Archive for July, 2006

The Dick Summer (re) Connection, Chapter 3

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

The Dick Summer (re) Connection – Chapter 3

Things are getting even better. Ed Perry, the owner and General Honcho of WATD radio in Marshfield Massachusetts, and John Shea, his Webmaster have added the “Good Night” PodCasts to his station’s web site. Thanks guys. The “counter” on the site has shown more than a 100% increase in visits since we’ve started the “Re-Connection.” Pretty neat.

One poop at the party; I’ve noticed that some commercial interests have decided to tag this blog with advertising for their products. There’s not much I can do about that, except to alert you to what they’re doing, and ask you to simply ignore them. This is NOT a commercial venture. I don’t sell advertising on this blog. I don’t sell advertising on the PodCasts. The Blog and the PodCasts are what I hope they seem to be…means of sharing the high I used to get on the air from the genuine connection I felt with the people who joined me on the radio each night. Having said that, there are some pretty special comments being posted by real people at the end of these notes also, and I welcome that. Please do add your comments, or drop me an Email at


It wasn’t “Classic Rock” all those years ago. It really didn’t have a name at first. But it was definitely a new kind of music. It was music on fire. Hendrix, Morrison, Clapton. When I heard it for the first time it took me a week to get my eyes closed. Here’s the perspective: AM radio was still king. Big 50,000 watt flame throwers like WBZ in Boston, WABC in New York, WLS in Chicago, and KFI in Los Angeles ruled. Almost all of them were built on tight top forty foundations. In fact, the play list at WABC was frequently more like the top twenty, with the emphasis on the top three. “All Hits All The Time.” Jingle, jangle, jingle. The FORMAT was the BOOK. Except at WBZ. Now it can be told…WBZ never had a format. The guys on the air played whatever we wanted to play, including records from our own personal collections, and tapes from local artists. And in between every single record/tape, we had fun. Oh we had fun. And people loved it. Today’s top radio stations pull around a ten rating in a major market. WBZ consistently pulled north of a twenty five. The mouths at WBZ belonged to Carl deSuze, Dave Maynard, Jay Dunn, Jeff Kaye (and later Ron Landry) Bob Kennedy Bruce Bradley and me. But the brains, and a lot of the heart of the station belonged to the Program Director, Al Heacock. Al was smart. He was a quiet guy who made a lot of money in the stock market. But he really didn’t care about the stock market. Al cared about his radio station, WBZ. It was a station with “tude.” When we broadcast from our mobile studio, which was most of the time, we proudly wore our station blazers. It wasn’t unusual at all for one of us to drop in on somebody else’s show and kibitz for a while. When you walked down the beach, you didn’t need to bring your own radio, because everybody around you would have ‘BZ turned on and turned up to stun. If you stopped your car for a red light, you could always hear ‘BZ coming out of the speaker in the car stopped next to you.

For those of you who never heard the station, and for those of you who work in radio and are curious about the legend that was WBZ, here’s how Al programmed his music: Each month there was a staff meeting. At the meeting he would always remind us to play some of the top tunes he left in the rack in the studio. And then he’d say, “I don’t want to hear two records back to back. We pay you guys to entertain. Entertain.” What a joy it was, what an honor to be a WBZ D.J.

Here’s where the “Father of Classic Rock” stuff comes in. Because it’s a big college town, Boston has always had a strong Folk Music tradition. At ‘BZ we were consistently playing original tapes of unreleased songs like “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel, and “The Urge for Going” by Tom Rush, all kinds of stuff by Dylan, and Baez, and Sweet Judy Blue Eyes Collins. I was doing a weekly MC gig at the Unicorn Coffee House, a major Folkie spot in town. And I noticed that some of the artists were beginning to go electric. I invited Al to attend one night, and he immediately understood. The next day, he instigated ‘BZs only mandatory music rule: “One ‘Liquid Rock’ song (that’s what he called the new music) per hour.” Almost immediately the new music picked up the nickname “Underground Rock.” The name was the only thing Al got wrong. He set aside two hours on Sunday evening for the first big time “Underground Rock” radio show, “Dick Summer’s Subway.” Then Dylan went electric, Eric Clapton formed “Cream” and Woodstock forged a new musical and political conscience for America…and it went roaring out on WBZ’s 50,000 watt clear channel signal from Massachusetts to Midway Island in the Pacific. (I have an air check.) And the suits at Group W Radio were aghast. It wasn’t top forty. It wasn’t anything they recognized. They didn’t like it. They wanted it stopped…right now. Al just very quietly said no. For a while, even the suits didn’t want to mess too much with a 25 rating in Boston. Then Arlo Guthrie did a song called “Alice’s Restaurant,” featuring a line about the “mother rapers and the father rapers on the Group W bench.” The lawyers at headquarters freaked. The President of the Group took a flight from New York to talk sense into this crazy program director Heacock. “Get it off the air now” was the order. Al very quietly said “no.” It was a classic Radio Guy vs. Big Suit. And Mr. Suit blinked. The order was changed to “well at least edit that line out” Al very quietly just said “no.” So Mr. Suit decided to drop in on me on the Subway show, “for a friendly visit.” The engineer called Al to alert him to the situation. Ten minutes later, Al was at the studio, and asking Mr. Suit to join him for a quick meeting…out of the studio. That’s the last I heard of the problem.

Shortly after, Al was transferred to WINS in New York. A few months later, Group W turned off the music at WINS, and started a highly successful all news format there. And just a few weeks after that, Al was found dead in his shower. They called it a coronary. But I think they just broke his heart.

