Just before dawn on June 6, 2019 one of music’s most talented and colorful musicians, Malcom John Rebennack, died of a heart attack. His friends from the Crescent City knew him as Mac. The rest of the world knew him as Dr. John.
Before it was fashionable to create an alter ego, Dr John became the night tripper. He wore the garb of the Creoles of New Orleans and spread his magic dust known as Gris-Gris. The character was loosely based on a real person named Dr John who was sort of Voodoo medicine man and healer.
Dr. John was one of the best interviews that I ever did. He was funny and developed his own hip way of talking. In addition, he had a wealth of stories to tell and didn’t mind relating any and all of them. I could have listened to him for hours. It seemed like there was no one that he didn’t play with or know personally.
Unlike last year’s Philadelphia Bar Association’s race that was held in a downpour, the sun was bright and the skies were clear. It appeared to have drawn a record group who seemed to be full of spirit for a very good cause.
The race which benefits the Support Center for Child Advocates is held every year on the third Sunday in May. For the past several years T. Morgan has served as the Grand Marshall for the event. He was at the finish line helping with the prizes and posing for pictures. Below see the pictures of those who won prizes. Hopefully we got all the names right. Please let us know if there was a mistake and we will be happy to correct it.
You can see pictures for the previous few years by going to the News & Events section. We hope this will encourage some of you to take part next year.
The only sad part of the day was that it was the last time that the man who started the event 40 years ago, is stepping down as the race director. Manny Pokotilow has worked very hard to make this annual race a huge success. It will be very hard to fill his shoes. We all want to thank him for his service over those forty years.
Broadcast Pioneers Tribute to WMGK Featured
Hear T. Morgan talk about this event on his latest podcast by clicking here!
At their monthly luncheon held on May 15, 2019 The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia at the Bala Golf Club, there was a tribute to one of Philadelphia’s most popular and successful stations since 1975. The highlight was a panel of present and past on air talent.
Sadly, the event was scheduled to be televised, but owning to technical issues, it was not. Audio of the entire panel will be available in a couple weeks on the BP website. Those on the T. Morgan mailing list will receive a notice when it becomes available.
The MC for the event was T. Morgan who is celebrating 28 years at WMGK this month. The panel consisted of current afternoon DJ Andre Gardner, Mike Bowe who did afternoons for many on the station, Harvey of Harvey in the morning, Sue Serio former night jock, and Bob Craig former program director.
At 6’7” in a rock world where the average height is well below six foot, John Baldry had the most natural nick name of “Long John”. He was a big man in many other ways as well.
While almost totally unknown by the average rock fan in the USA, Baldry was a key figure in the development of the British Rock scene. In my conversations with both Rod Stewart and Elton John, they gave Long John credit for developing their careers.
Baldry discovered Stewart singing in the street for change. He brought him into his band at the time. Later he brought Elton into another band. Elton had been playing on cover records of current hits that were sold at a cut rate price in super markets and drug stores. Since they sounded exactly like the originals, people would buy them to save money.
The first time I met Father Jim Drucker was at the Broadcast Pioneers lunch a few years ago. I thought to myself -now that is different. I had never seen a priest at one of our lunches. I didn’t know just how different until he approached me and introduced himself.
I knew the name Jim Drucker from listening to radio in Scranton, PA. Jim Drucker was on air at WARM. Virtually everyone who lived in the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Area listened to WARM. There wasn’t even a close second at the time. Their signal was such that the entire NE PA could listen, and they certainly did. With such a large percentage of the population listening, WARM had more listeners than many top forty stations in much larger markets. If you were on the air at WARM, you had to be good. Some of the DJs on the air were certainly an influence on me.
There’s very little doubt in anyone’s mind that the British Invasion that took place in the United States was spearheaded by The Beatles. They were closely followed by the Rolling Stones. Both groups certainly earned the recognition and the place in rock music history that they are rightfully given.
One group that has not been given the credit that they deserve is The Yardbirds. When they are mentioned, it is almost always in the context of the famous guitarists who first established their reputation while being members of the band.
The Yardbirds were much more than Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. In 1963 other members of the group helped make this band a major influence on so many bands that followed.
Back to almost the dawn of teen idols in Rock ‘n’ Roll, every record company was looking for another Elvis Presley. Here in Philadelphia Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Bobby Rydell were not Elvis, but they were teen heartthrobs that did rather well on the charts.
