Saturday

BITS AND PIECES - NEWS ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE ARTISTS By Michael McDowell



SHAKE YOUR LOVE: Veteran vocalist, composer, producer, actress and Brooklyn, New York native Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson celebrated the release on 03 November of the highly anticipated Edsel Records thirteen disc box set, We Could Be Together, a comprehensive look at her three decade recording career. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below. (Click on above image to enlarge).


IT'S A LONG WAY TO HEAVEN:
PARTRIDGE FAMILY FRONT MAN
DAVID CASSIDY DEAD AT 67

In a week that has seen the back to back passings of charismatic record show promoter Brian Cailouette, former Jubilee and ABC Paramount recording artist and beloved actress Della Reese, AC/DC rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, Junior Walker and the All Stars drummer Billy Nicks, Wendy and Bonnie co-founder Bonnie Flower and long time Miracles member Warren "Pete" Moore, it would seem that the world of music has endured more than its share of tragedy.

But even though the news was not altogether surprising, the grief factor increased exponentially on Monday the twenty-first of November with the death of Partridge Family front man, long time solo artist, veteran actor and New York native David Bruce Cassidy. 


The son of veteran actor Jack Cassidy (who appeared as the charismatic Oscar North in the classic He And She television series), David Cassidy was a veteran of both Broadway and television when he made his debut as Keith Partridge in The Partridge Family television series in 1970. Co-starring with his stepmother, Shirley Jones (who portrayed Marian Paroo in the monster classic motion picture, The Music Man), Danny Bonaduce, Susan Dey and the late Dave Madden, Cassidy rallied to the occasion and assumed the lead vocalist role on the Partridge Family's recordings on the Bell label.

The Partridge Family's half dozen albums for Bell produced a wealth of memorable material, from Morning Rider On The Road to the highly dramatic It's A Long Way To Heaven. Bell also released an impressive series of sublime singles under the Partridge Family name, including Doesn't Somebody Want To Be Wanted, I'll Meet You Halfway, It's One Of Those Nights, I Woke Up In Love This Morning, Am I Losing You and the group's 1970 signature single, the utterly stupendous I Think I Love You.

When the television series ran its course after its fourth season, Cassidy pursued with greater fervor the solo career that he had begun during the series' run. While early solo endeavors for Bell relied to an extent on covers (most notably the Association's Cherish and the Young Rascals' How Can I Be Sure), Cassidy later turned his attention primarily towards original material. Among the highlights are Gettin' It In The Street, Get It Up For Love and the somewhat ironic Breakin' Down Again, augmented by commendable interpretations of the Beach Boys' Darlin', the Bruce Johnston-penned I Write The Songs (also recorded by Barry Manilow and the Captain And Tennille) and an impressive rendition of the 1939 signature track by the legendary Ink Spots, If I Didn't Care.

Along the way, Cassidy authored two acclaimed autobiographies, which highlight in detail his admiration for long time colleague and fellow recording artist Sal Mineo, as well as his consistent attempts to refine and revise his musical mission statement. He also co-starred with beloved veteran vocalist Petula Clark and his younger brother, Shaun Cassidy in the stage production, Blood Brothers in the early 1990s. Most recently, the Partridge Family's I Think I Love You was the featured track in a chapter of the still in progress Audrey's Musical Journey, the biography of Blitz Magazine's late and beloved Photo Editor (and wife of Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell), Audrey McDowell.

Sadly, despite a relentless schedule of touring and recording, Cassidy announced in early 2017 that he was suffering from the early stages of dementia, exacerbated by arthritis. In November, he suffered from multiple organ failure. Although a diligent search was made for organ donations, Cassidy tragically succumbed to his illnesses on 21 November. He was 67, and is survived by son Beau, daughter Katie and brothers Shaun, Patrick and Ryan.

WE COULD BE TOGETHER:
DEBBIE GIBSON UNVEILS
HIGHLY ANTICIPATED BOX SET

In one of the most illogical early eliminations in the show's twenty-five season history, Dancing With The Stars contestant Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson, despite world class performances borne of more than three decades' experience, was voted off of the show during the second week of competition.

