Friday, October 23, 2009

Fare Thee Well Soupy

As Steve Miller once sang, “Time keeps on ticking, into the future.” And, as it does, it’s constantly pulling some good people out of life’s game. A lot of interesting people have shuffled off this mortal coil recently, including some very talented ones who you'll hear regularly on MusicMaster Oldies.

Soupy Sales was born Milton Supman on January 8, 1926 in Franklinton, North Carolina. He grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, where his older brothers had nicknames like “Hambone” and “Chicken Bone.” Milton became known as “Soup Bone,” which was later shortened to “Soupy.”

He joined the Navy after graduating from high school in 1944. While sailing in the South Pacific, he started tell jokes and creating crazy characters to amuse the USS Randall’s crew over the ship’s public address system. He used some sounds from a record called “The Hound Of The Baskervilles” to create his famous White Fang character, a big dog who played practical jokes on his shipmates.

After the Navy, he went back home to Huntington and attended Marshall College where he earned a Master’s Degree in Journalism. During college, he’d perform in nightclubs doing comedy, singing and dancing.

He started doing radio shows on WHTN in Huntinton using the name Soupy Hines. But that name was too close for comfort to the Ketchup and soup company, so he decided to change it to Soupy Sales. In 1949 he went to Cincinnati to take a job as a morning jock on the radio, which led to some television shows on WKRC-TV called Soupy’s Soda Shop, a teen dance show, and Club Nothing! late at night. When he lost those jobs, Soupy moved on to my home town, Cleveland, Ohio. He worked on radio and television there, doing a show called Soupy’s On! It was on that show where he got his first “pie in the face.” Later he claimed he’d been hit by more than 25,000 pies during his career! Soupy liked to say he left Cleveland for “health reasons.” As he put it, “They got sick of me!”

He moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1953 where he started doing his thing on WXYZ-TV. By 1959, his popularity got him syndicated nationally on the ABC television network.

In 1960, he moved his home base to Los Angeles and continued his show. Within a year, it was dropped from the national network, but kept going as a local feature. The show went back on the network for a few months as a fill-in for Steve Allen’s late night variety show in 1962. While in Los Angeles, Soupy had Clyde Adler operating all the puppet characters he’d created for the show.

Here's one my favorite Soupy Sales songs, Doggone Doggie, which came out in 1962 on Reprise 20108:

When the Beatles were exploding in America, Soupy moved operations to New York City and WNEW-TV. There he did 260 episodes which aired locally through September 1966. These were also syndicated by Screen Gems to local stations around the country. Soupy had hit the top at this point, with guests like Frank Sinatra and The Supremes appearing on his show, among many others.

Soupy loved to perform comedy musical numbers on his show, and he also tapped into his huge jazz record collection. You can still her his theme song, Mumbles by Oscar Peterson with Clark Terry, on MusicMaster Oldies from time to time, along with a regular favorite, Comin’ Home Baby by Herbie Mann, which Soupy used as the theme for his Gunninger the Mentalist character.

Soupy even starred in a 1966 movie called Birds Do It with co-star Tab Hunter. Soupy really didn’t like the film. It was about a NASA janitor who accidently gained the ability to fly and became the “most attractive man on Earth.” It’s not available for sale and it’s rarely seen on television.

Soupy was also a regular panelist on game shows like What’s My Line, To Tell The Truth, Match Game, Hollywood Squares, and others.

After New York, Soupy went back to Los Angeles to do The New Soupy Sales Show in 1978. That lasted one season with 65 episodes syndicated nationwide. Clyde Adler even returned to run Soupy’s many puppet characters. Frank Nastasi was Soupy’s straight man and puppeteer in New York. He had worked with Soupy in his earlier days in Detroit as a sales rep for WXYZ.

Soupy created so many characters it’s hard to keep track of them all! There’s White Fang, the biggest and meanest dog in the USA; Black Tooth, the biggest and sweetest dog in the USA, Pookie the Lion, Hippy the Hippo, Peaches, Philo Kvetch, The Mask, Onions Oregano, Hobart and Reba, and Willie the Worm.

We can’t let Soupy leave the stage without remembering his New Year’s Day show in 1965. Working on the holiday wasn’t a lot of fun. Soupy ended his live show with an infamous instruction to his little viewers. “Tip-toe into your parent’s bedroom and get those funny green pieces of paper with pictures of US Presidents from their pants and pocketbooks. Put them in an envelope and mail them to me, and I’ll mail you a postcard from Puerto Rico!” When he actually started getting money in the mail, management stopped laughing. He was suspended for a couple of weeks. He donated the money to charity. It’s been a classic “live television” story ever since!

Soupy Sales performed a novelty dance record called The Mouse on the Ed Sullivan Show in September 1965. He’d appeared on that show several times, and once even sharing that stage with The Beatles. He also signed with Motown Records where he did a song called Muck-Arty-Park, a parody of MacArthur Park by Richard Harris from 1968. Of course, you’ll hear all these songs on MusicMaster Oldies!

