BLITZ CELEBRATES 40TH ANNIVERSARY: August 1975 saw the debut of Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Four decades after the fact, Blitz remains the lone survivor amongst the hundreds of like minded publications that answered the call for change for the better and a return to basics, in tandem with the rise of the so-called New Wave/Punk movement in music. Pictured above is the cover of Blitz Magazine number 26 from May 1978, which featured interviews with Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz and rock and roll pioneer Rick Nelson, plus dozens of reviews of groundbreaking independent record releases.  Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell also takes a look at forty years of Blitz Magazine in the op/ed essay, Forty Licks. Click on the appropriate link at right under Previous Posts for that story, as well as a detailed treatise on our primary inspiration, the legendary suburban Detroit radio station, WKNR Keener 13 (Click on image to enlarge).


Welcome to the official web site for Blitz, The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. Since 1975, Blitz has been the leading voice for the discerning music enthusiast. Blitz Magazine was also one of the first magazines of its kind to embrace the internet, having also been online since January 1996.

Here you will find news and updates about all of the key artists essential to the growth and development of rock and roll music and related genres, including rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and easy listening. For highlights from recent past editions of the Bits And Pieces and Shape Of Things To Come columns, click on the archival postings on the right hand side of this page. Be sure and check back frequently for regular updates.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us at

Michael McDowell
Blitz Magazine
Since 1975 - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People

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Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People


Follow the fascinating and unfolding tale (through her favorite music) of the life and times of Blitz Magazine's late and beloved Photo Editor, Audrey McDowell, as told by her husband, Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell. A Facebook exclusive! "Like" us on Facebook at Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, and watch for further installments.


Blitz Magazine salutes Salty Peppers and Earth, Wind And Fire co-founder Maurice White, as well as Jefferson Airplane co-founders Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson, former Vee Jay Records recording artist Noreen Corcoran, and Gospel and R&B pioneer Otis Clay. The Flamin' Groovies paid tribute to the victims in the recent terrorist attacks in France during their set that evening at the Magic Bag. Veteran first generation garage rock greats, the Jagged Edge recently shared the stage with the band led by guitarist Brandon Wayne Stults, son of the late and beloved front man and co-founder of the Unrelated Segments, Ron Stults. 


Rationals co-founder and singer/songwriter Scott Morgan is the subject of a two-CD anthology on the Easy Action label that chronicles the transitional solo phase of his career, Revolutionary Action. Legendary songwriter Joe South is the subject of a Various Artists tribute CD in the latest installment of the Songwriter series on Ash Wells' Rare Rockin' Records label. Pioneering folk rocker Leadbelly is the subject of a massive carer overview box set, The Smithsonian Folkways Collection. Tol-Puddle Martyrs co-founder, keyboardsman and principal visionary Peter Rechter showcases the best of his interim work with the Secrets in The Secrets Collection. The landmark, four CD The First U.S. Hot 100 (August 1958) collection on Acrobat Music features all one hundred singles that graced the first edition of the so-called national chart, including essential tracks by Rick Nelson, Perez Prado, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Upbeats, Gene and Gina and others. The rockabilly-inspired trio the Stray Cats is saluted with a multi-CD/DVD set on Made In Germany Music Records that features two full length concerts from 1981 and 1983.  The highly prolific Real Gone Music label has added Various Artists collections to its enormous catalog of multi-disc collections, including the superb, 100-track Northern Soul: The Early Years set, including rare tracks from Roy Hamilton, Bert "Russell Byrd" Berns, Tammy Montgomery, Billy Bland, the Five Royales and others.  

In the New Releases section of The Shape Of Things To Come column, Groovy Uncle continues to confound  expectations with their fifth and latest release, Life's A Gift.  Mark V and Peppermint Trolley Company co-founder Danny Faragher presents thirteen astoundingly diverse and well written originals in his new solo CD, Dancing With The Moment. The Cherry Drops join forces with Standells and Lovin' Spoonful veterans to produce one of the best new CDs of the year, Life Is A Bowl Of Cherry Drops. Davie Allan And The Arrows celebrate their half century mark as a band with a pair of first rate new albums. Veteran British Invasion greats the Zombies confound expectations with their all new release for The End Records, Still Got That Hunger. The Southern California-based Mod Hippie (featuring Adam Marsland) lives up to their name with their debut Karma Frog label CD, Tomorrow Then. Country rock stalwarts Alabama have returned with their first new studio album in fourteen years, Southern Drawl. Blues rocker Long Tall Deb Landolt has taken the blues to a psychedelic level on her latest Vizztone release, Streets Of Mumbai. Southern California duo Artpeace makes a perceptive commentary on the floundering state of the mainstream in their Wild Serape Records debut, Free Music. After a protracted sabbatical to reassess priorities and strategy, Garfield's Birthday co-founder and Pink Hedgehog Records CEO Simon Felton has returned with a most ambitious new solo endeavor, Emotional Feedback. California blues rock quartet, The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter John Zipperer has issued one of the most engaging new releases in recent months with his Nick Kirgo-produced album, Full Circle. 



DOUBLE DYNAMITE: Blitz Magazine is kicking off a summer long celebration of our fortieth anniversary. In the following essay, Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a fond look at four decades of being at the helm of The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, and addresses some key developments that speak to the future of the industry. Pictured above is the cover of Blitz number 27 from July 1978 (with cover design by Dennis Loren), which featured interviews with Sam and Dave and the Monkees' David Jones, as well as numerous reviews and reports on such up and coming artists as Cinecyde, Brad Long, the Zooks and the Reruns.


“I am no longer singing with the legendary Teenagers. After knowing and working with Herman Santiago for over sixty years, the time has come for me to move on to other things, as my Lord and Saviour Jesus directs. For it is He, the Creator of all things, including doo wop, that brought me this far in life and blessed me to be an original, founding member of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Therefore, I’ll always be a Teenager as His servant.

With those words, rock and roll great Jimmy Merchant announced on 27 April 2015 his retirement after six decades as a member of one of rock and roll’s most respected and enduring pioneer vocal groups. And while the news of yet one more legend being removed from the roster of active performers is most disconcerting in and of itself, Merchant’s farewell benediction nonetheless addresses two key points that remain front and center in the overall world of music.

On one hand, the fact that Merchant (who since that time seems to have recanted his retirement to a degree and continues to participate in the occasional live performance) has had the option to bow out on his own terms makes him blessed in relation to a number of his fellow visionaries. To wit, the current year to date alone has seen the untimely passing of such beloved giants of music as Ernie Maresca, Ben E. King, Val Doonican, Jim Ed Brown, Jean Ritchie, B.B. King, Johnny Gimble, Guy Carawan, James Last, jazz greats Marcus Belgrave and Ornette Coleman, songwriters Red Lane, Will Holt and Buddy Buie, the Scot Richard Case’s Gary Quackenbush, the Kingsmen’s Jack Ely, Hot Chocolate’s Errol Brown, the Weavers’ Ronnie Gilbert, and Yes bassist Chris Squire, to name but a few.

Furthermore, with his proclamation of faith, Merchant has articulated a major concern within the industry that nonetheless resonates with believers and non-believers alike. The fact that the attrition rate amongst musicians has continued at an alarmingly high rate in recent years has given many pause for concern, as well as the incentive to reassess their priorities.

One time Guess Who front man and keyboardsman Burton Lorne Cummings has reiterated as much in his ongoing series of online journals over the past few years. Amongst other things, the highly prolific and remarkably gifted vocalist and songwriter has observed that, as a lifelong musicologist, musician and record collector, he has had ample opportunity to accumulate rather large archives of various recorded works during his more than a half century in the spotlight.

But in turn, Cummings has noted upon occasion that the whirlwind of activity in which he frequently finds himself has left him with relatively little time to appreciate those acquisitions to any significant degree. To underscore the point, he recently noted that he was just getting around to re-evaluating and enjoying once again the catalog of the veteran instrumental band, Johnny and the Hurricanes, the bulk of whose work was done more than a half century ago.

The communal gathering places for the faithful, such as record collectors conventions and record retailers have reflected these developments accordingly. It is becoming increasingly commonplace in such settings to encounter conversations that are less concerned with, “I just found this rare record” and instead leaning towards mutual acquaintances having passed away, admitted to hospital, in a nursing home, and the like.

Like it or not, such is the inevitable fate for each and every of us who profess to love music. To wit, a few years ago, one prolific collector passed away suddenly at the age of fifty-nine, leaving the fruits of his decades of record collecting behind to relatives who had minimal interest in the subject. Within a month of his passing, his lifetime of work was being arbitrarily divided and offered in a backyard estate sale at prices of less than one dollar per item. A short term bonus for the fellow collector with a focus on the immediate circumstances, to be certain. But doubtlessly not at all what that late collector may have envisioned for his legacy, not to mention his due diligence.

With his focus primarily directed towards his faith, Jimmy Merchant most assuredly has his priorities in order. But whether or not one shares Merchant’s perspective on that particular issue, there is nonetheless much that we as the collective representation of musicologists, musicians, record collectors and industry professionals can learn from his resolve and determination.

When Blitz Magazine made its debut as a mimeographed newsletter in August 1975, the world of record collecting was very much in its infancy. In turn, the reissue and anthology division of the industry was striving to find its own footing. With the rise to prominence of the internet more than two decades away, research involved no small amount of physical effort, and relied more often that not on the personal recollections and presumptions of third party observers.

However, one concurrent development came along that helped propel Blitz and literally hundreds of other like minded publications from cottage industry status to voices of consequence for a sizable yet long disenfranchised segment of the overall demographic. In 1975, the mainstream recording industry had been in the waning stages of a protracted aesthetic slump that came about in part as the result of the AM/FM wars of the late 1960s and the shifting emphasis by the industry powers that be onto such periphery as chronology and social/political developments. While such moves may have served some purpose in providing a backdrop for a given agenda in that respect, it nonetheless often did so by relegating the music to a support role for that agenda, and occasionally at the expense of artistic integrity.