However, just as she did in her recording career, the vocalist, composer, producer, actress and Brooklyn, New York native has nonetheless emerged triumphant. To wit, she is celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of her 1987 recording debut with Atlantic Records via the release of the massive thirteen disc box set, We Could Be Together on the vaunted Edsel label, which was released on 03 November.

Named after the utterly stupendous monster classic 1989 single which ultimately was honored at the time by Blitz Magazine as Single Of The Year, We Could Be Together includes all ten of her most essential studio albums in their entirety. This extraordinary collection also spotlights bonus tracks, as well as a CD devoted to remixes, along with DVDs that chronicle videos and various live performances.

"The definitive pop collection of my thirty year career", said Gibson, whose singles triumphs also include Foolish Beat, Lost In Your Eyes, No More Rhyme, Electric Youth, Out Of The Blue, Your Secret, The One and the larger than life Campfire Remix of the title track of this box set.


YOUR MONKEY SLIDES:
ROXANNE FONTANA TO COVER
ROLLING STONES CLASSIC
WITH INMATES GUITARIST



New York native and Stoke Prior, Herefordshire based composer and vocalist Roxanne Fontana will be returning to the studio in London later this month with Inmates co-founder and guitarist Tony Oliver as producer to record her unique interpretation of a Rolling Stones classic.

"So excited about that", said Fontana, who is perhaps best known for her 1999 Love Is Blue album on her own Etoile label, which was produced by the (Young) Rascals' Dino Danelli.

"My and Tony go back to the late '70s. I'm glad he said yes when I asked him to play and take the reigns".

Fontana also recently participated in the video for Mat Treiber's Go All Around The World, which was issued on a vinyl 45.

"The single was just released this summer", said Fontana.

"It is distributed by Universal on download and is also available as a seven inch from my indie label. Mat's gotten amazing reviews."

As for the forthcoming cover project, Fontana is remaining elusive about the specifics so far.

"The song I picked is much more garage rock", she said.


LIFE:
REMEMBERING PRODUCER AND
COMPOSER JERRY ROSS

Among producers, there are the absolute elite, whose work for other artists stands as an example of artistic vision taken to the highest level.

Definitely among their ranks was the extraordinarily gifted Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Jerry Jan Ross. In a career that spanned several decades, Ross applied his considerable acumen in that respect to a variety of essential recordings.

Having first rose to prominence as Dick Clark's announcer on the American Bandstand television series, Ross in the early 1960s founded Ross And Associates. Among his earliest signings was Kenny Gamble, later of the hugely successful Gamble and Huff team, who went on to work in various capacities with the great John Madara. Ross also developed a friendship and casual working partnership with the leadership team at the legendary Cameo-Parkway family of labels, whose offices were across the street from his. 

Ross and Gamble also tried their hand at songwriting, with their I'm Gonna Make You Love Me eventually becoming the signature track for Dee Dee Warwick, Aesop's Fables and the Supremes/Temptations collaborative. Ross also founded the Sheryl label at that time, whose successes included the Larks' 1961 It's Unbelievable single. He concurrently produced the Dreamlovers' When We Get Married and also worked for a brief season with the Sapphires, whose Who Do You Love for Swan is a highly respected standard.

Ross became a part of the A&R team at Mercury Records' New York offices in 1965, where he went on to work with such greats as Spanky And Our Gang, the extraordinary visionary James Barry "Keith" Keifer (of 98.6 and Ain't Gonna Lie fame) and Impressions alumnus Jerry Butler. While at Mercury, Ross produced Bobby Hebb's 1966 signature monster classic, Sunny for Mercury's affiliate Philips label.

But the lure of his own vision eventually became too strong for Ross to persevere in an affiliate capacity. He founded two of the era's most heralded labels, Heritage and Colossus. Heritage released a number of essential recordings in the latter half of the 1960s, including the Cherry People's And Suddenly, the Show Stoppers' Ain't Nothin' But A House Party, veteran rocker Marty Wilde's 1968 masterpiece, Abergavenny (released in the United States in 1969 under the pseudonym Shannon) and the key recordings by Bill Deal and the Rhondels (whose long time drummer and lead vocalist, Ammon Tharp tragically passed away earlier this year). 

