MORE THAN A FRIEND: Devastated to report the sudden passing on 04 August of beloved rockabilly pioneer Lorrie Collins, who was one half of the Collins Kids duo with her guitar virtuoso brother, Larry. The powerhouse sibling group is seen above in concert circa 2009. Editor/Publisher  Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell recalls the highlights of Collins' career below (Click on above image to enlarge).


During the first few decades of its existence, the legendary Atlantic label featured one artist during each ten year span whose work commanded the lion's share of attention. It did so in spite of boasting an overall world class roster that included some of the most formidable talent ever committed to record.

In the 1950s, that artist was Ray Charles. There is little doubt that his winning streak with the label would have continued unabated had he not signed with ABC Paramount in 1960. 

Years later, after getting a head start on the 1970s with two enormously successful albums in 1969, Led Zeppelin pretty much dominated the label throughout the next decade. However, their momentum was tragically derailed with the passing of drummer John Bonham in September 1980. 

Finally, although she wasn't affiliated with Atlantic until the final three years of the decade, the great Debbie Gibson pretty much defined the label's legacy for the 1980s, as well as into the early years of the 1990s.

But in that most crucial and impacting of decades - the 1960s - one visionary not only came to represent the label as a whole, but went on to become one of the most enormously influential artists of all time. That artist was vocalist, composer, pianist and Memphis, Tennessee native, Aretha Louise Franklin.

Like Gibson, Aretha Franklin didn't come to sign with Atlantic until the final three years of her respective key decade with the label. She made her debut for Atlantic in early 1967, after a successful six year affiliation with Columbia, although she had made her first recording in 1956 with Never Grow Old for J-V-B Records. Franklin's career as a recording artist was almost inevitable, given that her father, the Reverend Clarence LaVaughn (C.L.) Franklin had recorded prolifically for Chess and Battle. 

Likewise, her sister Carolyn established an impressive legacy during her tenure with RCA Victor. Her other sister, Erma was one of the last artists to work with the legendary Bert Berns, who produced her landmark recording of Piece Of My Heart for Bang Records' affiliate Shout label shortly before his untimely passing in December 1967. 

At Atlantic, Aretha Franklin pretty much hit the ground running with the release of her I Never Loved A Man single and album in March 1967. In that album, she also further enhanced her legacy as a composer, via Don't Let Me Lose This Dream, Doctor Feelgood, Save Me and Baby Baby Baby. Yet while such subsequent albums as Lady Soul and Aretha Now were likewise widely acclaimed, it was her prolific streak as a singles artist that ultimately defined her legacy with the label.

Interestingly enough, Franklin drew extensively from cover material for many of her single releases, such as You Send Me (Sam Cooke), I Say A Little Prayer (Dionne Warwick), See Saw (Don Covay), Eleanor Rigby (Ray Charles), The Weight (The Band), To Share Your Love (The Fantastic Four), Don't Play That Song (Ben E. King), This Girl's In Love With You (Dionne Warwick), Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon And Garfunkel), Spanish Harlem (Ben E. King) and You're All I Need To Get By (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell). She continued that practice upon occasion later in her career, as represented by her spirited rendition of the Rolling Stones' Jumpin' Jack Flash for Arista. 

But it was with material that was most closely associated with her that Franklin made the most enduring impact. Beginning with the aforementioned I Never Loved A Man, her reputation at Atlantic grew exponentially with such landmark singles as Chain Of Fools, Baby I Love You, Since You've Been Gone (and its flip side, Ain't No Way), Think, The House That Jack Built, Spirit In The Dark, Day Dreaming, Rock Steady and the utterly stupendous Master Of Eyes. She continued that momentum throughout her later affiliation with Arista, best represented by Freeway Of Love.

Franklin continued to record and perform prolifically well into the current century. A recipient of the Doctor of Arts degree from Harvard University, she was also presented the Presidential Medal Of Freedom by President George W. Bush in November 2005. 

In 2018, failing health forced Franklin to cancel a series of scheduled live performances. Although she opted to keep her health concerns largely out of the public sector, it was widely reported on 13 August that she was gravely ill. Tragically, she succumbed to her protracted battle with pancreatic cancer at her Detroit, Michigan home during the morning of 16 August.

"She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice", said President Donald Trump in an online statement.

"She will be missed".

Legendary songwriters Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff (whose compositions A Brand New Me and Christmas Just Ain't Christmas Without The One You Love were recorded by Franklin) echoed the President's sentiments.

"We not only admire Aretha Franklin for her singing ability, but we appreciate what she did to uplift the community", they said in a joint statement.

"While we never got the opportunity to work directly with Aretha, she was our dear friend. We send our deepest and sincere condolences out to the family. She was truly the best!"

Franklin was 76. Funeral arrangements are pending.


Devastated to report the passing on 04 August of guitarist and rock and roll pioneer, Lawrencine "Lorrie" Collins, one half of the beloved duo, the Collins Kids.

Born in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Collins and her family eventually relocated to Southern California, where she and her brother, Larry formed a rockabilly group featuring their extraordinary guitar skills. 

Larry and Lorrie Collins signed with Columbia in 1955 as the Collins Kids, releasing over the next several years a series of world class singles for the label, including Beetle Bug Bop, Rock And Roll Polka, The Rockaway Rock, I'm In My Teens, Hop Skip And Jump, Whistle Bait and their 1958 signature single, Hoy Hoy

The Collins Kids made a number of appearances on Tex Ritter's Western Dance Party program, with Lorrie Collins also guesting on an episode of The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet. They remained together as a performing unit long enough to guest star on an episode of Shindig in September 1965.

"God bless you, my angelic, beloved sister", Larry Collins said in an online statement. Lorrie Collins was 76.


In the quest for perfection, a bit of research can go a long way towards achieving that goal.

There are many musicians who have understood that maxim, and who have used that attribute to full advantage. The late Kingston Trio co-founder Dave Guard, Canned Heat's Bob Hite, one time Guess Who lead vocalist Burton Cummings and (more recently) vocalist/actress Victoria Justice all acknowledged the importance of doing one's homework. To that effect, each of them were avid musicologists and record collectors, who carried the inspiration borne of their acquisitions over into their own work to varying degrees.

Perhaps chief among those who championed that perspective was Jive Five co-founder, lead vocalist and Brooklyn, New York native Eugene Sampson Pitt. The tireless and supremely gifted Pitt began his musical career in 1954 with the Genies, a short lived vocal group. After a bit of artistic growth and development, by 1959, Pitt had put together the group that would ultimately define his legacy, the Jive Five. 

