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JOHN BORDERS 1937 - 2016
by Rollye James
Rollye: “March was brutal. It couldn’t end fast enough for most of us, because it was the end
of the line for too many luminaries. Some were close friends, others were mentors— maybe
even idols, many were co-workers, or at the least well-known among us. Their passing is
further confirmation that a magical time is long gone. We know it, but hearing of yet another
player who made us afraid to turn off the radio for fear of what we’d miss, or compelled us to
try harder when we thought we’d never reach their ranks, or created stations that will live
forever in our memories, or simply were part of the overall patina that made radio an
irresistible career choice, confirms it in deeply personal ways. The sheer number of losses last
month is notable. March Madness, Ken Dowe called it. A new twist on a familiar phrase, and
an apt one too. And of course, the foregoing is the preamble for the announcement of yet
another funeral. My condolences to Ken, and all who had the luck to know John Borders.
“Metroplex listeners remember him as Johnny Dark (KBOX, KLIF most notably).
Co-workers talk of the great guy he was, employees (he owned and operated Sunburst Media
in the ‘90s) cite him as a lasting influence, industry leaders recall his time on the NAB board.
And all are saddened by the news. The silver lining is that John, who has been battling
pancreatic cancer, is truly in a much better place. His friends will come together this morning,
April 4th, at 10 a.m., in the Highland Park United Methodist Church to share their thoughts
and pay their respects.
Ken Dowe: “John was my PD at KLIF in 1964. He had arrived there from St. Louis. We
became great friends at KLIF. Dottie and I became regular "family" members at the home of
his folks in Waxahatchie, TX. Johnny was probably sorry that was where I learned his family
knew him as, "Bubba." As the years passed he and I became station owners, each kept a home
in Dallas, shared frequent lunches, talked business, and kept each other up to date on our
families. We spoke, or emailed, nearly every day. Johnny was a terrific Christian gentlemen,
with two wonderful boys and a lovely wife sadly left behind, but each blessed with cherished
memories. As Claude says, ‘We come, we go.’ In a few days, one of my closest friends will be
gone. But, never will a day pass... when I will not remember, Bubba.”
Johnny Dark (John Borders) doing 9 to noon on KLIF in 1964.
Rollye: “The youtube video won’t show up if you’re reading this in your inbox, but you can
folks hard, but for Ken Dowe, it came just after he learned of another loss.”
Ken Dowe: “I am stunned. Overwhelming saddened. Sometime ago I mentioned in Vox Jox
my good times back in the day with Larry Cohen. ("I loved Larry Cohen!") Larry read that
and was moved to contact me instantly, recalling the stories and times of his visits to Dallas
during my McLendon past. Since then, we have almost daily been in touch by email, laughing
and solving the problems of the world. Recently, the mailings stopped, and I put it down to
his having suddenly gotten busy. We had been working on the best date for my coming out to
LA so Dottie and I could take him to dinner, where we would continue out discussions about
how to best restore the glory of the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, I am
so distressed to learn the reason for the silence. And, to realize that quiet space, is now there
forever. I believe in a loving God, and that Larry arrived with a suitcase full of still
undiscovered hits for Him to hear. And, I know Larry had enough to last for all eternity. I
loved Larry Cohen.”
Jerry Del Colliano: “Bill Taylor attended my annual conferences in Scottsdale until he
became too ill and I changed the venue to the east coast. At one conference Bill attentively
hung onto my every word but then would suddenly nod off. I said nothing about it until on
one of the breaks Bill came up to me and said that he apologized for falling asleep but he had
just had another round of chemotherapy for his cancer and didn’t want to miss the conference.
