This isn’t Throwback Thursday but, Monday, November 30th, would have been, the legendary, Dick Clark‘s 91st birthday.
We had the extreme pleasure of hosting several ALS Mammoth Music Mart events with Dick and having him on our show many times.
This man defined the term “class act.” If we had an interview scheduled with Dick and we saw the hot line ringing at the scheduled time, we didn’t have to wait for our producer to screen the call, we knew it would be Dick. Not a minute earlier, not a minute later, always right on time, always prepared and, unlike some well known personalities we sometimes felt we had to pull answers out of, always “on” for the interview.
One night as we were interviewing him, Dick mentioned that he’d just returned from a celebrity event. Johnnie asked him what he was wearing and he said that, since he’d just gotten home and was changing out of his tux, at the moment, he was naked. He laughed and told us he just looked at himself in the mirror. Then, like the teen girls in his audience for years, squealed “I Look Good” parodying the James Brown song. So, we probably have the distinction of being the only people who interviewed a naked Dick Clark.
In his later years, his bravery in still maintaining a pubic profile after his stroke was inspiring. He was a true professional and a genuinely nice guy we will always feel privileged for having known.
Another tradition the pandemic sidelined this year was our annual Thanksgiving show on WGN radio with Muriel Anderson as our special guest. We always looked forward to that show and attending Muriel’s Saturday-After-Thanksgiving Concert.
Well, the good news is that, this Saturday, Muriel will be doing a virtual version of that concert with another of our dear friends, Tommy Emmanuel, as her special guest!!
They’ll be appearing remotely from Nashville, for an evening of world-class acoustic music, audience interaction, and celebration. You can participate in the show from your home while you enjoy some home-made fudge, and still have a chance to win a new Washburn guitar donated by Tobias Music, mailed to your home!
THIS is going to be a really special, fun evening! Just click this link for all the details.
One of the many wonderful gifts our years together in broadcasting has provided is being able to count Muriel and Tommy, two of the world’s greatest guitarists, as dear friends.
If you’ve never seen them, trust us, you’re in for a REAL treat …. and you’ll be able to stay safe while you enjoy it!
It’s probably a significant understatement to say that Thanksgiving 2020 will be unlike any we’ve previously experienced, but … here we are.
We are living through – and, hopefully, will survive – a pandemic.
Who’d a thunk it?
Nope, never had a Thanksgiving like this and we’d be very happy if there are no repeats.
However, one thing that is the same this year for us, and probably for many of you, is that, regardless of how we celebrate – or don’t – memories of Thanksgivings past step to the front of the line in our mind’s “highlight reel”. So, if you will indulge us, we’d like to share a couple of those past highlights.
Coming of age in the 50’s on the South side of Chicago, some of my (Steve) fondest early Thanksgiving memories were, and still are, of gatherings that frequently included someone I would be meeting for the first time. Quite often, family members would be augmented by a friend or two who, otherwise, would have been spending the day by themselves or, in some cases, happened to be in Chicago for the first time and didn’t know many people, so one of us invited them to join us.
My recollection is that these additions always added to the festiveness of the occasion and enlivened the conversation. For some reason, the dessert part of the meal always seemed to be the point of the evening when the conversation got really good. I don’t know if it was because everyone was stuffed and feeling relaxed or just that, by that time in the evening, even a newcomer was feeling more like they were with friends and began opening up. Or, it might have been my Dad’s inquisitive nature and ability to make sure everyone was included in the conversation. Now that I think of it, he would have made a very good talk show host. In any case, those early Thanksgiving memories always make me smile.
After we got married, Thanksgiving became one part of a two-pronged holiday celebration that included spending Thanksgiving, in Munster, Indiana, with Steve’s brother Lee and his husband, John, at their house. Then they, along with some extended family, headed north to spend Christmas at our house. John became known as “Chef John” and, for decades, his stuffin’ muffin recipe became a requested part of our Thanksgiving shows on WGN radio.
Sadly, our host extraordinaire, John, passed away a few years ago. We know he’d be happy that we continue the tradition of eating on his fine china and that chutney, rutabaga and stuffin’ muffins remain on the menu.
