It was a tough year on so many people around the world. We lost 7 fellow Hall of Famers from our tight knit club. They will never be forgotten. Wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy, and better 2021. (📸:@MLB ) pic.twitter.com/yKFNVAUekF— Fergie Jenkins (@fergieajenkins) December 31, 2020
Musings, observations, and written works from the publisher of Eckhartz Press, the media critic for the Illinois Entertainer, co-host of Minutia Men, Minutia Men Celebrity Interview and Free Kicks, and the author of "Back in the D.D.R", "EveryCubEver", "The Living Wills", "$everance," "Father Knows Nothing," "The Radio Producer's Handbook," "Records Truly Is My Middle Name", and "Gruen Weiss Vor".
Thursday, December 31, 2020
This week we talk to Mr. Shoe, author Ryan Trembath ("Signature Shoes"): https://t.co/Z0YkKMTicZ— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 31, 2020
End of an Era
Today is the only day that everyone legal to drink in the USA was born in the 1900s and everyone too young to drink was born in the 2000s.— Drewdavis71 (@drewdavis71) December 31, 2020
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
30 Years Ago Today
My marriage proposal to Bridget didn’t go exactly as planned . My buddy Dave and I had an elaborate scheme planned. We bought rings for our respective girlfriends together, and we planned to unveil them simultaneously on New Years Eve as the clock struck Midnight.
But I made a fatal mistake. I told some of my friends at work about my plan, including one of my bosses. I don’t know why I told him–I guess I just couldn’t contain my excitement. Plus, even though Bridget worked in the same office, I figured there was an unwritten code about ruining a surprise of this magnitude.
I was wrong.
The boss told her all about it.
I still have no idea why he would do such a thing, but he did. I’m just happy he did it in front of someone else, because that other person told me that the secret had been revealed. If not for this friendly onlooker, my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would have become a ho-hum-I-knew-it-was-coming moment.
I decided immediately to scrap the plan.
The first thing I had to do was come up with an alternate date and time. Should I wait until after New Years Eve (which would have crushed Bridget because now she was expecting it), or should I do it before New Years? That seemed like an easy choice, except for one thing. It was already December 30th.
“Very well, then. Tonight it is.”
Without much time to plan, and that night’s arrangements already made (dinner at a neighborhood Chinese restaurant), I really had to get creative. My brainstorm was to propose via fortune cookie. I typed “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” on a tiny scrap of paper about the size of a typical fortune before I left the office, and then as soon as we got to the restaurant, I pretended to go to the bathroom. I circled around to the other side of the restaurant instead, found my waiter, and asked him to insert the note inside a fortune cookie for me before he brought it out to the table.
“I can’t do that,” he said.
“They come pre-wrapped,” he pointed out.
As dinner was ending I still didn’t have a plan. I was considering scrapping the whole thing until after News Years. But when the waiter brought us the fortune cookies, I decided to go for it right then and there. I opened my cookie while she wasn’t paying attention, and slyly made the switch with my little pre-typed fortune.
“What does your say?” she asked me.
“I’m not sure what this means,” I said. I looked at it like it was written in Chinese.
“Let me see it,” she said.
I handed it to her and she stared at it for about three seconds before looking up. I thought she was going to pass out when we met eyes.
“Is this what I think it is?” she asked.
I nodded, and put the ring box on the table.
She started crying even before she opened the box. It looked like happy tears, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I do remember one thing very clearly about that moment. It took her forever to give me an actual answer. I don’t think she ever actually said the word yes, she just nodded through her tears.
It really was a great moment. It ended up being even better than it would have been had I gone through with the original plan. But while I was thinking about that original plan, I remembered that I hadn’t yet told Dave.
When I called him, he wasn’t pleased.
“What am I supposed to do now?” he asked.
“You can still do it on New Years Eve,” I said.
“No way,” he spat. He was ticked. “Now it just looks like I’m copying you.”
“What was I supposed to do?” I asked.
“You could have waited until after New Years,” he said.
Before I could explain my thought process to him, he swore at me, and hung up the phone.
Needless to say, Dave didn’t propose on New Years Eve. Despite already having the ring, he also didn’t propose on Valentine’s Day. He didn’t propose in March. He didn’t propose in April, and he didn’t propose in May.
He didn’t propose until late June, and he was still mad at me when he told me the news.
I guess he eventually forgave me because he asked me to be his best man.
But if you ask him about it even today, he’ll tell you that he was the first groom in history that had to settle for an “OK man.”
