Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WAGE$ OF $PIN ... An Update

We've been talking about the new Shawn Swords / Paul Russo film documentary "Wages Of Spin" for nearly two years now. In fact, one of our earlier postings on this subject can now be found right here on this web page:
Click here: Forgotten Hits: THE WAGES OF SPIN

The film examines in great detail the early Rock And Roll Music Scene, particularly as it relates to Philadelphia and the phenomenon known as "American Bandstand" ... and, specifically, Dick Clark, payola, and how the game was played back then.

It's been making the rounds on the Film Festival Circuit for quite a while now ... and late last year was to be offered for purchase "Just In Time For Christmas Gift-Giving" ... at the last minute, however, copies of the film were pulled back for re-editing, refunds were sent, and the promise of a new release schedule was to be forth-coming.

We heard from a number of folks on our Forgotten Hits List, who were amongst those who had ordered the film and then received refunds ... and several others are now asking "When, Where and How do WE get a copy???"

A recent Film Festival showing in Philadelphia (attended by many of that cities stars from this era) spurred even MORE interest in this film ... and Shawn Swords tells me that the controversy has now even made the front page of the online edition of "The National Enquirer"!!!
Click here: DICK CLARK PAYOLA SHOCKER - Celebrity News Gossip - National Enquirer
UPDATE: Apparently The National Enquirer thought the story big enough to include it in their newstand / street edition!!! We just received THIS clipping from Producer Shawn Swords:

(click on photo to enlarge)

Meanwhile, here are some recent comments we've received ... along with some from film producers Swords and Russo.

Dear Kent,
I have read the many comments here over the past few weeks about the eagerly-awaited documentary "Wages Of Spin." So last week it was a special pleasure to do a one-hour interview show with the filmmaker who created and directed that film: Mr. Shawn Swords. Unlike most of my interviews which are by phone, this one was in-studio. Also participating was Shawn's producer, Blake Wilcox. This show is my first interview ever with a film director!Shawn's previous film was the documentary about rockabilly great Charlie Gracie. It was called "Fabulous." The title was the name of Gracie's second smash hit and also describes the critical acclaim that Shawn and his associates received for that work. And it was that film that inspired the one which I am now writing about. "Wages Of Spin" is a fascinating, revealing and critical documentary about the Philadelphia music scene from 1952 to 1963, examining the history of "American Bandstand," Dick Clark, payola and the teen idols of the day. Many music personalities appear in it including legendary deejay Jerry ("The Geater") Blavat, producer / songwriter Artie Singer and the aforementioned Gracie. The film presents a comprehensive history of "American Bandstand," which actually had its origins as a Philadelphia radio show. When it arrived on TV as "Bandstand," the host was an avuncular gentleman named Bob Horn. (He neither was nor looked like a teenager.) The show and Horn were very popular but, pretty soon, there was trouble in paradise. Ultimately it led to Horn being replaced by Dick Clark. The interview and the film focus on the fact that, among other things, Dick Clark did not merely PLAY the hits on "Bandstand" (which eventually became "American Bandstand"): he also MADE them and in many cases OWNED part or all of the publishing of some of them. Also, as Shawn and the film point out, artists appearing on the show often were required to do something that is NOT GENERALLY KNOWN and may raise a few eyebrows. Recording artists appearing in Shawn's film, in addition to Gracie, include Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis, Fabian, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys, Chubby Checker and members of the Dovells, the Crests, the Comets and the Orlons. The film was recently exhibited at the Philadelphia Film Festival and will soon be on national TV and possibly in select movie houses as well. You will probably be surprised by many of the revelations contained in this interview, which are presented in much more detail in the carefully-researched film itself.
Here's the film trailer, which is also its first minute and 54 seconds:
"Wages Of Spin" trailer
To access this Shawn Swords show or any of my previous ones, please use the this link:
Jersey Girls Sing! -- (
When that home page comes up, please click the "Ronnie Allen Theater" (the name has a yellow background) in the picture on the right-hand side. That will bring up my index page. Please click on "Ronnie's Radio Page," which will bring you to the archived shows. The Shawn Swords show is the first one listed. All other shows are in reverse chronological order.
Ronnie Allen

Hello Kent ...
I checked out Ronnie Allen's interview with Shawn Swords. Very interesting. Here's what puzzles me. I found out about Alan Freed & Payola back in the 50's. Why is it I'm just now finding out about Dick Clark's dirty deals? Why did it take so long to reveal all this information? For example Artie Singer said Dick Clark wouldn't play " At The Hop, " unless they gave him 50% of the publishing rights. I understand that at the time they were doing business with each other, nobody wanted to talk about it. Maybe 10 years later you'd free to talk about it. What are your thoughts ?
Frank B.
Actually, I think people have been buzzing about Dick Clark's "behind the scenes" deals for quite some time now ... watching the WHOLE film and seeing some of the side deals and arrangements he had going on will surely leave you scratching your head. Certainly there HAS to be some resentment to the fact that Clark walked away from the whole payola scandal clean as a whistle and unscathed ... and went on to thrive in nearly EVERY business venture that came his way ... while other, often more influential personalities saw their careers crash and burn. Perhaps things have been kept quiet out of respect for the GOOD he has done for the music industry ... and lately, probably more so because of his failing health ... but to TRULY appreciate the scope of his dealings, you've just GOT to see the whole film. Did he really do anything that every OTHER deejay in America was doing at the time??? Probably not ... but very, very few ever went on to achieve anything even reasonably CLOSE to the national fame and attention that Dick Clark enjoyed ... he truly became a household name. Honestly, I don't expect much will ever come of these revelations ... but it's an interesting history lesson as to how the game was played back then. (kk)

