had no job and seemingly couldn’t
find anything. He had been estranged from a daughter and son for years.
“I don’t believe that Lee Baby Simms suffered financially. He had a pension. I can only
presume he grew tired – or perhaps bored – with the good fight. It is a fight that I assure you
no one enjoys.
“I look forward to the book about Lee Baby Simms written by Dr. Robert Weisbuch, former
president of Drew University and a devoted fan of the radio personality. It is, I believe, in the
final draft. Though Lee’s ending was a sad one, I feel that he lived as many of us wished we
could live. Had lived. He was always uplifting and a great light in his personal
correspondence. I enjoyed his emails immensely.”
Steve Warren: “I wanted to give you a head's up on my eBay Store. I'm relinquishing decades
of radio station t-shirts, caps, softball jerseys, books et al. All the stuff I've collected from 54
station as well as my weekly The Country Oldies Show (Envision Network), but I'd rather put
the Radio paraphernalia into the hands of someone to whom having it might be cool. I have the
memories and they take up a lot less space in the closet. Click here
. More stuff being added
every day. Keep checking back enjoy. Tell the world. .
“A story and a listing: I am also selling my entire collection of LPs. One price for all. It’s on
“This photo was taken about 2 weeks ago by Charlie Kaye who paid a visit to my studio for
lunch and an overdue catch-up. Charlie was a news reporter at WHN when I worked there with
Ruth Meyer (circa 1973-76). Later he became News Director at 1010 WINS and then
Executive ND at CBS Radio News, from which he recently retired. Now he is an accomplished
photographer with a variety of notable collections of everything from NYC Street Fairs to
“So, if a guy like Charlie who made a career in an audio medium like radio news can enjoy
retirement in a visual media and a guy like me who’s spent 50+ years pumping American
music (country and otherwise) on AM-FM-Satellite, wind up operating a Chinese Music
Internet station, there’s hope for everyone now in radio regardless of their eclectic interests.”
Rollye: “I couldn’t pass up Steve's WOR sweatshirt! $15 included shipping. I don’t care if it
comes to my knees (it’s a large, I’m a small), I had to have it. Bet you'll find something too.”
Dave Anthony: “Besides the enjoyment of reading Vox Jox every Monday, I’m moved to
commend you on your loyalty in faithfully publishing and delivering every Monday. A fresh
edition never fails to fall out of my inbox every week. Heartiest praise on your
“Regarding the tragedy of blowing up classic call letters, it has occurred too many times. In
1992-93 as program director of KSFO and KYA in San Francisco, we split the simulcast and
KYA dethroned KFRC FM to FM. Shortly thereafter, the owner’s decision was to leave the
Oldies format, change to a version of Country, and exterminate those classic three-letter calls.
Sadly, another legend died.”
Cary Pall: “Amazing story re WPOP. At 104.1 with Greaseman in morning drive, they
would have eaten the competition for breakfast. Funny that 20 years later I was involved in
Liberty's takeover of WPOP and WIOF (through its merger with Merv Griffin's company and
Beck-Ross, owners of WHCN). Although that country format was long gone, they were
fighting a losing battle with WRCH-FM on the AC front (as well as WEZN in the Bridgeport
market, where 104.1 also had a decent signal). The folks at our sister station in Washington,
WHFS, came in and helped us make the switch to alternative as "Radio 104" in late 1994 with
John Knapp at the helm. The station became a power in the market with 18-34 adults in just a
few months. WPOP was still on AM and still news-talk, but I wonder…”
Steve Mitchell: “KLIF - 2 may have Bart's plate.”
Rollye: “Steve’s talking about the Texas personalized license plate from 1969 bearing ‘KLIF
2’, that Ken Dowe contributed to last week’s column. Bart? Only if Gordon bought it for him.
The mystery continues.”
John Hawkins: “Yet another radio experience with Chuck Berry, if you continue to mention
him… In 1972, a huge show of big name acts was presented at Oakland Coliseum Arena,
co-sponsored and MCed by KNEW Channel 91 (AM 910) and KLOK AM 1170. Imagine a
show with Bill Haley & His Comets, Bobby Day, The Fleetwoods, Bobby Lewis, The
Drifters, and several more, an entire show of Greatest Hits.
“Pre-show I was running around with a tape recorder, snatching interviews and performer
greetings and intros. The first star I encountered was Freddy 'Boom Boom' Cannon, who
asked if he could join me because he loved meeting legendary performers too. He was a fun
side-kick. Knocking on one dressing room door, a sultry voice said "come in boys"; it turned
out to be Shirley Alston and the other Shirelles, greeting us very warmly. Freddy and I hated
to move on, but there were more famous folks to meet.