The group signed with King's affiliate Beltone label, which had already demonstrated equally high degrees of ambition by issuing singles by such formidable veteran artists as Chuck Jackson, the Fireflies' Ritchie Adams and the immensely promising Bobby Lewis upon its launch in the closing weeks of 1960. The Jive Five made their debut for the label in 1961 with the utterly stupendous My True Story, a hallmark of high drama which ultimately became their signature track. Several equally superb singles for Beltone followed, including These Golden Rings, Hully Gully Callin' Time, What Time Is It? and She's My Girl.

By late 1964, the Jive Five had signed with United Artists, then hot with releases by Bobby Goldsboro, Garnet Mimms, Jay And The Americans, the Highwaymen, Gene Thomas, the Beatles, George Jones, Wes Dakus and Frankie Avalon. While their debut for the label, the appropriately named United was lost in the shuffle amongst the glut of above average new releases at the time (as was its highly promising follow up, A Bench In The Park), by mid-1965 the Jive Five had reinvented themselves to the point of coming up with what is arguably their finest moment, I'm A Happy Man. That relentlessly optimistic single prompted an album of the same name, and the Jive Five were able to sustain their momentum well into the 1970s via affiliations with Musicor, Decca and Avco Embassy. 

While live performances kept the Jive Five intermittently in the spotlight as the 1970s drew to a close, it was a fortuitous development at Marty Pekar's short lived Ambient Sound label in 1982 that pretty much cemented the group's legacy in the upper echelons of the vocal group harmony genre. That year, Ambient Sound recruited and signed the cream of still active vocal groups, including Randy And The Rainbows, the Capris, the Mystics, the Harptones and Johnnie and Joe, and brought each of them back into the studio to record what in almost every case became their career defining release. 

The Jive Five's contribution to that brief but immensely influential streak was their Here We Are! album. That acclaimed album, which received a rave review in Blitz Magazine at the time of its release, combined ambitious covers of Steely Dan's Hey Nineteen with such impassioned Eugene Pitt compositions as Hey Sam, Say You'll Be There, He's Just A Lucky Man and Never, Never Lie, with the Chantels supplying backing vocals on two of the album's twelve tracks.  

In 1985, the Jive Five began a decade-long affiliation with the Nickelodeon television network, doing vocal work for a variety of projects. The group continued to perform and record on a regular basis well into the twenty-first century. 

Through it all, Pitt maintained his passion for record collecting, with some of the vocal group harmony genre's most treasured releases in his archives. That passion continued unabated until his tragic passing from a lengthy illness on 29 June. 

"Even near the end, he always put on a great show", said renowned musicologist and record collector, Val Shively in an online statement.

"He never lost his voice or flair for showmanship".

Pitt was 80. Funeral arrangements are pending.


In the words of Petula Clark, it's A Sign Of The Times.

One of the blessings of being able to share with Blitz Magazine's audience is that it is a discerning group that "gets it". The above reference to Petula Clark is one that needs no explanation to the long time Blitz aficionado. We are The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People. And you are the thinking people. Thank you for your due diligence. 

On the other hand, sometimes it seems as though our collective labors are an exercise in futility.

Consider that on Sunday the 24th of June, the world of music lost two of its most beloved heroes, in the form of Left Banke co-founder and drummer George Cameron and long time WABC-AM New York radio announcer, Daniel Trombley "Dan" Ingram.

Both names are (or at least should be) readily familiar to not just a Blitz Magazine audience, but to anyone with at least a reasonable interest in their extraordinary contributions to radio and music

To summarize, Cameron co-founded the Left Banke, whose rich body of work (primarily for Mercury's affiliate Smash label) produced such landmarks of the Baroque Rock sub genre as She May Call You Up Tonight, Desiree, I Haven't Got The Nerve, Lazy Day, Pretty Ballerina and the landmark 1966 monster classic, Walk Away Renee. The latter track was covered before decade's end by both Herman's Hermits and the Four Tops.

In turn, in his more than two decades at WABC New York, Ingram and such vaunted colleagues as Chuck Leonard and Ron Lundy took personality radio to the next level. In keeping with an observation made by WKNR Keener 13 veterans Bob Green and the late, great Frank "Swingin'" Sweeney to Blitz Magazine in recent years, they pursued their art with the understanding that they were as much a part of the continuity as was the music they played, as well as the news breaks and the commercials. In other words, they were a crucial part of the entertainment, not mere filler to be endured between records.

Ingram understood this better than most, and used his tremendous improvisational skills to maximize the talk-up. To wit, he often filled precious seconds with double entendre asides that rival the late Mort Crowley's comparatively overt on air meltdown on the aforementioned WKNR Keener 13 in early 1964.

In other words, Cameron and Ingram were among the best in their respective fields, and we mourn their passing accordingly.

Sadly, in spite of those gargantuan accomplishments, it seems as though legacies such as theirs continue to have escaped the attention of many who were seemingly a part of their target demographic.

To that effect, tributes to both have surfaced on various social media sites today. Yet in response to more than one such posting, the passing of Cameron generated such questions as, "Who are the Left Banke?" "Didn't they do Walk Away Renee? Or was that the Beach Boys?" "Never heard of them", and the like.

Ingram's passing didn't fare much better. While rightly feted as a hero and a pioneer by numerous industry colleagues today, the mention of it also drew more than one response from individuals who identified themselves as having some familiarity with WABC and/or New York radio, but who didn't recall Ingram specifically.

Bear in mind that a discerning audience is not representative of majority consensus. Nor has it ever been, with the possible exception of that rare era of the juxtaposition of the cerebral and the mainstream in which Cameron and Ingram both flourished. Still, it is most disconcerting to see how such a key percentile of the so-called target demographic continues to let the mainstream accounts dictate their thinking and their musical taste for them.

For the record, Cameron was 70 and had been battling cancer. Ingram was 83, and had retired from broadcasting in 2003. Rather than walking the path of indifference common to many, let it instead be an encouraging sign of the times that their immeasurable contributions were not in vain.



Prayers are in progress for Monkees lead guitarist Michael Nesmith, who is en route to his California home to seek treatment for an undisclosed illness. 

Nesmith and Monkees drummer Micky Dolenz were in the final four stops of their current "Mike and Micky" tour, which included shows in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Those dates are now being rescheduled for January 2019. 

