Monday, December 31, 2012

Back In The Saddle?

One of my New Year's resolutions is to find time to do this on a regular basis again.
See you soon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Workin' On It

When I was a kid, I grew up on a farm about 5 miles east of Ava, Mo.                          
 Just about every Saturday morning when the weather was nice, I’d climb on my Schwinn and ride 4.7 miles into town. Back then, I had the many chores to do that one normally did on a working farm in the late sixties. I would get compensation for my work, as my father was, if nothing else, a fair man. On those Saturday mornings after chores, I would take my mere pittance of an allowance and spend it at the Dairy Queen, the local pinball place, shoot a couple games of pool with the old men at the pool hall, grab a burger at Norman’s Rexall Drug (by the way, it’s still there and serving great burgers) and I would ride to Cummins Electric to check on the status of the latest record I had ordered earlier.
This was how I bought my music back then. I would hear something through the crackling airwaves on the far away AM radio stations I listened to at night that would catch my ear. I’d write down what it was (if they said) and then go to Cummins Electric every Saturday so Mrs. Cummins could order the song for me. I would grab the latest issue of Billboard magazine and devour it’s contents, trying to learn everything a farm boy could learn about the big city world of music. It would usually take about two weeks to get the song in that I ordered. Sometimes, by the time I got the song, I was already tired of it. It was quite a chore to get the music I wanted in that small of a town in 1968. Quite an investment, I guess you could say.
          
         Later, I moved to the Quad Cities and Saturdays during high school would be the day that I would enter the closest thing we had to an art gallery in the city and that would be The Curiosity Shoppe in downtown Davenport Iowa. I guess you could called it a “head shop” now but back then, it was a place where you could walk through aisles and aisles of records, 12 inch by 12 inch works of art. Album covers dedicated to catch your eye. In fact, there were many times I discovered some great music my buying an album for it’s cover. I made some great discoveries that way, Osibisa, Mandrell, Lee Ritenour and the list goes on. Most of the time, there was something cool and far out sounding being played in the store, whether it was Billy Cobham, Mahavishnu Orchestra or Steve Hillage and Gong. Some of it was junk, but with some of the other songs that were played, you could then take that piece of music home and impress your friends with what you found.
Back then, it was word of mouth between neighborhoods that made the stars of their day. The main way to spread the word about a new artist was to hear them on the radio or go buy their new album.
Albums. LPs. Virgin black vinyl.
            LPs stood for Long Playing. When I was much younger, we had a number of Jo Stafford songs on “78 rpm” records. The turntable spun so fast, you could only get one song on the disc. “45 rpm’s” had a little better fidelity, they were more compact, but, still, only one song per side per record. Then, they slowed the turntable down to 33 1/3 rpm to get more songs on a record. My generation benefited from that technology.
There is something about an album that requires many senses. At first, I look at it and see if it has the “eye appeal” that provides instant recognition on who it is or, something to be inspected in greater detail. First sense. Of course, I must feel the album while inspecting it, looking it over in greater detail. Second sense. Certain albums had a certain “smell” to them. It wasn’t the album per se, but, whatever it was, the paper, the vinyl, the card board, whatever, there were certain albums that had certain smells. I will never forget the smell of a new album freshly unsealed. My enjoyment of listening to Fragile by Yes was definitely enhanced by the album cover and the little booklet inside but also the smell. I still have the album 40 years later and it still smells the same. One whiff and I’m back in my bedroom under the headphones. Third sense. Sometimes, there were unexpected pleasures when you opened up the album cover for the first time. I know that when I took “Dark Side Of The Moon” home for the first time, while I was listening to the album, I explored all the cool stuff inside. Remember the poster and the pictures that accompanied Dark Side of the Moon? Just about everyone from my generation had those stickers and posters prominently displayed and their room…because they were cool.
So, let’s review. You make the investment in the music of finding it in the store, bring it home, pull it out of the bag, carefully unwrapping the cellophane that surrounded the album to keep the investment safe, you open the album up and inspect the inside, then gently pull the beautiful piece of virgin black vinyl out of it’s paper sheath, trying all the while to NOT touch the grooves or the vinyl in any way, shape or form. You then gently place the record on the turntable and oh so gently lift the needle onto the one solo groove that fills the vinyl. Then, of course, you hear the end result of your “sensual” investment. Fourth sense.  Usually while you are listening to your musical investment, you can read everything you needed to know about the band by glancing through the liner notes.
 Before you ask, I have never tasted an album. We can only go so far with this.
When CDs came along, the music sure sounded better but then the trade off was the artwork, the product was smaller and not conducive to letting groups put a lot of attention to the visual stimulation that accompanied this great sounding invention.
Sadly, today’s youth will never know that opportunity of making an “investment” into a piece of music . All they do is order a song on line or download a song from this website, or that website and wham it’s in their computer or Ipod.







Maybe that is why music doesn’t mean as much to kids as it did to us. There isn’t the investment of our day. I guess the only sense being stimulated today would be hearing (and with today’s music, I’m questioning that). They can’t feel it, see it or smell it…and that’s too bad.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jack Buck

Jack Buck and Harry Caray were institutions in St. Louis long before I ever dreamed of getting there. All those long hot summer nights as a kid on the farm listening to them on the crackling far away AM signal. This is what we did when the sun went down back on the farm in the summer. My sister and I would take turns holding on to the antenna just to be able to hear the game. Splendid youth.

I met Mr. Buck in 1987 at Busch Stadium during a playoff game.

We got on the same elevator at the ballpark. The door closed and I knew I had just a few seconds to let him know how I felt about him.
"Mr. Buck?"
"Yeah, kid?
"Sir, my name is Randy Raley and I do the afternoon show on KSHE 95 and I just wanted to let you know how much you influenced me to get into radio", I said, sounding like a nine year old kid.

The thing about Mr. Buck is when he talked, he almost growled.

"That's nice, kid, but don't blame me..!" he growled back and winked at me.
"Anyway, sir, I just wanted to say thank you for everything."
"What did you say your name was, where do you work?"
"Randy Raley, sir and I do the afternoon show on KSHE."
"KSHE, huh? Well, you must be doing a good job, cause my kids listen to that God awful, God damned shit all the time. Play some better music will ya?"
With that he stuck out his hand.
"Thank you, Mr. Buck", I said.
"My name's Jack."