Meanwhile, Ross' Colossus label was responsible for the release of the work of several key bands from Holland in the United States. While their legacy was well established for a season at home, it was The Tee Set's Ma Belle Amie (with its memorable flip side, Angels Coming In The Holy Night) that finally put the veteran band on the map in the United States in 1970. The George Baker Selection's wonderfully screwy Little Green Bag (which can be founded in an extended version on the band's Colossus label LP) followed suit in the Spring of that year. Colossus also provided a vehicle for Ross' own work as an artist with the Jerry Ross Symposium.

But it was a two year old single (recorded in 1967) that forever cemented Colossus' legacy in the United States in late 1969. Featuring the late and charismatic Maria Elisabeth "Mariska Veres" Ender as lead vocalist, the ambitious and garage rocking quartet, the Shocking Blue closed out the decade with one of the genre's definitive masterpieces, Venus. The Shocking Blue quickly followed suit on Colossus with Mighty Joe and Never Marry A Railroad Man, and has more than a half-dozen world class albums to their credit. 

Ross was also married to the late and much missed vocalist, Janice "April Young" Friedman, whose affiliation with Columbia Records in 1965 produced the highly memorable Run To My Lovin' Arms, Gonna Make Him My Baby, Life and You're The One singles; the latter of which was only released at the time in Europe. Young's legacy has been celebrated at length among the various anthology albums spotlighting Ross' extraordinary work.

Tragically, in recent months, Ross had been battling prostate cancer. It was that disease which finally claimed his life during the evening of 04 October.

"He left the world peacefully, knowing that he was loved and cherished by so many people", said Ross' daughter, Cheri Ross Dorwart in an online statement.

"To those that knew him, he was a music legend. I was lucky enough to call him 'Dad' every day. I will miss you with all of my heart, and I will continue to carry on your music legend".

It was indeed a legend that made Ross beloved by multitudes of musicians, musicologists and record collectors worldwide. Ross was 84. Friends and family will celebrate Ross' legacy on 08 October. He will be interred at King David Memorial Park in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

WON'T BACK DOWN:
REMEMBERING TOM PETTY

In country music (for example), there have been front runners and visionaries who set the standard of excellence by creating on a consistent level of genius. They include Hank Williams, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Bill Anderson, David "Stringbean" Akeman and Waylon Jennings, to name but a few.

Concurrently, within the genre was a cadre of the musical equivalent of everyday players who, while not necessarily redefining the movement as a whole, could nonetheless be counted upon to deliver first rate material on a consistent basis. Their ranks would include Warner Mack, Jack Greene, Nat Stuckey, Ricky Van Shelton and Clint Black.

Perhaps no artist within rock and roll fit the classic profile of everyday player as well as did vocalist, composer and Gainesville, Florida native Thomas Earl "Tom" Petty. A visit to the set of the 1961 motion picture Follow That Dream sparked Petty's interest in music following a meeting with the film's star, master interpreter Elvis Presley. And just as Presley took the interpreter's role to unprecedented heights, Petty eventually developed an acumen for creating original material based upon the familiar, with enough of the universal attributes a constant to resonate with the faithful.

Early attempts at realizing this vision via his work with Mudcrutch, coupled with the reality of aesthetically challenging day jobs were enough to prompt Petty to take it to the next level. The emergence of his signature ensemble, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1976 was an example of perfect timing. For while not directly in solidarity with the emerging so-called punk/new wave movement (which was in the process of rescuing rock and roll from the protracted aesthetic slump that it had been in since the closing months of the previous decade), Petty and his band in their early outings for the Shelter label nonetheless professed solidarity in terms of inspiration with the greater movement via such inspired originals as the Byrds-like Listen To Her Heart and American Girl, as well as the Bob Dylan-inspired romp, I Don't Know What To Say To You.

The public at large responded most favorably, and Petty's everyday musical persona continued to find acceptance on a much larger scale. Tracks like Refugee and Free Fallin' eventually became staples of so-called classic rock, while the champion of the underdog perspective of Won't Back Down caught the interest of acclaimed radio talk show host Bob Dutko, who continues to use a version of Petty's standard as his show's theme song.

