NO RESEARCHER, ARCHIVIST, COLLECTOR, OR, HISTORIAN, would be able to keep track of everything he needs to put his hands on instantly, for his most important information, facts, and, figures, if he didn't have it locked-away in his Private Library, or, Archive. So, yes, I've had one for many, many years in a special part of my residence...you can see the Private Entrance as shown above.
I've always shared my favorite reading material with my friends, letting them know about some of the best books that I've read, and letting them see for themselves the "power of the written word", the beauty, and sometimes fantasy, of some of the many World's that engrossing yourself in a good volume can take you to.
THEREFORE, I've established this SPECIAL PAGE OF REVIEWS to share with all of you the many various volumes that I've read, and, no, they may not always be "current"...but they'll always be favorites of mine that I want to introduce you to. Variety is always the "key"...and, believe me, you will find that here !
It doesn't matter if it's Science Fiction, Biographies, Histories, Automobiles, Antiques, Music, well, you get the picture...everything is "fair game" ! If I've read it, and I've liked it, I'll Review it for you here...and, you can decide if you like it or not.
HOWEVER, SINCE MY TASTES, like many of your's, are sometimes eclectic, in addition to books, I'll cover Films/DVD's, Magazines, and, some of my favorite CD's and Tunes...hey, being into music since I was in the cradle has given me a broad scope of all musical genre's that I love.
ALSO, I MUST ADD, AN EFFICIENTLY RUN LIBRARY has to have a great staff. Over on the left you see Sharon, Gail, and, Don, filing and helping to keep things in order. I couldn't do it without 'em !
READY ? Okay, just settle back, relax, and check-out some great material, as I open-up the doors to the vault of my Private Library for the very first time for all of you to enjoy. Oh, and don't forget to drop me an eMail and let me know your thoughts on the subjects I've covered !
"DELTA LADY": A Memoir, By Rita Coolidge, with Michael Walker. Harper, Pub. (2016)
THIS IS ONE OF THE best books that's been written about the Music Industry, and how it existed during the late-sixties & early-seventies. More than that, it's about the singers, songwriters, and, performers that were a part of, and helped to shape, the culture of not only Rock & Roll, but the culture of our lives here in America...and the around the World.
RITA COOLIDGE has always been one of my favorite singers. Tall, thin, long-thick Raven-black hair, Bronze-skinned...a beautiful woman. Her warm, honey-drenched, smooth-as-hot-butter voice has always seeped-down into the deepest recesses of my soul and given me the purest of listening pleasures. "We're All Alone" & "All Time High" are mainstays in my CD/MP3 Collections. So, awhile back when I saw that both she, and Graham Nash (The Hollies/Crosby , Stills, and, Nash), were on the "Front and Center " TV Series "Speakeasy", I knew it was something I HAD to watch !
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN FROM that Interview if you see it, and, from reading this book, is that Rita's heritage, and family upbringing, runs deep in her roots. Her father, was Cherokee and a Baptist Minister; her mother was a teacher and of Scottish-Cherokee descent. And, Rita has always been so proud of her bloodline that it shows in all she does. She has that courageous "backbone" and stubbornness, or, singleness-of-purpose, needed to do anything she sets her mind to, and the stoic nature to realize the "calm" needed to get through some situations. All-in-all, if you seen her perform, or, watched any of her Interviews, you realize that this is one very-classy lady.
Originally from Tennessee, her family later moved to Florida, and finally to California. BUT, Leon Russell branded her & her Southern Cherokee background the "Delta Lady"and wrote that and "A Song For You" with her in mind. Rita, during her Fifty Years in the Music Industry, has written hundreds of songs herself. Two of the most-recorded songs she had part in writing...but wasn't given a writer's credit for... were "Superstar" AND "Layla" ! Fittingly, those are two of the most-interesting stories you'll read.
In the book, she candidly discusses her relationships & friendships with Leon Russell, Graham Nash, drummer Jim Gordon, Joe Cocker, Steven Stills, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Bramlett, George Harrison, Booker T. Jones, and of course, Kris Kristofferson. But, that's just the "tip of the iceberg"...as Rita states (and this is one of my most-favorite sayings) "It's all about being in the right place, at the right time." And, she was.
RITA'S CAREER IN THE Music Industry started at about the same time mine
did in the Broadcast Industry: 1967. But each of us had a solid
background in music before that happened. However, although we've
never met, we both always were able to be "at the right place, at the
right time" throughout our career's. Therefore, I understand every
facet of the path she took, especially those year's of the late-60's
IF YOU'RE READING THIS and, like me, were a part of, or, remember the Rock & Roll, Psychedelic, and Folk Rock music eras, and ultimately, the mid-70's shift to Disco music, you will "Travel Back" to those Time Periods as Rita shares her stories. If
you're younger and aren't familiar with any of this, but love music
in all its various forms, this will be your eye-opening ticket to a
learning experience from a real pro...and one of the First Ladies of Rock !
Working first as a back-up singer & jingle singer, at the well-known Pepper-Tanner Agency & Sound Studios, in Memphis, later moving to California, working with Rock Legends Delaney & Bonnie, joining Joe Cocker's Grease Band, heading-off to England on the much-talked about, but ill-fated "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" Tour, eventually marrying Kris Kristofferson, and ending-up having a fantastic solo career that shot her to early fame with the release of the multi-platinum "Anytime...Anywhere" LP on A & M Records (owned by Herb Alpert & Jerry Moss) Rita's talent always shown bright & true. She worked hard at what she did, and would eventually reach the long-lasting success she so richly deserved.
THE ABOVE PHOTO is from the back cover of "Anytime...Anywhere", and was also used on the sleeve of the 45 RPM Hit Single "Higher & Higher"...it's my personal-favorite photo of Rita: It shows her strength, her beauty, her sensuality, and, the no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners attitude she'd hone & polish to become the dynamic performer she was always destined to be. (That LP spawned a number of Hit Singles besides "Higher & Higher", including Rita's cover of Boz Scagg's "We're All Alone".) Yes, Rita Coolidge has had a truly great career. But it didn't come easy.
THERE WERE MANY HARDSHIPS for Rita to endure & overcome: personally & professionally. I won't go into to details, but as a Radio Personality, Music Director, Program Director, I'm familiar with about everything she mentions when it comes to substance abuse, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, et al. If you were in any part of the Music Industry in those days almost any party you went to, or, Record Company Convention you'd travel to, Backstage Concert Areas you were invited to, or house parties you'd attend, there were "artificial stimulants" available. And, many could never use the word "No" .
I was never interested in any of that. Period. My life, my health, my brain, my career, my professional demeanor that my bosses were paying me for and my audience deserved from me, made me stay away from all of it. The music I loved & played, the great bosses & staffs that I worked with at my Radio Stations, the beautiful world around me, the sweet, wonderful girlfriends I had, the listeners & fans that I'd love so much and meet, were all I needed to attain a "Natural High". Sadly, as with what happened to so many of Rita's friends & loved ones in the Industry, many of them succumbed to "getting high", "turning on", "dropping a tab"...doing it all to excess. Some died early, some ruined their brains & their bodies so badly that they never recovered and were only "shells" of their "once-Superstar-selves", and others let their substance abuse spill-over into their on-stage performances and ruined their shows ...making themselves laughable to those who once idolized them.
ONE OF THE most-poignant and tragic stories in the book occurs on Page 23. Rita was thirteen years old. She and her mother & father were driving down a road just outside of Nashville when they were hit head-on by a car going about sixty-miles an hour. Rita was thrown through the windshield and out onto the road. Eventually, taken by ambulance to the hospital, she required over six hours of surgery by the plastic surgeon, and over sixty stitches to her face. It kept her out of school for over six weeks, and her face - black & blue - from the accident and the surgery, took months for the swelling to go down, and longer for the stitches to heal. It was a heartbreaking trauma that, even though it happened almost sixty years ago, and her face looks perfectly normal today, still is vivid in her mind. (Having had a major accident & surgeries myself in October of 2008, I still feel the results of that everyday...and can completely relate to Rita's story. As I read this section of the book, memories of my own trauma, and its resultant problems, came back to me...and I immediately felt a bond with her that I never knew existed.)
ALL IN ALL as I read the book, already knowing much of the subject matter that I did, it felt like an old friend was discussing it with me...telling her side of the Rock & Roll / Music History that we've both lived through - and still are a part of - over the last 50 Years. BUT, she filled me in on many of the things that I never knew about some of those whose records & music I've listened to and played on-the-air during those 50 Years. Her stories about Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Cher, her talented sister, Priscilla, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Bramlett, her daughter, Casey, Herb Alpert & Jerry Moss, Brenda Lee, Graham Nash, Kris Kristofferson, and, of course, Michael Walker, who pieced this wonderful book together through a number of year's of Interviews, are each worth almost a full chapter on their own.
BUT, THE MOST-RESOUNDING theme that flows through the book, is Rita Coolidge's heartfelt love of all of those she mentioned...even those who caused her pain, heartbreak, and, at least twice physical harm. She has that inbred, Native American, Cherokee bloodline, that enables her to release those demons that would haunt others forever...and, instead, give back love to destroy the hurt. That makes me admire her more than ever. And, it truly makes her a role model that women & girls all-around-the-world can learn from.
"DELTA LADY": A Memoir, By Rita Coolidge, with Michael Walker. Harper, Pub. (2016), is a fast-read, 240 Page, Trade Paper Back, and includes many rare, never-before-seen photos from Rita's private collection, with a 16 Page Center Section devoted to many, many early family photos that are priceless...giving us a view of how she's changed through the year's, and still looks remarkably o-so-cool today. Yes, this is a valuable piece of Rock & Roll History as told by one of it's most-beautiful, and talented survivors. If you like music, and you really love Rock & Roll...this book belongs in your Library !
"BUTCH PATRICK'S MUNSTER MEMORIES" A Mini Coffin Table Book, By Butch Patrick. TV Classics Press, Pub. (2015)
THIS YEAR, on my yearly trip to the Kustom Kemps Of America Lead Sled Spectacular event in Salina, Kansas, to Interview the Legends & Pioneers of the Rod & Custom Industry, I was really excited !
In addition to the Industry Legends I Interview for my "Hall Of Fame Legends" Online Series, there are always some great TV & Movie Stars that are featured at the event. If you've been to my HOF Legends Site, you've heard some of the Interviews that I've done with Paul Le Mat (John Milner) in "American Grafitti", or, Candy Clark (Debbie Dunham), also in "American Grafitti". SO, when I found out that Butch Patrick, "Eddie Munster' from "The Munsters" was coming this year, I knew it was going to be a fun weekend...and it was !
As it turned-out, Butch, his finance'-soon-to-be-wife Leila, and, myself, spent most of the weekend together in the Celebrity area of the KKOA event...and it couldn't have been nicer ! Butch is a car guy through-and-through, he even owns custom-built replicas of the "Munster Koach" & "Drag-U-La" ! AND, he was "Eddie Munster", and was there for all 70 episodes of this fantastic, ledgendary Cult Classic Comedy TV show...seen by thousands of fans all-over the World !
Butch has had a lifelong career as an actor, doing many shows before "The Munsters" began, BUT "Eddie Munster" is his most-famous role, and he has almost total recall of what went on during the filming of the Series, as well as the other actors that got their start by appearing on the show, as well as the behind-the-scenes Info that only someone "who was there at the time" would know.
SO, armed with all of that knowledge, memorabilia, and, huge fan-base that he's gained during his many appearances through the years at Car Show events, TV & Movie events, Comic Book & Fantasy events, and, with the coming of the 50th Anniversary of "The Munsters" debut on CBS-TV, Butch decided to put all of the Info, rare photos, super-fan memories, Interviews & stories from former cast & crew members, like Pat Priest ("Marilyn"), Makeup Specialist Michael Westmore, "King of the Kustomizer's" George Barris, who built the "Munster Koach" & "Drag-U-La", and, many, many others, into a "Mini Coffin Table Book" called, naturally enough "Butch Patrick's Munster Memories"...that was originally self-published in a Limited Hardcover Edition.
WELL, THAT BOOK WAS actually so successful that fans and friends alike who missed-out on that version, proved to Butch that a reprint of the book in paperback was truly needed...thus, this is the book he had with him at the KKOA event for fans to purchase, and he made sure I had a copy so I could Review it for you !
