January 10, 2020: Legendary DJ and Program Director Jerry Stevens has died at 85. In his honor, please enjoy this previous story:
Two recent events really stirred up some fond memories. The first was the WMMR 50th anniversary reunion held at the Fillmore in Philadelphia on September 22, 2018 (story). The second was a panel that I was part of at the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia lunch held on October 17, 2018 at the Bala Club (story).
While there are already stories about both events and a link to the video of the panel on the tmorganonline website, it could hardly tell the whole story of WMMR. After all, much has happened in the 50 years that WMMR has been continuously rockin’ here in Philly.
Since all of us who have ever worked at WMMR have a real kinship, it was really great to see some people that I haven’t seen in years. Exchanging stories of the “old days” is always fun. And there’s so much to tell. Even though I did devote a great deal of space to those fantastic WMMR years in my book “Confessions of a Teenage Disc Jockey”, the limited space in writing a book didn’t allow for all that could be written.
Critics and fans alike were divided in their feelings for the Canadian band called Rush. But one thing that everyone agreed on was that their drummer was nothing short of sensational.
From the early age of 12 when he had his first drum lesson, it was apparent that Neil was gifted. He was also driven to be as good as his idol, Keith Moon. As a teen living in suburban Toronto, he was punished for pounding out rhythms on his desk in school. The teacher gave him what was thought to be a punishment. He was forced to stay in detention for an hour after school. Not a problem. He used the time to pound out the beats that Keith Moon used in the Rock Opera TOMMY.
It wasn't long before Peart was considered to be as wild in his drumming approach as Moon, but even more precise. He certainly wasn’t as wild in his private life. Neil spent most of his free time when he wasn’t drumming reading tons of books. He was very much influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand and loved science fiction. Both were major factors in the lyrics that he created for Rush.
When The Who was formed in 1964, not even the members of the band could predict that they would be around in 2020. This had nothing to do with 20/20 vision, but the reality that most Rock bands just fade away after a couple of hits.
From the time they called themselves The Detours, they have always displayed a flare for dynamic music and explosive stage shows. They were the first band to destroy both guitars and drums on stage. In one of their most memorable TV appearances ever, they even scared their hosts, The Smothers Brothers, by blowing up Keith Moon’s drum kit. Their album LIVE AT LEEDS remains one of the best live albums ever. Despite all the improvements in recording, the sound quality of the record is fantastic.
As time went on Pete Townshend proved to be a very skilled song writer and storyteller when he created the first ever Rock Opera in TOMMY. It was followed by one great album after another until 1978. The release of WHO ARE YOU marked the end of the original band. Keith Moon who had well known problems got to the point where he was unable to play some of the drum parts on the record. He died soon after.
From the very beginning of the Rock era there has been a great deal of flair, outrageous behavior and gimmicks that have been a major factor in the presentation of the music. Some of it was by nature, but most of it by design. Some of it was original; much of it was copied.
At the outset it was the Elvis Presley wiggle that caused to him to be censored on TV. His act was mild compared to what followed. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins belted out his classic “I Put a Spell on You” while coming out of a coffin. Little Richard wore makeup while pounding the keys.
For almost forty years Debbi Calton has kept Philadelphia radio listeners informed and entertained with her very personal style. On December 6, 2019, her last day at WMGK, she had the difficult task of saying goodbye. Saying goodbye to her was not easy.
I have known Debbi since she came to Philadelphia from WMET in Chicago in August of 1983 to join us at WYSP. I still remember when I was on the air and Debbi came into the studio for the first time. We hit it off right away. Of course, that isn’t hard to do with Debbi.
We did have more things in common than most in radio. The biggest thing (besides our love of music) was our history. I came from a Navy family. Debbi came from an Air Force family. You move around a lot. She lived in several places including Turkey. You don’t have lifelong friends because that is hard to do when you go to countless numbers of grade schools and three different high schools.
Roy Wood, often known as the Wizard, is an iconic music figure in England. Unfortunately, for some completely mystifying reason, his talents were never appreciated by the Rock fans in the United States.
During the late 60’s when so many British bands were enjoying huge success in the US, his band called The Move never caught on. This was true despite Roy’s leadership that guided The Move in scoring several songs on the UK charts.
