HEY THAT'S NO WAY TO SAY GOODBTE: The world of music was saddened by the sudden passing on 01 March of William "Bill" Burkette, co-founder and lead vocalist of the pioneering vocal quartet, the Vogues. Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell, who composed the sleeve notes for the Vogues' 1988 Greatest Hits collection for Rhino Records, remembers Burkette's magnificent career below. (Click on above image to enlarge).

(1931 - 2018)

In terms of sheer volume of work, there have been few artists whose direct reach and impact has been so vast as to literally challenge even the most determined attempts to chronicle and celebrate it accordingly.

Such rare accolades most assuredly apply to composer, arranger, producer, keyboardsman/multi-instrumentalist and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native James J. "Jimmy" Wisner. Also known as "The Wiz" for most of his extraordinary career, the one time Temple University psychology major forsook any such aspirations in by the late 1950s when he opted instead for a career in music.

Early efforts with bassist Ace Tesone and drummer Chick Kinney as the Jimmy Wisner Trio were highlighted by live work with Carmen McRae, Mel Torme and others. Wisner concurrently carried his vision into the studio in 1959 with the Blues For Harvey album for Felsted. He then signed with Chancellor Records in 1960, where he received further acclaim for his Apperception album and his somewhat prophetic single, A Quiet Boy / Where The Hot Wind Blows.

As Wisner was keenly aware, that Hot Wind blew decisively towards rock and roll. Drawing from his passion for both classical and jazz, Wisner applied his remarkable arranging and instrumental skills to a rocking variation on composer and Bjorgvan, Hordaland native Edvard Hagerup Grieg's Piano Concerto In A Minor. The resultant Asia Minor single was first issued on Wisner's own Future label. It was subsequently reissued on Felsted and went on to become one of the premiere instrumentals of 1961.

Throughout the 1960s, Wisner made immeasurable contributions to rock and roll and related genres as an arranger, composer, producer and sideman. Just a partial listing of the artists whose work was blessed by his genius staggers the imagination, including Randy And The Rainbows, Paul Evans, Herbie Mann, Neil Sedaka, Freddy Cannon, Candy And The Kisses, the Cowsills, Len Barry, Barbra Streisand, the Searchers, Bobby Vinton, Miriam Makeba, Tommy James And The Shondells, Judy Collins, Spanky And Our Gang, Tony Bennett and Donna Marie, to name but a few. Wisner concurrently recorded under his own name throughout the decade for Atlantic (1965's Choppin' Around), Cameo (the ambitious A Walk In Space, also 1965), and Columbia (Look To The Rainbow and Manhattan Safari, both 1969). 

Following a series of e-mail exchanges that were prompted by research in the late 1990s, Wisner telephoned Blitz Magazine's Southern California offices to offer further insights. Unwaveringly passionate nearly four decades after the fact about his earliest endeavors for Felsted Records, Wisner in those exchanges was as astounding as a fountain of information as he was as a musical visionary of the highest order. Alongside fellow Philadelphia musical groundbreakers John Madara and the late Jerry Ross, Wisner set a standard of excellence which continues to inspire musicians and musicologists alike.

Sadly, Wisner's remarkable run came to a conclusion with his passing on 14 March. He was 86.


In the world of the so-called Blue Eyed Soul sub-genre, there has long been a small circle of front runners who have pretty much defined the genre. Chief among them is Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz, with the Rascals' Eddie Brigati, John Fred and the Playboy Band's John Fred Gourrier, the Righteous Brothers' Bill Medley and the Animals' Eric Burdon also figuring decisively in the upper echelons.

Ranking right alongside them is the extraordinary co-founder and lead vocalist of the Id and Sydney, New South Wales native Jeffrey "Jeff Saint John" Newton. Having built considerable momentum in 1965 via his work with the Wild Oats, Saint John went on to front the Id. The band made their debut for the Spin label in 1966 with their superb, Georgie Fame-inspired interpretation of the Larks' November 1964 monster classic, The Jerk.

