Saturday, October 20, 2007

Great Moments In Radio--Volume VIII

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I was reminded of this story because it happened 20 years ago this week during my halcyon days in radio at the “Mighty 1030” KKJC-AM in Blue Springs, MO—aka “Eastern Jackson County‘s Radio Station.”

For reasons that were never quite clear to me, the powers-that-be at KKJC hired a guy to work part-time as a board operator/announcer who had precious little practical experience in either role, a guy whom I’ll refer to as “Larry” for to protect his identity, and because I think he truly meant well.  Larry had a wonderful voice—very authoritative and commanding—but he couldn't run a control board to save his doggone soul.  He was also quite a bit older than the rest of us on-air staffers—we were all in our ‘20s and ‘30s, while Larry had to be in his early-to-mid-50s, and he really didn’t fit in with our music format (adult contemporary mixed with ‘60s/‘70s oldies).  He'd have been a much better fit for what they used to call “Music Of Your Life” stations at the time that played Perry Como and Frank Sinatra records ad nauseam.  Larry’s other “real” job at the time was hotel detective for a major lodging chain near the Truman Sports Complex, but unlike the one in Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band”, this dude most definitely wasn’t “out of sight”!  To put it more succinctly, Larry was more akin to Forrest Gump, only with a really good voice…

Anyway, Larry had been with us not more than a month or so, and was still very shaky running the equipment, when October 17, 1987 rolled around.  It was a Saturday, and I worked the afternoon shift running the board during a pair of college football games, one live featuring Central Missouri State University, followed by a tape-delayed broadcast of those world-famous Baker Wildcats, a small college based in Baldwin City, KS—a town from which you could barely even pick up our 1,000-watt daytime signal, let alone our sorry-ass 500-watt nighttime signal!  When I was due to leave at 7PM, the Baker broadcast was still running, and all Larry had to do was let it finish out, then merely hop back onto the Transtar satellite station from which we carried most of our music format on.  I advised Larry to try and time it to where he could jump back on during one of Transtar’s regular commercial breaks (or stop-sets as they’re called in radio), and if need be, fill in some time by running down the football scores again, etc, until such time when he could seamlessly fade back onto the network, and all would be well the rest of the night.  Or so I thought…

Meantime, it was Game 1 of the 1987 World Series that night between the St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins, and being the dedicated beisbol fan I was at the time, I drove like a maniac to get back home to Raytown in time for the start of the game, and my good friend Tom was waiting for me when I arrived.  Not long after the game started around 7:30, we grabbed a couple beers and I tuned in the radio to make sure Larry had successfully landed the proverbial plane, and there were commercials and PSA’s (public service announcements) running at the time—for like, TEN minutes!  And the same ones ran several times during that 10-minute stretch.  Tom and I were cracking up, and I popped in a tape to record the proceedings at this point, whereabouts Larry opened the mic and did indeed run down a few college football scores from the day, per my suggestion.  Unfortunately, I swear he must have repeated that damn Baker score at least half a dozen times!  Then he retreated back to commercial-ville and kept playing the same ones over and over once again, including one for a local gun & ammo joint that started off “I know you’re having trouble finding the perfect gift for your hunting partner…”  By this time, Tom and I were in stitches and had forgotten all about the World Series game.  This on-air siege went on for damn near half an hour before Larry finally gave up trying to find the perfect place to hop back aboard the satellite and just potted it (that’s short for “potentiometer”, boys and girls) back up during the middle eight of “In Too Deep” by Genesis.  Our long national nightmare was finally over!

The following Monday, I took the tape I made to our Program Director (our Andy Travis, if you will), as well as our Station Manager (our Big Guy, Mr. Carlson, if you will) and played it for them, and prefaced it by saying, “Look, I’m not trying to get this poor guy fired, but he’s really making us look bad…”  For better or worse, both parties agreed with me, and I did indirectly get the guy fired, but as the old axiom goes, “shit happens.”  As a result, I got more hours on the air, which I was desperate for anyway.  Do I feel guilty about Larry getting sacked?  Fuck, no!  This guy never should’ve been hired in the first place, and being’s as the station went dark three months later, it didn’t really matter anyway.  My guess is Larry’s out there now selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door somewhere…

It's a blog-eat-blog world

Well, it took the better part of four weekends, but my friend Phil and I finally finished off the reconstruction of the back wall of my house, which had been badly damaged in places by rain water.  Special thanks to Phil for all his help with this little venture—I now owe you several hundred favors, Bro!