Monday, December 28, 2020
Minutia Men Celebrity Interview--Erik Fellows
We talk with "fellow" stunningly good looking guy @ErikFellows We talk #NBA2K21 #Breakeven #cybillshepherd #elvis #MichaelJordan and more. Listen wherever you enjoy your #podcasts. Listen: https://t.co/VWdrorG2RA @wendyshepherd #podernfamily pic.twitter.com/9vziRkxQ3z— Minutia Men (@MinutiaMen) December 28, 2020
Minutia Men--Milk & Moore
This week's episode includes our suggestions for the world's most punchable face https://t.co/g09BzxQghH— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 28, 2020
Chicago Radio Ratings
2. WVAZ 102.7-FM R&B, 8.4 (8.9)
3. WBBM 780-AM/WCFS 105.9-FM all news, 6.8 (6.5)
4. (tie) WBEZ 91.5-FM public radio news talk, 4.4 (4.7); WDRV 97.1-FM classic rock, 4.4 (5.0)
6. WTMX 101.9-FM hot adult contemporary, 4.1 (5.1)
7. (tie) WLS 94.7-FM classic hits, 3.9 (3.7); WOJO 105.1-FM Mexican regional, 3.9 (3.8)
9. WXRT 93.1-FM adult album alternative, 3.5 (3.3)
10. WRME 87.7-FM soft rock oldies, 2.9 (3.1)
11. WGN 720-AM news talk, 2.8 (2.9)
12. WUSN 99.5-FM country, 2.6 (2.4)
13. WKSC 103.5-FM Top 40, 2.5 (2.6)
14. WBMX 104.3-FM classic hip hop, 2.3 (2.4)
15. (tie) WLEY 107.9-FM Mexican regional, 2.2 (2.2); WLS 890-AM news talk, 2.2 (2.5)
17. (tie) WBBM 96.3-FM Top 40, 2.1 (2.1); WPPN 106.7-FM Spanish adult contemporary, 2.1 (2.3)
19. WSHE 100.3-FM adult contemporary, 1.9 (2.1)
20. (tie) WGCI 107.5-FM hip-hop, 1.8 (1.7); WKQX 101.1-FM alternative rock, 1.8 (2.2)
22. (tie) WSCR 670-AM sports talk, 1.7 (2.1); WCHI 95.5-FM rock, 1.7 (2.1)
24. WPWX 92.3-FM hip-hop, 1.4 (1.4)
25. WFMT 98.7-FM classical, 1.2 (1.0)
26. WVIV 93.5-FM Spanish contemporary, 1.0 (0.9)
27. WCPT 820-AM progressive talk, 0.9 (1.2)
28. WMVP 1000-AM sports talk, 0.7 (0.9)
29. (tie) WCCQ 98.3-FM country, 0.6 (0.8); WCKL 97.9-FM contemporary Christian music, 0.6 (0.6)
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Twas the Night Before Father's Christmas
Ryan Trembath on WGN Radio
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Looks like there is a money cannon at TPUSA’s winter conference??— Jared Holt (@jaredlholt) December 20, 2020
When you lie so much, someone actually sues you
Turns out, you can't just lie on TV without repurcussions. From Mediaite...
Many of the conspiracy theories used to support the claim that the election was stolen from Trump involved two voting system companies, Smartmatic and Dominion. Allies of the president made a series of false claims about those companies, which included the allegation that they worked together to change votes from Trump to Biden.
In response to that coverage, Florida-based Smartmatic sent retraction demands to Fox News, Newsmax and OAN for airing “false and defamatory statements” about the company, threatening legal action as a last resort. Dominion has also threatened legal action against the president’s campaign.
Fox News was first to air a fact-check, on Friday, of claims made about the voting systems companies. The strange segment, in which an unknown voice asks a serious of questions about voting conspiracy theories to an elections expert, aired on shows of Fox News hosts Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo. All hosts were named in Smartmatic’s demand for retractions.
Newsmax TV aired its own segment fact-checking claims made about those companies on Monday.
The president and his followers are officially embarrassing themselves at this point. It's pathetic.
A data expert was hired by the Trump campaign to look into the numbers in Nevada (which used the Dominion software). This is what he found.
Nothing. No fraud. No ballot stuffing. No dead people voting. Totally normal numbers with perfectly logical explanations for all of them. The minimal errors found *favored* Republicans.
Time to STFU.
