Saturday

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



FAREWELL TO A HERO AND DEAR FRIEND: Blitz Magazine mourns the passing of beloved hero, major inspiration and dear friend, Frank "Swingin' " Sweeney. A pioneer in radio who was one of WKNR Keener 13's vaunted Keener Key Men Of Music, Sweeney (who passed away on 25 May in  New York City) was also a cherished member of Blitz Magazine's advisory board. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell has the story below (Photo by Michael McDowell). (Click on above image to enlarge).

TRIBUTE TO A HERO,
INSPIRATION AND FRIEND:
REMEMERING WKNR KEENER 13's
FRANK "SWINGIN' " SWEENEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






REMEMERING THE DELICATES'
ARLEEN LANZOTTI



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denise Ferri beautifully echoed Santiglia's sentiments.

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

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

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

Lanzotti was 73.

LONG TIME FLAMIN' GROOVIES
BASSIST GEORGE ALEXANDER
OUSTED FROM BAND


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

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

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

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


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

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



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



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



Ferrell had his own take on those circumstances.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other band members were unavailable for comment at press time.

BLITZ MAGAZINE ON TOUR
TO PROMOTE MUSICAL HARMONY
AT RECORD COLLECTORS CONVENTIONS

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

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

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

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

Maybe you can go home again.

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

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

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

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

So who is involved within this group? We are:

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

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

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

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



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





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





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





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




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

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

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

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

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

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