Friday, March 11, 2016

RIP Keith Emerson

The E in ELP (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) is gone at the age of 71. It appears to be a suicide--gunshot to the head.

Emerson was the amazing keyboardist of progressive rock's ELP. Here he is on Letterman's show in 1986...

He's Baaaack!

Garry Meier's podcast begins tomorrow (March 12)

Robert Feder has the details.

Say it ain't so, Cesar

The dog whisperer Cesar Millan, my go-to-guy when I have Ivy (photo) problems, is being investigated for animal cruelty.

WGN has the story.

Luckily the animal in question is not a dog. It's a pig. But still...


Wiener Circle

The classic Chicago hot dog joint "The Wiener Circle" has outdone itself this weekend. They are selling Donald Trump foot-longs this weekend. The punchline is that the hot dogs are only three inches long. (Gotta love it)

(Photo: DNAinfo)

Johnny Kaempfer

Son #2 turns 18 years old tomorrow. Big week for the lad. He turned in his final Eagle Scout requirements on Monday. Very proud of Johnny Kaempfer.

Carpool Karioke Goes Primetime

James Corden's Carpool Karioke bit has become so popular (viral), that Corden is trying to create an entire show around it. (Details are here.) To increase interest, CBS is giving Corden a prime-time special.

Viral is a magic word these days. If you're viral, baby, you can sell anything...until you're not viral anymore.

The Who

The old boys still got it. Enjoyed the show at the United Center last night very much...

Behind Blue Eyes


Pinball Wizard

Love Reign Oer Me

I'm a Loser

Baba O'Reilly

Join Together

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Rush Calls it Quits

Sad news. Rush is one of the great rock and roll bands. Neil Peart is no longer well enough (arthritis) to tour.

Details are here.

This song was the anthem to my senior year of high school. Rocked it hard and loud many many times...

The Day the Earth Shook for the Cubs

March 10, 1933

On this day in 1933, the Cubs were playing in Wrigley Field in Los Angeles (Wrigley West), and experienced the downside of conducting their spring training in California. During an exhibition game between the Cubs and Giants, a substantial earthquake occurred. Players from both teams huddled around second base until the tremors stopped.

The earthquake caused serious damage from Los Angeles south to Laguna Beach. Property damage was estimated at $40 million, and 115 people were killed. The earthquake was felt almost everywhere in the 10 southern counties of California. (Photo: The CSU Dominguez Hills Archives and Special Collections – South Bay Photography Collection)

Players on those two teams included Cubs Hall of Famers Gabby Hartnett, KiKi Cuyler & Billy Herman, and Giants Hall of Famers Mel Ott, Bill Terry, and Carl Hubbell.

The Giants didn’t seem too affected by the quake. They went on to win the National League and then beat the Senators in the World Series, 4 games to 1. The Cubs finished in third, six games back.

Free Excerpt from Records Truly Is My Middle Name: The Dixie Chicks

On this day in 2003, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines made a statement about being embarrassed to be from the same state as the president of the United States (George W. Bush). That comment (made during a concert in England) sparked a firestorm here in this country. Dixie Chicks records were burned, they were banned from all country music stations, their career was endangered, and though we didn't know it at the time--our careers (John Landecker's & mine) were endangered too. John told that story in his book "Records Truly Is My Middle Name"...

I’ve always been into political satire, ever since the 1970s when I was doing Nixon, and doing parody records about the politicians, but I never really got into the politics of it — only the humor. I never really got into serious political issues.


But there was one incident that happened toward the end of my ten year run at WJMK that was significant to me, because for the first time in my career, I felt motivated to do something about free speech.

Here’s what happened. In the aftermath of 9/11, I decided to play the Star Spangled Banner at the beginning of every morning show. However, I didn’t want your normal radio station standard Star Spangled Banner, and I couldn’t find one done by an oldies artist, because quite frankly, all of them sucked. But then, lo and behold, the Dixie Chicks did the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl. It was perfect; beautiful three part harmony. Awesome! We had our regular sign-on song.

