“For the record …”

In keeping with my tradition of following Jack Benny’s example, today I celebrate the 10th anniversary of my 39th birthday.

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My wife is the best gift giver – hands down.  She picks up on things that I say in passing and turns it into an amazing gift.  She knows I love the Godfather and mafia related stuff.  For Christmas, she found the Godfather Notebook, which is a simply amazing book compiled of some of the novel, Francis Ford Coppola’s notes, and some very cool pictures.

notebook

My dad and I were talking about how my grandpa used to use a cup and brush to lather up to shave one day.  For our anniversary, she bought me this sweet shaving set with razor, cup, brush, and more.  Truly a unique and wonderful gift!

SHAVE

She topped both of those for my birthday. I guess one day my dad and I were talking about vinyl records.  I was talking about how I would sit in on the floor in our front room and listen to them.  I was raised listening to vinyl records – and just a few blogs ago talked about them!  As a kid, I had this red and white record player and played my records on it – if you’re old enough, you probably did too!

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My wife has a hard time keeping secrets.  She tried to give me hints:  “It’s something you were talking to your dad about.” That could be anything from music to TV to movies…you name it!!  “You were just talking about it.”  Again, no help.  I told her to stop trying to tell me or give me hints.  I told her I would wait until my birthday and see what it was.  She was obviously quite happy with whatever she was giving me and said, “It’s gonna be hard to beat this one…”

Over the weekend, my brother came up from Ohio for a visit.  He wanted to visit my mother’s grave for Mother’s Day.  I also had my sons for the weekend, so she decided that when I got home from work on Saturday, we were doing a small birthday celebration.  She got a cake, ice cream, and I had to open my present.

No doubt, you know what it is based on what I have written.  She had me open the album she got me first.  A perfect choice –

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A double album of Sinatra!  I have to be honest, it had been so long since I held an album, I thought it was a picture or something.  I mean, the cover art is beautiful and could easily be framed!  Then, I opened the main present –

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I’m not going to lie, I got emotional.  What an amazingly thoughtful gift!  I was speechless.  My brother captured the moment in pictures, but the angle makes me look awful, so I am not posting those pictures!  This machine is wonderful.  It has speakers on the front, a headphone jack to listen privately, the capability of recording to a USB device, and RCA outputs to play through my DJ equipment, if I am so inclined.

As I pulled the album out of the sleeve, I could feel my hands shaking.  I carefully put the album on the turntable and dropped the needle gently in the grooves……and there was Frank singing “One For My Baby”.  Wow.  The sounds of Sinatra on vinyl.  Only those who appreciate the sounds of music on vinyl can relate to what I was experiencing.  I probably could have sat in the corner with headphones on and spent the rest of the afternoon like that.  What a surreal experience.

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As I mentioned a bit ago, I had just blogged about missing record stores a few days ago.  You can read that blog here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2019/05/08/i-miss-record-stores/

She thought I was on to her when I posted that blog!  What a coincidence, huh?  What are the odds?  She literally had purchased the record player a few days earlier!

This weekend, she has more plans for me.  She let the cat out of the bag that we are celebrating my day throughout the weekend with more surprises.  She did let me in on one stop – we are going to make a trip to the record store, so I can purchase a few albums to listen to on my birthday present.

Thank you, baby, for your wonderful gift!  I love it and I love you more than I can say!! Thank you for making my birthday and my life so special!

 

 

The Journey (The Second Time Around)

Frank Sinatra sang, “Love is lovelier the second time around.”  Personally, I couldn’t agree more.   Over the past two years, there have been many positive changes in my life.  You can read about many of them here in previous blogs.

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Through it all, there were times that I had to really be honest with myself, which wasn’t always easy.  I had to make some hard decisions.  I could no longer lie to myself about my feelings.  I had to really examine my life and the things that I was doing.  The more I did this, and the more decisions I made, it became easier to “get honest.”

I had a follow up appointment with my doctor about my blood pressure on Friday.  For the most part, it is under control, but on occasion, I will get a headache or just not feel right.  Usually, this means my blood pressure is up.  I looked up my past two visits (in January and September) to see what my blood pressure readings were.  It wasn’t those numbers that bothered me, though.  I noticed that since September I had gained about 30 pounds!  All of a sudden I felt like Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers movies!

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I am not going to lie, I knew the shirts I was wearing were beginning to get tight.  I also knew that my jeans were a big more snug than they should be.  I have found that working overnights has really put me at a disadvantage.  I tend to snack more.  I tend to drink more coffee (hence – more creamer).  I tend to do fast food in the morning on my way home.  It is just not good.  I had to do something.

I have struggled with my weight all my life.  I was always a chubby kid.  I was active (played baseball, rode my bike, walked, played football, etc) as a kid, but I was also taking every opportunity to eat.  I remember sneaking food all the time.  I would go to the fridge and eat bologna right out of the container.  I would eat bread and butter, candy, and whatever I could find in the house. When we ate fast food, I always chose the biggest sandwich (Big Mac, Whopper, etc).  I was sometimes eating and not even realizing it!

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One of the most embarrassing things I ever did was at a friends house.  I think it was a birthday party, I don’t remember.  What I do remember is that we were all sitting around talking and watching TV.  I was sitting in a chair and there was a bowl of Doritos next to me.  As we talked and whatever, I literally ate the whole bowl!  It was probably a whole back of chips!  Everyone saw me.  I was probably like a machine – take chip, eat chip, swallow, repeat.  When it was pointed out that I had ate the whole bowl, I probably pretended to laugh it off, but that day has forever remained etched in my mind.  I was humiliated – and I was responsible for it.

They say that comedians usually have issues from childhood that steer them into a life in comedy.  I can totally see this.  I used humor as a way to cover for many things growing up.  I figured people didn’t want to be the “fat kid’s” friend, so I told jokes and made people laugh.  I guess I thought people didn’t mind being friends with the funny kid.

I remember having to go to a special store to buy jeans for school.  I needed the “husky” size.  My dad used to joke with me about my pants waist size.  There was a big guy we knew who wore size “52” and every time I had to buy dress pants, my waist size was growing.  My dad used to say, “You don’t want to be in 52’s!”  He said it jokingly, but he was probably trying to say, “Hey, son.  You really should watch what you are eating.”

As a teenager, I saw a weight counselor.  I remember having this workbook where I logged my food (I often lied about it), and the feelings I was having when I ate.  What emotions were driving me to eat?  That’s the kind of stuff they wanted to know.  Back then, they put me on a diet, which was very hard to keep on.  We visited my grandma every Sunday and she always had a crap ton of Italian food.  She was always giving us food, candy, and baked goods.  My battle with my weight was one I always seemed to lose.

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Shortly before by 28th birthday, I was wearing size 48-50, depending on the style of pants.  I tipped the scale at about 300 pounds.  I had popped in to see my old high school band director and he had lost a lot of weight.  I asked him how he did it and he said he did Weight Watchers.  He told me how it worked, and I went and signed up.  On my 30th birthday, I celebrated the fact that I had lost 30 pounds with friends.  I eventually lost over 100 pounds!  The day I hit my goal weight of 199, it was truly amazing.  What a feeling!

I kept the weight off for some time and then I had an allergic reaction to a medication.  I broke out in hives and red spots.  The doctor gave me steroids, but the spots and hives wouldn’t go away.  They gave me a hefty shot of steroids and then had me keep taking the steroid pills, too.  They spots and hives finally went away, but I packed on 40+ pounds in a matter of weeks.  That was the beginning of the slide.

As an emotional eater, I turned to food for comfort during some difficult times in my life.  Loss of a job, the death of my mother, the death of my grandma, the deterioration of my marriage, the loss of another job, and depression led to much more eating, and drinking alcohol in abundance.  You can imagine what that did for my weight.  Now, fast forward to the last few weeks….

A co-worker has been doing Weight Watchers to get ready for her daughter’s wedding.  The more I have watched her do this, the more questions I asked her.  Then, I saw another friend of mine post daily pictures of her daily walk times.  She is out there every day and working hard!  My wife and I have talked more than once about losing weight and eating better.  I have said “I’m gonna do this diet.  I’m gonna join a gym.  I am gonna….” and yet, hadn’t done anything.  That changed Friday.

Friday morning, I had my alarm set so I could get up and shower before the doctor appointment.  Sam had to be up early to be at her clinicals.  I woke up with her I jumped on the scale.  I told her I was not waiting any longer.  I was joining Weight Watchers again.  It helped me before, and I know it will help me again.  I need to be accountable to someone and this would do it.  I signed up for the online app and decided it was what had to be done.  When she left for work, I noticed I had 2 hours before I had to leave, so I went to the bedroom, grabbed my jogging pants and a sweatshirt, and went out to walk!  I didn’t have a whole lot of time, but I walked for about 30-35 minutes and came home to shower.

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When I arrived at the doctor, my blood pressure was high – 132/91.  When he came in, I told him what had transpired that day.  He told me I was doing the right things and once again told me (as he has numerous times in the past) to get off of midnights. That’s kind of hard to do when you work in a sleep lab and run sleep studies.  He asked me to relax and he wanted to get my blood pressure again.  When they took it again – it was 132/100.  It was higher!  That visit only solidified in my mind that I had made the right choice to begin a weight loss journey.

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So here I am, the second time around, doing Weight Watchers (or WW, as they are going by now).  While it is scary to put this out there for strangers and friends to read, it had to be done.  I need to be accountable to you and to myself.  It’s been almost 20 years since I was 199 pounds, and I know that the older you get, the harder it is to lose weight.  That’s ok.  I’m going to work just as hard as I have putting the rest of my life back into order.  I am doing this for my children.  I am doing this for my wife.  I am doing this for my family. I am doing this for my friends.  I am doing this FOR ME!  I want to be around for a long time.  Life is too good now, to not stick around to enjoy it.

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The journey begins …..

 

 

Tune Tuesday – Feelin’ Good

One of my followers asked how picked my songs for Tune Tuesday.  To be honest, I have no rhyme or reason for the songs that end up here.  Last week, I wrote about Marvin Gaye for his birthday, and the week before that it was Nat King Cole for his birthday.  Today, it just happens to be a song I heard while in my car this afternoon.  It also happens to be a song that fits where I am in my life right now.

In the past year I have been blogging, I have written much about weeding out negativity, and the positive changes that have happened in my life.  I have written about reaching a point where I thought of ending my life, only to come through dark times to find true love and true happiness.  This song totally fits where I am now –  Feeling Good!

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The Song

The song was written by singer, songwriter, and actor Anthony Newley for the musical “The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd”.  Despite being covered by many artists (including Traffic, The Pussycat Dolls, George Michael, Joe Bonamassa, and John Coltrane – just to name a few), prior to Michael Buble’s version, the best known version was by the amazing Nina Simone. She recorded it for her 1965 “I Put a Spell on You” album.  Her version was never released as a single, but became known because of a Volkswagen advertisement in 1994.

Michael Buble’

I was first introduced to his music from a friend of mine who worked at All Access.  Kelly knew I was a big fan of the “Great American Songbook”, and the music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Billie Holiday, and other great vocalists.  We spent a lot of time talking music.  She sent me a copy of Buble’s debut album and I was pretty impressed.  I was not only impressed with his vocals, but I was impressed with his band and the arrangements of the songs.  When his next album, “It’s Time”, hit stores, I made sure to pick it up.

Feelin’ Good is the opening cut from the “It’s Time” album.  It was released as a single, coincidentally this month in 2005.  The song opens with a slow fade up, and Michael’s vocal.  It’s soft and smooth and then the band kicks in with a big bass line, a sloppy and bluesy brass line, and you are hooked.  Everything about the arrangement of this song is perfect.  I love Nina’s version, but after you hear Buble’s version, it sounds “unfinished”.  It sounds weak and like it needs a few more musicians.

Buble’ acknowledges the influences of Dean, Frank, Tony Bennett, and continues to keep those wonderful songs alive (as well as some originals of his own).  Many people think of him and think of his Christmas music, which is sad.  He has SO many great songs.

As I reflect on where I am now in my life, I have found a happiness that I never knew I could experience.  I have found a love that many only dream about.  Ask me how I am feeling, and I will tell you I am “Feeling Good!”

Feeling Good

Birds flying high
You know how I feel
Sun in the sky
You know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by
You know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good
I’m feeling good
Fish in the sea
You know how I feel
River running free
You know how I feel
Blossom on the tree
You know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good
Dragonfly out in the sun,
You know what I mean, don’t you know
Butterflies all havin’ fun,
You know what I mean
Sleep in peace when the day is done, that’s what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me
For me
Stars when you shine
You know how I feel
Scent of the pine
You know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good
I’m feeling good
I’m feeling so good
I feel so good

 

Birthday Tribute to “Fred”

If you have read my blogs in the past, you know that it consists of a mixture of pop culture things (like movie, TV and music thoughts) and personal things (radio stories, school memories, and things from my childhood).  As I thought about today’s blog topic, I realized that without this man in my life – this blog would probably not exist!  I guess I didn’t really realize it until now. As I scrolled back over the blogs of the past, I see just how much influence he has had in almost ALL of them!  I am talking, of course, about my dad.  Today – is his 72nd birthday.  So here are some birthday thoughts for dad.

In March I wrote a blog about his musical influence.  My musical taste is very broad, because I was introduced to so many different genres by him.  He introduced me to rock and roll with the music of Little Richard, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and Elvis.  He introduced me to the “Great American Songbook” with music from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby.  He introduced me to Jazz with Louis Prima, and Ella Fitzgerald.  He played me music from Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard to introduce me to country music.  The list goes on and on … but what about other influences?

Movies

I could spend an entire week writing about the various movies he introduced to me!  As far as the classic films, most of those were introduced to me because he saw that they were playing on the Monday Night Movie on regular TV or something.  You have to remember VCR’s and DVD players were not a staple in the home yet.  You also have to remember that I grew up at the time where “pay TV” was just being incarnated.  One of the first pay services was “ON TV”.  It came on channel 20 at like 8 or 9 at night.  They put an antenna on your roof and it unscrambled the signal so you could watch movies.  I remember one time I wanted to record Smokey & the Bandit – but as I said, VCR’s were not for home use yet.  The last showing of it on ON TV was at 1am one Friday night.  My dad actually stayed up with a cassette recorder in front of the TV and recorded the audio for me.  What makes this even better is there were scenes that were so funny to him, you could hear him laughing in the background as the movie played.

With Cable TV came The Movie Channel and HBO.  As more and more channels became available, American Movie Classics, Turner Classic Movies, and others were the way to watch them. So he’d tell me “You gotta watch AMC at 3 today – they’re playing ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’!”  Growing up, I remember hearing my dad talking with my grandparents, my Uncle Tom, or his friends about actors and actresses and the movies they were in.  “Great Movie!” or “What a great flick!” I’d hear him say.  Well, if he thought it was great – I wanted to see it!  Movies I remember watching – only because I had heard him talk about them included The Godfather, White Heat,  Little Caesar, Key Largo, Patton, Midway, The Maltese Falcon, and Night of the Hunter.  Many of these were films that I’d walk in to the living room and dad would be watching and he’d tell me about them and catch me up so I could watch it with him. I was introduced to Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Mitchum, Burt Reynolds, and SO many actors just be casually walking into a room where he was watching TV!

The Godfather Part 1 & 2 and Patton are probably some of my favorite films.  I remember watching Godfather the first time trying to keep all the names straight.  Don Barzinni, Don Stracci, Luca Brazi, Sonny, Fredo, and Tom Hagen were all characters that I had to remember (amongst many more).  Dad was there to explain so many things to me as I watched this film the first few times through.  I have found myself doing the same thing when I sit and watch it with someone who has never seen it.  (On a side note, for one class I had to read books and write book reports for it.  I remember dad wrote a book report for me on The Godfather! He got an A!)

TV

Look through my DVD collection and amongst the movies are entire series of classic TV shows.  This, again, is a direct result from my dad’s influence.  I remember watching re-runs of The Honeymooners on channel 50.  I remember when dad told me that Ralph Kramden and Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit were the same person!  I don’t know if I would have known that as a 7 year old!  I remember staying home sick and watching re-runs of the Dick Van Dyke Show on channel 9 out of Canada.  I knew about Carl Reiner because he was one of many cameos in the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which should have been mentioned in the movie section of this blog).  The other stars of “Mad World” were also known to me because of my dad:  I knew Mickey Rooney from a flick called Quicksand he rented.  I knew Milton Berle from The Dean Martin Roasts and other TV appearances. I knew Jonathan Winters from a classic Twilight Zone episode (Loved watching TZ with him).  Among the other “classic” TV shows he introduced me to:  The Untouchables, F-Troop, The Munsters, Car 54, Where Are You?, McHale’s Navy, Perry Mason, Combat, Star Trek, Hogan’s Heroes, Mission: Impossible, and Get Smart.

With the availability of video rentals, I remember dad bringing home TV shows that were not shown on TV anymore or shown late at night.  You couldn’t really watch The Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, or The Three Stooges on TV unless you stayed up late for comedy classics – which usually was on at 11pm or midnight.  With the VCR, though, we could go to the store and rent them!  I had listened to Jack Benny and Amos and Andy on cassette tapes of old radio shows (again, thanks to dad), but now I was able to see these TV shows – and they were amazing! I used to love watching these shows with him.  One thing I always love seeing is my dad laughing and these shows (and a couple I will mention in a minute) always made him laugh – I mean big belly laughs!

I guess you could say that I grew up at a time where some of  the “current” shows are now considered classics.  Those shows, my brother and I watched on a weekly basis and watched in re-runs.  These shows included The Love Boat, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, Lavern and Shirley, The Dukes of Hazzard, Emergency!, Welcome Back, Kotter, All In the Family, The Jeffersons, The Carol Burnett Show, Barney Miller, Fantasy Island, and Charlie’s Angels.  Some of those dad introduced me to, while others he really couldn’t stand.