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback (R) announced this week he was dropping out of the '08 Presidential race, which suits me just fine.  This guy is an ├╝ber-Christian anti-abortion zealot who no doubt would've been forcing your kids to pray in the public schools that could no longer teach evolution under his watch, and he would've had us partying like it was 1899.  Good riddance!

A letter writer to the K.C. Star had a brilliant comment the other day about Rudy Giuliani.  He astutely noted that during the recent GOP debates, Rudy was sporting a shirt with French cuffs, or as the writer suggested, "shall we say 'Freedom Cuffs', n'est-ce pas?" Oui, oui, monsieur!

The Royals hired a new manager who I'd never ever heard of until about 36 hours ago, one Trey Hillman, who spent 12 years in the New York Crankees organization and the last five managing (successfully) in Japan.  Evidently the man comes highly-recommended, though, and Royals GM Dayton Moore seems to know what he's doing, so let's see what happens.  Hell, no one had ever heard of Cleveland manager Eric Wedge before they hired him.  Some baseball "experts" still don't know who he is...

...I've added to the Required Reading list.  Pretty self-explanatory—I especially love the coverage therein of the feud between Ms. Malkin and Jerry Rivers (aka Geraldo Rivera).  A turd feuding with another turd is strangely fascinating to me, for reasons I can't fully explain...

...Ellen DeGeneres for her stunning tear-filled "performance" on her own talkfest this week over some dog she adopted and gave away to someone else without the permission of the agency from which she adopted said mongrel.  Call me jaded all you want, but I view this as little more than a desperate attempt for ratings on Ellen's part—and oh what a coincidence, the November sweeps are just around the corner!  Pure hooey...

...on why I won't be taking in the current Van Halen tour.  Putting aside the fact that "Jump" is my least-favorite VH song ever, I can't believe how utterly putrid they sound here—they're so off-key they make the Sex Pistols sound like Pink Floyd!  Michael Anthony ought to be glad he was kicked out of the band after all—he's being spared the shame and embarrassment of this joke of a tour.  He's much better off touring with Sammy.  As for VH:  Ahhh, might as well punt! (Punt!)

The K.C. Chefs officially activiated running back Priest Holmes today, after he spent two years on the shelf with a neck injury.  While I don't expect him to be the same player he was in his prime, more power to him if he can contribute to the Chefs' woeful offense, which is downright offensive this season.  I'd like to see them use him like they did Marcus Allen in his waning days as a third-down back to spell Larry Johnson.  In any event, it's nice to see "The Beast That Is The Priest" back on the field.

I was rather relieved to hear that the docs. refused to clear former Chief/current Dolphin QB Trent Green to play anymore this season, following his second major concussion in as many seasons.  Trent, buddy, we love you to death, but we don't want to see you put to death by another collision—so PLEASE retire, will ya?  Your dedication to playing is admirable, but you've had a great career you can be proud of—walk away from it while you still can!

USC 38, Notre Dame 0.  Even whipping out those cheesy green uniforms today didn't help out the Faulty Irish, who are now 1-7 and totally irrelevant.  Meantime, Mizzou looked much better today in stomping Texas Tech 41-10 in Columbia.  Their showdown with Kansas at Arrowhead in November may well be one of the best games of the year, as KU is now 7-0 after beating Colorado today in Boulder.

"It Wasn't Me"—GEORGE THOROGOOD & THE DESTROYERS (1978"Well he was cold, tired and hungry, came a-beggin' for bread/The lady took him in and fed him breakfast in bed."  When Lonesome George sang Chuck Berry's underrated classic, I thought he said, "The lady cooked him meat and fed him breakfast in bed," which also worked.

Hard to believe it was 30 years ago tonight that the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash altered the history of Rock 'N' Roll.  I just happened to be listening to the old KY-102 on the radio that night—which was somewhat rare at that time, as I was just starting to make the transition from Top 40 to Album Rock radio when I was 13—and I want to say it was DJ Joe McCabe, or maybe it was Ray Sherman who delivered the bad news.