We played it every morning and it sounded fantastic. But then there was an incident with the Dixie Chicks. If you don’t remember, they were doing a concert in London and they said they were ashamed that George Bush was from their home state of Texas. Country music stations across the country banned them for this comment — they were burning their records — and right-wing talk radio stations were criticizing and vilifying the Dixie Chicks 24 hours a day.

And here we were playing their version of the National Anthem every morning at 5:30. But we never said on the air: “Here are the Dixie Chicks.” We never identified them on the air as the Dixie Chicks. Not once. Not ever. And I saw no reason to take this song off the air. We had been doing it for months. It’s the Star Spangled Banner! Why stop? Nobody had complained about it to me, and I talked to the listeners on the phone every single day.

Apparently, unbeknownst to me, there were a few complaints to the program director. I never found out how many, but I’ll never forget how I found out there were any at all. This program director was new to the station and was having a meeting with us, revamping our show (yet again). There was nothing new about this; program directors, general managers, and consultants had come and gone and revamped our show a million times. He started the meeting by asking us what we did on the show.

“Well,” I said, “We come out of the first record and play the Star Spangled Banner.”

“What version of the Star Spangled Banner?” he asked.

“The Dixie Chicks,” I said.

“Aha!” he said. “That’s where the complaints came from. You can’t play the Star Spangled Banner by the Dixie Chicks.”

Now this wasn’t about lewd comments, dirty jokes, bodily functions, or any of the usual complaints I had gotten in my career. This was something completely different. This was about being ordered to desist playing the Star Spangled Banner. The National friggin Anthem.

“I don’t know if I can do that,” I said.

Wellllll, a bomb went off in that room. I mean, it was a nuclear blast.

This program director lost it more than any other program director I’ve had in my life, and listen — I’ve been around. I’ve never seen or heard a more out of control, vindictive program director ever, and I’ve had more program directors than I can count. He was out of his mind. He was turning red. The veins were popping out in his neck. He was screaming at me!

“If you play it again,” he screamed. “You’re fired.”

I began to get out of the chair, and he added: “And if you get out of that chair, you’re fired!”

Even in the midst of this heated confrontation, I knew what was going on here. If I left that room at that moment, I would have been walking away from a potential severance package. So, I crossed my arms in front of me and said “I’m not leaving this chair.”

I don’t even want to get into what happened the rest of that day. It was tumultuous. It involved agents. It involved screaming on the phone. It was bad. By the time it was over, I decided that it just wasn’t worth it. That kind of stance wasn’t really the kind of thing I did on my show. But I must admit, that next morning when we came in to do the show, my producer Rick and I talked about it again, and we did seriously consider playing it again, because it just didn’t feel right to stop. Plus, we knew that this new management team didn’t like us, and more than likely wouldn’t be renewing us in a few months anyway, so, wouldn’t this be an honorable way to go out?

At the last second we decided not to do it. We played a different, lamer version of the song. And sure enough, a few months later the station opted not to renew our contracts.

The next time the Dixie Chicks came into town for a concert, I went backstage and met them, and told them the story, and they all autographed their famous Entertainment Weekly cover for me.

I still have it on my wall in my home office.

George Martin with Brian Wilson

You see a little of the genius of both men in this clip...

Game of Thrones

I'm not a huge fan of the show, but apparently I'm one of the few. The trailer for the new season was just posted by HBO yesterday and already has 27 million views...

Trump Staffer Roughs Up Reporter

This is not a liberal reporter making the claim. It's a Breitbart reporter and Fox News Contributor.

The rough-up-er was Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. The rough-up-ee was Michelle Fields.

From TV Newser...

A witness told Politico Lewandowski “forcibly grabbed” Fields on the arm, “moving her out of the way and nearly bringing her down to the ground.” The witness said Fields was “clearly roughed up.”

Breitbart News has released a statement, calling the incident “unacceptable” and demanding an apology:

“It’s obviously unacceptable that someone crossed a line and made physical contact with our reporter. What Michelle has told us directly is that someone “grabbed her arm” and while she did not see who it was, Ben Terris of the Washington Post told her that it was Corey Lewandowski. If that’s the case, Corey owes Michelle an immediate apology.” – Larry Solov, Breitbart News CEO and President

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

My Brush with George Martin

The famed Beatles producer, Sir George Martin, passed away yesterday at the age of 90. I met and spoke with Sir George on the radio via satellite in the mid-90s. This is my story...

