Sunday March 9, 2014 marks Luther Masingill’s 92nd birthday, as our incredible local broadcaster continues his world-record 74th year on WDEF Radio (and soon to be 60 years on Channel 12 too)!
One of America’s top radio hosts, Phlash Phelps of Sirius XM’s 60s on 6 devoted part of his show on Friday to Luther, and to Chattanooga. Phlash’s mother grew up in the Bonny Oaks area of Chattanooga, so Phlash has heard about Luther all of his life. Phlash is a true radio guy, so he understands and appreciates Luther’s amazing achievements. On the 60s on 6 channel, one of Sirius XM’s top attractions among its 26 million subscribers nationwide, Phlash interviewed Luther about his life and career. As always, Luther provided a few laughs during the segments, which totaled about 7 minutes.
I know some folks who were afraid they wouldn’t get to hear Luther in the national spotlight, because they don’t have access to satellite radio. Well, here it is! Click the YouTube link below, watch, enjoy and share! Thanks so much to Phlash Phelps and Sirius XM 60s on 6 for making this happen, and to Luther, for for being our friend for 92 years….and counting.
Now, in no particular order, some things I’d better tell you, before I forget:
Being a TV person, I confess to having a rather large ego. It comes with the territory. After all, if people don’t recognize me, they’re not watching, right? So it’s always nice when someone makes a fuss.
Since I’ve been on Chattanooga TV for 30-plus years, it happens to me now and then. Some people remember my name, others don’t. Some call me Darrell, or David Glenn, or my personal favorite, “that dude on the news!” Some people do a double-take. They’ll glance over, see me, and then their head jerks back back as if to say, “Hey, I know him from somewhere.” Others walk by, and when they think I’m out of earshot, they’ll say to their companion, “Did you see David Carroll back there? He was the one with the mouthful of food, and ketchup on his chin.” (They think I don’t hear them, but we TV folks have enhanced hearing. That’s how we get news.)
So the other day, I was sitting with a group of my radio buddies. We were just blabbing away, when this very attractive young lady stopped at our table, and started zeroing in on me. As my head began to swell, she made it very clear that she knew me. “David Carroll!” she exclaimed, much to my delight. My friends were visibly impressed. By now my head was about the size of a balloon in the Macy’s parade, and she came in a bit closer. “I can’t believe I’m seeing you in person!” she squealed.
Now, people are usually nice, but I don’t get the rock star treatment that often, so I was digging this. “I’ve GOT to have my picture made with you, would you mind?” she asked. Modestly, I told her I would be honored to be in a picture with her, hoping all the while my friends were taking this all in. If they didn’t know it already, they were in the company of a Brad Pitt-like local celebrity, and they’d better be sufficiently impressed.
She handed her phone to a friend, I stood up to squeeze in for a photo with her, which she would no doubt enlarge into a poster suitable for framing. We smiled for the camera, the friend snapped the picture, and she began to thank me for this special moment. As my table-mates looked on in admiration, she shook my hand and said, “This is great! My Granny’s gonna love this. Granny said she grew up listening to you!” As I sat back down, and my wise-cracking friends tried to suppress their laughter, I said the only sensible thing one could say in that situation. “Check, please!” Oh well, I hope I put a smile on Granny’s face:
In other news, you can hear my pal Luther Masingill on Sirius XM Satellite Radio on Friday March 7, between 12 noon and 12:30 p.m. He’ll be interviewed by Phlash Phelps, of “60s on 6″ on, of course, Channel 6. Phlash’s mom grew up in the Bonny Oaks area, so he’s long heard about Luther, and although he hasn’t met him in person, he considers himself a fan. Phlash (pronounced “Flash”) has been on the 60s channel since the beginning, 14 years ago, after a long and varied run of radio jobs throughout the country. He’s amazed at Luther’s longevity, and plans to ask him about his 73-plus year career, all at WDEF. In fact, Luther will celebrate his 60th anniversary on TV next month when WDEF Channel 12 observes its 60 years on the air.
Luther and an admiring fan in the 1950s.
