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Happy Times  
L-R   Claude Hall’s brother-in law Richard Schwartz, Bobby Vee and wife Karen,  Barbara Hall


by Rollye James
Claude Hall

Claude Hall:  “I’ve lost another friend.  A damned good friend.  Robert Thomas Velline, who
used the name – suggested to him, I understand, by Bob Dylan – of Bobby Vee.  A 15-year-old
whose music career was launched “the day the music died” and who always paid tribute to the
songs thereafter of Buddy Holly.  I still hear his records down at the supermarket on their
sound system.  Especially “Take Good Care of My Baby.”  But it’s not his music career I wish
to discuss; that’s in the newspapers here and abroad.  The man I knew was a devoted family
man.  Loved his three sons and daughter.  Loved his wife and spent a small fortune trying to
solve her lung condition; I discussed quite a few months ago the article in a medical journal
about her medical history.  Loved his friends and I don’t recall him ever mentioning anyone he
didn’t like … he seemed to like everyone.  And I was grateful that he liked me.  His
Alzheimer’s was public knowledge.  His close friends knew it.  We shall especially miss him.”

Rollye:  “There’s been a lot written about Bobby Vee in the past several days and among those
who knew him, the assessment was unanimous.  He was truly one of the good guys.  Music
critics too hip for their own good panned him, but luminaries including Bob Dylan who got his
professional start playing piano on some of Bobby’s early dates, revered him.  Bobby was
perfect for “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes,” which I consider to be a rock and roll
production masterpiece. There’s more going on in that record than the critics seemed to notice. 
I think Woody Roberts agrees….”

Woody Roberts to Claude:  “I am sorry to hear of your loss.  From reading your books and
emails through the years I know how special your friendship has been with Bobby.  In fact I've
learned a lot about Bobby from your writings.
“The arraignments by Snuff Garrett on Bobby Vee's records were perfect.  Liberty Records. 
Funny that I remember Liberty 45s would get scratchy after just a few plays.  Bobby's hits
always brightened up a music sweep.  'Take Good Care of My Baby' is still a favorite to hear.  I
liked 'Devil or Angel' (though no one can top The Clovers, seared into my brain at teen
dances) and 'Rubber Ball' was fun to play.  I spoke with Bobby Vee on the phone a couple of
times when I was GM at KTSA. 
“From the moment of my December 1960 arrival from the PD job at WLOD to start a deejay
gig on KTSA, musicians became a part of my life along with radio.  It was Doug Sahm who
introduced me to the performing musician culture.  As a deejay, PD and GM I always greeted
the record promotion guys and local musicians with their new single in hand and took a
moment to listen.  I went into the studio with bands and arrangers. 
“So there was a folk rock band on Columbia and one night I was listening to their LP because
their cover graphic had grabbed my eye, the band was Appaloosa.  I heard a song.  Replayed
it.  It had a strong melodic hook, the chorus needed some reworking.  But here was a tune with
hit potential, not this version by Appaloosa but with the right producer and the right singer. 
Hmm.  Bobby Vee!  He just popped into my mind, his winning streaked had ended before the
Beatles.  He'd only scored one hit in his the last dozen or so records.  If nothing else it would
make a strong B side.  Next day I got hold of the national promotion guy for Liberty and told
him I like to speak with Bobby about a song.  Of course he wanted me to do it to him and he'd
pass it on to the manager but I said, ask Bobby to give me a call. Two days later Bobby called
and we talked.  A really nice person.  I told him about the song and a few days later Bobby
called again, said his manager had to approve the song and had passed on it.  Bobby seemed
unsure of that decision, almost apologetic.  Maybe it had something to do with publishing. 
Anyway, it was a mystery to me because at the time, 1969, to my ears it was so very very much
a Snuff and Bobby song. 
“And can you believe it, I found the song on YouTube here!  We do live in amazing times, to
pull up a non hit on an obscure album forty seven years after....   And I hadn't heard it since
then. Good vibes of Bobby tonight and my best thoughts to you.”

Burt Sherwood:  “Bill Diehl sent this to me…he does the obits for ABC……I am sure you will
fin d it the same I did ….very sad.”

