AT40, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1974 Singles: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

 

I remember listening to AM radio on my transistor radio and hearing the novelty hit, “Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)” during the summer of 1974.

Some music historians would point to the “one hit wonder” song by Reunion and proclaim that it was indicative of how bad the music was on Top 40 during 1974.   Many musical experts completely pan the entire year of 1974 music, claiming it to be the worst year ever for Top 40 radio. Is that hypothesis correct?

I completely understand why some folks may not like a lot of the top songs from 1974, as many of those tunes are horrid. However, I refuse to throw out the baby with the bath water.

During any given year, there are plenty of good songs and also bunches of wretched, insipid tunes. I refuse to categorically describe all music released during 1974 as wretched. I prefer to place the music from 45 years ago into three silos: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

For this edition of my musical musings, I will be investigating the Top 100 songs of 1974, which were compiled by Cashbox and Billboard music publications.

Here are the Top 20 songs from Cashbox:

 

  1. Show And Tell – Al Wilson (Rocky Road)
  2. Come And Get Your Love – Redbone (Epic)
  3. The Most Beautiful Girl – Charlie Rich (Epic)
  4. Rock Me Gently – Andy Kim (Capitol)
  5. The Way We Were – Barbra Streisand (Columbia)

 

  1. Sunshine On My Shoulders – John Denver (Rca Victor)
  2. You Make Me Feel Brand New – The Stylistics (Avco)
  3. Rock On – David Essex (Columbia)
  4. Seasons In The Sun – Terry Jacks (Bell)
  5. The Joker – The Steve Miller Band (Capitol)

  1. You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – Stevie Wonder (Tamla)
  2. Bennie And The Jets – Elton John (Mca)
  3. The Loco-Motion – Grand Funk (Capitol)
  4. Love’s Theme – The Love Unlimited Orchestra (20th Century)
  5. Spiders And Snakes – Jim Stafford (Mgm)

 

  1. Nothing From Nothing – Billy Preston (A&M)
  2. TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) – MFSB (Philadelphia Int’l)
  3. You’re Sixteen – Ringo Starr (Apple)
  4. The Night Chicago Died – Paper Lace (Mercury)
  5. Top Of The World – Carpenters (A&M)

Here are the Top 20 songs from Billboard:

  1. “The Way We Were” – Barbra Streisand
  2. “Seasons in the Sun” – Terry Jacks
  3. “Love’s Theme” – Love Unlimited Orchestra
  4. “Come and Get Your Love” – Redbone
  5. “Dancing Machine” – The Jackson 5

 

  1. “The Loco-Motion” – Grand Funk Railroad
  2. “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” – MFSB
  3. “The Streak” – Ray Stevens
  4. “Bennie and the Jets” – Elton John
  5. “One Hell of a Woman” – Mac Davis

  1. “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” – Aretha Franklin
  2. “Jungle Boogie” – Kool & the Gang
  3. “Midnight at the Oasis” – Maria Muldaur
  4. “You Make Me Feel Brand New” – The Stylistics
  5. “Show and Tell” – Al Wilson

 

  1. “Spiders and Snakes” – Jim Stafford
  2. “Rock On” – David Essex
  3. “Sunshine on My Shoulders” – John Denver
  4. “Sideshow” – Blue Magic
  5. “Hooked on a Feeling” – Blue Swede

As you can tell from comparing the two 1974 year-end surveys, there are distinct differences with these listings. I will be selecting my choices for Good, Bad and Ugly from these two lists.

The musical landscape of 1974 is dear to my heart, as my first job in radio started in April of that year. At age 18, I was hired to be a remote engineer by Top 40 radio station WROV in Roanoke, Virginia. My responsibilities at the station included setting up equipment for remote broadcasts, running the soundboard and playing records, while a WROV DJ was in charge of announcing duties.

Dave Woodson playing records for WROV Roanoke remote broadcast during 1974.

During my first remote broadcast, I worked with the legendary WROV DJ Larry Bly. The first song I played that day was “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, so for sentimental reasons, I am placing that song in the Good category for 1974 singles.

Two other Good 1974 songs associated with WROV are “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band and “Blackwater” from the Doobie Brothers. The Roanoke radio station added “The Joker” during the fall of 1973, and was credited with a “gold record” by Capitol Records, as WROV was the first station in America to play the song.

Then during September 1974, WROV music director Chuck Holloway started playing “Blackwater” as a Doobie Brothers album cut on his nighttime DJ air-shift. The WROV request line lit up every time “Blackwater” was played and it immediately became a hit in Roanoke.

Soon after, Phil Beckman at WQRK Norfolk and Buzz Bennett with KDWB Minneapolis added “Blackwater” to their playlists. Finally, Warner Bros Records released the song as a single and it became the first number 1 tune for the Doobie Brothers during March 1975. Later that year, WROV proudly received another “gold record” for breaking “Blackwater” in America.

Working for WROV gave me a chance to thoroughly evaluate the music from 1974. From my perspective, there are a whole lot more Good songs than Bad or Ugly tunes from this year.

Since I will be evaluating just the top singles of 1974, according to Cashbox and Billboard, there are many Good songs that I will not be mentioning with this message. The sole parameter that I am using will be if the song made one of the year-end surveys for 1974.

Before I reveal my Top 10 good songs from 45 years ago, I am going to share some other significant songs from 1974. I consider all of these songs to be Good.

  • I Shot the Sheriff—Eric Clapton
  • Beach Baby—First Class
  • Sideshow—Blue Magic
  • Nothing From Nothing—Billy Preston
  • Rock on—David Essex

  • The Air That I Breathe—The Hollies
  • Annie’s Song—John Denver
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road—Elton John
  • Help Me—Joni Mitchell
  • Please Come to Boston—Dave Loggins

  • Be Thankful For What You Got—William DeVaughn
  • Then Came You—The Spinners & Dionne Warwick
  • Whatever Gets You Through the Night—John Lennon & Elton John
  • You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet—Bachman Turner Overdrive
  • (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long—Chicago

  • Hello It’s Me—Todd Rundgren
  • The Lord’s Prayer—Sister Janet Meade
  • Midnight Train To Georgia—Gladys Knight & the Pips
  • I Got A Name—Jim Croce
  • You Make Me Feel Brand New—The Stylistics

Now I will be focusing on what I consider to be the top ten Good songs of 1974.

The top ten songs that I have selected fit into the following categories: I deem the 10 songs to still be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. There are no rankings with my listing and the songs are placed in a random order.

 

Time in a Bottle—Jim Croce    

 

After Jim Croce died in a plane crash during September 1973, “Time in a Bottle” was released as a single and became a posthumous number 1 hit.   The haunting lyrics of mortality and the wish to have more time, brings sadness to this melodic tune. The song truly resonated with music listeners and is one of Croce’s greatest musical achievements.

 

Band on the Run—Paul McCartney & Wings

 

The musical structure of “Band on the Run,” is absolutely incredible. Continuous switching of tempos, with three distinct music segments, the song flows into a musical masterpiece. Paul and Wings provide excellent three part harmonies throughout the song, which utilizes rock, funk and country influences. I consider “Band on the Run” to be the best song recorded by McCartney after the break up of the Beatles.

Living For the City—Stevie Wonder

 

Prior to 1974, Stevie Wonder sang mostly love songs and stayed away from controversial issues. This changed with his hit, “Living for the City.” It became one of his first songs to deal with racism and gave Wonder a chance to express concerns facing life in America. The other thing I admire about this song is that Wonder played all the instruments on this wonderful tune.

