Tuesday

DEBBIE GIBSON COUNTERS PANDEMIC WITH ANSWER SONG


GIRLS NIGHT IN: Beloved five-tool player (composer, vocalist, arranger, producer, and multi-instrumentalist) Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson has once again raised the bar with the 15 May release of the answer song to her recent instant classic, Girls Night Out. The resultant Girls Night In offers a unique and engaging reaction to the ongoing pandemic crisis from a relatively upbeat perspective.  Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look at this unique example of thinking outside of the box below.  (Click on above image to enlarge).

GIRLS NIGHT IN:
DEBBIE GIBSON
COUNTERS PANDEMIC WITH
HER OWN ANSWER SONG
By Michael McDowell

Jim Reeves mandated that He'll Have To Go. Jeanne Black countered with He'll Have To Stay. Claude King tried in vain to climb Wolverton Mountain. Jo Ann Campbell beckoned to him with (I'm The Girl From) Wolverton Mountain. Herman's Hermits serenaded Mrs. Brown's lovely daughter. The late Kenny Young fled from Mrs. Green's Ugly Daughter.

The so-called answer song has long provided both amusement and continuum for a given acclaimed musical work. But with rare exception, such answer songs to date have almost invariably come from other artists. 

In those cases, the artists either addressed and elaborated upon the subject matter at hand (as noted in the aforementioned examples) or confronted it. Witness the Spokesmen's The Dawn Of Correction in relation to Barry McGuire's Eve Of Destruction, or Jan Berry's The Universal Coward as it counter-punches Donovan Leitch's The Universal Soldier.

The latter examples were borne of ongoing acrimony, which was prevalent in society at large at the time of their creation. To be certain, with the ongoing pandemic at hand, we in turn are facing a level of societal upheaval and unrest heretofore not seen in our lifetimes.

In such cases, even the slightest word or inference has been known to escalate tensions. Sadly, humor and optimism remain at a premium when most are on the defensive. 

But once in a great while, in terms of the answer song, humor has been known to at least provide moments of respite, if not long term solutions. To wit, Bob Seger's early outing as the Beach Bums in his The Ballad Of The Yellow Berets, which managed to generate at least a bit of uneasy laughter on both sides in response to Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler's The Ballad Of The Green Berets during the height of the Vietnam war.

However, none of the aforementioned examples were initially released into a society in which exchanges of information via social media was the order of the day. With the power of communications now in the hands of the rank and file, emotional free for alls often ensue in various posts in response to any perceived slight and/or difference in perspective. 

It is in times such as these that a bit of optimism provides welcome relief. But given the circumstances, any artist endeavoring to do so would nonetheless do well to tread lightly. Relentless optimism would most assuredly be a prerequisite in such attempts. 

Moreover, a bit of self-depreciation would be in order to provide a buffer against possible retribution. Indeed, an astute artist who kept such guidelines in mind could provide a musical rallying cry that could well unite divided factions and inspire tangible solutions, possibly diffusing any existing caustic rhetoric in the process. 

Enter music's most beloved five-tool player (composer, vocalist, producer, multi-instrumentalist and arranger), Deborah Ann "Debbie" Gibson. With the 15 May release of Girls Night In, Gibson has done just that.

While her most recent creations have been all over the map musically (from an inspired take on A Cockeyed Optimist from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific to her sublime original piano instrumental, French Carousel), Gibson earlier this year enjoyed tremendous acclaim for her celebratory Girls Night Out single, which is presently generating considerable enthusiasm in the UK. 

Moreover, Gibson is no stranger to the answer song. At the onset of the pandemic just weeks ago, she revisited her 1987 Atlantic label Shake Your Love single with a benediction to Wash Your Hands

In turn, Girls Night In provides a light hearted response to the ongoing societal shutdown by making the most of a trying situation. Whereas Girls Night Out found Gibson in fantasy mode, wandering triumphantly from scene to scene in a Las Vegas nightclub (only to wake up in bed with a reality check), Girls Night In borrows from a few of Gibson's recent social media posts and finds her at home, dealing humorously with such challenges as cleaning, Netflix binging, home recording, reaching out to friends online, and releasing pent up emotions on the punching bag in her home gym, with nods to her long time choreographer Buddy Casimano's acclaimed online at home workout program, as well as her three faithful yet beleaguered dogs, Joey, Trooper and Levi.

"Just suck it up, don't muck it up" Gibson cautions therein.

Not that Gibson is likely to fall prey to her own caveats. Astute to the point of being nearly impossible to second guess, she remains a visionary with few equals.

Moreover, Gibson is among the very few artists who are savvy enough to create their own answer song and make it a free standing statement in its own right. As always, she draws largely from personal experience to underscore the various points, with occasional exceptions.

"I don't drink gin", Gibson reassured, in reference to a particular couplet found at mid-point in the proceedings.

"I'm up at 5:00AM and in bed by 8:00PM. So it's more like a day in the life".

A life that continues to create, motivate and inspire at a level that raises the bar with each new contribution. And as Blitz Magazine has responded with increasing regularity in recent months, job well done, Deborah Ann.

(Here is a link to the video clip of Girls Night Inhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HE72DrFU2s ).

ROBIN SEYMOUR MEMORIAL TRIBUTE


SWINGIN' TIME: Few individuals have had as enormous of an impact on the growth and development of rock and roll music as did WKNR Keener 13 veteran and long time host of the Windsor, Ontario-based Swingin' Time television series, Robin Seymour. The beloved legend and visionary (seen above at left with the late rock and roll giant Jack Scott at the Great Radio Reunion in Novi, Michigan in September 2019, in what would ironically be the final public appearance for both) tragically passed away suddenly in his San Antonio, Texas home on 17 April. Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell discusses the enormous impact of Seymour and his colleagues on the mission statement of Blitz Magazine, as well as the world of music overall. Photo by Mike Jackson. (Click on the above image to enlarge).

BOBBIN' WITH THE ROBIN:
REMEMBERING BELOVED
WKNR KEENER 13 ALUMNUS AND
SWINGIN' TIME HOST
ROBIN SEYMOUR
By Michael McDowell
"This will definitely be the last of its kind. There will never be another like it".

So said WXYZ-AM alumnus, recording artist, author and promoter Lee Alan in 2019, in anticipation of his highly acclaimed Great Radio Reunion, which was held in Novi, Michigan on the fourteenth of September that year. On hand for this monumental event were a number of beloved musical pioneers, including the Reflections, Jack Scott, Gino Washington, Rationals co-founder Scott Morgan, Frijid Pink drummer Rick Stevers, Impact Records producer (and one time TV personality Bozo The Clown) Art Cervi, and former Detroit Tigers ace (and hero of the 1968 World Series) Dennis Dale "Denny" McLain, who also recorded two acclaimed instrumental albums for Capitol in 1968-1969 and went on to a successful career in talk radio.

Their numbers were matched in the broadcast industry by the presence of not only Lee Alan and Joey Reynolds from WXYZ, but CKLW vets Charlie O'Brien, Jojo Shutty-MacGregor, Johnny Williams and Program Director Bill Hennes. Also on board were several of the legendary WKNR Keener 13's beloved Keener Key Men Of Music: Bob Green, Jerry Goodwin, Paul Cannon, Dick Purtan, news anchor Erik Smith and latter day Keener great Pat Saint John.

But the guest of honor that evening was another WKNR alumnus, who is rivaled perhaps only by Alan Freed and Dick Clark for having done more to discover, nurture, champion and sustain the cream of the crop in terms of artists. That man was the beloved Detroit, Michigan native, Robin Henry Seymour. 

A veteran of WKNR's predecessor, WKMH 1310, Seymour was among those selected in 1970 to recreate their classic radio broadcasts for the Increase label's Cruisin' series of record albums. Seymour is featured in the 1956 instalment of the series, which includes classic commercials from the Faygo Beverage Company, as well as his radio program's theme song, Bobbin' With The Robin by the Four Lads.

When WKMH switched call letters and formats to WKNR Keener 13 on 31 October 1963, Seymour was one of only two on air personalities asked to remain on board during the transition. The other was the great Jim Beasley under his radio alias, Jim Sanders. Most ironically, Sanders would not only have the daunting task (in tandem with station newscaster Bill Bonds) of breaking the news of President John F. Kennedy's assassination a few weeks later, but in not anticipating his being retained by the station, Sanders had negotiated for a new position with a Wisconsin-based AM station, to begin in 1964.