Nesmith had also planned a series of appearances in September with the current version of his groundbreaking First National Band, in tandem with the imminent release of a live album by the band on the 7A label. Status of that tour is uncertain at this point.


It was the quartet that forever altered the course of music.

The supergroup known as the Blue Moon Boys was comprised of Elvis Aron Presley on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Winfield Scott "Scotty" Moore on lead guitar, William Patton "Bill" Black on bass and Dominic Joseph "D.J." Fontana on drums, with frequent vocal backing by the Jordanaires. Together, they produced some of the most essential and impacting recordings in rock and roll history. 

Black left the band in 1958, the same year that Presley was inducted into military service. He went on to form the Bill Black Combo, who recorded prolifically for the Hi label until his passing at age 39 in October 1965 from a brain tumor. The Bill Black Combo persevered for a season without him, earning a surprise hit in 1968 with their instrumental cover of Bobby Bland's Turn On Your Love Light

Meanwhile, Fontana continued to work with Presley until 1968, most notably as part of Presley's historic special for NBC television that year. Fontana was also an integral part of many of Presley's most essential recordings, including Don't Be Cruel, Treat Me Nice, I Got Stung, I Feel So Bad, Little Sister, Please Don't Drag That String Around, Viva Las Vegas and I'm Yours

Fontana's numerous credits also include collaborations with such renowned artists as Gene Vincent, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and others. He was a much in demand session drummer in Nashville, Tennessee for many years.

Presley infamously died at his Graceland estate in August 1977 at age 42. Scotty Moore succumbed to lingering illnesses in Nashville in June 2016 at age 84. And with Fontana's passing, the transition is now complete. The Shreveport, Louisiana native was 87.


Prayers are in progress for beloved Five Satins co-founder, Fred Parris and his wife Emma, whose Hamden, Connecticut home sustained extensive damage in a tornado on Friday the 25th of May.

"I thought the whole house was coming down", Fred Parris said in a statement to the New Haven Register.

"Four trees hit the side of the house, where the sofa is", added Emma Parris. 

The Five Satins, who recorded prolifically for Ember, Chancellor, Cub, Musictone, United Artists, Warner Brothers, Times Square, Elektra and other labels, created one of rock and roll's definitive masterpieces in 1956 for Ember Records with Parris' sublime self-penned ballad, In The Still Of The Nite. Paired with the rollicking The Jones Girl on the flip side, In The Still Of The Nite has been covered extensively, including world class renditions by such influential artists as the Fleetwoods, the Crests, the Tokens, Debbie Gibson, the Beach Boys, Jan And Dean and Boys II Men.

Thankfully, Fred and Emma Parris survived the storm without injury. The couple is staying in a temporary shelter procured for them by a real estate agent while assessing the damage.


Prayers are in progress for the complete and total recovery of Dominick "Randy" Safuto, beloved rock and roll pioneer and co-founder and lead vocalist of the still very much active vocal harmony legends, Randy And The Rainbows. 

Since making their debut for the vaunted Rust label in 1963, Randy And The Rainbows have recorded prolifically for B.T. Puppy, Mike, Ambient Sound and other labels, with such landmark recordings as Why Do Kids Grow Up, Little Hot Rod Suzie and Bonnie's Part Of Town to their credit. Their 1982 C'mon Let's Go! album for Ambient Sound is widely regarded as one of the definitive masterpieces of the vocal group harmony genre.

"Each day he is getting a little better", said Safuto's wife, Kathy. The Safuto family welcomes ongoing prayers for his healing.


With all of the ongoing dialogue in the public sector about the topic of firearms, it was inevitable that the most astute of musicians would weigh in on the subject. Among the first to do so was the legendary Debbie Gibson, via her contributions to I Am Peaceman, a 2017 collaboration with Sir Ivan. 

Most recently, the veteran vocal virtuoso Mel Carter has offered a tangible musical look at the issue with his new single, Raise The World - Sing Louder Than The Gun. A marked departure in terms of lyrical content from his most familiar and cherished sides for Arwin, Mercury, Derby, Bell, Liberty, Amos, Imperial and other labels, Raise The World - Sing Louder Than The Gun nonetheless finds Carter sublimely stating his case in a manner that is both uplifting and edifying to social commentator, lyricist and musicologist alike. 

"It is in full release mode", said Carter.

"I am sending out the MP3s now. I'm in the process of promoting it and adding the title to my account at CD Baby".

Those who opt to acquire the single will be blessed with a remarkable bonus track in the form of Carter's unique and inspiring acapella take on America's national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. And while Raise The World - Sing Louder Than The Gun may not yet have generated the immediate recognition of that 1814 Francis Scott Key composition, Carter remains optimistic for its long term impact.

"I hope this anthem catches on and makes a difference", he said. 

As the voice of reason with regards to an often polarizing issue, there is much to suggest that Carter may well realize his vision.


Think With Your Heart.

That attribute (which also served as the title of one of her albums), combined with her trademark altruism and ongoing front runner status as one of the world of music's most consistent and celebrated five-tool players, has reaped aesthetic dividends for the beloved veteran vocalist, composer, arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson. On Friday the 20th of April, Gibson was honored as the 425th recipient of a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk Of Stars in Palm Springs, California. 

The city of Palm Springs, which over the years served as home base to such musical visionaries as Fred Waring, Eddy Howard, Lawrence Welk, Sonny Bono and Frank Sinatra, hosted a ceremony in Gibson's honor that morning.

"I was first introduced to the amazing cultural Mecca that is Palm Springs through the Van Patten family, when I was invited to speak at the late, great Dick Van Patten's star ceremony", said Gibson in an online statement.

"I've been a fan ever since, and it is such an honor to be among such an illustrious group of star recipients!"

In turn, Gibson will be paying the honor forward in July, as she presents Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth Summer Music Camp at the Garry Marshall Theatre on the fabled Riverside Drive in Burbank, California. Open to aspiring musicians and entertainers from the ages of eight through sixteen years of age, participants will receive coaching, mentoring, instruction and encouragement from Gibson herself, with various industry professionals on hand to observe the proceedings. 