Sir George Martin is an icon in the music business. If he had done nothing else in his career, the fact that he was the producer of every Beatles album except “Let it Be” would have been enough to cement his place in rock and roll history.

His contributions to the Beatles were significant. He helped the four of them get the most of their extraordinary talents, and played an important role in creating that famous Beatles sound. He was their mentor, and they were my heroes.

When I received a phone call in December of 1995 alerting me to George Martin’s availability for radio interviews to promote the Beatles Anthology project, I was speechless for a moment. I cleared my throat, booked the interview, and bounced off the walls for twenty minutes or so before I told the host of the show—John Landecker. I wasn’t prepared for John’s reaction.

You should interview him,” he said.

“Why me?” I asked. “It’s your show.”

“Because you’re the Beatles fanatic,” he said. “I want you to do it.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but John had a master plan. He figured his normally unflappable German producer would turn into a stuttering, stammering fool if he was forced to interview one of his heroes. In John's mind, that had much more potential than a straight interview.

When he started promoting the interview a few days later, he laid it on pretty thick to make me even more nervous.

“Don’t blow this Rick,” he said. “There are millions of Beatles fans in Chicago, and since we’re the only station that gets to interview him, you have to speak for all of them.”


Outwardly I wasn’t showing it, but it was getting to me. I called all of my Beatles friends across the country and asked them to submit questions to me. I carefully considered each of them, crossed off the ones that seemed “too inside” or “too geeky,” and prepared diligently. I knew we only had ten minutes with him, so I couldn’t waste a moment with frivolous questions.

The morning of the interview I came to the studio with a list of questions in my cold sweaty hands.

When the hot-line rang to alert us that Mr. Martin was standing by at his microphone in London, the color left my face.

“Look at Rick,” John joked. “He’s white as a ghost.”

“Am not,” I said. My voice cracked.

John couldn’t stop laughing. “Maybe I better start the interview,” he said. “Sir George…are you with us?”

We couldn’t hear anything for a moment and then there he was. His lovely British accent responded: “Hello, John. How are you this morning?”

“I’m great,” John said. “I hope you don’t mind, but we’re going to do something a little different this morning. My producer Rick is a gigantic Beatles fan, and he badgered me to let him do this interview, so I’m turning it over to him now. THis will be fun--Producer interviewing Producer. Sir George Martin, this is Rick.”

He was silent for a moment again before answering politely: “Hello Rick.”

I almost fainted. I realize how pathetic this sounds in retrospect, but I don’t think I can find the proper words to explain how excited and nervous I was to be speaking with this man.

George Martin was the producer of the Beatles! He had been sitting across the glass from John Lennon when he sang “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Hell, he pieced that song together for Lennon, and made suggestions, and…oh my God…I could barely breathe.

It didn’t help that John Landecker was rolling on the floor laughing at me, but I ventured on. I knew I would impress Sir George with my knowledge of the Beatles. I knew he would warm to me instantly when he heard my insightful questions. So I launched right into them.

That’s the last thing I remember.

No, actually, that’s not entirely true. I do remember his response to my first question—even though I don’t remember the question itself.

Total silence.

That’s when I started flop-sweating. I lost all my confidence instantly. If I had my wits about me I would have realized that his silence was caused by the slight satellite delay, but I was too far gone by then. The only thing going through my mind was… “YOU IDIOT! HOW COULD YOU HAVE ASKED HIM THAT STUPID QUESTION? HE’S ICING YOU, AND YOU DESERVE IT, YOU WORTHLESS EXCUSE FOR A HUMAN BEING!”

He eventually answered me, but I didn’t even listen to his answer. I just waited for his silence, and then squeaked out another question.

After my second or third question, Landecker jumped in to rescue me.

John loved every second of the experience. I needed an IV to replenish my fluids.

When I listened back to the interview a few days later, I realized it really wasn’t that bad. Of course, that interview never aired again.