The closest thing to hit that The Move had in the US was called “Do Ya”. The complete story of the song and the band was already posted on this website (story). While the song never got past the lower levels of the charts, it was enough to cause a split in the band. Roy, using most of the same Move members, started an off shoot that he called The Electric Light Orchestra.
The actual store address is 550 N Reading Rd. (272 highway) just outside the Lancaster county town of Ephrata, PA. At this unlikely address you will find a real gem. I hadn’t visited the store myself in several years and was absolutely amazed at how much the store has grown and improved since my last venture into the shop.
I had a long conversation with the store’s owner Andy Kamm, and he explained why. When I first talked with Andy, I expressed my surprise on how much larger the store was. He was able to explain why since he has been the sole store owner for over thirty years.
We continue our search for record stores with Vinyl Revival Records. The name of this store tells only part of the story.
In a day and age when all the major record stores have closed due to lack of sales, why does someone decide to invest in opening a small local record store. Each store owner has a different story.
So why did Andrea DiFabio take on the task of trying to make a go of selling records at 35-37 N Lansdowne Avenue in Lansdowne, PA? Here’s what she had to say about the genesis of the idea.
In his autobiography BORN TO RUN, Bruce Springsteen gives a highly personal account of his life that saw him rocket from his very humble beginnings in Freehold, New Jersey to one of the most popular of all time in music. This is truly an honest look at not only his music but his failings as a person.
This extremely well written account of Springsteen’s life compares favorably to his idol Bob Dylan’s autobiography. Unlike the disappointing and almost unreadable attempt by Steven Tyler in his autobiography that gets mired in his sexual and drug misadventures, this is a much more reveling look into what makes Bruce tick.
The Springsteen family was like so many others in Middle America. They suffered through many hardships and always seemed to be on the verge of losing everything, but that was pretty much par for the neighborhood. Somehow the family was able to find the money to the children to catholic schools. There the nuns gave Bruce the usual hard times that any aimless boys got from them.
It’s no secret that Ten Years After exploded on the music scene international after their explosive performance at Woodstock 50 years ago. This year there has been a flurry of concerts with some of the artists who played performing on the same program marking the anniversary of the legendary concert. Ten Years After has done a few of them, but on August 21, 2019 they were the only attraction at the Sellersville Theater.
Their performance that night showed the crowd that gave them a standing ovation that they are not just another old band trying to cash in on the Woodstock anniversary. While there are those who will claim that Ten Years After will never be the same since the departure of the late Alvin Lee, they should at least listen to the new lineup before passing judgment.
Some call Bob Dylan the greatest songwriter of all time. You certainly can argue that he is one of the best songwriters of the Rock era. No one has won more awards or been honored as much as Dylan. Is there an honor that hasn’t he hasn’t awarded at this point?
You certainly can’t dismiss the volume of music that Bob has written and released over his career. It is very easy to lose track of how many albums and singles he has released since the start of his debut in 1961. No other songwriter has had more other artists do covers of their songs.
With all that music it is easy to have overlooked some of his best singles. Dylan wrote and recorded so many great songs during the mid- sixties that he even admits are beyond his abilities to write today. Of course, he has reinvented himself so many times that his song writing has changed. These changes make it possible for him to have had such a successful career and sustain it over many decades.
August 16th marks the anniversary of a very special event. On that date in 1967 a new form of radio was born in Philadelphia.
In 1967 there was an explosion of new music. It was the Summer of Love. Much of it centered in San Francisco where flower power was born along with a whole host of new music acts the likes of that no one had ever seen before. In the clubs of the city by the bay you could see and hear The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Big Brother &The Holding Company and a host of other exciting new groups.
First entry in an upcoming series.
Do you like to sort through stacks of records? Do you get real joy out of finding a real gem in those stacks?
If you read my book “Confessions of a Teenage Disc Jockey”, then you know that I spent countless hours in my local record stores. They were all Mom and Pop operations. You could strike up a conversation with the owners and often be taught about the music by them.
It was a true small business. I’m sure their profit margin wasn’t great, but they loved what they were doing. At the time I often thought that when I grew up I would open a record store or maybe a book shop.