Frank Gutch Jr: Jock Talk: KAKC Tulsa’s Jim Peters Talks About Radio In the Sixties—

FrankJr2A simple recipe it was.  Sprinkle a few hundred radio stations throughout the United States and Canada, mix with rock ‘n’ roll and stir.  Stir up would be a more apt term because when the music hit the airwaves, the shit hit the fan— the music fan, that is.  Not a big deal, you say?  You’re probably right.  In the grand scheme of things, a handful of traditionalists screaming McCarthyisms in a world already changed beyond their understanding would turn out to be flies on a horse’s ass, so to speak, and to scream them at teens plugged into a jukebox or record player at full volume was, well, laughable, but scream them they did and, as they say, the rest is history.

Rock ‘n’ roll history, that is.  And what a rich history it is, then filled with scandals and which in the future would include lives overflowing with MTV and VH1 and stories about rock stars which challenged even the steamiest happenings in the world of Hollywood, good and bad, and eventually access to everything about The Life.  Drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll, man!  We’ve all heard it.  The fame, the money, the chicks! Hey, even the chicks have chicks these days!  Of course, that is the overlying view.  It’s never as generalized as history makes it seem.  If you want to know the real story about the music— the real history, if you will— you need to talk to the disc jockeys who brought all of that music to life.

devil'smusicI said disc jockey, Barclay, not dee jay.  No nightclubs or raves or dueling turntables or portable mixing boards.  Just one person sitting in a booth spinning music on records which somehow magically made its way to— gasp!— a radio!  Sure, it first it was little if anything at all.  In the early days (before rock ‘n’ roll), disc jockeys and their music filled holes in schedules between real radio programs— news broadcasts and variety shows and dramas and what would eventually be labeled sitcoms.  It was television without the pictures, if you can imagine that.  I mean, programming music had gone on before, but it wasn’t recorded.  It was live.  At first.

Then, the economic wheels began slowly turning.  Networks began pricing their programs out of reach of the small stations, then the not large stations and then…..  well, you get the picture.  On many of those stations, music slowly became the program.  And when rock ‘n’ roll came along, it (on a very large percentage of the stations) became the music.

My point, Barclay, is this.  At that point, everything changed.  Radio quickly became another entire animal— one which relied upon persons to listen to rock ‘n; roll and those people just happened to be teens.  Yes, there were radio stations which programmed R&B (more early rockin’ blues), jazz and “old people’s music” (that would be classical).  The point being that it didn’t take long for the station manager to realize that shaking money from teens’ pockets was much easier than fleecing adults.

Jim Peters— actor, disc jockey, musician, teacher— lived during the peak of rock ‘n’ roll radio and he could tell you what it was like.  He watched the teen culture take over Tulsa, all on the wings of rock.

“It was lifebood,” he remembers.  “People had the radio on all the time when I first started in radio.”

Peters started on station KAKC in Tulsa, The Big 97, in the late sixties.

KAKC“Those memories are so hard to describe to the kids these days.  For me it was fun, but it was also a business.  As disc jockeys at KAKC, we were moving massive numbers of people around town.  We threw concerts.  We brought Jimi Hendrix to the Tulsa Civic Center.  We had The Animals, Three Dog Night, and The Supremes in there.  We created a music scene— a whole arts and music scene which had not previously existed in that part of the country.  And we, as disc jockeys, had a great time producing the shows because in those days it wasn’t just ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the band.’  We were part of the show.  We had to get up there and do standup comedy or something before and between acts.”

Yep, it was happening all over the country, Barclay, and Tulsa was no exception.  Radio was quickly becoming big business.

“Everything we did seemed to make the station bigger in those days,” Peters went on.  “We had huge ratings.  We had one survey where my show had 92-percent of the teenagers in town listening.  And we had the adult audience, too!  All of the AOR stations (that’s adult-oriented radio for those not in the know) were scratching their old bald heads saying, how is this possible?  We were pulling 48- and 49- percent of adults in town.  We somehow just controlled!”