Such developments resulted in an ever increasing discontentment with the status quo amongst the faithful. Yet seemingly in defiance of the limited options for networking and/or communications available at the time, the faithful managed to rise to the occasion by mid-decade in two respects. One way was by taking a stand for artistic integrity and seeking to unite like minded individuals. This was often done through the medium of independent publishing, such as Blitz Magazine did. The other was to utilize whatever musical skills that one had been blessed with and commit them to record with original material that championed a return to the basics, with renewed artistic integrity experiencing exponential growth in the process.

As such, by the mid-1970s, the resultant, so-called punk/new wave movement and the burgeoning independent publishing industry found themselves united in purpose and growing in impact and influence. Not surprisingly, the indifference and/or resistance from the mainstream media was both fast and furious. Nonetheless, four decades after the fact, what was once regarded as a fringe movement is now an integral component of the overall entertainment culture.

Within short order, Blitz Magazine resolved to increase its presence and impact in that respect. In late 1976, after a brief meeting with renowned graphic artist Dennis Loren (who had offered his services in that capacity accordingly), Blitz Magazine took the risky yet inevitable step of graduating from four page mimeographed newsletter to a full sized, full length magazine. Blitz Magazine number eighteen (featuring my lengthy cover interviews with Jan and Dean, as well as numerous reviews of various ambitious new vinyl releases) followed suit in January 1977. The musical revolution and its independent press were both in full swing, and there was no turning back.

As we all learned in short order, publishing was not a task for the casual participant. The thrill of championing the betterment of the art was often tempered by the realities of production. In those pre-internet days, stories were composed and edited on a typewriter (and Blitz was blessed at the time to have access to the then state of the art IBM Selectric II model) with a bottle of Liquid Paper nearby at all times. In turn, typesetting was done on a cumbersome and costly behemoth of a machine called a Compugraphic.

While we engaged a variety of typesetting services in the early days of Blitz, among the most memorable were the several issues that were typeset by long time fellow musicologist, social commentator and one-time MC5 manager, John Sinclair. Blitz’s production team spent many a long night in Sinclair’s home offices, enjoying his vast and diverse record collection while he typeset, I proofread and Dennis Loren meticulously designed each page by hand on his light table.

By 1980, with the punk/new wave movement continuing to break new ground and assert itself as the prominent voice in the music industry, Blitz Magazine had relocated from suburban Detroit to Los Angeles, California. It was a move that was a long time in the making, and one that was done with few regrets.

With respect to the latter category, it sadly meant parting professional company with Dennis Loren, as the ongoing high demand for his services in the area prevented him from making such a move at the time. Meanwhile, Blitz continued to sustain its momentum in Southern California by engaging the services of a series of gifted graphic artists that included Heather Johnson, Spencer Eldridge, Greg Shaw and Tom Alford.

Not surprisingly, Loren’s graphic design business continues to the present day, with stops at Del-Fi and Vanguard Records along the way to his credit, as well as key project collaborations with such diverse artists as Tag Team and Brian Wilson. However, Blitz by that time had also developed and nurtured a world class roster of staff writers (including Jerry Schollenberger, Mary Anne Cassata, Sean Ross, John Mars and Jeff Lemlich), all of whom were able to continue in that capacity by mailing in their contributions prior to each deadline.

Ultimately, the timing of the move could not have been more perfect. Southern California had embraced the new musical developments unconditionally, and had the rare blessing of ongoing radio support in that respect from Long Beach’s KNAC-FM and Pasadena’s KROQ-FM. A variety of diverse bands had availed themselves accordingly, and Blitz Magazine was there to cover all of it. The Heaters, the Blasters, the Rain Parade, Black Flag, Elton Duck, the Long Ryders, X, the Minutemen, the Dream Syndicate, the Unclaimed, the Three O’Clock and the Last were among the many who graced our pages throughout those adventurous days.

In the process, our relocation to Southern California also afforded Blitz greater access to many of the still active pioneers of the movement. We were immeasurably blessed to have featured lengthy interviews with such beloved greats as the Monkees, Roy Brown, Herman’s Hermits, the Creation, the Beach Boys, the Four Preps, Lou Christie, Canned Heat, Rick Nelson, the Beau Brummels, Mary Wells, Del Shannon, Spanky and Our Gang, the Seeds and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (amongst numerous others) within our pages.

Concurrently, the reissue arm of the recording industry was rapidly gaining ground, commensurate with the ongoing interest in high quality pioneering work amongst both musicologists and record collectors, as well as the front line amongst the newer musicians. Inevitably, Blitz Magazine joined forces for a season with such record labels as Rhino and Sundazed, who commissioned Blitz to conduct research and/or compose sleeve notes for a series of reissues and anthologies by such diverse artists as the Chocolate Watchband, the New Colony Six, Dionne Warwick, Freddy Cannon, the Vogues, Brenton Wood, Mitch Ryder, the Diamonds, Joe Tex, Bill Deal and the Rhondels, the Olympics and Bobby Day, to name but a few.

That momentum continued unabated well into the 1980s. But abruptly in mid-1988, not long after the release of our fifty-eighth issue, a series of circumstances (including my pursuit of multiple degrees in theology, which involved a semester of study in Jerusalem, Israel) regrettably necessitated placing Blitz on sabbatical for a brief season.

That so-called brief season continued until January 1996, when (to the best of our knowledge) Blitz Magazine re-emerged as the very first such magazine of its kind to have adapted an entirely online presence. Blitz Magazine of course continues in that capacity to the present day, with our web site regularly supplemented by our ongoing active participation in both the Facebook and Twitter communities.

In the interim, changes in the industry had continued at a frantic pace, with both positive and negative consequences. By the mid-1990s, the internet had become an increasing presence in the overall culture. And while the industry’s endeavors to find its footing in that new medium took the better part of the ensuing decade to develop, the internet ultimately brought significant changes in the way that the industry viewed itself. 

At risk initially were the intellectual and creative property rights of the artists involved. With much of their work suddenly available on various sites or as downloads, sales of compact discs and vinyl (which paradoxically has rebounded exponentially in the current decade) began to be affected adversely. The sense of entitlement expressed by many at the time underscored just how ingrained in mass culture was the notion that an artist was not necessarily to be fairly compensated for their services.

This double standard ironically carried over for a season into the realm of the physical product, which had long been a key source for the sustainability of the careers of many an artist. The impact was particularly felt in the early 2000s in the United Kingdom, with changes in copyright laws resulting in a season of decreased accountability for record labels with respect to artist royalties. Due in part to the valiant and ongoing efforts of such still active veteran greats as Bobby Rydell and Sir Cliff Richard, those concerns have begun to be addressed, if not entirely rectified.

The issue at large was exacerbated in part by the return to a protracted aesthetic slump in the mainstream that began in the early 1990s. After the so-called New Traditionalist movement in country music (arguably the last collective gasp of consequence in the industry at large) had run its course by the midpoint of that decade, no real profession of solidarity and/or unity came from any one camp to carry the torch forward into the new millennium. As such, artists at the independent label level again turned to their respective creative muses. The result was a great deal of excellent material that admittedly takes a bit more due diligence (aided and abetted by the ongoing support from Blitz, as well as numerous others of similar intent) to locate and appreciate. Nonetheless, the results at hand suggest that doing so remains well worth the effort.

While the vastness of scope offered by the internet can make the pursuit of the new and promising of a particular genre or point of interest a bit more challenging, it in turn has likewise (and somewhat unwittingly) been of benefit towards the reissue movement, which has since grown to be one of the largest segments of the recording industry at large.

The rapid expansion of interest in the reissue movement has in part been responsible for the healthy return to prominence of the vinyl release in recent years. Not only do such heretofore technically conscious retail chains as Target, HMV, Best Buy, Books A Million and Barnes and Noble now stock extensive selections of vinyl albums in their various outlets, they have in the process attracted the support of a much younger demographic with no first hand experience of the original impact that vinyl had in its developing stages. To be certain, with respect to the concerns about the necessity of passing the torch, this is a most encouraging step in the right direction.

Concurrently, the explosive growth of reissues and anthologies has had significant impact in terms of the compact disc. The sonic advantages of the medium (minimal surface and/or background noise, space for additional tracks, et al) have served the expansion movement well, with deluxe editions of many a classic release offering what the vinyl medium simply cannot deliver, in the form of bonus and unreleased tracks, supplemental hardware (session data, discographies, extensive sleeve notes or artist biographies, reproductions of artifacts and the like) and a more comprehensive artist portrait in a relatively convenient and compact setting (the latter being an increasing necessity amongst those with substantial musical archives and minimal storage space).

Conversely, the rise of the internet has also seen a somewhat curious increase in the industry equivalent of the so-called “armchair quarterback”, who is referred to in some circles as the “keyboard warrior”. While the difficulties of research in the early days of the reissue industry meant that available information in general was often more challenging to procure a decade after the fact than it now is a half century after the fact, those involved in the production process have discovered that instead of having to rely on the information at hand to get the job done, they now often find themselves encountering (and in some cases challenged by) a seemingly endless stream of self-proclaimed “experts”.

In one respect, it is indeed gratifying to be able to experience the camaraderie of like minded individuals, who share enthusiasm for a given genre or the work of a particular artist, and whose personal research and experience ultimately contributes to the wealth of knowledge that is now readily available in the industry at large; both online and in the results of the countless reissue projects that are currently available.

However, as many an executive at some of the leading reissue companies will readily attest, their respective relationships with the various keyboard warriors is often a mixed blessing. Some do indeed contribute in the way of providing access to rare archival material, as well as documented expertise and insights based on personal testimony and experience, which of course is all well and good.

Nonetheless, there are some within those circles who seem determined to take the late, great Rick Nelson’s landmark 1972 maxim of, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself” out of context. Just as the armchair quarterback will frequently wax indignantly on the performance of a given athlete whose abilities they could not possibly duplicate, the keyboard warrior is often given to finding fault with many a reissue project, summarily dismissing the entire work out of hand if it includes too many tracks, not enough tracks, monaural over stereo (or vice versa), alternate takes, studio dialogue, and the like.