Interestingly enough, Gibson's Electric Youth Summer Music Camp is an example of life imitating art, and vice versa. In addition to the aforementioned activities, Gibson is currently in Vancouver, British Columbia, working on Wedding Of Dreams, the sequel to her acclaimed 2016 Hallmark motion picture, Summer Of Dreams. Therein, Gibson portrayed fading pop star Debbie Taylor (not to be confused with the Debbie Taylor who recorded for the Decca, GWP, Polydor and Arista labels from the late 1960s throughout the mid-1970s), who, after being dropped by her record label, relocated to Ohio, moved in with her sister, Denise (portrayed by Pascale Hutton) and took a job teaching high school, where her responsibilities focused upon mentoring the school's glee club, the aptly--named Amp. In the sequel, the genial Robert Gant will also be reprising his role as the school's guidance counselor, Noah Burns. 

A musical tour de force and visionary for more than three decades, Debbie Gibson was the recipient of Blitz Magazine's Best Single of the Year award in 1989 for her utterly stupendous We Could Be Together single on Atlantic Records. That self-penned monster classic was in the spotlight again in 2017, serving as it did as the title track for Gibson's comprehensive, career-spanning and absolutely essential ten CD and three DVD box set on the UK-based Edsel label. 

"Keep that enjoyment going for the arts, which we all have", Gibson said in a promo video for the Electric Youth Summer Music Camp.

Indeed, given the unwavering standard of excellence that Gibson has maintained since making her debut for Atlantic in 1986 with her sublime Only In My Dreams single, she has once again proven that (in the words of her third album for the label), Anything Is Possible.


Early reports have now confirmed that Ontario native and British Modbeats co-founder and lead vocalist Fraser Loveman succumbed to his lengthy battle against pneumonia on 06 April.

Comprised of guitarists Greg Foster and Mike Gorgichuk, plus bassist Joe Colonna, drummer Robbie Jeffrey and Loveman as lead vocalist, the British Modbeats formed in Saint Catharines, Ontario as the Lintels in 1963. The band made their recording debut as the British Modbeats for the Red Leaf label in 1966 with a faithful cover of Doris Troy's Whatcha Gonna Do About It. An album for the label, Mod Is The British Modbeats followed in 1967. Ultimately, the band recorded five singles for Red Leaf before disbanding in 1968. Loveman went on to work with the Village S.T.O.P. for a season.

The British Modbeats were profiled at length in Blitz Magazine in the 1980s by long time staff writer John Mars. Loveman briefly reformed the band with original bassist Joe Colonna as the Modbeats in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The band performed live regularly, but finally called it a day due to Loveman's declining health.

In his later years, Loveman maintained a high profile from his Niagara Falls, Ontario home base as a musicologist and avid record collector. Sadly, his health began to decline even further in the early weeks of 2018.

"Here I am after four days in a hospital", Loveman said in an online statement on 24 March.

"It looks like a few more days of the same. A battery of tests. Painful tests. It's not a great experience, but I must follow through".

Follow through he did, finally losing his valiant battle on 06 April. Loveman was 71.


What's in a name?

In the case of some bands, their recorded legacy may not necessarily be reflected in their name. But in the case of the Pozo-Seco Singers, their unique name represented their mission statement about as accurately as it could be represented.

Blessed with a repertoire of strong and ambitious original material based in folk rock, country and first generation garage rock, the Corpus Christi, Texas-based Pozo-Seco Singers (Lofton Kline, Susan "Taylor Pie" Taylor and Don Williams) made their debut in 1966 with the gorgeous and often covered Columbia label single, Time. An album based on that single followed shortly thereafter, and Time was ultimately covered to perfection by the Capreez on the flip side of their Soulsation single on the Sound label in September 1967.

But it was their second album for Columbia that firmly established the band's legacy. Centered around their Fall 1966 monster classic single, I Can Make It With You, the Pozo-Seco Singers' album of the same name became an instant hallmark of the genre.

However, I Can Make It With You also marked the end of Lofton Kline's tenure with the band. Weary of touring and at creative odds with producer Bob Johnston, Kline's departure opened the door for veteran folk singer Ron Shaw to come on board.

The band persevered into the 1970s, with a change of name to Pozo-Seco. Co-founder Don Williams ultimately went on to an extraordinary career in country music, with such landmark singles as Lord I Hope This Day Is Good, Tulsa Time, I Believe In You and Rake And Ramblin' Man to his credit. Sadly, Williams passed away in September 2017 at age 78.Tragically, Ron Shaw also succumbed to a brief illness on Sunday 01 April/.

"(I am) forever grateful to have had some time together (with him) last November", said Taylor Pie in an online statement.

"A gentleman, soulmate and brother in music".

Funeral arrangements are pending.

(1931 - 2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Music is still my love".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

"It's like a family".

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


The Wildest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"Without music, life would be a mistake".

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New York native and Stoke Prior, Herefordshire based composer and vocalist Roxanne Fontana will be returning to the studio in London later this month with Inmates co-founder and guitarist Tony Oliver as producer to record her unique interpretation of a Rolling Stones classic.

"So excited about that", said Fontana, who is perhaps best known for her 1999 Love Is Blue album on her own Etoile label, which was produced by the (Young) Rascals' Dino Danelli.

"My and Tony go back to the late '70s. I'm glad he said yes when I asked him to play and take the reigns".

Fontana also recently participated in the video for Mat Treiber's Go All Around The World, which was issued on a vinyl 45.

"The single was just released this summer", said Fontana.

"It is distributed by Universal on download and is also available as a seven inch from my indie label. Mat's gotten amazing reviews."

As for the forthcoming cover project, Fontana is remaining elusive about the specifics so far.

"The song I picked is much more garage rock", she said.


Among producers, there are the absolute elite, whose work for other artists stands as an example of artistic vision taken to the highest level.

Definitely among their ranks was the extraordinarily gifted Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Jerry Jan Ross. In a career that spanned several decades, Ross applied his considerable acumen in that respect to a variety of essential recordings.

Having first rose to prominence as Dick Clark's announcer on the American Bandstand television series, Ross in the early 1960s founded Ross And Associates. Among his earliest signings was Kenny Gamble, later of the hugely successful Gamble and Huff team, who went on to work in various capacities with the great John Madara. Ross also developed a friendship and casual working partnership with the leadership team at the legendary Cameo-Parkway family of labels, whose offices were across the street from his. 

Ross and Gamble also tried their hand at songwriting, with their I'm Gonna Make You Love Me eventually becoming the signature track for Dee Dee Warwick, Aesop's Fables and the Supremes/Temptations collaborative. Ross also founded the Sheryl label at that time, whose successes included the Larks' 1961 It's Unbelievable single. He concurrently produced the Dreamlovers' When We Get Married and also worked for a brief season with the Sapphires, whose Who Do You Love for Swan is a highly respected standard.

