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Sol Rabinowitz, promotion executive with Epic Records, left; record artist Mike Douglas;
Billboard music editor Paul Ackerman, second from right; radio-TV editor Claude Hall,
right.  Circa mid-60s.


By Claude Hall
and Rollye James
To be quite frank, I’m not the person of the moment to write this article and, anyway, it should
have been written years ago when I remembered more.  They –the men and women I would
like to honor -- were alive back then.  And handy.  And my major sources of information were
alive and handy.  George Wilson and David Moorhead are gone.  Jan Basham.  They would
have helped me out.
But I have a growing – an almost desperate need – to write about the record promotion person
… the men and women coast-to-coast who, in reality, are responsible for giving you and me
and, in fact, the entire world the hit records that were on radio, that we listened to while
driving down the highways of America, that we sang with gusto in the shower, that we
hummed softly as we put our children to sleep
The two men I remember from the furthest back in my Billboard days – circa mid-1960s were
Don Graham and Morris Diamond.  It may have been Don who told me that Terrell
Metheny was the next program director at WMCA in New York, replacing Ruth Meyer
“He’s a cooker,” Graham said.  In those days that translated into “he shouts a lot and has a
fast-paced show.”  In any case, he also set up a meeting for me with Bill Randle, whom I still
consider the greatest disc jockey who ever lived (to be honest, Chuck Blore and a few others
considered Don McKinnon as the best they ever heard).  I met Morris Diamond I guess at the
office.  My first impression of him, however, was standing up in the passenger seat of a
convertible as he and some driver (Red Schwartz?) turned the corner by the Shamrock Hotel
in Houston at some radio meeting.  He yelled out, “Hi, Claude!”
Chuck Chellman, a promotion man from Nashville, had a suite at that meeting.  I took my
brother’s kids upstairs and Chuck was kind enough to make sundaes for them and old “uncle
Claude” became an instant hero.  They still remember it.
Shortly thereafter, George Furness and Juggy Gales impinged themselves in my memory.  I
remember George glancing nervously around in my cubicle at 146th West Street to make sure
no one else was in hearing distance and telling me, sweating, that he’d just pulled a hitman off
the train en route to Philadelphia to kill a tipsheet publisher.  We all know the name of the guy,
so I won’t mention it here.  In the novel “George and Me” that I’m writing now, I call the guy
Buster Isner.  The reason for the hitman?  I think someone at some record label decided they
were tired paying him off.  Because – no lie – this guy was a bloodsucker!
I told this story to George Wilson and he said it was more than likely Nate McCalla who
“pulled” the hitman off that train to Phily. “It wouldn’t have been George, I know that.”
I knew that record promotion people were around in New York.  It’s just that my memory isn’t
what it used to be.  Someone is going to be irritated that I forgot them.  My apology.  I know
that Dick Galkin was famous in the Midwest.  And the Dickie Ware story, of course, became
famous.  Columbia Records was promoting the A side of a single by the Statler Brothers, but
Dickie took the B side to the country radio station in Kansas City (I think) and promoted
Flowers on the Wall” into a million-seller.  It literally made the group.
Record promotion men and women were not a major part of my life until we moved the
headquarters of Billboard magazine to Los Angeles.  But I do remember talking with Frank
Mancini and I’ve still got a photo of myself and music editor Paul Ackerman talking with
Mike Douglas and Sol Rabinowitz in what appears to be Paul’s cubicle.  