He was out of the elevator and gone. I really don't think he had any idea he could thrill a 31 year old man almost to giddiness.

Thank you, Mr. Buck

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The World We Know

It's interesting to see the music landscape in media in March 2012.

I have two other friends, Dan Kelley and  Lee Arnold, guys who developed my respect throughout the years for the radio stations they programmed, who are into the online classic rock radio business.
The nice thing about this is we are all rooting for each other. I know the work involved putting together something like this and just for that, they have my respect.

My radio station (www.planetradio.us) is my train set, my Harley. I don't ride anymore. It's not me, mind you, but I've noticed a serious deterioration of driving skills by the general public over the last few years and it scares me. Too much yapping and texting at the wheel for me. This is my hobby. This my Harley. And my train set. I make no money from it, in fact, it's been a bit of an investment.

Planet radio is the station I used to have in my head when I was a teenager. I would lock myself in my room on the farm and "do radio" into my little tape recorder. I'd play Bobby Sherman and segue it with King Crimson, I'd play the Grass Roots and Steppenwolf like they did on the stations I listened to.

The seed for planet radio was germinated about 12 years ago when a company in St. Louis was going into the online music business. They were to hire a bunch of people to program different types of internet radio to send with local content all over the country. They had figured out how to localize the content and send it to that city. I was intrigued! I was going to program and voice the classic rock stream, sending it to Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle and a couple of other places. They had the backing and marketing ideas that made me think they were going to do this right.

There were about 12 of us when we all met at an office in Clayton, including Michael Holbrook, who was the IT guy at The Rock! when I was there. He was along to set the whole thing up. I was pretty excited about this project as you could imagine. We had offices in Clayton and everything was ready to go.

About two days before launch, it was over. Apparently, something didn't happen royalty wise or bandwidth wise or something but right before launch, it was over. I couldn't for the life of me figure out the steps to do something like that, so I put the thought aside.

I still thought there was something there.

I thought there was an audience for what progressive rock radio used to be. I grew up listening to "Beaker Street" on KAAY in Little Rock. It was a 50,00 watt radio station on AM that would blast all the way into Canada. After 10pm, they would play songs that would not normally be heard anywhere else, unless it was KSHE back in the day. One of the first things I would do when visiting cousins here would be to turn on KSHE. KSHE went deep into album cuts and they turned me on to such wonderful music. The first time I heard Bruce was on KSHE. In the Quad Cities, it was 99 + Stereo KFMH that would go deep into albums and blow my mind. THAT music wasn't  getting played anywhere (the consultants ALWAYS said "play the hits") until the advent of online radio.

While messing around on line one day, I found Dan Kelley's classic rock website, where he would write about all things classic rock. He wrote on radio, bands, and usually very interesting stuff. In one of these columns he talked about how he was getting ready to launch an online classic rock station. I was immediately very interested to observe from afar.

Here's Dan's station. This is the bar. http://www.okemosbrewing.com/

Dan's site was the inspiration for planet radio and he still sets the bar high. His station has been named by a number of magazines for "music site of the month". Dan's a computer guy. He can do all that stuff by himself, I'm not quite as technically savvy.

When I got the job at Lee in October of 2009, I thought it would be a good time to explore this fascination of mine with someone who knew a whole lot more about it than I did, enter Mike Batchelor. Mike's pretty spiffy with computers and I approached him with with my idea and what I would need. Mike and I sat down over a soda at the Dorsett Inn. With my template and his knowledge, away we went. "You start ripping songs and I'll get started on the technical end". I needed a stand alone computer, a website, a domain, scheduling software, licensing, server hosts, royalties etc. That was November, our launch time was set at January first 2010 (11:10/01/01/10).

Mike came over at ten a. m. on New Years Day and proceeded to set up all the ip address, shoutcast portals and whatnot to get ready for the switch to be thrown at that time.

The switch was thrown and.....nothing. Yikes.

Oh wait, here is the problem, and with that....20 seconds later, there it was!! THE very first song ever on planet radio. "Breakout" by Shooting Star. Through my computer speakers..off to the brave new world..the very first full song ever played was "Song For America" by Kansas.

Why planet radio? When I lived in Kansas City, there was station there named planet radio. I just thought the name was cool. My second choice was Radio Mojo. But, I thought planet radio summed it up because you CAN listen to us all over the planet.

The first playlist at planetradio was really, really wide. From Motown to Tool. I had to do some paring. Lulu into Black Sabbath, Mary Wells into Judas Priest didn't quite cut it. Painful for a rdaio guy's ears, ya know. Right now, the playlist is about as close to perfect as it's been. I'm still working on it. Always will be.

Recently, planet radio was featured in an article in St. Louis Magazine where the management staff at KSHE were asked why they played only a small portion of their playlist. Their responses were typical. The writer asked my thoughts on local classic rock radio and my response was..."tragic."

While planet radio's peak of 179 listeners earlier this week are just a drop in the bucket, they come from all over the world and listen for a long time. They are also former listeners of local rock radio.

So, if you've ever turned on planet radio, give my other friends stations a shot.

If you are unable to make the connect to "Dream On" anymore, we're for you. If you think "Free Bird" hasn't been played enough, probably not.
The nice thing about online radio now, is the development of smart phones, itunes, iphones and ipads.
Through a very good friend of mine and a charter member of the planetradio fan club, I have apps for those that allow you to listen to the station while on the road, or on your deck plugged in to to your ipod speakers.

My station is availabe on itunes radio. Click on the radio icon, go to classic rock and then planet radio.

Now into my third year, we're strong on facebook and I'm now adding some search engine optimization to get us more exposure.

But, when all is said and done, it's about the music. From John Denver to Black Sabbath, from Bread to Frank Zappa, it's all here 6,400 songs and 1,191 unique artists strong.

I hope you've had a chance to listen, if not, go here and see what I think is a great radio station www.planetradio.us

Lee's station is getting a reboot and he's added a ton of "new" music.
Here's Lee's station... http://www.worj.com/

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Little Bit Of Sympathy

There have been a few times I've been severely toungue tied or had a brain fart while interviewing someone. In 1978, at the ripe old age of 22, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ann and Nancy Wilson, who just blew me away with their beauty.