 

You Haven’t Done Nothin’—Stevie Wonder

 

The second good Stevie Wonder song of 1974 is “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.” With backup vocals from the Jackson 5, Wonder unleashes fiery lyrics about U.S. President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Ironically, Nixon resigned his presidency in August, the same month that Wonder’s song was released as a single.

Cat’s in the Cradle—Harry Chapin

 

Listening to Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” for the first time, one may think it is a mellow song. However, the subject matter is any thing but mellow. Chapin’s signature song paints a sorrowful picture with a father neglecting his son, and then when the son becomes a man, he actually neglects his father, the same way he was treated as a boy. This folk rock song gives a baleful warning with brilliant lyrics.

 

Sweet Home Alabama—Lynyrd Skynyrd

 

One of the most iconic Southern Rock songs from the 70’s, “Sweet Home Alabama” pans multiple political subjects and stoked controversial topics. The lyrics mention Neil Young and his song, “Southern Man,” the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace and the Watergate scandal. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first hit record has become an anthem for the state of Alabama.

For the Love of Money—The O’Jays

 

First Timothy 6:10 states, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” That message is the basis for the O’Jay’s hit song, “For the Love of Money.” This R&B groove features powerful vocals and has a killer bass line. The group from Philadelphia gives a powerful warning about the misuse of money on the toe-tapping soul song.

 

Takin’ Care of Business—Bachman Turner Overdrive

 

During the summer of 1974, Canadian rock band Bachman Turner Overdrive had one of the hottest sounding songs with, “Takin’ Care of Business.” Randy Bachman, formally of the Guess Who, teamed up with Fred Turner to give us straight-up catchy guitar rifts and tongue in cheek lyrics. The band from Canada sure knew how to rock during this year.

Keep on Smilin’—Wet Willie

 

Making lemonade out of lemons is the main message on Wet Willie’s song, “Keep on Smilin’.” The band was from Alabama, giving Southern Rock more exposure on Top 40 radio. A positive message is heard on the chorus, “Keep on smilin’ through the rain, laughin’ at the pain, just flowin’ with the changes, till the sun comes out again.”

Wet Willie’s biggest hit happened during the summertime.

 

Radar Love—Golden Earring

 

Throughout the history of Rock and Roll, there have been songs dealing with death. The Dutch band, Golden Earring, gave us a perfect “death rock” song in 1974. “Radar Love” is actually a “Rock Suite” and has two distinct musical segments. Lyrics mention Brenda Lee, driving at a high rate of speed in the middle of the night, and reconnecting with his angel “in the sky.” It is an excellent highway road song.

The next 6 songs are in the Bad category.

 

Spiders and Snakes—Jim Stafford

 

I don’t like spiders or snakes, and I sure don’t like Jim Stafford’s number 1 song about arachnids and serpents. “Spiders and Snakes’ ” lyrics of sexual innuendo are not clever and are down right trite. Stafford’s follow up hit, “My Girl Bill” was equally insipid and wretched to my ears. I don’t know why this became a hit record.

 

Midnight At The Oasis—Maria Maldaur

 

Some may call this song a guilty pleasure. I call the fantasy desert love affair song, “Midnight at the Oasis” lascivious. Maldaur’s stereotypes of Arab “sultans and sheiks” are appalling and her suggestive sexual euphemisms are way over the top. Lyrics like, “But you won’t need no harem, honey, when I’m by your side, and you won’t need no camel, when I take you for a ride” are absolutely insidious.

 

Maria Muldaur

The Streak—Ray Stevens

 

When the streaking craze happened in 1974, someone had to record a song on the topic. That someone was Ray Stevens. His novelty song, “The Streak” may have been funny the first time heard. After the second hearing, the song became annoying. These are lyrics I never want to hear again: “Don’t Look Ethel”, “Ethel, you shameless hussy”, “Ethel, you get your clothes on” and “Say it ain’t so, Ethel.” Ray Stevens’ number 1 song is a dud.

 

You’re Sixteen—Ringo Starr

 

Ringo Starr should have never covered the song “You’re Sixteen.” The Beatles drummer was 33 years old when he recorded the song, and it was creepy listening to it on the radio in 1974. I attended Ringo’s concert with His All Starr Band last month, and he is STILL performing “You’re Sixteen” during his shows. Hearing a 79 year old man singing this song is beyond disgusting. It is atrocious.

 

 

Ringo Starr at Roanoke Concert 8/13/19 Photo by Sammy Oakey

I Can Help—Billy Swan

 

Country crossover artist Billy Swan hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his dreadful song, “I Can Help.” The singer pleads, begs and promises to do any and every thing possible in order to be her lover. The last line of the song is unbelievable: “If your child needs a daddy, I can help, It would sure do me good to do you good, let me help.” Any woman that is gullible enough to believe that line definitely needs HELP!

 

Dark Lady—Cher

 

Normally, I can tolerate story songs but Cher’s number 1 song from 1974 is rather sordid. “Dark Lady” is a New Orleans fortune-teller, which the narrator of the song (Cher) goes to see. When money is paid for a fortune, the woman proclaims that Cher’s lover has been unfaithful and gives this advice: “Leave this place, never come back and forget you ever saw my face. “ Of course, Cher goes back to the fortune-teller with a gun, catches her lover kissing the woman, and shoots them both dead. Some may claim the song is clever, I maintain the song is just wretched.

 

Cher

Finally, here are 6 songs in the Ugly category:

 

I’m Leaving It Up To You—Donny and Marie Osmond

 

Every time that I heard Donny and Marie’s horrid song during 1974, I would sing, “I’m heaving it up on you.” Listening to this song made me want to puke! In deference to Marie Osmond, she should have never recorded any duets with her brother. Every single Donny Osmond song is completely detestable and obnoxious to my ears. Same for the Osmond Brothers. The song is ugly to the max!

 

Hooked On a Feeling—Blue Swede

 

Why would Swedish pop band sing, “Ooga-chaka, Ooga-Ooga, Ooga-Chaka” over and over, with their cover version of, “Hooked on a Feeling?” Why ruin a wonderful song, which B.J. Thomas made popular in 1968? I prefer listening to Thomas singing “Hooked on a Feeling.” Listening to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” is worse than torture for me.

 

Blue Swede

The Night Chicago Died—Paper Lace

 

One may think that “The Night Chicago Died” was based on a true story. However, it is about a fictional shoot-out between the Chicago Police and members of Al Capone’s crime syndicate. Instead of Capone and his men meeting their doom, the lyrics state “about 100 cops are dead” at the hands of the gangsters. Even worse than unbelievable lyrics is the “bubble gum pop music” that Paper Lace performs on this vapid tune. Chicago would have been better off without this song by Paper Lace.

 

Billy Don’t Be a Hero—Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods

 

One of the sappiest bubble gum songs of 1974, “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” is the ultimate, miserable death pop music song. With the Vietnam Conflict still going on in 1974, many folks assumed that “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” was associated with the Southeast Asian war. However, the lyrics suggest it is about the American Civil War. A young woman is distraught that her fiancé chooses to enlist with the Army. Eventually, Billy is killed in action during a battle. A dreadfully sad tune, that continues to be irritating to me 45 years later.