David Gleason:  “My condolences to Claude on the passing of his friend Bobby Vee.  Sad
news for all of us who ‘played his hits when they were currents’.”

Bruce Miller Earle to Claude:  “First learning of the passing of Ricci Ware was a huge blow.
Now the news of Bobby Vee's passing on is more unsettling news. I know how close the Vee'
were to your family and I send my heart felt condolences to his family and Los Hall. You take
care my friend. “

Jim Ramsburg: “You may have heard already, Bobby Vee passed this morning at 73.  A good
obit/memorial appears in the startribune.com.”

Roger Lifeset:  “I was very sorry to learn yesterday of the passing of Bobby. I knew you were
close with him & his family which you have expounded about on many occasions. A R&R
legend for sure….”

Bobby Vee 1962 arriving in The Netherlands

Rollye:  “When I heard the news, my emotions were mixed. Alzheimer’s Disease has a
daunting trajectory. No two cases are alike but far too many of them have a lengthy difficult
ending. For that, I’m grateful that Bobby is in a better place, but even so, it seems too soon.  It
was only a couple weeks ago that Bobby’s daughter Jenny read Claude’s ‘Popsie and
McCloud’ to her dad and wrote to Claude that Bobby loved it.  Timing is everything.  I’m so
glad it worked out that Jenny was able to share it with him.  (Bobby is also mentioned in
Claude’s novel ‘Murder at the Busted Bird’ and is featured in Claude’s ‘Popsie’s Great
Camping Adventure.’)   When I saw the photo Claude sent that I placed at the top of this page,
I figured it was from the era when Bobby and Claude were Bel Air neighbors.  Reading that it
was taken only three years ago in Claude’s Las Vegas patio, just before Bobby performed at the
Freemont Experience downtown, was mind-blowing.  Everyone looked in the prime of life.  I  
think I’ve read about every obit that has appeared this week. One that I particularly liked was

Robby Vee handled his grief over the weekend in a manner that would no doubt be met with
approval from Bobby.”

Robby Vee:  “3 Shows in two days!.  It's been a tough few days with the passing of my Father
Oct 24th.  At the end of the day, I feel most comfortable on a stage... Billy's is the venue that
my father would come see us play... it has the feel of a hometown gig for me and with his
failing health, it was a place that welcomed him with understanding and kindness.  It only
seems fitting that we are booked there this weekend.  We originally had planned to do a
'Record Release' Party for our NEW CD 'Blue Moon Blue' Friday Night and a Costume Party
Saturday Night, but with my attention needing to be on family this past few weeks, I kinda
didn't give these themed shows proper marketing attention.  'Blue moon Blue' is a CD I put
together for the Alzheimer's Foundation of America to raise funds and awareness.  So, I
thought we'd just have fun with it... If you wanna come out and donate to Alzheimers or wear a
costume... or whatever!  All good...anything goes.  The person with the best 'King Creole'
Costume wins a cadillac :)  (King Creole can't participate).  ...come on out and celebrate the
spirit of Rock-n Roll and create some much needed good cheer with us.”  
[Here’s info on 'Blue moon Blue']

Rollye:  “Proving the adage that deaths come in threes, I’ve got two more that sadden me.  One
is the passing of the legendary Herb Kent.  Herb was 88 and had about as colorful a radio life
as anyone might imagine.  With over 70 non-stop years on the air, he probably had the longest
continuously running show in radio (on several stations sequentially but never with any real
downtime).  His influence is undeniable— particularly in Chicago.  Dee Clark hung around
WGES as a kid.  He brought his group “The Mellow Tones” in one day, hoping Herb Kent
(who on the air called himself “the cool gent”) would manage them.  When Herb declined due
to a lack of time, Clark wondered if it’d be alright if he renamed the group “The Kool Gents
in his honor.   (Doo wop fans will know The Kool Gents had a couple 45s in the mid 50s on
VJ, “I Just Can’t Help Myself” being my fave.)   Dee Clark went on to fame with “Raindrops
(and many others).   Like a lot of soul jocks, Herb had his own language.  He’d refer to a good
looking woman as a “cute feznecky with a mellow fern.”  Exactly what it meant was anybody’s
guess— but it didn’t stop records being released with it in the title, such as  'Feznecky', an
instrumental on Chess by J.C. Daniels, or 'Mellow Feznecky' by The Dukay’s (Gene
Chandler’s group).  Occasionally the phrase would inexplicably wind up in lyrics, like The
Accents’ “New Girl” on George Leaner’s One-derful label.  I talked about that, and several
other things with Herb on the air about 10 years ago. If you’d like to hear it, here it is.