Here's Soupy's one and only Billboard chart hit, The Mouse, which came out in 1965 on ABC-Paramount 10646:

Howard Stern and Soupy Sales both graced the airwaves of WNBC-AM in New York City during the 1980’s. Soupy’s mid-day show immediately followed Imus In The Morning, and Don Imus was not a Soupy Sales fan! He’d frequently make fun of him on the air. Howard also made some nasty comments about Soupy, which he later regretted publically during an interview on Sirius Satellite Radio. Soupy was actually fired during a commercial break after he encouraged his listeners to complain to the station because his contract had not been renewed and his sidekick Ray D’Ariano was moving into his time slot. The program director took his place to finish out the show just playing music. Soupy left the building and never came back!

Soupy leaves behind his second wife, Trudy Carson, and his two sons from his first marriage to Barbara Fox, Hunt and Tony Sales. Both sons are accomplished musicians having worked with David Bowie’s band, Tin Machine, in the 1990’s, and with Iggy Pop on his Lust For Life album.

When he left us on October 22nd, Soupy Sales was 83 years old.

We’ve lost a few other folks this month, like British singer, Clinton Ford (October 21st), Vic Mizzy, the guy who wrote the Addams Family theme song (October 17th), Johnny Jones, of Johnny Jones and the King Casuals (October 14), Bass player and frontman for Blue Cheer, Dickie Peterson (October 12), and guitarist for NRBQ, Steve Ferguson (October 7). Last but not least, the curtain closes for one last time on the legendary Al Martino (October 13th). I considered writing a lot more about these folks, but someone recently told me that I write the longest blog posts in the world. So I’m trying my best to keep this one short!

I also want to say a quick farewell to a few other notable folks who also died this month, such as wrestler and actor Lou Albano (October 14), Rene Sommer (October 5) who was co-inventor of the computer mouse, Jim Nettleton of WFIL radio (October 4), John “Mr. Magic” Rivas (October 2) of WBLS-FM in New York City, and Shelby Singleton (October 7) who ran Sun Records in the later years.

I leave you with the song Soupy Sales used as his theme in the early days of radio, Mumbles by the Oscar Peterson Trio on Mercury 72342 from 1964:

If you have any comments, requests, dedications, whatever, I welcome your input. You can email me by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Radio Doesn't Know Who You Are Anymore

Do you ever listen to the radio? Back in the 1960's that would have been a ridiculous question. What else would you do?

Well, you could watch television. Back then you probably had four or five TV channels you could watch, like NBC, CBS, ABC, NET (National Educational Television which evolved into PBS), and that quirky independent station that played black-and-white reruns of the late 1950's TV shows like Highway Patrol, The Untouchables, or the original Dragnet before Harry Morgan. If you missed your favorite show, well, you were pretty much out of luck. You'd have to have your friends tell you what you missed when you saw them the next day.

If you wanted to see what's going on, you could read the morning or afternoon newspaper, or go buy a magazine or two, or wait up to watch the 11PM news on television (10PM Central) before going to bed. You could also watch the evening network news read to you by people like Walter Cronkite, or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. You just knew these people were 'fair and balanced' (even when they weren't). If something really big happened, they'd "interrupt this program to bring you a special bulletin." You could be sure it was really important news if they did that!

If you wanted to see a movie, you could go to the local theater, drop 50 cents, and watch whatever they were showing that day (on their one screen). If you didn't like the movie, you'd eat your 25 cent popcorn and leave early.

If you liked rock and roll music, you could go to the dime store, buy a few records for about 50 cents each, and bring them home to enjoy on your $5 record player. You might even go to the local soda shop or drive-in and play some songs on the juke box, three for a quarter. This also gave you an opportunity to socialize with your friends. If you couldn't go out, you could always call them on the phone. But, if you had something to show them, you had to go visit them somewhere.

There were probably one or two radio stations in your town that played your favorite music. You'd either pick a favorite station and stick with them, or switch back and forth between the two constantly seeking your favorite songs. The radio was free, and the dee jays were very entertaining. They could sure put you in a great mood! Maybe you'd call in to the station to request a song, or dedicate a song to your steady date, and in the process get a sore finger from dialing the number a dozen times to get through the busy signals. If they put you on the air, your friends would all comment about it the next day. "Hey, I heard you on the radio last night!" You didn't get a chance to hear yourself because they broadcast the calls live, and they always made you turn your radio down to avoid feedback.

Things have changed, haven't they?

Cable TV brought a few hundred channels into your home. Now, thanks to switched-video technology, they'll soon be upping the ante to bring you a thousand channels or more. VCR's, DVR's, TiVo's, and Home Media Centers, let you record shows so you never miss them. You can archive an entire season of your favorite shows and maybe watch those during the summer break. Most of the channels show nothing but crap, so you tend to stick with a few favorite channels. Fewer and fewer television shows interest you, so you record a bunch of shows that you never find time to actually watch. You really don't even have to turn on the television anymore. You can create your own television programming with YouTube and Hulu and many other video on demand websites. A lot of what's on there is crap, too, like thinly-veiled propaganda designed to make you think a certain way.

Not only do we have several 24/7 news channels on both radio and television, we have different flavors to choose from. You've got your choice of political commentary, either far Left or far Right (Sorry, there's very little in the middle.) Practically every story is "Breaking News" today, so if something really important happens, it's easy to miss it. You can even create your own news channel by downloading podcasts and listening to them (or watching them) whenever you like. But most of it is thinly-veiled propaganda designed to make you think a certain way.

As for newspapers, well you just don't need them at all anymore, do you? A lot of people ended up canceling their subscriptions after asking, "Honey, why do we still get this newspaper every day?" A lot of newspapers have gone out of business. Of the ones that are left, whatever "news" they contain is either really old, or silly "human interest" puff pieces. Most of it is thinly-veiled propaganda designed to make you think a certain way. The bulk of the newspaper is, of course, advertising for products that don't interest you. It's not even the best choice for wrapping fish or lining your bird cage anymore. You get more "news" than you need from television and radio, not to mention the Internet, your phone, RSS feeds, blogs, and so on.

Go to the movies these days and you have more screens to choose from than you had TV stations back in the 1960's. Every movie is playing at every theater. Most of them are thinly-veiled propaganda designed to make you think a certain way. You really don't need the theater anymore. Many people have a better equipped theater in their home anyway, and you can stop and restart the movie if you have to take a pee break. Cable TV provides a whole bunch of movies you've probably already seen, or don't ever care to see. You could also drive out and rent a movie, or have them delivered to your home, or rent them on-line, or maybe even download them directly into your laptop or phone. You can watch them on your game console, or maybe skip them altogether and become part of the action in a video game.

You don't need to use the phone anymore. Many people don't even have a "home" phone anymore. Why pay for a phone you can't take along with you? Most people don't "talk" on the phone anymore, either. We can "Text" each other, write on each other's "Wall," or blast out our thoughts on Twitter, or any one of thousands of social networking Internet sites. We can share photos, videos and songs with friends and family all over the world without leaving our desk. If you tried to assemble all your Facebook "friends" in a soda shop today, you'd probably overload the building and create a fire hazard.

We don't need the radio anymore, either, at least not to hear our favorite songs. We can download any song we like and stuff it into our multi-gigabyte MP3 player or smartphone to play any where we like, any time we like, and in any order we like. We can browse hundreds of thousands of Internet streaming "radio stations" on the web. We could spend our entire lifetime watching concert videos on YouTube and other sites and we wouldn't live long enough to watch them all.

So many choices. These days it seems like you have an almost unlimited number of choices. Actually, you do. But the people who run radio stations are just starting to figure that out.

Radio stations are hurting right now. The audience keeps getting smaller. Where are they going? That's actually a no-brainer if you think about how the number of entertainment choices has exploded in recent years.

As the number of listeners drops, the advertisers are less willing to spend money on commercials. Those commercials pay the bills, and without income, radio stations suffocate. They can't afford to continue operations unless they cut costs. This begins a vicious cycle. As costs are reduced, usually by reducing costly but talented people, the less interesting the radio stations become for the audience -- ultimately causing their audience to drop even more.

It reminds me of something that's going on right now in Wisconsin. The government wanted more money for one reason or another (who knows what, it doesn't matter, they always want more money). So, they dramatically raised the tax on cigarettes. That makes perfect sense, right? Cigarettes kill, so why not increase the tax? Maybe it will make less people smoke, which is good for them. Those who continue smoking will supply the government with even more money through the increased tax revenue. A classic win-win, right? On paper, maybe. But the people are now driving into Illinois to buy cigarettes. The state of Wisconsin is getting LESS money from the cigarette tax because fewer people are buying cigarettes here. Here's a dumb question: Why not reduce the tax on cigarettes to the point where the good people of Illinois drive INTO Wisconsin to buy them? One might argue that this is a bad idea because it would encourage people to smoke, which is bad for their health. But, will someone who doesn't smoke already start smoking simply because it costs a little bit less to buy cigarettes? I doubt that very much.

OK, that's enough politics and economics for today. Back to our regularly scheduled program. What if radio invested MORE money in talent? Wouldn't that do the same thing my cigarette tax idea would do? Wouldn't it drive more listeners back to radio, thus increasing the audience size, thus making radio more attractive to advertisers?

The fact that radio has become less interesting is not the only problem, of course. There are still some radio stations out there that are damn interesting. In fact, I'd like to create a list of them. If you have any suggestions, please send me an email by clicking HERE, or add a comment to this post. Tell me the name and location of the station and, if you don't mind, a word or two about why you believe it's still interesting.

Many radio stations these days have no idea who is competing with them for a share of the audience. Back in the 1960's, it was mainly that other station in town that played similar music. That made it easy to measure how well you were doing. You'd just look at the ratings. But the ratings today are almost totally irrelevant. They're only measuring how many people hear a station. They don't measure what radio station operators really need to know.

The Three Most Important Things a Radio Station Operator Needs To Know:

1) How many of our listeners are influenced enough to actually buy the products they hear advertised on our station? (And, just as important, how effectively do the commercials we are running increase business revenues for our advertisers?)

2) How many potential listeners find our station interesting?

3) How many people who might find our station interesting spend their time doing something else, and what other things are they doing instead of listening to our station? (Like texting, Facebook, YouTube, Internet radio, video games, etc…).

The above things are listed in order of importance, by the way.

Commercials aren't a bad thing, and believe it or not, you don't really hate them. You DO hate commercials that insult your intelligence or try to sell you something that you don't want or need. You actually LIKE to hear commercials that bring you truthful information about products that interest you. That's information you can use and you may even find it more entertaining than music. Those commercials are important. But no matter how important they are, you probably don't want to hear a whole bunch of commercials strung together. That makes each one in the cluster seem a lot less important, doesn't it? Back in the old days, we knew who "sponsored" the shows. There were less commercials. Early TV shows just had one sponsor, and we knew exactly which company sponsored our favorite shows. Those commercials were much more likely to influence our listeners (or viewers) to buy our products. It makes sense, doesn't it?

Let me interrupt this program for a Special Bulletin. Attention radio program directors. You've invested a lot of thought into the "rotation" of your music. You're careful not to repeat songs too often. You know that the audience is turned off by the perception of repetition, right? Have you ever calculated the "turnover rate" of some of the commercials you play? I've listened to stations recently, in the largest and smallest markets, that are playing the same commercial every 15 minutes. Would you do that with a song? Does your audience react to that repetition the same way they react to songs that repeat too often? Food for thought, eh? Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

In the old days, the ratings companies asked people to recall which stations they listened to, and when they listened to them. This method had a couple of big faults, not the least of which was reliance on the listener's memory. People who were big fans of a particular station might over-report listening to that station just to help them out!

Today, we've traded one big fault for another. Now we have a "People Meter" that selected people carry around all day. It listens to whatever that person hears. Radio stations "encode" a unique identification signal into their audio which the People Meter picks up. It keeps track of all the radio stations heard by that person throughout the day, then reports all that back to the ratings company. The problem with this method is pretty obvious. It's telling you how many people HEARD your station, but not how much they LIKE your station.

Oh, and by the way, neither of these faulty ratings methods do anything to answer the three most important questions listed above.

Radio station operators would be wise to turn the puzzle upside down and look at it a different way. Instead of trying to get more people to hear our station, why not make our station more effective at selling products for our advertisers? That requires making our radio station more interesting for our listeners. That might mean we need to offer some of the things our competitors offer in order to lure some potential listeners away from those other outlets and back to our radio station. A radio station's competition isn't just the other radio stations in town anymore. Today, radio station competition includes things like Facebook, texting, video games, Internet radio, iTunes, television, blogs, movies, and on and on… How can we fit our radio station into this matrix of entertainment in such a way that it becomes interesting enough to today's potential listeners to make them choose to spend a little bigger slice of their precious time with our station?

In order for a radio station to compete with anything, including other radio stations, they need to offer something the competition does not, or cannot, offer. What can radio offer that you can't get somewhere else?

Radio is a one-to-many medium. It also has a limited market. A radio station's coverage is limited by the power of their transmitter. That's why every city has a different set of radio stations. Radio station operators today are not taking advantage of these things. How can you take advantage of limitations? Hey, great question!

If you're limited to a certain market, and all your listeners hear the same thing at the same time, you should probably be doing two things. First, you need to talk about things that are going on in your coverage area. Second, you need to be talking about things that a lot of people want to hear -- and that they are unlikely to hear anywhere else. What do a lot of people like to hear? Well, there's music, of course. But everyone can hear music in a lot of other places these days, so that can't be the only answer. Is it news? Well, we're bombarded with every flavor of news these days, so that can't be the only solution either. Why do so many people love to check Facebook? Could radio be more like Facebook? Sure it can! Why not? It can't be exactly like Facebook, of course. But that's ok. If you're just like Facebook, why exist? There already is a Facebook, and it's pretty darn good. Radio needs to be similar to Facebook, but not exactly the same.

Facebook is most interesting when friends share interesting thoughts with each other. Those thoughts have another name: Content. Content is a funny joke, a cool video, a great quote, a touching story, an interesting photo, a recommendation, a movie, song, or book review, stories about topics that you find interesting, and so on. Content is also what the talented radio personalities of the 1960's gave their audience, usually in great abundance. Content was also a listener dedicating a song to their steady date. Content was requesting a song and then hearing it play on the radio, knowing that you and your friends could actually influence what you all heard on the radio station, together, at the same time.

