Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Ted Hawkins and KTYM

Ted Hawkins was 'discovered' several times by different promoters, producers, agents, song pluggers, and radio men. The most important was probably in  1971 when a DJ names Johnny Jr. heard him busking on the corner of South Normandie Ave. and Exposition Blvd. in Los Angeles, a block from Exposition Park. Johnny Jr. was so impressed he brought Hawkins to the attention of another 1460 KTYM-AM DJ named Bill Harris. Harris in turn connected him to blues producer Bruce Bromberg. Then things started to happen.

But first bad things happened. Hawkins was born in 1928 in Biloxi, MS. A juvenile delinquent, he was incarcerated in 1949 at the Oakley Youth Development Center in Oakley, MS. He did time at Parchman Farm for stealing a coat. He sang with a group there and took an interest in music. He was released and traveled the country as a laborer. He ended up in the Los Angeles area in the 1960s busking trying to start a music career in the middle of the folk boom. he self-released a 45 in 1966 to little effect. By the time Bromberg met him Hawkins was already 43 years old. 

Today KTYM is a gospel station. But back in 1971 it had already changed hands a few times. It was sold in 1961 a country station which had only signed on in 1958. It held onto that twangy format until about 1965. They tried out a MOR format for a couple years but were spinning R&B by 1969 but with a bit of brokered programming. It was that mixed bag station which had Johnny Jr and Bill Harris on staff. But some claim that all slots were brokered at that time. In which case Bill and Johnny were on their own recognizance when they discovered Hawkins.  

That Bill Harris at KTYM might be the same Bill Harris that was later at KBIG in 1989 on the Hollywood Reporter.  But Johnny Jr. languishes in obscurity.  His program "the Roadrunner show" appears in Billboard in April 1968. The unnamed DJ is described as "A shouting R&B DJ" and the program as "a pure mishmash of jazz and rhythm and blues during a wild and frantic 11:00 AM to noon hour." His name appears on a KTYM Top 30 list from May 15th, 1973. His program "The Roadrunner Show" is not referenced elsewhere. I suspect the program was his throughout. But I have no documentation. More here. The show sounds spectacular. Anyone know who this DJ was?

So back to our bluesman: Bromberg offered Hawkins a recording contract and a dozen songs were recorded. But before anything happened Hawkins was arrested and incarcerated at Vacaville prison on Heroin. Rounder finally released the record in 1982, but he was released and able to make another recording for Rounder in 1986. It was about then that he met Andy Kershaw from the BBC. The Kershaw Sessions were recorded live at the BBC for disc jockey Kershaw's BBC radio show between 1986 and 1989. These weren't tour dates. Hawkins lived in England from 1986 through 1989.

That inertia led to chart numbers in Australia even without airplay and a DGC deal to release his most critically acclaimed album "The Next Hundred Years." It was assumed he'd break big but he died of a diabetes-related stroke on New Years Day January 1st 1995. No fewer than five post-humus albums followed. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

RCA Victor Transistor Radio TV Commercial

A RCA Victor transistor portable in a guaranteed non-breakable impact case... this spot ran back in 1959.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Assembling Transistor Radios

This is a fun one "Assembling Transistor Radios." It's a short film (2.5 minutes) on assembling TR-1 transistor radios. These were the first consumer transistor radio made at the Regency factory in Lawrence,IN.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Schwann Record & Tape Guide

In 1985 the RIAA honored Bill Schwann for "creating and perpetuating the nation's definitive record and tape catalog." They were referring to the Schwann Record & Tape Guide. They got in at the last minute.  A year later the publication was renamed the "Schwann Compact Disc Catalog." LPs and cassettes were out and CDs were on the rise. For more than 50 years Schwann was the primary consumer listing of classical, jazz and pop recordings. Today it's extinct.

William Joseph Schwann was born in 1913 and grew up to be a musician to the core. He was an organist; he a choir director, studied at Harvard's music dept. and in 1939 owned a record store in Cambridge MA. From that store in 1949 he launched the first long-playing record catalog. The first issue was a 26-page list containing of 674 LPs. He put out one issue a year and in 1971 began calling it the Schwann Record &Tape Guide. It was popular. He had to hire staff. By 1977 it ran 300 pages including 40,000 listings. He sold it in 1976 but continued on as editor until he retired in 1985. More here
In the 1980s it was bought by Stereophile magazine. In the 1990s it was bought by valley Media. But revenue was down. Increasingly data was available from other sources and from web services. The numerous retailers in malls didn't bother with the publication and many small labels and distributors didn't either: a feedback loop that destroyed circulation.

In the year 2000 they gave up on the quarterly format. Shwann replaced its quarterly Opus (classical) and Spectrum (pop) catalogs with annual issues. They moved away from paper and moved online supplementing that content via web content and a monthly magazine, Schwann Inside.In their defense the number of releases was increasing. Opus, even as a quarterly was about 1,200 pages long. That is a very expensive way to deliver 3-month old data. It's hard to imagine that it was printed monthly in the 1980s. More here.

In 2002, Schwann was purchased at a bankruptcy auction by Alliance Entertainment Corporation. [LINK] They were more interested in the database than any possible services. The schwann.com URL was not redirected to Alliance. An announcement was posted describing the sale on the URL and then it was taken down before the years end. It was over.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Transistor Radio Hack!

Well this looks fun. Thank you to Make Magazine post posting this one on YouTube.