CHUBBY CHECKER, CHARLIE GRACIE, STEVE CALDWELL (Orlons), MARC STEVENS (Dovells), JOE TERRY (Danny & Juniors) dj JERRY BLAVAT and several original American Bandstand dancers joined 200 theater patrons at the INTERNATIONAL HOUSE in Philadelphia last night (April 1st) for the official premiere of WAGES OF SPIN, the new documentary which chronicles the Philly Music Scene (1952-1963), the American Bandstand Era, Dick Clark, Payola and more! Producer Shawn Swords is working with a Los Angeles based company for a tv airing later this year!
The dean of Philly rockers, Charlie Gracie and wife Joan were all smiles as they visited with the son of one of Philadelphia's greatest disc jockeys, Joe Niagara, III. Joe Niagara was one of the golden greats of radio in the 1950s and 60s (remember the album "Crusin' 1957?") and an icon in the Philly Tri-State region for years ... on WIBG, WCAU-FM and later at WPEN. Known as the "Rockin' Bird," Joe passed away in 2004 and is sorely missed! The occasion was the premiere showing of WAGES OF SPIN -- the all new documentary which chronicles the Philly Pop Music Scene (1952-1963), the American Bandstand Era, Bob Horn, Dick Clark --- including Clark's role in the payola scandal.

Charlie Gracie, Jr.

Pictured (Left to Right): Executive Producers Paul Russo and Shawn Swords, Joe Terry (of Danny and the Juniors), Marc Stevens (of The Dovells), Steve Caldwell (of The Orlons) and (front) Charlie Gracie ... at the Philadelphia Premier of "Wages Of Spin"

Hi Kent!
Regarding Dick Clark and the payola scandal of the late 50’s, the thing was that Dick admitted he was doing it. He was upfront about the labels and groups that he owned or co-owned where as the others lied about their involvement. One of the more obtuse ways of dj’s making legal money in those days was before putting the record on the stations play list the dj would contact the label and book the artist at their current appearance fee knowing that they would be a big draw in a matter of weeks. Perfectly legal but a bit shady!
Clark Weber

What film are you referring to here? I'd like to see it!
Wild Bill

It's called "Wages Of Spin" ... and we've been talking about it for almost two years now ... it's an in-depth look at the early days of Rock And Roll (and the Philadelphia Scene in particular). A number of artists have spoken out on the record for the very first time in this riveting documentary. It also tells the REAL story about what you had to do to get on American Bandstand ... and how Dick Clark walked away from the whole payola scandal pretty much unscathed ... while MOST guys lost their reputations and /or their careers. Bottom line is ... as a radio guy AND a music fan, you'll LOVE it!!! Producers Shawn Swords and Paul Russo are both Forgotten Hits List Members and the film was made ready for sale as the PERFECT Christmas Gift-Giving Solution for that Music Fan on your list ... then pulled back at the very last minute for more alterations and additions. I'm not sure if the FINAL version is available yet for ordering on line or not ... as I've seen that it's making the rounds at film festivals across the country again ... not something you'd typically do if the film was available for purchase. My best suggestion is to check back frequently with Shawn's Character Driven Films website and watch for updates. (kk)

Check here for "Wage$ Of $pin" updates:

This film has had its share controversy and debate all along ... let's face it ... Dick Clark is a National Institution ... so, as can be expected, there's been outcry to both "Leave the poor guy alone" on through "It's about time somebody told the REAL story." Here are just a few excerpts that have it our Comments Pages these past few months:

In fact, here's one of the very first announcements we published:
New Documentary, First To Take An Honest, Comprehensive Look At Music Industry During "American Bandstand" Era, Coming Soon!
*****The producers who brought you the popular 2006 made-for-PBS documentary: "CHARLIE GRACIE: FABULOUS!" are coming back with another project sure to raise some eyebrows:
The program will primarily focus on DICK CLARK and the Philadelphia Music Scene during the era of "American Bandstand." This will be a no holds barred look at how the system worked ... the rules of the game -- how careers were created or shattered, depending on one's willingness to play!
More Info Coming!
This new Documentary Examines Payola During Bandstand Era-Dick Clark ... here's a brief trailer that's been making the rounds:
submitted by CHARLIE GRACIE, JR.
When Frannie and I made our trip out to the East Coast back in November of 2007, we first heard about this film thanks to Paul Russo, owner of Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor, who is also the Executive Producer of the film. Clips were already starting to show up on YouTube back then, building anticipation for this revealing documentary. Over the past four years or so, we’ve talked with a number of people about putting together an in-depth expose on Dick Clark for Forgotten Hits ... although everyone agreed that such an expose needed to be done ... and said that they would LOVE to read it ... NOBODY that we talked to was willing to speak “On The Record” about him, a tribute to just how POWERFUL a man Dick Clark really is. This clip illustrates exactly that … a love / hate, bittersweet relationship … honestly, we can’t WAIT to see this film.
(NOTE: At the time that this Comments Page first went out, I talked with co-producer Paul Russo, who told me that even HE hadn’t seen the final cut yet … so we may be a LITTLE ways away from seeing it … but this one is SURE to ruffle a few feathers and show us some things that perhaps MANY folks have long suspected … but VERY few people have been willing to talk about.)
UPDATE: Shawn Swords DID ultimately send me a "screening dvd" of the film ... but from what I understand, a number of changes and edits were made to the film AFTER the version that I was privileged enough to see. Meanwhile, "Wages Of Spin" was shown at any number of Film Festivals around the country in the year-and-a-half in between ... and, as we mentioned earlier, a "home" dvd version was planned for Christmas, 2008, but then pulled back for further edits. (kk)