Of course, it wasn’t just radio doing it.  It was the music.  But how did the music get to the kids?  There was no MTV or VH1 and pod thingies were well into the future.  It was all radio!

rubberycargoe1After KAKC, Peters went on to work in music in different facets.  He managed a little known band from Tulsa known as Rubbery Cargoe which they shortened to just Cargoe when they moved to Memphis (read their story here).  Though the band signed a deal with legendary Ardent Records, fame eluded them and the money ran out and Peters went back into radio before heading to the West Coast to try acting.  He jokes that radio happened “between short periods of money” and that the allure, once so strong, is now gone.

“How many companies are left handling radio?” he stated more than asked.  “One?  Okay, maybe three.  So the opportunities are just not there anymore.”

It doesn’t stop him from remembering those special nights, though.  Like the night in Tulsa when his first son was born.

“I came to the concert and saw one of our disc jockeys on stage between acts.  He spotted me coming down through the aisles— The Civic Center was like an ice arena and basketball court type of place.  I was walking between the chairs they had set up on the floor and the jock says, hey, there’s Jim Peters right now, who is just now coming from the hospital where his son has just been born.  So I went up on stage and everyone was cheering and carrying on.  Right there in front of me were ten thousand people cheering the birth of my son.”

His KAKC days came abruptly to an end in 1970.  Cargoe had moved to Memphis and had been asking him to move there as well to help with what was looking more and more like a budding career as rock ‘n’ rollers.

“Going to Memphis would have meant quitting my show,” he said.  “But conveniently, I got fired because of a rumor of dope.  They fired the entire staff.  Of a Number One radio station.  Except for the program director, who was conveniently on vacation at the time.  So I was then free to go.”

And go he did.  First to Memphis, then to Florida and then to other places before ending up in California where he worked with young musicians, got the occasional acting job and eventually ended up teaching.

Any regrets, I asked?  Only that Cargoe never got their due, he replied.  “They were a tremendous band.”  About radio?  “No.  After 9,000+ shows, it had become second nature and though the lows were low, the highs were really high.”

Getting bored, Barclay?  My point is, you see, and see if you can follow along, that without the Jim Peterses of the world and without the KAKC’s and the teen dances and the kids running around with transistor radios plastered to their ears, music would not today be what it is.  Does it matter to you?  Probably not.  But it matters to Jim Peters and all of the other disc jockeys who lived those times.  And it matters to me.  And it matters to rock music.  Well, it mattered, anyway.

I would tell you more, like about the party the station threw for Three Dog Night, but some things are better left unsaid.  I hear a radio station is doing a remote at a big truck stop down the road.  Disc jockey’s supposed to be broadcasting from this huge sign they built.  Supposed to be six or seven stories high.  Think I’ll drive by and honk the horn, see if I can’t get him to stick his head out and wave.  Here’s the remote.  MTV’s channel 63.  Lock the door on your way out.

Rich Mahan— Drivin’ the Country Home…..

richmahanI didn’t say I hated Country!  I said I hated Modern Country.  And so I do.  I have seen very little to come out of the Nashville Machine worth hearing, truth be told.  Of course, there are those acts attached to Nashville who are not part of the Machine which I tend to appreciate.  Unfortunately, they are few and far between.  No, I prefer finding my country roots music somewhere outside of Music Row.  Like Seattle, where I stumbled upon an amazing band which scratches my country itch:  Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers.  Zoe’s voice does it for me but she is constantly proving her worth as a songwriter with songs like You Only Believe Me When I’m Lyin’ and If I Can’t Trust You With a Quarter (How Can I Trust You With My Heart)Jim Waive & The Young Divorcees caught my ear with a song which, while not quite country, contained enough Hank Williams to slot itself there in my head, and the story it tells is a bit of musical O. Henry (The Song is Why I Hunt—click here).  Then there is Dave Gleason, who co-opted the fifties and sixties side of Nashville with  If You’re Going Through Hell (click here).

