Segarini: When Radio and Records Ruled the World Part 10 – Southern Rock and Disco add to the confusion…

Part 9 can be found here

The Monterey International Pop Festival was a much more important event than most people realize. Not only did it usher in the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967, it also spread the gospel according to Bill Graham (the Fillmore) Chet Helms (the Avalon) and Tom Donahue (KMPX) through the media, i.e, genre is of no consequence to music lovers, therefore, as long as the music is of worth, people who love music will see and hear the value and embrace not only what they already enjoy, but also be receptive to new and different genres, music, and artists, they had not heard or appreciated before. AM radio, meet the new kid on the block, FM radio.

By the time Woodstock plastered itself all over the American psyche, FM radio had broken out of the confines of San Francisco and spread to just about every city, town, and village in North America. The new ‘underground’ radio format consisted of no format at all…at least not at first. It was all about the music. It just so happened that there was money to be made as well. Radio, like any business, has always been about commerce at it root, but in 1969 it was still populated by people who loved the music they played. As long as that music brought in money, the powers that be were happy, the disc jockeys were happy, and the listeners were happy. Everybody was fucking happy.

Woodstock was built around the music that the new kid, FM radio, had brought to the table. Most people over the age of 30 hadn’t heard of most of the artists on the bill unless they were really into the music, lifer college students, or turned on to the music by younger friends. The acts that AM radio were playing were the biggest draws to the Woodstock festival, but most of the artists were FM staples or recommended by major FM artists. Even though the mainstream press focused mostly on the mud, the mayhem, and the nudity, the blow-out at Yasgurs farm built a fire under the record companies, who stepped up and opened the door to many artists who would not have stood a chance of recording just 2 years prior. By 1970, it was almost impossible to keep up with all the new artists and music, but we all tried our best…and FM radio was where the music was.

Not to say AM wasn’t still playing great records. Here’s the top 10 singles for 1970:

01. Bridge Over Troubled Waters – Simon and Garfunkel

02. American Woman – The Guess Who

03. Get Ready – Rare Earth

04. Band of Gold – Freda Payne

05. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head – B.J Thomas

06. ABC – The Jackson 5

07. Let it Be – The Beatles

08. Close to You – The Carpenters

09. Mama Told Me Not to Come – Three Dog Night

10. War – Edwin Starr

I couldn’t find a top 10 for all of 1970 but here are the top 10 albums from November 1970:

01. Led Zeppelin III – Led Zeppelin

02. Abraxas – Santana

03. Sweet Baby James – James Taylor

04. Close To You – Carpenters

05. Third Album – Jackson 5

06. Cosmo’s Factory – Creedence Clearwater Revival

07. Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! – Rolling Stones

08. After The Gold Rush – Neil Young

09. Greatest Hits Sly & The Family Stone

10. Woodstock Various

Using Led Zeppelin as an example of the growing difference between the selling power of AM and FM, here’s an interesting statistic. Zeppelin only had 10 singles that charted in the U.S, and the highest was Whole Lotta Love which made it to number 4 in 1969. Their albums, however, were a different story. Of their original 9 LP’s the lowest charting album was the first one which only made it to number 10. Coda was the second lowest at number 6. The others? All except IV, which peaked at number 2, were number one albums. Quite an achievement for a band who never topped the singles charts and rarely, if ever, got airplay on the AM dial, and proof that FM radio, and whole albums, not just singles, were a force to be reckoned with.

By 1971, Led Zeppelin and other ‘hard’ rock bands were leading the way to more branches of rock. In England Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath were tearing up the charts and concert stages alike. The British invasion may have been over, but England still ruled the airwaves as far as rock fans were concerned. Sly and the Family Stone were busy reinvigorating R&B in the U.S, bringing rock elements and a bit of psychedelia to the mix, Richie Havens, Phil Ochs and others were putting a new edge on folk music,  and in the Southern US at the end of the ‘60’s, a band was about to spearhead a movement that would bring a new melding of blues and rock to FM and its listeners that would insure the good ol’ US of A was still the home of the music the British had so skillfully contributed to, but Yankees invented. This time, it would be Macon, Georgia that would be ground zero…

From the ‘Don’t Believe a Word I Say’ column number 39…

During another stay at the Chelsea, a guy pulled a knife, (a BIG bowie knife), on our guitar player, over a girl that lived at the hotel.

Jim and I were talking in my room when the door burst open, and a scruffy, long haired guy waving a jaloaner knife shouted, “Which one-a you guys is Jim?”

