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Recently the yearly Rock ‘n’ Roll show that is part of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia lunch was held at the Bala Golf Club. The performances featured Philadelphia stars from the past. While all the acts were still in pretty good form, one act stood out. It wasn’t just that they musically entertaining, but unlike the other Philly acts, they were originally from Los Angeles. The Rip Chords made their mark in R & R history by playing beach and hot rod music with five chart hits like “Hey Little Cobra”. 

The original group broke up back in 1965. This new incarnation has been around since the 90’s and while it features two of the members (including Richie Rotkin) from the 60’s, it primarily a new and younger group. Their music is still a throwback to the days of hot rods and beach parties. It was a time when groups like Jan & Dean and The Beach Boys gave the rest of America the Hollywood version of what it was like living on the beaches of California. Check out The Rip Chords official website. http://www.theripchords.net/.

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Every Spring there’s new life and energy. Nowhere is there more a feeling of hope and optimism than in baseball. Every team starts out on their long season with a 0-0 record. Of course by May many of the teams are already pretty much out of contention, but there are no thoughts of that on opening day.

This year, the expectations of Phillies fans are the highest they have been in a very long time. They are pumped because some of the young players who are starting to produce will be joined by some outstanding new veteran newcomers.  But can they sing?

In Philadelphia Phillies Fever was running high in 1975. A very young team had posted a 80-82 record the year before and they were looking to move up from their third place finish. The heart of that team was Dave “yes we can” Cash, Larry Bowa, Mike Schmidt, Gary Maddox and Greg Luzinski. They went on to post a second place finish with a 86 -76 record in ’75.

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The births of Jazz and Rock ran along similar but different paths. They both were born and raised in the South. They both have an element of the Blues and African influences. Passion and rhythm run deep in both genres.

Structurally, however, they are far from the same. The accents and rhythms are different in both. While both use the bass and drums as the heartbeat, Jazz uses different time signatures. Traditionally Jazz puts horns or the piano in the lead while Rock uses the guitar primarily and occasionally the horn or piano as the lead instrument.

So how is it that so many rockers, especially in the 60’s and 70’s were so influenced by Jazz? Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Duane Allman were all guitarist who loved Jazz. Their instrument, the guitar, was largely a background or rhythm instrument for many years. There were very few exceptions like Django Reinhardt in the 30’s.

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The huge success of the Miles Davis’s BITCH’S BREW led the way for a number of fusion bands like Weather Report and Return to Forever to become very popular in the 70’s. It was some of the most exciting and imaginative music ever. Seeing these groups live was nothing short of spectacular! It wasn’t just their playing abilities, it was the way they blended together. It seemed as though they had some sort of ESP sense of what the rest of the band was doing even when they were improvising. These bands were very tight.

It also was no accident that several members of these and other Fusion groups contained several members who had also played with Miles Davis. Among those who played with Miles during his Jazz Fusion period were: John McLaughlin and John Schofield (Guitar), Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Zawinul (keyboards). Wayne Shorter (sax), Airto Moreira, Tony Williams and Billy Cobham (Drums).

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As a supplement to parts One and Two of my Jazz Rock Series, this is a list of essential records that fit within the realm. They are listed in random order.

Pierre Moerlen’s Gong — EXPRESSO II
While almost anything by Gong is worthwhile, EXPRESSO II stands out. It features outstanding personal that included Mick Taylor (ex Stone’s guitarist), Pierre on drums and vibes, Allan Holdsworth (played with Tony Williams Lifetime, Soft Machine & Jean-Luc Ponty), and Darryl Way (Curved Air)

Jimi Hendrix — ELETRIC LADYLAND

Miles Davis — BITCH’S BREW, IN A SILENT WAY, ON THE CORNER, PANTHALASSIA
A mix of Miles from 1969-74 as re-mixed by a great producer Bill Laswell.

Stan Getz — CAPTAIN MARVEL
While Getz is better known for his softer Sax sound as heard on the Jazz Samba LP that went to number one, he really shows a different style here. Backing him up are Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira and Tony Williams.

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On February 28, 2017 WMGK finished a month long music feature where the top selling Classic Rock albums of all time were played in the order of sales from 20 to 1 on vinyl. It had been a long time since I brought albums from home to play on the air. It was a strange, but good feeling.

The number one selling record was THE EAGLES GREATEST HITS 1971-1975. That may have surprised a number of people who thought for sure The Beatles or Led Zeppelin would take the top spot. The Eagles sold a lot of this album with an impressive line- up of hits, but was hardly a complete list. Two of their biggest hits were released after their greatest hit album of 1975. These hits were part of the number 12 album on the countdown HOTEL CALIFORNIA. That LP wasn’t released until 1976.