Sanford and Soupy

The one show that I will forever associate with my dad is Sanford and Son.  These shows, no matter how many times we see them remain funny.  I can be on the phone with my dad and say, “So last night I watched “the piano movers” and we will both start laughing!  Years later, we can quote this show to each other and still crack each other up.  Why do we and can we bond over this show? Perhaps it’s the fact that the show is about a father and son and their relationship.  I remember how I thought it was odd that Lamont always called Fred, “Pop”.  I never used to call my dad that, although somewhere over the years, dad has become “Pop” to me.  I call him that all the time now.  As a matter of fact, he still often calls me “Lamont”!  It is not used flippantly, I use it as a genuine term of endearment!  He’s my Pop – and I use it with much love and affection!

Another show that dad introduced me to was The New Soupy Sales Show.  He grew up watching Soupy at lunch time.  My grandmother often told stories of how Soupy would say “Tomorrow, we’re having bologna sandwiches for lunch” and if dad didn’t have them, he was pissed!  Soupy’s new show on channel 20 was pretty much just like the old show.  It was full of puns, bad jokes, clips of old movies, funny horoscopes on the radio, the Words of Wisdom, and his friends White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie and Hippy.  It may have been on right after school and before dad came home from work, because I don’t recall him watching it too much with me, however, when it became available on video – we talked about it just like we talk about Sanford and Son.

Traits of a Good Dad

When I became a father, I remember reading something about what makes a good dad.  Let me say here that none of us is perfect.  My dad was not perfect and neither am I.  My point is that when you look at these things, we can assess things we are doing well, things we can improve, and things that we will start doing.  As I think back on those things – I can see where I strive to achieve those things and, at the same time, can see a lot of those things in my own father.

For example, a father must be a good disciplinarian.  All dad’s love their children, but you know and I know that you can’t let them get away with everything.  Dad was this way.  The old story about mom saying “Wait till your father get’s home” and the child being scared to death?  Yep!  That was me!  You didn’t want to make dad mad!  I would say I made him mad more than a few times.

One time in particular I remember telling him I was spending the night at a friends house.  I was out with my girlfriend at the time.  We were still in high school, and it was a weekend.  We had no money, so we weren’t going to a hotel or anything like that.  We just planned on staying out all night.  I don’t remember how he found out, but  I remember getting a page from the friend who I said I was staying with and he asked why my dad thought I was there!  I think my girlfriend’s mom had called my house or something.  At any rate – I was in BIG trouble! Dad’s punishment was a fair one (even though I didn’t think so at the time).  He proved a point and I NEVER did that again.  He let me know that he was in charge.  Another time, I got in trouble at school for something.  We had a meeting with the teacher and he said what he would go on to tell every teacher afterward in parent teacher conferences, “If he gets out of line again, you have my permission to smack his ass!” (Yes, this was back before a teacher giving the kid a paddle was considered wrong).

A good dad allows his kids to make mistakes. Dad watched me make a TON of them, but he knew that if I was going to learn, I needed to make those mistakes.  He’d never let me make a mistake that was life threatening or would put me in danger, but he’d let me make mistakes that he knew, when all was said and done – I’d mature and learn from it.  While there were things he questioned, he never really interfered.  I learned a lot from that – even though there were times I wish he HAD said something!

A good dad has an open mind.  Times change.  The way that things were done when he was growing up, well, they may be handled differently now (the paddling in school is a good example).  He respected that and embraces it to a degree.  As someone who loved all kinds of music, I will never forget the time he called me into the living room to play me this “cool song” he heard and liked.  It was “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-lite.  The song was not like anything he’s ever played for me, but he liked it and played it at DJ jobs!  He embraces change!

A good dad teaches his kids to appreciate things.  Those things can be anything.  My dad certainly taught me how to appreciate family and friends.  He taught me how to appreciate good music, movies and TV.  He taught me how to appreciate what you have and the importance of living within your means.

A good dad accepts that his kids aren’t exactly like him. This may or may not have been a lesson he learned from my grandpa.  My dad had always been very accepting of my brother and I.  While we all have a lot of similarities, we are all SO very different.  He respects that our religious and political views may not be the same as his.

A good dad spends quality time with his children. This is one of those things that is difficult to do in today’s society.  We spend so much time working and trying to get things done, that we often spend the hours we are not at work doing these things.  As a divorced father with limited time with my boys, I really try hard to make the time we spend quality time, even if it is just a car ride.  Some of my favorite memories with my dad are just him and I throwing the ball around in the front yard.  That meant more to me than he will ever know!

A good dad leads by example.  Dad was never really the “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of guy.  He was a hard worker and knew the importance of providing for our family.  I never once thought of growing up and not having a job.  Dad wasn’t always perfect in this area, but because of that, I was also able to take some of the things that I didn’t like him doing (like smoking) and not doing them.

A good dad is supportive and loyal.  I am sure that in my 30 year radio career, my dad probably thought “he needs to get out of that career and find something more stable”.  If he thought it – he never once told me that!  He was nothing but supportive!  If I ever came to him with something that he questioned, he might ask a question or two regarding the opposite viewpoint, but that was it.  He might ask “are you sure you want to do this” or “have you thought about what might happen if…”, and then he let me decide.  Whatever the decision, he supported it.  I have a great respect for that.

A good dad is someone who challenges his kids. I’m sure that there were many ways that dad challenged me.  I know there were times I wanted to quit something and he gave me the pep talk to keep going.  I cannot recall specific incidents, but I know they were there.

A good dad is a teacher.  While dad taught me how to throw a “submarine” ball and how to swing a golf club, he also taught me some valuable lessons.  One of the things I have hoped to do is to write down some of those lessons and pass them down to my own children.  To illustrate my point: there is a cartoon I saw once of two guys standing in front of three piles of stuff.  The one guy asked what they were.  The second guy points to the first pile and says, “this stuff is the stuff my dad gave me that I want to pass on to my kids.”  He points to the second pile and says, “this is the stuff my dad gave me that I don’t really need.” He points to the third pile and says, “this is my stuff that I want to pass on to my kids.”  That’s the way it is – as a father, you take things that you learned from your dad and keep the stuff you want to share, throw out what you don’t, and then add stuff of your own.

A good dad protects and provides for his family.  When times were tough and money was tight, my dad would DJ or play in the wedding band to bring in extra money.  I remember as a young boy my dad going back to college to get a degree so he could move up in his place of employment.  It took me over 20 years, but I also decided to go back to school to better provide for my family.  I know that my dad would do anything for us, and I would do the same for my family.

Finally, a good dad shows unconditional love.  I read where this is the greatest quality of a good father.  Even though his child may let him down, upset him, make him mad, disrespect him, and disappoint him … the love remains constant.  Not to get theological, but it is one of the great principles spoken of about God in the Bible.  It says that no matter how much a child of God angers Him, ignores Him, or disappoints Him – His love is never ending and ever present.  THAT is the kind of love a father has for his children.

I am lucky that I have never had to question whether or not my dad loves me.  He has done so much for me during my lifetime and continues to do so.  I can only hope that he knows how much he is appreciated.  I can only hope he knows how thankful I am that he was chosen to be my father.  I can only hope that he knows of the impact that he has made on me.  I hope that he will never have to question how much I love him.

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Thanks, Pop, for being such an amazing man!  Thanks for being a wonderful example to me.  Thanks for everything you have done to support, encourage, accept, and love my family.  Today, I wish you a very happy birthday and wish you many more in the future!  I love you, Pop.

“Lamont”

 

 

 

 

Some old radio stories…Part 1

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Yesterday was National Radio Day. Many of my radio friends shared pictures and stories from their careers throughout the day. Looking back, I really wish I had taken more pictures! I am not sure why I didn’t. I absolutely loved seeing many of the old pictures of old studios and old friends on Facebook! If any of my friends have pictures of studios we worked in, prod rooms, etc…. please let me know, I would LOVE to see them!!!

In my almost 30 year radio career, I have (like all of my radio friends) a gazillion stories. Here are some that I’ll share off the top of my head. I am sure there are plenty more, but for now – enjoy these:

WKSG

My career started here. I was a lowly intern ripping news and sorting it. I then started to intern with Paul Christy, the morning guy. He eventually was responsible for me doing overnights full time.

  • I only used my real name once in my entire career – and almost didn’t. Every hour at the top of the hour we had our Legal ID. There was what we called a “donut” in the middle of the music where the DJ would say what time it was and their name. I’d heard it a hundred times. “It’s 10 O’clock and I’m Jim McKenzie”, “It’s 3 O’clock and I’m John Bailey”, “It’s 7 O’clock and I’m Johnny Molson” – every jock did it. My first night on the air, I hadn’t decided what name I was going to use yet. The ID played and I had no choice – “It’s midnight and I’m … (brain fart – and real name)”. I remember a gal I went to high school with was listening that night because she remembers hearing me use my real name. I used Keith Allen every day after that and have never been anyone else.
  • Speaking of those live ID’s, Johnny Molson was on before me each night. It seemed that he and his crew always were trying to mess with me when the ID played. They’d make weird noises, bang on cart racks, knock over my music stack, and all kinds of other things to try to get me to mess up. Sometimes they’d get me to crack up and sometimes I was able to keep it together. One night, the time was ticking away to the ID and they were all out of the studio. The ID started and I heard the studio door behind me open fast. They had found a huge box and as I started to talk, they threw it over my head. My hands were still by the mixer board so I could see what button I had to push next, so I just continued to talk as the box was over my head. Listeners heard nothing but a muffled voice and the music bed. Johnny was cracking up, he told me, “I can’t believe you just kept going”!
  • At one point during my time at Kiss-FM, I was doing Friday night/Saturday mornings which consisted of me being on air from 12a-6a doing my own show, and then running Paul Christy on tape from 6a-10a. I don’t recall why I hadn’t slept much the day prior, but I was tired. I did my show, and about an hour into Paul’s show, I started a song, put my elbows up on the board, my fists to my cheeks, and nodded off. About 20-25 minutes later, my head fell from my hands and I was startled awake. I had no idea where I was. The phones were all lit up, and nothing was on the air! I grabbed the first cart (what songs were on) in the music stack and jammed it into the machine. Fittingly, the song was “You’ve Got Your Troubles” by the Fortunes. Once the music started, the phones stopped ringing. I, however, knew that Paul was always listening! I dreaded the call that I knew was coming. I was sure to get fired for messing up his show! 10 minutes later the “PC hotline rang”. I answered it and as usual, Paul was chomping on something (he was always eating when he called). “How’s it going?”, he asked. He had to have heard it, I knew he did. Why wasn’t he saying anything? I finally blurted out that I had fallen asleep for a couple minutes and awaited the verbal beating. Nope. Not Paul. He laughed and said, “You Asshole! I remember this one time I fell asleep while I was at Super CFL in Chicago….” and told me the story. That was the kind of guy Paul was … a damn cool dude!
  • One more Paul Story. He drank coffee all through his shift. He liked it black and hot! One time he had Vince get him some coffee. It sat next to him for awhile while he was doing other things. He finally grabbed it and took a sip. He yelled, “What the hell is the matter with you guys?! You call this hot coffee?! I could piss warmer than this!! Get me some fresh stuff and make sure it is hot!” So Vince went to the coffee pot, filled the cup and then put it in the microwave for about 2 or 10 minutes…LOL. I don’t remember, but it was in there for a good while. He took the cup to Paul, who rather than set it down as he normally did, put it to his lips and burned the hell out of his tongue and lips! Paul yelped, “Jesus! What is wrong with you?!” Holding his tongue in pain, he continued, “I use this thing for a living!!” I think every one of us broke a rib laughing so hard.

WMXD

I followed Paul here to do some part time work after being let go from Kiss-FM. The format started as a mix of Urban/R&B music and Pop. Eventually it went all R&B and Urban. It was here that I met The Electrifying Mojo.

  • Mojo was a cool dude. He played most of his stuff off vinyl records. The thing I remember most about Mojo was that the studio was always like a sauna! It was always SO hot when I came in. There were always records all over the studio, so I rarely was able to pull the first hour of music for my show. I have to admit it was so cool to watch him say his closing line every night I worked: “Hold on tight. Don’t let go. Whenever you feel like you are reaching the end of your rope – tie a knot. Don’t slide off. Keep hanging. Keep remembering that there ain’t nobody bad like you.”

WHND

Honey Radio! I grew up listening to this station and I was honored to have the chance to work with radio legends! Richard D, Jon Ray, Boogie Brian, Ron Tavernit, Bill Stewart, Greg Russell, and so many others were such an influence. Honey was on the day I was at the drive in to see Smokey and the Bandit in 1977 – the day Elvis died. Honey was the first oldies station in the country – and I got to be there as they turned out the light…..

  • You can read all about my buddy Rob in a previous blog. I am not sure if I tell this story in that blog or not, so I apologize if I did. It was the last week Honey was on the air – the week of Thanksgiving 1994. Listeners knew that this was Honey’s last week and we had been given free reign to have fun. We had a listener who used to call up and his name was Mitchell. I had gotten to the point where I could do his voice pretty well. I had been doing a character based on the real listener and I called him “Mitch”. True story – Mitch would call and talk to us and really never have anything to say, so I prerecorded calls as Mitch where I just rambled about nothing and then hung up. Afterward, we’d say something like “He’s a nice guy, but ….” kind of a thing. So now it’s the last week we are on the air and it was clear that some people were upset the station was going off the air. So we planned a bit. I was going to do the character live on the air. I was going to come in and say how upset I was the station was going off the air, yell and scream and (using the theater of the mind) pull out a gun and start shooting (keep in mind this was 1994 and public shootings were not as prominent) it. At this point in the bit, our bouncer character (loosely based on Charles Bronson) was going to come in and beat up “Mitch” and throw him out the studio window. In order to accomplish the bit we needed sound effects (to make it sound real on the air). We had 6 cart machines and everything was on its own cart. So in cart player #1 was the song we just played. Cart #2 Door closing sound effect for when Mitch comes in Cart #3 – gunshot sound. Cart #4 – The sound of two guys beating each other up. Cart #5 – The sound of glass breaking (studio window) . Cart #6 – always had the weather music in it. After Mitch was thrown out the window, I would have already put the commercial we were going to go into in Cart player 1 and proceeded with the show. That is NOT how it happened on the air. As soon as I began to do the character live on the air, I saw Rob crack a smile, which made me start to laugh hard. As the Elvis character, Rob tries to save the bit, so I once again try to do the “Mitch” character – which only made me laugh harder. By this point we are both laughing so hard that we have tears in our eyes. Rob, as Elvis, says “That takes care of that bit, man!” and I go to start the commercial – but the commercial never made it to the machine, so the button I pushed was the gunshot sound effect, which only made us laugh harder….you hear us dropping carts and shoving the commercial in the machine and finally we went to commercials. I have often called this the worst 5 minutes of Detroit radio, but to me it is also one of the funniest. Yes, I do have audio, and it still cracks me up.
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  • (This is not the WHND studio, but it will give you a visual for the last story – Cart players are on the left in this picture)
  • Richard D was one of the funniest men I ever worked with. He gave me lots of direction and I have talked about him in previous blogs, as well. I was producing his show the Top 12 at 12, which was an hour of his show which featured the Top 12 songs in Detroit from local charts from different years. It was a fun show to produce. It included new stories, TV and movie clips, old commercials, info about how much things were from that year, etc… Richard had to play the 12 songs and sometimes there was extra time and we’d give him songs that were on the charts form that week to play as “extras” if he needed them. He was doing a countdown from 1966 and I had put a Dean Martin song in there as an extra and he played it. He made some comment about it not being the greatest song or something and moved on. I went into the studio, as I often did, to give him crap. I said something along the lines of “Why are you messing with Italians! Dean was Italian and so I am I! Look here you Old Bastid (a term of endearment), If I were you, I’d watch what you say about Dean Martin … and Frank Sinatra for that matter!” and left the room as he laughed hysterically. After the next song he said on the air, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I must offer an apology. A little while ago I played (whatever the song was) by Dean Martin and made some negative remarks about it. Well immediately after that, Keith Allen came in here with about 12 goons who roughed me up a bit and told me that my comments were distasteful. So I must now publically apologize. I really had no idea that Keith Allen was the President of the Dean Martin Fan Club!” From that day on, I always tried to find a way to sneak a Dean Martin song into my show, so I could say I was President of the Dean Martin Fan Club. When Honey went off the air, I received a package from a listener named Sandy (who I remain friends with to this day), who sent me a membership to the REAL Dean Martin Fan Club with a note that read: “I thought you might actually want to be a member of the Fan Club you claim to be President of….”
  • For years I listened to Boogie Brian rhyme his talks up song intros until he nailed the post (where the vocalist starts to sing) with no effort at all. His energy was constant and the smile in his voice was ever present – until November 25, 1994. That was the day Honey stopped broadcasting locally before eventually signing off. My partner Rob and I were listening to his sign off from the other room. The day had already been full of listeners wishing us well and many tears were shed. The biggest tears came as Boogie signed off that day. A powerful memory that I will never forget.

WWWW

I had just come back from working on the west side of the state, where I did country radio for the first time. It wasn’t long before a new PD, Tim Roberts, would take the chair and offer some advice that I still use today. Every year Tim was responsible for booking acts to the Downtown Hoedown (which at the time took place in Hart Plaza).

  • We worked at the Hoedown in shifts as I recall and mine was over. I was waiting in the blue W4 Country Suburban to go back to the station with Tim Timmerman. The Dixie Chicks were an up and coming act who had a very traditional sound. This was really not like anything on the radio at the time, and while I loved it, I didn’t think it would do as well as it did. Tim looked out the window and said “Dude, it’s the Dixie Chicks! We should go get a picture!” I told him he could because I was tired and “they probably won’t go anywhere”. Boy, was I wrong! There’s an opportunity I missed and regret to this day!

So many stories….so little time….

The more I write, the more stories I recall. Tell you what….More to come in the next blog…..

Dr. Yank, D.D.S.

dykn_comdentaloffice

From the things you will never hear file: “I cannot wait to go to the dentist!  It’s one of my favorite places to go!”

I recently had my dental cleaning and found that some old fillings needed to be replaced, and a new cavity had to be filled.  It is hard enough for me to go to get the cleanings, although technology has made it a bit easier.  The feeling of that metal scraper on my teeth is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard!  Now, they do most of the cleaning with this high pressure of water, but they still end up having to come in with that metal hook.  After they get done with the scraping, the actual dentist comes in and begins poking and prodding around in there.  That’s when they spring the news on you.  “You’ll need to have a couple of those filled”.

I need to be honest, they are really lucky that I go back to have it done.  The only thing worse than that hook, is the drill.  I tell them that I want the gas and the shot.  I don’t want to feel any of that pain.  I tried just the gas once, I remember you can still feel the pain, but you kind of don’t care.  You sit there and say to yourself, “Ouch!  You are really hurting me!  You stupid bastard, If I wasn’t so out of it, I would punch you right in the mouth!”   You also white knuckle it through the whole thing.  I think my fingers left indents on the arm of the chair from squeezing it so hard.

The shot helps a bit, because it numbs you up.  But you are more aware of other stuff, like the smell of the smoke from the tooth that they are drilling the hell out of to get rid of the cavity.  I’m sorry, but that’s just not something I want to be aware of it.  I usually need extra Novocain, which causes another problem – I’m numbed up for hours.  There is nothing worse than accidentally biting your cheek because you’re still numb.  It also sucks when you’re trying to drink a refreshing beverage.

So when I go – I get both.  Call me a baby, I don’t care.  I want to be in that “I don’t care” state when you give me the shots and I want to be numb when you carve up my tooth.  This time they let me listen to music.  They put on Pandora and I listened to Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack channel while they worked.  The only problem is, at one point, the channel must have gotten to the “are you still listening?” screen, because the music stopped.  Then I got to listen to the dentist tell the other gal about his weekend plans instead – a lot less entertaining.

One dentist office I went to had Netflix or a DVD player.  I was able to watch Sanford and Son while they worked on me.  Only problem was, at one point, you get so lost in the gas, that I remember missing chunks of the show.  While that was nice, the downside was a dentist with bad breath.  I kept thinking, “I know you have a stock pile of little Listerine bottles, because you give me two or three when I leave, try to swish some around before you come in to work on a patient.

The latest trend at the dentist is they take your blood pressure.  I have hypertension that is controlled by meds, but they always tell me, “You’re pressure is a bit high.”  I automatically think, “I see that damn metal hook on the tray right in front of me – of course, it’s high!!!”

As much as I have complained about the dentist, I will say that my last experience was a good one.  I just wish it wasn’t so expensive.  It seems to me that no matter where you go, dental insurance doesn’t cover squat.  The bill is always a ton of money.  It always seems to me that the insurance companies only want to cover like 10-20% of the bill and stick you with the rest.  I hate that, but it does remind me of a good joke to close with:

A woman called up her dentist to complain about her bill.  She yelled and screamed and told the dentist, “This bill is three times higher than what you normally charged and I want to know why!”

The dentist replied, “You screamed so loud while we were working on your teeth last time that you scared away two other patients and I had to make up the difference somehow!”

 

Tube Tunes….

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Today, Quincy Jones turns 85.  He is a legend in the music business.  He is a record producer, actor, conductor, composer, musician, TV & film producer, instrumentalist, magazine founder, entertainment company executive and humanitarian.  He’s worked with some of the best musicians and produced some of the biggest albums in history.  He has worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson.  Call my crazy, but despite all of the things Quincy Jones is known for – I remember him for one thing – he recorded the Sanford and Son Theme song!

There was just something cool about this theme song.  The opening bass line followed by the catchy melody.  To this day, I laugh when I see a beat up truck driving around, I will sing the Sanford theme out loud!  In an episode of Scrubs, JD and Turk are having a serious discussion, that eventually ends up with them singing and dancing to the Sanford theme!  Recently someone did a “mash up” with Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and, you guessed it, the theme to Sanford and Son.

Today, many shows don’t even bother with a theme song.  You see the credits scroll on the screen while the show is in progress.  This is sad.  A TV theme song kind of sets the mood for the show.  It will be a song with catchy lyrics or a melody that you can hum along with.  Today, lets go back and look at some of my favorite theme songs from TV’s past.  When we’re done – tell me your favorites that I may have missed.

The 50’s

Two of the earliest themes on my list come from shows considered classics.  First, The Andy Griffith Show.  This catchy tune is one that you can whistle along with.  Even without looking at a screen, whistling it makes you picture Andy and Opie walking with their fishing poles to the lake.  Second, The Dick Van Dyke Show.  What’s not to like about this one?  You only have to wonder whether or not he’s gonna trip over the ottoman when he walks in the house.

Then there is the Twilight Zone.  The haunting guitar part that plays those same four notes over and over is scary as hell!  As a kid, I remember freaking out when it was on.  Today, as I listen to it, it is perfect for the show.  It was the perfect music to play while Rod Serling explained that we were entering another dimension.  I can’t tell you how many times something obscure happens and I start humming the theme song!

Another one of my favorites was the theme to Perry Mason.  It was written by Fred Steiner who said he wanted to capture Perry’s sophistication and toughness.  The song is actually called Park Avenue Beat and it is a bluesy “piece of symphonic R&B”.  The song was re-recorded for the Perry Mason TV movies and was used by the Blues Brothers band while out touring.

Another theme song that I absolutely love, has a Blues Brothers tie in, too.  Peter Gunn is a private eye.  The initial base line accompanied by low brass instruments screams sleazy private eye.  It’s a great piece.  The song actually plays in the first Blues Brothers movie as the brothers are driving through Illinois.  They do a fine cover of it.

The 60’s

The shows of the 60’s and 70’s had some of the best theme songs!

The theme to Mission: Impossible is instantly recognizable.  It was composed by the great Lalo Schifrin.  What’s neat about the song is that it is in 5/4 time.  From the opening note – you can see the fuse light up and begin to burn.  It’s such a cool piece of music.  I was glad that they used it in the movies with Tom Cruise (even though I disliked them).

Wanna sing along with the theme to Batman?  You only need to sing the word “Batman” and you got it!  Neil Hefti, who was a composer and arranger, composed the theme with it’s simple guitar lick and vocal.  It was a hit for Hefti, The Ventures, and the The Marketts.

William Dozier, creator of Batman, also created the Green Hornet.  Even though the show didn’t last long, the theme song is memorable for a few reasons.  First, it is based on the classical piece, The Flight of the Bumblebee.  Second, playing the trumpet on the song is the great Al Hirt!  Classic!  One that you will hum for days.

