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by Claude Hall
Rollye James
Claude Hall:  “Charlie (Art Ferguson) Tuna has passed away.  He was 71.  His death hit me
pretty hard.  We were never close.  Not like George Wilson, Jack G. Thayer, Joey
Reynolds, Gary Owens, Bobby Vee, Bill Stewart, and others.  But I knew him well.  And he
was a great, great radio personality.  I always got a chuckle out of the fact that he couldn’t
make the grade at WMEX in Boston (this was told to me by Tuna), but was one of the greatest
radio personalities ever in Los Angeles.  Once, I surveyed 31 of Top 40’s leading program
directors and 30 of them thought Charlie Tuna was the best personality in Top 40 radio; only
one program director ranked him second.  Most amazing was the in-depth interview (see “This
Business of Radio Programming”) that I did with him in the 70s.  For two years or more, other
disc jockeys told me that they carried a copy of that interview in their hip pockets.  To them, it
was a guide on how to be a disc jockey.  I understand John Rook has passed on, too.  I wasn’t
that close to John (Ron Jacobs can tell you why), although he was known as a fine program
director.  We come, we do, we go.”

Claude Hall:  “My own medical experience this past Tuesday was quite interesting.  I was
literally drowning from fluid in my lungs, struggling to sit up, to breath, and, finally, two
nurses got busy and saved my life with an injection of Lasix.  I owe them everything except
my toenails.   The “procedure” did not solve anything.  No stent needed.  I need a valve
replacement … a risky operation.  Barbara and I will confer in the next few days with a heart
surgeon.  Big decision.  I’m too old to get any better, when you come right down to it.  The
clock is ticking….
“What it does mean, however, is that I’m no longer physically capable of following a deadline
on Vox Jox.  A lot of steam – and Hemingway’s “juices” -- escaped while I sprawled on that
operating table. Rollye James, hopefully, will take over.  I will contribute when and if I can so
you haven’t yet shucked me forever.  Sorry about that.  Radio has been my passion since the
50s listening to faraway radio stations on a little one-tube unit out on the plains of Texas.  I
love you all and have had an immense pleasure writing a radio/music column all of these
years – 27 or 28 years as the crow flies with the exception of studying for a master’s and then
teaching journalism and public relations for several years at the State University of New York
at Brockport.  Vox Jox -- a column launched by Joe Carlton in the 40s.  It has brought me
many close friends and, perhaps, even a small amount of fame.  May the Good Lord bless and
keep you … may the Good Lord bless us all.
“I will continue my enjoys upon “George and Me.”  Came up with a phenomenal idea, in my
opinion, to improve the novel while in the hospital.  I may never finish this book about George
Wilson and me (mentioning others, of course), but I’m going to try.  If I finish, Woody Roberts
has persuaded me to put it up for sale through Kindle Books for 99 cents.
“Just FYI, my best friend in radio, for the record, was L. David Moorhead – a womanizer
and woman abuser who ran up and down the halls of the Vadican when just a boy (his father
was one of the doctors to the Pope a few weeks each year), but still one of the most
phenomenal radio men I ever knew.  I wrote about him in the collection of short stories “Radio
Wars” that’s available via Kindle Books.  And, yes, I wrote the truth in so far as I know it. 
Radio has been full with the most colorful people in the world!  A few may have not exactly
been extraordinary human beings, but they were absolutely phenomenal radio personalities,
music directors, program directors, engineers, and general managers.  Never mock or decry
radio’s DNA.”

