|Posted on May 19, 2020 at 9:35 AM||comments (0)|
Happy Tuesday Ginchers,
Time once again for Tune In Tuesday and time for "Gimme the Mike"! Let's go back, the year is 2004, WPXI, Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center ... "Gimme the Mike, staring Jimmy McGuire! Ok, let me refresh your memory ... Gimmee the Mike was an American Idol style local TV show that took place at several cities across America; Salt Lake City, Detroit, New York, Jacksonville, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh. Contestants auditioned at Malls and were narrowed to 30 contestants. Each week 6 contestants would compete with a panel of three judges (I was one of the judges at Wheeling for the Pittsburgh TV version) for a 5 week period. There were also 5 alternates who would also compete for a slot in the finals. At the end of the competion there was a final of 6 contestants and the winner got to open up for Brooks & Dunn at the Post Gazette Pavillion and won a new Cadillac. For some reason, I was a judge on most of the recordings. My most memorable was judging with Anji Corley of WAMO and the master, Marvin Hamlisch, conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony and winner of just about every imaginal music award in existance. Our Host (Jimmy McGuire) for this program was Pittsburgh native and cast member of the popular TV Guiz show, JEOPARDY! Jimmy could be seen on Jeopardy every week as a member of the CLUE Crew and was charming as the MC for Gimme the Mike. I remember making the trip from Pittsburgh to Wheeling to tape the episodes and arriving at Wheeling Island only to be treated like royalty. A make up artist, food and beverage and a green room to socialize. It was a taste of the good life! I would love to see this kind of local programming again, it was good for business, it gave local talent a venue for competing and potential stardom and families came together to see their favorite contestant have a shot at the good life! When I was beginning my career in entertainment, we had battle of the bands at Malls and Amusement Parks and the Grandaddy of all competition was Ted Mack's Amatuer Hour ... but Gimme the Mic was a shot at being on Television, getting your face and name out to the massses. Thanks to WPXI for the opportunity ... Gimme the Mike ... and Jimmy McGuire for the fun!
|Posted on May 18, 2020 at 11:40 AM||comments (0)|
It's Mo'Music Monday ... "Do You Love Me?" ... The Contours! Who didn't dance to that record? Not only was it a hit for the Contours in 1962 but it was a hit for them again in 1988 after it appeared in the classic movie, "Dirty Dancing". Let's take a look at this Motown Group that kind of lived in the shadows of the Temptations and Four Tops. The Contours actually began as a singing group called the Blenders in Detroit, Michigan when Joe Billingslea and Billy Gordon added Billy Hoggs and Billy Rollins (who was soon replaced by Leroy Fair) and bass singer Hubert Johnson. Once the group was intact, they changed their name to the Contours. The story goes something like this: in 1960 the Contours auditioned for Berry Gordy and were turned down but Berry suggested they get together with Herbert Johnson's Cousin, Jackie Wilson. Jackie Wilson got the group another audition with Gordy and were signed to a contract. Their first record, "Whole Lotta Woman" did not chart and the group went through more personnel changes, Martha Reeves Brother, Benny Reeves replaced Leroy and soon Sylvester Potts replaced Benny. The group released their next record in 1962 "Do You Love Me" and the rest is Motown History. There were a lot of changes in the group over the years and some of the new members went on to be solo artists, the likes of Joe Stubbs (Brother of Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops) and Dennis Edwards (who went on to join the Temptations replacing David Ruffin). I/we had the pleasure of working with the Contours a few times and I even brought them into the Emerald Room to work with us. Through the years the group stayed with the Motown tradition of perfect choreography and style while perfoming on stage. Joe started the group and worked with the group as a Contour thru 2015. One fond memory I have of the Contours happened when my friend Shaun Pierce and I went to a re-union at the Rooster Tail to see the Contours perform. It was like a who's who of Motown and a soulful day that I will never forget. Through our friendship we had the pleasure of hanging with the group back stage and talking about the good old days of Motown ... I would go back to those magical days in a heartbeat. Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, God Bless!
