Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bob Horn/Philly Bandstand - Bob Adams/KILT

This is a story I only recently learned of, a small part of Houston radio history, brought to my attention by John Hill. It’s the story of how the creator of Bandstand, as in American Bandstand, wound up a deejay on KILT, then an ad agency and bar owner in Houston.

The details have been spelled out, not without contradictions, in several accounts online and in a book, Bandstand: The Untold Story, by Stan Blitz.

Briefly, Bob Horn was a popular deejay on Philadelphia’s WIP in the late 40s with a late nite program called ‘C’mon And Dance.’ He was hired away by rival WFIL to create a similar show on that station which became known as Bob Horn’s Bandstand. He also got his first taste of TV, hosting a game show that bombed.

It’s not clear who’s idea it was but the late nite radio show was given a television spinoff on WFIL-TV, also called Bob Horn’s Bandstand, which featured Horn introducing film clips of artists performing their songs and occasional interviews with artists passing through Philly. It bombed, and was taken off the air after a month and the station started running movies in its stead.

Conflicting claims have been made as to whether station management or Horn himself suggested the show be moved to a larger studio and teens invited in to dance on-air, but the idea went over with management and a new version of Bob Horn’s Bandstand premiered on WFIL-TV on October 7, 1952, heavily promoted by the radio and TV outlets and their parent, the Philadelphia Inquirer. Teens were slow to respond on the first day but by the third day, it was said there were a thousand waiting to get into the studio and Bob Horn’s Bandstand was on it’s way. The first advertiser was Earl ‘Madman’ Muntz of Muntz television fame.

Over the next four years, the show garnered as much as 60% of the daytime Philly TV audience according to some accounts and caught the attention of TV executives elsewhere. There was even talk of going national. Early on, the teens danced to artists like Joni James and Frankie Laine but as the music changed during the decade, so did the show. At times it ran as long as two hours a day, five days a week, all done live.

Then in 1956, Horn’s career hit a couple of major road bumps. First, the Philly PD, the Inquirer and WFIL-TV were conducting a month-long drive against drunk driving and Bob Horn was caught driving drunk and assessed a $300 fine. Then he was involved in a minor accident driving the wrong way on a one way street, resulting in some injuries. He was adjudged intoxicated, but not enough to impair his driving, and his insurance company paid $100,000 in claims.

In addition charges of statutory rape were brought against him by a teen-aged dancer or would be dancer on the show. Horn’s family has said there was an extortion attempt that preceded the charges and the prosecutors knew of it and cooperated in amassing the money for the payoff but took the case to court anyway. A first trial resulted in a hung jury while a second trial found Horn innocent.

But he was finished in Philly radio and TV. He had been taken off Bandstand and a producer had filled in as host for a short time while the station sifted through it’s other deejays for a replacement, finally selecting a 26 year old named Dick Clark, who had to be given a crash course in rock ‘n roll. A year after taking over for Horn, Clark pitched the show to ABC which picked it up for a trial run then took it on as a permanent fixture of their afternoon schedule, renaming the show American Bandstand.

Meanwhile, Horn was out of work when an old employer, Gordon McLendon, called. He had heard of Horn’s predicament and offered him a job at his new station in Houston. Horn accepted and made the trek across country, changing his name to Bob Adams for his new career.

According to the schedule published in the Chronicle, March 14, 1957, Bob Adams was on the air from 9pm to Midnight on the first day of the new station. In an accompanying article, Bill Weaver was quoted as naming Bob Adams as one of the new announcers but also mentioned other deejays who would be joining the staff, including Bob Horn of Philadelphia. One of the online accounts of Horn’s life says he didn’t get to Houston until July of 1957. It’s not known if the Chronicle reporter misunderstood Weaver or if someone else began the use of the name Bob Adams on KILT, but it didn’t matter much, because Horn/Adams didn’t last long as an announcer on KILT. His East Coast style didn’t sit well with KILT’s audience and he was taken off the air and put in sales before long, becoming according to one account the top producer in the KILT sales staff. It was said the audience may not have liked his sound but advertisers loved hearing his stories of how he created Bandstand.

Eventually he left the station and opened his own agency, Bob Adams Associates, credited with creating Houston’s first Midnight Madness Sale. He also bought a ranch in the country and a bar in Bellaire called the Town and Country Lounge. John Hill’s contact with Adams came when he visited the recording studio that John ran at the back of the second floor of the McLendon Building at 500 Lovett Blvd. to record spots for his clients. He preferred to use Bob Presley and Rob McLeod to voice his spots.

Bob Adams life seemed to be going very well in Houston until the summer of 1966 when he suffered a heat-stroke induced heart attack while mowing his lawn and died. He is buried at Forest Park on Lawndale where his simple grave marker includes the epitaph ‘Bandstand.’

The History of Rock website has the most thorough account of Horn’s career, including photos, reproductions of newspaper clippings concerning the trials, and a shot of the grave marker. The original article is in bold while additions to the story credited to Peter Horn, Bob Horn’s son, are in un-bold typeface.

Philadelphia’s City Paper did a story on American Bandstand for the fortieth anniversary a few years back including some references to the early incarnation of Bandstand, and this article in the Tucson Sun introduced me to Stan Blitz and his book, which I have not seen.

I’m hoping some readers of this blog who were around back then, those who were just listeners or old radio pros or advertisers, can provide some more details of his career in Houston. I wonder, for instance, if any of the local TV teen dance show hosts, Larry Kane, Bob Byron, etc., knew of his role in the creation of the genre and ever conferred with him and where his bar was.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Larry Kane Show Clips

I've heard from Bud Buschardt, a graduate in RTV from the University of Houston who worked at KUHF and KUHT and went on to a long career at WFAA-TV and KVIL, Dallas, and then the ABC Radio Networks. He now teaches communications classes at the University of North Texas and was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2010.

Buschardt has talked to his friend and classmate Kerry Richards who was the director of the Kane show beginning in the mid-60s and who confirmed that the tapes of the show were destroyed while in storage in an un-air conditioned warehouse. The only videos known to exist are those that were traded with stations in other markets that were doing similar teen shows. One such clip was provided by Buschardt to Ovid Stevens, a member of the 1960s Dallas psychedelic rock group Southwest FOB. Stevens has posted the clip on YouTube. The song was produced by Buschardt's record company. Kane's mention of the smash hit Harper Valley PTA dates this clip to the spring of 1968.

Stevens was the guitarist and founder of the group which also included Dan Seals and John Colley. Seals was the younger brother of Jim Seals of Seals and Croft; he and Colley teamed up to form the soft rock group England Dan and John Ford Coley in the 1970s. After the group disbanded, Seals had a lengthy solo career as a country artist and died in March, 2009.

There is also an edited version of the clip which runs only 59 seconds and shows only Kane's intro to the band and his interview with members afterwards.

Since this Blogger template unfortunately does not accommodate YouTube videos, here are the links. The long version has been uploaded a couple of times; here's the original upload by Ovid Stevens with comments. And the shorter version.

There is also a 9 minute clip in black and white with KUHT leader posted by Jay Dooling, one of the dancers on the show. This was filmed while the show was still being broadcast from studios on the UH campus at the facility on Cullen Blvd. that that had been the original home of KNUZ-TV and later became the long time home of KUHT. Buschardt believes the episode dates from January, 1963. Two dancers, Dooling and his partner Mary Ann Masters, are tagged in the video, about half way through. This one shows only the dancers, however, Kane's appearances are edited out.

The dancers on the Kane show had to take dancing lessons before they could appear and their talent is clearly showcased, especially in some of the uptempo numbers near the end of the clip.

Still another 14 minute clip consists of home movies of a couple on the show; it's in color but the video is poor and there's no audio.

ETA:  Here's a YouTube video clip of a segment of KTRK's Good Morning Houston featuring an interview with Kane with Don Nelson and Hank Moore with lots of brief videos from the show.

If anybody knows of any other clips online please let me know.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

KILT Staff DIrectory

I have been corresponding with John Hill, CSRTE, an engineer at KILT from 1960 to 1964, who has been filling me in on a lot of facts and data from that era. He lost almost all his family, musical career and radio memorabilia thanks to tropical storm Claudette in 1979 and only a few pieces survive, among them a staff directory. I have organized it by department instead of alphabetically and added a few facts on some of the personalities I have from my own research.

Beverly Bales - Secretary to GM
Sabra Hall - General office
Dino Thompson - Receptionist

Bruno Leonardt - Sales Manager
Paul Fielding, Dickie Rosenfeld, Charlie Trub and Ted Van Brunt - Sales
Sue Reid - Sales Secretary
Sandra Arnold - Traffic
Barbara Van Horn - Continuity

Glenn Cook - Chief Engineer
John Hill - Recording Engineer
Tim Milton Kingston - Transmitter Engineer
Frank J Maher - Transmitter Superintendent

Rob McLeod - Program Director
Chuck Benson - Assistant to the PD
Gene Kelly, Dick Lahm, Bob Presley, Bill Slater, John Trotter - Disc Jockeys
Milton Allen (Graves) - Weekend Disc Jockey

Cecil Tuck - News Director, Program Manager
Thom Beck - News Editor
Dick Dobbin, Rick Eiser, Gary Fuller - Newsmen

Reed Robinson, Larry Thomas - Porters

Missing from the list was Bill Weaver, General Manager.

Also missing were two other transmitter engineers, Bryan Burne and Sam Warren, working at the transmitter on West Rd., west of the Dallas highway (US 75/I-45).

As John remembers it at the time of this list, the air shifts were: Gene Kelly, Midnight to 6 A. M.; Chuck Benson 6-9 AM; Rob McLeod 9-12 Noon; Bob Presley from 12 Noon-3 P. M. (with his KILT Pool & Patio show); Bill Slater 3-6 P. M.; "Honest John" Trotter 6 PM.-Midnight.

I had in my notes from the Chronicle that Trotter had been brought in to do mornings in January, 1961, replacing Joel A. Spivak, I believe, but was demoted to the 6 to Midnight shift as a way of suggesting it was time for him to leave. He did shortly thereafter for KEWB in Oakland, CA. In 1965 he was one of the original group of Western Gentlemen who brought country music radio to WJJD, Chicago and later he worked at KBOX, Dallas. He died in Abilene in 1976 and was inducted into the Country Radio Broadcasters DJ and Radio Hall of Fame in 1996.

Bob Presley went on to a long career in Houston radio at KPRC and KILT.

Bill Weaver left KILT to work for Cap Cities Broadcasting in 1966; he had married his secretary. He touched base with John in Nashville in 1982 at which time he was Executive Vice President at WWCO, a 24 hour station in Waterbury, CT. He died in retirement in San Antonio in February, 2008.

Both Bob Presley and Bill Weaver were inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2003.

Milton Allen (Graves) left for WNOE, New Orleans, one of McLendon's wife's stations; Chuck Benson left for WGR in Buffalo, NY, followed by Bill Slater. John left shortly thereafter, too. After WGR, Bill Slater went to KFWB, Los Angeles (64-65), KRLA (64-67), and KPPC (69-70) according to a Los Angeles radio website. He died in 2002 at age 67 and there were probably some other radio gigs. I have not had any luck finding more information about the other personalities and will appreciate hearing from anyone who can fill in the details of their careers.

See also the Hooper Ratings for the Houston market from this era, courtesy of John. There will be more posts on the blog soon based on the communications I'm having with John.

Updated 7/29/11.