I knew a little (pun intended) about Skynyrd at the time, but I didn't know who Ronnie Van Zant was or anyone else in the band, for that matter, and I remember being rather partial to their new single that had just come out called "What's Your Name?".  Oddly enough, I hadn't even heard "Free Bird" up to that point.  Knowing now what I didn't know then, I think I'd have to add Skynyrd to my list of bands I wish I could've seen in concert during their prime—along with Queen, Bob Seger and The Who when Keith Moon was still alive.  I saw the modern-day version of Lynyrd with Johnny Van Zant on vocals a few years back, and it was okay, but everything I've heard and seen about the '70s Skynyrd tells me they were white-hot on stage, and I remember Molly Hatchet's Dave Hlubek once proclaiming in a radio interview that LS "would've been the Led Zeppelin of America" if they'd finished their ill-fated tour.  Dave may well have been right...

Fly on Free Birds, fly on...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

81 years old, and STILL rockin'!

Today is Rock ‘N’ Roll pioneer Chuck Berry’s 81st birthday.  Quite possibly the most important musical figure the state of Missouri ever produced, the man’s longevity is astounding, as he continues to perform concerts to this day in his hometown of St. Louis.  Chuck can be a very prickly person to deal with, as Rolling Stone Keith Richards found out first-hand during the making of the film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll which chronicled Chuck’s 60th birthday concert from the Fox Theater in St. Lou in 1986, and CB definitely has a chip on his shoulder about things that derailed his career.  Some of that is very understandable, like his trumped-up arrest in 1959 for a Mann Act (transporting an underage girl across state lines), as well as the racism he encountered throughout his life and career, but then again, some of his problems were self-inflicted, like tax evasion in the '70s and being charged with having a hidden camera in the ladies’ room at the nightclub he once owned.

All that aside, there is no denying the impact this man has had on popular music, as well as virtually writing the book on Rock ‘N’ Roll electric guitar playing.  Chuck was one of the first Rock performers to not only write his own songs, but write them brilliantly!  His often-humorous songs about school and cars and girls and "cruisin’ and playin’ the radio" were light years ahead of most of his ‘50s contemporaries, and his vocabulary was far more advanced than most.  Hell, Berry even created his own little lexicon with terms like "motorvatin’", "botheration" and "coolerator"!  And how many guitar players out there haven’t tried to emulate his style in one way or another?  Chuck Berry is certainly one of the most-covered artists of all-time, as Bob Seger once testified, "All of Chuck’s children are out there, playin’ his licks…"

My All-Time Chuck Berry Top 15:
15) "Rock And Roll Music" (1957)
  Oft-covered Berry classic. The Beatles’ version is far and away the best, Chuck’s ain’t too shabby, REO Speedwagon’s is mediocre (Nine Lives album) and the Beach Boys’ version is just plain lifeless!
14) "It’s My Own Business" (1965)  Berry’s 2nd-best song with "Business" in the title.  Dave Edmunds did a manic version of this little anthem about independence on his excellent Tracks On Wax 4 LP in 1978.