Saint John's compelling and memorable way with the genre resonated with the faithful, and the Id proceeded accordingly with a solid interpretation of Sam and Dave's You Got Me Hummin' in 1966. The band followed suit later that year with an ambitious take on the great Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter's Black Girl, and branched out considerably on the flip side with their thinking outside of the box psych rock track, Eastern Dream. Saint John concurrently made appearances on the Australian Bandstand television series, highlighted by his groundbreaking performance of the Oscar Brown/Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass classic, The Work Song.

But before year's end, the Id and Jeff Saint John made their most enduring impression with their inspired rendition of Big Time Operator. The song had also been recorded by George Bruno "Zoot" Money, and ultimately drew the bulk of its notoriety from the 1973 version on A&M by Keith Hampshire. Nonetheless, it was Saint John's self-assured bombastic delivery that did Big Time Operator the most justice.

The Id pressed ahead into 1967 with the release of Sunoroid '67 on EMI, and then called it a day. Saint John re-emerged in late 1970 with the band Copperwine, whose unique take on the Temptations' Cloud Nine was sufficient to sustain his momentum throughout the 1970s with a solo career that included stops at the Infinity, Asylum and WEA labels. 

Most remarkably, Jeff Saint John suffered from spinal bifida for most of his life. He made numerous television and personal appearances from the 1980s into the current century to raise awareness about the disease, highlighted by his rendition of the Australian national anthem at the Summer Paralympics in Sydney, New South Wales in 2000.

A tireless performer and champion of the cause for decades, Saint John sadly passed away at his Perth, Western Australia home on 06 March. Saint John would have celebrated his seventy-second birthday on the twenty-second of April.


Don't Give Up.

So sang composer, vocalist and Epsom, Surrey native Petula Clark in her 1968 Warner Brothers label single of the same name. In a sense, Clark's benediction was concurrently an acknowledgement of hindsight. 

Three years earlier, Clark had co-authored (with Tony Hatch) a memorable and engaging track, You're The One, which saw single release on the Vogue label and was also included on her I Know A Place album for Warner Brothers. And while 1965 was certainly a banner year in Clark's career, other releases by her (including Downtown, You Better Come Home and Round Every Corner) ultimately received greater acclaim.

Nonetheless, You're The One came to the attention of a Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania quartet, who had been searching for their own breakthrough moment. The group, which was comprised of Chuck Blasko, Don Miller, Hugh Geyer and William "Bill" Burkette III, had been working for a season under the name the Val-Aires. Former WCAE/Pittsburgh announcer Nick Cenci met with the group at Pittsburgh's Gateway Studios later that year, where he produced their ambitious and inspired cover of You're The One.

To be certain, You're The One had all of the necessary ingredients that comprise a landmark recording: sympathetic production and arrangement, strong material and world class execution on the part of the artists themselves. The group released You're The One on their own Blue Star label, which soon after became a regional hit. In the process (and in part inspired by the label that issued Clark's rendition), Cenci prompted the group to continue as the Vogues. 

You're The One became a blessing for artist and producer alike. Cenci was the "Ce" of Co&Ce Records, a label that he co-founded and headed with Herb Cohen. Co&Ce had worked with Lou Christie a couple of years earlier via the release of his The Gypsy Cried single, and ended up leasing it to Morris Levy's Roulette Records. But You're The One was a strong enough outing to prompt Cohen and Cenci to give Co&Ce another chance.

In September 1965, suburban Detroit's WKNR Keener 13 (which was one of two stations that broke records nationally) took notice, with You're The One enjoying a three week run at number one on the weekly WKNR Music Guide to close out September. The single ultimately finished at a respectable number four on Keener's year end listing of the top thirty-one singles of 1965. 

The rest of the country followed suit in short order, and You're The One became a major success. The Vogues returned to the studio to cut their Meet The Vogues album for Co&Ce, which featured the single (but ironically not its inspired ballad flip side, Some Words), as well as their ambitious renditions of recent releases by the Walker Brothers, the Dave Clark Five, the Toys, Len Barry, Sonny and Cher, the Temptations, We Five and others. 

The success of the Vogues' initial outing for Co&Ce gave the label the inspiration to persevere. Subsequent releases on the label by the Willies, Lou Christie, the Swamp Rats and the Fenways all fared well, enabling the Vogues to sustain their own momentum. 

