Thursday, April 23, 2015

Send Lawyers, Guns and Money

It was the end of the era when Philly was still a music city. It was a different time. Joni Mitchell and Tom Rush hung out there. The studios of WMMR overlooked Ritenhouse Square for many years from the third floor of the Wellington Building. From 1983 to 1984 Warren Zevon lived in a hotel on Rittenhouse Square, in the heart of the city. But Zevon was born in Chicago, why was he in Philly while disco was king?

Zevon was a born musician. He studied classical music as a child, even studying under Igor Stravinsky briefly. At the age of 16 he quit school and moved to New York to become a working musician. The year was 1963. He recorded his first solo album in 1969, with Kim Fowley acting as producer. In the 1970s he toured with the Everly Brothers as keyboard player after which he briefly moved to Spain. He then relocated to Los Angeles, finding work as a song writer. He married Crystal Brelsford briefly in 1974. They got a divorce in 1979. The marriage produced one son, Jordan and the ballad "Empty-Handed Heart." Afterward he relocated to Philadelphia. Enter Anita Gevinson and the shortest commute to work ever.

At the time Anita was a DJ on rock station, WMMR. She was on air there from 1978 to 1982. (With a short break to spin at KLOS in 1980, and WCOZ in 1979.) In December of 1982 she crossed the street to WYSP for an afternoon slot. Program director Michael Picozi proposed that she start taking live calls. The "Ask Anita" segment was born. Picozi, clearly a patient boss, even later let her take time to tour with Zevon.  He moved into Gevinson's apartment at Rittenhouse Sq.  But when Picozi was unexpectedly fired in 1984, the good times ended.  In May of 1985 a new PM Andy Bloom started, and Gevinson was cut along with several other staffers. The station began syndicating Howard Stern in mornings to replace some of them. The papers called it the "Labor Day Massacre." Gevinson went to WCAU and Zevon went to rehab.

In August Gevinson moved to 1210 WCAU-AM and took on a talk program that ran from 9:00 AM to noon, followed by the hour-long "Ask Anita" segment reminiscent of  her WYSP bit. It wasn't bloodless, she replaced Maxine Schnall and Ron Eisenberg.  More here. But rocker talk wasn't the right demographic for WCAU. The AM band was already going gray. She tried out the west coast again with a spin at KMPC where she stayed from 1988 - 1990, then added a second slot at 101.9 KSCA. She dumped both those gigs to work at 97.1 KLSX in 1997. She remained there until 2009.

Warren Zevon died of inoperable lung cancer on September 7, 2003, shortly after the release of his last album "The Wind." Gevinson published a memoir in 2012, You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio. The book focuses heavily on her time at WYSP and WMMR, and her deceased rocker fiancĂ© Warren Zevon.  More here and here.