At that same time a young man who was born in the small town of Cut Off, LA was signed to Ace Records. Jimmy Clanton was very much into the music in nearby New Orleans. “Fats” Domino, Professor Longhair, and Huey “Piano” Smith were among the many Crescent City stars that influenced Jimmy. Another big influence was the smooth style of R & B star Johnny Ace (who didn’t record for Ace Records). The Clanton sound was a cross between the R & B sound of the city and that of the other teen idols.
In this edition of unsung heroes we again salute another man behind the glass. Tom Dowd is another name that is much overlooked when people even bother to look at the credits on a record.
Tom was born in Manhattan in 1925. Music was in the blood of Tom Dowd. His father was a concertmaster. That was the title given to the leader of a given orchestral section. His mother was an opera singer. Tom was taught music at an early age and was the master at the piano, tuba, violin and string bass by the time he was in high school.
Music wasn’t the only subject hat Tom excelled in while in school. He was excellent in every subject but really excelled in science. His exceptional abilities allowed him to graduate from high school at age 16. He continued to study music CCNY, while also studying Physics at Columbia. He also played in a band (before long he was their leader) and worked in the Physics lab at Columbia.
Some call Bob Dylan the greatest songwriter of all time. You certainly can argue that he is one of the best songwriters of the Rock era. No one has won more awards or been honored as much as Dylan. Is there an honor that hasn’t he hasn’t awarded at this point?
You certainly can’t dismiss the volume of music that Bob has written and released over his career. It is very easy to lose track of how many albums and singles he has released since the start of his debut in 1961. No other songwriter has had more other artists do covers of their songs.
With all that music it is easy to have overlooked some of his best singles. Dylan wrote and recorded so many great songs during the mid- sixties that he even admits are beyond his abilities to write today. Of course, he has reinvented himself so many times that his song writing has changed. These changes make it possible for him to have had such a successful career and sustain it over many decades.
Most of us had a job or two before settling in to our life’s work. Very often these jobs were not the most desirable ways to earn money. My least favorite job that I had growing up was cleaning oil burners. It is very hard for me to imagine a dirtier occupation. I think I am still trying to clean off some of the dirt that clings to my body like glue.
We sometimes think that rock stars somehow lead a charmed life and never did anything other than be on stage. Well, most rock stars also had a job prior to making it in the music business. Some had jobs that were pretty far removed from playing music.
It is very hard to imagine that John McVie was a tax inspector prior to becoming a member of first John Mayall’s blues Breakers and then Fleetwood Mac. He trained for the job and it was such a secure occupation that he had to be talked into giving up his “day job”.
Sixty years ago I was too young to be really close to anyone who had died. Life at that young age does seem to be almost endless. Of course it isn’t but I was fortunate enough to have not known any tragedies at that stage of my life.
Then on February 3, 1959 an event took place that shook up my life. Like Don McClean, who made a name for himself with the epic “American Pie”, I read about it in the newspaper. In a huge, bold front page headline it told the chilling story. Three of the biggest rock stars of the day were killed when a plane crashed in cold Iowa field. The news froze my blood. I cut out the headlines and the story and still have them to this day.
No, I didn’t know the three performers, but I felt very close to them because of their music. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were on a tour of the Midwest went their plane apparently had engine trouble and fell from the sky. The news hit me as if I had lost my best friend.
Anyone who has listened to the radio with any degree of frequency has heard the DJ refer to an artist or group as a one hit wonder. You may have wondered what exactly constitutes that designation.
The first thing is that it depends on what your definition of a “one hit wonder” is. Apparently Billboard Magazine, the bible for the industry for many years, considers a song to be a hit when it makes it into the Billboard top forty charts.
With that as the criteria, an astounding number of “superstars” were one hit wonders. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Lou Reed, The Buffalo Springfield, Patti Smith, Dr John and Randy Newman are good examples. The reason of course is that they were all part of the transition from 45s being the marker for stardom to albums. While these “superstars” sold millions of albums, they didn’t do well in the singles market.
Part Two in a series. For Part One, click here.
Big Brother & The Holding Company
The first time I met Janis Joplin was when I was the MC for her first concert ever in Philadelphia. It was held on the U of Penn campus in their Irvine Auditorium. Also on the bill was Philadelphia’s own Soul Survivors and Edison Electric. Oddly, Edison Electric went on last.