I was interviewing them for 97X in the Quad Cities in a trailer back stage where we were set up. Their manager opened the door for them and I swear I could hear the dramatic music swell in the background. They walked in, fresh faced and smelling so nice. Me? I was trying to keep my tongue in my mouth and not drool. They were both stunningly beautiful and they played me like a banjo.
While I was interviewing them I really tried to keep my composure but all I wanted to do was say ..."either one, I'm in. I'll peel your grapes and soothe you with palm fronds. I'll bathe your feet in oil every night. Either one, really, I'm in." But, i didn't.
They, however,were as nice about it as could be. If you were to just pull out my part of the interview , it would probably sound like ..."uh, well, hey, I'm uh well, Ann, hey, um, Nancy..uh, what do you, er, uh...um"...

This was early in my career. I remember being so nervous, I called them the "Heart" sisters. They laughed and said, "that's cute, we like that, the Heart sisters it is." Gah. Whenever I introduced them on the radio, it was Ann and Nancy, "the Heart sisters". I will always have a soft spot in my "heart" for those ladies.


When I first got to KY 102 in 1979, the studio was way inside a building that also housed a TV station and a full service country station. By full service, I mean they had a news team full staffed 24/7. Along with the TV station, that building was a bevy of activity pretty much all the time. The studio was literally a closet down a winding hall and behind two huge, thick doors. After you opened the first thick door, the next thick door was right behind the first one. After you opened that door, the studio looked liked a closet that had carpeting all over the walls and floors.

While some may have been claustrophobic in that studio, I found the coziness quite refreshing. Locked away in that room behind the big doors lent itself to a bit of a comforting feeling. I have always liked cozy.

In 1980, my buddies in Shooting Star went on tour with Robin Trower. Robin Trower! I have been a fan of Robin's since I first heard "Bridge of Sighs" on 8 track while working at J.I. Case in Bettendorf Iowa in 1974. "Bridge of Sighs" quickly became one of the releases that held my 8 track hostage. It literally would not let anyone else play anything else. Meeting Robin Trower was a huge deal for me.

They were on a bill at Memorial Hall in Kansas City and Robin was doing the dog and pony show talking to radio stations that really never played his music much. The way it worked was you had to follow format unless you got a star in the studio and then you could only play their "hits". Well, with Robin, the hits were things the station didn't play anyway, so I felt pretty sure playing something from the new album (Victims of the Fury)and a couple from Bridge of Sighs would do it.

I don't remember the record guy's name but I know that Robin was with a man named Derek Sutton, who, in his own right, was a big name in the music business. They walked in and I was just flummoxed. I shouldn't have been but this was Robin Trower. Robin sat down and I asked if I could get him anything but he was fine. I started the interview and I was pretty impressed on how I was keeping my composure. We talkied about Procul Harum, the massive popularity of Bridge of Sighs and then I played "Victims of The Fury".

Talk about nervous. I wanted to make some small talk while the song was playing so, I asked him something about something. Being as nervous as I was, without thinking, I reached over and lifted the needle off the song that was playing on the air and proceded to take the album off the turntable, slip it into the sleeve, then into the album and file it away. Robin started to laugh. I couldnt figure out what he was laughing about. For a couple of uncomfortable seconds, I realized there was nothing going over the airwaves. I looked at the VU meters and they were not moving. I then looked over at the turntables and there was nothing on either one of them.

Dead air. He knew it. What an idiot.

Busted.

I struggled to pull myself together, keyed the mic and said something about technical problems and we would be right back. It doesn't matter what happened after that, I was deflated and humiliated. Another lesson learned.

I saw him the next night at the Shooting Star/Robin Trower show, he was very nice and congenial. He greeted me with a nice handshake. The guys in Shooting Star said he was one of the nicest, most professional people they had pleasure to know.


Nice to know. He certainly was to me.

On Turning 50

A friend of mine informed me he's getting ready to turn 50. As someone who has now spent more than half a decade there, I thought I'd give him some advice...

Hey man,

damn straight
50 is the time when you start to figure the whole chess game out. The pieces of the puzzle slowly come together and the meaning of life becomes more in focus. I've (for the most part) enjoyed my 50s. I try to keep the body somewhat in shape and feel more comfortable in who I am. I think I'm in better shape and feel better than I did in my 30's. I tell my friends I'm fighting old age "kicking and screaming". I am certainly not as excitable as I used to be, it's hard to yank my chain because I've heard it all and experienced it all before. My skin is thicker.

My worries include what my drug use in my youth has left behind and the genes I carry. There are some burnt chromosomes that go back centuries.
And yes, there is something to be said for making it to the other side. A lot of our friends and contemporaries did NOT.

That's the bummer about my 50's. I've lost a lot of people I look up to. I've lost favorite musicians, teachers, mentors, friends, etc. One week last year, I lost three friends in the span of two weeks.
Another bummer is I don't get filled with a sense of awe anymore. THAT's the one thing I miss about being a kid. I used to be awed regularly. Not so much anyone. In fact the last time I remember being "awestruck" was about nine years ago.

The thing I've become more comfortable about is "acceptance". I know I can't control a lot of the stuff that happens in my life. I'm now trying to focus on accepting that.

I have begun a quest to right the wrongs I've done in life. I haven't always been the nicest person in the world. There are a few things I need to settle before I depart this Earth. Speaking of that, when the day comes I do, don't cry for me. Where would you put my quality of lifestyle on a measuring scale of one to ten? I think mine goes all the way to 11.

"It's louder, innit?"

I think we have more compassion as we hit the big 50 because our hearts have been scarred. I've become much more empathetic and sympathetic. I have more respect for the elderly because...they've made it too. Just making it to their age deserves my humility and respect. It's STILL a process and I am trying to be the best person I can be.

Embrace change, grasshopper.

Again, it's about acceptance. Run with it, your 50's will be the chance to rediscover your life and what makes YOU happy. Kids will be gone soon and after the empty nest syndrome passes (it takes about 6 weeks), you'll realize that this is the way it should be, the way it has been for generations and it's now dad and mom's turn to fly.

Fly high, dude.

not quite MY ratio, but funny nonetheless

Monday, March 05, 2012

Ronnie Montrose

I discovered Van Morrison through Tupelo Honey. I heard of him before, but really started paying attention with Wild Night. That was the very first song by him that made me stand up and go..."oh yeah."

The guitar player was Ronnie Montrose.