|Posted on May 17, 2020 at 11:15 AM||comments (0)|
Good day Ginchers,
It's another Soul Sunday and as I prepare for my weekly radio show, Johnny Angel's Heavenly Soul Show on jukinoldies.com, I begin thinking about the music that touched my soul. My soul, there is that word again, soul music is the music that touches you soooo deeply, that it becomes part of you. One of the greatest soul singers of all time is the great Jerry Butler ... the Iceman ... I understood the nickname the first time I saw him perform as I stood in the wing off stage. Mr. Butler walks to the microphone almost like royalty, he doesn't dance on his way as so many other great soul singers do. He commands the control of his show by the way he adjusts his singing volume, louder or softer as needed. When he sings my favorite Jerry Butler song, Moon River, his stage manager conducts the lighting on stage and the blue haze fills the stage and a single pin spot hits the Iceman ... it is like watching poetry. Jerry Butler was born in Sunflower, Mississippi and grew up in Chicago. He was the original lead simger of the Impressions and had over 55 charted records as a solo artist. I had the honors of working with Jerry Butler, spent time with him at the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame and interviewed him on my radio show. Being in his presence was almost therapeutical, his voice is very calming and he has that delivery that makes you want to hear more of what he has to say. Jerry Butler was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and his recording of "For Your Precious Love" , which Jerry co-wrote, is ranked one of the Greatest 500 songs of All Time. I find it amazing that Jerry's younger Brother is also a legend in soul music, Mr. Billy Butler and I will elaborate on that in another blog. Jerry was dubbed the "Iceman" by Philadelphia disc jockey, Georgie Woods. The name stayed with Mr. Butler and even led to one of his greatest albums ... "The Iceman Cometh". Jerry Butler is truly one of the National Treasures of Soul and Pop music, he is a humanitarian who not only spent time on stage but also as a give back to community, serving as Commisioner for Cook County, Illinois. The Iceman cometh, he conquered and lives on in Cooolness! Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, God Bless!
|Posted on May 16, 2020 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
Good Evening Ginchers,
No School Satruday ... GREASE is the Word ... the New 50's Musical Comedy! When most of the younger people that I know think about Grease, they think about the Movie Grease with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John however, Grease the Broadway play happend years before the movie and John Travolta was not one of the stars. ... he was actually in the touring cast and played the part of Doody. I saw the original touring cast that had some soon to be big TV stars. Marilu Henner, from Taxi fame, played the role of Marty, Jeff Conaway from Taxi played Danny Zuko the part that Travolta later did in the movie, Michael Lembeck, from Room 222 and Love American Style and One Day at at a Time played Sonny and of coarse John Travolta as Doody who would go on to be the biggest star of them all. It played at the Nixon Theater in Pittsburgh February of 1973. For years the play was one of my all time favorites and image seeing it with future stars in the cast. I'll admit that I was not a big fan of the movie but then again I rarely like any movie that started as a hit play. As years went by, I had the opportunity and the pleasure to appear in seven different casts of the musical Grease. The first was for a local theater group at Comtra theater and then for the Robert Morris College run and I made a guest appearance in the Moon High School run. Right after that I had the pleasure of playing the role of Teen Angel for four more different runs of the play Grease at the Byham Theater in Pittsburgh. I watched the young and talented actors and actresses perform on stage with me and then watch their careers take off and many appeared on and off Broadway in New York. At two of the runs at the Byham I worked with old friends, who also made cameo appearances in the play. One year, John Burnett from KDKA, played Vince Fontaine the wild DJ and another year with Mike Frazer of 3WS, who also played the role of Vince Fontaine. Mike didn't have to do much acting since was already a wild and crazy DJ in real life. I played the role once again of Teen Angel. My fondest memory of playing the role was at Robert Morris College where they lowered me onto the stage on a motorized swing as I sang Beauty School Dropout. It worked great in rehearsals and Dress rehearsal but on opening night, half way down the motors burned out and I dropped three jerky times and then finally about 4 foot off the ground it just burned completely out. The audience roared and thought it was part of the play, I on the other hand found absolutley no humor in it at all. The next couple nights of the show they installed industrial type motors. After that performance I made sure that I walked down steps as Teen Angel, with the new weight, there are no industrial motors to support me! To this day, I love watching Grease... it is a classic 50's Musical Comedy ... Grease is the Word! Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, God Bless!