“The one performer we did not find hanging around backstage was the closing act, Chuck
Berry. I was at the stage stairs with the show producer when Mr. Berry walked up, guitar in
hand. We shook hands, then before Chuck ascended to the stage, the producer handed him a fat
envelope, cash payment for the performance. The producer explained that Chuck Berry would
not leave his East Saint Louis home until he received paid-for first class round-trip air tickets,
and a down-payment in cash. I've worked with enough slippery characters to know the wisdom
of Mr. Berry's business requirements.
“Chuck stuffed the cash in a pocket, then did an amazing show. Soon the building was shaking
as 14,000 people were up and dancing. Chuck Berry was really into it -- he played and
duck-walked and joked with the audience and played more. But backstage the Oakland
Coliseum people were getting upset, something about "not paying workers' overtime". The
concert was supposed to have already ended, but Chuck's rockin' was still on a roll. It was a
magical night that I hoped would never end. But then...
“Suddenly the house lights went on and stage sound system was killed -- in the middle of a
song. Chuck Berry was silenced by a Coliseum manager waving a rental contract. Chuck tried
to continue, realized there was no audio, looked confused, then dismayed, then angry, then he
just gave a little wave at the howling audience, walked off stage, and disappeared with his
guitar, cash and plane ticket.
“I spent the next few days explaining to KNEW listeners, on-air and off, what happened and
why. Perhaps the same happened at KLOK.
“The two radio stations shared the MC job. From KNEW were Hal Pickens and me (I was PD
and also did a weekend show), and from KLOK was Tom Campbell. When the MCs opened
the show, I was pleased that KNEW got a stronger audience response than KLOK. Perhaps this
also impressed Tom Campbell, because soon after he moved to KNEW.
“PS: These days I'm sometimes back on stage, playing keyboard with a San Diego-based band.
My show high is when we launch into Johnny B. Goode, where I frantically try to imitate
Johnnie Johnson's astounding piano work. Johnson did more than just perform, he merits
co-writing credit for most of Chuck Berry's songs, though oddly, not Johnny B. Goode, a
tribute to Johnnie Johnson which Berry solely wrote. Rounding the circle, in early '50s
Johnson's band needed a player/singer and added young Chuck Berry. I love how everything
is connected to everything. Keep up the great work, Vox Jox is my first-read every Monday.”
Warren Cosford: “Vox Jox is a great way to begin the week. What can I contribute?
Well....the recent death of Chuck Berry got me thinking about all the wonderful, talented
people who introduced me to Rock and Roll. I grew up in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada. At
first, all the Rock & Roll we heard was from America. Could a Canadian make Rock & Roll
“In 1958, one of my favorite records was Leroy by Jack Scott. Flip it over and there was My
True Love. Within weeks, there was another great record......With Your Love. It was my first
45RPM. Unlike the 78RPMs, it apparently was unbreakable. Until I bent it and broke it.
“So....as a birthday gift, my father bought me the Jack Scott LP. WOW. I read the Liner
Notes. It says Jack Scott is a Canadian. Born in Windsor Ontario! YOU CAN BE
CANADIAN AND MAKE ROCK AND ROLL RECORDS?????!!!!
“I bought a used set of Slingerland Drums and suddenly I was in a band. But so, it seemed,
was every other kid in Winnipeg. As with Hockey, it didn't take me long to discover I likely
wasn't going to make it to the NHL.
“But Jack Scott kept having Hit Records.
“In the 41 months between June of 1958 and November 1961, nineteen of his records made it
to The Billboard Charts. Winnipeg added even more. And he wrote all of them except one.
To put it into context.....Jack Scott's first LP had eight singles charted. Among Canadians,
only Justin Bieber has done as well.
“But that's not all.
“Jack Scott recorded a whole album of Hank Williams Songs, and with a French-Canadian
Vocal Group from Windsor and Chatham Ontario called The Chantones, a whole album of
Gospel Songs as well. He even wrote some of them!
“And then Jack Scott was gone.
“I got into Radio full time in 1965 and became the Production Manager of 1050 chum in 1970.
Thanks to J. Robert Wood, we created an infrastructure that allowed us to produce
documentaries on The Beatles, Elvis and The Top 100 of the Year each year for Canada and
into syndication throughout the U.S.
“In 1976/77 the "crown jewel" would be the 64 hour Evolution of Rock (the music that made
the world turn 'round). Would I interview Jack Scott if I could even find him? CHUM Jocks
who had once worked in Detroit would tease me that they had seen him drunk on stage. I
really didn't want to know. But I had to. So, I found Jack living in Sterling Heights, Michigan
and we set up an interview in Windsor.