And sustain their momentum they did, creating an anthem in the process. Before the end of 1965, the Vogues returned to the studio to record their follow up single to You're The One. Taking their cue to varying degrees from such like minded outings as Roy Orbison's Working For The Man and the Reflections' Poor Man's Son, the Vogues brought their rich four part vocal harmonies to a single that balanced the despair of those inspirations with a relentless optimism that set the precedent for many a duly inspired track. Five O'clock World became an anthem of sorts to legions of working people across the globe, eventually setting the stage for such like minded efforts as the Easybeats' Friday On My Mind, Earl Thomas Conley's Finally Friday and Kyle Vincent's recent Saturday's Mine. Coupled with the engaging Nothing To Offer You from their first album, Five O'clock World in turn prompted a second album for the group on Co&Ce, which also featured their memorable renditions of material recently recorded by the Four Seasons, Eddy Arnold, Jonathan King, the Newbeats, Jay And The Americans and others. 

By early 1966, it was becoming apparent that aside from their considerable vocal strengths, the key attributes of the Vogues' mission statement were both their original material and their rare ability to see light at the end of the tunnel. To that effect, their first two singles of 1966 acknowledged both ends of that spectrum with considerable flair and passion. The first of these, Magic Town took the despondency expressed in the Drifters' On Broadway to task, with the protagonist striving to come to terms with the Drifters' resolve in the final bars of their own single.

Conversely, the Vogues' follow up, The Land Of Milk And Honey took the euphoria of Five O'clock World to new heights, subtly engaging Biblical metaphors to suggest that better times were indeed coming. The Land Of Milk And Honey was subsequently embraced by aficionados of first generation garage rock as an example of the group's solidarity with the genre. 

And while Co&Ce sustained their momentum throughout 1966 with the success of such monster classic singles as Lou Christie's Outside The Gates Of Heaven and the Willies' The Willy, the Vogues tried their hand at a variety of material, ranging from an impassioned take of Tommy Edwards' Please Mister Sun to the ambitious and highly promising Summer Afternoon. But by 1967, they had switched label affiliations to MGM, where their Lovers Of The World Unite (which had also been recorded by David and Jonathan) became an anthem of sorts. Co&Ce concurrently issued Summer Afternoon to close out their affiliation with the group.

In 1968, the Vogues found themselves at Reprise Records, where their Just What I Was Looking For single was strong enough to inspire the label to continue the relationship. However, in the process, the Vogues re-discovered their strength with cover material. They followed that initial outing for Reprise with a dramatic, lavishly arranged interpretation of Glen Campbell's Crest label 45, Turn Around, Look At Me, and found themselves once again on center stage. For the remainder of 1968, throughout 1969 and into 1970, the Vogues turned out one classic single after another, taking on a variety of standards that included Bobby Helms' My Special Angel, the Four Lads' No Not Much and Moments To Remember, the Angels' Till, the Brothers Four's Greenfields, the Penguins' Earth Angel, the Beach Boys' God Only Knows, the Skyliners' Since I Don't Have You and Leonard Cohen's Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye. The group continued well into the early 1970s with singles for Bell, Twentieth Century Fox and Mainstream.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Vogues found themselves as the subjects of numerous reissue and anthology projects, including truncated reissues of their two albums for Co&Ce on Pickwick in electronically reprocessed stereo, as well as a single disc vinyl album on Reprise that combined their most successful efforts for Reprise and Co&Ce. The Reprise collection drew fire amongst many of the Vogues' faithful for its inclusion of Co&Ce era tracks with overdubbed orchestration that was not found on the original Co&Ce releases. 

But in 1988, Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell was commissioned by Rhino Records to work on what remains the Vogues' most comprehensive single disc career overview to date. Blitz contributed the accompanying career essay for the project, which was released on compact disc, vinyl album and cassette. Side Two of The Vogues' Greatest Hits album on Rhino features their most memorable Reprise tracks, while Side One spotlights their classic work for Co&Ce.

In the process of seeing the album through to completion, it was with the material on Side One that various concerns were raised. Chief among those issues were the overdubbed versions of the Co&Ce tracks on the Reprise album. It was readily agreed by all concerned that this phase of their work was best represented in its original, pristine form.

