Gary James' Interview With Disc Jockey
He's been called one of the most influential talents in American entertainment. He was a teen star of the original American Bandstand TV show. Not yet out of high school, he became the tour manager for Danny And The Juniors (of "At The Hop" fame). Next he became a promotions man for a number of record labels. He helped launch the careers of Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker. He's counted people like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Don Rickles, Dick Clark, Frankie Avalon and Connie Francis as his friends. He gained national fame hosting The Discophonic Scene in the 1960s and continues to enjoy a 50 year career as a DJ that still going strong today. He continues to host regular radio shows and popular dances at large venues and owns Memories Nightclub in Margate, New Jersey. We are talking about the one, the only, Jerry "The Geator With The Heater" Blavat. Jerry is the author of You Only Rock Once (Running Press), which is his autobiography. We spoke to Jerry about his book, and what a book it is!
Q - Jerry, you have included a lot of personal information on yourself in this book, almost too much.
A - Well, let me tell you why, Gary. You gotta understand something, when I was first born into this world, which was 73 years ago, it was a different world back then, okay? I've written this book for young people. It's not only about me in show business and all the wonderful people that have been a part of my life, Sammy Davis the mentor, or Frank Sinatra the friend, or Jocko Henderson the disc jockey who befriended me at the very beginning. I came from a broken family. I mean my father was a Jewish racketeer as you read. My mother had to go to work as a riveter during the Second World War because my father was never around. If he was around, he would get pinched. He was in the numbers business. He was in the racket business. I was raised by the nuns. When most kids were playing on the street during the summer time at 7 o'clock at night, I had to be in bed along with my sister because we had to be up at 6 o'clock in the morning to go to St. David's Monica Nursery. This was my life back then. I learned from the streets about life. I was very fortunate that music was always a part of my life. I was always fortunate that radio was a part of my life. I can remember, and I said it in the book, listening to radio serials, The Lone Ranger, Nick Carter. Then I discovered a wonderful series on radio called Straight Arrow, a Comanche rancher who lived in Texas and he would go into this cave and he would come out as a Comanche Indian and he road this horse called Fury. That peaked my imagination. Also as a kid, I'd love that freedom, listening to this. Because of that I used to get Shredded Wheat. The show was sponsored by Shredded Wheat, Nabisco. I would buy Nabisco because every time you bought Nabisco there would be an Indian card there talking about the Indian tribe and the way they lived and the freedom. I was just in awe of that freedom. So, I used to go to the candy store and buy comic books, not your regular comic books. I would buy the classic comic books because there were stories about The Last Of The Mohicans and Sequoia or Deer Slayer and I would read these comic books and it would tweak my imagination. Coming from a broken family, being a raised Catholic, Italian Jewish with the Italian side, there was always music in the house. I never forget me jitter bugging with my mom and jitter bugging with my aunt. Everybody danced back then. It was a whole different world. I discovered a show called Bandstand. It's not the Bandstand Dick Clark had. It was the Bandstand Bob Horn had founded before Dick Clark. I used to watch these kids dance. I said, "Hey man, I can dance just as good as these kids." You had to be 14 to get in there, but I snuck in through the back with some of the guys from South Philly. I was 13 and I entered into the dance contest and I won the dance contest. I started to dance on Bandstand. I went into another contest and I won that contest. So, Bob Horn, who was the host, said to me, "Listen, first of all, how old are you?" And I didn't lie to him. I said, "I'll be 14 in July." He said, "Well, you gotta be 14 now." I said, "I just love to dance." He said, "Listen, what I want to do is make you head of the Dance Committee because you dance so well. You cannot get into the dance contest any longer. I need you to rotate these kids on the dance floor, the ones you think are really outstanding." So, I became the head of the Dance Committee. I would leave Southeast Catholic at 2:15 PM. I had to be up at 46th and Market at 3 o'clock. My other duties were to pick the records that they were going to put on the show when they would do Rate The Record. So, Bob said to me, "Here is a record by Pat Boone called 'Ain't It A Shame'. We are going to put it on Rate The Record. Here's a record by Pat Boone called 