What do all of these artists have in common besides the ability to write good music?  The ability to write lyrics far beyond the norm.  Listen closely and you will hear twists on words which should have you grinning in wonder.  I tell musicians all the time, if the lyrics aren’t right, the song isn’t ready.  If they listened to me, I would have a lot more outstanding music in my collection.

bobbybareOne who doesn’t have to be told is Rich Mahan, a guy who grew up listening to (probably way too much, he thought at the time) Bobby Bare.  So much so that he absorbed by osmosis a lyrical bent.  Now, Bare was a hell of a songwriter and ended up having a string of hits, Detroit City and 500 Miles Away From Home being the biggest, but he was way more than that.  He was a true lyricist.  Not all of his songs were humorous nor were they all too clever, but most were clever enough.  And he knew a good song when he heard it.  And he was never too proud to record another’s song when it was warranted.  In fact, his career was supported by them.

Mahan is much the same.  His songwriting is, on this album, a combination of styles, most of them wrapped up in the legend that is Bare: sometimes humorous, always solid music and always very tasteful.  The one that makes me laugh out loud is Mama Found My Bong.  I shouldn’t have to tell you what it’s about.  A high school kid comes home from football practice to find his mother pissed and his bong sitting in the middle of his bed.  “Mama found my bong”, the song goes, “After all the years I had it stashed in there, I’m surprised it took that long.  Now it’s time to face the music but I don’t want to sing that song.  Mama found my bong.”  It’s not the only, shall we say, slightly skewed song on the album.  The Hills of South Dakota are not about hills (it involves a girl— use your imagination), Math is a back door tribute (and anti-tribute) to the use of math in odd situations (meaning those which apply  mainly to fun and games), and I don’t have to tell you to what Rehab’s For Quitters refers.  I think the class tribute to country music, though, is I’ll Get Off the Booze.  It is rockin’ country at its best, lines like “It would be a slice of heaven if you cut me some slack, I’ll get off of booze as soon as you get off my back.”  It don’t get more country than that.

It helps that the performance is as good as the songs.  Mahan gathered some top flight musicians to help him pull it off.  Good stuff.

Fundraisers and Fun!!!!!

kickstarter-logoI took some time off from the hard work the past couple of days to delve into what the two fundraising sites I am familiar with (Pledgemusic and Kickstarter) are doing.  I have until now just scoped out the occasional page without digging any deeper, so how surprised was I when I discovered that Kickstarter went way beyond the norm, breaking the requests for funds into categories.  I am going to assume that their biggest is music but they have a number of categories listed like Food, Fashion, Comics, et. al.  Fascinating, but what I know best and what I am interested in is music.

As much as some of my friends seem to dislike the whole idea (a few call them begathons), I find that it is producing some excellent results.  Some artists have had albums recorded and ready to go for months but have not had funds to pay the bills let alone produce physical product.  Some cannot afford to record without the help.  Some need new equipment.  Some, gas money. I have to assume that those who badmouth the trend have never really looked at what is involved and certainly have never pledged.  So let me go over the basics.

One:  Musicians are not asking for just money.  They are offering goods for which you might wish to pay, is all.  Depends on the artist(s).  Those goods could be a CD or digital download (I call these simply pre-orders), a T-shirt, additional outtakes from the sessions, a complete catalog including previous albums and EPs, a concert in your house and even a meal cooked by the artist(s) involved.  Your name on an album jacket.  A Valentine’s Day song telephoned to a loved one (and personalized— a very popular item from Hymn For Her’s Lucy & Wayne).  Admittance to shows for life.  The only limit seems to be the creative force of the people involved.  This is a good thing, doubters, a case of you-get-what-you-pay-for.  If you don’t think it’s worth it, whatever the trade may be, don’t buy.

pledgemusiclogoTwo:  Both Pledgemusic and Kickstarter take a small portion of the final take and invest it in charity causes.  I assume that sometimes the artist actually gets to pick the charity because many who have participated have gone out of their way to plug the charity as well as the project.  Only slimeballs do not like seeing their money used for something good, right?  And if you want to see your money go where you want it to go, don’t pledge.

