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Tony Martell 1926 -2016
by Rollye James
Mel Phillips: “The CBS Records family is saddened by the passing of Tony Martell, a
one-of-a-kind person who will be missed but remembered by all the souls he touched. Even 90
seems too early for a person like Tony…”
Bob Sherwood: “My first contact with Tony Martell came when I was Music Director at
KROY. I liked him on the first phone call because he clearly loved music and creative talent. I
certainly didn’t play all of his records but I always felt I knew a bit more than I knew prior to
each time he called. When Columbia Records hired me in early ’73, Tony was head of the
CBS Custom Label Div. and we became good friends. Even after the tragic loss of his son TJ
to Leukemia in 1975 Tony never lost the Joie d’ Vie that characterized him. The result of that
loss was the T.J. Martell Foundation which has raised tens if not hundreds of millions of
dollars for research on Cancer, Leukemia and Aids and saved God Knows how many lives.
And affected future generations. We’re a little poorer for his loss but somewhere there’s
wonderful music being enjoyed and everybody around him is feeling demonstrably better
because he’s there.”
Rollye: “It’s hard to believe you’re unaware of Tony Martell, the T.J. Martell Foundation, or
Tony’s passing, last Sunday (11/27) at 90 years old, less than a year after his wife of 65 years,
Vicky died. But, if you’re in the New York area, you may not know that there’s a memorial
planned for this coming Thursday at 6:00 PM in Manhattan at the Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street
in the Booth/Imperial room. (His funeral is this morning [Monday 12/5], 11:00 AM at Corpus
Christi Parish on Southern Blvd, in Chatham, NJ.)
“Tony’s obit was all pervasive this week, in local papers, national publications and trade
magazines. It was as inescapable as his zeal for the T.J. Martial Foundation, named after his
21 year old son who succumbed to Leukemia in 1975. T.J. asked Tony to promise that he’d
use his promotional skills to raise money for combatting cancer, and even though that was way
outside Tony’s expertise, he did T.J. proud. The organization has raised over $270 million
dollars. All of that is well known, but those who had the fortune to know Tony are mourning
something more personal.
“I’m certain when Tony joined Columbia Records in the ‘60s, he never envisioned his legacy
would be tied into any foundation. (Most likely he never believed he’d have much of a legacy
at all, seeing as how his work with the O’Jays and Isley Brothers wasn’t expected to create
time-tested tales.) Through his grief, he rose to the task, but more importantly, he never lost
that sparkle in eyes, which revealed his love for life no matter what it brought. The real legacy
of Tony Martell, though, won’t be what makes news. It’ll be the one-on-one stories from
countless people who will never forget the difference he quietly made in their lives, from
connecting them to the right medical help, to being there as a friend and supporter no matter
how busy he was.
“If you haven’t visited TJMartell.org
lately, have a look around. You’ll read a lot about Tony
and the Foundation, and you’ll realize that it’s become bigger than any one personality. Tony
may be gone, but the Foundation will remain strong. Appropriately, Tony's family has asked
that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Foundation in Tony's memory. Collectively, a
couple bucks from all of us will go far to fulfill Tony’s vision. When his son was diagnosed,
childhood leukemia was usually a death sentence. Around 10% of patients survived. Today,
it’s over 90%, thanks to research and the donations for it, including in no small part, the talent
and drive of Tony Martell.
“If you’re wondering about the drawing at the top of the page, that’s courtesy of my amazing
husband Jon Cornell who noticed I was fretting at not finding a picture of Tony in the public
domain. There were plenty I could purchase, but nothing I could safely use for free, so he
offered to draw one for me. I think Tony would have liked it.”
Warren Cosford: “I've had radio veterans tell me the worst part of getting fired is being unable
to say goodbye. Imagine a future where this isn't the case and every employee is treated with
kindness and decency. I like to think we're getting there.”
: “Warren sends along a link to an article from Toronto Mike here
, which details a few
stories of a changing paradigm— radio hosts being allowed to do a final show after their
departure is known. The usual line of thinking, particularly with firings, is don’t let the talent
near a microphone lest they broadcasting something you don’t want anyone to hear. And while
we all know of cases where that’s spectacularly played out, more often, pros are just that—
professional. It’s doubtful that the rule-makers knew how important closure is to a talent
—and their audience. These days, I think even Joey Reynolds would get to say ‘goodbye’,
though right now he’s still busy saying hello on his WABC/KABC Sunday night show.
“If you’re like me, Sunday night rolls around and you suddenly notice that you’ve missed a
good chunk of “The Late Joey Reynolds” program. Well worry no more, the replays are now
neatly categorized and online to hear whenever you’d like right here
“This past Saturday the Los Angeles Radio Reunion Luncheon was held at the Burbank
Fuddruckers. I wasn’t aware of it in advance, or I would’ve given you notice. But Timmy
Manocheo filled me in and I’m hoping to hear from him again with some pictures.”