'Tutti Fruitti'. Here's a record by The Crew Cuts called 'Sh-Boom'." I said, "Wait a second Bob. These are not the original records." He said, "What do you mean? The record distributors sent them to me and said these are the hits." I said, "No man. These are copies from Little Richard, The Chords, Fats Domino." So, I would give him the original R&B hits that were basically being played on Black radio, but they were not the national hits. They were the R&B hits. That's how my life began. Another part of my duties was, whenever there was a guest star, whether it was Tony Bennett or The Di Castro Sisters, I was the guy who would have to say to them, "When Bob says we have company, this is the spot where you stay and the camera will go on you. You'll do your record and Bob will then talk to you." So, I'm jitter bugging on the dance floor and all of a sudden there is a little guy, a little Black fella who was in town doing a show, Mr. Wonderful. And he's a guest. So, I get off the dance floor and I say to him, "Mr. Davis, when Bob says we have company, that's your spot." He said to me, "Man, where did you learn to dance like that?" I said, "Everybody in South Philadelphia dances like that. We try and impress the girls." He said, "Wow! You're like a little White me." Back then Gary, I said, "Well, I don't think so." (Laughs). It was Sammy Davis. We became lifelong friends. And when Bob lost the show, you'll read in the book when Dick came to me and said, "Bob Horn is no longer going to be the host. We want you to be the head of the committee as your duties were, it's going to be the same. The show is going to go national. Where you're getting paid $15, we'll pay you $30." I said, "No. We want Bob Horn back." Bob was like a second father to me. On weekends I would stay with him and his family in Levittown. So my loyalty was to Bob Horn. We knew Dick Clark was doing some commercials, but we didn't know him to be the new host. We went out and we picketed Bandstand. So imagine Gary, trying to do a dance show when no kids are coming in because we're all picketing. To make a long story short, they call the cops. (Laughs). I get pinched, the kids go in and that's the end of my career on Bandstand. But because of my relationship with the record distributors who knew my ear, I started to hang with the record distributors. I would go to the distributors and listen to music and the distributors would say, "What do you think of this record we just got from Vee Jay? What do you think of this record we just got from Atco? What you think of this record we just got in from Gee and Gone?" Then they would run with it. Even though I picketed Dick, because we wanted Bob Horn, Dick Clark and I became very, very dear friends. If you read the book, you'll note he did the introduction of the book, along with people like Don Rickles. I was Don Rickles' valet. Along with Smokey Robinson. Along with fats Domino. Along with little Richard. Along with Berry Gordy. Going back to the beginning, why I expose so much of my life, I wanted young people to know you learn from doing. I learned about life from living life. I will continue after what happened on Bandstand. After Bandstand, hanging with the record promotion guys, picking songs that I thought were going to be hits. There was a group called Danny And The Juniors...
Q - And you were the Road Manager for that group. How many guys were Road Managers when you were?
A - Well, I gotta tell you, I was younger than the kids were. I was at that time, 17. Danny Rapp was going to be 18, Dave White was going to be 18, Joe Turner was my age, Frank Mattei was my age. When you say Road Manager, let me give you the definition of what that is: we did the Alan Freed Show. So, a road manager is someone that takes care of the group to make sure that they are on time for the rehearsal, to make sure that they are ready for the show as far as being properly dressed and making sure everything is copacetic. Now that term came from the Big Band era and we did it also with Rock 'n' Roll. After the Alan freed Show, we would go on the road doing 22 one nighters, city to city to city. The Road Manager was the one that made sure the artist was awake on time, was at rehearsal on time, and the Road Manager was the one who collected the money for the artist. So, I became the Road Manager for Danny And The Juniors and I worked with all these wonderful people, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino. So we would get on the road, enter into a bus and go to 22 cities. That's the definition of a Road Manager. There's a great story about how I cemented my friendship with Dick Clark. You must understand, I picketed Dick Clark, okay? I was offered the the money if I would have been loyal to Dick Clark, but I stayed with Bob Horn, who lost the show. Many people didn't realize it, but back in the day, there was nothing wrong with disc jockeys owning publishing companies, owning pieces