Why Is It?


Every week I sit behind the keyboard of my computer and try to “wow” the industry with my innovative words of wisdom.  Sometimes, I agonize for days on the subject of my Editorial.  Other times the ideas and words flow like the waters of the Mississippi River.  On rare occasions, I hit a complete block.  Like now. I could hide behind the easy writer’s crutch and write about the agonies of penning a weekly column.  Every deadline author has used this crutch at some point.  It’s an easy way out.  It’s not in my nature to take the easy way out.  Besides, why should I torture myself writing an Editorial for people who basically don’t read?  In an informal survey of programmers and record executives taken earlier this year, less than 5% had read three books in the past 12 months.  That in itself could be the subject of an Editorial.  But I digress. I find it interesting that the Editorials I spend the most time preparing are generally met with apathy, yet the ones I throw together at the last minute generate the most feedback.  Why is that?

Thus, the subject of this week’s Editorial.  I have no defining topic, just a potpourri of thoughts that have been on and off my mind for the past few weeks.

Why is it that our business is more about maintaining the status quo than striking out in new, innovative directions?  It seems we are more satisfied with maintaining our position rather than conquering a new and exciting goal.  Copying an existing concept is easier than inventing a new plan.  It’s easier to sell.  Using an existing plan as a point of reference is a much easier sell than an innovative idea that could be much better.  A business based on the ever changing wants of the consumer should reward those executives who predict social change and think outside of the box.  Instead of creating an environment for a navy led by those made from the blood of Christopher Columbus, who set sail for the new world, we have spawned a legion of pirates who plunder on those who travel the normal routes.

Poignant, yet vague.

Why is it that we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?

Why is it that promotion executives spend more time behind computers than in the face of programmers?  There is a reason your job is called promotion.  What happened to the times when JoJo the Dog Faced Boy, Little Egypt, dancing chickens, trained donkeys and other outlandish options were exercised to bring attention to a record?  Are we too focused on our place in the company hierarchy to make complete fools out of ourselves to get attention?  Are we over-thinking the image of our artists, and in the process losing sight of the main goal of promotion…to get the record played on radio?  Are we too cool to resort to smoke and mirrors when in the beginning, it’s all we have?

Why is it that the person in charge of the outdoors is called the Secretary of the Interior?

Why is it that we don’t have fun anymore? Is it just my imagination, or did the rebirth of superstar artists fade the moment we became more concerned about research printouts than the sound of music?  Is passion possible without fun?  No.  You get excited when you hear a great record…it’s fun.  Promotion and programming without excitement and fun are passionless…And in the end, meaningless.

Why is it that packages sent by ship are called cargo and those sent by land are called shipments?

Why is it that programmers and promotion executives bitch about R&R’s archaic methodology and leeching operations, yet continue to support the hypocrisy by paying service to the limited number of stations R&R allows (without any industry input) in its reporter base?  Quit complaining and wallow in the hypocrisy or change you way of doing business.  If you have any doubts as to my feelings about R&R, check any earlier Editorial.

Why is it that programmers don’t listen to music any more?  (See earlier paragraph about the lack of passion in our business.  The sword cuts across both industries.)

While I’m on the subject, why is it that promotion executives don’t listen to more music?  You can’t be successful in our business if you don’t know what’s going on in the music industry…not just inside the confines of your walls.  Arista president CliveDavis regularly listens to every record that hits the charts.  If you expect more of yourself, should you do less than Clive?

Why is it that if you say “shit” at a crap table, they throw you out of the casino?

Why is it that radio stations are still doing adds on Tuesday?  The day was arbitrarily picked in the 1960s because of two reasons:  (1)  Weekend sales reports were tabulated on Mondays and  (2)  stations made up “surveys” (including the chart, a picture of an air personality, etc.) that needed to be in the record stores on Friday.  It took three days to get the “surveys” printed and delivered.  Is anybody doing “surveys” anymore?  Do the local record stores care?  Every PD knows new records should be broken in at night and on the weekends.  It’s safer.  The only reason music is done on Tuesdays is to maintain an outdated status quo.  Who’s going to be the first to add records on Fridays?

Why is it that Hits isn’t responsible for any?  Why is it that we can’t see the forest for the trees?  (Are those last two questions the same?)

Why is that the head of Human Resources paid me a compliment by saying, “That color looks good on you,” yet had I said the same thing to her, it could have been harassment?

Why is it that beer is sold at gas stations, yet it’s illegal to drink and drive?

Why is it that programmers don’t listen to the competition?  Too often, programmers only pay attention to their own station while the people across the street are making changes that will impact the market.  Each day, you should listen to a different station.  You might learn something.

Why is it that we ask for requests, but never play anything that’s requested?

Why is it that birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

And as to the answer of the original question and its author.  We talked to your girlfriend, Kilgo.

It isn’t

Ass Backwards

Admittedly, I was a little late getting to the music movie of the year, but I saw “Ray” last night. If you, like me, have been putting it off…don’t.  It’s better than your average music movie and manages to tell the story pretty straight.


And the soundtrack is a bitch.


I was struck by a strange notion as I watched the life and times of Ray Charles. Here was a Black, blind man from the South who managed to make history with his music. Here was the story of a man who wouldn’t accept “no” for an answer…a man who played in the shadows for years before breaking out with his own sound.


The strange notion? Ray would have never made it today.