In fact, if you listen closely to that riff, it almost has an early "Free Ride" thing going on. Tupelo Honey made me go back and find Moondance and my love affair with Van was on.
The next year, this monster of a song comes on the radio with all this weird synthesizer stuff and man, it does NOT sound like any other song I've ever heard. Edgar Winter?
"Frankenstein" made me go out and buy that album, (you should have seen the look on my dad's face when he saw the cover.) Wow, the guitar player is Ronnie Montrose. Ronnie shined on the record, from "We Still Had A Real Good Time" To "Round and Round". Who can forget the wonderful riff of "Free Ride"? If there was ever a song made for spring, it's that one.

I was waiting for the next Edgar Winter album when a friend of mine come over to my house with an 8 track of Ronnie's new project  "Montrose". It seemed Ronnie was at it again, and this time he traded that lovely spring filled riff with an effing sledge hammer. "Montrose" remained in my 8 track player until, literally, the tape head wore through the tape and it disintegrated. I can remember having the "Montrose" tape in the 8 track and having a matchbook wedged in between the tape and the player just so it could play.

I have a Japanese import of "Open Fire" that I paid twenty bucks for "Magdelena" served as my show open for awhile in the early radio days and there are 9 Gamma songs on planetradio. To say I was a fan would be an under statement. I thought Gamma was a totally over looked band in the early 80s. Listen to "Voyager", "Dirty City" or "Fight To The Finish". You listen now and it doesn't sound dated. It still sound like fresh, hook laden, well played rock and roll.

I talked to Ronnie twice in my career. Once after a Gamma release in the studio. It is always nice to find out the person you've dug for so long is a decent guy and Ronnie was. He seemed appreciative.

The next (and last) time I chatted with him was right after a soundcheck at the Westport Playhouse in the late 80's when he opened for Robin Trower. It was odd, because at the time, I think Davey Pattison sang for both Montrose AND Trower that night.

The Westport Playhouse was a great place to play. It was wierd, however, because the stage rotated through the show. This creates a bit of a sticky wicket for the sound man who has to balance out the sound throughout the whole venue. He has to make some adjustments to the volume of the amps as not to have the whole thing sound like a freight train to the people on the opposite side of where the front of the stage is.
Right after a sound check, when Ronnie and I were finishing our interview, the sound man at the Playhouse said to Ronnie, "please, whatever you do, do NOT mess with the volume on your amp. I have it set perfectly, for a great sounding show. So, please don't turn it up or down."
"OK, no problem" Ronnie said.

Later, I got in front of a sold out show and after taking the cue from the band...I do my thing...
"Hey, I'm Randy from KSHE thanks for coming, how about a great, warm welcome for a St. Louis favorite...Ronnie Montrose!!!"

I look behind me as Ronnie walks over to his amps and turns them all the way up. I can hear the sound man over the screaming crowd...."NO! NO!".

Too late.

Freight train would be kind. You couldn't hear anything but the guitar. I could see the people putting their hands over their ears, it was painful.
I don't know about you, but I would have a real hard time telling Ronnie Montrose would to do or how to sound.
How blessed am I that this clown grew up to meet one of his guitar heroes. Twice. I am so glad I knew his story. I think guys like Ronnie appreciate it when they are interviewed by a fan. He seemed to anyway.

Here are a couple of faves...



Saturday, March 03, 2012

The First Cut Is The Deepest

This is a picture of the first person I ever had "sex" with.

Dianne Hicks was her name and I couldn't even tell you where she is or even if she is still alive.

Dianne was a waitress at Harvey's, the restaurant that consumed my life at that time. Around this time, my sister in law knew someone at The Academy of Radio and Television in Bettendorf, which was basically a school that taught you how to be on the radio. I couldn't go even part time because of the stupid restaurant. I needed the money and my folks were not the type to allow me to go to radio school while there was work to be done. After passing the audition over there and despite Chuck Hamilton (the head of the school) taking a personal interest in me, I couldn't go. I had to work in most of my spare time.

Dianne showed up at the restaurant one day as the new waitress. She was very lovely, long fiery red hair, pulled back and a bit of a lisp that I thought was very cute. Dianne was 19, I was maybe 17.
Dianne was also six months pregnant from a gentleman who heard the news and left. She was always very sweet to me which only heightened my curiosity about her. Apparently, the father came home from Vietnam, they went out for a bit, he got her pregnant, left her a goodbye note and that was it, she never saw him again. I was immediately very empathetic and started to find her fascinating.

The restaurant was open 24/7, so we worked together a lot, and sometimes when the clientele had a bit too much to drink, I would have to step in and "save" her. I was her "hero". In that environment, she knew she could count on me to do my work and we'd rock as a team. We worked in very close quarters so we were right up on each other most of the time in somewhat stressful situations.

As the day of her delivery came, I began to realize she really didn't have much of a family. Her dad was dead and her mom lived far away, she was on her own and had to keep working. Her life wasn't easy. I guess I became the "surrogate" father, little brother, best friend and confidant between taking orders, clearing tables and running the restaurant.

My mom was our boss and she could tell Dianne and I were getting pretty close. She warned me about older women at my age. "In ten years, the age difference won't matter, but she knows so much more of the world than you do, be careful  about being in over your head" she said. "She could really break your heart."

Dianne went into labor on a Saturday morning about 10:30. It was not a"regular" labor. She was struck with massive pains that brought hew to her knees, the water broke all over the restaurant and there was no one there to take her to the hospital but me. We weren't really busy, so I called mom at home, told her Dianne and I were off to the hospital and she needed to get to the restaurant.

The ride to the hospital was not an easy one. Dianne was screaming at the top of her lungs and was in great pain. We got to the hospital emergency room, they wheeled her in, I parked the car and waited. No, I'm not the husband, brother or any relation, thanks. No, I'm not her boyfriend either.
Who am I? Good question.I'm her best friend, I said.

I'm no doctor, but apparently, the baby moved into a "breech" position, where the ass comes out first. I can't even imagine what this does to a woman, but the picture in my mind isn't good. Dianne was fine, she had a baby boy who was "healthy", I think he was about a nine pound baby.

I visited her when I could between school and work, it seemed she was in the hospital quite some time but healed pretty quickly. She was back at work in a month, not quite up to speed, but I helped her as much as I could. One Friday night, she wanted to go get a drink. She knew a bar where we could get served since I was barely seventeen.We went by, had a couple of drinks and wanted to know if I wanted to go to her house.

I about swallowed my tongue.