If you have satellite radio, you can join listeners nationwide as they hear about Luther’s life, including being on the air when the news broke of the bombing on Pearl Harbor, his service in World War II, and his fitness regimen. Luther is excited about speaking to a national audience, in advance of his 92nd birthday on Sunday. “These satellite people do their shows out of Washington D.C., so maybe the president is listening,” he said. Oh yes. As well as the people in New York, Texas, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, hundreds of miles out into the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and the Great Lakes. Tell everybody hello from the Scenic City, Luther, and Happy Birthday! Here’s a blast from the past: some brief “Luther and David” bloopers from Channel 12′s 30th anniversary in 1984.
Finally, here’s an update on our friend Chris DeRogatis. Many of you were kind enough to read and watch my story about Chris last week.
He’s a junior at Central High School, and was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer on Valentine’s Day. A kind viewer named Pat Guffey of Soddy-Daisy calls herself “The Hat Lady,” and she offered to make some hats for Chris and his sister Sammy. Pat said, “Each hat is created and stitched with love by me, Nana Pat.” Several of the hats featured the lovable minions from the “Despicable Me” movies.
Sammy was thrilled to get her hat, and to deliver the others to Chris. He’s spending a few days at home now, resting from some intense chemotherapy treatments. There are five more cycles of chemo, so keep Chris in your thoughts and prayers. His Facebook page banner headline reads, “I Can and I Will…Watch Me!” Chris and his family are so appreciative of your support. It sure helps to have sweet people like the Hat Lady on his side!
I have three short stories for your entertainment and reading pleasure. Plus, they’re all true:
Every time I visit with 2nd graders, I get a laugh out of it. They are so honest, and funny. I was about to read “Clifford the Big Red Dog” to Sandra Feher’s class at East Ridge Elementary, and I did my usual pep talk about reading. They all raised their hand, they love to read. I asked if 2nd grade was fun, and again, all hands went up. When I asked, “Are you looking forward to 3rd grade?” only a few hands went up. “So are you worried about 3rd grade?” I asked. Immediately, they began voicing their concerns about more homework, and learning the times tables.
I started in with the sales pitch. “You’re going to LOVE 3rd grade!” I said. “You’re going to read more fun stuff, you’ll get even smarter than you are now!” I was on a roll. “Then soon you’ll be in middle school, and you’ll get REALLY smart!” I couldn’t leave well enough alone. “And then you’ll be in high school, and that’s going to be even MORE fun!” A 7-year-old girl put up her hand as if to stop me, and said, “Dude, slow down! We’re only little!”
At the other end of the spectrum, I met Claude Ogle Sr. of Cleveland, who turned 99 a few days ago. I had been told by his son Ken, “You need to do a story on my dad, he’s amazing.” Ken told me how Claude plays piano and sings “for the older folks” in Cleveland. I wondered how many folks in Cleveland were indeed older than Claude. So I walked up to the entrance of the Cleveland Towers expecting to find a feeble 99-year-old man. When I got to the locked front door, a man raced into the lobby to let me in. He appeared to be about 75. I said, “I’m here to interview the older gentleman, Mr. Ogle.” The man said, “You’re talking to him now, is this part of the interview?”
It turned into quite a story. The barrel-chested Mr. Ogle is fit as a fiddle, with a razor-sharp memory, and an even sharper sense of humor. He’s got every gospel song in the hymnal memorized, plus several that he wrote himself. I asked him the question every reporter asks, when doing a story on someone who’s at or near the century mark. “What are the secrets to a long life?” Claude solemnly pointed skyward, as if to say, “The good Lord.” Then without missing a beat, he added, “And Hardee’s biscuits.”
Every morning, he drives (yes, he drives) to Hardee’s, where he downs a biscuit or two, and holds court with other golden-agers. I don’t care what they say about salt, butter and cholesterol. I’ve seen those early-morning crowds at Hardee’s. Those aren’t spring chickens. Something in those biscuits is keeping folks alive. Just ask Claude. By the way, he’s a longtime fan of my radio pal Luther Masingill. He said he’s listened to him since the 1940s, and talked to him on the phone “about fifty years ago.” He asked, “How old is Luther now?” I said, “He’ll be 92 next week.” “Oh, he’s just a kid,” Claude said. “Get him up here, and I’ll buy him a biscuit!” I may have to make that happen.
Finally, another Tale of a Teenage Disc Jockey. My first radio job was at WEPG in South Pittsburg. At the age of 16, I rode my motorcycle to the station each Sunday to play the hits from noon until 6:00 p.m. I would get there a few minutes early, to set up my show. I followed a small church group that sang, played and preached in the adjoining studio. They were nice folks, and I would hold the door for them as they carried their instruments out at the end of their service. But mostly, I would sit in my studio, reading the Sunday sports section, waiting for them to finish so I could play the Rolling Stones and the Doobie Brothers.