The record industry has become a corporate, tepid pool of middle managers who try harder to make no mistakes rather than to make history. With very few exceptions, the gene pool has shrunk the DNA to a level none would be proud to claim. The record business once encompassed the best and the brightest. Today, too many are survivors. Unfortunately, survival often means compromising.


The music industry is a perfect example.


With a few notable exceptions, is there a record executive today who would take a chance on a blind, Black man whose music couldn’t be identified by format?


Once a thriving place for the exception…exceptions now are the exception. The record business built itself on artist development. Funny, many labels are still existing on what they no longer practice. Repackaging aging artists to pay the bills seems to be the norm.


What will the next group of record executives do to survive?


And what would this commentary be without a little irony? Independent record labels are the only companies practicing artist development. Small labels are investing in the little things, including tour and personal appearance support, that build an audience for an artist for years to come. So, those that can least afford it are doing it.


Is that the irony? No. That would be much too simple for the record industry. The irony is that larger labels are gobbling up independent labels like an Atkins flipper at a bread factory. The independent labels are successful because they practice artist development and are being purchased by major labels that don’t practice artist development.


Ironic. And ignorant.


It’s nice that one thing hasn’t changed. It doesn’t have to make sense to make music.


For that, we can all be thankful.

Cacophonous Symphony



“I can’t hear you.”


That’s today’s operative phrase in the record and radio industry. A lot of people are talking…but nobody’s listening.


What a sad state of affairs, especially when you consider why most of us got into this business. We were great listeners.


Can you still remember when you first felt a desire to be a part of the music industry? What stimulated you? Was it reading about a great deal someone had pulled off? Was it hearing about an egomaniacal record company executive berating employees? Was it someone bragging about how an act was stolen from another label?




You were listening to music. It touched something deep within your soul and you wanted to be a part of it. You really didn’t know what “it” was…but you wanted to be there.


You were a great listener. Maybe you listened to the lyrics of a particular song and got hooked. Maybe it was the production. Maybe it was the whole package.


Those drawn into the music business might be ambiguous about the defining moment that shaped the course of their future, but rest assured it had something to do with “listening” to music.


It more exact with radio freaks. You remember growing up, listening to your favorite station. Maybe it was a particular jock…or one great break that made you decide you wanted to be a part of radio. You knew you could be just as cool as the guy on the air. You wanted to say hip things, be the life of the party and play your favorite songs.


That was the key. What cool job. You’re paid for “listening” to music.


So we get into the business because we’re great listeners. Those who succeed continue to listen. Remember when you first started, how you were a sponge? You couldn’t soak up enough knowledge. If someone wasn’t talking, you asked questions so you could “hear” the answers. You listened.


A funny thing happened on the way to the top. We stopped listening.


It’s easy in our business to stop doing the one thing that makes us successful. Too easy.


Record promotion people are paid to promote…paid to talk. The information available today about specific records is gargantuan. If it was chocolate, we would all be fat and pimpled. Promotion people have more useless information than ever before to bore even the most open-minded programmer.


So what do we do? We talk. And talk. And talk some more.


As easy as it is for promotion people to stop listening, it doesn’t compare to the opportunities afforded programmers. As deejays, we’re paid to talk. Hey, what a great gig! Does that mean the more I talk, the more I get paid? No, but many go on as if compensated by the word.


The difference between promotion people and programmers can’t be measured in tonnage. Both talk. But with promotion people, the subject changes with the record releases.


No so most programmers. The one topic many seem suck on is “I.” That’s sad.


I was privileged enough to spend a week the other night with a young music director who had all the answers. Not that he was answering any questions. Nobody could get a word in edgewise. Here is a person whose career is like a balloon. It can go up or down…depending on hot air.


Not only was this person not listening to anybody else…he wasn’t even listening to himself! Had he stopped and listened to his own words, he would have been embarrassed by his lack of knowledge, ashamed of his unabashed ego and afraid that he was losing his mind.


The babblings of a fool will make you question your sanity…especially when you’re the fool who’s babbling.


So what does the industry do with these two insensitive groups…promoters and PDs? We insist they work together.


How crazy are we?


Promotion people don’t listen. They’re too busy talking about their records. It is sweet irony that the people they’re paid to talk with aren’t listening either. Programmers don’t want to “listen” to what a promotion person is saying. A PD will barely listen to a record, much less the rhetoric about it.


Programmers want to talk about themselves. There is no “I” in programmer or promoter, but there is in “idiot,” which is what you are when you stop listening.


Who do you think you are? You have the audacity to believe your opinion is the only one that matters? Are you so stupid to believe that if you’re talking, it must mean something? Are you insane enough to think no one else might have a better idea than you?


If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you’re guilty. You’re also an idiot and an asshole.


Our industry has become a cacophonous symphony…filled with pontification for ego’s sake. Forget cocaine, heroin or crack, record and radio execs are hooked on extemporaneous bullshit…the drug of the 90s.


What’s really sad is the ones who are the most susceptible to diarrhea of the mouth won’t believe this Editorial is about them. They can probably talk a good 15 minutest on how it’s not about them. They’re too busy talking to stop and think.


You got where you are today by listening. The question is: Where do you want to be tomorrow?


If you listen, you might find out.

‘Twas The Week Before Christmas



Twas the week before Christmas and all through the nation,

Record companies shut down and stopped calling stations.

Stock options were hung on the chimney with care,

In hopes a bull market soon would be there.

I was excited, Gary was calm,

We just had come back from a bite at The Palm.

When out in the atrium there came a loud moan,

Gary said, “What in the hell’s going on?”

