One of the many things I loved (And, even though it’s been many years, still love) about my Dad was his sense of humor. If you’ll humor me, I’d like to share a story to illustrate the point.
Along with working days at U. S. Steel South Works, on Chicago’s South Side, my Dad worked many nights as the owner/operator of his own TV/Radio repair business. Frequently, Saturdays included a visit to the local Allied (pre-Radio Shack) store to stock up on tubes and other things. A very young me would usually be at my Dad’s side. A very young me was usually dressed in some degree of cowboy attire. One Saturday, as we walked up to the counter, the young me was at my Dad’s side wearing my cowboy hat and bandana. The man behind the counter said something like “Hmm … wouldn’t a real cowboy have his guns on?”
I was not a happy cowboy.
The next Saturday, cowboy hat, bandana, holsters filled with my trusty cap guns, the young me again approached the counter at my Dad’s side. The evil doer behind the counter smiled, but lobbed a parting salvo something like “Nice, but you’d think a real cowboy would have a horse.”
The next part of the story is true and I even have the photographic evidence.
The next time we went to the Allied store, the young me was dressed in my usual cowboy attire but, by now, understood that my cowboy hero identity was not to be appreciated in this establishment. My Dad parked and we were walking down the block to the store when the cowboy gods intervened. At the end of the block was a photographer taking photos of kids … on a pony!!!
My Dad got a smile on his face.
I have no idea what magic my Dad worked when we walked up to the photographer. All I know is when we entered the Allied store my Dad was holding the reins and leading the horse with me in the saddle as I rode up to the counter!!!!
As I recall, the evil doer threw up his hands, laughed and said “I give up, you win!”
The young me was a very happy cowboy as he rode out of the store and into the sunset that day.
Before we close the door on the month of May, 2021, I (Steve) would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the anniversaries of two events that had a lasting impact on my life.
First, it was 55 years ago, on May 23, 1966, that I started hanging out inside your radio speakers as I began my career in broadcasting at WJOB, in Hammond, IN.
I’ve previously written about that day/night in this blog post, but each year, particularly those putting a significant number on the time stamp, does have the effect of causing a little head shaking and a “Really … that long?” moment. At the time, even though I knew it was a shift in my professional journey, I could never have imagined how big a shift or that it was one of my life’s decisions that I would never regret. As I wrote in another blog post, it was only months later, during the Chicago area’s record breaking snowfall of 1967 that I learned just how important the roll local radio plays can be.
Second, this year marks 20 years since I was first diagnosed with Celiac Sprue (Celiac Disease). To say that diagnosis changed my life is a huge understatement. To those who, though meaning well, say “Oh, I’m so sorry.” trust me, there is nothing to be sorry about. Getting that diagnosis was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I was reminded of this anniversary by various sources posting that May is Celiac Awareness Month.
Looking back on all the years before I was diagnosed, there are numerous health problems and stressful moments which, I can now see, were directly caused by this disease that, at the time, neither I nor my doctors had any knowledge of. For many years, Johnnie and I have posted Gluten-free lifestyle suggestions and recipes in this blog and you can browse them all just by clicking on this link.
Again, life-changing, indeed.
Without these two events would I have had a good/successful/interesting/happy life and, more importantly, met Johnnie? Who knows? What I do know is that I have absolutely no desire to push the rewind button and change either.
Well, it seems the pandemic has claimed another victim. The good news is he’s still with us to tell the tale of the bad news, which is that he’s retiring. He is a legendary, Grammy Award winning, American blues rock master we’re proud to be able to count as a long time friend, Delbert McClinton.
While we certainly can understand and empathize with the reasoning behind the decision, it’s really sad on any of a number of levels that this singularly special talent and human being who has long been a part of our personal and professional lives has made the decision that “this is a good time to retire.”
Delbert’s music was on a mix tape Him made for Her when we were first dating. The song “Sandy Beaches” became a part of our life’s playlist early on and continues to this day.
“Sandy Beaches” also became the name of an annual family reunion cruise Delbert has hosted for 27 years that features an all-star line up of friends sailing the Caribbean and enjoying the heart and soul of American Music.
After being fans for years and having interviewed him by phone several times, our first personal encounter with Delbert took place in WGN radio’s Tribune Tower studios when Delbert and his guitarist, Gary Nicholson, were nice enough to fit an in-person visit with us into the schedule while in town performing at Chicago’s House Of Blues. Even though he was fighting a cold that night, Delbert was in good spirits and performed a couple of songs, one of which (“Better Off With The Blues”) he was nice enough to let us include on our “Life After Dark” cd, which helped raise thousands of dollars for charity.
Fortunately for us, in addition to many more on-air phone interviews, that was the first of many in-person interviews we’ve been privileged to do with Delbert.
Delbert always let us video part of his performance to include with the interviews.