I think it was my fourth week on the job. I’m just sitting there, reading about the Braves, with the church service going on in the background. I’m halfway listening, so I’ll know when they’re finished. Suddenly, the preacher said, quite eloquently, “Brothers and sisters, before we leave you on this beautiful Sunday, I’d like to say a word about this young brother in the next studio. Brother David is just sixteen years old, but he helps us load up our equipment, makes sure the microphones are turned off, and he’s just a real blessing to us. So Brother David, we’d like to ask you to say our closing prayer.”
“You want me to do WHAT?” I didn’t say that out loud, but I’m sure my fear-stricken face reflected that emotion. After a pause of maybe five seconds, (it seemed like a minute), he repeated his kind request. “Go ahead young man, give thanks to the Lord.” Let me be clear: I had never prayed publicly. Still, I was on live radio. There is nothing worse than dead air. So, summoning all my courage, and my best recollection of what people said while praying, I mumbled something about “Father, we thank you for this food…um, that sure was a good service, and we thank you for that, and uh, well, be safe and have a good day and Amen.” To be honest, I don’t know if that’s exactly what I said, but I guarantee it wasn’t any better than that.
Not my best moment as a broadcaster, to be sure. But it taught me a lesson: be ready for anything. Ever since that day, I’ve tried to make sure that I’m never caught by surprise, when I’m on live TV or radio. It didn’t seem like it that day, but my little prayer “blooper” was a blessing in disguise. So I’m giving thanks for that, here and now.
TV news anchors rarely “let their hair down,” and maybe that’s why I love what happened on WMC-TV in Memphis on Wednesday. Pam McKelvy has had a difficult couple of years, dealing with breast cancer that resulted in a double mastectomy and chemo treatments. She’s been wearing a wig since last March, but decided to go natural on the air. The results are beautiful. She also examines the importance of hair, especially for ladies at the news desks. I thought her report was eloquent, and her tearful “reveal” at the end of this report is priceless. There’s no script, no TelePrompter. Just natural emotion, relief and joy. You’ve got to watch this until the end, and I’ll bet you’ll love her as much as I do. Just click the link below:
So, what do you think about Justin Bieber, maybe moving to Atlanta?
I guess they don’t have enough traffic problems, already? I was weirdly amused however, by the newly-released video of his attempt to walk a straight line in jail down in Florida. Soon, someone will set this to music, and it will be even better.
What about your favorite and least favorite Olympics moments?
Least favorite? Easily, the NBC interview with alpine ski racer Bode Miller. After he won the bronze medal, reporter Christin Cooper made an entire profession look bad. She refused to stop pressing Miller about his dead brother until he finally relented and shed a few tears. Even though it had been taped hours earlier, and could have been tastefully edited, NBC ran the entire, cringe-worthy, uncomfortable interview. It was a sadly unforgettable low point in an otherwise awesome two-week production.
As for my favorite, it didn’t happen in Sochi. It happened down the road in Atlanta, where WXIA (NBC) news anchor Brenda Wood saw the same thing the rest of us did, and said what we wanted to say. Thank you Ms. Wood, for what you said, and thank you WXIA, for allowing her to do so.
That we really, really need an ice rink in the Chattanooga area.
So what’s the weirdest news story you’ve seen recently?
How about that lady in South Carolina, who was jailed after police learned she had not returned a VHS copy of a Jennifer Lopez movie that she rented in 2005? Oh, yes. This happened!
It got me to thinking. Should I be concerned about “something borrowed” at my house, that hasn’t been returned? Well, there is this one thing:
To my friend Ricky, who loaned me this cool new album in 8th grade: Dude, don’t press charges. I’ll get it back to you. I’ve been busy, man. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Have you seen your tax dollars at work recently?