of record companies. This all ended when there was an investigation. They said disc jockeys have to diverse themselves from any holdings in the industry. Dick Clark had the publishing for "At The Hop". I knew he had the publishing for "At The Hop". We did the show at the Beechnut Little Theater act in 1958. That's the first time I had seen Dick Clark since I picketed him back in 1956. Now, he knew that I was the Road Manager of Danny And The Juniors and he knew that I was involved with the record industry, helping people picking out songs, hits. So, we did the show and the next night I stayed over. It's in the book. I stayed over in New York City at the Forest Hotel on 49th and Broadway. I'm going back to Philadelphia and as I am getting on the train at Pennsylvania station, who is getting on the train? Dick Clark. He sees me and I say to myself I'm going to get an earful right now. He says, "Jerry, sit down. I want to talk to you as we go back to Philadelphia." He proceeded to say to me, "You know, you were the best dancer. You could have made double what Bob was paying you. You tried to stop me from doing the show, but I gotta tell you something, I've got great respect for you for that, for the loyalty you had to Bob Horn. I know if I lose Bandstand today, all of these record guys, all of these promotion guys, all of these managers who are constantly coming to me, they won't be around. They will go with the next host. I never told you that. At a young age I appreciate your loyalty." When we got off that train Gary, I said, "Dick, from this day on we are friends." And throughout my entire career Dick is the one who said when I went on radio, "Do you remember Jerry Blavat? One of the best dancers from Bandstand. Well, he's now on the radio and I heard him play this song, 'Twist And Shout' by The Isley Brothers. I heard him play this song 'Sherry' by The Four Seasons." I would appear back on Bandstand whenever they had an anniversary show. Dick Clark. Whenever everybody was knocking me, because you've got to understand something, I never went to school to be a disc jockey. I never intended to be a disc jockey. From that early age I got that bug about show business. I wanted to be part of entertainment, with Danny And The Juniors and the same thing with Don Rickles. I became Don Rickles' valet. Sammy Davis, throughout his entire career, we became personal friends. So, it's been a marvelous ride for me. I got into radio quite by accident.
Q - One of your job duties for Danny And The Juniors was to go out and find girls for the band.
A - (Laughs).
Q - And Chuck Berry as well. Were there no "groupies" back then?
A - You gotta understand, there were "groupies" back then. It wasn't like the groupies of today. They would be throwing kisses and hugging and all that stuff, but you didn't go to bed at that time. When you say finding girls, if you read in the book, these were hookers. These were not kids.
Q - Chuck Berry didn't want a hooker. He wanted a fan.
A - In the book there's a story about Chuck. He said, "I would like some company. It's got a be a fan that really loves my music and I would like that person to stay with me while I'm in town." I said to myself, where am I going to get somebody? That's when we got a hooker.
Q - Years later Danny Rapp committed suicide in an Arizona Motel. Why?
A - Danny had a drinking problem early on at the very beginning. In the book you will read when I was the Road Manager, these guys would come home with money in their pocket. They made money that they could buy brand-new Impalas. But I was very strict with them. I gave them an allowance every week where you read in the book and they didn't like that. So, after the second tour and after we were doing a couple of one nighters, they beefed to Nat Segall who was there actual manager and who was my friend and that's in the book, "You bring home a lot of money for them, but they think you're too tough. Were going to put Danny Rapp's brother as the Road Manager." I said, "No problem." At that time I was doing promotion work, hanging around the record companies. What happened is, that lasted for maybe a year, because they wind up losing all the money. Danny's brother, (laughs) also had a drinking problem. And that was the end of that.
Q - On page 168, you write: "When The Beatles arrived they had an unmistakable gift for popular music. But when it came to Rock 'n' Roll, they were lightweights." You called The Beatles' music "Bubblegum".
A - Yeah.
Q - You said, "My kids are hip. They don't want The Beatles. They want the real deal. My kids didn't want Herman's Hermits or Freddie And The Dreamers or The Dave Clark Five. Their music was superficial." Jerry, lightweights? Bubblegum? Superficial? You want to talk about lightweights, Bubblegum, Superficial? Look at guys like Fabian and Frankie Avalon. They couldn't sing! The reason The British Invasion happened is because of guys like Fabian and Frankie Avalon.