We dashed through the doors and what did we see,

But reindeer and Santa crashed into the tree.

We rescued the S-Man and brushed off his face,

“I can’t make it,” he said, “you must go in my place.”

“Line up the elves,” Gary yelled, getting mad.

“Come Dina,” I shouted, “Get Stephanie and Brad.”

Michelle will coordinate, Art, come along,

And Kris will be happy to say we’re all wrong.

Tiff claims a window seat so she can say,

“Bye-bye” when she throws Jeffy out of the sleigh.

EMT Greg-boy will keep us alive,

And we’ll all hear Kristen as she backseat drives.

“Don’t worry,” said Gary, “We’ll let her rip.”

We jumped in the sleigh and he cracked the whip.

“On Lazy, on Stupid…is that how it goes?”

“And Rudolph, you showboat, turn off your nose!”

“What’s in the bag?” Gary asked with a smile.

“Presents,” I answered, “for all those worthwhile.”

For Andrea and Danny, a Siamese Cat.

For Kilgo, a comparison with that of a gnat.

More money and power for cool Phill Costello.

And Father Palmese will be a rich fellow.

Curb’s crossing Country with our dear boy Ric,

A new watch for Blair…will that make him tic?

A lion for Boulos so he will be brave,

Chocolates for Lisa to help with her Crave.

A new staff and new hits for our man, Catania,

For Tipp and Reprise, another Platinum Enya.

One more big box set and a smash for Greg Thompson,

A partner for Darus so he won’t feel lonesome.

A new Island President so Joe has a boss,

More adds for Geslin, no matter the cost.

For Brenda, a baby, oops she’s got that already.

In ’98 Nancy will find her a steady.

Air conditioning for Ellis, the Mercury’s rising.

A way for Steve Leeds to stop the conniving.

For Michael, a virgin, and no, that’s not funny,

Look what’s for Stuey…the head of a bunny!

A turn that is worth it, for Ritchie-boy Bloom,

Get well to Becce, it can’t come too soon.

A computer that’s not Jive for our friend Jack Satter,

For Burt and the WORK Group, the rest of the platter.

For Karmen, our sister, an antique Whurlitzer,

And I’m going to get the coveted Pulitzer!

“That’s all well and good,” Gary laughed with much glee,

“But there’s one big question…what’s in it for me?”

I searched in the bag for any more riches,

But all I came up with was ashes and switches.

“You don’t have to worry,” through the wind Gary called,

“I don’t have a gift? Why I’ll just take them all.”

Gifts or no gifts, may I say on this date…

“Merry Christmas to all…and a great ’98!”

All She Wants To Do Is Dance


I don’t’ know what’s up with all of this Dance craze business.  Everywhere I go…every person I talk to seems to be hung up on the resurregence of Dance music.  It’s Dance this…Dance that…Dance…Dance…Dance.

Excuse me?  I certainly don’t get it.  There is absolutely, positively nothing in my life or vocabulary that can convince me that the Dance lifestyle…which includes music, clubs and clothing…is making a comeback.

I mean, just because WKTU in New York makes a tiny move, I’m supposed to do the Hustle? I think not.

Hey, I like The Night Life as much as anyone else.  And Heaven Knows, I’m constantly surrounded by people who have, on occasion, visited the Disco Saturday Night at the Viper Room, but me…I’m completely satisfied at the Y.M.C.A.

I’m the kind of person who isn’t effected by fads and changes in musical taste. Let’s face it: I broke all those records.  And even if Dance did make a huge comeback, I Will Survive.  I remember dancing the Last dance in 1985.  Of course, the Last Contest on KCBQ San Diego about December ’63 and it wasn’t really the last radio contest, so, Heaven Knows, if Disco didn’t really die, there is a precedent.

In our industry, there is not shortage of people who are quick to say, “Express Yourself.”  The fact that most of these same people live on or over the Borderline isn’t really important…expect to their immediate family.  Then there are those who say, “We Are Family,” referring to the entire industry.  However, we know this is bullshit, because it’s all about cash.  My girlfriend is in the record business and I can vouch for the fact that She Works Hard For Her Money.

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.  I’m the first person to swear I want to party ‘til it’s 1999.  All my friends will tell you that I love to Get Up And Boogie.  I swear I Love The Nightlife.  It’s just that all of this talk about Dance music and Disco is way too much, too soon.  Mama Used To Say that you must take things slowly and consider all sources before you make any decisions.  Of course, when Mama made her famous tuna casserole, she would say, “That’s The Way (Uh-huh, Uh-huh) I Like It.” Mama was a Dancing Queen.

It might comes as a surprise to many of you to know that I once ruled the Disco.  Yes, Columbia, Mississippi had never seen the likes of the moves I made on that slick, hardwood floor.  Long before John Travolta struck that famous pose, I was definitely in Vogue.  I’ll never forget the one moment that my world turned Upside Down.  It was the Night A DJ Saved My Life.

It was a normal evening at the Knights of Columbus Hall.  All the old vets were sitting in the parking lot, grumbling about the young people who were taking over their meeting spot.  The place was jumping…the music was pumping.  The Bad Girls were purring and my words were slurring. (Beep Beep.)

Someone said, “You Should Be Dancing,” and I was.  I was working on the great new step the Second Time Around, when I got Into The  Groove.  All My Passion began to flow.  I swear, in the depths of Mississippi, I suddenly felt like a Native New Yorker.  Suddenly, something Set It Off.  There was gun fire.  Then, there was One More Shot.