Rollye:  “Of all the news I didn’t want to receive, learning of Claude’s medical nightmare tops
the list.     May his future dealings with doctors be less eventful, and may he be with us for
longer than he’s probably expecting after his latest experience.  When Claude asked me to
help with this column, it was in anticipation of my taking it over in what I hoped was in the
very distant future.  And I hold out hope that he’ll soon be feeling up to taking it back  Until
then, you got me, if you want me.  You are the main attraction.  Claude was a most able
ringmaster, always getting the most from you.   It remains to be seen whether you’d like me to
do that, but   if you’re game, here I am.  Whatever is on your mind, I want to read— and
convey it.  I’ll look for your emails at info@voxjox.org

“If Claude’s news wasn’t bad enough, learning of John Rook’s passing was the capper.  He
was a good friend,  and I’ll miss everything about him.  I’m able to process  his death knowing
he’s in that “much better place”.  He believed he was going there, and wherever it is, I know
he made it.   But it’s still a big loss— for radio and for me.  Thinking of John will always
make me smile.  He programmed KQV in Pittsburgh to impressive  results prompting ABC to
promote him to WLS.  I trust everyone reading this knows of his accomplishments in Chicago.
The amount of people who got into radio because of WLS is huge (including one Rush
Limbaugh who used listen to Larry Lujack, much to Larry’s embarrassment being the proud
liberal that he was).   But in case it slipped your mind, he also beat his former handiwork
when consulting WCFL.   Claude Hall bet a six pack of beer he’d do it.  From Vox Jox, July
8, 1972:   “. . . Paul R. Abrams, manager of WLS Chicago saw my note about the impending
battle between WCFL and his station in Vox Jox and writes:  “I would be delighted if you
would put your money where your mouth is.”  OK, for a six pack of beer.  The bet would be
that WLS gets beat in at least one time period within six months.  Actually I’m not rooting for
anybody. I’d like to believe that I have friends in both camps.  But there’s nothing more
interesting to observe than a good radio battle.  Maybe if John Rook of WCFL knows that
I’ve invested a whole six pack of beer on him and WCFL, he’ll try harder.  My normal limit
on bets of this nature is one beer, but after all, Chicago is a major market.”   A good bet, but
something tells me Claude is still waiting for that six pack from the long forgotten Mr. Abrams.

“The last time John and I talked was about a month ago.  Among other things, Rook was
complaining (as only he could) that the press on him always played up WLS, but rarely
mentioned KFI, which he programmed from the ’70s into the ’80s. Given the time frame,
KFI’s history and it being on AM, he felt that under the circumstances, it was a bigger
accomplishment.  “And no one ever mentions it,” he almost whined.   I timidly interjected that
I’d forever recall him as “Johnny Rowe” filling in on both morning and afternoon drive
during the WABC strike, and I adored the Pittsburgh years, but I quickly added I’d do my best
to set the record straight.  Now I have.  And wherever you are John, I hope you know it.

“I wrote about John in my book [What Am I Doing Here? (when everything I want is
somehwere else)] , but if you haven’t read it, John Rook was my prime example of winning
every battle but losing the war.  When Clear Channel tried to make him an offer he couldn’t
refuse, he wouldn’t sell his radio stations to them.  So they predictably offered his sponsors
fatally low commercial rates, undercutting him to the point it was impossible to operate. 
When the Justice Department confirmed he had a case, he was jubilant.  When they informed
him he’d have to fight it privately, that should have been a clue.  At the time, John’s assets
were well in the 7 figures, but no match for Clear Channel’s in-house legal resources.  It was
easy for them to delay, appeal and act in all manner of ways to deplete John’s assets.  With
each battle that he won, he came closer to not having the money to fight any longer, which
was the ultimate result.   None of his lawyers even hinted at the possibility.  And so it was that
John Rook, who made so much money for so many people, had none of his own.  The last
decade was very rough.  He was profoundly grateful to the Erica Farber and the
Broadcasters Foundation, which literally kept a roof over his head. (If you’ve never thought
about a gift to this wonderful safety net, or becoming a member, read about them here: 
broadcastersfoundation.org.  You won’t see all of the “big names” they’ve helped over the
years, as anonymity is assured, but trust me, you’d be surprised and pleased.)