A - No, no, no. Gary, you're wrong. Let me say this to you, first of all I never played Fabian and I never really played Frankie Avalon. I played the real deal. I'm talking about Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, The Temptations, Martha Reeves And The Vandellas. Talking about Black music was the roots of Rock 'n' Roll. When The Beatles and these groups came, it was Bubblegum back then. I didn't play it back then. As The Beatles progressed with their talent, they became what they are, legendary for what they did. Not in the early years. That was Bubblegum music to me. Let me tell you what happened to the popular groups in America at the time. When the English Invasion came, every radio station jumped on it, knocking out the ability for so many of the great American artists to get airplay. The only American artists that survived that British Invasion were The Four Seasons, The Beach Boys and the Motown groups. Think of that! The charts back then were dominated by every English group. So when I say the real deal, absolutely! At that time as far as my music was concerned, the English groups were very lightweight. Fabian? I never played Fabian. Nice guy. He also was Bubblegum to me. My music is really the Blues in Rock 'n' Roll. That was the beginning. You know the one guy who popularized that? Elvis Presley. Elvis took Black music and presented it to a White market and a White audience. "Hound Dog" as you know, Big Mama Thornton. Otis Blackwell, "All Shook Up". Jerry Lieber. Mike Stoller. These people gave the world the Rhythm 'n' Blues in Rock 'n' Roll.
Q - I wouldn't call The Beatles version of "Roll Over Beethoven" lightweight. In fact, it's better than Chuck Berry's version.
A - No. If I were able to do it for you, I would play Chuck's version and play their version. I busted a record called "Twist And Shout" by The Isley Brothers. Ronnie Isley said to me, and it's in the book, "If it wasn't for Jerry Blavat, The Beatles would never have had a hit with 'Twist And Shout'." It was a bubblegum sound. I mean Gary, listen to Chuck Berry and listen to The Beatles. Put 'em onto turntables. Ask your audience which is the real deal here.
Q - Once again, I prefer The Beatles version of "Twist And Shout" over The Isley Brothers.
A - Well, that's a matter of taste.
Q - I would never call The Beatles version of "Twist And Shout" lightweight or Bubblegum.
A - Well what would you call them, Gary?
Q - I would call The Beatles "Rock 'n' Roll".
A - "I Want To Hold Your Hand"? She Loves You, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's not bubblegum?
Q - No, it isn't.
A - What would you call it?
Q - I would call it what it is, Beatles music. They had their own sound.
A - You got that right, and it wasn't Rock 'n' Roll. It was the sound of The Beatles. American popular music was built on the R&B Rock 'n' Roll stars. Joe Turner. Who was better than Joe Turner? Who was better than Bo Diddley? Who was better, and I could go on and on with some of the great groups, Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers, The Clef-Tones, The Cardinals, The Clovers. You want to go on?
Q - Jerry, by 1964, American music had gotten boring. The country was looking for something different. And it wasn't only the music. It was the appearance of The Beatles as well.
A - What do you mean boring? That's your opinion.
Q - No. Many people share that same observation.
A - If you as a listener do not have the ability to hear new artists and you are hearing all the time The English Sound, isn't that more boring? To me The English Sound was all the same!
Q - Oh, no. You're wrong. The Beatles sounded different than The Rolling Stones, who sounded different than Herman's Hermits, who sounded different than The Dave Clark Five.
A - It's a matter of opinion. The Rolling stones, different story altogether. Rolling Stones, strictly R&B, Black Soul music. Beatles, bubblegum, light Pop bubblegum.
Q - That word Bubblegum didn't even exist in 1964.
A - I used it because that's what hit my head. Listen, I also made a bubblegum record called "Tasty".
Q - We differ on what The Beatles' sound was.
A - That's what America is all about.
Q - I will ask British musicians of the '60s why didn't American musicians pick up on the long hair and matching suits.