Upon further investigation, project producer Bill Inglot discovered that separate tracks existed for both vocals and instrumental backing, which in theory would make an ad hoc stereo mix possible. But after due consideration, Rhino opted for the original monaural mixes for Side One. The Vogues' Greatest Hits continues to find favor with Vogues aficionados for its inclusion of such comparatively rare material as Lovers Of The World Unite, Just The Way You Are and Hey That's No Way To Say Goodbye, as well as their better known work for both labels.

The Vogues themselves persevered well into the twenty-first century with frequent live performances. Front man extraordinaire Bill Burkette returned to the group several years ago after a protracted sabbatical, with the Vogues having appeared onstage as recently as mid-February.

Tragically, Burkette's storied run with the legendary group came to an end on the morning of 01 March with his passing. Burkette, who lived in Murrysville, Pennysylvania at the time of his death, is survived by his wife, Elaine M. Downing Burkette, as well as his children, Lori, William and Sheri and their spouses, plus grandchildren Brianna Mae, Holden William and Nathan. Burkette was 75.


He has been called a Pastor to Presidents. In his more than six decades of ministry, he spoke before an unprecedented two hundred million people.

He was William Franklin "Billy" Graham, by far the most impacting evangelist of the twentieth century and beyond. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina on 07 November 1918, Graham initially aspired to a career in Major League Baseball.

However, while attending a revival meeting in 1934 led by Evangelist Mordecai Ham, Billy Graham heard a different calling. He subsequently embarked upon a protracted mission that would find him witnessing to countless lives throughout the remainder of the twentieth century and into the opening years of the twenty-first century.

He married Ruth Bell in 1943, and continued to minister in various locales throughout the ensuing years. But in 1949, a tent meeting in Los Angeles drew record crowds. With the resultant media coverage, Billy Graham was thrust upon the world stage.

That large scale exposure soon brought him to the attention of the White House in Washington, D.C. Graham went on to serve as either pastor or counselor (or in some cases, both) to every American President from Harry S. Truman to Barack H. Obama.

Graham was also a regular fixture for decades on television. His Billy Graham Crusades drew record viewership and concurrently provided a training ground for his son, Franklin, who currently heads the acclaimed outreach ministry, Samaritan's Purse.

Much of Graham's work has also been captured on record. Highlights from his ministry can be found on numerous releases on RCA Victor, Word, Radiola and his own BGEA label. His public appearances also found him accompanied by a wealth of world class musicians, including Mahalia Jackson, George Beverly Shea, Wintley Phipps and Johnny Cash.

Sadly, ill health eventually forced Graham's retirement from the pulpit. He preached his final public sermon at the Festival Of Hope in New Orleans, Louisiana in March 2006, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. His farewell public message came with the release of the acclaimed My Hope For America DVD in November 2013, in tandem with his ninety-fifth birthday. He continued to author timely and widely acclaimed books into the current decade, including the inspiring Nearing Home in late 2010. His wife of sixty-four years, Ruth Bell Graham (an acclaimed author and orator in her own right) passed away in 2007.

A tireless champion of the Gospel and arguably its most successful messenger of the past several centuries, Graham consistently emphasized the unifying attributes of its message.

"The greatest need in the world today is a transformation of human nature", Graham once said.

"To make us love, instead of hate".

Billy Graham succumbed to his illnesses at his Montreat, North Carolina home shortly before 8:00AM on 21 February. He was 99.


He was one of the few who had it all. On stage charisma. A commanding vocal delivery. And ultimately, world class capabilities as a composer.

He was Reese Francis "Buzz" Clifford. III A native of Berwyn, Illinois, Clifford made his debut with the promising Fourteen Karat Fool and Pididdle (The Car With One Light) singles for the Bow label in 1957-1958. During the early phase of his career, he also served a tour of duty with the National Guard.

By 1960, Clifford had signed with Columbia, where for his second single (the first being Blue Lagoon), he cut the 6/8 high drama ballad, Driftwood late that year. But it was that single's flip side that put Clifford on the map in early 1961, the memorable novelty track, Baby Sittin' Boogie. Originally titled Baby Sitter Boogie, the single featured Clifford's amusing exchange with a gurgling infant (portrayed therein by the son of the song's composer, Johnny Parker). The single went gold, prompting television appearances on American Bandstand, the Perry Como Show, the Merv Griffin Show and others.