“Jack arrived at the hotel. Big beard, very muscular, quiet spoken. I knew more about him
than he remembered about himself. But he had Great Stories! Drop a name from the early
days. He knew them.
“Over the years I've helped Jack with a Greatest Hits LP, thanks to Robert Plant from Led
Zeppelin (that's Another Story) and sang with him at the annual Winter Dance Party in Clear
Lake Iowa (that's me stage left).
“Carl Perkins and Wanda Jackson may be in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but it was
Jack Scott who headlined and closed the show. Unfortunately he was always getting ripped
off. This song was not recorded in 1961. It was recorded at The Crazy Horse Saloon, Utica
Michigan in the 1980s:
Can't see it? Click here.
“Perhaps the highlight for me was when Jack was inducted into The Canadian Songwriter's
Hall of Fame. I remember sitting in the audience thinking.....I was just a kid from Winnipeg
with a dream. What on earth am I doing here?”
Can't see it? Click here.
Ron Brandon: “I just finished nice email from Jack Gale who had seen the pic in Vox Jox..
great hearing from him at 91 years old. I'm sure I'll get confused with what I have already sent
you but again please use what and whenever you choose.”
: “Jack Gale
still has it. I’m proud to hear him on our AM, Jukebox1240.com
done a few of our liners and remains in place on the top of the hour ID. Ron’s pictures are
great. And there are so many that I’ll probably get confused too, but what a great collection.”
Ron Brandon: “These were at a party probably about 1978 at Jimmy Davenport's house
(Jimmy aka Ole Bear). Jimmy did independent out of Atlanta and his house was party central
in those years. Excuse for party had something to do with WHHY Montgomery, Alabama.. a
hot regional station.”
L-R: Scott Shannon, Ariola..Lanny West WHHY MD, myself, Howard Rosen of Casablanca, Kris
Kelly Z93 Atlanta, John Parker Ariola, Jeff McCartney WQXI Atlanta, Larry Stevens WHHY PD.
L-R: Larry Stevens WHHY, Scott Shannon, Dave Mason, myself, Billy Lemmons of Arista
David Gleason: “Last week’s Vox Jox reminded me of two stories from radio's underbelly that
aren't really for publication but which I thought you would enjoy…
“In around 1979, when I was with Pueblo International (WQII/WZNT in PR) we signed
simultaneously options to buy WTFM in NY, WLVH in Hartford and WWOK/WJOK in
Miami. The Miami ones were being sold by Jack Roth, who flew in to Miami to sign the
option agreement and get his deposit money. After all was signed, we all dispersed. A bit later,
I was returning to my room in the hotel we all were staying at and as I entered my room, I saw
Jack, in the company of two working ladies and a bottle of Bourbon, entering his room. I think
he thus jinxed the deal, as we never closed because Pueblo ran into trouble with its long island
supermarkets and we backed out.
“Which brings me to the other story. In 1970, I was out of Ecuador and looking. I answered
one of those blind box Broadcasting ads for a manager's position in Costa Rica. I was called by
John MacLendon of the "OK" stations you mentioned in Vox Jox. He had just bought a group
of, I recall, 6 radio stations in San José, and wanted a manager with international experience.
He was going to pay more than it was worth, and I liked the country. He came to the point of
saying, "the job is yours" and we agreed to meet after his return from the closing in San José. A
few days later, his assistant in Jackson called and said that there would be no meeting, as Mr
MacLendon had died in San Jose. I called a friend in Jackson at another station and was told
that the ‘story was all around town’ that he had died while in the saddle with a cutie he had
acquired in Costa Rica and who had to be rescued from underneath the corpse.
“There is a moral somewhere here.”
Rollye: “I can just picture Jack Roth. I hope he paid top dollar for the ladies, otherwise I’d
hate to picture them. The only two guys I can recall from the OK Group were Stanley Ray &
Jules Paglin, and I don’t have any compromising info on either of them, but I always laugh
picturing them walking into any one of their radio stations together. This ad makes me smile
too. Cancel that. It makes me laugh out loud:
“In any event, I implored David to give me permission to reprint the foregoing stories—using
the logic that everyone involved was dead….”
David Gleason: “Aw, heck. Yeah, use those stories. The more I think about the incidents, they
were so typical of radio back then that I guess many will be amused by them.”
Don Graham: “Deborah was a stunning success [at her Catalina Jazz Club showcase last week
in Hollywood]!! Jerry Sharrell delivered a sensational introduction, and Deborah followed
with a non-stop extraordinary package of total entertainment supported by the world class, Jon
Allen & His Band. The sold-out audience roared with enthusiastic approval. She truly is
Jerry Sharrell (to Don Graham): “Thanks to all for inviting me and Gigi to a momentous
evening with Deborah Silver at The Catalina Club. The show let her shine with vocal
excellence and was a nifty night of top entertainment!! Good luck to Deborah and may her
albums continue to rise up the charts!”
