Rolling Stones Rockin’ Dreams
Everyone in radio has a story about their young fascination with this incredible medium. Some of us will even tell you about the irony of our future as it relates to our past. We’re the ones with the most pinch marks on our arms. Looking back, we still can’t believe we made it to the other side of that microphone.
We were born to broadcast.
My own story begins at the concession stand of the Coliseum in San Antonio. My mother had seen an article in the paper about a Teen Fair of Texas that would feature many of my favorite recording stars. I was just out of high school and got a job making lemonade for the 10 days of the fair.
Money was not my motive.
I knew there would be backstage press parties prior to each performance. This job would be my ticket to get in. I explained to the kind lady who hired me that I also had a show on WSAC Radio and that I wanted to get some interviews and pictures with the performers. Since she was in charge of catering the affairs, she agreed to make arrangements. (What I didn’t tell her was that WSAC was the station at San Antonio College that broadcasted to the cafeteria.)
My goal was to meet Bobby Vee. He was riding high on the charts at the time with hits like, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes. As a young comedian-impressionist, his was one the
first singing voices I learned to impersonate.
When the day came for his matinee performance, like Clark Kent, I quickly transformed from Lemonade Boy to Super Radio Guy. Armed with my portable recorder and wearing my graduation suit I went backstage and waited for the star of the show to arrive.
What I hadn’t bargained for was the opening act showing up early.They were a group from England and so unknown to US audiences that they were billed as “Friends of The Beatles.”
The press and the real DJ’s had not yet arrived. There I was, trying to make conversation with the “blokes” in this small backstage dressing room holding a microphone and just enough tape, I thought, to interview Bobby Vee. Finally, I broke down and pushed the record button to ask a few formal questions.
“So how do you like Texas?
“Who’s your favorite Beatle?
“Does that hamburger taste good?
Hey. This was my first interview…ever.
Finally, Bobby and his entourage arrived and he was about as gracious as an artist could be, given I was just a kid in the middle of all the legitimate media. He answered every question I asked with the same respect he had given Dick Clark on American Bandstand. I handed him a charcoal sketch I had drawn of one of his album covers, got his autograph, and went back to making lemonade.
A short decade later my diligence and love for radio had taken me to Los Angeles and KMPC. It was there that I came across a new record by a “country” artist named Robert Thomas Velline, AKA Bobby Vee. I immediately called the record company to set up an interview. Bobby had moved back to his hometown, Fargo, North Dakota, and actually drove down to LA in his van for the interview.
The kid to whom he had shown a little kindness only 10 years earlier was now in a position to help him. The interview we recorded was produced into a two-hour radio special featuring his new music and all his big hits.
After the session, as we lunched at Cyrano’s Restaurant on the Sunset strip, I ordered lemonade and shared my memory with a most appreciative veteran performer.
By the way, I later found out that the English group I had chatted with backstage was making their first trip to the states and San Antonio had been their first stop. With my little reel-to-reel tape recorder and without knowing it, I had been one of the first American DJs to interview Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones.
Rock the dream.
*Update* Bobby Vee, who has continued to travel and entertain to the delight of millions around the world, recently shared that he has been diagnosed with the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. Perhaps the greatest tribute those of us he touched along the way can repay him is with our thoughts and prayers.