Clifford released two world class rockers in rapid succession for Columbia in 1961 in the form of I'll Never Forget and Moving Day. He also went on to work briefly in various capacities with long time Beach Boys rhythm guitarist David Lee Marks.

But it was as a composer that Clifford ultimately ensured his legacy. Such renowned labels as Cameo/Parkway and White Whale enlisted his services as a songwriter, as did world class vocalists Petula Clark, Clyde McPhatter, Leon Russell and Lou Rawls. Keith Barbour also capped his own recording career with the Clifford-penned Echo Park, which CKLW alumnus and renowned musicologist and historian Ric Allen recently referred to as the song that, "sends shivers up the spines of my Vietnam friends".

Clifford also did well with his own See Your Way Clear LP for Dot in 1969. Most recently, he had worked in various musical capacities with Gary Busey. In 2011, Clifford and his band (featuring his sons Reese Junior and John) recorded the acclaimed Bright Lights Shine album.

Sadly, Clifford succumbed to a lingering illness on 27 January 2018. He was 76.


Veteran composer, vocalist and Brooklyn, New York native Neil Leslie Diamond has announced his retirement from live performances in the wake of his diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease.

A fixture of the concert stage for more than a half century, Diamond completed a fifty-five date North American tour in 2017. A proposed tour of Australia and New Zealand has been canceled in the wake of his diagnosis.

A prolific composer (whose numerous credits include A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You and I'm A Believer for the Monkees, as well as Love To Love for both the Monkees and the Thyme), Diamond first rose to prominence in 1966 via his work for the legendary Bert Berns' Bang label. Diamond's August 1966 Cherry, Cherry single for Bang was an instant classic  (and was covered by the Music Machine on their Turn On album for Original Sound Records), followed in rapid succession by I Got The Feelin' (Oh No No), You Got To Me, Thank The Lord For The Night Time and Kentucky Woman (covered in 1968 by Deep Purple), among others for the label.

Diamond signed with Uni Records in 1968, where his streak continued unabated with such classic singles as Sunday Sun, Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show and Song Sung Blue. He spent much of the 1970s and 1980s on the Columbia roster, where his albums (highlighted by the memorable and semi-autobiographical Beautiful Noise) routinely achieved Gold and Platinum status.

Diamond, who celebrates his seventy-seventh birthday on the 24th of January, will continue to compose and record. Prayers for his complete and total recovery are in progress.


On an otherwise celebratory Martin Luther King day came the tragic news of the death of Gospel music pioneer, Doctor Edwin Reuben Hawkins.

In 1968, the Berkeley, California - based Hawkins joined forces with his brother Walter and several gifted soloists, including Dorothy Morrison. The ambitious and anointed entourage did a two-track session at their church, which was pressed independently in limited quantities.

However, Buddah Records took notice and came calling, signing Hawkins and his Edwin Hawkins Singers to their affiliate Pavilion label. The resultant Oh Happy Day single (and its equally impacting album, which also included the equally influential flip side, Jesus Lover Of My Soul) was released in early 1969 to enormous acclaim, setting the precedent for like minded efforts in the coming months by Lawrence Reynolds, 1776, Norman Greenbaum, Ocean and others.

Unique to Oh Happy Day was its intricate mix of the power and passion of such Gospel pioneers as the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the Golden Gate Quartet and the Dixie Hummingbirds with the duly inspired Stax/Volt catalog and the Northern Soul genre at large. The response was sufficient to prompt Buddah to prevail upon Hawkins' services again in 1970 for a collaboration with Buddah solo artist, Melanie Safka. The resultant Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) single became a hallmark in the repertoires of label and artists alike.

In the ensuing years, Edwin Hawkins and varying line ups of the Edwin Hawkins Singers appeared prolifically in both new releases and via contributions to various Gospel music anthologies and compilations. However, Hawkins had in recent months been battling pancreatic cancer, which claimed his life on the morning of 15 January. Hawkins was 74.


