Bob Stories Opinions and Advice 10 Years On

Don’t Believe a Word I Say has existed as first a column at FYIMusic.com, then in its own self-titled blog for going on 11 years now.

Before this, I dabbled in music, radio, and television for 50 years or so, and feel I have experienced enough to have a fairly informed opinion of my related careers, and the love/hate relationship that comes with a passion and lust for life and its challenging hurdles.

The following has been culled from the first 6 months of this entities existence, which has been updated but not changed in any way, so when I said something stupid then, it remains stupid now. New pictures have been added, and some comments, which will be in italics.

Enjoy the sunshine and the first sign of Spring …mud. Read this when it rains again …or snows …or the cat won’t get off your lap. – Bob

During its early years, Stockton was known by several names, including “Tuleburg”, “Fat City,” and “Mudville”. Captain Weber decided on “Stockton” in honor of Commodore Robert Field Stockton. Stockton was the first community in California to have a name not of Spanish or Native American origin.

When I was13, I was one of those kids who wanted to make records. Sing, play, and tour with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars. Ride the bus with the other 14 acts on the bill, going on stage every night to do my two hits, wedged in somewhere  between Donna Loren, and Dee Clark or Jackie Wilson. The funny thing is that we all thought we could do it. All the top rock and roll artists at the time were just local acts that had spread across the nation one radio station at a time until we saw them on Bandstand, or Lloyd Thaxton, or, if they were HUGE, Ed Sullivan. Those shows were the goals, back in those days, not the means to an end. Television was where you saw the stars, not people that wanted to be stars.

When I was 15, I entered a talent contest to appear at the Stockton Police Widows and Orphans fundraiser at the Stockton Civic Auditorium. A massive 2500 seater that looked like a library from the outside, a gigantic, (to me, anyway), concrete shrine to pillars, a pair of stone California bears big enough for three or four of us to climb up and sit on, and an impressive interior, built in the late ‘30’s or ‘40’s. It was a beautiful structure that still stands today, and the venue in which I saw my first rock and roll show a year earlier.

Rebel With A Cause

My cousin Phid, having been booted out of every school in the Bay Area, and after serving 2 years in the Navy, had come to live with us because his parents wouldn’t allow him to come home.

Phid was a ‘Juvenile Delinquent’.

He had a pompadour, a couple of tattoos, dressed like James Dean, and drove a cherry, dropped and souped up Merc. At 13, I suddenly had an 18 year old ‘brother’, and, as it turned out, a mentor in the ways of all things Teenage. The look, the rituals, the lifestyle, and most importantly, the music. It was Cool School, and my life was changed forever.

I went from Glenn Miller, Dean Martin, and the Four Freshmen, to Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, Doo-Wop, and most importantly, Buddy Holly. Good God, I even LOOKED like Buddy Holly.

Besides having access to Phid’s sock drawer, (which contained his Playboy, Adam, and Swank, collections, I was also privy to the parties he and my cousin Diane would throw. They were basically right out of an American-International Rock and Roll movie. Wild dancing, crazy music, free-flowing beer, and sloe gin.

There were chicken races for pink slips, switchblade knives, car clubs, and Lucky Strikes. For me, it was Hogwarts with a better curriculum.

Phid took me to see the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars show at the Stockton Civic as a present for my birthday. The tickets cost just US$2.00. 14 acts, a couple of songs each, and I had seen them all on TV and listened to all their records, thanks to Phid’s sterling collection of 45’s. I HAD to do that. I HAD to play the rock and roll. I HAD to play the Stockton Civic.

Now it’s 2 years later, and I have the opportunity to achieve that goal.

I had started writing when Phid moved in with us. At 13, in my 8th grade Social Studies class, I had penned my first three chord masterpiece.

“I’m just lightin’ up a cigarette

My folks ain’t never ever caught me yet

They’re lookin’ for me

I know they are

Uh Uh Honey

Get in my car

‘Cause I’m a Juvenile

Oh oh oh

Makes my heart go wild

Well, I love rock and roll

So let’s go”

…and so forth.

I’m surprised I can still remember it. I can’t even remember the lyrics to a song I wrote last week.