Why, yes, I’m glad you asked. My hard-working wife was kind enough to place some brush on our curb, for pick-up last weekend. She instructed me to do the easy part, to call the city’s “311″ pick-up service. Of course, I’ve put it off, which is what men tend to do. In the meantime, several of our neighbors cleared some brush too, also putting it curbside for pickup. Evidently, one of them was on the ball, and actually called “311.” So a couple of days later, a big city truck rolled on to our street, picking up the brush from that particular yard. The next day, it returned, picking up one more pile, after a good neighbor had called. Tomorrow, I will call (I promise, Cindy) and our brush will be picked up. And so on. That big truck will end up making several trips to our street this week, rather than picking it all up the first time. I’m told that this method is a good use of tax money.
What’s up with the game-show curtains on your news set?
No, Cindy Sexton and I are not taking pledge calls, hosting a political debate or trying to summon the ghost of Johnny Carson. This is our temporary news set, designed for your maximum viewing enjoyment while our real news studio is being renovated. We’ve talked about adding stars, smiley faces, or even a bubble machine to liven it up, but all our wild ideas have been rejected. I’m sort of getting used to the retro look. We may have to take some “photo booth” pics while we have those colorful curtains. Just be patient, I’m told we’ll have a cool new studio set in a few weeks. Things happen really quickly you know. This was our set last Friday:
That photo was snapped as Cindy and I were wrapping up the 6 pm news. The very next day, I stopped by and this was the scene, from the same viewpoint:
The good news is, workers unearthed some Skittles, lots of loose change, Bill Markham’s comb, an old “lightning bolt” weather magnet and the keys to a 1988 Crown Vic news car. And it will be shiny and new soon.
Finally, how much are you going to miss Callie Starnes?
A lot! For the past six years, Callie has chased news stories like few others. I’ve described her as feisty, spunky, tenacious and every other good adjective you can hang on a news reporter.
My favorite Callie image, as described by an eyewitness, took place a few years ago at the end of a controversial court case. A couple of the attorneys didn’t want to respond to post-trial questions, so Callie literally chased them down the street. I can just see these two large men running away from our petite Callie, microphone in hand. At the end of the week, she leaves WRCB to be a full-time mom to son Brody, now four months old. We haven’t heard the last of this talented journalist, but she’s taking a break for the right reasons. Best wishes, Callie. I am so proud of you.
I’ll leave you with a laugh, though tinged with sadness. I met Tim Wilson more than 20 years ago, when he appeared on one of my TV programs to sing his novelty hit, “Garth Brooks Ruined My Life.” I saw him again last November, during one of his many sold-out shows at Chattanooga’s Comedy Catch. Larger than life, and naturally funny, he was a comedy club and radio show favorite in Chattanooga and around the country. He died of an apparent heart attack Wednesday at the age of 52. He had a lot of great routines, but this one, about southern accents is one of my favorites. RIP Tim, and thanks for the laughs.
I attended a Shaving Party recently, my first ever. Central High School in Harrison invited me, and I couldn’t turn it down. The principal is Finley King, who bleeds Pounder Purple. During the past five years, he has restored the pride to a school that struggled through rezoning snafus and stiff competition from nearby magnet and private schools. Central is a family again, and they are rallying around one of their own.
Chris DeRogatis is a junior, one of Central’s brightest lights. He reads every book they put in front of him, and has already scored a 27 on the ACT. On Valentines Day, he and his family got some bad news. Five days earlier, he had discovered a swollen lymph node. He hoped it would go away, but it didn’t. After tests and surgery, he and his family got the diagnosis: cancer.
He has Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. It is a rare Non-Hodgkins form of Lymphoma. Within days, he learned his cancer is Stage 3. It isn’t the worst, but it is far from the best. He has started chemotherapy, which is scheduled for six months, depending on how he responds to treatment. His junior year, at Central anyway, is over. John Daum, a brilliant English and philosophy teacher who is also a great friend, will provide homebound teaching for Chris. “I’m honored to do it,” Mr. Daum said. “Here’s this young man facing the fight of his life, and you know what he’s worried about? His diploma. He wants to graduate on schedule, or early if he can. And he’s smart enough to do it, if he has the energy.”
This all happened without warning. A few days ago, his family and classmates were dealing with the mundane struggles we all face each day. Go to work, go to school, make your grades. Turn around and do it again. Does that sound boring? Oh, how the DeRogatis family would love to have that routine back today.
Those of us who have moved far beyond our teen years have fond memories of our 16-year-old hair. It was thick, dark and plentiful. On top of everything else, Chris realized that one of chemo’s side effects is hair loss. At first, he resisted shaving his head. “I’m just going to let it fall out,” he said. “You can call me Patches.” Mr. Daum wouldn’t hear of it. “I’ll tell you what,” he said. “You shave your head, and I’ll shave mine. We’ll do it in front of the whole class.”
