Recently I was asked to be part of a panel that was commissioned to talk about 100 years of Philadelphia radio for Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia lunch. Since none of us on the panel were even born when radio started (my father wasn’t even born yet), we concentrated on a more recent past history.
At one time radio was not only the number one source of entertainment in Philadelphia and elsewhere, but it was also the only real one that was in just about everyone’s home. The radio stations had a variety of music, sports and regular shows that featured comedy, mystery, and adventure stories. These shows all required the person listening to, not only paying attention to, but also to use their imagination.
The moment that I heard that Jim Seals of the famous duo of Seals & Crofts died at age 80, a flashback immediately transported me back to 1972 and an August night at WIBG the legendary radio station in Philadelphia. Jim Seals was very much a part of one of best and worst memories of my radio career.
It started out as an idea to raise money for a cause that has since long been forgotten. My idea was to have a T. Morgan birthday party while on the air. Special guests were lined up to perform and talk live with me on the air. Listeners were asked to come by the radio station and give me a “birthday gift”. The gift was something that we could donate to food banks or money. In exchange we gave them an album that was provided by various record companies.
For over 55 years Gary Brooker was not only the lead singer and pianist for Procol Harum, he was also their primary songwriter and leader. During most of those years his voice and piano were the sound of the band.
The first band that Brooker was in was called The Paramounts. They were the perfect steppingstone to Procol Harum. The group could best be described as a Jazzy Rock band that was heavily influenced by Classical music. When the band broke up in 1966, Gary and Robin Trower became founding members of Procol Harum.
Are you ready? Cue the trumpets for a fanfare. Rolling Stone Magazine has announced their new list of the top 500 songs of all time. Like nominations to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there are bound to be many lively discussions about who and what made the list.
Almost everyone will find fault with the list in some fashion, but let’s take a little closer look anyway. One might very well say, I wouldn’t not have picked these songs. However, it has been 17 years since the last time Rolling Stone took a survey of a cross section of writers and musicians (including some Classic Rock stars) to compile their list. There’s no way you would have made the same selections this year as you would have made back then. There are bound to be a lot of changes.
As of this writing, we officially enter into the Summer of 2017. Even before the summer started there were all kinds of talk and writing about this year being the 50th anniversary of the so called “Summer of Love”. That summer was a major turning point in my life. While I had been on the air prior to that summer, it was a milestone because of my having the opportunity to launch a new form of radio programming.
The idea for a radio format that included all kinds of music with both singles and album cuts being played was born long before that summer. For that matter, so were the seeds for “The Summer of Love”.
They both grew out of a blending of a social and musical revolution that had been brewing from as early as the 50’s. Jazz was the music of the “Beat” generation. The music itself was more universal but center point of thought for that generation was San Francisco. It was no accident that the liberal city by the bay was the epicenter of “The summer of Love” and “Flower Power”.
The other day a headline “Why do Old People Hate New Music?” for a story in Psychology Today caught my eye. With a headline like that, the story had to be read.
The premise of the story was that older people often turn up their noses at new music because they think it is nothing but noise or it all sounds the same. The article went on to present evidence that our brains lose the ability to accept new music because as we age the part of the brain than enables us to make the subtle distinctions between different chords, rhythms and melodies starts to fail. This gives us the impression that all new music sounds alike.
Back in the 50’s the Philadelphia based group Danny and The Juniors had a hit record with their song called “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay”. At the time, Rock and Roll was considered a fad and only music for teens. It was their soundtrack for their years to rebel against the establishment as well as their parents.
The establishment fought back. Preachers called for the burning of the devil’s music records. Mayors of many cities banned having Rock and Roll concerts. Predictably, instead killing of the music, it only added fuel to the passion of the young music lovers.
Performer Category - honoring bands and solo artists who, in their careers, have created music whose originality, impact and influence has changed the course of rock 'n' roll:
• Carole King
• Todd Rundgren
• Tina Turner
• Foo Fighters -- Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Rami Jaffee, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear
• The Go-Go’s -- Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine and Jane Wiedlin
Seeing Eric Andersen for the first time at the famed Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA, was a very special night. The acoustic set was a quietly moving performance from the poetic singer and songwriter. The lyrics seemed very personal and yet very universal.
Meeting him after his performance in the basement of the Main Point (that also served as a dressing room) was the first if many conversations we would have over the years. Our talks were always very interesting and surprisingly candid.
The name Roy Harper doesn’t mean very much to the average Rock fan in the US. This is despite the fact that the English Folk Rock singer songwriter has released 32 albums to date. Such stars like Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Pete Townshend , Kate Bush, the members of Pink Floyd and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull are among his biggest fans. Even more recent acts like Kate Bush and Fleet Foxes cite his song writing as a big influence.
So how is it that so many people have no idea who Roy Harper is? Perhaps one reason is his songs are often very complex in both musical and lyrical structure. He has always stayed true to his own way of doing things which often meant writing songs that the average person didn’t understand or could hum along to as they walked down the street.
Despite many very impressive reviews, TROUT MASK RELPICA by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, sold very poorly when it was released. Over time it has become widely acclaimed as a work of genius and one of the most influential albums of the entire Rock era. The songs were all written by Beefheart, arranged by drummer John “Drumbo” French and produced by Frank Zappa.
If you were to do a poll of Rock stars asking them to pick the best Sax player in the history of the genre, at or near the top would be Bobby keys. Since he was rarely in the spotlight, many fans of his playing don’t even know his name.
Robert Henry Keys was born on the Lubbock U S Army Airfield in Texas. His father served in the U S Army Air Corps.
After his father moved on, Bobby stayed in Lubbock. At a very early age he discovered the legendary Sax player King Curtis. Unlike other Sax players, Curtis wasn’t just a Jazz man. King Curtis played the same way that guitar players did and fit right into Rock and Roll.
Every year we turn the page on the calendar to a new year. When the calendar was first conceived, someone must have put some thought as to where a year should end and begin. Perhaps some thought was given to the time of the year. A good part of the world that uses the calendar that we know here in the United States is knee deep in winter. The weather is often cold and harsh. A good time for a holiday break and a look forward to a new start.