 

(You’re) Having My Baby—Paul Anka

 

Besides being a duet with Odia Coates, I can’t think of anything positive about this Paul Anka song. “You’re Having My Baby” is overtly sentimental, sappy and the most sexist record of 1974. With Anka declaring, “it is his baby” without acknowledgement of the mother and her part in the pregnancy, is the ultimate in male chauvinism. Furthermore, the song was voted the number 1 “Worst Song of All Time” by CNN in 2006. Needless to say, this is one horrible tune.

 

Terry Jacks

Seasons in the Sun—Terry Jacks

 

The bubble gum, death pop tune, “Seasons in the Sun,” quite possibly is one of the worst songs ever made. The tune is an English-language adaptation of the song “Le Moribond” by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel with lyrics rewritten by American singer-poet Rod McKuen. The singer laments that he is dying and says goodbye to his Papa, Michelle and a trusted friend. Terry Jacks’ singing delivery is a schmaltzy, emotional mess. Just hearing the opening chords of this song makes me shiver. Rolling Stone ranks the record as the 7th “Worst Song of the 70’s. I proclaim “Seasons in the Sun” as the ugliest of ugly songs of 1974.

 

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the Good, Bad and Ugly singles from 1974, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music of that year.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of the 100 biggest songs from 1974. The songs that you might feel are the Good, Bad and Ugly, maybe be completely different from my selections.

So I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the Good, Bad and Ugly songs for 1974? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

If anyone ever suggests that the music from 1974 is all bad and ugly, I hope those folks educate themselves. The majority of the top 100 songs from 1974 are on the good side of the ledger. Long live Top 40 music from 45 years ago!

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

 

 

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Broadcasting, Music, Radio, Retro Rock

Back in the Summer of ’69

I got my first real six string,

Bought it at the five and dime,

Played it til my fingers bled,

Was the summer of ’69.

But when I look back now,

That summer seemed to last forever,

And if I had the choice,

Yeah, I’d always wanna be there,

Those were the best days of my life.

 

The “Summer of ‘69” was a time when Canadian rocker Bryan Adams was buying his first guitar and reminiscing about that summer being the “best days of his life.”

That summer of 1969 was an eventful time for those in the United States. The Vietnam War continued with over 500,000 American troops still in Southeast Asia and Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

During August, the Woodstock “3 Days of Peace and Music” Festival happened, with over 400,000 people attending one of the greatest events in rock music history. Meanwhile, the Beatles recorded their last album, “Abbey Road” just before John Lennon quit the legendary rock band.

The summer of 1969: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” to quote Charles Dickens from his book, “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Various Records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

It was during the hot summer of 1969, that I listened to the radio 10 to 12 hours a day and made a decision that I wanted to be a radio announcer when I grew up. My pursuit to become “DJ Dave” started in the summer of ‘69.

I have fond memories of listening to Top 40 radio during the summer of ‘69. Living in Roanoke, Virginia during this time, I would mostly listen to legendary Top 40 WROV 1240 AM in the daytime, with DJs Jack Fisher, Fred Frelantz and Bart Prater. I also would occasionally tune into WBLU 1480 AM Salem, a second Top 40 station in the Roanoke radio market. WBLU DJ’s Chris Shannon, Les Turpin and Bill Cassidy played the hits, while Dave Moran was the general manager at the station.

At sundown, WROV reduced their power and WBLU signed off the air, so I tuned my radio into stations hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home. Since radio waves changed on a nightly basis, I would listen to a variety of 50,000 watt, clear channel AM stations on any given night.

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

The two main stations that I listened to during the nighttime were WLS 890 AM Chicago and WABC 770 AM New York. On the Big 89 WLS, Larry Lujack, Chuck Buell and Kris Erik Stevens were my favorite DJs. When listening to WABC, Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow) are the two radio DJ voices that I remember from that hot summer.

On nights that WLS or WABC were hard to pick up, I had other clear channel stations that I could listen to. Among those other stations: WOWO Fort Wayne, WCFL Chicago 1000 AM, CKLW Windsor, Ontario (Detroit) 800 AM, WKBW Buffalo 1520 AM and WKYC Cleveland 1100 AM.

Because I spent so much time listening to Top 40 radio that summer, I decided that I wanted to become a DJ when I became an adult. My desire to work in radio became a reality for me five years later in 1974, as I landed a remote engineer position with WROV Roanoke when I was 18 years old.

Dave Woodson playing records for WROV Roanoke remote broadcast during 1974.

For the remaining portion of this message, I will be focusing on the music that was played on Top 40 radio during the summer of 69. I will be highlighting hits songs from 50 years ago that are still considered relevant here in 2019.

Musically, the summer of ‘69 is considered part of the “Golden Age of Top 40 Radio.” Diversity accurately describes the music that accounted for the biggest hits during that summer.

It was not uncommon to hear different genres played back to back: A DJ might start a music set with country crossover, “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash, segueing into a gospel song, “Oh Happy Day” from the Edwin Hawkins Singers and finally playing a reggae tune, “Israelites” by Desmond Decker and the Aces.

 

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

To further show the diversity of the music, here are five songs that reached number 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cash Box Top 100 charts during the summer of 69:

 

1. Get Back—The Beatles with Billy Preston

2. Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet—Henry Mancini & his Orchestra

3. In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)—Zager & Evans

4. Honky Tonk Women—The Rolling Stones

5. Sugar, Sugar—The Archies

 

In addition to those five songs, “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley spent the last week of June at the number 1 position on the Cash Box Top 100 chart.

 

WLS Chicago Hit Parade Surveys 7/21/69 & 8/4/69. Courtesy of Pete Battistini: Author of AMERICAN TOP 40 WITH CASEY KASEM (THE 1970’S)

Before I reveal my Top 10 most relevant songs from 50 years ago, I am going to share some other significant songs from the summer of ‘69.

Top Underrated Songs:

1. I’m Free—The Who

2. See—The Rascals

3. Marrakesh Express—Crosby Stills and Nash

4. Spinning Wheel—Blood Sweat and Tears

5. Polk Salad Annie—Tony Joe White

 

WROV Roanoke Super Summer Survey 8/24/69. Courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson and WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Top Love Songs:

1. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)—Jr. Walker & the All Stars

2. Love (Can Make You Happy)—Mercy

3. Baby, I Love You—Andy Kim

4. My Cherie Amour—Stevie Wonder

5. My Pledge of Love—Joe Jeffries Group

 

My 45 RPM single of the Rascals “See” record that I bought in 1969.

Top Miscellaneous Subject Songs:

1. Grazing in the Grass—Friends of Distinction

2. Color Him Father—The Winstons

3. Black Pearl—Sonny Charles & the Checkmates

4. Sweet Caroline—Neil Diamond

5. More Today Than Yesterday—Spiral Staircase

 

My 45 RPM single of Oliver’s “Jean” record that I bought in 1969.

Now I will be focusing on what I consider to be the top ten 1969 summer radio songs. These are songs were either released and/or were hits between June and September 1969.

The top ten songs that I have selected fit into the following categories: I deem the 10 songs to still be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. There are no rankings with my listing and the songs are placed in a random order.

 

My 45 RPM single of CCR’s “Fortunate Son/Down on the Corner” record that I bought in 1969.