Chris DeRogatis & teacher John Baum “before”
Chris and Mr. Daum “after”
Thus, the Central High Shaving Party began. Two people became ten, ten became twenty. One hour turned into two, one day turned into two, and we now celebrate dozens of slick, shiny scalps shaved over the course of a week. Chris’s friends, his teachers, the school resource officer, even kids he doesn’t even know have sat in the makeshift barber’s chair.
His sister and number-one fan Sammy, a senior, has quickly mastered the art of a cleanly shaved noggin.
Chris’s sister, Sammy DeRogatis
She and other girls haven’t yet gone for the full-Howie Mandel, but have shown solidarity by shaving the side of their head, quite stylishly. Topping off the day, Chris’s dad Craig got a clean shave, from Chris himself.
Chris shaving the head of his dad, Craig DeRogatis
Two days later, on Thursday February 20, the Shaving Party buzzed on at Central, minus the guest of honor. That was the day Chris endured his first full day of treatments, the first of many. The PET scan showed that he also had cancer under both armpits, in the left iliac crest – with chains to pelvis, left inguinal area, and a hot spot on the right groin.
He’s had bone marrow biopsies, a lumbar puncture, and Hickman catheter/port inserted for his chemo treatment.
He is spending several days at TC Thompson Childrens Hospital. If he feels like coming home for a day or two, then he will have to be readmitted in a couple of days. It’s the beginning of an aggressive six-month chemo cycle. In the hospital for five days, and then home for a brief stay. The cycle is then repeated. This is one major battle. But who better to fight it, than a young man whose Facebook banner reads, “I can and I will. Watch me!”
Never have I seen a school so united, so quickly. Word travels fast within a family, even one in which 900 teenagers of various races and socio-economic backgrounds reside within a large round building. Some of the kids are staging a benefit concert. Others are starting a hat drive, because their friend Chris is likely to wear plenty of hats in the days to come. Mr. Daum knows what his star student really likes: books.
Chris with his first batch of books, in the hospital.
Chris reads books in many formats. Old-school books and Nook books. So Mr. Daum is making sure there are plenty of Barnes & Noble gift cards. Chris has always believed reading is power. With every waking hour, he’s likely to be in his Nook, gaining ground on that diploma.
Yes, the diploma is Chris’s goal, and according to the State Department of Education, it’s why those 900 teenagers enter that round building each day. But as he watched Chris DeRogatis’ chrome-domed friends line up in the hallway, principal Finley King just shook his head in amazement. “High school isn’t just about the diploma,” he said. “It’s a lot more than that. These kids have learned a lot about life, and how precious it is. It’s been a one-week crash course. And now they’re teaching us grown-ups that we’re in good hands. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
You can follow the personal Facebook blog from Chris DeRogatis and his family. Just go to https://www.facebook.com/Chrisderogatiscarepage and click “Like.”
Students are holding a benefit concert March 14th at 6 pm at the Cadence Coffee Company in Patten Parkway in Chattanooga.
It’s no secret that radio means a lot to me. It’s right up there with baseball, hot ‘n gooey Krystal cheeseburgers, and Coca Cola in small bottles. All of them grabbed me when I was a kid, and they’ve never let go.
My older sisters always had the radio on. That was my first exposure to the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Supremes. Living 30 miles from Chattanooga, the static-ridden, tiny AM transistor radios didn’t deliver much clarity, but they still packed a punch. All the hit-making producers of that era had mono speakers in mind when they put those records together. That’s why “Surfin USA,” “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch,” and “Baby Love” sounded so full, so complete. We remember where we were, and what we were doing when we heard them for the very first time. Once wasn’t enough, we had to hear them again!
That’s where WFLI came in. I’ve written before about Chattanooga’s “Great Jet-FLI,” the 50,000 watt AM station that is such a big part of my life. Other radio stations up and down the dial played those same songs. But none have had the lasting impact, and have earned the iconic status of WFLI. As local baby-boomers age into their 50s, 60s and 70s, some have difficulty remembering the names of their grandchildren, or where they left their keys. But if you start rattling off names and phrases like “Tommy Jett,” “Down-beat-beat-beat,” or “Jet-FLI Spectacular,” their faces light up.