Hey Kent --
It is certainly about time that the whys and wherefores of Dick Clark and American Bandstand saw the light of day. I was (and still am) a Bandstand fan, and certainly respect all that Dick has done on TV. However, back in the 80's, I used to hang out with Joe Bennett (of "Black Slacks" fame) and he told me that when he appeared on Bandstand, at the end of the show, he would get his appearance check, endorse it, and hand it back to the show producer. That was the way it was done, and if you wanted to be on A.B., that's the way you did it. I read Dick's autobiography several years back, and one thought kept running through my mind ..... "I wish he would have told the real story, you know it'd be a lot more interesting!!"

Jim Pritchard / Gladstone, OR
(aka "Jim Southern" to at least dozens of old radio fans back in the 60's.)
This seems to be the most common story told ... you'll hear it throughout the "Wages Of Spin" film ... sounds like "Standard Operating Procedure", American Bandstand-style in the '50's and '60's ... and artists went along with it because of the HUGE audience an appearance on Dick Clark's show could bring them. While nearly everyone interviewed tells the same story, MOST agree that this "arrangement" was "worth it" ... for the exposure that this could bring them. (kk)
Things must have changed by the 80's from the 60's because I got my check from American Bandstand for union scale and so did my other band members. It was something like $80 or so. I still have the check stub somewhere in my storage hell. I remember some other shows back in L.A. where we had to give the money back because they were just starting out and needed the money. I guess that was a way to get around the payola. Later on I wondered if the shows had made a deal with our manager and kicked him back our take, as that was another thing that happened to some people.
alex valdez
yellow balloon

Friends and industry insiders advise of an up coming television documentary being planned about the recording industry of the late 50’s and 60’s in the final stages of production at PBS. When aired it is expected to concentrate on the red hot city of Philadelphia during a time when Dick Clark’s American Bandstand broadcasting live each weekday exercised great power over the careers of many recording artists in that era. Said to be a no holds barred look at how the system worked -- the rules of the game -- how careers were created or shattered, depending on one's willingness to play, this expose will air what has long been talked about in private by industry insiders but unreported to the public at large.
John Rook

Hello Again, Kent!
I hope you'll share this update with your readers!
I just had to respond to some of the comments by your readers and questions about whether or not Dick Clark will appear in the "Wages Of Spin." By the way, I hope you like that title. I suggested it to the producer, Shawn Swords and he went with it! I'm not usually good at stuff like that, but it just seemed to fit. Shawn and his crew are doing a marvelous job on this film, as they did with my dad's documentary: "Charlie Gracie: Fabulous!", shown on PBS in late 2006. No, Clark was not interviewed for this piece.
The "Wages Of Spin" is the perfect sequel to my dad's film -- where the whole issue of Dick Clark, "payola" and his "silent partnership" with Cameo-Parkway Records came up. My dad is one of the centerpieces of this story as well, in-so-much as he was arguably the first (or at least one of the first) artists to challenge his record company for lack of royalty payments. This was unheard of at that time. After three big hits with Cameo ("Butterfly," "Ninety-Nine Ways" and "Fabulous") and three others that made the Top 20 in England, my dad filed suit against the label and won -- settling with them out-of-court for $50,000 in 1958. At that time, my dad still had NO idea of Clark's connection to Cameo Records, but by suing the label, he unknowingly cut his own throat. From that day forward, airplay for my dad's future releases on Coral and Roulette was minimal at best. During the Congressional hearings into "payola" a year and a half later, Clark admitted to collecting at least $7,000 on my dad's #1 hit, "Butterfly," a song he had NO hand in writing! This scenario was repeated many times over with other hits as well ... "At The Hop," "Sixteen Candles" and more! One of your readers, Carolyn, was correct when she implied that Alan Freed took the hit! Congress chose to make an example of Freed, while Clark, who was involved in everything they investigated, was let off the hook! He did have to relinquish his interests in music publishing companies, record pressing plants and other areas that were blatant conflicts of interest. It was that or give up his position as host of "Bandstand." By that time, Clark had amassed a fortune worth millions.
Kent, having written all of this, I must add that my dad never had words with Dick Clark. The few times we saw him in recent years, Dick was always congenial and still the consummate professional. This film is not meant to be a "hit piece" on the man, nor does it challenge his role as the "perfect host" for "American Bandstand." Yet, Clark often left out the fact (conveniently?) that Bob Horn was the show's original host. It was a local Philly show from 1952 through 1956. Horn was wildly popular with teens and built the program into a powerhouse. Clark took over when Horn was convicted on a couple DUIs and was later charged with statutory rape. He was never convicted of the later.
This film by Shawn Swords will attempt to tell the full story of how "American Bandstand" worked -- not the sugarcoated version Clark has recounted through the years. Many worthy and talented artists saw their careers "deep-sixed" if they dared to challenge the rules. This documentary is as much about them as it is about Clark and "Bandstand."

