Vox Jox homepage banner


Archives Index Page

By Claude Hall
and Rollye James
Claude: We all have different faces that we show upon proper occasion.  One face, our close
friends and relatives know us by.  Another face, our business associates.  And we save a last
face for strangers that we don’t really wish to know.  It is the face we wear, in my opinion,
when they lower the casket down and we are seen no more.
         I was going to write about Woody Roberts.  My son John Alexander Hall, Esq.,
however, thinks that I should write you about Gary Owens, an old basketball buddy who just
happened to do a radio show on KMPC in Los Angeles.  I knew a great deal about Gary,
including some things he doesn’t know I know and which I will carry unto my “last face”
time.  Once, Joe Smith told me something I didn’t know and I just nodded gently as if it was
none of my business, which it wasn’t.  These trivialities are no longer important.  He was
good.  A kind man.  Enjoyed a long and excellent career.  He did a lot of kind and good things
for others and I’m positive that he’s in Heaven showing the Great One his collection of books
about jokes and humor (he had easily 10,000 books dealing with the subject).  He also carried
the burden of diabetes with him most of his life and had to inject insulin twice a day to stay
alive.  Once, his wife Arleta saved his life by rushing him to the hospital.
         The funniest tale I know of him is the day we both needed some exercise and it was
drizzling rain.  We generally played on an outdoor court in the San Fernando Valley each
Sunday morning with some guys that included a TV producer, a former center of the UCLA
team and a hotdog manufacturer, and some others and, I understand that after I moved away I
was replaced by one of the owners of the Phoenix Suns.  I don’t remember why (because of the
rain, dummy), but no one showed up one Sunday morning and Gary and I ended up at his
house.  He had laid in a patch of concrete and there was a basketball goal at the side.  A place
to dribble a basketball and shoot.  It had not yet rained hard enough and long enough,
unfortunately, to wash away the leavings of the family dog.  That dog had crapped
everywhere!  So, here you had two dumbbells out there amidst the dog manure running and
shooting in a steady and consistent light rain.
         We played Horse and joked around for maybe half an hour before the rain grew more
steady and harder and we decided we’d had enough exercise for the day.  I washed up a bit in
the downstairs bathroom before going home to take a shower.
         I’ll always remember his favorite shot.  He would dribble down the sideline to the corner
and fling the ball against the glass and the ball would hit the corner of the glass and carom into
the bucket.  I would just shake my head and Gary would say, “Oh, Gary!” – mocking himself --
and play would continue.  Miss you, Gary!
         I’ve seen Woody Roberts in a couple of his “faces” and I’ve got a picture of him in
another face.  The man is a radio chameleon.  John was just a baby in those days when I was
invited to participate a judge in a contest conducted by WPOP in Hartford, CT.  Woody
Roberts was the program director and I believe that Lee Baby Simms was his evening
personality.  I didn’t meet Lee Baby, however, until years later.  I met Woody in, I suppose, a
studio and did the judging or whatever they wanted me to do.  I remember him wearing blue
jeans, a sweat shirt, and sandals … typical garb in those days for a program director of a Top
40 radio station.
         Because I’d driven up to Hartford, I expected to spend the night in town and the radio
station had traded out a motel room for me, Barbara and John Alexander Hall, né Esq.  John
was into his Crayola years and you can visualize what happen.  His artistic bent took sway and
he redecorated the motel room.  Woody later told me that he had considerable fun solving the
“tradeout” on that one.
         Years later, I’m at a radio meeting somewhere in Texas and a guy walks by and says “Hi,
Claude” and goes on across the room, crowded with other radio people.  I said “Hi” back, of
course.  Then he turned around and came back to where I was sitting at a table.  “You don’t
remember me, do you?”  I hemmed and haw’d.  Naturally, I didn’t remember him.  He was
wearing a suit – probably Brooks Bros. – and goldframe spectacles.  It was Woody Roberts,
wearing one of his other “faces” as general manager of KTSA in San Antonio.
         I’ve also got a photo of Woody Roberts, right, and the late Lee Baby Simms monkeying
around.  Yeah, different faces for both!