|Posted on May 15, 2020 at 9:50 AM||comments (0)|
Good day Ginchers,
Feature Friday has arrived and today I ask the question ... "Who Wrote That?" ... Leiber and Stoller, who else? Growing up in the 50's and 60's one of my necessities was the tansistor radio ... couldn't be without it ... why? ... Music, music, music! As I think back on those days and all the great records I heard for the first time, I realized that a majority of them were written and or produced by Jerry Leiber and Michael "Mike" Stoller. Here is but a small sample of their works; "Smokey Joe's Cafe", "There Goes My Baby", "Hound Dog", "Jailhouse Rock", "Love Potion #9", "Kansas City", "Yakety, Yak" and the list goes on and on! They launched "Red Bird" records in the early 60's that released some of the greatest "Girl Group" sounds and greatest classics from the famous Brill Building era. They formed "Sparks" records which was later purchased by Atlantic Records. Leiber was born in Baltimore, Maryland and Stoller in Long Island, New York and when they met, Stoller was playing piano and Leiber worked at Norty's record store. They both shared a passion for Blues and Rhythm and Blues and began writing some songs together. They lived a life similar to the Beatnik style and in the early 50's had some success writing for Charles Brown, Wilbert Harrison and Big Mama Thornton. They then had a string writing for Elvis Presley and the new Rock n' Roll sound artists like the Coasters and Drifters. The Leiber and Stoller story is deep and would take too many pages of writing to even scrape the surface so when you have time, pick up the book "Hound Dog, the Leiber and Stoller Autobiography ... it's a keeper! I met Jery Leiber and Mike Stoller at the premiere of their play, "Smokey Joe's Cafe" in Cleveland Ohio. I was invitied to their pre-show cast party and meet and greet. I had a love for their music so, as you now know me, I was loaded for bear with Leiber and Stoller questions. From this meeting I wished that I had met them in their prime, their thinking and responses were very well expressed and I kept thinking to myself these two gentlemen are actually Hip Beatniks living in a refined gentlemans, suit wearing, body! Their music is part of Rock N' Roll, Rhythm N' Blues History. They were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. If you are ever playing a rock n' roll trivia game and the question "Who wrote this song?" comes up ... odds are Leiber and Stoller were involved! Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy, help a friend when you can ... and, God Bless!
|Posted on May 14, 2020 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
Let's open up another Throw Back Thursday and throw back to the early days of Rock n' Roll. The mid 1950's was a time that Rock n' Roll was creating a giant stir, was it gonna last, was it obscene, will the governing powers put a halt on the movement, will young people go crazy listening to it? Well, songwriting team Leiber and Stoller didn't think so and during that period wrote some of the greatest classic records of the Rock n' Roll era for the greats, I'm talking about Elvis Presley and the Coasters. Let's take a closer look at the Coasters. The group began in the early 1950's as the Robins, a rhythm n' blues group that recorded Leiber & Stollers classic "Smokey Joe's Cafe". In 1956 Carl Gardner, a member of the Robins, left the group to start his own group called the Coasters with Bobby Nunn, Leon Hughes and Billy Guy. They had one of the greatest song writing teams in R&R history, once again Leiber & Stoller. In 1957 they charted with a two sided hit ... "Young Blood" the lead sung by Carl Gardner and "Searchin". They had some personnel changes and added the likes of Cornell Gunter and Dub Jones and hit once again with a string of records ... "Yakety Yak" with King Curtis laying down the famous Sax solo, "Charlie Brown" and "Poison Ivy". These great records could actually be the soundtrack of the late 1950's Rock N' Roll era. The Coasters and Carl Garnder were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987. These classic Rock n' Roll hits were definately my soundtrack of the 1950's hearing them everyday on our popular R&R radio stations. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Carl Gardner later in my music career. One of my fondest memories was singing backup for Carl when he and the Coasters were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. As always, I spent some quality time talking with the master of classic R&R roll records and like a sponge tried to hear everything about that era that Carl would throw at me. I later met Leiber & Stoller at their premier of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" play. What a memory meeting the guys who wrote the classics and the man who sang them. Rock n' Roll Royalty ... thanks Carl Gardner and Leiber & Stoller ... the memories live on in my head! Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, God Bless!