I HAVE BEEN A COLLECTOR & FAN OF comic books, comic art, and various forms of memorbilia since I was a kid, and in addition to my On-Air work at my Radio Stations, from October 1, 1985 to October 1, 1992, I owned & ran All-American Comics & Collectibles, in the General Grant Shopping Center in St. Louis, and I always carried "The Munsters" Gold Key Comics when I could get back-issues, because I had many requests for them all the time.
And, as I went through Butch's "Munster Memories" cool book, I couldn't help but be reminded of the many "fanzines", self-produced books, and, "special interest" magazines that I also carried in my store during the time I had it. Well, this book would be the "best-of-the-best" if it were in any of those catagories !
The book was certainly a "labor of love" for Butch and his friends to produce ! The caring, the fun, the ultra-rare photos that you'll view in the book, all prove how much hardwork, and, dedication went into it. The great stories, learning about the making of the shows themselves, the super-fans who "live & breathe" "The Munsters" everyday of their lives, the Info that only those who took part in the show (as well as those who've made it a point to research every facet of the show) discuss and document in this very special book, are to be complimented for their contributions.
I thank Butch for the copy that he presented me with, and I'll tell you right now, this is a "keeper" ! I loved every page, every story...especially the Section covered in Pages 68 to 73: "My Life With The Munsters", by Butch, and my, mutual friends the late-George Barris, as well as Tony Wood. George talks about the "Munster Koach" & "Drag-U-La" and the "Hot Rod Herman" Episode of the show, which "car guys" the world over have enjoyed for years.
Another neat section of the book is the area on "Munster Collectibles", Pages 93 to 99...that is a real eye-opener, you have to see it to believe it ! Oh, and "Eddie's" Woof Woof Doll ("Woofy"), who was its image originally patterned after ? Did Fred Gwynne really answer his own fan mail ? Why did Beverly Owen, the original "Marilyn", leave the Series after its first thirteen episodes ? Well, you'll get all of these questions answered when you read the book !
This is a GREAT book ! If you love "The Munsters", wanna have fun reading about "everything Munster", and want to thoroughly enjoy a piece of Classic TV Comedy History...this is for Y-O-U ! PLUS, you can get your own personal copy directly from Butch's Website that's shown here, or, on Amazon at www.amazon.com Believe me, you won't be disappointed, and it would be a great gift to give to a "Munster Fan Friend" !
BE SURE TO CHECK-OUT BUTCH PATRICK'S Official "MUNSTERS" SITE ! All kinds of Info is there, and you can buy the "MUNSTER MEMORIES" Mini Coffin Table Book, get autographed photos and other cool stuff that Butch has for sale ! You'll also be able to find out about Butch's coming Personal Appearances, to see where he'll be next ! HERE'S THE DIRECT LINK: http://www.munsters.com/butch_patrick.php
SPECIAL NOTE: ONE OF THE MOST-FAMOUS Episodes from "THE MUNSTERS" TV Series is "HOT ROD HERMAN"...at the Dragstrip !
TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW I did with my friend, the late-GEORGE BARRIS "The King Of The Kustomizers", on building the "Munster Koach" & "The Drag-U-La" Cars that were used in the TV Show, and actually driving the "Drag-U-La" in that Episode, PLUS, BUTCH PATRICK'S Interview giving me his memories of filming the Episode, as well as his friendship with George Barris, simply CLICK-ON-THIS-LINK and you'll hear BOTH their fantasitc Interview stories !! JK
"THE WORLD OF TOMORROW", By Larry Zim, Mel Lerner & Herbert Rolfes. Harper & Row, Pub. (1988)
THE TWO BOOKS ABOUT the 1939 New York World's Fair that I Reviewed below on this Page ("Twilght At The World Of Tomorrow" & "1939: The Lost World Of The Fair") BOTH deal with "sidebars", back-stories, fact & fictional accounts, and, are novels (in a way), based on the '39 NYWF...and do an excellent job. That's why I like them and have added them. Both are packed with info, memories, and, a look at the Fair from their point of view.
Having said that, "The World Of Tomorrow", by Zim, Lerner, and, Rolfes, is an authentic, factual, history of the Fair done in an historic & documentary-style. It is one of the BEST looks at the time & place that the major event of the '39 NYWF was staged, and how it has added its impact to our lives, and, our pre-WW II culture.
THE BOOK WAS THE BRAINCHILD OF '39 NYWF collector & historian, LARRY ZIM, and was to be published in conjuction with the 50th Anniversary of that fantastic event in April, 1988. Sadly, Mr. Zim passed away on April 7, 1987, shortly after completing the First Draft of the book. At that time, it was then going to be completed by his business partner, MEL LERNER. But Mr. Lerner also died, January 7, 1988, and it was then up to HERBERT ROLFES who, like Zim & Lerner, was a major collector/historian on the Fair, to add to the book with his vast collection of Fair Memorabilia in order to get this beautiful volume finished on time. And, he did it perfectly.
Whether you know anything about the 1939 NYWF or not, the book is so well structured, and is so chronologically, culturally, and, historically important, that it should be required reading at all High Schools, Colleges, and, Universities. Its Hardcover, large design (12x9x1), 3 pounds, 240 Pages, contain 13 Chapters...each filled with info, some rare never-before-seen photos, authentic stories & memories of those who were there, and gives the reader a feeling of having been there while it was going on. It will hold your interest without even trying !
TO SET THE STAGE FOR what will come into play with the '39 NYWF, the book examines the other Fairs & Expositions that all took place during the 1930's: The time of the Great Depression. The 1934 Chicago World's Fair was a major draw, and was host to 38 Million visitors...during America's bleakest time period. Others that were staged were: Brussels, 1935; San Diego, 1935-1936; Dallas, 1936; Cleveland, 1937; Paris, 1937. The other important World's Fair & Exposition took place in San Franciso. It began, February 17, 1939, and was set on Treasure Island*, so it was going on before, and during the '39 NYWF.
This book is so thorough that it covers every imaginable part of this monumental 1939 New York World's Fair...from its inception, to the tearing down of the last building. The interesting thing here is learning how all of the businessmen, the various countries that signed-on to the project, the major corporations that built exhibits, and, the engineers, designers, and, workmen, all pulled-together to make this spectacular event become a reality !
THE THEME OF THE Fair was to show how this new "World Of Tomorrow" would benefit us all...leaving thoughts of the Great Depression behind. The Fair opened on a rainy Sunday, April 30, 1939. Exhibits from Westinghouse (with a Time Capsule), Ford Motor Company (with a display of all the '39 Ford offerings, including their newest car: Mercury), Wonder Bread, Sealtest Dairy (watch 'em milk cows), AT & T (with the first "video phone"), Underwood Typewriters, White Owl Cigars, the Coca Cola Company, the Eastman Kodak Company, Beech Nut Gum & Packing Company...and SO many other exhibits/displayers it would take this whole page to list them !
Then, there were the wonderful restaurants, the amusement areas, the science buildings, the communication buildings, the art displays, the Billy Rose Aquacade (which became the highest-grossing event at the Fair), transportation exhibits, the nightly fireworks & neon displays...all-in-all, truly "something for everyone".
AND, if you're a 1939 NYWF Collector as I am, Herbert Rolfes Merchandise & Collectibles Section takes-up all of Chapter 13, runs from Pages 195 to 235 and is a visual delight ! I have many of the items shown there, but some I'd never seen before...and just the sight of all of these being shown at one-place-at-one-time is truly mind-blowing ! Better yet, I was able to obtain an autographed copy of the book by Mr. Rolfes...which I truly treasure.
Words of the common man, the "Fairgoers" themselves, are added to the book, as are the thoughts on the man responsible for heading the Fair, Grover Whalen, who put the idea into motion to begin with. Was he doing all of this as part of a massive "ego trip", to further his already established status in New York, or, was he really dedicated to the Fair itself ? And why was Robert Moses, the New York City Parks Comimssioner, so against the Fair that the only place he would let it be built was on the site of a landfill...a garbage dump ? Questions to ponder and seek out in the Chapters of this remarkable book.
The 1939 New York World's Fair, that had opened with such hope and promise on its first day in April of 1939, closed on October 27, 1940 without making a profit, and with the World already at War in Europe, and America on the brink of entering that War just one year later...sadly, the Fair limped into the History Books without achieving the "hope and promise" it so valiantly sought.
QUOTING FROM PAGE 13 of this honestly-written classic, to add to what I have written above: "Nonetheless, the (1939) New York World's Fair is remembered as the standard by which other fairs are judged...because it really was a triumphant event, brilliantly conceived on a colossal scale, that occured at a time when one great national trouble was ending and another had not quite begun."
Find a copy of "The World Of Tomorrow", by Larry Zim, Mel Lerner, and Herbert Rolfes, if you can, it belongs in the History Section of your Library. You may have to look for it on Amazon or eBay, but once you see it, read it, you will understand how important this book, and the information contained within it, is to the culture & history of that time-period here in America.
*NOTE: ONE OF THE BEST FILMS from the "Charlie Chan" Series is the aptly-named "Charlie Chan At Treasure Island" featuring Sidney Toler as Chan, and, a young, handsome Cesar Romero...before he donned his "Joker" make-up for TV's "Batman" ! This film is one of my personal favorites, I have it in my collection, and, if you see it you'll get a bit of a feel for the real 1939 San Francisco World's Fair and Treasure Island.
[ TO SEE THE SPECIAL SECTION I've produced, views of the 1939 New York World's Fair, and, a look at "The World Of Tomorrow" simply CLICK-ON-THIS-LINK. ]
"SAM PHILLIPS: THE MAN WHO INVENTED ROCK 'N' ROLL", By Peter Guralnick. Little, Brown And Company, Pub.
I HAD HEARD THAT VOICE many times before. The first time was in the Fall of 1956 when I was in High School. It was the sound coming out of my little Majestic Table Model Radio...the song was "I Walk The Line", and the voice belonged to Johnny Cash. I bought the 78 RPM version of that song, and all of the other hits he had on that Sun Records label...and, followed him over to his Columbia Records recordings, and, his TV apperances & TV show. So, yes, I had heard that voice many times before.
NOW, MY CAREER in Radio had started in 1967, and by April of 1969, I had moved to the 50,000 Watt Giant: KAAY in Little Rock. And on that warm Arkansas day, Wednesday, May 31st, 1972, in addition to my On-Air duties at KAAY, I was also KAAY's Music Director...meeting with local, regional, national, and independent, promotion representatives for various record labels from around the country.
I was On-The-Air doing my Mid-Day Shift on that May Day, when a call came through to the Control Room. I picked-up the phone and said "Hi. This is Jonnie King, who's this please ?" To which this deep-bass, fully recognizable voice answered, "Hello, Jonnie, this is Johnny Cash" ! Even as I write these words almost forty-four year's later, I still can't express to you the surprise and awe that I felt as that deep, familiar, voice that I'd heard for all of those years, for the first time was talking directly to me. I have Interviewed, spent time with, and talked to many stars during my career, but at that instant I was almost speechless and stunned from the top of my head to the tips of my shoes...and that's the truth.
I HAVE DETAILED SOME of the above in my Tribute : Johnny Cash: "House Of Cash" , but the impact of that call, and the wonderful, pleasant, just-plain-perfect conversation, and the Interview that he & I had on that long-ago day, came back to me in full-force as I read PETER GURALNICK'S eposodic volume "SAM PHILLIPS: THE MAN WHO INVENTED ROCK 'N' ROLL".
Sam Phillips, and Sun Records, I've known about since 1955 when I first heard, and purchased, Elvis' "Mystery Train", and the other Sun hits from Carl Perkins, and, Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as Johnny's. BUT, I really didn't know all of the intricate details that were wrapped within the man himself: Sam Phillips...the man who founded & owned Sun Records, and engineered & produced some of their biggest hits.
THEY WERE poor farm boys from the South that had talent, could sing, play, and wanted to make records...have a career. Sam Phillips, was just like them, that was his personal history...but they had come to his recording studio with their hopes & dreams, and, yes, he was the one who would eventually lead them to that "promised land"; would give them the opportunity to make those hopes & dreams come true.