I told him, “Bill, don’t feel bad. You have a great excuse. But how do you explain everyone
else nodding off”. We had a good laugh but I realized, Rollye, that if the entire radio industry
consisted of people who wanted to be so good at what they do that even cancer couldn’t stop
them from learning more, this would be one hell of an industry again. Good man. I miss
Rollye: “Me, too, Jerry. Bill attending in pain was only half the story. Like most small
market owners, Bill, by necessity, was frugal. While he was generous to a fault anonymously
for charitable events in the area, when it came to himself, he was not known to spend an extra
dollar. Doing without was his way of life, but when it came to your conferences, he didn’t
hesitate. He thought the info he got was worth so much more than the cost of being there. I
don’t think you’ll ever get better testimony from an attendee. Great timing too, as I know the
is just two days away. I’ll be with you in spirit, and I bet Bill will too!”
Ron Brandon: “Hi Rollye... did not realize until today's column that you were associated with
Bill Taylor. Bill and I worked at WNOE back in '63 and '64.. he was 6-9pm and I followed in
the 9-1a slot. Studios were originally in the Sheraton Charles hotel but moved to a building in
the French Quarter shortly after I arrived. Bill was a nice guy and we stayed in touch with an
occasional phone call for a few years but then lost contact. I knew he was in ownership out
West.. Arizona or someplace, etc. Nice guy. Enjoy the column but don't envy you the weekly
deadlines. Recall well having to fill a page of editor bull weekly during our years of Radio
Music Report and some weeks it was tough to do. Get well wishes for Claude.. know he is
going through some tough times and decisions.”
Broadcasting July 7, 1963
Rollye: “Bill had fond memories of you too, Ron. I promised Claude I’d start sharing Bill
Taylor stories. That clipping reminds me of a liner that will always make me smile: “WNOE
New Orleans, located just three blocks from the Sheraton Charles Hotel.” It was Bill who
filled me in on the backstory— that the trade out for the studio space ran a lot longer than the
lease, so twice an hour for almost two years after the studios moved , puzzled listeners could
only wonder how the Sheraton Charles became a New Orleans landmark worthy of such
Marlin Taylor: “Claude, I’m sorry to say that I’m just catching up with your health
challenges, as I’ve been dealing with my wife’s own hospitalization and surgery – thankfully,
she’s now well on the road to new health. I will vote with John Barger’s (our paths crossed
somewhere back in my Bonneville syndication days) recommendation that you go for the
needed surgery. Of course, I’m not the one facing it. However, I can tell you that my
now-94-year-old uncle was told in his later 80’s that he had a choice … have open-heart
surgery or figure on growing weaker day-by-day for his remaining six months.
“That’s enough on that subject … my prayers are with you all the way. You are a strong
individual with a positive, upbeat outlook about life and are blessed to have a loving, devoted
mate. Who can ask for much more … other than having a good surgeon with gifted hands?
“You and I have never gotten to know each real well, although I’ll never forget your asking
me to lead the judging committee for one of Billboard’s annual “Personality of the Year
Awards” (or was it “Station of the Year?”). Can’t remember the year at this point, plus it
seems to me we never found any other committee members. As for me, I am thankful every
day for the health that I have at age 80 … and become a little more thankful every time I read
about great guys like Charlie Tuna and John Rook who didn’t make it this far. Go forth,
dear Claude, knowing that you are loved by far more folks than you can imagine!”
More Marlin Taylor: “P. S. – Recently purchased your “Business of …” book and look
forward to reading soon … so I can reflect on the “glory days” of radio!”
Rollye: “You’re gonna love the book, Marlin. It’s always great to read Claude— which is
another reason I was so delighted to hear from him Sunday:”
Claude Hall: “First, my apology. I'm weak. Too far gone to even look at my email most
days. Just too doggoned sick to help last week. This week, too! I'm going to watch a
Clippers game on TV and go back to bed with a Jack London novel. Lord, but he wrote
some great stuff. He wrote some great crud, too. I guess there's hope for all of us. I haven't
been able to write on "George and Me." But hope to soon do so. I had a tale for you, too.
Maybe next week....
“One more tale, eh? Ah, but what a sensational time we had! And the people I met and the
ones I still know. Wouldn't trade all of that for kosher pickle! Joe Smith in a talk once said
that we lived in the best of times. How very, very true.”
