Happy Birthday, “Hillbilly Cat”

He was born on January 8, 1935.

He would have other nicknames over the course of his career, such as “Elvis the pelvis” and “The King of Rock & Roll” but, for the purpose of this discourse, I’d like to stick with the one he was identified with during his early days. I’ve always felt it was a good summation of how the music establishment of that time perceived this new kid and his new sound.

Endless volumes have been written about every phase of his career and personal life and they’re easily available in any form you can think of, so I won’t take up your time retelling any of those tales here.

And, I’ve previously recounted my very first exposure to Elvis in a blog post I’ve linked here.

But now, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a “moment” from my past that the Hillbilly Cat played a significant part in.

13 year old me spent a fair amount of time hanging out with a neighborhood friend, Bill Conn, and listening to records on his Webcor phonograph. Bill was a big Bill Haley fan and his Haley collection occupied a lot of our time but, now and then, he’d drop the needle on some new find by another artist. We were both aware of Elvis Presley and his hit “Heartbreak Hotel.” Elvis’s second RCA hit “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” had just been released and Bill had just purchased it. After listening to it, Bill flipped the record over, dropped the needle — and I was transfixed.

D.J. Fontana‘s drums kick/slammed the beat for four bars, followed by another four bars of a room shaking descending stand-up bass run by Bill Black, followed by Scotty Moore‘s guitar blasting the all-time definitive rockabilly riff.

“My Baby Left Me” was off and running.

The Hillbilly Cat hadn’t even stepped up to the mike, yet and I was already hooked by this groove. When the cat started singing, I just started grinning. THIS was the definition of cool. THIS was the definition of ROCK & ROLL!

Yes, I was a Bill Haley fan, but THIS was something else. THIS kicked it into a higher gear.

And remember, this was before the Hillbilly Cat recorded “Hound Dog!”

The only thing better than that first exposure to “My Baby Left Me” on Bill Conn’s Webcore was the first time I heard those drums, that bass, that guitar and the Hillbilly Cat’s voice exploding from much bigger speakers on a Seeburg jukebox.

Nirvana!!

Although, over the years, I’ve developed an appreciation for and love of many different flavors of music, to this day, anytime “My Baby Left Me” comes on any speaker, I HAVE to turn it up.

Years later, during my first interview with Scotty Moore, I asked him about that recording session. He said that they just decided to cover another song from Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, whose “That’s All Right Mama” was Elvis’s first record. “My Baby Left Me” was similar in structure to “That’s All Right Mama” but, the difference was, along with the addition of D.J. on drums, the group had matured and developed their own sound.

And, that scared young kid Scotty and Bill worked so hard with before their first recording session had turned into the Hillbilly Cat.

Happy Birthday, Cat!

Stay safe,

Steve

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New Year’s Eve 2021 WGN Podcast

Yes, we’re a few days into 2022, but we’re still feeling the after effects of having way too much fun as we said goodbye to 2021 on our WGN radio New Year’s Eve special.

It had been quite a long time since we did our last broadcast from that studio and this New Year’s eve show had some significant differences from our previous year-end radio parties. Not only was it at an earlier time but, with two exceptions, we had no in-studio guests.

Those exceptions were Patrick Crispen and Joey.

Since the pandemic was not taking this holiday off, rather than our usual studio full of year-end revelers, all of our other guests joined us by phone. Even though, for most of the show, it was just the two of us in that studio, wrapping up the year from our Chicago radio home and the wonderful feedback we had from a lot of you during the show made it a really special moment for us.

If you missed it, or would like to hear it again, the podcast is now posted. Just click on this link to hear it.

If we have half as much fun as we open the rest of this new 365 day package, 2022 just might have a chance of providing us with some good, memorable, moments.

We really hope that’s the case for all of us.

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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New Year’s Eve … 1973?!?!?

Before the New Year’s afterglow completely wears off, allow us to share one of Steve’s year end celebrations from a previous life.

It was New Year’s Eve of 1973 and Steve was on Chicago’s “Big 89” WLS radio counting down that year’s top 89 records.

Neither of us had heard this since Steve originally did it and Johnnie was on the other side of her radio speaker listening to it during her freshman year college Christmas break.

We have to thank a Facebook friend, Don Beno, for finding this audio clip.

Yes, this is even more proof that, thanks to the internet, you can never really escape your past.

OK, buckle up and click this link to let the time warp begin.

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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A 5 Year Old’s First Snow

You really don’t see much of it when you live in the Los Angeles area, so the little dude’s priority when he made his way to see Gigi and Grand Dude in the frozen tundra of the Midwest was “I want snow.”

He got his wish.

Well, it did take a little while. At first, there was only a little snow but, while it was falling, he did get to have some fun with Gigi and his daddy.

But, since that snow didn’t stick around, he then got to feed some ducks.

And then Grand Dude showed him how to draw Mickey Mouse.

And he did get to go with daddy and see the radio station where Gigi and Grand Dude sometimes work.

And Gigi showed him how to roast weenies over a “campfire.”

But, FINALLY …

FINALLY …

It SNOWED!!!

It really snowed!!

And he got to run around and run around and run around … and then run around some more in fresh snow.

And, thanks to Gigi, who stayed outside in the cold with him, he got to play and play and play IN SNOW!

He really, really, wanted to take some with him back to Los Angeles. Sadly, he found out that he couldn’t. However, we end the week with reasonable expectations that memories of the little dude’s first snow, hopefully, accompanied by memories of a Christmas/New Year’s week with Gigi and Grand Dude will be making the trip and staying with him for a long time.

That’s our wish.

We do know that he promised us he’d be back for more.

We hope that happens soon.

And, we hope that the little dude a/k/a Joseph Gibson Crispen and his daddy (Patrick Crispen) and his mommy (Christine Crispen) Stay safe.

We wish the same for you,

Steve & Johnnie

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“I Will Love You Forever” Free Download Links

As promised, we premiered a beautiful new song by Carl Giammarese and Lisa McClowry titled “I Will Love You Forever” on our WGN Radio New Year’s Eve special.

Carl and Lisa were generous enough to offer our listeners a free download of their song just for clicking on a link to their websites, but that offer is only good until midnight, January 1st, 2022, so you might want to act quickly.

Here’s the link to Lisa’s website.

And

Here’s the link to Carl’s website.

We absolutely love the song and can’t thank Carl and Lisa enough for letting us premier it and sharing it with you this way.

What a great way to wrap up one year and start a new one. Here’s hoping it means more good things will show up in 2022.

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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We Say Goodbye to 2021 on WGN Radio!

3PM-7PM (Central) — We’ll be sliding back into your radio speakers on WGN Radio a little earlier than usual on this New Year’s Eve as we help to slam the door on 2021 with a whole lot planned including …

We’ll have a “world premier” of a really beautiful new song when we’re joined by two of our favorite people, Carl Giammarese of The Buckinghams and Lisa McClowry.

These two incredible performers have been having fun doing a few videos together and now they’ve combined their talents to write and record a terrific new song. And, as a special thank you, ONLY if you’re one of our New Year’s Eve listeners, you’ll be able to get a free download of the song we’ll be premiering.

Speaking of our favorite people named Lisa, one of the exciting new items on the 2022 calendar is the addition of, long time Chicago radio personality, Lisa Dent as Monday-through-Friday afternoon host at WGN. You’ll hear this member of the Country Radio Hall of Fame with Steve Bertrand next year and you’ll hear her stop by to celebrate with us on our year end wrap up party.

Lisa Dent

We’ll take a look back at 2021’s biggest tech stories and preview what 2022 has in store with our former Website Wednesday Night Cybersquad chief, Patrick Crispen.

Patrick Crispen

Patrick is now the Director of Educational Technology and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medical Education, Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Consumer Guide Automotive‘s Publisher, Tom Appel, will recap some of the best and worst of 2021’s automotive scene and give us a preview of what to look for in 2022.

Tom Appel

One of the many unexpected impacts of all of us spending more time at home during the pandemic has been the explosion of the collectibles market. Our long-time friend who founded the Chicago Comicon, Gary Colabouno, joins us to talk collectibles and pop culture collecting the past year and moving into 2022.

Gary Colabouno

As always, this is just a part of the game plan because, you know, we have to have a surprise or two, just to keep things interesting. Trust us, it’s been a while, so we’re gonna party like it’s New Years Eve! Remember, no cover charge and no dress code!!

In the Chicago area, just tune in to 720AM but, don’t forget, you can listen in from anywhere in the world just by clicking this link to WGN’s live stream.

We really hope you’ll join us but, whatever you do, please stay safe.

Happy 2022!

Steve & Johnnie

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The Wonderful Tree Lady’s Christmas Wish!

‘Twas the season of Christmas

And all through the house

The Wonderful Tree Lady scurried

As quick as a mouse

Her magic was sprinkled

Throughout rooms and halls

When finished she smiled and said.

Merry Christmas Y’all

Have a wonderful, safe, Christmas and feel a virtual hug from us!