"S--s-ure." I stammered. Oh boy, this was it. There were a few instances at the restaurant where she would throw a glance my way or rub up against me, but I always dismissed them.

Not this time. Man, here it was! The boy was about to become a man. Yippie-kayo!

I was ready. I read about this moment in Playboy and as we were driving to her house, I ran everything I read through my mind to make sure I got the whole thing right.

OK. Done. Ready.

Dianne had a bit too much too drink and it was a rough night at the restaurant, but I didn't care. We got inside her house, she paid the babysitter and finally, we were alone. She leaned over and kissed me with those big red ruby lips and told me "I've wanted to do this since I met you".

Oh crap.

I thought I was going to burst through my skin. Uh oh, not so fast, wait a minute, what did Playboy tell me to do? Think about something else entirely. Right.
What was Bob Gibson's ERA? Guitar solo. What was the square root of 67? Who wrote "For Whom the Bell Tolls?" Drum solo. OK. Whew!

Dianne started taking off MY clothes. Shit. Guitar solo.

Then hers. Double shit. Beethoven's fifth symphony.

Not now. Please not now! This was such an unknown territory to me I might as well be Magellan sailing the ocean blue, I needed a sextant AND a compass.

OK, what actually counts as foreplay?

WHAT DO I DO NOW?

The next thing I know, we're in the missionary position and I am trying to figure this out. I think I'm in. Wait, I know I'm in. I don't feel anything. Is this the way this is supposed to be? I am NOT impressed.

As I try and figure out this sex thing from the top, I look down and Dianne is completely passed out and gone. I didn't feel anything and apparently, she didn't either. Now I don't know what to do and I'm devastated that this "sex" thing was a sham. All this holding back for what?

I was physically ready to go but according to Dianne, she hadn't completely healed from the breech birth surgery, so she was not. As delicately as I can put it, there was no friction and it was just well...nothing.

For me or her.

First attempt at sex:major fail. Having someone fall asleep on you during the act could have done some real deep psychological damage but at that point, it didn't matter, I didn't feel a thing. I thought that's what "sex" was, and man, was I disappointed. How cruel for this young man to be led on to thing it was this wonderful life changing event.  I didn't feel a thing.

All this teenage angst, still unreleased.

After that, Dianne called in sick one day at work and I never saw her again. I guess she found someone and took off. She never said "boo", just left and that was it. I never even heard from her, ever.

Mom was right.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bad Interview number one

ian anderson "a" tour 1980
I have had a number of bad interviews.

For one reason or another, it goes awry and it's hard to control the agenda of the conversation. As an interviewer, that's what you are trying to do, to guide the conversation along the way you wanted it to go. One of these times was during the hot summer of 1980, when Jethro Tull played at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.

I was doing my show from Municipal as we did back then to let the audience "backstage" with all the inside scoop we could muster. Jethro Tull were touring behind the release of "A", a forgettable project which was long removed from "Aqualung".

Ticket sales were show, which means that Ian had to do the dog and pony show and actually converse with this mid western radio station in this "God forsaken cow town" which is what he called it off air. The first thing you realize about Ian is his voice. It is incredibly low and with his English accent, he was quite imposing. The next thing you realize is his dress, not quite equipped for 100 + degree heat and humidity.

"Oppressive" was his keyword. "How the hell do you people get anything done here?"

The interview started well, but then he began to sweat and I'm not sure, as an English chap, he was accustomed to sweating. We were literally backstage, in front of the back stage door, and it was hot. I asked him about the magic of Aqualung and at that point, I knew I had lost that part of the interview. "Magic? Not hardly how I would put it. Angry? Yes. It may be the angriest of any angry records. There was more magic in Thick As A Brick than Aqualung." I also mentioned something to him about his set list and what we should expect that night. "I don't know, why don't you but a ticket and see." OK.
We got back on track and I was feeling pretty good about snatching the momentum away from Mr. Anderson.  As we were wrapping up, I asked him if there was anything he's like to say to his fans in Kansas City.

"There certainly is.." he started."When we get to a particular piece that's played softly because we've recorded that way and it set a dynamic tone...SHUT THE HELL UP!" "Why is it imperative for you Americans to scream and yell during the most melodic and quite pieces we play. We recorded it in a certain way and we did so for a reason...WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE, JUST SHUT THE HELL UP!"

OK.

"Oh, and there is one more thing about you midwestern Americans that just drives me crazy...what the hell is this obsession with BLUE JEANS? Blue jeans? Really? You mid westerners are just cowboy wannabes."
"What would you suggest we wear?" I asked.
"I'm not sure, but I can tell you I'm I corduroy fan myself..."

And, with that, he exited stage left.
I was very happy to have a chance to chat with a guy who affected my life in East Moline Illinois with a recording made in England.

That part of it was cool. Him looking down his English nose at Kansas City, those are fighting words, mister, you're asking my listeners to spend hard earned dough on your show, but then you trash the very lifestyle of those listeners.


backstage pass
I don't think they sold very well that night. I've seen Tull about four times, this was not one of their best. I think there were too many people screaming during the quiet parts for his taste.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Prologue


I think THIS dude should play me in the original HBO series.
 I've been asked, (no, told) to write it all down. I'm not getting any younger and the memory synapses don't synapse much anymore.

I've led an interesting life.

One filled with incredible sadness and incredible joy. I've loved, been loved and have seen a career sky rocket and fall back down to earth. It's been a royal and fun journey and while I can still remember some of it, I thought now was the time to seriously get going on "the book".
I've met Presidents, rock royalty and reached out to hopefully thousands of listeners along the way, some who have made an indelible mark on my life.

If this sounds a little narcissistic, that's OK. It is.

But, who better to talk about a farm kid, growing up in the middle of nowhere with an alcoholic mother and a very removed father who found his calling through the radio and made his name, fame and fortune telling stories that wove through the fabric of the music? No one I know of. The stories forth coming are they way I remember them. Whether that's the way it came down or not may be interpreted through debate but not here.

I have dated beautiful women and have had some interesting tales about what it was like to be the number one jock on the number one radio station in three different cities spanning the 30 golden years of rock radio.

I will practice here, in front of people who are acquaintances, people who know me, people who were there and the people I'm writing about. This is a writing exercise that will be mostly the way it happened.

There might be a few instances where the truth has been stretched a bit to tell a good story. It is up to you, dear reader, to figure out where those parts are.

