Tuesday, March 18, 2014

".....It's All About Keeping It Live...and Local.....And....We'd Add 'Real', But There's That Whole Name Thing...."

Behind the scenes things are cool.

Evidenced by the fact, for example, that one of the most popular features on any DVD of a movie or TV show is the "added features" which, almost always, includes some form of peek at how that particular movie or TV show was/is made.

In that spirit, here's a little "behind the scenes" thing for those of you who enjoy terrestrial radio.

The conventional wisdom is that you're a moron.

And those who know me well assume, at this moment, that I'm about to begin/resume a tirade about the prevailing corporate radio attitude that you really do want to hear "Margaritaville" twelve times a week.

Wrongo, bongo.

This particular pick of nit has to do with monikers.

No, not those little round lenses you have to do a major face crunch to keep from falling out of your eye socket.

That's monocles.

I'm talking monikers, sobriquets, non de plumes, aliases, aka's.

A name by any other name.

Somewhere, back in the days of coils and tubes and brightly lit tuning windows with words like "Philco" and "Emerson" on them, someone, almost surely an ancestor of the modern day radio consultant, determined that, in order to be successful as a radio personality, one must create some sort of on air persona, apart from their plain old everyday persona and, accordingly, there must be some sort of snappy on air name to make the illusion complete.

By the time the 60's rolled around, the on air persona/name thing had evolved to a place that brought us the live and lively presentations of "Murray The K", "Cousin Brucie", "Wolfman Jack" et al.

Local radio, being ever so determined to keep its own hip status as activated as possible, held up its end of the ID dealio with, if not a complete re-do of a jock's real name, then, at least, some show biz worthy tiny tweak.

I grew up listening to Dan Diamond....and C.C. Courtney....and a host of other hosts whom I feel sure were not christened Dan Diamond and C.C. Courtney and a host of other hosts.

Sometimes, the "alter ego" names were fun, sometimes they were a little silly...

And sometimes, they were just stupid.

Blair Garner, an accomplished and award winning nationally syndicated radio host tells of a time, during the "Star Wars" craze days of the late 70's, that his particular program director at the time, believing it was critical to the station's success that all the on airs have timely and topical titles, informed Blair of his own new on air persona....

...and Garner, all these years later, shares, both humorously and not just a little embarrassingly, that for, at least, a couple of years, he was known to his radio audience as .....wait for it......

..."Sky Walker....!"

Okay, there was, admittedly, a certain logic, at the time, to having the on air's present themselves as "characters", if not caricatures, hosting their "hip, happenin' radio shows!".

Just as there was, at one time, a certain logic to requiring movie stars to give their public a little something in the way of persona in place of plain old.

To wit...

Born Lucille LeSeur,  this Oscar winner became Joan Crawford.

Born Archie Leach, this iconic comedic actor became Cary Grant.

And almost everyone who has ever loved the movies knows by which name the young, former brunette turned blonde starlet Norma Jean Baker became legend.

With, or without, a little top forty help from Elton John.

Born Reginald Dwight, by the way.

Somewhere along the way, though, as evolution tends to evolve, the need for the assumption of fictional names became not only unnecessary in TV, film, music and/or broadcasting, but also began to seem not just a little lame, a little cliché, a little silly....

...and sometimes, just a little stupid.

And radio began to be perfectly comfortable making stars out of on air personalities who "stacked the wax for all those kats and kiddies".

Don Imus. Howard Stern. Casey Kasem. Whitney Allen.

And, more recently, Ryan Seacrest.

Good ol', if not boy or girl next door, names, then, at least, real names of real people.

Bringing fun, facts and music to other real people.

National broadcasting companies finally acquiring confidence that an on air's ability to inform and/or entertain you was about their ability to inform and/or entertain you and had nothing to do with what they called themselves.

Local radio, meanwhile, though, somehow fell behind the curve.

Whether it was because they didn't get the memo or, more likely, those who own and run local radio stations these days are veterans from a time and place that someone, almost surely a descendant of those long ago radio consultants, determined that, in order to be successful as a radio personality, one must create some sort of on air persona, apart from their plain old everyday persona and, accordingly, there must be some sort of snappy on air name to make the illusion complete.

And whose concept of what is necessary to make local radio successful is to employ each and every "by-law" of the "how to run a radio station" manual that was published in 1942.

And revised only once or twice since then, the last time somewhere around 1975.

Resulting in an adherence to an antiquated methodology that, in light of current sensibilities, comes off, at best, as a little silly.

Or even stupid.

Even now, as we speak (or write/read, as is the case here), peers and associates of mine perform, inform and/or entertain each day on local radio, identifying themselves by a name which neither the Bureau of Records nor their mommas have any inkling.

And, as a courtesy to them, I'm not using their names, real or revised, but, for purposes of point, here's some "close enough to illustrate" fictional examples:

Angela Causey is on the air.....as Bree Carson.

Kenny Langan is on the air...as Kenny Lang.

Sharon Overstreet is on the air...as Sher Street.

James Uberlashevsky is on the air...as Jimmy Lash.

Getting the picture?

And how's the sound coming in for you?

