Haunted Hits

I have DJ’d countless Halloween parties. This year I had to turn down one of my favorite ones. For the past few years a local daycare throws a big party and kids and their parents dress up in costumes and it is always a blast. Due to my current work schedule, I was just not able to be there this year.

I always had to have a variety of “haunted” hits to play at these parties. In case you are looking for musical ideas for your Halloween party, here is a starter list.

As much as I hate this record, you have to play Bobby “Boris” Pickett

You’ve also gotta play Michael Jackson’s Thriller. (Love Vincent Price’s narration in this!)

A personal favorite is from the Classics IV – Spooky

I always loved Jumpin’ Gene Simmons version of Haunted House

A favorite of the kids – This Is Halloween from The Nightmare Before Christmas

Speaking of nightmares, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince offer up Nightmare on My Street

A great one from The Eagles – Witchy Woman

Kid Rock sampled this one for All Summer Long – Werewolves of London from Warren Zevon

You gotta play Clap for the Wolfman from the Guess Who

How about the silly song called The Blob by The Five Blobs?

The Hocus Pocus movie brought this one back, but the original is the best version – I Put a Spell On You by Screaming Jay Hawkins

How about some Rockwell? Somebody’s Watching Me

Be careful who you run around with …. Van Halen – Runnin’ With the Devil

Another favorite of mine – Santana – Black Magic Woman

It’s a very rare occurrence to have a full moon on Halloween, but this song works all year round. Bad Moon Rising – CCR

The moon causes the Shadows in the Night – Pat Benatar

Beware of the walking dead …. Zombie by the Cranberries

Another overplayed Halloween Song – The Purple People Eater – Sheb Wooley

I suppose you have to play Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters

Going back to the 50’s for a couple crazy songs …

The Mummy from Bob McFadden and Dor

From Chipmunk creator David Seville – The Witch Doctor

Grab a bite with a vampire – Dinner With Drac from John Zacherle

Three Devilish songs now –

Devil with the Blue Dress – Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels

Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones

A classic from The Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Alice Cooper did this one in Wayne’s World – Feed My Frankenstein

Speaking of Frankenstein – how about the Edgar Winter classic instrumental..

Need some cowbell?? Don’t Fear The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

A song I have blogged about in the past – Superstition – Stevie Wonder

Demons – Imagine Dragons

Trick or Treat … I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow

Another 80’s flashback … Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo

Lots of requests for Enter Sandman – Metallica

All good lists need a cut from Frank Sinatra – Witchcraft

I’ve never really understood how this is a Halloween song, but everyone wants to do the Time Warp from the Rocky Horror Picture Show

From another film (Rain Man) The Delta Rhythm Boys -sing about Dem Bones

Now, some kid favorites which had me searching YouTube a lot ….

Spooky Scary Skeletons

I sang this in music class when I was in elementary school and kids are still singing it today – Witches Brew

Then you can fill in with various Theme songs from films and TV …

Scooby Doo

Tales From The Crypt

The Twilight Zone

The Munsters

The Addams Family

The X-Files

Whew!!

So what did I forget?

Turntable Talk – Did Video Kill The Radio Star?

This blog is my entry for Dave over at A Sound Day’s “Turntable Talk.” Kudo’s to Dave for picking some fantastic topics, and at the same time letting us participants “run” with it. The following are the instructions we were given:

We were told we ” …don’t have to write literally about the question, but we’re looking for your thoughts on all things music video – how much did MTV change the music of the ’80s? Since there were already British acts making videos regularly in the 70s, do you think it would have taken off in a big way even without the American MTV influence?  Did it kill careers… or make careers that shouldn’t have happened? Do you have favorite ones you still like to watch?  Do you miss the days when MTV (or Much Music in Canada, or European equivalents) ran music videos instead of reality TV and old reruns?   Really, approach it how you like, but I’m curious to get thoughts on the Video Revolution.

My Conundrum

There have been many people who truly believe that video killed the radio star. As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, I lived through the beginnings of MTV. When I think about music videos, there are so many that I will forever associate with the songs. For example:

  • Take On Me – a-ha
  • Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel
  • Rhythm Nation – Janet Jackson
  • Bad, Billie Jean, Beat It, Black or White, and of course, Thriller – Michael Jackson
  • Vogue – Madonna
  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • Buddy Holly – Weezer
  • Weapon of Choice – Fatboy Slim
  • Dire Straits – Money For Nothing
  • Legs – ZZ Top
  • Land of Confusion – Genesis
  • Hot For Teacher – Van Halen
  • Simply Irresistible – Robert Palmer
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
  • Run DMC and Aerosmith – Walk This Way
  • California Girls – David Lee Roth
  • Got My Mind Set on You – George Harrison
  • Stuck With You – Huey Lewis and the News
  • Faith – George Michael
  • White Wedding – Billy Idol
  • Opposites Attract – Paula Abdul

The list could go on and on! Those are just the ones that I pulled off the top of my head (and I am probably forgetting some big ones)!

The more I thought about it, I kept coming back to “Video killed the radio star.” Perhaps that is the case (as some proclaim), but I can think of one artist who made videos and it got him mainstream attention.

MTV Welcomes Weird Al Yankovic

According to Wikipedia, the discography of Mr. Yankovic consists of fourteen studio albums, nine compilation albums, eleven videos albums, two extended plays, two box sets, forty-six singles and fifty-four music videos. 

Those fifty-four music videos helped to take Weird Al Yankovic to the mainstream world. Let’s face it, the only place you could hear him on the radio was on the Dr. Demento Show, which was often aired in the worst possible time slot because of the crazy content. When Al ventured into the video realm, more and more viewers wanted to see – and hear – more of him!

Parody songs have been around forever, and very rarely ever got radio play. Novelty records were big in the 50’s and 60’s, and there were a few here and there in the 70’s. When Al comes on the scene in 1983, he took it to a whole new level, using videos.

1983’s “Ricky” is credited as being his first video. It was a parody of Toni Basil’s “Micky.” It was a parody base on the TV show I Love Lucy. The video was shot in black and white and still looks great today.

From there, Al continued to use video to gain exposure on MTV. His next single was “I Love Rocky Road” which parodies Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll.” Instead of a greaser bar, it is set in … an ice cream parlor.

Al’s next video is really the one that really stands out as the one that moved him to a whole new level. Yes, he is a parody singer, but with the video for “Eat It” (a parody of Michael Jackson’s Beat It), not only is the song parodied, but so is the video. Al’s video is literally a shot for shot remake of Jackson’s. Throughout the video, instead of switchblades there are rubber chickens and kitchen utensils, and gags for almost everything in the Beat It video.

I can’t say whether or not the video is responsible for this, but the song won Al a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording in 1984. The video won for Best Male Performance at the 1984 American Video Awards!

From that point on, Al continued to make music videos for his singles. Art Fleming appeared in the “I Lost on Jeopardy” video, non-stop visual gags were plentiful in the “Like a Surgeon” video, and the James Brown “screams and shrieks” in “Living With a Hernia” were all more painful than soulful.

In 1988, Al once again parodied Michael Jackson. If I had to pick a “perfect” Weird Al parody video, it this would be one of two. Al won another Grammy Award for Best Concept Music Video for “Fat.” He even got permission from MJ to use the same set as the original video. Al’s makeup took three hours to apply every day and his fat suit weighed 40 pounds. Every time I hear the line, “Ding Dong, Yo!” I still crack up.

I mentioned that “Fat” is one of two “perfect” videos. The other would have to be the fantastic video for “Smells Like Nirvana” (a parody of Smells Like Teen Spirit). Al famously got permission for this parody from Kurt Cobain himself when he was performing on Saturday Night Live. In this Grammy-nominated video, Al satirizes Nirvana and the grunge movement, shooting on the same set as the original video and using the same actor who played the janitor (Rudy Larosa). Dick Van Patten has a cameo, which for whatever reason is extremely funny to me. Why Dick Van Patten??!! Someone said that Tony Hawk makes an appearance in the video, too. I’m not sure I know where.

Weird Al has certainly used music videos to his advantage. It takes a lot of creativity to write a good parody (I mean, come on, there are a lot of crap ones out there – just look on YouTube), but to take an already funny song and create a video that brings about even more humor, just enhances the song. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, Weird Al is a musical genius.

There have been many other great videos that have followed. To name a few: Amish Paradise (featuring Florence Henderson), Headline News (featuring The People’s Court’s Doug Llewelyn), Gump (featuring Ruth Buzzi and Pat Boone), The Saga Begins (the fantastic Star Wars tribute), White and Nerdy (featuring Donny Osmond and Seth Green), and so many more.

Yes, video may have killed the radio star, but it certainly helped boost the career of Weird Al Yankovic.

Tune Tuesday – Ain’t No Sunshine

As summer quickly (and sadly) draws to a close, it got me to thinking about the one thing I’ll miss most about summer – sunshine. For those who live where the sun is always shining (or at least most of the time), you really cannot comprehend just how difficult the winter months in Michigan are. While I love Autumn, I miss the sunshine as we start to see it less and less.

The lack of sunshine that is on the horizon in the months ahead, made me think of this great R&B song from Bill Withers. It’s been covered by SO many people including Nancy Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Wynonna Judd and many more, but Bill Wither’s version is the gold standard! It can be found on his 1971 album “Just As I Am.”

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Bill wrote the song after being inspired while watching the movie The Days of Wine and Roses with Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon. He said in an interview that the characters Remick and Lemmon played: “They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It’s like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren’t particularly good for you. It’s just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I’m not aware of.”

This was his first hit. He was in the navy for 9 years and after getting out, he worked in a factory making parts for airplanes. It was during this time that he met Booker T. Jones (of Booker and the MG’s). Booker brought in some amazing musicians (Donald “Duck” Dunn, Stephen Stills, and himself) to play on the track. Jones also produced the album.

One of the most recognizable parts of the song is where he repeats the words “I know” over and over and over. That was not they way he intended the song to be. he had hoped to write a verse to go there. Withers explained in an interview: “I wasn’t going to do that, then Booker T. said, ‘No, leave it like that.’ I was going to write something there, but there was a general consensus in the studio. It was an interesting thing because I’ve got all these guys that were already established, and I was working in the factory at the time. Graham Nash was sitting right in front of me, just offering his support. Stephen Stills was playing and there was Booker T. and Al Jackson and Donald Dunn – all of the MGs except Steve Cropper. They were all these people with all this experience and all these reputations, and I was this factory worker just sort of puttering around. So when their general feeling was, ‘Leave it like that,’ I left it like that.”

(Keith story: The first time I played this record at WKSG in Detroit, I was in the bathroom peeing when the “I know” part started repeating. I was standing at the urinal listening to the song over the speaker and I thought “the record is skipping!” I was playing this off a cart (which meant that it was already recorded and there was no way the song was skipping, unless it was recorded that way!). I remember running out of the bathroom and through the halls anyway …. by the time I got to the studio, the song was continuing ….skip free!)

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The song won the Grammy for Best R&B song in 1972 and went all the way to #3 on the charts. While English teachers must cringe when they hear the improper grammar (“ain’t no” instead of “isn’t any”), it worked in this song (and also Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough).

“Ain’t No Sunshine”

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
It’s not warm when she’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And she’s always gone too long
Anytime she goes away

Wonder this time where she’s gone
Wonder if she’s gone to stay
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away

And I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
I know, I know
Hey, I oughtta leave young thing alone
But ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
Only darkness every day
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
And this house just ain’t no home
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away
Anytime she goes away

“Get a load of this guy …”

On Facebook earlier, I posted an article that was written about Honey Radio going off the air.  For the article, they interviewed the “Bard of Lincoln Park”, Boogie Brian (who did an amazing send off for Honey’s last 15 minutes on the air), me, and my partner, Rob Main.  Rob has been on my mind a lot in the past couple months.  Thoughts of him led to the Valentine’s Day Blog on World Radio Day.  I have been meaning to write an entire blog about him for some time, and so here it is.

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I don’t know that I would call him an impressionist, because while he did many celebrity voices, he also did other characters.  His celebrity impressions included Muhammad Ali (We called him “the Champ”), Charles Bronson (We called him “Chuckie Buchinsky” – Bronson’s real name), and Elvis Presley (We called him “EP”, E for Elvis and P for Presley). His other characters included a Hillbilly Ex-Marine named Red Neckman, Red’s brother Earl Neckman (who repeated everything he said two to three times), and Lucky McCloud (the Scottish Weatherman).  What made him unique was that I could say to him, “I need a British doctor”, and he’d be able to come up with the voice.

The first time I ever heard Rob, I was listening to Honey.  I didn’t work there at the time, and I was listening to Bill Stewart.  He was talking to “EP”.  Now I have seen a lot of Elvis interviews, and I gotta tell you, when I heard him, I truly believed it was Elvis!  What was great about the way they handled the character (which continued when we worked together) was that EP NEVER said he was Elvis, but often eluded to the fact that he might be him.  He’d say things like, “I remember when I bought, I mean Elvis bought his mother a Cadillac” and when Lisa Marie married Michael Jackson he said, “I’m very upset about that!  I know Elvis would be upset about it too!”.  I remember that he said his real job was selling cars at Buck Williamson Chevrolet or something…I guess that was his cover.

As I listened to EP, I remember thinking, “If this IS NOT Elvis, whoever is doing this voice has NAILED it!”  What made it work was first and foremost, Rob was an Elvis fan and had a brain full of knowledge about him.  We’d play a song and he’d say, “That song’s from 1958, that’s when I was going into the army” “1961 was the year that I, I mean Elvis made Wild In The Country and Blue Hawaii.  I remember Joan Blackman was so nice to me, I mean Elvis”.  Second, he also knew all of the co-stars, the names of Elvis’ characters in the films, and those things made you truly question whether it truly was The King.  Lastly, he watched almost every Elvis interview.  He had Elvis’ speech pattern down and knew when to pause and when to stretch out syllables and words.  It was perfection.

I remember one Fourth of July, Honey was broadcasting live from the Veteran’s Picnic at Freedom Hill.  I did my show from there and Rob was with me.  He took his microphone and went into some building and we chatted and I’d ask EP why I hadn’t seen him and he’d say, “If I showed myself in public, it’d be pandemonium.  I’m wearing a disguise today.  The disguises that he’d mentioned were things like “My Gregory Peck from Moby Dick disguise” or “No one saw me, cause I was wearing my Chuck Connors disguise from the Rifleman”.  It always cracked me up.

We became close friends, because we shared so many of the same interests.  He was a few years older than me, and he was amazed that I was a fan of old black and white movies.  He loved that we could talk about old TV shows, old actors, and classic films.  He once said to me, “How the hell does a young punk like you know about (Fill in the actor or movie)!?”

He’d comb through old movies looking for “drops”.  A drop is a radio term for a snippet of a movie that you play in a bit, a promo, a liner, or just outta no where.  A drop is often used in a DJ liner.  For example, the big voice guy might say “You’re listening to Keith Allen” and then you insert the movie or TV line “Oh, good….the hippie’s here” followed by the big voice guy saying “On WHND Honey radio” and into a song.  He had some of the most bizarre drops and I would always ask where he got them.  That’s how I came to watch The Jayhawkers (with Jeff Chandler), Mr. Majestyk (with Charles Bronson), Patterns (with Van Heflin), Hercules and Hercules Unchained (with Steve Reeves), The Wild One (with Marlon Brando) and Hotspell (with Anthony Quinn).  We had drops from every one of those films!

Sometimes, we’d just play drops to crack each other up.   Radio is all about theatre of the mind.  It’s about painting a picture.  We utilized sound effects to paint a picture.  We had a “city sounds” tape that we played to make it sound like we were outside in the parking lot.  We had a “bagpipes” tape that played whenever Lucky did the forecast.  We had a door close sound effect to signify when a character had left the studio.  We had a tape marked “fight scene” (which was a barroom brawl from an old western movie) and the sound of glass breaking which we used in a very unique way.

The Chuckie character was “the bouncer”. If we were in the middle of a conversation and someone barged in the studio to yell something at us (which would be the drop), we’d call for Chuckie.  He’d always be annoyed that we called him to take care of the people bugging us.  He’d start to beat the heckler up (the fight scene) and throw them through the studio window (glass breaking) and leave (door slam).  It became such a silly thing, and yet we’d use it often.  Sometimes, Chuckie would have to take care of one of the other characters.  It was insanity.

That last thought brings me to something I have mentioned in the past.  Rob was a wonder to watch as we did a show.  He did all these characters and sometimes, he’d hold entire conversations between two or three of them at the same time.  It was amazing to see him bounce from character to character.  He knew which character was further away from the microphone and adjusted where he was when he talked for that character.  Brilliance!  To watch him argue with himself as two different characters was simply amazing.

If there was a main character that he did, it was probably EP.  I would say the second most used was Red.  Rob said to me that Bill Stewart came up with the name, which doesn’t surprise me because Bill is one hell of a funny guy.  The name is just plain funny.  I’m not sure where this started, but the word was that Red was the station custodian and he lived out in the dumpster behind the station.  Red often fell asleep on the floor of the studio during the show and everyone was always tripping over him.  He spoke with a deep voice and a southern drawl.  He had an opinion about everything.

The final week Honey was on the air was Thanksgiving week 1994.  Red said he wanted to voice his opinion about the Detroit Lions (who were not that great a team that year).  He did this entire rant (with the sound of a teletype underneath his voice) about how he was sick and tired of the Lions always losing and how he was putting his own football team together.  He wanted people to join and offered beer and salami for playing.  He was including members of the Honey Staff and some listeners.  I asked him if I could be on the team.  I think he said I could be the water boy, and then said “No, we don’t have one of those, you can be the beer boy!”

Rob also played himself on the show.  He interacted with me and did traffic reports and such.  I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but it had something to do with sailors or something cause I mentioned Popeye.  Rob (as himself) said he remembered Poopdeck Paul, and out of no where Red yells “I remember Captain Jolly!” which cracked me up to where I almost couldn’t recover so as Red he just said, “I think I’m gonna go get me a fish sandwich”….which made me laugh even harder and then we went into commercials.

Lucky McCloud was one of my favorite characters he did.  It was easy for him because he was Scottish.  His mom had a wonderful Scottish accent and I loved when she would answer the phone when I called.  Lucky was basically his mom.  What I loved about Lucky was that he was always accompanied into the studio with his bagpipe player.  He’d always have something to say about Red “That daft man” or me “You’re just a wisenheimer”.  We never knew if it was going to be “Partly McCloudy or Partly McSunny”.

Occasionally, Lucky would talk about how much he loved Scotch (surprise surprise).  Glenfiddich was his brand of choice.  He’d sometimes sound a bit loopy and we’d question him about it and the response was always, “I just had a wee nip”.  That was the great thing about Rob.  I never knew what the characters were gonna do until we turned on the microphone.  That’s a no no in the biz – you always know where you are going with something.  Most of the time, I was able to play along and find “an out”.  Sometimes, it didn’t go so well.  For the most part, what followed was spontaneous humor.

Five of the worst radio moments in Detroit Radio History:  The week Honey went off the air, Rob insisted I do a voice on the air.  I had done it a couple times, but had recorded it.  The character was “Mitch Wallace”, who was loosely based on a real listener who called us all the time.  I had called him at home and used that voice and he said it was so good, he though the guy had his number!  This particular day we had a stupid bit planned.  I was to enter the studio as Mitch.  I was to be upset about the station going off the air.  I was to have a gun and Chuckie the bouncer was going to beat me up and throw me out the window.  If only it had gone that smoothly…….

We had 6 cart (tape) machines.  In #1 was the song we were talking out of.  In #2 was the gunshot sound.  #3 had the fight scene sounds.  #4 had the glass breaking .  #5 had the door slam and #6 had the first commercial.    I had NEVER done the character live before.  So when I did, I saw Rob start to chuckle and I started to lose it.  We both began to laugh hard.  I was laughing so much, I had tears in my eyes and couldn’t see the board in front of me to push the buttons to start the commercial (because by this time, it was obvious we couldn’t do it.  Now out of commercials, we decide to try again.  As soon as I start to do the Mitch character, I started laughing.  We were going to do the weather out of the bit this time, so the first thing I did after laughing was cue up the bagpipe music….miraculously, Rob was able to jump into the Lucky character and eventually the bit happened on the air…..it was a long way to go for something that was probably only funny to us, (which may be why we didn’t find a gig…LOL) but it remains one of my favorite moments on air with him.

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Rob and I spent many hours singing karaoke.  He was in a band and was the vocalist.  He would drag me to this little hole in the wall place on Dequindre called Jacmars.  We’d sing and grab beers.  I’ll never forget there was this one guy who sang there.  No matter what song he sang, he sang it like Mario Lanza or Pavarotti.  We called him Opera Man (this was before the Adam Sandler bit).  You haven’t heard anything until you hear a classic R&B song like Kansas City being sung like its an aria!  (If you have never heard this – consider yourself lucky).  There was another guy who looked and talked like Bela Lugosi.  He spoke like Dracula….and sang like him too!  Rob and I shared many laughs about those nights!!

The week following the station going off the air, we were in and out of the station.  We were editing a tape so we could send them off to try to find a gig.  When we reached a point where we needed a break, we’d go into the old Honey office.  One day, he whipped out this business card and said (like he always did- and I still do to this day) “Get a load of this guy!” It was a guy who was a DJ and his business card was touting him as the best of the best.  Rob grabbed the office phone and called the number on the card.  He got the guy’s voicemail and proceeded to adlib one of the funniest things ever.  “My name is Michael McClingling (I’ll never forget that was the name!) and I was hoping to get you to come to my party.  I hear you are the best and I was hoping you could do a clown act!” (I am literally laughing as I type that!  Man, I wish we had the audio of that) We then wasted the entire afternoon calling this poor guy using different voices and such.

After Honey went off the air, we hoped to find a place to do our show.  Needless to say, there weren’t many stations that allowed for the kind of show we were doing.  Rob was frustrated with the biz and eventually said he was over it.  There was quite a bit of depression afterward, and there were some very difficult conversations that followed.  He was having health issues and I did whatever I could to cheer him up.  He had a lot of stuff happen in his personal life, including the loss of his parents.  There were times I wondered when he hung up if that was the last time I was going to hear from him.  I never knew, because he was buying pay as you go phones toward the end and he always seemed to call from a new number.

The last time I saw him, we had chatted earlier that week.  He had told me that he wasn’t even sure where his parents were buried.  I did some searching and found that they are actually buried at Great Lakes National Cemetery – the same place my mom is buried.  We made plans for me to pick him up where he was staying and I took him to see his folks.  He was overwhelmed with emotion.  He told me that it was the greatest thing anyone had every done for him.  I told him I would let him have some time with his folks, but he insisted that I stay by him. I remember he started talking to his mom and dad.  He told them “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this kid. He found you for me.”  He broke down and put his arm around me and said, “thanks – now lets go see your mom.”

After that, we talked once or twice.  He had mentioned that he was sick, but didn’t go into much more detail no matter how much I asked.  I don’t know how I knew it, but I had a feeling this was going to be our last conversation. He was a bit too nostalgic.  He reminded me of so many of the fun times we had.  He reminded me of the people we met and our friends from radio.  He reminded me of the day at the cemetery.  He thanked me for being the kid brother he never had.  He thanked me for the many laughs.  The last thing he said before he hung up was, “I love ya, kid”.  Then the phone calls stopped.

It wasn’t until within the last few years that Facebook connected me with a mutual friend of ours.  It was Mary who told me that Rob had passed away.  I remember the shock at first, and then the last phone call replayed in my mind.  He said what he needed to say.  I wish I had done the same.

Today, whenever I see one of those old movies, whenever I see Gregory Peck or Van Heflin, or whenever I hear Roy Hamilton or Brook Benton, I think of Rob.  When I hear Elvis doing an interview on Sirius XM, when I hear Waterloo by Stonewall Jackson, or when I hear bagpipes, I think of Rob.  I have a feeling that I will be revisiting this blog and adding stories, because there are plenty of them I forgot to tell.  I am lucky that I have the last week of shows that we did on Honey Radio in a digital format and can listen whenever I want.  I have listened to them SO many times, and they are just as funny as when we did them 24 years ago.  Thanks for the memories, big brother.

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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.