If you must sing, go with the horse…

So 2 years later, at 15, I must have been a little better, because I passed the audition and made the final cut. I was going to be in the talent contest portion of the Police Widows and Orphans fundraiser, sharing the stage with 12 other hopefuls, and some actual stars. Dee Clark, (Raindrops),  The Dovells, (Bristol Stomp), featuring lead singer Len Barry, (1,2,3) who went on to destroy his career by bad mouthing the Stones and others on the Johnny Carson Show, and Johnny Crawford, a young actor from the very popular ‘Rifleman’ TV show, who eventually had a big hit record on the radio…something about ‘Cindy’s Birthday’.

I gave it my all and managed to come in third, after an Asian kid named Chance that sang opera, and an honest to goodness rock and roll band called The Jades, who won the contest with an inspired version of  Link Wray’s, “Rumble”.

I forget what I sang, but The Jades didn’t. A year later, they asked me to become their lead singer, and for 2 years, I got to cut my rock and roll teeth on Elvis, Ricky, Fats, Chuck, and Richard. I was the youngest guy in the band, the only single guy in the band, and the only one that didn’t work during the day as a pipe fitter, a plumber, or a meat packer.

The leader of The Jades, guy by the name of Risty Val, (no, that’s not a typo), was a transplanted cowboy from Oklahoma and the elder of the group at 26. He gave me a great piece of advice:

“Music’s just like ridin’ a horse, boy. Go with the rhythm, go with the feelin’. Let the horse lead and stay on him. He knows where he’s goin’…all you gotta do is go with him”.

He fired me two years later.

The reason?

I grew my hair long…but I’m still on the horse.

=0=

I hear a hell of a lot of music.

Years ago, it was because I listened to radio every waking minute, hoping to hear something new and exciting, or a tune from my past I hadn’t heard in a long time.

There were listening booths in every record store where you could sample the latest releases, which I did frequently at both Miracle Music, (“On the Miracle Mile!”), the mainstream music store that carried all the teen hits of the day, and Freita’s, a wonderful, funky, hole-in-the-wall record shop in the seedier part of downtown Stockton that stocked nothing but the coolest R&B, Blues, and Latino records, and run by old man Freitas, who would play whatever you handed him from the bins, at a volume that would attract passerby on the sidewalk. That cranky, old Chicano loved, and knew, his music. It was there where I first heard Freddie King, Little Walter, Sonny Till and The Orioles, The Four Deuces, Ivory Joe Hunter, Ray Charles, and dozens of other great artists.

I was in Junior High, before I started performing myself. I was always hitching rides to a place called the Stockton Ballroom on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Ballroom was a Portuguese community hall on the outskirts of town, where Latinos, Blacks, Italians, and the hipper high school Mexican American and African American bands like Jim Duvall and The Gauchos, out of Fresno California, The Merced Blue Notes from the Central Valley, who had local hit records and were one of the greatest live R&B bands I ever heard, and groups that traveled the California circuit in those days like Bobby Freeman, The Imperials, and Ron Holden.kids with custom cars and cheerleader girlfriends, would show up to try out the latest dance moves they learned from American Bandstand.

It was there I heard great

As the years rolled by, new sources of undiscovered music opened up. The first ‘Underground’ radio station in San Francisco, KMPX, local labels like Autumn Records, and a raft of ‘Teen Nightclubs’ on Broadway in the North Beach section of San Francisco, which disappeared and turned into ‘Topless’ bars around the same time as the beginnings of the legendary Longshoreman shows, the Fillmore, and The Avalon. It was because of these abundant sources of new music that I first discovered the Vejtables, The Warlocks, (who soon became the Grateful Dead), the We-Five, the Mojo Men,  and then, The Great Society, Jefferson Airplane, The Youngbloods and Chambers Brothers.  …and then, suddenly, I found myself playing these places too. By the time the Family Tree was on the bill, and Creedence, Santana, and others began to roll out records, the whole world was discovering that there was a great deal of new music out there, and radio was the means by which it spread, and opened up local scenes in every city on the planet. It wasn’t the first time that had happened, but with the exception of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Seattle, and the New York/London/Toronto punk scene, it was one of the last.

=0=

Singles.

Remember those?