The great Tom Donahue climbed on “Underground” music on his FM station out in San Francisco, Classical Music WBCN went FM rock in Boston, WNEW-FM went rock in New York, and in a little while, FM killed the AM king. It probably would have happened anyway. But the point is that when you hear “Stairway To Heaven”, or “Light My Fire” you’re listening to one of the many echos of the quiet but firm “no” WBZ’s Al Heacock said all those years ago. I may have mixed up some of the specifics…it has been a long time. But that’s how I remember it.

So here’s to the real “Father of Classic Rock Radio.” A guy you probably never heard of. A guy who knew how to “just say no”. WBZ’s Al Heacock.

Rest in peace my friend. You taught me more than even you knew. You set me free on the air. Free… the way the air should be. You were a lesson in how to be a real gentleman…a real and gentle man. And for a whole generation of people who love music, you set the world on fire.

Dick Summer (re) Connection Chapter 2

Friday, July 21st, 2006

The Dick Summer (re) Connection Chapter 2

The (re) Connection is working! More stations are adding the Good Night Podcast to their web pages. Old New York buddy and Cumulus Broadcasting executive Dick Stadlen added it to KDAT, Cedar Rapids’ nifty new station web page this week. KDAT became a real radio success story when Dick took over, and it’s neat to be associated with him professionally again. An anybody who listened to radio in Boston, New York or St. Louis will remember Bruce Bradley. Go check out his reply to last week’s (re) Connection posting if you missed it. I’ve worked with some of the brightest talent in radio…”Cousin” Bruce Morrow, Don Imus, William B. Williams, Teddy Brown, Wolfman Jack… the best, but Bruce is the best of the best in my book. It’s good to know that he is just as funny, and just as ornery as ever. And it was good to hear from Proud Podcast Participant Jim Doran with his unique perspective on how to take care of your voice. (Do NOT try this at home.)

I owe radio a big chunk of my life. But oh my God am I glad I’m out. With the exception of a very few guys like Dick Stadlen, most of the GRR (Guys Running Radio) are unimaginative, lazy and slightly stupid. No, that’s wrong. They’re not stupid. They’re narrow minded and terrified of losing their jobs. Same result. That’s why the FCC gets away with substituting politics for common sense. The FCC was created to assign frequencies and power limitations so radio signals wouldn’t interfere with each other. That’s it. No mention of protecting the delicate American psyche from such terrors as seeing Janet Jackson’s breast, or hearing Howard Stern’s potty mouth. But the FCC Commissioners are political appointees. Let’s put the word POLITICAL in caps. And there has never been as large a collection of hypocritical hacks as America’s politicians. If you start asking about things like why we’re still at war, or why the hurricane relief situation in New Orleans was/is so bad, or why we’re still depending on the 1970s technology of our space shuttles to get into space, or how come they keep blowing up, the answer is going to be something like, “WELL, I’m glad you asked that question. We need to keep America safe for families. And I’m going to see to it that we maintain our firm no nipples on tv policy, to protect our CHILDREN from seeing naked breasts. That’s a head scratcher to me, because my mother recently admitted to me that I was breast fed WHILE STILL A CHILD.

But WAIT ! (As they say on 2am tv commercials for sure fire ways to get rich) The FCC is going to make us even safer. They are collecting air checks from networks who broadcast live sporting events. They will go over them carefully, and fine any broadcaster who happened to have an open mike anywhere near some drunken loud mouth fan who screams something the government decides is obscene. NOW, don’t you feel ever so much safer ? You can’t make this stuff up. It’s true. A very young and very excited relative once called my lady Wonder Wench, and I could hear her breathlessly shrieking at the top of her lungs, WE WON BEST BITCH ! (Actually the kid didn’t win, her pooch did at a dog show.) But if she did that near a broadcast microphone, supposedly the FCC could now say, “Zap Mr. Broadcaster, fork over $350,000.” The far bigger problem of course is that the government gets to decide what’s off limits because it’s “obscene.” AND THEY WON’T TELL ANYBODY HOW THEY COME TO THEIR DECISIONS. Obvious question: “What’s to stop them from saying anything that’s critical of the government is also off limits?” That’s the way they do things in China, and Syria and other such freedom loving countries.

Here’s another personal head scratcher: A bitch is just a female dog. A son of a bitch is a female dog’s male offspring. What’s the big deal ? If you have a heart attack because some idiot calls you a male dog, you have a problem and it’s not a medical one. I say just growl and scratch behind your ear. And if you’re a guy, lift a leg menacingly.

I don’t care for crude language, and I don’t use it personally except occasionally as I’m filling my car or plane with gas and I’m watching the numbers on the pump blurring past. Some people like potty mouth. A very vocal few feel that Armageddon lurks at the next mention of a crotch, and I guess most people just don’t really care. To each his own. As far as its affect on kids, I taught my kids respect for the language, for other people’s sensitivities and for themselves. So none of them have come down with terminal potty mouth. In fact all the boys even survived the experience of fifth grade boys’ bathroom humor unscarred, and some of them are now even able to listen to Howard Stern without noticeable emotional or physical decay .

And don’t get me started on the nerve of many people and most politicians (I make a distinction between the two) who can’t tell the difference between pornography and eroticism. Calling a picture of a beautiful naked woman “dirty,” is blasphemous…and really stupid. Last time I looked at a catechism (which I admit has been a while) it said the Lord made us IN HIS OWN IMAGE. And last time I looked at a beautiful naked woman (a very short time ago) I said, “Yes Lord. Thank you very, very much.”

Next week’s Good Night Podcasts are about a horse by the name of Babette, a visit my lady Wonder Wench took to a dentist’s office, a message on an answering machine, and the story of a young guy who hoped he did ok taking care of his buddy’s girl.

Would love to hear from you. You can post your thoughts right here on the blog, or if you’d rather, just drop me an email at because it’s good to know the (re) Connection is WORKING !

Dick Summer