To say Sam Phillips was a complicated man would be too easy...that was only part of his character make-up. Guralink, over a span of almost three decades, knew Phillips almost better than anyone, and the man he describes is, at once, a perfectionist who believes that "imperfection" is perfect in its own way, a formidable foe to those who wrong him, as well as one of the kindest, most-generous friends, relatives, or, aquaintances, you'd ever know. A man who tried to control every part of his own destiny...be it in radio,the radio stations he owned, music, recording, building a house, or, his own health...and later, his own history/legacy by which he would ultimately be remembered.
This is a massive work containing 763 Pages, Ten Chapters, a section on Notes, a Bibliography, and, an Index... so , no, it's not a "weekend read" ! It's a book that must be savored, one long chapter at a time. But, as you read, the story unfolds - as it should - chronologically. You learn about Sam's growing up on a farm, his love of the ethnic/blues music of the sharecroppers, his beloved Aunt Emma (who was blind in one eye, and a deaf mute...for which he learned sign language as a boy), Silas Payne (a poor, blind, black sharecropper, taken in by his parents, he called "Uncle Silas"), his family...including his brother, Jud, who ended-up working for Sam for most of his life, and, the problems and conflicts that relationship caused Sam many times over the years.
Sam's contributions to the music industry could never be underestimated. Besides the ones mentioned a few paragraphs above, there were Howlin' Wolf, Ike Turner, B.B. King, Roy Orbison, and Charlie Rich...along with great legends-to-be like Jack Clement, Bill Justis, Bill Black, Scotty Moore, Billy Lee Riley, and, a few others. His two sons, Knox & Jerry, are covered throughout the book, and they would eventually come into their own as professionals. In addition, you explore the relationships Sam had with his wife, Becky, and some of the other women in his life that he cared for: Marion, Sally, Sylvia, and, Sleetie, along with Audrey Williams, the widow of Hank Wiliams, Sr. And yes, Sam's love of radio, his radio stations, music, and, the recording process itself, would take-up most of his entire adult life...it's all covered and explained here.
Sam Phillips loved Florence, Alabama, where he grew up, and traveled back home whenever he could. Too, he was amazed at Memphis the first time he cruised down Beale Street, and adopted it as his "new home" when he decided to move there. But his Alabama roots were always the strongest. His love for his entire family is well documented here, as well as the personal demons that haunted him: his mental state - early on - that triggered his self-diagnosed need for Electroshock Therapy in a mental hospital, and his - later in life - alcoholism. So, both "the good & the bad" sides of his nature are explored...but, I will leave those up to any potential readers to discover for themselves.
Gurlanick's Interviews with Phillips - both recorded & some just with notes - were spread-out over many years, and even though Sam passed-away in 2003, with other committments and projects, the book wasn't finished & published until the Fall of 2015. It's an excellent book, and a microcosm of the early history of not just Rock & Roll, but music itself, and, the "business of music", that you can truly learn a lot about...knowledge you wouldn't otherwise have, from that magical time in our culture's Music History. Plus, the information and Interviews with many involved with Sam, and the recording Industry itself at that time, are well-documented in the book...as are the stars themselves. Peter Guralnick's love of his subject shows through on every page..."warts and all"...just as Sam wanted it.
However, the title of the book, "Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'N' Roll", is up for debate. Did Sam Phillips really "invent" Rock 'N' Roll...or, was he in the forefront: a leader who pioneered that genre, that sound...along with others who were like-minded at that time ? Or, was it the combination of black & country music, mirrored in the "sound" & the "soul" of the artists that he recorded, along with his expertise & secrets of sound design he had perfected, that then spearheaded the movement that eventually became "Rock 'N' Roll" ?
Actually, in many ways, I look at Sam Phillips as the "Henry Ford Of Rock 'N' Roll": Both grew up from humble beginnings on a farm; both made a lasting impact on the world around them. Ford with his automotive & industrial legacy; Phillips with the sounds, the music, and, the artists, that were forever imbedded into our culture.
WHATEVER THE CASE, Sam Phillips, and all of the achievements he accomplished during his career, will stand the test of time. They show beyond a shadow of a doubt, how one man, with his dreams, his vision, his self-learned, deep-rooted brilliance and understanding of the sound & subject of music, and, his inate judge of talent & creativity, could be a force in changing the world around him...knowing, believing, and, proving, that music is one of the most powerful, and, universal connections that all can relate to, bond with, and, understand.
IF YOU'VE FOLLOWED THE "History of Rock & Roll" through the year's, you're probably aware that Sam Phillips mastering & producing of "Rocket 88" by Ike Turner & His "Kings Of Rhythm" with saxman Jackie Brenston's vocals, is considerd to be the FIRST "Rock & Roll" Record ever released. (Here in St. Louis, I saw Ike Turner many times during the 60's. Tina was with him then, they were living here, and their "live" shows were fantastic. ALSO, in 1972 when I was in Nashville for the Rolling Stones Concert, Ike & Tina were "surprise guests" on the show...and, literally tore the house down when they did their super-hit version of "Proud Mary" !)
BUT, DID YOU KNOW that in 1956, Carl Perkins recording of "Blue Suede Shoes" was the very first Sun Record to sell a million copies ? Well, it was, and Sam Phillips promised his artists (Cash, Perkins, Lewis, et al) that whoever was the first one of the group to sell a million records, he would buy 'em a brand new Cadillac.
So, as Guralnick tells the story in his book, Sam told Carl to go pick one out when "Blue Suede Shoes" had topped the million-mark. Carl did just that. He picked out a brand new, $5,000.00, 1956 Cadillac. Cool car, then...and, now. Never missing a chance for a Photo Op, Sam made sure the press was notified, and there was a picture of him handing the keys to Carl along-side the car, to celebrate the occasion, with a story that made it into the Memphis Press-Scimitar. What a great thrill for all concerned ! BUT, what Carl didn't know, until years later, was that Sam had deducted the cost of the Caddy from Carl's royalty checks ! (Can somebody please give me an "Amen !" ?)
NOTE: To read my complete story about Johnny Cash, and see my Tribute to him, just CLICK-ON-THIS-LINK and it will take you to that Special Page .
"TWILIGHT AT THE WORLD OF TOMORROW", By James Mauro. Ballentine Books, Pub. (2010)
1939 WAS THAT FATEFUL YEAR that balanced America between "The Great Depression" & World War II...and, on the tip of that "balance point" was the 1939 New York World's Fair. To quote from the from the front inside-flap of the book "A glorious vision of the future, the Fair introduced television, the fax machine, nylon, and fluorescent lights. The 'World of Tomorrow', as it was called, was a dream city built upon a notorius garbage dump...", and it was.
To give proper creedence to this book, you need to know something about, not only the 1939 New York World's Fair, but the years that led up to it...as well as those responsible for putting it together. Well, you're in luck ! James Mauro has that covered for you in this well-researched volume that began with his finding of something at the Site of the both the 1939 & 1964 World's Fairs...a finding that led him to writing this superb piece of historic non-fiction.
Albert Einstein, General Motors, President Roosevelt, Westinghouse, N.Y. Mayor Fiorelo La Guardia, Televsion, Adolph Hitler, and, the NYWF's President, Grover Whalen...and a cast of thousands...and their importance, or lack of same, are chronicled within the 401 Pages of this Hardcover volume !
The book combines two aspects of the Fair: 1. The creation of the Fair, those responsible for it, and, how the Fair ran during 1939 & 1940. 2. The "counter story" of the two detectives that were on the Bomb & Forgery Squad, and assigned to the Fair... covering any bomb threats, or, terrorist plots, aimed at the Fair and its Fairgoers. In following these overlapping stories, Mauro has closely assembled his chapters similar to the way Erik Larson did in his best-seller "The Devil In The White City"...also a work of non-fiction concerning the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. But, don't let that influence you, Mauro's work stands on its own. (This book also differs from "1939: The Lost World Of The Fair", By David Gelernter, which you'll see Reviewed below.)
What is so interesting about the book is the documentation & rare photos placed within its chapters, the Epilogue, the Notes & Sources, and, the BIblography sections...which all show how much work that James Mauro put into the book to make sure of its accuracy. As many years as I have researched the subject of this legendary, historic Fair, much of what's written here is truly new to me. Plus, copious amounts of footnotes abound within this volume !
Yes, Grover Whalen, the Fair's President, Albert Einstein, Mayor LaGuardia, Robert Moses, and, FDR, himself, were involved in the Fair, but I didn't really know about the detectives, Joe Lynch, and, Freddy Socha, and how important they - and their squad - were to the story of the Fair. I learned it here. You'll also learn about the shabby treatment the Fair's President, Grover Whalen, got, and how political manuvering by Robert Moses, Commissioner of Parks in New York, sometimes had a "stranglehold" on the Fair itself.
The books Five Sections are contained within 401 Pages. Its various Chapters switch from the Fair to the Detecives with enough interest, infomation, and, mystery, to keep you wanting to not put the book down. So, if you want a different perspective, a different "view" of the Fair than you previously had, I recommend you try "Twilight At The World Of Tomorrow", by James Mauro, for yourself. You can probably find a copy at Amazon, www.amazon.com , and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did !
NOTE: To see the Special Section, views of the 1939 New York World's Fair, and, a look at "The World Of Tomorrow" simply CLICK-ON-THIS-LINK.
"1939: THE LOST WORLD OF THE FAIR", By David Gelernter. Avon Books, Pub. (1996)
IF YOU'VE READ ANY OTHER PORTION of this Website by now you've learned of my love of history, art deco, research, and, those possible "Time Travel Trips" that could take us back to another era. An era in which we could truly learn from, understand, and, see how - if at all - that era impacts on the one we live in today. Needless to say, David Gelernter's book "1939: The Lost World Of The Fair", fits perfectly into that mold.
Awhile back I created a Special Page here on the Website, "Welcome To The World Of Tommrow", which showcases the importance of, and the history of, the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940. I believe that, outside of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, it was one of the most-important social, cultural, and, historic events of the 20th Century. Evidently, David Gelernter felt exactly the same way, and explains all of those points I just mentioned...and many more.
To understand that World's Fair, and Gelernter's book, you have to realize that in 1939 the world, and especially the U.S.A., was poised on the edge of that portion of time that hinged between The Great Depression, and, World War II. And the culture & demeanor of our country and its people were vastly different than they are today. That's where Gelernter's book takes over...explains how different we were and, most of the time, how much more inate "class" the citizens of that time period possessed.
THE BOOK IS HISTORICALLY ACCURATE on all counts. The reserach, methodology, and, painstaking hardwork that was put into this volume shows on every page...as does the love of the author for his subject. You'll learn how certain names connected with the Fair are important: Grover Whalen, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Robert Moses, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and, Albert Einstein.
SO, if you were to read the book for simply pleasure, you would see it as part fact, blended with fiction, and, the including of a love story. But you'd soon learn that it was all built on truth...and is a learning experience that will take you back to that time, and teach you the lessons of a bygone era that have, mostly, been lost.
To learn about our country, and its culture & citizens of 1939, be sure to read & get the full-historical benefit of these sections: The "Prologue: The Center Of Time"; "Into The Fair"; "The Necktie"; "Technology: Gorgeous; "Flight In Space"; "Dynamite, Manhattan, 1939"; "Technology: Frightening"; "Technology: Good"; "Robot"; "Epilogue: Here In Utopia"...you will understand much about our "World of 1939" if you take time to peruse those Chapters.
To quote the New York Times: "Part fiction, part sociology, and part prophecy...1939 is strong on the pleasures of the past...the reader can sense the wonder of the fair." In addition, the "love story" that is woven throughout the book, is based (at least partly) on the many Interviews that David Gelernter did with people he was able to contact that actually were alive at the time and visited the Fair !
All-IN-ALL, I can't tell you how much everytime I read this book (and, I have read it multiple-times) I still learn some things I may have missed in the previous reading. Also, I can't give you any stronger recommendation than this: To read "1939: The Lost World Of The Fair", is to be propelled back-in-time to relive the sights, the sounds, the entire experience of being 'right there all over again' !
Gelerntner's ability to draw the reader in, to bring life to this subject that he loves so much, and, to give you a 418 Page history lesson within its 28 Chapters about "how we were" in that long-ago, wonderful, time of transition between yesterday-and-today, is an experience you won't soon forget.