It was the one that would Ring My Bell.

My friends threw me in the back of a pickup truck to take me to the hospital.  Instead, they took me to Funky Town, where I was treated Like A Virgin.  In other words, I was touched for the very first time. Although I was a little afraid, I heard a voice shouting, “More More More.” I was Fascinated until I realized the voice was mine.

Throwing caution to the wind, I ignored my pain and decided to Get Up And Boogie.  I was Too Turned On to think about the Lucky Star that had invaded my galaxy.  I don’t know what it was, but I noticed someone shouted to Dim All The Lights.  Everybody…everybody began to Dance The Night Away.  It was Like A Prayer was answered.  Heaven Must Have Sent You From Above to Turn The Beat Around.  Billie Jean and Gloria put some Hot Stuff on my wound.  I said, “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” but they said, “Shame, Shame, Shame all you have is the Night Fever.  You better get rid of it because it’s twice as bed the Second Time Around.”

The next I knew, I was Dreamin’ Of Love.  Some Nasty Girl told me it was Ladies Night and she was going to Spank me.  We wound up at MacArthur Park.  She said, “It Takes Two.”  I didn’t want to disappoint her and let her know that it only took one, so, Knock On wood, I just Let The Music Play.  I had no idea she had Sexual Healing on her mind.

I was seconds away from being In The Bush.  I was ready to Get Into The Groove with Le Freak when I realized I was Born To Be Alive.  I felt The Power.  I was sweating like crazy.  It was, after all, Summertime, Summertime.  I heard my song On The Radio and demanded that my friends take me Right Back Where We Started From.

When I got back to the club, all I could thing of was Thank God It’s Friday.

So there you have the tale of my Bad Luck days as King of the Disco.  Hey, even if it was in a small town in Mississippi, I had happy feet and for one brief moment in time, all the girls wanted to dance with me.

There was even on big fat hillbilly that wanted to Let It Whip, but that’s another story all together.

It’s a Shame when I think back on it.  Those were the days.  It was the time of 100% Pure Love.  There was the constant Temptation to Let Me Take You Dancing.  Every night was Another Night, if you know what I mean.  There certainly weren’t any I.O.U.’s being written.  I always felt like a Macho Man.

My only regret was that I had to leave Maria, the love of my life.

But that was yesterday and yesterday’s gone.  I could go on Dreamin’ Of Love for the rest of this column, but it would be a waste of time.  Dance isn’t happening.  How could anyone think so.  Even my girlfriend would agree.  I tried to get her to help me with this column, but she was busy down at the Car Wash.

Alternative Ending


The radio was blaring, “The thrill is gone…gone away.”

She made a face. “What is that crap?”

Before I could tell her the tuner was scanning, she punched a button, twisted the volume knob and KROQ was pulsing like a bright neon light.

“Know who that is?” She asked

Fast ball.  Right down the middle.

“Nirvana,” I sneered.  “What is this, a test?”

Her eyebrows formed semi-circles as she shot me a look across the bridge of her nose.  “What does that group have to do with tonight?”

It was a test.  I hit the ball out of the park.

“The guitar player from Nirvana is in the Foo Fighters.”

She wasn’t impressed.

I brought her with me to make sure I was on the cutting edge of the Alternative scene.  As Network 40 is getting closer to the Commercial Alternative section we’ve been planning, I needed to involve myself deeper in the netherworld.  She would be my guide.  Not that I needed much guidance.  I reminded her that I had invented the format.

She still wasn’t impressed

“Put the car phone under the seat so no one will steal it,” she said.

First there was the diner at some Italian restaurant with Jeffrey, Chris and Brian from Capitol Records.  Lopes kept quoting from The Satanic Verses.  I couldn’t figure out why and didn’t try very hard.  I couldn’t talk with Jeffrey.  He was too busy hanging with his boy, Robert Woods.  Brian was talking with her.  He told her I invented the format.

She still wasn’t impressed

The trouble started at the Troubadour.  Supergrass was putting on a show and I was bogarting a warm, watery beer.

“Yo, chick, what’s up?”

I heard the voice behind me.  She rolled her eyes.

“Gerry,” she said, “this is Zandar.”

I turned around and immediately wished I hadn’t.

“Dude, it’s good to meet you,” Zandar shouted over the band.

I nodded.  There was no need to speak.

“What are you guys doing?”

She told him we were listening to the band, then heading to see the Foo Fighters.

He was impressed.

“Got any extra tickets?”

I pretended not to hear him.

“I don’t have any money, but I can give you some of this.”  He held out his palm.

I shook my head.  “Been there, done that.”

“Dude, It’ll make you see Jesus.”

I thought I was looking at him.  Except that in all the pictures I had seen, Jesus had never been depicted with fluorescent blue hair.

“I’ll take a pass on the pills, Zandar.”  I handed him a shot of tequila.  “But I’ll share a couple of these with you.”

“Far out, dude,” he shouted.  “What is it?”

“Just drink it.”  I knocked mine back.

She wasn’t impressed.

The hype on the Foo Fighters is big.  But not big enough.  The band was, in Zander’s words, “Awesome, dude.”  We stayed through the last chord, then headed for Before Dawn, a little known after-hours club just off the strip.  She asked for the phone to check her messages.  Zander was lying on the hood, trying to catch bugs in his mouth.

We were half-way through the first set of Secret (LA’s best unsigned band) when a truly Alternative urge hit me.

“I want a tattoo.”

She looked at me.  Impressed. Finally.

