Saturday

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




MOTEL TIME: Country music veterans Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan (pictured above) were among the many musicians who survived the ravages of Hurricane Iema. Blanchard weighs in on that harrowing experience, along with Danny and the Juniors' Bob Maffei, the Blues Magoos' Peppy Castro and pioneering rocker Arch Hall Junior. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below. (Click on above image to enlarge).

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!"



THAT'S SOMEONE YOU NEVER FORGET:
REMEMBERING ELVIS PRESLEY


On the afternoon of 16 August 1977, I ran into an acquaintance named Phil Drewno. Phil, who had somewhat of an offbeat sense of humor, stopped me and said, "Hey Mike, did you hear? Elvis Presley died!"

Given Phil's penchant for Chicken Little-type "The sky is falling" jokes, I dismissed his question for the moment. After all, at age 42, Presley was still riding an unabated streak of massive popularity that was in its twenty-third year. He continued to record and perform live prolifically, which in turn kept him in the spotlight on a regular basis.

But as I continued on my way, Phil's question kept recurring in my mind. Granted, Presley was still omnipresent on stage and in the studio. But just months earlier, Presley had performed a show in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Blitz contributor Jerry Schollenberger and I had discussed the show at that time, and it occurred to both of us that Presley did not appear to be in the best of health.

Blitz had just released its twenty-first issue days earlier. The Monkees were on the cover, and a passing mention of Presley was made in one of the stories. With those factors in mind, the journalist in me took over, and I sought out a telephone to contact Jerry to see if he could confirm what Phil had said minutes earlier.

"Tell me what I heard isn't true", I told Jerry when I got him on the line.

"I'm afraid it is", he said.

And with that came the realization that music's most extraordinary run had come to an abrupt and premature finale.

Musically speaking, Presley's astounding level of success was somewhat of an enigma. Blessed with a commanding baritone that could handle the most diverse of material with ease, Elvis Aron Presley drew his inspiration from such diverse and seasoned like minded visionaries as Dean Martin and Roy Hamilton. His first five singles, released on Sam Phillips' Memphis, Tennessee-based Sun label, were all rightfully hailed as hallmarks of the burgeoning rockabilly genre.

Upon signing with RCA Victor in 1956, Presley continued in that vein for a season. His first two albums for the label were rich in cover material that benefited greatly from his powerhouse delivery, including the Eagles' Trying To Get To You, Frankie Yankovic's Just Because, Little Richard's Rip It Up, the Drifters' Money Honey, Wiley Walker and Gene Sullivan's When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again and Clyde Julian "Red" Foley's mournful account of a dog being shot, Old Shep.

Upon his return to the recording studio in 1960 after his completion of military service, Presley continued to record world class rockers for a season, including Girl Next Door Went A Walkin', It Feels So Right, Stuck On You and the Lincoln Chase-penned Such A Night (which the great Marvin "Vince Everett" Benefield cut to perfection for ABC Paramount in 1962). However, his choice of material (which Presley often oversaw himself) began to vary widely, from the Mario Lanza-like It's Now Or Never and the Bert Berns-inspired Kiss Me Quick to the legendary Hank Williams' Your Cheatin' Heart and the powerhouse ballad Fame And Fortune.

Concurrently, Presley devoted an increasing amount of attention to film work, with the resultant soundtrack albums providing a richly diverse source of material. Particularly endearing among them is the 1965 production, Girl Happy, in which Presley's mastery of divergent material is evidenced in everything from the straight ahead rockers Starting Tonight and Wolf Call to the wonderfully screwy Do The Clam and Fort Lauderdale Chamber Of Commerce.

But while Presley's gift for interpretation continued to provide commendable results throughout most of the 1960s (highlighted by such singles as Indescribably Blue, Your Time Hasn't Come Yet Baby, U.S. Male and his inspiring take on the Drifters' Fools Fall In Love), his growing dissatisfaction with his attempts to excel as a composer in part contributed to a self-perceived aesthetic slump.

