Highlights of the 1/30 Rock and Roll Revisited

When Talk Radio was truly entertainment. A generation has now grown up listening to the echo chamber of political opinion that passes for “talk radio” these days. But once upon a time, talk radio was enlightening, entertaining and attracted loyal followers in every market where it aired. Joe PyneJohn NebelJean Shepherd, and Jerry Williams were among the first to explore the medium in the 1950s. KMOX, 1120 AM in St. Louis, Missouri, and KABC, 790 AM in Los Angeles— both claim to be the first to adopt an all-talk show format in 1960.

Larry King on Mutual

If you grew up in Boston, you stayed up with WBZ’s Larry Glick. In Miami, Larry King‘s act attracted the attention of the Mutual Broadcasting System where his show was broadcast from coast to coast. Many of my generation remember late nights listening to Larry interview the nation’s most notable personalities, interspersed with personal stories (Click the links to hear his classic Carvel Ice Cream and Incorrigibles tales) and inside radio bits that those of us who were chasing broadcasting careers totally understood.

Today, that kind of talk proliferates in the podcast realm. The low cost of recording and deploying interviews has made this form of broadcasting accessible to anyone. Those who succeed over the long haul, follow much the same formula we loved in talk’s golden age from the 60s until the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 allowed stations to stick to one side of the political street without impediment.

WJR’s – J.P. McCarthey

One of the best talk hosts was Detroit radio personality J.P. McCarthy. He held court on WJR‘s Focus program for nearly three decades, beginning in 1964. Unlike Larry King, who famously said he never prepared for an interview, “so I can be in the same position as the listener,” J.P.s show prep was legendary. He was well read and had a encyclopedic memory. He was also one of the most admired and well liked personalities in the market. When he died, every station in the Detroit observed a moment of silence in his memory.

J.P. was one of the best practitioners of the three keys to a great interview:

  1. Prepare – Know as much about your guest as you can. Be well versed in current affairs.
  2. Be A Kind Host – J.P.’s guests loved being interviewed by him because he could ask the toughest questions in a way that made them want to answer them.
  3. The show is about the guest and the audience, not about you – J.P. had a powerful personality but Denis Waitley put it, guests always walked away feeling that, “I like me best when I’m with you.” McCarthey was there to ask the questions the audience might likely ask and the focus was always on the guest and never on himself.

Further down the page, we have a video clip of Larry King at the height of his powers on Mutual. And here is an extended clip showcasing J.P. in his element, interviewing  Dr. J. Allen Hynek about U.F.O.’s. It’s a best practice course in conversation.

Would today’s audiences, steeped in the intensity of social media freneticism, might find this kind of civil conversation boring? I bet not. Know any examples of where talk radio is still done well? “Let me hear from you.”

Quick Takes:

From the FiveThirtyEight guys: “The world’s most prolific Twitter users tweet mostly about nothing.”That would be me! Just like Sinefeld 😉

How viral conversation gets things done fast. Facebook shuts down controversial iOS app that collected teens’ data.

Places that will be warmer than Chicago today: Florida, the Arctic Circle, some regions of Mars. Via Morning Brew and @MarsWxReport Remembering what we did on snow days when I was a Michigan kid. We were outside playing all day anyway no matter how cold it got!

Wow. Our own NSA experts selling out to potential adversaries? I thought just about every employment contract had a noncompete.

The Beatles announce an new collaboration Academy Award winning director Peter Jackson… to take “Let It Be” movie footage that ended up on the cutting room floor and patch together another film. I hope it’s good! It feels like a money grab.

Speaking of: Vee Jay records released the first Beatle hit in America 55 years ago today, after Capitol records initially demurred. Wonder what happened to the Capitol exec that made THAT decision? Here’s the story of how it happened. (Video)

Today in History:

1948 Mahatma Gandhi assassinated by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse.

1950 “Robert Montgomery Presents” dramatic anthology premieres on NBC TV

1961 “I Fall to Pieces” single released by Patsy Cline (Billboard Song of the Year 1961)

1969 The Beatles perform their last live gig, a 42 minute concert on the roof of Apple Corps HQ in London.

1973, After recently changing their name from Wicked Lester, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss made their first appearance as KISS at the Popcorn Club in Queens, New York.

1977, The 8th  and final episode of the “Roots” mini-series is most-watched US entertainment show ever, with an audience of 100 million people. Cable television’s plethora of channels would soon forever fragment audiences.

1978, The Mutual Broadcasting System begins airing the Larry King Show. In 1982, CSPAN took their cameras to the Mutual Studios to give the world a look at Larry in action. We have a video snippet, complete with the show’s memorable opening jingle. It’s full of fun “Inside Radio” gems, including a promo for Larry’s appearance at the forthcoming National Association of Broadcasters convention.. (Video).

Happy Birthday to: Joe Terranova (Danny & The Juniors, 1941; Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane), 1942; Sandy Deane (Jay & The Americans), 1943; Steve Marriott (Small Faces), 1947 (d. 1991); William King (Commodores), 1949; Phil Collins, 1951; Charles S Dutton (Actor), 1951

Much More Music:

1956, Elvis Presley  records his version of “Blue Suede Shoes“. It was written and first recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955. He got the idea at a dance after hearing one of the boys tell his partner, “Don’t step on my suede shoes.” We have a rare video of his Paramount Pictures screen test, where the tune was what he used to show the studio what he could do. (Video)

1961, The Shirelles became the first girl group to have the number one song on the US charts when “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, written by the then husband-wife songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King reached the top spot. It is one of those songs that everyone ultimately records. Other artists who took a shot at it include: Brenda Lee,  Little EvaDusty SpringfieldCher, Jackie DeShannon, Sandy Posey, The Four Seasons and Linda Ronstadt. (Video)

1964, The Searchers were at No.1 with the Jack Nitzsche / Sonny Bono song “Needles and Pins“. The group’s second chart topper had originally been recorded by Jackie DeShannon. The band’s other hits include a remake of the Drifters’ 1961 hit, “Sweets for My Sweet“; another Jackie DeShannon remake, “When You Walk in the Room“; an original song written for them, “Sugar and Spice“; a cover of The Orlons‘ “Don’t Throw Your Love Away“; and a cover of The Clovers‘ “Love Potion No. 9“. (Video)

1965, “The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis goes Top Ten. We have a rare extended version where you can get a sense for the backing band’s chops. Shirley performed “The Name Game” on major television programs of the day, including HullabalooAmerican Bandstand and The Merv Griffin Show. The song later became a popular children’s sing along. (Video)

1975, The Bee Gees begin recording “Jive Talkin’“, which became their second US chart topper. A “comeback” song, it was their first US top-10 hit since “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” in 1971. Barry Gibb’s inspiration for the song came when his wife commented on the sound their car made while crossing a bridge over Biscayne Bay into Miami. She noted, “It’s our drive talkin’.” (Video)

2019, James Ingram dies at the age of 66. His early collaborations with Quincy Jones made him a star. Here’s one of our faves, his duet with Linda Ronstadt, singing a tune from the cartoon film “An American Tail

Today’s Quote Worth Re-quoting: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” ~Richard Branson

We leave you with one of the groups that influenced the “Bubble Gum” sound. Today in  1970, Edison Lighthouse were at No.1 with ‘Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).’ The group’s only Top 40 hit spent five weeks at the top of the charts. Tony Burrows, the lead singer, fronted four different acts during the period: Edison Lighthouse, The Pipkins (Gimmie Dat Ding), White Plains (My Baby Loves Lovin’), and Brotherhood of Man (United We Stand).

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