One—Three Dog Night

When the Beach Boys and the Byrds started to wane on Top 40 radio, a new vocal powerhouse came upon the scene: Three Dog Night. Group members Chuck Negron, Danny Hutton and Cory Wells were all talented vocalists and their blended harmonies and vocal versatility soared with their catchy, up-tempo rock tune. “One” spent 3 weeks at number two on Cash Box Top 100 chart and was the first of 21 consecutive songs to reach the Billboard Top 40 between 1969 and 1975 for Three Dog Night.

Easy To Be Hard—Three Dog Night

Just after their song “One” became a hit, Three Dog Night had a second smash tune during the summer of 69: “Easy To Be Hard” from the Broadway musical “Hair.” Chuck Negron has excellent passion when singing the lyrics that question the harsh treatment of humanity: “How can people be so heartless, how can people be so cruel, easy to be hard?” Three Dog Night went on to have a 3rd Top 10 hit with “Eli’s Coming,” a Laura Nyro tune, during the fall of the same year.

Bad Moon Rising—Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)

The second CCR song to reach number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, after “Proud Mary” in the spring of ‘69, is considered to be one of the first tunes in the “Swamp rock” genre of music. Plus, “Bad Moon Rising” has perhaps the most misheard lyric ever in modern music history. Many folks think CCR’s leader John Fogerty sings “There’s a bathroom on the right” instead of “There’s a bad moon on the rise.” “Bad Moon Rising” remains popular and is still played at many sporting events here in 2019.

Fortunate Son—Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)

Summer of ‘69 was huge for CCR. The band played at Woodstock, 4 hit singles charted and their “Green River” album was released. Then in September, the band released “Fortunate Son.” The song quickly became an anti-war movement anthem and is considered a signature song for John Fogerty. In 2013, “Fortunate Son” was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

 

Crystal Blue Persuasion—Tommy James and the Shondells

With the Vietnam War ongoing, Tommy James had his 3rd consecutive top 10 hit, a song longing for a future age of brotherhood, harmony and living in peace. James has been quoted multiple times, stating that the inspiration for “Crystal Blue Persuasion” came from him reading the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation in the Bible. The melodic acoustic guitar and organ on the tune help to make this song still sound good, 50 years later.

Get Back—The Beatles with Billy Preston

A song that was originally performed at the historic Beatles “Rooftop” concert in January 1969, the single “Get Back” was the first number 1 song, on both Billboard and Cashbox charts, during the summer of ‘69. The Beatles’ “Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down” single is the only time that another artist was credited on a Fab Four recording, with Billy Preston sharing the honor for the biggest Beatles single in 1969. “Get Back” was also the Beatles’ first single released in America in true stereo.

Get Together—The Youngbloods

With the catchy chorus, “Come on people now/Smile on your brother/Everybody get together/Try to love one another right now,” the Youngbloods created a timely classic with their “Love and Peace” anthem “Get Together.” American involvement in the Vietnam War remained strong in 1969 and the song was a huge hit on Top 40 radio. It was also embraced by many Christian churches during this time period, that wanted to promote “Love and Peace” in their congregations. A true quintessential song from the golden age of Top 40 radio.

Put a Little Love in Your Heart—Jackie DeShannon

It is interesting to look back on how many of the most significant songs from 50 years ago were on the subject of love and peace. Jackie DeShannon’s biggest hit record, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” is one of those “Love and Peace” songs that resonated with radio listeners in the summer of 69. Along with DeShannon’s other big hit, “What the World Needs Now,” her message of seeking love and peace, rather than war, is still relevant today.

In the Ghetto—Elvis Presley

For most folks who think about Elvis songs, very few remember his songs of social concerns. “In the Ghetto” is completely different than almost every other Elvis tune and provided a comeback for the “King of Rock and Roll” in 1969. The Mac Davis-written song tells a narrative of generational poverty that is set in the city of Chicago. With the success of this song, Elvis charted two consecutive number 1 songs in 1969: “In the Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds.”

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes—Crosby Stills and Nash (CSN)

When CSN played at Woodstock during August 1969, the band opened up their set list with “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” The song was the second single from the CSN self-titled debut album, after “Marrakesh Express” and was released as a single in September ‘69. The tune is made up of four separate sections and is seamlessly woven together by excellent harmonies of the band. Truly, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is the signature song for CSN.

 

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the most significant singles from the summer of 1969, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music from 50 years ago.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of music from the golden age of Top 40 radio. The songs that you feel are the best from the summer of 1969 could be completely different than my selections.

So I am asking for your opinion: What songs do you feel are the best, greatest or most significant singles from the summer of 1969?

Listening to the music on Top 40 radio in 1969 highlighted some of the best days of my life. Rock on!

I leave you with the ending lyrics to “Crystal Blue Persuasion:”

Maybe tomorrow.

When he looks down,

On every green field,

And every town,

All of his children,

In every nation,

There’ll be peace and good,

Brotherhood,

Crystal blue persuasion

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

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Artist Profiles, Music, Radio, Virginia Artists

Robin and Linda Williams: The Shenandoah Valley’s Musical Pioneers

When I want to hear quintessential Americana music, all I need to do is to travel up the Shenandoah Valley, 90 miles from Roanoke to Staunton, for the music of Robin and Linda Williams.

Known to many for their regular performances on Garrison Keillor’s live radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” the husband and wife duo have been making music from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia since the 1970’s.

As their official website states: “For more than four decades now, Robin & Linda have made it their mission to perform the music that they love, ‘a robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country that combines wryly observant lyrics with a wide-ranging melodicism.

“Today some might call it ‘Americana,’ but these two revered music masters were living and breathing this elixir 20 years before that label was turned into a radio format.”

Robin and Linda Williams in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Last month, I spoke with Robin and Linda via phone to find out what the couple has been doing musically over the course of their career and to check out what their plans are for 2019.

I first met Robin and Linda during my junior year attending James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia during the late 70’s. I worked at public radio station WMRA and was the producer of a daily radio program called “Country Afternoon.”

My radio program featured folk, bluegrass and old time country music. Once a month, “Country Afternoon” would have bands and performers from the Shenandoah Valley come to the station to give a live one-hour concert on the radio. Robin and Linda performed on my “Country Afternoon” radio program. Little did I know that this husband and wife duo from Augusta County would one day be nationally known for their iconic music style.

Robin and Linda met in 1971 and quickly realized that they made beautiful music together. The duo started writing their own songs and by 1975, they recorded their first album, the self-titled, “Robin and Linda Williams” on Flashlight Records in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Around the same time, the husband and wife team met Garrison Keillor in Minnesota. As Robin and Linda’s website states: “They made their first appearance on a little radio show just getting off the ground called “A Prairie Home Companion” and their rich relationship with that icon of American broadcasting has continued for four decades.”

In my joint phone interview with Robin and Linda last month, I asked the Williamses if they ever lived in Minnesota? Linda replied “No. We would fly to Minneapolis on Thursday evenings prior to a Saturday show and then stay in the land of 10,000 lakes for a total of 11 days. We would then perform on consecutive Saturdays but still live in the Shenandoah Valley.”

The Virginian couple met Garrison Keillor, “when he came to see us at a venue about 60 miles from St. Paul,” Linda explained. “After watching us for a set of songs, Keillor asked us to come play the radio show. That was in the fall of 1975 and we have worked with him ever since: On the radio, doing concerts and performing on cruise ships.”

“Concerning Garrison, he has been a friend and a mentor to us and he’s the most talented person we’ve ever been around. And we’ve been around some legends”, Linda admired.   The Shenandoah Valley couple will be working again will Keillor again next winter on a Cuban cruise.