When I first started buying them, they were 10 inch wax platters that spun around at 78 rpm, (revolutions per minute), weighed about a half a pound each, and had one song on either side. That is how I purchased my first recordings, Glenn Miller, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and the Four Freshmen. Then…almost overnight, I became aware of a different kind of music. Music that I not only heard, but felt. Music that made my ears clamor for more, my feet want to dance, and other parts of my body do something, anything, to scratch an itch that I didn’t even know I had until I heard this life-altering music.

I first heard this new music from Guy Waltz, a 16 year old kid that lived kitty-corner from my folks house on Monterey Avenue, then from the object of my first crush, Susan Berry, who lived across the intersection of Monterey and Center with her single, desperate, mother, and then there was the Jukebox at Wilson’s (Betty and Jerry’s), where I ate lunch almost every day while I was going to Woodrow Wilson elementary school, and finally, from my cousin Phid, who moved in with us the year I turned 13.

Elvis, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Moonglows, Crows, Flamingos, Del Vikings, Skyliners, Hank Ballard…music from outer space, amazing music, music I had to have. Music I could not live without. Records I tracked down, saved up for, and purchased one at a time, rushing home from Miracle Music or Freitas, and listening to them over and over again, first one side, then the next, until they became part of my DNA.

You had to go to a record store and order those records. Most mainstream retailers did not carry them. They weren’t played on Your Hit Parade on TV, and you rarely heard them on the radio, and if you did, they were either on a specialty show, or played as a novelty, usually resulting in your parents flipping out and either telling you to turn that shit down, or just telling you to go outside and play, or do your homework while they were turning the radio off. Let’s face it, after an hour of Mitch Miller, Perry Como, and Gogi Grant, this music just scared the shit out of mom and dad. – Elvis managed to get a tune on this June 1956 episode of the show, but rock and roll, it weren’t. It was an alternative reality in the world of TV and middle America at the time.- Bob

Slowly, this noise began to pop up everywhere. Then suddenly, there were radio stations dedicated to this new music. Jukeboxes started to replace Elmer’s Tune and Secret Love, with Ain’t That A Shame and Rip It Up. Dad started to threaten Junior with Military School, and Mom began talking to Sis about the rewarding life of celibacy and the allure of  spending some quality time in a Convent, where good girls could be safe from the horrible consequences of loud music, tight skirts, and drooling teenage boys with one thing on their minds.

By the time I hit 13, RCA had introduced the 45. Same deal, one song on each side, only 45’s were smaller, (7 inches), plastic, lighter, and played at 45 rpm and required either a special spindle, ot a little plastic doo-dad, that was inserted in the large hole in the record so you could play them on a standard spindle that came with your record player.

45’s were aimed at the ‘teen’ market, this huge bunch of people all born within a few years of each other, and had suddenly rejected the popular music of the generation before them, and began to seek out records that up until now, were unheard of by most people, and reviled by those who did hear them.

Race records.

Rock and Roll.

The Devil’s music.

But it wasn’t the Devil’s music. It was God’s. Little aural snapshots of Heaven for 29 to 49 cents a pop, and honestly, people like me would have paid anything.

How ironic then, that the single is still the most sought after form of popular music after 45 years of being conditioned to buy albums instead. Although there was a market for collections of songs by an artist dating back to the ‘40’s, the album, or LP, (Long Player), really didn’t come into vogue until The Beatles in 1964. The single was slowly relegated to the ‘calling card’ for the more expensive format, a whopping US2.99 at the time, but still a bargain because of the fact that you were getting so much more music for the price. It was simple math that took record companies, and ego, (or art), that took artists into the realm of  albums, and away from the less profitable, but more immediate, and ubiquitous,  single. – I honestly believe that if artists released 2 sided singles on vinyl these days, they would sell a hell of a lot of records. Unless an album is FULL of great music, you’re just buying out of nostalgia. – Bob

For years, the 2 formats co-existed, one acting as the inexpensive lure to the other, until, in the late ‘60’s, the single began to become superfluous, at first dividing recording artists into two camps. Album artists, (Beatles, Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin, etc), and singles artists, (B.J Thomas, Carpenters, Lobo, America, etc), and finally, as a commercial to play on the radio for an artist, a new album, or a tour. Eventually, the single remained the public face of an artist or project, but was no longer offered for sale.

In order to purchase the song you heard on the radio, the one you loved, the one you fell in love to, the one you wanted to play again and again…you had to buy the album. Only now it was called a CD…and it cost almost 10 times what an LP cost. And for a while…we paid what they asked for.