Rollye:   I have to second Claude’s thoughts on Gary Owens being a truly nice person, but his
mischievous side extended to his off air antics as well.  Many close to him were aware it was
not uncommon for Gary to be armed (often by a small piece, tucked inconspicuously in his
boot).  To my knowledge, it was never aimed at a human being, but inanimate objects were not
as safe.  The tales of the time he shot at the KMPC air conditioning system, which was not
cooling to his desired level grew exponentially compared to the actual event, but all paled by
his reaction when someone parked in his dedicated spot on the lot.  It didn’t happen often, but
enough for his ire to escalate.   One afternoon, as he entered the building, he confided to
receptionist on duty (who I seem to recall was Cher Stegman, but may have been someone
else) that the “tire fairy” had to pay a visit.  After hearing the details, the horrified gal informed
Gary that he had just shot out all four tires of the car belonging to Gene Autry’s insurance man.

Claude: The Jack G. Thayer that I knew only wore one face.  He’d had other faces, but they
were gone by the time I knew him.  He’d just weathered a horrible bout of alcoholism and was
now sober and he became a friend.  Not just a friend, but a member of my family.  You
understand the Mexican term: “Mi casa es su casa.”  Like that.  He knew my children, even the
family dog Popsie, and my children knew him and his children.  Barbara and I were invited to
the wedding of his daughter in the San Fernando Valley at the home of Jack’s ex-wife.  We
later associated with Timm when he was in Oklahoma radio and later he came to visit us in Las
Vegas with his wife.  We lamented the death of Todd Thayer in a glider crash outside Los
Angeles.  Barbara and I were later at Jack’s hospital bedside in New York after his stroke.  His
copy of the Big Book was on the table at his bed.  Well used.  And much later, he came to a
college conference in Brockport organized and conducted by my students at the State
University of New York and he stayed up all night spinning old radio tales with them.  They
loved him.  But so did everyone love Jack G. Thayer.  And, sober, he wore one face.  It was
kind.  It was helpful.  He once heard of a record promotion man being down on his luck and
immediately mailed him a check for $1,000.  As you’re aware, Jack had risen from being a disc
jockey to general manager and his last major job was president of NBC Radio.  We didn’t go to
his funeral.  I was a college professor in those days and college professors barely earn enough
in salary to take a bus across town.  But Jack G. Thayer was, without question ‘on your side’
and at my side through many radio years.
Jack Gale:  “Claude, thanks so much for the very kind words.  I read the column every
Tuesday.  You’re the guiding light that keeps us old radio pioneers together.  May you keep
doing it for many more Thanksgivings.  Stay well, and best to Barbara.”
Bob Sherwood: “This, Claude, if I may be so bold as to suggest, is always a good reminder as
people on your list get bombarded with all levels of communication at the beginning of every
Claude Hall:  “Rollye James is a wonder.  Smart, too!  She’s trying now to figure out a way to
send Vox Jox to your emailbox … and I suspect that it’s just a matter of time.  But realize:  She
and husband are operating two radio stations.  She gets this direct email thing done, we ought
to hold a parade in her honor.  You know, with clowns and pretty girls riding elephants.”
Bob Hamilton -- remember Fred? -- has a DVD out titled “RVing in the Bay Area.”  Click
here to order now, $29.95 plus $5 shipping
Don Graham:  “Dear Claude and Rollye … certainly nice to see your Matt Forbes mention
under ‘music matters’, in this current edition of Vox Jox!  Your enthusiastic endorsement on our
re-release of ‘The 12 Minutes of Christmas’ is truly terrific!  Many thanks for all you do ... all
the best to you both.”