Robin and Linda Williams

Over the years, the duo has performed thousands of concerts across the United States, Canada and Europe. Additionally, Robin and Linda are known as superb songwriters. Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, Tom T. Hall, George Hamilton IV and the Seldom Scene have all covered songs written by Robin and Linda.

According to their website, “Robin and Linda have made appearances on such major programs as ‘The Grand Old Opry,’ ‘Austin City Limits,’ ‘Music City Tonight,’ ‘Mountain Stage’ and they continue to make frequent appearances on ‘A Prairie Home Companion.’   Having always sung gospel music, in the late 1980s they teamed up with their old friend and “A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor and bluegrass songstress Kate MacKenzie to form The Hopeful Gospel Quartet.

Robin and Linda Williams

One of the things that I admire the most about Robin and Linda’s music is their focus on the place they have called home for over 40 years: The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I asked the Williamses if they could share with me the influence that living in the Shenandoah Valley has had on their music. Here are Robin and Linda’s thoughts with their four selections:

 

  1. “Stonewall Country”

 

“[This song] got its title from a little known fact that the term was used in the early to mid-19th century as a moniker for the Shenandoah Valley. Evidently the farmers used the limestone rocks they cleared from their fields as fences and walls, thus “stone wall country.”

 

“We changed the title to “Stonewall Country” because the song was written for the musical we wrote about Stonewall Jackson for the “The Theater “at Lime Kiln in Lexington, Virginia.

 

I make my home in Stonewall Country/Down a crooked lane/Where the fields steep and rocky/Took such toil to claim/Now the plows run deep in Stonewall Country/The ground gives back good yields/And the rocks that blocked the furrows/So worrisome to wield/Stand in fences ‘round the fields.

 

I may leave the Shenandoah/But she’ll never leave my heart/ Stonewall Country, clear-eyed daughter of the stars/Stonewall Country, clear-eyed daughter of the stars.

  1. “Buena Vista”

 

“Another song that comes to mind our song “Buena Vista,” a tale that mentions not only the Rockbridge County town but also some landmarks like the Maury River.”

 

So you beat a path to Rockbridge Baths/ ’cause blood kin won’t quit ya/

Or try to dry you out like they do in Buena Vista/

It’s a long walk from your front porch to the Maury River’s edge/

But it’s longer when you’re drunk and hauling back a broken leg/

So here’s to the sawbones who pinned you up and fixed ya/

But you’re out of action lying in traction down in Buena Vista

 

  1. “These Old Dark Hills”

 

“Linda got the title of the song “These Old Dark Hills” after a late afternoon winter walk around our property and looking over to the Allegheny Mountains. Seeing those mountains every day for over forty years, they almost seem like friends,” said Robin.

These Old Dark Hills/On which sore eyes can rest/These Old Dark Hills/Ridge after ridge to the west          

  1. “October Light”

 

“[This] is a song that comes quickly to mind. It’s about the beauty of fall in the Shenandoah Valley.”

Each day we walk up on the hill/And watch the setting sun/Play on the trees and fields until/It falls and day is done/Yellow, orange, blue and rose/The colors neon bright/The evening sky is all aglow/With this October Light.

 

Robin and Linda Williams

Obviously, the Shenandoah Valley is a special place for Robin and Linda. However, their songs cover a wide variety of topics and are respected by fellow songwriters all across many genres of music.

So I asked the Williams couple if they could share with me their top 5 essential songs. These would be the songs they would like for a person to hear, if they were checking out the Virginia duo’s music for the first time. Here are Robin and Linda’s thoughts on each song:

 

  1. “Old Plank Road”

 

“On the last day of filming ‘A Prairie Home Companion,’ director Robert Altman’s last movie, we were asked to perform one of our songs to use for the movie soundtrack. ‘Old Plank Road,’ is a song about a music party in Batesville, VA, and Altman used seven or eight minutes of the film cutting away from us singing it to other scenes that helped develop the story line.”

Charlie you’re a good old boy Charlie you’re all right/Charlie open up the store, we’re coming down tonight/Out where you can see the stars and the living’s slow/We’ll eat potluck and pull guitars down on Old Plank Road.

  1. “Rolling and Rambling (the Death of Hank Williams)”

 

[This song] has never left our repertoire (probably the only one) and which Emmylou Harris recorded.”

Rolling and Rambling, the women loved him half to death/He sang with whiskey on his breath/His heart broke like a child/Rolling and Rambling, the sun has set out on the trail/The hobo’s drifted up the rail/He’s taken his last ride.

 

  1. “Don’t Let Me Come Home A Stranger”

 

“[This song] was in the “Stonewall Country” musical and has made it into the repertoires and recordings of several American and British Isles singers.”

Will there come a time when the memories fade/And pass on with the long, dark years/When the ties no longer bind. Lord save me from this darkest fear/Don’t Let Me Come Home A Stranger/I couldn’t stand to be a stranger

  1. “Across The Blue Mountains”

 

“[This is] a local, traditional, a cappella song that we found on a party tape with Paul Clayton singing it. We’ve sung it for over 35 years and it’s the vehicle that opened the door to our friendship with the legendary Dave Van Ronk.”

One morning, one morning, one morning in May/I heard a married man to a young girl say/Go dress you up pretty Katy and come go with me/Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny

 

  1. “Famous In Missouri”

 

“We’re proud of it because it was sung and released as a single by Tom T. Hall, a member of the Country Music and Songwriters Halls of Fame. He was so successful and had such respect as a songwriter that folks labeled him “The Story Teller.” His recording of our song helped us garner respect as songwriters ourselves.”

I was famous in Missouri/Everybody knew my name/Kansas City to old St. Louis/They knew how well I played my game/Now it sure feels strange /To be in South Dakota, out on the range

Robin and Linda Williams in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Being part of the Shenandoah Valley music community has always been extremely important for the Williams couple. Linda states, “We have a network of local musician friends – some professional, some not – some old, some new – and via this musical community we’ve been able make contributions to the area.

“Robin and I started a concert series at the Lime Kiln Theater during the mid-80s. We have also helped start a couple of festivals: The Oak Grove Folk Music Festival in Verona (now in its 36th year) and the Fortune-Williams Festival with Jimmy Fortune, the Country Music Hall Of Famer, which ran for 10 years.”

Clearly, Robin and Linda have been an integral part of the Shenandoah Valley music scene for over 40 years and the duo continues to work on and develop new musical projects here in 2019.

Robin and Linda Williams

One proposed project is for a new musical TV show on Virginian music called ‘Road Trip: Virginia Live.’ Robin explains, “The idea is to go to historic venues in Virginia and present a half hour music show based not only on the musical acts but also the venues.”

The other project for the Williamses this year is the production of a new album, which will be recorded at their home in Staunton. “We called our friend Kevin McNoldy, who showed up with portable recording gear and two Townsend microphones in April and we recorded six songs,” said Linda.

“Our house in Staunton is old and has high ceilings and the room sounds wonderful, better than some studios we’ve recorded in the past,” she said. “We sat in our living room with those Townsend mics and got some really good stuff. Robin and I have recorded six CDs with Kevin in the past and it’s been fun re-connecting with him. We’ll continue recording in June and July.”