Steve & Johnnie

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‘Tis The Season …

… and, with Santa’s arrival just days away, ’tis about time for us to, once again, share a couple of virtual presents with you.

So, without further ado …

The first of our presents is the Christmas song Steve wrote and recorded at Jim Peterik‘s World Stage studio.

Steve recording at Jim Peterik’s World Stage studio.

Except for the drum track, Steve played all the instruments. The idea for the song first popped up in the late 90’s when we hosted the “Street Carols” concerts at the Star Plaza Theatre, in Merrillville, Indiana.

The promotional tag line for the concerts was “Christmas From The Roots Of Rock & Roll.” That tag line was too good not to be a song and now a video. While this is a Christmas song, don’t be surprised if you find a few “Easter eggs” from us slipped into the video.

Christmas From The Roots Of Rock & Roll

Now then, …

Since we’re sure you’ll burn off a bunch of calories from dancing to Steve’s song and we hate to think of you looking emaciated in those family Christmas photos, we thought you might need a few of Johnnie’s treats to help you return those calories to their rightful places.

Hey, we’re only here to help!

So with that thought in mind …

The second of our presents is a video with Johnnie sharing the secrets behind her homemade fudge, toffee and a few of the other Gluten-Free goodies that will be finding their way to our table this Christmas.

Now don’t forget to leave a brownie or two out for Santa.

We hope our virtual presents leave you humming along with a smile … and maybe a full tummy.

Merry Christmas!

Have a very Merry Christmas … and stay safe.

Steve & Johnnie

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Reflections On Ten Years After

December 9, 2011 we closed out a major chapter in the history of HimNHer when we did the last of a full WEEK of shows celebrating the over a quarter of a century we spent at WGN radio.

Has it really been 10 years?

Unless the calendar has now turned into fake news, the answer is, yes.

So, if you’ll allow us, we’ve got a few thoughts we’d like to share.

Was that night and were the night’s leading up to it, emotional? Heck yeah! Is it still when we look back on it? Yup! To have been at that station, during that time, was and is a very special part of our broadcast resume. You can read some of our thoughts, at the time, if you click on this link to our blog’s monthly archives from December 2011.

But, that was then and this is ten years after. So?

As we said ten years ago, we were segueing into the “Someday” part of our lives. You know how you always say “Someday I’m going to …” Well, for the most part, this has been that time for us, doing what we want to do, when we want to do it.

Some examples? Sure.

Most of you are probably aware that we wrote our first book, “A Little More Les,” a memoir of our treasured friendship with the legendary Les Paul. We’re currently working on our second book, “Life After Dark,” which will be more of a chronicle of some of our adventures inside your radio speakers with a little insight into our respective lives before broadcasting.

Yes, Steve is still working on that, long overdue, album and Johnnie is working on her gluten-free cookbook. They’re both getting closer, really!

While it doesn’t occupy as much space in our “to do list” as it used to, along with consulting and spending time now and then on some other radio frequencies, we’ve remained a part of the WGN family and are happy to do an occasional “radio drive-by” when our calendar aligns with theirs, as it will this New Year’s Eve.

Along with the loss of family members during the past decade, like many of you, for the past two years, the pandemic has seriously impacted our “Someday” adventures. But, within our “bubble,” they do continue.

Ten years on, we look back on December 9th, 2011 as a singular moment in our lives and careers that will never fade, but we’re also very aware that the here and now is pretty special too and the future is full of exciting possibilities.

Thank you, so much, for taking some of this ride with us. It wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun without you!

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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A “Hot” Time!!!

So, there we were, on Wednesday night, just relaxing after dinner and engrossed in a movie. Johnnie was sitting in a chair with a heating pad on her feet. Steve was stretched out on the couch across from her when, out of the corner of his eye, something got his attention.

It was smoke.

He calmly, but loudly, said “Honey, what’s going on?”

Johnnie looked down and saw smoke engulfing her feet. As that registered in her head, a flame shot up. She quickly flipped the heating pad smothering the flame. It took a few minutes for the smoke to dissipate but took us a lot longer to calm down.

Heating pad remnants sitting in our sink after a good soaking.

Thank goodness it wasn’t at Johnnie’s feet in bed!

Thursday afternoon, Johnnie was debriefed on the previous night’s adventure during a conversation with Jon Hansen on WGN radio.

If you’d like to hear a podcast of that conversation, just click on this link.

As for us, well, along with our Christmas shopping, now we’re planning on spending a little time looking for a good old fashioned red hot water bottle!!

Stay safe … REALLY!

Steve & Johnnie

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