“I am”, my brave, but stupid friend said without blinking.

“Stay away from my girlfriend, man, or I’ll kill you”, threatens our new pal.

Jim and the girl in question had been hanging out together quite a bit.

The tension in the room rose, the stranger was starting to get red in the face, but Jim remained strangely calm.

“Girlfriend?”, Jim counters. “She dances for coke dealers and turns tricks. She ain’t your girlfriend, if anything, she’s just somebody you sleep with when you’re in New York”.

For some reason, this seemed to rattle the guy. He lowered the knife, said, “Yeah”, kind of sheepishly, and looked up at Jim and said, “Sorry man, tired, been in a fuckin’ Winnebago for 2 fuckin’ days, and ah need some sleep. No hard feelings?”

Jim nods. They shake. Guy leaves. I exhale, and take my first breath since I saw the knife.

“What the fuck, man! What was that all about…and how did you know that guy isn’t from New York?”

“I recognized him”, says DeCoq. “Didn’t you hear his accent?”

Truth be told…all I saw was a knife, and all I heard was my own heart, pounding in my ears.

I said. “So who is he?”

“Duane Allman”, Jim says, “Damn fine guitar player”.

And so he was.”

Duane was more than a fine guitar player. He and his brother were the heart and soul of the Allman Brothers Band, a group of terrifyingly good musicians who grew out of the Allman’s frustration of seeing two albums by their previous band, The Hour Glass (pictured here), be turned into pop LP’s all but burying Duane’s guitar in the tracks and not allowing the brothers to pursue their desire to play the blues.

From Wikipedia: In 1968, Greg  went to visit Duane, on his 22nd birthday. Duane was sick in bed. Gregg brought along a bottle of   pills for his fever and the debut album by guitarist Taj Mahal as a gift. “About two hours after I left, my phone rang,” Gregg states. “Baby brother, baby brother, get over here now!” When Gregg got there, Duane had poured the pills out of the bottle, washed off the label and was using it as a slide to play “Statesboro Blues,” an old Blind Willie McTell song that Taj Mahal covered. “Duane had never played slide before”, says Gregg. “He just picked it up and started burnin’. He was a natural.” The song would go on to become a part of the Allman Brothers Band’s repertoire, and Duane’s slide guitar became crucial to their sound.

That first Taj Mahal LP is what got Duane into slide guitar. The album was loaded with great guitar players. Besides Taj, Ry Cooder, who had been in Taj Mahal’s band, the Rising Suns, played rhythm  and Jesse Ed Davis played lead, but it was Taj Mahal’s slide playing the sparked Duane’s interest and set him on the path that would lead to the formation of the Allman Brothers.

From Wikipedia.: “Allman’s playing on the two Hour Glass albums and an Hour Glass session in early 1968 at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoales, Alabama,  had caught the ear of Rick Hall, owner of FAME. In November 1968 Hall hired Allman to play on an album with Wilson Pickett. Allman’s work on that album, Hey Jude (1968), got him hired as a full-time session musician at Muscle Shoals and brought him to the attention of a number of other musicians, such as guitar great Eric Clapton who later said, “I remember hearing Wilson Pickett’s ‘Hey Jude’ and just being astounded by the lead break at the end. I had to know who that was immediately — right now.”

Allman’s performance on “Hey Jude” also blew away Atlantic Records producer and executive Jerry Wexler when Hall played it over the phone for him. Wexler immediately bought Allman’s recording contract from Hall and wanted to use him on sessions with all sorts of Atlantic R&B artists. While at Muscle Shoals, Allman was featured on releases by a number of artists, including Clarence Carter, King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, Otis Rush, Percy Sledge, Johnny Jenkins, Boz Scaggs, Delaney and Bonnie, and jazz flautist Herbie Mann.. Shortly after he recorded his lead break in “Hey Jude”, he recorded all of the lead guitar in Boz Scaggs’ “Loan Me A Dime.” His soloing in the song is noted as some of the best ever laid down on record.”

Keep in mind, Duane Allman was 24-25 years old when he did all of this recording. The depth and taste inherent in his playing is uncanny. Eventually Duane tired of Muscle Shoals and session work and went to Florida and stayed with Butch Trucks. The Allman Brothers Band came together in a jam session while Duane was in Jacksonville, and the band soon moved to Macon Georgia to be close to Phil Walden (pictured here with Bonnie Bramlett and Elvin Bishop), Otis Redding’s manager who was now managing Duane. The band would sign with Walden and record their first album in New York in September of 1969.  With the success of that album and its follow up, Idlewild South, The Allman Brothers Band was the hottest band in the country…and one of the most influential rock bands of their time. Along with the very influential, yet still underrated Delaney and Bonnie album, Accept No Substitutes, everyone from Eric Clapton to the Rolling Stones, to George Harrison suddenly also found themselves incorporating elements of the Allman Brothers Band’s musical approach into their music.