13) "Little Queenie" (1959)  Song that for some reason just can’t make up its mind:  "Meanwhile, I was still thinkin’…"  Speedwagon fared a little better covering this one.
12) "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" (1956)  Chuck paints quite a picture in describing the lengths women would go to nab this character, like "She lost both of her arms in a wrestling match...she fought and won herself a Brown Eyed Handsome Man…"
11) "My Ding-A-Ling" (Live-1972)  Recorded in concert before a rabid audience of Brits during a tour of England, many "informed music critics" (ding-a-lings?) bemoan the fact that Berry scored his only #1 Billboard hit with this double-entendre novelty song.  So fucking what?  This song is hilarious!  Ol’ Chuck is the only singer I know of who’s ever successfully worked the word "vestibule" into a song, too.  You’re damn right we MUST play our alma mater…
10) "Go Go Go" (1966)  Truth be told, I’ve never actually heard Chuck’s original recording of this one, only George Thorogood’s killer 1985 remake, but I think I can safely assume that Berry’s version is every bit as good.
9) "Too Much Monkey Business" (1956)  I love songs with rapid-fire lyrics, especially funny ones, and this one scores high on both counts.
8) "No Particular Place To Go" (1964)  Damn seat belts!  This song probably set automobile safety back by decades.  Mr. Thorogood and his Delaware Destroyers often open their shows with a rompin’ stompin’ rendition of it, sometimes replacing "Particular" with "motherfucking" in the lyrics.
7) "It Wasn’t Me" (1965)  Another song that Lonesome George and the boys borrowed from Chuck and juiced up just a skosh.  Best line in the song is, "I met a German girl in England who was goin’ to school in France/Said we danced in Mississippi at an Alpha Kappa dance…"  Confused yet?  You won’t be after the next episode of "Soap"!
6) "You Never Can Tell" (1964)  The film Pulp Fiction helped revive this almost-forgotten Chuck classic, which features his long-time piano player, the late Johnnie Johnson.
5) "School Day" (1957)  Hail! Hail! Rock ‘N’ Roll, indeed!
4) "Almost Grown" (1959)  Chuck and crew take a shot a doo-wop, and a mighty accurate one too!
3) "Johnny B. Goode" (1958)  Pretty hard to ignore this song, which was a mammoth step forward in the evolution of Rock ‘N’ Roll.
2) "Dear Dad" (1965)  I first came to know this one via Dave Edmunds’ outstanding 1982 version, and it’s one of the funniest songs Chuck ever wrote, all about a poor high school kid writing a letter begging his pappy to buy him a "Cadillac of ’62 or ‘63" because his car is a piece of shit—"cars are whippin’ by me, Dad, [it] looks like I’m backin’ up!"  The punch line is the best part of all, as he signs the letter "Sincerely, your beloved son—Henry Jr. Ford."
1) "Reelin’ & Rockin’" (Live-1972)  I prefer this extended concert version over the 1958 original, as Chuck rocked the house in England (same show as "My Ding-A-Ling") and altered the song’s lyrics just a touch.  Example:  "Looked at my watch and it was a quarter to eight—you know she made a little move that made me stretch out straight…"  Chuck even added a little poetry at the end:  "We boogied in the kitchen, we boogied in the hall, I got somethin’ on my finger and I wiped it on the wall…"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

So long, old friend!

Hate to see this legendary monolith bite the dust, but demolition of the Kauffman Stadium scoreboard is slated to begin this week to make way for its bigger and better successor, which is part of the gradual renovation of the ballpark.  Even though the scoreboard has been woefully outdated for years, and even though the new one (based on its description) is going to be big enough to be visible on satellite photos, I'm sad to see this rascal go—it's been the centerpiece and focal point of the ballpark since Day One.

I was there the night the place opened on April 10, 1973, with my mom and my brother, freezing our asses off in 39-degree weather as the Royals beat the snot out of Texas 12-1, and from the minute I laid eyes on that scoreboard, I was mesmerized by it.  Sure, the Angels' A-frame scoreboard in Anaheim was twice as tall, but our scoreboard was cooler because it showed photos of the players and animations and such.  It was also the nerve center of the stadium, and I'll never forget the game we attended later in '73 after it was hit by lightning and rendered inoperable.  The PA announcer had to constantly update the score because there were no other auxiliary boards in the park at the time, and it was downright surreal and eerie to see the sleeping giant in center field all night, hoping it would suddenly spring to life before the game ended.

The new clone scoreboard--which is scheduled to be fully-functional by Opening Day, '08—will be one of those fancy new state-of-the-art LED jobs with all the bells and whistles, and it's supposed to be a total monster, capable of HD-quality replays and all.  That's cool, but I'm still rather partial to the traditional monochrome scoreboards with actual lights that are rapidly becoming dinosaurs in stadiums and arenas as technology advances.  Time marches on, I suppose, but there are times when I wish we could just freeze it and leave things as they are, and this is one of them...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Waist-Deep In The Hoopla...