WFLI DJs of the 1960s: Ron Arnold, Nick Smith, Johnny Eagle, Mike King, Tommy Jett and Rick “Ringo Van” Govan
Here’s the other beautiful thing about WFLI. Unlike most other radio stations, the core group of guys (and a few ladies) who worked there 40-50 years ago are still close friends. Whatever workplace drama that existed (and you know it did) has long been erased by the passage of time. Those who survive aren’t young, thin rock ‘n rollers any more. They move a little slower. You’ve got to speak up, because that loud music didn’t help anyone’s hearing. Almost everyone smoked back then in a tiny enclosed control room, so it’s a wonder any of them have functional lungs today. Plus I can vouch that the cloud of smoke that enveloped the station’s Tiftonia studio was not always from cigarettes, if you get my drift.
Yet somehow, several aging deejays, including myself, are still able to gather once or twice a year to repeat oft-told stories that just get better with time. It’s a tight-knit fraternity. We’ve lost a few of those memorable voices over the years. From teenage wonder boy “Fast Jimmy” Byrd, to comic/musical genius “Young Stanley” Hall, to the fun loving 1970s morning man Jim Pirkle. The guys who put the station on the air, like owner Billy Benns, and the ones who kept the giant transmitter humming, engineers Joe Poteet and Bud Bell are long gone. But their names live on in story after story, told by those who worked with them and loved them.
WFLI 1970s DJs: Rich Phillips, Gene Lovin, Bill Poindexter, Bill Miller, Max O’Brian & David Carroll
I’ve worked at a few radio and TV stations since I joined WFLI in 1975. For about 18 months, this Sand Mountain teen got a crash course in the world of fast-talking, faster-living deejays. I’m surely alive today because of a deal I made with my Dad. He knew how much that job meant to me, and he figured out a way to keep me straight. “Son, I’ll make sure you have a car to get you there and back (a 70-mile round trip each night), but if you get in trouble, I’ll take away the keys.” Obviously that meant no drinking, no drugs, or anything else that might put me on the wrong side of the law. So while my co-workers who lived five minutes from work were experimenting with just about everything, this Alabama kid toed the line.
It all turned out well. I lived to tell about it, and have made a living behind a microphone ever since. Through all the different control rooms and studios, my friendships with my fellow FLI guys are among the strongest in my life. It wasn’t high school, but it sure was an education. These days, when we all get together, a one-hour lunch becomes a three-hour marathon, and my face hurts from smiling. There are still some good radio stations around, but few are staffed around the clock, 24/7 like WFLI was in its prime. Not many deejays go to school together, live together and share everything (EVERYTHING), like Dale Anthony and Tommy Jett did, or like Jimmy Byrd and Billy “Dex” Poindexter. I hope today’s radio personalities can get together and tell stories about their careers forty or fifty years from now. But I doubt there’ll never be another Jet-FLI. Some things only happen once in a lifetime.
Now, a gift to you from fellow FLI-guy and radio fanatic Ben Cagle. Along with Johnny Eagle, who ran the place back in the 60s, and Betty Benns, daughter of the man who started it all, Ben helped organize a reunion in February 2014 that was the biggest one yet. The highlights are three YouTube videos (linked below), about an hour each, documenting the history of WFLI in the 1960s. Ben spent months putting these together. They include music, memories, stories and laughs, plus a lot of pictures. Next time you need a nice, long smile break, check out Ben’s wonderful production. Like the FLI guys used to say, “It’s swingin’ man, it’s what’s happening.” Watch, share, and enjoy!
I’m still sifting through the thousands of Facebook posts from our recent weather events. Students, parents and others waiting and wondering, “Is schools open tomorrow?” My new favorite is this one, posted by an alleged parent. “All the snow is melted on our road, but they keep saying schools is closed in clement weather. What does that even mean?”
So as we enjoy this late February spell of clement (mild) weather, hoping there are no more cancellations due to inclement (severe, harsh) weather, here are a few other notes from the week gone by:
Four straight days of school closings and delays last week. By Friday it was starting to get to me. At Bi-Lo, I went to the self-checkout lane. I’m pretty sure the automated voice lady said, “Welcome, Bonus Card customer. Are we having school tomorrow?”
By the way, some guy who works for Butterfinger thought he could improve on the Peanut Butter Cup.
