Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Weekend Comments


You said in today's FH that you've heard MISS AMERICA on ME-TV-FM. You said that you didn't know if that would qualify as a "WOW" record. Kent, let me tell you what local station KOMA 92.5 FM does every Wednesday. They have a feature all day called an "OH, WOW!" Wednesday. Every other hour or so, they play a record that supposedly one hasn't heard in a long, long time ... or maybe one has forgotten that it was ever recorded. Would you believe that the record they play as an OH, WOW! record is one that is in their regular rotation. They say it's an OH, WOW!  record but I say to myself, Hey, I heard that just yesterday and in the past on another day ... and another day before it. What an OH, WOW! record is to them, is just another record you hear in normal rotation.

You also talked about the Smothers Brothers. The only record I have of them is the one who made our local top 40 radio station weekly survey and that is JENNY BROWN on HG Records in 1963.

Larry Neal

Isn’t that the most aggravating thing in the world?  When a radio station who, above almost EVERYBODY and should know better, and then just sticks to their VERY limited play list and tries to pass it off as something out of the ordinary.  VERY frustrating.   

(Man, I would LOVE to work with a station like that and provide them with a series of REAL OH, WOW! songs that would make their listeners' ears stand up on end!   

(We experienced the same thing here years ago with the previous oldies station’s Lunch Time All Request Hour … but I’ve got to blame the listeners just as much as the station for this one.  Folks would call in and request a song that you just KNEW they were already going to play in another hour or two anyway!  And I lost track of the times when a listener would finally request something out of the norm, only to be told that the station didn't have the record but would "work on it" for next time.  (The one that REALLY blew me away was "Big Bad John" ... this was a #1 Record, for God's sake!!!)  

Unfortunately this charade insults the intelligence of every REAL music lover out there … and worse plays right into the mindset of these know-it-all consultants / programmers who insist that listeners only want to hear the same 200-300 songs every day because research has proven that THOSE are the songs they like.  Sorry, but I cry “bullshit!” … and I think we have proven that beyond a shadow of a doubt over the past 22 years here in Forgotten Hits.

We listened to Rewound Radio all day today at work and were blown away AT LEAST a dozen times by some of the tracks they were playing … and not even under the pretense of OH, WOW! songs … this is just their regular, radio fare … and they mix it up enough to fill out WEEKS of enjoyable listening at a time.  Me-TV-FM offers much of the same … songs that WE used to call Forgotten Hits and WOW! songs are now featured so regularly on some of these stations that they have been “accepted back into society” … because the REAL music fans out there never forgot them in the first place … they were denied to opportunity to hear them again for decades at a time!  Shame of radio for being so short-sighted and small-minded!

Ironically, one of the songs we heard today was “Shape Of Things To Come” by Max Frost and the Troopers, the very first Forgotten Hit we ever featured back in November of 1999.  I’ve probably heard that one a total of a dozen times over the past twenty years … and that’s ok … it doesn’t NEED to be in heavy rotation … it just needs to be remembered … because I guarantee you that anyone who was around listening to the radio in 1968 will remember it the moment they hear it again … and quite probably, be able to sing along with every single word!!!  THAT’S what constitutes a Forgotten Hit and a WOW, SONG!  (kk)

Oops … I meant to mention that I have EVERY comedy album The Smothers Brothers ever released back in the ‘60’s … I was a MAJOR fan and loved their television series, too.  THIS would be something The Decades Channel should look into bringing back for one of their weekend marathon sessions!  (Hint, Hint to Neal Sabin!!!)  kk

My family did not subscribe to TV Guide, but one day in 1964 at the supermarket checkout I talked my Mom into buying an issue because it had Fred Flintstone on the cover.  I still have that issue -- and inside is an article about Red Skelton.  The interviewer was surprised to learn that, in his contact with CBS, Skelton got all rights to the videotapes of his shows after they had been broadcast.  Why would Red want them -- as they would never be aired again?  Skelton replied that he foresaw the day when people would have home libraries of movies and TV shows and he wanted to be ready for that market.  The TV Guide interviewer thought Red was nuts.  Keep in mind that 1964 was 13 years before home video -- VHS tapes -- was introduced in the U.S.  

Red Skelton was a TV icon whose series remained in the Top 10 for twenty consecutive years.  No one else in television history has ever even approached that feat.  In 1970, Red was stunned to learn that his program -- then #3 among all prime-time shows -- would not be renewed by CBS for the following season. 

Who made this insane decision?  Jim Aubrey, the head of the network, who also insisted that CBS burn its archival library of old shows.  Aubrey pointed to new demographic studies which revealed that Skelton attracted "too many older viewers."   Red did fine with younger viewers, but Aubrey wanted his "Tiffany Network" to clear itself of anything that "old people" liked -- especially the lowbrow comedies his elitist friends looked down their noses at -- from the also top-rated "Green Acres" and "Beverly Hillbillies" to Red Skelton himself.  And all those shows quickly got dumped -- regardless of if they were ratings winners or not.

The other two networks at the time, NBC and ABC, had already locked in their fall schedules, but at the last minute, NBC decided to drop one of their new half-hour shows and offered its time slot to Skelton.  Despite the demotion from 60 minutes a week to 30 -- plus a drastically lower budget --- Skelton accepted NBC's offer.  The only problem was that CBS' move had left the usually upbeat and charming Red stunned, shocked, demoralized and more than a little bitter.  Red fulfilled his contract with NBC for one season of half-hour shows but his heart wasn't in them.  After that one year return to NBC (the network on which he had started on TV), Skelton quit television.