On October 29th, 1971, Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in Macon. He was 27 years old. The Allman Brothers band enjoying the success of the recently released Live at the Fillmore East LP, decided to keep going as a band. They continued successfully until 1976.

With the success of their first two albums, Phil Walden’s Capricorn Records signed more Southern bands to the label. Among them, Marshall Tucker, Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop, and Grinderswitch, who were the Allman Brothers roadies. All these bands, like The Allmans, had elements of jazz and long jams and acoustic country and folk interwoven in their music, but there were also southern bands that truly brought the ‘rock’ to southern rock. Bands who were harder and slightly metal in their approach. Molly Hatchet, Black Oak Arkansas, ZZ Top, and 38 Special, to name a few, leaned more towards hard rock yet still maintained the southern flavor. Southern Rock, like Rock itself, had sub genres that only the musos could define. The rock era was now in full flower. The more mainstream records getting AM airplay, and the more eclectic and progressive tracks finding homes on the FM side of the dial.

Not everyone in North America was satisfied with what was happening on the airwaves and in the record stores though. There existed a group of people who wanted to dress up, go out, and dance. It wasn’t the music they wanted to take seriously; it was the experience they craved. They wanted fashion, and style, and glamour, and they wanted it to have a beat and a message…and the message they wanted was to dance, and party, and look like a star. They had seen something interesting coming out of England, but it wasn’t the music that caught their eye. Although the music was insanely good, it was the image the purveyors of the music projected that started to creep into the fashion choices of these people and their thirst for the glamour that was missing in rock. The other missing ingredient was the slow but steady decline of black music on the ‘progressive’ FM stations. FM was changing, starting to reflect some of the standard AM radio ideas that had initially been rejected. After all, most (actually all) FM stations were owned by the people who owned the AM station the FM was sister to, and when the rock era began to keep up with, and surpass traditional music sales, the owners realized there was money to be made and began optimizing the FM side to reflect the lessons learned from AM radio’s formats and focused play lists.   Disc Jockeys still had some say in what they played, but now program directors and consultants were implementing formats and restrictions as to what album cuts could be played on the air. In 1974 ‘Underground/Progressive/Freeform radio got a new name, AOR…Album Oriented Rock, and though the occasional folk, jazz, or rhythm and blues record still got a spin once in a while, Tom Donahue’s utopian vision of radio was coming to an end. Black music was becoming ghettoized once again, as were jazz and country music. There were big changes in the air, and they came to be when a successful form of nightclub in Europe was imported to Canada and the U.S, David Bowie and Mark Bolan started to dictate fashion, and the dance crowd heard a record on AM radio that went to number one, the Hues Corporation’s Rock the Boat. Borrowing the trippy lights and drugs from the hippies, the clothes from gays and blacks, the swagger and attitude of the glam movement in England, and the hypnotic sound of European music makers like Giorgio Moroder, something new was about to explode on record and the radio. It would divide families and tear asunder relationships. It would draw a line in the sand that would be impossible to ignore, and it would deliver some of the greatest music of the ‘70’s that would be forever loved by some, and loathed by others. How can you hate something that comes with a mirror ball and a gut rattling sound system? For some, it was easy, and if you listen closely, you can still hear the war cry of those who will never forgive it…“Disco Sucks!”

Part 11…Doin’ the Hustle, the Blow, and the Chick (or Guy) in the Feather Boa.

Segarini’s regular column appears every Monday

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Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, The Segarini Band, and Cats and Dogs, andnominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late GreatMovies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now sadly gone), and now provides content for with RadioZombie, The Iceage, and PsychShack. Along with the love of his life, Jade (Pie) Dunlop, (who hosts and writes “I’ve Heard That Song Before” on RTDS), continues to write, make music, and record.

3 Responses to “Segarini: When Radio and Records Ruled the World Part 10 – Southern Rock and Disco add to the confusion…”

  1. World wars have been fought for reasons less than disco. It still sucks, though I have made exceptions. Even the music you hate, it seems, becomes part of your past. Even when you don’t want it.

  2. The Taj record you mentioned was a real inspiration to many young musicians. Still stands up today, nostalgia or not.

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