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Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller made R & R history for a number of reasons. They are in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame (1987) and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1985). A short list of the diverse artists that they wrote songs for or produced will give you an idea of why they are held in such high esteem.

Among those that recorded the songs they wrote or were produced by them are: The Beatles, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, The Drifters, Dion, Tom Jones, James Brown, Peggy Lee, Little Richard, John Lennon, Donna Summer, Michael McDonald, Ben E. King, The Monkees, Ray Stevens, Leon Russell, Bad Company, Joni Mitchell, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, B B King, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Lee Lewis, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Fats Domino and Muddy Waters. This led to 100’s of hits.

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In previous stories we highlighted the role of Sam Phillips and the Chess brothers, two giants of the record industry that made Rock ‘n’ Roll possible. Sun and Chess Records were just two of the many small independent companies without whom the birth of rock may never have occurred.

Other major players were Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, Art Rupe of Specialty Records, the Bihari Brothers of Modern Records, Syd Nathan of King Records, and Lew Cudd of Imperial Records are just some of the players who helped launch a whole new era in music and the record industry. Each one of these gutsy owners are more than worthy of having their own story told. For the purposes of this article we will concentrate on how they collectively were able to pull off an amazing feat.

Way back in the early 1940’s the record industry was under the firm hand of just a few major labels. RCA Victor, Decca, and Columbia were able to dominate the market because they controlled every facet of the industry including recording studios, manufacturing plants, distribution, and even sales outlets. They even controlled the outlets for exposure. RCA was owned by NBC and Columbia by CBS. Both owned many TV and radio outlets.

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I was prompted to add Elliott Randall as the 7th entry in my series on rock's unsung heroes by a comment that was made by Rocky on this website. He asked me a question. By the way, the best way to ask a question on my website is by sending an e-mail. Just click onto the contact button.

Anyway, Rocky wanted to know if I was aware of any recent work from Johnny Madara. For those who don’t know, John is a songwriter and producer that was born and raised in Philadelphia. He first achieved fame by co-writing one of the biggest hits of all time that was recorded by Philadelphia’s own Danny & The Juniors called “At the Hop”. It was a number one hit record for 7 straight weeks in 1957.

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Since first being on the air at age 15 on WICK in Scranton, PA, T. Morgan has worked on air at WYSP Philadelphia, WWSW-AM / WPEZ-FM Pittsburgh (Station Manager), WMMR Philadelphia (Program Director, Air Personality), WIBG Philadelphia (Program Director, Air Personality), WDAS-FM (Program Director, Music Director, Air Personality), WIFI-FM Philadelphia (Music Director, Air Personality) and WMGK in Philadelphia.

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John Zacherle was very much one of a kind. The Cool Ghoul was born and raised in Philadelphia and graduated from Penn. 

When World War II broke out John Zacherle not only served but rose to the rank of Captain. After the war ended, John got serious about becoming an actor.

While he made his name as the host of horror TV shows, he started out being an actor and played several roles in a Western drama series that was featured on Philadelphia’s Channel 10. Management liked his ability so much they gave him his own show hosting horror movies using the name of Roland. This was despite the fact that he knew nothing about horror films because as a kid he was never allowed to see them. That didn’t keep him from creating a programed filled with both humor and drama.

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One of the most unlikely owners of an early Rock ‘n’ Roll record label was the star of film and radio, Gene Autry. The famous cowboy with the white hat that battled bad guys on the big screen for many years was also a singer himself. The music that he sang that earned him the title of the singing cowboy was a pop version of Country and Western music that was popular in the 30’s and 40’s.

The legendary good guy was also a very astute business man. When he saw the rise of Rock ‘n’ Roll happening in the 50’s he decided to buy into it. Autry went into partnership with an associate named Joe Johnson who did promotion for Columbia Records. That was the label that he recorded for most of his career.

The first thing that Gene did was find someone who knew something about the music. The first artist that he signed to the new Challenge label came in the form of a good studio musician named Dave Burgess.

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The announcement by The Rolling Stones that their first studio album in ten years was going to be a record of nothing but blues covers wasn’t a great surprise. The blues of course was the first building block in making the ground work for the music that would lead to them to being called the world’s greatest rock and roll band. One of the band’s biggest thrills was to visit the Chess Records Studio when they came to the US. They were even more excited to not only record in the same studio of the many blues greats that influenced them, but actually met some of them.

On hearing the news of this new cover album by The Stones, I thought that this would be the perfect time to write the already planned second (the first being Sam Phillips and Sun Records) in a series of those independent record company heads that launched Rock music. How and why did Chess Records become such an important launching pad for a whole new form of popular music?

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