In no way does it diminish Porky Chedwick's monumental achievements to note that he was the Last Man Standing in a very elite group: the tiny cadre of white American disc jockeys in the West and and Deep South who pioneered playing black R&B for a wider audience. Every one made a difference in their territory, as Porky did here in the east. Most began roughly the same time Porky did. Alan Freed isn't on this list. He started later, and his story's already well known. Likewise, Wolfman Jack, inspired by Freed, was a "next generation" personality who began much later than Porky or the others below. None of the legends below played a role anywhere near Porky in creating the oldies concept. That was his alone.
I was going to write about the death of another 50's rock pioneer, but held off to talk about Porky Chedwick. But it's worth noting another Pennsylvania-born pillar of early rock, guitarist Frank "Franny" Beecher, died February 24 in his hometown of Norristown, PA at age 92. Known for his fiery lead work with Bill Haley and the Comets, Beecher was still playing until 2010.
I could recite the facts of Beecher's life, but let him tell it himself in this terrific and very concise two part video interview:
It seems almost stunning that Porky Chedwick, who died Sunday morning, passed just after appearing at Henry DeLuca's final Roots of Rock and Roll concert last week, and less than a year after the passing of another local radio icon: Terry Lee. There will be plenty written over the next month or so about the man, memories of his days on the radio and his undeniable place as one more Pittsburgher who made a difference in American music, along with Jimmy Beaumont, Billy Eckstine, Erroll Garner, The Del-Vikings and so many others.
This week's "Believe Your Ears" Music Podcast reviews a new CD and DVD package by British country and rock guitarist Albert Lee, known for his work with Emmylou Harris, Eric Clapton, The Everly Brothers, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings and an impressive solo career.
A recent discussion about theTV show House of Cards on Pittsblogh dealt with those who accurately portrayed what went on and those who did not, with All The President's Men getting many of the plaudits. It also linked to a 2007 article by PG Movie Editor Barb Vancheri on the subject of unrealistic newspaper-themed films.
The question posed on the blog was what were readers' favorite newspaper-themed films and reporters?
Well, personally, I have to confess to great affection for the TV show Lou Grant (1978-1981) starring Ed Asner and future Livia Soprano Nancy Marchand as the regal publisher Margaret Pynchon, based on the Washington Post's Katherine Graham. The TV show, an extension of Grant's Mary Tyler Moore Show character in a serious setting (the fictional "Los Angeles Tribune") came out in the wake of All The President's Men.
As for movies, I'm going to go back about 62 years or so and cite one great one and one so awful it's an unintentional comedy.
Deadline U.S.A. (1952)
In an oddly prescient film about a failing city daily on the verge of being sold, Humphrey Bogart plays Managing Editor Ed Hutcheson. Ethel Barrymore is the publisher, forced into the role after her husband's death (shades of Lou Grant's Mrs. Pynchon). The plot revolves around the paper's woes and a murder story involving a local racketeer. Some journalists consider it one of the best newspaper film dramas.
Bogie is Bogie. Barrymore is appropriately regal and tough. Sadly, she's in none of these scenes.
Yes, in the opening part, that's Jim Backus ("Thurston Howell III") standing at the left, at the bar.
And, from the credible to the incredibly bad, there's--
This dreadfully preachy Jack Webb movie, which followed the equally terrible 1957 Marine Corps basic training fiim "The D.I.." features Webb as managing editor of a "big city paper," dealing with one day's worth of news, taking the Dragnet concept to absurd lengths. His co-stars include William Conrad, later the star of Cannon and Jake and the Fatman, as City Editor Jim Bathgate, David Nelson, Ricky's older brother and a co-star of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, as a "copy boy" and Nancy Valentine as a newswriter named Jan. The bathos-laden subplot of Gatlin's wife and the child she wants to adopt only adds to the absurdity. Also in the cast : Joe Flynn (Captain Binghamton of McHale's Navy) and Richard Deacon (The Dick Van Dyke Show's Mel Cooley).
Am I being too rough? Well, these clips don't substitute for the whole movie, but they give you an idea. TCM runs it on occasion.
Take a look at this appalling bit of sexist dialogue between Webb as Managing Editor Sam Gatlin, and a newswriter named Jan, played by Nancy Valentine, regarding "the woman's angle." It's totally in the context of the times and in keeping with Webb's personal world view.
An equally stupid scene between Nelson and Cannon. It's too bad this clip didn't include the awful "musical" interlude that followed: a bunch of copy boys jiving around to a Latin beat, and chanting some irrelevant, proto-rap ditty about being a "copy boy."
A personal note: I watched this movie once sober and could barely get through it. I picked it up again sometime later, after quite a few bottles of Pilsner Urquell. the fine Czech Republic brew considered the original Pilsner. I found the refreshment greatly enhanced the film's inherent comedic properties.
It's worth noting that 86 year old Ernie Andrews, part of "The Gentlemen Sing: Three Generations of Song With Allan Harris, Ernie Andrews and special guest Milton Suggs" Friday evening, at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Friday (7 PM, tickets $ 45), is a true elder statesmen of jazz vocal legends, one whose career merits a look.
Figure it this way: Sid Caesar and Your Show Of Shows (1950-1954) was a fountainhead of American TV comedy. Who were the talents who emerged from it? The obvious: Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Imogene Coca and Howie Morris. All except Coca (who got her own short-lived program after Show of Shows ended in 1954) worked on Caesar's next show: Caesar's Hour (1954-1957) along with the late Larry Gelbart, known today for his work on film comedies incljuding Tootsie and MASH (the film and TV series)plus up-and-coming writer Neil Simon and his older brother Danny Simon along with Aaron Ruben, who became a producer of The Andy Griffith Show and a key director on Sanford and Son.
Oh, and bear in mind, this was live TV. Not tape. And there were no cue cards. They memorized it.
Time to own up: during the first half of 1964, I too hated the Beatles.
Drummer Roger Humphries, subject of an upcoming documentary film, chronicled in today's PG, by both Nate Guidry's video and Kevin Kirkland's story, celebrates another of the many Pittsburgh jazz luminaries who've left a worldwide impact. Roger notes the influence of Art Blakey on his playing, the man who taught him his famous "press roll," demonstrated in the video. Blakey, the Pittsburgh-born drummer who founded the Jazz Messengers, led a band that became a pillar of the Hard Bop movement in jazz and a virtual musical conservatory for generations of jazz greats, Wayne Shorter and Wynton Marsalis among them.
Scott Mervis's piece on the Beatles got the correct order of the Beatles' coverage in the months prior to their first visit and Ed Sullivan Show appearances. What you didn't see, however, were the videos themselves. This is all of them, from the first, on November 18, till the Jack Paar segment on January 3, 1964. Oh, when you're done with this check out the fantastic PG Interactive Beatles Quiz.