Matters were exacerbated to no small degree in the early weeks of 1964 with the unexpected on air meltdown and resignation of morning man Mort Crowley, who left in exasperation after a well publicized on air battle with the telephone company. All of which not only made WKNR's unprecedented and unparalleled rise to the top in less than three months all the more remarkable.

That once in a lifetime success was due in no small part to the vision of in house genius Bob Green, whose so-called "intelligent flexibility" format called for a basic format stretched to the limit by strong personalities that were as much a part of the continuum as were the commercials and the music. By the early weeks of 1964, WKNR had moved full steam ahead in that respect with an all star on air staff that included the late, great Frank "Swingin' " Sweeney, Jerry Goodwin, Bob Green, Gary Stevens, Bill Phillips, Paul Cannon and of course Robin Seymour. 

All went well in that respect throughout that most crucial year of 1964 and into the early weeks of 1965. Music was at its absolute pinnacle in terms of creativity, and there literally was no better vehicle for its celebration and betterment than was WKNR Keener 13. But in back to back short order, Swingin' Sweeney was gone, and Gary Stevens had been recruited by the WMCA Good Guys in New York City. Bill Phillips had also left for a position with a small station in nearby Garden City.

In turn, Robin Seymour had been approached by CKLW Channel 9 television on Riverside Drive in neighboring Windsor, Ontario to host a daily, hour long variety show featuring the absolute best in both live and recorded music. With a basic format not unlike that which was already in place on Shindig, Hullaballoo and Where The Action Is, the relentlessly upbeat, optimistic and energetic Seymour was a perfect fit for the position.

In short order, Swingin' Time became the absolute standard of excellence in the genre, as well as THE go-to show for aspiring and established artists alike. A partial list of artists who either got their first television exposure via Swingin' Time or those who were well established at that point is literally without equal in music history. They include not only pretty much the entire roster of the Motown, Tamla, Gordy and Soul family of labels, but such beloved greats as Richard And The Young Lions, Bob Seger And The Last Heard, Terry Knight And The Pack, the Rationals, the Unrelated Segments, the Wanted, the Tidal Waves, Kris Petersen, Spyder Turner, the Woolies, the Human Beings, the Young Men, Darrell Banks, the Cyrkle, Gino Washington, Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs, the Royal Guardsmen, Keith, J.J. Jackson, Jamie Coe, Question Mark And The Mysterians, the Lazy Eggs, Lonette McKee, the Cherry Slush, Johnny Tillotson, Frijid Pink, Paul Revere And The Raiders, the Magnificent Men, J.J. Barnes, Tony Clarke, the Wonderettes, the Spike Drivers, Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels, the Bossmen, Tom And Jerry O, Inez and Charlie Foxx, Tim Tam And The Turn-Ons, the Royal Coachmen, Wayne Cochran, the Capreez, Tony And Tyrone, Johnny Rivers, the Free, the Talismen, the Underdogs, Cody Black, the Mothers Of Invention, Conny Van Dyke, the Amboy Dukes, Dionne Warwick, the Shades Of Blue, James Brown, Ronnie And Robyn, Edwin Starr, Al Kent, the Fantastic Four, the Reflections, the Parliaments, Silky Hargraves, Jimmy Holland, Tino And The Revlons, Herman's Hermits, Teresa Lindsey and Twinn Connexion, to name but a few.

In the final months of the series' run, fellow CKLW great and Rockin' Rebels / Buena Vistas producer Tom Shannon succeeded Seymour in the host role. Seymour went on to a lengthy and prolific career in video production in Los Angeles and Phoenix, finally settling in Texas. 

At the time of the Great Radio Reunion in 2019, Seymour had just completed his highly anticipated autobiography, The DJ That Launched A Thousand Hits. In addition to being the event's featured speaker, he also autographed copies of his book, which sold out that evening in short order.

Among the first to arrive that afternoon were Blitz Magazine Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell and Michigan Music History CEO Mike Jackson. Directly behind them was Frijid Pink drummer and co-founder, Rick Stevers, who was on hand to promote the veteran band's latest album, On The Edge. After a few pleasant exchanges, what transpired next remains a fitting testimony to Seymour's legacy.