Even allowing for the fact that "Uberlashevsky" is more than a mouthful, I'm still trying to figure out why Bree Carson can't just be Angela Causey.

Cause she is, you know.

As for myself, I've had more than a few owners require me to play the name game in order to gain access to the mic.

Among others...

Scott Edwards.

Jack Edwards.

Eddie Scott.

In the recent past, one of my favorite examples of rectal reasoning:

"Digger Phelps".

One time I held my ground, by the way, and said no way, arguing the case that people were going to wonder why, and be confused by, a former Notre Dame basketball coach born in 1941 was hosting a local country music morning show in 2012.

The owner's rebuttal being that the name recognition itself was exactly the reason it would work so well.


And, in what I still think of as the ultimate argument against letting any owner ever have anything to say about what gets broadcast on their station, there was the insightful, keen eyed local radio impresario who informed me that the use of my complete, real name was unacceptable.

Despite the fact that I had been using that name in that market for over five years, had built a considerable following and was pretty successful in terms of the two things owner ostensibly want in an on air personality.

Getting people, in large numbers, to listen.

Getting advertisers to advertise because people, in large numbers, were listening.

In this case, though, it was the argument presented in support of my not using the known name that really took the call letter cake.

"Hrmph," the owner grunted, taking a shot at sounding wise beyond his synaptic capacity, "...three names.....you can't use three names.....all the serial killers and assassins have three names....".

"Hmm," I responded, taking a shot at sounding like I wasn't inferring this guy was a putz, "....you're right....three names....like John Wilkes Booth.......Lee Harvey Oswald....Sirhan Bishara Sirhan.....", and, then, never known for being one to leave well enough even close to alone, adding "....John Paul Jones...Martin Luther King....Mary Tyler Moore..."

As you might imagine, the gig didn't last long.

I think the line got crossed just about the time I invoked the girl who could turn the world on with her smile.

Radio station owners really do expect to have it both ways.

They seek out quick witted, straight shootin', attention gettin' wise asses for their station's listeners.

They just don't want to have to personally deal with quick witted, straight shootin', attention gettin' wise asses.

And they don't want jocks with three names.

Or "real" names, for that matter.

Because, as I shared with you earlier, from behind the scenes.

A lot of local radio management subscribes to conventional wisdom.

And that wisdom dictates that you're a moron.

And morons don't have the capacity to be informed and/or entertained by somebody named Angela Causey.

Or Kenny Langan.

Or Sharon Overstreet

Or even James Uberlashevsky.

Let alone a serial killer or assassin.

Morons require simple, catchy, easy to remember names in order to be informed and/or entertained.

Bree Carson.

Kenny Lang.

Sher Street.

Jimmy Lash.




For the twenty or so minutes I lasted with Mr. Three Name Guy, I was Scott!

Like Madonna!



Simple, short, sweet, even silly....

...even stupid.

Because, and try to remember this time because it gets tiring having to keep reminding you, you're a moron.

And morons lack the capacity to be entertained by someone real with a real personality...

...and a real name.

As we've learned, the local radio conventional wisdom tells us that real names are a sure fire way to guarantee the entertainer will fail to attract, charm, capture and retain an audience, let alone a fan base.

Just ask Meryl Streep.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"...I'd Like To Thank The Rock And Roll Foundation For This Great Honor...But, Truth Is, Jann and I Are Best Buds, So Who Needs Em?..."

Old Southern saying.

"You just pickin' fly shit outta pepper."

Gene Simmons, while not a Southern boy, is clearly in touch with Southern traditions.

(By Jonathan Hailey, Assistant Editor, theurbandaily.com)
Rock singer Gene Simmons is getting inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and he couldn’t be more upset about it. The lead singer of the legendary rock band KISS is angry at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for more than one reason and one of them has to do with black artists being involved.
 In a recent interview with Radio.com, Simmons discussed his distaste for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s induction of artists who aren’t considered ‘rock,’ especially the black artists like Run-DMC and  Grandmaster Flash. Gene Simmons said, “A long time ago it was diluted. It’s really back room politics, like Boss Tweed. A few people decide what’s in and what’s not. And the masses just scratch their heads. You’ve got Grandmaster Flash in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Run-D.M.C. in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? You’re killing me! That doesn’t mean those aren’t good artists. But they don’t play guitar. They sample and they talk.”
After belittling the art of Hip-Hop, Simmons went on to call out black pop artists like Donna Summer. He said she doesn’t deserve the honor of being in the Hall of Fame either.

“But if you asked Donna [Summer], ‘What kind of artist are you?’ do you think she would say ‘rock?’ If you asked Madonna, ‘What kind of artist are you?’ do you think she would say, ‘Oh, rock!’ So what they hell are they doing in the Hall of Fame? They can run their organization any way they’d like, but it ain’t rock! It just isn’t! If you don’t play guitar and you don’t write your own songs, you don’t belong there.”

Gene Simmons unloaded his opinion about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame because he and his band KISS are being inducted on April 10th at the Barclays Center. However, the two original members–Gene Simons and Paul Stanley–are refusing to perform because only the original four members are being inducted and not the two replacement members who have been apart of the group for a almost as long as the original ones.