Robin and Linda Williams in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Touring has always been an important part in the musical career of Robin and Linda, and the couple will have concerts scheduled between now and October. Their next show will be at The Harvester in Rocky Mount, Virginia. The Williamses’ friend, Scott Miller will be opening up for the duo at this concert venue. I am looking forward attending this concert, along with my wife Priscilla. For more information on upcoming concerts and to purchase music, please go to the official Robin and Linda website.

What will be the legacy of Robin and Linda? They are leaders in the Shenandoah Valley music scene and their fingerprints are throughout the musical landscape of Virginia. Without a doubt, Robin and Linda Williams are the quintessential duo of Americana music in America!

 

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Music, Music Countdowns, Radio

Billboard Hot 100: Comparing Ariana Grande with the Beatles?

Ariana Grande has an excellent singing voice. Her four-octave vocal range makes her one of the best pure singers over the past ten years.

February 19th, 2019 was a historic day for Grande. She became only the second artist ever to achieve the top three positions on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, matching the feat first accomplished by the Beatles in 1964.

(Now it must be noted that the Beatles actually held all five of the top spots on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week during April 1964, at the height of Beatlemania in America. Obviously, the Beatles holding all 5 songs at the Top of the Hot 100 is still the overall record with the Billboard chart).

 

Still, it is impressive that Grande held down the top three spots with these songs for the Billboard Hot 100 survey dated 2/23/19:

  1. 7 Rings
  2. Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored
  3. Thank U, Next

 

 

Even more impressive are the Beatles and their overall record, with the Top 5 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending April 4th, 1964:

1: Can’t Buy Me Love

2: Twist And Shout

3: She Loves You

4: I Want To Hold Your Hand

5: Please Please Me

 

 

While I admire and respect the accomplishment of Ariana Grande, I am wondering how can we accurately rank Grande’s historic position in relation to the Beatles holding down the top 5 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1964?

For over 60 years, Billboard Magazine has tracked the top songs in America with their Billboard Hot 100 chart. Since 1958, Billboard has tracked song popularity by using various metrics.

During the early days of the Billboard Hot 100, the chart was calculated based on:

  • Record Sales
  • Radio Airplay
  • Radio Stations Top Hits Surveys
  • Jukebox Plays

 

The first number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 was “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson, on August 4, 1958.

 

 

During the golden age of Top 40 radio, major market radio stations played a key role in songs becoming hits. If either Cousin Brucie on WABC New York or Larry Lujack on WLS Chicago played your song on their radio stations, the song generally reached the top 10 and quite possibly the number 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100.

 

 

Over the years, the way people bought and listened to music changed and so did the policy of criteria used by Billboard to calculate the Hot 100.

When record and singles sales dropped during the 90’s, Billboard switched the Hot 100 from a singles chart to a songs chart. Album cuts were also considered for the first time during this time period.

Last decade, Billboard introduced digital downloads and online audio streaming to the Hot 100 process and earlier in this decade added video streaming from YouTube and other sources to the Hot 100 mix.

Today the Hot 100 tracks radio airplay by audience impressions as measured by Nielsen BDS, sales data compiled by Nielsen Soundscan, both at retail and digitally, and streaming activity provided by online music sources, according to Billboard.

 

 

As you can tell, the criteria that Billboard uses here in 2019 is completely different than what they utilized in 1964 when the Beatles held the top 5 spots on the Billboard Hot 100.

My question that I pose for you: How can we compare the Billboard Hot 100 chart success of Ariana Grande (or any other artist today) with the historic Beatles music feat of 55 years ago? Isn’t this comparing apples to oranges?

The only constant thing for over 60 years is that Billboard has created a weekly Hot 100 chart. Everything else about the chart: How the songs are measured, are completely different now compared to Hot 100 calculations in 1964.

Should we even compare rote facts and figures associated with the Hot 100 from 1958 with the music of 2019? Is it fair to place a song like, “Can’t Buy Me Love” next to, “Thank U, Next?”

 

 

I’ve asked a couple of my friends to speak on this topic. Al Weed, General Surgeon for the Veterans Medical Center in Salem, Virginia, stated to me, “It is like comparing sports records from different eras” but Grande’s historic achievement is “still an impressive feat.”

Dave Delaney, Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for Lutheran Churches in Virginia, also agreed that Grande’s topping of the Hot 100 “is an impressive achievement.” Delaney went on to say, “regardless of what you think of Grande’s music, she has prevailed over an extremely large field of gifted performers.”

I am in agreement with both Al Weed and Dave Delaney with their assessment of Grande and her recent historic success. However, I still wonder how to accurately rank the music feat of the Beatles: Which happened 55 years ago, to the chart topping Billboard Hot 100 record, just set by Grande?

Can I reconcile the totally different set of criteria used by Billboard in 1964, compared to the music measurements used by the Hot 100 in 2019? Quite frankly, I do not consider there is a fair and accurate way to evaluate extreme differences of Hot 100 benchmarks between the 1960’s and today.

Ranking music over a 60-year period of time can be subjective. My thoughts could be totally different from what you think on this subject. Reasonable minds can agree to disagree when it comes to opinions on music.

I find it extremely hard to properly rank and place music, compiled over 6-decades, when the metrics and categories of measurements have radically changed over the course of time.

Billboard will probably continue to crank out their Hot 100 chart, as long as there is recorded music on a national level. Many will debate music history as it relates to the current music scene. More than likely, people will have dialogue on the Billboard Hot 100 for years to come.

 

What are your thoughts on Ariana Grande and her recent Billboard Hot 100 music performance? Is it equal to the Beatles 1964 Hot 100 achievement? Better? Not as good? Different?   Ariana or the Fab 4? Which do you choose?

Obviously, there are no definitive answers on this topic. The only sure thing that I can come up with is from the song, “Spinning Wheel” by Blood Sweat and Tears:

“What goes up, must come down, spinning wheel, got to go ‘round.”

 

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Broadcasting, Radio

Curt Dudley: A Day in the Life

 

Curt Dudley and I at JMU Sports Press Conference, O’Neill’s Grill.

“I read the news today, oh boy, about a lucky man who made the grade” is the opening line to the Beatles legendary 1967 song, “A Day in the Life.” Those lyrics easily describe the daily activities of Curt Dudley, who is Director of Broadcast Services, Athletics and Communications at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

One of Curt Dudley’s nicknames is “The Voice of JMU Athletics” and the university is fortunate to have him as chief ambassador for the JMU Nation. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Dudley on JMU’s campus and to experience a “day in his life.”

Dudley oversees the dissemination of all varsity sports news for JMU in a variety of ways. He functions in the traditional role of a sports information director, but also utilizes 21st century multimedia technology to distribute JMU sporting news in fresh and exciting ways.

The most intriguing new technology Dudley has developed is MadiZONE HD SportsNet. Created in 2012 under Dudley’s direction, MadiZONE is an online channel that JMU fans can use to stream live sports events. The MadiZONE media team is made up of JMU “students with interns, practicums and volunteers who assist in producing the video and audio content for the channel” according to JMUSports.com.

Dudley’s current career path began while he was attending Bridgewater College (BC) during 1980. While at BC, he developed the first Sports Information Director position and held that position for a total of eight years. Dudley received his B.S. degree from BC in 1983 and was active in the Bridgewater, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County sports community during that time period.

Then in 1988, JMU hired Dudley as Sports Information Director (SID) and he held that position until 2006. During his time as SID, he was an announcer/analyst for JMU football and men’s basketball games as well as many other sporting events. He had the pleasure of being in Chattanooga, Tennessee and announcing when the football team won the I-AA National championship in 2004.