NOTE: To see the Special Section, views of the 1939 New York World's Fair, and, a look at "The World Of Tomorrow" simply CLICK-ON-THIS-LINK.
"MOONLIGHT" ON TV: THE SERIES YOU MAY HAVE NEVER SEEN...BUT REALLY SHOULD HAVE (ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIKE VAMPIRES !). (2007-2008)
"MOONLIGHT" first aired on CBS-TV on September 28th, 2007, but it had gotten off to a rocky start from the beginning...and would meet further problems in 2008. It's premise was that Private Investigator, Mick St. John, his old friend Josef Kostan, and many others, were vampires living in Los Angeles. Some were good, some were bad, but Mick had turned away from "feeding" on humans to retain his strength & age, and tried to "police-the-area" and weed out the bad, rebellious vamps...and, in the process, help save the humans he came in contact with.
The original "pilot" for the series had been scrapped after it was previewed by execs, and the entire cast - except Alex O'Loughlin as the lead - was released. When the show was re-vamped (no pun intended) and recast, Alex O'Loughlin remained as the lead "Mick St. John"; the beautiful Sophia Myles became "Beth Turner", a reporter for an online internet website; Jason Dohring was "Josef Kostan" a 410 year old vampire, good friend of Mick's; Shannyn Sossamon starred as "Coraline Duvall", Mick's wife, a vampire who had turned Mick into one 55 years earlier on their Honeymoon. (As an aside here, I didn't really care for Sossamon as Coraline. I liked the original casting of Amber Valletta - later seen on "Revenge" as Lydia Davis - have always enjoyed her work.)
THE CAST OF "MOONLIGHT": From the Left: Jason Dohring, Shannyn Sossamon, Alex O'Loughlin, Sophia Myles (CBS-TV 2007-2008) Photo courtesy of CBS Broadcasting, Inc.
THRU THE YEAR'S, many vampire series have succeeded on TV: "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" & "Angel", "True Blood", "The Vampire Diaries" & "The Originals"...have all acquired a good audience fan-base. The main reason that was possible was that they were given enough time to mature, expand, and reach that fan-base. However, "Moonlight", as mentioned above, had troubles from the start. Then, in 2008 Hollywood was hit by a writer's strike that went on for a number of months, and halted production on many already-popular series...as well as the fledgling series "Moonlight".
That not only hurt the momentum of the show, it doomed it...not only to a shortened season, but, ultimately, cancelation. An outcry among many who were fans of the show, along with petitions and pleas to bring it back, didn't work. Very sad indeed, as I had watched it from the first episode, liked the concept from the beginning, and followed along as the actors' "grew" into their characters:
Alex O'Loughlin's "Mick St. John" was cool, compassionate, and, could turn into an "avenging vampire/angel" in a millisecond when neccessary.
Sophia Myles, "Beth Turner" was , at once, bright, sweet, a quick-study, and, was very cute to boot !
Jason Dohring, "Josef Kostan", had enough swagger, and, intelligence, to infuse life into a vamp that was over 400 years old...but was still looking forward to tomorrow.
Shannyn Sossamon, "Coraline Duvall", Mick's wife (who he had supposedly killed in trying to save a little blond-headed girl from Coraline wanting to feed on her year's earlier...that little girl was, in reality, Beth Turner) did okay in her part, but I still believe Amber Valletta might have been more convincing.
The love interest that grows between Mick & Beth, is a running thread through the series, and it's truly well done by both leads. Mick trying to hold back because it's dangerous for vampires to have relationships with humans...lest they eventually want to "turn them". Beth, falling in love with Mick and wanting to take the chance of their being together...no matter what the future would hold...trusting Mick all-the-way.
MOONLIGHT'S shortened-season ran for 16 Episodes which are avaliable on DVD, and you might find 'em on You Tube. I've placed the Series on my yearly "Halloween Rarities" list, and I think that if you like shows centering on vampires, AND, have not seen this one yet, you'd enjoy it.
THE BY-PLAY BETWEEN MICK & BETH not only adds to the love interest, but Beth, after Mick admits to her he's a vampire, has a whole new take on their relationship...with, sometimes, a warm, humourous view of Mick, and adds fun to the mix. ( AND, IN CASE Mick decided he didn't want her, I made sure to contact Beth, and also left her a few eMails & texts, so that she knew she'd always get a very warm welcome at my "vamp-free" home ! I mean, look at that beautiful girl !! )
BTW: As a dyed-in-the-wool Car Guy, the classic '66 Mercedes 250SE cabriolet/convertible that Mick St. John drives in the series is just fantastic !
Alex O'Loughlin is Australian. Of course he later starred as Steve McGarrett in the newer version of "Hawaii Five-0"...also on CBS-TV. Sophia Myles was born in London, and had starred in "Underworld" where she played a vampire. And in the classic "Tristan & Isolde". Jason Dohring, an American actor, was also seen in "Ringer", and, was cast in "The Originals". Shannyn Sossamon, born in Hawaii, later joined the cast of "Mistresses", was featured in the fantasy/horror 10 Episode Fox TV mini-series "Wayward Pines", and, then became a member of Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" cast.
"PULP ART": Original Cover Paintings For The Great American Pulp Magazines, By Robert Lesser. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. Pub. (2005)
I LOVE ART IN ALL FORMS and having met Robert Lesser many years ago, I can tell you that he is an expert: a collector, historian, and, writer of the highest caliber ! He was one of my earliest influences when I began collecting "Comic Character Art", in all its various forms, over four decades ago with his book "A Celebration Of Comic Art And Memorablia" (Hawthorne Books, Inc., Pub. 1975)
But Lesser's collections were many and varied, and included not only Comic Character Art, but Comic Books, Disneyana, Robots, and, Original Art, among other things. And, beginning in 1972, he was also in the forefront of the movement to appreciate and collect Pulp Art...and he explains its importance, and its rarity, in this colorful volume. In addition, the artists that did these fantastic pieces are all showcased, within the covers of this marvelous book !
IN THIS BEAUTIFULLY BALANCED VOLUME he hones-in on one of his, and my, favourite art forms: those dynamic, action-packed, vividly illustrated works of art that were created by some of the best artists you could imagine...and they were created, not for showings in galleries or museums, but as covers for the pulp magazines that dominated the newsstands during the 20's, 30's, and, 40's, selling for about ten cents each, and selling millions of copies in the process. ("Weird Tales", October, 1933. "Bat Woman" art by Margaret Brundage...a fantastic example of the styles explained in this book !)
BUT, the artwork itself, was usually not kept as it was created for one-time use only. It was then discarded, thrown away, given away, trashed, or, worse, sometimes burned-up and destroyed completely, because there was no room to store it, and many of the artists were actually embarrased at having to do "this type of art" to make a living ! It wasn't until a few decades ago that the importance of those paintings came to be accepted for what they really were: Not "throwaways", but genuine pieces of art in their own right !
THE PULPS COVERED ALL TYPES OF STORIES: Detective stories, Science Fiction, Western's, War & Combat stories, Jungle Adventure, Aviation stories, Arabian Nights-Style Fantasy stories, Oriental Villains...almost anything you could mention was found for reading for only a dime on the racks of the Pulp Section of your neighborhood newstand. And, the magnificient artists who toiled night & day to crank out the covers for those pulps included George & Jerome Rozen, Rafael De Soto, Virgil Finlay, Norman Saunders, J. Allen St. John, Walter Baumhofer, Graves Gladney, Rudolph Belarski, and many others. (Shown here is the original cover art for "Amazing Stories" November, 1941, entitled "Golden City On Titan" by Frank R. Paul)
"Pulp Art" was originally published in 1997...this is the newer 2005 Edition. An 11.9"h x 9"w, hard cover, its 172 Pages are fully-loaded with over 100 of the slickest, most beautiful full-colour pulp art paintings that you'll ever see, and many are seen here for the first time ! Much of it came from Lesser's large, private collection, others are from friends of his, as well as other private collections. The book is broken-up into ten sections and contains the history of how pulps began, 18 essays by collectors and experts such as Forrest J. Ackerman, Jim Steranko, Zina Saunders, John De Soto, and others. PLUS, there are biographies of these wonderful artists, and, even a guide to collecting these rare paintings if you'd like to own some yourself.
THIS IS THE ORIGINAL ART of George Rozen, for the cover of the January, 1942, "Shadow Magazine" story "Book Of Death". George, and his twin brother, Jerome, were among the most celebrated creators of art for the pulps during its Golden Age. But, if you've followed this Review so far, and you're not really familiar with this part of our American Cultural History, you might be asking: "So, Jonnie, just what are these 'pulps' that you're talking about, and why are they important anyway ?" Fair question. Let me quote from Page 5, Paragraphs 1 & 2, of "Pulp Art" in Lesser's own words:
"The pulp-magazine industry flourished during the Great Depression's low-bottom. Some publisher's got rich, and the industry's army of writers, artists, printers, and workers had jobs: steady work, away from bread lines, soup kitchen's, and apartment evictions.
Printed on 'pulp' the cheapest paper - hence the name - manufactured for two cents, wholesaled for a nickel, and retailed on the newstand for a hard-times dime, they were bought by millions...just by turning a page, weary men without hope and their fantasy-hungry children could escape into an enticing world filled with excitement and adventure. Just by looking at the covers, they could enter a universe of distant planets with creatures more intelligent, and beasts more dangerous, than any they knew of. "
THE BOTTOM LINE WAS the covers were what "sold" the magazines ! And those covers ran the gamut ! Damsels-in-distress, Tarzan fighting lions, flying air aces battling it out in daring dogfights, cops shooting at robbers, robbers shooting at cops, cowboys hell-bent-for-leather and their horses with thundering hoofbeats tearing-up the open plains, Oriental villiains ready to stab an unsuspecting hero, rocket ships heading for uncharted planets...Y-E-S !...it was the COVERS that sold those pulps, and they still hold that same electrically-charged aura, mystery, action and excitement when viewed today !!
I MENTIONED AT THE OUTSET that I had met Robert Lesser. I did. We were both at the Lloyd Ralston Toy Auction in Fairfield, Connecticut, on the night of August 20, 1982. I saw him standing at the back of the hall before the auction started and introduced myself to him...told him he was one of my early "heroes" and influences in expanding my collection from Golden Age Radio Show Premiums & Toys, into many different toys and characters that I had learned about in his book "A Celebration Of Comic Character Art And Memorabilia"...especially comic character toys and early tin windups.
He couldn't have been nicer ! Just a warm, friendly, o-so-knowledgeable gentleman. Told me how he, and his photographer, Stefan Gongrat-Butler, had struggled to get the book finished, and, published, and was most-gracious when I told him that it had been my early "bible" to learn from, and that the pictures. as well as his well-documented information, allowed me to learn about and see many items & toys that I had never known about before. And, accordingly, it caused me to expand my collection from that point on...that's one of the reasons I was at the toy auction that night to begin with !
(Above left: "The Shadow Magzine", July 15, 1940; Above right: "The Shadow Magazine", April 15, 1941. Artwork on both covers by Graves Gladney...and these pulps are from my own personal collection.)
ROBERT LESSER'S FANTASTIC "PULP ART" BOOK is one that I highly recommend if you'd like to delve deeper into American Pulp Art History, American Cultural History, American Pop Culture, or, just want to view some of the wildest, most creative, most mind-blowing works of art that you will ever see ! Lesser is a brilliant master historian and his insight, documentation, and, information on all the subjects he writes about is second to none. You can probably find your copy at Amazon.com or on EBAY. And, thanks again, Bob !
A SPECIAL REVIEW ON DICK CLARK'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY: "Rock, Roll & Remember", By Dick Clark & Richard Robinson. Thomas Y. Crowell, Pub. (1976)
DICK CLARK DID IT ALL ! Radio, TV, Movies, TV Shows, TV Game Shows, The American Music Awards, New Year's Rockin' Eve, Syndicated Radio Shows, Restaurants...as an entreprenuer he seemingly had no boundries. And, the mere mention of his name may conjure up some pleasant memories if you're a certain age, and newer memories if you're younger.
On Thursday, November 4th, 1976, Dick Clark was in St. Louis. I was at KSLQ Radio and had begun syndication of my Morning Feature "The Breakfast Serial", and I met him at a location in the West Roads Shopping Center (now the Galleria). He was appearing there as part of a Nationwide Book Tour promoting his just-published autobiography "Rock, Roll & Remember", and personally signed a copy for me at that time.