Appropriately enough, Petty closed out the 1980s as a member of one of the best "damage control" bands in all of rock and roll, the Traveling Wilburys. For while its individual members (including Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, George Harrison and Roy Orbison) were embraced for their earlier work by the protagonists of the aforementioned aesthetic slump, they themselves were astute enough to realize that some of the key attributes of the genre itself had been missing and therefore in part responsible for that decline. As such, the band made a concerted effort to focus on those attributes (most notably a keen sense of humor) and in the process came full circle alongside the work of the champions of the punk/new wave movement of a decade earlier.

While brief, Blitz Magazine's lone encounter with Tom Petty was a most revealing one. That meeting transpired backstage in Los Angeles during a performance by the much ballyhooed quartet, Lone Justice. The band had drawn considerable media attention, largely for the extraordinary musical vision of its bassist and mastermind, Marvin Etzioni (who currently collaborates with Balancing Act co-founder Willie Aron as a member of Thee Holy Brothers). Petty counted himself among the Lone Justice faithful, and joined Blitz Magazine at the prerequisite behind the scenes catering table indigenous to such events. Our conversation with Petty was rather low key, except for Petty's obvious enthusiasm for Lone Justice's work. Even in such settings and after enjoying considerable acclaim, his role as a fan continued unabated.

As is the case with so many veteran musicians, Petty continued to record and perform live, having recently completed a fortieth anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers that included a stop at the Hollywood Bowl just a week ago. Sadly, Petty suffered cardiac arrest at his Malibu home in the early hours of 02 October. He was rushed to UCLA Medical Center in West Los Angeles, where he finally succumbed to his illness at 8:40PM that evening. Petty was 66. Survivors include his wife of sixteen years, Dana, as well as stepson Dylan.


PLAYBOY STAY AWAY
FROM MY DOOR?:
REMEMBERING THE MUSICAL SIDE
OF HUGH HEFNER (1926 - 2017)

More often than not, diversification can reap considerable dividends; aesthetic and otherwise.

To that effect, journalist, entrepreneur, broadcaster, record label founder and Chicago, Illinois native Hugh Marston Hefner parlayed an early interest in psychology and journalism into a publishing empire. The resultant Playboy Magazine (founded in 1953) in turn brought Hefner enough acclaim and financial resources to turn his attention to one of his greatest loves, music.

The Playboy label (which for much of its existence was headquartered on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, California) made its debut in 1957 with the release of the ambitious and acclaimed two-LP compilation anthology, The Playboy Jazz All Stars. That collection reflected Hefner's abiding passion for the genre, featuring as it did essential cuts by such standard bearers of the idiom as Stan Kenton, Bud Shank, Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, Barney Kessel, Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker, Charlie Ventura and Lionel Hampton.

Hefner then set his label interests aside for a time, pursuing music primarily through his magazine's annual jazz poll and through his 1969-1970 television series, Playboy After Dark. During its two seasons, the show featured live performances by such greats as the Cowsills, James Brown, the Sir Douglas Quintet and Deep Purple.

But by the mid-1970s, the Playboy label was back in action, pressing ahead with one of the most diverse and ambitious rosters in all of music. Singles and albums followed in short order by such artists as Wynn Stewart, Mickey Gilley, Tim Rose, Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds, Barbi Benton, Bobby Borchers, Al Wilson, Lois Fletcher, Willie Henderson, the Newbeats, Glenn Shorrock, Bobby Taylor, Layng Martine Junior, Sunday Sharpe, Pat Upton, Bjorn and Benny, Peter Foldy, Major Lance and Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.

With the dawning of the CD era, Playboy also released a four CD jazz anthology that was widely acclaimed as one of the definitive projects of its kind. Hefner's empire also established one of the most heralded CD reissue labels in the Illinois-based Collectors Choice Music, from which his firm divested itself in 2001. During its tenure as a label (which ended in 2010), Collectors Choice was most notable for bringing back into print the indispensable Capitol Records-era catalog of the enormously influential Kingston Trio.

Although Hefner continued to maintain an active role in his vast business empire, ill health began to take its toll. Hefner died of natural causes in his Holmby Hills, California mansion on 27 September. He was 91.

While many would assert that it was his publishing empire which brought Hefner his greatest acclaim (and criticism), such matters are best left to discussion and analysis elsewhere. But for the purpose at hand (music), Hefner made his mark from an executive position like few others did.