Monday, December 21, 2020
Vicki on the radio
Eckhartz Press author Vicki Quade was on WGN Radio's morning show today. Thanks so much to Jon Hansen for having her on the show. https://t.co/nKFSW3V88H— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 21, 2020
Peter Jackson has released an exclusive sneak peek of his upcoming documentary “@TheBeatles: Get Back” for fans everywhere to enjoy.— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) December 21, 2020
The Beatles: Get Back Opens in Theatres August 27, 2021 #TheBeatlesGetBack pic.twitter.com/df5RjID56Z
‘QAnon Anonymous’:— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) December 21, 2020
a support group for people addicted to insane conspiracy theories, including... wait for it... pic.twitter.com/ocIb8HaePQ
Close Encounters of a Chicago Kind
A nice review of our latest book by Vicki Quade: https://t.co/H5Zj6hbTUg— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 21, 2020
Minutia Men Holiday Special
This week's episode includes Dave's Hanukkah mistake, and my Twas the Night Before Parent's Christmas. https://t.co/p8eA7SFTaV— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 21, 2020
The Greatest Story Ever Podcast – #41: A Friendly Chat with the East German Secret Police with @RickKaempfer#Apple https://t.co/hKK8nRmbmG#Google https://t.co/L5ElPKYf7O#Spotify https://t.co/B8CPUCLDY9 pic.twitter.com/vZgoaVg97c— Keith Conrad (@keithrconrad) December 20, 2020
Eckhartz Press author Ryan Trembath was on the podcast Car Con Carne. Good stuff... https://t.co/3TaUT8taJf— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 21, 2020
Friday, December 18, 2020
Quick question…is it Christmas yet? pic.twitter.com/0sWhGxgW5t— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) December 17, 2020
Thursday, December 17, 2020
#FreeKicks EP95: The Knives Are Out https://t.co/KkOLcA81Mg— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 17, 2020
Negro League Cubs
These Cubs also played in the Negro Leagues: Gene Baker, Ernie Banks, Monte Irvin, Sam Jones, and Luis Marquez. pic.twitter.com/j3LrN8EBFU— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 17, 2020
From today's Robert Feder column--it looks like WGN has finally named a replacement for Orion Samuelson who will be retiring at the end of this month...
When the legendary Orion Samuelson retires at the end of the month after 60 years at WGN 720-AM, he’ll turn over the agribusiness beat to Steve Alexander, who’s been a news-and-business anchor and reporter at the Nexstar Media Group news/talk station since 2007. “Steve grew up on a farm and has the knowledge to know what is important to our audience of farmers, food producers and consumers,” Big O said of his successor. “I am delighted that he is available to continue the WGN tradition of serving this most important audience.” Alexander, who also co-wrote and published Samuleson’s 2012 autobiography, You Can’t Dream Big Enough, said: “When I’ve filled in for Orion over the past 12 years, I’ve often joked that he gave me the key to the tractor, and I was able to keep it out of the ditch until he returned. Come next month, I’ll try to keep the tractor upright and continue Orion’s efforts to explain how important agriculture is to all of us.”
What was Elvis like? How did it feel to box Donny Osmond? What about the day Danny got Jonathon Brandmeier to scream in fear? All of that is covered in our chat with this week's guest, my old Loop colleague Danny Bonaduce. https://t.co/e1JJCZaOHl— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 17, 2020
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Now that the Negro Leagues have officially been re-classified as a Major League, this man's name is going to be all over the record books...
Satchel Paige on Pitching 160+ games in a row for 3 straight years. 👑 pic.twitter.com/6rfnsTqQws— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 16, 2020
On this day in 1979, George Halas Jr. passed away. The son of the NFL Founder was a Bears executive too, but he died four years before his father. Eckhartz Press author Chet Coppock got to know the younger Halas (known as Mugs) and dedicated a chapter to him in his book “Your Dime, My Dance Floor”. We present it to you today as a free excerpt in honor of Mugs and Chet.
Remembering the Unknown Bear Heir: Mugs Halas
“Not every father gets a chance to start his son off in his own footsteps.”
Alan Ladd, motion picture star.
The destiny of George Stanley Halas Jr. -“Mugs” to all who knew him -had already been determined before he emerged from the womb of his mom, Minnie Bushing “Min” Halas, on September 4, 1925.
The old man, George Halas, desperately wanted a son who would help him catapult the NFL past college grid, major league baseball, horse racing and boxing.
I’m not sure Mugs ever wanted the role he was assigned by default. Who knows?
The junior Halas remains the most elusive, unknown and, perhaps, misunderstood figure in Chicago sports history. Mugs had one curse he could not overcome. If it’s a son’s primary duty to please his father, Mugs was an AAA-list conscript.
Think about this: Halas, Jr. worked for the Bears for 29 years beginning in 1950. He was elevated to the role of club president in 1963, the same year the Papa Bear won his last NFL title as a head coach.
Yet Mugs never saw a camera or a note pad that he wouldn’t sprint across a state line to avoid.
I have just one recollection of seeing Mugs interviewed on television. It was before the Bears met Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers the week of November 18, 1963. Some local reporter had managed to get the kid (nearing 40) in front of a camera to ask him about what was a critical Western Division showdown between his pop and Lombardi. The inquisitor simply asked Mugs to describe his thoughts about the upcoming battle (won by the Bears 26-7). Mugs, with absolutely no change of expression, simply said, “No predictions.”
Mugs made Jerry Krause look like Rodney Dangerfield. Yet, GSH, Jr., could be very likeable.