A - Wait a minute. What does long hair have to do with a God-given talent? That's a look. You gotta understand Gary, radio programmed nothing but The English Sound at one time, knocking the ability of artists to get airplay. I was a rebel jock because I was the only guy that was playing Dionne Warwick, The Chiffons, Gary U.S. Bonds, Jimmy Soul, The Isley Brothers. Radio wasn't playing that. I was playing The Four Seasons' record before it even came out. I was the guy, by the grace of God, 'cause I had an ear to direct Bob Crewe to Abner from B.J. Records because originally Moris Levy from Roulette was going to pick up the record. I was in Florida at the convention in 1962 when Bob Crewe said to me, "I want you to hear something." And I heard "Sherry". I said, "Bob, this is a hit." He said, "Well, I'm going to see Morris up in his suite. I'm going to play it. He's looking to pick it up." I said, "Tell Morris I think it's a hit." It's in the book. He comes back. He's at the bar maybe four hours later, getting drunk. I say "Hey, man. Congratulations!" He says "Congratulations my ..." Morris says it's the worst thing he's ever heard." Everybody was into The English Sound they were looking for. He (Morris) said "Tell The Geater he's lost his ear." I picked up the phone from the bar and I called up Abner, who is out of Chicago. B.J. Records, the first Black owned record company in America. I said, "Ab, I want you to hear something." I took Bob up to Abner's suite. Abner heard "Sherry". He said, "Geator, I think you're right. I think it's a hit. Tell me about the group." Bob Crewe said, "Well, it's Frankie Valli who sang with The Four Lovers. And Gaudio was with The Royal Teens, "Who Wears Short Shorts". Abner turns to me and says, "Geator, we're a Black label. We only have Black artists, Jerry Butler, The Impressions, Jimmy Reed. We don't get White play unless it crosses over." I had just busted a record for him called "Make It Easy On Yourself" by Jerry Butler. And because of the airplay we had in Philadelphia, WBIG went on it because in those days when I was playing something there were so many record stores that the kids would go to their local record stores and say, "Hey, The Geator played this song last night called 'Sherry'." So, the record stores would call up the distributors and the distributors would say, "Hold on. Let's call up the manufacturer." That's the way the record industry was. It was an exciting time for new artists. I said to Abner, "What does music have to do with race, color or creed? A kid hears it whether he's Black, blue or pink. If he likes it, he likes it." He said, "Well, I don't know if I'm going to get Black play." I said, "Give me the job." I went back to Philadelphia. I played the record. The record stores were getting calls. Dick Clark called me up and said, "Jere, you're playing a song by The Four Seasons." I said, "It's 'Sherry'." He went nationally with the song and the song busted wide open. Four Seasons, first White group ever to record on a Black label. See, that was the creative procss back then. You had to have talent to exist.
Q - Jerry, back to The English Invasion. The point I've been trying to make is, people were looking for something different.That's why it happened.
A - I agree. They were completely different than what it was. It was not my taste. The Beatles were so big, the owner of the radio station said to me, "How come you're not playing The Beatles?" I said, "Because of my audience. I go by, my audience wants me to continue doing R&B." I said, "I'll prove it to you." I went on the air with "She Loves You", yeah, yeah, yeah. I said, "Kids, you know The Beatles are the biggest thing in the world. I'm not playing them. I'm going to play a song by them which is big right now. If you want me to play The Beatles, let me know." I put the record on the turntable. The phones lit up, not only in the studio, but in the radio station. Kids saying. "No, Geator. Keep on playing Frankie Lymon. Keep on playing Fats Domino, Gary U.S. Bonds." And that's the way it was. The station owner said, "You proved a point. Your audience is not into the English Invasion." Consequently, they were so big it didn't matter. But my audience mattered to me. My audience today still matters to me. And that's why I wrote the book. The passion for me, the journey for me to do fredom-wise what I've done on radio. I wanted young people to know if you have a dream, if you have a passion, if you have a love, don't let anybody stop you. Go by that thing that God has given you, that heart, that beat that makes you completely different than anybody else.
Q - You saw Frank Sinatra at The 500 Club and you weren't impressed by him...
A - No. I didn't say I wasn't really impressed. The book says this: Don Rickles, when I was his valet, did a movie called Run Silent, Run Deep. Frank did a movie called High Hopes. Don's movie was being premiered in Atlantic City. Don said afterwards, "Look, I going to see Sinata." I had known Skinny D'Amato. My Dad and Skinny were friends. He said, "C'mon. I'm gonna introduce you to Frank Sinatra." Frank saw me and I was very cordial, "Hello Mr. Sinatra." When we walked away, Don said, ""Man, you weren't impressed? That's Frank Sinatra." I said, "Don, if it was Chuck Berry, if it was Jerry Lee Lewis or Fats Domino, that's my music." Frank's music was not our music at the time. He was doing Cole Porter, Rodgers And Hart, Gershwin. Great music. Great, great talent. There will never be another American singer that reached the heights Frank Sinatra reached. Even today in death, he's bigger musically on radio that when he was alive.
Q - Do you also understand how many Rock 'n' Roll singers Frank Sinatra inspired?
A - Absolutely.
Q - One that comes to mind, Jim Morrison. Did you know that?
A - Yes. Every artist of every genre that has talent admired Frank Sinatra and was influenced by Frank Sinatra. Look what's happening today with Rod Stewart doing the standards, Michael Buble doing the standards. Everyone is doing the standards man, because that's the American music. When music is good, it is good. Do you think that "She Loves You" yeah, yeah, yeah, do you think "I Want To Hold Your Hand" will ever be as big as "Out In The Cold Again" by Frankie Lymon or "I've Got You Under My Skin" by The Four Seasons?
Q - I believe those Beatles songs will be bigger than Frankie Valli or any of the songs you've mentioned. Sure.
A - You really do? That one song?
Q - From a historical perspective, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" will be remembered.
A - Is that one of your favorite songs?
Q - I actually prefer "I Saw Her Standing There" from "Meet The Beatles". But historically speaking, "I Want To Hold Your Hand" will be remembered.
A - Listen, that wasn't my sound. Some people like chocolate ice-cream and some people like vanilla ice-cream. Some people like a Cadillac and some people like a Ford. (Laughs) It's a matter of taste.
Q - The fact that The British Invasion happened tells you a lot of people were ready for it.
A - No. What it tells you is radio exposed English groups more than American groups. That's what it tells you. If you're listening to radio and all you're hearing is The English Sound, well, you're going to like The English Sound because you don't have an option of hearing anything else.
Q - Do you know it was a hard-sell to get airplay for these guys in the beginning?
A - No, it wasn't. And I was there. I was there. WBIG. Every Pop station in America went Beatles, Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits. They were not playing American music at that time. You gotta understand, radio at that time only had a playlist of maybe 50 records, okay? Some only had 30 records which they would play over and over. That was called format radio, okay? And that's all you heard at one time. Underground radio, FM, changed all that because it gave the disc jockey the freedome to play albums and what he wanted to play. That's what I still do today Gary. I play music from my heart, not a research chart. I want to share with my audience my musical heart and that's what I do.
Q - On your radio show today, you play what kind of music?
A - I play everything at this point.
Q - Even today's music?
A - Absolutely. If it's good, it's good. I will play Bobby Darin. I will play Frank Sinatra. I will play Fats Domino. I will play Gloria Lynn. I will play Donna Washington. I will play Tony Bennett. If Madonna has a song or Beyonce has a song, I will play it if it's what my heart says to introduce to an audience. You gotta understand something, the secret of what I do is personna radio. People listen not only for the music, but they listen for what I project, what I feel about the music. I just don't put a record on the turntable and read a newspaper. I listen to the music as the audience listens to the music and the audience relates to what I do. The great performers, and we'll go back with Frank (Sinatra), why was Frank so big? Because when Frank sang a song, you related to the feel that he projected on that recording. It was like he was singing to you, the things that were part of our lives.
Q - Right. That's what I said to David Clayton-Thomas. When you sing a song, I believe every word you're singing.
A - Absolutely. Now there's a prime example of a great talent from the world of R&B that's got soul.
Q - Radio used to play everybody's records! That doesn't exist anymore.
A - No question about that. I agree with you 100%. That's why people are amazed when they read the book, that I had the freedom to play music as I still have the freedom to play music today that nobody plays. I would never let anyone take away my freedom when I'm on the radio, okay? I have an obligation to my audience to give them the best I possibly can and when I'm entertaining onstage and dancing and I see those happy faces, the smiling faces, I know that I'm doing the proper thing.