During a typical day, Dudley wears many hats and partakes in various activities related to JMU sports. Most mornings, he uses social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to communicate JMU sporting news to the world. When JMU hosts home games for varsity sports, many times Dudley will be the main announcer for games that will be aired on MadiZONE.

This fall you will be able to hear Dudley on MadiZONE HD SportsNet as he will be one of three announcers broadcasting all of the Dukes home football games at Bridgeforth Stadium.

My day with “The Voice of JMU Athletics” started at his JMU Sports office, located just a few blocks from the university campus. I met Dudley for the first time that morning and he was welcoming and open with me as we discussed the upcoming schedule for the day. We also talked about our shared experiences at JMU: being involved in radio broadcasting and the Communications department (now known as SMAD) at the university.

Once our introductory time ended, we headed over to Moody Hall on the JMU campus, where Dudley teaches a sports broadcasting course. Attending this class was extremely meaningful to me since I am a 1980 graduate of James Madison University with a B.S. degree in Communication Arts. This was the very first time that I had been back in a JMU classroom in over 38 years and fond memories flooded my mind during this class time.

Since I was a Communications major and had worked at radio station WMRA while I was attending JMU, Dudley gave me the opportunity to share with his students about my experiences at JMU and how I applied things I learned once I graduated from the university. I was thankful I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with Dudley’s students.

If I were attending JMU as a student in 2018, I would want to sign up for Dudley’s class. His presentation of the material is excellent and I am confident that his students will be learning the proper ways to communicate. He was affirming to his students and set positive parameters so that they could succeed in this course.

It was interesting to me that of the thirteen students who were in Dudley’s class, four of those students play varsity sports and one other student plays a club sport. Before the class started, I spoke with senior Sarah Salzman, who is a goalie for the JMU club lacrosse team. Sarah and I communicated about the differences of JMU between when I attended the university and how things are now on campus.

At the end of the class, I met students Lauren DuVall and Shannon Quinlan from the JMU lacrosse team that won the 2018 D1 Women’s Lacrosse National Championship in May. Both Lauren and Shannon shared with me how thrilling it was to be on the Dukes national championship team last May. Curt Dudley was at the championship game and announced the game for MadiZONE. You can hear his voice on the video below.

(Video of JMU 2018 DI Women’s Lacrosse National Championship with the voice of Curt Dudley announcing throughout on May 26th, 2018)

After the class concluded, Dudley and I walked on campus. I was amazed by the number of students that Curt knew and that he actually called each one of these individuals by their first name. Dudley was personable to everyone that he saw during the time that I spent with him.

The next major event on tap that day was a JMU Sports press conference with the Dukes head football coach Mike Houston. This event regularly happens every Tuesday at 12-noon during the school year at O’Neill’s Restaurant in Harrisonburg. During most weeks, multiple Dukes coaches speak at the JMU Sports press conference but on this day Coach Houston was the only coach to speak.

Curt Dudley at JMU Sports Press Conference at O’Neill’s Grill.

The set up for the press conference was fascinating to watch. Dudley’s crew put together a JMU backdrop board that started on the floor like an accordion and then was lifted up by a couple of crew members into the final place directly behind the podium. Of course, audio and video equipment also have to be all in working order prior to the start of the press conference.

Before the conference began, I got to meet Dave Thomas, who is the JMU Sports Network’s play-by-play announcer for the football and men’s basketball teams. Thomas was doing a live broadcast of the press conference on 1360 ESPN Radio. I also got to see Clayton Metz, who is the director of video content for athletics at JMU. I have known Metz since he was a teenager so it was good connecting with him at this event.

At the beginning of the press conference, Dudley spoke about various upcoming sporting events at JMU and then introduced JMU Head Football Coach Mike Houston. You can watch Dudley announcing JMU sports information at the beginning of the video below.

(JMU Sports press conference on 9/4 with Curt Dudley and Mike Houston)

Coach Houston first spoke about the JMU game with NC State and then took questions from the press corps. After the completion of press conference, I had the opportunity to meet Coach Houston along with his wife Amanda (who happened to be sitting next to me while her husband was conducting his press conference). Both Mike and Amanda were cordial and friendly to me.

The breaking down of equipment and lunch were in order after the press conference ended and then it was time for Dudley and I to end our time together. We said our goodbyes and then I went back over the to JMU campus to walk on the quad and soak up some afternoon sun before heading back home to Roanoke. It was an extremely satisfying day for me in Harrisonburg.

Before I came to Harrisonburg on this day, I had asked friends of mine who knew Dudley this question: “What are your thoughts on Dudley and his role with JMU sports?” All responded to me with positive attributes: Caring, thoughtful, professional, personable, engaging, likable, knowledgeable and understanding. Dudley is much beloved on the campus of JMU.

One other important aspect that individuals mentioned to me was Dudley’s attention to all JMU student athletes. As I understand, he regularly interacts with student athletes and has the goal to communicate with each of these individuals over the course of the school year. Dudley is most beloved by all of the student athletes at JMU and he received the James Madison Athletics Unseen Hero Award during April 2018, being recognized for his work with the JMU Athletics department as a member who works outside of the public spotlight.  It was a well deserved award for Dudley.

After I spent my day with Curt, I would have to say that I totally agree with the assessments of those folks on his positive traits as a leader. JMU Nation is extremely fortunate to have the Dukes chief ambassador Curt Dudley as the “Voice of James Madison University Athletics.”

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Radio

Radio Free Roanoke: A New Way to Listen

Radio Free Roanoke staff and volunteers

Talking Heads 1980 legendary song “Once in a Lifetime” uses the phrase “You may ask yourself” multiple times on this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted song.

You may ask yourself: What is “Radio Free Roanoke” and what does it mean?

Radio Free Roanoke (RFR) is a 100-watt non-commercial, non-profit grassroots community FM radio station located in Roanoke, Virginia. On April 12th, 2018, WROE-LP 95.7 FM signed on the air for the first time. Radio Free Roanoke is now broadcasting and has become a part of the local radio community here in the Roanoke Valley.

You may ask yourself: Why does Roanoke actually need another radio station? Radio-locator.com states that there are “56 radio stations that may be within distant listening range of Roanoke, Virginia.”

Of those 56 stations, fourteen signals are with AM stations while the remaining forty-two signals are FM stations. While many of those radio facilities broadcast the same station on multiple frequencies, the Roanoke/Lynchburg market is still saturated with radio outlets.

With today’s broadcasting landscape, most radio stations are for-profit commercial facilities and are owned by large corporate companies. The days of small independently owned radio stations are almost extinct and have gone the way of the Dodo bird.

RFR Founder Robert Capper adjusting radio antenna

Five years ago, Executive Director of Radio Free Roanoke Robert Capper had a vision that he wanted to create a non-profit, grassroots, local community radio station for Roanoke. He started in April 2013 to obtain a license and equipment and to build community support for this type of radio station. It took nearly five years to complete the process for Capper’s vision.

Capper finally was able to see his dream of a radio station broadcasting in Roanoke when RFR signed on for the first time on April 12th, 2018. The next day TV station WDBJ7 aired a short clip about the opening of RFR.

Opening any new radio station poses challenges but this is especially true for RFR. Besides the financial cost of running RFR, the 100-watt output from the stations’ antenna limits the range of the RFR coverage area.