RIDIN' THE STORM OUT:
VETERAN MUSICIANS SURVIVE
HURRICANE IRMA

Garth Brooks may once have thanked God in song for Unanswered Prayer. But suffice to say that a number of beloved veteran musicians have reason to rejoice for answered prayer in the wake of Hurricane Irma. 

Peaking at a Category 5 and predicted to be the most destructive hurricane even seen on the eastern seaboard of the United States, Hurricane Irma was eventually downgraded to a Category 2 as it made its way throughout Southern Florida over the weekend of 09-10 September, after passing just north of Cuba and through much of the Caribbean.

Sadly, the island of Saint Martin suffered extensive damage, with surviving residents clamoring for food and basic supplies in its wake. The United States military, Operation Blessing, Samaritan's Purse, the Red Cross and other relief organizations are already on the scene, addressing each situation as best as possible. 

The state of Florida is also the home of a number of musical legends who opted to tough it out as Hurricane Irma made its way through their neighborhoods. They include Mystics co-founder George Galfo, current Danny and the Juniors member Bob Maffei, Blues Magoos vocalist/guitarist Emil "Peppy Castro" Theilhelm, veteran rocker and actor Arch Hall Junior, Lovin' Spoonful bassist Steve Boone, Vanilla Fudge kayboardsman Mark Stein and doo-wop pioneer Jack Blanchard of the Dawn Breakers and his long time wife and country music duet partner, Misty Morgan. 

"We're waiting to go back on Saint Pete Beach Island", said Maffei on the afternoon of the eleventh of September.

"The sheriff is not letting us in (yet)".

Thankfully, the hurricane began to lose strength noticeably as it made its way northward. As it did, first responders began to take action.

"It ain't over yet, but life is good so far", said Arch Hall Junior.

"Horrific hurricanes bring out the best of the American spirit".

To be certain, the Blues Magoos' Peppy Castro is the living embodiment of Hall's observations.

"I'm always a very thankful guy, but not more so than today", said Castro.

"I signed up to volunteer. It feels good and I'm glad I stayed. I knew it was the right thing to do".

Sadly, not everyone came through Hurricane Irma unscathed. This past week, Jack Blanchard noted that his home was directly in the storm's predicted path. In its aftermath, a bit of cleanup will be in order.

"They say our home has some damage, but can be fixed", said Blanchard, who sought shelter with Misty Morgan outside of the area.

"Nobody knows when the electric power and water will be back on. There is a curfew on driving. We are both worn out after thirty hours with no sleep and a lot of physical labor!"

In turn, the Lovin' Spoonful's Steve Boone also endured his share of tragedy in the flood.

"Water in the house may be twelve inches, maybe more", said Boone.

Beverly Ruthven, cousin of Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell is a near lifelong resident of central Florida, and thankfully also came through Hurricane Irma relatively unscathed.

"We spent the weekend in church, praying", she said.

"The power came back on in the area this afternoon (Monday the eleventh), and phone service was restored right after that. There doesn't seem to be any water damage in the area, thank God".

To be certain, there is indeed plenty for which many can be grateful to God in the aftermath of what seemed certain to be a disaster of Biblical proportions.

"Thank you for all of the outpouring of love and concern", said Castro.

"You are all treasured!"

In turn, Blanchard echoed Castro's sentiments.

"So happy that we still have a home", he said.

"Thank you all for being friends!"

TIME TO THINK (AND PRAY):
KINGSTON TRIO FOUNDER
BOB SHANE FACING
SERIOUS ILLNESS

The term "musical hero" has been invoked so much over the decades, that it at times seems to have lost its impact.



But one individual for whom that term most definitely applies in abundance is the beloved folk rock pioneer and sole surviving founding member of the Kingston Trio, Robert Castle "Bob Shane" Schoen. Although he continued to perform with the band from its inception in 1957 until a heart attack in March 2004 forced his retirement from the road, Shane has continued to oversee the mission statement of the band's current line up (which includes George Grove, Bill Zorn and Rick Dougherty), as well as participate as circumstances would allow in their recordings, most notably 2012's acclaimed Born At The Right Time album. 



However, as of July of this year, Shane's overall health has taken a turn for the worse.



"He's had quite a few very tiny strokes", said Shane's wife Bobbie in an online statement.