Charlie Gracie, Jr.

Part of our obligation (and mission, for that matter) is to always present BOTH sides of every story here in Forgotten Hits ... in the hopes of ultimately arriving at "The Most Accurate Truth." I had heard that there was quite a bit of a fuss when "Wages Of Spin" was shown at the Wildwood Film Festival this past summer ... and please understand that I realize that this film was EXPECTED to ruffle a few feathers in the industry ... especially there in "Dick Clark Country" ... in fact, if anything, it was DESIGNED to do so ... and, in the process, shed some light on the way business was conducted ... at least the MUSIC business ... at the onset of Rock And Roll. One point is made VERY clear during the course of watching this film ... Dick Clark was NOT a squeaky-clean business man ... nor was he in any way "innocent" of what practices were going on around him. Now I don't know that ANY of this will come as a great shock to any of the music fans out there ... but one has to remember a couple of things about the earliest days of rock and roll:
A) THIS is how business was conducted back then ... plain and simple ... and EVERYBODY was doing it ... this has been confirmed and reiterated by ALL of the people who were involved in the music scene back then ... not that this makes it "right" (and, clearly Congress did NOT feel it was right!)
B) Rock And Roll would have NEVER advanced to the degree that it did, nationwide, WITHOUT Dick Clark.
Sure, there were random deejays here and there playing artists like Elvis and some of the R & B hits to their local audience ... but Dick Clark brought this music to the nation via his American Bandstand Television Program. Every day the artists and the dancers came right into our living rooms ... Bandstand truly captured the hearts of the teenage nation.

This film attempts to tell what is believed to be the REAL story of this early Rock And Roll era ... and, without quesiton, this is a story that MUST be told and SHOULD be told ... we, as music fans, can NOT lose sight of the fact that Dick Clark did more good than harm when it came to advancing rock and roll music as an art form.

Were some rules broken and some deals made along the way??? ABSOLUTELY ... but rock and roll VERY well may have died a quick and quiet death WITHOUT folks like Clark around to help spread the word ... and "suck in" a nation of teenagers hungry for all these new sounds. All of a sudden it didn't matter where you lived ... rock and roll music came and spoke to YOU, right in your living room ... right out of your radios. Could it EVER have advanced to the degree that it did WITHOUT Dick Clark and American Bandstand? I just don't see how it could have.

My feeling is, however that this documentary OWES it to the public to present
BOTH sides of that story ... and, if it does, then I think it's a film that will stand the test of time ... and may even help to rewrite some of rock and roll music history. Throughout the film, those interviewed share their "mixed emotions" about dealing with Clark ... with a "Damned if you do, Damned if you don't" attitude. You pretty much HAD to go along with the way business was conducted if you wanted to have a hit ... but NOBODY was in a better position to GIVE you a hit ... and ASSURE you of the exposure you needed to HAVE a hit ... than Dick Clark. And that, in a nutshell, is the WHOLE story. (kk)

Hey Kent,
Thanks for the input.
I'm sure Shawn will get back to you as quickly as he can. As you know we are about to embark on a Philly Debut of a film that tells a story unlike one told before. The good news is that it's a film of facts based on the Congressional Hearings. So many people are interested in hearing the story now. Most of the idols in the film are scheduled to see it in Philly at the Premier for the first time, making it an even bigger event. It is a historical piece that deserves to be told and the fun part of the film is that it is told by the idols who lived it.
Here's a very lame analogy:
Dick Clark was the King at that time in musical history. His throne was in Philly. His Kingdom, the World of TV.
As the Kingdom grew, so did the riches of the King.
The problem was that not all the King's Court shared in the Kingdom's wealth ... with even some of the servants not getting their fair share. The King ruled and his Court generally took the hit.
Yes ... without men like Clark and Horn and Freed and Lit and Niagara ... Rock and Roll might have faded into the musical sunset ... BUT ... after the dust settled, only Clark remained standing. Why? Interesting? Historic!
The Wages of Spin!
Paul Russo / Executive Director
Wages of Spin

Some of Clark's subordinates acted as "fall guys" during those hearings, taking the blame (and the punishment) for Dick Clark's sins ... some even doing time in the process. Dick Clark was well-insulated and walked away virtually unscathed ... and built a television and music empire unlike any other in the decades that followed. The producers feel that he should be accountable for those sins ... and THAT is the real purpose behind this film. Casual music fans may be shocked to hear the details of some of Clark's handlings and dealings ... others will simply nod their heads and say "It's about time" ... but EVERYONE watching the film will be mesmerized by the unveiling of this story ... and, as such, it will appeal to music fans of all ages and all generations ... for we ALL grew up with Dick Clark in our living rooms. (kk)

Hi Kent -
This is Shawn Swords, The Director/ Producer of the upcoming "Wages of Spin" documentary.

