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George Wilson

by Claude Hall
Rollye James
Claude: A great many people can write, but only writers write.  Writing is like a passion, it
consumes a writer.  I wrote my first “novel” at age 9.  It was only 10,000 words long.  That
same year, a senior high school student who lived up the street in Brady, TX, took one of my
poems and turned it in for a class assignment and received an A grade.  Wish I had copies of
these items, but that’s probably just as well.  They probably weren’t very good no matter what
I may have thought at the time.  Right after you finish something you’ve written, you think it’s
glorious.  Afterwards, you know better.  You realize it still needs work.  A writer spends all of
his life trying to learn how to write better.  That includes Fyodor Dostoevsky and that includes
me.  I think it’s writing that keeps me alive.
         Right now, I’ve written about 27,000 words on “George and Me.”  It’s about George
Wilson Crowell and, of course, many of the people he knew.  George Wilson was born July
18, 1929, in Katonah, NY.  That makes him just three years older than I am.     I’m writing a
segment now about Jimmy Rabbitt and Lee Baby Simms with George and an FBI agent. 
George thought of Lee Baby almost like a son.  And I know for a fact that Lee Baby looked up
to George like a father.  When Rabbitt and Simms were together on the air at KCBQ, they were
difficult to control.  On the other hand, George thought of the pair as a “happening” and was
pleased to have them together on one of his radio stations.  He would secretly sneak into San
Diego and listen to them.  More for his own pleasure than any concept of critiquing their
shows; how could you criticize that which was both genius as well as spontaneous?
         When I merely thought about writing this novel – a weird idea in the back of my mind --
I wasn’t sure that I could do it.  I wasn’t sure that I knew enough about many of the characters. 
I knew George fairly well.  We’d been what George referred to as “business associates” for
more than forty decades and close friends for many of the latter years.  His wedding reception
for his last wife, Jackie, was tossed by his daughter Terry and son-in-law Rob Moorhead here
at the Hall Estate, Hummingbird Palace, and Apricot Orchard.  The fare included crawdads in
tribute to his days in New Orleans radio and, of course, a wedding cake.  Barbara and I were at
the wedding.
         I wish that our paths had crossed back in those New Orleans days … for I was a reporter
about that same time on the New Orleans Times-Picayune when he was managing WSHO.  But
there existed an animosity between all newspapers and radio in those days.  I had interviewed
Rabbitt on cassette once.  And I knew Lee Baby fairly well.  Anyway, the novel was going to
be mostly fiction.
         I gave up on the book a couple of times … then would drift back.  He was a great friend. 
Not perfect, but friends don’t have to be perfect.  He deserved a book.  He would never write
it.  I had written a long short story about L. David Moorhead.  Why not a book on George?
 First there was Todd Storz and Bill Stewart, then Gordon McLendon and Bill Stewart
After them, without question, Chuck Blore.  After Chuck, without question, George Wilson
Truly, the next person in line was far, far behind these outstanding radio men.  Their
contributions to radio around the world were vast.  That kind of radio is virtually ancient
history.  Sad.
         Will I meet George and many other friends in Heaven?  If there’s a Heaven, I think I’ve
done enough good and avoided doing enough bad in order to get there.  I think George will be
there.  My problem is going to be, I surmise, that a vast majority of my friends didn’t always
have good intentions.  They may not get to where I think I’m going.  If I actually get there. 
Quien sabe?  I’m going to miss them terribly.  I sure hope there’s no Hell.  Hell would be such
a waste of good people.