|Posted on May 13, 2020 at 10:20 AM||comments (0)|
Let's do another Wa'sup Wednesday and ask ourselves ... "Wa'sup with scary clowns?" Growing up in the 50's was soooo different than growing up in the 2000's. Let's take clowns for example. Back in the day, clowns were a primary source of comedy and cheering people up, especially little kids. Today clowns are a major source of scaring children and using them as a demonic symbols, such as in our horror movies today. When I was growing up, Bozo the Clown, Clarabelle with Howdy Doody and even Ronald McDonald was breaking on the scene ... fun, laughable, calming. Today all I need to say is "IT", and it scares the pants off of most young people. A Little history about clowns ... the "CLOWN" character developed out of the zanni, Rustic Fool characters of early acient Greek and Roman History. Buffoon characters, clumbsy characters, used to bring humor to the masses and cheer one up. In modern day society clowns were used in movies, TV, sitcoms, the circus, in commercials, at birthday parties and especially in parades to bring happiness to young people. This is what began my love for clowns. When my daughter was a baby, she had some medical complications and we had to take her to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. The Doctors, Nurses and Staff at Children's were incredible. My wife and I were so impressed with the way our daughter was treated that I had to do something to pay it forward. I asked if I could do something to contribute and they said, entertainers are always offering to help, usually around the Holidays ... but, the most needed time for entertainers is during regular days and regular hours and they are not always available. I said, "You know I always wanted to be a clown (no pun intended), so I'm gonna find out how to do it and will be back to spread some joy here at the Hospital". So, I attended some clown schools, read some clown books, helped to start the Tri-Rivers Clown Association here in da 'Burgh and became a registered, bonifide clown in the World Clown Association, known to all as "NOODLES the CLOWN!". I kept my promise and did numerous appearances at Children's Hospital over the years, especially in time of need. It was the most rewarding thing I ever did, bringing joy to children and families who were experiencing pain in their lives. I did this for years until I found skin Cancer and could no longer wear make-up. Yes, Johnny Angel, the singer and entertainer was actually a clown! That's probably why I don't get angry when someone calls me a clown ... it's actually a fine compliment! Over the years, I've made friends in the clown world and have found that the common denominator of most clowns is ... love of people and especially bringing joy to kids! Which is why I ask ... "Wa'sup with scary clowns!" Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can, be kind to clowns ... and, God Bless!
|Posted on May 12, 2020 at 1:40 PM||comments (0)|
Good Afternoon Ginchers,
Let's Tune In this Tuesday with some humor... one of my favorite commedians, Paul Rodriguez. Paul was raised in Compton, California and is best known for his Observational comedy, master of blue comedy, insult comedy and satire. Paul broke onto the scene in 1988 and reached National popularity in the 90's but I best remember him with his film "The Original Kings of Comedy" in 2002. Paul made appearances in several movies i.e.; "Blood Work" with Clint Eastwood, "Tortilla Soup", "Born In East L.A.", "Ali" and "D.C. Cab". In 2004 Comedy Central ranked Paul Rodriguez as one of the top 100 Greatest Standups of all time! I think the thing I love most about this man is his give back to his community and charity to people in general. He was given the "Humanitarian of the Year Award by the City of Fresno for his work in water conservation and is known for his charity work. I truly admire a person who gets to a height in their career where they can live the good life but instead of basking in the glory they give back to those who need help the most. My favorite memory of Paul Rodriguez happened right here in the City of Pittsburgh. We, Johnny Angel & the Halos, were performing a concert at the Point at Three Rivers in Pittsburgh. One of my friends from 3WS came into my dressing room and said, "hey Johnny there is someone here to see you." I came out to the back courtyard of the stage area and to my surprize ... "Paul Rodriguez!" He was in the 'Burgh doing some work and heard about the concert and wanted to hear some music ... I just had to get a picture with him and using his physical comedy style took one of my favorite pictures in my scrtapbook (see below). After some fun chatting back stage I went back to get ready for the concert and yes ... with a giant smile on my face. Thanks Paul, "laughter, it's good for the Soul!" Till tomorrow stay safe, stay heatlhy, help a neighbor when you can and ... God Bless!