As 2017 drew to a much needed conclusion, in its final hours came the sad news that Pixies Three co-founder and original lead vocalist Midge Neel will be taking a sabbatical from the group.

"Due to health issues, I sadly announce my performing days with Kaye and Debby, my dear singing sisters and bestest friends since we began performing at (ages) nine and eleven, are over", said Neel in an online statement.

"This past June, I officially retired. And now, I find myself having to retire from my beloved Pixies Three, due to lung issues and paralyzed vocal chord dysfunction (VCD)".

Neel's announcement comes in the wake of the beloved vocal trio's resounding success with their most recent album, Timeless. The album contained the group's unique and impassioned interpretations of a wide variety of classics that inspired their own work, from Joe Cocker's With A Little Help From My Friends and the Ad Libs' The Boy From New York City to the DeCastro Sisters' Teach Me Tonight and Champaign's utterly stupendous How About Us. The Pixies Three were interviewed at length in Blitz Magazine at the time of the album's release. 

"You will be missed, Midge", said group co-founder Kaye Krebs.

"(But) you will still be around, enjoying your children and your grandchildren".

Although the group can trace their beginnings back to 1955, the Pixies Three first rose to prominence in 1963, with a half dozen classic singles (Birthday Party, 442 Glenwood Avenue/Cold Cold Winter, Gee, Summertime USA, Orphan Boy and Your Way) and one groundbreaking album, Party With The Pixies Three released between 1963 and 1965. During their tenure with Mercury, the Pixies Three worked extensively with the visionary production and songwriting team of John Madara and David White, the latter of whom had been a founding member of vocal group legends Danny and the Juniors. Madara and White went on to co-found the acclaimed first generation garage rock trio, the Spokesmen with WIBG (Philadelphia) air personality, Ray Gilmore. 

"At least I can still play violin, ukulele, bells and piano", Neel said.

"Music is still my love".

In fact, their multi-instrumental capacities served the Pixies Three well in the making of Timeless. Each member of the group has a home studio, is gifted in one or more instruments and contributed to the production of the album. The group in fact played instruments on stage (piano and ukulele) prior to signing with Mercury.

"The Pixies Three are not extinct, though", said Debby Swisher Horn, whose 1966 solo single for the late, great Bert Berns' Boom label (a cover of the Beach Boys' You're So Good To Me) will be featured on a forthcoming anthology CD on Ash Wells' Teensville/Rare Rockin' Records family of labels. When the Pixies Three embarked upon a sabbatical in 1965, Debby Swisher Horn went on to serve for a season as lead vocalist with the Angels, during their tenure with the RCA Victor label.

"Kaye, Debby and Bonnie are the Pixies Three. Hope to see you in a venue near you in the New Year!"

The Bonnie to whom Horn refers is Bonnie Walker Long, who originally replaced Neel upon the latter's departure from the group in 1964. Long has recorded extensively with the group since their permanent reunion in the 1980s, and has once again rejoined the group in Neel's place.

"I am thankful that the good Lord has blessed us with the opportunity to get together to perform, make music and renew our relationships one last time", said Neel.

"Although I realize that all good things must come to an end, my heart is deeply saddened".

However, while Neel's multi-instrumental acumen may indeed continue to serve the Pixies Three well in future endeavors, there may also be some good news on the horizon in terms of her medical diagnosis. 

To that effect, in recent months, vocal virtuoso Ronnie Dove, Toggery Five co-founder and long time Herman's Hermits rhythm guitarist Frank Renshaw, and Jack Blanchard of the Dawn Breakers and Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan have all endured medical issues similar to those of Neel. However, Dove, Renshaw and Blanchard all sought medical treatment, and all three were thankfully healed to the point of being able to return to active live performance with a vengeance.

Meanwhile, the Pixies Three line up of Kaye Krebs, Debby Swisher Horn and Bonnie Walker Long is already making plans for live performance dates and hopefully new studio work in 2018.

"Debby, Bonne and I will be taking the Pixies Three to many venues, I hope", said Krebs.

And as the Pixies Three's extraordinary legacy continues, they will continue to have in their corner an ardent supporter in the form of their hopefully temporarily sidelined colleague.