So, with great homage to WKRP in Cincinnati (who could only go so far on network TV) and hopefully working toward a Showtime or Cinemax series (sex, drugs and rock and roll baby), we'll put the book up for trial here, then see what the reaction is.

Again, 90% of this story is true.

My kids have been warned.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Crazy Train

1979
In a galaxy long ago and far away, I used to be someone.
In another lifetime ago, I was the guy you listened to on the radio as you went to or from work.
Or, if you were in high school or college, I was the bright good evening face that was heard but rarely seen while you were doing your homework. I was with you washing your car, playing frisbee in the park or sometimes yes, even while you were having sex(that thought always turned me on for some reason). Sometimes, we woke up together, sometimes we got really stoned together and I played a song that made you go..."oh,wow".
kfmh muscatine just turned new years day 1978
If you liked (classic) rock, I was the guy who played the new Zeppelin, or AC/DC or the new Stones record on the local powerhouse rock radio station. Whether it was Muscatine, the Quad Cities, Kansas City, Denver or St. Louis, I somehow talked my way on to great legendary rock stations that had a built in great loyal fan base.  All I had to do on my gig was to not fuck it up. This was a time when radio mattered and 40 shares were not uncommon.

1979-1985
I have always defined luck as the crossroads of talent and opportunity. In my case, luck was just dumb luck. It was lucky that a tape of mine landed on Max Floyd's desk right when he was looking to fill a night time opening at KY 102 in Kansas City. Jumping from market 100 (Quad Cities) to market 25 (Kansas City) was not something that a lot of people did. At the time, a person would have to stop in market 44 Nashville or Indy first.

Luck. Just dumb blind luck.

Anyway, as I said, I was king of the world at 23. I tried to never take what I had for granted, I always accepted the opportunity to go out and meet the people. Many years ago, a wise program director told me, "Randy, in radio, you are ALWAYS running for election. Every chance you get, shake hands, kiss babies, one man cuming goes a long way in establishing a relationship with your listeners. If they've met you and like you, they'll tell their friends, who'll tell their friends and so on..."

Sage advice.

Anyway, back to my point and my point being I used to be somebody on the radio that mattered.
I got to interview a number of people, some I liked (Bob Seger, Robin Trower), some I loathed (George Thorogood, John Entwhistle) and some I loved and couldn't wait to see again. When we would have someone on that mattered to the people, I made sure they knew in advance who, what and when. There were interviews I've done that the subject and I hit it off we became acquaintances (Alice Cooper, Steve Perry, Yoko) and one where there was a fist fight in the studio (John McEnroe).

My favorite guy to interview by far was Ozzy.


Ozzy got it. He understood the role radio played in his career and he was very appreciative. The first time I talked to Ozzy was 1981 on the heels of the just released "Blizzard of Oz". It hadn't quite taken off yet but the buzz was building. This "Crazy Train" song was getting a lot of requests and he was just right on the cusp of this thing taking off and being huge. We announced he was coming on that night at KY. "Hey, if you have any questions you'd like me to ask Ozzy, he'll be here about 6:40 or so, give me a call at 5767-102..."
The station was situated in the same building as 61 country and WDAF TV at the time. The back doors were hardly ever locked at night because people came and went throughout the night. Some high school kids got wind to just walk in the back door, met no resistance and informed their friends that Ozzy was coming and filled the halls upstairs.
Not good.
Ozzy shows up in what looked like a feather boa, spandex tights and a tutu. He hangs and parties with them in the hall, takes pictures, signs stuff and proceeded to do a killer interview, talking about how confident he was on this and thought he had the best band in rock history behind him.
I interviewed him again in 1984 and then again at the KSHE studios on April 2nd 1986.

How do I know the date?...let me explain.

The previous day was April Fools day. In my radio career, I've had a few indiscretions on the radio in which, later on, having given it more thought, I probably wouldn't have done.
This was one of those days.
max weinberg 4/1/86
Earlier on that April Fools day, Max Weinberg had stopped by the studio. He was out promoting his new book and he was great, the show had some great momentum and I somehow wanted to keep that momentum going.
Realizing what day it was, I asked Abigail, our promotions gal at the time to assist me with a big April fools joke. At this time, we were in a pissing match with the Libyans. We shot down one of their planes or something so I played off that. We set up the ruse that played out like this...

Abigail, while I was on the air, walked into the studio and said "this just came across the wire..."
So I stopped what I was doing, ruffled some papers and said..."this just in, Libyans jets, based in Cuba have just now bombed the entire southern coastline of Florida and are working their way up the eastern coast as we speak, more details as we get them..."

The phones went nuts and I didn't answer them. Every line rang, even the office lines (it was after six).

EVERY line rang. How cool.

One more time for good measure, I said that the jets were heading this way and were coming after KSHE for being the best rock station on Earth, April Fools and good night.

My phone rang at 7 the next morning.
It was Rick Balis, the program director.
He doesn't usually call me at that time. He doesn't usually call me at all.
"You have 20 minutes to get into my office and tell me what happened yesterday afternoon. If you're not here in 20 minutes, you're fired." Shit, he knew it took me 25 minutes to get there.
He didn't think it was funny.
At all.
"I should fire you right here." He started smoking up a storm and that wasn't a good sign. When he finishes a smoke in about three minutes, he's not happy.
At all.
I was pretty humbled and showed great remorse.
Damn, I just got here ten months ago, I was starting to get comfortable and now....way to go Randy.
He cooled down and ordered me to answer every call that came in about the incident (and there were a LOT of pissed off people that day including members of my own staff), then go on the air and apologize every time I opened the microphone. Every time.

