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By Claude Hall
and Rollye James
Claude: “I was treated like a king in Brasil. I don’t know why. I didn’t do anything to
deserve it. But I loved every second of the trip. I’ve written about it before and I told my
students at the State University of New York at Brockport about the journey, but I also told
those students that while I may have been a tin god for a few days, tin rusts easily.
A suave gentleman named Guilherme de Souza talked to me at an International Radio
Programming Forum. He wondered if I would be interested in visiting some radio station in
Brasil courtesy of Radio Globo. I told him that I would be honored. At the time, I thought it
was a nice gesture, but nothing more than a gesture. To tell the truth, you’re so doggoned
busy during a convention like that you nod your head and say “yes” and “thank you” to just
about everything and move on.
But the very next year during the annual convention, there was Guilherme de Souza
and this time he had two friends with him. He introduced me first to a little guy with a very
pleasant manner and a mustache. He was Luis Brunini and he was head of Radio Globo.
The next person was the national chief of radio programming for Radio Globo. His name, and
I could be wrong a bit, was Antonio Muaro. He spoke English, but spoke it loud as if not
sure I could understand him. My father was like that in Texas when speaking to Mexicans. If
they didn’t quite understand him, he would just talk louder. Brunini didn’t speak any English.
They presented me with a little item that represented Radio Globo and asked me once again if
I’d be willing to visit Brasil. I was aware that they spoke Portuguese in Brasil. I didn’t really
know why I was important to the scene, so to speak. But I assured them that I’d be willing to
visit their country and would enjoy visiting radio there. Again, I never expected anything to
happen. I’ve been promised a great many things that never happened.
However, one day my tickets arrived with instructions on traveling to Rio de Janeiro,
Brasil. So, now I had to ask my wife Barbara if I could go. Lee Zhito, publisher of
Billboard, insisted I use my vacation time for the journey. And believe me, getting there was a
journey. I think I drank the plane dry of beer before it got to Peru. They restocked the plane
from Peru with a beer you couldn’t drink. In the airport in Peru, lots of soldiers with rifles
standing post in all of the corridors. Soldiers everywhere! But from there to Buenos Aires, no
problem. The chauffeured-driven limousine of the leading soccer broadcaster picked me up at
the airport and took me to a hotel, all arranged. The driver said hotel rooms were difficult to
get because there was a conference on sex in town. It seems that the limousine was courtesy
of Antonio Porto, the major soccer caster in Brasil. But the next day, I had to take a taxi to
the airport. I had a good seat in a small prop plane, but I noticed a couple of guys riding in the
baggage compartment. This was circa the mid-70s.
The “king” part started in Rio. I was met at the airport and taken by SUV to a circular
hotel (like the Capitol Records building in Los Angeles) that was on the beach in the south
part of town. We climbed over a low part in the hills near the statue, winding up and winding
down. The hotel was new. It was just for sleeping. I was always on the move, beginning with
the next day. My guide was Guilherme de Souza. I never completely understood his title …
something like head of international. He’d been with Voice of America for many years and
could do simultaneous translation of up to 14 languages. But one day he thought his children
were becoming too Americanized and had moved back to Brasil. I believe he was also some
kind of personal assistant to Luis Brunini. That first day, we visited Brunini in his office and
at that point I realized how really, really huge he was in broadcast. His desk was a glass-top
table with a telephone. He sat in a chair like a throne on the other side. No filing cabinet. No
intercom. No visitor’s couch (a status symbol in the states). We both stood during our
conversation. He had learned English for the occasion and we had no trouble talking to each
other. I’ve never been so impressed with anyone. And I sort of gathered that I’d become an
immediate and devoted friend. Believe me, I was honored!
We visited the newsroom and the studio which was in an auditorium full of people. The
“disc jockey” stood in the center of a stage. He would introduce an artist, who would come on
stage and sing live to his or her band tracks. It was like the old days at KFRC in San
Francisco (I’ve been told) when Mike Douglas would sing live, though I think he had a studio
orchestra). Radio Globo, by the way, broadcast on AM as well as shortwave and a longwave
frequency. One day, we visited the transmitter site on a small island where the “engineers”
lived in little houses along the beach. I asked about the ground system and was told they just
ran copper wires down to the water. A newscast about my “doings” was broadcast on the hour.