“I’ll show you where I got mine.”

“Great.” I took a step back and waited for her to show me.

She made that face again.  “No, I mean the parlor.  It’s right down the street.”

I took another shot of courage.  “Let’s go.”

She and I walked into the night.  Zander was right behind.

Inside the tattoo parlor, I was met by a half-naked man with no hair.  Lot’s of tattoos, though.  She was on a first-name basis with him.

“My friend wants a tattoo.”

He looked at Zandar in disgust.

She grabbed my arm.  “No, this one.”

He gave me the once over.  “What did you have in mind?”

I shrugged.  “Something small on my butt.”

I got the look he’d just given Zandar.  “On your butt?  Then it’ll be hidden.  Why don’t you let me put a giant eagle across your chest?”

“Why don’t you kiss my ass before you put a needle in it,” I snapped.

Zandar passed out in corner.

She pulled me over to a wall covered with pictures of tattoos before the guy could put a needle in my eye.  “Let’s pick one of these.”

I passed on different variations of “Mother.”

“How about a rose?” she suggested.


She pointed to a dagger.


“Well, what do you want?”

I was about to say I didn’t know, when I saw it.  I took her hand and placed her finger on it.

She looked up at me.  Really impressed.

“That’s perfect.” A smile.  “I’ll bet you invented that.”

She was catching on.

I dropped my jeans and Dr. Frankenstein went to work.  I felt no pain.  When it was done, we left.  The tattoo guy had Zandar spread out on a table, the flying eagle stitched across his chest.

In the car, she asked for the phone to check her service again.  I fumbled under the seat for a while with no luck.

“Maybe I put it under yours.”

She searched for a minute, then sat up.  “The phone is gone,” she sang softly, “gone away.”

I was impressed.

Later we compared tattoos.  Hers was in a place where she couldn’t see it without a mirror.  But I could.  Mine was in a place where I couldn’t see it without a mirror.  But she could.

You think you’ll ever see mine?

A lot of things are going to happen…but that ain’t one of them.

Cagle For Congress


In the past two weeks, I’ve had more political discussions that when I ran for Congress. For better or worse, those of us in the radio and record industries have been dragged kicking and screaming into the political arena. And judging from the majority of those involved in these discussions, most in our business are extremely limited in our knowledge of the real power that affects our everyday lives.

It’s time to go to school.

There is no required reading, except for these Editorials. The nature of our business is that most don’t (or don’t have time to) read. However, before you engage in a political dialogue and risk embarrassing yourself, you should prepare.

Tonight, rent three videos and watch them in this order: The Candidate, starring Robert Redford; Blaze, with Paul Newman; and Clear And Present Danger starring Harrison Ford.

You’ll glean an important overview from this group, but the real truth is summed up in one scene; When an official is asked what the administration wants, he answers, “This administration wants what every new administration wants…to get reelected.”

The most important fact you need to grasp is that politics is big business. The biggest. Forget Forbes 500. Politics is the real king. Always has been. Always will be. If you look at political posturing as merely posturing, you miss the big picture.

In the beginning, it’s about morals and beliefs. I believe very few get into politics to make money. Their reasons are varied, but most begin the trek with lofty intentions. Is there one who doesn’t start out wanting to right wrongs, correct injustices and make the ultimate difference in the lives of others? I think not. But somewhere along the way, it gets twisted.

Running for office changes a person. As a record person, you can almost relate. When a PD tells you he doesn’t like your record, it’s a blot, but it’s not personal. You’re promoting a product. As a candidate, you ask people to vote for you. When they say no, because they don’t like you, it’s personal. Very personal. And it hurts. Trust me. I speak from experience.

Magnify that by an opponent who is saying nasty things about you. You’re accused of being the worst in the world…a liar, a cheat, a totally worthless person.

Somewhere in the middle of the campaign, a candidate changes. It becomes less about loft ideals and more about winning the race. You can’t implement your grandiose plans unless you’re elected. It turns into ego and power. You’re better than your opponents. You want to beat the others. It’s eat or be eaten.

And if you’re elected, the twist becomes a full-scale, supersonic, Bell helicopter spin. As a PD, you think you have pressure from record promoters? Get real. A U.S. Senator gets wined, dined and pressured by the heads of the largest companies in the nation, by the richest men in the world, by presidents of foreign countries. Compare “please play this record because we really believe in this artist” with “if you don’t vote for this foreign aid package, a million people in my country will die of starvation.” Or, “If you play this record, we’ll send two of your winners to a concert,” with “Vote for this bill and my company will open a factory in your district and employ 10,000 people. On second thought, don’t try. There is no comparison.

Politics isn’t about business…it is the business. And the money spent on directing the business is obscene. The record industry spends a fortune on promotion. It’s not even a drop in the Congressional lobbying budget Money spent lobbying Congress makes the profits of the entire record industry look like a modest tip.

To run a successful political campaign, you have to have a message, an organization and cash. Not in that order. Your message means nothing unless the voters hear it and hear it enough to believe it. And hear it one more time to stimulate them to vote. How much money? As much as it takes. And sometimes that isn’t enough.

Do you wonder why politicians pay attention to special interest groups? They get out the vote. They help politicians get elected. They make contributions. Definitely not in that order.

Are you getting the picture?

With all due respect to our elected officials, nobody draws a crowd like a record star. Isn’t it time we got off our collective butts and let our voices and choices be heard? If the record and radio industries came together, we would have the most effective lobbying group in history.

