Square Dancing … in Gym Class?

Sandra Boynton writes some of the best children’s books. They are perfect reads for Ella right now. They have great pictures, fun verses, and many of them are actually songs. I would say that they are just as fun for us to read as they are for Ella to listen to! This week, Sam was reading “Barnyard Dance.”

She came to the lyric that read “…with a BAA and a MOO and a COCKADOODLEDOO, everybody promenade two by two.” She looked at me and asked me what “promenade” meant. I told her it was a term used in square dancing. She looked at me funny when I answered. Without her saying a word, I knew her facial expression was asking, “How in the world do you know that!?”

(In square dancing, and in particular modern Western square dance, when a promenade is called it is understood to be a “couples promenade” involving all four couples. The couples assume a promenade position, each turn to the right as a unit, and walk counter-clockwise around the ring.)

Promenade

I explained that i knew what it meant because in high school gym class we had a few weeks were we danced. This led to an even more baffled look from my wife. I looked at her and said, “You didn’t have to square dance in gym class?” Matter of factly, she said, “No. We did things that you normally do in gym class!” I was surprised and angry at the same time.

We were the only students forced into promenading, circling left, allemande lefting, and do si do-ing with members of the opposite sex?! Of all the things we did in gym class, this was the ONE thing that every one (at least everyone I talked to) hated! We were teenagers and we were being forced to hold hands and stuff! It was SO uncomfortable. I remember Mr. and Mrs. B (our gym teachers were husband and wife) making us “rehearse” these square dance moves over and over. It was torture!!

They would play the music for the dances off of an old turntable with a microphone placed by the speaker so we could hear it. The one song that I remember square dancing to the most was Dean Martin’s Houston. I am sure that Dean was not singing on the song that they played. Instead, the lyrics were changed to give the various square dance calls. When it was time to promenade, that was where the chorus (“Going back to Houston. Houston. Houston.”) would be sung.

For years, I tried to block the traumatic weeks of square dancing from my mind. I eventually succeeded, until a day in 1993. I was filling in on Honey Radio for Richard D and doing his Top 12 at 12 show which focused on the year 1965. In the countdown that day was Dean Martin’s Houston. It all came back! The Do Si Do’s, the Promenades, and Ladies In, and Men Sashay! Who square dances in gym class?!?

To this day, whenever I think about square dancing, three things immediately come to mind

First, the 1950 Bugs Bunny cartoon Hillbilly Hare and the famous Square Dance number in it.

Hillbilly Hare – 1950

Second, The Dean Martin Show with Roy Rogers. (Funny how there is another Dean Martin connection to square dancing, huh?) Dean never rehearsed his show. So when they taped this square dance number, the dancers are literally pushing and pulling him around and showing him where to go. It is just awesome to watch….

Dean Martin, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans Square Dance

And finally, Gym Class!!!

For whatever it is worth, I learned how to do the Hustle and the Bus Stop in gym class. Thanks to Mr. & Mrs. B, I can line dance at wedding receptions….well, the Hustle, anyway.

Your Birthday #1

I have always enjoyed looking back at things from the past. When I worked at Honey Radio, I produced the Top 12 and 12 every weekday. We’d always have plenty of information about dates in history. No matter what year we were focusing on, we’d talk about how much a new vehicle cost or the price of milk or bread, the price of gasoline, or the cost of a new home. These pieces of information added extra nostalgia as we counted our way up to the #1 song in the City of Detroit on whatever day (and whatever year) we happened to be focusing on.

I mention that because our daughter Ella turned 10 months old this week.

It’s truly amazing how fast this time has flown by.

American Woman by the Guess Who was #1 on the pop charts when I was born. I guess I have known that for as long as I can remember. I decided to look and see what the #1 song was when Ella was born. Let’s just say that I hope she never really wants to know.

The song that was at #1 is called The Box by someone named Roddy Ricch. I’ve never heard of him and I’ve never hear the song. I looked it up. I read the lyrics. Sigh. Good Lord…

At any rate, if you don’t know what song was number on when you were born … you can find out here:

Looking back 25 years – WHND

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Monday, November 21, 1994.  6:00 AM.

My partner Rob Main and I walked into the studio of WHND to begin what would be the last week of live broadcasts from Honey Radio.  We had heard the news weeks prior to this that the radio station was going off the air in favor of Spanish programming.  When the station was not broadcasting from our studios, we were airing satellite programming from the Cool Gold Network, which was no longer going to providing services. Honey was no longer financially viable.

At the time, Honey Radio was the oldest Oldies station in the country.  While there were stations that played oldies in the Detroit market, none were focusing exclusively on the “first decade of rock and roll”.  We primarily focused on the songs that were hits from 1955-1965, while occasionally playing some of those earlier songs from the 1950’s, too.  I think that was one of the reasons I loved working at this station so much.  When you think of the music from that decade it included rockabilly, doo wop, surf music, Motown, British Invasion music, songs from the “Brill Building”, and early soul and R&B.

