Part 11: Thons, The Beach Boys, and Phil Spector

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 11: Thons, The Beach Boys, and Phil Spector

Postby radiofan » Wed May 27, 2009 7:16 am

Brian Lord’s Radio Stories #11

Thons, The Beach Boys, and Phil Spector


Before there was such a thing as the “British Invasion” the music was beginning to water down. Whereas Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Jerry Lee and Elvis were the door-openers to Rock ‘n’ Roll -- by the early sixties there were only a few real rockers left. The seminal group had competition. Oh, they still had hits but it was more diversified, Elvis was into a classical ballad phase (It’s now or Never, etc) The Everly Brothers were singing ballads (Let It Be Me) so was Buddy Holly (True Love Ways) and it seemed to set a tone. Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee, Paul Anka and Brenda Lee had softened the sound. Del Shannon stilled rocked and Freddie Cannon, who failed to make it at The Met, were around but the music was changing. Except for a few.

The early 60’s was when Motown began to crank out hits from Detroit and out West where ex CFUN Good Guys, Dave McCormick and I worked, Surfin’ Music was in fashion. Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys were the hottest acts in California and would soon go national while Dick Dale and the Deltones packed High School gyms and local theaters on weekends. There were others of course but Big Daddy and I both got to know the Beach Boys because they willingly accepted our invitations to appear in concert at any number of venues. Some of them “Thons”

“Thon” was a term Ron Jacobs originated and I don’t think anybody outside of California knew what it was – or cared. Jacobs invented the “Thon”, as in “Walk-a-thon”; “Bowl-a-thon”, “Wake-a-thon”, any kind of extraverted, usually painful, grueling, pseudo-sports event he forced his disc-jockeys to deal with both in Fresno and San Bernardino, often to the detriment of their health and their mental condition. They were awful bloody things predicated on the DJ’s engaging in some kind of activity which ended only when the ambulance arrived. I don’t know whether they did this in any other radio markets. I have an idea it was localized to California (and Hawaii where Jacobs' third station operated)

In Fresno one of the jocks played the drums so Jacobs stuck the guy in a store window (the sponsor of the event) plunked him behind a kit and he “Drum-a-Thon’d” till he dropped setting a “World Record” for continuous drumming. Another guy was a good bowler so he bowled until, drooling and half conscious he guttered his last ball and left in front of a couple of thousand kids on a stretcher having set the World Record for continuous bowling. (Jacobs was big on “World Records” that nobody in their right mind would attempt). Of course the Guinness Book of World Records was the proof and Guinness had rules and Jacobs knew the rules and followed them and was responsible for several dubious feats of idiocy. However they worked. People came and then they listened.

Aside from Thons there were the “First Annuals”. (Only on rare occasions were there ever “Second Annuals”). In Fresno, Dave and his fellow DJ’s presented the “First Annual (it was also the Last Annual) McKinley Avenue Arts, Music and Flowers Festival.” As Dave has described it, McKinley Avenue was not really a great setting for such a festival -- one would expect quiet café’s and boutiques however McKinley Avenue was dotted with tire shops, paint stores, auto wreckers and bars. Jacobs got it into his mind that the station should lead the way into beautifying this industrial trough, hence the Festival. As a draw, The Beach Boys were asked to come up and perform.

In Big Daddy’s words: This was just before they clicked big with Capitol records. Their dad Murray drove them all up from LA, along with musical instruments, some of which were roped onto the roof of their station wagon. We felt sorry for them, trying to perform in wickedly hot Fresno – for no money. We did arrange for them to get a free lunch at the nearby Sambo’s Pancake house … probably on “contra!” Dave went on to say that the Beach Boys performed on a sticky tar roof ruining their white bucks. Think about it. Here was an act that would become top ten in History slopping around in Fresno’s answer to the La Brea Tar pits in 100 degree heat and eating at a cheapo Pancake House all because of a deal made with a maniac, genius programmer and their State-wide success with Surfin Safari.

Besides Motown and The Beach Boys there were the “girl groups” many of whom were produced by Phil Spector. This guy was one of the giants of the music industry over several decades but in the early 60’s he was responsible for a string of 20-odd hits on Billboard’s top-100. His first big break came when he formed a three part harmony group -- The Teddy Bears -- and reached #1 nationally with the insipid To Know Him is To Love Him which happened to be the inscription on his father’s tombstone. The group was a one-hit wonder but Spector was far from through.