He was a true gentleman, interested in the fact that I was not only an Air Personality, but that I had a great love for the Golden Age of Radio and was preserving it with my show and bringing it to a new generation of listeners...plus, letting those that heard it "the first time" hear it again. He complimented me on "breaking the barrier" by placing a Golden Age/Old Time Radio serialized-concept show on a "Top 40-Style" FM Radio station that was music-driven...and making it work. And, syndicating it to boot !
THE ABOVE OPENING PARAGRAPHS TO THIS REVIEW are taken from my "Tribute To Dick Clark" here on the Website. The book itself, no matter when it was written, is a great piece of Radio/Rock & Roll personal history from the man who was there in those early days and, through his early, ground-breaking, "American Bandstand" TV Show, pioneered in bring Rock & Roll to the masses via the TV Screen...just as Alan Freed had contributed earlier through the airwaves of Radio.
The book follows Clark's life and career, mostly-chronologically, and his candor in sharing personal thoughts, stories, triumphs & tragedies, shows how his seemingly "meteoric" rise to fame once "Bandstand" became a hit on TV, was actually a trip that had a good foundation from the start.
Ironically, I never knew the common denominator / magical thread that Dick Clark and I shared until I read the book: Like me, he was enthralled by listening to the radio in his room as a young boy, especially listening to favorite stars & shows that he liked. And after he had his first trip to a radio station, his Mother asked him how he liked it...his answer was so very similar to mine "That's what I want to do. When I write away for college catalogs, I'm going to find out which ones have a radio school." The difference between us though was that Dick was a high school sophomre when he decided...I was eight years old.
Clark's early career in both Radio & TV is covered in-depth; you'll learn much you never knew. His marriages, divorces, friendships, travels and touring, the Payola Scandal's & Hearings, the move from "Bandstand's" home-base in Philadelphia to the sunny confines of L.A., his creating "R&R Revival Shows"many year's later in Las Vegas...and his thoughts on his life and career at the time this book was written, 1976, are among the most interesting pieces of our American R&R History that you may read.
The books 276 Pages are jam-packed with dozens of Clark's personal photos, most never seen before. His friendships with Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Connie Francis, Fats Domino, and many others are shared with the reader, as are his memory-laden traveling "Caravan Of Stars" stories. Those are among the most-interesting as they chronical how much racism there still was in our Country at that time, and how Dick and all those involved had to deal with it while they were on-the-road...traveling from town-to-town with these talented singers/artists/recording stars who were sometimes subjected to less-than-pleasant-treatment due to their race.
The myths of Clark being the All-American "Boy Next Door" are changed by the fact that he was "human" ! He smoked, drank, had marital problems, business problems, and had day-to-day problems just like the rest of us, but his admissions to those things in his life actually give us a more in-depth look...and the knowledge that he had the courage to add it to this volume is good in itself.
I have read this book many times since I first got it from Dick all those years ago, and each time I unearth some portions that I forgot about and others I could never forget: how he was devasted by the loss of his older brother, Brad, who was a fighter pilot in the Air Force during WW II and was killed when his plane crashed; how he was chosen to take over from Bob Horn, the original host of "Bandstand"; how he helped his friend, Ed McMahon, get a job with Johnny Carson; how he was involved deeper in the music business than most ever knew...but tried to keep his involvement legal; his personal thoughts on the business itself, and, his lifelong quest to bring entertainment to his audience...in any form he chose to pursue.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the great stories Dick relates about the "backstage" happenings on the show...lots of fun ! Stories on how some of the songs that became hits evolved. The kids on the show ? What a true "pecking order" came about there ! Some of those kids got almost as much fan mail as Dick ! Great stories about the record company producers/writers/promoters/execs also add to the mix of the "Bandstand Legend". Dick's good times, as well as bad times, with some of the performers on the show get told here too.
ALL-IN-ALL, if you want to hold book in your hands that reflects a true piece of "Rock & Roll History", by one of the men who helped create a version of the genre' that continues, in its current form, till today, you will definitely love this book ! Dick Clark's "Rock, Roll & Remember" should find a place somewhere in your Library, and you can find your copy on Amazon or ebay. Everytime I touch, hold, and, read, mine I remember the man who handed it to me...one of my early R&R Heroes: Dick Clark.
NOTE: TO READ MY "TRIBUTE TO DICK CLARK" SIMPLY CLICK-ON-HERE !
"THE ALAN FREED STORY: THE EARLY YEARS OF ROCK & ROLL", By John A. Jackson. Collectables Press, Pub. (2005)
AFTER A VISIT TO KXLW Radio here in St. Louis when I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to be "on the radio". To help me head in that direction, there was one man who was one of my earliest influences, he introduced me to the power of "Rhythm & Blues" that blended with Country and other forms to become what he called "Rock & Roll". In this book John A. Jackson not only details the rise of Rock & Roll into our Cultural Heritage, but the rise & fall of that man, one of its early creators & iconic pioneers of the airwaves ALAN FREED, who truly became "Mr. Rock & Roll".
The book was a massive undertaking, is historically documented with notation-after-notation, and is an absolute "must" if you want to learn about the earliest days of "Rock & Roll Radio Personalities", and the history of why & how they acquired the power that they did. In addition, it's a true "Time Travel Trip" that will both inform you, AND, catapult you back into the early origins of music, song writers, music publishers, singers, and, the recording industry. It's a trip you shouldn't miss.
The book's over-400 pages are jampacked with info on how the record labels & music industry contributed to the entire landscape of what we listened to, how our culture was changed by the music that was produced, and how many of the artists who sang those songs were badly treated...even though they were making their bosses rich. But, more than that, you'll learn about Alan Freed.
JACKSON'S WONDERFULLY CRAFTED VOLUME contains two great sections of photos of Freed, his family & friends, many of the radio stations he was with, and the events he promoted. The research, the interviews with Freed's family & friends, the complete dedication of Jackson to the man and his legacy details Freed's life from his earliest years , to station-by-station coverage of the stations he was a part of, the concerts, the movies, the companies & record execs/promoters he was involved with. Plus, it covers in-depth, the Payola scandals and their impact on Freed, his contemporaries, and, how they brought Nationwide attention to the Radio & Record Industry as a whole.
Alan Freed was one of my early R&R Radio Heroes. I learned much from him about the eventual career I would pursue. He preceeded Dick Clark on the National Scene by a number of years, and though sometimes he was his own worst enemy, Freed truly broke new ground in the Radio/Music/Entertainment World and should be given much credit for his contributions...and not universally chastised for the bad judgement & personal demons that eventually helped lead to his downfall, and death, at the young age of 43.
BUY THE BOOK, read it, enjoy it, and, most of all, learn how what we listen to today has its roots firmly planted in yesterday and how Alan Freed was such a great part of that process. Though you may not know it, every time you hear the phrase or speak the words "Rock & Roll", you're remembering the man who first made those words a permanent part of our vocabulary & culture, Alan Freed: "Mr. Rock & Roll".
PLEASE READ MY "Tribute To Alan Freed" for more info on how this iconic Pro helped form & influence my career, and, my love of Rhythm & Blues, and, Rock & Roll that lasts to this very day. Simply CLICK-ON-THIS-LINK
to access his Tribute Page.
'THE ROCK 'N' ROLL AGE: THE MUSIC, THE CULTURE, THE GENERATION", By Mike Evans. Readers Digest, Pub. (2007)
MIKE EVANS IS A BRIT who's been a musician & broadcaster as well as a writer. In this volume he starts with "the roots of rock" spawned in the 40's and carries its history through to the time of the "British Invasion" of 1964 and ends at 1967's"Summer Of Love".
On the way, this journey takes you through not only the music, but also the cultural & generational progression of our society: movies, books, politics, cars, advertising, news headlines...it's all covered, as well as how we sometimes connect it to music, and how it all shapes and changes the world we live in.
THIS IS A HARDCOVER 288 page book, that takes off like Jackie Brenston's seminal "Rocket 88"...and almost never takes a breath from cover-to-cover ! WW II, Korea, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, "I Like Ike", Fats Domino, Alan Freed, Jack Kerouac, MLK, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Bob Dylan, Les Paul, Sputniks, Dick Clark, Brigitte Bardot, Kent State, Johnny Cash, Nikita Khruschev, James Bond, Bo Diddley, James Dean, The Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Norman Mailer, Gene Vincent, Frankie & Annette...well, you get the picture, and those are just a few that are covered in this truly spectacular volume !!
IF YOU LOVE MUSIC - especially Rock & Roll - and want to read all about our American History of the roots of R&R as viewed through the eyes of a knowledgeable, well-traveled Englishman, this IS a book you need for your collection ! It has been in my collection since it was first published...and it's a "keeper" for sure !! You'll probably score a copy on Amazon at www.amazon.com
CHARLIE CHAPLIN IN "MODERN TIMES" (SILENT), UNITED ARTISTS PICTURES. (1936)
CHARLIE CHAPLIN, BUSTER KEATON, AND, HAROLD LLOYD, ARE CONSIDERED THE THREE BEST COMIC GENIUSES OF THE SILENT FILM ERA .
I HAVE SEEN MOST OF their classic performances such as Keaton's "The Blacksmith", "One Week", "The Boat", and, "The General". Keaton's work continued well past the Silent Era and into the 60's. If you've ever seen him as a Time Traveler in an Episode called "Once Upon A Time", from the Twilight Zone TV Series first shown in November of 1961, you'll understand that his greatness may have aged...but it never dimmed ! Of the three "Best Comics of the Silent Era" Keaton is my personal favorite. His timing was always perfect...it was honed with his parents act in early Vaudeville performances, and, his nickname "Buster" was bestowed upon him by none-other than Master Magician/Escape Artist Harry Houdini.
I first saw Lloyd's creativity unleashed in 1964 when I was living in Hollywood. There was a small theatre in the Hollywood/L.A. area (not sure but maybe it was on Los Feliz Blvd.) that only featured early Silent's & Classic Films. One Saturday night I ventured down there to see what they were showing and Lloyd's "The Freshman" was playing that night. Well, I hadn't laughed so hard in weeks ! Harold Lloyd's college-based comedy just was s-o-o-o funny ! Years later, I finally got to view the legendary "Safety Last", and other films of his...and the results were the same: without a doubt, Harold Lloyd truly was one of the all-time BEST of the Silent Era !
BUT THIS PARTICULAR FEATURE THAT I'VE ADDED TO THIS SPECIAL SECTION OF THE WEBSITE, IS ABOUT CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S "MODERN TIMES"...
I WAS MAYBE 12, or, 13 years of age when my Dad took me to see a Chaplin film that had been re-issued called "CIty Lights". It was truly one of Chaplin's cinematic triumphs, but at that early age I didn't fully realize that yet. It was only sometime in the late-sixties/early-seventies that I fully comprehended the importance & humour of not only "City Lights", but "The Rink", "Making A Living", "His Favorite Pastime", "The Cure" (Hilarious !), and, ultimately "The Circus" and, the"The Gold Rush" .
However, it is "Modern Times" that is, without a doubt, one of Chaplin's true masterpiece efforts.
I viewed it back in the eighties, and was completely blown-away by it ! It's a film that is so important that in 1989, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for its cultural significance. If you've ever seen it you'll understand why:
This was Chaplin's final silent film (1936) in the era of "talkies" that had begun a few years earlier. It was also his last apperance as the iconic "Little Tramp" figure that he had created, and starred as, since about 1914. More importantly, it was Chaplin's look at the "Modern Age" of society that we were living in which included: the fast-coming mechanization of Industry; the problems that the Great Depression had placed on the common man...with many still out of work. It also included Chaplin's take on Unions, Strikes, how the poor of that time were treated; how a seemingly innocent person could still be carted off to jail; how the assembly-line worker could be so stressed-out by the tedious repitition of his job, and the speed needed to accompish his given task, that he'd go berserk. And finally, how, if he tried, the "little guy" could find happiness & romance, and, try to come up with a brighter day for himself and the one he loved.