Rollye: “I had written to Claude asking about who might own the rights to a picture of Joe
Smith that Claude shared last year. I’d heard from an online publication that wanted to use it,
but having a picture and the rights to a picture are two very different things. Before I barely
had hit send, the "publication" let me know they didn’t have time to wait for an answer.”
Claude Hall: “This photo thing is going to be nuts because of the Internet. Pity. But all of
journalism is aflounder now. I still believe in journalism training, because of the writing
discipline involved. However, I wouldn't recommend more than one or two courses for the
entire degree. I hope you're feeling better. I love you for what you're doing for Vox Jox. Just
FYI, Johnny Borders once told me that he worked at KNEL in Brady, TX ... then later denied
it (I don't blame him for that).”
Rollye: “I wouldn’t blame him either, Claude. After a while, one set of call letters blends into
another, but the memories of the personalities behind them live on forever. I’m holding you to
telling that tale, and hoping it won’t be the final one. All of us are grateful for what you did to
transform Vox Jox into our column so many years ago. Each day we hear from you now is an
added bonus. Your efforts way back when would have meant much less if it weren’t so
obvious how much you delighted in writing about us. In a scant few keystrokes, you turned
the mundane into the special. None of us will ever forget your kindness.”
Dick Harman: “I couldn't help but notice that today marks the 56th anniversary of the day we
switched WINE to WYSL. We started on Saturday, March 26, 1960, by playing the Spike
Jones version of the William Tell Overture over and over. Ron Ruth, Art Wander and I took
turns being "rocky-rolly djs". Then on Monday Morning, March 28 at 9:45 AM Gordon
McLendon took the Mike and started in a top 40 fashion. Within minutes he was down to his
"Beautiful Music" voice and he introduced "Beautiful Whistle Music" to Buffalo.
“I was a student at UB at the time and after the opening (which I had permission to listen to on
my transistor during a speech class) it was back to the books until I headed over to the studios
at 13 S. Cayuga in Williamsville to pull the 8 PM - Midnight shift. WYSL really made a mark
on Buffalo Radio for a year or two. Then they made the move to 1400 and I joined WUFO. It
was while I was working at WKVK in Virginia Beach that I heard WYSL was going Rock.
BY the time I got back to Buffalo, the transition had taken place. MY buddy Jack Kelly ended
up back there doing all-nights and then when Johnny Dark and the first Sean Grabowski
left, he ended up becoming the second Sean Grabowski. Boy, the changes that have taken
place since then are mind boggling. I just had a nostalgic moment this morning and thought I'd
Rollye: “Speaking of Art Wander”….
Art Wander: “Over the past few years, material has been posted on Hollywood Hills and
commentaries from dear friend Claude Hall and Vox Jox highlighting the many people
their contributions to Georgia Radio. I noticed one name that was missing. I searched the site
and couldn't see his name. I tried to contact founder Sam Hale without too much luck before
he passed away.
“The missing name was former WPLO, Atlanta Program Director Jim Clemons. When I
became VP/Operations of Plough Broadcasting that included stations in Atlanta, Baltimore,
Boston, Chicago, Memphis, three of the AM stations programmed Country Music. This was
in 1970. But it was WPLO that put country music on the map and it was Jim Clemons who
orchestrated the events and programming that elevated WPLO to high ratings. As many
stations and program directors that I had the pleasure of working with, Clemons was unique.
His knowledge of country music - its artists made WPLO such a powerful station Let it be
known that Jim educated me into programming the country music format which I carried
throughout the rest of my career that included programming country.