Radio stations should have voter registration concerts. A person need only register to vote to attend. Every record sold should have a voter registration card attached. Every concert should have voter registration booths. Radio stations should promote and recording artists perform free at events where all money raised goes to a political action committee to lobby for our rights.

Can you imagine what would happen if we all united together to promote better government? A united effort on the part of the music world…those who write and perform it, and those who enjoy it, could make the fringe groups obsolete. In our democracy, majority rules, yet because of the political system, small minorities are capable of making an impact because they do something.

We’ve got a message, but that’s not enough. Our elected officials need to hear it. I suggest we start a political action committee to promote our beliefs. Let’s unite to support politicians who reflect our perspectives. Let’s vote. Let’s help them get elected. Let’s make contributions.

Since I’m the big-mouth who came up with this idea, I’ll get off my butt and make the first move. I’ll head the group. I’ll motivate the members. I’ll file the papers. I’ll even name it: the Totally United Political Action Committee.


Are you with me?

Tubing It


It is that time of year when everyone is fighting to be #1. The good news is that someone will be in the top spot. The bad news? Everyone else won’t be.

I’m not talking about the NBA playoffs where 12 multi-millionaires will try and hide their grief when they lose the playoffs and drive into the sunset in their custom cars. I’ll save any feelings of remorse for programmers when the down book hits their desks with an awful thud.

I programmed more than my share of great radio stations, and those of you familiar with my career know I was lucky to have more than my share of success, but I can say, without reservation, no other emotion can come close to the empty feeling of a down book.

Programming is weird science at best. Let’s face it…none of us really knows what we’re doing. It’s a complex crapshoot with the odds favoring the house. Although we all like to brag and pretend we know it all when the book goes up, the truth is, everyone breathes a sigh of relief when the numbers jump. With the possible exception of Steve Smith (who might actually know what he’s doing), can anyone say they haven’t experienced a down book?

Three Dog Night sang, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do,” and they were right. If you ever pull a “one” in the book, you will be the loneliest person in the station. It won’t last long because you’ll soon be out on the street, but for a brief, frozen moment in time, you’ll find depressing fascination in total isolation.

I speak from experience. I am the genius who tubed WAPP New York down to that magic number and managed to live to tell about it. (Actually, it was a 1.7, but when it starts with a “one,” it doesn’t really matter what comes after the decimal point.) I couldn’t find anyone who would look me in the eye. My secretary went home sick, the jocks came in just minutes before their airshifts, the sales staff holed up in the local bar and the general manager refused to take my calls. I phoned my girlfriend for solace. She left a message on the answering machine that she was moving out…she got a job at Z100 answering Scott Shannon’s request lines.

You’ll only get comfort (for a while) from record company promotion people. The good ones will call immediately to tell you not to believe Arbitron, that everyone they know listens to your station. They close by hitting you up for an add, hoping they’ll get one more shot before you get blown out.

So, what do you do when you tube it? Conventional wisdom tells you to straighten your back and find the silver lining in that otherwise dark cloud. As much as we curse Arbitron, we can be thankful for the tonnage of data the company provides. Look closely and find those demos that show promise. Bolster the air staff. They’re as scared as you and need you to be strong in the face of imminent danger. March into the general manager’s office and provide an instant game plan to turn the ratings around. Accept the responsibility and take it like a champion.

Of course, that’s all conversation. It’s the right thing to do…probably the most professional way to approach it…but it won’t matter.

As a veteran of many down books, I had the time and talent to develop a strategy to face the beast and breathe fire in its face. I call it, “The 10 Tenents of Tubing.”

#1:       Blame it on a bad drop. Arbitron is famous for seeking out the exact households that hate your station. For this book, they managed to find them all. They have a personal vendetta to make sure you fail. Blame it on them.

#2:       It’s all of those terrible sales promotions you had to run. If it weren’t for the clutter, you would have been in double-digits.

#3:       Your competition out-spent you 10-to-one. If you had the budget they had, you would have gone up. Absolutely.

#4:       Demand a trip to Beltsville to personally study the diaries. You’ve heard at least three other stations had diaries and those entries tainted the results of the entire sample. All you need is three days and you’ll have the whole book recalled. (If you’re lucky, by the time you return, the bad news will have blown over and you can slink back into your office and avoid the bullet to the brain.)

#5:       It was the consultant’s fault. (My personal favorite.) Say this with a great degree of animosity and self-confidence. Blame everything on the consultant, from the music to the promotions to the format. But make sure you do this quickly. Rest assured the consultant will do the same to you. Strike quickly before you’re hamstrung.

#6:       Tearfully blame it on your evil, twin personality. Explain that there are two people inside of you…the good one and the bad one. Unfortunately, the bad one took control at the start of the book, but promise it will never happen again.

#7:       Don’t mention the book. Do, however, bring up the young thing the manager has been seeing on the sly. Explain that you would never share your knowledge with the GM’s spouse.

#8:       Leave on an extended vacation, the thought being that if they can’t find you, they can’t fire you. If you take this action, clean your personal effects from your office. They might not find you, but they can find your replacement. Six of them are already sitting in the lobby.

#9:       Immediately enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic. It doesn’t matter whether you need to, but it buys you at least 30 days, the company has to pay the bills and they can’t fire you until the treatment is complete.

#10:     Quit. Be loud and be proud about it. Accept no blame or responsibility. Say the station is screwed up, the business sucks and you’re leaving to spend more time with your family. Then take the first job that is available.