In more recent years, our Thanksgiving tradition continued, preceded by our “over the river and through the woods” drive to Munster where, shortly after arriving, unpacking the car and greeting Lee and some wonderful extended family friends, Johnnie’s Dad, also named John, follows the already tempting smells to the kitchen with his knives in hand and begins carving the turkey as Johnnie oversees the annual, after dinner, pie extravaganza.
Believe it or not, some years we tried to have one pie for every person in attendance, most of them made by Johnnie! We really don’t remember when or how this pie tradition got started but, trust us, no one objects to it!
As was the case in the early 50s Thanksgivings, along with the holiday warmth that is accentuated by Lee’s decorations (For example, the movie posters in his entertainment room are changed to match the season!) and the wonderful meal, one of the real highlights of the evening continues to be the fun and fascinating conversational journeys that unfold as the evening, too soon, plays out.
Yes, we know how fortunate we are to have moments like these to look back on. Sadly, far too many people have never known and will never know the luxury of having a “highlight reel” to call on in a year like 2020.
This year, like many of you, Thanksgiving gatherings with a house full of people will be the stuff of memories and conversations as we do our best to stay safe … and survive what 2020 has brought to our table.
At our house, the two of us along with Johnnie’s Dad, who lives with us, will make a new kind of Thanksgiving memory. In Munster, along with Tim, a dear extended family friend, Lee will do the same.
It’s fair to say that, along with recalling some of Thanksgiving’s best from our past, we’ll also spend a little time looking to the future and hoping that this time next year we’ll be able to enjoy the holidays with houses filled with people … and hug every one of them.
Oh, just one more thing…
Flying in the face of 2020, the Wonderful Tree Lady arrived to spread her magic throughout our house. We thought it was only appropriate to share some of that magic with friends, so here you go.
Then, this little guy saw the lights and rode over to see what was going on.
And then, some friendly pilgrims came by to share a recipe or two. For some strange reason, the turkey quickly ducked out right after this picture was taken.
From our house to your house, we wish you a holiday season filled with warm, special, memories that you’ll treasure for a long time.
With everything else that’s occupying our headline space and head space right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if remembering the legendary ROY ROGERS on his birthday wasn’t on your radar.
When I was growing up, the “King Of The Cowboys” was my favorite. All these years later, I remain a fan and the more I learn about my first childhood hero the more pleased I am to learn that when he stepped away from the camera his personality didn’t suddenly change. Everything I’ve come across tells me that this was a man you and I would have been proud to know.
Sadly, although Johnnie and I interviewed Roy’s son Dusty several times, I never had the chance to meet Roy. I had to smile when, thanks to our friend Jon Paris, this really rare photo of Roy and some friends at actress Myrna Loy‘s home, in 1943 (the year I was born), popped up in my Facebook feed.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that Les Paul knew Roy Rogers because, as was evidenced in our many conversations with him, it seemed Les knew everybody. Obviously, I wasn’t there, but the music that two of my all-time heroes might have been making started playing on the jukebox in my head.
We were saddened to hear the news that our friend, New Jersey guitarist, Lou Pallo, who was part of the Les Paul Trio, died on Wednesday, October, 28, at 86.
We first met Lou in 2003 when we were in Nashville for Muriel Anderson‘s “All-Star Guitar Night tribute to Les at the legendary Ryman Auditorium.
Lou was an accomplished jazz guitarist who, along with his lengthy association with Les, recorded with and/or shared the stage with Tony Bennett, Keith Richards, Sammy Davis, Jr. Rickie Lee Jones, John “Bucky” Pizzarelli and many others.
We thought it might be an appropriate tribute to Lou to share the on-air conversation we had with him on WGN radio the night we’d just learned of Les Paul’s passing. That night Lou reflected on his lengthy friendship with Les and the chemistry they had on stage. This conversation is one of many interviews and personal memories found in our book about Les Paul, “A Little More Les.”
The man who sat alongside Les playing at Fat Tuesdays, the Club Iridium and anytime we were fortunate enough to see Les, at the tribute night down in Nashville at the Ryman, at his homecoming in Waukesha and at the Pabst Theater, in Milwaukee is Lou Pallo. Lou joins us now.
