GREAT UNSUNG HEROES OF ROCK'N'ROLL RADIO
By: GARY PIG GOLD
Do you remember Murray the K
Alan Freed and high energy?
Do you remember rock'n'roll radio?
Do you remember rock'n'roll radio?
ALAN FREED: Hard to believe there hasn't been some statue erected, or even some far-flung celestial body named after the sole soul who can rightfully lay claim to the title, Father of Rock'n'Roll; harder still to fathom he's recalled today as little more than the plaid-jacketed patsy who cruelly took the Big Fall in the Fifties payola scandal (while co-conspirator Dick Clark slithered relatively unscathed to the safety of his $100,000 pyramid). The only man who could plant Chuck Berry's duck-walkin' ding-a-ling and Jerry Lee Lewis' flaming Steinway on the same stage and live to drink about it, Alan Freed liberated an entire generation's ears, torsos, and imaginations, single-in-handedly inventing rock'n'roll radio in the process. Kindly repeat after me: Our father, who art in heaven...
MURRAY THE K: The place is Ringo Starr's suite inside New York's plush Plaza Hotel, circa 2/9/64:
MURRAY: Hey Ring, what's happenin' baby?
RINGO: It's all happenin', Murr!
Only one man could have so adeptly, brilliantly, and so thoroughly thought-provokingly introduced the four Fabs to so unsuspecting a nation. Red-faced and sweatin' No.1 bullets from beneath a never-ending array of soiled golf caps, clad crassly in strategically ill-fitting Sole Brother slacks, bellowing like some Sanka-tanked auctioneer possessed by the larynx of of Screamin' Jay Ward... this middle-aged (former Mickey Mantle manager!)'s "Swingin' Soiree" show introduced Johnny Mathis, The Ronettes, Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, "Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands" (all thirteen hours of it), Jimi Hendrix, and The Who to the previously all-American airwaves. Yet despite teaching untold millions to submarine race watch while loyally chanting in Measurray (his Own Official Language!) the clarion call of the 1960's (ready everyone? "Ahh-BEY! Ahh-BEY! Kumasawa-SAWAAAH!"), history labels Murray as merely the last - though loudest - in a long line of fifth Beatles. But one glance at this afternoon's Billboard Top Ten will cause any true fan of rock'n'roll radio to ponder wishfully, "If only the K were alive today!"
DEWEY PHILLIPS: It was on his "Red Hot and Blue" show one sticky evening in August, 1954 that this late, legendary Memphis good ol' first crept out on his limbs to spin a young local singer's debut disc. Before anyone fully realized what had been unleashed, that little Sun record had gone and sown the seeds of a musical and social revelation the likes of which can still be smelt today. Somehow sensing as much, Dewey invited the singer into the WHBQ studios, where the following electrifying exchange took place:
"I said, Elvis?"
"Tell us a bit about y'self!"
"Well sir, I, uhh... I mean, uhh..."
"Tell us all about your new record!"
"Well... it's, uhh... I tell ya, uhh... it's... uhh... well..."
"Okay! Thanks a lot, Elvis!"
Not surprisingly, within a matter of months Young America had found an articulate new spokesperson in the former Tupelo truck driver, thanks in no small part to the foresight and fortitude of one Dewey Phillips.
JUNGLE JAY NELSON: While Adrian Cronauer was wishing Vietnam a good morning, on the far side of the globe an ex-kiddie TV host was presiding over a battlefield of a different sort: Morning rush-hour in Toronto, Canada. For years the kinky king-pin of mighty 1050 CHUM-AM, the warped wonder known to thousands as Jungle Jay was in fact transmitting from some crazed and darkened corner of his private, spectacular psyche. He often thought nothing of ringing hapless housewives between platters to report a fleet of UFO's had just abducted their children en route to school, or announcing frantically that the entire city's water supply had just been declared irrevocably contaminated by microscopic radioactive spores found falling in the rain. One wild and crazy jock, yes... but also a bonafide rock'n'roller at heart who once leaped on stage in front of a hockey arena full of screeching teens, Flying-V in hand, to "jam" with Gerry & The Pacemakers (and later torpedo the "Ferry Cross The Mersey" by repeatedly screaming "Fire!" into Gerry's mic).
RODNEY BINGENHEIMER: Beginning life as little more than Sonny & Cher's thirteen-year-old road-eye, this persistent little pluck slowly but surely wormed his way up the dial by first doubling for Davy Jones on "The Monkees" and later by opening the West Coast's only "authentic" English disco (wherein Led Zeppelin had their very own, umm, booth). As if that wasn't more than enough already, he's helped launch Blondie, The Go-Go's and the (gasp) Wondermints on their merry ways, double-dated with Jodie Foster and Brooke Shields, amassed one of the largest known collections of Mickey Mouse Club memorabilia - not to mention toupees - this side of Cyril Jordan, as well as (now this alone qualifies him forever as an undisputed Hero Of Rock'n'Roll Radio) tearfully reuniting Frankie with Annette on the KROQ air in 1982: all to the sweet strains of their maybe-someday-seasonal standard "Together We Can Make A Merry Christmas" (...well, it made it to Number One on RODNEY'S Top Twenty!)
Do you remember lying in bed
With the covers pulled up over your head?
Radio playin' so no-one can see.
We need change and we need it fast
Before rock's just part of the past
'Cause lately it all sounds the same to me.