"Thank you, each and every one of you, who has loved us and supported us over our journey", said Neel.

As always, Blitz Magazine will continue to report any news and developments regarding their ongoing story.


Jesus is still the reason for the season. And that of course is a reason to celebrate.

For Christmas 2017, Blitz Magazine joined more than a hundred fellow veterans of the Southern California music industry at the annual Christmas celebration hosted by one time Rhino Records executive Gary Stewart at his suburban Los Angeles home.

During Rhino's founding days, Stewart and Blitz Magazine's Michael McDowell collaborated on numerous album projects for the label, including key releases by the Monkees, the Outsiders, the Shirelles, Bobby Day, the Chocolate Watchband, Brian Hyland, Dionne Warwick, Bill Deal and the Rhondels, Brenton Wood, Joe Tex, the Vogues, the New Colony Six, the Diamonds and many others. In the process, both Rhino and Stewart established formidable reputations as pillars of integrity in an industry where such attributes were sadly becoming in increasingly short supply.

True to form, Gary Stewart's annual invitation only gathering brought together a still tightly knit musical community for some great food and fellowship.

"I love the L.A. music community", said Balancing Act and Thee Holy Brothers co-founder, renowned composer and session musician, Willie Aron, who attended Stewart's gathering with his wife and children.

"It's like a family".

Like most families, catching up at such annual gatherings often requires a bit of multi-tasking. As pictured above, Gary Stewart and Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell endeavored to do just that by carrying on multiple conversations at the same time. In the words of the late, great Ross "David Seville" Bagdasarian and the Chipmunks, a Wonderful Day indeed.


The Wildest.

It was an adjective often use to describe the prolific collaborations between composer, trumpeter, vocalist and musical visionary Louis Leo Prima and his band, Sam Butera and the Witnesses. Indeed, few artists had managed to fuse the crucial elements of rock and roll, jazz and rhythm and blues with such command (tempered with finesse) as did Prima and his band of virtuosos, as borne out in abundance in their numerous recordings for Capitol and Dot.

Key to the proceedings was Prima's vocalist, wife and on stage comedic foil, Keely Smith. Born Dorothy Jacqueline Keely in Norfolk, Virginia on 09 March 1928, Smith auditioned for and won the vocalist role in Prima's band in 1949. Prima and Smith wed on 13 July 1953, and the extraordinarily gifted troupe went on to record a string of acclaimed and groundbreaking albums for Capitol, including The Wildest and The Call Of The Wildest albums.

In live performance, Smith often played the straight role to Prima's impassioned, uninhibited and groundbreaking vocal exercises and physical gyrations, with Butera and the band as co-participants. She often maintained a fa├žade that reflected boredom and or displeasure until it was her turn to take the microphone, at which time she proved herself more than capable. 

When Prima and Smith divorced in 1961, Prima and the band continued to record for Dot. In 1966, Prima signed with the Kama Sutra label, where he released a most inspired take on the Lovin' Spoonful's monster classic, Jug Band Music. He enjoyed a successful tenure with the De-Lite label in the 1970s (recording home of Kool And The Gang), and tragically passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage in New Orleans, Louisiana on 24 August 1978 at age sixty-seven.

Meanwhile, Smith continued to record prolifically as a solo artist. She persevered with Dot Records in the early 1960s, an association highlighted by 1960's Clearance Sale and 1961's La-Bou-Lay-A. By mid-decade, she was enmeshed in a fruitful affiliation with the Reprise label, where in 1964 she turned in a commendable interpretation of the Beatles' If I Fell. In 1967, Smith topped a brief affiliation with Atlantic Records via a single release of One Less Bell To Answer, which was covered in 1970 by the Fifth Dimension.

Smith married rockabilly pioneer, former Roulette recording artist and renowned producer Jimmy Bowen in 1965. Their union lasted until 1969, after which she married veteran vocalist Charles "Bobby Milano" Caci in 1975.

Smith's affiliation with the legendary Frank Sinatra was evidenced beyond her work for his Reprise label. Sinatra gave the bride away at her wedding to Milano, and she in turn recorded an album's worth of Sinatra material in Keely Sings Sinatra for her own Keely label in tandem with Concord Jazz in 2001.