The brief TV answer no doubt pleased The Old Man. There is an odd conundrum which emerges between George Halas and his relationship with the press.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Halas begged for coverage. By the 1960s, the tough-edged Bohemian determined that the media had to be kept at a distance. There were times I felt The Old Man actually had a fear, a vibe of vulnerability about the press.
Ed Stone, a superb football writer for the Chicago American (later Chicago Today) was an expert on how Coach Halas operated. In 1963, he dared to criticize Halas for quitting on quarterback Bill Wade at half time of a ballgame against the 49ers at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. Ed would pay for his Bear-knuckles honesty with his jaw. Halas simply called his drinking buddy Don Maxwell, the man who oversaw the Tribune and Today, and had Stone dropkicked off the beat.
Stone would be replaced by fresh-faced Brent Musburger, who had just recently graduated from Northwestern. (Musburger was years away from his current run as calling card of Vegas Stats and Info – vsin.com – with “his guys out in the desert.”)
The Bears were the last team in the NFL to send out “traditional” week-of-game press releases. Halas, as late as 1971, wouldn’t announce cuts during training camp. Why? The Halas public stance was he didn’t want the player embarrassed. Reality, it was just The Old Man playing games with the local press.
I’m not kidding when I tell you I saw beat writers in the late 1960s when the Bears were training in Rensselaer, Indiana, trying to count by hand who was still coming out for practice and who had been cut. The moves were so shadowy, just dripping with Howard Hughes meets Greta Garbo, that Stone once joking told me, “If the Bears had it their way they wouldn’t announce the schedule.”
Premier journalist Jeff Davis, who authored “Papa Bear: The life and legacy of George Halas” told me he has absolutely no recollection of Mugs ever being seen on TV, heard on radio, or quoted in a sports section or magazine. (Full disclosure: Jeff was my ace producer and insightful sounding board during my aborted run at WMAQ-TV.)
But what was the son to do? Mugs grew up during The Depression when the NFL was still getting scant coverage. By the time, he turned up on the old man’s payroll in 1950, the league was still a second tier, uncertain, red-haired stepchild in comparison to the college game.
Its primary ally was gambling. That hasn’t changed.
So, in his fifties as the name “George Halas” was becoming larger than life, what was Mugs to do? Did he really want to work for his dad? Would he have preferred to teach biology at a suburban high school?
Young Halas’s life was, at best, limited. He lived with his parents at 5555 N. Sheridan Road and attended Loyola University which was a driver and a nine-iron from the family residence.
Mugs wanted nothing more than to please the toughest of critics, his father, and in turn, show the public that he was not a guy to be messed with. Thus, Mugs, who could be the nicest guy on earth, elected to adopt a persona that was at once fierce and ornery. There undoubtedly was no crying at the Halas family dinner table.
Only a handful of people were allowed to see the socially comfortable Mugs Halas. One of those people was Bob Lorenz, who for years was the finest golfer you could find on the lush fairways of North Shore Country Club. Frankly, I just can’t think of anybody else who was that chummy with Mugs.
Young Halas did things that were nuts. Back in the 1960s, Mugs, outraged about an interception given up by Wade, kicked a hole in the wooden wall of the Bears old seasonal press box at Wrigley Field. His foot lived. The wall threw in the trowel.
This is one for the books: In 1977, when I was handling public address for the Bears, Mugs pulled me aside while we were both field level at Soldier Field.
“Coppock, come here,” Mugs barked. “Listen, Chet, I want you to stop using the phrase ‘preliminary signal.’”
I said sure, but asked Mugs what the issue was. He told me that “preliminary signal” was confusing the officials. Frankly, I was astonished. However, Mugs was just warming up. He added, “Most of these jerks are so bad they don’t know a yellow flag from their dicks.”
Amen. Mugs then asked how my mother was doing. Go figure.
Years earlier, when the Bears ousted Jim Dooley as head coach, Mugs came out of hiding to tell the press what a lousy and unfair job it was doing of covering his miserable football team. Halas, Jr. was not needed at this turkey shoot. In hindsight he was out there to show his dad, “Look, I can be as tough as you are…not tougher, dad…but, maybe just as tough.”
Mugs struggled all his life to carve his own identity. You’re the son of George Halas, no matter what you do, you’re just the old man’s kid who won big in the lucky sperm sweepstakes.
Does Mugs have a profound legacy with the Bears? Damn right, he does. In 1974, George, Jr., convinced his pop to let him pitch Jim Finks, who had built the Minnesota Vikings into a perennial NFL power, about bolting to Chicago to run the club with complete authority over every phase of the operation. Along with a small percentage of the team.