In the process, the keyboard warrior often defends their actions by presenting themselves as watchdogs of sorts. They frequently do so by invoking an all too familiar tactic that is also common to modern day partisan politics, which is to put the perceived “opposition” on the defensive by questioning their motives (and indeed, if the participants in the medium of communication most engaged by artists to fellowship with their audience are perceived as “opposition”, then the ultimate agendas of such “watchdogs” must certainly be called into question), their presumed interest in profit over art, and even the legality of their respective venture.

By going that route, the keyboard warrior demonstrates (at least to the seasoned industry insider) just how out of touch they are with the realities of the process. Many a representative of the various reissue labels whose specialty is the rare and obscure release have found themselves on the receiving end of such invective, and are quick to point out the fallibility of such arguments.

Of the dozen or so leading labels whose CD reissues fall into that category, more than half pursue their respective mission statements as a labor of love, with profits barely meeting production expenses (and indeed, as the Apostle Paul pointed out in I Corinthians 9:1-18, a double standard persists which infers that those plying their trades in certain professions are believed by some to not be entitled to compensation for their endeavors). And any such suggestion that the finished product is bereft of merit in that respect simply does not take into consideration the enormous amount of work involved in production, remastering, graphic design, research and promotion.

Furthermore, with the rights for release more often than not falling under the jurisdiction of relatively more established corporations which have marginal (if any) interest in the material at hand, the independent label is doing both artist and musicologist a tremendous service by making this rare material once again readily available. And while most such labels at least make a concerted effort to pay statutory royalties to all concerned, virtually all have affirmed that they would be willing to work out terms with a given artist if said artist were to contact them. It is a potential win-win situation for all concerned.

Furthermore, the keyboard warrior frequently also comes with their own professed ideology that at times appears to be self-contradictory. For all of their perceived insights and observations with respect to the industry at large and their seemingly inevitable proclamations regarding the infallibility of their own perspective, many of them nonetheless remain determined to cling to the infrastructure of the mainstream industry that they so often profess to disdain.

To that effect, a roundtable discussion about the aesthetic merits of a given musical work will almost invariably produce one of two responses amongst the participants; either “I can’t believe that single only peaked at number sixty-eight on the national charts” or “It’s an injustice that this artist is not in the hall of fame”.

Indeed, if such observers are so determined to champion independent thinking, then their continuing deference to the perceived authority of such mainstream entities is a malfeasance of logic.

In terms of the latter, the so-called hall of fame (and its east coast-based decision making committee) has no public mandate to operate in that capacity, and no more authority in that respect than that which they have bestowed upon themselves. No artist of aesthetic merit needs confirmation from them to affirm their worth as musicians. The faithful are fully aware of what these beloved artists are capable of, and continue to support them accordingly. It is that support which has continued to sustain them in the long run. Yet many an observer continues to deem a pat on the head from the so-called hall as essential for them to fall into lockstep with their own accolades.

Even more curious is their frequent insistence upon measuring an artist’s legacy by their performance on a so-called national chart. While such mathematical data may be of some merit in terms of professional sports (although a case could also be made against such logic when one takes into consideration the entertainment value and off the field altruism that a given athlete often provides), it nonetheless defies reason and in reality is not supported by fact in terms of a given record’s artistic viability.

By the admission of the various sources that continue to produce them, the so-called national charts are solely intended to reflect the performance of a given musical work over the previous seven day period. By definition, that automatically makes the margin for error substantial, especially when taking into consideration the phenomenon known as the regional hit that prevailed through much of rock and roll’s most productive years.

For example, the 1966 cover of Don Harris and Dewey Terry’s Farmer John on the S.V.R. label by the Michigan band, the Tidal Waves was a sizable hit in many markets across North America, although not concurrently. In other words, it did well in a given city during one week, then in another a few weeks later, and in still other even a couple of months later.

Much of that of course had to do with the challenges of distribution faced by label President Jack Chekaway, who ultimately leased the single to the somewhat more established HBR label. When all was said and done, the Tidal Waves’ definitive rendition of Farmer John had sold an impressive 900,000 copies; a figure confirmed by both label and artist. But since that single’s peak activity did not take place within a lone seven day period, its performance by definition could not be chronicled accordingly in the national charts. Ultimately, it barely made a dent there, which a record with such impressive sales figures should have made. Rightfully so, that Tidal Waves’ single is nonetheless regarded today as a hallmark of first generation garage rock.

An even more obvious example would be the Beau Brummels’ classic May 1965 single, Just A Little. True to form, the legendary WKNR Keener 13 radio in Dearborn, Michigan (which at the time served as a national test station of sorts; breaking singles weeks and sometimes months before they went on to acclaim elsewhere) was an early supporter of this sublime release, with Just A Little ultimately peaking at number one on the Keener Music Guide before month’s end. That Autumn label single went on to enjoy similar acclaim in roughly a dozen other markets nationwide over the next two months. But again, since those accolades did not occur concurrently, Just A Little ultimately topped out at a relatively modest number eight on the so-called national charts.

The resultant dichotomies evidenced in such activity continue to produce an endless stream of “what if” cries in those roundtable discussions. Yet one continues to wonder, for all of their professions of indignancy when it comes to their music of choice, why the opinions and findings of such sources would continue to impact their beliefs to such a degree. Indeed, if inclusion in a so-called hall of fame or performance on a national chart is the be all and the end all of a given artist’s merits, then the keyboard warriors are again contradicting themselves by their ongoing professions of admiration for the works of such acclaimed musical visionaries and giants as the Chocolate Watchband, Charlie Feathers, the Pretty Things, Ronnie Self and Gino Washington, none of whom made any significant impact in either respect throughout prolific careers that spanned roughly a half century per artist.

Given the inevitable consequences of the passage of time, coupled with the most encouraging interest expressed in the medium by a well intended (although - - for the moment - - modestly informed) up and coming demographic, it is incumbent upon all of us to utilize whatever resources we have been blessed with, be it recorded archives, musicianship, first hand experience, journalistic skills and/or historical acumen, to pass the torch to those in the apprentice stages  through both encouragement and the sharing of such expertise.

And such are the interesting times in which we find ourselves, as Blitz Magazine gratefully celebrates the completion of its fourth decade. If nothing else, what the past forty years have taught us is that no matter how long we persevere at this labor of love, it remains a learning process. For while the necessity of due diligence made such endeavors a significant challenge in the early days of publication, the large network of support and the resultant wealth of knowledge now available continues to underscore just how much that each and every one of us can learn and benefit from the camaraderie and the sharing of lifetimes of experience and discovery. As Jimmy Merchant noted, it is indeed a blessing from the Lord for which we give thanks to Him, as well as to all of you for your ongoing love, support and encouragement.


LOVETIME: The Flamin' Groovies (shown above at the Magic Bag in Ferndale, Michigan on 13 November 2015 as part of their Fiftieth Anniversary Tour) paid homage to the victims of the tragedy in France, and concurrently proved why they remain one of rock and roll's most respected and impacting bands. In the following interview, Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell spoke at length with lead guitarist and co-founder Cyril Jordan about the band's impressive legacy and plans for the future. Left to right: George Alexander (bass), Victor Penalosa (drums), Cyril Jordan (lead guitar), Chris Wilson (lead vocals and rhythm guitar). Click on above image to enlarge. (Photo by Michael McDowell. C&P Blitz Magazine 2015. All rights reserved).


For the veteran San Francisco band, the Flamin’ Groovies, the evening of Friday the thirteenth of November 2015 was a bittersweet one.

The band, which had been touring across the United States and Canada in celebration of its fiftieth anniversary as a group, was en route from Chicago, Illinois (where they had performed the previous evening) to the Detroit, Michigan northern suburb of Ferndale, where they were to headline (with the ambitious and charismatic trio, the Hentchmen) at the vaunted Magic Bag on Woodward Avenue near Nine Mile Road.

The band had no sooner escaped some unexpectedly treacherous weather while making their way along the eastbound I-94 Freeway, when they learned of the news of the tragic massacre in the French capital of Paris. The Flamin’ Groovies have long enjoyed a substantial fan base in France, and the news of this tragedy hit them quite hard.

True to form, the venerable quartet (which currently features founding members Cyril Jordan on lead guitar and George Alexander on bass, along with long time rhythm guitarist and primary lead vocalist Chris Wilson, as well as recently recruited drummer Victor Penalosa) determined that the show must go on, and took to the Magic Bag stage with the wisdom, discernment and class that has long defined them.

Those attributes were present in abundance throughout their hour long, career spanning set. Opening with their spirited rendition of the Byrds’ 1965 Columbia label single, I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better, the Flamin’ Groovies kept the proceedings as intense as possible with ambitious and fresh takes on their Bomp label single You Tore Me Down, their 1976 Sire label classic I Can’t Hide, a cover of the like-minded (and one-time Kama Sutra label mates) NRBQ’s I Want You Bad, their unique take (complete with pertinent lyrical revisions) of Freddy Cannon’s Tallahassee Lassie, Larry Williams’ 1959 Specialty label single She Said Yeah, their tried and true interpretation of Chuck Berry’s Don’t You Lie To Me and their often copied 1972 United Artists single, Slow Death.

But it was at that point in the proceedings that the band highlighted a fourth attribute of their mission statement: heart.

With Alexander, Jordan and Penalosa directing the capacity crowd’s attention to their colleague, Chris Wilson then gave a brief eulogy for the victims in France, and beckoned the audience to join him in a minute of silence.

True to form, the band then returned to the cause at hand. Closing out the evening’s proceedings with the title track of their 1976 Sire Records signature album, Shake Some Action, the Flamin’ Groovies then returned for an encore that included Teenage Head and a fresh look at their 1973 track Let Me Rock, which will be re-recorded and released on vinyl in 2016 in tandem with Record Store Day.

After the show, the band retired briefly to the backstage area, where they greeted a number of well wishers, including the Magic Bag’s Willy Wilson, as well as Second Chance/Ann Arbor alumnus Robin Branch Stewart, Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell and renowned graphic artist, Dennis Loren, who had served as Blitz’s art director from 1976 to 1980 and who had also designed the poster for that evening’s performance.