By golly, he may have. This little candy treat lives up to the Super Bowl hype!
Now a “True Confessions” parenting tale. I’ve had a lot of fun with sons Vince and Chris, pictured below. I’m not sure when this started, but at some point during their childhood, we started a goofy tradition that we practiced when attending out-of-town sporting or entertainment events. At the end of a game or show, when exiting the event, I would get a few feet ahead of them, turn around and yell two different first names. They were always the actual names of celebrities, who have two first names. For instance, if we were with a NASCAR crowd, I might say, “Jeff! Gordon! Let’s go!” (“Mark! Martin!” would work too).
If it was more of an entertainment event, I might call out to them, “Kirk! Cameron!” Or “Bruce! Lee!” If we were leaving a pop music concert, I’d yell, “Paul! Simon!” or “Ray! Charles!” With a country music crowd, it would be, “Toby! Keith!” or “Luke! Bryan!” At baseball games, I’d yell out, “Tommy! John!” or “Nolan! Ryan!” With a football crowd, “Eddie! George!” And sometimes, just to mix it up, it might be, “Andrew! Jackson! Let’s go!” That seemed to go over well with presidential scholars. You can try it too: for example, if you have a girl and a boy, just yell, “Katy! Perry! Let’s go!” Trust me, you will get attention.
Thank you Sid Caesar. Not only did you set the table for live sketch comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live,” and provide laughs for millions of people in the early days of TV, you did something else really cool:
When the supermarket tabloid rags said in front page headlines last week “Sid Caesar, ONLY WEEKS TO LIVE!” you just went ahead and died quietly at the age of 91. Proving, yet again, the tabloids are almost always wrong.
You know who I admire? Those Liberty Tax Service wavers. They’re out there in all kinds of weather, working long hours for low pay. People yell at them, they honk, they make fun. Through it all, the Liberty wavers sing, dance, and mostly wave, in an effort to get you inside the building with your W2 forms. As you know, way too many people support themselves by breaking into houses, holding up convenience stores, or snatching purses and wallets in store parking lots. Not the Liberty wavers. They applied for a job, and they’re making an honest living.
A few days ago, I did something I’d been wanting to do for years. Traffic was a little slow, so I stopped in front of a Liberty waver, called him over to the car, and handed him a little gift. It wasn’t much, but it put a smile on his face. I told him, “You’re a hard working man. I appreciate what you’re doing.” Before I could drive away, he told me that his shift actually had ended a few minutes before, but his ride was late. So he was still out there dancing and waving. Fortunately, his ride arrived just then, so his day was over. That guy is going to be a success some day. He could have taken off his Statue of Liberty robe and sat on the curb. But no, he kept waving people in. America at its finest.
Finally, a musical trivia blast from the past. What if you’re a singer, and you record a song that you think will be a big hit? Then you turn it in to the record company, and they say, “You’re right, this is a great song. There’s just this one problem: we think it would be better without you on it.” What? That’s exactly what happened to Cliff Nobles in 1968. He recorded “Love Is All Right,” which featured his vocals. Here is the original recording.
The “B” side of the record was the instrumental version of the song. Record labels would occasionally do that, just to save money. Rather than record two different songs by a new artist, they might put the instrumental track on the flip side. The record company even gave it a name, “The Horse.” A disc jockey somewhere played the wrong side, and people loved it. No wonder, it’s awesome! Listen:
That version went became the number two song in the nation in 1968, and for more than 45 years, has been a favorite of high school and college bands. All these years, it’s been credited to Cliff Nobles, the singer whose name is on the label. So even though he didn’t play an instrument, didn’t write the song, and his voice isn’t heard, deejays all over the world have said his name every time this song is played. Hopefully he made a lot of money from the record’s success, but that would be a bit embarrassing, wouldn’t it? “Honey, guess what, my record’s a big hit! There’s just this one little problem. They don’t want me on it!”
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For your Valentines Day 2014 reading and listening pleasure, here’s a look at the story behind the song: a largely forgotten 1971 radio hit called “Rings” by Cymarron. There’s a nice, true-life love story behind it. I hope you enjoy it.