I would like to address some of the postings and declarations that I have read in your publication and add my feelings on some of these issues and address some other issues in regard to Dick Clark and how I perceive him.
Thanks to a meeting that I believe you helped to initiate, Paul Russo and I were able to speak with John Madara, who told you the "true" story behind the song "At The Hop". We talked about several issues including his relationship with the song "At The Hop" and Artie Singer. I am not really sure who contributed what to the song because there are so many different accounts of who did what but, it seems like John contributed the most to the creation of the song. I think he wrote most of it and that his recollection of the genesis and trajectory of "At The Hop" to when it played on Bandstand is probably the most accurate. There are varying accounts on whether Clark actually made any suggestion at all about changing the name to "At The Hop" but, one thing is certain ... he got a big part of the copyright. I also, believe that Clark sent one of his emissaries to extort part of the copyright from Singer. I really don't think Singer took the song to Clark for several reasons, one of which is that Clark probably had hundreds maybe thousands of songs bought to him by record company reps who were willing to assign whatever it took to get the record on American Bandstand. Clark and his underlings knew what songs were making noise and had potential and could be very selective in the songs that they wanted to solicit. They probably initiated most of the interactions as far as getting a piece of a song or in some cases all of the song in exchange for airplay ... either way, it is payola. If Clark or one of his underlings asked for something of value in exchange for airplay, it is extortion. If Clark or one of his underlings accepted anything of value that was proposed initially by a person who had an interest in getting the record on American Bandstand, it is commercial bribery. There really weren't well defined laws on this practice so, while some of these practices may have been common and not illegal, they were still deceptive and unethical. Clark never said on the air "Hey boys and girls, please go out and buy this hot new record from this hot new group from Philly because every time you buy a record from a record pressing, publishing or record distribution company I have an interest in, it will contribute to my own self enrichment." That candor wouldn't have went over well with the General Public.
One of the important points I would like to illustrate is that American Bandstand wasn't Clark's personal platform to play songs and expose artists he had an interest in. He really was deceiving the public. He was supposed to be playing songs based on merit and a level playing field. A lot of entertainers who should have been on the show never got on the show because Clark was leaning on songs and artists he had an interest in ... and these are proven facts. Congress commissioned a study during the payola investigations that illustrated definitively that Clark was favoring songs he had a financial interest in. He had an interest in something like 30 music related companies. Several artists obviously launched careers on American Bandstand but a lot of them benefited from Clark's relationship with The Independent Record Labels in Philly and other record industry reps who were willing to assign cash, gifts or copyrights to Clark. Over a two year period in the late 1950's, Dick Clark played Duane Eddy songs more than he did Elvis' songs. Duane Eddy is a great musician and worthy of much praise ... but he wasn't Elvis. Clark had a financial interest in Duane Eddy and, of course, none in Elvis. According to congressional testimony during the Payola hearings in 1960, an artist named Ronnie Hall and his manger were given an audience with Tony Mammarella, who was The American Bandstand Producer. He and his manager were told that if they were to pay 500 dollars and assign the copyrights to I believe two of his songs, that he would get an appearance on Bandstand. I think the songs were something like "Why Can't It Happen To Me" and "Suddenly It Happened". Did you ever here of those songs? Maybe if he would have paid the Clarkola (Congressional attribution) and assigned the copyrights, you would have. Interesting note to this scenario is that around the time of The Congressional Payola Hearings Clark allegedly called Tony, who was one of his best friends, and asked him to be the fall guy for his payola activity. Tony had to resign his position as producer of Bandstand. I could go on for hours on the deceptive and sometimes illegal practices Clark was involved in, but that is what our documentary is for.
Let's get back to John. John said something like "Artie wanted to be Bernie Lowe". According to Artie, Bernie Lowe pushed him out of Cameo so that Joe Niagra could come in as a silent partner. Joe Niagra was a very popular DJ in Philly at the time and a person who would be of great benefit to Cameo because of his notoriety and airplay. Artie and Bernie were partners in that voice studio and were supposed to be partners in Cameo. There was also another partner. I know a lot about Bernie Lowe because he was a central figure in our last documentary, Charlie Gracie "Fabulous", and I have five years of research and interviews to substantiate my familiarity with Bernie. Bernie was one of Clark's cronies and primary benefactors of his proximity to Clark. Bernie "assigned" 25 percent of Charlie's "Butterfly" Publishing Rights to Clark as a gesture of good will and friendship (I am being facetious).
I know a lot about Bernie so I am going to side with Artie on this one. Artie probably did rip John off and take more credit than he was due for "At The Hop', but that does nothing to detract from the fact that Clark extorted a nice chunk of "At The Hop" from Artie in exchange for Airplay. We were trying to illustrate Clark's malfeasance and avarice, not who authored "At The Hop". Also, John said something about "finding it hard to believe Dick Clark would play a record if he didn't own a piece of it". John is a very intelligent man and knows the inner workings of the music industry now and then as well as almost anyone alive. He knows the real score with Clark and how he did business. You can't slight John for his loyalty and perhaps he has had a great relationship with Dick Clark, but Dick screwed a lot of people out of a lot of royalties they would have received from those copyrights and that is a fact! Dick rarely did anything for anyone during his time as Host of American Bandstand while it was transmitted out of Philly without some sort of cost. When Dick was forced to diverse himself of his music business interest or lose Bandstand, he took the money from his ill gotten gains and went West to greener (pun intended) pastures and head of one of the most lucrative Independent TV Production Companies ever. This all comes out in the documentary and a lot more ……
Shawn Swords

Like we said, "MUST Viewing" for ANY music fan out there.