Honest to God, I don’t know – I would love to know – what Mugs said to his dad to convince him to stand down. It was a move that vaulted a woebegone franchise into the 20th century. Finks engineered the creation of Halas Hall in Lake Forest and ushered the Bears downtown offices from the sorrowful atmosphere at 173 W. Madison St. to dramatically upscale headquarters at 55 E. Jackson Boulevard.
Did I mention that Finks used his first draft pick as Big Bear to dice Walter Payton out of Jackson State (No. 4 overall in 1975)?
By this time, Mugs had found his niche. He became active in NFL affairs, winning league-wide respect for his ability to stabilize and upgrade one of the league’s most strategically important franchises.
Muggs Halas died in the overnight hours of December 16, 1979. The move thrust Virginia McCaskey into a role she never thought she would occupy: principal owner of one of the NFL’s most storied teams.
Virginia is a wonderful woman but very much her father’s daughter. I’ve emceed three or four events Mrs. McCaskey attended and always enthusiastically introduced her as, “The NFL’s First Lady.”
The next time “The First Lady” says thanks for the buildup, I may keel over. I’ve only interviewed Virginia once and it was about as comfortable as an open-air midnight tea in Englewood.
Following a memorial service for Hall of Fame quarterback Sid Luckman in 1998, I dared to ask Virginia with microphone in hand to comment on her father’s favorite football-playing “son.” Mrs. McCaskey said about eight words. Yes, the old man would have been proud. Rachel Maddow could get more out of Melania Trump.
Now, let’s suppose Mugs had not passed away in 1979. He remains the club president and in turn I have no doubt he would have kept Jim Finks on the payroll for as long as Finks felt properly compensated, challenged and appreciated.
There is also no way in hell Mike Ditka would have ever coached the Bears.
Even in death, there were ominous clouds surrounding Mugs. His first wife Theresa, a lady that Halas, Sr. just couldn’t stand, began a money hunt. Terry and the McCaskeys were at war for years. In fact in 1987, she won the right to have her ex-husband’s body exhumed for an autopsy eight years after the man had died. If you can figure this one out you’re leaps and bounds ahead of me. During the autopsy it was revealed that virtually all of Mugs’ vital organs had been removed at death. His remains were on overload with saw dust.
What was the family trying to hide? By the mid-1980s Terry had sued the McCaskeys, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the NFL and Pete Rozelle. (She left George Seals, Greg Latta and Brad Palmer out of the legal crossfire.) Was Terry thinking “double indemnity” or a bigger piece of a pie that had grown from perhaps $10,000,000 in 1970 to $400,000,000 in 1986?
George Halas was very much alive in 1979. Is there a Dealey Plaza/grassy knoll secret he was trying to hide? If the former Mrs. Halas won 50 cents it’s the best kept secret in the world. Much like Mugs, secrecy is the hallmark of the team that was guided by George Halas, misguided by Michael McCaskey, and now, follows the NFL herd rather than innovates under grandson George McCaskey.
The Old Man? He always left us guessing – from behind the curtain. Yet, I loved the Papa Bear and Mugs.
Melissa Leaves the Mix Morning Show
From Robert Feder's column this morning...
Melissa McGurren, the pride of Portage, Indiana, who rose from traffic reporter to full-fledged co-host of Eric Ferguson’s top-rated morning show, is out after more than two decades at WTMX 101.9-FM.
Officials of the Hubbard Radio hot adult-contemporary station ended speculation today about McGurren’s lengthy absence and announced a parting of the ways. She is expected to be paid through the end of the year, when her contract expires.
A statement released by the company alludes to a contract extension offer it says McGurren turned down, but it provided no other details.
I'm not going to speculate on what happened here other than to say it's not a simple contract dispute. I think this will be a big loss for the show.
I previously interviewed Melissa for Shore Magazine. You can read that here.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Congrats to Eckhartz Press author Ken Korber for this piece in today's Daily Herald...https://t.co/OB7jJsssg7— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 15, 2020
He coined the term “Rock and Roll” and yet few people remember the disc jockey Alan Freed. In his Eckhartz Press book “Turn it Up,” author Bob Shannon chronicles Freed’s contributions. On the 99th anniversary of Freed’s birth, we present this free excerpt from Shannon’s book…
Alan Freed: Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll
Rock ‘n’ Roll was a verb, not a noun. In the beginning, more than almost 60 years ago, the words didn’t describe a type of music. Instead, in the black community, they were used as a euphemism for sex. In 1951, The Dominoes, with Clyde McPhatter singing lead, recorded Sixty Minute Man and, according to rock mythology, it was in the song’s suggestive lyrics that Freed first heard the words rock ‘n’ roll. What he did with them rocked the world.
Radio wasn’t Freed’s first love or even an early attraction, but he did have a jones for music.