If none of these work, you’re on your own. It is healthy, however, to remember we work in a business of intangibles. Much of our success depends on particulars out of our control. Don’t take too much credit when you’re doing well or you’ll get an equal amount of blame when it all goes to hell. Also, another book and another chance to succeed is only three months away.

It might be in your best interest to remember the old axiom: “There’s never a horse that couldn’t be rode and never a rider that couldn’t be throwed.” You aren’t a genius until you win the Nobel Prize.

Even with it, you’re going to be in trouble after a down book. Ask Jimmy Carter.

Charlie Minor


The industry lost perhaps its best friend this week with the passing of Charlie Minor.

Much has been made of the almost Shakespearian tragedy of Charlie’s death. It is human nature to want to know details and search for answers…to wonder if there was anything we could have done and ask the question, “Why?” It is much too easy to lose ourselves in the events surrounding Charlie’s death. What we should do…what we must do…is celebrate Charlie’s life.

And my God, what a life.

Charlie Minor left us with wonderful memories and a remarkable legacy. Whether or not Charlie’s legacy lives on is up to us. He did his part. If we can all take a little bit of his love of life, his compassion for his friends, his forgiveness of his enemies and his commitment to his beliefs, then Charlie will live on. We owe it to him…we owe it to ourselves.

To say this Editorial is difficult to write is a massive understatement. Feelings, even detached emotions, are most difficult to put on paper. It’s impossible to know where to start, what to say, when to end.

Charlie and I got into the business at about the same time. He was working records; I was working radio. We moved up together. When I programmed some of the biggest radio stations in the country, Charlie was always in contact. What made him different was that even when I was at smaller stations, Charlie was always in contact. And what made him special? When I was out of work, he was always in contact. He was always calling to see if there was anything I needed…anything he could do. Not just occasionally. Constantly.

We shared a common bond, both being “good old boys” from small towns in the South. But you really didn’t need a common bond to be a friend of Charlie’s. Charlie was the bond. I wasn’t “special” when it came to Charlie’s compassion. He felt compassion for everyone.

I have no idea how many people I met through Charlie. If you were his friend (and you had but to meet him to be his friend), he wanted you to know and enjoy all of his other friends. He was the glue that held it together…the catalyst for each event…the straw that stirred the drink.

And to Charlie, it never mattered who you were or what position you held or how important you were perceived by others…everyone was the same in Charlie’s eyes. Charlie would introduce you to Sylvester Stallone or a parking attendant with equal enthusiasm. Charlie loved everybody…and everybody loved Charlie.

It’s impossible to chronicle the life and times of Charlie Minor. He touched more people in our industry than any other non-performer in history, although to say Charlie wasn’t a performer is to misrepresent the obvious. Charlie was the quintessential performer…he just wasn’t a musician.

How many attended one of Charlie’s famous small dinners with just a few people? Even though there was always a crowd, Charlie made each of us feel we were the reason for the gathering.

Charlie loved to describe himself as just an ordinary country boy from the South, but if ever there was a person made in heaven for a particular job, you needed to look no further than promotion and Charlie Minor. Wasn’t he the best?

Charlie’s unique style of promoting records was a by-product of the real person inside. Charlie was the Muhammad Ali of the record business…the undisputed heavyweight champion. He never met a programmer he didn’t like and he never heard a record he wouldn’t promote. Platinum sellers or instant cut-outs, Charlie championed both with equal ardor. It was his job, but it was more than that. It was his life.

And in an age where record promotion more and more means, “What can you do for me if I add this record,” Charlie stood apart from the crowd. He built his considerable reputation on relationships. It was always, “Come on out to the beach house,” or “Give it to me because it’s my birthday,” rather than, “Buddy, let’s do a big promotion.”

And more often than not, Charlie got the add. It was nearly impossible to say no to Charlie, because in every way that really mattered, Charlie never said no.

Where others were quick to say, “If you’re in Los Angeles, call my office and we’ll set you up with Lakers tickets,” with Charlie, it was, “I’ll pick you up at the airport.” Because he wanted an add? No, it was because he liked you and wanted you to like him. Instead of spending his money on people, he spent something much more valuable. His time.

In a business where everyone is quick to criticize, Charlie never had a bad word to say about anyone. I have known Charlie over 20 years. I’ve been with him when people treated him despicably. He was never critical…never negative…never down. Goodtime Charlie never had the blues. Can the rest of us say the same?

And the personal side was no different. Those of us who knew him well enough to share the quiet moments when he talked about his hopes and dreams, his deep feelings for his family and his unlimited love and devotion for his daughter knew we had been touched by a special person.

Though he came from humble beginnings, Hollywood never had a better ambassador. If you wanted to see the sights, you called Charlie. If you wanted to dine at the best tables at the best restaurants, you called Charlie. If you wanted to get in the most private of clubs, you called Charlie. In Beverly Hills, where half the restaurants have unlisted phone numbers an there’s a six-month waiting list to be put on the three-month waiting list, there was always a table for Charlie. All you needed to say was, “I’m with Charlie,” and you were immediately waved inside.

I saw Charlie at a party last week. I saw Charlie at a party almost every week. This meeting was no more special than others. As always, he said something that made me smile. It was a typical Charlie Minor comment, similar to those many of you who are reading this have heard him make.

“Cagle, you and I show up, don’t we? It doesn’t matter what the occasion, we just show up. It’s what we’re good at.”

Charlie, no body showed up better than you.

Last Sunday, Charlie showed up in heaven. We all know there was a table waiting.