The accolades were not lost on current drummer, Victor Penalosa, who demonstrated onstage a thorough command of the band’s vast and vaunted repertoire.

“I grew up listening to them”, he said.

“So this is quite an honor for me. I’m grateful.

Interestingly enough, that repertoire took longer than usual to manifest itself. Having first come together from the remnants of a folk band, the Kingsmen (not to be confused with the duly named first generation garage rock legends who recorded for Florence Greenberg’s Wand label) and the Whistling Shrimp (from which founding drummer Danny Mihm came), the band that eventually became known as the Flamin’ Groovies first came together in 1965 with Mihm, guitarist Tim Lynch, and lead vocalist / rhythm guitarist Roy A. Loney, along with Cyril Jordan on lead guitar and George Alexander on bass.

The Flamin’ Groovies persevered for several years as a live band, perfecting their art and following through with their ardent passion as musicologists and record collectors in the process. Yet it was not until 1968 that the band at last opted to commit their work to vinyl. Recorded at Coast Recorders in San Francisco early that year, the resultant Sneakers album was an inspiring reaffirmation of rock and roll that was much needed at a time when the acrimony generated by what has since become known as the AM - FM wars began to cause much division within the rock and roll genre.

Comprised primarily of such Roy Loney compositions as I’m Drowning, My Yada, Golden Clouds and The Slide, the Sneakers album concluded with a sign of things to come, Prelude In A Flat To Afternoon Of A Pud.  To underscore the band’s overall mission statement at the time, the 1996 CD reissue of Sneakers on Bob Irwin’s Sundazed label includes ten bonus tracks recorded live at The Matrix in San Francisco in 1968, highlighted by superb covers of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Sportin’ Life, Wild About My Lovin’ and their instrumental B-side (of Daydream) monster classic, Night Owl Blues.

By 1969, the Flamin’ Groovies had perfected their mission statement to the point where they were ready to try their hand at a partnership with a major label. Epic Records obliged, and the Loney, Jordan, Alexander, Lynch and Mihm lineup of the band released the highly acclaimed Supersnazz album there that year.

While cover material continued to play a significant role in their repertoire at that point (represented on Supersnazz by Eddie Cochran’s Somethin’ Else, Al Dexter’s Pistol Packin’ Mama, Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns’ Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu and Little Richard’s The Girl Can’t Help It), the band pressed ahead therein with original material that challenged the growing dichotomy in the world of rock and roll as much as it reaffirmed their commitment to their mission statement.

To wit, the opening track, Love Have Mercy borrows its spoken introduction from the Solomon Burke/Wilson Pickett classic Everybody Needs Somebody To Love and then falls in step with both Sammy Lewis’ I Feel So Worried and Chuck Willis’ I Feel So Bad. In turn, Pagan Rachel takes its cue from the Nick Lucas/Henry Burr vaudeville/ragtime hybrid indigenous to many of Ian Whitcomb’s releases, while Brushfire hints at the folklore that characterizes much of the Band’s in progress work for Capitol.

Conversely, Supersnazz makes its case against the burgeoning rift in rock and roll with the brilliant A Part From That by opening with the guitar riff from the Bee Gees’ I Started A Joke and then immediately offering a faux serious take on the somber, string-laden and self-indulgent material found on a significant percentage of the Beatles’ late 1968 self-titled double LP. which is also known as The White Album.

Such was obviously not a formula that would have endeared them to the increasingly narrow parameters of taste championed within the immediate post-Woodstock contingent. Their concerns were heightened briefly with the departure of lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Loney for a solo career in 1971. However, he was most capably succeeded in that capacity by Chris Wilson.

Undaunted, the band then signed with Kama Sutra. The resultant Teenage Head and Flamingo albums went on to play a significant part in the re-appreciation of basic rock and roll that at last came full circle by the mid-1970s with the emergence of the so-called punk and new wave movements.

In the interim, the band spent the early part of the decade touring with Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner, headlining throughout Europe, signing with United Artists and releasing what many consider to be their signature single, Slow Death. The late Bomp Records President (and one time Blitz Magazine art director) Greg Shaw recognized a movement to come, and released a highly acclaimed single in 1974, coupling the original You Tore Me Down with a refreshing interpretation of Paul Revere and the Raiders’ 1967 monster classic, Him Or Me, What’s It Gonna Be?

By 1976, vengeance was theirs. Teaming with the enormously respected vocalist, songwriter and guitar virtuoso Dave Edmunds as their producer, the Flamin’ Groovies signed with Seymour Stein’s Sire Records and released the landmark Shake Some Action album. Widely regarded as one of the genre’s definitive masterpieces, Shake Some Action produced the acclaimed I Can’t Hide single and prompted two additional albums for the label.

However, the band’s commitment to creative autonomy led them to realize that major label affiliation was perhaps not the most suitable route for their uncompromising mission statement. They returned to independent status, releasing One Night Stand in 1987 and Rock Juice in 1993 before embarking upon a protracted sabbatical.

During the break, Jordan attempted to sustain the momentum in 2005 with the formation of a new band, Magic Christian. Three years later, he and Loney reunited for a brief tour, with members of Yo La Tengo and the A-Bones serving as their backing band. Jordan has also continued to refine his journalistic skills in the present decade, having become a contributing columnist to Mike Stax’s essential, San Diego-based Ugly Things magazine.

Not surprisingly, a band with such a storied legacy was not yet ready to be referred to in the past tense. In 2013, Jordan, Alexander and Wilson opted to reunite. In the process, they recruited Victor Penalosa to succeed the ailing Danny Mihm as the band’s drummer. Since that time, they have continued to tour to considerable acclaim, and are putting the finishing touches on new recordings, set for 2016 release.

As the proceedings at the Magic Bag drew to a close that evening, Blitz Magazine and Cyril Jordan made arrangements to speak at length the following afternoon. While the band was en route along I-80 to that evening’s performance in Cleveland, Ohio, Blitz Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell and Jordan enjoyed the resultant, following exchange, which was conducted on George Alexander’s cell phone.

BLITZ: The story of the Flamin’ Groovies has been told many times in the past. However, the various accounts raise as many questions as they answer. The band that became the Flamin’ Groovies first got together in 1965. Some of the band’s founding members had been in a group called the Kingsmen. Originally, their aspirations had been more towards playing folk music.

JORDAN: We were actually called the Chosen Few. We found out a couple of months later that there were like twenty-two Chosen Fews in California! I wasn’t too impressed with the name. But I was the youngest member of the band, so I had no say. I thought it was a bit pretentious.

Anyway, we quickly changed the name. Actually, not “we”, as I didn’t have anything to do with it!

As the Chosen Few, we were doing songs by Them, the Yardbirds and the Rolling Stones. The folk thing was George, Timmy and Roy, a couple of years before I got together with them. George was a really good guitar finger picker, like Joan Baez. I didn’t realize he could play guitar that well, as he was our bass player.

When I came in, everything was switched over to R&B and rock and roll.

BLITZ: Other like minded bands at the time, such as the Guess Who, drew much of their inspiration for cover material from their own record collections. Was that also the case with the Flamin’ Groovies?

JORDAN: We were no different from a lot of the high school bands in California that fell in love with the British Invasion. If it wasn’t (the Nashville Teens’) Tobacco Road, it was (Them’s) Baby Please Don’t Go or Mystic Eyes. Or (the Yardbirds’ cover of Tiny Bradshaw’s) Train Kept A Rollin’ or (the Yardbirds’ cover of Manfred Mann’s) Mister You’re A Better Man Than I. Or Around And Around and Empty Heart by the Stones. The list is long.

Most of the bands were into that, like the guys who did Psychotic Reaction.

BLITZ: The Count Five.

JORDAN: Right. I got to see those guys about fifteen years ago. I met one of them, and went down to hear them. I’d heard they were getting back together. And they were still playing Mister You’re A Better Man Than I!

BLITZ: Ultimately, Better Man Than I ended up being a hit in 1966 for Terry Knight and the Pack, although the Yardbirds were the ones who really brought that one out to many people’s attention.

JORDAN: I think the best version was by the Sons Of Adam!

BLITZ: That one was good. And the New Colony Six did an approximately eight minute version of it on their second album, Colonization.

JORDAN: Well, there you go! That shows you that most of the bands from that era in America, especially on the West Coast, started cutting their teeth on British R&B.

BLITZ: As things started to change in rock and roll overall, you stayed the course with your original musical focus instead. The way it played out at the time in California was a little bit different than it was elsewhere. But in the midwest, there was a growing dichotomy and resultant acrimony as the late 1960s approached, resulting in a split between the so-called AM and FM factions. Improvisation and noodling became more commonplace. But the Flamin’ Groovies stayed for the most part with the verse, chorus and bridge template.

JORDAN: Well, we had our own tastes. And the new trends that we had followed were the rock and roll and R&B trends. But the other trends that followed, we ignored.

We didn’t get into this business to make money. We got into it for the cool of doing it. We then developed an attitude that nobody tells us what trend (to follow). We tell them! And nobody tells us how, either.

BLITZ: You demonstrated that succinctly with the release of your Sneakers album in 1968. The CD reissue version contains live material from 1968 as bonus tracks. At a time when many bands were trying to outdo one another with improvisation, the Flamin’ Groovies did three Lovin’ Spoonful covers instead.

JORDAN: We were, and especially me. I had a big box, marked with an “L”, for learning. And any record I threw in that box, I learned. I had the Surfaris, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and then to George Harrison, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.
You know, each year, as new bands came out, I would learn everything on their albums. So I was influencing the band quite a bit, because when we got together when George and I came over to Timmy’s house. I brought the drummer, Ron Greco and Roy was there.

Within an hour and a half we became a band. Because we were sitting around, saying, “So what do you want to do now?

So I started with those songs, and said, “Let’s go!” Everybody knew those songs. We just hadn’t played them all the way through. Then all of a sudden, we looked at each other and said, “Hey, we’re a band! We can do a set!!

We continued on with this process of learning the chops of these groups, and then brought that into the live performance.