He was born in Johnstown, PA in 1921 and, in 1933 his family moved to Salem, OH. It was during high school, in the mid ‘30s – when Benny Goodman’s band was hotter than a pistol – that Freed picked up the trombone and formed a combo he called The Sultans of Swing. From the start he saw himself as the band leader. He thought it a glamorous role and, onstage and off, he adopted a certain swagger that might have lasted years had it not been for an ear infection, which abruptly shattered his music making dreams. Bad news, yes, but the silver lining was it kept him out of the Army. (Freed’s 20th birthday was a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor).
In his late teens Freed traded his trombone for a microphone and, by 1946, when he hit 25, he’d already worked at WKST/New Castle, PA, and at WAKR/Akron – as an announcer, newsman and sportscaster – generally a jock of all trades.
At 28, Freed left Akron for the big city and a television job at WXEL-TV in Cleveland. He had nine years radio experience under his belt and had been hired to do a “disc jockey” show on TV. At the time, Freed wasn’t thinking about playing records on the tube; he thought that was a dead-duck approach and that’s exactly what he told the local paper. “I’d like to do away with records and depend entirely on live acts.”
But, it was television that got him noticed. “Friendliness makes more friends and that’s the ticket in television,” he said. (By the way, as a TV personality, Freed still spelled his first name with two “ls” and one “e” – Allen.) But, his fling with television was short lived and, in 1951, Freed returned to radio, when he landed a late night job playing classical music at WJW in Cleveland. In his book “The Fifties,” historian David Halberstam describes Freed as being “somewhat of a vagabond” and suggests that classical music was hardly Freed’s first love; this was just another way of saying the job was all about the money.
Then, along came record store owner Leo Mintz. Halberstam tells what happened this way: “Young white kids with more money than one might expect were coming into his store and buying what had been considered exclusively Negro music just a year or two before.”
What he means is that the lilywhite world of Cleveland, if not the entire United States, was about to be rocked on its axis.
Mintz convinced Freed that something new was happening and Freed agreed. The two men then convinced WJW management to give Freed a new show featuring this new music. Freed was jazzed about the idea and management was swayed by the money Mintz was willing to pay for sponsorship.
Freed decided to call the program “Moondog’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Party” and he proclaimed himself “The Moondog.”
On July 11, 1951 the show hit the air. In his new persona, Freed sided with the kids, professed his love for the music, and though he probably didn’t realize it, began to lead a revolution. “An entire generation of young white kids had been waiting for someone to catch up with them,” wrote Halberstam.
Nine months into the show’s run Freed decided he wanted to reward his loyal listeners – and, perhaps, put a little money in his pocket – so, he organized what (has since been identified as) the first live rock ‘n’ roll show, “The Moondog Coronation Ball.” He booked the top black acts in the country into the Cleveland Arena, a facility that held 10,000, and sold tickets for less than two dollars a piece.
Then, he held his breath.
On May 21, 1952 20,000 kids – white and black – showed up at the arena ready to party. The energy level was high and so was the body count, acerbated by hundreds of counterfeited tickets. It was, truly, a night to behold. The concert began. But, after only one song, fire authorities shut it down.
Still, a statement had been made: rock ‘n’ roll was here to stay. Freed, however, was getting itchy feet and while it didn’t happen overnight, within two years he left Cleveland and headed for New York City.
In the fall of 1954 Freed’s radio show debuted in New York on 1010/WINS and, within months, it was the #1 radio program in New York. WINS paid him $75,000 a year (about $450,000 in today’s dollars) and he added to his earnings by throwing live concerts at The Brooklyn Paramount.
The following year Hollywood caught on (to the discretionary money teenagers had to spend) and Freed, the Pied Piper, appeared in a series of low-budget rock ‘n’ roll movies, including “Don’t Knock The Rock,” “Rock Around The Clock” and “Rock, Rock, Rock.” Then, in 1957, The ABC Television Network gave Freed his own national TV show. Things began well enough, but when young Frankie Lymon (“Why Do Fools Fall In Love” – 1956) was seen dancing with a white girl, affiliates in the South went ballistic and the show was quickly cancelled.
This was the beginning of the end. The next year, WINS opted not to renew Freed’s contract. The reason, they said, was Freed’s indictment for inciting a riot at a Boston concert. Out at WINS, Freed crossed the street and joined competitor WABC. But, when he refused to sign a letter stating that he’d never accepted payola – he said it was a matter of principal – WABC fired him, too.
What happened to Freed next is essentially the tale of a career and a life in a tail-spin. Because he was so visible and so personified the music, a New York grand jury, convened in 1960 to look into irregularities in the record business, charged him with income tax evasion. (Before 1960, payola wasn’t illegal. But not reporting the payments as income was.) With no radio work to be found in New York, Freed moved to Los Angeles to work for KDAY, but the job didn’t last long and, dejected, he settled in Miami, where his career ended.