Ross became a part of the A&R team at Mercury Records' New York offices in 1965, where he went on to work with such greats as Spanky And Our Gang, the extraordinary visionary James Barry "Keith" Keifer (of 98.6 and Ain't Gonna Lie fame) and Impressions alumnus Jerry Butler. While at Mercury, Ross produced Bobby Hebb's 1966 signature monster classic, Sunny for Mercury's affiliate Philips label.

But the lure of his own vision eventually became too strong for Ross to persevere in an affiliate capacity. He founded two of the era's most heralded labels, Heritage and Colossus. Heritage released a number of essential recordings in the latter half of the 1960s, including the Cherry People's And Suddenly, the Show Stoppers' Ain't Nothin' But A House Party, veteran rocker Marty Wilde's 1968 masterpiece, Abergavenny (released in the United States in 1969 under the pseudonym Shannon) and the key recordings by Bill Deal and the Rhondels (whose long time drummer and lead vocalist, Ammon Tharp tragically passed away earlier this year). 

Meanwhile, Ross' Colossus label was responsible for the release of the work of several key bands from Holland in the United States. While their legacy was well established for a season at home, it was The Tee Set's Ma Belle Amie (with its memorable flip side, Angels Coming In The Holy Night) that finally put the veteran band on the map in the United States in 1970. The George Baker Selection's wonderfully screwy Little Green Bag (which can be founded in an extended version on the band's Colossus label LP) followed suit in the Spring of that year. Colossus also provided a vehicle for Ross' own work as an artist with the Jerry Ross Symposium.

But it was a two year old single (recorded in 1967) that forever cemented Colossus' legacy in the United States in late 1969. Featuring the late and charismatic Maria Elisabeth "Mariska Veres" Ender as lead vocalist, the ambitious and garage rocking quartet, the Shocking Blue closed out the decade with one of the genre's definitive masterpieces, Venus. The Shocking Blue quickly followed suit on Colossus with Mighty Joe and Never Marry A Railroad Man, and has more than a half-dozen world class albums to their credit. 

Ross was also married to the late and much missed vocalist, Janice "April Young" Friedman, whose affiliation with Columbia Records in 1965 produced the highly memorable Run To My Lovin' Arms, Gonna Make Him My Baby, Life and You're The One singles; the latter of which was only released at the time in Europe. Young's legacy has been celebrated at length among the various anthology albums spotlighting Ross' extraordinary work.

Tragically, in recent months, Ross had been battling prostate cancer. It was that disease which finally claimed his life during the evening of 04 October.

"He left the world peacefully, knowing that he was loved and cherished by so many people", said Ross' daughter, Cheri Ross Dorwart in an online statement.

"To those that knew him, he was a music legend. I was lucky enough to call him 'Dad' every day. I will miss you with all of my heart, and I will continue to carry on your music legend".

It was indeed a legend that made Ross beloved by multitudes of musicians, musicologists and record collectors worldwide. Ross was 84. Friends and family will celebrate Ross' legacy on 08 October. He will be interred at King David Memorial Park in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.


In country music (for example), there have been front runners and visionaries who set the standard of excellence by creating on a consistent level of genius. They include Hank Williams, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Bill Anderson, David "Stringbean" Akeman and Waylon Jennings, to name but a few.

Concurrently, within the genre was a cadre of the musical equivalent of everyday players who, while not necessarily redefining the movement as a whole, could nonetheless be counted upon to deliver first rate material on a consistent basis. Their ranks would include Warner Mack, Jack Greene, Nat Stuckey, Ricky Van Shelton and Clint Black.

Perhaps no artist within rock and roll fit the classic profile of everyday player as well as did vocalist, composer and Gainesville, Florida native Thomas Earl "Tom" Petty. A visit to the set of the 1961 motion picture Follow That Dream sparked Petty's interest in music following a meeting with the film's star, master interpreter Elvis Presley. And just as Presley took the interpreter's role to unprecedented heights, Petty eventually developed an acumen for creating original material based upon the familiar, with enough of the universal attributes a constant to resonate with the faithful.

Early attempts at realizing this vision via his work with Mudcrutch, coupled with the reality of aesthetically challenging day jobs were enough to prompt Petty to take it to the next level. The emergence of his signature ensemble, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1976 was an example of perfect timing. For while not directly in solidarity with the emerging so-called punk/new wave movement (which was in the process of rescuing rock and roll from the protracted aesthetic slump that it had been in since the closing months of the previous decade), Petty and his band in their early outings for the Shelter label nonetheless professed solidarity in terms of inspiration with the greater movement via such inspired originals as the Byrds-like Listen To Her Heart and American Girl, as well as the Bob Dylan-inspired romp, I Don't Know What To Say To You.

The public at large responded most favorably, and Petty's everyday musical persona continued to find acceptance on a much larger scale. Tracks like Refugee and Free Fallin' eventually became staples of so-called classic rock, while the champion of the underdog perspective of Won't Back Down caught the interest of acclaimed radio talk show host Bob Dutko, who continues to use a version of Petty's standard as his show's theme song.

Appropriately enough, Petty closed out the 1980s as a member of one of the best "damage control" bands in all of rock and roll, the Traveling Wilburys. For while its individual members (including Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, George Harrison and Roy Orbison) were embraced for their earlier work by the protagonists of the aforementioned aesthetic slump, they themselves were astute enough to realize that some of the key attributes of the genre itself had been missing and therefore in part responsible for that decline. As such, the band made a concerted effort to focus on those attributes (most notably a keen sense of humor) and in the process came full circle alongside the work of the champions of the punk/new wave movement of a decade earlier.

While brief, Blitz Magazine's lone encounter with Tom Petty was a most revealing one. That meeting transpired backstage in Los Angeles during a performance by the much ballyhooed quartet, Lone Justice. The band had drawn considerable media attention, largely for the extraordinary musical vision of its bassist and mastermind, Marvin Etzioni (who currently collaborates with Balancing Act co-founder Willie Aron as a member of Thee Holy Brothers). Petty counted himself among the Lone Justice faithful, and joined Blitz Magazine at the prerequisite behind the scenes catering table indigenous to such events. Our conversation with Petty was rather low key, except for Petty's obvious enthusiasm for Lone Justice's work. Even in such settings and after enjoying considerable acclaim, his role as a fan continued unabated.

