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In fact, I've stated it before that East Moline is now NOT a part of the four cities that make up the Quad Cities, it's been replaced by Bettendorf.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. 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 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


rusheddoc said...

As always, love your blog posts, RR!

Anonymous said...

Cool tribute Randy. Just for grins, I went back and looked at my favorite radio station of that time, WHB (World's Happiest Broadcasters). Just looking at the songs took me back to a more innocent time that I sometimes miss and wish my childen could understand. Songs like Roundabout, The Family of Man, Doctor my Eyes, and Sylvia's Mother, just to name a few helped to make me the person I am today. While my parents listen to Country Western and Gospel music, my parents never gave me grief about my music. I can remember my first FM radio and those "Satan Stations" KBEQ and KYYS when they first came along. Wouldn't give them up for the world. Thanks for helping me remember better days. But I cna't complain thou sometimes I still do. Live Has Been Good To Me So Far. Peace, Love and Soul. Best Regards. Bob H

Anonymous said...


You were one of my instructors at 'The Broadcast Center' in STL 1991-1992. I think you were still at KSHE at the time? Was it the 'Randy Raley Traffic Jam'? 'Daily Doze of Zeppelin'? I appreciate what you have been sharing in your blog. I am still doing radio today and have moved away from music radio and have been doing news/talk for 4 years now in Pensacola, FL

Branden Rathert

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