As such, Presley made a move that, while on the surface seemed to be counter-productive, nonetheless ultimately underscored the validity of his instincts. One of the most polarizing figures in music at the time was session guitarist and producer, Lincoln "Chips" Moman. The proprietor of American Sound Studios in Memphis, Moman was uncompromising in his insistence upon creative autonomy in the recording process.

While that attribute may seem to speak well for his artistic integrity, it continued to draw sharp criticism from many a musicologist for production values that gave many of his collaborations a muddy, flat mix that sounded as if the session had been done in an acoustically limited room with dirt floors. Even so, the results resonated with the faithful, from the Gentrys' signature single, Keep On Dancing and the Box Tops' sides for Mala Records to B.J. Thomas' magnificent Hooked On A Feeling and Paul Revere and the Raiders' Goin' To Memphis album.

Despite those concerns, Presley sought out Moman's services, and soon learned the hard way that his own strong willed approach was no match for Moman's resolve. The resultant From Elvis In Memphis album and the Suspicious Minds/You'll Think Of Me single (both 1969) are rife with the Moman approach, and remain hallmarks of his overall repertoire. Perhaps not coincidentally, the aforementioned Roy Hamilton was also in the studio, working on his own sessions at the same time that Presley was putting together From Elvis In Memphis. Presley was elated to hear of Hamilton's presence, and each sat in on one another's sessions. The timing was both fortuitous and ironic, as Hamilton was to pass away from a stroke in July of that year at age forty.

Ultimately, such conditions may well have validated Moman's controversial methodology after all. For not only did Hamilton's presence inspire Presley to greater heights, but as the aforementioned Box Tops, Gentrys and Paul Revere and the Raiders have all attested at various points in time, it was incumbent upon them to work harder as artists in order to overcome the limitations of the Moman experience. And while the comparatively flat mixes on the results still prompt frustration over the failure to utilize the better technology available at the time, the performances themselves still outpace any such misgivings.

Duly inspired, Presley's momentum continued into 1970, with I've Lost You and the great Shirl Milete's My Little Friend enabling him to continue to set the standard. But as the decade progressed, despite the occasional high watermark (including his 1972 cover of Arthur Alexander's Burning Love), the overall quality of his output began to decline sharply. It was a fact that Presley himself was not oblivious to, going as far as to lament in a rare 1973 interview that the quality of material being submitted was in general not up to his usual standards.

And therein perhaps lies a tale. While he had long desired to make his mark as a composer, overall, his songwriting credits are limited to roughly a half dozen or so compositions, including co-authorship (with Otis Blackwell) of his 1957 All Shook Up single, as well as That's Someone You Never Forget (which closed out his 1962 Pot Luck album) and the magnificent You'll Be Gone (recorded in March 1962 and ultimately included in the Girl Happy soundtrack three years later).

To be certain, the gift of interpretation is certainly an essential attribute. Even so, Presley's self-imposed frustrations over his inability to become more prolific as a composer prompted one prominent musician to observe earlier this year, "I believe that his legacy would be stronger today if he had written more of his own material".

And with the fortieth anniversary of Presley's untimely passing, those concerns have become valid ones in recent months. Decades after that 1977 phone conversation, Jerry Schollenberger and I continue to maintain our working relationship, making frequent appearances at record industry trade shows. And in our ongoing research and conversations with industry colleagues, one recurring theme that seems to be commonplace is that the market has just about completely dropped out of the demand for Presley's material. While his five singles for Sun continue to generate a fair amount of interest, many of his RCA Victor releases (including singles with picture sleeves) move modestly, even with prices of a dollar or less.

Granted, that development may seem odd, given Presley's overall status as one of the most prolific and successful artists of all time (with some, but not all sources suggesting that his overall worldwide sales exceeds one billion records). But therein also lies the problem. Presley's vast catalog has been readily available in various configurations from the onset, and many of those who want it already have it.