"Those cumulatively affected him a little bit".



Together with fellow visionaries Donald David "Dave" Guard and Nicholas Wells "Nick" Reynolds, Shane made his recording debut in 1958 with the Kingston Trio's self-titled premier album for Capitol. Tracks such as Three Jolly Coachmen, Bay Of Mexico (which took the curious step of featuring several key changes downward, as well as upward), Banua, Scotch And Soda, Hard Ain't It Hard, Fast Freight and Tom Dooley (which sold several million copies as the second single from the album, with Three Jolly Coachmen being the first) served to make that debut a major success, as well as a hallmark of the genre; paving the way for numerous successive releases for Capitol, Decca, Tetragrammaton and other labels. 



From the onset until the present day, two of the Kingston Trio's strongest attributes have been their far above average musicianship and their individual and collective quick wit. To be certain, the latter trait has continuously served the band well both individually and collectively. To that effect, Reynolds played some of his final shows with the band prior to his December 1999 retirement with a pronounced limp, prompting Shane to deadpan to the audience, "You'll notice that Nick is walking with a limp. That's because he's had two hip surgeries, and one that wasn't so hip".



Nonetheless, Shane had long harbored a deep and abiding affinity for his bandmates. To wit, after the tragic passing of Dave Guard from lymphoma in March 1991, the band made it a point at every show to pay tribute to him. Sadly, band co-founder Nick Reynolds also passed away from acute respiratory disease in October 2008. In turn, long time band member John Coburn Stewart (who succeeded Guard in the line up in 1961) succumbed to a brain aneurysm in January of that year. Interim member Roger Gambill also passed away from a heart attack at age forty-two in March 1985.



Sadly, it is now Shane's turn to face major health challenges.



"Unfortunately, he has developed a seizure disorder", said Bobbie Shane.



"His seizures are more just like electrical brain surges that last a couple of seconds. Not like Grand Mal, or anything like that".



"The Mayo (Clinic) thinks it could be scar tissue from the strokes that irritated his brain. He is of course on meds for all of this. The seizures have stopped for the most part, but the seizures have done their damage. The Mayo said they damaged the language center of his brain, which affects a lot of things".



Despite the prognosis, Bobbie Shane assures that there are some positive signs to be found in her husband's recovery.



"He's not slurring", she said.



"Nor does he have any speech impediment. It's just hard for him to get the words out sometimes.



"Plus, he processes really slow now. You just have to be patient when talking with him and not overload him with too much too fast. His balance has also been affected, and he is using a walker now".



Since the passing of Reynolds and Stewart in 2008, Shane has been a regular presence at the annual Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp, in which aspiring musicians have a rare opportunity to sit in with the absolute master. Tragically, present circumstances seem to have derailed those plans for the time being.

"I'm afraid he won't be able to perform anymore", said Bobbie Shane.

"But he will be at camp with bells on. He needs a lot of sleep. But he plans on being around as often as he can, especially for the shows at camp".

Through it all, Bob and Bobbie Shane continue to espouse the relentless optimism that has been Bob Shane's trademark from day one.

"The good news is that he is healthy, happy and still Bob", said Bobbie Shane.

"Bob always said, 'Getting old ain't for sissies'. He was sure right about that.

"We're okay. Life is more challenging now. But we're hanging in. We'll just keep concentrating on the good in life".

Blitz Magazine joins the Kingston Trio's legions of devotees around the world in prayer for the healing of this beloved musical giant.


TRIBUTE TO A HERO,
INSPIRATION AND FRIEND:
REMEMERING WKNR KEENER 13's
FRANK "SWINGIN' " SWEENEY


It has been reiterated time and time again in Blitz Magazine. And at a time like this, it most assuredly bears repeating.



In the more than four decades since the inception of Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, by far the single most impacting and enduring inspiration on our mission statement was the remarkable phenomenon known as WKNR Keener 13. From its beginnings in the wake of the demise of WKMH in late October 1963 until it signed off of the air in April 1972, that suburban Detroit AM station set the standard of excellence in radio so high that to date, it has never been equaled, let alone surpassed.