Three:  Many artists use fundraisers like this to expand their projects.  They have a goal, see, like enough money to manufacture and package albums.  But if they make more, they can simply do more.  And, sure, it is up to them what they use the money for, but musicians are on the whole a tremendously idealistic and honest lot.  If you believe they are going to use any extra funds for evil and not good, don’t pledge.

Four:  As a society, we give money for causes all the time.  It gives us a sense of entitlement, for one thing, and it assuages guilt for having more than we need.  So let us say that we feel better when we help someone reach a goal, be it a word to someone toward helping a friend get a job or pledging money for an album.  It feels good.  Consider it a dollar in the Salvation Army pot, only in this case it is not the Salvation Army but a band or artist.

Here is the thing.  Each artist sets a goal.  If that goal is not met (and not all are), no one gets anything.  The artist gets nothing.  The fundraising operation gets nothing.  The charity gets nothing.  The end result is a big black hole with no album and a sinking feeling in the hearts and stomachs of musicians who thought they were worth more.  Ego deflated.  And I know what some of you are thinking.  There is too much ego out there as it is.  Perhaps.  With some.  But the people with whom I work, they being musicians whose main goal is to get their music heard, there is little ego if any.  They have put their hearts and in some cases their minds on the line.  They know that no matter what happens, they will suffer negativity on some level at some time, but they do it anyway.  Their music means that much to them.

It means that much to me, too.  I write reviews.  I have for years.  The difference between myself and others is that I write only about the music which I have a connection.  You send me a review copy and I don’t get it, I don’t write about it.  I can’t.  I refuse to write anything negative (although I do throw in the occasional barb toward fans who are so enamored by stars that they can’t listen to anything else) because I cannot even begin to cover the positive.  I lose sleep sometimes over my decisions to pass over an album or an artist.  I know that they have put their hearts and souls into their works (and when they don’t, you can surely tell it) and the fact that I don’t get the final result gives me a sick feeling in my stomach.  But sometimes, the words just won’t come.

Ah, but to the point.  The past couple of days, I have been digging through the projects listed on the sites of both Kickstarter and Pledgemusic.  It’s a trip!  You go to the “discover” page, scroll down a long list of artists and when the mood hits you, click on their pictures and viola!  It takes you to their fundraiser page.  You can most of the time hear the artists music, see what they look like, hear their music, maybe see a video put together just especially for the page.  You can scroll down the lists of what they have to offer for a price and you can sometimes get a big chuckle out of how the page was constructed.

Mostly, though, you get to see the varieties of music available.  There are artists who specialize in Americana and Country and Folk and Classical and Jazz.  You can find Hip-Hop artists and World Music artists and Electronic Music artists.  It is a potpourri of why I love this new age of music— this boiling pot of whatever-you-find-you-might-like.  The old way was so limiting.  The major labels restricted your choices.  Radio did.  Concert promoters did.  Your friends did— well, since we stopped really relating to each other and started plugging into the iUniverse.  Now, it is a world full of possibilities and these sites are a good place to explore.

Here are a few things I found on Kickstarter just yesterday and today:

teslaspigeonTesla’s Pigeon:  “My name is Melissa Dunphy, and I’m a composer; a couple of years ago, I wrote a song cycle for soprano and piano about Nikola Tesla, called Tesla’s Pigeon. It’s been performed all over the place, but sadly, never in New York City, Nikola Tesla’s adopted hometown and the place where the song cycle is set. However, the East Coast chapter of the National Association of Composers, USA, recently proposed to have Tesla’s Pigeon performed at their Spring 2013 concert at Christ & St. Stephen’s Church on 69th Street on April 22. Exciting!

One hurdle: I have to bring the performers.”

So she asks for money to fund the production.  Pretty cool.  She may have already reached her goal, but I believe she set her goal too low.  After checking the page out, my conclusion is that though I before this had no idea who is Melissa Dunphy, I do now.

Blood & Banjos:  A Story Album Told With Bluegrass & Metal—

“One year ago, it was but a simple question spawned from a casual conversation between friends: can we coherently combine bluegrass and metal?  Although the idea was a bit eccentric, it quickly became a compelling challenge.