The real interview was forever replaced by John’s version of what the interview sounded like in Rick's mind. He had our technical producer Vince edit out my parts of the interview, and replace them with his impersonation of a stuttering and stammering Rick. That became the George Martin interview that was replayed on the air a dozen or more times over the years.

I was eventually able to laugh about it.

But I can admit it now. I’m the Bill Buckner of Beatles interviewers.

Mitt Romney Reads Mean Donald Trump Tweets

Dos Equis Retiring Most Interesting Man in the World

Say it isn't so, USA Today!

I'm still reeling from the disappearance of Bud's Real Men of Genius, and now this.

When it is raining, it is because he is sad...

George Martin & James Bond

It probably wouldn't surprise you to learn that George Martin produced the title track to the James Bond "Live and Let Die". It's still the greatest Bond song ever...

But did you know that he also produced the second greatest Bond song ever? Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey. It's true...

And the answer ain't "more guns"

Hillary's E-mails

I think this opening paragraph in the Washington Post article about Hillary's e-mails (written by Ruth Marcus) is a grabber...

For those of you salivating — or trembling — at the thought of Hillary Clinton being clapped in handcuffs as she prepares to deliver her acceptance speech at the Democratic convention this summer: deep, cleansing breath. Based on the available facts and the relevant precedents, criminal prosecution of Clinton for mishandling classified information in her emails is extraordinarily unlikely.

The whole article is a pretty sane (and fair) analysis of the situation. Basically the conclusion is that the use of the e-mail server was stupid, but not criminal.

iHeart is about to iMplode

The biggest radio company in the world, iHeart media--formerly Clear Channel, is on the verge of disaster. I've written previously about their ridiculous debt. I've always warned that one day the chicken has to come home to roost. That day may be coming VERY soon according to this morning's Tom Taylor NOW column...

iHeart can’t kick the can down the road any more – It owes too much. Some bondholders claim the company recently violated some covenants and triggered an “event of default.” That was Monday, and iHeart dashed to State District Court in San Antonio and sued the bondholders. It’s asking for a declaratory judgment that it’s not in default, and requesting temporary and permanent injunctions “to fully protect our rights.” Will that work, though? By selling off some assets (broadcast towers, some outdoor assets) and exchanging some debt for new high-interest notes, the company thought it had bought enough time to get to 2018, when there’s a real crunch - like over $1 billion due in 2018 and another $8.3 billion in 2019. This year only about $193 million worth of notes mature. But the company’s recent trick of contributing 100 million shares of Class B stock of its Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings subsidiary to a new subsidiary named “Broader Media” (February 4 NOW) ticked off some bondholders. Collectively, they own more than 25% of iHeart’s priority guarantee notes, and they’re the ones who filed Notices of Default.

RIP George Martin

He really was the 5th Beatle; as important to the band as any other member. RIP George Martin, gone at the age of 90. Ringo tweeted this last night...

Paul McCartney tweeted this...

He wrote this in tribute to him at

I’m so sad to hear the news of the passing of dear George Martin. I have so many wonderful memories of this great man that will be with me forever. He was a true gentleman and like a second father to me. He guided the career of The Beatles with such skill and good humour that he became a true friend to me and my family. If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George. From the day that he gave The Beatles our first recording contract, to the last time I saw him, he was the most generous, intelligent and musical person I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

It’s hard to choose favourite memories of my time with George, there are so many but one that comes to mind was the time I brought the song 'Yesterday’ to a recording session and the guys in the band suggested that I sang it solo and accompany myself on guitar. After I had done this George Martin said to me, "Paul I have an idea of putting a string quartet on the record". I said, “Oh no George, we are a rock and roll band and I don’t think it’s a good idea”. With the gentle bedside manner of a great producer he said to me, "Let us try it and if it doesn’t work we won’t use it and we’ll go with your solo version". I agreed to this and went round to his house the next day to work on the arrangement.

He took my chords that I showed him and spread the notes out across the piano, putting the cello in the low octave and the first violin in a high octave and gave me my first lesson in how strings were voiced for a quartet. When we recorded the string quartet at Abbey Road, it was so thrilling to know his idea was so correct that I went round telling people about it for weeks. His idea obviously worked because the song subsequently became one of the most recorded songs ever with versions by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and thousands more.