Brad Chambers (to Don Graham): “Thank you for including Martini in the Morning, not only
in a very special night with Deborah and her music at Catalina Jazz Club, but thank you also
for letting us play a part in launching this terrific new album. Response from our listeners has
been off the chart. We've heard from so many people who have ordered or downloaded "The
Gold Standards," and loved it. The morning after the show, we talked on the air about
Deborah's amazing stage presence and wonderful vocals, and how she would be a perfect
candidate in our "New Music Lounge." Just like on her Steve Tyrell/Jon Allen produced
album, her vocals are wonderful, the arrangements fabulous and again, in the show, her
performance, her ability to know and offer high caliber show to her audience is the sign of a
veteran entertainer. Great job Don. A star is (re) born!”
Tomas (Digital Talk Radio - to Don Graham): “Deborah Silver is great and very compelling.
The audience loved her. She’s very smooth going from great jazz standards to even country,
without any glitches or hiccups. Wow, she truly is the real deal.”
Spider Harrison: “Deborah Silver is very good. We were back there cheering her on.”
Rollye: “Deborah is great, but I admit, seeing Spider Harrison’s name made my day. It
seems like it was only a few summers ago (though it was actually 1973) that he took over for
John R. and for the next several years would keep R&B alive throughout the south at night.
Seeing his name, I had to look him up. So glad to say he’s still on the air in Nashville— now
at Hippie Radio 94.5, which wasn’t even on the dial when Spider joined WLAC. (It first
sprang to life in 1974 as WTHJ a Class A licensed to Lobelville at 94.3. I remembered that,
but wanted to verify it only to find that the FCC online entry for that facility didn’t go back
go by that I don’t rely on David’s site and I can’t begin to express my gratitude for its
cyber-convenience. Today the station’s licensed to Bellevue and is located on Music Row, but
its best feature (to me, anyway) is it’s got Spider!) I don’t know if he’s live in Nashville or
“The latest from Joey Reynolds
? Here he is
with Will Hammerstein talking about the museum.
Joey Reynolds: “I am so proud of the tech team behind my show...
More of Joey's cast of staffers.
“...No one needs to complain about millennials, they are often simply misguided missiles. We
have a deal, I don't put down hip hop and they don't make fun of record hops.”
Mel Phillips: “April 2, 2017. We're just 2 months away from the WRKO 50th Anniversary
Weekend (June 2 - 4, 2017). For those that haven't sent their RSVP/Checks for the big dinner
on June 2nd, time is fleeting. Checks must be in by May 18 so I can give the Crowne Plaza
(Newton) the number of guests attending. Sorry but no walkup guests allowed to either the
dinner or cash bar set up in the ballroom. The May 18 date is coming up quickly...
“Friday, June 2, 2017: WRKO 50th Anniversary Dinner with cash bar at 6pm and dinner
served promptly at 7 in the Charles Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza (Newton). Dinner goes till
11pm. Since the cash bar stays open until 10pm, don't rush to get there until after 6
and self-park in order to avoid a parking fee. You'll also want to get your parking ticket
validated at the front desk before leaving. Jordan Rich (above left) will be emceeing and a
video tape of the event will be shot by Art Vuolo (above right) for inclusion into the Radio
Hall Of Fame...
“Saturday, June 3, 2017: A 4-hour (7pm - 11pm) tribute to WRKO with 5 members of the
original NOW CROWD playing hits from 1967 using the original WRKO jingles. Live
broadcast aired on WRKO (AM/Streaming) & Backbone Networks (Streaming) produced by
George Capalbo Jr...”
Mel Phillips, Al Gates, Joel Cash, J.J. Jeffrey, Arnie Ginsburg, Chuck Knapp and George Capalbo.
: “Just as I was finishing this column I got a sad email from John Long
of the Georgia
kindness, his 'regular guy' persona molded more than two decades of morning fun on Atlanta
radio. And just like any 'regular guy', he loved his local Walmart. So maybe it's fitting that he
dropped dead from a heart attack whie shopping in the Tallapoosa store Sunday. He'd probably
want you to laugh at that, but at 65, he did it much too soon. Read about him here
1989 TV spot for WYAY's morning show featuring Rhubarb Jones.
Can't see it? Click here.
: “There’s also a half hour audio interview with Rhubarb Jones here
. Lots of great
insight into his background. He will be missed.”