Mike was host of a syndicated talk television program produced in the Midwest.  Now and
then, he also came up with a hit record.
I remember a promotion man named George Jay, who looked like a Mississippi riverboat
gambler, talking some cops in an historic hotel in Nashville from arresting me and Shelby
Singleton and a couple of others.  We were just standing in the lobby, “the place to be,” and
the cops wanted us to move along.  Move?  The lobby of the old Andrew Jackson was so
crowded you had to struggle to breathe!  Chuck Chellman had a suite at that convention, too. 
He promoted the beer, draft, and the popcorn and, I suspect, the room as well (so I suspect the
suites didn’t cost him a lot).  Those were fun suites.  Huey Meaux, the record producer, was
with us in that lobby.  He later was arrested and sent to prison for child porn (he’d just done a
year for violating the Mann Act).  I hated to hear that.  I liked Huey.  Colorful character.  And,
evidently, dumb.
I remember New York names such as Ron Alexenburg, Buzzy Willis, and someone called Red
(probably Red Schwartz) who worked for Morris Levy.
In Los Angeles, there seemed to be more record promotion people around.  Maybe they had to
drive to get to 9000 Sunset and hungout to save gasoline.  Names I remember:  Jan Basham,
Don Whittemore, Ernie Farrell, Danny Davis, Pat Pipolo, Howard Childs.  I remember a
pretty girl named Edna Collison always asking when we were going to get it together and me,
so married you wouldn’t believe, merely laughing because I knew she had to be joking.  There
was Vince Cosgrave and Dick LaPalm … and I’ve missed so many more.  Ack!
Pat O’Day, via Ernie Farrell, once invited me up to his music session at KJR and invited in
several promotion people, including: Carol Ledyard of MGM Records, Paige Claire of
MCA, Sue Mezich of London; Jerry Whitman of Polydor; Rich Fitzgerald of Capitol,
Danny Holiday of A&M, Ron Davis of ABC, and Jerry Morris of Fidelity.
Remember Tony Richland, an independent record promotion man with a superb reputation? 
I’m sitting here all of these years later and, sadly, I can’t remember them all.  Almost forgot
Charlie Minor, who I thought was a pretty good guy, but who, according to Jan Basham, was
a “swine” and was killed by some girlfriend.  The scene got torrid right there before I left the
industry.  Drugs.  There are a couple of people I didn’t know very well, like Bruce Wendell,
and a couple of guys I never wanted to know, like Bruce Bird.  (I heard that Bird had passed
out word to get me, but that was more than likely just a rumor).  Maybe I would have liked
them if I’d known them better.  I don’t know.  But, by and large, we enjoyed a pretty good crop
of people in record promotion.  Some were fun to be around.  Some spread good news.  I’m
grateful to have known a great many of them and treasure their memories.

Don Sundeen:  “As in most businesses, well-made plans in the record business didn’t always
work out as planned, but sometimes even better.  Such was the situation I faced when I flew
into Houston one Monday morning to bring Rod Stewart’s first single from the new ‘Every
Picture Tells a Story’ album to Program Director Bill Young at the mighty hit machine KILT. 
The selected track was Tim Harden’s great ballad, ‘Reason to Believe’, sung with soul.  Bill
Young had an impeccable reputation, honest to a fault, so if he added your record everyone
would know it was legit.  He was also one of a carefully selected group of program directors at
big stations that participated in the ‘Gavin Call’, a weekly conference call that would discuss
the new releases and usually select certain records to add to their playlists all at the same time. 
Bill and Janet Gavin, whom I knew from San Francisco, had a weekly tip sheet that was
considered the most legitimate and unbiased reference on new music in the business.  They
were also classy and proud grandparents.

“So I sit in the Lobby with some Very Heavy other promo guys waiting my turn to see the
man; when my time came I went into the production room where he held court, eating a
Whataburger and fries and sipping a Coke … and the room smelled like it.  I greeted Bill and
said something like, ‘Got your next hit, 'Reason to Believe,' from Rod’s new album’. ‘You’re
on the wrong side’, Bill said, ‘I’m going with 'Maggie May’.’ ‘But we’ve already got 17
stations on 'Reason,' and expect at least 20 more tomorrow’, I pled, but it didn’t matter; the big
guys on the Gavin Call had decided to flip it. My stomach began to churn … this would not be
good news to the boss.  There was nothing I could do, so I thanked Bill for adding the record,
even the wrong side, and went out to find a telephone.  Cell phones wouldn’t exist for another
30-40 years, so it was a pay booth on the corner.  I called the office and broke the news, and as
expected the response was, ‘Well tell him to flip it back’.   ‘You tell him’, I replied, ‘I’ve got an
airplane to catch’. Of course ‘Maggie May’ went number 1, and ‘Every Picture Tells a Story
was the second biggest album I ever carried, behind only the Beatles', ‘Let It Be’.  So the plan
didn’t work out the way we planned it, it worked out better.”

Doc Wendell: “Summer is gone.  Now that I feel the impending psychic funk that hits me like a
Mack truck during the ‘autumn’ season in Los Angeles, my attention must drift back to some
great jazz records like this one that I just wrote about. Enjoy and hope all is grand.”
Chuck Buell:  “Last week, Claude, you wrote, "… the only thing I recalled about February
29th is I think it's Chuck Buell's birthday .…"  Well, I am, for lack of a better word, honored
that you remember my Leap Year birthday is February 29th! That does mean something to
those of us who look forward to a real birthday which happens only once every four years,
special personal days spaced out with three years of Unbirthdays in between!  And with one of
those singular occurrences coming up this very next year in 2016, I have made a note that you
are the first to acknowledge it this time around!   Meanwhile, I will continue to address the
usual Qs and As and FAQs regarding this Lunar Lunacy between now and then!”
Claude Hall:  “To be honest, musta have been Rollye.  But let me take advantage of the
occasion to also wish you a Happy Birthday.  I no longer celebrate my own birthday.  I don’t
recall a new Caddy wrapped in a blue bow parked outside the house on last Sept. 4.”
Joey Reynolds:  “I hope you are good to go.  To the store for Diet Pepsi, Walgreens for senior
day (Tuesday), to the toilet to sit and read (that's why you have 2 bathrooms), to the Mexican
buffet in the Casino (I suggest lots of hot sauce, Trumps revenge), dinner with Richard and
Barbara and the kids, watch the Mets win for a change, that's another reason to watch round
ball.  Where is Vox Jox?

Are you and Shaquille really retired?”
Claude Hall:  “Vox Jox is with Rollye James, now at voxjox.org.  Better learn how to find it
because Johnny Holiday and Ken Dowe have promised to write items.”

Rollye:  Earlier in the week, Claude asked me to think of promo people I knew.  I fear if I
mention them all, you’ll still be reading this tomorrow.  Thinking of standouts wasn't easy
either,  as the best were all known for their flamboyant antics.  Since being overtly gay in the
south in the 1960s wasn’t the norm, Eddie Lambert who worked in Miami for Merrec,
Mercury’s distribution arm, comes to mind.  His plaid sports jackets were noteworthy but the
image of him placing promo calls from the pink princess lighted-dial phone in his bedroom is
impossible to forget.  (Eddie fessed up to the phone in full detail, I didn’t actually see it.) 
Around the same time, same town, I discovered payola wasn’t dead, and WMBM night jock
and music director Donnie Gee discovered he ought to play the records for which he was paid. 
I’ll leave the promo guy’s name out of it as he’s still alive and went on to an accomplished
career, but I will tell you the record: Patti Drew’s “Tell Him”  (that you’ve never heard of it
might speak to how little was paid, and definitely to how little was played).  I was there when
the promo guy paid a visit.  He played “Tell Him” and I instantly loved it (usually a no-fail clue
that a record wouldn’t make it).  My enthusiastic utterance “Why isn’t this on the radio?”
raised a question of greater interest to the promo ace.  The ensuing  private conversation in the
control room was held at public decibel levels. 

Rollye:  But for every story about over-zealous promotion tactics, there are countless small
market (or unrated large market) stations that would have loved to see a record in the mail, let
alone an in person visit.  I kept that in mind when I handled promotion for Charlie Rich at the
height of his career.  Charlie needed no promotion by then, but his business manager was
producing a handful of unknowns under Charlie's name.  Given a choice, I’d drive rather than
fly, crossing the country with several boxes of  albums in the car.  If I saw a stick, I’d look for
the studio and would hand them 25 copies of the latest Charlie Rich album for giveaways.  It
paid off.  The loyalty I got from visits to unknown stations housed in dilapidated trailers was
long lasting— and not forgotten in the cases where PDs advanced to stations that “mattered”.  
Plus I remembered well what it was like being on their side of the desk, particularly when
working at FM stations before the advent of the field effect transistor (when they’d drift across
the dial, and nobody would notice because nobody was listening).  Ray Kassis at Miami’s
WEDR, a typical vintage FM station that favored paid religion and assorted block
programming including a dose of current top 40 which needed current hits, solved it by
offering every major label a half hour weekly show that proved irresistible to the egos of the
otherwise publicly unknown music pushers.  How much of the public actually heard “Record
Review” every weekday afternoon at 5 was debatable, but the one rule that wasn’t, was the
promo guys had to leave behind the records they played.  Product problem solved.  Columbia’s
Chuck Thaggard (who was plucked from his job in the record department at the downtown
Burdine's Sunshine Fashions department store) and Liberty’s Danny Alvino were entertaining. 

Rollye:  Working at CBS Records in Nashville provided constant contact with promo folks
both in the country music community and within the Columbia/Epic family, but few of those
stories are printable.  And honestly, they pale compared to what was going down in Pittsburgh,
but I better consider my well-being before spilling those beans.  Tommy James may still not
fully understand how he became a hit there, but it was a long standing racket that usually didn’t
produce happy conclusions for the artists who were generally better off when they remained
unknown and unaware.  Los Angeles… well Claude covered that nicely, though I didn’t see the
Scotti Brothers mentioned, and I’ll leave it at that.  I won't begin to get into convention tales,
which could fill books (maybe some future column).  But I second Claude's request that you
contribute your stories.  I know John Rook has a lot of them, Pittsburgh and Chicago in
particular.  Speaking of John….

John Rook:  It's been quite a year for me. Three hospitalizations in intensive care for heart and
kidney failure but feeling much better, was allowed to return home yesterday. No longer able
to drive, I'm so fortunate to have Jason taking great care of both me and sister Dot. On a
regular basis he always finds locations I've not been to before. We are so fortunate living in
such a beautiful place:

Rollye:   I talked with John at length on his birthday (Oct. 9th) and he’s sounding great.  He
lost over 70 pounds in two weeks (water weight from the heart failure) and is doing much
better, I’m so pleased to report.  And lookin' good too:

John @78 (in his yard in Coeur d'Alene)

RollyeRon Brandon’s birthday was a day later, on October 10th (76— that can’t be right, I
thought, as I remembered he was born in 1939— oh wait a minute… doncha just hate those
reminders that too much time has slipped by?).  Glad to report that Ron's been having an
uneventful recovery, but sad to notice the news on his Facebook page that he’s been battling
throat cancer.  (It’s stage 4, but fortunately the most curable kind.)  I will keep both John and
Ron in my prayers.

Rollye:  But very sorry to report that Jerry David Melloy has passed away.  Among radio folks,
Jerry will be best remembered for his tenure at WHAS in Louisville. (I promoted many a
record to him.)  Among those of us who knew him, he'll never be forgotten as a very nice guy. 

Rollye:  So good to hear from Bob Hamilton.  If you’re wondering what he’s been doing of
late, check out his website.  There’s a link to your left, or access it here… and always fun to
hear from Chuck Buell (yeah, I wrote the birthday mention last week). Always indebted to
Chuck for contributing to the column…

CB (which stands for Contribution Boy)

Rollye: You ought to try it too. info@voxjox.org will reach me with whatever’s on your mind. 

Timmy Manocheo:  This video & song were done by a good friend of mine, Dan Markell. He
is the singer in this video. The older gentleman, playing the hot guitar licks, is Tony Valentino
of The Standells, which was quite a groovy band, from the mid to late 60's. Please watch & let
us know what you think.

Rollye: With a title like “Late Night Radio” how could I not like it?  And I was pleasantly
surprised it wasn’t about overnight talk show callers... you know, the ones who are most
resplendent every full moon.  Instead it was a tribute to every long suffering Johnny Midnight
among us.   The song is catchy and the graphics might even be better.  One portion touting a
broadcast school (at the 2:00 minute mark) made me laugh out loud: "If you act now, this
entire life changing career course can be yours...," with a great screen disclaimer to boot.  Life
changing indeed.

Rollye:  Couldn’t close without mentioning the loss of Billy Joe Royal, which brings us full
circle to Claude’s opening thoughts on promo folks in that Billy emerged from Bill Lowrey’s
stable of artists in Atlanta, which has its own rich history, as does the timing of “Down In The
Boondocks”.   Lowrey took “Boondocks” to Columbia at the exact right moment.  The label
immediately made Royal and the record a part of the Summer of ’65 crop of rock and roll
artists destined for heavy promotion, being newly signed for the label in the wake of Mitch
“Columbia will never release rock and roll album” Miller’s ouster.   It was the beginning of a
career of chart records for Royal that would last for almost three decades (Hot 100 and then
Country).  He was touring literally up to the minute he died, as more dates were booked
beyond his unexpected death in his sleep at home in North Carolina on October 6th.  RIP Billy.

RollyeDrop me a line if you find time, and take care of yourself until next Monday when we
reconvene here at voxjox.org

picture of Epic's Sol Rabinowitz, Mike Douglas, Billboard's Paul Ackerman & Claude Hall
picture of John Rook
picture of John Rook