Mel Phillips:  “Hi, Claude … Hi, Rollye, love, love, love what you two have been Vox Joxing
(is this a word?).  It is always a good and interesting read -- week in, week out ... I am excited
to announce that my 4th book, ‘The Birthday Hall of Fame’ will be published on Amazon, Dec.
1, 2015.  The famous people listed in this book are known by just about everyone.  In addition
to date of birth information on present and past people of note, personality traits for each day,
based on a review of several astrological sources are posted.  The birthdays are gathered from a
number of archives.  Readers can find their birthday and match their personality traits with
ours. ‘The Birthday Hall of Fame’ covers 366 days and can be used in a leap year.  I initially
thought I could incorporate this data in my ‘Timeline Memories’ book but found it too
cumbersome to handle.  This book makes a perfect companion to my TM book. Amazon is
already taking pre-orders for TBHOF (Kindle Edition), click here.   I will send each of you a
copy of the paperback book as soon as it's published.”
Claude Hall:  “Sounds like a great programming tool, Mel, as well as one of those books to
muse by.  I hope you will do me – and Rollye, too, I suspect – the honor of your autograph. 
Such books thus become a treasure.  Would you guys believe this?  I have a book autographed
by Barnaby Conrad and he even sketched a piece of artwork on a flyleaf.  We were in this bar
in Santa Barbara ….   And my copy of ‘Superjock’ is autographed by Larry Lujack.  Ah, yes,
folks and friends, I used to be famous.  Well, would you believe fairly well known?”
Jim Ramsburg: “Claude, I'm sure you've heard already about the passing of Twin Cities radio
personality Charlie Boone.  Charlie was the jock at KFGO/Fargo who recruited Bobby Vee to
replace Buddy Holly the day after Holly's fatal plane crash back in 1959.  Shortly afterwards,
Charlie successfully interviewed at Storz' WDGY/Minneapolis, then walked up the street to
see what old-line CBS affiliate WCCO had to offer.  He joined the staff of CCO and became
part of the legendary Boone & Erickson morning team that dominated ratings for decades. 
Charlie was 88 and his full bio is on the front page of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.  Best to
you and yours for a Happy Thanksgiving.”
Claude:  “Jim, I appreciate the news.”
ClaudeJoseph Kirchmyer sends a note promoting ‘No Stoppin’ This Boppin’ – Let the Good
Times Roll’ by Bob and Terri Skurzewski which takes a look at Buffalo radio and music
scenes circa 1950-64.  To kick off the re-release, a book-signing event with the Elma, NY
authors will be held from 5-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, at Dog Ears Bookstore & Café, 688 Abbott
Road, Buffalo.  The book can be purchased on Amazon here and is also available at the
Buffalo History Museum and Elma Museum.  Your local bookstore can also order the book for
you.  For further information, email Bob Skurzewski here.  It’s a damned good book and fun to
         Meanwhile, I’m beyond 31,000 words on ‘George and Me’.  In many ways, the book has
too much me and not enough George.  But I guess that’s the way it goes.  Morris Diamond
helped me with some stuff, for which I'm grateful.”
 Rollye:  I, too, vouch for ‘No Stoppin’ This Boppin’ – Let the Good Times Roll’.  Beyond being
compelling to anyone who has ever spent any time in Buffalo radio over the years, it's a
wonderful collection of  local popular music history and trivia.   Nice to see WBNY getting its
due as Buffalo’s first full time top 40 station, a fact often obscured by the undeniable success
of WKBW—  wonderful to read of the various radio personalities whose names are well
known, but often associated with other markets from Lucky Pierre to Casey Kasem, or whose
influences far outdistanced the city limits, such as George Lorenz, The Hound Dog—   good
to see music trivia going back to Buffalo being the home of the Wurlitzer—  and fun to learn
more about acts that rarely cross your mind anymore— like the corny country duo from the
early ‘70s, Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, who met in Miami, but separately were both a
part of the Buffalo music scene much earlier. Jack’s history goes back to early ‘50s when he
played at Frank & Theresa's Anchor Bar, long before the world discovered the venue’s
now-ubiquitous chicken wings.

Chuck Buell:  When I was just starting my career in radio back in the day as a young,
pre-driver's license, teenage disk jockey playing the Hits on AM 1340 in South Dakota, that
have since become those Great Oldies we all love today, I wish this would have been my bike
to ride from home back and forth to the KRSD Rapid City radio studios!

Rollye:  Wow!  The Huffy Radio Bike!  Huffy made about 8,500 of them in a two year run,
debuting in time for the 1955 Christmas season— which predates the use of transistors.  With
three vacuum tubes, the battery pack was on the carrier behind the seat.  Chuck also sent along
a closeup of the sketch in the ad Huffy ran:

Rollye:  And here’s the full ad, touting the perfect Christmas gift.  No price included, but a lot
less than the going rate today of over $1,000 for a bike in bad shape.  They originally came in
three colors, red, blue and green.  Huffy didn’t make the radio— it came from a company in
Yellow Springs, Ohio, but it was built into the bike’s tank:

Rollye: Thanks Chuck, for the fun stuff.   And thanks to you for reading.  I’m humbled by
Claude’s words, and am taking them as a further mandate to get this column to you via email. 
All good things only look easy— and pulling this off will be no exception.  But I like learning
new things (like how to defeat your spam filter, I say laughingly).