As is the case with so many veteran musicians, Petty continued to record and perform live, having recently completed a fortieth anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers that included a stop at the Hollywood Bowl just a week ago. Sadly, Petty suffered cardiac arrest at his Malibu home in the early hours of 02 October. He was rushed to UCLA Medical Center in West Los Angeles, where he finally succumbed to his illness at 8:40PM that evening. Petty was 66. Survivors include his wife of sixteen years, Dana, as well as stepson Dylan.

OF HUGH HEFNER (1926 - 2017)

More often than not, diversification can reap considerable dividends; aesthetic and otherwise.

To that effect, journalist, entrepreneur, broadcaster, record label founder and Chicago, Illinois native Hugh Marston Hefner parlayed an early interest in psychology and journalism into a publishing empire. The resultant Playboy Magazine (founded in 1953) in turn brought Hefner enough acclaim and financial resources to turn his attention to one of his greatest loves, music.

The Playboy label (which for much of its existence was headquartered on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, California) made its debut in 1957 with the release of the ambitious and acclaimed two-LP compilation anthology, The Playboy Jazz All Stars. That collection reflected Hefner's abiding passion for the genre, featuring as it did essential cuts by such standard bearers of the idiom as Stan Kenton, Bud Shank, Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, Barney Kessel, Frank Sinatra, Chet Baker, Charlie Ventura and Lionel Hampton.

Hefner then set his label interests aside for a time, pursuing music primarily through his magazine's annual jazz poll and through his 1969-1970 television series, Playboy After Dark. During its two seasons, the show featured live performances by such greats as the Cowsills, James Brown, the Sir Douglas Quintet and Deep Purple.

But by the mid-1970s, the Playboy label was back in action, pressing ahead with one of the most diverse and ambitious rosters in all of music. Singles and albums followed in short order by such artists as Wynn Stewart, Mickey Gilley, Tim Rose, Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds, Barbi Benton, Bobby Borchers, Al Wilson, Lois Fletcher, Willie Henderson, the Newbeats, Glenn Shorrock, Bobby Taylor, Layng Martine Junior, Sunday Sharpe, Pat Upton, Bjorn and Benny, Peter Foldy, Major Lance and Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.

With the dawning of the CD era, Playboy also released a four CD jazz anthology that was widely acclaimed as one of the definitive projects of its kind. Hefner's empire also established one of the most heralded CD reissue labels in the Illinois-based Collectors Choice Music, from which his firm divested itself in 2001. During its tenure as a label (which ended in 2010), Collectors Choice was most notable for bringing back into print the indispensable Capitol Records-era catalog of the enormously influential Kingston Trio.

Although Hefner continued to maintain an active role in his vast business empire, ill health began to take its toll. Hefner died of natural causes in his Holmby Hills, California mansion on 27 September. He was 91.

While many would assert that it was his publishing empire which brought Hefner his greatest acclaim (and criticism), such matters are best left to discussion and analysis elsewhere. But for the purpose at hand (music), Hefner made his mark from an executive position like few others did.


Garth Brooks may once have thanked God in song for Unanswered Prayer. But suffice to say that a number of beloved veteran musicians have reason to rejoice for answered prayer in the wake of Hurricane Irma. 

Peaking at a Category 5 and predicted to be the most destructive hurricane even seen on the eastern seaboard of the United States, Hurricane Irma was eventually downgraded to a Category 2 as it made its way throughout Southern Florida over the weekend of 09-10 September, after passing just north of Cuba and through much of the Caribbean.

Sadly, the island of Saint Martin suffered extensive damage, with surviving residents clamoring for food and basic supplies in its wake. The United States military, Operation Blessing, Samaritan's Purse, the Red Cross and other relief organizations are already on the scene, addressing each situation as best as possible. 

The state of Florida is also the home of a number of musical legends who opted to tough it out as Hurricane Irma made its way through their neighborhoods. They include Mystics co-founder George Galfo, current Danny and the Juniors member Bob Maffei, Blues Magoos vocalist/guitarist Emil "Peppy Castro" Theilhelm, veteran rocker and actor Arch Hall Junior, Lovin' Spoonful bassist Steve Boone, Vanilla Fudge kayboardsman Mark Stein and doo-wop pioneer Jack Blanchard of the Dawn Breakers and his long time wife and country music duet partner, Misty Morgan. 

"We're waiting to go back on Saint Pete Beach Island", said Maffei on the afternoon of the eleventh of September.

"The sheriff is not letting us in (yet)".

Thankfully, the hurricane began to lose strength noticeably as it made its way northward. As it did, first responders began to take action.

"It ain't over yet, but life is good so far", said Arch Hall Junior.

"Horrific hurricanes bring out the best of the American spirit".

To be certain, the Blues Magoos' Peppy Castro is the living embodiment of Hall's observations.

"I'm always a very thankful guy, but not more so than today", said Castro.

"I signed up to volunteer. It feels good and I'm glad I stayed. I knew it was the right thing to do".

Sadly, not everyone came through Hurricane Irma unscathed. This past week, Jack Blanchard noted that his home was directly in the storm's predicted path. In its aftermath, a bit of cleanup will be in order.

"They say our home has some damage, but can be fixed", said Blanchard, who sought shelter with Misty Morgan outside of the area.

"Nobody knows when the electric power and water will be back on. There is a curfew on driving. We are both worn out after thirty hours with no sleep and a lot of physical labor!"

In turn, the Lovin' Spoonful's Steve Boone also endured his share of tragedy in the flood.

"Water in the house may be twelve inches, maybe more", said Boone.

Beverly Ruthven, cousin of Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell is a near lifelong resident of central Florida, and thankfully also came through Hurricane Irma relatively unscathed.

"We spent the weekend in church, praying", she said.

"The power came back on in the area this afternoon (Monday the eleventh), and phone service was restored right after that. There doesn't seem to be any water damage in the area, thank God".

To be certain, there is indeed plenty for which many can be grateful to God in the aftermath of what seemed certain to be a disaster of Biblical proportions.

"Thank you for all of the outpouring of love and concern", said Castro.

"You are all treasured!"

In turn, Blanchard echoed Castro's sentiments.

"So happy that we still have a home", he said.

"Thank you all for being friends!"


The term "musical hero" has been invoked so much over the decades, that it at times seems to have lost its impact.