Enter Mr. Osbourne.
Ozzy arrived that day in fine form. He was pretty lucid and fun. He actually remembered the incident in the hallways of the old KY building. "Is that the time the fucking cops came and fucking wanted me autograph?"
Yes it was.
Yes, our own TV station called the cops on their sister radio station.
So, after every time Ozzy and I chat on the air, I say something like "..I was a real ass yesterday and didn't mean to scare anyone, it was a bad April Fools joke...blah blah blah..."
So after a couple of these, off mike Ozzy leans over and says
"So what the fuck didja do, man?"
I told him and he laughed hysterically. "That's fucking rich and you got in trouble for THAT? Fucking pussies HAHAHAHA"

and before the wise cracks of "porn stache" start, this is how we dressed back then. mullet included. 4/2/86
The fun part with Ozzy was trying to get him to read liners promoting the station. With most acts, you'll give them a script and they'd roll through it..."Hi, this is Jeff Carlisi of 38 special and you're listening to real rock radio KSHE 95 in St. Louis" and they'd be done.
Not Ozzy.
Twenty minutes later and he's still going at it "K..H...S...E. rockin real radio"
"No, Ozzy, it's KSHE Real rock radio..."
"Oh, OK.. Hi this is Ozzy Osbourne and I'm listening to HSKE ...really rocks"

No Ozzy. uh..Sharon?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stagefright


I spent the latter part of my adolescence in the Quad Cities, and after having been really removed from the music scene in Ava, MO it was nice to live in a place where performers came to once in a while. While the Quads were not Chicago or St. Louis when it came to destinaton cities, there were acts who came through regularly. I saw REO at the Racetrack with Queen opening for $1.50, stuff like that. My first concert was in 1972, when Rare Earth, Sugarloaf along with Flo and Eddie appeared at the Rock Island Armory. I took my at the time girlfriend and we sat way the hell up and way the hell away from the stage. It seemed the sound bounced all over the place and then finally nestled into my feedback laden ears. After that, it was Rare Earth again I think with a very young, very young skinny three piece band named Rush opening. I remember because they had a sonng called "Working Man" that was deafening. I then started to attend shows on a regular basis, and each show was usually opened by a goon who would come out, introduce himself and then read a list upcoming shows. He would normally end his spiel with something like...."you guys fucking ROCK!"
My friend Jay "Stoneman" Stone being THAT guy.
The crowd would go wild for a nano second and he would exit stage left.
I always wanted to be THAT guy.










You don't have to ask me why I remember the very first time I did this. It was at "the Ranch" in Port Byron Illinois in 1977. Doucette ("Mama Let Him Play") was the headliner.
This was also the very first time I ever did cocaine, maybe that's why I remember it so much.
Doucette was Jerry Doucette, a very talented guitarist who had a minor hit in the midwest with a song "Mama Let Him Play"...featured here..



I was working at 99+ in Muscatine (this show was about 60 miles from there but we were they only station within 75 miles playing the song), plus my Mom and Dad lived right down the road, so I could crash and then get up the next day. Since this is my first time doing this, I get the premise but I'm not sure on the procedure yet, so I go digging around and I end up backstage with Jerry and his band.

They had just arrived and were feeling pretty ok. I asked him how he wanted to handle the whole thing as far as time and that. He looked at me and asked right out loud if had ever done cocaine.
Now, let's put this in context...in 1977, cocaine was GOOD for you. It helped you focus, it filled you with energy and it wasn't addicting.
"Sure", I said, "lots of times."
"Cool, this is really good stuff so don't waste anything, but for building me up on stage I'll share..."
I had never even seeen cocaine before, but I knew this would be no problem and I couldn't wait.
He promptly took a professional looking kit out and lined up some very "healthy" lines.
"You good?' he asked,
"I'm cool" was my reply.
I proceded to lean down ever so low over the "healthy" line and so not knowing what I was doing snorted it in for about a nano second before everything came back up through my nose and all over everywhere with a gusto. Once the coke got to the inner workings of my nose, it rejected it all over the "healthy" lines, completely obliterating all traces of blow that was on the mirror.
Nice move.
I thought I was dead, my short radio career over for having wa$ted a lot of blow from the headliner.
I looked at him in horror and he back at me with disgust.
"Rookie. Now, let me show you how to do this."
So, he did.
Let's cupple this with the adrenaline rush of getting up on stage for the first time ever to be THAT guy in front of a rowdy crowd of about 300 people approximately 20 minutes later.
Yikes.
All I remember from that night was the manager of the bar telling me to "clean up my act", Jerry Doucette breaking into "Hey Jude" during the solo in "Mama Let Him Play" and me playing the announcer on "Live Bullett"' by getting up on stage and yelling "DO YOU WANT HEAR SOME MORE YOU FUCKERS? COME ON NOW DO YA?" when he was clearly out of material.
He asked me to  "get off the fucking stage."
By the way, I drove all the way back to Muscatine that night and was ready to go for my on air duties at 5am. Probably had a killer show.

I've introduced some epic shows. I did announcements at two "Summer Jams" in Kansas City in front of at least 50,000 people. I've had the pleasure to say ..."ladies and gentlemen, the Allman Brothers Band". I also came full circle as I've introduced Rush at Kemper Arena, Rare Earth at the Uptown. I was there Shooting Star in Denver and the Moody Blues at Red Rocks. Robin Trower, Robin Williams. I always volunteered for that duty. That guy.



So, if you're going to be THAT guy, the guy who does stage announcements, keep this in mind...don't give an audience a chance to boo you. They will. I did the announcements at a Judas Priest/Molly Hatchet show early in my career that went like this..."Hey everybody thanks for coming, my name is Randy Raley from KY 102......" The boos started rolling in from the back of the arena to the front and I wasn't quite sure what was happening. Then I was. It was a Judas Priest, Molly Hatchet show for God's sakes. I quickly got off the stage.

Better way..."Hey everybody, I'm Randy Raley from KY 102...you guys FUCKING ROCK!"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Only Sixteen

(in keeping with naming blogs after songs)

Someone on facebook posted a picture of the WLS Music Survey from pretty much this date in 1972.
I have always marked my days in high school not by the calendar date (who could remember?) but with what was on the radio at that time.

What a trip looking at the different genres represented.

On the survey, Al Green was next to Led Zeppelin, who was next to Betty Wright and The Osmonds. What a glorious time to be musically aware.

I also remember what my life was like at the time. The previous September, I went back to the East Moline Illinois School District after having spent the previous four years on a farm four miles outside of Ava, Mo. When I say farm, I mean the whole deal. Horses, pigs, cows, sheep tomatoes, corn, you name it, we farmed it. I was pretty isolated from the world and living there was about to drive me insane. At that age, the whole world was spinning around and I wasn't on it, I could only watch from a distance in that isolation. There was a certain magic about it though, looking at it from this age. Not sure what my life would have been without the discipline knowing a job must be done every day, rain, snow, heat or shine.