Moments later, Seymour walked through the entrance with his daughter. Instantly, all eyes turned towards him. Stevers was duly moved.

"We were on his show", he said

"But I'm not sure if he'd remember me".

"Why don't you go ask him and find out?", Jackson encouraged.

With that, Stevers walked over to Robin Seymour and, with slight apprehension, asked, "Do you remember me?"

"Frijid Pink!", Seymour proclaimed with considerable delight, as the two embraced like long lost brothers.

What followed later that evening was not only a highlight of the proceedings, but a moving and deeply personal experience that was not only a comedy of errors, but what has also gone on to become one of the absolute highlights of decades of publishing Blitz Magazine.

In the middle of his lengthy and captivating discourse before an audience that numbered in the hundreds, Seymour mentioned beloved rock and roll pioneer, vocalist, composer, visionary and Windsor, Ontario native Jack Scott, who was watching the proceedings from the rear of the auditorium with Denny McLain. 

Seymour had made reference to Scott's classic 1958 Carlton label ballad single, My True Love. On the flip side of that single was an original rockabilly raver, Leroy, which was a re-recording of an earlier track entitled Greaseball.

Pointing out that WKMH was initially not amenable to airing that decidedly rocking  flip side, Seymour sought clarification from onlookers by asking, "What was the name of that B-side?"

"Leroy", responded Blitz Magazine's Michael McDowell. Scott's extensive catalog for the ABC Paramount, Carlton, Top Rank, Groove, Dot and Capitol labels have been long time staples of Blitz's recorded archives. 

"Leroy? No, I don't think that was it", said Seymour.

"Let's get Jack Scott up here. He'll know".

With that, Seymour summoned Scott to center stage from his vantage point at the back of the room. Scott quickly bounded up the aisle and joined Seymour in a matter of seconds. As was the case earlier with Rick Stevers, Seymour and Scott embraced like long lost brothers.

"What was the flip side of My True Love?", Seymour asked the artist. Scott paused briefly to grin in Blitz Magazine's direction before responding. 

"Leroy", Scott deadpanned, as the two went on to a lighthearted exchange that met with a considerable roar of approval from the audience. 

Following the event, Seymour called upon the services of broadcast veteran and film maker Kevin Willett to record a brief video, in which Seymour expressed his joy and gratitude for the outpouring of love and adoration afforded him at the reunion. Despite Lee Alan's cautionary remarks, Seymour was nonetheless looking forward to subsequent such gatherings.

But most tragically and ironically, Lee Alan was right. 

For most of his life, Jack Scott maintained a strict regimen of diet and rigorous exercise. However, that moment at the Great Radio Reunion turned out to be his final public appearance. Despite a regular schedule of live performances that found him in continued peak condition as an artist, Scott within three months of that Novi reunion passed away suddenly at the age of 83.

In turn, CKLW great Johnny Williams (who as Tom D'Angelo composed and produced the December 1965 monster classic Palmer label single, Wait A Minute for Tim Tam And The Turn-Ons) also passed away this week at age 72. A resident of the Detroit suburb of Allen Park in recent years, the genial, charismatic and immensely popular Williams was a regular at the annual CKLW reunions held in Southeastern Michigan. Williams' sudden passing was made even more ironic and heart rending by the death that same day of one time CKLW board op Tom Ryan. 

But nothing could have cushioned the shock that came in during the afternoon of 17 April.

Blitz Magazine was in an extended dialogue with CKLW alumnus and current Michigan Music History historian and news director Ric Allen, when the course of the conversation changed abruptly.

"I'm just hearing that Robin Seymour passed away", he said.

Sadly, a quick verification of sources proved that most devastating news to be true. Seymour had died suddenly at his San Antonio, Texas home.

Within minutes, tributes began pouring in from colleagues, musicians and fans alike. Without exception, the consensus was that the world of music had suffered one of its most enormous losses ever. Selfless, charismatic, upbeat and accommodating almost to a fault, Robin Seymour was one of those who was most directly responsible for the most Swingin' Time in music history.

"Rest in peace, dear friend", said Jerry Goodwin, whose post-WKNR activities include a flourishing career in theatre and film.

"How we shall laugh at the trouble parting makes when we meet again".

To be certain, Jerry Goodwin speaks for all of us. Robin Seymour was 94.