IF YOU'VE EVER SEEN THE Fritz Lang silent Germanic classic, "Metropolis" (1926), starring the lovely Brigette Helm & Alfred Abel, its futuristic, art deco, "industrial art", themes and future-visions will haunt you for years. Well, "Modern Times" is Chaplin's version of that sort of vision, done in simpler, less complex forms. And, it is, in many ways, just as applicable to our society today as it was in 1936.
In "Modern Times", Chaplin's "Little Tramp" gets work during the Depression on an assembly line at a major industrial factory...a factory that has built-in, 2-Way, survellance cameras (remember this is 1936 ! ), automatted machinery, regimented work rules & strict union rules, and, a constant watchdog in the person of the BOSS who sees-all and runs the factory with an "iron hand" from his office.
Charlie is put on the assembly line, and in a few minutes everything that can happen (with Charlie's "Little Tramp" involved) does happen ! ( For reference: think about the "I Love Lucy" Episode when Lucy & Ethel are on the packing line at the choclate factory and can't keep up with the speed of the line ! )
Then, the Boss decides to give a new invention the "Feeding Machine" a try to speed-up the lunchtime of his employees'. Of course, Charlie is chosen as the "Test Subject"...and what ensues is one of the funniest scenes you'll ever view ! I still laugh about it everytime I think of it !!
Much happens after that with Charlie getting caught in a crowd and being mistaken for a Communist, being put in-and-out-of jail a number of times for things he really had no control over, and eventually meeting, and befreinding, a beautiful homeless waif: Paulette Goddard.
THIS WAS PAULETTE GODDARD'S first leading role and she handled it perfectly, and was the perfect partner for Charlie to be paired with. (Goddard & Chaplin were a real-life item at that time, and were together from 1936 to 1942.) She, and, Charlie have so many escapades during the film that I can't list all of them here. BUT, two special sequences to watch for are when Charlie becomes a night watchmen at a department store and sneaks Paulette in so she can sleep there overnight (Just priceless !!), AND, when Paulette finds a new home for her & Charlie. Both pure comic "gems" of this magnificently-crafted feature !
"Modern Times" had a big budget for the "Depression Era" time of its production ($1.5 Million Dollars !) and it certainly shows...especially at the beginning with the machinery and huge sets designed for the factory scenes, as well as the department store portion of the film. AND, considering the film was shot in 1936, the special effects of Chaplin being caught-up in the giant cogs & wheels of the machinery, are almost unbelievable ! Yes, the fllm is done in various "sections"...one leads to the other, and it is very easy to follow the progression of the "Little Tramp" and his new love, Goddard's "waif", from section-to-section.
ALSO, although it was a "silent film", Chaplin added a soundtrack that included both some music & sound effects...with a few bits of dialogue from others. When Chaplin put the soundtrack together, he also composed the instrumental version of what would eventually become (once lyrics were added later on) a song that is still listened to today. It was used at the "fade out" ending of the film. Once the lyrics were added, it was recorded through the year's by Nat "King" Cole, Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Dean Martin, Michael Jackson, Gloria Estafan, Diana Ross, and man;y others. It was also heard in the closing credits of the 1992 film "Chaplin", sung by the star of the film Robert Downey, Jr. What's the song ? You probably already know, but I'll tell you anyway: it's "SMILE".
Comedy translates into any language. "Silent" comedy because of its fast-paced, physically demanding action, was a mainstay World Wide for decades, and having just watched "Modern Times" again (for about the 10th time) I can attest to the fact that if you do watch it for the first time, or, as I have, watch it again, you will not only laugh and enjoy the fun of it...but after just a few minutes you won't even realize that it is a "silent film" ! It's that good; it's that funny !!
FINALLY, as you watch Charlie & Paulette walk into the distance at the films finale, you'll come away with the warm & poignant feeling that the "human spirit", and, a positive outlook on life that means you'll never give up, will make you a winner no matter what the circumstances. You will survive.
"GASLIGHT SQUARE: An Oral History", By Thomas Crone. The William and Joseph Press, St. Louis, USA, Pub. (2004)
THIS IS THOMAS CRONE'S homage to one of St. Louis' best-remembered, legendary, historic, landmarks and entertainment districts, and, at-the-time, cultural meccas...by those of us who were a part of it. Just the mere mention of the name "Gaslight Square" conjures up a magical time of a magical place to all who ever experienced it !
When he set-out to write this book it had to be a formidable task. Many who "had been there in the beginning" had passed away, or, moved out-of-town, and trying to contact those that had been and were still available, meant they had to be located, contacted, and, either in-person, or, by phone, would have to "bare their souls", and search their memory banks to contribute to this superb - and, necessary - project. Well, from first-hand experience, I can tell you that Thomas Crone succeeded on all levels !
Names like, Jack Parker, Jeanne Trevor, Marty Bronson, Jorge Martinez, Trebor Tichener, "Smokey" Joe Cunningham, Cheri Ann Schear, Bruce Marren, Daniel Pearlmutter, Billy Peek, Jules Blattner, Terry Thompson, Leonard Voelker, Ron Elz, myself, and many, many more contributed to this truly fascinating volume that gives a personal perspective to that remarkable part of St. Louis History.
The book's 185 pages are packed with info, memories, and, that superb "touch of nostalgia" that needs to be a part of any project of this nature. Over 60 people were interviewed, and brought the time-line "from then - to now" to add a balanced perspective. And, yes, it's a "coffee table" sized book (8"w x 10 1/4"l) that is conversation-starter for any guests/friends that see it: both those that were there during that time-period, and, those who'd only heard about it and want to learn more.
Names of places like: O'Connell's, Jacks Or Better, The Tiger's Den, The Musical Arts Building, Smokey Joe's Grecian Terrace, The Laughing Buddah, The Three Fountains, The Dark Side, The Other Side, George Edick's "Roaring 20's", Carl's Two-Cents Plain, and, The Butterscotch Lounge, will jar your memory banks for sure...and that's just "the tip of the iceberg" !
If you've read my Tribute to "The Crystal Palace", and my time working there in the "Impulse Players" Improv Review, you'll get a feel for my truly pleasant thoughts and memories of those wonderful days in Gaslight...as we were the last improv-type group to play there. And, when Thomas was kind enough to ask me to contribute to this spot-on perfect volume I was truly honored. (See my Inteview stories on Pages 67-69 of the book.)
I'm still, occasionally, in contact with some of my "Gaslight" friends like Jack Parker, Jorge Martinez, Bruce Marren, Daniel Pearlmutter, and, Leonard Voelker. But, sadly, some interviewed for the book, Marty Bronson, Trebor Tichenor, Joe Pollack, Richard Mutrux, and, a few others, have passed away since it was written, but their stories & memories, luckily, are preserved in this volume.
In "Gaslight Square: An Oral History" learn why & how Gaslight Square became this special, legendary place, known Worldwide, and a cultural haven in its early days, for Jack Kerouac's "Beat Generation"...and how, as fast as it grew, it eventually faded-away. BUT, thanks to Thomas Crone's perseverance, and, hard work, its memories are brought back and live on...and in this volume you'll read the personal stories of those that helped make those memories happen, and to make Gaslight Square the "once shining star" of St. Louis that it was.
This is truly a GREAT book, and a fantastic piece of St. Louis History that should be in your Library ! To pick-up a copy, you'll find it on the Publisher's Website http://www.williamandjosephpress.com/books.html or, on Amazon www.amazon.com
WHILE YOU'RE HERE, be sure to read my TRIBUTE to "The Crystal Palace", and, our "Impulse Players" Improv group, and see many, many photos of our cast in-performance that you'll find nowhere else ! Pix like the one shown here that was taken in our dressing room just before we went On Stage for our Opening Night: Wednesday, November 18th, 1964. Yes ! That's me, as usual, in the middle of all the action between two of the coolest ladies you'd ever find: Marilyn Twito & Tommy O'Connell.
There are also other rare pieces of memorabilia, all from my Personal Archive/Collection, that you'll see on the Tribute Page. PLUS, you'll find info on two superb "Gaslight Square" Filmed Documentaries by Bruce Marren, Daniel Pearlmutter, and, Leah Gantz, one of which, "Gaslight Square: The Legend Lives On", I was Interviewed for and a part of. To get there, simply Click-On-This-Link...and ENJOY ! http://www.jonnieking.net/gpage12.html
"THE SHADOW SCRAPBOOK", By Walter B. Gibson. Contributing Editor: Anthony Tollin. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Pub. (1979)
"WHO KNOWS WHAT EVIL LURKS IN THE HEARTS OF MEN ? THE SHADOW KNOWS !"
WALTER GIBSON SAID IT BEST IN HIS INTRODUCTION TO "The Shadow Scrapbook": "The emergence of The Shadow as a full-fledged Master of Mystery represented a phase in the cyclic evolution of mass fiction. Viewed in retrospect, the trend it set would seem inevitable, but at the time no one expected it."
This is an amazing book for two reasons: 1. Almost everyone reading these words has heard of The Shadow...whether or not they've read the pulps/novels/books, heard the Golden Age Radio Shows, read the comic books, or, seen the films, the name, "The Shadow", has become a part of Americana, folklore, and spawned a cult-following since it was first uttered back in 1930; 2. Walter Gibson, beginning in 1931, was the one who molded & shaped the character of The Shadow to give it that iconic recognition...and this book that he helmed is a testament to the Legend he created.
I got one of the first copies of The Shadow Scrapbook shortly after its 1979 publication while I was producing "The Breakfast Serial". Its 162 softcover pages simply blew me away with its information, rare photos, full lists of all Shadow pulps/novels/books, a complete chronology of all the Shadow radio broadcasts, beautiful reproductions of Shadow covers, original copies of radio broadcast scripts, complete movie history, complete comic book/comic strip histories...and, much rare memorabilia which, at that time, you'd never seen before.
GIBSON'S CHAPTER'S ON WRITING the pulp novels, AND, at the same time working on other projects, shows his focused, regimented, and, utterly dizzying schedule ! I thought my self-imposed, workaholic nature was bad...Gibson's was heroic !! You have to read it to believe it...I just did all-over again and it still overwhelms me. His massive output of over 325 Shadow novels between 1931 & 1949 ...plus the other work that he was doing...would, today, surely put him in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Again, remember this book was published in 1979 and all of the facts, figures, information, contained in this superb volume, was compiled by the man "who was there from the start" (Gibson), and aided perfectly by Contributing Editor & Golden Age Radio Expert, Shadow Buff, Anthony Tollin.
GIBSON'S MEMORIES of stories, meetings, his co-horts, his editors, his creating all of the characters' that would aid The Shadow, his past career as a magician working with Houdini, Thurston, Harry Blackstone, Sr., and, Dunninger, his travels, and anything else he writes about in this book, are truly introspective, totally informative, and, completely entertaining. If you've never heard of Walter B. Gibson before, you won't forget him and his contributions to our various forms of media & culture through all of his hard work. (The autographed photo of Gibson, shown here, is from my personal collection.)
Of course, The Shadow radio shows are among my favorites from Golden Age Radio. Orson Welles & Bill Johnstone were my favorites of those who portrayed the character, but Brett Morrison was the longest-running Shadow taking over the role from the Fall of 1943 until the very last Episode on December 26, 1954.
AND, yes, if you were to ask, I do have some "Shadow Memorabilia" in my collection. A couple of great Pulps, some Big Little Books, a rare Matchbook, a Blotter, a Premium Autographed Photo, and other assorted items. BUT, my prized piece from the radio show, is from its sponsor at the time Blue Coal: A rare, 1941 Shadow Blue Coal "Glow-In-The-Dark" Ring, which has an image of The Shadow molded onto each side, and, a representation of a piece of Blue Coal on the top...and it still glows-in-the-dark perfectly ! (A copy of it is shown here.)
MORE THAN ANYTHING, after reading this Review of "The Shadow Scrapbook", I hope the next time you hear the name The Shadow, or read it somewhere in print, you will remember the man who almost single-handedly created it: Walter B. Gibson (1897-1985). (You can probably find a copy on www.amazon.com !)
"THE SHADOW", AND, VICTORY JORY...
IN JANUARY OF 1940, Columbia Pictures released the exciting 15 Chapter Serial "The Shadow" starring VICTOR JORY. Previously, in 1937 and 1938, Grand National Pictures had produced two Shadow films starring Rod La Rocque: "The Shadow Strikes" & "International Crime". While they were mildly entertaining, the character of The Shadow was much-watered down, and the films were not very satisfying at all.