I had attended the EM school district in my early years (I went to McKinley grade school which was certainly on the wrong side of the tracks in a town that was situated on the wrong side of the tracks). East Moline was probably the least glamorous of the Quad Cities. East Moline was where all the "shops" were located. International Harvester, John Deere and their spin off shops had plants working 24/7 365. East Moline and Silvis were populated by factory families, not neccessarily crude but having a certain toughness about them. Certainly middle class and back then, we had it pretty good, but East Moline had a certain stigma. Don't fuck with us, we will fuck with you back. When Campbell's Island (see previous posts) is part of your city limits, it's pretty certain you're not going to be invited to be another country's sister city. I think Moline was pretty indignant they had to share the same name. In fact, I've stated it before that East Moline is now NOT a part of the four cities that make up the Quad Cities, it's been replaced by Bettendorf. An entire city has been banished for bad behavior. With us, it's a badge of honor.

My graduating class in Ava was 68. My graduating class at United Township High School was easily ten times that. And then some. In those four years removed from civilization, I apparently gained a southern accent which was so not cool with the multi cultured student population at UT. "Randy from Mayberry" and "Buck" were pretty common. After having my ass handed to me a couple of times, I realized the first thing I needed to do was lose the accent and fast. Adjusting from an all white rural school to a student populaton with the last names of Soliz, Allejo, Ramirez along with dudes who were quite proud of the length of their afros was quite challenging.

At the time of this survey, I was beginning my second semester of adjusting and I've decided to just get along with everyone who'll get along with me. I got high for the first time the previous Thanksgiving weekend with my cousin who was at that time doing heroin on a pretty regular basis. I was so NOT into that, but I saw no harm in smoking weed. Weed at that time wasn't very plentiful (or very good) and while I enjoyed it, it wasn't something I did a lot of because I didn't have time or the money.

I was working just about all of the time. My job with the drive in theatre ended the previous October and my mother was now the "manager" of a local diner named "Harvey's". Harvey's was at the corner of 34th st. and 5th avenue in Moline(now way long gone). It was located right down by the shops and business was almost always brisk. Harvey was Harvey Mathwig, who constantly hit on my mom. I thought he has a creep and an ass. Harvey had a heart attack in November 71 and my mom took over the regular operations of the restaurant. Harvey's was open 24/7 365 and served "hearty" food as most diners did back then. We were one of the only places in town where you could get Henny Penny chicken that was deep fried under pressure and quite popular. God help you if you ran out of chicken. It was that good. To this day I have a weakness for the smell of freshly fried chicken. It takes me straight back there.

In December of 71, I (prodded by mom) decided it would be a real good idea if I helped her at the restaurant and learn how to do whatever needed to be done. So...here we are, January of 1972.

I went to school from 7:40 to 2:10, took the bus home, rode to work and back with my mother by 3 and work until 11 pm. On Friday and Saturday nights, I worked from 11pm until 7am.  Sometimes from  3pm the previous day to 7am the next , a "double" as we liked to call them. You could really make some money those days and at that age, I was pretty much invincible. I must admit, I had a few white cross stoked doubles. Hey, you did what you had to do. I cooked, bussed tables, washed the dishes, waited on tables, was the janitor, ran the steam table, cooked the chicken, manned the prep table...you name it, I did it. Sunday night was my only night off. My mom made me a deal that if I would spend at least an hour sometime during the evening to do my homework, she'd cover for me and pay me to do so.

Again, Harvey's was open all night every night. This was the first place my mother ingrained into my DNA the importance of service. You try cooking to a restaurant full of drunk assholes at 3 am on a Saturday morning when the place is so jammed you cannot breathe. "Bite your tongue and smile" my mom would say. So I did. However, when stuff was directed at my mother, I did not have much patience. There were a certain group of regulars who loved my mother. My mother was one hell of a waitress. She took pride in it. You were honored to be served by her. She made you feel you were the only customer she had. I would stand back and marvel at her way with people. I learned so much from how she went about her business. One night about this time, there was a gentleman who was getting a bit rude. Now, you must first realize that my mother could kick the shit out of just about anyone and took no garbage from anyone either. This guy, however, in the wee hours of a drunken evening, went one step too far. I walked over to his table, stood in front of him with a steak knife in my hand and said..."no one in this resaurant eats until you apologize to my mother." "Fuck your mother" was the reply and bang, right front of his hand went the steak knife. In a split second, four guys from the table behind him surrounded him, pulled him from the table, drug him outside and returned about ten minutes later having dealt him a bit of regular customer justice.

Pretty heady stuff for someone who wasn't even sixteen.

One thing about Harvey's though was the radio. It was always on. No matter what hour of the day, day or night 24/7, the radio was on. While the maturation process of this fifteen year old was going on, these were the songs that make up the soundtrack of those hours spent at the restaurant, learning to be responsible, accountable and knowing the satisfaction of working hard and establishing the work ethic pattern that has been passed to me from my mom and on to my son and daughters. I bought my own car, my own stereo, paid for my own clothes and all the records I wanted.

The station that was on back the was KSTT in Davenport. KSTT was a"feeder station" for those talents on their way to bigger and better markets and at that time, I was so lucky to listen to guys who went on and made it to bigger markets while honing their craft entertaining me. Bobby Rich, Jeff Pidgeon, JJ Jeffries, Chuck Hamilton, David Bradley (David Craig), Steve Bridges and so on. I didn't watch TV much, but I could tell you when the guys on the radio changed shifts. While I was toiling in the restaurant, they were the guys who told funny jokes over the intros of the songs and would once in a while surprise me with a great song I hadn't heard before. That's about the time I decided I really needed a plan if I wanted to do that. It wasn't long after that I went over to the local radio school and chatted with the owner (who happened to be Chuck Hamilton). That's another story for down the road.


The great thing about this radio survey? For each and every person who looks at it, it will be a completely different set of circumstrances. For me, it meant being a part of something that, while it was happening, completely sucked at the time. I had no free time to play much. I guess I made up for that later on, but when these songs were on the radio, the basic foundation of my entire life was being etched in stone. Times were good, everyone in my family was alive and young and my biggest worries were making sure the paper was turned in on time or making sure the eggs were done the same time as the bacon, potatoes and toast.

I miss you mom, thanks for your valuable lesson.
I didn't know at the time how valuable it was.
A lot of these songs still remind me of you.

To the tune of the 40 most popular songs on this date 40 years ago....

click on picture to make it more clear


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