“How Kent made it 88 years is an even bigger mystery.  His multi-decade alcohol and cocaine
problem is chronicled in his book, “The Cool Gent:  The nine lives of radio legend Herb Kent
as is his bout with esophageal cancer (which he kept hidden from his employer, never missing
a show).  Probably his most remember tenure was on WVON.  (He was instrumental in
Leonard Chess buying the station in 1963.)   You can hear some sparse air checks on youtube,
or if you’re a ReelRadio subscriber (you are a Reel Radio subscriber, aren’t you?  If not, you
can rectify that here for a pittance) you can find this one on reelradio.com.  Kent had one of the
truly great radio voices.  And unlike so many in urban radio today trying to sound like they
came from the streets, Herb was a master at elocution.  One of the stories he liked to tell dated
back to the early 50s when a dance studio chose his voice.  It worked very well, bringing
throngs of young African American girls to the location.  Problem was, the owners didn’t care
if their money was also green, they wanted white faces.  They went to the station to give Mr.
Kent a piece of their mind only to discover that he didn’t look quite like they expected.   The
whole saga was somewhat perplexing to Herb who apparently did his job too well.

“His funeral last week drew thousands— and rightfully so. The Chicago Reader writer was
obviously a fan. Here’s his story.   And here’s the obit from the Tribune.

“From Cool Gent to Cool Ghoul—  also sad to note the passing of John Zacherle.  Horror
movie hosts were bred from the lack of daytime programming most network affiliated TV
stations faced in the 50s.  Virtually every market had one (or more).   M.T. Graves (Charlie
Baxter) in Miami, Tarantula Ghoul’s ‘House of Horror’ in Portland (hosted by Suzanne
Waldron, whose repertoire included a pop song “Graveyard Rock”, that she did with ‘The
Gravediggers’, of course), and later from the early '60s, Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) in
Cleveland,  immediately come to mind.  But when it comes to who was first—  that goes to
Vampira, the Finnish lady hired by KABC-TV7 in 1954.  It lasted a year, but the lady was
smart— she retained the rights to the name and slithered over to KHJ-TV9 for a while.

“On the East Coast, the granddaddy of the genre is probably John Zacherle, who Dick Clark
dubbed “The Cool Ghoul”.   Whether Zacherle was actually first in the east is debatable but his
versatility isn’t.  Hired by Channel 10 (WCAU-TV) in Philadelphia in 1954, he originally was
interspersed with western movies in “Action in the Afternoon.”   In 1957, he shifted into the
horror host role as Roland (emphasis on ‘land’— roLAND) in “Shock Theater.” His cast
included his wife “My Dear”, a role easy to cast since she didn’t exist— her casket was the
star, of what essentially were comedy bits.   Fortunately this was black and white, so a lot of
hershey’s chocolate syrup was used to simulate blood. In 1958, WABC-TV7 in New York
snapped him up .  “Ro-land” became ‘Zacherley’.  “My Dear” became ‘Isobel.’  The movies
continued to be awful.  Shifting to WOR-TV9 in 1960, the promotion included “Zacherley for
President” (even Nixon had nothing to fear from his candidacy).  By ’63 he was hosting
Chiller Theater” on WPIX-TV11, along with some cartoons— but what happened in ’64
forecast what was to come.  With absolutely no connection to rock and roll, and at a time when
The Beatles would change the landscape, 46 year old John Zacherle wound up on Channel 47.

“To digress a moment,  Newark, NJ got it’s first (and only, until WWOR moved their City of
License there) commercial television station in 1948 when Channel 13, WATV debuted.  Ten
years later it became WNTA, owned by a television syndication company.  Interestingly,
among the shows aired was a dance show, but in 1961, the lights went out.  Channel 13 was
sold to an educational group (which eventually merged and became WNET).  In 1964,
however, commercial television was back on the air in the old Channel 13 studios located on
the upper floors of Newark’s Mosque Theater, as UHF Channel 47.  One of the first shows they
aired was Disc-O-Teen, hosted by John Zacherley.