|Posted on May 11, 2020 at 11:30 AM||comments (0)|
Happy new week Ginchers,
It's time for Mo' Music Monday and a salute to the great Ronnie Spector! I remember the first time I saw Ronnie Spector on T.V., it was admiration at first sight. She looked like a godess, sound like an angel and had that attitude of a Rebel. When she sang "Be My Baby", I thought she was singing it directly to me ... to this day, still one of my favorite songs. The Ronnettes were a family singing group made up of Veronica (Ronnie) Yvette and Estelle Bennett (Sisters) and their cousin Nedra Talley. They began singing in the greater New York region in the early 1960's. I remember talking with my friend Joey Dee around my dinning room table about all the famous people who were originally in his groups, members of the Rascals, Joe Pesci and even Jimmi Hendrix but he blew me away when he told me the Ronnettes actually were part of his troupe as dancers. The Ronnettes were originally signed to Colpix Records but were later signed by Phil Spector to Philles Records. Their relationship with Phil Spector produced the classic girl group sound with hits like "Be My Baby", "Baby I Love You" and "Walking In The Rain" ... their voices along with Phil's wall of sound became the sound of the times. The downfall of the group was when Ronnie married Phil and became Ronnie Spector instead of Ronnie Bennett. Phil became over protective of Ronnie and kept her as a possession rather than the star that she was. If you have a chance to read Ronnie's book "Be My Baby: How I Survived, Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness", take the time and learn the whole story. I remember the first time I worked with Ronnie Spector, I was smitten, I was actually star struck like no other National Artist has ever affected me. I had flashbacks of her singing "Be My Baby" directly to me on T.V., her look immediately explained why she was the "Bad Girl of Rock N' Roll!" I remember taking a copy of her book with me and while we were talking I asked Ronnie if she would sign it, she looked at me with that smile and said sure, as she kissed the first page leaving a lipstick imprint. That page is framed with some other Ronnie Spector collectibles and on exhibit at my Music Museum. Ronnie Spector was one of the most enjoyable artists I have ever been around, she talked freely about her ugly past with Phil Spector, about her meeting the Beatles and touring and especially about the early days of the girl groups. Ronnie spetor had a come back career after divorcing Phil Spector and many of the newer generation know her for her appearance with Eddie Money ... "Take Me Home Tongiht". Of all my memories of growing up with Rock n' Roll and Soul Music there are two songs that I would say influenced me more than any others ... "My Girl" by the Temptations and "I Can Hear Music" by the Ronnettes. Hearing Ronnie's voice on "I Can Hear Music" still makes the hair on my neck stand up! Ronnie Spector ... Bad Girl of Rock n' Roll ... thanks for the memories!!! Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can and ... God Bless!
|Posted on May 10, 2020 at 11:25 AM||comments (1)|
Good Day Ginchers,
Welcome to Soul Sunday and "Good Golly Mr. Richard!" Mr. Richard is, of coarse, Richard Wayne Penniman or better known to the worl as "Little Richard". We lost Little Richard yesterday and with his passing we lost another great music Icon responsible for the construction of Rock n' Roll. Richard was dubbed the Architect of Rock N'Roll and it is most fitting along with his fellow developers, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Jerry Lee Lewis ... sounds like a business ... a plaque shold be constructed at the entrance of Rock N' Roll Land ... you are entering the land of Rock N' Roll as built by; Richard, Berry, Bo & Lewis! Let's take a quick look at the life of Little Richard ... born Dember 5, 1932 in Macon, Georgia to a church going, religious family who had several preachers in the family. Richard grew up in the church where he sang and learned to play the piano. He was torn his whole life between Gospel music and the Devil's Music (Secular), soon to be called Rock N' Roll. At the age of only 14, Sister Rosetta Tharpe heard Richard singing one of her songs and had him open up for her. In his late teen years (1951) he signed with RCA records and recorded eight sides, none of which were hits. In 1953, he moved to Peacock Records and recorded eight more sides, formed the Temo Toppers and worked with Johnny Otis. In 1954, Richard tiring of the ups and downs of the business took on a job as the dishwasher for the Greyhound Bus lines and formed a new band called the Upsetters. In 1955, at the suggestion of Lloyd Prive he sent a demo to Specialty Records and later that year recorded the classic "Tutti Frutti" ... and the rest is Rock and Roll History! I have fond memories of meeting and talking with Little Richard several times during my career. His stories were exciting and he always felt that he was one of the major contributors to Rock N' Roll. Richard was the whole package ... he played the piano like no one's business, he sang with conviction, he owned his stage and his entertaining qualities were second to none. He was one of the first to use make up and outlandish costumes on the stage and with his hard driving band and music left everyone in a frenzy. I remember seeing Richard back stage at the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, he looked tired and in pain and actually limped to the piano but once he hit that magic spot, he transformed into a teenager with more energy than anyone I had ever seen before. I worked with Richard at the Porky Chedwick 50 Year Concert at Three Rivers Stadium and took many pictures from the back of the stage looking out at the audience. It felt like the scene from the movie the Wizard of Oz when dorothy landed the house and walked out into the wonderful world of color! Richard was bigger than life when he walked onto a stage and all I can say is ... "Good Golly Mr. Richard!" and "thanks for helping to build the world of Rock N' Roll! Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can and ... God Bless!