And amongst up and coming musicologists and record collectors, the momentum was not sustained to the degree that would be expected. Random and informal polling within this demographic has suggested that the reasoning behind the results is twofold. One is the aforementioned lack of self-penned material, which seems to be a prerequisite for many within that group. And two, with no real first hand exposure to the Presley legacy to speak of, the picture that has been painted of him among them was done largely through images of the latter day artist (at which time he in many ways had sadly become a caricature of himself) and the plethora of imitators that rose in his wake.

On the plus side, the glut of available new and used material means that the ongoing devotees of his work can expand their archives for a modest rate for the time being. Granted, such long time Presley colleagues as the great Kay Wheeler (who also co-starred in the landmark 1957 motion picture, Rock Baby Rock It) continue to champion his cause in the public sector. But for the aspiring listener, there remains much work to be done to restore Presley's legacy to the level it enjoyed in his lifetime.

Nonetheless, for those who were blessed with first hand observations, the name Elvis Presley continues to stand for some of the best in all of music. Indeed, to quote Presley himself, That's Someone You Never Forget.

TILL THERE WAS YOU:
REMEMBERING THE MUSIC MAN'S
BARBARA COOK


In terms of sheer media coverage, her passing is being overwhelmingly overshadowed by the death on the same day of legendary vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Glen Campbell. But no less devastating is the news that the great Barbara Cook has also gone on to her reward.



A long time fixture on Broadway, the Atlanta, Georgia native nonetheless gained absolute musical immortality for her starring role in the stage production of Meredith Willson's masterpiece, The Music Man. Therein (and alongside such formidable co-stars as the Buffalo Bills and the great Robert Preston Meservey), she created the iconic role of librarian Marian Paroo, who ultimately became the defender of the legacy of Preston's Harold Hill character.



Hers is the lead vocal on the Capitol label soundtrack album on such sublime tracks as Will I Ever Tell You, My White Knight and Till There Was You. Although Cook was replaced by Shirley Jones in the late 1961 motion picture (which ultimately earned the Blitz Award as Best Film Of The Twentieth Century), it is most assuredly Cook's performance in the Broadway production that is the definitive one.



Cook continued to record and perform regularly well into the twenty-first century. Along the way, she also tried her hand at the Carole Bayer Sager and Melissa Manchester-penned Come In From The Rain, which had also been recorded with considerable aesthetic success by the Captain and Tennille. In concert, Cook was known in recent years to perform a portion of her set without benefit of electronic amplification, to underscore her ongoing, formidable vocal prowess.



Sadly, Cook succumbed to respiratory failure in her Manhattan, New York home on 08 August. She is survived by her son, Adam LeGrant. Cook was 89.



RECORD COLLECTOR'S DREAM:
REMEMBERING GLEN CAMPBELL


It was a moment both dreaded and long anticipated. But even such a protracted warning did not diminish the magnitude of the loss that came on 08 August with the passing of legendary composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Glen Travis Campbell.

A native of Billstown, Arkansas, Campbell first rose to prominence as a session musician, who concurrently served as a member of the pioneering rock and roll band, the Champs. He signed with the vaunted Crest label in 1961, where his classic Turn Around, Look At Me single (coupled with the sublime rocker, Brenda) raised his profile exponentially. The Champs recorded for Challenge, who also signed the enigmatic bands, the Trophies and the Fleas. Campbell and his Champs colleague, Dave Burgess both participated in those projects, along with veteran solo artist Jerry Fuller and rock and roll giant Rick Nelson as drummer and vocalist.

Upon signing with Capitol in 1962, he joined forces for a season with the Green River Boys, at which time his formidable prowess as a guitarist came increasingly into the forefront. He was eventually asked to fill in during live performances for bassist Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys, with the band participating in his Guess I'm Dumb single for the label.