This is just one of the many memories I have of George who went on to help me with arrangements on 'Eleanor Rigby', 'Live and Let Die' and many other songs of mine.

I am proud to have known such a fine gentleman with such a keen sense of humour, who had the ability to poke fun at himself. Even when he was Knighted by the Queen there was never the slightest trace of snobbery about him.

My family and I, to whom he was a dear friend, will miss him greatly and send our love to his wife Judy and their kids Giles and Lucy, and the grandkids.

The world has lost a truly great man who left an indelible mark on my soul and the history of British music.

God bless you George and all who sail in you!


You can hear the string quartet in Eleanor Rigby below...

George also added/improvised the keyboard solo in the middle one of my favorite Beatles songs, "In My Life"...

Huge, huge loss to the musical world.

RIP Sir George.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Free Excerpt from The Daly News: Commentary March 8, 1972

Some of the treasures in Joel Daly's book "The Daly News" are the television commentaries he sprinkled throughout the book. Joel delivered nightly commentaries on Channel 7 News for a decade, and it just happened to be the most tumultuous decade of all-time. This is his commentary from March 8, 1972; a time when bombings were becoming commonplace worldwide--including Chicago. This particular commentary led to death threats that were so specific, Joel checked his car for bombs every night before driving home.

Commentary - March 8, 1972

Some powder, a fuse and a spark…such are the basics of a bomb. But of what is the bomber made?

Without courage or compassion, without feeling or concern, the bomber is foremost and first…the worst kind of coward!

With his pliers and wires and cheap little clocks, he’s a shadow of a man with “little boy” thoughts.

Playing hide-and-seek with people’s lives, he’s less likely to be feared than despised.

Some powder, a fuse and a spark…how simple to build a bomb…how difficult to understand the bomber.

He knows not his victims; how many or why. They may be innocent, unsuspecting, but still they may die.

Coward! Coward! Who would kill without cause: shoppers in Belfast; passengers in tourist-class.

Coward! And cursed, that person who would threaten, extort and indiscriminately destroy for money, vainglory, a red glow in the sky.

Sick minds, it’s true, feed on headlines, drool at the damage and laugh at the frightened. But, we cannot ignore nor defer the fact that madmen walk our streets; the worst of assassins, paranoid and plotting.

Some powder, a fuse and a spark. These are the basics of a bomb, but of what is the bomber made?

He is hollow, without soul, an empty shell. The bomber is humanity’s “dud”.

International Woman's Day

Today is "International Woman's Day". Obviously, it's the perfect day to feature Charo.

Ted Cruz: Bad Lip Reading

A few laugh out loud moments here...

Another Farewell

Rick: I'm not going to another Who farewell show. I've been to five of them over the past few decades. I read Pete's book. He admits they are just a money grab. He uses that money to buy nicer boats.

(Sfx: Phone buzzes)

There's a facebook message from an old friend. "Rick, I have an extra ticket to the Who on Thursday night. Are you up for it?"

Rick: Yes.

I hope Pete enjoys his new boat.

Q&A with Dobie Maxwell

Chicago Now talks to Eckhartz Press author Dobie Maxwell about his career and his book "Monkey in the Middle"

You can read it here.

I Pledge to Trump

Funny. Thanks so much to "KB" for this one...

Driving with a Tree

I've been drunk before. But I've never been this drunk...

More Lou

Lou Manfredini's contract at WGN has been extended. From Radio Ink this morning...

The new deal with Lou Manfredini runs through December 31, 2020. Manfredini began his career at WGN in 1995 as a guest on the Bob Collins Show when he was given the nickname “Mr. Fix It.” He continues to answer listeners’ home improvement questions on The Mr. Fix-It Show, which is the #1 Saturday morning radio program in Chicago.


From Tom Taylor's NOW Column...