Dancing Tomato

In the past Bruce Miller Earle was reluctant to discuss his medical condition.  All of this time,
I considered him a hero.  And still do.  He is one of my closest and dearest friends.  BME
“Good to hear from you my dear amigo.  As for me I am approaching being six months out
from my liver transplant.  My medical team, who I see monthly, tell me that I am ahead of the
curve with my recuperation.  My mind is clear and slowly but surely I am resuming to work
with a few clients on select engineering projects.  I turn 65 this coming January 1 and I am
truly blessed that God has given me a second chance of being with family and friends for more
time to come.  This entire health journey of two years and being about one month away from
dying before my transplant gave me a lot of time to review life and my comportment over the
years.  One of the sayings learned from the Mexicans is when death does comes for you it must
find you alive.  By the time they rolled me into surgery I was alive and at peace with eyes wide
open and ready to meet my maker.  You know me … I have never been good at holding back
when it comes to saying what is on my mind. A very somber cast of family members was by
my side as they wheeled me into surgery.  Then Cynthia ask me what was I thinking at that
moment. I replied past prayers only two things.  One, if all goes well I will have survived and
see you all in about six hours.  Two, if not I will eventually, God willing, see all of you on the
other side.   
“I am very happy to see that you and Rollye have combined forces to bring back VOX JOX in
its original form.  I read it weekly and look forward to it every Monday morning.  As you
abhor telephone I, detest social media and almost all forms of email, etc.  While not being my
political cup of tea I do respect Condoleezza Rice in many aspects.  Once she was ask why she
did not utilize email.  Her reply was for one it is impersonal and secondly it is indelible.  About
30 years ago a seasoned telecom friend some twenty years my senior laid it all out for me.  He
said in my lifetime I would see all forms of communication being monitored and archived.  At
that time I thought he was really way out there and wondered what he was smoking.  Now I
clearly see he was spot on with his predications and then some.  At this point I have no social
media connections inclusive of ‘In Your Face Book’.  I maintain this email address and my
family and friends have my phone cell phone number.  My snail mail address is 165 Wolf
Creek Pass in Wimberley, Tx 78676-5932.  I am sorry to hear of the downturn in the LA legal
business that has affected John Hall. But at the same time I am relieved in knowing that your
first born is back home to be at the side of you and Barbara.  Please give him my best and tell
him to keep the faith.  Well for the moment this is all of the news that is late and great in the
Lone Star State.  I look forward to your reply.  You take care of yourself.  Un abrazo,”
Claude:  “I’ve told the story – probably more than once – of what more than likely was my
first NAB convention in Washington and these two characters came into the suite I was
operating for Billboard and sat a case of Wild Turkey in the center of the floor.  Then, BME
began to perform.  Jay Blackburn, his partner in radio for many years, was his straight man. 
BME did a show that kept everyone roaring with laughter.  Those that weren’t already rolling
on the floor.  A year or two later, the host of a local TV show did a show in my suite at an NAB
convention in Chicago that was sensational.  But BME was without question the ‘best ever’.  I
have loved this hombre since.  Radio was blessed when he felt in love with a mere transistor
when he was a kid.”
Burt Sherwood:  “Bill Diel of ABC and WNEW was kind enough to send this to me.   I knew
of Bernice Judis, she was the first woman manager ... and I had never heard her speak before
this ... she was the pioneer and quite the lady in Broadcasting.  A neighbor of mine gave me all
six LP's that were produced at KDKA saluting the  station's 50th.  I put the LP with 50s and
60s on my turntable and was surprised  to find a section on my old station WNEW and an
actual interview with the legendary Bernice Judis.  I made a CD off the LP, took it over to ABC
and edited the WNEW portion for an mp3 ... runs about 2:49.   I think you'll like it.”
Claude Hall:  “My enormous thanks to Burt Sherwood and Bill DielBernice Judis, of
course, is in all of the history books that deal with broadcast communication.  I’m one of the
countless in radio who love radio yet had never heard her speak.  I don’t know about you, but I
was as excited as a little kid!  The link wouldn’t translate with Burt’s note above, but I’m
sending it on to Rollye James and perhaps she’ll use her magic so that you’ll be able to tap
into her voice.  [My pleasure, Claude-- here it is.]  About Ken Dowe, below.  He had promised
to write an item for Vox Jox.  I treasure this sort of thing.  I promised, in return, to send him
what I’ve written so far on ‘George and Me’.”
Ken Dowe:  “HaHa!  Sorry, Claude.  I've been busy ... and lazy.  You are on the top of my list.
Honest!  I am leaving in the morning to take our 19 year old out of his OK STATE dorm so he
and I can hit the Don Williams show at the casino in OK City, Friday night.  We love Don.  If
you ever listen to his ‘Good Old Boys Like Me’, you'll have my bio. Then, I am headed to the
big city of Hermitage, AR, where I will meet my buddy (retired doc from MD Anderson) for a
few days of deer hunting.  After Thanksgiving, back to Santa Fe and hope to run into our friend
Tom Russell again.  I will write the report you want between now and then.  And, I want that
book of yours!  I can't remember if I sent you this, Claude.  If I didn't, I should have.  I mailed
to a few friends.  All our music and radio friends who have not seen Glen Campbell's last tour,
should watch (‘I'll Be Me) on NetFlix.  I'll get those comments on B.R. McLendon to you
soon!!  Your friend, from Deep in the Heart of Texas.  Ken, to all:  If you have not watched
Glen's tour (after he learned he has Alzheimer's), you should watch (NETFLIX) ‘I'll Be Me’.  I
don't know Glen, and was never a huge fan.  I am now.  

“‘I'll Be Me’ is extraordinarily poignant, amusing, and highly entertaining.  I am amazed that
he spent months on the road in a (mostly) gentle fog, surrounded by a loving family and
friends, while presenting his last live shows that were simply ... incredible.  The part of his
brain that caused him to soar with his music and sing in a stirring voice, while unaware of his
whereabouts and speaking in cliches, was fascinating.   It is a warmly touching journey. You
will very much enjoy taking it with him.  ‘I'm Not Gonna Miss You’ (from the documentary) is
sad but terrific.  It won the Grammy for Best Country Song. Deservedly.  And, also is
nominated for an Academy Award.  A touching, funny, and tragic documentary ... all at once.
 It's rare when I watch any film more than one time.  I've already seen ‘I'll Be Me’ three ... and
downloaded 4 of the songs for the ‘favorites’ library on my iPhone.  This is a Platinum Special.
 Enjoy yourselves.”
Claude:  “I believe the Glen Campbell special is the same one aired on PBS.  Just great.  The
Hall Family had tears in our eyes.  Alzheimer’s runs in my mother’s family; she died with it. 
The last time I saw her was in a Houston care unit and she didn’t know me and I bawled like a
baby.  Now, of course, Bobby Vee is suffering from the disease.  One of his sons wrote me a
week or two ago that they’d placed him in a care unit.”
Hal Whitney:  “I just found out from Jeff Brown, Frank Holler's brother-in-law, that a
graveside service will be held at Rose Hill Cemetery in Rocky Hill, CT, this Friday, Nov. 13.”
Claude:  "Sorry that I’m late with the above note.”
Janet Kriz:  “That was a lovely post about Bobby Neil Foster.  I do care, too, and I have
received so many lovely emails from ‘The Old Gang’.  Every one was loving.  Thanks for the
tribute to Foster. x0x0x  Yours in Harmony.”
Claude:  “Timmy Manocheo sent word that Gene Norman, once a personality on KFWB and
founder of GNP Records, died Nov. 2 at his LA home in the Hollywood Hills.  He was 93.  But
Rollye James sent me a note that she’s going to write about Norman.  She can do so much
better than I can.”