Much of WKNR's success came from what long time station mastermind Bob Green once termed "intelligent flexibility", in which the cream of radio's personalities came together under a given template and within those parameters asserted their individual creative acumen with unprecedented autonomy. In the process, some of the most beloved figures in the history of the medium became what were known as the Keener Key Men Of Music, including not only Bob Green, but Mort Crowley, Jim Sanders, Jerry Goodwin, Gary Stevens, Robin Seymour, Bill Phillips, Ted Clark, J. Michael Wilson, Paul Cannon, Scott Regen, Jim Jeffries, Sean Conrad and Gary Granger.



One of the first to make an impact during the crucial early months of the WKNR story was Frank "Swingin' " Sweeney. Recruited to fill the vacancy being created by the departing Jim Sanders (a WKMH holdover who had committed to a station in another market prior to the format and call letter change), Sweeney was originally picked for the afternoon slot, commensurate with his vast experience in that capacity.



However, the abrupt departure of morning man Mort Crowley in the early weeks of 1964 in one of the most storied sign offs in radio history (brought about by an ongoing impasse between WKNR and the local telephone company) necessitated immediate action. Due to extraordinary circumstances, Jerry Goodwin (who was being considered for Crowley's morning show) ended up in Sanders' afternoon slot, with Sweeney brought in to succeed Crowley in the 5:00AM to 9:00AM shift.



While generally not a morning drive person, Frank Sweeney nonetheless rose to the occasion. His quick wit (coupled with his considerable acumen as the station's Music Director) was a perfect fit for the critical morning drive slot, a position he occupied until the early weeks of 1965. At that time, he went on to hugely successful stints in other radio markets, and eventually became a much beloved and integral part of the beauty pageant industry, with an impressive track record in both the Miss USA and Miss Universe organizations.



In anticipation of WKNR's fiftieth anniversary in 2013, Blitz Magazine began an occasional (and ongoing) series of lengthy interviews with WKNR veterans. Our first profile was none other than Frank "Swingin' " Sweeney, whose observations in a conversation that went on for more than two hours about the station's legacy and his vision for the medium in general was truly one of the highlights of Blitz Magazine's forty-plus year history.



That exchange with Frank Sweeney was engineered at Blitz headquarters by my beloved wife and Blitz's Photo Editor, Audrey McDowell. And in the ensuing months, Sweeney supremely personified the wisdom of choosing one's heroes carefully.



In the wake of Audrey's abrupt and horrific passing from a major stroke and brain hemorrhage in October 2014, Frank Sweeney was one of a number of heroes who went on to become close friends; contacting Blitz Magazine on a regular basis to offer his support, prayers, encouragement and insights. He concurrently became a much treasured member of Blitz's advisory board.



A relentless optimist, Frank Sweeney spent much of his later years chronicling his life in New York City as a photojournalist. Concurrently, he often contacted Blitz Magazine to offer praise for a new posting or article that was to his liking, and rarely passed up the opportunity to share his unique perspective on life in general.



To that effect, some months ago, Frank Sweeney offered Blitz Magazine this insightful observation:



"It happened to me when I was seventy years old. And when exactly it happens varies with the individual. But eventually, there will come a time when you simply don't give a rip about things. By that, I don't mean that you don't care about people or circumstances. What I mean is that, whenever a problem or challenge comes your way, you don't get upset, worried or angry about it. You just deal with it and move on to the next challenge in life".



Such was the wisdom of the extraordinary individual who was not only an integral part of the greatest success story in the history of radio, but one of the most gifted, beloved and inspirational heroes that Blitz Magazine was blessed and privileged to be able to call a friend. Frank Sweeney went home to be with his Maker on the 25th of May. Survivors include his wife, as well as his brother Walt.


LONG TIME FLAMIN' GROOVIES
BASSIST GEORGE ALEXANDER
OUSTED FROM BAND


In one of the most surprising and disconcerting moves in all of music in recent months, long time Flamin' Groovies bassist George Alexander was fired from the band of which he has been an integral part for more than a half century.

"I was given the sack", said Alexander in an online statement.

I was a bit shocked and it came unexpected when it finally happened to me".

Alexander, whose inventive bass work has graced both stage and studio since the release of the band's landmark Sneakers album in 1968, was also an integral part of such subsequent releases as Supersnazz, Flamingo, Teenage Head, Shake Some Action and Jumpin' In The Night.