(For more information regarding the circumstances surrounding "At The Hop" and John Madara's, Artie Singer's and Dick Clark's involvement with this song, be sure to read our piece on The Forgotten Hits Website:
Click here: Forgotten Hits - John Madara's Greatest Hits)

Interestingly enough, the basis for The National Enquirer article referenced above seems to be the quotes that Artie Singer made in the film ... quite honestly, the article as written could have been based SOLELY on the two minute trailer, as it doesn't go into much greater detail than that. It also erroneously credits Singer as being a member of Danny And The Juniors ... and for having written "At The Hop" ... a couple of points that John Madara went to GREAT lengths to debunk during our series.
I talked extensively with John during our interview process as to the circumstances leading up to Singer claiming part-ownership of the song's creation. If Dick Clark did, in fact, suggest the rewrite that turned "Do The Bop" into "At The Hop", which, in turn, turned it into a #1 Hit, I can certainly find reason to believe he felt entitled to SOME form of compensation for this effort. By the same token, Singer (as the PUBLISHER of the tune) admits on film that the trade-off was both necessary and worthwhile to make "At The Hop" the hit it became ... and that he'd make the same deal again in a minute. I even went so far as to suggest to John Madara that perhaps since Singer was giving up half of his share of the publishing rights, he felt that he had to add is name to the songwriting credits just to recoup some of those losses. Sadly, Artie Singer isn't with us anymore to further enlighten us ... he left us last year ... so his comments stand "as is" in the film.
In any event, if you haven't seen this series before, it certainly makes for some
interesting reading ... be sure to check it out at the link above! (kk)

Do The Bop - The ORIGINAL Version Recorded By John Madara with Danny and the Juniors

At The Hop - The #1 Smash Hit remake by Danny and the Juniors

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Phil Spector Found Guilty Of Second Degree Murder

It's been a long time coming ... but yesterday ... after literally YEARS of delays going to trial ... and a hung-jury / mistrial last year ... legendary music producer Phil Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of film actress Lana Clarkson at his mansion six years ago.

A Superior Court Jury returned the verdict after nearly 30 hours of deliberations. They also found Spector guilty of using a firearm in committing a crime.

Although his young wife Rachelle sobbed as the decision was read, Spector exhibited no reaction to the verdict. His attorney argued that he should remain free on bail pending the May 29 sentencing, but Judge Larry Paul Fidler remanded him to jail immediately ... where he could spend the rest of his life. (Second-degree murder carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison, and the firearm charge carries up to three years in prison.)

Clarkson, 40, and star of the 1985 cult film "Barbarian Queen," died of a gunshot fired in her mouth as she sat in the foyer of Spector's mansion in 2003. She met Spector only hours earlier at her job as a nightclub hostess.

Testimony revealed that Spector, who typically led a life of seclusion in his so-called "castle," was out on the town in Hollywood when he met Clarkson on Feb. 3, 2003, at the House of Blues. The tall, blond actress had recently turned 40 and told Spector that she was unable to find acting work ... and, as such, had taken a job as a hostess. When the club closed in the wee hours, she accepted a chauffeured ride to Spector's home for a drink. Three hours later, she was dead.

Spector's chauffeur, the key witness for the prosecution, said he heard a gunshot, then saw Spector emerge holding a gun and heard him say: "I think I killed somebody."

It was THAT comment by Spector that made headlines around the world six years ago ... but Defense Attorney Doron Weinberg disputed whether the chauffeur remembered the words accurately. In closing arguments, Weinberg listed 14 points of forensic evidence including blood spatter, gunshot residue and DNA, which he said were proof of a self-inflicted wound. "It's very difficult to put a gun in somebody's mouth," he said. "Every single fact says this is a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Weinberg argued. "How do you ignore it? How do you say this could have been a homicide?"

Prosecutors argued that Spector had a history of threatening women with guns when they tried to leave his presence. He was portrayed as a dangerous man who became a "demonic maniac" when he drank. They also presented blood spatter evidence that they felt proved Clarkson could NOT have shot herself.

It was Spector's past history with guns ... and his treatment of women ... that ultimately did him in. At the first trial, five different women gave testimony telling of being threatened by a drunken Spector ... and even being held hostage in his home ... with a gun pointed at them and threats of death if they tried to leave. The parallels with the night Clarkson died were chilling even if the stories were very old — as some of them were ... 31 years in one instance!

Spector's contribution to Rock And Roll Music was revolutionary ... what a TRAGIC ending to a remarkable career. (Quite honestly, he was probably as well known for his bizarre, eccentric behavior as he was for his inventive musical ear!)

To echo something famed promoter Fred Vail said to me earlier today, it's amazing to think that the inventor of The Wall Of Sound may be staring at the same four walls of his jail cell for many years to come.

ONE MORE THING: Many of you will remember our exhaustive, month-long series on Phil Spector ... put together by FH List Member Steve Knuettel ... about a year and a half ago. (In fact, the conculsion of THAT series that coincided with AOL shutting down our newsletter account ... and thus, the launch of this Forgotten Hits Website!!!) We're trying to work out the details in order to be able to permanently post Steve's FINE series on our OTHER website, where many of our best known series have now been archived. We'll keep you posted as this develops. This will not only give readers a chance to relive this series but also allow NEW readers for ages to come to discover and enjoy Steve's incredible accounting of the career of Phil Spector. Now that it seems that the FINAL chapter has been written, I can't think of a more perfect time to do so. Stay tuned for more details!