Q - You had dinner with Johnny Carson and Elizabeth Taylor. Was there a speical room where you three ate?
A - No. Danny's Hideaway, when you walk downstairs, was a showbusiness restaurant like Sardi's was back in the day. Sardi's is still open. Broadway and people of that nature. There was a table. It was just a restaurant and nobody bothered you back in those days because everybone was there. When I lived in L.A., The Factory or Bumbles or The Candy Store or Scandanavia. It wasn't like as of today.
Q - You write on page 220: "The music had change and I didn't fit in with FM radio. The listeners had shifted towards Acid Rock" Acid Rock? That sounds like something Spiro Agnew would say.
A - (Laughs)
Q - I think you meant Hard Rock, didn't you?
A - You gotta understand, that's what radio was titling it.
Q - Would you have an artist in mind that would've fit into that catagory? Jimi Hendrix?
A - Yeah, Jimi certainly.
Q - Jefferson Airplane?
A - Absolutely. I mean listen, God bless them. They created a sound. I mean, Woodstock was a happening.
Q - You say: "My popularity comes from the fact that I was only a few years older than the kids who listened to me on the radio. I looked like them. I dressed like them and I related to them in a way that set me apart from the other disc jockeys. Whatever success I have, I owe to the people who appreciate the energy and the honesty in my performance." A couple of things you left out. One is the time when you were born, which you had no control over, and also where you lived. If you were born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, your career would've been much different.
A - Well, that's a wonderful question. But I was not born in Cheyenne.
Q - I know that.
A - Back in the day there was so many radio stations playing music. If you read in the book, I did not intend on becoming a disc jockey. I was in show business. So, if I was born in Wyoming and if there was a dance show in Wyoming, I would be on that dance show. God gives you something inside that body of yours and you're pretty hip and you appreciate it. Pursue it! Remember, I'm not just a disc jockey, I run shows. I own nightclubs. I work at big, big venues. I work the casinos. I dance. I produce. I manage. And I do radio shows. So, I never intended to be under one blanket, one handle: disc jockey. I'm an entertainer. I entertain the audience. I want to see them smile. There's not enough smiles in this world today.
Q - I agree. There's too much sadness.
A - That's why music makes you happy.
Q - It's the universal language.
A - And remember, every great country has its own music. The Italians have their music. The Spanish have their music. The French have their music. We have Rock 'n' Roll. That is the music of America. Why is there such a great Oldie Revival throughout the world with music by Chuck, Fats Domino, Gary U.S. Bonds, The Four Seasons? Why is The Jersey Bys the biggest play ever to hit Broadway, now going to be a movie?
Q - That's a mystery to me.
A - It shouldn't be a mystery. People re-discover. That's no mystery. The "Dawn" that they did. "Big Girls Don't Cry". "Girl Come Running". "Candy Girl". You can go on and on. "My Eyes Adored You". That's music. That is a good... You relate to that as you would relate to Frank Sinatra doing "Night And Day". That's music. It should not be amazing to you.
Q - What is so amazing about The Four Seasons' story?
A - What is so amazing? I just said it. This is the only American group that survived all these years from 1962. Look at the hits that they had and that's because they got the airplay. Why is Motown so big? I told you at the beginning of our talk here, the only American groups that got airplay on radio were The Four Seasons, every one of the Motown groups, because they first got Black airplay and crossed over. Then you had The Beach Boys.
Q - "Radio will never happen again. Top 40 thinking eventually brought down AM radio and now it's bringing down FM." Sirius radio might have put a dent in FM radio, but FM radio goes on.
A - Why did AM radio become passe and FM radio become the thing? Because FM radio was playing things that AM was not playing and the disc jockey had the ability to pick his own music and play it for his audience. When it becomes homogenized, AM became homogenized. Radio stations are no longer local radio stations. They're owned by big giants who push a button and tell their people what to play and what to program. That's what's wrong with radio today. That's why you are so important and that's why Talk Radio is so important, because the audience can relate to what you and I are talking about. You have the freedom to ask a question and I have the freedom to answer your question. When you listen to radio and it's the same old thing, something is going to come in new and take it over.