Radio may have purged itself of the one thing that it desperately needs to survive in today's seriously fractured entertainment marketplace. Before it's too late, radio may need to bite the bullet and invest in itself again. Bring back the talent, make our station more interesting for the listeners and more effective for the advertisers. It also needs to get married to the Internet to bring an updated version of "requests and dedications" to today's savvy Internet socialites.

It may also be necessary for everyone involved to be content to make do with less. A slightly larger piece of a small piece of a big pie may be all we can hope to get. But, if we can make our radio stations a lot more effective at the Most Important Thing, which is hooking buyers up to sellers, the advertisers will reward us. The listeners will thank us, too.

Here's a commercial from 1965 that repeats way too often on MusicMaster Oldies. It ties in a little bit with today's post, and it certainly qualifies as an Oldie But Goodie!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Birth Of Rock And Roll In Wisconsin

Johnny Coy (aka Stan Cook) of WAPL Radio in Appleton circa 1956

Let's spin our magic radio dial back to 1956 and tune in WAPL in Appleton, Wisconsin. Stan Cook, who's real name was Johnny Coy, was on the air. His co-workers included Bob Bandy, Smiley Riley (who later moved to WLS in Chicago as Ron Riley), and Jack Gardner. One evening, Johnny Coy was watching a two piece polka band called The Rockin-Rhythm-Airs perform at a local theatre in nearby Neenah, Wisconsin. He felt the group was pretty talented, so he and fellow dee-jay Jack Gardner offered to become the group's managers. They accepted the offer. Johnny and Jack outfitted every member of the group with a white cap and changed the group's name to The White Caps, a name that may have been inspired by Gene Vincent's Blue Caps. Johnny started booking the White Caps into several local clubs, such as the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, the Cinderella Ballroom in Appleton, the Eagles Ballroom in Oshkosh, along with various other clubs and schools around Wisconsin. He even got them a gig at The Prom, which was all the way across the state and into Minnesota (Minneapolis).

This is the original lineup of Johnny Edwards With The White Caps. From left to right: Jerry Stengl, Johnny Edwards, Jack Gardner, Jerry (Gerald) Van Dynhoven, and Ricky Leigh (Ricky Lee Smolinski). Gerald became known later as Jerry Williams.

Founding member Gerald Van Dynhoven recalls, "We were playing before Rock 'n' Roll started. I was still in high school and we played at weddings, churches and school dances." The release of Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley And The Comets changed everything. "We switched to rock, started looking for more musicians and changed our name to The Rockin-Rhythm-Airs," Williams said. "We knew this new sound was going to be something."

In January 1957, the group assembled at Northland Sound Studios at 531 Third Street in Wausau, Wisconsin. This was the home of Northland Records, a label run by Duke Wright. The White Caps recorded two songs in that session to be published on their first 45 RPM single. The songs were Rock 'N Roll Saddles and Why'd You Leave Me? Both had been written by Ricky Lee, the guitar player. This record has come to be known by collectors as the very first "rock and roll" record ever made in Wisconsin.

It's not clear exactly how many pressings were made of this record, but the number is not very large. The first 500 were made with a white label and listed the artist as simply The Whitecaps. Another 500 were pressed, again on the white label, but with the artist credits changed to Johnny Edwards With The White Caps. The white label started to scorch, so they changed to a maroon label and made around 2000 more copies using both variations of the artist name.

The record got quite a bit of airplay around Wisconsin, but it never caught on nationally. They did manage to get the record played on TV's American Bandstand in one of that show's famous song rating segments.

The White Caps disbanded around 1959. Some members went on to play successfully with other groups, while others left the music business and moved on to other ventures.

Pete Miller - Ricky Lee - Jerry Stengl

Jack Gardner - Johnny Coy

Pete Miller - Jerry Stengl

Johnny Edwards - Jack Gardner

Ricky Lee - Johnny Edwards - Jack Gardner

Ricky Lee - Johnny Edwards - Jack Gardner

Johnny Edwards

Ricky Lee (Smolinski)

Ricky Lee (with his White Cap on!)

Ricky Lee (also spelled Rick Leigh sometimes), born Richard Lee Smolinski, was a fantastic guitar player who, at the age of 15, was already showing his guitar teacher how to play! He was just 17 when he wrote these two songs for the White Caps and played lead guitar on the record. Rick continued playing as a member of various groups in the Appleton area for a while. He received a masters degree from Lawrence College, retired from the music scene, and is now working as a computer programmer in Green Bay. Rick's son is a also musician and, as his proud father says, "He is better than I ever was."

Pete Miller replaced Gerald Van Dynhoven on the drums and stayed with the White Caps for one year. He moved on to work with Jerry Williams And The Rockets for a while.