For other archived Forgotten Hits articles, be sure to visit the website:
Click here: Forgotten Hits - Home

Monday, April 13, 2009

Freedom For The Stallion

After we mentioned that Scott Shannon had featured The Hues Corporation's first chart hit, "Freedom For The Stallion" on his program the other day, we received a few emails about this track ... which I had previously been unfamiliar with. (The Hues Corporation, of course, broke through BIG with their #1 Smash "Rock The Boat" ... and that was the first time MOST of us heard of them ... but apparently an earlier release, "Freedom For The Stallion" was a bit of a regional hit, particularly in the South.) Here are just a few recent emails that we received ... along with a couple of musical treats, too! Enjoy!

Howdy, Kent,
Just read your observations regarding "The Hues Corporation." Just like my earlier comments about "Freddy Cannon" and "Ray Peterson," and the fact that there were always records that would hit 'big' in one region but not always spread to the rest of the country, so it was with "Freedom For The Stallion." I don't recall that it only went to #63 nationally, Kent. It did far, far better in the south.
I had given up a great gig at Capitol to join my old dear friend, and genuine 'nice guy,' Larry Douglas, at RCA. By time "Stallion" was released. I believe Larry had left to go to CBS, where he would spend the rest of his career. Immediately I knew I'd made a BIG mistake by leaving Al Courey and going to Nipper. The record biz has always been very political, but at that time, RCA was, perhaps, the most political of them all. Some of the top brass were not true 'record men.' They were attorneys and accountants who thought they were record men. Larry and Al were the 'real deal.' Music was their passion. They fought for their team and their team returned the favor. You knew they would go to the wall for you. You knew they would watch your back.
We did 'full line' promotion in those days ... we worked everything the labels threw at us: rock, jazz, classical, country, rhythm and blues. It if was released, we worked it. However, sometimes you'd know when the top brass really wanted you to concentrate on a particular song -- or the opposite -- when it was something put out for political reasons and it was not a priority. "Freedom For The Stallion" was one of those records that was not a 'obvious' hit. It wasn't like working Elvis, John Denver, Waylon, Charley Pride, David Bowie, and some of the other 'automatic' type artists. I knew instantly that "Freedom" would be a 'work record.' But the more I heard it, the more I believed it could be a big record. I was working the southeast and that region became one of the regions where radio supported the single. While it was not a huge chart record it certainly led the way for the follow-up, "Rock The Boat." I think "Stallion" actually showed the group's vocal talents far more.
Well, that's my two-cents worth for a Saturday afternoon in Franklin -- 20 miles south of "Music City, USA."
Fred Vail
Treasure Isle Recorders, Inc.
It's not a bad song at all ... we just never got to hear it here in Chicago. (Honestly, I'd probably be more surprised if it WAS a big hit ... the whole sound of that record doesn't feel anything at all like what was on the charts back in 1973!) "Rock The Boat" was the "obvious" hit ... but, as I said, the follow-up record, "Rockin' Soul", ALSO made The Top 20 ... and you never hear THAT one on the radio either!!! (kk)

I intended to include this photo when I mentioned the record. Guess we had lots of these Promo copies around and I 'accepted' one for my own collection.

Hard to find a digital copy of this one ... thanks again to Tom Diehl for sending us something we could share with our readers last week! (kk)

Hey Kent,
Did you know that Three Dog Night did "Freedom for the Stallion" on their "Seven Separate Fools" album from '72, which would pre-date The Hues Corp. version by nearly 2 years. Anybody know who wrote it or any other info? It's a good song that I've never listened to before even though I've had The Hues Corp. CD for about 10 years ("Rock The Boat" is one of my personal all-time favorites).
Eddie, Orange, CT
Looking at the label above, it looks like the song was written by the legendary Allen Toussaint out of New Orleans ... and, now that I've typed that, I seem to remember Scott Shannon mentioning that on the air the other day, too. Being a big Three Dog Night fan, I'm surprised that connection eluded me ... but we've included THEIR version today so the rest of the readers can enjoy it ... along with The Hues Brothers themselves, and their Top 20 follow-up Hit, "Rockin' Soul"!!! By the way, the Three Dog Night version ended up on the flipside of their 1972 chart-topper, "Black And White". (kk)

Freedom For The Stallion by Three Dog Night

Rockin' Soul by The Hues Corporation

ONE MORE: When I mentioned to Scott Shannon the fact that Three Dog Night recorded "Freedom For The Stallion" back in 1972 for their "Seven Separate Fools" album, he sent me this reply:
KENT ...

lol ... ironically "Sunlight" is one of MY all-time favorite Three Dog Night songs, too!!! In fact, when we featured it about six years ago in Forgotten Hits, everybody went NUTS ... seems EVERYBODY knows and loves this song!!! (Three Dog Night certainly gave up another sure-thing Top 20 Hit by NOT releasing "Sunlight" as a single"!!!)

Even MORE ironically, we just had a similar correspondence with ANOTHER Forgotten Hits Reader ... this piece was scheduled to go out as part of our April "Leftovers" Page, but ties in so perfectly with this current discussion that we moved it up on the schedule!