BLITZ: In that 1968 live performance, you got the best of both worlds in there with a version of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Night Owl Blues. Whereas you pretty much nailed their single, as that single started to fade, you kept it going in your rendition for a while longer. It demonstrated that the band really had their chops in order by that time.

JORDAN: We started improvising a little bit at that time. The psychedelic scene did influence us to a degree. We would do long leads and long outros, and then just go into a jam. But that ended pretty quickly. It was only for about a year that we were doing that.

BLITZ: Eventually, the band came to the point where, whether it was in terms of radio airplay, or public reaction, that when you signed with Epic Records in 1969, the so-called counter culture was in place. Bands writing original material based on the classic verse, chorus and bridge template were become less and less common in the United States at that time. Nonetheless, you held your ground. What sort of reactions did you get, and what was your response to it?

JORDAN: The audiences in San Francisco weren’t too impressed. But every once in a while, we would open for Ray Charles, or somebody like that. And they would be real impressed!

We got a gig opening for Ike and Tina Turner, because Ray Charles turned them on to us. We actually wrote Headin’ For The Texas Border for the Ray Charles show that we were going to do at Basin Street West. The intro and lick came from Ray’s song, I Don’t Need No Doctor.

A couple of years later, when we were asked to open for Ike and Tina Turner whenever they played in California, one night I was backstage with Ike Turner. I asked him, “Hey, how did you guys find out about us?” He said, “Ray told me”. And I said, “Ray? Ray who?” And he said, “Ray Charles”.

That’s why we were on United Artists, because Ike and Tina were on United Artists. In those days, if you opened for one of the big guys and they dug you, then they brought you down the pike. You got signed to their label and you did gigs with them. It was a great way to enter show business! You were the protégé of some big star.

BLITZ: In a way, it was like a second chance for the band after the situation with Epic Records didn’t work out for you. It sounds as though Epic didn’t know what to do with the band.

JORDAN: They didn’t, because they thought we were a San Francisco band. We were big record collectors. As the years went by, we were buying records by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Django Reinhart, and we were listening to everything we could grab!

I got an album called, The Blues Came Down From Memphis. There were Sun 78s on the cover. Love Have Mercy was stolen from (Sammy Lewis’) I Feel So Worried. We were ripping songs off from that album all the way up to Teenage Head. In fact, Doctor Boogie from that album is taken from The Boogie Disease.

BLITZ: Doctor Ross.

JORDAN: Right, Doctor Ross. We loved showing off our influences, like the Rolling Stones did in their early days. That’s who we were.

BLITZ: Not unlike your unintentional namesake, Cyril Davies then. It was the same situation with him.

JORDAN: Exactly!

BLITZ: To that effect, some of the original material on the Epic album is really well written. It sounds as though there is an element of familiarity in much of it, as if to say that one has heard it somewhere before, but it is still original. That in and of itself is much of the appeal of the Supersnazz album. Especially at a time like 1969, when such attributes were in relatively shorter supply.

JORDAN: Like I said, we were listening to so much older music and applying it to us. The process of learning that material influenced our playing and my writing.

Again, we were really into showing off our influences. Later on, when we started doing the Beatles on stage with From Me To You and Please, Please Me, it was all about showing off! Those songs are almost impossible to play live. If you can do it, it shows that you are a very advanced player.

It was all about showing off! We didn’t care if it wasn’t original, or if people said, “That’s the Beatles! What are you doing?

I said, “What we’re doing is ducking becoming advanced craftsmen, and you people are too stupid to know that’s why we’re doing it!

BLITZ: Please correct us if we are wrong, but it sounds as though you carried that perspective into your next album. By the time you signed with Kama Sutra after the connection with Epic fell through, it sounds as though the label might have been trying to push you more in that direction, but you continued to hold your ground.

JORDAN: Well, Richard Robinson and Lenny Kaye were the guys that signed us to Kama Sutra. They loved our take on anything that we did. They were also record collectors. So they got a big kick out of watching us learn something new and then having it brought into our band’s sound. They pretty much let us do what we wanted.

All of our record contracts had an artistic license clause, which said that nobody at the label could tell us what we were going to do in the studio.

BLITZ: To that effect, during your affiliation with Kama Sutra, you continued to produce some original material that drew from inspiration. There was still that element of familiarity, the best example of which is probably the track Evil Hearted Ada. The Jack Scott-like vocals and the echo worked. It had the best of both worlds.

JORDAN: Evil Hearted Ada was based on the Scotty Moore link from (Elvis Presley’s cover of Junior Parker’s) Mystery Train. I was just learning finger picking at that time. Scotty was one of the guys I studied.

Roy was a big Gene Vincent fan. It was a fusion of Gene Vincent and Scott Moore, along with Elvis.

Plus, there was a side to us that was steeped in hilarity. When Roy started doing his Gene Vincent on the echo, we were in hysterics in the booths!

BLITZ: That brings up an interesting point. You may or may not have heard this perspective before. When the Teenage Head and Flamingo albums were released on Kama Sutra, those who followed the band or whom had just become aware of them at the time seemed to, for whatever reason, draw the conclusion that there was a little bit of an impasse at play.

That is, those of that perspective would listen to the records, figure out what your intentions were, and then, given that the world of music was still engrossed in improvisation and noodling at the time, would say, “These guys are writing verse, chorus and bridge template songs. Yet they have a name like that”.

The name the Flamin’ Groovies seemed to raise questions in those circles as to whether or not the band was serious about what they were doing. And since you have affirmed that there was an element of being "steeped in hilarity” in the studio, there was some discussion about whether or not the band was putting on its audience. Have you heard that perspective before? If so, what was your reaction to it?

JORDAN: Basically, what was going on was that the older generation had gotten angry at Bob Dylan for going electric. Everybody who went to a college or university in the 1960s was under the impression that it was childish to play electric guitar. But with an acoustic guitar, you were an adult!

Electric guitar was considered teenybopper because of the Beatles. Those people were morons! Dylan (told them off) and went electric. He knew immediately how radical electric guitars plugged into amps were. We did the same thing.

Like I told you, the name came about because there is a hilarious side to the bunch of guys known as the Groovies. The name the Flamin’ Groovies was put in place the day after the Beatles’ last concert ever, in 1966. I went around saying, “Groovy!” to anything that anybody said to me. Everybody was looking at me and laughing at that.

So then Roy came over and said, “That’s so Flamin’ Groovy!” The name is actually because we were looking at the two syllable first words in names like the Lovin’ Spoonful and the Rolling Stones. So we became the Flamin’ Groovies. The name had that going for us. We wanted a name that conjured up the image that this was a band that was so fantastic that nobody could believe it! It was a name that nobody could live up to.

On one hand, we were doing a parody of the serious rock names. But on the other hand, we were trying to do a match. After that, we didn’t (care) about what anybody thought about our music or about our name.

I’m a righteous man. But I don’t give up ground. I take it! Nobody tells me what to do. Integrity! My heart is completely free of anyone attaching anything to it, whether it’s politics or another agenda.

I’m a purist. I have always taught that anybody who attaches anything like politics or another agenda to art is making a cheap shot. We are actually more serious than the so-called serious bands. Our take was that we knew more about rock, country and western, R&B than anybody else. Nobody was going to tell us about R&B! We were gonna tell them!! And we didn’t (care) if they dug it or not. We’re not here to stroke anybody.

BLITZ: The band did so in a two-fold manner with the singles that were released during the period of relative inactivity immediately post-Kama Sutra. You made the point with the Slow Death single on United Artists with a cover of Freddy Cannon’s Tallahassee Lassie on the flip side, and followed suit with the You Tore Me Down single on the Bomp label. In other words, you took a definitive stand when many people had not yet come around to that way of thinking.

Nonetheless, by 1976, you were vindicated, as the so-called punk and new wave movement caused many to realize that you were right in the first place, and they brought it full circle. You underscored the point by jumping right in there that year with your first Sire Records album, Shake Some Action.

JORDAN: What had happened was that in 1972, our first gig was in front of two hundred thousand people at a festival in a place called Bickershaw. We came on stage with motorcycle jackets and wearing chains. So we influenced the whole fashion era of England!

By the time we came back three years later, everybody was wearing leather motorcycle jackets in the bands. But we had moved up to the suits!

BLITZ: It seems that at that point, the Flamin’ Groovies came full circle in that you joined forces with the legendary Dave Edmunds as a producer. Many people consider the resultant Shake Some Action album to be a high watermark of the entire movement. That was your vindication album. With it, everyone at last rallied in your corner.

JORDAN: Oh yeah, for sure! But we actually got more flak for doing the Shake Some Action album than any of the other albums. There were always the idiots going, “They don’t know what they’re doing!” But who are they to tell an artist, “You should do this!? Did anyone tell Leonardo DaVinci what color Mona Lisa’s dress should be?

The intellectual morons killed rock and roll, destroyed the MC5, the Stooges and the Flamin’ Groovies. We went to England because of that.

By the time 1972 came around, the industry had boycotted rock on the radio. The problem was that you could get airplay on FM, but not on AM. But FM radio was too busy listening to (the Band’s 1969 Capitol label single) Up On Cripple Creek to listen to good and advancing American rock bands.

BLITZ: 1972 was still characterized to a large extent by all of the improvisation and noodling, which was the antithesis of what the Flamin’ Groovies were doing. But the interesting thing was that at Sire, you teamed up with Dave Edmunds, who had gone through similar circumstances himself as the lead guitarist of Love Sculpture. In other words, you were apparently both in the same frame of mind. How was it to work with Edmunds in the studio?

JORDAN: We immediately got on with Dave. The elements of affinity between the two of us were so many, that we lost count!

We influenced him, and he influenced us. The reason why he put the band Rockpile together was because of us.

Even in 1972, he had told me that he was never going to do a band again, because of what had happened with Love Sculpture. But when we came back in 1976 with Shake Some Action and he saw the response, Dave was hanging out with us. He was always playing us some stuff that (Rockpile rhythm guitarist) Billy Bremner had been recording. Billy was kind of a poor man’s Edmunds! He put out his own records and played everything on them.

Dave was always jazzed about what he had heard from Billy, and he would play them for us. So ultimately, this insolent band of musicians convinced Dave Edmunds to put a band together!