Tractor Pull


My daddy said, “Son, put your guitar down. We’ve got to build some fence, got to plow some ground.” I told my daddy, “Try and understand, this John Deere tractor don’t fit my plan.” And I hit the road, chasin’ down a dream and I need a little help. I’m trying to get to New Orleans.

New Orleans…it’s more than a place. It’s a feeling…with atmosphere so thick you can almost touch it…a total sensory experience.

New Orleans…Gay ’90s hackney coaches minded by sleepy, ancient handlers who guide the old mules almost as well as they tell tales that weave the real history of the Vieux Carre with the legends handed down through generations and sometimes made up on the fly to fit the mood of the clientele.

New Orleans…Jackson Square and the flagpole in the park that marks the meeting place of pirates who once visited this mystical place years ago and now where lovers circle hand-in-hand in a ritual mating dance in between the winos who stagger or sleep at will. The Cathedral of St. Louis, King of France, looms over the entrance as it did when Walt first visited and later modeled the Disneyland Castle after its architecture.

One can lean against the huge, bronze statue of Andrew Jackson and breathe the very lifeblood of the French Quarter…the damp smell of the river that wafts across your face with the ocean breeze that seems to blow constantly, except in the late summer, when nothing moves. With the breeze comes the exciting aroma of Cajun cuisine that boils daily…the sweet basil, thyme and oregano accentuated by the bit of the red, white and black pepper…and the ever-resent Tabasco Sauce that’s made on an island just around the corner. There’s the crisp, mouth-watering scent of the special donuts made at the Café Desmond and covered with enough powdered sugar to induce an instant diabetic coma to even the most healthy individual. Add a strong cup of chicory coffee and you’ll have a rush that can last for weeks.

The most powerful smell, of course, is of stale beer.

Past the café is the famous market in the French Quarter where you can purchase almost anything. It was started long ago by the French and Spanish, then continued by the Cajuns for generations. Now it is almost exclusively the territory of Indians and Arabs…the international traders. It is one of the few places, however, where you can still thump a melon before you buy. If you don’t know the benefit of that practice, never mind.

Sidetracked up in Illinois, I’m not that smart, I’m an innocent boy. She called me baby, she called me Honey, she called a cab and took away my money. On the road again, somewhere south of Moline and I need a little help, you see, I’m trying to get to New Orleans.

New Orleans…home of the French Quarter…possibly the most unique place in the world. A leisurely walk across the cobblestones and you’re immediately transported into another world…or perhaps all the world wrapped into one. The lilt of different dialects filters through the air as tourists and natives amble down the sidewalks. Artists of all kinds fill the streets. Those with brushes paint pictures of Elvis in front of a wrought-iron fence, houses surrounded by wrought-iron fences and just wrought-iron fences. All are hung for potential customers on the wrought-iron fences that line the streets.

There are mimes of all kinds, jugglers, clowns, magicians and bums with attitudes. These are, after all, French Quarter bums who demand a noble acknowledgement of their status.

Don’t know why I gotta go. If I don’t try I’ll never know about e’touffe and Cajun Queens. I need a little help, you see, I’m tryin’ to get to New Orleans.

And the sounds. Ah, the sounds of the French Quarter. The bleeting, billygoat grunts of the barkers enticing the tourists inside to see all kinds of abnormality set the natural rhythm of the music that spills out of nearly every doorway. In the French Quarter, Jazz rules…and Dixieland Jazz is King. The famous Absinthe House, where Louis Armstrong learned his trade is the central point, manned by great, mostly black masters nearly as old as Satchmo. The Duke of New Orleans coaxes magical sounds out of his sax outdoors in the Mediterranean Café, his tempo measured by the house-drawn carriages that clip-clop down the narrow street.

Past the Jazz is the thrill of excitement and danger. Venture too far down Bourbon Street and the beautiful, painted ladies aren’t ladies. Venture further into the darkness and, if you’re lucky, you can view a pagan, Voodoo ritual and watch a live chicken being sacrificed. If your luck turns, you’ll be the chicken.

It is on the far end of Bourbon Street, deep in the bowels of the Vieux Carre, where one can find the den of the famous Miss Rudolph…Queen of the Witch Doctors. Richard Prior paid homage to her on one of his early albums. As one who can testify from experience, you don’t want to go there. Miss Rudolph is a hefty woman of unknown age with the tattoo of an eye on one, huge breast. After you drink one of her potions, that eye will wink. She has a three-legged monkey that bothers everyone who enters…except Miss Rudolph. The fourth, withered monkey-foot dangles from her neck. Miss Rudolph will tell you she can grant you magical, sexual powers. Trust me. She can, but the downside is a bitch. I suffer from spells ever since she scratched me with that monkey-foot at age 16. Years later, I still see the blinking eye.

If you go to New Orleans, you need to remember a few, loose rules: Don’t kiss anyone you aren’t absolutely, positively sure about…remember, this is the place where the Queen of the Mardi Gras is a King. No matter what they say, six raw oysters are enough. Don’t throw Hurricane glasses into the fans at Pat O’Brians. Don’t attempt a morphine buy, no matter what the girl says. And steer clear of the Voodo dens and panel discussions. The ultimate sacrifice isn’t worth it.

I hocked my watch, bought a burger and fries, tried to pretend it was red beans and rice. Midnight in Memphis, hello to Graceland, next stop…Louisiana. I’m on the road chasin’ down a dream. And I need a little help, you see, I’m tryin’ to get to New Orleans.