Rollye:  About the only thing I know is that even on his worst days, Claude does a better job of
writing than I do, but I did want to share my thoughts on Gene Norman
         I had been talking about Gene the day before I got Timmy's note, cursing myself for not
asking about Berna-Dean.  Berna-Dean was a New Orleans soul singer.  Most of the stuff she
did was written and produced by Dave Bartholomew and was released on Imperial.  “He's
Mine” and “One Gal In Town” are absolute classics.  There's not much known about her, and
while Dave Bartholomew is still alive, at 97 it's doubtful I'll connect with him, let alone have
a conversation.
         Then I remembered there was one side out on her in 1964 on GNP Crescendo, and just as
I was wondering if Gene might be up to speaking, I got Tommy’s note.  Gene's passing is a
loss, made worse by how few people remember his many contributions, not only to the radio
and the record industries, but for an unbelievably wide range of live performances he put on
throughout Los Angeles over the years.  His official obit is online at GeneNorman.com
Several of the high points of his career are mentioned.  As for GNP Crescendo, a quick glance
at the label roster alone reveals how eclectic, even daring, Gene was. Most top 40 fans
remember The Seeds, but for me it was all about Rene Touzet
         Rene, a Cuban born bandleader who played with Desi Arnaz in the ‘40s, struck out on
his own by the end of the decade.  In the fifties, he  could be heard playing throughout
Southern California, particularly in the ballrooms in Orange County. Those aware of his
background might assume that my interest in Touzet stemmed from “El Loco Cha Cha”, a song
he regularly performed but did not write.  They’d be wrong.  It undoubtedly (even by Richard
Berry’s own account) led to the creation of “Louie Louie”, but that had much less impact on
me than “Julie Is Her Name”.  It wasn’t the song itself, it was Rene’s take on it that took me
where I wanted to go.  Released on GNP Crescendo in 1958, from then until now it takes me
back to better times, right back to poolside at the Americana in Bal Harbour.  A couple of
decades ago, I started to use it as my closing song on my talk show.  Surprising to me, it was
an instant listener hit.  I had the 45 and the LP on which it was released— but sadly the Rene
Touzet Greatest Hits CD listed the track, but it wasn’t actually on it.  So I freely distributed
more than a few copies until Gene Norman made me a better offer.   He agreed to rerelease
Julie Is Her Name” and “El Loco Cha Cha” as a CD single.  That was almost as much fun as
the stories he told about the song.
         According to Gene, when Bobby Troup wrote it for his eventually to be wife, Julie
London, she was still legally wed to Jack Webb.  The sparkle in Gene’s voice was evident as
he recounted the drama that ensued.  (For those who don’t remember it, or worse yet remember
the various pop standard versions, I was going to embed “Julie Is Her Name” here.  I will next
week, along with “El Loco Cha Cha”.  Writing the column this week has its own drama for me,
as I’m away from home and the trackpad on the laptop I brought has gone south.  I’m cobbling
this together slowly, mostly with keystrokes and code.)
         Half a dozen years  after Gene released the CD single, I got a call from his son, Neil, who
had taken over for his dad at GNP Crescendo and was in the office doing clean up.  He said he
was still seeing sales on “Julie Is Her Name” and wondered why— and who I was.  I shared
the story and he shared his own impressive background.  He spent an evening on the air with
me talking about all the sci-fi music scores he’d done.   Now he’s got a documentary out on
The Seeds.  Maybe I can convince him to do one on Rene Touzet, or at the very least dig up
some info on the elusive Berna-Dean.  Rest in peace, Gene Norman.  You were terrific.

John RookAl Bennett was a sensational record man at Liberty in the 60’s  A close friend of
mind that helped me in many ways in those days.  One of the most colorful guys in the
business.  Many will know him and like me find their is little if any press on him anywhere.  I
just got this photo today....Al Bennett with Don  Sundeen, his promotion man at Liberty and
Cream Records.

Rollye:  Wonderful shot, but impossible for me to see without yelling, "Alvinnnn!" for the
Chipmunk named in Bennett's honor. Good times. Wishing all of you even better ones ahead.