One day was spent flying to and visiting the radio station in another city. A bigger day was
when we got in SUVs and headed for Metropolis high in the mountains. En route, we stopped
at some city and during luncheon where steaks was sliced off skewers directly into our plates,
the mayor presented me with the key to the city. During lunch, a piano player who’d gone to
Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, United States, played old blues tunes and it seems
he owned the local brewery and I was presented with samples, including a booze made from
sugar cane and beer. The beer, by the way, was quite good. But all of the beer I consumed in
Brasil was outstanding. I also met Tito Santos here, a singer who performed not only in
Brasil, but as far north as Puerto Rico. He also wrote a column for the local newspaper and
dedicated a column in my honor. We exchanged letters a couple of times. I wish I could track
him down and see how he’s doing. Tito was like an instant friend. I couldn’t carry all of that
booze. I ended up giving it away. But, again, what a nice thing to do!
At night, our entourage would visit a different nightclub. The owner of the club, usually
some popular singer, would introduce me from the stage and dedicate a song in my honor,
then join us at our table. One night, Guilherme said we were going to a school for the Mardi
Gras. I tried to explain to him that I had two left feet. He brushed away my objections.
Thank the Lord! Because it turned out to be a wonderful evening and to this day I wish I
could go back and take Barbara. There were several “schools” about Rio and this is where
they tested/tried out the songs for the pending Mardi Gras. We went by SUV and this time
Antonio Porto, the Globo soccer caster was with us. There was a long line standing from a
gate along the wall. Porto, however, went to the gate and asked to see someone and, voila, we
were quickly escorted inside. Porto’s name was gold in Rio. Like the name of William B.
Williams years ago in Manhattan. There was a huge plaza and booths around the side and a
stage off to my right where a band was performing a samba. We found an empty table.
Someone brought me a large plastic glass full of beer and the rest of the evening someone was
always filling up that glass for me. Strangers, even. And now and then someone would rise
from one of the nearby tables and samba off across the plaza. You didn’t need a partner, you
just needed the spirit. And people were always coming by and saying hi and it was like that
all of the evening.
Claude Hall listens to owner of local brewery in Metropolis, Brasil, perform old blues. Standing by is
Tito Santos, a Brasilian singer who also wrote a column on music in the Metropolis newspaper.
Claude: I’m going to forget something. There were just too many things going on. Like the
time I was interviewed for television by two young pretty little things and I wanted, later, to
visit an ordinary place where local citizens might hangout but when we got there I was a star
and everyone was saying hello and waving at me. We also flew to another city to visit the
Globo station there and I noticed a lot of records stores were named Cash Box and maybe
even one named Billboard. Cassettes were the main item, not albums or 45s. I certainly will
never forget the big finale. There was a dinner in my honor the night before I left and the
leading singer in Brasil wrote and sang a song in my honor. I was given several gifts,
including a wristwatch of solid gold. It’s still in this house in some cardboard box. That was
one fabulous week!”
From left: Barbara Hall interviews Luis Brunini, head of Radio Globo in Brasil, with Guihlerme de
Souza of Radio Globo, and Antonio Mauro, national program director of Radio Globo. Circa 1980.
Photo by Claude Hall in a restaurant near the Los Angeles Airport.
Claude: “It’s all connected. Music. I’m listening to Dave Alvin’s ‘Black Rose of Texas’ and,
bathed in the wonder of the lyrics, thinking of his influences. He mentioned once that his
songwriting changed with Tom Russell. I hear Ernest Tubb (you can never get enough
Ernest Tubb) and Johnny Cash in many of the songs of Tom Russell and, of course, I doubt
there’s a country music artist alive who doesn’t respect and owe allegiance to Jimmie
Rodgers. Russell has mentioned that he worships the music, if not the man, of Johnny Cash.
And he’s not alone. I’ve been a huge fan of Johnny Cash since his first appearance in the
‘Louisiana Hayride’ over KWKH, Shreveport. My iTunes is set on random, but once it got to
‘Black Rose of Texas’ I decided to hear more of Dave Alvin. He’s great. Once a rocker, he’s
now more of a performer. Like Russell, the song is the thing. Telling lies in music and also
telling the truth from time to time. I think ‘Black Rose of Texas’ is truth. So is ‘Johnny Ace Is
Dead’, which mentions Don Robey, a music man in Houston that I met once in the long ago.