“But now it’s really tough on John’s sister Dot.  She and John lived together on his beloved
ranch in Coeur d’Alene.  With him gone, so goes the little income he had.  Frankly, it’s a
stretch for her to afford the cremation bill.  But I was pleased to learn that’s been taken care of
by one of you.  I’m not sure if you want to remain anonymous, so I’ll leave it at thank you
very much.  Jason Rook, who was the light in John’s eyes, a young man he raised to
adulthood, contributed to John’s well being daily.  Now he’s concerned about Dot.  He’s set up
a GoFundMe account.   Even if you’ve only go a dollar to spare, it will add up.  Here’s a link: 
https://www.gofundme.com/gbsn92ss.  Bless you for considering it.”

ABC PDs at the close of the 1960s:  WLS' John Rook (R) with WABC's Rick Sklar (L)

Bob Sherwood:  “I first met John Rook at a Gavin or Billboard conference in the late ‘60s or
1970 and we had a stimulating and provocative series of conversations there and subsequently
elsewhere on development of on-air talent, long-term potential of Top 40 radio and methods to
deal with the clear threat of Tom Donahue’s Progressive Rock and the looming FM
penetration.  While I generally felt like a student sitting at the feet of an MBA Professor, he
was always open to different views and encouraged progressive thought.  I learned a great deal
from him.  It was only years later that I learned that it was at his recommendation that I was
recruited to become PD at General Cinema’s struggling WGCL in Cleveland.  He never
mentioned it and I only found out via a third party.  I was quite successful there with a hybrid
format that I fitted between AM Giant WIXY 1260 and the wonderfully progressive/mass
market WMMS, “The Buzzard”.  John never took credit for my move.  I have enormous
respect for him and will miss him for ’a long, long time’.”

Rollye:  “As you may know, one of John’s pet projects was his “Hit Parade Hall of Fame”. 
I’m pleased to say that it will go on under the able guidance of Ron Alexenburg
HitParadeHallofFame.com will keep you posted.  It was rewarding to John to see the gratitude
of many artists—  from pop standards acts that often fall between the cracks, to some amazing
names ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame— who have been inducted over the years. 

“After being Charlie Tuna’s morning partner (doing news in LA at KHTZ 79/80), I have a
few thoughts on him, too.  I didn’t really know him, we never socialized.  What impressed me
about him was his unwavering dedication to succeeding.  Morning drive was a five hour
show— 5 to 10 AM, so that he’d be heard by LA workers of all occupations.  The amount of
hand written show prep he brought with him each day would have given lesser souls a hernia. 
He’d rehearse each bit before he delivered it live— sometimes repeatedly with different
inflection, often clearing his throat before cracking the mic.  It would be easy to make fun of
that, but the bottom line is that Charlie’s perseverance,  much more, in my opinion, than his
well documented talent, propelled him to become nothing short of a legend.  He was a
Southern California fixture.   Whatever it took to shine, wherever he had to work, including a
few totally demoralizing scenarios, he was ready and willing to give it more than anyone else
might even contemplate.  And as far as I know, he did it without using or abusing anyone.  I
don’t know if any co-worker considered him a supporter, but I’m reasonably sure that none
saw him as an enemy.  (That’s even true of Robert W. Morgan who ended their well-known
feud before his death.)  And I’m positive that all of them could count on him showing up
every day no matter what else he might have been facing, focused entirely on winning at the
task hand.  He was the definition of tenacity, richly earning the outpouring of respect and
admiration that’s been vocalized since his passing.  More than the air checks, the
entertainment and the oh so many stories, I believe the legacy Charlie Tuna is leaving behind
is his attitude, which was nothing short of an object lesson for anyone intent on attaining
greatness in any field.   I need a nap just thinking about it.

“And now the floor is yours.  I await seeing your thoughts — on anything, actually— in the
inbox at info@voxjox.org.  I don’t often go so far out on a limb to state that I’m speaking for
everyone reading my words, but I’m pretty sure I’m on firm ground now when I say:  Claude,
we’re pulling for you and praying for you, and hope to hear from you whenever you’re able. 
Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do for all of us.”