In 1970, songwriter Eddie Reeves was living at Venice Beach, California in a house he was leasing from a friend, Bob Hamilton. For business reasons, Bob and his girlfriend Chris, were staying temporarily in New York City. About a year after their move, Bob and Chris got engaged. Since they had fallen in love at the beach house they wanted their wedding to be there early one morning. Eddie and fellow songwriter Alex Harvey decided to write a wedding song for Bob and Chris.
Eddie talked to Alex about using the word “rings” in various connotations such as “wedding rings” and “church bells ring.” He also knew the couple liked Martoni’s Restaurant, owned by Tony Riccio and Mario Marino. Their favorite singer was James Taylor. Eddie wanted to incorporate all of these elements in an appropriate wedding song for his friends.
“Ring, ring, doorbell ring Baby, come on in Got James Taylor on the stereo
I’m glad you’ve come around I’ve been feeling down Just talking to Tony and Mario”
Over frozen TV dinners, the songwriting session began. Alex came up with “Ring, ring, golden rings, around the sun, around your pretty finger” and Eddie added, “Ring, ring, voices ring, with a happy tune anyone can be a singer.” They traded writing the last lines of the third verse and their wedding song was complete. They were proud of the song, but felt it was so specific regarding Bob and and his fiancee Chris, that it wouldn’t have universal appeal. That was fine, though. It was just a wedding gift.
“I got love Baby, I’ll give you some And if somebody comes We’ll let the doorbell ring
Said ring, ring, golden ring Around the sun Around your pretty finger”
The wedding took place as scheduled at 6:00 AM. There were thirty people present and just after the ceremony, they felt they were part of a unique and spiritual moment: the joining together of Bob and his new wife Chris.
At the reception brunch that followed at the Marina del Rey Hotel, Alex and Eddie introduced their wedding song, with Alex playing acoustic guitar and singing lead vocal and Eddie joining in on harmony on the second part of each verse. Everyone seemed to like the song and they were asked to perform it again. When Bob and Chris and some of the attendees returned to the beach house after the reception, they were asked to sing it again.
“The sun comin’ up across the city I swear you never looked So doggone pretty
Hand in hand We’ll stand upon the sand With the preacher man Let the wedding bells ring”
When Alex was ready to do his next demo recording session, he booked studio time. Alex and Eddie hoped there would be time left over for them to record “Rings” as a wedding memento to Bob and Chris. The recording of “Rings” was a low priority on Alex’s demo session since they believed it was such a specialized piece of material that it had no commercial value. They didn’t believe a recording artist would want to do a song that had been written specifically about the romance of Bob and Chris Hamilton.
Alex finished recording his songs with fifteen minutes left until the musicians had to leave. The duo quickly laid down the instrumental rack for “Rings” and later they added their vocals. Eddie sent a copy of the recording to Bob and Chris in New York and also played it for some of their friends in the music business.
During this time Elektra Records producer Russ Miller was looking for songs for Lonnie Mack’s next album. Because friends had finally convinced Eddie that “Rings” could be a hit because of its catchy and unique lyrics, Eddie played the song for Russ. He loved it. Russ recorded the song with Lonnie and it’s a great version. Had it not been for other events unfolding at this same time, Lonnie might have been the one to have a hit with their wedding song.
Bob and Chris received their copy of “Rings” and loved it as communicated by their thank you note.
Bob knew Marty Lacker, who worked for Elvis Presley. He played his copy of “Rings” for Marty who took it to Memphis to play it for producer Chips Moman, who had been searching for a hit song for his group of background singers. Chips immediately recorded it with his vocal group that became known as Cymarron. Richard Mainegra sang the lead vocal part. The Cymarron record was released and received immediate radio airplay, working its way up to the top 20 across the nation, and inspiring several remakes, including a country version that became a hit too.
Eddie later noted that Mac Davis, a much more successful songwriter, was originally supposed to be a part of the writing session for “Rings,” but had to cancel due to other obligations. When Davis heard the song on the radio for the first time, he said to Eddie, “Man, I just heard some song about rings. It’s unbelievable!” When told it was the song he was supposed to help write, he couldn’t believe it, “he was flabbergasted,” Eddie said. Eddie concludes by saying everything turned out fine. “Perhaps a song better than “Rings” could have materialized, but probably not. I’m satisfied things happened as they did.”
Here’s the hit version of “Rings.” Share it with your valentine!
(Material used here adapted from songfacts.com’s interview with Eddie Reeves: http://www.songfacts.com/blog/interviews/eddie_reeves/