BLITZ: The Flamin’ Groovies remained with Sire Records for a third album, Jumpin’ In The Night. Then you suddenly parted ways with the label. Did your tenure with Sire simply run its course, or what had happened?

JORDAN: That is a long, long, long story that I’m going to save for my book! I don’t want to expose it right now, as I have to save some of it for the book I’m going to write.

Everyone keeps bugging me to write a book. But I am writing a column, and I have to remember to leave things out for the book!

I will tell you one thing. We were starting to get pretty fed up with Sire and (label President) Seymour (Stein).  Seymour gets sixty percent of our publishing! So I had decided that we were not going to write many songs for Jumpin’ In The Night. That’s why we did all of those covers.

I have to emphasize that we didn’t (care) about becoming millionaires or world famous. What we really cared about was nobody telling us what to do.

BLITZ: The band subsequently went the opposite route by recording independently. To that effect, the Rock Juice album was released on National Records. Apparently your resolve to maintain creative autonomy was still in place at that time.

JORDAN: Yeah. Well, you know rock and roll had died by 1980. All the electronic and techno (bands) were coming in at that time. And yet all of this came about after disco!

You know, the squares had taken over the grid in America, and eventually also in England. All I could say is that it had gotten from that point to where it is now, because everyone in music now who is making it big are all full of (it) artistically. They have got no influences and no roots. Which means that they must think they are geniuses like Johann Sebastian Bach by making their own music. I’m sorry, but they’re not geniuses, and they’re not craftsmen.

So why are they making a lot of money? Because people don’t know what art is! Jackson Pollock’s paintings are worth millions of dollars. But why does Jackson Pollock shoot paint off of a brush better than me or you? It is because of the intimidation of idiots being paid for greatness. They want to belittle greatness by giving credence to (substandard work). Whether it’s music or whether it’s art, it’s always the same story. The new guys get it wrong!

BLITZ: Well, at least your current fiftieth anniversary tour is apparently going better for you now than it did a couple of nights earlier in Chicago.

JORDAN: Yeah! After we hit Indiana, it was like all of the snow and sun glare in Alaska. But it’s real sunny here in Ohio!


WOW! WE HAVE A WINNER!: From October 1963 until April 1972, the suburban Detroit AM radio station known as WKNR Keener 13 set a standard of excellence in broadcasting that has never been equaled, nor surpassed. Since our inception in 1975, Blitz Magazine has repeatedly cited WKNR as the number one inspiration in the development of our own mission statement. In tandem with Blitz Magazine's fortieth anniversary celebration, Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell take a closer look at WKNR's vaunted legacy, with first hand observations from one of the visionaries who assisted in the station's transition from WKMH, James "Jim Sanders" Beasley (pictured above with his fellow Keener Key Men Of Music in a November 1963 edition of the weekly WKNR Music Guide).  (Click on image to enlarge).


Watch Your Step.

That classic single by Brooks O’Dell debuted at an impressive number nineteen on the third edition of the weekly WKNR Music Guide, which was dated 21 November 1963. Yet if the visionaries who launched the station on the thirty-first of October that year had heeded O’Dell’s advice, it is likely that the Keener 13 story would have been a considerably different one.

In its storied transition from its well programmed and superbly executed middle of the road format and Detroit Tigers flagship station as WKMH to what arguably remains the greatest overall radio station of all time as WKNR, every individual involved in that changeover drew from their respective formidable talents and broke precedent in the process. As a result, WKNR enjoyed the most rapid ascension from relative obscurity to the top of the ratings in the shortest amount of time (three months) in radio history.

As noted in the WKNR Keener 13 Story, Part One, the station did so despite several significant threats to its momentum in those early stages. To be certain, that is very much a testimony to the resilience and creative capabilities of air talent and management alike. Among those developments was an unprecedented “meltdown” on the air by morning man Mort Crowley on 24 January 1964, with virtually no advance warning.

Nothing in Crowley’s resume suggested the possibility of such an abrupt paradigm shift in on air demeanor, either. A veteran of such powerhouse stations as Los Angeles’ KHJ and Chicago’s WLS, Crowley’s upbeat and charismatic delivery was initially an ideal fit for the new WKNR format.

But on that fateful day in January 1964, Crowley reported for his shift, only to learn that the telephone company had demanded that the station was suddenly limited to the use of only one of their numerous phone lines. According to a memo that awaited Crowley when he arrived at the station that morning, the extremely high call volume from listeners was “jamming” the overall phone transmissions. An outspoken advocate for the everyday working individual, Crowley found this development to be unacceptable.

“People are living in fear today”, said Crowley during his final WKNR broadcast, with somewhat of a touch of the prophetic.

“This isn’t the way it should be.

Crowley underscored the point by playing the Marketts’ Out Of Limits single (which was number nine on the WKNR Music Guide that week) and commenting, “I’ve got to hand it to those guys way back there who dumped all of that tea in the Boston Harbor.

“The phone company is also a company that buys advertising to advertise the fact that they’ve got new phones, and so forth”, he continued during the final hour of his shift, as the Marketts’ disc concluded.

“They’re a monopoly, but they still advertise just to keep everything, you know, so it should look alright. So they have threatened us, and we have reacted with typical radio fortitude. They got scared! I’m not. I don’t care. The utilities have got you if you don’t watch out.”

Within minutes, Crowley’s observations turned inward, as he took a hard look at radio itself.

“It’s lovely to have those memos, and nobody tells you about them. That’s right. You’re just the employee, and you don’t count for anything. You know, the old idea, ‘You ought to be glad you’re working here’.

“We had a nice thing here. But who wants to work under those conditions? They’ve already gone into a paroxysm of fear. The phone company said, ‘We gotta do something about our phone lines’….and fine. There goes the voting.”

But from Crowley’s perspective, the real culprit was the original subject of his ire, and he redirected his comments accordingly. 

“That’s like trying to carve a statue, and the guy takes away all your chisels and your hammers”, he continued at the midpoint of his final hour.

“What I want to know is, who gives the telephone company, Ma Bell, this big utility, this monopoly, the right and the privilege to threaten businesses, to take out their phones if one of their lines gets a little bit overloaded? Who gives them that authority? The Interstate Commerce Commission? I wonder.”

As Crowley entered his final moments at WKNR, he did so with a slight undercurrent of melancholy.

“Well, I would like to say bon voyage”, he said.

“It’s been nice. We were reduced to one phone line. Perhaps you were wondering what this was all about as you listened on your car radio as you were coming down here.

“They should tell people these things. After all, you know, we’re supposed to be responsible for something. They should tell us about this a little ahead of time, (instead of) when you walk in here at 4:30 in the morning and see one stinking memo to tell you about this. How do you prepare for that, eh? Sometimes you wonder who the executives are working for around here!”

And with that, Mort Crowley’s brief tenure at WKNR came to an anti-climactic finale. He went on to successful radio ventures in Denver, Colorado and Saint Louis, Missouri before passing away in 1995. On the plus side, his abrupt departure opened the door for the great Frank “Swingin’” Sweeney to succeed him in the 5:00 to 9:00 AM slot, as chronicled extensively in The WKNR Keener 13 Story, Part One.

Crowley’s most dramatic exit from WKNR would have been more than enough to derail the momentum of just about any aspiring radio station. Yet it was actually the second such challenge faced by Keener 13, coming mere weeks after a far more dramatic turn of events that not only put WKNR to the test, but irrevocably altered the course of world history.

The morning of Friday the twenty-second of November 1963 was a routine one at WKNR, if indeed anything at such an ambitious enterprise could be characterized in that manner. Slightly more than a mere three weeks into its new format at that point, WKNR was already beginning to resonate with what was soon to become one of the most devoted listener bases in the history of the medium.

As the noon hour approached, afternoon man James “Jim Sanders” Beasley prepared for his 12:00 to 3:00 PM shift, checking news reports, the new edition (the third) of the WKNR Music Guide and the various tape carts that contained copies of the thirty-two singles featured therein that week. All the while, he had been going over in his mind the nuances of the format that availed themselves. Vaunted morning man Robin Seymour and Sanders were the only air personalities that were retained from the station’s days as WKMH, and Sanders was at that point was still diligently endeavoring to perfect the subtleties in delivery that were indigenous to the new format.

Meanwhile in Texas, President John F. Kennedy had delivered a speech to the Chamber Of Commerce in Fort Worth that morning. After a brief thirteen minute flight to neighboring Dallas, Kennedy, along with his wife, Jackie and Texas Governor John Connolly and his wife, Nellie then boarded the Presidential limousine (a 1961 Lincoln, which remains on permanent display at the Greenfield Village Museum in Dearborn, Michigan) for a parade that would take them through the streets of Dallas. Along the way, they were greeted by thousands of supporters and well wishers.

But  what happened as the motorcade progressed remains one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century. As Kennedy’s limousine passed through an area known as Dealey Plaza, shots were fired from the nearby Texas School Book Depository. Kennedy was hit twice, and died within the hour at nearby Parkland Hospital.

Sanders was little more than a half hour into his shift at WKNR at the time of the shooting. As he played the classic Stax label single, Walking The Dog by Rufus Thomas (which had finished its brief run on the WKNR Music Guide the previous week at number seventeen), Keener news anchor Bill Bonds (later a regular fixture at Southfield, Michigan’s WXYZ-TV) broke into the broadcast booth to announce the tragic news. As a result, Bonds and Sanders were credited with breaking the story in the greater Detroit area; further enhancing the station’s reputation in the process, while retaining an aura of professionalism under horrific circumstances that challenged even the most seasoned newscasters.

As if those two monumental events were not enough, WKNR during its first few months on the air faced yet another potential impasse with the departure of Sanders himself. Initially concerned that his position at the station would not survive the transition between WKMH and WKNR, Sanders had offered his services elsewhere. He was ultimately accepted for a position at an upcoming radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, unbeknownst at the time to WKNR management.

