Monday, June 27, 2011

KCPX 24 Superstar Hits (c. 1972)

I grew up listening to 1320 KCPX-AM in Salt Lake City, and I've got a few of these promo records, all in horrible shape. I've also seen this same packaging used for other AM radio compilations across the US. I wonder how the track listings compare . . . The five DJs in the gatefold are (clockwise, left to right): Lynn Lehmann (6 AM-10 AM, Libra); Hal Buckner (10 AM-2 PM Aries); "Wooly" Waldron (2 PM-6PM, Virgo); "Skinny" Johnny Mitchell (6 PM-10 PM, Scorpio); Chad O. Stevens (10 PM-2 AM, Virgo); and Jordan Mitchell (2 AM-6 AM, Libra). I know at least Lehmann, Waldron, and Mitchell were still holding the fort down in the late '70s.

The song titles give a pretty clear indication of the adult/child hybridity characterizing so many playlists in early '70s Top 40: Puppy Love (Donny Osmond); Signs (Five Man Electrical Band); Chick-A-Boom (Daddy Dewdrop); One Fine Morning (Lighthouse); Midnight Confessions (The Grass Roots); Montego Bay (Bobby Bloom); Don't Pull Your Love (Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds); Hey There Lonely Girl (Eddie Holman); Dizzy (Tommy Roe); The Thrill Is Gone (B.B. King); Hair (The Cowsills); The Candy Man (Sammy Davis, Jr.); Baby It's You (Smith); Down By the Lazy River (The Osmonds); Vehicle (Ides of March); Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf); California Dreamin' (The Mamas and the Papas); Smile a Little Smile for Me (The Flying Machine); Tracy (The Cuff Links); How Do You Do (Mouth and McNeal); Ma Belle Amie (The Tee Set); Maggie May (Rod Stewart); Gypsy Woman (Brian Hyland); Girl Watcher (O'Kaysions).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hee Haw and the CBS Country Massacre of 1971

The late John Aylesworth was one of the co-creators of Hee Haw, and in his recently published memoir, The Corn Was Green: The Inside Story of Hee Haw, he talks about "The Great CBS Country Massacre." This refers to CBS's 1971 efforts to "de-ruralize" its programming by axing Hee Haw, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry RFD, Green Acres, and The Jim Nabors Hour (the only rural-ish survivor being The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour).

For CBS, this decision was more conceptual than it was numbers-oriented, with a new show called All in the Family representing the direction the network had in mind. Because Hee Haw was going great guns in its brazenly cornball way, the decision came as a shock, especially to Aylesworth and his creative partner Frank Peppiatt ("They couldn't kill us with a stick, so they killed us with a pencil," said Peppiatt).

Hee Haw's misfortune, of course, turned into a blessing as it followed the example of The Lawrence Welk Show by reviving itself through syndication, and the show became an American TV institution, running all the way into the early '90s. CBS's "de-ruralization," it turns out, contributed to a multi-decade ruralization trend (Bruce J. Schulman called it "the reddening of America").

Probably the most appropriate account of the entire situation came from Hee Haw co-host Roy Clark, whose "The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka" reached #9 on the Billboard country singles chart in 1972.

Roy Clark - "The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka" (Billboard #9, 1972). Written by Vaughn Horton. Produced by Joe Allison. 45: ""The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter Revolution Polka"/"When the Wind Blows" (ABC Dot 1972). LP: Roy Clark's Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (ABC Dot 1975).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

LZ-'75 and the Boston Garden Riot

Stephen Davis, who wrote the Led Zeppelin bio Hammer of the Gods (1985), has now published LZ-'75: The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin's 1975 American Tour, which is based on some of his recently unearthed notebooks. Of particular interest to me is his snapshot, at the very beginning of the book, of the suburban teenagers who lined up for tickets at Boston Garden one morning in January 1975:
By ten o'clock, it was ten degrees outside, and someone made the decision to let the kids in line spend the night in Boston Garden so they wouldn't freeze to death before the box office opened the next morning. A cheer went up as the kids, most of them wearing blue denim, were let into the building.
Soon they were passing joints and swigging from bottles of cheap Ripple and Boone's Farm apple wine. When that ran out, some kids broke into the beer concessions during a shift change of the security guards. Someone opened an exit door and let in a few hundred more kids who had lined up for tickets. The kids turned on the fire hoses and flooded the arena's hockey rink. The police arrived as Led Zeppelin's fans were looting merchandise stands and lighting bonfires composed of the Garden's old wooden seats. Drunken kids then turned the high-pressure fire hoses on the cops and their dogs. It took the riot squad three hours to chase the kids out of the building. The Zeppelin fans then fought the police in the streets until they were dispersed sometime after midnight . . . Led Zeppelin would be forced to bypass Boston on their 1975 American tour.
By the latter part of the demographic-obsessed seventies, scenes like this naturally reinforced the image of the white male teenager as a hopeless reprobate, liable to cause all sorts of trouble at the mere mention of the term "rock 'n' roll." Ultimately, the radio industry's efforts to "tame" this loose-cannon listenership, which kicked in in the early '70s, had to do with formatting strategies as opposed to any successful efforts in effecting behavioral change. Anyone, actually, at Chicago station WLUP involved in - and taken off guard by - the disco demolition mayhem of '79 really had no excuse. They should have seen it coming.

P.S. Billboard's account of the affair has numerological connotations. It lists the number of rioters at 3,000, total tickets sold for the entire LZ tour at 330,000, damage caused by rioters at $30,000, a total of 12 concession stands having been broken into (1+2=3), and 300 cases of beer removed. Also note, from the Davis account, the number of hours it took riot police to clear the place: 3.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Early '70s Transistor Radios

Michael Jack, who's a recording engineer and producer in Toronto, has a world class transistor radio collection including plenty of vintage early '70s specimens. Although I don't talk much about the technology of radio in my book, I couldn't resist getting in touch with him about some of the models I remember, such as the Panasonic "Toot-A-Loop" (that's what the first two in this gallery are), and he was kind enough to send me some photos. You can sample the full enormity of the Michael Jack collection through his Flickr page.

(all photos courtesy of Michael Jack)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Signing on

Welcome to the companion blog for my book Early '70s Radio: The American Format Revolution, which comes out in late July. This blog will be a very loose and (mostly) informal survey of thoughts, commentary, and side notes related to the book, radio, and early '70s American culture in general. Please chime in on anything related to those subjects - including any of your favorite radio stations, radio personalities, and major/minor radio hits that I should have mentioned - by emailing me at ksimpson3 at gmail dot com. Thanks in advance for having a look at the book and for visiting.