By 1967, Campbell was gaining increasing notoriety as a solo artist for the label. The singles he released for Capitol over the next decade truly represent some of the finest endeavors in all of music, including Gentle On My Mind, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Galveston, Wichita Lineman, Try A Little Kindness, True Grit, I Wanna Live, Honey Come Back, Country Boy, Sunflower, Rhinestone Cowboy and Southern Nights. Campbell also hosted his own Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on network television for a season, with the Monkees among his many esteemed guests.

Keenly aware of his stature in the burgeoning musicologist/record collector movement that eventually helped to give birth to the New Wave/Punk backlash of the mid-1970s, Campbell acknowledged the recognition accordingly with a remarkably astute track, Record Collector's Dream, which was the B-side of the Country Boy single in 1975.

A committed Christian, Campbell also recorded Gospel prolifically in the latter years of the twentieth century. Among the highlights were his 1991 Show Me Your Way album for New Haven, and his Wings Of Victory album for Sonotec the following year.

Campbell continued to tour and record prolifically well into the twenty-first century. However, in early 2011 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. His struggle with his illness became a matter of ongoing public record in the ensuing years, and he had been living in a long term care facility since that time. Sadly, he lost his valiant struggle against the disease in Nashville, Tennessee on 08 August.

Campbell was 81. He is survived by his wife, Kimberly and his eight children.

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.

LONESOME ROAD:
PIONEERING NEW ZEALAND
ROCKER LYN BARNETT
FOUIND DEAD AT HOME


Hers was a brief legacy. But an impacting and enduring one, nonetheless.


A pioneer of New Zealand rock, Lyn Barnett made her initial impact in 1962 upon signing with the influential Viking label. She released four singles for Viking that year, including Ordinary Guy, No Heart At All, Love Me To Pieces and her rendition of the Marvelettes' Please Mister Postman. That same year, she recorded her self-titled debut album for the label (backed by Garth Young and his Orchestra), which featured her inspired covers of Arthur Collins' 1902 staple, Bill Bailey and Gene Austin's Lonesome Road, as well as most of her singles for the label.



The following year, Barnett signed a one-off agreement with the Lexian label, where she covered the John Madara and David White-penned Birthday Party. The song had also been recorded with considerable acclaim by the Pixies Three for Mercury in the United States. In 1964, Barnett again switched label affiliations; this time to RCA Victor, where she recorded the endearing What If Johnny Says No.



Barnett spent much of the remainder of the 1960s making guest television appearances. She could often be seen in production numbers, covering everything from Lonnie Donegan's My Old Man's A Dustman and the Seekers' Georgy Girl to the Supremes' The Happening.



Barnett was often credited as playing an integral part in giving the great Dinah Lee her first break.



"I took over from a tour Lyn was on back in '64 because of a death in her family", Lee said in an online statement.



"I was asked to take her place, and that was how I really got noticed".



Ironically, the announcement of Barnett's passing comes at the same time as that of another pioneering rock and roll giant, long time Johnny O'Keefe drummer John "Catfish" Purser, who passed away on 21 July at age 83. Sadly, Barnett was found dead at her home earlier this year, although the news was not made public until July. Both will be missed.



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.






REMEMERING THE DELICATES'
ARLEEN LANZOTTI



The ranks of pioneering rock and roll groups with their original line ups intact just became painfully smaller with the passing of Delicates co-founder Arleen "Lee" Lanzotti.

Formed in 1958 in their native Belleville, New Jersey, the Delicates drew the inspiration for their name from Lou's Deli, which was owned by the family of group co-founder Denise Ferri. Rounding out the trio alongside Lanzotti and Ferri was Peggy Santiglia, all of whom attended the same school in Belleville.

Extraordinarily gifted both as vocalists and composers, the Delicates soon reached a management agreement with Ted Eddy, whose clients included Capitol Records great Louis Prima. The irresistible, group-authored Johnny Bunny single on the yellow Tender label followed suit in 1959.