I could continue to focus this story on nasty little details that don’t paint a very positive picture of Mr. Freed, but I won’t, because they don’t matter. What does is that Alan Freed – in the face of a racially divided society – chose to play and champion rhythm and blues records. By doing so, he helped to usher in the dawn of the first rock age. No, he didn’t invent rock ‘n’ roll, but he was the first to use the term in the context we use it today.
There have been several movies made about Freed – most notably “American Hot Wax” and “Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll” – but neither pays much attention to the facts and, from our perspective here in the 21st Century, that may be acceptable. Why? Because the spirit of Freed’s accomplishments transcend the details and he should be remembered, not for his failures, but for his successes and for what he did right.
In 1986, for his contributions to American culture, to rock ‘n’ roll and to the radio industry, Alan Freed was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It happened in Cleveland, where it all began, and as it should be.
Good night Donald J. Trump... pic.twitter.com/27P9OxbPBW— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) December 15, 2020
Monday, December 14, 2020
Minutia Men--Kangaroos, Kasper, and KFC
@MinutiaMen EP208 Kangaroos, Kasper, & KFC https://t.co/gVSEqODzKk— Radio Misfits (@RadiosMisfits) December 13, 2020
Windy City Reviews: Signature Shoes
Book Review: Signature Shoes: The Athletes Who Wore Them and Delightful Pop Culture Nuggets
Signature Shoes: The Athletes Who Wore Them and Delightful Pop Culture Nuggets. Ryan Trembath, Eckhartz Press, November 28, 2020, Trade Paperback, 154 pages.
Reviewed by Brian R. Johnston.
As you’ve witnessed some of the greatest moments in sports history, have you ever wondered about the story behind the shoes that the athletes are wearing? If so, you’re in for a real treat, as Ryan Trembath has recently released his book, Signature Shoes: The Athletes Who Wore Them and Delightful Pop Culture Nuggets. I just completed the book and, as a big sports fan, I found it to be a fascinating read.
In the introduction, the author says, “The intentions of this book are to chronicle every signature shoe leading up to the Jordans and immediately following.” I would say that the author did a great job with this. The book is broken into many small chapters, each telling the story behind a signature shoe. It starts with a brief history of the origins of the idea of a signature shoe, followed by chapters on many different shoes that span the history of sports such as basketball, tennis, soccer, and others.
The author goes into a lot of detail describing each shoe, including what it looked like and why it was important in history. The majority of the book covers the 1970s, though there are also chapters from before then, as well as on the 1980s and 1990s. Mixed in with details about the shoes are entertaining explanations about pop culture trends that were taking place during the time each shoe was popular to place the shoes in historical context.
The book is easy to read, with clear language and without a lot of jargon that would make it difficult to understand. The author clearly has a passion for his topic, as it frequently shows throughout the book. In the middle, a section of photos shows the shoes he talks about
Whether you’re a fan of history, sports, collectibles, or all of the above, Signature Shoes would be an interesting read, and I recommend it to anyone who likes to study these topics.
Friday, December 11, 2020
1975:— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) December 11, 2020
That time Roy Clark played “Malagueña” on 'The Odd Couple'...pic.twitter.com/FJaO2hqKI8
Father Knows Nothing Interviews
6 years ago today I was on WGN-TV morning show (along with several other shows) to promote my book "Father Knows Nothing". That was a ton of fun. https://t.co/x7Irn09Fir— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 11, 2020
Thursday, December 10, 2020
Minutia Men Celebrity Interview--Paul Michael Glaser
In this week's episode we alarm Paul Michael Glaser with our encylopedic knowledge of Starsky & Hutch https://t.co/1DmXFNM5Jo— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 10, 2020
Free Kicks--The Champion's League
In this week's episode we break down the latest results in the Champions League, and discuss the worst soccer uniforms of all time. https://t.co/r3g8YEwt5o— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 10, 2020
TBT: No Caption Needed. pic.twitter.com/68W08xqtmN— Fergie Jenkins (@fergieajenkins) December 10, 2020
Wednesday, December 09, 2020
Sean's National Team Commercial
Tuesday, December 08, 2020
A sad sad day but remembering my friend John with the great joy he brought to the world. I will always be proud and happy to have known and worked with this incredible Scouser! X love Paul#JohnLennon— Paul McCartney (@PaulMcCartney) December 8, 2020
📷 by Linda McCartney pic.twitter.com/oNL0ihzhvl
Tuesday, 8 December 1980 we all had to say goodbye to John peace and love John. I’m asking Every music radio station in the world sometime today play Strawberry Fields Forever. Peace and love. 😎✌️🌟❤️🎶🎼💝☮️ pic.twitter.com/dAEgekrvmW— #RingoStarr (@ringostarrmusic) December 8, 2020
The death of a loved one is a hollowing experience.— Yoko Ono (@yokoono) December 8, 2020
After 40 years, Sean, Julian and I still miss him.