Who can forget the theme to the Monkees?  “Here we come, walking down the street.  We get the funniest looks from, everyone we meet….”  Hey!  Hey!  They’re the Monkees!  For this show, they gathered 4 guys with little or no musical experience and made them a band.  The show appealed to kids and adults alike.  It was fast paced with quick jokes and 4 lovable characters who featured many of their hit songs on the show.

In the 60’s the guitar played a big part in theme songs.  Think about this, The Munsters theme had such a catchy lick that was sampled for the song Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boy.  It was cool enough to sample for one of today’s hit songs.

One of those great guitar theme songs was to Get Smart.  The opening sequence changed a little from season to season, but it always included Don Adams walking through a corridor with sets of doors one right after another until he finally makes it to the payphone that gets him into CONTROL headquarters.  Love this song and it never fails, if I am ever walking down a long hallway – I will almost always start to hum this song.

I mentioned the Ventures earlier, and they have one of the coolest theme songs – Hawaii 5-0.  It was a huge instrumental hit for the band.  It’s a great balance of guitar and horns.  The use of the tympani drum and the pyramid effect by the horns in this song is masterful!  It’s one of those theme songs you instantly crank up.

The 70’s

Disco was in and some theme songs were just “funky”.  Two examples of this are Barney Miller and it’s spin-off, Fish.  The funky bass in the two theme songs is prominent and sets the tone for the them.  The guitar melodies blend in and make them two themes that you could listen to over and over.  The horns in Barney Miller continue to crescendo to the end of the song itself.  It started slow and funky and ends in such a way that when it’s over you are disappointed cause you want more.

Norman Lear was a staple of 70’s TV.  He created All In The Family, Maude, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Good Times, and the list of his credits goes on and on.  The Jeffersons was a spin-off of All In The Family.  George Jefferson is “moving on up” to a bigger and better life and that’s where the theme song sets you up.  It tells you the story.  The theme song was written by Ja’net Dubois (of Good Times) and Jeff Berry and sung by Dubois and a gospel choir.  Her vocal is amazing and so is the song.

How do I describe the theme song from What’s Happening!!?  As the show opens, the main characters are running down a sidewalk bouncing a ball.  The music kinda sounds like a ball is bouncing and then the soprano sax jumps in.  It’s odd, but it’s catchy.  It’s also written and composed by one of the most respected men in music – Henry Mancini!

The 70’s introduced us to the superhero Wonder Woman.  I do not know a boy alive who did not have a crush on Lynda Carter.  Much like the Batman theme, this theme repeats the character’s name a few times, but then expands on how wonderful she is.  There is a funky little bass line that drives the song and I can’t really remember much more because I was watching Lynda Carter run ….

Welcome Back, Kotter was the show that introduced us to John Travolta.  It was a comedy about a guy (Gabe Kaplan) who goes back to his old neighborhood to teach.  The show was originally going to be called Kotter.  The title was changed, however, because of the theme song.  It was written and recorded by former lead singer of the Lovin’ Spoonful, John Sebastian.   The song hit the charts and went all the way up to #1.  This song give you the feel of the “folksy” 70’s.

The 80’s

There are so many great theme songs from the 80’s!  Let’s start with Night Court.  Night Court’s theme song throws me back to the 70’s because of that funky bass open.  You also have that soprano sax melody.  It’s not a long theme, and when it’s done, you wish that you could find somewhere an “extended club mix”.

Police Squad only produced 6 episodes and it was cancelled.  It starred Leslie Nielson as Lt. Frank Drebin.  At the time, the network didn’t think that a show like Police Squad would be something an audience would want to watch (so they could catch all the jokes – remember, this was done by the guys who gave us the movie Airplane!).  The theme song was accompanied by a voice over announcer reading the credits.  He would also announce tonight’s guest star (who would always die during the credits) and give the name of the episode (which never matched with the title read on the screen).  Thankfully, when the Naked Gun movies were made, the kept the theme song.

In 1980, Urban Cowboy hit theaters and country music was all the rage.  It only made sense that we’d have a country comedy show on TV.  That show was the Dukes of Hazzard.  Talk about big name singers – Waylon Jennings sings the theme song, and he was also the show’s narrator.  The song was released as a single in August of 1980, and it went to #1 on the Billboard Country Charts!  Yee-haw!

The 90’s

It is here that we begin to see the decline in the use of the TV theme song.  As a matter of fact, it became a habit to edit them down to 10-30 seconds from the already short 60 seconds.  There are some that stand out for me though from this decade.

Tim Allen’s Home Improvement was a show based on his comedy act.  His grunts and vocalizations intermingle through the theme song, almost as if they are a part of the musical score.  The theme song almost sounds like a “work” song, both in sound and in tempo.

Seinfeld was one of those shows who used a theme song for a while, and used it at the end of the show, but often times especially in the show’s later seasons, it was shortened.  The bubbly, poppy, twangy bass, and silly feel will forever be associated with the show about nothing and it’s silly characters.

From the opening guitar of “I’ll Be There for You” by the Rembrandts, you are in New York with Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe and Monica.  The theme to the show Friends was an international hit.  It was a song that was requested on radio and used at wedding receptions to introduce bridal parties.  The song is heavily influenced by the Beatles (I Feel Fine) and the Monkees (Pleasant Valley Sunday).  It was originally just one minute long, but the band went in an recorded an extended version, which became a radio hit.

Who could forget It’s Garry Shandling’s Show?  The show, in itself, was silly.  Garry interacts with the cast, but often will interact with the studio audience as well.  It was just so weird.  The theme song is just as weird.  It’s a bouncy song that basically references itself (this is the theme to Garry’s show) and tells you how it came to be (Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song) and then asks how you like it (we’re almost halfway finished how do you like it so far?).  The melody is so catchy, you can’t help but want to sing (or whistle) along with it.

Wrapping up

With the TV theme song becoming more and more absent from TV…what are your thoughts?  Which ones did you love growing up?  Which ones do you still sing?  Which ones did you hate?

Now it’s your turn – I look forward to seeing your comments.