“As a radio man, Jim focused on what the listeners wanted. Jim was tremendously
community minded. He established a great relationship between listeners and WPLO. Just
ask the tens of toustands of people who, in the early 70s marveled at the FREE summer
concerts performed at various shopping malls. featuimg great artists answering Jim Clemons
requests to contribute to the growth of country music. It was the Shower of Stars. Ask artists
like Waylon Jennings, Freddy Hart, Barbara Mandrell and so many others who chatted
with Jim on a first name basis. Hart, for example was hardly noticed until Jim began playing
"Easy Lovin" that helped Hart reach stardom. When Plough bought WSUN in Tampa, Jim
made sure that his impact on country music resulted in artists performing at a client party in
Tampa. And another thing about Jim.....no one ever influenced him as far as music was
concerned......his ear focused solely on what was in the grooves
“As a program director - Clemons was the best country music programmer in the country I
knew. Though I was stationed in Memphis, I kept getting repeat calls from other
programmers around the country beginning in 1970 who wanted to know about programming
country music. So many air-checked WPLO. I could go on and on about Jim Clemons and
WPLO'a impact in Atlanta. While country was played on quite a few stations around the
country such as WSM and WWVA, Clemons foresight to program it like a top 40 stadtion
with powerful promotions and talented, personality air staff that he hired that made WPLO
one of the great couintry station in the country. Commercially, was a must-buy by advertisers.
“I couldn't find his name in the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame. But Clemons deserves to be
there. I wish Sam Hale would have led the way for Jim's inclusion into that Hall. Besides his
great talent as a programmer, his foresight on making many country artists big stara brought
respect from the record industry; competitors and stations around the country who switched to
the format after viewing the ratings on the AM giant. I hope that the Georgia Radio Hall of
Fame will see fit to make sure that Jim Clemons is inducted into its Hall.”
Rollye: “I concur. Few names would be more appropriate than Jim Clemons. First hand I
knew his impact. As a country record promoter in the first half of the ’70s, my job was almost
done when Jim Clemons added a title. It was confirmation to me, but more importantly, to
large number of other country programmers, that the record was a hit. John Long who heads
the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame often reads this column. Last time I mentioned someone,
Hamp Swain (King Bee of WIBB, Macon), he pointed me to a page where Swain received a
Founders and Directors Award (2012) as part of the Three Horsemen
(still would like to see
Hamp as a Legacy inductee, on his own). Maybe we’re just missing Jim Clemons, but if
not— John Long? What’s needed to make Jim a Legacy nominee for next year?”
Bob Skurzewski: “I read about the Crusin' Series of albums, Vox Jox 3/18/16, that came out
many years back. The list is impressive: '56 Robin Seymour WKMH; ’57 Joe
Niagara WIBG; ’58 Jack Carney WIL; ’59 Hunter Hancock KGFJ; ’60 Dick
Biondi WKBW; ’61 Arnie "Woo Woo" Gingsburg WMEX; ’62 Russ "Weird Beard"
Knight KLIF; ’63 B. Mitchell Reed WMCA; ’64 Johnny Holliday WHK; ’65 Robert W.
Morgan KHJ; ’66 Pat O'Day KJR; ’67 Dr. Don Rose WQXI; ’68 unknown; ’69 Harv
Moore WPGC; ’70 Kris Erik Stevens WLS. Many more radio people should have been
candidates for this series even if it meant using the same years over and over again.
“Most were voice tracked and the music and jingles added later. Tom Konard from Air Check
Factory worked on the Biondi one and while he sells air checks, he also has for sale the voice
tracking of Biondi. I am led to believe that most of these are re-creations. Harv Moore (of
Buffalo) wrote me some years back that his was a actual air check and that they had to
re-create his opening theme segment.
“The Joey Reynolds attempt at a Crusin' release was shelved, last I heard. Years ago, several
of us where given a audio copy of Reynolds. The music was scoped and we were asked to
offer a critique. There were some errors in the wrong sports programs used, wrong year. Same
with some commercials. I do not know who was in charge and perhaps Joey Reynolds can
answer as to what became of his project.
“When the Crusin' series was re-released, on another format, the music agreements were null
and void. Those who purchased the "new" series told me that the people in charge tried to use
other music and those that bought the package were not happy with the flow of the sound. I
have most of the vinyl and never heard any other format, except for what others told me.”
Rollye: “There’s one more Cruisin’, Bob didn’t mention. 1955 was Jumping’ Gene Oxford
from KSAN, San Fransisco. ’68 (the unknown Bob referenced) is Johnny Dark WCAO.