Ultimately, the connection with Eddy eventually turned into a contact with the United Artists label, where in June 1959 the Delicates released their self-penned monster classic signature track, Black And White Thunderbird. The single was produced by the late Dominick "Don" Costa, whose most impressive track record also included landmark sessions with Paul Anka, Frank Sinatra, George Hamilton IV and Lloyd Price, as well as later production work with Mike Curb at MGM Records.

Meanwhile, the Delicates' considerable vocal acumen and songwriting skills continued to serve them well. The group persevered with United Artists throughout 1959 and into 1960, releasing The Kiss / Too Young To Date and the utterly stupendous Meusurry singles. The latter track was composed by the group in 1959 in tandem with beloved WINS-AM announcer Murray "The K" Kaufman, as an ad hoc tribute to the unique method of communication employed by Kaufman in his radio broadcasts.

By 1961, the Delicates had come to the attention of Morris Levy's Roulette Records, who released three singles by the group that year. Although the Delicates already had a proven track record as composers with Tender and United Artists, Roulette nonetheless opted to pair the trio with cover material. Their Roulette debut, Little Ship was penned by the veteran team of Jerome Solon "Doc Pomus" Felder and Mort Shuman, while the follow up, Little Boy Of Mine was a re-gendered and upbeat re-interpretation of the Cleftones' Little Girl Of Mine. The Delicates wrapped up their affiliation with Roulette with a cover of Russ Columbo's 1931 classic, I Don't Know Why (I Just Do), which was rich in vocal harmony and produced by Henry Glover.

In turn, the Delicates' considerable vocal prowess earned them ever increasing demand as session vocalists. The group made their debut in that capacity on Alfred "Al Martino" Cini's Journey To Love, a variation of sorts on the Chordettes' Born To Be With You.

Eventually joining forces with the great Bernadette Carroll (whose 1964 Party Girl single for Laurie Records remains one of the genre's definitive masterpieces), the Delicates developed a highly distinctive and engaging sound that graced such classic releases as Frankie Valli's 1966 Smash label single You're Ready Now, Patty Duke's 1965 Don't Just Stand There album and the groundbreaking Lightning Strikes and Painter Of Hits albums by the legendary Lou Christie.

Commensurate with their formidable capabilities, other high profile projects began to command their attention. Carroll had been a founding member of the Starlets, who eventually became the Angels. Peggy Santiglia then joined forces with sisters Barbara and Phyllis "Jiggs" Allbut in the group, replacing Linda Jansen as lead vocalist. Santiglia remained with the Angels throughout much of their remarkable tenure with the Smash label. In recent years, Denise Ferri and Bernadette Carroll have also served as treasured members of Blitz Magazine's advisory board.

Nonetheless, the lure of the Delicates' legacy has remained strong, prompting Santiglia (who also continues to work with the Angels), Ferri and Lanzotti to persevere. In October 2013, the group was honored in their native Belleville, with the auditorium in the grade school which they once attended renamed The Delicates Auditorium and a portion of neighboring Union Avenue (where the aforementioned Lou's Deli was based) renamed Delicates Drive.

Very much aware and grateful of their status as one of the few remaining groups with their original line up intact, the Delicates pressed ahead to the present day through the grace of God. Sadly, their extraordinary run came to a tragic end on 29 May with the sudden passing of Lanzotti at her Morristown, New Jersey home.

"I'll always remember her beautiful voice, her warmth and generosity and her special sense of humor", said Santiglia.

"Arleen was a special person in every way. If I hadn't started my singing and writing career in elementary school with Denise and Lee, I never would have ended up singing My Boyfriend's Back with the Angels".

Denise Ferri beautifully echoed Santiglia's sentiments.

"I just spent a wonderful eight days with her", she said.

"We were nonstop. We were best buds since 1954. We wrote together, harmonized at the drop of a hat, laughed ourselves sick! We always had each other's back. We loved each other unconditionally.

"Friday is my birthday. I will be at her (memorial) service. Today, a package came to my house from her. My birthday present. I am devastated".

Lanzotti was 73.

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. 
 .
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 June 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!

LET'S GO! BATTER UP!: 
BLITZ MAGAZINE AND THE
LOS ANGELES MUSICAL COMMUNITY
INVADE DODGER STADIUM

Maybe you can go home again.

In a rare misstep in what is widely regarded as an otherwise impeccable legacy, the veteran country rocker, Harold Lloyd "Conway Twitty" Jenkins in 1987 released a single for MCA Records, That's My Job. Therein, Twitty answered the question posed roughly two decades earlier by fellow country rock legend Sonny James, What Makes A Man Wander? In That's My Job, Twitty sang of the prodigal son who left home to seek greener pastures elsewhere. But unlike the Biblical account in Luke 15:11-32, Twitty's prodigal went on to success and happiness in his new environment, only to forsake it all and return to his hometown. Many an individual has followed suit, only to watch their own lives crumble as they found out the hard way that the delusions of their childhood had either been destroyed or were irrevocably altered for the worse.

But for a number of people who consider Southern California home, there exists within Los Angeles County a place where dreams have come true for more than a half century, and continue to do so to the present day. Located in an area near downtown Los Angeles known as Chavez Ravine, Dodger Stadium since 1962 has been the home of the greatest franchise in all of Major League Baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Despite the richly diverse ways of life and belief systems of those within the Southern California musical community (or perhaps because of it), many within its ranks are nonetheless united by the common purpose of what in the vernacular is known as bleeding Dodger blue.

More specifically, Blitz Magazine is both humbled and grateful to be a part of a small yet impassioned group within our community of musicians and musical journalists that rank among the most fervent of the Dodgers faithful. And when one within our ranks recently celebrated a birthday, it seemed appropriate to commemorate the occasion with a rare, behind the scenes look at the original field of dreams, Dodger Stadium.

So who is involved within this group? We are:

WILLIE ARON - Our birthday celebrant, and co-founder (along with Jeff Davis) of the much respected acoustic quartet, the Balancing Act. Also a prolific composer, Willie (who, along with his wife Giovanna are the proud parents of two amazing children) has within the past year likewise served as musical director for the legendary vocalist, Donna Loren. Willie is currently collaborating with Lone Justice co-founder Marvin Etzioni as Thee Holy Brothers, who recently completed work on their highly anticipated debut album.

DOMENIC PRIORE - Long a key player among Southern California's world class cadre of musical journalists, Domenic is the author of the fascinating 2007 book, Riot On Sunset Strip. He has also written two acclaimed volumes about the Beach Boys' landmark 1966-1967 Smile album, and worked with Ringo Starr and David Bowie in the essential AMC documentaries, Hollywood Rocks The Movies.

EVIE SANDS - One of the most beloved figures in all of music, Evie is a veteran of the vaunted rosters of the Blue Cat and Cameo labels. Among the many monster classics which she introduced to the world of music are I Can't Let Go (which was soon after copied by the Hollies), Take Me For A Little While (subsequently covered by Jackie Ross, Vanilla Fudge and Dave Edmunds) and Angel Of The Morning (which months later put Merrilee Rush on the map via her rendition on Bell Records). Evie also recorded what is arguably the definitive version of Any Way That You Want Me, which had also been cut by the Troggs and the American Breed. In 2014, Evie completed an album with fellow pioneer Billy Vera of new compositions by songwriting great Chip Taylor. She most recently has collaborated with Karma Frog Records president (and prolific musician in his own right), Adam Marsland. Evie's all new album is scheduled for release on Record Store Day, which in 2017 will fall on the twenty-second of April.