During the past year we have amassed over a dozen inspired artists from the US & Germany and, through the powers of the internet, have united over great distances to meet this challenge. We are dead set on blending elements of bluegrass and metal music into a single story album.  We are Blood & Banjos, and with your help, we will be able to record in the studio to achieve this goal.”

Can you even imagine what this could be?  My mind boggles.  Could be terrible, but it could be a mindblowing project!  I mean, a band called Blood & Banjos?  I would go see them just to find out what they were all about!

truebelievers1True Believers:  “Last September, the True Believers gathered at ACL Live Theatre in Austin to honor their onetime sound man and SXSW creative director Brent Grulke at Grulkefest. The music they created energized each individual to the point they decided to do it all over again. So in March, the True Believers will showcase at SXSW and enter the studio immediately afterward to record a digital single that will help promote upcoming live dates in May, and possibly, later. Fans can have ownership in this revival of the three-guitar Marching Guitar Army with the Kickstarter campaign to underwrite the band’s return to the studio to record a new single and get started on an album’s worth of new songs.”

I include this because it is personal.  I knew Javier Escovedo in passing during his days with the San Diego punk band The Zeros.  He was a quiet kid and quite sensitive until he got onstage at which point he turned real punk.  He recently put out a solo album (City Lights) which I reviewed (click here) and it was through his pages I found this.  True Believers.  Back together.  I liked True Believers during their original run.  I had no idea who they were, only that Javier was involved.  Since, I have seen every name on different projects and have gained a respect for the band I never had.  This is cool.  If I was rich, I would fund this project myself.

Pledgemusic has an arena full of musicians with projects to sell.  One of the guys involved in the organization at the beginning used to play with a band called Marwood and I was a fan from first note.  When this started, he sent me a rundown of what they were trying to do.  They are doing good.  Again, pretty much patterned along the lines of Kickstarter, they give a portion of donations to charity.

Bowling For Soup—  Whoa!  Where did these guys come from?  Shades of the late seventies and the New Wave movement.  “By pledging, you’ll get the album the second it’s done. And along the way, you’ll be able to access exclusive updates as I am writing songs. We will check in during rehearsals, updates from the studio while we lay it all down…and show you album art and even share with you plans for videos before we shoot them…Then we will do exclusive updates from video shoots and photo shoots and much, much more!  By pledging, you will also get the chance to vote on the title of the album itself!!! How cool is that?!?!”  Cool, indeed.  I dig these guys.  I think it’s their attitude.  Up and pumped.  Kinda funny, too.

firehorseFirehorse—  Three songs and I’m still not sure what is going on in terms of “the band.”  It is a bit electronic but in a very keyboard and not odd sounds way and the female vocalist is very impressive in a Kink Ador fashion.  Read what they say about their charity, Art Start.

“Very importantly, a portion of your pledge will go to and I couldn’t be more excited to help them in any way that I can. Here’s their mission statement:

“Each night, over 17,000 children spend the night in New York City homeless shelters; some stay on the streets. The purpose of ART START is to nurture the voices, hearts and minds of at-risk youth through creative arts workshops conducted daily inside homeless shelters and alternative to incarceration programs throughout New York City.

“I can’t begin to express how important this charity is and how important it is to bring the arts to all children, but especially to our at-risk youth. Art changes lives, keeps people alive, and this has been proven. Study after study suggests the benefits of learning the arts. Theater programs have been introduced to 5 men and women’s NY State correctional facilities. Theater fundamentally changed these convicts. They were offered a chance to learn teamwork, conflict resolution, reflection, expression… can you imagine how different their lives would be, how different our cities would be, had they been given an education to possess these tools in their youth? Start at the beginning and give these kids a fighting chance, give them the tools to feel valuable in a society where they’ve been overlooked. I believe deeply in this cause and I’ll be volunteering by mentoring a young musician in their EAR program.

“If I were president, teachers would make a doctor’s salary and have the training to warrant it. They are our kids’ brainSHAPERS and our kids will be running the planet when we’re in diapers. When I was last in Seattle, I played for Mrs. Kate Sipe’s elementary school class. She wrote a brilliant essay about my visit and on teaching, the struggles with the system, and the power of art in a child’s life. I want to share it with you. Please read it here:

“Thank you for reading. Thank you profusely for pledging and please read about Art-Start here:”

Are you beginning to understand why I like this fundraising model?

galleonsMore on the pop folk side, The Galleons point out the practical side of working on an album.  “Making our last album was a great experience, but also quite stressful and elongated, as we were spending a lot of time sorting out money and the practicalities when we should have been concentrating on the music and generally rocking/folking out.  We need the money to pay for studio time, but if we reach our pledge before the deadline please feel free to keep pledging, as we’ll need as much money again for mastering, pressing and tea bags for when we’re mixing!”

The thing is, you have to start with the music.  It’s great that musicians have a goal and that charity work is involved, but if you don’t like the music, what good does it do you?  So if you’re of an adventurous nature when it comes to music, this is a very cool and fun way to find new music.  I will be digging into the backgrounds of each band mentioned here and more.  And I am going to have loads of fun doing it.

You can access the discover pages for each site and hopefully have as much fun as I do.  Here is a link to PledgemusicKickstarter starts here.  Have fun.

And now, how about some…..

Music Notes smallNotes…..  If you never follow a link I post, follow this one.  It is a video of Emitt Rhodes  from 1971 of a song titled Really Wanted You.  This guy was right up there with Big Star in the Power Pop sweepstakes as far as I am concerned.  He deserved way more than the cult status he has attained.  Be forewarned.  It is short but it is outstanding!  Like  myself, you may end up recycling this puppy until you finally get enough.  For awhile, anyway.  Click here….. Jesus!  Vinnie Zummo‘s back, this time with a tribute to George Harrison and it’s every bit as solid as his tributes to Ringo and John.  Has he done one for Paul yet?  Even people who aren’t that big of fans of The Beatles should get a rise out of this.  Click here…..  My obsession with No Small Children actually began years ago when I stumbled upon (or over) The Lisa Parade.  How amazed was I when just today whilst looking for Lisa Parade videos, I ran across this ad for a concert which sported the Parade and, of all people, Nicola B, now drumming for NSC.  Very amazed.  Some things happen for a reason.  Click here…..  Great news from Charlottesville’s WarHen Records!  There was a crew recording and filming last night’s (or Friday nights) WarHen showcase which featured Sarah White & Josephine, The Fire Tapes, Red Rattles and Dwight Howard Johnson.  Possibly a short film and audience recording in the works.  Stay tuned…..  You know there are too many bands out there when someone is forced to name their band The Tampoffs…..  There was a time I never thought acoustic guitars would be able to produce music like this.  Andy powerrangersMcKee, Preston Reed and Jon GommClick here….. Ever hear of Ron Wasserman?  I had seen the name before I stumbled across his band Fisher (Water completely knocked me on my ass) but had no idea that he was also the man behind the music for Power Rangers, the TV show.  I’m sure he has recorded music for a few thousand projects with only the barest of recognition.  He has taken to posting short bits of ideas and themes he has composed lately and when asked why, he made this comment.  “I actually do stuff like this all the time and have so for years and years and the material always goes directly into shows and/or libraries. The reason I started posting stuff was to break the never ending ‘Power Rangers’ rock stigma that is/has actually created a pigeonhole situation for me lately. So, I’m posting stuff I do on a daily basis hoping to ‘re-educate’ people on my abilities.”  Which goes to show that no matter how talented and varied you are, pigeonholing is a fact of life in the entertainment world.  You can check out his bits and pieces approach by clicking here.…. For a short time, Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont CO put together CD compilations which they included in their 12-packs, mostly of local artists but sometimes through the likes of Yep Roc Records and other labels.  Looks like Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company up in Canada has started brewing their own collection of alcohol-soaked music.  They have just posted a collection of songs on what they call a “mixtape” of artists including Poor Young Things, Amos the Transparent  and Tim Chaisson, to name a few.  You can listen to the collection at this site (click here).  And, yup, that would be enough to get me to drink their brew.  I guess I’m a sucker for good music…..


Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

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DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

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