But as I wrote previously, ’68-’70 are not from the initial batches. ’55-’67 were painstaking
Ron Jacobs reproductions. ’68-’70 were done much later under under Howard Silvers’
auspices, to the consternation of Jacobs. Those latter three were from air checks, and not great
quality ones at that.
“The problems (whatever they were) with the music rights predate the format change to CD.
The swapped out versions first appeared when Silvers re-released the series on vinyl in the
early ’80s. (I’ve got the painful proof in my collection.) I suspect whatever rights Jacobs
secured did not transfer with the ownership of the masters. About the missing Joey Reynolds
volume, however, I now have more info. I would have had it last week had it not been for
Randy West’s missing email. I’m so glad he wrote again!”
Randy West: “So glad to hear that Claude is doing better. Thanks again for picking up the
slack, and keeping our family in continuing contact. Loved the Ron Jacobs/RDS story from
Chuck Buell’s visit from Fabulous KIMN, Denver 95!
“Cruisin. Leave it to our beloved Tom Shovan to leak the tape. PLEASE ask the guy looking
to pass the bootleg copy to Uncle Ricky NOT to do so. I was the producer of that LP.
I promised it would keep on the down-low until it was released, although I don't know
when it might happen.
“Yes, Ron and Howard Silvers have some unresolved baggage over the Cruisin' series,
but from the due diligence I did, Howard's ownership seems to be well substantiated.
Frankly, I still don't fully understand the full sequence of events, but it's irrelevant.
“It turns out that Howard Silvers is a distant relative of mine. He called me because I
had access and the ability to help channel Joey's genius. With Howard's dime we
rented Art Laboe's (now shuttered) Sunset Blvd "Original Sound" studio. I was surprised
how totally state-of-the-art it was. Joey and I picked music from titles Howard knew he
could license. I got some original production bits and KB jingles from Ken R. in Toledo,
and as I recall the late Ben Friedman contributed as well. I had the boatload of classic
commercials. Finally, Newsman Irv Weinstein was kind enough to get back behind
a microphone to re-create a KB newscast.
“I was truly blown away by the number of people who volunteered to help bring this to
fruition. My one and only regret is my selection if of microphones, a Neumann, because the
proximity effect makes it too bassy for Joey's close-up and personal placement. I love that
mic, but I should have stayed true to the era with an RCA77DX. Joey and I did the gig for
small dollars, hoping to be compensated with our piece of the sales. I still hold some hope
that Howard will get it on the market eventually.”
interesting and…..I am so out-of-touch!”
Rollye: “The above link goes to a story in The Guardian, which I think belies Bob’s
contention. There are two lists. As for Spotify's Top 20, yeah, I’m with Bob. I wouldn’t want
to bet that any of us could hum a few bars from anything on it. The first list, however, is
more revealing. It re-ranks the top sellers by their streaming popularity, and you'll be amazed
how well titles that you know well have fared. Beatles, Michael Jackson, Meat Loaf, Eagles,
and others scream middle age and beyond and all are being streamed by the multi-millions.
I’d wager you could hum a few bars from a cut on more than half of the albums listed, and all
of them share impressive sales and streaming stats. One of two things is happening here (or
both, actually). Either people older than anticipated stream music, or people younger than
expected like old music. But no matter how you sort it, when it comes to streaming overall, I
hereby proclaim Bob Sherwood absolutely in touch. And if that doesn’t make you smile,
maybe Chuck Buell will. He’s bringing back Boudleaux Bryant and Bob Luman.”
Chuck Buell: “With all due respect to those who have recently left us, as well as those others
who are no longer with us, I offer up the attached "Long Distance Dedication" from Me to
You, and for any others who might be able to use a quick lift from the Sad Zone! It's yet
Rollye: Yes, long before Transtar was a thought in anybody's mind, Chuck Buell had Super
Gold. Thanks to Chuck and all of you who contributed to the column. Hopefully life will
take a cue from the above audio and next week's news will be all good. (Don't let that stop
you from writing though... I'm counting on hearing from several of you.)