Kent, Did you, like I, play the Three Dog Night / Harmony LP over and over and over? This album, I think, gave outstanding bang for the buck, with loads of excellent tracks. This is just one of the tracks from Harmony that's never heard on radio that's still in our home / car rotation ... My Impersonal Life.
David Lewis

"Harmony" is far and away my FAVORITE Three Dog Night album ... and I was a pretty major fan back in the day ... some GREAT tracks on this LP. ("Never Been To Spain", "An Old Fashioned Love Song" and "The Family Of Man" were the three hit singles released from the album ... but other personal favorites include their version of Stevie Wonder's "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer", which I think blows the original away, and "Peace Of Mind", the closing "poem" piece where all three singers trade off the lead vocal ... absolutely breath-taking.) But my ALL-TIME favorite Three Dog Night "cover song" will always be their version of the Jesse Colin Young classic "Sunlight", which appeared on their "Naturally" LP. We featured this one a few years back in Forgotten Hits and got an overwhelmingly positive response ... it's one that folks had TRULY forgotten about ... and one that everybody seemed to love. Although "Sunlight" was never really a hit for EITHER artist, it was all over the soft rock stations back in the mid-'70's ... and it still holds up incredibly well today. (kk)

Sunlight by Three Dog Night

My Impersonal Life by Three Dog Night

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!!!

Today is Easter Sunday ...

At this most solemn and religious time of year,

we ask everyone to take just a second

and take a good look around ...

and reflect on what is truly important to you ...

There just doesn't seem to be a moment lately

when our thoughts and lives

are not consumed with worry about something ...

It seems that everyday we are challenged

more and more to keep our spirits up ...
It can be almost anything ...

A struggling economy ...

The unsettling job market ...

All of the unrest in the world ...

Banking and financing issues ...

Tax time right around the corner ...

The plain and simple fact is

that life,

as we have always known it,

will never quite be the same ...

Please know that here at FORGOTTEN HITS,

our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Perhaps we can't offer answers ...

Perhaps we can't offer solace ...

Perhaps we can't offer hope ...

And we certainly can't make any promises ...

But THIS Easter,

you CAN count on us

to bring you

(It's ALL about the music, you know!!!)

The Jelly Beans were a quintet out of Jersey City consisting of four girls (Alma Brewer, Diane Taylor and sisters Elyse and Maxine Herbert) and a guy (Charlie Thomas) who were still in High School when they were discovered by Bill Downs,
their future manager, who brought them to the attention of Red Bird Records
back in 1964.

Red Bird was hot in 1964, offering up great hit-making girl groups like The Dixie Cups and The Shangri-Las ... and getting these kids a hit record became the task of producer Steve Venet, who recruited the ace songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, a couple of the hottest composers in America at the time, to write them a hit song.

What they came up with was "I Wanna Love Him So Bad" ... and that record shot straight into The Top Ten in the Summer of '64. It's a GREAT little girl-groups record that never seems to get played on the radio.

The Jelly Beans had a minor follow-up hit ... Baby Be Mine, also written by Barry and Greenwich, missed The National Top 40, stopping at #49 in Cash Box, but was a #15 hit here in Chicago later in '64 ... and then it was all over.

The Jelly Beans were the second act signed to Red Bird Records, and their single "I Wanna Love Him So Bad" followed The Dixie Cups' hit "Chapel Of Love"
into The Pop Top Ten. In hindsight, the label managed quite an impressive achievement, placing 18 records on the chart during the height of Beatlemania.

The songwriting team of Barry and Greenwich had their hand in the lion's share of those hits, composing "Chapel Of Love", "People Say" and "You Should Have Seen The Way He Looked At Me" for The Dixie Cups, "I Wanna Love Him So Bad" and "Baby Be Mine" for The Jelly Beans and "Leader Of The Pack for The Shangri-Las.

DIDJAKNOW?: Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich were brought into Red Bird Records
by the famed songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and they wrote and produced 20 of the first 40 sides pressed by the label. In 1965, they approached Leiber and Stoller about bringing another singer / songwriter on board, a friend of theirs from the Brill Building days. Leiber and Stoller weren't interested ... so, Barry and Greenwich quit ... and brought their friend Neil Diamond over to Bang Records instead, where he had a string of hits and became one of the most successful recording acts of all time.


Don't have a sweet tooth this Easter? Then maybe you'd like to open our Canned Ham!

We did the full bio treatment on Norman Greenbaum a couple of years ago in Forgotten Hits. Suffice to say that he is BEST remembered for his #1 Pop / Rock Hit "Spirit In The Sky". But, by true definition, he is NOT just another One Hit Wonder ... "Canned Ham" followed "Spirit" into Cash Box's Top 40, peaking at #32 later in 1970.

By comparison, it's almost jug band music next to the fuzz guitar sound of "Spirit In the Sky" ... and, as such, didn't fare as well on the charts. The jug band sound was nothing new to Greenbaum, however. Back in 1966, he reached #52 with the novelty hit "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago", released by Greenbaum's band Dr. West's Medicine Show And Junk Band.

Other than "Spirit In The Sky", you wouldn't really hear much Norman Greenbaum on the radio ... so we're featuring him as part of our Easter Two-Fer today.

Meanwhile, to everyone on the list ... Have a Very Nice Easter ... we'll be back next week with a new batch of Forgotten Hits Memories ... maybe we can't provide ANY relief for any of today's problems ... but, hopefully, we CAN provide a few moments of escape each morning ... along with a memory or two of a happier time. Happy Easter Everyone!