Red Skelton was one of my comedy heroes -- and when performing comedy myself, I sometimes channel parts of his style into mine.  I did get to meet Red once in 1966, when my family scored tickets to one of his TV tapings.   Not knowing which door to use to enter CBS' Television City complex, my Mom and sister entered one door and my brother Dave and I another.   Dave and I found ourselves on Art Linkletter's empty "House Party" set and from there wandered into the hallway between the many huge CBS soundstages.  Hearing a crowd laugh down the hall, we hurried toward that sound and found ourselves backstage behind the set in use on "The Red Skelton Hour."  We heard one final big laugh, music play and when the door in the back of the set opened, Red Skelton stepped backstage between Dave and I!  He broke into a huge grin and said, "How do you think it went?"  We told him great (even though, of course, from our vantage point, we had heard but not seen any of the just concluded sketch.)  Red chatted with us for a few minutes before saying, 'Sorry, but I have to go get ready for my next bit.  Let me know what you think of it."  He grinned again, waved and was off.  Dave and I never got to tell him anything because minutes later my Mom, sister and a security guard showed up and we were all escorted out of the building. 

Years later, as a writer-producer for Reader's Digest Home Video, I wrote to Red. proposing that we assemble a three hour video retrospective on his classic CBS TV series -- which had never gone into reruns.  To my surprise and delight, Red wrote back and eagerly said he would welcome such a project.   He invited me to fly from New York to his house in California where he would open up his library of tapes to me and we would work out the details.  What could go wrong?

My boss, for one thing.  Star struck at the idea of meeting Red Skelton, he insisted that HE would go instead of me -- and bring along a sleazy producer friend of his.   When this makeshift duo turned up on Red's doorstep, Red's first question was, "Where is Gary?"  When he was told they were coming in my stead, Red was clearly miffed but let them in anyway.  Once inside, their exchange was brief.  Red quickly sized up the sleazebag producer and my clueless but starstruck boss and within ten minutes had thrown both of them out of his house.   And that was the end of my dream Red Skelton retrospective home video compilation. 

Then came the kicker.  Red Skelton, who had carefully maintained his library of owned episodes, wrote in his will that upon his death  he wanted them all destroyed. 

Red died at 84 in 1997 -- and fortunately, his widow chose to NOT follow her late husband's directions.  That allowed the later release of some of Red's color CBS episodes on home video -- exactly as Red had predicted in 1964.   (His 1970-71 second-rate NBC half-hour material had been issued earlier.)

Regarding kinescopes of Red's earliest black and white MBC episodes (he debuted on TV in 1951), some of that material came out in the '80s on low budget VHS tapes -- infuriating Red.  How had that been legally possible?   Sadly, Skelton's very early TV productions had never been copyrighted -- allowing fly-by-night cheapo VHS distributors to take advantage of their public domain status. 

The appearance on You Tube of some of Red's B&W (in other words, pre-1965) CBS shows is startling.  Among other things, they reveal the high production values of those episodes and Red's mix of standup routines, sketch comedy, silent spots (in emulation of the silent screen comedians he adored), impressive choreography, pop stars (mostly) lip-syncing to their latest hits plus surprise guests.  In this case, it's Shirley Temple (!) -- who is immediately recognizable (even if only by her smile) and delightful as a singer/dancer.  Carol Burnett helmed the last of CBS' great music and comedy variety series (which finally stopped when their budgets rose too high) and it's sad that such an art form has slipped away from our television screens. 

Gary Theroux

"The History of Rock 'n' Roll" 

I've heard from a number of people over the years that Red Skelton was a genuinely nice man ... good-hearted, loving and caring ... there is no question that CBS did him wrong after delivering record ratings for YEARS, only to be put out to pasture without so much as a conversation.  It was a cold-hearted, cut-throat move and Red certainly deserved better.

I'd love to see a list of all the popular music artists that appeared on his program over the years ... what a great collection THAT would make, coupled with a box set of Red's most popular characters.  (kk)

Here’s a GREAT tribute that Billboard Magazine put together for The Bay City Rollers’ #1 Hit “Saturday Night” … (or would that be S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!) … in light of the recent passing of Les McKeown …

From Tom Cuddy …

Meat Loaf Remembers Jim Steinman: 'He Was the Centerpiece of My Life'

LOST ANOTHER ONE ... Bobby Whiteside.

He had so much to do with Chicago USA music.  Bummer.

One of Chicago’s most prolific and talented Producers, Arrangers, Writers and Singers has passed away.

I first heard of him in the mid-‘60’s, down on Rush Street when he was in group called “Bobby Whiteside and the 5 O’Clock World.”  Little did I know we’d become friends years later. He worked at Chess and Curtom Records. Locally, he wrote songs for The Flock, The Rivieras,The Family, The Cryan’ Shames, The Dells and more. Nationally, just too numerous to mention. He’s written and produced jingles, winning many Clio awards and nominations. Bobby eventually moved to Nashville years later because that’s where the music was. He recently released his final CD last year titled “Living The Golden Years.”  He was missed when he left Chicago and now, even more.

Rest in Peace, my friend.

(For more info on Bobby, Go to

Clark Besch

kk …

How Is Thist Possible?

Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’ Sheet Music Has Been ‘Horribly Wrong’ for Years

By the way, Tony Orlando is interviewing Brian Hyland this Saturday Night (the 24th) …

More info: