In a scrapbook, I have a yellowed newspaper clipping of the team picture of the 1971 Northside Browns, undefeated champions of the Monroe Grade Football League’s sixth-grade division who, minutes before, finished thrashing the South Raiders 13-0 for the touch-football title. I’m in the back row, on the left, clashing ridiculously in a striped shirt and striped pants of entirely different patterns, hands on hips, doing my best to look like a grizzled gridiron warrior flush with victory.
The moment the photo is taken marks the pinnacle of my sorry athletic career. I wasn’t much of a contributor to the championship. The city park and rec department made the schedule and provided officials, but the teams had no coaches, so we scrubs had to depend on the starters to take themselves out of the game to let us play, which they rarely did. But I was there, and I remember the feeling, on those golden September and October afternoons, as deliciously intense. The outcome of those touch-football games mattered to me in a way very few things have mattered since.
But what I remember most about those games now, more than the intensity and more than my teammates, is the light. We’d stand there on the field with the late afternoon sun in our eyes and the shadows lengthening, and if we looked around, over the baseball diamonds and the swimming pool and the shelter houses, we’d see the trees in Recreation Park crowned with color and glowing in that light.
It's a scene that frequently replays itself in my head, especially on these afternoons when September gives way to October. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go play outside.
Here at Magic, we're big fans of Casey Kasem and American Top 40. You can hear Casey's original countdowns from the 1970s on Saturdays at 6AM and 9PM, and shows from the 80s on Sundays at noon.
Personally, I remember sitting at home when I was a kid, pencil and paper in hand, writing down each song as Casey played them. I wonder if Casey and his producers realized, back when they were making these shows in 1974 (for example) that they might still be airing nearly 40 years later.
Probably not. Life doesn't work that way. The fact that we still have these shows after all this time is pretty amazing. Some of them were scavenged from basements and other storage locations, and I am guessing that some of them might be lost entirely.
Recently, I've gotten acquainted via e-mail with Scott Paton, who was a researcher on the show from 1976 to 1979. He started when he was just 18 years old, and it was one of his first jobs in what has been a long career in broadcasting, advertising, and public relations. Not long ago, he described for me the way a typical week unfolded as Casey and his staff produced the weekly show, and shared some great stories from his time at AT40.
If you're interested in a trip behind the scenes with Casey, you can read Scott's recollections at my other blog. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here. Be sure to read the comments on each post, because Scott (and another AT40 expert, Pete Battistini) share some fascinating information there, too--including a story about Gerry Rafferty's classic hit "Baker Street" that left me absolutely flabbergasted when I read it.
After you're done reading those, please poke around elsewhere at my blog after that, if you'd like. I've been writing it for nine years, so there's a lot of stuff there about music, radio, life, and everything.
The record business is a young person's business, usually. Although many stars of the baby-boom generation still make hit songs despite being old enough to qualify for Social Security, the artists who reach Billboard magazine's fabled Hot 100 tend to be much younger. Kelly Clarkson is 31. Pink turned 34 this past weekend. Adele is 25. Taylor Swift won't be 24 until December. Justin Timberlake is 32, and Philip Phillips will be 23 later this month.
In 2011, a duet between Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse called "Body and Soul" spent a single week on the Hot 100, but it was enough to make Bennett the oldest artist ever to score a Hot 100 hit, at age 85. Last week, however, an artist even older than Bennett hit the charts, and the story of how he did it is pretty incredible.
Last April, a man named Fred Stobaugh lost his wife of 72 years, Lorraine. Somehow, Stobaugh learned about a contest being run by a Peoria, Illinois-based record label called Green Shoe Records. Label president Jacob Colgan says, "It's an online contest. People [were] supposed to upload their videos, but, we received a manila envelope. Lo and behold, it was a letter from a man who said, 'I've written a song for my [late] wife.' Listening to the passion behind the lyrics, it was just so heartwarming."
So Colgan recorded Stobaugh's song, "Oh Sweet Lorraine," and produced a brief documentary about the making of it, including a performance of the song. As word about "Oh Sweet Lorraine" spread online, people started going to iTunes for the song, and it became popular enough to enter the Hot 100 at #42. The song is credited to Colgan and Stobaugh--who is 96 years old.
Read more about Fred and watch the video right here. It runs nine minutes, and you won't be sorry you spent the time. I promise.
I was never sorry to see school start in the fall. I recall asking my mother one time if she thought that was weird. She said, “No, it’s your job, and everybody needs to get back to work.” (I remember this, but it doesn’t mean it really happened. But it’s the kind of thing I would have asked and she would have said, so it’s true either way.)
You can see summer’s end in the body language of every kid laden with a backpack and in the slant of the sunlight in the late afternoon. It's been a while since I was one of those kids, but I remember.
In the fall of 1970, I was the first kid on my school bus every morning, at 6:50AM, and thus I rode on gravel roads and paths trodden by cows through the wilds of Green County for over an hour before getting to school. Being the first kid on, I had my pick of seats. The back of the bus is the most desirable spot, but what you must know about the social dynamics of the school bus back then is that little kids didn’t get to sit in the back. One particular morning, the seat I chose was underneath the radio speaker. And on that morning, the bus driver responded to popular demand of the older kids by tuning in WLS, the classic Top 40 giant from Chicago. And the rest, as they say, is history. I fell utterly in love with radio and with the music that came out of it.
So September and October feels to me like the season of the year in which everything began.