'Imagine all the people living life in peace.'
Yoko Ono Lennon#enoughisenough #peace #guncontrolnow #gunviolence #nra #guns #gunsafety #firearms #endgunviolence pic.twitter.com/TsHWuCdu2Y
Minutia Men--Rick and Dave's European Vacation
This is a fun episode, but I will warn you, it's NSFW. We got a little off-color this week. https://t.co/rqZ7ISnXMH— Rick Kaempfer (@RickKaempfer) December 8, 2020
40 years ago today John Lennon was murdered on the streets of New York City. Eckhartz Press author Bobby Skafish was on the air at WXRT when the news broke. He wrote about it in his book We Have Company. Here is that chapter from the book…
Monday, December 8th, 1980, the night John Lennon died, I was on the air at WXRT, doing a 6 to 10 PM show. On Mondays the 9 o’clock hour was always “This Week in Chicago,” a 60 minute heads up on who was coming to Chicago and the surrounding area to play live music.
During the second half of this specialty show an alarm went off on the news wire. There was a tiny room with a permanently opened door that housed a teletype machine or two. When it would signal an alarm due to important news, you could hear it out in the hall, but in the sound-proof air studio a flashing light did the job. John Lennon had been shot in New York City. I went back on the air, and not long after another bulletin came: Lennon was dead. It was right around this time News Director Neil Parker called with corroboration. Not a long time before Johnny Mars would take over at 10.
My dilemma was this: This Week in Chicago, sponsored by Talman Home Federal Savings and Loan, was specific in its mission. Yet, on a December 8th there was much less action on the stages; artists toured Chicago less during cold-weather months. That meant less Springsteen and Queen and more Koko Taylor and Phil ‘n’ the Blanks. This was one of those kinds of weeks in Chicago.
So, although I made the announcement on the air, I couldn’t, in my mind, play Lennon music. I put myself in a box of my own making. There was no phone conversation with program director Norm Winer. In his first movie Pee Wee Herman proclaimed himself a loner and a rebel. At most, I was only half that.
The phone calls from listeners were another matter. People literally cried over the phone, and some gave me a “say it isn’t so” challenge I couldn’t meet.
After I signed off TWIC, Mars took over and worked the Lennon tragedy thoroughly, playing plenty of his music and adding commentary. Mars was acclaimed, I believe in popular free Chicago weekly The Reader, for rising to the occasion.
I sort of disqualified myself from doing something timely and soothing and laudatory – all called for. Considering that this monumental thing cold-cocked me with no time to reflect, only react, while being deep into the regularly scheduled offering, the task of fitting an ocean of thoughts and emotions into a thimble of time was just too overwhelming.
In 1989 midday host Bob Stroud and I jointly interviewed John’s first son, recording artist Julian Lennon, live over the Loop airwaves as he was promoting his third album, Mr. Jordan. I’ll never forget playing Julian’s first single “Valotte” for the first time in 1984, eerily hearing his dad’s voice in his. In person, Julian was a sweet, down-to-earth guy. When we were on, wiseacre me said that his music was great and wondered if he came from “a musical background at all?” Laughs, fortunately, and Julian answered, “Just a little bit.”
Before we went to spots Stroud asked Julian if we could ask him a few famous-dad type questions, and he replied, “You can ask me whatever you want.” Relief! I took the first one upon returning.
Bobby Skafish: “I heard a rumor years ago that when the Live Aid concert took place that you rehearsed with George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr?”
Julian Lennon: “No, not at all. There was a lot of press about it saying ‘are you or aren’t you’ and we never talked about it and never discussed it.’
He also denied ever playing music together with the three living ex-Beatles. So I tried another one, about having heard that he had been waiting for a sign from the afterlife from his father.
JL: “Well, I had always been told…dad said that if there’s any way of getting back to anybody it would be a white feather across the room. And I used to look for it, but if it does happen that would be special, but I’m not going to sit around and wait for it.”
In December of 1995 the unexpected appeared – a Beatles record released 25 years after their break up. “Free as a Bird” started as a John Lennon New York City home demo in 1977. Fifteen years after his assassination Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, aided by co-producer Jeff Lynne of ELO, Travelling Wilburys, and Harrison’s Cloud Nine album fame, added overdubs at Paul’s studio in Sussex, England. To mark the release of new Beatles music, WGN television news sent a cameraman and reporter Randy Salerno (1963-2008) to WXRT’s studio on Belmont Avenue, two blocks west of Cicero. They basically made a piece about me playing “Free as a Bird” over the air, including a short interview by Mr. Salerno.
I remember thinking the late Randy Salerno had every right to pull some sort of rank because he was in TV while I did radio, but nothing could be further from the truth. There was a kindness about the man.
It aired that night on WGN-TV news.