SK: Lou, thank you for joining us and first of all please accept our condolences our sympathies on the loss of your dear friend.
Lou: Yes, thank you he was a very dear friend and a great musician.
J: Amen. Lou, how many years did you work with Les?
Lou: I worked with Les 25 years
S: How’d you meet?
Lou: Going back to when I was a teenager I played Les Paul and Mary Ford “How High the Moon” on the jukebox and it just knocked me out. I said, “Wow! What a sound. What a sound! Unbelievable!” And I just played it over and over, maybe 50 times and at that time it was 5 cents to play the jukebox. It was a 78 then. I just idolized him. Then in ‘60-‘61 I was at a bar in Greenwood Lakes, New York and he was sitting at the bar, I didn’t know it was him. He called me over and said “My name is Les Paul” and I said “THE Les Paul?” He said, “Yes.” I said “Oh my God, all my life I’d wanted to meet you.” He gave me his phone number and I went to his house the next day and from then on we became friends. But, to work with someone you really idolize that’s an honor.
S: When was the first time you worked with him professionally?
Lou: I was working a gig in New Jersey in 1975. I was by myself, I was a single and he would come in. In fact, one year he came in eighty something times. We counted. He would come in with his guitar, he lived up the street from where I worked. So, he would bring his guitar and sit in with me and it was just fabulous.
J: I bet you were just pinching yourself saying, “This is just too cool.”
Lou: Oh, exactly. He just knocked me out. He was great. He was a great man. I really feel so bad today.
S: His sense of humor always shone through, not only in the conversations we had with him on the air and conversations he had with other people but, the musical conversations he would have. There were times when he would play these licks and he’d be looking at you and I could tell the two of you had these little musical jokes going on didn’t you?
Lou: Yes, yes we did. I was always looking at him and he’d look at me and I knew exactly what he was thinking of. I knew just where he was going with all the experience of being with him.
J: And, even though he’d done thousands of shows when he was going to do a show he was there for the show. Ready to perform, focused, in the zone.
Lou: Oh yes. Yes, in the 25 years we did two shows every Monday. We’d get to the club at 4 in the afternoon and we’d be on that stage from 4 til show time. We said he was a perfectionist yet, he said he wasn’t. He was a perfectionist.
J: I remember we were sitting in the auditorium at the Ryman for the sound check and even though the man wore hearing aids, he knew the sound he wanted and he worked with the sound crew until he got the sound he wanted. That was his m.o. he came to work and he was going to do his job right.
S: Lou, I know this has been a long day for you but, if you could put into words not only how you think Les will be remembered but, how will you remember Les?
Lou: I’ll never forget him, I can tell you that. Every time I pick up a guitar he’ll be there next to me. Thank you for remembering him in Chicago and continue to do that.
J: We certainly will. Tonight we celebrate his life and you were the perfect person to start out with so, thank you Lou. Good night.
S: I remember when we saw Les in Waukesha I was so impressed with Lou’s guitar and it’s a Les Paul. I got a chance to tell him how much I loved the sound of his guitar and he said, “Les does too! He’s always trying to buy this guitar off me.”
J: Lou was such a big part of the show. Not only because of his skill as a guitarist but, he’s a great vocalist too.
S: One of the fun parts of the show is when Lou sings, “Making Whoppie” and Les would sit with his arms folded over top of his guitar and when Lou got to the line “makin’ whoppie” Lou would stop and Les would hit just the right notes and the crowd would go nuts!
J: Yes! He knew just the right notes for the punch line and the audience would be like putty in his hands.
Following Les Paul’s death in 2009, Lou kept performing at the Iriduim Jazz Club, in New York, and recorded a tribute album titled “Thank-You, Les.” Joining Lou on the album were Keith Richards, Steve Miller (Les Paul’s godson), Slash, Billy Gibbons and others. He also recorded the Jersey Guitar Mafia album with Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola and Al Caiola.
Lou Pallo may not have achieved the world-wide headliner status of some of his famous on-stage partners but, when he joined them or they joined him, it was on a level playing field. Lou Pallo was the consummate professional and friend who only made any stage partner sound better.