The coverage map for RFR is a five-mile radius from the broadcast antenna tower location in southwest Roanoke city. That means portions of Salem, Vinton and Roanoke County are not able to pick up RFR and this limits the amount of residents that can listen to and enjoy RFR programming.

Heather Rose, RFR Corporate Vice President and Program Manager

Heather Rose is the Corporate Vice President and Program Manager for RFR and she expressed to me one of the most pressing needs for the radio station: Streaming RFR online.

The station currently is not able to stream their signal on the Internet because of the cost. An exceptional gift to RFR would be for someone to underwrite the cost of streaming the RFR signal on the Internet for an entire year. That would be huge and would allow those living outside of the five-mile RFR coverage area to receive the radio station broadcast in their homes.

One of the RFR goals is to have grassroots community programming on the station, according to Robert Capper. Radio staff and other volunteers with RFR meet weekly at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op to discuss business that is associated with the new station. Anyone from the Roanoke community is also welcomed to attend these meetings.

I have actually attended two of the RFR weekly meetings to get a feel for how the staff and volunteers are proceeding in relation to community involvement. Capper told me at one of the meetings I attended that RFR wants to add more local content. One of current programs aired on RFR is on the controversial proposed Mountain Valley Atlantic Coast Pipeline. RFR regularly airs programming on the issue that is important to those living in Southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley area.

The station also wants more folks in the Roanoke community to submit ideas for new community programming. Community member Cedric Wilson, who currently works in the mental health profession in the Roanoke area, has proposed producing a weekly program on the subject of psychology. Wilson hopes to include topics such as emotions, human behavior, the brain, mental health, addiction, culture, religion and relationships on this new radio endeavor.

RFR coverage map

Another area where RFR separates itself from all other radio stations in Roanoke is with music. Music director Geoff Conley has been responsible for providing local Roanoke area music artists with the opportunity to have their music played in regular rotation on a daily basis. Currently, RFR is playing music from twenty-five local Roanoke artists and hopes to expand the airing of more local music in the near future.

Hearing local Roanoke music on RFR has been a dream come true for Camellia Delk, who is the keyboard and violin player for the Roanoke-based band The Bastards of Fate (BOF).   The BOF band member loves the fact that RFR is playing local artists along side established music artists such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Cocteau Twins and The Smiths.

When I asked Delk about what RFR means to her she replied, “On my way to work this morning I heard ‘One True Love’ by The Bastards of Fate – never dreamed I’d hear THAT one on the airwaves! Also heard the song ‘Ohio’ by The Wading Girl (I play violin on that track). It’s not only neat to hear my music but also fun to hear my friends’ bands Eternal Summers, Atoka Chase, Doug Cheatwood, Another Roadside Attraction, and Sad Cobras being played alongside Bjork, Kate Bush, Faith No More, Nina Simone! I can’t stress how grateful I am to be able to turn on the radio and actually enjoy it!”

Since starting broadcast in April, RFR has attempted to create a radio experience that is completely different than what the rest of the radio stations are doing in the Roanoke/Lynchburg market. As Executive Director Robert Capper sees it, “RFR will continue to grow and change as more people come to volunteer and become a part of our radio community.”

Vice President Heather Rose also shares Capper’s thoughts on the growth of RFR. Rose also hopes that more folks will volunteer their services with many various activities that are required to maintain smooth operations with the radio station.

RFR staff and volunteers at station debut party

To contact RFR staff members about programming ideas, scheduling, where to volunteer, how to donate financially or to leave feedback, visit their website. Also be sure to connect with them on Facebook.

Radio Free Roanoke is new and growing but currently has a small audience. I would love for RFR to have a larger listening area but without Internet streaming, it won’t be possible.

It would be my hope that someone who reads this blog would be able to underwrite the cost of Internet streaming of RFR online for an entire year. The staff of RFR would be extremely excited if folks all over the Roanoke Valley could enjoy listening to Radio Free Roanoke no matter where they lived. That would be awesome.

Long live Radio Free Roanoke!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message. Rock on!

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AT40, Radio, Retro Rock

Casey Kasem Memories

It was sad to hear the news today that legendary radio voice Casey Kasem passed away at age 82. Kasem was the voice of American Top 40 from the beginning with the first show aired on July 4th, 1970.  He continued to be the voice of AT40 until his last show on July 4th, 2009.

When WBLU Salem started running AT40, I used to try and listen to the show every week. Kasem would count down the 40 biggest songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and I would always hear how songs were charting nationally compared to the two Top 40 stations in the Roanoke area (WBLU and WROV Roanoke).  As a whole, WROV generally added songs earlier than TOP 40 powerhouse stations like WLS Chicago and WABC New York, so the AT40 countdown each week tended to be a little bit behind what the top ten songs were in Roanoke.

Here are the songs that Casey Kasem played on the first AT40 show on July 4th, 1970:

AMERICAN TOP 40 – JULY 4, 1970
40 Marvin Gaye – The End Of Our Road
39 Mark Lindsay – Silver Bird
38 Eric Burdon and War – Spill The Wine
37 Crabby Appleton – Go Back
36 B.J. Thomas – I Just Can’t Help Believing
35 Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark
34 John Phillips – Mississippi
33 The Flaming Ember – Westbound #9
32 The Four Tops – It’s All In The Game
31 The 5th Dimension – Save The Country
30 Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Ohio
29 Ray Stevens – Everything Is Beautiful
28 The Impressions – Check Out Your Mind!
27 The Moody Blues – Question
26 Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
25 The Archies – Sugar, Sugar
24 Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Teach Your Children
23 The Poppy Family – Which Way You Goin’ Billy?
Oldie: Bill Cosby – Little Ole Man
22 The Moments – Love On A Two-Way Street
21 Mountain – Mississippi Queen
20 Bread – Make It With You
19 Pacific Gas and Electric – Are You Ready?
18 Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Love Land
17 Alive ‘N Kickin’ – Tighter, Tighter
16 White Plains – My Baby Loves Lovin’
15 Miguel Rios – A Song Of Joy
Oldie: Louis Armstrong – Hello, Dolly!
14 Brotherhood Of Man – United We Stand
13 Rare Earth – Get Ready
12 The Five Stairsteps – O-o-h Child
11 The Pipkins – Gimme Dat Ding
10 Vanity Fair – Hitchin’ A Ride
Oldie: Blood, Sweat, and Tears – Spinning Wheel
09 Elvis Presley – The Wonder Of You
08 The Beatles – The Long And Winding Road
07 The Carpenters – (They Long To Be) Close To You
06 Melanie- Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)
05 Freda Payne – Band Of Gold
04 Blues Image – Ride Captain Ride
03 The Temptations – Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)
02 The Jackson 5 – The Love You Save
Oldie: The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
01 Three Dog Night – Mama Told Me (Not To Come)  ** 1 week @ no. 1 **
Below is an aircheck of Casey Kasem’s audio with his first American Top 40 broadcast on July 3rd, 1970.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FAdbl6LJ6o

 

As you can tell, Top 40 radio had a lot of variety during the summer of 1970.  Thank you Casey Kasem for bringing the top songs to us every week on American Top 40.  You will be missed!

What are your memories of Casey Kasem and American Top 40?  Were you a regular listener of AT40 at some point in your life?

Since this is my first blog, I am interested in hearing your comments in relation to my musical musings.   I welcome your thoughts and hope you will follow my blog as we explore musical history together.  As Casey Kasem once said, “And don’t forget: keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

 

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