Saturday, January 21, 2012

Crazy Train

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.

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


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 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.
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 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. 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

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