Am I the only one who finds humor in Gene Simmons saying black artists shouldn’t be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame when, in fact, black people started the genre of rock in the first place?

First, allow me to answer the question Mr. Hailey poses here.


And no.

There is, certainly, the case can reasonably be made, humor  to be found in the whole "blacks shouldn't be in when blacks started the genre in the first place" brouhaha.

But, in my o, it's not so much funny.

As it is silly.

First, because the assertion that blacks started rock and roll is, at best, arguable and debatable.

Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, Alan Freed, Bill Haley, assorted Comets, Carl Perkins and a skiffle players or two from over there in the United Kingdom.

And in this corner, Little Richard, Fats Domino and a whole pre-Elvis posse of R&B singers whose work evolved nicely, and quickly, into the "genre" now known as R&R.

Second, "genre'" has almost become unique in that it may, or may already have, become the first oxymoron to consist of a single word.

Rock and roll is rock and roll?

Rap is rap?

Metal is metal?

Uh, not so much.

Just put two country music fans, one from the fifties and one from today, in a room and enjoy the circular debate.

But, assertions and oxymorons not withstanding, here's the real poop in the pepper.

The "Hall of Fame" itself has a more than a little of the moronic, oxy version, going for it, as well.

To wit, the rub...

The most frequent criticism of the Hall of Fame is that the nomination process is controlled by a few individuals who are not themselves musicians, such as founder Jann Wenner (who has filled the position of managing editor for Rolling Stone magazine), former foundation director Suzan Evans, and writer Dave Marsh, reflecting their personal tastes rather than the views of the rock world as a whole. A former member of the nominations board once commented that "At one point Suzan Evans lamented the choices being made because there weren't enough big names that would sell tickets to the dinner. That was quickly remedied by dropping one of the doo-wop groups being considered in favor of a 'name' artist ... I saw how certain pioneering artists of the '50s and early '60s were shunned because there needed to be more name power on the list, resulting in '70s superstars getting in before the people who made it possible for them. Some of those pioneers still aren't in today."

There is also controversy in the lack of transparency in the selection process. Janet Morrissey of The New York Times wrote, "With fame and money at stake, it’s no surprise that a lot of backstage lobbying goes on. Why any particular act is chosen in any particular year is a mystery to performers as well as outsiders – and committee members say they want to keep it that way." Jon Landau, the chairman of the nominating committee, says they prefer it that way. "We’ve done a good job of keeping the proceedings nontransparent. It all dies in the room."

According to Fox News, petitions with tens of thousands of signatures were also being ignored, and some groups that were signed with certain labels or companies or were affiliated with various committee members have even been put up for nomination with no discussion at all. The committee has also been accused of largely ignoring certain genres. According to author Brett Milano, "entire genres get passed over, particularly progressive rock, '60s Top 40, New Orleans funk and a whole lot of black music."

Another criticism is that too many artists are inducted. In fifteen years, 97 different artists have been inducted. A minimum of 50% of the vote is needed to be inducted; although, the final percentages are not announced and a certain number of inductees (five in 2011) is set before the ballots are shipped. The committee usually nominates a small number of artists (12 in 2010) from an increasing number of different genres. Several voters, including Joel Selvin, himself a former member of the nominating committee, did not submit their ballots in 2007 because they did not feel that any of the candidates were truly worthy.

Members of the British punk rock band Sex Pistols, inducted in 2006, refused to attend the ceremony, calling the museum "a piss stain" and "urine in wine".

On March 14, 2007, two days after that year's induction ceremony, Roger Friedman of Fox News published an article claiming that The Dave Clark Five should have been the fifth inductee, as they had more votes than inductee Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The article went on to say "Jann Wenner used a technicality about the day votes were due in. In reality, The Dave Clark Five got six more votes than Grandmaster Flash. But he felt we couldn't go another year without a rap act."[

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame would later deny fixing the vote, although they did not deny that late votes were received, saying, "No. There is a format and rules and procedure. There is a specific time when the votes have to be in, and then they are counted. The bands with the top five votes got in." The Dave Clark Five was subsequently nominated again and then inducted the following year.

For what it's worth, I agree with Gene Simmons.

Run D.M.C. is not rock and roll.

Madonna is not rock and roll.

Donna Summer was not rock and roll.

But the whole tempest in a ballot box, while maybe a pleasant diversion of a chit chat at the water cooler for a day or two, is really nothing more than a pleasant diversion of a chit chat at the water cooler for a day or two.

Because the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is merely the musical equivalent of a rooty tooty snooty country club.

Notwithstanding, of course, the irony that although the hall ostensibly created to honor rock and roll stars is lousy with pop stars and rap stars and, probably, even an accordion star or two, nobody from country music has made it in.

Although, it's six to five and pick em' that it's only a matter of time.

Rumor has it that Jann Wenner is a big Luke Bryan fan.

Which makes it inevitable that, sooner or later, once again...

Gene Simmons will not be happy.

The difference then, of course, being that he'll be picking cow shit out of pepper.

And Kanye will still be publicly demanding that Kim be inducted.