...that's where I'll be the weekend of the 27th during my upcoming road trip to Colorado, thanks to their local baseball team's advancement to the World Serious last night after beating the Arizona Diamondbacks.  I started planning this little excursion long before the Rockies went on their recent tear where they've won 21 out of 22 games, the likes of which no one has seen since our then-mighty Royals won 24 out of 25 games some 30 years ago in '77.  "South Park" was barely a year old the last time I visited Elway country, and I have been wanting to get back there for a while now.  This new development certainly spices things up, and I plan to set up shop at one of Denver's finest sports bars on the night of the 29th, because of the very real possibility of Game 5 of the World Series AND Monday Night Football taking place in Denver on the same night, as the Broncos are scheduled to play the Packers at home.  The Mile High City may never be the same...

And if the Wockies (as they're known in Fudd-ese) do manage to win the whole shootin' match, I'll be in Denver no matter when and where they do it, thus giving me a chance to experience a World Series title celebration in person for the first time since 1985.  This would also help me atone for whiffing on the opportunity to do so last year in St. Louis when the Cardinals won it all, as I out-smarted myself by assuming the series-clinching game was going to be rained-out and deciding to wait and go down the next day, but much to my chagrin, there was no next day!

Okay, I'm not terribly superstitious, but legend has it that it's bad luck if a black cat crosses your path.  Does that also apply to white goats?  Hope not, because I was driving home just before dark this evening in a rural area just outside my city limits when this rascal comes prancing across the road in front of me.  I kept waiting for the AFLAC duck to come along chasing him...

According to local news media, Opening Night at Sprint Center went pretty smoothly overall, and the much-feared parking hassles for the new arena never materialized, as evidently all 18,000 Elton John concert attendees negotiated their way around downtown without any problem.  About the only real snag was the long delay for folks to just get in the building itself after the doors opened.  When I saw the long lines on TV, I wondered if security people were doing full cavity searches, but apparently the lines were so long because most people were unaware that there's more than one entrance to the arena, and the doors on the east side of the building were hardly even used.  As for the show itself, Captain Fantastic got excellent reviews, and seems to have given the people their money's worth by playing 26 songs in a Springsteen-length set of two hours, 45 minutes, during which EJ leaned heavily on his '70s repertoire.  The building acoustics got mixed reviews, but overall, the show went swimmingly, and I wish I coulda been there.

Great column by Kathleen Parker this week that states my feelings almost a tad better than I did on the Obama lapel pin hoop-de-doo.  Parker is one of the few conservative columnists that I actually enjoy reading on a regular basis, and she nailed this Obama thing right on the head.

Here are Terrell Owens' stats from Sunday's game: 6 catches for 66 yards. Seems only fitting...

Why did NBC feel the need to add the ever-pompous Keith Olbermann to their NFL coverage this season?  I used to like Olbermann when he was on ESPN, and even though Bill O'Reilly is a frequent target of KO's verbal bazooka, he comes off as a smarmy arrogant ass on his current MSNBC show with all his snarky commentary, not unlike Dennis Miller—another guy I used to really like until he wore out his welcome with me when he decided that being a conservative garnered him better TV ratings.  Olbermann adds nothing to the already-shaky chemistry of the NBC Sunday Night Football crew, and is every bit as irritating as a canker sore.

I was hoping the NFL would have coordinated this year's schedule a little better to allow for an all-AFL weekend featuring the original ten AFL franchises playing each other as a tribute to late Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt.  Some teams have already worn their '60s throwback uniforms this season, like Buffalo did last Monday night, and the Jets in their New York Titans uni's on Sunday—wouldn't it have been cool to see Chiefs vs. Raiders, Chargers vs. Broncos (with the latter in their old orange "horses's ass" helmets, as I like to call them), Patriots vs. Bills, etc., all in their old AFL uniforms on the same weekend?  Could've been one helluva tribute to Mr. Hunt...

...if you go to Lowe's!  During a visit to Lowe's hardware emporium tonight, I couldn't help but notice they already had their Christmas decorations up for sale.  It's two weeks before Halloween, from crimeny's sake!  They might as well leave the shit up year-round...

I got a chuckle out of the blurb on ESPN tonight about the National Lacrosse League cancelling its 2008 season because of a labor dispute.  So much for George Carlin's favorite "faggot college activity"...