The Jitterbugs

Dave Pozolinski replaced Pete on the drums, and he's still living in the Appleton area. He had been playing drums with a polka combo called The Jitterbugs in Menasha, Wisconsin (above photo). That group also included Ricky Lee Smolinski on lead guitar. Bob Timmers, while still a junior in high school, had also been a member of The Jitterbugs.

Jerry Stengl played piano and accordion. We don't know where Jerry ended up after leaving the White Caps.

Jack Gardner, the dee jay who co-managed the group with Johnny Coy, ended up playing rhythm guitar for the band. He is currently living in Florida and may still be working in the radio business.

Johnny Edwards, who sang lead and played the saxophone, tragically passed away at a very young age due to a heart attack.

Duke Wright

Duke Wright, who was the leader of a polka band and owner of Northland Records, filled in on bass guitar during the recording session. He always joined the group whenever they played around the Wausau area. As the owner of Midwest Communications in Green Bay, Duke has been operating many successful radio stations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa. He started his radio career in 1958 as a teenage disk jockey at WRIG-AM, a station his family owned in Wausau, Wisconsin. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he returned to manage WRIG-AM. He put WRIG-FM on the air in 1964. This was the beginning of a radio broadcasting career that has spanned over 40 years. He served on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association from 1981 to 1985, and was chairman of that group's Hall of Fame Committee in 1997-1998. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation. By the way, all of Duke's radio stations use MusicMaster to schedule their music! (Thanks, Duke!)

Johnny Coy, the group's manager, left the radio business and became head of security for the Presto Corporation in Appleton, Wisconsin. He was a very humble man who got a twinkle in his eye whenever he recalled his contribution to Rock and Roll in Wisconsin! He was always held in very high regard by the members of the White Caps. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2004 at the age of 84.
The Rockets (1958)

Meanwhile, Jerry (Gerald) Van Dynhoven, who had been the drummer for Rhythmaires And The Rockets, left the White Caps the day before the Northland recording session to form his own band called The Rockets. In the above photo we see the founding members (top row, left to right) Roger Loos (sax) and Jerry Williams (drums), and (lower row left to right) Cliff Peronto (lead guitar), Denny Noie (vocals, rhythm guitar), Larry Russell (vocals, rhythm guitar), and Bill Pable (piano). Jerry was not happy with the way WAPL radio in Appleton was handling the White Caps. He said, "They were really throwing the shaft to us because we were all young kids. Like we were making $60 when they made $1000. So, I broke away!"

In 1958, the band regrouped under the name The Rockets and started performing across Wisconsin. Jerry Van Dynhoven added his first and middle name to dub the band Jerry Williams And The Rockets. Later Jerry's brother Donnie joined the band and began using Williams as his last name. Jerry Williams started out playing drums, but switched to sax and guitar later on. Other members that contributed their talents later included: Jerry Starr, Tom Gebheim, Gary Laabs, Ricky Leigh, Dave Hermsen, Jim Kobs, Dave Yokeum, Pete Miller, Brother Don Van Dynhoven, Dennis Heimerman, Bobby "Bryll" Timmers, and Mike Pluger. The group backed Danny And The Juniors at the Cinderella Ballroom in Appleton on March 16, 1958. They also appeared with Fabian in March 1959 at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay. They also backed up other bands like Johnny Cash at the Eagles Club in Oshkosh, and Johnny And The Hurricanes at the Riverside Ballroom.

Carol Bosman started out singing at night clubs with her mother who played guitar and her uncle who played the accordion. Many people compared her to Brenda Lee. She was chosen to become the band's new vocalist after beating out 15 male competitors in auditions. Carol said, "They needed a novelty to top Noie, since Noie left for the military service, and that is why they needed a replacement and brought a girl into the group." She added, "No other band had ever done that, and it became an attraction." Apparently, she was also an attraction to Jerry Williams, and she became attracted to Jerry as well. About six months after joining the group, the two started dating. They ended up getting married to each other in 1961, after which she also started using the last name of Williams! Denny Noie later formed his own group, Denny Noie And The In Crowd, and then worked with the Catalinas, while band-mate Roger Loos ended up working with a Wisconsin rock group called The Temptations.

Jerry eventually got over his early troubles with WAPL, later letting a station dee-jay named Bob Falkner produce his group's only record. which they recorded on January 6, 1962 at the WAPL studios. It was produced by the Gold Star Recording Company in Appleton and released in June 1962 on Rocket 001 (above) and featured an instrumental cover of Blueberry Hill (called Blueberry Lane) on one side, with A Boy Like You, sung by Jerry's wife Carol (formerly Carol Bosman), on the other side. A Boy Like You was a female "answer" cover version of a Gary Stites song from 1959 called A Girl Like You.