Zacherle in 1968 with teenage fan at Grand Central Station

“After doing the dance show for three years, he wound up doing mornings on New York’s
WNEW-FM, and survived the move to progressive rock.  In 1969, at 51 years old, he was 
NEW-FM’s night jock.  Two years later he moved to WPLJ, where he remained for 10 years!
He’s been seen in movies, heard on records (including his own hit, “Dinner With Drac” and
one by the Grateful Dead, where he's heard MCing their concert at the Fillmore East), and he
still wasn’t done.  As recent as the 90s, he was on the staff of New York’s K-Rock.   He was
making appearances at various genre conventions until last year.  And now, just days before 
Halloween,  he’s made his final exit.  Never married but close to his extended family, he was as
nice and genuine in person, as he was campy and scary on television.  Here’s the Philly obit. 

Bob Levinson:  “Received a copy of WHEN THE SCREAMING STOPS; THE DARK HISTORY
OF THE BAYCITY ROLLERS by Simon Spence, newly published in the U.K., and got a kick
out of discovering a bunch of references to me back when I was heavily involved in the music
industry, beginning with this one: ‘The Kroffts were using the trusted Bob Levinson to act as
PR for the new show. His firm, Levinson Associates, had offices in LA (where Levinson lived
and worked) and in New York, and represented teen stars such as David Cassidy and The
Osmonds as well more credible acts such as Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Fleetwood
Mac.’ Dem wuz da days…” 

Don Goldberg:  “Thought you'd appreciate this story from Jay Gilbert in Cincinnati:   

“20 years ago this Saturday [10/29], I took part in one of radio's greatest pranks. It's not
famous, because it only lasted about ten seconds. You had to be there.   It was a 1996 concert
in Denver by the Who, sponsored by one rock radio station as a very public affront to the other
rock radio station. Ah, but the other station (us) managed to smuggle a portable spotlight into
the arena and beam their large logo above the stage just as the Who was coming on! The
audience, well aware of the two stations' rivalry, let out a big cheer.

“I had personally smuggled in the spotlight.  It was disassembled and hiding under a blanket in
my wheelchair. Mary rolled me into McNichols Sports Arena, right past the security detail that
was patting down every other person in line. They even held open the door for us.  This had
been planned for weeks by my son Russ, promotion director for KRFX. He had procured the
wheelchair, etc., and tickets to a private box where we could assemble the spotlight during the
opening act. Russ entered the stadium separately and joined us later, because he was already
well-known to the other station as a satanic spoiler of their events.

“At the right moment, we unwrapped the warmed-up spotlight and aimed it at a flat dark video
screen directly above the stage.  At first it was way out of focus, and all the audience saw was a
fuzzy jiggling blob. Eventually everyone saw the KRFX logo, and cheered.  They understood.

“Time to escape!  We unplugged the light, took it apart (still hot ... ouch) and stuck it back
under the blanket. Another accomplice got in the wheelchair and Russ rolled him out, leaving
only Mary and me in the seats as security came bursting in a few minutes later. Dum de dum,
we were just a middle-aged couple who knew nothing. The perfect crime! It got some press
coverage the next day.  By the way, the concert was very good.”

Rollye:  “That story came from Jay Gilbert’s Facebook page. If you’re on Facebook, check
out Jay’s page here.  Jay is wonderfully creative and not shy at sharing some of his stories.   I
particularly liked the recent recollection of the James Brown Apollo Concert LP, which
included hoards of screaming fans, who were about as far removed from the Harlem New York
crowd as anyone could get.   (The stand ins, unaware of their role, were white high school kids
in Cincinnati.  You’ll never listen to that album the same way again.)”

Big Jay Sorenson (to Joey Reynolds): “Omg you are mentioned.. ”

Rollye:  “Of course Joey was mentioned.  The story is about Buffalo in the ‘60s.  How could
Joey Reynolds not be mentioned?   And even if you weren’t there, you’ll read some fun stuff.”