Mentions Big Mama Thornton, too. History. Because the Magnificent Montague
mentioned this incidence in his book ‘Burn Baby Burn’. I think Montague was there. A
different, maybe better, version of ‘Harlan County Line’ is on this ‘Eleven Eleven’ CD. I
enjoyed several songs on this CD well enough to put them on iTunes … to hear them again
when the mood hits me. ‘Run Conejo Run’ is great. And so’s ‘Walk Right In’, an old folk
tune I heard when I was in college in a bar on stilts in a swamp outside of Corpus Christi. If
you haven’t heard Dave Alvin yet, you’re missing some good music. I’ve written about Alvin
and Russell and I will no doubt write about them again. Have you heard Tom Russell’s ‘Jai
Joey Reynolds: “The guys at WBNY owned by Harry Trencher and Peter Strauss gave me
the name Joey Reynolds. It was managed by Arnold Schorr. They sent me to NY to
WMCA where I lasted for one hour when Steve Labunsky asked me to ‘do a one hour show
rather than 6 ten minute shows’. I went back to WBNY where Casey Kasem had spray
painted “(the f bomb) Harry Trenner” on the wall of the Hilton hotel where our studios were,
because they wouldn't let him out of his contract. That tape where Casey flips out on
American Top 40 is nothing compared to the paint job! I often referred to Casey as the star of
American Grafitti. I should have stayed Joey Pinto. They could never fire me with a name
that's Latin or Indian.”
John Barger: “Most of us are still trying to make a living in show business (or the bastardized
side of it, radio, as Art Holt used to say), and would like with your reminders to include the
exact clickable location of each week's epistle, so that all we have to do is double-click on it
(within your email) and the column appears without us having to do a bunch of key strokes
and more importantly have to burn what little brain power we have left, just to keep up with
Kenny Boy Dowe, Joey Reynolds, Kent Burkhart, et al.”
Claude: “John, Rollye is doing all she can to fix it. Soon, we hope! But I do enjoy being able
to use photos, links, etc.”
Rollye: And it's done. At least I hope it is, but in advance I warn: it is a work in progress.
The link at the top of this column will get you to a sign up form. Click on it and fill it out.
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Depending on your email program, this confirmation email might arrive instantly or it may
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the mailings will just arrive each week. It should be a painless procedure, unless you're using
a spam filter like Mark here...
Mark Peeples: “Due to enormous amounts of SPAM, we are using a service that requires you
verify that your e-mail address and message are legitimate before it is delivered to me.”
Claude: “Thank you, Mark, for the note. My fee for this service is $82.29. Please remit to
continue to receive Vox Jox.”
Rollye: Mark's getting off cheap, Claude. But he's a great exemplar. If you've got similar
spam blockers in place, white list us or you won't receive the column, even if you have signed
up. If you're still confused, write to me
and I'll walk you through it.
Don Sundeen: “Hi, Claude, been enjoying the stories about Gary Owens in Vox Jox. I was
not as close to the man as many of you were, but I did have a memorable Gary Only
experience. I was sitting in the palatial, 4 Seasons-like lobby of KMPC one day waiting for
my music meeting, when Mr. Owens himself exploded through the front door and plopped
down beside me. I noticed that he had an ancient looking LIFE magazine which he had just
purchased from the nearby newsstand, and he started thumbing through the pages. ‘Look at
this Sundeen’, he said as he pointed out a lingerie ad from the 50s, or any number of other
photos and advertisements as we scanned the old magazine. Then just as quickly as he
appeared he rose up and said, ‘Oops, gotta go’, and was gone. He was the archetypal
‘intellectually curious’ man with an incredible thirst for information. One other memory of
Gary; each jock had a cubby where you could leave records or other stuff they might be
interested in; Gary Owens was the only one who ever said to me, ‘I went every record you
release in my box: Classical, Country, R&B, Pop, Rock, comedy, whatever’. My guess is he
Claude: “Yep. He was a participant in life. One day on the basketball court, I mentioned that
my son John was into comics. He said, ‘Well, I’ll give him some of mine’. Ah, our Gary
collecting comicbooks? Yep.”
Rollye: Not only collecting, but contributing. He was a terrific illustrator— had his own
comic column for a while. I remember talking with him about it. He said it was based on his
father’s warning that he'd need a back up plan if he stayed in radio, because work might often
be scarce. So Gary drew. And drew well. But by the time he was on KMPC, he had an even
better fallback— voice overs, which suffice it to say, paid him significantly more than radio
Ron Jacobs, 1961, interviews Elvis Presley. At left is RCA representative. Photos is courtesy of Timmy
Manocheo, who likes to send photos, usually someone everyone knows, unidentified.
But I checked with Ron and he said, "Yep."
Rollye: Glad Claude checked with Ron, not so much for the identity of the participants, but
more important for the rights to the picture. We love printing pictures and graphics, but you
may not realize that often they’re rights restricted, meaning we can’t legally reprint an image.
Screen grabs are seemingly irresistible, but generally a bad idea. So, if you’re sending
something that you don’t own, let us know. If you got it online, be sure to include the URL
where you found it so we can determine its status. If it’s not freely available, that’s not the
end of the story. There may be other similar images that are usable, either through creative
commons or public domain, and I’ll take the time to investigate.