While we’re sorry to learn that Delbert’s retirement announcement means that, with the exception of the 7th annual Big Blues Bender to be held at Westgate Resort & Casino September 9-12, 2021 and the Sandy Beaches Cruise sailing January 15-22, 2023, he won’t be doing any more touring, we hope that he will still find time to spread a little of his magic around the recording studio now and then and share the results with us. Some things are just too good to lose. Delbert’s talent is one of those.
Most importantly, we hope he is able to, as he says, “enjoy my family and travel a bit as it becomes safer. It’s been a great ride.”
It really has and thanks for letting us tag along.
The inspiration hit me one night in the 1960s. I was walking back home from my, then, girlfriend’s house. It was probably around 9 or 10 … PM.
I know walking alone at night might seem strange in light (or, dark as the case may be) of 21st century crime statistics but, back then, it just wasn’t that big a deal. Sure, you were careful, but it just wasn’t all that unusual.
But, I digress …
Anyhow, so there I was, walking alone late at night and, while walking, I was hit with a song idea. I liked it and, possibly spurred on by the nocturnal vibe as I walked, I went with it. It was one of those “moments” songwriters live for. The title, words, melody and chords started appearing on the jukebox in my mind in rapid succession. As I walked I hummed, and quietly sang the lyrics over and over to fix them in my head since I had nothing to write on. Thankfully, the streets were deserted and I didn’t sing loud enough for the lyrics to have wafted through any open windows and startled any unsuspecting audience members. By the time I covered the 8 block distance and arrived home all I had to do was quickly grab a piece of paper, write down the words, and then grab my guitar to see if the chords I thought would work, would work. They did.
I really don’t recall what the inspiration for the title was. I don’t believe my girlfriend and I had any kind of argument. At this 60 year distance, that part of this story is lost in the darkness of that night. The song title was “Satan Is Her Name.”
I have no idea what the nuns at Chicago’s Our Lady Of Peace or St. Brides schools would have thought about one of their charges turning to godless rock & roll as a profession and writing a song with that title … but it does make me smile a little to think about it.
Yes, at this point in my life, godless rock & roll was my profession and, as soon as I could afford it, I got all the members of my group together and produced a demo session that included “Satan Is Her Name.” Also, at this point in time, Mercury records was a major force in the industry with offices on Chicago’s Wacker Drive. David Carroll was the label’s head of A&R (artist and repertoire) having worked on hits for The Diamonds, The Platters, Patti Page, The Crew Cuts, Sarah Vaughan and many others as well as later discovering The Smothers Brothers. He also charted on his own with many instrumental albums and a top ten hit single, “Melody Of Love.”
Most working musicians in Chicago were aware of Mercury records and David Carroll and I was no exception to that rule. After a bit of research and a few phone calls, I found myself spending, what seemed like, the better part of an entire day parked in the reception area of Mercury’s headquarters, thumbing through copies of Billboard and Cash Box magazines, making occasional small talk with the receptionist all the while having an ongoing internal discussion with myself about the pros and cons of the situation I had placed myself in. Finally, I found myself in Mr. Carroll’s office doing my best to hide my nervousness while, hopefully, putting my best foot forward as I responded to his friendly but, understandably, business-like opening questions. He listened to all of the songs from the demo session and was particularly taken with “Satan Is Her Name.”
There is a lot more to tell about what ultimately turned into a really good professional relationship with David Carroll, including playing harmonica on one of his big band albums and him signing me to his own label after he left Mercury, but the details of those adventures will probably make their way into our second book. For the purpose of this blog, suffice it to say that he signed me to Mercury and we recorded “Satan Is Her Name.”
While the record didn’t become the hit I hoped for, for a while it looked like it would be. I was told that it was getting good “buzz” and after a station in the Miami area started playing it, it became one of their top ten requests. More importantly, word reached the Mercury promotion department that Dick Clark liked it, was playing it on the portion of American Bandstand that was only seen in the Philadelphia area, and was thinking about adding it to the show’s national telecast. Sadly, proving timing is everything, Leslie Gore, who was a well-known Mercury artist, had also just released a new record. I’m not sure of the specifics but, the bottom line is that, Leslie’s record got played for Bandstand’s national audience and “Satan Is Her Name” didn’t. Years later when Johnnie and I interviewed Leslie and told her the story we all agreed that things worked out the way they were supposed to because Leslie kept having hits that built the foundation for her lengthy career and I wound up getting into radio and meeting Johnnie.
So, that’s the end of the story, right? Au contraire, mon ami!
And as the European influence enters this blog post, we fast forward a few decades.