MICHAEL McDOWELL - Your humble and grateful tour guide, and Editor/Publisher of Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People for more than four decades, as well as author of the ongoing Audrey's Musical Journey series; written in tribute to my late and dearly beloved wife, who was also among the hardcore within the Dodgers faithful. This event was as much in loving memory of Audrey as it was the occasion at hand.



A few days ago, the four of us put our plan into action. Early that morning, Domenic, Willie and I met at the entrance to Dodger Stadium's storied souvenir shop, Top Of The Park, with Evie joining us minutes later. Warm greetings were exchanged all around, despite ongoing concerns regarding the flu bug that had been plaguing Southern California since the Christmas and New Year holidays.





We headed for the entrance to the Top Deck section of the stadium, where we were joined by another group of Dodgers faithful. We then boarded an elevator for an all too rare, behind the scenes look at some of the places and artifacts that have long loomed large within the Dodgers legacy. They include the home team dugout, where Evie and I could not resist the opportunity to lean on the railing and survey the field from the vantage point of countless players who were eyewitnesses to some of the greatest moments in MLB history.





We also had an opportunity to take in the Vin Scully Press Box, named after the enormously beloved long time Dodgers announcer. Without question the greatest voice to ever grace an MLB microphone, Scully recently wrapped up his Hall Of Fame career after an unprecedented sixty-seven seasons.





"Morale has been down a bit among the team and office staff since Vin retired", one Dodgers insider admitted.





"Vin was like everyone's favorite uncle. But (former manager and long time team vice-president) Tommy Lasorda has done much to turn that around. Tommy is probably the best cheerleader and ambassador in all of baseball".





As we made our way throughout the Dodgers offices, there was much to see of interest that factored into the team's legacy. Among them were the Dodgers' numerous World Series trophies, as well as various Golden Glove awards, MVP awards and game used gloves that were once worn by such team heroes as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Mike Piazza and current starter, Clayton Edward Kershaw.





Amusingly, there was a rather large wall display near the press box which depicted the various cap designs utilized by the team over the decades. "Amusingly" because of a particular development that occurred around the most recent turn of the century. According to the aforementioned Dodgers insider, starting pitcher Kevin Brown disliked a particular cap design so much that he gathered the existing stock and set it afire to underscore his point.





To be certain, Brown's passion echoed within our own group, though thankfully not to that degree. As we made our way, each recalled the highlights of their own particular Dodgers experience (with Domenic upon occasion making a case for the equal impact of the Bo Belinsky, Eli Grba and Dean Chance era of the Anaheim Angels of Orange County, but that's a different story). And while each of us acknowledged the importance and impact of the team on baseball as a whole throughout the years in which the team fielded such greats as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Mudcat Grant, Wes Parker and Jim Gilliam, we heartily concurred that for each of us, the Golden Years of the 1990s that saw five consecutive back to back Rookies of the Year in Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Nomo Hideo and Todd Hollandsworth were among the absolute highlights of our collective Dodgers experiences. To that effect, while not highly impacting in terms of his overall career stats, the final at bat on 28 September 1997 of beleaguered, long time center fielder Brett Butler (at which time he was greeted with a four minute standing ovation) remains on this end the finest and most emotional moment in MLB history.





As we made our way to the stadium parking lot, the four of us agreed to sustain the celebratory atmosphere in true Dodgers fashion by continuing the festivities of the day at the nearby fabled deli, Philippe's on Alameda Street. After a hearty meal of Philippe's signature beef dip, cole slaw, potato salad and lemonade, we continued our celebration in Philippe's parking lot, only to eventually be asked by the parking lot attendant to make way for incoming customers.



But that's what happens when you really do go home again. You don't want to leave! And for Domenic, Willie, Evie and I, who regard Dodger Stadium almost as a second home, the anticipation is high for the forthcoming 2017 season. With reliever Kenley Jansen thankfully on board for another season and ace Clayton Kershaw poised to repeat and/or surpass his previous triumphs, it's a beautiful day for a ball game.