Extraordinarily gifted as a vocalist throughout her long and prolific career, Smith gave her last live performance in February 2011 at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center in Cerritos, California. Tragically, Smith succumbed to heart failure in Palm Springs, California on 16 December. She was 89, with survivors including her children, Toni and Luanne Prima. 


"Without music, life would be a mistake".

That often invoked quote has been attributed to composer, poet, philosopher and Rocken, Saxony native, Frederich Wilhelm Nietzsche. And while it can be argued that there is much with which umbrage can be taken regarding Nietzsche's writings, few would contest the notion that the above observation at least merits ongoing consideration. 

Nonetheless, having passed away from a stroke in August 1900 not long after the dawn of the recorded era, Nietzsche could not possibly have envisioned the exponential growth of the industry. In turn, many of those who were a part of the birth of the record collectors convention movement in the 1970s continue to marvel at how what was once an (at best) haphazardly organized gathering of the faithful and the heretofore disenfranchised now commands a healthy impact and influence in that industry. 

All of that and more was in evidence at the most recent Motor City Music Convention, which is held quarterly at the Elks Hall on Plymouth Road in Livonia, Michigan. The 02 December gathering was an unusually emotionally charged one, coming as it did less than three weeks after the sudden and tragic passing of long time show promoter, Bryan Caillouette, who suffered a fatal heart attack on 12 November while en route to his suburban Detroit home after attending another record show in neighboring Oakland County. 

Despite the tragic circumstances, Caillouette's widow, Cheryl Caillouette rallied to the occasion in true "the show must go on" fashion, as all concurred that her late husband would have wanted. Likewise, many of the show regulars took the time to offer her their support and encouragement, stopping the proceedings on several occasions to pay tribute to Bryan Caillouette.

Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell was on hand for the day, as was long time Blitz contributor, renowned musicologist, collector, producer (Question Mark and the Mysterians) and official New Colony Six band historian, Jerry Schollenberger. Special guests also included one time Blitz contributor and renowned collector Al Wagenaar, original Blitz Magazine Art Director (1976-1980) Dennis Loren, Michigan Music founder Mike Jackson, former WKNR Keener 13 Key Man Of Music, radio historian and current WWJ-AM hockey reporter Greg Innis, long time WOMC-FM air personality John Freist and former Ivories front man and co-founder, Bruce Nichols. 

As has often been the case at such gatherings in recent years, those attending came with large want lists which were rife with musical diversity. Among the artists whose work was in better than average demand by the various attendees were the Parliaments, Roger Whittaker, Neil Diamond, Miles Davis, Buddy Holly, Lee Greenwood, Sandy Selsie, the Beach Boys, Bettye Swann, Glen Campbell, Andy Williams, Paul Weller, U2, Frank Zappa, the Cowsills, the Zombies and the Stooges. 

True to form, the available fare also provided a wealth of acquisitions for Blitz Magazine's archives. Among the many most welcome additions were the Count Victors' Peepin' And Hidin', Bobby Curtola's You're Not A Goody Goody, Pat Hervey's irresistible Walkin' In Bonnie's Footsteps, Tobin Matthews' cover of Buddy Holly's Think It Over, Rudy Jackson's 1957 Imperial label Give Me Your Hand and Tino and the Revlons' magnificent 1963 Heidi, which was originally issued on the Pip label. 

Sadly, in addition to the overall atmosphere of mixed emotions, there was one rare but no less disconcerting aberration during the proceedings. Several of the vendors reported thefts of key items from their on hand inventory, beginning with the disappearance of a rare pressing of a Funkadelic CD. Blitz Magazine also suffered the loss of a Warner Brothers-era Everly Brothers album. Cheryl Caillouette and her team vowed to tighten security procedures at future shows. 

Happily, Caillouette has announced that the shows will continue on schedule throughout 2018. And despite the sad circumstances that undergirded the most recent gathering, if the momentum continues unabated, the future of record collecting will continue to fulfill the 1956 vision of the legendary Ivory Joe Hunter: You Can't Stop This Rockin' And Rollin'


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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!"


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.


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.


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.


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. 
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!