I believe it was sometime in the 90s that Johnnie or I stumbled on a website listing copies of “Satan Is Her Name” being sold for ridiculous prices to collectors both in this country and in Europe. As we followed the trail down that internet rabbit hole, along with finding more copies of my record for sale at crazy prices, we discovered a number of European vinyl and CD releases containing “Satan” and also albums with some of my other recordings on them. Before you ask, no, I didn’t get any royalties from these albums. European copyright laws have changed in a way that has made many reissues of older recordings royalty free.
Every now and then, we’d think of it and check to see if those albums were still available and, surprisingly, we’d discover that, even if they weren’t, they were being replaced by new releases. It’s not something we ever obsessed with but, whenever we’d stumble across something, it was interesting to see some of my older recordings, particularly “Satan Is Her Name,” continually available in one form or another with Europe being a prime market.
In recent years, along with reissues of my original recording, “Satan Is Her Name” has been recorded by new artists, some of whom stick fairly close to my arrangement and some who put their own twist on it and take it in a bit of a new direction. I’ve communicated with some of these artists. Honestly, I’m flattered to find that many of them are as enthusiastic about hearing from me as I am to discover their interest in one of my songs.
Let me introduce you to just a few of my new friends.
From Kassel, Germany, Marcel Bontempi is the founder of Dr. Bontempi’s Sake Oil Company, a really creative hillbilly roots music group that played Nashville and returned to Germany just before the pandemic hit. Here’s a link to their version.
I was pleasantly surprised when I found out British born Holly Golightly covered “Satan Is Her Name.” Holly reworked it as “Satan Is His Name” and changed one line that does make it more explicit. I like her take on it. Here’s a link to her version.
From Greece, The Bevels recently released a very creative interpretation.
I’ve just heard from a band from Zagreb, Croatia, B. Confidential & The Secret 4, that will be releasing their newly recorded studio version of the song on vinyl in summer 2021. Here’s a link to a video of their rehearsal.
On this side of the big pond, here’s a link to a live performance from The Silver Chords, a Los Angeles, California based psychedelic rock group.
Finally, along with the reissues and new versions of “Satan Is Her Name,” several people have taken my recording and added video to it in really creative ways. I’m absolutely amazed to see that this one made by a fan in Europe using my original record and some scenes from Russ Meyer’s movie titled “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill” is, as of this writing, approaching 2 MILLION views!!
If this missive has piqued your interest, you might try doing your own search on YouTube for Satan Is Her Name and see what you find. If you discover any new friends you think I should meet let me know.
I guess this whole lengthy journey is a good example of “What a long, strange trip it’s been,” from a late night walk that inspired a song to the released record that didn’t become a hit yet, in a strange way, did!
Y’know, the more I think about it, it’s just really nice and a bit humbling to see and hear that something I created 60 years ago still has legs and is keeping some other creative juices flowing.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if Johnnie wants to go for a walk.
Once upon a time, in a fairy tale land, him and her went for a ride … on an elephant.
While on the ride, he had a proposal that she reacted to positively. 37 years ago today (April 7, 1984) we made it official and became HimNHer. At that time, we were both at WIND radio, in Chicago. The station had a Sunday night religious block of programing hosted by a priest, minister and rabbi. Since we were friends with all of them, they all officiated at our wedding.
It’s been a wonderful ride for the 37 years or 1,930 weeks that we’ve been side by side. … and not just the elephant part!
Pandemics, parties or whatever, we’re in it for the long haul. Now, we’ve got our sights set on, at least, 37 more … and then some.
Thanks for hopping on this part of the ride with us!
It’s more than a little understandable if there is much about 2020 that you and we don’t choose to look back on. But, now and then, it’s not a bad thing to reflect on something to underscore, not only what we’ve been through but, how far we’ve come.
Or, was it the sound of the wonderful tree lady dancing through our house as she weaved her magic for St. Patrick’s Day?
Smart pot o’ gold money would be on the latter and, not surprisingly, the results were spectacular. So, of course, we had to share them with the class.
Now, you really didn’t think there would only be one tree, did you?
And, of course, you didn’t expect the wonderful tree lady to stop weaving her magic after just 2 trees.
But wait, there’s more!
And, if you look a little closer …
And is that an old friend we see at the bottom of one of the trees?
And a few more little people showed up to join in the celebration.
And, because just “a few more” is never enough …
We think it’s entirely probable that Steve’s Mom, a true Irish lass, who was born on St. Patrick’s Day, is looking down from her heavenly home and smiling at the results of the wonderful tree lady’s handiwork.
From our clan to your clan, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March, 11, 2020.
One year ago?
Some days it feels like more … a lot more.
Like you, during the past year, we’ve had our share of ups and downs and, now and then, we’ve shared some of them with you. But, the good news is that, finally, we seem to be slowly making our way out of this tunnel. Obviously, things aren’t going to return to normal overnight and, even when they do, for a while it may be a new-ish normal.