With Columbia's casting of Victor Jory, their faithfullness to Gibson's image of the character, and a script that matched, it turned-out to be a thrilling 15 week ride for all Shadow buffs...adults, as well as kids ! Jory, with his chiseled-countenance, stern demeanor, and total professionalism, brought the role of The Shadow, his alter-ego Lamont Cranston, and, his disguise as the Oriental, Lin Chang, to life perfectly. And, the serial became a well-received, box office hit.
Victor Jory at that time was truly riding a hot streak: In 1938 he'd been the villanous Injun Joe in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", and, had "struck acting gold" in 1939 being featured in both "Dodge City", with Errol Flynn, and, of course 1939's "Gone With The Wind", playing the role of mean, brutal overseer Jonas Wilkerson.
THROUGHOUT HIS CAREER, Victor Jory appeared in well-over 120 films, 500 TV shows, and, 1,200 radio shows. BUT, his acting roots had been planted firmly years earlier on the stage where he had appeared in over 400 plays between 1920 & 1932 ...and, it had all began at the Pasadena Playhouse in California where he studied with the legendary Gilmore Brown. Consequently, he became one of the most-famous, and popular Alumni Members of the Playhouse...and, gave back to it with his support and help in everyway he could.
His career in films was honored with his star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame located at 6605 Hollywood Blvd.
"THE SHADOW" , VICTOR JORY, AND, ME...
IN JULY OF 1979, there was a Movie/Film Convention that was held here in St. Louis, and one of the featured guests was Victor Jory. I was truly excited about the prospect of meeting him in-person, for after-all, we both had the Pasadena Playhouse in common, and I wanted to talk to him about his remarkable career...and our connection to the Playhouse.
The Convention opened on Thursday, July 12th, and I got there in the early part of the afternoon and visited many of the vendors that were on hand selling photos, memorabilia, posters, films, and, the then-new VCR tapes that were the newest form of media technology in 1979. Then, there was an announcement that the Featured Guests would be in the outer-lobby area to meet fans and give autographs.
I went out into that area and sure enough there was Western Star Don "Red" Barry (who'd played "Red Ryder"); James Brown (from the "Rin-Tin-Tin" TV Series); and, Victor Jory, who'd done many Western's as well as "The Shadow". So, after meeting and talking to Don "Red" Barry & James Brown, I waited till the line for Victor Jory had dwindled and introduced myself.
At that time, I thanked him for the great films he'd starred in and told him that as a youngster, he'd scared me to death when he played "Injun Joe" in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" ! He had a good laugh at that, and then I told him that I too had studied at the Pasadena Playhouse...and that really got his interest !!
He asked me about some of the teacher's & faculty that were there when I attended, and we swapped stories about so many that he'd known decades ago, and that I too had studied with and known there. At the time of our meeting, Mr. Jory was about 76 years old. He was in fair health, but his eyesight was not what it once was, and he seemed slightly frail at the time, but he was just a generous and perfect gentleman...and his splendid voice was still resonant and strong.
WE TALKED ABOUT "THE SHADOW" and I told him I had the "Shadow Scrapbook" but in my haste to get to the Convention, I had forgotten to bring it as I wanted him to autograph it. He told me: "Jonnie, you come back tomorrow, bring the book with you, and I will be more than pleased to sign it for you !"
So, on Friday, I came back with my book, Mr. Jory and I talked again about "Shadow" and his later Chapter Play/Serial released in October, 1940 "The Green Archer". and he graciously signed the book in two separate areas. The copy reads: "To Jonnie, your friend, Victor Jory" & " 'The Shadow Knows' 7-13-79". That was one of my luckiest Friday the Thirteenth's ever !
VICTOR JORY passed-away February 12, 1982 at the age of 79. He was a fellow-Playhouse Alumnus, and an actor of the highest quality with a voice so memorable & well-trained that it could send shivers down your spine ! I was truly privileged & honored to have spent time with him during that Summer of 1979. Thank you again, Mr. Jory. Your friend, Jonnie King
"BILLY F GIBBONS: ROCK + ROLL GEARHEAD", by Billy F Gibbons with Tom Vickers. Motorbooks, Pub. (2005)
WAIT A MINUTE ! I know what you're saying: "Hey, that book's been out for awhile. Think I've seen it before." Okay, BUT do you actually have the book in your collection ? Did you put it in your library...OR, did you say: "Yes, one of these days I've gotta get it !", and just put it off ?
Well, let me tell you from personal experience: I've been in Radio since 1967, as many of you know, and I've played ZZ TOP's Chart Toppers since they began. And, when the Reverend Billy started cranking out some "chart topping" Rods & Customs, I was with those from the beginning too.
This book is a combination of ALL of the above: Music, Cars, and, Guitars. Billy covers the entire History: his, the groups, the cars, the guitars, and, even takes time to give out the recipe for his "Killadilla Renegade Guacamole' " !
What more could you ask for in a book ?? In addition, the Photography by David Perry is superb. Pick-up a copy as soon as you can...before they're gone forever !
(BILLY'S "KOPPERHED", A 1950 CUSTOM FORD COUPE, IS FEATURED in this book. The Original Design came from my friend and another old St. Louis Boy: Renowed Rod & Custom Artist/Illustrator, STEVE STANFORD, and you can hear Steve's story about it in our Interview on this Special Page ! Just Click-On-Here, listen and enjoy !)
"ROLLING STONES-50X20", By Chris Murray. Forword by Richard Harrington. Afterword by Chris Salewicz. Insight Editions, Pub.
THEY'VE BEEN CALLED "The Greatest Rock & Roll Band of All-Time", and if you've ever seen 'em in-person, you'll probably agree with that statement. Seniority has its perks. From the 60's until the new Millenium their "rock" has never stopped ! SO, if you like the Stones, you'll love this book as it celebrates their Fifty Years of Rock & Roll !
Twenty of the best Stones photographers were chosen to share their pix...and, yes, they go chronologically from the 60's to the 2000's,and almost every photo that you see could be made into a Poster on its own merits. It's a massive, full-size, coffee-table-type hardcover, containing 144 pages in colour and b&w...and CHRIS MURRAY has done it perfectly.
Some of the twenty photographers include: Michael Joseph, Gus Coral, Mark Seliger, Eddie Kramer, Bob Gruen, and, Fernando Aceves. You see some of the most candid photos of the Stones ever shot. On-stage, off-stage, in rehearsal, in the studio, at play, at rest...well, you get the idea. Plus, many of the Stones and their friends are in there too. Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, are included...but mostly, it's the Stones as you've never seen them before.
WHEN I WAS Music Director at KAAY/Little Rock, Atlantic Records flew me into Nashville for the "Rolling Stones American Tour 1972" Concert, and, in 1997 at KHITS-96/St. Louis, we did a promotion for the Stones "Bridges Over Babylon" Tour, and I saw them for the second time. Twenty-Five years later, they were just as good, or better, than the first time !
This is a superb book, about a Legendary group, and if you want an intimate look into their entire career this is it, as it was produced to celebrate the Stones 50th Anniversary. It is a must for any Stones collector !
"MARILYN MONROE: METAMORPHISIS", By David Wills. it Books (An imprint of Harper Collins Pub.) (2011)
IF YOU WERE TO EVER BUY just one book which contained beautiful black & white, and colour photos of Marilyn Monroe in chronological order, in a LARGE format that you will label as a "keeper" for your personal collection...THIS IS THE ONE ! But it is much more than just "photos": It is well-researched, well-documented, with much info from those who knew her, worked with her, and were friends with her.
IN REALITY, her original brown/brunette hair color was just fine. And, those early, innocent photos showing her in her "natural" state prove the love that the camera showed her...the lense captured her young, glowing beauty way before she was given the "Hollywood Treatment" of blonde hair & studio makeup artists.
I remember vividly the day she was found dead, August 5, 1962...just 8 days before my 21st birthday. I could not believe it. A decade older than me...but SO young. And now she was dead.
Like the death of James Dean at his early age, both myself and my peers seemed to be losing our "current" popular film icons...just as the age previous to us had lost Thelma Todd, Jean Harlow, and, Carole Lombard.
I had just come back from my first trip to Los Angeles & Hollywood. I was preparing to be an Actor and would move out to California a year later to study at the Pasadena Playhouse. And, I could tell from the environment I had witnessed there that it was NOT an easy place to be in if you wanted to remain "who you really were", and this excellent volume on Marilyn verifies my original thoughts.
THIS BOOK WAS MY personal Christmas Gift to myself when it was released, and I've already recommended it to a number of my friends...just as I recommend it to you !
"TIME AND AGAIN", By Jack Finney. Fireside Books (Simon and Schuster, Pub.) (1970)
I CANNOT TELL YOU how many times during the years that I have genuinely wanted to have a Time Machine!
I have mentioned this to various friends, and about 35 years ago one of them said: "You need to read 'Time & Again' by Jack Finney." Well, magically, as it would happen, a few months later I was in a bookstore looking for another title when I came upon a rack with one book facing me head-on...and it was "Time & Again" ! And I will forever be in debt to the one who suggested it !!
Carve-out a weekend for yourself when you start to read this book, as you WON'T be able to put it down once you start. Finney's meticulous research that links photos & news items from the past into his weaving of this fantastic tale will surely hold you spellbound.
He deals with many angles within the structure of the book, and makes it so believable that you may want to try an "out of body" experience yourself !
Finney dabbled with "time" in other stories & short stories. His "The Love Letter", starring Campbell Scott & Jennifer Jason Leigh, was a Hallmark TV Feature in 1998 that will surely bring a tear to your eye if you've viewed it. Again, Finney went back to the 1800's and made a link with the present.
"Time And Again" has become a "cult classic" read by sci-fi fans, college students, time-traveler theorists...and me: the one who'd really like to have a Time Machine !
SPECIAL NOTE: Jack Finney also wrote the classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" which was turned into one of the scariest films of the 50's. But, many forget, or don't know, he wrote one of Jack Lemmon's funniest comedies of the 60's: "Good Neighbor Sam".
I love that movie, have watched it a bazillion times. But it wasn't till about 10 years ago that I caught Finney's "in joke" used in this film: The name of the advertising agency that Jack Lemmon works for in the story is "Burke & Hare". Simple, no ? NO ! Burke & Hare were the original Scottish body snatcher's that obtained cadavers for the medical profession in Edinburgh in the 19th Century by murdering their victims to sell to the schools !
Ya gotta love the irony in Jack Finney's sense of humour.
"A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM" , Directed by Jan Egleson. First Look Home Entertainment and Corsair Pictures. (1990)
I LOVED THIS FILM WHEN I saw it during it's first-run release in 1990 ! One of MICHAEL CAINE'S best performances.
Ever miss getting a promotion at work ? Ever been replaced in your job by someone much younger ? Ever been told that the "companies taking a different direction", and you won't be heading in that direction because your "services are no longer needed" ? Or, the classic: "Sorry, but we're 'downsizing', and a number of our employee's will not be needed anymore."
Okay, well if you've ever been involved with the "corporate world" for any length of time, and, in any of those situations listed above, you'll understand the frustration of Caine's character (Graham Marshall)...and his need for not only "getting even", but for total revenge !
I love Elizabeth McGovern anyway, and she is beautiful and perfect in her role here with Caine as the one he can turn to in his "time of need". (She has since moved to England, and has received great Reviews for her work in the highly acclaimed BBC Production of "Downton Abbey".)
I WILL NOT SPOIL THE FILM by giving you any hints as to how things eventually work out for Caine & his cohorts: I'll just say this is one of the BEST Black Comedies that you've probably never seen.
Swoozie Kurtz, Peter Riegert, Will Patton, and a super-cast all add to the mix. "A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM" is available on DVD and can also be downloaded. Watch & enjoy !!
"JANN ARDEN: LIVING UNDER JUNE", A&M Records (1994)
IT WAS A HOT July, 1996, afternoon in St. Louis...the day after the Fourth. At that time I was an Air Pesonality at KHITS/96 Radio and had heard that Jann Arden, Patty Griffin, and, Billy Mann, were bringing their "Three For The Road" Tour to St.Louis for a Concert, and would be at a Special Appearance "Mini Concert" at Border's Books.