Somewhere there’s music and Lou and Les are reunited. If you listen … really listen … you can hear it … and the resounding applause.
Well hello again dear fiends … er, friends. It’s that time again and, as usually happens this time each year, the closer we get to Halloween, the more requests we get from many of you asking about the Halloween poem that was a part of our show for many years.
And so, once again crawling out from the depths of Halloween’s past, it’s the return of our Halloween Poem. It’s a fun “trick” to add to your bag of treats for your little people.
Of course, this year is not like any we’ve shared before. The scary reality that is 2020 means that, unlike previous years when we would suggest you invite a bunch of little people to your Halloween party and share the poem with them, this year we’re offering it to you as a possible fun option for your own child or children who may be going a bit stir-crazy from staying “safe at home” and just might welcome the idea of a fun, at home, event this Halloween.
For the uninitiated, this is a poem which, in one form or another, we’ve been presenting on radio and the Internet for several decades. Honestly, we don’t know the origin of the poem. A listener sent it to Steve many years ago in a galaxy far, far away in the days before him n her became HimNHer. The positive response to the poem and the fun it can provide, particularly for kids, at a Halloween party resulted in it becoming one of our annual traditions. And, as Steve’s Dad always said, “Tradition is a fine thing as long as it doesn’t become a habit.”
But, we digress …
OK, here is how it works. Tell your little person, or little people, that you’ve got a special Halloween treat for them. Then, just get them in a dark room and read them this story of a young man who went to school to learn to be a first-class ghoul. As you’re reading the story, in the dim light, you pass out items that are supposed to be body parts. Johnnie has put together a list of things you can use to simulate the body parts. To make the story even scarier, you can play the audio of Steve’s voice reading the poem.
Again this year, we have to say a huge THANK YOU to Dave Marzullo, one of the hardest working SPIRITS at WGN Radio for jumping through more Internet hoops than you’ll ever know to make our Halloween poem and it’s audio available.
Even in this high-tech world, each year we hear from a lot of people telling stories of the fun they had with the kids and this old school Halloween poem. Hopefully, you’ll be one of them.
If you are not familiar with Apple Butter allow me to explain…there is no butter in Apple Butter. It’s spicy applesauce that’s cooked til it caramelizes and turns into a concentrated fruit spread for toast, muffins or in cookies or fruit bars etc.
You can use Fuji, Gala, Macintosh, Jonagold and toss in a few Granny Smith.
Peel and core 6 pounds of apples. That’s 10-12 medium apples.
Slice or chunk apples and put in the crockpot/slow cooker.
In a bowl mix:1 cup of white sugar1 cup brown sugar (I use 1/2 dark & 1/2 light brown sugar)
Add 1 TB of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp salt Later you’ll need:1 TB vanilla
Mix sugar and spices and add to apples. Toss apples to coat.
Put the lid on the crockpot and set the crockpot on low. Next, set your timer for 10 hours. Yes, 10 hours!
In 10 hours take the lid off and add 1 TB vanilla extract. Stir and leave uncovered simmering on low for 2 more hours.
When time’s up use an immersion hand blender or potato masher and carefully (because its dangerously hot!) smash any pieces that are left intact.
You’ll have a deep brown smooth apple spread. You can refrigerate it til its cool then pour into jars and keep refrigerated. No canning process is necessary.
Remember boys and girls how, months ago, in a previous post about The Wonderful Tree Lady we told you that, if you were good, stayed safe and washed your hands, you might see more of The Wonderful Tree Lady’s adventures in future posts?
Well, it seems you’ve been good and, since we’ve just found out that The Wonderful Tree Lady has been at it again, we wanted you to share a few pictures with you of some of the magic she sprinkled around to welcome Autumn in to our house.
The Autumn tree by day.
The Autumn tree by night.
It wouldn’t really be Autumn without a scarecrow now, would it?
A few goodies on the table.
The Wonderful Tree Lady has a good eye for design.
She likes pickup trucks, too!
Could some candy corn be hiding in that box?
Along with sharing these pictures with you, before she left, The Wonderful Tree Lady wanted to make sure we shared a warm Happy Autumn greeting from our house to yours.