That’s how much people can love a song…enough to buy 9 or more songs they haven’t heard, just to own the one they love.

That’s the power of a great song, or a great record.

But CD’s have become very expensive these days, what with the economy and all, and movies, video games, and social networking have become more attractive to the current generation because they have the same community, and interactive appeal, that radio and record stores used to have, although this generation still seems to love a great song…but nobody makes singles anymore. You can’t buy the one song you want from a record company anymore for a reasonable price. If you could, they could sell a hell of a lot of singles. The hit, and that cool b-side that might end up being your favourite.

There just isn’t any place to get singles these days.

Is there?

=0=

Can I See Some I.D?

Were any of us ever this young?

…and does anyone still remember the lame suits, schoolboy foppishness, and Charlie with hair?

Ah, the Stones. Actually, these are the Rolling Stones. I’ve always sort of felt that the Rolling Stones became the Stones after Brian left. They just weren’t the same band.

We could all argue Brian’s role in the band, and why he left, and how he died, for years. It is one of those stories that begs debate, like JFK’s assassination, and the moon landing.

The best theory I’ve ever heard was a mish-mash of several different takes on the matter, and basically posited this scenario:

Mick was jealous of Brian for his musical ability and success with the ladies, pushed him further into the background, leading to Brian’s accelerated nosedive into drugs, finally forcing him out of the band, so that Mick could take control and become bigger than Paul McCartney, leaving Brian confused, broken, and, finally, tragically, reduced to a footnote and losing his life through a combination of drugs, misadventure, and hopelessness.

Looking at the photograph above, it doesn’t seem possible that they were capable of doing anything remotely dark or edgy, rather, they looked like the cast of a British, “That ‘60’s Show”. Mick looks like the lamest guy you knew in high school. Well off, smug, and not quite sure of his sexual orientation. Brian looks like he wants to slug him.

Whatever the truth, The Rolling Stones are still with us, still performing and recording, and though their shows sell out tour after tour, their recordings do not fare as well.

Why is that?

Well, for one thing, you have to buy their CD’s to hear the music. Radio won’t play them anymore. Well, that’s not entirely true. Like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Jimmy Hendrix, their records are all over the radio.

Classic Rock radio.

Now, what makes a song a classic rock song? It can only be because of its place in the audiences memories. I believe people flock to these shows not to hear the band, but to relive their youth. If a classic act plays any new material in concert most of the audience seems to see it as a signal to go to the can, grab a beer or a hot dog, or go out for a smoke. Ironically, younger converts to classic rock acts stay to hear everything they play. For them, it’s not about their youth. It’s about the music. If it were because of the artists, wouldn’t the older fans still be buying their latest recordings, and wouldn’t the younger ones be buying them if they heard them on the radio?

Say what you want about the releases that aren’t considered classic, but the Allman Brothers, for example, have released amazing records in the last 15 years that nobody heard on the radio…except maybe the first week it was released, and then only a track or two which disappeared quickly.

And this practice begs the question, why don’t classic rock radio stations play new releases by classic artists? And further, why don’t they play classic sounding music by new artists?

Your guess is as good as mine.

In another 5 or 10 years, will classic rock stations go the way of the oldies format? If they don’t start building classic sounding bands careers by playing them, if they don’t start playing current releases by classic rock artists that are still recording, my guess is that yes, the format is doomed.

Tragic, considering there is so much local, regional, and international, classic rock that goes un-played, and so much great ‘classic’ sounding music being made by new artists, it seems like suicide, limiting your appeal to your existing, declining audience, and not drawing the young listeners with new music by their peers, that fits the bill.

One more thing. The Rolling Stones/Stones have recorded over 400 songs in their career, Led Zeppelin, over 80, Pink Floyd, over 130, Hendrix released over 40 when he was alive, and The Beatles…over 200 while they were a group.

How many of those do we hear on the radio even now?

I’d hate to think that the popularity of classic rock is driven by nothing more than nostalgia, because that music, and those artists were, and are, great. The inspiration that classic rock music has given countless bands, singers, and songwriters has resulted in tons of new music being made by young artists that respect what has gone before, and want to contribute new music for the millions of people that love the genre.

It’s a shame we don’t hear more of it.