I was very familiar with Jann Arden's "Insensitive" as it had been added to the Soundtrack of the movie "Bed Of Roses", which was released at the end of January that year. "Insensitive" was a beautiful, perfect song that had soared up the Billboard Charts and had reached #12...so, the chance to hear her sing it in person was one I couldn't pass up. She didn't disappoint me !
At the Mini Concert, she introduced herself, talked about growing up in the "wilds" of Canada (Calgary & Springbank, Alberta), and sometimes, as a young girl, singing to the cows out in the pasture as her only audience. Since this was an all acoustic/unplugged event, she accompanied herself with her guitar, and as she did, I stood there transfixed at the magic and power of her truly angelic voice.
She didn't have the appearance of a "star" at all...short, cute, friendly & funny...just like a girl that could be from somewhere in your neighborhood. But once she opened her mouth, and that miraculous sound came from the depths of her heart and soul to my ears...I was hooked.
After the Concert I introduced myself to her, thanked her, and told her she truly had "The Voice of An Angel". She was dumbfounded by the statement and thanked me very much. And I got a big smile and laugh out of her when I said: "When you sang to those cows all those many years ago, I bet they were much more contended and gave much sweeter milk !"
Naturally, I had to have the "Living Under June" CD for my collection...and, to this day, it is one of my all-time favorites. Look at it this way: It's on my short list of CD's I'd have to have with me if I was stranded on a deserted Island...with a battery-powered CD Player.
Every track on this CD is perfect. "Looking For It", with its hypnotic, harmonic rhythm & sometimes-flamenco tinged guitar, "Insensitive", a stand-alone Instant Classic, "Gasoline", picking up the hot pace to match its title, "It Looks Like Rain", an easy-listening, smooth, sultry, lounge-style ballad that must be heard. It is so simple & charming it's stunning. Reminds me of the legendary Julie London in her "Cry Me A River" period.
Yes, you can - and should - buy the Jann Arden greatest hits compilation "Greatest Hurts", but truly some of her best work is contained in "Living Under June"...and you shouldn't miss out on it.
"WASN'T THE FUTURE WONDERFUL ?", By Tim Onosko. E.P. Dutton, Pub. (1979)
I'VE OWNED THIS BOOK since it was NEW ! It is a favourite in my library, and I go through it every few months as a "refresher course" in how things could have turned out...and in some instances should have !
Tim Onosko's work is just super and the full-color reproductions of the covers of Modern Mechanix, Mechanix Illustrated, Popuar Mechanics, et al, on good quality glossy-paper stock in the Center of the book, are truly mind-blowing. PLUS, many are actually frameable and would look cool in your Den, Office, or, Garage. I actually have some of the ORIGINAL issues of these fascinating books in my archives that were given to me after the death of a close family friend who had subscriptions to these mags since the 30's. (Thank you so much, Pete, you were one of our most-treasured friends.)
RADIO CARS, Flying cars, revolving garages, newspapers able to be read by looking at a screen on your wall (Hmmmm. Did you do that today by looking at YOUR new millenium Flat Screen HD TV ?), bringing a dead dog back to life, super boats, highways where you can hook-up the family car to a railroad-track style connection and travel from New York to Los Angeles without ever touching the steering wheel...they're all in this "Look Into The Future" !
In the "Notes" Section in the last portion of the book, many of the ideas & concepts are analyzed as to why they would, or wouldn't work. But the creativity and inventiveness of many of the ideas setforth during this "Buck Rogers"/"Flash Gordon" time-period of the 20's, 30's, and, early-40's, are truly mind-boggleing...and wouldn't it be great if some of the most outrageous ones actually would have worked ?
I would urge you to buy this book wherever you can find a copy ! You can probably find it on Amazon or eBay. If you love sci-fi trends, technology that "just might happen someday", and, looking at some of the rarest & most beautiful Futurama-Style artwork on magazine covers that could be at home in almost any Museum...then you need this volume in your library !
It is Art Deco Sci-Fi at it's VERY Best !!
"SUNKISSED SUNWEAR AND THE HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY 1930-1950", By Joshua James Curtis. Foreword by Ann Rutherford. Collector's Press, Inc., Pub. (2003)
I HAD LOOKED FOR THIS BOOK for a number of years. A friend of mine had a copy, and, after seeing his, I wanted my own ! If you love the Classic Period of the "Golden Age Of Hollywood", the 30's & 40's, then you MUST add this beautiful volume to your library.
The gorgeous girls/women featured in this book epitomize that bygone era, and the behind-the-scenes stories that the author - Joshua James Curtis - adds to the fantastic photography, truly add to the experience. The foreword by the legendary Ann Rutherford is very special and significant. (She was SO beautiful in the 1938 version of "A Christmas Carol" !)
Many great quotes from the beautiful women featured in the photos are included and add much flavor to the era, its pleasures, and excitement...along with their thoughts on wearing the attire in those pix.
Many of my retro-favorites are in here: Jane Greer, Janet Blair, Gloria Jean, Marjorie Reynolds, Dorothy Morris, Dorothy Ford, Marion Hutton, Ava Gardner, Mary Lou Brue, and, Adele Mara. BTW: There is a eye-popping look at Barbara Hale, Perry Mason's "Della Street" (and, who was married to Bill Williams a good actor who was paired with Betty White in the "A Date With The Angels" TV Series) on Page 123.
BUT, I SAVED THE BEST for last: I have been in love with lovely Barbara Britton, "Mrs. North" on the "Mr. & Mrs North" TV Series (shown here with co-star Richard Denning: "Mr. North") since I was 10 years old. And she is featured in a two-page spread (Pages 66-67) with two other beautiful girls. Barbara is in the Center of these 1941 photos, youthful, sexy, sweet, classy, gorgeous...and guess what ? I just fell in love with her ALL OVER AGAIN !
Barbara was twenty-two when those above mentioned pix were snapped, and she was truly awesome, and extremely cute ! DID YOU KNOW: Barbara Britton was the Original "Laura Petrie" in 1960's TV Pilot for what would become "The Dick Van Dyke Show" ?
SADLY, THERE ARE NO photos of the sexy, beautiful "Ice Cream Blonde": Thelma Todd. That would have made the book complete, as there is one of the iconic Jean Harlow who was one of her contemporaries. But for my money, "Toddy" was the Winner in that pairing.
"Sunkissed" will give you a fantastic look at the glamour that really was in Hollywood's "Golden Days" ! Buy it, enjoy the time-travel trip back to that earlier, more innocent era of both Hollywood, and the glamour that it showcased in some of its most beautiful stars...while there are still copies available !!
TWO BY TRUSTIN !
"WINCHELL AND RUNYON: THE TRUE UNTOLD STORY", By Trustin Howard. Hamilton Books, Pub. (2010)
THIS IS AN EXCEPTIONALLY INTERESTING LOOK at two remarkable icons of the 30's & 40's. Winchell and Runyon were both journalists that had fans Nationwide, and these two men helped make Broadway in New York the legendary place it became. Trustin Howard found a connection between them that had never been previously explored.
Winchell was a born-and-bred New Yorker. Runyon, a mid-Westerner from Manhattan, Kansas. Winchell became a gossip columnist, and radio commentator; Runyon a sports writer, who also penned numerous short-stories that were peppered with "New York-ese" slang that would, after his death, spawn a Radio & TV Series "The Damon Runyon Theatre". The book follows the history of the two men from their early tense relationship through to their warm and friendly bonding that would last the rest of their lifetimes.
Winchell & Runyon both had their share of mob related situations during their night time excursions into the underbelly of NYC...looking for stories, trying to heal riffs, and, looking for the next "scoop" for their readers, and in the case of Winchell, radio listeners. And, Trustin tells the story in the same staccato-style that Winchell used for his radio program...the twenty-nine chapters in this 147 page volume simply fly-by so swiftly that you can flow through the book in an evening or two. And you'll enjoy every minute of the read !
The names these two run into, and are asscociated with, in politics, entertainment, sports, and of course, the mob, is truly a yesteryear "who's who": FDR, J. Edgar Hoover, "Mad Dog" Coll, William Randolph Hearst, Al Jolson, Sherman Billingsley, Owney Madden, Ed Sullivan, George Jessel, Frank Costello, Texas Guinan...and a cast of probably a hundred others ! And, Trustin's writing captures everyone mentioned with the flair & colour that made them famous.
I remember Winchell growing up through some of his radio shows, and his brief time on TV when his radio program was simulcast on ABC-TV. His telegraph-keyed, fast-paced show opening became his trademark: "Good eveing Mr. & Mrs. America...and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press !" But most connect their memories of Walter Winchell with his narration of "The Untouchables" Series on ABC-TV which he did for four seasons beginning in 1959.
Runyon, of course had many of his short stories turned into plays & films: "Little Miss Marker", "The Lemondrop Kid", "A Slight Case Of Murder", "Johnny One-Eye"...all well done. But, his biggest hit of all, still staged to this day, was "Guys And Dolls".
Damon Runyon passed away from throat cancer on December 10, 1946, at the age of 66. Shortly after that his dear friend, Walter Winchell, founded the Damon Runyon Cancer Memorial Fund in his honor. I've even seen a video clip of Winchell's show, done after Runyon's death, in which he strongly states his belief that cigarettes cause Cancer...and this, of course, was filmed way before any National Health Warnings for them exsisted. Winchell died of prostate cancer February 20, 1972. He was 74.
IN THIS WONDERFUL VOLUME, Trustin Howard has truly done justice to both his subjects and their professions, and, brought-to-life & recreated the era in which they lived and worked perfectly. "Winchell and Runyon: The True Untold Story" should be made into a play, or, a movie...it's that good !
"MY LIFE WITH REGIS AND JOEY AND PRACTICALLY EVERYONE ELSE", By Trustin Howard. Prana Publishing, Pub. (2004)
TRUSTIN HOWARD IS A KINDERED SPIRIT and an old friend. He, like myself, has had a career in the entertainment business for over six decades, and Trustin has filled everyone of those years with action, adventure, and, excitement ! He has done it all: a comedian, head writer for a major television show, a singer, an actor, a songwriter, producer...you name it, Trustin Howard's done it...and done it well !
Trustin and I met in July of 1972 when I was on vacation in Los Angeles. Trustin was the one who introduced me to Criswell at the Hollywood Brown Derby, and, arranged for our visit to "The Magic Castle". (If you want to have some fun, go to YouTube and find Trustin's "3-D" Video clip !)
Trustin's list of friends and business associates has included Regis Philbin, Joey Bishop, Bob Hope, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lenny Bruce, Ralph Edwards, Bob Banner, Faron Young, Jimmie Haskell, John Mercer, Jr...and, a list that could go on for pages !
But the important thing about this fantastic book is that Trustin let's you in on many Hollywood secrets, the inside workings of writing for television, producing shows, and, the various temperments & habits of some of those you may have seen and watched on the screen through the years. Having lived in Hollywood myself, I know the various streets, clubs, areas, and places mentioned in the book...if you don't you will too after you read this "autobiographical look" at a career of a man that has touched thousands through the years. Trustin Howard is that man.
He was the head writer for the Joey Bishop TV show, he wrote great Episodes of the legendary "This Is Your Life" TV show for Ralph Edwards, including the Bette Davis, and, Andy Griffith episodes, and also has some great video pieces that you'll find on You Tube.
While I was visiting with him, Trustin invited me to a taping of his great syndicated series of the paranormal entitled "The Unknown" on July 5th, 1972, at the famous KHJ Radio/TV Studios. We were on the way to our designated production studio and when we rounded the corner to our surprise who did we run into ?! Muhammed Ali ! He was there to do an Interview with the KHJ Sports Department, and shaking hands with "The Champ" in his prime was a thrill I'll never forget !!
His friend, Regis Philbin, describes the book this way: "It was fun the first time around and now Trustin Howard let's us relive it again. He's a funny guy and those were unforgettable days."
ALL-IN-ALL, I couldn't recommend this book more highly, its 314 Pages are just jam-packed with info, personal photos from his collection, and, a true love of the business he's spent most of his life in. Trustin Howard is not only a friend, and one of the nicest guys I know...he's also a true Hollywood survivor. And he hasn't stopped yet !