We not only played the hits from this decade, but we also played songs that were local hits from local artists that were not being played anywhere else! We played music from Nolan Strong, The Dynamics, Gino Washington, Jack Scott, and so many other local acts. We did a daily show (The Top 12 at 12), which focused on a different year of the decade and counted down the Top 12 songs in Detroit from that particular day.  We always used a local chart to count down the hits.  Those charts could be from The Detroit News, WJBK, WKNR, WXYZ, or other charts.  It was unique to our station!

Today’s radio is what many refer to as “liner card radio”.  The DJ’s on the air rarely have any content and read things from cards in the studio (usually promoting station events, station appearances, or sponsor information).  The most entertaining DJ’s are usually the morning show hosts, but even they are overloaded with sponsor reads and liners.  One of my radio mentors, Jay Trachman, used to say “People say that DJ’s talk too much.  This isn’t true.  The truth is that DJ’s tend to waste their listener’s time by not having anything to say. They don’t have any REAL content to share.” This is where Honey was different.

Honey Radio DJs were “personalities” – each unique.  Boogie Brian was the “Bard of Lincoln Park” and often spoke in Rhyme.  Richard D. was the “Silly DJ from Savage Minnesota” who now lived on Lack Of Drive in Warren with his wife Oldielocks and kids Doo Wop and Bee Bop.  Other personalities included Bill Stewart, Ron T., Greg Russell, Dr. Bob, “Young” Jon Ray, Scottie OJay, Rob (and every one of his characters), and me. Each of us had our “features”.  Scottie hosted the “Soul Patrol” show, Richard had the “Off the Wall Record” and “Poor Richard D’s Almanac”, Boogie had “Cruise Casts” and Boogie’s Forgotten Favorites”, and  the list goes on and on.  There was always something fun and unique happening on Honey.

Another thing I loved about Honey was the jingles.  Our jingles were PAMS jingles.  They were many of the same tracks/jingles that were used by local radio stations all across the country during the 60’s.  They were just re-sung with our call letters.  These jingles were just awesome!  Today, you can hear many of these same jingles on Sirius XM’s 50’s on 5 and 60’s on 6. I am lucky to have many of these jingles that were taken from the master tapes on CD in my collection.

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With Honey going off the air, many of us would be out of a job.  Rob and I had been working together off and on whenever I was on air for a while.  After Honey went off the air, we hoped to find a job doing mornings somewhere.  In order to do this, we needed some more “tape” of us together.  Richard D gave us permission to go on the air instead of the satellite show in the morning that final week.  We had free reign to “play around” and have fun on the air.  At the same time, we’d be getting hours of material that we could potentially use to try to get a show somewhere.

25 years ago today, Rob and I hit the studio with a few ideas, many voices, many characters, some great music, and had the best week of our career!  It was Thanksgiving week.  Music was scheduled for Monday-Wednesday and Friday.  Thursday we were supposed to air satellite programming.  Instead, we were on for 6 hours that Thanksgiving and played songs with a different theme each hour (Number songs, Songs with girls names or guys names, Instrumentals, Songs with body parts in the title, etc…)  Originally, those shows were recorded to cassette tapes.  Those tapes were called “Skimmers”.  The tape recorded only when the microphone was turned on.  Some time ago, I took those tapes and recorded them digitally and transferred them to CD.  I still pop them into my car and listen to that final week whenever I need a laugh.  I am guessing, I will need to pull them out to honor the 25th anniversary of Honey’s end.

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The only CD I have a difficult time listening to is the last show, from November 25, 1994.  It was the last day of live broadcasting.  We had friends visit us in the studio (South Bronx Johnny, Helen & Beverly, my dad, and others).  The calls we got from listeners that day were very emotional.  They made us feel so loved.  The last break of our show, Boogie’s wife had recorded a message for him that we played right before he went on the air.  He did the final four hours of live programming.  He had prerecorded a sign off that lasted about 15 minutes with his personal reflections on the station, the staff, the listeners, and the end.  I remember Rob, his girlfriend Mary, and I all listening to this and just sobbing. Boogie expressed what everyone was feeling and it was the perfect ending to an amazing station.

It is hard to believe that it has been 25 years since that last broadcast.  When I look back, I can’t believe I was lucky enough to work with those legends!  I can’t believe I was lucky enough to be a part of such an amazing station.  I had only been in radio about 6 years when I started at Honey, and I learned SO much from watching and talking to Boogie and Richard!  What an honor to have had them as coaches, mentors, and friends.

The one thing that I will always remember about working at Honey – is the laughter.  There was always laughter whether you were in or out of the studio.  There was laughter whether you were on air or off air.  I always seemed to leave the building with my cheeks hurting from smiling and my sides hurting from laughter.  Today, I can pop those shows in (or some of the Richard D shows I have on tape), and still laugh!

25 years later, Honey is no more.  That makes me sad, because the world could sure use some laughter!

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