Jerry Williams And The Rockets were in head-to-head competition with the White Caps. According to Bob Timmers, who later joined Johnny And The Rockets playing bass guitar, "The White Caps just stood there and played. The Rockets had uniforms, we had Chuck Berry Stuff, we were flying all over the stage, we were doing the showman stuff, so the band was a little more popular." The photo of Jerry Williams And The Rockets shown above was taken in 1961. That's Jerry Williams on the front row left with the sax in his hand. Right next to him is his brother, Donnie Williams (Van Dynhoven), who played drums at this point. In the back row we can see Dennis Heimermann with his bass guitar on the left, Jerry's wife Carol Williams (Van Dynhoven), and Bob Timmers with his rhythm guitar on the right.

The band played at Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) dances, school functions, weddings and night clubs. According to Jerry, it was the Wednesday evening Pierce Park dances in the late '50's and early '60's where the group attained its popularity peak. "Because we were all the same ages as the people out there and playing the kind of music that they liked, we were very popular with the crowds," Jerry said. They won a "best band" contest in Green Bay in 1962. In 1964, when Beatle-Mania hit the country, they continued performing, adopting the sound of the Fab Four.

Here's another photo of the band with Bob Timmers on the far left. Bob was (and still is) a huge fan of guitarist Johnny Meeks of Gene Vincent's Blue Caps. He went on to work with many other rock bands in Wisconsin. He did some British Invasion style music with an actual Brit, Lord Beverly Moss And The Mossmen. Bob's father was the founder of The Bargain Bulletin, a shopping tabloid that still exists today. He worked in the family business for many years, all the while staying tuned in to the music scene. One day he visited the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland where he was disappointed at the lack of early rock and roll and rockabilly displays. He started talking about starting up a Rockabilly Hall Of Fame. With the help of Joe Wajgel, the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame became a reality on March 21, 1997. On June 5, 2000, Bob moved from Wisconsin to Nashville to set up the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame office there. He's living in Tennessee now.

Johnny Williams And The Rockets went into retirement in 1979, but got together again to perform at the Pierce Park Apple Sock dances revival in 1990-1994.

Bill Broege in 1953

Much of the information and photographs in this post came from my friend, Bill Broege. Bill worked as a representative for Columbia/Epic Records for 34 years. Bill had been a close friend of Johnny Coy since they first met in 1957. You will still find Bill selling records at an eight foot table at the vinyl record collector's shows in Milwaukee that take place at Serb Hall on the south side every month or so. Another valuable source of information was Gary E. Myers great book about Wisconsin bands called Do You Hear That Beat, and his follow up book, On That Wisconsin Beat. I also found pieces of the puzzle at the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame website.

If you have any more information about these guys, or you were a former member of the White Caps, Jitterbugs, Rockets, or any other associated group, I'd love to hear from you! Please send me an e-mail by clicking HERE. Now, let me tell you a story about how I managed to get my hands on a copy of this historic record!

Back in April 2003, I bought Great Lakes Music at 78th and Burleigh Streets on the north side of Milwaukee. The previous owner, Doug, had been very sick and the shop had been closed up for about a year. I tracked him down, found out the store was in his brother Dave's name, so I purchased the contents from him. The old store was stuffed full of used records and collectables that filled four very large rooms on two floors. Everything was totally disorganized. Some parts of the store were blocked so badly by stacks of boxes and crap that many of the records hadn't been seen by anyone in many years. I hired a bunch of helpers and we spent a couple of months cleaning it out, sorting the records, and putting them back in on nice shelves and album racks. I merged in a bunch of records from my own collection, and added a few other large collections that I bought from other dealers around the country. The store reopened as Great Lakes Records, one of the best-stocked used record stores in the country. In October, I moved the whole operation to Brookfield, a western suburb of Milwaukee, where I continued to operate it until April 2006 when I sold the inventory to a bunch of guys from New Zealand who operated a chain of stores called Real Groovy Records. Running Great Lakes Records was one of the best experiences of my life!

One day, while the shop was open in Brookfield, a lady walked in with a big cardboard box filled with old records. People used to bring in old records all the time looking to trade them for some cash. Actually, this is the best reason to own a used record shop -- especially if you're a record collector like me! She walked in, set the box down on the floor, and then waited to speak with Gary, who was busy with another customer at the time. Gary Mason practically ran the store for me, especially since I was busy most of the time running my MusicMaster software business. Most of the time, Gary was the guy at the cash register checking out customers. He helped me price records, arrange them on the racks, and keep the racks in the front of the store updated with "good stuff" that had recently arrived for resale. We both liked to go through new arrivals to see what kind of goodies we'd find in there. But, on this particular day, Gary was really busy and I was out of the shop running an errand or something. After a while, the lady got tired of waiting. She told Gary, "I just wanted to drop these off. I don't want anything for them. I just wanted them to go to a good home!" Gary thanked her and she was on her way. We never got her name.