But one individual for whom that term most definitely applies in abundance is the beloved folk rock pioneer and sole surviving founding member of the Kingston Trio, Robert Castle "Bob Shane" Schoen. Although he continued to perform with the band from its inception in 1957 until a heart attack in March 2004 forced his retirement from the road, Shane has continued to oversee the mission statement of the band's current line up (which includes George Grove, Bill Zorn and Rick Dougherty), as well as participate as circumstances would allow in their recordings, most notably 2012's acclaimed Born At The Right Time album. 

However, as of July of this year, Shane's overall health has taken a turn for the worse.

"He's had quite a few very tiny strokes", said Shane's wife Bobbie in an online statement.

"Those cumulatively affected him a little bit".

Together with fellow visionaries Donald David "Dave" Guard and Nicholas Wells "Nick" Reynolds, Shane made his recording debut in 1958 with the Kingston Trio's self-titled premier album for Capitol. Tracks such as Three Jolly Coachmen, Bay Of Mexico (which took the curious step of featuring several key changes downward, as well as upward), Banua, Scotch And Soda, Hard Ain't It Hard, Fast Freight and Tom Dooley (which sold several million copies as the second single from the album, with Three Jolly Coachmen being the first) served to make that debut a major success, as well as a hallmark of the genre; paving the way for numerous successive releases for Capitol, Decca, Tetragrammaton and other labels. 

From the onset until the present day, two of the Kingston Trio's strongest attributes have been their far above average musicianship and their individual and collective quick wit. To be certain, the latter trait has continuously served the band well both individually and collectively. To that effect, Reynolds played some of his final shows with the band prior to his December 1999 retirement with a pronounced limp, prompting Shane to deadpan to the audience, "You'll notice that Nick is walking with a limp. That's because he's had two hip surgeries, and one that wasn't so hip".

Nonetheless, Shane had long harbored a deep and abiding affinity for his bandmates. To wit, after the tragic passing of Dave Guard from lymphoma in March 1991, the band made it a point at every show to pay tribute to him. Sadly, band co-founder Nick Reynolds also passed away from acute respiratory disease in October 2008. In turn, long time band member John Coburn Stewart (who succeeded Guard in the line up in 1961) succumbed to a brain aneurysm in January of that year. Interim member Roger Gambill also passed away from a heart attack at age forty-two in March 1985.

Sadly, it is now Shane's turn to face major health challenges.

"Unfortunately, he has developed a seizure disorder", said Bobbie Shane.

"His seizures are more just like electrical brain surges that last a couple of seconds. Not like Grand Mal, or anything like that".

"The Mayo (Clinic) thinks it could be scar tissue from the strokes that irritated his brain. He is of course on meds for all of this. The seizures have stopped for the most part, but the seizures have done their damage. The Mayo said they damaged the language center of his brain, which affects a lot of things".

Despite the prognosis, Bobbie Shane assures that there are some positive signs to be found in her husband's recovery.

"He's not slurring", she said.

"Nor does he have any speech impediment. It's just hard for him to get the words out sometimes.

"Plus, he processes really slow now. You just have to be patient when talking with him and not overload him with too much too fast. His balance has also been affected, and he is using a walker now".

Since the passing of Reynolds and Stewart in 2008, Shane has been a regular presence at the annual Kingston Trio Fantasy Camp, in which aspiring musicians have a rare opportunity to sit in with the absolute master. Tragically, present circumstances seem to have derailed those plans for the time being.

"I'm afraid he won't be able to perform anymore", said Bobbie Shane.

"But he will be at camp with bells on. He needs a lot of sleep. But he plans on being around as often as he can, especially for the shows at camp".

Through it all, Bob and Bobbie Shane continue to espouse the relentless optimism that has been Bob Shane's trademark from day one.

"The good news is that he is healthy, happy and still Bob", said Bobbie Shane.

"Bob always said, 'Getting old ain't for sissies'. He was sure right about that.

"We're okay. Life is more challenging now. But we're hanging in. We'll just keep concentrating on the good in life".

Blitz Magazine joins the Kingston Trio's legions of devotees around the world in prayer for the healing of this beloved musical giant.


It has been reiterated time and time again in Blitz Magazine. And at a time like this, it most assuredly bears repeating.

In the more than four decades since the inception of Blitz Magazine - The Rock And Roll Magazine For Thinking People, by far the single most impacting and enduring inspiration on our mission statement was the remarkable phenomenon known as WKNR Keener 13. From its beginnings in the wake of the demise of WKMH in late October 1963 until it signed off of the air in April 1972, that suburban Detroit AM station set the standard of excellence in radio so high that to date, it has never been equaled, let alone surpassed.

Much of WKNR's success came from what long time station mastermind Bob Green once termed "intelligent flexibility", in which the cream of radio's personalities came together under a given template and within those parameters asserted their individual creative acumen with unprecedented autonomy. In the process, some of the most beloved figures in the history of the medium became what were known as the Keener Key Men Of Music, including not only Bob Green, but Mort Crowley, Jim Sanders, Jerry Goodwin, Gary Stevens, Robin Seymour, Bill Phillips, Ted Clark, J. Michael Wilson, Paul Cannon, Scott Regen, Jim Jeffries, Sean Conrad and Gary Granger.

One of the first to make an impact during the crucial early months of the WKNR story was Frank "Swingin' " Sweeney. Recruited to fill the vacancy being created by the departing Jim Sanders (a WKMH holdover who had committed to a station in another market prior to the format and call letter change), Sweeney was originally picked for the afternoon slot, commensurate with his vast experience in that capacity.

However, the abrupt departure of morning man Mort Crowley in the early weeks of 1964 in one of the most storied sign offs in radio history (brought about by an ongoing impasse between WKNR and the local telephone company) necessitated immediate action. Due to extraordinary circumstances, Jerry Goodwin (who was being considered for Crowley's morning show) ended up in Sanders' afternoon slot, with Sweeney brought in to succeed Crowley in the 5:00AM to 9:00AM shift.

While generally not a morning drive person, Frank Sweeney nonetheless rose to the occasion. His quick wit (coupled with his considerable acumen as the station's Music Director) was a perfect fit for the critical morning drive slot, a position he occupied until the early weeks of 1965. At that time, he went on to hugely successful stints in other radio markets, and eventually became a much beloved and integral part of the beauty pageant industry, with an impressive track record in both the Miss USA and Miss Universe organizations.