Sadly, as we do our best to climb back to whatever normal will look like there are those who, for varying reasons, remain resistant to the climb. Some still don’t want to socially distance or wear masks. And, some are resistant to getting vaccinated.
We don’t happen to fall into either of those groups. After using a sizeable amount of our “safer at home” time to do as much research as we possibly could and then, like many of you, trying and trying and trying and trying to get vaccine appointments for us and Johnnie’s Dad, John, we were finally successful! Not surprisingly, each of us had different appointments at different locations.
But, we got them!
As of this writing, we’ve only had the first shot and are impatiently counting the days till the second.
One interesting side-effect the three of us experienced and shared with each other and now share with you was an almost immediate sense of relief. Yes, we’d all been dealing with a year’s worth of COVID-19 stress but, apparently, we had no idea just how much that stress had an impact on us and how much it would ease up after getting that first shot.
As you can probably tell by now, Valentine’s Day has always been special to us. Being lucky enough to have found “the one” isn’t a gift that’s given to everyone and we know how lucky we are to have received it.
However, there is one particular Valentine’s Day that will always stand out for us
Valentine’s Day, 1985.
Even though Steve made his first appearance on WGN radio on Christmas Eve of 1984, it wasn’t until Febuary 14th of the following year that Johnnie joined him behind those microphones.
While we both had worked at WIND radio, we’d never been paired to do a show together at that station. When it was announced that WIND was being sold and changing to a Hispanic format, we both increased our focus on individual free-lance opportunities at several stations. Johnnie was doing traffic at WCLR-FM (now WTMX-FM) and producing a TV show on WFLD-TV that Steve hosted. Along with hosting the TV show, Steve hosted weekend shows and fill-in at WKQX-FM and WGN.
Dan Fabian, who was WGN’s Program Director at the time, had always wanted to have a show co-hosted by a he-person and a fe-person. He’d tapped Catherine Catalane and Michael Feldman to give it a try but, for various reasons, the two never got along and their show went away.
Months later Dan still hadn’t abandoned the idea of a male/female team. At this point, even though Steve had only been with WGN a little over a month, he was being scheduled more often. During that time Dan had been introduced to Johnnie and took the time to listen to her at WCLR. Steve was scheduled for some evening fill-in and one of the evenings was going to be Thursday, Febuary, 14. One evening when both of us happened to be at WGN, Dan approached us with the idea of trying an experiment. Using Valentine’s Day as a hook, while Steve was on the air, Johnnie would walk in and “surprise” him.
We, of course, loved the idea but, as the target evening grew closer, we became increasingly apprehensive about how it would turn out. After all, to us, this was a big deal, at a pretty big deal radio station, that had the potential of changing the trajectory of our radio careers.
Spoiler alert: It did!
Hindsight is always 20/20 but, from our perspective, looking back on that night, we really do think it’s fair to say that things worked out pretty well. We will be forever grateful to Dan (or, as Bob Collins used to call him, “The Memo Fairy”) for not abandoning his idea and taking a chance on us to make it happen.
It won’t surprise you to know that, THAT was a Valentine’s Day we’ll never forget! After the show, we celebrated by having our “special occasion” decadent chocolate dessert from our favorite, local, Houlihan’s restaurant.
In the days that followed we were asked if we wanted to start doing a regular Saturday night show together. Of course, we said yes and began our journey together at one of the world’s great radio stations.
It wasn’t long after our on-air pairing that the station’s promotion department set up a photo shoot for us with a legendary photographer, Paul Natkin. For those of you not familiar with Paul, among his many credits is the classic photo of Bruce Springsteen that appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine in the 70s and, trust us, that’s just the tip of the tip of Paul’s iceberg.
This was our first promotional photo for WGN radio and, if you look closely, you’ll see that Johnnie was wearing heart earrings.
Blame it on the pandemic and/or wanting to make our “bubble” as pretty as possible?
Who knows the reason.
All we do know is that, for 25 years, the Wonderful Tree Lady has magically decorated our house and one 6 foot tree for that month’s holiday or season.
Now, however, … we have three!
And, trust us, nobody is complaining.
The Wonderful Tree Lady appears to like Valentine’s Day.
We think she like’s it a lot!
Really, she like’s it A LOT!
And she really, really, likes it when we take the time to look closely at her work.
Some friends gathered in our “bubble” to celebrate dressed in their Valentine’s finery.
And, of course, to celebrate the day, love is in the air.
Steve’s Dad always said that Valentine’s Day was his favorite holiday because, unlike a birthday or Christmas, when a gift is expected, Valentine’s Day is the day you get to show someone you care for them, just because you care for them and they are special to you.
We hope you know that all of you who take the time to hang out with us are very special to us. Hopefully, this year, a little of the Wonderful Tree Lady’s magic will spread from our “bubble” to yours along with our wishes for a very happy Valentine’s Day.