Before Gary finished up with the customers, I came back to the shop and saw the box of new arrivals. Before I did anything else, I pulled that box up to the counter and began digging through it. Most of the time, people brought in records that had no real value at all. Many were "too new" to be valuable. Some were extremely common, such as Fleetwood Mac's Rumors, Boston's first album, Herb Alpert's Whipped Cream And Other Delights, and so on. We already had way too many of those in stock. Some of them were more scarce, but had very little demand among collectors, like big band reissue albums or lounge stuff like Jackie Gleason's Orchestra. Some had both factors working against them, such as the Firestone Christmas Albums. We once filled a 40 foot dumpster to the top with overstock of these albums! I think they were given away free at tire stores and gas stations and everybody in the world got one! Sometimes, someone would walk in with a bunch of fairly valuable records, such as the good soul stuff, or a rare variation of a Beatles album. Unfortunately, too often these used records were in terrible condition and too beat up for us to sell. We used to have a box of these "expensive but beat to crap" records sitting up front by the cash register with a sign saying "Free records - Take one!" Some of the records in this box were listed in the price guides for a lot of money, often more than $100 each. Still, very few people ever took one of the records from that box of freebies.

As I started digging through this new batch, I was half expecting to be disappointed as was usually the case. Almost immediately, however, I knew this was going to be a good batch. For starters, the records were in pretty darn good shape. They were all in sleeves, and many of them were in those old 45 single cases that were popular back in the 1950's and 1960's. Kids used those little cases to carry their records to a friend's house for a party or neighborhood sock hop. Even better, I saw that many of the records in this batch were on local Wisconsin labels featuring fairly small, local bands from the 1950's and early 1960's. That's the cream of the crop! Those are always worth a lot more to collectors because they're very scarce, virtually unknown, and usually quite good. I got about half way through the records in the box and there it was -- a nice clean copy of Rock 'N Roll Saddles by Johnny Edwards With The White Caps on Northland Records! This record is listed in the price guides at about $300 for a clean copy. I showed the record to Gary, who immediately knew what it was (you get to know the rare stuff when you work in the business), and all he could say was, "You lucky dog!"

We both wanted to track down the lady who brought in those records and give her some kind of cash for them, but we had no idea who she was. She never came in the shop again. She was probably just visiting town, maybe cleaning out her parent's old house or something.

Here are some pictures of the inside of Great Lakes Records, which was actually a huge warehouse filled with used records. In the front was a showroom where you'd find the more expensive records (above photo). Still, with all those records to organize, there were plenty of hidden treasures lurking around in the back!

Saddles, by the way, refer to a type of shoe called Saddle Soles that were really popular back in the 1950's.

Here are the lyrics to Rock 'N Roll Saddles, in case you want to sing along!

Well I went to a dance just the other night,
the band they was a-rockin' to the left an' the right.
I sure got a shock as I walked in through the door,
I saw the rock roll saddles boppin' 'cross the floor.

Well th' rock 'n roll saddles, white and black,
the rock 'n roll saddles with a buckle on the back,
the rock 'n roll saddles, dancin' to the rock an' roll.

Well, the cats they were jumpin' and goin' hog wild;
The chicks sure looked cute with their ponytails high.
I really had'a smile when I took a peek,
at the rock 'n roll saddles on the pretty gals' feet.

Well'a rock 'n roll saddles, white and black,
rock 'n roll saddles with a buckle on the back,
a'rock 'n roll saddles, a'dancin' to the rock an' roll.

All right now, it's your chance! (guitar break)
Weird man! (guitar break continues)

Well that pretty little girlie came out to me;
She said, "Come on honey won't ya bop with me?"
I said, "Okay baby," but I couldn't keep from starin'
at what that little rock 'n roll-a mama was a-wearin'.

Well'a rock 'n roll saddles, white and black,
a'rock 'n roll saddles with a buckle on the back,
a'rock 'n roll saddles, boppin' to the rock an' roll.

Well'a rock 'n roll saddles, boppity bop;
a'rock 'n roll saddles, boppity bop,
a'rock 'n roll saddles, teach me to da-do the rock 'n roll.

You can find Rock 'N 'Roll Saddles on these compilation CDs:

Buffalo Bop: Rock 'N Roll Riot (CD 55004)
Pure Rockabilly - Volume 5 (Club LP 005)
Ultra Rare Rockabilly's - Volume 13 (Chief CD 1156513/2)
Wisconsin Rock-A-Billy (CD)
32 Original Historic Rockabilly Classics - Volume 3 (CD)

And, here's a recording of that record I got out of the cardboard box, Johnny Edwards With The White Caps doing "Rock 'N Roll Saddles." This is the very first rock and roll record ever pressed in Wisconsin, recorded in 1957:

The flip side of that record is pretty good too!

Here's the rarely heard flip side, Why'd You Leave Me? I actually like this side very much, too! I hope you enjoy it as well:

Here's Gary Stites doing A Girl Like You from 1959:

Here's Jerry Williams And The Rockets doing Blueberry Lane from 1962:

Here's Jerry Williams And The Rockets doing A Boy Like You from 1962:

You'll hear all of these songs, along with more than a thousand great rock and roll songs from Wisconsin, on MusicMaster Oldies! Thanks for listening! Tell your friends!