=0=

It is getting to the point where I am afraid to read the press and comments about radio, records, television, and entertainment in general anymore.

So much doom and gloom.

Let’s see, according to the press…radio is losing its audience and has become a shadow of its former self, popular music has been reduced to nursery rhyme, disposable clap-trap, all frosting and no cake, the CD is dead, magazines and newspapers are going the way of whip-sockets, (look it up), seltzer, and video tape, Hollywood has run out of ideas, remaking, re-imagining, and recycling what has gone before, television is on the ropes, an electronic Bread and Circus hiccup whose idea of entertainment is to trap a bunch of unknowns or 3rd rate celebrities in an elevator with a bucket of chicken and a gun, or hook tweens and their mothers on watching young people with perfect hair, teeth, and bodies, duke it out in elaborate sing-offs, that are no more than live karaoke exercises in seeing how many notes you can cram into 8 bars of existing songs that have been proven by research to be the most popular tunes with the majority of viewers, and concert tickets that are now so expensive, no one can afford to see more than one show a year unless they are a radio CEO or Chad Kroeger.

It’s enough to make you want to punch the next doom-spouting pessimist that parrots all this stuff, right in the face.

And it is also just one side of the story of what is happening…what always happens, when there is a changing of the guard, especially in a world where news travels instantly, along with the rumors, spin-doctored statistics, speculation, and just plain bullshit.

The truth is, there are just as many positive, wonderful, amazing things happening simultaneously, but all the panic and negativity makes it almost invisible to most of the people in the eye of the hurricane.

What is interesting, is that the people who are on the front lines, the jocks, the writers, the musicians, the folks that are out there every day, doing the work, they know what’s going on…but it appears that the people they are working for do not. Those are the people who are going to go down with the ship…taking Lord knows who, and what else, with them.

So…I thought I’d brighten up your weekend by giving you some positive things to think about.

First of all, there is more great music being made right now than at any other time in history. It is everywhere. In the clubs, online, and on the independent labels.

Live music is proliferating. Local bars and clubs, house concerts, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of bands out there, 7 nights a week…just look for them and you will find them. Last night alone, Pie and I saw GREAT shows with comedy, the Skin Tight Out Of Sight Rebel Burlesque troupe and the wonderful Carrie Chestnut at the terrific Buddies in Bad Times Performance Space, and, over at the great Dakota Tavern on Ossington, Tom Wilson’s spectacular Lee Harvey Osmond with Brent Titcomb and his very talented progeny Liam as part of the show. Great venue, the Dakota, a good selection of bourbons, a live-wire muso crowd, and the kind of atmosphere that just drips with coolness.

Lee Harvey Osmond

With radio, I am swamped with choices for music on the internet, with new stations popping up every day. Innovative, creative, programming, that is some times as slick as terrestrial, and sometimes charmingly amateurish, but with genuine excitement, and a feeling of love for the music and the medium.

And as long as I’m at it…

Everybody keeps arguing about what to do to make things better, but nothing happens except ego clashes and yelling.

One of the biggest problems for all the currently existing mainstream, related entertainment industries has been the lack of action for the past 10 years. There has been a pantload of discussion, discourse, and debate, but really…other than suing consumers, attempting to control how the consumer uses his purchases, and lobbying various governments to protect the status quo, what has been tried, out of all the suggestions that have been made?

The point is, any possible solutions, or pro-active steps that could lead to solutions, seem to have been overlooked.

By the looks of things, it is time to take some chances, flip some coins, and make some moves, otherwise…be ready to be replaced by the people who do.

Some quick suggestions for the record and radio folks:

Record Companies:

Move away from production and image, and back to music and career building if you haven’t already. There are potential career artists playing clubs and bars everywhere, right now. Make sure your people are out there listening.

Lower your damn prices.

Pay your damn artists.

Make The Streamers Pay The Dreamers.

C’mon Spotify …you dicks.

Radio:

You want to know how to fix your slide into obscurity?

…write me a fucking cheque.

=0=

Segarini’s regular columns aren’t just for breakfast anymore

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” 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 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

One Response to “Bob Stories Opinions and Advice 10 Years On”

  1. Sandra Covello Says:

    What wonderful memories! From Stockton Jr. High to Stagg and everything between and beyond. Love all the great pics in the video. Made my evening. Did you have Mr. Clancy at Stagg?

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