Bob Levinson: “Below, the latest proof you can take the boy out of PR, but you can't take the
PR out of the boy. : )
Bob continues: “Delighted to make my first appearance in Mystery Weekly Magazine (and
featured on the cover of the December issue, no less) with “The Body in the Backyard.” Copies
are available to paid subscribers on digital newsstands or the MW web site here
. A paperback
edition will be available after December 1 on Amazon. This bit of holiday season cheer follows
earlier word that my story “With Eyes Like That” appears in the December issue of Ellery
Queen Mystery Magazine. Smiling big time here. : )”
Rollye: “And it’s safe to say that we’re all smiling for Bob. I’m looking forward to reading
“The Body In The Backyard.” Death is much more appealing when it’s fictional. But alas,
there’s another passing to report this week: Ray Singleton. If the name doesn’t sound
familiar, it probably will if I refer to her as Raynoma Gordy— Berry’s second wife, and a
major force in urging him to start his own record label. ‘Miss Ray’ was beyond a colorful
person. And her relationship with Berry was the stuff of which soap operas are made. Their
involvement predated Berry’s divorce from his first wife (as did the birth of their child, I
think). The union itself didn’t last more than four years, but timing is everything.
“You may have some early “Rayber Voices” singles— Ray is Raynoma— Ber is Berry
(though I don’t think he sang on those records, but Ray was heard in the background of a lot of
hits). Miss Ray’s behind the scenes work was even more influential, and though they
personally spit in ’64, the Gordy's professional relationship remained, at least momentarily.
Ray convinced Berry to have her open and head a Jobete Music publishing office in New
York. And that’s when things went awry. Money to fund the branch was not forthcoming, so
Miss Ray solved that dilemma by bootlegging and selling about five thousand copies of “My
Guy”. Unfortunately Berry caught on. In lieu of prosecution, she signed away her rights to
Motown’s future profits. You’d think that would be the end of it, since she remarried and
moved on, but inexplicably they got back together for a while in the ‘70s (at least
professonally, though their roommate situation was allegedly platonic). Their son, Kerry
Gordy, works in the music industry in L.A. On November 11th, Raynoma Berry died from
brain cancer. The news is just now coming out. And interestingly, some of the more salacious
details are part of various obits. Here’s one
from The Guardian. But if you want all the
details, buy a copy of her tell-all from Amazon. Click on the book for a link:
Mel Phillips: “We are exactly 6 months away from our 50th Anniversary Reunion Weekend
(June 2-4, 2017). In just 3 months, dinner invitations will be emailed out. Time is flying as we
get closer to the big weekend. Following some additional news headlines from 1967, the
reunion weekend events will be highlighted...
“At the end of November, the Beatles release the "Magical Mystery Tour" LP.
Fighting in Vietnam gets worse. LBJ refuses to freeze troop levels and Defense Secretary
McNamara resigns in protest.
Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Secretary of Defense
Robert McNamara at a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, 1968.
U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy announces his candidacy for president...
1968 Presidential race button Sen. McCarthy
Paul Newman at a political rally for Eugene McCarthy
in the parking lot of Kohl's in Menominee Falls, Wisconsin, 1968
In December, Dr. Christian Barnard conducts the world's first heart transplant in South Africa.
Louis Washkansky is the lucky recipient.
Dr. Christian Barnard
Perched atop the roof of Groote Schuur Hospital, site of the first human heart transplant,
the Lady with the Lamp casts a watchful eye over the Cape Town flats.
And ‘Guess Who's Coming To Dinner’ rocks the box office...
Screenshot of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in the trailer for the film
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
(Next week: we'll look at the cost of living in 1967)...
Pictured (L-R): Al Gates, Joel Cash, J.J. Jeffrey, Chuck Knapp, Arnie Ginsburg, Jordan Rich
George Capalbo Jr., Art Vuolo
“Reunion dates to remember:
Friday, June 2, 2017: Invitations will be emailed in March for the Reunion Dinner at the
Crowne Plaza (Newton) Charles Ballroom. Cocktails at 6 followed by dinner. Jordan Rich
will emcee. Parking fees will be waived with front desk validation for those driving to the
Saturday June 3, 2017: On air live (7pm-11pm) on WRKO & Backbone Network streaming
(produced by George Capalbo Jr.) featuring a lineup that includes Al Gates, Joel Cash,
J.J. Jeffrey, Chuck Knapp, Arnie Ginsburg and other WRKO voices (TBD).
Music & Jingles will come from 1967. Art Vuolo will video tape the reunion, a copy of which
will go into the National Radio Hall Of Fame in Chicago...
Reservations: Rooms are still available at the Crowne Plaza (Newton). Check-in Friday (June
2) Checkout Sunday (June 4). Call 617-969-3010. Ask for special "WRKO Reunion" rate of
$159 a night (tax not included). You'll pay about $175 after taxes but more if you park at the
hotel. We suggest using a cab or car service getting to the hotel and while staying there...
Dinner invitations mailed in 3 months, party time in 6 months... See you there.”