Don Graham:   “We are indeed delighted to share this stunning news.  The legendary and
iconic Joey Reynolds, ‘America’s gift to radio and TV’, got a CD player in his car.  Truly a
giant step for mankind!!”

Dandy Don Whittemore:  “Being funny isn't always as easy as it appears to the unfunny in our
widening circle of confusion.  Who else but Joey Reynolds would do or could do schtick on
inserting a foreign object into a cavity?  Not everyone can get slipping a CD  into a slot and
find funny.  Only a mind that's always cooking funny business for his audience can.  The
upside is that your incompetent wit, I meant incomparable wit got you out of Buffalo.  A huge

Rollye:  “I’m certain it was hilarious, as only Joey can be.  But I searched in vain to find it on
youtube.  Joey— do you have a link?  Meanwhile it was a lovely surprise to hear from Deana
Martin.  She’s in Branson— and her new CD, “Swing Street” is everywhere.  Best deal is to
order directly from her site here

Randy West:  “Joey is really engaging and thoroughly professional as a talk-meister. The years
at WOR really polished his act. He's great!  The energy is conversational and very listenable.
And he has the mark of a mature act.  The time spent listening - - - not the audience TSL, the
HOST TSL, listening to his guests!  He's got it!!!”

Rollye:  “Great line, Randy— and appropriate.  How many hosts actually listen to guests? 
Some of them are pathetically funny when they follow a guest’s heartfelt thoughts that, to
anyone paying attention, demand further investigation, with a totally unrelated question.  (We
used to mimic these lame performers with lines like, ‘Other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how did
you like Dallas?,’ but the current crop of talkers has turned that brush off into a level of
attention they can only hope to achieve.)  Randy is not alone in noticing Joey’s skill.   Stephen
Sorokoff in Times Square Chronicles had this to say. 

“But as Joey noticed, to some writers, once a disc jockey, always a disc jockey…”

Mel Phillips:  “While March 13th became the most important day of 1967 for those of us
involved in the launch of WRKO, there were many events that made the year eventful. In May,
Elvis Presley & Priscilla Beaulieu tied the knot in Las Vegas, the Casino Royale premiere was
our first major promotion ("Wear a trench coat and sunglasses to the 4 am showing of Casino
Royale and get in free.") created a riot that made front page news - even in the New York
Times. That was the first clue that we were starting to make a dent in the Boston radio

Rollye: “The event was the lead item in the obit of John Markle, the Columbia Pictures PR guy
who put the promotion together:  You’ll note it has something in common with all the
coverage, like that of Boston TV news here—  call letters aren’t mentioned.  But Mel knows
who was involved— and so do WRKO fans..”

Mel Phillips:  “In May, The Soviet Union ratifies a treaty with the U.S. and the UK, banning
nuclear weapons from outer space. The Beatles release the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club
Band LP in June and it tops the album charts all summer long. And in June, "Respect" goes to
#1 for Aretha Franklin... 

                   Al Gates                                     Joel Cash                                          J.J. Jeffrey

                                  Arnie Ginsburg                                      Chuck Knapp

Reunion dates to remember:
Friday, June 2, 2017 Reunion Dinner in the Crowne Plaza (Newton) Charles Ballroom starting
at 6 pm. Jordan Rich (WRKO, WBZ) will emcee. Parking fees will be waived with front desk
validation for those driving to the event. Email invitations will be sent out in the spring.

          Jordan Rich                      George Capalbo Jr.                                        Art Vuolo

Saturday, June 3, 2017 7 pm - 11 pm: Live on WRKO & Backbone Network streaming
(produced by George Capalbo Jr.) featuring a lineup including Al Gates, Joel Cash, J.J.
Jeffrey, Chuck Knapp, Arnie Ginsburg and other WRKO Radio greats (TBD)...

Art Vuolo will video tape the reunion, a copy of which will go into the National Radio Hall
of Fame in Chicago...

“Reservations for rooms at the Crowne Plaza (Newton) Check-in Friday (June 2) Checkout
Sunday (June 4). Call 617-969-3010 and ask for special "WRKO Reunion" rate of $159 per
night (tax not included). You'll pay about $175 after tax but more if you park your car at the
hotel. We suggest using a cab or car service getting to the hotel and while staying there...
We'll see you there in just about 7 months.”