In anticipation of WKNR's fiftieth anniversary in 2013, Blitz Magazine began an occasional (and ongoing) series of lengthy interviews with WKNR veterans. Our first profile was none other than Frank "Swingin' " Sweeney, whose observations in a conversation that went on for more than two hours about the station's legacy and his vision for the medium in general was truly one of the highlights of Blitz Magazine's forty-plus year history.

That exchange with Frank Sweeney was engineered at Blitz headquarters by my beloved wife and Blitz's Photo Editor, Audrey McDowell. And in the ensuing months, Sweeney supremely personified the wisdom of choosing one's heroes carefully.

In the wake of Audrey's abrupt and horrific passing from a major stroke and brain hemorrhage in October 2014, Frank Sweeney was one of a number of heroes who went on to become close friends; contacting Blitz Magazine on a regular basis to offer his support, prayers, encouragement and insights. He concurrently became a much treasured member of Blitz's advisory board.

A relentless optimist, Frank Sweeney spent much of his later years chronicling his life in New York City as a photojournalist. Concurrently, he often contacted Blitz Magazine to offer praise for a new posting or article that was to his liking, and rarely passed up the opportunity to share his unique perspective on life in general.

To that effect, some months ago, Frank Sweeney offered Blitz Magazine this insightful observation:

"It happened to me when I was seventy years old. And when exactly it happens varies with the individual. But eventually, there will come a time when you simply don't give a rip about things. By that, I don't mean that you don't care about people or circumstances. What I mean is that, whenever a problem or challenge comes your way, you don't get upset, worried or angry about it. You just deal with it and move on to the next challenge in life".

Such was the wisdom of the extraordinary individual who was not only an integral part of the greatest success story in the history of radio, but one of the most gifted, beloved and inspirational heroes that Blitz Magazine was blessed and privileged to be able to call a friend. Frank Sweeney went home to be with his Maker on the 25th of May. Survivors include his wife, as well as his brother Walt.


In one of the most surprising and disconcerting moves in all of music in recent months, long time Flamin' Groovies bassist George Alexander was fired from the band of which he has been an integral part for more than a half century.

"I was given the sack", said Alexander in an online statement.

I was a bit shocked and it came unexpected when it finally happened to me".

Alexander, whose inventive bass work has graced both stage and studio since the release of the band's landmark Sneakers album in 1968, was also an integral part of such subsequent releases as Supersnazz, Flamingo, Teenage Head, Shake Some Action and Jumpin' In The Night.

Most recently, the Flamin' Groovies have performed and recorded around the core line up of founder Cyril Jordan (lead guitar), Chris Wilson (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), Victor Penalosa (drums) and Alexander. The band toured extensively in 2015 in celebration of their fiftieth anniversary, at which time Blitz Magazine interviewed Jordan at length.

In late 2016, the Jordan, Wilson, Alexander and Penalosa line up released the Crazy Macy / Let Me Rock single for the Otis label, with both sides co-authored by Jordan and Wilson. Original Blitz Magazine art director Dennis Loren (who served in that capacity for Blitz from 1976-1980) did the art work for the single's picture sleeve.

"James Ferrell departed from the band in 1977", said Alexander.

"I'm not sure he did so willingly. I say this because I'm only now beginning to recognize a pattern behind each ex-Groovie member leaving. Or perhaps, I suspect, being driven out of the band. Triggered by frustration, followed by personal animosity and ending with the tactic of scapegoating in order to assert legitimate authority".

Ferrell had his own take on those circumstances.

"To set things straight, I was asked to leave the band", said Ferrell.

"When Cyril and Chris explained their direction, they said I was welcome to stay. I had some initial misgivings. But it was my band, and they were my friends. I thought I should and could be professional about it.

"I learned a few lessons. The new stuff didn't fit my playing, personality or taste. It seems that if I am not fully into something, I can't conceal the fact. I didn't complain to anyone that I was unhappy. But it must have been obvious, and I was asked to leave. Truth to tell, I was relieved to just move on".

And now, forty years later, history seems to have repeated itself with Alexander's departure, the process of which Alexander inferred had actually begun in September 2016.

"Makes no business sense with a new album and movie due out this year", Alexander said.

In the process, drummer Victor Penalosa was also dismissed from the band. Succeeding Alexander and Penalosa for the time being are bassist Chris Von Sneidern (who had previously worked with Jordan in a band called Magic Christian) and drummer Tony Sales. In turn, the Flamin' Groovies are pressing ahead with the process of completing their new album. Jordan completed the basic tracks in an East Coast studio, and Wilson will be coming in from Portland, Oregon within the next couple of weeks to work out the vocal parts.

Jordan, Von Sneidern and Sales have also been in rehearsals. Jordan has concurrently been finishing some preliminary art work for the cover, and Dennis Loren has once again been called upon to provide the finishing touches. The album cover will not feature any photos of the band.

"I'm okay with it. (It's) not a sob story", said Alexander.

"It was originally my intention to end my career as a band member after promoting the new album and movie this year. (But) it's played out. I'm done with it. They need to put their best foot forward."

Other band members were unavailable for comment at press time.


With the time tested adage of "music hath charms to soothe the savage beast" in mind, Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell and long time Blitz contributor Jerry Schollenberger are currently on tour, doing their part to combat genre myopia by offering a wide range of music in a variety of formats at various record collectors conventions.

The hard core collector and seasoned musicologist alike will be pleased to find a diverse selection of music for sale at Blitz Magazine's table. From Johnny Mathis to Queensryche, from Faron Young to Sarah Vaughn, from Ronnie Dove to Billy Idol, from Natalie Merchant to Andreas Vollenweider, or from Joan Baez to Jimmy Smith, Blitz will have something for just about every musical preference in a wide variety of formats, including CDs, 45s, vinyl LPs and cassettes.

And for the dedicated survey collector, Blitz Magazine will have on hand a very limited supply of original surveys from the legendary WKNR Keener 13, the pioneering radio station whose beloved air veterans (the Keener Key Men Of Music) have been the subject of an ongoing profile series here on Blitz Magazine's web site. 
Blitz's next stop will be at the Record Show at the Knights Of Columbus Hall on Secor Road in Toledo, Ohio at 9:00AM on the morning of Sunday the twelfth of November 2017. Please stop by and say hello. Blitz Magazine will be more than happy to talk music. And do feel free to bring along your vintage copies of Blitz Magazine, which we will be glad to autograph. See you there!