It has been said that hindsight is 20 / 20. By his own admission, Sanders would have handled those circumstances differently if given the opportunity to do so again. And while that turn of events did reportedly generate a modicum of ill will at the onset, it nonetheless ultimately served in part to open the door for not only the arrival of Swingin’ Sweeney, but the addition of legendary afternoon man, Jerry Goodwin, as well as the return of such WKMH greats as Paul Cannon and Bill Phillips to the station.

Meanwhile, the impact on WKNR’s listening audience and the cultural landscape in general continues unabated more than a half century after its debut. As a testimony to the station’s rich musical diversity, a superb and essential series of reissue CDs has been making the rounds within musicologist and collectors circles in recent months. The twenty volumes of the WKNR Keener 13 Hits CD series are superbly mastered, with many of the cuts in stereo. Each volume includes reproductions of portions of various Keener Music Guides on the front cover, with release year and WKNR chart peaks for every track, as well as a unique WKNR jingle to open each collection.

Some of the richly diverse fare featured in that series includes Tino and the Revlons’ first generation garage rock monster classic Little Girl, Little Girl, Susan Wayne’s euphoric and essential Think Summer, the Distant Cousins’ garage rocking She Ain’t Loving You, the Human Beings’ sublime Because I Love Her, the Emperors’ often copied Karate, Julie Monday’s gorgeous Come Share The Good Times With Me, Bob Seger and the Last Heard’s signature track East Side Story, the Strangeloves’ cover of Bunker Hill’s Hide And Seek under their alter ego of the Sheep, Sam E. Solo’s Ruby label power ballad Tears Keep Falling, Paul Vance’s high drama masterpiece Dommage, Dommage, the Capreez’ hard hitting Soulsation, the Wanted’s superb Don’t Worry Baby, the Third Rail’s hot rod homage Boppa Do Down Down, the Unrelated Segments’ Jack Chekaway-produced Story Of My Life and Where You Gonna Go?, Cody Black’s Northern Soul epic Going Going Gone, and Arnim-Hamilton’s International Artist label classic Pepperman, to name but a few

As for Sanders, despite his circumstances, he steadfastly remains grateful for the brief yet highly impacting role that he played in the explosive growth of the greatest radio station of all time. After enjoying a long and prolific career in radio, acting, singing and dance instruction, Sanders is currently retired and lives with his wife, Barbara in Tennessee.

In tandem with our fortieth anniversary celebration, Blitz Magazine recently spoke with Sanders for our multi-part salute to what remains our most impacting and enduring inspiration, the legacy of WKNR Keener 13 and the Keener Key Men Of Music.

BLITZ: Describe what went through your mind during your typical shift at WKMH in the summer and early fall of 1963. How did the impending format and call letter changes affect those who were still on board?

SANDERS: During the summer of 1963, the air staff of WKMH had no idea that any changes were coming. As production director and 12 to 3 show host, I was busy working with the sales department, writing and producing commercials, doing remote broadcasts from the Detroit Race Course, where I often had a show cut short by Detroit Tigers baseball day games and often working double shifts.

Part of my 12 to 3 show duties were to cover Robin Seymour's morning show and the evening show, which was being hosted by Bill Phillips. Bill came back to WKNR to do overnights after I left in January of 1964.

I had grown up in Detroit listening to Robin, and felt like my career had peaked by being on the same station and getting to substitute for him. The morning show was often done from Gene Merollis Chevrolet and required records and commercials to be done by a producer back at the studios.

Producers who supported me and Robin were Tom Ryan, who went on to become part of Detroit Radio and TV history, as well as Art Cervi, who later was a TV clown with great success in Detroit. I had hosted a TV kids show in Kalamazoo and in Columbus, Georgia before coming to WKMH. I recall having dinner often at Art Cervi's home and telling stories about funny things from my TV kid show days.

There was a pride in what we were doing on WKMH under PD Frank Maruca, affectionately called Black Frank by the jocks. We were aware that ratings for the station were not high and suspected that the station might be looking to make changes to the music mix in coming months. We all had our ideas of what needed to be done.

Frank Maruca, a promotional genius, was PD for a couple of years when the station was still WKMH and responsible for what you so correctly described as a well executed middle of the road, non rock station. He hired me a year before WKNR to do noon to three and as production director.

One day, we were told that the owner, Mrs. Knorr had hired a radio consultant named Mike Joseph to do research on Detroit radio. I had previously worked in Kalamazoo for a station that had used Mike Joseph for a sister station in Grand Rapids. I had some notes from him, which were considered and rejected for WKZO, which was an old line station similar to WJR.

Soon a cigar chomping man was hiring assistants to make phone calls and sitting in the office during the week with Maruca. This caused a great deal of anxiety for job security on the part of the air personalities, along with speculation.

I recall telling the producers and a couple of jocks that the ruse of research and learning work habits, shift change times and music preference was the way Joseph was setting the stage to convince Mrs. Knorr to hire him to do pretty much what he had previously done in other markets. I wrote an overview of what his weeks and months of "research" would uncover and put it in a sealed envelope and told a few co-workers that they could check this against the final results to see how close I was to predicting what this con man wound sell Mrs. Knorr.

Thinking back, I remember how immature I was and how I resisted direction and the consultation business, which Mike pretty much pioneered for radio. I also recall that my predictions were about ninety percent on the money, without research or any other expert analysis.

Bob Green and I have agreed in later years that many of us understood what needed to be done and the rigid format rules involving things like counting the number of times the call letters were given each hour were less important than what Bob calls "intelligent flexibility". The glory days of Keener came about when very talented jocks like Dick Purtan, Bob Green and Jerry Goodwin were allowed to bend the rules.

Mike Joseph always held that stations needed to do exactly what he outlined and began to fail when they deviated. During 1964, the dynamics and tension of strong minded people settled in and Keener became much more than another Mike Joseph success story.

BLITZ: Dave Prince maintained a slightly more rock and roll edge when he was still on WKMH. He also played rock and roll during his shift. That did not seem to present a problem in terms of continuity from a listener's perspective. Your thoughts?

SANDERS: I was not at the station during Dave Prince and have no knowledge or opinion on his music. I do recall that my WKMH coworkers had a high opinion of him.

BLITZ: You suggested that what Bob Green eventually termed "intelligent flexibility" after WKNR came into being was something that you strove for at WKMH. Was that a challenge for you to deliver as such with a more upbeat demeanor?

SANDERS: In retrospect, my challenges delivering what I considered an individually unique show under a more tightly formatted and energetic approach were based on lack of experience doing that delivery or working on a highly produced station. Later, when I enjoyed great success in Milwaukee doing higher energy contemporary music radio, I had grown up and I discovered that using Jack Lee as an air name helped me assume a different attitude.

BLITZ:  Describe the final moments of WKMH before the changeover.

SANDERS: Despite my less than ideal secret disdain for what was being done by the consultant, I was brought into the inner circle with Mike Joseph and Frank Maruca to execute the format change in my position as production director. I created the stages and production for a Halloween night Spooktacular, which included wolf howls, scary voices (my specialty), ghost stories and records with similar themes, to be played as if it was the new format.

I also produced the staging for a Mike Joseph special to give the impression that a totally unique Detroit version of hit favorites was being created by pitting records against each other like a boxing match as Battle of the Giants, with listener call ins to vote for the current champion which was played until unseated by a new and even more well liked hit. This continued for what I remember as a week until the new call letters and format debuted.

Maruca produced newspaper ads, events at high schools with Keener book covers and many other promotional tools unlike anything previously done in Detroit radio. I personally believe the kickoff and promotional support were at least as important in the rapid ratings explosion as format execution in the first ninety days.

I was assuming that once the new station launched, I would be out of work. So when I was contacted about the same time by a previous employer about a group PD position, I accepted a job starting in January of 1964. The day before the launch on October 31, 1963, which did not require jocks for several days and was executed by the producers, a memo went to the staff announcing a brand new radio station created from extensive research exactly for Detroit. We were told it would require a totally new air staff. Current personalities would be given the opportunity to use the production studios for one hour to create an audition tape using rough instructions for a hit music higher energy station using new slogans and call letters WKNR Keener 13, featuring the Key Men of Music.

Once the Joseph "research" had determined the top forty direction, Maruca knew Green was the man for production. I had never done high energy top forty, but had started as a radio actor/singer and had some prior management experience.

We were given a chance to cut an audition tape for the new format. Robin had not been previously running his own board and was not happy about having to audition as an established legend. I had him cut a few lines, intros and slogans and I made his audition tape for him the same night I made mine. No one but Robin and I knew that. But I was certain from things I had heard that he was going to stay no matter what.

I knew I had a new job coming up, but was cocky enough to want to prove that I could do any format. I decided to do the audition. Robin Seymour was not in the habit of running the control board and had been using his producer for that whether out on remote or in the station.

Just before I was to do my tape, Robin was scheduled to do his audition. Knowing the owner's appreciation of his legend and years with the company, I was sure he was safe no matter what came out on tape.

I had to show him how things worked in that studio and stayed around for a couple of rough passes on his part. He was not happy about having to audition. I agreed that it was an insult. I had him record the slogans and a few lines and told him to go home and let me put a tight show together as I did mine.

When the memo came out after a weekend, Robin and I were the only ones picked for Keener.

I was also a holdover, mainly because I was working with Mike Joseph producing the Spooktacular kickoff October 31 and the typical Mike Joseph Battle of the Giants record competition, which ran during the first days of WKNR.

Bob Green had been Production Director under Maruca for WKMH before my time. He had left to do his slight of hand in Miami.

My twelve to three time was unchanged. Robin was moved to nine to noon. Lou Sherman, Paul Cannon (who later came back to Keener) and Bill Phillips were gone. Bob Green came back as Production Director, because he was known to be a whiz at top forty. Maruca was named Promotion Director, a new position. Former WLS jock and PD Sam Hale came in as puppet PD to do what Mike Joseph directed.

After an initial confrontation during my first Keener air shift, with Mike Joseph over my sounding too much like the relaxed WKMH, I developed a high energy delivery modeled on what Gary Stevens was doing later in the day.

But I did not want to be cut because I could not do the format. So I did the production and got us into the first day of actual format and started doing my regular WKMH delivery with a little more energy. About twenty minutes into my show, Mike Joseph stormed into the control room and dripped cigar ashes on my turntable while telling me that I was dragging his station into the toilet and that he wanted me to do what we had heard on Gary Stevens’ audition.

After I resisted the impulse to walk out, I took a deep breath, summoned up my actor chops and, expecting to be fired on the spot, did an impression of a mindless screaming teen DJ. No one came in to escort me out.

At 3PM, Gary Stevens came in to take over. I looked at the floor and walked out to find Joseph with the dripping cigar grinning in the lobby. He said, "THAT is what I want."

Within a month, I had an offer to go into management in Milwaukee, effective January 1964. Having proved that I could do the format despite it being outside my comfort zone, I met with Maruca, now Promotions Director, Joseph and the new PD, Sam Hale formerly of WLS, Chicago and told them I would be leaving in a couple of months.

Once I got the word from management that I was working out, I did the format twelve to three for several weeks before advising them that I would be leaving in January of 1964 to go into management. This prompted Mike Joseph to decide to put Sam Hale on the air (he had been an off the air PD, like Maruca before him) and ask me to do midnight to six AM during the rest of December to work out my notice.

Hale and Joseph decided that effective in December, they would save some money by having Sam Hale do noon to three and have me do midnight to 6AM until my departure. Three weeks into this arrangement Maruca, Joseph and the GM took me to lunch and told me ratings were coming in for the first two months. WKNR had moved from twelfth to first, including the weeks I had done noon to three.

They told me that they did not like Sam Hale on air and wanted me to name a price to delay my Milwaukee move and immediately go back noon to three and work through the ratings period in the 1964 first quarter. I declined because I had given my word in Milwaukee to be there the first day of new ownership.

The irony of this is that after eighteen months of managing a struggling day timer, I accepted an on air shift at WOKY, Milwaukee and did the screaming DJ character as Jack Lee for five years, resulting in the market's last ever fifty shares of audience at night, mid-days and then as morning personality before going into management permanently.

After a few weeks doing midnight to 6:00AM, I was offered a "name your price" deal to go back to noon to three immediately and delay my new job move either permanently or for at least ninety days of ratings in 1964, based on the ratings they were seeing from the first weeks when I had done noon to three and the dramatic increase for the station from twelfth to first in the primitive ratings of the day, based on telephone recall. They were also not happy with Sam Hale on the air, soon to be replaced by the great Jerry Goodwin.

I declined the offer, which was flattering but conflicted with the promise I had made to my new employer to be onsite the first day of ownership of a station in Milwaukee.

By the way, the eventual use of Jerry Goodwin to replace Sam Hale was perfect. He was better in the format and shift than I ever could have been, and part of the golden years of Keener.

BLITZ: There are some elements in the basic template of your story that have played out in like circumstances elsewhere. As you might surmise, the pattern became a bit more common several years hence with the onset of the Drake format and the AM/FM wars.

It has been said that you can't see the forest for the trees, and being involved so intrinsically with the process, the insider perspective might differ from that shared by those who were on the listening end. You were on the air during the time that many of those so-called "screaming teenagers" were in school. As such, your demographic may well have been an older one. That was the case when Jerry Goodwin took noon to 3:00PM afterwards, and he was very much aware of it.

But what WKNR’s Key Men Of Music did was not perceived as a "screaming" approach. That "screaming" approach may have been in place elsewhere. But the difference between elsewhere and WKNR was that WKNR's banter was intelligent, as suggested by Bob Green's "intelligent flexibility" maxim. In other words, rather than "screaming", it would seem that a better descriptive term would be either "enthusiastic" or "passionate".

Theirs was not the time, temp and calls dead end of the Drake dynasty. The Keener Key Men had opinions, insights and observations, and the listening audience hung on their every word. Also, consider that WKNR's playlist was the epitome of diversity, which seemed to be sufficient to placate all concerned to at least a reasonable degree.

SANDERS: What Jerry Goodwin did later as part of "intelligent flexibility" was actually much closer to what I was doing that wasn't hot enough for Mike Joseph. I realize now, and came to understand as I voluntarily went back to a higher energy delivery on WOKY, that Mike was probably concerned about my not matching the rest of the staff and sounding too much like my previous WKMH show in the same time slot. He was probably having second thoughts when he burst in. It actually helped me to use a different air name, Jack Lee, in Milwaukee so I could think of it as acting.

Gary Stevens was pretty much my role model for the top forty character. Gary had the ability to open the mike every time and sound like he had just heard a great joke or story and was suppressing the urge to giggle. Gary brokered the sale of a group of stations I was managing in Milwaukee in 1981 and we always connect during Detroit radio reunions.

The variety of music was certainly important. I loved that part of the format and what Mike did with most of his stations in that area. As Bob Green will affirm, Mike was not especially skilled at communicating with or understanding talent. I crossed paths with him several times in later years and learned much from him.

We all learned from each other, and rubbed off intentionally and otherwise. The Wooly Burger gimmick he used in Detroit and later in New York came from our kidding around in the production room. I was a big fan of the country comedy team Homer and Jethro, and played one of their records for Gary one day. There was a line in the record about a sheep. "You little wooly booger, you." He had never heard the term "booger" used affectionately as is common in the south. We started calling each other "wooly booger" for a week or so. Pretty soon he was talking about "wooly burger" on the air as a nonsense term. It caught on.

BLITZ: WKNR introduced a weekly Keener Music Guide on 07 November 1963, with the Kingsmen's Louie, Louie at number one. The thirty-two singles and four albums on that list were indeed extremely diverse, covering a wide variety of genres and tastes, including the Dynamics, Neil Sedaka, the Singing Sun, Dion DiMucci, Wilbert Harrison, Bobby Rydell, Lenny Welch, Brooks O'Dell and others. In terms of the air staff, were all on board okay with the musical diversity?

SANDERS: I do not remember any opinions on the variety of music. I thought it made a lot of sense. There was a repetition of the top thirteen hits over and over each day, which I did not appreciate at the time and certain specific times to play the number one song, which probably coincided with the scribbled legal pads of research about shift change times and traffic flow.

BLITZ: Your WKNR shift was from 12:00PM to 3:00PM. You were on the air on Friday the 22nd of November 1963, during the time that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It has been said that you and newsman Bill Bonds were the only ones present at the station that afternoon. Describe what those initial moments were like at the station and for you, and what went through your mind when you received the news.

When I was attending Albion College, I worked full time as PD and announcer on WALM. In 1958, I hired Bill Bonds for his first broadcast job.

In 1963, recently out of the army, I took a job at WPON and reconnected with Bill, who was doing news at WKMH. When an opening came up at WKMH he called me and suggested I get a tape to the station. That resulted in my joining WKMH in late February or March of 1963.

Bill often did news during my Keener show. When the Kennedy bulletin came in, he rushed into the booth and pointed to his mike to have it turned on. I knew how brilliant he was and trusted his judgment. So I dumped out of music and turned him on.

When the news hit me, I realized that most of the playlist like Rufus Thomas’ Walking the Dog, which I had been playing, were inappropriate. I scanned the carts and found The Singing Nun and played that while Bill and I discussed how big this was if the President was wounded or worse. We looked around for a management person to consult and discovered everyone was at a lunch meeting. I told Bill to run back to news wire machines which were ringing with more bulletins and get up to date and come back on the air with every new detail.

I ad libbed a repeat of his story and played the Singing Nun again. I realized I might be fired for deviating from what we already knew was a hot radio station. But I thought of myself as a broadcaster first and disc jockey second.

When Bill ran in with the next bulletin, he and I decided we would go all news. We had confidence in each other's ability to think on our feet and converse. So we discussed what we knew and every couple of minutes he explained that he would be checking the wires while I explained what we knew so far.

After about forty minutes of this, including Bill calling the death and explaining that only one of the two services, AP and UPI had confirmed, management came in and told us to continue doing the all news/talk even past the 3PM end of my shift. I think we stayed in that modified format until after 5PM, when Maruca located some funeral dirge music which played without commercials for a couple of days.

We learned afterwards that Bill scooped all radio and TV stations. Many told us over the years that WKNR was the way they heard the news. My finest hour in broadcasting.

BLITZ: Mort Crowley's brief run at WKNR came to an abrupt end not long into 1964. Did you or anyone else see any signs of what was about to happen? Did he share any of those concerns with any of his colleagues before he went public with them?

SANDERS: I had no idea that Mort Crowley would do what he did. I respected his talent and got a lot of advice about Milwaukee, where he had worked and found a wife earlier in his career. I did realize that he was impulsive and his comedy came off the top of his head with little inhibition.

BLITZ: Mort Crowley's "last straw" was the problem with the phone lines on the morning of his last day on the air. Did you have any such moment that in turn prompted you to also make the decision to leave?

SANDERS: I did not leave impulsively. I had settled into the format and was quite comfortable doing it by the time I left.

You have subsequently commented that you have re-assessed your decision to leave WKNR, stating that perhaps it wasn't as easy to see the greatness that was to come at that early stage. If you had the opportunity to do it again, what would you have done differently?

SANDERS: The move to management led to a general manager position at a suburban day time station at age twenty-seven. I learned a lot about financial challenges and managing headstrong talent, like I had been!

I have often second guessed my decision to leave WKNR. I would have most likely stayed on the air longer and enjoyed being part of the best years of Keener.

On the other hand, I wound have missed the opportunity to do five more years of top forty and become a number one rated morning show host, PD of number one MOR station, still more my specialty than hit music, market manager for twelve years under four ownerships, eighteen years as consultant and radio association manager and six years as consultant on streaming and online audio. At Keener, I might have ended up as a bitter, on the beach former DJ bemoaning deregulation and wishing for the good old days like so many we encounter today.

My wife loved Keener and thinks leaving was a career mistake.

I hope this is helpful in your coverage of WKNR. I have grown to be proud of my tiny role and rich memories. The best part of Keener was the impact it had on people like you and so many other fans.

I want to tell you what a great job you did. I especially enjoyed the Sweeney interview. Thank you for the great tribute to what I now agree was a great radio station.