Most recently, the Flamin' Groovies have performed and recorded around the core line up of founder Cyril Jordan (lead guitar), Chris Wilson (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Victor Penalosa (drums) and Alexander. The band toured extensively in 2015 in celebration of their fiftieth anniversary, at which time Blitz Magazine interviewed Jordan at length.

In late 2016, the Jordan, Wilson, Alexander and Penalosa line up released the Crazy Macy / Let Me Rock single for the Otis label, with both sides co-authored by Jordan and Wilson. Original Blitz Magazine art director Dennis Loren (who served in that capacity for Blitz from 1976-1980) did the art work for the single's picture sleeve.



"James Ferrell departed from the band in 1977", said Alexander.



"I'm not sure he did so willingly. I say this because I'm only now beginning to recognize a pattern behind each ex-Groovie member leaving. Or perhaps, I suspect, being driven out of the band. Triggered by frustration, followed by personal animosity and ending with the tactic of scapegoating in order to assert legitimate authority".



Ferrell had his own take on those circumstances.



"To set things straight, I was asked to leave the band", said Ferrell.



"When Cyril and Chris explained their direction, they said I was welcome to stay. I had some initial misgivings. But it was my band, and they were my friends. I thought I should and could be professional about it.



"I learned a few lessons. The new stuff didn't fit my playing, personality or taste. It seems that if I am not fully into something, I can't conceal the fact. I didn't complain to anyone that I was unhappy. But it must have been obvious, and I was asked to leave. Truth to tell, I was relieved to just move on".



And now, forty years later, history seems to have repeated itself with Alexander's departure, the process of which Alexander inferred had actually begun in September 2016.



"Makes no business sense with a new album and movie due out this year", Alexander said.



In the process, drummer Victor Penalosa was also dismissed from the band. Succeeding Alexander and Penalosa for the time being are bassist Chris Von Sneidern (who had previously worked with Jordan in a band called Magic Christian) and drummer Tony Sales. In turn, the Flamin' Groovies are pressing ahead with the process of completing their new album. Jordan completed the basic tracks in an East Coast studio, and Wilson will be coming in from Portland, Oregon within the next couple of weeks to work out the vocal parts.



Jordan, Von Sneidern and Sales have also been in rehearsals. Jordan has concurrently been finishing some preliminary art work for the cover, and Dennis Loren has once again been called upon to provide the finishing touches. The album cover will not feature any photos of the band.



"I'm okay with it. (It's) not a sob story", said Alexander.



"It was originally my intention to end my career as a band member after promoting the new album and movie this year. (But) it's played out. I'm done with it. They need to put their best foot forward."



Other band members were unavailable for comment at press time.

BLITZ MAGAZINE ON TOUR
TO PROMOTE MUSICAL HARMONY
AT RECORD COLLECTORS CONVENTIONS

With the time tested adage of "music hath charms to soothe the savage beast" in mind, Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell and long time Blitz contributor Jerry Schollenberger are currently on tour, doing their part to combat genre myopia by offering a wide range of music in a variety of formats at various record collectors conventions.

The hard core collector and seasoned musicologist alike will be pleased to find a diverse selection of music for sale at Blitz Magazine's table. From Johnny Mathis to Queensryche, from Faron Young to Sarah Vaughn, from Ronnie Dove to Billy Idol, from Natalie Merchant to Andreas Vollenweider, or from Joan Baez to Jimmy Smith, Blitz will have something for just about every musical preference in a wide variety of formats, including CDs, 45s, vinyl LPs and cassettes.

And for the dedicated survey collector, Blitz Magazine will have on hand a very limited supply of original surveys from the legendary WKNR Keener 13, the pioneering radio station whose beloved air veterans (the Keener Key Men Of Music) have been the subject of an ongoing profile series here on Blitz Magazine's web site. 
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Blitz's next stop will be at the Record Show at the Knights Of Columbus Hall on Secor Road in Toledo, Ohio at 9:00AM on the morning of Sunday the twelfth of November 2017. Please stop by and say hello. Blitz Magazine will be more than happy to talk music. And do feel free to bring along your vintage copies of Blitz Magazine, which we will be glad to autograph. See you there!