1 in 5 Americans is into podcasting...and Edison’s Tom Webster says podcasting “is growing, and growing fast. The percentage of Americans 12+ who say they have listened to a podcast in the last month is 21%, up from 17% last year.” Webster says “That increase is some of the largest growth for the medium that we have observed in more than a decade of our podcast research, and represents an estimated 57 million Americans.”

A new podcast will be arriving on the landscape in the coming weeks. My Eckhartz Press co-publisher David Stern and I have been signed to do one (not a joke). Details will be announced soon. They are coming to set up the equipment in my house tomorrow.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Randy Meisner's Wife Shot

From the website, this news about former Eagles member Randy Meisner's wife...

The wife of founding Eagles member Randy Meisner has been found shot to death at the couple’s home, according to multiple news sources. It’s unclear how Lana Rae Meisner was killed on Sunday (March 6) in Studio City, Calif. An investigation is on-going.

Randy Meisner, 69, told police that his wife was shot by accident as she searched for something in the closet, according to RadarOnline. Still unconfirmed is whether he has been arrested in connection with the death. Page Six reported that a suspect was taken into custody, though the individual has not yet been identified.

Read the whole article here. It doesn't sound good for Meisner. There were lots of domestic issues there.

UPDATE: The New York Daily News is now saying police confirm it was an accident.

Book Release Party

Come on out next Monday and join us!

Happy Pulaski Day

Today is Kasimir Pulaski day, which is a big deal to Chicago’s large Polish population. There have been exactly five players in big league history who were born in Poland, and one of them played for the Cubs.

His EVERY CUB EVER entry from Just One Bad Century is listed below…

~Moe Drabowsky 1935 (Cubs 1956-1960)
Moe was born in Poland, and was a hot young gun pitcher for the Cubs in the late 50s. His best season with the Cubs was probably 1957, when he won 13 games as a 22-year-old for a very bad Cubs team. He never lived up to that in the proceeding years, so the Cubs eventually gave up on him. He later pitched for the Braves, Athletics, and Reds in the early 60s, but really found a home in Baltimore. Moe became a key part of the bullpen for two World Series champions Orioles teams in 1966 and 1970. He beat Don Drysdale to win Game 1 of the 1966 World Series. Moe ended up pitching 17 years in the big leagues. (Photo: Topps 1961 Baseball Card)

The other 4 Polish-born players were Elmo Valo (who played 20 seasons in the big leagues, mostly with the A’s), Nap Kloza who played for the Browns, and Henry Peploski and Johnny Reder, who both played one season in Boston.

Life Behind the Camera

The new website of Eckhartz Press author Chuck Quinzio for his book "Life Behind the Camera" is up and running.

I think this book is our most unappreciated gem...a truly memorable recounting of Chuck's 30 plus years as a local news cameraman.

Check it out here.

Lovie Smith at Illinois?

The University of Illinois fired their head football coach over the weekend (the first move by the new athletic director), and word is that former Bears coach Lovie Smith has been hired to take his place. Not sure how I feel about this one. On the one hand, Lovie is a twice-failed NFL coach. On the other hand, Illinois hasn't been able to recruit legitimate coaches there in the past twenty years.

Barry Rozner of the Daily Herald put it this way in his column this morning...

It takes most college coaches several years to put a system in place and bring in the talent necessary to be successful. If Smith sticks around that long, he might just elevate Illinois football to a place that is something less than a campus humiliation.

In the meantime, Illinois football is no longer irrelevant.

That's something, anyway.

UPDATE: They have been moving fast in Champaign. Here's the new banner ad...

Historic Presidency

Thanks to "JD" for this one...

John Rook 1969

This incredible video is from 1969. It's a sales-tool used by WLS Radio in those days to explain to advertisers the theory and appeal behind WLS. Fascinating in retrospect. Also makes me think that working for John Rook (who passed away last week) would have been a little scary. Sounds a bit like a control freak. (On the other hand, Larry Lujack said Rook was the best program director he ever worked for, so I suppose if Larry could handle him, he couldn't have been too bad.)

The film is voiced by Clark Weber. (H/t to Robert Feder who posted this video in his column this morning)

P.S. The music absolutely blows, too. Think of the great music that was out in 1969, and then listen to the music in this video. Yikes.