People who read this will remember that Spector produced for Ray Peterson and Curtis Lee; co-wrote Ben E King’s Spanish Harlem; played guitar on the Drifter’s smash On Broadway and produced I Love How You Love Me by The Paris Sisters; started his own Phillies Label – invented “the Wall of Sound” for Darlene Love, who fronted the Crystals and Bob E Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and finally his wife Veronica’s group, the Ronettes who’s Be My Baby made #1 on hundreds of radio charts. He also released what has got to be a timeless Christmas LP/CD: A Christmas Gift For You better known as the Phil Spector Christmas Album

I had a standing last Friday of the month 6:30 PM phone call appointment with Phil Spector. He had the control room number and called me from where-ever he was. He’d rap for 15 minutes, never duck a question – didn’t need to -- he would tell my audience what was coming, I didn’t have to ask. I can remember him announcing with pride that he would produce The Righteous Brothers You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling. No word of a lie, Phil Spector was among the most amiable, friendly people I ever had on the air and the most knowledgeable. He predicted hits other artists had released; never lampooned or bad-mouthed anybody and I could promote him on air because he called me for more than two years on the dot.

Maybe his biggest success was John Lennon’s LP Imagine.

His biggest failure was that he was found guilty by a jury last year at his second trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson a 40 year old actress which occurred in Spector’s mansion in Alhambra, California. The first trial ended in a hung jury. By the time many of you read this, Spector will know the extent of his sentence which could put him behind bars for the rest of his life. He was convicted of second degree murder which carries 15 years. A gun was involved adding ten more. I didn’t know that guy. I don’t know that he even existed in the 1960’s.

Next time: “My name is Frank Zappa are you Brian Lord, the Kennedy imitator?”
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
User avatar
radiofan
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 10382
Joined: Sun Apr 16, 2006 1:24 pm
Location: Pitt Meadows

Re: Part 11: Thons, The Beach Boys, and Phil Spector

Postby Steve Sanderson » Wed May 27, 2009 12:25 pm

A great read Brian! Looking forward to the next instalment.
Steve Sanderson
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 1607
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2007 5:57 pm

Re: Part 11: Thons, The Beach Boys, and Phil Spector

Postby sparky » Thu May 28, 2009 9:13 pm

Brian, I hope you are planning a book. These stories are great.

You mentioned that Ron Jacobs started the Thon craze. Did it actually start with him, or did Big Daddy Dave and the rest of you guys start it at C-FUN? If what's left of my memory is correct, wasn't C-FUN's top 60 records of 1960 the first C-FUN SoundaTHON!? This was well over a year before Dave went to Fresno.

Keep the stories coming, us older teenagers are enjoying them.
"You get a bunch of clowns together and sooner or later you've got a circus"
User avatar
sparky
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 425
Joined: Sun Jul 09, 2006 11:48 am
Location: Coldstream, BC

Re: Part 11: Thons, The Beach Boys, and Phil Spector

Postby radiofan » Fri May 29, 2009 6:50 am

sparky wrote:Brian, I hope you are planning a book. These stories are great.

You mentioned that Ron Jacobs started the Thon craze. Did it actually start with him, or did Big Daddy Dave and the rest of you guys start it at C-FUN? If what's left of my memory is correct, wasn't C-FUN's top 60 records of 1960 the first C-FUN SoundaTHON!? This was well over a year before Dave went to Fresno.

Keep the stories coming, us older teenagers are enjoying them.


You are right about the first C-FUN Soundathon Sparky. I found a scan of it here ion the RW archives .. Brian will have to answer your question about the origins of the Soundathon name. I know Red used the term Soundathon at CKWX [for a Top 300 all time country hits] in the 1970's, but he was in Portland when C-FUN's Soundathon's first hit the air.

Image
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
User avatar
radiofan
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 10382
Joined: Sun Apr 16, 2006 1:24 pm
Location: Pitt Meadows

Re: Part 11: Thons, The Beach Boys, and Phil Spector

Postby flange » Fri May 29, 2009 8:30 am

'Mel' is one hell of a writer...and all us radio guys would love to see a book....history.....and all that.

Keep it up, 'Mel'.

*ask him about 'Mel' appellation.
User avatar
flange
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 83
Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2009 10:58 am


Return to Brian Lord's Radio Stories

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest